Archives for February 2017

Your Ideal Day Is Waiting

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This is an excerpt from my upcoming book entitled 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership: Create A Mindset of Passion, Innovation and Growth.

Victor Hugo said, “The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than of the real. It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live.”  I agree, but let’s be real about the ideal. Can every day be an ideal day? Probably not. Do the choices we make increase the possibility that the number of days we experience as an ideal day increase? Yes, absolutely.

Here’s my bold admonition. Living an ideal day is a choice. There’s no way around the fact that we have a choice as to how we choose to plan and live our days. Victor Frankl, the renowned psychologist in his wonderful book, Mans Search for Meaning, recounted how in the face of unfathomable horror, deprivation and cruelty of a German concentration camp, he could choose his experience. He didn’t simply put on rose colored glasses and think happy thoughts. He chose to accept is circumstances and focused on his hopes for what he would experience and accomplish after his release.

Victor Frankl didn’t delegate his choices for his daily experiences. He chose his experiences and worked tirelessly in the camp to share his choice with fellow prisoners. He unquestioningly posited that we all have a choice as to how we experience and live our day.

Yes, there are days when walking into the office knowing you will terminate an employee with two children in college and a new home is hard and challenging. No one will disagree with that. But far too often leaders see only the negative. They view work as a four letter word and see their days as filled with land mines, a relentless need to do more, do it faster and do it cheaper, and an onslaught of political, manipulative or lazy people who make your day frustrating and challenging.

Viewing your day this way has you arriving home only to greet your family and or friends exhausted, overwhelmed and incapable of a meaningful connection. This type of day has you checked out emotionally because you’ve used up all of your emotional energy simply surviving the day. Which day are you choosing? Are you choosing an ideal day of your making or a real day simply responding to the exigencies of the day?

You’re closer than you think

The good news is that your ideal is much closer than you think. It’s a simple shift in perspective or belief away. Eight years ago my wife grew exasperated sleeping next to me. My snoring was waking her in the middle of the night even though she was wearing ear plugs. I scheduled a sleep study and learned I had a mild case of sleep apnea that with a C-Pap machine allowed me to wake in the morning without the feeling of having gone fifteen rounds with a heavyweight boxer.

My sleep quality increased, but my sleep quantity didn’t. I was waking at 2:30am and staying awake for forty-five minutes to an hour. When asleep I had high quality sleep, but I wasn’t sleeping long enough.

I worked with a sleep coach; yes, there are such people, and learned that an increase in sleep quantity was closer than I thought. The perspective I brought to my sleep was that going to bed earlier was the prescription I needed. The opposite was the case for me. I needed to go to bed forty-five minutes later and by doing so I would sleep without interruption throughout the night. It was counterintuitive.

I learned two important lessons. The first lesson is that coaches are the fastest way to increased performance and the best way to make performance sustainable. The second lesson is that we are most often closer to our ideal than we can see. When we have a shift in perspective it changes the way we act and respond. By changing the way we act and respond, we change the results we’re get. Living our ideal day is that simple and shouldn’t be made any more complicated.

Where do you start?

In the previous sections you identified what you love doing, what you’re good at, and what value you bring to your team and organization. You’ve articulated what you believe and what makes you distinctive in the eyes of your most important relationships. And you’ve seen your leadership impact through the eyes of waking up, growing up and showing up. With this backdrop there are three things you need to do in order to live your ideal day. You must reframe your past, reclaim your future and recalibrate your present.

#1. Reframe your past. You have to be able to look at the negative events in your past and say, “it may not have been ideal, but here’s how I’m going to view these events and what I’ve learned.” In choosing to focus on what is positive you become highly resilient and it shapes your reactions and behaviors in positive ways. This can be hard at times, but reframing negative experiences into positive ones is incredibly powerful and within your control.

#2. Reclaim our future. In order to have high hopes for your ideal day there must be hopes, dreams, aspirations or big ideas that have grabbed hold of you and that you have said yes to. Big dreams or aspirations leave us acting like a gambler who goes all in. In that moment the conversation is “under no circumstances will I take no for an answer on this type of personal and professional life in 2016. This is the life I am claiming.” When you live your leadership purpose there’s no way out and there is no backdoor. When you say, “I will accomplish this.” you have reclaimed the idealized day you have in mind.

#3. Recalibrate your present. Recalibrating your present requires discerning what things you should not do again what you absolutely should do again. This strategy requires recalibrating what worked and what didn’t work over the course of the last year. What was something that accelerated your performance and your sense of satisfaction? What created hope for you, and what created anxiety? Identify the areas of your present that will get in your way and do whatever you can to reduce them or eliminate them. Find those things that are going to help you create greater growth and double down on them.

