The Vacuum of People Skills and How To Fill It

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Have you ever met, talked with or interacted with someone who really, really frustrated you? We all have. When you consider all of the factors that frustrate you about working with others you will undoubtedly find that it is their behavior and the corresponding way they make you feel that is the issue.

When someone’s behavior is different from yours; they like to do things quickly when you like to do things methodically, you don’t describe the other person as different you label them as difficult. And therein lies the problem for getting work done. The vast majority of performance barriers are more personality based than they are technically based.

If you want to be a valuable business partner to the people who matter most to you, you have to learn to focus on the impact your behavior has on people and not your intent with people. Impact is what determines the level of trust and respect in professional and personal relationships. While technology has advanced at an unprecedented rate, for leaders however the advances on the people side of work has faltered like an unreliable wireless network.

Hugh’s Three Impact Questions:

1. What is the impact I want to have with the people who matter most to me?

2. What is the impact I am having with the people who matter most to me?

3. Who is the best person to help me answer number two?

The best answer to number three is an outside advisor or coach. In the absence of this type of relationship you may have a colleague or coworker who has both direct experience of you working with customers and who has the courage to tell you the unvarnished truth.

If you have neither, feel free to ask me about my Leadership Brand Audit. I help leaders or teams see their Default Brand, their Desired Brand and their Designed Brand all within thirty days.

Cross Your Heart and Hope To Die

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Leaders who are successful in converting human potential into accelerated results willingly and purposefully make nonnegotiable promises to customers, employees, bosses and vendors. They see promises as part and parcel of being accountable for the experiences key constituents. This is essential in building a flourishing business.

Making a declaration as to what a leader can be relied on for reduces apprehension, ambiguity and uncertainty and allows people to devote their creativity and curiosity into higher performance. When leaders make promises to customers as to the type of experience they can expect, they’re most successful in creating those customer experiences when they simultaneously make promises to employees about the types of experiences they can expect from the leader.

The business admonition that you will never have happy customers if you have unhappy employees, when accepted and internalized, necessitates drawing a line in the sand as to what customers, employees and leaders promise to one another. It requires making nonnegotiable promises to the people that matter most to you. For example, what promises have you made to your employees, your customers, your board or key vendors?

In the absence of compelling promises what fills the void is uncertainty and underperformance. Here are three categories of promises that reduce uncertainty and increase performance. Each of your answers must be compelling, highly differentiated and memorable. If not, they’ll fall on deaf ears and not be acted on.

1. To customers: You are so valuable to us as a company that in all situations you can expect and rely on us to provide you with…

2. To employees: Without you, the people who create the above customer experiences and make this organization what it is, in all situations you can rely on and expect leaders at every level of your organization to provide you with…

3. To bosses: You hired me to lead this organization in ways that create increased value, in all of my interactions with you you can expect and rely on me to provide you with…

The greater the enthusiasm you have for answering these questions the greater the likelihood you’ll have for creating something noteworthy, exciting and remarkable.

What promises will you make today?

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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In my new book, Mastering The Leadership Mindset, I have a chapter entitled: Mindset is not just for athletes, academics and mystics. In it I make the case for investing time, resources and energy into your mindset. Here’s my take on mindsets.

Having a positive mindset allows you to be significantly more successful in virtually any endeavor you choose to participate in. If you bring a positive mindset to your leadership you infuse stronger beliefs about what’s possible as well as instill hope that the work undertaken will be transformational. In essence, a positive mindset creates abundant optimism about the level of success that’s possible.

This is not blind naiveté or looking through rose-colored glasses. How you think and what happens in between your ears can make you a champion or a runner up. The no-nonsense Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks once said, …”in the NFL, every person who plays on Sunday is at the top of his game. Everyone is an incredibly talented and gifted athlete. But what makes the difference between winning and losing is what happens in between the ears of each player. How they think, and how quickly they read a play and respond to it is the key differentiator. 80 percent of success in the NFL is mental.”

