Archives for May 2011

Memorial Day 2011

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Creating The Extraordinary Requires Testing Yourself

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10 Steps to Achieving the Extraordinary (steps 6 – 10)

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Commit to progress not perfection: Pursuing perfection is similar to trying to find a unicorn. You have a mythical understanding of what perfection is but you’ve never seen it before. I very rarely ever achieve perfection. But in my twisted thinking I strive for perfection even if it’s based on a subjective definition. Pursuing perfection keeps me frozen from taking a step toward the extraordinary because if I have to be perfect, not taking the next step insulates me from being wrong.

Progress is rooted in a maxim called the 1% solution. It says if you practice something and get better by 1% every day, at the end of seventy-two days you will have improved by 100%. Creating the extraordinary requires a shift in focus away from achieving perfection to making progress. The goal should be to take all of the talent, skill, time, and available resources available and achieve the maximum amount possible. That may not be perfection, but it is certainly more rewarding. And besides, progress role models the pursuit of the extraordinary for my coworkers, employees, and family.

Create a bigger yes support system: To accomplish anything that is noteworthy, remarkable and or extraordinary you must have a strong support system; a support system that is exemplified by people who believe in the pursuit of the extraordinary, care about you, and resoundingly say yes to your aspirations. Pessimists are not allowed in this group – yes, you need people who will challenge your thinking, but only in service of achieving the extraordinary.

Supplementation: Training for a triathlon is not simply about the disciplines of swimming, biking and running. Nutrition, rest, and supplements are integral to keeping your body at peak performance. In the world of work, supplementing technical expertise with interpersonal, relationship, and influencing expertise is foundational to achieving the extraordinary.

Periodization: Johnny Bench, the all century catcher for the Cincinnati Reds once said “a slump is like a soft bed – they’re easy to get into and hard to get out of.” Humans have a natural tendency to seek comfort and stability. The extraordinary will remain elusive however if we allow our natural tendencies to remain unchecked.

Periodization means that you look at your big yes in four-week periods. Your second week requires greater effort than the first, and the third week requires even greater effort than the second. The fourth week is a less intense week as it gives your body time to recover and prepare itself for another four-week cycle of greater effort than the first.

You cannot train at maximum effort all the time – especially those of you with an outdated definition of perfection and who see your recovery weeks as weak and unproductive. That’s why you need to train mentally, hire a coach, have a support group, and focus on progress rather than perfection.

Rituals and rewards: Last but certainly by no means least is rituals and rewards. Some endurance athletes are a little obsessive-compulsive, and frankly it takes an obsessive-compulsive type of personality to achieve anything extraordinary. The balance though is in finding ways to remain encouraged about your progress.

With all things that are worthy of increased effort and that retrospectively will be described as extraordinary, there will be periods of frustration and doubt. The most effective way to combat these low points is to have a series of rituals and or rewards that remind you of the progress you’re making toward your big yes and of the circumstances you’ve overcome. Rituals and rewards provide you with the breathing room to focus on your progress and to temporarily suspend your pursuit of the unicorn called perfection.

10 Steps to Achieving the Extraordinary (steps 1-5)

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Is there a proven process for achieving the extraordinary either at home or at work? There is and I have some good news as well as some bad news. The good news is that the process for achieving the extraordinary is common sense and easy to understand. The bad news is that without committed leadership only a small percentage of the population has the discipline and focus to make achieving the extraordinary common practice.

While doing research for my book on how ordinary people achieve extraordinary results, I learned that individuals who achieve the extraordinary (like Dick Hoyt above) view themselves as ordinary folks who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. They see themselves as “fortunate” enough to have benefited from a situation they didn’t create. If you hear this repeated don’t allow yourself to think for a moment that the extraordinary is an accident or a fluke. It takes the discipline, courage and tenacity of a committed leader to accomplish the extraordinary.

In order to achieve the extraordinary, you’ll need to think, act, and train in ways similar to a professional athlete. I’m using an athletic metaphor because I’ve always been involved in sports. I ran track in high school and college, was a personal trainer, managed a regional fitness chain for a hospital, and have competed in triathlons both as a participant as well as a mentor. Here’s my bottom line – achieving the extraordinary requires embracing the following ten steps.

