Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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Get Really Nervous When I Hand You Light Weights

I am a physically active individual. I’ve been physically active since I was seven years old when I started playing soccer, and I’ve done several half-ironman distance triathlons. In turn, I get an excellent bill of health from my doctor at my annual physicals. But I’ve found myself with aches and pains in my shoulders and hips that won’t go away.

I found a stellar resource at my gym that said he could help with my aches and pains. Actually, Bobby Cox is not really a “resource”. He’s a Yoda like exercise physiologist, neuromuscular, stop talking and get to work bad ass trainer. When he first met with me he did an assessment and said I was a mess. My shin bone wasn’t really connected to my thigh bone and my hips, shoulders, chest and arms were as tight as a Scotsman with a one pound note in his hand. I’m Scottish I know tight.

Today, Bobby said something that worried me. He said, “get really nervous when the only weight I’ll hand you is a three pound weight.” “Three pounds? Why only three pounds? He replied, “because your upper body aches and pains are rooted in muscles not working as they’re supposed to. Until they do, our only goal should be to reactivate the dormant muscles and get them working. Until they’re turned on, you’ll be much more prone to injury and creating even more aches and pains. And besides, three pounds is all you’ll be able to do and do the exercise correctly.” He said the last sentence with a knowing smile.

The three pounds was more than enough. My muscles were on fire and burning in ways I’ve not experienced in over twenty years. If you want to exemplary fitness results there are five aspects of fitness you have to embrace.

1. Fitness is a mindset. First and foremost, fitness, health and well-being are a mindset. Fitness is a state mind, a belief, a vision, a desired future that propels you forward. If you can see yourself as healthy, vibrant and energized your half-way there.

2. It’s all about quality. When I did triathlons high mileage was a badge of honor we wore with pride. I used to say “I ran 10 miles on Friday, rode my bike 100 miles on Saturday and swam 1.5 miles on Sunday. The quality of my training could have been terrible, but my ego loved throwing around big numbers. Those days are long gone.

3. Good form fosters good results. One of the things I’ve learned from Bobby is that it is darn easy to fool myself into thinking I have good form. On the contrary, one exercise when viewed in the mirror, shows my shoulders shifting upward when their supposed to be stationary. Is that a big deal? Yes, because it deactivates the muscles I wanted to work and creates more aches and pains.

4. Physical results require discipline, focus and a nutrition plan. Let’s face it. I’d like to be able to eat like I did in my twenties and early thirties. Anything I put in my mouth could be burned off with a few kick-butt workouts. Not anymore. If I want to achieve my results THE only way is to master what I put in my mouth. That requires discipline, focus and a plan.

5. I cannot achieve exemplary results without an exemplary coach / trainer. If you’re like me, having someone help you, support you, correct you and inspire you during trying workouts is a must have. I simply will never push myself the same way someone like Bobby will.

The above lessons also hold true for leadership and the world of work. Mindset, quality work, good form, disciple, focus, a plan and an exemplary coach are prerequisites to higher performance.

Which of the above five aspects above will accelerate your fitness as well as your professional life?

How To Reduce Interpersonal Strife By 50%

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This week I want to talk to you about how you can reduce the interpersonal strife in your personal life and professional life by 50%. How do you do that? You get clear about the boundaries you have or need. For example, in my neighborhood there is a home that is getting ready for a massive remodel. I noticed they had someone draw boundary lines no doubt because they want to know how far they can expand their footprint. What I noticed is that their neighbor’s hedge is on their property line. I said to myself, “that’s going to be an interesting conversation. I can hear, remove your hedge!”

So there is a boundary line that has been crossed and the homeowner has every right to say, “no, please remove or move your hedge.” The same thing happens at work.

We have to be really clear about our boundaries. There are three boundaries that are absolutely critical, and if you get clear on these three, interpersonal strife will go down by at least 50%. Here are the three most important boundaries.

#1. Get clear about what you will and will not do. If your employer says you now need to start working on the weekends, and you say that your expectation was that you wouldn’t have to work weekends, you have something that needs to be negotiated. You have to get crystal clear about what you will do and what you will not do.

#2. You have to get crystal clear about when you will do it. If you say to someone that this is a four week project, and they say, “no, no, no…au contraire, it’s only one week” and you agree to do it, you’ve agreed to do it in one week. So the timing is really important about when you will do what you agreed to do. This is absolutely essential because if it’s late people will see you as untrustworthy.

#3. You have to get crystal clear about the quality of work that you will deliver. If someone says the project is going to be due in one week, you can say I will have it in one week, but it will not be fully vetted. In one week it will only be 60% complete, because we need the extra three weeks to get the other 40% done.