Eighty percent of a leader’s success in transforming themselves as well as their organization is mental. There are leaders who believe that work is a long, slow slog through enemy territory on their belly with bullets flying over their heads. This mindset will produce lower performance 100 percent of the time. You cannot perform at the highest levels if your mindset is equally not at the highest level possible.

How is your mindset? Are you a purveyor of positivity? Do you believe your beliefs and perceptions create either a positive or a negative outcome? Will you willingly accept that your mindset shapes and forms the mindset of others you work with, and in turn, drives positive or negative performance?

If you have a positive mindset you will have the following three benefits:

#1. You convert obstacles into opportunities for greatness

#2. You foster creative thinking

#3. You infuse hope, optimism and perseverance into every cubicle and corner office you visit

Are you experiencing these three benefits? If not, check your mindset. If you are, share your mindset with as many people as possible. Why? Because that’s what leaders with positive mindsets do.

The Most Important Decision You’ll Make Today

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Today I want to talk to you about the most important decision you’ll make today.

The most important decision you will make today is a bifurcated choice: turn left or right. If you turn left you’re going to do something today to bring out the very best in others. If you turn right you don’t. By turning right, you forget to bring out the best in others because you got overwhelmed.

When you don’t bring out the very best in others there is a negative impact on your customers. The negative impact is rooted in the reality that you cannot bring out the very best experiences for customers unless or until you bring out the very best experiences for employees. Without flourishing customer experiences you cannot have a flourishing business.

If you want a flourishing business I have three suggestions for you.

1. Get crystal clear about what bringing out the very best for customers means for your leadership, for your team, for your organization. Why is it important, what does it look like, what is that experience for customers?

2. Get equally as clear about what bringing out the very best for employees looks like. What is it for them that allows them to do their very best work?

3. Do something every day that is on your employees list. When you bring out the very best for them they will see you doing it and will in turn do it more for your customer.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is another benefit to bring out the best in others. It feels really good when you do it. You’re turning toward the very best part of human nature and you’re bringing it out, as opposed to bringing out the worst in human nature. One is so much more rewarding than the other.

What is the one thing that you will do to bring out the very best in a receptionist, in a warehouse worker, in a nurse, in an IT professional? One thing everyday…if you do one thing daily your business will begin to flourish.

Are You Listening to Yourself?

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This week I want to ask you an important question…are you listening to yourself? Are you listening to the dialog you have taking place in between your ears?

You and I both know there’s an angel on one shoulder giving wonderful praise and recognition for the smart, talented, and creative person we are. On the other shoulder is a devil saying “you are not smart and creative. You are actually pretty stupid, and you should not have said that, you’re not very attractive and you’re overweight…” The devil tells us all these negative things to make sure our life is not flourishing. Every day we have two voices to choose from. It’s our choice.

Even though intellectually you know to listen to the angel, you listen to the devil. When you do you end with negative self-talk. Not all the time, but at certain times. And your negative self talk will never support you doing something noteworthy.

If you want to do something creative and noteworthy, you have to replace your negative self-talk with positive self-talk. How do you do that? Two steps:

#1 Notice when you engage in negative self talk. Catch yourself in the process, notice it, and without any judgement repeat to yourself, “hmm, isn’t that interesting? I seem to be doing that again.”

#2 Instantly replace it with a positive version of the situation. Have a positive spin and replace it as soon as you become aware of any negative self-talk.

Doing the above will create a new habit. New habits take about eight to ten weeks to fully develop and transform your way of thinking. These two steps will create new neural pathways in your brain.

So ladies and gentlemen, if you want to have a more effective work week, then you convert negative self talk into positive self talk, and to do that I’m going to leave you with a quote from Vincent Van Gogh; “If you hear a voice in your head saying, “you are not a painter,” then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

I hope that you silence the negative voice that you have in your head, and I’ll see you here again next seek.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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Breakthrough Thinking Precedes Breakthrough Performance

There is one inescapable fact in the world of human performance. When breakthroughs in the quality of a persons thinking mirrors the quality breakthroughs experienced in areas such as healthcare and or technology, then breakthrough performance results.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom: You can have all the talent in the world and you’ll never achieve noteworthy or remarkable results until you change what happens in between your ears.

