Is your mindset an asset or a liability?

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There is a simple formula my most successful clients agree on. It goes as follows:

1. Flourishing businesses have flourishing patients/clients/customers.

2. Flourishing customers are created by flourishing employees.

3. Flourishing leaders create flourishing employees.

As I wrote in my Special Report, Mastering Your Mindset: Nine Negative Habits That Hold Executives Back and How to Break Them, more often than not, the lack of flourishing is not a skill set issue, but a mindset issue. Here are two examples.

I heard of a hospital CEO who wanted to recruit a cardiovascular surgeon scheduled to leave his current hospital. The surgeon was a brilliant physician, had a history of positive clinical results and brought an assured profitability to the hospital. When the interview panel of six SVPs returned a unanimous “do not hire” recommendation due to the physician “not valuing their team culture, argumentative on minute issues, a poor listener, dismissive of all employees other than physicians and holding a negative view of the CEO”, the CEO hired them anyway. The reason? “You’re being overly critical and you can learn how to work with him.” This CEO dismissed the feedback of a smart and talented group of SVPs and communicated his real criteria in decision making: money trumps culture and my VPs opinions. Money is important, but when financial performance becomes the key strategic driver and culture is dismissed without significant thought, long-term performance is on life support.

I also heard today from an entrepreneur of a brilliant employee whose skill set was perfectly aligned with an emerging technology the company needed, but whose mindset held a “my way or the highway” way of doing his work. When he was pushed to choose between the corporate culture of delighting customers and his way of doing his work, the customer came in second. Any time a customer comes in second to an employee preference for doing their work flourishing is destined for failure.

These two examples represent the cancer the nine negative habits are to an organization. And as is the case with cancer, oftentimes leaders don’t know they have cancer until the only solution is a massive and radical medical intervention.

To help you identify if there is a cancerous mindset inside your organization, I developed my leadership mindset assessment. On the following ten questions rate yourself using a 1 – 10 scale. One is I don’t have or do this regularly, and ten is yes, I have and do this regularly. You can also use this assessment with or on your direct reports.

1. I have a clearly defined and communicated leadership purpose

2. I am currently and actively engaged in growing my leadership mindset AND skill set

3. I devote a minimum of 10% of my workweek to thinking holistically and strategically

4. I set, pursue and accomplish my priorities with enthusiasm

5. I track leadership results and share them with a trusted partner weekly

6. The people I interact with most say I infuse hope, confidence and optimism into the workplace

7. I read broadly and welcome opposing viewpoints and perspectives

8. I am comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity

9. I’m committed to having a positive impact on one persons life; both personally and professionally, daily

10.I am having fun at work and at home

Hugh’s Mastering Your Mindset Challenge:

There are three important questions that need asking after viewing this assessment. Where am I today, where was I one year ago and where do I want to be in one year?

If your score was lower one year ago, what have you done to improve? Quite simply, do more of what made you successful.

If your score was higher one year ago, identify what caused your score to decrease and identify one strategy for increasing it.

Where do you want to be in one year? Identify one or two areas where you want to flourish and choose two or three strategies from the Mastering Your Mindset special report to accelerate your progress.

Your Two Best Responses Are…

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This week I want to talk to you about your two best responses. What do I mean by that? I’m going to reference habit number two and habit number five from the Mastering Your Mindset special report. If you haven’t gotten your copy, there is a link at the bottom of this Monday Morning Mindset.

I was at Starbucks this morning listening to a conversation between a barista and a regular customer. As Starbucks employees do, they greet their customers with a “hi Joe, hi Betty, how’s your day going?” With the regulars they know better they may ask what they have planned for the rest of the week?

As the barista was engaging this one customer, she said, “Do you have plans for the summer?” His response was, “no, I’m a classic workaholic.” She then said, “I know that you’re not from around her, but Washington state has a lot of great camping. Would you enjoy that?”  A good suggestion and a good way to engage a customer. He says, “no, I’m from Chicago, I wouldn’t even know what to do.”

