10 Steps Toward Living A More Successful Life

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In writing my book, 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership: Create a Mindset of Passion, Innovation and Growth, I learned that there are ten steps successful people take in order to be at the top of their game. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Successful people live their lives on purpose as opposed to accidentally. They believe an accidental life saps their energy, depletes them of joy and is a career-limiting move.
  2. Successful people have an uplifting and inspiring role model. They have someone they look up to and who inspires them. They use this person as fuel for their success.
  3. Successful people play to win versus play not to lose. When you have a leadership purpose that is compelling, you don’t play it safe with regards to accomplishing your goals and purpose. You instead go full throttle.
  4. Successful people recognize that they will have days where they feel tentative or fearful. Successful people though make friends with fear and lean into it asking, “what can I learn from this fear?”
  5. Successful people think critically about their work and calculate risks objectively. Successful people believe the severity of most risks is substantially less than first thought and so is the probability of the risk.
  6. Successful people isolate three positive beliefs that will help them achieve their purpose and saturate their thinking with those thoughts. They use these positive beliefs as a rallying cry for each week.
  7. Successful people isolate one negative belief that hinders them from accomplishing their purpose and reframe it into a positive. Doing so eliminates the unnecessary energy placed on the negative belief.
  8. Successful people infuse hope and optimism into each employee and customer interaction.
  9. Successful people plan on failing forward faster weekly. If you aren’t failing there is little learning or growth taking place.
  10. Successful people have to-be lists as well as to-do lists. Successful people are not slaves to a to-do list. They recognize that the highest performance imaginable for them is rooted in who they are and who they are becoming.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:
Identify one step you believe can have the biggest impact on your success. Identify three ways you could implement the step, choose one, and go full throttle for one week on that one step. Which step will you choose?

3 Steps To Dramatically Increase Your Persuasion Equation

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3 Steps To Dramatically Increase your Persuasion Equation

Every day, leaders are in the position of having to present their ideas for moving their business forward. Some of the colleagues they need to persuade feel overworked and over-scheduled and in turn are resistant to ideas for doing things better, different or more effectively.

They are not closed-minded or stubborn, they are simply short of time and not convinced they need to or should do anything different. Until they see the benefits of change, they will continue to do what they’ve always done.

Hugh’s Bold Statement:

Your failure to persuade someone stems from you placing your success ahead of the success of the person you’re trying to persuade.

What you need to know:

In order to have people follow your lead and communicate effectively with senior leaders, you must master three distinct skills:

  • Skill #1. Build Strong Relationships: To positively persuade someone you must have a relationship with them that is rooted in trust and respect. If the other person trusts and respects you they are open to listening to what you have to say. If trust and respect are not present two things will happen. You will be dismissed at the outset, or you will get passive aggressive agreement. That’s a smile and a nod but no action.
  • Skill #2. Know The Business Objectives: The vast majority of senior leaders think in terms of results. This can be customer satisfaction KPIs, financial results, employee engagement metrics or operational results. When leaders build relationships that are trusting and respectful and are deeply knowledgeable about business results, they are seen as partners in their colleague’s success. Partners in success are not just listened to; they are sought out before key decisions are made.
  • Skill #3. Provide Tangible Business Solutions: Any solution you present to your colleagues must be directly linked to the objectives they want to accomplish. Not in theoretical or intellectual terms, but in ways that move the needle on their business. When a leader presents a solution that is directly linked to what someone wants and has built high levels of trust and respect over time, they’ll find people willing to follow their lead.
  • Key Point: If people are not following your lead, one of these three skills has been missed.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

Identify one person you want to have greater influence with. Think of each of the above skills and rate yourself with regard to your interactions with the person. Have you built high levels of trust and respect with them? Can you articulate their wants, needs, desires or goals clearly and powerfully? Do you have specific and beneficial ways for enabling them to be more successful?

If the answer to any of these questions is a no or I’m not sure, I’d be happy to talk with you about how you can increase your persuasion equation faster and more reliably that you ever thought possible.

Outdated Perception #4. Speed Is Dangerous

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This is one of the five outdated perceptions I discuss in my new book, 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership: Create A Mindset of Passion, Innovation and Growth. You can read more in The Perseverance Principle.

Outdated perception #4: Speed is dangerous

In the world of automobile racing speed is the name of the game. The person who can go around the track the fastest and cross the finish line ahead of their competitors is the winner. Racecar drivers in turn go the fastest they can by being right on the edge of speed and safety. They are not afraid of going fast. As a matter of fact they are continually looking for ways to go faster, not in foolish or reckless ways, but in ways that are right on the edge.

Spectators may find motorsports exhilarating to watch, but when given the opportunity to experience the speed of automobile racing up close and personal, the spectator squeals like a five year old girl who just saw a mouse in her bedroom.