So get clear about what you will do and what you won’t, when you will do it, and the quality of the work you’re doing. If you do that interpersonal strife will go down by 50% and productivity will go up.


THE Most Powerful Leadership Tool You Have

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The most powerful leadership tool you have available is asking a question.

I know that sounds simplistic or even trite, but you have to know those you lead, and you get to know people by asking them questions about what’s important to them.

If you ask an employee what’s important to them you may hear things like being a good father, partner, husband or spouse. You may also hear being a good community member, being involved in a church, a food bank or being involved in a charitable organization. When you hear these types of answers you can lead more effectively and purposefully. You can know a person’s hopes, dreams and aspirations and look for ways to connect what you do in the world of work with what people deem important.

I have three suggestions for how to best ask questions.

#1. Spend time with people. You have to spend quality time with people you’re going to ask questions of. You cannot run in and out and expect a quality answer. You must devote time to being with them and to being fully present.

#2 Listen and care about what they say. You’ve heard me say this, that some people listen to respond and other people listen to understand. You want to truly listen and care about what people have to say.

#3. Learn from them. Asking questions is a wonderful learning experience about how you can lead more effectively. When you take a person’s answers and use them to shape your leadership, you show up with integrity and lead on purpose.

Ladies and gentlemen, these three things: spending time with people, listening and caring about what they say, and intending to learn from our conversations, each one helps you become a more effective leader. If you do these three things you’re going to ask great questions and more importantly you’re going to get great answers, AND you’ll improve your leadership.

You Have To Go Slower In Order To Go Faster

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There is a wonderful quote by the Formula One race car driver, Mario Andretti. He said, “If everything feels like it’s under control your simply not going fast enough.”

The world of work has sped up in appreciable ways. Many of my clients lament that they feel as though they are hurtling themselves from one meeting to the next and have zero time to think creatively or purposefully let alone catch their breathe.

This way of living and working is draining. It drains leaders of the much needed time to reflect and connect with their highest hopes and aspirations both professionally as well as personally. It drains them of the required energy and commitment to connect with employees and customers in meaningful and authentic ways. It drains them of the capability to reinvent and reimagine their work in ways beneficial for their employees and customers.

What’s a leader to do? The best recommendation I’ve heard is from Bob Wartinger, a world renowned hydroplane racer. Bob said, “you have to go slower in order to go faster.” Bob knows because he is incredibly successful at going very fast on water. He holds over one hundred world speed records and has been invited to race on multiple international teams. When I interviewed him about his success Bob said that training his mind to slow down was a precursor to slowing his breathing. When he slowed his breathing his attention was sharpened and his ability to race faster increased.

How can you slow down in today’s turbulent world of work? Here are my top four recommendations.

1. Find your quiet place. Having a place you think of as your quiet place is a necessity. A quiet place becomes a sanctuary. As soon as you enter it you start to think differently just for being there.

2. Make slowing down a ritual. Going to your quiet place must become a ritual just as waking at 5:30am to be at the gym for 6:15am is if you consistently work out. Without rituals you make decisions based on how you feel at the moment, and when you’re tired and drained from your day the likelihood of making decisions rooted in your highest aspirations are harder to make.

3. Make yourself a priority. It may sound overly simplistic, but you’ll never do your best work without making yourself a priority. Why? You have to be a priority in order to slow down, reflect and consider the life you’re living. Disengaging from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to consider the larger; and at the risk of sounding too corporate, more strategic life questions is essential to doing your very best work.

4. Recognize a bias for busyness. Busy people are seen in many circles as successful and powerful. If you have to wait two weeks to find time on someones calendar the likelihood is that you’ll perceive them as successful. Successful people are hard to meet with, right? Not always. There are far too many people that when you look at their calendar you find a human doing versus a human being. You find someone running form one meeting to another and praying for the time to slow down and think creatively.

If you want to catch your breathe and think more creatively and purposefully, which of these four recommendations would be most beneficial to you?

How To Increase Your Goal Accomplishment By 50%

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This week I want to talk to you about how you can increase your goal accomplishment by 50%.

One of the things I am fascinated about is the research that’s happening in neuroscience and how the brain works. Specifically, that there are really two different parts of our brains; one that’s very good with ideation and one that is very good with the deployment of ideas.

Here’s what the current research is telling us. If you want to increase your goal accomplishment, there is this strategy called the “if – then strategy.” Here’s what it says: once you have identified the goal that you want to accomplish, list out all of the barriers that are going to get in the way. Then simply look at each one of the barriers and say, if this happens then I’ll do this.” If – then.