Now ladies and gentlemen, I want to talk to you about the two messages that gentlemen is sending to himself. The first is “I’m a classic workaholic” so therefore the only thing that’s really important is work. Anything outside of work, I don’t necessarily engage in.  If that’s the message you’re telling yourself then you’re going to attract more of that.

The second thing he said was that people from Chicago don’t know how to camp, and if they wanted to, they wouldn’t even know how to start. The message “I wouldn’t even know where to begin” is very disempowering.

I think there are two best responses in a situation where someone suggests something to you. The first is, “thank you for the suggestion, but I don’t like camping.” This is a good response because it clearly and without unnecessary explanation says, this is what I like and this is what I don’t like.

The second response is, “wow, I hadn’t thought of that. I don’t know how to camp, do you have a suggestion about how I could learn how to do that?”

These are both good responses; “I don’t want to, or I don’t know how, but maybe you could suggest a way for me to learn how.” Both of them are empowering. The gentleman in Starbucks this morning had disempowering responses.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week I want you to think about habit number two and habit number five, and to specifically remember this:

“what you tell yourself is far more important than what anyone else tells you.”

This week be very clear what you tell yourself about what type of week you want. When you do, you’ll create the kind of week that leaves you feeling much more empowered.

Mastering Your Mindset Special Report

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The single greatest factor of high performing individuals, teams and organizations is their mindset…what happens in between their ears. It’s not the corporate strategy, it’s not the sales compensation plan, nor is it the market segments they’re pursuing. It is what each leader, team member and employee chooses to focus on, to believe, and to create for themselves and for others.

Helping you master your mindset is the greatest accelerator of success I’ve ever seen and used. Building a supreme self-confidence is not simply a lever I’ve used to help people become successful at work, but it allows people to live a more rewarding and enriching personal life also.

The wrong mindset leads to the following:

▪     Playing not to lose as opposed to playing to win.

▪     Negative customer experiences.

▪     Maintaining the status quo in the face of low performance.

▪     Overthinking insignificant details in the hopes of gaining control.

▪     Feeling overwhelmed and out of control.

▪     Low levels of energy and vitality.

▪     Summarily dismissing new ideas simply because they’re new.

Starting today, I’m releasing advance copies of my Mastering Your Mindset: Nine Negative Thinking Habits that Hold Executives Back-and How to Break Them for Accelerated Business Performance. In this report you’ll learn 27 strategies for dramatically increasing your results, performance and professional relationships. As one reader said,

“Hugh provides practical, transformative gems of wisdom to help anyone discover the path to personal victory and create new and lasting habits of the heart that change the arc of one’s leadership trajectory.”

If you want to Master Your Mindset, you’ll want to download your complimentary advance copy today. The download link is below.

5 Strategies For Greater Success In High Stakes Meetings

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This week I want to share the five strategies for being more successful in high stakes meetings.

We’ve all been in a meeting with people who are influential, who have power and where the stakes are high. The stakes are high because the meeting will address the accomplishment of mission critical results or have an impact on a large population of employees.

When in these situations the question you must answer is, “how can I be successful in tis high stakes meeting?” I have five strategies that will help you do that.

#1 Do your best. Anytime you enter a meeting and you want to be successful, the first item on your agenda should be to do your best work. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be perfect. It means you are focused on doing your best.

#2 Be prepared. The mindset of providing as much value and insight as possible helps make you successful. When your focus is to make other people’s lives easier and to help them get better results you become a magnet for success. This means you will have to know who is going to be in the meeting and what is important to them.

#3 Ask more questions. Don’t be afraid to ask, “how will what we are proposing relate to our strategic priorities? This issue is highly important, let me understand, how will your team and customers react to this?” When you ask more questions, you’ll get more information that will allow you to do your best work.

#4 Have clear expectations for moving forward. One of the reasons I’ve found as to why people are not successful is because there are unclear expectations. If things are not clear, you can never do your best and you can never provide high levels of value. That means you cannot be successful.