If you reframe your past, reclaim your future and recalibrate your present you can live your ideal day. But be fair warned. The most revolutionary act you can ever take is to claim your ideal day and to move toward it with faith, confidence and a deep sense of resolve. When you articulate your ideal day it’s essential that you share it with someone you trust and respect. When you share your ideal day and that you are pursuing it, it becomes real and tangible. It doesn’t mean everyday will be ideal, but it does mean the number of ideal days you have will increase appreciably.

Are You Surviving or Thriving? Both Are Your Choice

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One of the most prevalent issues executives and entrepreneurs face today is a feeling of being overwhelmed, over-scheduled and overburdened. What I see continually is that the absence of down time or white space in their calendar leaves them running from meeting to meeting and feeling pressured to make decisions quickly and oftentimes with insufficient information. The underlying belief is that they must do more, with less, do it better and still delight the customer. This leaves the majority of people feeling drained, marginalized and seeing work as a long slow slog through enemy territory on their bellies with bullets flying over their head.

There is an opportunity if this is your situation. The opportunity is that there is a replicatable process for not only making progress amidst the chaos that is your everyday work life, but for making decisions faster and more reliably regarding business success. There is a challenge also. The challenge is that the mindset most executives and entrepreneurs have restricts them from believing anything they do will positively address the situation. You can read more about this mindset in my Mastering Your Mindset Special Report.

If you want to experience greater enthusiasm for your work, to create higher levels of employee engagement, and drive increased execution on strategic initiatives, the following best practices are used by my most successful clients and will work for you also.

#1. Make a different choice

The first and most important best practice is to recognize that you have a choice as to whether you maintain your current state of affairs or do something different. You cannot control the situation presented to you each day nor can you control the exigencies of your day, but you most certainly have control over how you respond to them. You know this but need reminding that you have a choice.

Choose to break any patterns that no longer serve you well and actively choose to create your ideal day and life. You may find yourself saying the same thing that one of my recent Mastering Your Mindset Intensive graduates, Phil Hoffman, said. He said, “When Hugh asked me to define My Ideal Day, I thought “I can do that, but I doubt I can live it.” Phil was committed though and made a different choice. You can too.

#2. Start small

Getting back in shape is not done overnight. When I was twenty years old I broke my leg and for twelve weeks was on crutches with a cast up to my groin. I gained twenty pounds (I was depressed and ate more potato chips and dip than I care to admit), sat on the couch and felt sorry for myself. When the cast came off my leg muscles were atrophied and I couldn’t run from one end of our driveway to the other without getting winded. Yes, we had a long driveway.

I learned at an early age that setting small goals of running the driveway once was a great goal, and that running ten yards farther the next day was a great small success. In our busy lives the vast majority of us are impatient for faster progress, but learning to see small progress accomplished daily, works wonders.

#3. Have a success list

Success lists are game changers. When you keep a list of your successes or accomplishments daily, over time you will see your success and progress in black and white. Success lists allow you to stand back at the end of your week and see clearly where and how you’ve been successful.

Each day before you leave your office write down 3 – 5 ways you were successful and keep track for four weeks. This will be a game changer in your perspective.

#4. Focus on progress not perfection. There is only one area of my life where I have reached a state of perfection and that is being dissatisfied with my current level of perfection. I was raised in a family that “good enough” was not good enough. I could always and should always do more. That’s a rough way to live your life.

Today I work at being content with daily progress and am significantly better at doing so, but am still a work in progress in this regard. But, I’m making progress.

#5. Hire a coach

Without a doubt having a coach or mentor has made the biggest difference in my life. My coach is Alan Weiss. Alan is by far the best coach for consultants like myself and has helped me not only grow my business, but also live my personal and professional life more boldly, abundantly and more generously. Without Alan my new book would likely not be released in June. Coaches help you grow faster and more reliably than we can on our own.

My predictions:

100% of you that choose not to implement one or two or three of my best practices will remain frustrated, employee engagement will falter, performance will decrease, and you’ll never achieve your or your teams full potential.

50% of you will read this and agree with it conceptually and do nothing with it. Not because you’re lazy, dumb, or disinterested, but because you’ll likely be hit with a mission critical issue and will veer off course and forget to come back to it.

25% of you will start one of the best practices and do it for one to two weeks and then stop. You won’t see the immediate results and see the best practices as ineffective and neglect to consider your implementation.

15% of you will get results quickly and conclude after two to three weeks that your bad habits and negative thoughts have been addressed successfully. You’ll think you’ve got things conquered and over the next four to six weeks you’ll regress back to the mean of your prior behavior. Your success will be short lived.