Percy Harvin is one of the most talented football players in the NFL today. But this year he’ll play for his third team in four years. He’s fast and highly talented, but is known by coaches and teammates as being egotistical, uncooperative and uncoachable. That’s a waste of talent.

John McEnroe was equally as talented, but his inability to control his emotions and harness the mental aspects of the game of tennis resulted in him blaming all his poor performances on external forces. John never achieved his full potential.

Breakthrough performance involves learning the following five breakthrough thinking skills.

1. Have a big idea: Achieving breakthrough results is never accomplished by accident. Results that are noteworthy are pursued purposefully, persistently and passionately. Nelson Mandela survived twenty-seven years in prison and brought an end to Apartheid as president of South Africa because of his big idea. J.K. Rowling went from newly divorced single mother on state benefits to world record setting author because of her big idea. Steve Jobs led the business worlds biggest turnaround and increased Apple stock price 9000% over fifteen years because he had a big idea.

Your solution: Every person I’ve ever coached or consulted with has a big idea. What they hadn’t done prior to working with me is spend time reviewing their past performance in order to clarify and articulate their big idea. When you identify what inspires you and what allows you to use your talents and skills to provide value to the people that matter most to you – that’s when you’ll have your big idea.

2. Jettison judgment: We are all our worst critics. We have two voices we hear frequently in our head. One is the good coach that affirms us and supports our growth. The other is the bad coach yelling we are useless and despicable. All too often when given the choice as to which voice to listen to the bad coach voice is chosen. Intellectually, yes people will agree that the good coach voice is the best one to listen to, but the bad coach wins the day. When that happens curiosity and growth fly out the door.

Your solution: Judgment shrinks appreciably when you cultivate courage and curiosity about how you think and the influence your thinking has on your performance. It takes courage to turn your back on the all too frequently heard negative shouting from the bad coach. Courage, when coupled with curiosity become a dynamic duo for seeing clearly your thinking patterns, learning from them and choosing new ones.

3. Be ruthlessly accountable: Your performance is determined by your behavior. Some behaviors you will want to replicate while other behaviors you will want to eliminate or reduce. But, why do you behave in the ways you do? While complicated, the short answer is that you have habitual thinking patterns that trigger habitual responses and behaviors.

Your solution: Take full accountability for your responses to what happens. This can be easier to do with your external environment because it’s less emotionally charged. But taking responsibility for your internal environment; that which happens in between your ears, that’s harder to do. It’s harder because you will judge yourself and second guess your perceptions, your wisdom and ultimately your self-worth. In the face of habitual thinking and responses being fully accountability for your behavior and thinking is essential in creating breakthrough performance.

4. Focus on progress not perfection: The 2008 recession left a large swath of employees feeling insecure and uncertain about their jobs and financial lives. In order to have a greater sense of security they concluded that security is best achieved through work that is free from mistakes. Failure in turn is seen by many as a reason for termination as opposed to a catalyst for greater results. This is a performance inhibiting belief.

Your solution: Kick perfection to the curb. A simple formula that’s helpful is the 1% Solution Formula. If you get better at any activity by 1% each day within seventy-two days you will be 100% better than you are today. That’s right, 100% better. Within a six month coaching contract I tell clients there are three new skills they can get very, very good at. When theses new skills are aligned with their big idea…magic happens.

5. Master your mindset: There are people who have a scarcity mindset and others an abundance mindset. When the yogurt hits the fan a scarcity mindset sees what all is missing, how damaging the situation will be and starts playing in order not to lose. An abundance mindset sees the yogurt hitting the fan as presenting new opportunities for learning and growth and looks for ways to play to win versus playing not to lose.

