5 Reasons Why Taking Shortcuts Shortchanges You

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Video Notes:

You are all very busy. You go from one meeting to another and you have senior leaders breathing down you necks saying, “do more, do it better, do it faster, do it cheaper”. Amidst the busyness of your everyday work life the appeal of taking a shortcut can be alluring. But, I want to share with you the five reasons why taking shortcuts may be appealing but taking them shortchanges you. Here are the five reasons.

#1. The important relationships in your life perish with the use of shortcuts. You can’t use a shortcut to raise your children nor can you use shortcuts to have a meaningful, high quality relationship with a significant other or a spouse. You simply cannot do it. Quality relationships time, focus and your presence.

#2. We miss out on wonderful experiences when we run from point A to point B. If we don’t take the long route, what we miss seeing is the topography, the landscape, how other cultures behave differently nor are we seeing in the world of work how our customers experience things. When we’re rushing from point A to point B and taking a shortcut we’re shortchanging ourselves as to other people’s perspectives and how they do things.

#3. You’ll never reach your full potential if you’re looking for shortcuts. Itzhak Perlman, the virtuoso violinist, never took a shortcut in becoming a virtuoso violinist. Whenever you see someone perform and comment “they are masterful,” I will promise you this, they did not take a shortcut.

#4. We become human doings as opposed to human beings. When we are on the hamster wheel going from one task to another task to another task, our tasks blind us to other more important aspects of our personal and professional lives. Going mindlessly or frantically from one activity to another has us becoming human doings as opposed to human beings.

#5. We are not very interesting when we simply read the Cliff Notes on life. It is true that you can read the Cliff Notes on Alexander Dumas’s, The Count of Monte Cristo, but I believe you will miss out on a wonderful narrative by an masterful storyteller. When you immerse yourself in a story, you become interested and engaged in the story and you want to share it with other people. When you do, others find your engagement and you interesting because of your interest in the story. When you only read the Cliff Notes you’re unable to experience the full breadth of a particular story.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are the five reasons why taking shortcuts will shortchange you. There are times you will want or need to take a shortcut, but these five reasons are worth your consideration because far too often the shortcuts you’ve taken have left you shortchanged…and that’s something you’ll want to avoid doing again this week.

This week, identify one shortcut you’ve been taking that is no longer serving you well, and make a commitment to change it. If you don’t you’re going to miss out and be shortchanged. I don’t believe that’s what you want, so this week identify one shortcut and make a commitment to eliminate it.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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I spent this morning with Frank Neumayer. Frank is a champion Trap and Skeet instructor and is the man I sought out when I wanted to learn how to shoot. For those of you who don’t know, trap and skeet are clay discs 4.3 inches in diameter launched at speeds of up to 45 mph that you shoot with a shotgun.

Successfully shooting trap and skeet has three key success factors. These three success factors are not only important in shooting clay targets, but they are also important in our professional and personal lives. Here’s Frank’s top three recommendations.

1. Let your equipment do the heavy lifting. Frank explained that the shotgun and shells used were specifically designed for this type of shooting. He detailed for me the size of the shot inside each shell, the velocity of the shot versus a rifle, the pattern of impact twenty to forty yards away and a few other details that I wasn’t quite able to grasp. What I did hear loud and clear is that the equipment was perfectly matched for the targets and that I needed to trust the equipment and relax. I didn’t master this today.

2. Keep a soft focus. Focusing on a target moving away from you at 45 mph can be done in a relaxed or stressful way. When our vision is strained, we tense up and lose the ability to track the target effectively. Frank shared with me several tricks to focus beyond the target and wait for the target to appear into my field of vision before pulling the trigger. When I used a soft focus I was more successful. This too I didn’t master today.

3. Don’t overthink things. If you are successful with numbers one and two you don’t need to focus on number three. But, after my initial success of hitting the first target I took at aim at, the following five targets escaped unscathed. I admitted to Frank I had tendencies toward overthinking. He looked at me as if I had said I had two ears, two eyes and one mouth. His expression said, “yes, that’s plain to see.” I didn’t master this key success factor today either.

As leaders, surrounding ourselves with the right equipment is essential. The right equipment is comprised of the right people, the right processes, the right products and services geared toward our target customers. We also need to hold our vision for the future in a relaxed manner and not become stressed and or strained. We also must avoid overthinking things. With the right equipment, the right vision and the ability to be in the moment and not create stress for ourselves as well as for others we can hit any target.

I’ll be back with Frank on Sunday the 31st to practice these three key success factors…and, of course break more fast moving clay.

Hugh’s Mindset Reality Check

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Video Notes

This week I want to do a reality check with you.

Here’s what I know. 80% of the effectiveness of your workouts is mental. 80% of how you look in your clothes is mental.

