Archives for December 2015

Happy New Year!

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It is December 28th, and we are 3 days away from wishing each other a Happy New Year.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make the suggestion that you do not declare any new year resolutions this year.

You and I both know what happens when we declare a resolution. Within a few short weeks we’ve gone back to our old ways. I’m going to suggest that when one year turns over to the next there is one important question that we need to ask ourselves. The one important question is:

2016’s Most Important Question
If today were December 31st, 2016, what will my life look like? What do I want it to look like personally, professionally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually…what do I want my life to look like? And then you follow that question with what is the one thing I can do to make those things happen?

Ladies and gentlemen, businesses have strategic plans, but too often we don’t have a strategic plan for our life. What I think really must happen is that we disavow ourselves of any kind of notion of resolutions. Resolutions do fit, but not at the beginning of determining what our best year ever will look like.

Let me suggest that the most important need we all have is is to know what we want our life to look like and what we’ll do to move toward that life. If what you want is compelling for you; if your life looks uplifting, if it is something that engages you, if it is something that inspires you, if it is an idea that has grabbed hold of you and will not let go, you don’t need to worry about resolutions. You will be drawn toward it in powerful ways.

Too often we come to the new year thinking, thinking, thinking as opposed to feeling. We intellectualize our hopes and dreams. We need to stop “thinking” about our ideal life and start feeling what it would be like to live a flourishing life in 2016. Once we have that clarified, then we will make promises and we will set priorities that propel us forward.

Ladies and gentlemen, stop making New Years resolutions. Start envisioning a flourishing life that is so compelling for you that there is absolutely no way you could say no to it.

I also want to thank you for another 52 weeks of your engagement, your comments, your willingness to take a few minutes out of your single week and just devote yourself to living a more rewarding and enriching life. I am honored to be a part of your week. Thank you for joining me, and I really look forward to helping you flourish even more in 2016.

Happy New Year everyone!

Happy Holidays!

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This Monday it’s December 21st, 2015. Seven days ago Hanukkah ended, and in four days we will celebrate Christmas. Now at this time of year our faith traditions tell us to slow down and to immerse ourselves in the mystery and gratitude that the season holds. For me there is a wonderful joyous nature at the center of what Christmas is supposed to be and I want to extend to you my best wishes for the very best the season holds, however you celebrate the holidays.

I had a conversation with someone who was doing some work in my house over the weekend, and he said, “you know, I’m a little bah-humbuggish.” I said, “why is that.” He said, “because I look around and see that the Christmas season has become very commercialized.” I said, “Shawn, I understand that.”

So, this time of year is an opportunity for us to slow down and to immerse ourselves in the mystery of the season. To be immersed in joyousness, celebration, gratitude and for many of us, a faith in something that we cannot see.

I hope that the things you cannot see over this past year become clearer to you. Specifically, how you’ve done exceptionally good work, that you are an exceptionally talented and smart individual, and the people that you surround yourself with, while they may all not be perfect, that there is a lot to be grateful for. You can say, “I am very blessed to have this person in my life or this event happen because every event or person allows me to live the most rewarding and enriching life possible…even during times of adversity.” We have the ability to have that kind of conversation with ourselves. I think that’s what is really at the root of what this season holds…for us to be grateful for all of what we have, and in turn to be generous with those around us.

If we do that we will have a fabulous holiday season. For those of my Hanukkah clients and friends, Hanukkah ended last Monday but i want to extend to you a happy belated Hanukkah. For those of you who are celebrating Christmas, I wish you the very merriest of Christmases. And for those of you who don’t celebrate in any official way, I extend to you the spirit of both of these faith traditions and wish you the very, very best.

Thank you for your support over the last 51 weeks. I’ll see you here next week. Take care.

The 3 Reasons Why Your Learning Initiatives Fail

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I’ve seen first hand the successes and failures organizations experience when they try and learn new ways of doing things. All too often there are more failures than successes. Why? The number one reason is that in a world of do more, do it better, faster and cheaper, it is hard to push through from learning about something to learning to be something. Here’s what I mean.