Your solution: Keep in mind this fact about mindsets. Whatever a trusted coach or mentor tells you – what you tell yourself is ten times more powerful. When you tell yourself you are talented, smart and creative your performance increases. When you tell yourself the opposite your performance suffers. Only you can change your internal dialogue, but when you do, your mindset becomes a catalyst for a flourishing personal and professional life.

Where do you start? Take an inventory of your mindset and self talk throughout the day. When is your mindset the healthiest and most vital? What enabled you to have that mindset? Did you spend time with a particular group of people? Did you spend quality time in meditation or prayer? Did you workout, eat well or have a great conversation with a loved one? Identify what enabled you to have a breakthrough mindset and exploit it. Identify what detracted you from having a breakthrough mindset and eliminate it.

Words of Wisdom Challenge: Before the sun sets today, answer the questions in either the big idea section or the master your mindset section. Take one positive aspect of your big idea or mindset and increase the frequency of how often you engage with it by 15%. This will radically alter the trajectory of your performance.

How to Say No While Actually Saying Yes

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Today I want to share with you how you can say no, by actually saying yes.

There are times when having very clear boundaries and saying no to someone is important. And rather than just saying “NO, I’m not going to do that,” I’m going to give you a tool that I call the magic of three yeses.

Rather than saying, “no, I’m not going to do that,” which is my east coast version way of communicating, I’m going to give you the west coast version. What I’m going to say is, “you know, that’s actually a really good idea and yes I should be responsible for it. So there are three ways that I can get that done.” Here comes the three yeses.

The first way is I can act as an advisor. As an advisor I can give about two hours a week to make sure the project is successful and I can start that right away.

The second option is for me not to be an advisor but to take more of an active role; a co-lead of the project. I wouldn’t be able to start that however for six weeks, and the amount of time I would have available is about seven hours a week.

The third option is if we wait six months I can be the project sponsor and the champion and run it from start to finish. I won’t be able to do that for six months though.

Once you explain the three options to the person you ask one simple question, “which option do you think would work best for you?”

Ladies and gentlemen, you didn’t say no, you said “yes, good idea,” you affirmed them, you gave them three options and then you asked them which would work best for them. The magic of the three yeses is really, really powerful. It gives three options; people love to be able to choose from options, and you’re also giving options based on the priorities you have, the time required and the scope of the project.

If you do this you are going to have people seeing you as supportive, really helpful, and providing options. Doing so will make you much more successful, much more effective, and you’ll have a whole lot more influence.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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The customer is NOT always right.

When I order coffee at Starbucks I overhear orders that sometimes have five or more instructions. For example, “I’ll have a grande, decaf, skinny latte, with two pumps of sugar free rasberry syrup at 185 degrees with no foam.” This seems like overkill to me, but Starbucks wants their customers to be happy.

Yesterday, while waiting in line to order a coffee at Starbucks, the woman in front of me placed an order and then when presented with the coffee asked the cashier to remove the sleeve around her cup. She felt it was unnecessary. She then asked that the cashier remove the plastic lid and, get ready for this, asked the cashier to replace it with a lid from the trash.

I’m not making this up. She asked the cashier to remove the lid and replace it with one from the trash. The cashier looked in disbelief at the woman and said, “I can’t do that. It would be highly unsanitary.” The woman then blurted out “Starbucks is so incredibly wasteful” and left the store.

The woman making this request was not indigent nor did she look mentally unstable, but her request was not rational nor was it healthy. The cashier knew the customer was in the wrong and never missed a beat. She shrugged her shoulders and handled my order with grace and a smile.

Customers are not always right. It’s not heresy to say so, it’s actually the best form of marketing and leadership to know when to say yes and when to say no.

Here are three key questions I hope will help you determine if saying no is a skill set you and your team have.