Really? Ladies and gentlemen, I see people go into the gym all the time and they’re there on automatic pilot. They are going through the motions, but lacking a focus or urgency. When I go to the gym, I have a mantra that permeates my workout. I am there to get stronger, more powerful and faster. I also want to feel vibrant physically which means I bring the attitude of strong, powerful and fast to every workout so that I can get the most from it. The same holds true for the world of work. If we want to maximize our effectiveness we must be very purposeful.

Yes, 80% of how we look in our jeans is based on what goes in the hole in the front of our face. For example, there are some things that I like and I want more of, but I know they’re not good for me. Bread is one of them. Ahhh, bread…I love it! Butter, cheese, wine. But bread is not good for me. It triggers my sweet tooth and I in turn eat more sweets. For me to not overeat sweets I have to avoid bread because it doesn’t work work my body. And like you, I know that managing this situation is 80% my mindset.

So, do you know what this means for this week at work? It means you have to manage your mindset in order to be effective and successful. Is your head in the game? For example, do you have a scarcity mindset or do you have an abundance mindset? Are you playing not to lose or are you playing to win?

Ladies and gentlemen, 80% of the effectiveness of your week resides in between your ears. Make sure your mindset is right and you’ll have a fabulous, fabulous week.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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What a leader says and how they say it are essential to effective executive communication. For example, yesterday I was part of a 150 person business leader luncheon where Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, spoke about the state of the economy, government oversight, and the international issues facing the banking / financial services industry. While a lot of what Jamie said was predictable and nuanced from a corporate CEO with two trillion dollars in assets, the two pieces of his talk that grabbed my attention had very little to do with banking.

Jamie Dimon is first and foremost a charismatic and enthusiastic leader. The stories he tells are compelling and rooted in the real world trenches of banking in the 21st century. And yet, the first piece came in Jamie’s opening remarks. He started with a quote from the founder of his company, J.P. Morgan, who said, our company is all about “doing first class business in a first class way.” Is that pithy? Yes. Is it influencing Jamie’s leadership today? Yes, I believe so.

The quote was designed to convey to the audience what Chase stands for and it was successful in doing so. The quote also left me thinking about how incredibly hard it must be to stay true to an organization’s founding belief about what their business holds to be sacred. As a consultant and coach to executives about their leadership messaging, I was keenly interested in how Jamie used the quote, but was more tuned in to how it landed on the audience. Why? Because quotes can be compelling when used in the right way. The right way is when the quote has a bridge connecting the inspirational admonition with the real world everyday challenges faced by the leader and their audience.

When I hear a leader use a quote I want to also hear how the leader uses the quote in their own life. Yesterday, I wanted Jamie to discuss how he balanced doing first class business in first class ways while simultaneously navigating the highly politicized fallout from the 2008 recession. Specifically, I wanted to hear him tell a story about how he as a leader lives out the founders proclamation. Without the “and for example, here’s how I do this” I’m unsure whether the rest of the organization embraces the notion of first class business being done in first class ways.

The second interesting comment was about the five reasons why doing business in America trumps doing business in any other part of the world. Jamie sited five key reasons. They are:

1. The United States has by far the best economy. Regardless of our ups and downs, the US economy is the premier economy globally.

2. The best business environment. American businesses remain innovative and highly adaptable even in the face of the headwinds of global competition and government regulation.

3. The best universities. 40% of all students enrolled in institutions of higher learning in the US are international students. People from all over the world come here for an exemplary education.

4. The best rule of law. Are there examples of where the US judicial system is flawed and broken? Absolutely. But ask Amanda Knox if she would prefer her trial be held in the US or in Italy.

5. The best work ethic. American workers have a “can do” and “we’ll get it done attitude.”

These five reasons are compelling, and yes, there are always exceptions to every rule. But Jamie’s top five reasons resonated with me and this audience. From an executive messaging perspective it worked well and left people optimistic about the possibilities ahead for American business.

The two key messages you want on your radar screen for this week are:

1. Get crystal clear about what you do, why it’s valuable to your customers, employees, stakeholders, and how you will live this out in real and compelling ways. Without clarity you will feel as though you’re driving in fog.

2. What are the five most important attributes, characteristics or contributors to you, your team and your organization doing the exemplary work necessary to my first question?

Being clear about your answers to these two questions will provide you with the confidence and enthusiasm to do truly exemplary work.

Are Your Employees Having Fun At Work

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Video Notes:

I have a really simple question: are your employees having fun at work?

You’ve heard it before, but you will never have happy customers if you have unhappy employees.

Are you as a leader having fun at work? When you wake up, do you have an enthusiasm and passion that leaves you saying, “I’m really excited about going to work today?” Does work hold for you a longing to learn something new, meeting new people and having new experiences?” Having fun is contagious. It cascades down from the leader and permeates their orgranization.