There are three levels of learning.

1. About– Learning “about” something is primarily rooted in having new information or data. It oftentimes comes from watching a documentary, reading a book, or listening to a lecture. I can learn about leadership from books, but until I move to the second level I can’t grow as a leader and become more effective. Can you think of a leader who relays the merits of new information they’ve acquired but never changes their behavior? This is learning about something.

2. Doing– Learning to “do” something comes from “doing” what’s been read or listened to about a subject. It requires practice and is something that is done consciously. Once the current literature on leadership has been read it’s time to practice what’s been learned in order to truly learn how to “do” leadership. For example, a librarian who has read volumes of books about investing cannot become a better investor unless they convert their intellectual understanding of investing into practical and real world experience.

3. Being– Learning to “be” something is achieved when we internalize and take ownership for what we learned in levels one and two. We embrace and embody what we’ve learned in previous levels and take great pride in exemplifying what we’ve learned. We do so because it makes us feel more successful and satisfied.

Too many people believe level one is sufficient in order to create extraordinary results and to live an extraordinary life – that’s simply not the case. You have to move to level three in the most important areas of your professional and personal lives in order to be successful.

Hugh’s Monday Morning Challenge
Start your week by creating two lists. Your “to-do” list as well as your “to-be” list. Your to-be list should have a maximum of three traits or characteristics on it that you will be the exemplar for. These traits or characteristics; if embodied in an authentic and passionate way, will communicate to your most important customers what you stand for, what you value and what you believe.

What are the three traits or characteristics you will be this week?

The 3 Strategies For Delighting Your Customers

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I attended a meeting this week at the Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island. The Castle Hill Inn is a prestigious high end hotel my mentor, Alan Weiss, has raved about. When Alan raves about a product or service I look forward to experiencing it as he has superb taste.

When I arrived the first morning of my meeting I poured myself a cup of coffee at the coffee station serving my conference room. Since it was early in the morning I was excited about a good cup of coffee, but was disappointed as the coffee was lukewarm. I brought this to the attention of a staff member who apologized profusely and promised to correct the situation which they did.

The following morning I was delighted when I was approached by a staff member who said, “Good morning Mr. Blane. I know the coffee yesterday morning was not hot. I have a cup of hot coffee for you if you’d like it.” I said, absolutely. I was then presented with a hot and freshly brewed Cappuccino.

The Castle Hill Inn delighted me by doing three important things. They are:

1. They personalize the customer experience. The Castle Hill Inn asked for the names of the fifteen people attending my meeting. They then printed out the names and photographs of each person attending and whenever a staff member saw each attendee they called them by name.

2. They responded in unexpected ways. When the Inn catering staff learned I was disappointed by lukewarm coffee they had a piping hot cup Cappuccino the following morning. This small gesture required coordinating when I left the restaurant and arrived in the conference room. This was unexpected as well as highly thoughtful.

3. They made delighting the customer a team effort. When I received a phone call while in the lobby and needed a quiet room for my call, the front desk staff ushered me to an unoccupied room, turned on the lights and made sure I was comfortable for my call.

At every point of my stay the Castle Inn staff has been delightful. But reading this post isn’t about my delightful stay. It’s about deciding hhich of the above three strategies if fully implemented in your team or organization would delight your customers?

Be Distinct or Be Extinct

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My old boss, Tom Peters, had a great quip about leadership and branding. He said, be distinct or be extinct. He makes a great point. If there is nothing distinctive about what you do, about the results you achieve and how you help your organization perform, then at some point you will be extinct. As Tom used to say, “you’re toast.”

There is a very strong and compelling case to be made about why brands are among the most strategic assets of an organization. Brands and reputations have tangible, financial value. Leaders have a brand also and they must be cultivated purposefully. Why? Because what a leader stands for and the value they create is central to their leadership effectiveness.

What is your leadership brand?

To answer this question I ask my clients the following: what are you known for? Do you have a distinctive brand or reputation? If in the face of business models becoming obsolete, do you have the distinction to survive the corporate chopping block? Or, even better, do you have what it takes to quickly land an even better opportunity if your current work were to be eliminated? If not, developing a personal brand is a high stakes proposition for you.