#5 Do your best.  Yes, it is a cycle. If you do your best work, then what will happen is you will provide value to people and that allows them to achieve the results they want. If that happens your success goes up. With this additional success you ask again … what can I do now or what should we as a team do with this new success?

If you are prepared to do your best work, provide as much value as possible, ask more questions and have clear expectations, you’re going to be much more successful.

Which of these five strategies can you use this week to be more successful?

Three Reasons Employees Ration Their Effort

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This week I want to talk about why employees ration their effort. When you think about the word ‘rationing’ it has a negative connotation. If there are low food supplies you ration the food available and only provide the quantity of food necessary for survival. If there is a drought and or low water supply you ration your available water supplies.

Why would an employee ration their effort in the world of work? I think there are three reasons why.

#1 No clear future. When employees are unclear about the future state or direction of their department, of themselves, of their organization they take their foot off the accelerator and place it firmly on the brake. Ambiguity and uncertainty slows everything down.

What should you do? Provide the clarity that engages the hearts and the minds of everyone involved. Paint a picture of the future that is real, tangible and inspiring.

#2 No personal connection. When employees are unclear as to how they can actively help achieve the future state they disengage from the future and again, they take their foot off the accelerator and put it on the brake.

What should you do? Your job as a leader is to make a direct connection between what each employee does and the linkage to what the department or organization is working to accomplish.

#3 No accountability. When employees don’t take accountability and measure their results they do what they instinctively know how to do…they take their foot off the accelerator and put it on the brake. Some employees know where they are heading individually and organizationally, but without clear metrics and accountability for accomplishing the desired results will underperform.

What should you do? Look at the absence of metrics and accountability like playing a sport without keeping score. Successful leaders find a way to measure everyone’s performance and communicate regularly “this is what you are doing well and should keep doing. This is what you are not doing as well and can improve.”

Ladies and gentlemen, if you ever find yourself or someone inside your organization rationing their effort you now know there are three things that cause it and three things you can do to rectify it.

Which of these three reasons for rationing effort are impacting you?

Taking Stock of Your Human Capital

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This week I want to talk to you about taking stock of your human capital. The best way for me to do this Monday Morning Mindset is to show you a bottle of Westland single malt whiskey. This is an American craft single malt whiskey I learned of yesterday while on a tour with the Single Malt Tasting Committee from The Rainer Club. While there I met Matthew Hoffman who is a co-founder and the Master Distiller. Matt is twenty-six years of age, and is passionate and excellent at what he does. One of his whiskeys was named 2015 craft whiskey of the year. That is one of multiple awards Matt and his team is receiving at Westland.

Whenever I visit an organization I’m always looking at the leaders and asking, “what level of human capital is this person and what are they exemplifying?” When I watched Matt several things jumped out to me. Matt exemplified enthusiasm, passion, and a commitment to excellence. It was evident in all he said and did. As I watched him I thought, “Matt is a really strong leader and he’s going places.” If I was able to invest in the distillery I would feel very comfortable with Matt at the helm.

What does this mean for you? I suggest that the term taking stock can and does have implications for your employees and that you can benefit from viewing employees in similar ways as to stocks. I don’t mean this in a crass way, and I’m not suggesting you become a day trader with employees. What I am suggesting is that inside your investment portfolio are stocks that are going up in value and that you will keep, some that are remaining flat, but have high potential, and some that are going down and that you may eliminate. Your decision as an educated investor is to review each investment and determining which ones to keep, which ones to invest more in, and which ones to jettison. The same holds true with your human capital.

That begs the question, which employees are growing in value, which ones are flat, and which ones are going down in value and will never recover? For the latter group we need to find a dignified and respectful way to separate ourselves from one another.

So here’s one idea to transform your business. Find the top ten percent of performers inside your organization, and by that I mean the top performers with regard to their mindset and skillset. Find another ten percent that have the potential to become top performers and create a mentoring and learning relationship between the two.

Say to the top ten percent, “I want you to transfer your mindset and skillset to this second ten percent.” Say to the second ten percent, “you have potential that has not been fully realized yet, and in an effort to help you do so you’re going to partner with a mentor who will help you learn and grow in exciting new ways.”