So when you say, “if this happens, then I will do this…” what you’re doing is creating a new pathway in your brain that says, “here’s what I do when this happens.” You won’t have to stop, think and then strategize. You won’t have to stop and plan because you’ve already done so. When it comes time to deploy and implement your idea you’ll do it 50% more effectively.

I think that’s a fascinating piece of information.

Here’s a bonus piece of information. If you visualize yourself doing when you’ve said you will do then your effectiveness goes up by an additional 50%. You can actually increase your effectiveness by 75% by implementing the “if this barrier comes up, then I will do this strategy.” And if you visualize yourself doing this you’re going to be 75% more effective.

Implement the if – then strategy this week and you’ll have a much more effective workweek.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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I attended a business meeting this morning where James Murray of Business Cloud Services talked about IT security and its importance for profitability to small and medium sized businesses. He presented compelling, germane and valuable information that reminded me of the three secrets to effective presentations.

1. Compelling presentations start with the results accomplished. Far too often leaders and their teams focus on the activities they’ve undertaken and not the results accomplished. Yes, knowing “how” you achieved your results is important, but only after you’ve garnered your audiences attention with the results accomplished. When you start with activities rather than results you’ll be seen as a technical pair of hands as opposed to a results oriented strategic partner.

2. Compelling presentations are about real people and real situations. To make your results truly compelling talk about the real people who accomplished the results. For example, James discussed two specific clients and recounted one phone call from earlier in the week. This left me saying this is not theoretical and it built James’s credibility as he was seen as a catalyst for the results.

3. Compelling presentations excite the storyteller before they excite the listener. We’ve all listened to a speaker use words that are compelling, action oriented and exciting but delivered with the enthusiasm of a TSA agent working the tail end of a double shift at JFK. Since the employee is exhausted there is no enthusiasm for their work other than for it to be over. When leaders make presentations they have to excite them first, because making presentations that leave the listener flat jeopardizes their influence and turns audiences off to their key messages.

If you want to be seen as a leader who can get results and rally people to take action, do as James did. Talk about results with real people and in ways that excite you. When you do, you’ll hear the most powerful words a speaker wants to hear…”tell me more.”

What stories do you have that compel you and others to take action?

Why Focusing On Success Is Making You Unsuccessful

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This week I want to talk to you about why focusing on success will make you unsuccessful. It’s counterintuitive, but true. I know from personal experience.

I will admit that in the early part of my career I was hyper-focused on success. What ended up happening was my success became the driving force of my professional life. I wanted to be successful and to have the resources and experiences successful people had. I put success first.

In my mid forties I realized I had things completely backwards, and that I was not being as successful as I could be because I was chasing success, as opposed to attracting success. There is a world of difference between the two.

What did I do to actually attract success? I said I wanted to be a person of service and I wanted to be of significance to people. I wanted to do something that would enable human flourishing and I wanted to do something that would help convert human potential into higher performance.

When I focused on being of service and being a person of significance, my success went up. Today I have a flourishing business, I have a flourishing personal and professional life, and it’s because what I strive to do is to be of service; to you by doing the Monday Morning Minutes, by posting on the website and by having conversations with you.

It’s about service and significance. When you have that as your focus your success will go up. When you have service and significance as your focus, you’re going to have a blast because it is just so much more fun to do that. Is success there? Absolutely.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week focus on being of service and a person of significance to people. When you do that, you will become more successful, and you’re going to have one heck of a good time at work.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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Belief. What we believe about ourselves and those around us influences us in significant ways. This belief led Henry Ford to say “whether you think you can, or you can’t, your right.”

For me, I don’t believe I will ever play in the NFL or NBA and I am 100% confident that I’m 100% right about that. But there are other areas of my personal and professional life where my confidence and belief has at times been less certain. For example, during times of adversity and illness what I believed about my health and wellness, my significant relationships and my business and my community involvement influenced what I achieved. When I first saw the linkage between what I believed and what I achieved I set out to change my beliefs. I wasn’t content with what I was achieving and realized the most significant change that needed to happen was a change in my beliefs about what was possible.

But changing our beliefs can be hard.

As leaders, what you believe about the people you work with will not only affect each individuals performance, but your team or organizations performance. If teams believe they are incapable of meeting the challenges posed by their biggest competitor; if they believe they are going to be obsolete and relegated to the “also ran” group of teams, the likelihood they will experience these beliefs is considerably higher than with an opposing belief.