Leaders who achieve above average performance have defined what I call their default, desired and designed brands. They have learned how to think in personal branding terms, and have specifically answered the following five essential questions.

1. What do people think I stand for?

2. What do I want to be known for?

3. What value am I creating for my organization?

4. Do the people who matter most to me see me in the way I want to be seen?

5. What’s the best way for me to communicate my brand to my key constituents?

Monday Morning Minute Challenge:

Take 15 minutes to answer the above questions with a targeted emphasis on what you want to be known for. Once you have the traits and characteristics listed ask yourself this hard question: are the traits and characteristics I listed distinctive or simply the price of entry for being in my job? If for example you listed reliable and dependable. These traits are the price of entry in the world of work.

If you are really interested in whether your descriptors are distinctive, share them with someone you respect and ask them for their perspective. If you can, share them with your boss and see what they say.

If you do this weeks challenge you will take a giant step forward to becoming more effective.

The 3 Steps To Taming Your Calendar

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The world of work for many of the readers of my blog has become overwhelming. It became evident in my recent blog survey where readers unanimously said they were experiencing the following:

1. A never ending to-do list that leaves them overwhelmed, overworked and feeling unproductive.

2. Not enough time to think clearly about how they want to purposefully rather than accidentally live their professional and personal lives.

3. Not enough committed, engaged and or talented enough employees to achieve their strategic priorities.

4. A growing negative mindset.

5. Unrealized performance based on the above four points.

It is hard to address any or all of these issues without more margin in your life. If you don’t have the time to slow down, think differently and plan accordingly you’ll feel as though you’re caught in an endless showing of the movie Ground Hog Day. For those of you uninitiated movie watchers, you can watch the trailer to the movie here for the gist of the movie.

How Do You Get More Margin?

The best answer I have is to be ruthlessly protective of your schedule and time. I know this may be hard to hear for those of you who are given directives with timelines from bosses who seem less concerned with you than they are with results. I recognize it may fall on deaf ears when your personal life is filled with obligations to children, spouses / partners and even your community obligations. You’ll read my recommendations and claim your boss or family control your calendar and not you.

Here’s the rub. You have significantly more control over your calendar than you give yourself credit for. Yes, the above is true. Yes, you have obligations. But don’t lose sight of the fact that you agreed to adhere to the expectations.

For example, I heard a middle manager with twenty-five employees say to her colleagues last week, “I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to try and do everything. The onslaught of work around here is never ending and all consuming, but I’m not willing to live my life trying to keep up. I’m committing to working out in the mornings and leaving early at least once per week. I don’t know how this will all play out, but I know it will not play out well if I continue selling my soul to my to-do list.”

Is it challenging to positively influence your calendar? Yes. Is it impossible to positively influence your calendar? No. Changing your calendar requires three things.

1. You must have a clear and compelling reason to change. If you lack the hope and optimism that a more rewarding and uplifting tomorrow holds, the reality of today will prevail. You must define what the best version of December 31st, 2016 looks like for you.

2. You must have courageous conversations with yourself and with your boss regarding expectations. Nothing changes until the conversations we have with ourselves and others changes. Candidly, is work fun? Is it draining you? Does work by Friday leave you exhausted and ready for two days of recuperation? Having a conversation about the impact work has on you is the jumping off point for meaningful change.

3. You must have the grit, determination and commitment to not give up until you’ve made the progress you want. This recommendation is a deal breaker. You can have all of the clarity about the future you want and the courage to talk about your future and how to get there, but without massive amounts of grit and determination the likelihood of you being successful is limited. Severely limited.

Your Challenge:

For employees and leaders to rethink and or reconfigure their work and the years of doing what they’ve always done requires clarity, courage and commitment. The number one question you must ask yourself this week is: which of the above do I need more of? Am I clear but lack the courage. Am I courageous, but not tenacious? Answering that question will provide you with more margin as well as a greater sense of control.