And yet, speed is the new currency in the world of work. $10 million can be transferred from one financial institution to another in the click of a mouse. Customer perceptions can change in an instant if an employee’s reaction time to a problem or issue is too slow.

But far too many employees fear speed because they see speed as reckless, as imperfect and undesirable. They feel this way because they are metaphorically driving on the racetrack of work not in a Formula One racing care, but in the family minivan. You too would feel out of control racing in a minivan.

New Perception: Redefine speed as dangerous only if the vehicle and racecourse your driving on are mismatched. Discuss what new skill set, mindset, equipment, processes and systems are required to decrease the time to market for new products or increase the response time for key customers. Have a bias for consistent and persistent action. Redefine what the costs are for slower speed and what the payoffs are for faster speed.

Why Uber is Inept, Indifferent and Infuriating Customers

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angry young woman rejecting man with flowers

In the last eight days I’ve had four trips cancelled with Uber even though my app told me a driver was on their way. This left me stranded and scrambling to get to my destination.

I spoke with an Uber driver last week about my cancelled trips. She said when she first started driving for Uber she would work six hours and earn $200.00. Now she works ten to twelve hours to make $200.00. Why is a 60% increase in time required to make the same amount of money?

It’s supply and demand.

The number of drivers signed up to drive for Uber has mushroomed and has created an oversupply of drivers. This oversupply coupled with stagnant demand in my city leads to more drivers sharing a smaller pool of demand. This has drivers increasingly more aware of whether trips are profitable, and in turn, they’re screening for income potential. Hence, my cancelled trips.

What has added insult to injury is the magnitude of the inept and indifferent customer service from Uber. It has been atrocious. When I asked a direct and straightforward question I got a response assuring me that my credit card was not charge. When I reminded Uber that I didn’t ask about credit card charges I was told, get ready, “Available drivers are expected to accept trip requests. Your feedback is helpful as we work to improve the efficiency of our system.”

What? That’s a low level service functionary being dismissive.

As a raving Uber fan for years the customer service portion of this situation is the most damaging. I was torqued by having my trips cancelled, but the inability to handle these three simple customer service tasks was the death knell for my relationship with Uber:

1. Understand the customers frustration

2. Acknowledge the situation and apologize

3. Address the customers frustrations satisfactorily

Uber did none of the above. Let me be clear. I’m not frustrated because I demand excellence wherever I go, nor do I see myself as a member of the business traveling aristocracy. I’m frustrated because a service I really valued for making my life easier, used frequently, referred friends to and wanted to like, was inept, indifferent and infuriating.

What does this have to do with you and your business? This situation prompted me to ask this question: How many of your customers are being treated in ways that leave them feeling that you are inept, indifferent and infuriating? Frankly, how many businesses really know if their customers are actively looking for an alternative to doing business with them? That’s an important question. Can you explicitly tell me what type of experience your customer is having with you?

Here’s the $1,000,000 question you have to answer…does your customer see doing business with you as valuable, profitable or satisfying? Executives and entrepreneurs must know the answer to this question. If you don’t know the answer to this question, you will be left having your business cancelled as opposed to nearly having a ride with Uber cancelled.

Go Ahead, Make My Day

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In the movie Sudden Impact, Clint Eastwood has a memorable line that has taken a prominent place in the history books of memorable movie lines. After shooting four robbers of a restaurant there is one robber left standing. In the hopes of getting out alive, he takes a hostage and thinks this act will leave Clint Eastwood afraid and willing to back down.

That doesn’t happen. The Clint Eastwood character, Harry Callahan says to the robber, “Go ahead. Make my day”. He dares him to take a shot. The robber decides it is not his day and drops his gun.

We don’t have to carry a gun to make a person’s day. For example, last week I interviewed six leaders who are involved in a strategy project I’m designing. After one interview the leader said to me, “wow, I have never been listened to and understood as clearly as I have by you. You not only heard what I said, but you were able to repeat it back more clearly than I could imagine. You’ve made my day.”

As leaders, making a person’s day is without question a game changer not only for the leader but also for their team. How can you make a person’s day? Here are three strategies:

1. Listen to understand versus to respond.
The majority of the time people are not listening to understand someone but rather listening to respond. Listening to respond involves waiting for a gap in the conversation to insert statements about our experiences or perspectives. Listening to understand involves asking questions with a genuine curiosity and a sincere interest in the other persons perspective. Responding leads to separation and division while understanding leads to connection and a willingness to cooperate.

2. Use their words not mine.
Creating a sense of understanding comes when we use the specific words people use to describe their experience. I’m not suggesting parroting someone, but rather with sincerity using the specific words people use. When I use my words people feel interpreted and not heard.