10% of you will commit to making a choice to cultivate one or two of the best practices and make them new habits. You’ll choose differently, set a plan and work your plan, you’ll track your progress and have a coach or mentor help you grow faster and more reliably. For this cohort of people they will do great work, live an abundant life and convert work from a four-letter word into the highest expression of what work and life can be.

Which group are you in? If you want to be in the top 10% and would like my help getting there, drop me an email at hugh@clarisconsulting.net and we’ll discuss how I can help you create greater success faster more reliably and with a whole heck of a lot more fun.

Three Steps For Attracting Your Ideal Customer

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One of your key metrics as an executive or entrepreneur is how fast and profitably you’re able to grow your business. One of the easiest and least costly ways to grow your business is through referrals from existing and happy customers. Referrals are the platinum standard for business growth because they have a near zero cost of acquisition and the sales cycle is reduced significantly.

The power of a referral is as simple as a good friend telling you about their favorite new restaurant, movie, financial planner or car dealership. The likelihood that when you’re in the market for a movie, restaurant, financial planner or car dealership, their recommendation will prompt you to act on their recommendation.

How can you increase the number of referrals you receive each month to an ideal customer? There are three ways to increase the number significantly.

Raise The Bar

This is the foundation for getting referrals. If you do work that makes the life of a customer easier and better you are doing work that is referable. A dentist for example who comforts a nervous patient and makes their dental experience pain and anxiety free has raised the bar as far as what the patient thought was possible, and by doing so has opened the door to receiving referrals.

Key Question: What is the one area of your business you can or need to raise the bar, and by doing so will have an advantage over your competitors?

Elevate The Customer

This second step seems to be below some businesses. While in San Francisco recently I had two dining experiences in highly regarded restaurants. The first was in a very good restaurant with excellent food, but whose attitude from the hostess to wait staff was one of “you are lucky to be here.” The customer was in many regards an interruption and not a welcome guest.

The second restaurant was equally impressive in their food quality, but whose attitude was “we are so lucky to have you here.” They smiled, enjoyed their work and were enthused about making each guest not only feel comfortable but important and welcome. They believed that the customer truly came first and it showed.

Key Question: How are you exemplifying that the customer comes first in your business? Is this distinctive in the eyes of your customer? Would your customer agree with your assessment?

Blow Your Own Horn

The hard truth is that nine out of ten of the businesses I’ve worked with don’t ask for referrals because they’re afraid to ask. They’re afraid they will be turned down, make the customer feel uncomfortable or possibly lose the customer permanently for having asked. So they sit quietly on the sidelines hoping they will receive referrals.

When you believe that you provide exceptionally high value, your reluctance to blow your own horn goes down appreciably. In last weeks Monday Morning Mindset I outlined how you can gain a competitive advantage. Adding to that, I will say without hesitation or reservation that knowing your competitive advantage and what value you provide is the catalyst for sharing prominently what you do and how you help customers. You are not boasting or bragging, but rather helping people to become more successful.

Key Question: How confident and comfortable are you in communicating your value in clear and compelling ways? Depending on your answer, how much will your answer impact you blowing your own horn?

Regardless of your role in an organization, receiving a consistent flow of introductions and referrals to your ideal customer is essential for success and growth. Which of these three steps do you need to address this week?

Three Questions That Give You A Competitive advantage

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What Is Your Competitive Advantage?

No doubt you want a competitive advantage over your competition. A competitive advantage can come in different forms for different people. For example, if you’re a leader you’re competing for the mind-share of the individuals you lead. What will give you an advantage in influencing others behavior? If you’re selling a product or service you are competing with the budgetary requirements of the customer as well as with other vendors. What gives you an advantage?

If you want to position yourself in ways that give you an advantage over your competition I’m going to share one bold statement and three questions that will help you have a competitive advantage. Answer these three questions and you can have a competitive advantage.

Bold statement:
Your competitive advantage needs to be that you give a competitive advantage to your customer for having done business with you.

It’s really quite simple. By giving a competitive advantage to someone you will have a competitive advantage.

Three Questions:
1. What is it that you do extraordinarily well that is highly beneficial to your customer?

2. What are your customers strategic initiatives, and how are you helping them accomplish them in unparalleled ways?

3. What problem / issue are you addressing that it is a game changer for your customer?

When you answer these questions you will have a competitive advantage. But before you check this exercise off your to-do list, take one important and highly valuable next step. Confirm your answers with your customer.

If your answers to what makes you unique and distinctive are compelling for you but not for your customer you do not have a competitive advantage, but rather a performance disadvantage and all bets are off.

If you want to have a competitive advantage provide a competitive advantage to your customers. You’ll know you have done so when customers say, “we cannot imagine doing business without you.” When you hear that, you’re going to have a fabulous week filled with a competitive advantage.