Archives for July 2014

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Everyone wants to achieve a higher level of performance. Whether as a project manager, an individual contributor or team leader. That’s a given. What’s not a given is an unwavering focus on what higher performance means and looks like to us as individuals as well as to our key constituents.

Higher Performance
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To help you clarify the most important results you can achieve in service of higher performance, I’m sharing the questions I ask clients to help them get clear. Without answers to these questions your work can be haphazard and urgent as opposed to targeted and important.

You DO NOT have to answer all of these questions. You should use them solely as a catalyst to think creatively about the most important results you want to achieve. Keep in mind that senior executives want to know that you can answer these questions.

1. How do I see performance improving in my department, team or organization?

2. Ideally, in a world without any barriers, what would I like to accomplish?

3. What is the one thing, that if I were to do it, would lead to an exceptionally positive difference for my organization?

4. How can my customer be better served?

5. What can I do that would leave my boss saying, “I love having you on my team?”

6. What can make my employees lives significantly better, more productive or easier?

7. What precise aspects of my work are most troubling to me and I would be remiss if I didn’t address them?

8. If I had to set priorities now that would have a significant positive impact on my team or organization, what three things must be accomplished?

9. What is the most important result my organization is pursuing, (ROI/ROE/ROS/ROA/Shareholder Value) and how can I help us achieve them?

What are you tolerating that you shouldn’t be tolerating?

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Video Notes:

Good morning everyone, my name is Hugh Blane, this is the Monday Morning Minute, and this week I want to ask you, what are you tolerating?

Ladies and gentlemen I get to walk into leader’s offices and ask them how things are going, and I hear a long list of laments, things that are not working well and sometimes those laments involve things that they are tolerating that they shouldn’t be tolerating.

I want to ask you this week, is there anything in your personal life or your professional life that you are tolerating. And if there is, I want to suggest that if you want to have a more effective work week that you have to ameliorate that which you are tolerating. You have to reduce it, you have to manage it, but do not simply tolerate it because if you tolerate it, it will drain you, it will drain your energy, your creativity, your vitality. You’ll just not be a happy camper in the world of work or in the world of your personal life.

This Weeks Challenge:
Identify one thing that you were simply tolerating. Do one thing to manage it to its lowest toleration point possible. If you do this you’re going to have a much more effective work week and you’re going to feel like you’re in control and you’ll be actively managing those things that are draining you. That will lead to a positive week.

That’s the Monday Morning Minute. I hope you have a fabulous week and I’ll see you here next week.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Rearview Mirror
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I’ll admit that I had a bad habit for a while. The habit was trying to move forward in my personal and professional life with the predominant perspective being my past. I would focus on what hadn’t worked as well as my failures with a sincere desire to not make the same mistake again.

But do you know what happened? I repeated them just in different ways. Instead of looking forward and leveraging my successes, I was blinded by the past and this inhibited my enjoyment and appreciation for what I’d accomplished. Doing this hindered my ability to achieve my personal and professional purpose, and in professional consulting terms, this is what I call a dumb ass stupid perspective.

Today’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday is not a confessional post. It is an confirmation that every post I write must be grounded in real world advice that can help real people like you get real results. If you’d like to accelerate your progress to either a personal or professional objective I have five suggestions for you:

1. Get clear: Clarify in crystal clear terms what you want and why. If the future state you want is not compelling the likelihood of you pulling out the stops to get there are zero. Don’t think you can wing creating a more compelling future.

2. Forget your past. Stop looking in the rear view mirror. What happened one, three, five or ten years ago is irrelevant. You are a different person today than you were a year ago, and in turn, you have the ability to choose a different strategy for moving forward. When you focus on the past, you focus on what you don’t want rather than what you do want. Don’t do that.

3. Focus on the future: The inverse to number two above is to hyper focus on what you do want in the future. When you focus on the future your able to easily learn new ways of accomplishing your objective as opposed to repeating what you’ve done in the past. Never lose sight of what you want.