The following next step is crucial. Once the mentee’s have learned to cultivate the mindset and skillset of a top performer, they are required to mentor one other person in a similar fashion. By doing this you take the very highest performing mindset and skillset and cascade it throughout your organization.

When you create a formal, structured and very enthusiastic process of changing the mindset and skillset of your employees, what will happen is you will achieve unprecedented performance. For example, if you have revenue of $225,000 per employee, my experience says you can increase that to $275,000 or $300,000. That’s how important mindset and skillset are.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge

This week, identify your two groups of employees and find and or develop your mentoring program. If you do, you’re going to have a fabulous week, month and year.

Leadership Crunches

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This week I want to talk to you about “leadership crunches.” When you think of crunches you will likely think about sit-ups and planks; the exercises we do to have a strong core.

The value we gain from doing crunches comes in the form of a stronger back and a flatter stomach. But, crunches cannot be done for one day and then forgotten. Anyone can do crunches for one day, but what’s really important is if we are doing our crunches on the third, fifth, seventeenth and sixty-first days.

There are four types of leadership crunches that when done consistently puts you as a leader in a category above and beyond all other leaders. What are the four leadership crunches? They are:

#1. You have to stay on message. Staying on message means that the core message you want heard is continually presented in team meetings, emails, speeches or presentations…wherever two or more employees are meeting you infuse your core message into the conversation. You stay on message about what you’re advocating and why it’s important and what people can do to help achieve the goal.

#2. Tell the truth. Telling the truth is important, but there’s two ways to do it. One way is to adopt the “brutal honesty” approach where you hit people over the head with the truth regardless of how it impacts them. Or, you can tell people the truth “in a way they can hear it.”  This requires you understand the best strategy for communicating with your audience. The latter is much more effective.

#3. Be a role model. If you want people to follow your lead you have to be the exemplar of what you want to see people doing. Yes, you need to stay on message and talk about your vision for the future until you think you’ve said all you can, but the more important aspect of leadership is backing up what you’ve said with how you behave.

#4. Serve others. Servant leadership at work is about making your employees and customers lives easier and better. Servant leaders serve others first by putting aside their own interests and desires and striving to fulfill the interests of others first.

The above leadership crunches will pay handsome dividends if they are done weekly.  Which of the above are you best at? Which needs your attention and focus?

Driven to Distraction

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This week I want to talk about being driven to distraction. It is without reservation that the majority of executives and entrepreneurs are driven to distraction. I’ve started to notice I have clients, colleagues and family members that when we are together their phones are not only close by but also frequently checked.  I have executives that tell me they cannot find 15 to 30 minutes uninterrupted time where their phone is not ringing and their email is not pinging.

We have become driven to distraction and we cannot focus clearly. In turn, we’re not thinking deeply, and it is changing how we think and perceive the world around us. I want to suggest that there is one ritual that can correct this. There is one ritual that will significantly increase the quality of your life, and if implemented will significantly increase the quality of your leadership as well as increase the quality of your business.

My suggestion will be one of the hardest things you’ll do. It’s one of the hardest things to do because when we wake up in the morning our first inclination is to working through our agenda, our to-do list and all the things we need to accomplish that day. I’ve said here numerous times that we have become human doings as opposed to human beings.

So what is the one ritual? The one ritual that changes everything is to spend the first fifteen minutes of your day (if you can only start with five, that’s fine), in some form of meditation, prayer, visualization or contemplation. When you spend time focusing on that which is uplifting, positive, joyful or encouraging, you infuse that mindset into the rest of your day. This time is sacred time. It’s sacred because if we don’t spend time in meditation or prayer the likelihood of doing so later in the day is small.

The ritual that will be the most transformative for you is to take the first fifteen minutes of the day in how you define as meditation prayer. Taking time for yourself will feel awkward at first; it may even feel decadent, but it’s the most important ritual you can adopt because it helps you to become less driven to distraction. It helps you become grounded and thoughtful.

 Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

Start one day this week without checking your email, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts for the first 15 minutes. Instead contemplate or read something that is uplifting to you. At the end of the day, notice how your day went.

9 simple strategies for living a more rewarding and enriching day

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I like to keep things simple. When I overthink and overcomplicate things I feel bad about myself and I accomplish less. I’ve learned the hard way that simplicity is my best strategy for progress and satisfaction. If you ever feel the same way, I have nine strategies for creating a more rewarding and enriching day.

1. Have a purpose. Having a purpose and keeping it clearly in front of me is essential. I don’t simply keep it in my head, I have it physically and visually on my desk and in my planner. The out of sight out of mind admonition comes to mind here.

2. Tell myself a story. Having a compelling story I can recount easily about accomplishing something noteworthy is my second recommendation. My story can be my story or a story about someone that I admire, but in either case it is about overcoming adversity and accomplishing something noteworthy.

3. Expect hardship and adversity. Yup, hardship is certain, but when I know it’s coming I’m not thrown off when it arrives.

4. Connect the dots.. I’ve found that when I view each of my daily tasks or goals through the prism of my purpose I’m more engaged and enthusiastic. It has become quite exciting for me to link everything I do, great or small, to my purpose. My days are far more focused and I feel more successful.

5. Continually refocus. Having a mantra, prayer or meditation that quiets my mind and refocuses me has been a game changer for me. It is so easy for me to lose my focus as well as my enthusiasm in the midst of busy and hectic days. Having a prayer or mantra refocuses my attention, quiets my drunk monkey mind and has become enjoyable.

6. Have a plan and work my plan. This is so simple, but frankly, I have to exercise considerable disciple to create an actual plan for each day. I like to improvise and am good at doing so, but it does not serve me all the time.

7. Follow the 1% rule. As a recovering perfectionist this is very helpful for me. The 1% rule says that if I can learn something or get better at something I deem important by 1% each day, at the end of 72 days I have improved by 100%. This allows me to focus on progress and not perfection.

8. View my life as a statue of David. Michelangelo carved his statue of David; one of the most stunning pieces of art ever created, by carving away every piece of marble that he thought didn’t belong to his vision of the statue. When I see my life as a work of art, I praise myself for all I’m doing well and purify or remove all of the things that don’t serve me. I do this daily, weekly and monthly. Plato was bold when he said, “an unexamined life is not worth living.”

9. Love it or leave it. The greatest positive accomplishments throughout all of history come from people who loved an idea, a hope or an aspiration. When I focus on the ideas that I would love to bring to my clients, family or friends, my enthusiasm becomes contagious and helps me and others feel alive. If I don’t love something I’ve become ruthless in delegating it or simply no loner doing it.

I hope one or two of these nine strategies will be of help to you. If so, use it today then share it with someone. Each of us have an opportunity to help others live a more rewarding and enriching life.

Does Your Project Matter?

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Hand draw business sketches over grey background. Business idea concept

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

Unfortunately, projects have earned a bad rap lately. Some projects are cumbersome and lumbering. They involve people who view the project as a time suck and in turn lack the creativity and enthusiasm for doing meaningful work. Or, projects can be a vehicle for doing meaningful, fun and transformational work.

To be the latter, a project needs to answer yes to five “does the project matter?” questions.

1. Does my project provide meaningful and significant value to my customer? Will it leave them in a considerably better position?

2. Does my project fulfill a compelling need for my team and/or organization? Or, is the project a milk toast project where it would be nice to have it completed, but there’s no real compelling reason to do it.

3. Does my project matter to me? Can I get behind this project with gusto, commitment and passion? Or, am I meek and lukewarm about this project?

4. Does my project require me to learn something new, grow and or become a more successful leader or team member? Is it stretching me in ways that are rewarding while also uncomfortable?

5. Does my project have smart, talented and enthusiastic people on the project team? Or, is it populated with people who were available, but disinterested and disengaged?

Make no bones about it, transformational projects answer yes to all five questions.

When you think of your biggest current project, can you answer yes to all five questions? If not, what’s one thing you can do today to convert your no to a yes?