1. Do your employees know when to say no? If yes, what specific story or evidence do you have?

2. Can they say no with grace and a smile leaving a customer with a positive experience? If yes, what specific story or evidence do you have?

3. Do the leaders inside your organizaiton have the mindset and the skill set to tell senior leaders no? If yes, what specific story or evidence do you have? If no, keep in mind that when leaders can’t say no the likelihood employees will be able to say no appropriately drops appreciably.

Everyday, in less extreme situations than the one I witnessed yesterday, employees are charged with creating noteworthy customer experiences all while saying no with tact and confidence.

If you want to help employees know how to say no while giving a customer the feeling of hearing yes, check out The Magic of The Three Yeses on next Monday’s Monday Morning Minute.

Listen to Understand and Not Respond

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This week I want to talk to you about listening to understand as opposed to listening to respond. Listening to understand is an influencing tool or technique I think is incredibly powerful.

Let me ask you this. Do you think that the vast majority of people are listening to understand you, or are they waiting for a gap so that they can respond based on something that you’ve said? Are they listening to respond or to understand?

Let me role model this for you. If you’re having a conversation and someone says, “you know, I had a wonderful weekend.” Someone who is listening to respond may say, “we did also, you know what we did? We went to the mountains, we went hiking, we went fishing, we had a BBQ and an overall wonderful time.” They just completely overshot what you said, didn’t acknowledge it, and told you what they did. They were waiting for a gap in the conversation so they could respond about what they had done.

Listening to understand sounds something like this:

“We had a wonderful weekend.” “Really, what made your weekend so wonderful?” “Well we went down to the waterfront and we did the ferris wheel.” “Was that the first time you rode the ferris wheel? What was it like? Were you afraid of the height? Did you like the view from up there? Who did you go with?”

Listening to understand why an event or experience is important to someone is transformational in your relationships. Why? Because what you’re doing is expressing an interest and concern for the other person. By doing so you are communicating how important the person is to you. When someone isn’t important you don’t listen to them. Listening is a powerful influencing tool in that when someone feels listened to they feel heard, they feel valued, they feel important, and they feel that you were the person that helped make them feel that way.

This week, if you want to have a more effective work week, find one person you will listen to understand as opposed to simply responding. If you do that, and when you do that, you are going to have a much more effective work week.

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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Leaders feel they are falling behind. They’ve taken the corporate mantra of do more, do it better, do it faster and cheaper to heart. They’ve increased the expectations they have of themselves and their teams and in turn increased their efforts in order to be successful.

But increased effort isn’t the answer. It isn’t the answer because the number one reason leaders feel behind is because of an obligation to say yes to an ever expanding list of priorities…priorities they will likely never be able to accomplish because of a finite amount of time and resources. Increased effort is essential in some circumstance, but what leaders need more is an increased amount of courage and confidence to have clear rules for what they will say yes to and what they will say no to. Without this courage and confidence leaders will continually feel behind.

In order to be a more successful and effective leader there are six key priority-setting questions that need to be answered. They are:

1. Do you have more than five top priorities? If you do, you have too many…especially if they are key, mission critical priorities.

2. What percentage of your priorities are driven primarily by task/technical accomplishment and what percentage are driven by people/relationship accomplishment?

3. Based on your answers to #2, what percent of your time are you spending on the task/technical aspects of your priorities and what percent are you spending on the people/relationship aspects of your priorities?

4. If your customers were asked if they thought they were a high priority for you and your organization would you hear a resounding yes? If yes, what priorities must you keep having, stop having or start having in order to maintain this success?

5. If your employees were asked if they are a high priority of mine would I hear a resounding yes? If yes, what priorities must I keep having, stop having or start having in order to maintain this success?

6. What are my bosses/organizations highest priorities for me? Is there alignment between my organizational priorities and my values and leadership purpose?

Leadership effectiveness is accelerated with a ruthless choice about what priorities to set. With courage and confidence, which question is the most important for you to ask and answer first? Answering this one question will have a positive impact on feeling less behind?