4. Find an exemplar: You never have to travel the road to a more rewarding and enriching future alone. Find someone who has accomplished what you want and ask them to help you. Take them to lunch with the plan of learning everything you can about what made them successful. How did they think, what did they say, how did they behave, what tools did they take with them? Don’t reinvent the wheel.

5. Hire a coach or mentor: Without any reservation this has been THE most important part of jettisoning the parts of my past holding me back. My mentor, Alan Weiss, is a world renowned consultant who has written fifty-four books on consulting. He is by far the best exemplar I could find. I’ve worked with Alan for five years and I work with him because he can see and anticipate situations I can’t see and he’s dealt successfully with every issue I’ll encounter. Alan deserves a significant amount of the credit for creating a personal and professional life that I describe as flourishing.

Which of these five ideas would be most helpful for you to implement and why?

Be Distinct or Be Extinct

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Be Distinct or Be Extinct from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Video Notes:

This weeks question comes from Sean Ellis at the University of Georgia. Sean asks, “Hugh, how do you develop your personal brand in general? With management, customers, peers or customers?”

Sean, that’s a really good question and I think the best way to position this idea is by sharing with you what my old boss, Tom Peters, used to say. He said, “be distinct or be extinct.” Tom believed that if there is nothing very distinctive about your work, in the eyes of the people who are important to you, you’d be extinct.

How do you become distinct? I have three strategies for developing your brand. They are:

1. Clarify your default brand
2. Clarify your desired brand
3. Clarify your designed brand

Let me put some meat on these bones.

Your default brand: Your default brand is what it is you are known for? It is the four words or phrases people use to describe you. If they describe you as evil, wicked, bad and nasty…your toast.

Your desired brand: Your desired brand is what you want to be known for in order to be seen as a strategic business partner or a valued added contributor? What do you need and desire to be known for so that you can have a seat at the executive decision making table? What do you need to be known for so you are distinctive in the eyes of the people that matter most to you?

Your designed brand: Your designed brand is how you plan on behavioralizing your desired brand? You may say that in order to live out your desired brand you will ask more questions than make statements. You might invite more people into the decision making process, or when working with others you’ll tell them what they’re doing well as opposed to what they’re doing poorly. These are examples of a desired brand that has been converted into actionable behavior.

Under the show notes I’ll attach my detailed instructions for learning how to each of the above steps. Specifically, you’ll learn how to determine your default brand.

Sean, and everyone else watching, I want to emphasize that your brand either helps or hurts your performance. Your brand either creates willing followers or it doesn’t. In turn, your brand is very important to your success.

This weeks Challenge: My challenge to you this week is for you to do the very first step in my branding process. Learn what your default brand is. If you do this you’ll have a much more effective workweek.

Hugh’s Brand Development Process:

Step 1. Define your Default Brand. The starting point for building your leadership brand involves writing four words or phrases that you believe best describe your leadership. Don’t overthink this; simply capture what you see is the essence of your leadership.

Step 2. Create a list of eight to ten people that you trust and respect. They can be colleagues, managers, coworkers, direct reports, former employees, and or friends. Your list should be a list of people whose opinion you value.

Step 3. Call and or speak in person with those on your list and let them know you are involved in a leadership activity that requires candid feedback. As someone you respect, his or her assistance in seeing your leadership from an outsider’s perspective is essential. Specifically, ask them to provide you with four words or phrases they believe best describe your leadership. It can be a one word descriptor such innovative or inspiring. It can also include phrases such as “can do attitude.” This step will capture thirty-two to forty words that represent what others see as your leadership brand. Review your words and compile a list of themes or patterns. Similar words or synonyms should be distilled into a one-word descriptor that best represents what you believe is the tone and or feel of the words.

Step 4: The overarching objective of step #4 is to clarify your leadership brand / reputation from others perspective and to distill your leadership into the fewest words possible. To do so, whittle your list down to a list of four or five words that best represent your current leadership. This is your Default Brand.

