Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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The Five Strategies I Use To Accomplish More In Less Time With Less Stress And Greater Enjoyment

I have a lot of priorities. I have client projects, writing for my blog and book, business development responsibilities, creating online courses for Claris University and acting as the head chef and on site general contractor of our kitchen remodel. I’m very productive and was asked recently how I do what I do. I have five key strategies, none of which are earthshaking or new information to you. They real key to my success and level of accomplishment is in the summary at the end.

What I do:

1. I plan my week. Before starting my week, I spend sixty minutes planning the following week and what I will “accomplish” each day specifically. I review my priorities and define what a successful week will look like. I view this planning time as writing the next chapter of my personal and professional life. Either I write the next chapter or someone else will. I take full ownership of my week and never delegate my schedule to someone else. Ever.

2. I view time as finite. I used to engage in magical thinking with regards to time and my schedule. It worked like this: there was an infinite amount of time available to accomplish something the further I was from what I needed to do. INnturn, I magically thought I would be able to pull all of the requisite pieces of a project together within an hour. It never worked. I view all of my priorities through a “time is finite, precious and limited” prism and don’t engage in magical thinking.

3. I have good self-talk. There are two powerful voices playing in my head every day; my biggest advocate and my greatest critic. I listen more to my advocate now and remind myself of where and how I’ve been successful. If I’m going to listen to a voice it’s now a positive and affirming voice. To help with this I complete an accomplishment list before leaving the office each day. You can find it on my resources page here.

4. I focus on progress. I used to focus on perfection. I wanted all matters associated with my work to be “just right.” The problem was that I never achieved “just right” because the higher levels of accomplishment I achieved I in turn raised the bar to new levels. I never felt satisfied. I don’t do that anymore. I strive to make progress every day and move my most important work forward.

5. I eliminate distractions. When I turn off my phone and shut off my email I not only think more clearly, but I also think more creatively. For the longest time I refused to disengage from the hustle and bustle of work as I thought I was too important. Being disconnected was not an option. I learned an important lesson the hard way…when I don’t schedule quality uninterrupted time I never achieve consistent quality results. And, life becomes a long slow slog through enemy territory with bullets flying overhead.

Here’s the real kicker though. None of the above five strategies mean a hill of beans unless you have the VOLITION to implement them. Frankly, you know what you need to do. The question is which one will you without question start implementing today? Not tomorrow when XYZ is around…because that’s magical thinking. Today.

Which one?

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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When something that is helpful, beneficial or desired is undertaken, barriers or obstacles pop up to test our commitment to the goal. To overcome these obstacles shifting from one mindset to another is crucial. There are nine mindset shifts you need to make in order to be more effective. They are:

Hugh’s 9 Mindset Shifts
1. This is a struggle becomes this feels awkward, but it’s an excellent growth opportunity for me.

2. This is hard becomes accomplishing something important can be hard, but it gets easier with time and persistence.

3. I’m stuck becomes I haven’t figured out my next move yet, but I will.

4. I can’t do this becomes I can do anything I set my mind to. Here are two examples where I’ve persevered and been successful.

5. I don’t have time for this becomes I can make time for things that are important to me and this is important.

6. I’m not doing this right becomes this may not be perfect, but I’m making progress and that’s what counts.

7. People must think I’m stupid becomes the people who matter most to me know I’m smart and tenacious.

8. If “they’d” stop ABC I’d progress becomes I can’t control what people do. I can choose my response. What’s my best response?

9. I should quit becomes No way! My greatest challenges always produce my greatest achievements.

Which of these nine mindset shifts will serve you well this week?

Hugh’s Words of Wisdom Wednesday

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Heightened Expectations

Organizations are continually choosing between one of two paths regarding growth and financial wellbeing. They are either choosing to raise the bar and move beyond the safe, known and secure in order to achieve memorable experiences for their customers, or, they are choosing to maintaining the status quo and rely on what has worked in the past. The first leads to heightened customer satisfaction, heightened employee engagement and heightened financial performance. The latter leads to complacency, mediocrity and underperformance.