One of the strategies I’ve helped successful leaders use to improve performance is to change their beliefs as to what’s possible for themselves as well as those they work with. Think about the beliefs required to rescue the three Apollo 13 astronaunts stranded in space in 1971.

While not a complete list, here are five strategies you can use to change an individuals, teams or organizations beliefs.

1. Find an extraordinary exemplar. Find someone who you know or admire who has achieved something extraordinary and study them. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

2. Recall a big success and what people said to you and or the team. Create a file to capture your list of what contributed to your success and add to it as frequently as possible.

3. Read, watch and immerse yourself in the biographies of people who achieved something extraordinary and find one thing you can learn and or adopt from their experience.

4. Surround yourself with people with an unshakable belief in what’s possible.

5. Change your vocabulary. More important than what people say to you about your work is what you say to yourself. At the earliest sign of a “I can’t do this” narrative replace it with an alternative narrative. For example, “I haven’t done this before, but I will learn how to do it with time, patience and tenacity.” Number five is easier when numbers one through four are in place.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom recommendations:

1. Personalize this list. Make it your own by adding to it ideas that appeal and resonate with you.

2. Be of service. Think of your most significant relationship. If you wanted to help them change their beliefs what would you recommend they do?

3. Be courageous. Most of the time you know what needs to be done. You have the experience, wisdom, discernment and courage that comes from being alive. What hinders you is a fear or trepidation about some aspect of your actions and in turn you second guess yourself. As Bob Newhart said in his famous skit, “Stop it.”

Labor Day 2015

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Each year on the first Monday in September, we take a vacation day to celebrate the history of labor and the contributions workers have made in service of our country. I do believe that all of us who work; who labor, make a contribution. Some contributions seem to make a bigger impact, but I’m convinced all who labor are making a contribution.

For example, my neighbor had a new concrete driveway poured yesterday. The men that worked at his house worked from early in the morning till late in the evening. They were bent over for a large portion of the day and by my estimation, worked their tails off. Their labor paid off for them, my neighbor and me. Here are five examples of how their labor paid dividends and needs to be celebrated:

1. Their labor paid them a wage that allowed them to support themselves and their families.

2. Their labor increased the value of my neighbors home. Since they are in the process of selling their house, their new driveway increased their homes value two times what they paid for the driveway.

3. Their labor will allow my neighbors to sell their home for a higher amount and in turn, move to Idaho with a greater proceeds from their sale and invest in the new home they will build there. This employs more people for longer periods.

4. Their labor increased the fees the real estate agent will earn when the home sells due to the higher value of the home.

5. Their labor will also allow my neighbor to purchase a new Harley Davidson motorcycle. He told me that if he was able to attract a higher offer his hopes for a new motorcycle would become real with a higher selling price. I can hear the motorcycle now.

My reference about a new driveway is a small example of the dividends we reap from our labor. As nurses your labor may save a life. As an attorney your labor may protect a client from a frivolous law suit. As a police officer your labor protects us from people who may do us harm.

Today, as you celebrate your labor, stop and think about the many ways you provide value to those around you. When you do you will find much to celebrate.

Enjoy your labor day!

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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When striving to accomplish a goal there is a tremendous benefit in asking the right questions. The benefit can be as simple as getting directions. Having directions allows us to drive directly and less stressfully to the restaurant where we’re having dinner with friends.

The benefit can also be more complex as when we articulate the kind of life we envision for the upcoming year. When we have an answer to this question we set priorities as to what we will start doing, stop doing and keep doing in order to be successful.

All too frequently people ask themselves the wrong question. The wrong question is one that intentionally or unknowingly uses only one part of our brains and ultimately supports our biases or preconceived notions. Asking the wrong questions deters people from being successful or accomplishing their goals.

When moving toward a goal or objective here are the right questions to ask:

1. Who is the exemplar of what I want to accomplish? Who is the one person I hold up as the epitome of success or accomplishment?

2. What traits or characteristics do they have that I don’t have?

3. What’s the payoff for me to embodying these traits or characteristics? What does the future look like for me if I become exemplary at implementing them?

4. What are the barriers or obstacles I’ll encounter in pursuing my goal? These can be organizational as well as personal issues.

5. What specifically will I do when I encounter these barriers?

When you ask yourself or your employees these questions you use two parts of your brain. One is for goal identification and the other is for goal implementation. Asking both requires energy to get clear, but the payoff is found in question five. When you’ve asked the right questions you will have identified the barriers and know what you will do to address them. This converts the energy used for asking difficult questions in the heat of the moment into implementing strategies that move you closer to your goal.

In what are of your personal or professional life do you want to ask better questions?