Are you having fun? If you’re not having fun, what do you need to do to have fun? Now, that may be that you need to change jobs, that may mean you need to change roles, it may mean that the only thing you need to change is the way that you look at your work and what you are creating for your customers. It may simply be a mindset shift.

Ladies and gentlemen, when you start having fun at work, your performance will go up, the level of engagement will go up, and the level of customer satisfaction will go up.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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We all run into times when we don’t do our best work. It will happen to the best of us, but what differentiates extraordinary performers from under-performers is how we respond to not performing at our best. Here are the six best strategies for recovering from a lackluster performance.

1. Take a deep breath. Most people when they experience a negative situation breath in a shallow and highly irregular manner, and in extreme situations hold their breath. Inhaling for seven seconds, holding it for three seconds and exhaling for seven seconds is deep breathing. A breath like this is a mind altering experience that helps you to become more centered, attentive to your circumstances and allows you to go to strategy number two.

2. Focus on your personal purpose. A personal purpose is the “what” and “why” behind what you do for work. For example, my corporate purpose is “to convert human potential into accelerated performance”. Whenever I run into a period where I need reorienting I always start by focusing on my purpose.

3. Take baby steps. Your purpose is the big picture of the life you want to live. After reorienting yourself to what is truly important to you, your best next step is to take a baby step closer to your purpose. Doing so focuses you on progressing forward and not on seeking the perfection you believe you should have achieved. Perfection all too often becomes a form of procrastination after times of setback.

4. Eliminate distractions. Eliminating any unnecessary distractions; distractions from email, cellphone, to-do list reminders or notifications from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your dog that wants to go for a walk is essential. Why? First, being distracted may have caused you to underperform in the first place, and secondly, learning from the past and growing into a more desirable future cannot be done if you are continually being distracted.

5. Master your mindset. You cannot have two dominant thoughts at the same time, so what you pay attention to during times of a setback is crucial to master. For example, is your self-talk rooted in recrimination, failing and being stupid for having not performed at your peak? Or, is it about learning, personal and professional growth and getting better every week? The latter accelerates your growth and performance while the former diminishes it.

6. Review your performance with a coach or mentor. Everyone needs an objective perspective as to how we’ve performed from someone we trust and respect. Being able to debrief with someone who has “been there and done that” provides tremendous value, insights and immediate options for what to implement next.

These six strategies will help you accelerate your growth and learning after a less than ideal performance. Which one can you benefit from the most?

If you’d like to discuss how I can be your coach or mentor drop me an email at hugh@clarisconsulting.net or call me at 206.829.9413.

Mental Sunscreen

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Video Notes:

This week I want to talk about mental sunscreen.

I’ve had several Basil cell carcinomas removed from my face and neck and I don’t want to repeat this process. To ensure I don’t have additional surgeries I wear sunscreen. I don’t know the SPF of my sunscreen because I wear what I’m told to wear by my dermatologically aware and highly prudent and loving wife. It’s probably SPF five thousand.

At our new house we have twenty-four feet of glass across the back of the house. Because of the duration and strengths of the sun we had electronic solar shades installed. They are very nice. We press one button and they float down the back of our house to protect our furniture and floors from sun damage as well as protect us from getting baked by the sun. I know some of you don’t think it’s possible to be baked by the sun in Seattle, but it is, albeit if only for six months out of the year.

Ladies and gentlemen we need a mindset sunscreen, we need a mental sunscreen from some people. Why? There are people who are mental cancer carriers. They point out every tiny aspect of what we’re doing that is wrong and they tell us a multitude of reasons why our thinking is not correct and why what we think is impossible.

You need to lather yourself up with sunscreen and possibly close the sunshades on these people. You need to do what my mentor, Alan Weiss, says which is to close the watertight doors with them behind you and never let them near you. I know that sounds crass, but if you want to create something that is exemplary or extraordinary you must insulate and protect yourself from people who drag you down.

What can you do this week to insulate yourself from these types of people? Find one thing to insulate and protect yourself and you’ll have an appreciably better week this week than you did last week.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Listening versus Interpreting

I met with a new coaching client this Monday and saw again the appreciation, relief and enthusiasm someone experiences when they are listened to in appreciative and nonjudgmental ways. I see this because what we think of as listening is not listening, but rather interpreting.

When we listen to understand someone we are placing on the back burner our beliefs and expectations about what the person is telling us, and listening to understand the thoughts, feelings and beliefs being expressed.

When we interpret someone we are hearing the thoughts, feelings and beliefs expressed and running them through our personal filters about what we’ve heard. After we’ve interpreted what we’ve heard we then respond based not on what they said specifically, but on our interpretation of what they said.