If an organization chooses to raise the bar regarding any aspect of their operations, the heightening of expectations must always be accompanied by heightened clarity around five key aspects of organizational performance:

1. Clarity of purpose. What are we here to do and why is it important to us, our customer and our employees?

2. Clarity of expectations. What expectations will our customers have of us? What expectations do we need to have of one another?

3. Clarity of measurement. How will we measure our progress? What are the output metrics versus the input metrics?

4. Clarity of accountability. Who is the sponsor of the heightened expectations? Who are the champions?

5. Clarity of talent, skill and mindset. What talent, skill and mindset is needed? Do we have it now? How can we develop it?

Which of the five key aspects above do need heightened expectations around?

The Four Reasons Why People Get Stuck (part 2)

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Today’s post is a continuation from yesterday’s about why people get stuck.

3. Inertia:
The third reason why people get stuck is because of inertia. Inertia from a management consulting perspective is best characterized as blindly continuing to repeat a task, process, or behavior because you’ve been successful in the past doing so. Inertia at its core is about maintaining the status quo and remaining comfortable. While there are good reasons to repeat certain aspects of our work, preserving the past can become more valued than creating a new more desirable future whether for ourselves, our employees, and most importantly for our customers.

When it comes to remaining comfortable the vast majority of people have a peculiar ability to maintain the status quo even when the consequences for doing so can be deadly. For example, eighty-five percent of the people who have heart bypass surgery have returned to the exact same lifestyle and diet within two years of their surgery. That’s the same lifestyle that required them to have heart bypass surgery mind you. So, no matter how uncomfortable their surgery was; no matter how concerned they are for their future health and well being, the inertia of eating and exercising the way they did before surgery pulls them by the scruff of the neck back into their old habits.

Aside to reader: In order to counteract the negative aspects of inertia you’ll want to ask whether your perspective of the future is rooted in fear or faith. If you fear the future you will remain in the present even if your present results are not what you want. If you look into the future and have faith that your future will be more appealing, rewarding and even enjoyable, then you will jettison yourself from the present and embrace the future.

4. Incompetence:
The fourth reason people get or remain stuck is incompetence, which is an inability or skill to do a particular task. While most people are highly competent in either the task/technical side of their work or they are highly competent on the people side, the incompetence that is especially damaging to the customer experience is the incompetence surrounding working with people.

Your customers are screening you for both technical and people based competence. Let’s go back to the heart bypass surgery example. Imagine for a minute that you are a fifty year old man or woman who needs heart bypass surgery. The surgeon you meet with is not indifferent to your situation, seems to be well informed, has a good bedside manner and has a sense of urgency regarding helping you get on the right path to better health and wellness. Everything the surgeon says sounds good and is credible. But the one question that remains to be asked is “how good is the surgeon at what they do? What do their patients and or peers say about their level of competence and expertise?” Until you know the competence of your surgeon both technically and interpersonally you’ll remain stuck and be seen as indecisive.

Aside to reader: It’s completely normal to feel incompetent when you’re learning something new, especially if you care about the subject and or the stakes are high. Just remember that every great endeavor or achievement started with someone lacking the skills necessary to achieve greatness, but who was so engrossed in their idea that they acquired the skills necessary.

I believe the opposite of these four characteristics are required in order to get unstuck and to achieve something extraordinary. You have to care deeply about an idea, concept or ideal; you must immerse yourself in learning everything you can about your idea; you must slay the dragon called complacency and remain focused on progress – not perfection, and last but not least, you must remain on the path of greater mastery of both the technical and people oriented skills necessary to achieve your goal.

In summary, I have three questions for you:

1. When you look into the future, is your vision characterized by fear or faith?
2. If you were to strive for the extraordinary, which of the four characteristics would you need to address first?
3. Which of the four characteristics would your customers say you exhibit most frequently?

I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on my blog.

It just won’t go away…

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…the “It” I’m referring to is cancer.

Cancer has been an all too frequent and unwelcome visitor in the lives of my family and friends. Five of my fathers brothers and sisters died of cancer; my former business partner, Linda Russell Callecod, is a breast cancer survivor; my friend Fred survived prostrate cancer, my sister has had a cancerous growth removed as have I, and now my old high school friend, Alison Large, from Birmingham Alabama, is having surgery this week to remove the cancer she was diagnosed with recently.