Create A Bigger Yes: For any endeavor to be seem as noteworthy, remarkable, or extraordinary – for you, your customers, your team or organization, you must have a plan that contains a compelling, noble and or inspirational big yes. Big yeses allow you to break free from the inertia of today’s schedule and priorities and say no to how you’ve done things in the past. My first guess as to why a team or organization is stuck in the ordinary starts here.

Create A Bigger Skill Set: Breaking your big yes into chunks; chunks that have identifiable qualities, characteristics, processes, or disciplines is the second step to performing extraordinarily well. Whether training for a triathlon or a sales contest, success requires identifying the fundamental building blocks that need to be mastered in order to achieve the extraordinary. Each chunk is then practiced with a belief in and commitment to accomplishing the extraordinary. Every practice session ends with the question – what did I learn and how will I practice next time so that my big yes is achieved in an extraordinary fashion?

Create a Bigger Perspective: Video provides an unparalleled vantage point for achieving the extraordinary. In my executive coaching work I videotape executives giving a speech or presentation. When executives review the video there are a minimum of three to five instances where the executive says, “did I just do that?” or “did I say that?” These moments provide insight into what the executive is doing in real time and are invaluable teachable moments. Videotape yourself practicing or competing and watch the video not once (even though you’ll feel most comfortable watching it once) but numerous times. Ask what went well, what didn’t go well, and come up with three specific action steps you’ll take the next time you practice.

Develop Deep Reservoirs of Mental Stamina: Professional athletes believe the mental aspect of their sport is just as important if not more important than the physical. My first half Ironman triathlon was on June 24th of 2005 in Bend, Oregon where the temperature rose to an unseasonable high of ninety-two degrees during the run. After swimming 1¼ miles and biking 56 miles, a 13.1 mile run is daunting – it’s even more daunting when it’s so hot that even small animals crossing the road get fried. That type of heat fried my resolve. My self-talk was terrible because the heat was oppressive and something I hadn’t trained for. Understanding and mastering the mental aspects of achieving the extraordinary is central because of its role in helping us overcome adversity.

Hire a Coach: Hiring a coach is the smartest decision you will ever make as a leader or amateur athlete. You will make progress faster and become stronger when you partner with a coach who has the experience, wisdom, and success you want. The right coach inspires you, confronts you, and when appropriate comforts you. The objective and candid conversations you have with a coach who supports your goals, understands your current potential, and who has “been there and done that” is immeasurable. Hiring a coach allows you to grow at a faster pace than those who don’t have a coach, but remember – you’ll need to check your ego at the door.

The next post will have steps six through ten.

Why do you…?

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George Orwell, in his book “Why I Write”, said this about being a writer:

“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.”

How do you answer the question: why do I do what I do? Is it for financial security? Is it because you’ve always done it? Do you love what you do?

However you answer the question, I want to ask if there is a part of your work that outrages you that you’re not doing something else? I have many clients that are outraged and resentful and want to know what to do about it. I have three suggestions.

1. Create a list of answers to why you do what you do. Bullet points work great here. Make as long a list as possible.
2. Ask yourself two questions. Is the work I’m doing in line with my true nature? Do I ever feel outraged doing what I’m doing? You’ll likely come up with yes or no answers.
3. Keep a log over the next two weeks about if and when you felt uplifted and or enraged. Determine what you were doing each time and commit to increasing the amount of time you’re uplifted by replicating what uplifts you, and reducing or eliminating what outrages you.

It’s important to remember that you are not a victim. You can and do create the circumstances that lead to living an extraordinary life. It starts with determining why you do what you do.

So, why do you do what you do?

Leaders are people who:

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1. Believe in creating the extraordinary, remarkable, and noteworthy for their employees as well as for their shareholders

2. Believe only the mediocre are always at their best and are continuously thinking about growth, innovation, and raising the performance bar to higher levels

3. Believe there is a direct linkage between leadership credibility and employee engagement

4. Believe a compelling and bigger “yes” propels them into the future

5. Believe in being a student of human behavior – especially their own, and have found a way to garner commitment versus compliance

6. Believe their corporate culture is an asset and role model expected behaviors

7. Believe in having a bias towards action and focus on results not effort

8. Believe utilizing employee’s natural talents and skills is not simply an intellectual construct, but rather a business imperative

What would you add?