When this happens all too often people feel judged, misunderstood and unappreciated.

One of the greatest skills I learned was how and when to listen to someone without interpreting them. I learned this from my good friend Sam Van Fleet who taught a course that powerfully changed the course of my personal and professional relationships. Here’s what I learned from Sam and in turn are my top three recommendations for listening rather than interpreting.

1. Listening is not about you. Many conversations should primarily be about the other person; their thoughts, experiences, hopes, beliefs and aspirations. When we listen to understand what’s important and WHY it’s important, the person feels valued and appreciated in ways that far too often does not happen at work or at home.

2. Listening is rooted in loving. Let me be clear about this second point. If we love someone, we place their best interests at the center of our thinking. I’m not talking about romantic love, but the kind of love that is referred to by Thomas Aquinas who said, “love is willing the good of the other as other.” When we think of times when we have listened to someone with our full attention, we have loved or cared about the person.

In the world of work loving a customer and or employee is an intellectual construct that keeps us in our heads. But, the moment we listen with our head as well as with our heart we see something magical happen. We win the heads and hearts of those we are trying to lead.

3. Listening requires practice. Any skill we want to develop requires awareness, new choices and patience. The first step in listening versus interpreting is being aware of when we are not listening to understand, but interpreting. The moment we catch ourselves doing so we need to make a different choice. The choice is to suspend our interpretive judgement and replace it with genuine curiosity. And then we rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday Challenge:

This week notice how many people listen to you in order to understand you versus listen to you as a means of interpretation. How does this impact you? What is like for your customer when employees do the same with them? What’s it like when employees experience this from their leaders and managers? If you want your business to flourish start by learning how to listen.

Listening versus interpreting is a skill we can all learn. It is a skill that pays huge dividends not only at home, but in the world of work.

I hope you were listening.

Why We Need Beauty In The World Of Work

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Video Notes:

This week I want to talk about beauty in the world of work. I want to talk about beauty because I don’t think there’s nearly enough beauty in the world of work.

In Dostoyevsky’s novel, “The Idiot” there was a Prince Myskin, and he had this line that said, “beauty will save the world.” I want to suggest that beauty can save us as human beings. Beauty will also save the world of work because too often there’s not enough beauty in the world of work and work has become drudgery.

Since 2008 some cultures have gone into austerity mode. There’s no more nice furniture in the surroundings, there’s no nice artwork, there’s no nice photographs…there’s not a lot of beauty in the world of work.

When we don’t have beautiful surroundings, when we don’t have something that uplifts us, it squashes us, it holds us back. You can walk into a room where the color of the walls depresses you because it’s not attractive to you.

We as human beings are looking for beautiful things, we’re naturally drawn to beauty. And I’m not talking simply about external beauty, I’m talking about the internal beauty that resides in all people in all interactions, in all beautiful crafted things.

This week when you look through your corridors, when you look at the interactions your employees are having, is there a beautiful sentiment, is their beautiful token, is there something of beauty that stops people and reminds them that the world in which we work can be beautiful? Are the interactions with your customers beautiful? There is a beauty to doing something well because there is an artistry in doing our work really well. There’s beauty in the art of leading an organization. There’s beauty in living a life that truly fires you up with the hope and dream and aspiration thats grabbed hold of you.

When there’s no beauty in the world of work, work becomes drudgery. And if you are in a leadership role, I ask you this week, “what will you do to cultivate beauty in the world of work. What is the one thing you will do?” If you do one thing you will be pleasantly surprised at the beautiful interactions that come from that.

How Do You Help Someone Who Doesn’t Want Help?

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Video Notes:

How do you help someone that doesn’t want to be helped? That’s a question I was asked this week. Someone in all sincerity asked, “Hugh, how do you help someone that doesn’t want to be helped?”

My answer will not address the alcoholic friend that needs an intervention. That’s not the type of situation we’re talking about. In a work context, if you have a friend or colleague that needs help but doesn’t want any help, what should you do?

You should leave them alone. You don’t offer any help. You say, “you know what, if you ever need help I’ll be happy to do so, but for right now, until you get this handled I’m going to be over here.”

I know that sounds incredibly cavalier, but ladies and gentlemen, there are some people who are indifferent, who are stuck, and who are for whatever reason not willing to do the work necessary to change a negative situation. Why would you spend time with someone like that? It’s not the most loving act to spend time with them, sometimes you have to say, “you know what, if you choose not to deal with this situation you need to do it alone. I cannot sit and watch you do this.”

How do you help someone who doesn’t want to be helped? You leave them alone. You walk away. You distance yourself from them and say, “when you’re ready for my help you just let me know.”

That’s the best thing to do.