For example, if someone said it was really challenging when they didn’t secure the funding necessary to complete a project they worked on for twelve months, the operative word is challenging. If in responding to the person you use the word frustrating you have moved into interpreting the person and not accurately reflecting the person’s experience.

3. Confirm my understanding.
The gift of being heard is powerful, but I don’t always get it right. To make sure my understanding is full and that the other person leaves the conversation feeling positive, I repeatedly ask if I have understood them accurately with the phrase, “this is what I heard you say. Did I get that right or is there something I’m missing?”

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:
Which of these three strategies is hardest for you? Commit to improving your skill with that strategy this week by identifying one person who would benefit most from you making their day. Take the strategy and practice using it each day for five days. At the end of this week you’ll not only have made the day of those around you, but you’ll have substantially moved the needle of your leadership effectiveness.

Five Promises Transformational Leaders Make

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There are five promises transformational leaders make. They are:

1. Promises to yourself

2. Promises to your employees

3. Promises to your customers

4. Promises to your boss and senior leaders

5. Promises to your family and friends

Here are a few examples of powerful promises from my coaching work you can use as a catalyst for making promises that are important to you.

1. Promises to yourself: I promise that regardless of the demands I’ll face on the Baxter project, I will exercise Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:00am for sixty minutes. I will also eat healthfully three times per week by myself and use that time to recharge, refocus, and renew my enthusiasm for the project.

2. Promises to your employees: I promise that I will lead the charge with the team to focus equally on what we as a team are doing well, as well as what we need to improve. This will not be rote or simply a to-do item on my list, but rather a promise to keep you focused on the positive work you’re accomplishing.

3. Promises to your customers: I promise as my primary goal to make your lives easier. I will ask for your feedback and your advice as to how we’re doing and I promise to take action on your advice. I will tell you what I heard, what I can do differently, and when you expect to see it.

4. Promises to your boss and senior leaders: I promise to never bring you problems without solutions unless I’m at a loss for what to do. I also promise to respectfully and purposefully disagree with you in private and support you in public.

5. Promises to your family and friends: I promise to have dinner with you twice a week at 6:30pm and to have my smartphone out of arm’s reach while we are eating dinner. You are important to me and while my time is constrained I promise to make the time we have together the highest quality time possible.

Each of these five areas need to be addressed by you in order to be seen and known as a person of integrity. Promises to yourself without promises to others is self-absorbed and communicates that you are the most important person in the relationship. Promises to others without corresponding promises to oneself leads to victimization and martyrdom.

What promises will you make and to whom?

Success Is Temporary

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WWW 05.03.17 1 from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

The One And Only Job Leaders Have

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Leaders have only one job.

But first a little context. The number one belief leaders have about what their job entails is managing the numbers. They have a myriad number of metrics for their job, but it is primarily about making the numbers work.

That’s true, but here’s a subtle yet transformational shift in thinking. What leaders are really responsible for is creating a “flourishing” bottom line and not simply managing their numbers. The choice of words I’m using is powerful. The expectation most organizations have for their leaders is not to simply maintain the status quo financially, but to lead a transformation financially.

How do you lead a financial transformation for your organization or business?

I suggest first and foremost that the best way to do so is to have a flourishing customer experience. A customer experience that is so rewarding, enriching and engaging for the customer that they continually refer new customers to you, pay higher prices because of the value you provide and see you as indispensable in their life. If you create that kind of flourishing customer experience you are well on your way to a flourishing bottom line.

How do you create a flourishing customer experience? You do that through flourishing employees. Imagine having employees that are so enthralled (yes, enthralled) with their work that they extend that toward your customer. It’s simple, when you have employees that are flourishing professionally they share best practices willingly, they create new ways of doing their work and are hellbent on continually improving the work they do. This mindset, when directed toward customer flourishing, positions you to have a flourishing bottom line.

What is your one and only job? To enable employee flourishing! That’s it. If that’s your focus each day your performance will be transformed from floundering to flourishing.

How do you enable employee flourishing? I have three suggestions:

1. Get to know what each of your direct reports is passionate about. You have to know what they love about their work and what they aspire to professionally. What is their one big dream, goal, hope, or aspiration for their work that has grabbed hold of them and won’t let go?

2. Get clear about what their talents and skills are and how they can deploy them in meaningful ways. When you marry what they are passionate about with their talents and skills you can start the conversation about how they can infuse their passion and talents in ways that enable customer flourishing.

3. Clarify how passion and talent create value for the customer. What specifically is each employee doing that makes the customer experience rewarding, valuable and highly differentiated? Employees can be passionate and talented, but if their talent and passion are not directed to providing high value to your customers the likelihood of customer flourishing is significantly reduced.

When you implement these three suggestions you’ll create a professional development plan for employees that will not only transform them professionally, but will transform your bottom line.