Step 5. Determine if there is a gap between the personal descriptors you generated and the list generated by your observers. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I being seen in ways consistent with my goals and aspirations?
2. Is my list of descriptors (both my own and from my observers) distinctive or simply the price of entry for being in my role?
3. What is the upside and downside to my leadership brand / reputation?
4. Am I excited about the words used to describe me, or am I neutral?

Step 6. Define your Desired Brand by asking yourself the following questions:
1. What is it that I want to be known for?
2. What traits, characteristics and or values are essential and or non-negotiable to me?
This step is less about logic and what’s probable; it is rooted in articulating your highest hopes and aspirations for you and your leadership.

Step 7. Define your Designed Brand. After determining your Desired Brand, ask how you can behaviorally live your Desired Brand. What behaviors will you exhibit in order to be seen as your Desired Brand? Again, ask yourself if the behaviors you’ve identified are distinctive or simply necessary for being in your role?

If you have any questions, or would like help working through the seven steps to a more compelling leadership brand, contact Hugh Blane at 206.829.9413, or email him at

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Think positive, do not negative

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After 25+ years in consulting and coaching I’ve found that the most successful and positive people I’ve worked with have a compelling purpose for their personal and professional life. A belief that acknowledges that thoughts and feelings influence their behavior, and that through their own choosing, they can be a purveyor of positive, uplifting, hopeful and enthusiastic beliefs that benefit themselves, their employees, their organization and their customers.

Being a purveyor of positivity allows for the following benefits:

1. During times of change and uncertainty positive people have the mindset that converts obstacles into opportunities for greatness.

2. Positivity fosters creative thinking. Rather than obsessing on what would happen if negative consequences transpired, the alternative becomes the focus. What if these positive things were to take place and we were able to capitalize on them?

3. A positive mindset allows you to experience the world from an abundance perspective as opposed to a poverty perspective.

The moment a leader changes his or her mindset their entire leadership changes. Your mindset as a leader, that which happens in between your ears, is one of the most powerful leadership tools you have available to you.

Thought provoking questions:
1. What part of your mindset is helping or hurting your individual performance at work?
2. What part of your mindset is helping or hurting your team performance?
3. What part of your mindset is helping or hurting your personal relationships?

Helping Employees Become Rock Stars For Customers

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Helping Employees Become Rock Stars For Customers from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Video Notes:

Good morning everyone, my name is Hugh Blane. This week I want to talk to you about caring for your talent. Over the weekend, I recorded fourteen videos for a new leadership development program I’m creating called The Transformational Leadership Project. This is something I am super excited about and you will hear more about over the coming weeks. But imagine converting your leaders from primarily transactional leaders into transformational leaders. That is the intent of this project.

To record these videos I wanted a transformational videographer to work with. And that’s what I found with Len Davis of Pangeality productions. Len did something really well. He recognized that the moment I stepped foot in the studio that I was the talent, and that any barrier or obstacle that would get in the way of me doing my best work – it was his responsibility to eliminate it. Thank you Len!

That prompted me to think about whether leaders do the same thing with their employees. Do leaders view each of their employees as a “talent” that interacts with customers in either a positive or negative way? Do they actively work to position thier employees in such a way as to be seen as rock stars in their customers eyes?

This Weeks Challenge:
Identify the barriers or obstacles that get in the way of your employees showing up like a rockstar for your customer. Once you’ve done that commit to eliminating at least one. If you do that you will not only have a really effective week, you will also ensure that your customers are supremely happy.

Thank you and I’ll see you next week.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Broken Promises
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A promise is a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.

There are three people you must make promises to in order to be a transformational leader: yourself, your employees and your customers.

1. Promises to you come first. Leaders must first make a promise to themselves that is supportive of their priorities and promises to others. By making a promise to yourself first, you are declaring what it is you can be relied on to do or accomplish.