I hope you have a flourishing week. If you have any questions, go to the blog and let me know.

Some of these ideas will be more clearly articulated in my new book, 7 Principles of Transformational Leadership. Make sure you check that out in June.

Throw Your Metrics Out The Window

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In the ‘what is the one question you want to have answered’ sequence of posts I’m writing, I received this question from an association executive. What are the best metrics for me to have to measure our success?

Great question. Here was my answer.

Throw all of your metrics out the window.

What? Are you insane? All of my metrics?

Yes, all of them. Unless they can accurately and reliably deliver on three promises.

Promise #1. Your metrics measure results not tasks. 
Far too often sales organizations measure the tasks of their sales people and not the results of their sales people. For example, did the sales person make a predetermined number of phone calls or send a prescribed number of approach letters. In many organizations there are sales people who never look successful based on their daily tasks but who repeatedly sell larger amounts than their coworkers. This begs the question, do you want a sales person who is successful managing their metrics or selling a lot of your products and services? I’ll take the latter.

Promise #2. Your metrics measure what drives your success.
There is one fatal flaw with the vast majority of assessments I see clients use. Leaders and managers have to do backflips and play complicated games of Twister in order to interpret the data generated from an assessment. What’s absent is a direct alignment with organizational strategy, values, culture, talent, mindset and leadership.  This produces delayed decision making and reduced enthusiasm for accelerated results.

Promise #3. Your metrics measure an obsessive focus on the customer.
You no doubt organized your department or business in one of several strategic ways. Maybe it’s the markets you serve (USAA), the products you offer (BMW), your technology (Tesla), your financial returns (JP Morgan) or one of five others. But, in the most successful organizations I work with the one structure that generates the greatest returns is that of customer obsession. Notice I didn’t say customer success, I said customer obsession. In every nook and cranny of your business there is an unrelenting obsessive focus on the customer and making their lives better, easier, more productive…in ways they didn’t even know they wanted or needed.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:
I challenge you to jettison any assessment or metric that is not aligned with these three promises. Which metric are you currently using that is being violated by one of these three promises?

Living a Purposeful Life Versus an Accidental Life

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This is a picture of courage and tenacity. This is a picture of one person doing everything they can to overcome adversity and live a more purposeful life.

Here’s what I mean.

Although I advocate for being purposeful in as many areas of your life as possible, there are events and times when you will not and cannot be fully prepared. On December 13, 2016, my family experienced a disaster that no one wanted nor were we prepared for.

My brother-in-law, Joey Sharron, was swimming in Mexico when two waves hit him from behind and pushed him headfirst into a sand bar. His neck was broken on impact and were it not for a woman standing on the beach 25 yards away and yelling for her husband to help him, he likely would have drowned and been pronounced dead at the scene.

He received 15 minutes of CPR without being resuscitated. As the lifeguards were stopping CPR, a physician from an adjacent hotel, who had watched the accident, ran for a defibrillator and arrived on the scene and started CPR again. His arrival and intervention lasted 10 additional minutes and, after administering four shocks, he revived Joey.

Emergency surgery was performed in Mexico and three days later Joey was transported to Mass General in Boston where he was diagnosed as a quadriplegic. He is alive, has no brain damage, and has an amazing mindset. He is, in many ways, preparing himself and his family to accept his prognosis merely as a starting point, not his finishing point.

Five months into Joey’s injury I’m am fully prepared to grasp the enormity of his injury and the impact this will have on each family member. There are aspects of caring for and living with an accident of this magnitude that is still beyond comprehension and leaves us crying, frustrated and ill prepared to deal with the severity of his condition.

But in the face of this accident, Joey specifically, and my family in general, have learned something new each and every day about what’s possible—possible for recovery, possible for Joey’s work, and possible for what we can do to make the healing process healthier.

Watching Joey handle this adversity in inspiring and courageous ways tells me that Joey can teach me a lot about how to approach life, adversity and leadership.

Joey has said that he’s never going to give up and that he knows exactly what’s going to be thrown at him physically and emotionally. He knows this is a massive test for his health and quality of life, but also for his wife, family, and business too.

He’s not naive in any way, but he believes that how he thinks about his injury and by the choices he makes with regard to his mindset and his rehabilitation, he can overcome the situation and lead a productive and healthy life. Joey’s attitude is transforming what I believed was possible about spinal cord injury and is preparing me to be amazed at what he accomplishes.

Monday Morning Mindset Questions:

  1. Are there areas of your professional or personal life where you’ve become tentative or given up?
  1. In what area of your life do you want to envision new possibilities?
  1. What aspect of your interactions with employees and or customers needs rehabilitation?

My Mastering Your Mindset Special Report provides 27 strategies for overcoming adversity and living a more purposeful life. You can find it here.