2. Promises to employees come next. You will never have happy customers if you have unhappy employees. Employees are your brand ambassadors and need to be respected as the valuable asset they are. Thinking through the hopes, dreams and expectations of your employees and promising to help them achieve them is a promise that carries tremendous weight with employees.

3. Making promises that assure customers experience extraordinary value comes next. Customers usually have many options as to where to purchase the product or service you’re providing. Transformational leaders in turn make a formal or explicit statement as to what they can be relied on to provide to the customer. Promises state what others can expect of you without any ambiguity or uncertainty.

Promise Challenge:
1. What one promise did you keep over the last month that you are the most proud of? What was the positive impact of doing so?

2. What one promise did you not keep over the last month that you are the most disappointed about? What was the negative impact of doing so?

3. What will you do over the next month to build on #1 and minimize #2?

The 3 Strategies For Dealing With Challenging People

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The 3 Strategies For Dealing With Challenging People from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Video Notes:

Good morning everyone, my name is Hugh Blane and this is the Monday Morning Minute where I am answering a viewers question. This weeks question comes from Dulce Frial and she asks, Hugh, how do you deal with challenging people? Especially when they’re clients or colleagues and you can’t avoid them?

That’s a great question Dulce. How do you deal with challenging people? You have three options:

You can avoid them
You can accept them
You can address them

If this is a great customer then there’s really no way for you to avoid them. But, if they’re a bad customer and they don’t produce the right amount of revenue, and they don’t give you referrals and they are an undue drain on your resources, I would avoid them by saying “you need to go someplace else and be serviced”. Somewhere else is option number one but most of the time that’s not a really good option. A small percentage of the time it might be.

You can accept them recognizing that they’re just persnickety and demanding, and in turn, they may actually be a catalyst for you to improve your operations. But, you accept them because they’re such a great client. And yes, even great clients need to be addressed at some point.

You can address them. Addressing them sounds like this:

1. I’d like to have a conversation with you about how we can ensure that our interactions with you are really top-notch and exemplary. Your interactions would leave you saying “wow, it’s great working with you.”

2. To do that, I want to hear from you what part of the interactions with us are working well and you want us to do more of. I also want to hear what parts of our interactions are not working well and you want us to do something different.

3. I also want to share with you, and this is important Dulce, “I want to share with you some best practices form our best and most successful clients. Best practices, when deploy allow us to have a partnership with our clients that has them seeing our work together as rewarding and enriching.

4. So, I want to engage you in a conversation about what’s working, what’s not working and to discuss our best practices and determine which one of these you think might work for you. I’d like to discuss them with you and then come up with one or two things we can do differently so you can have the best experience possible. Are you open to having this kind of conversation?

That’s how you address it Dulce. It is collaborative and respectful. It is something that when deployed well can be very effective.

This weeks rapid action challenge:
Make a list of your top ten, fifteen or twenty clients. Which need to be avoided, which need to be accepted and which need to be addressed using this framework? Then agree over the next seventy-two hours to take immediate action. You’ll hear great things as well as learn what needs to change in order to improve your customers satisfaction. If you’ll do this you will have a very successful Monday.

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Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Having a compelling leadership purpose has two transformative benefits: the first is clarity. It allows you to disregard the mundane and inconsequential events that happen in the world of work. It keeps you out of the weeds and on track. The second benefit is that it provides you with energy and vitality. When you have a compelling purpose, it propels you forward in ways that you never imagined possible.

There are three big “if’s” however. Your purpose can clarify your behavior and propel you forward only if:

1. It’s valuable to others inside your organization and team. Your purpose, if compelling to you but inconsequential to your organization, will not propel you for very long.

2. It energizes you. When your purpose is compelling to you, you’re more likely to remain enthused in times of stagnation and adversity.

3. You’re good at it. Having a compelling purpose that leverages your talents and skills puts you in a position to be catapulted forward.

Can you answer in the affirmative for the above three questions?