This post isn’t about work. It’s about how at the end of the day none of us will sit on our deathbed and wish to have spent more time at the office. We will wish to have had more time listening to children laugh, to spend time with those we love in ways that uplift our spirits, to sit quietly and watch the sun rise or set, to play fetch with our dog, and to hold the hand of the ones we love.

For those of you with cancer I salute your courage and send you my prayers. For those of you caring for family or friends with cancer, you are a life saver in ways you might not fully understand. And while Martina McBride may not be your cup of tea, her video “I’ll love you through it” is a wonderful reminder of how important we are to one another.

Monday Morning Minute 09-19-2011

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The Law of Diminishing Returns

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I was forwarded a video today from a colleague in Washington by the name of Seth Kahan. The video explains research conducted by the Franklin Covey Company on how successful teams are when it comes to achieving their strategic objectives.

After interviewing thousands of teams they discovered the Law of Diminishing Returns. Specifically, the number of strategic objectives you have will determine how successful you’ll be. The bottom line is:

1. If a team has two to three primary objectives they are likely to achieve those two or three objectives. (Who only has two or three primary objectives though?)

2. If they have between four and ten objectives they are likely to achieve one or two.

3. If they have eleven plus objectives they are likely to achieve none! (Now I know why I should only have two to three strategic objectives)

So, the question you have to ask is how many strategic objectives do you have for yourself, your team, or your business? If you have more than eleven you will really benefit from watching the video.

Just before you watch the video I have a disclaimer. I don’t usually recommend large box training companies. I see them as focused on the law of large numbers and less inclined to customize their content to fit a clients core strategic objectives. It’s typically an off the shelf mentality that believes one size fits all. But, in the case of this video I made an exception and believe you’ll benefit from investing seventeen minuets of your time. And besides, it’s a well produced video.

If you’d like to learn more about their program, visit them on the web.

Monday Morning Minute for July 4th, 2011

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Changing The Course of Human Events

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This morning over breakfast I realized my friend Robert was accomplishing something truly extraordinary…he wouldn’t call what he does extraordinary, but I do.

Robert is a chapter advisor for his fraternity; a fraternity he’s been a member of for close to thirty years. Long gone are the days of seeing his fraternity solely as a place to party and imbibe in the fruits of college life. Yes, it does still fill that need, but now at forty-seven he sees his fraternity, and his role as a chapter advisor, as more of an incubator for personal discipline, responsibility for a larger good, and loyalty. And he does so with seventy eighteen to twenty-two year olds!

Some of my friends see Robert as cantankerous, opinionated, and best appreciated in small doses. For me that’s his charm, but especially because underneath the tough and no nonsense private investigator veneer runs a deep commitment to making the world a better place. And he’s doing just that.

This morning I learned that Robert was acknowledged by the University of Washington as the Student Advisor of the Year, and that his fraternity presented him with the Chapter Advisor of the Year award at their annual meeting. This reward isn’t awarded every year…only when someone warrants it!

As a management consultant, I’m fascinated by how ordinary people go about creating something extraordinary. Since Robert is creating something extraordinary for seventy young men I asked him what advice he would give to other chapter advisors. Here’s Robert’s list for chapter advisors as well as for anyone yearning to make a difference:

1. Let everyone know that the endeavor they are engaged in is not simply a glorified social club – it is a relationship that lasts a lifetime and carries with it a noble responsibility.

2. Don’t be afraid to show your shortcomings…be authentic and real.

3. Be present…you have to show up frequently not just for meetings.

4. Set high expectations…scholastically as well as personally.

5. Focus on the big picture…the well being of your brothers as well as your fraternity.

6. Role model credibility and loyalty…in every interaction role model the character necessary after college for both personal and professional success.

7. Make a difference…parents send kids to school in order to make a positive difference in their lives. Instill a willingness in to make a difference in the lives of everyone living in the house…if not make an exit from the house.

8. Remind every house member that they are never allowed to complain or be a victim…especially if they’re not doing something to fix the issue.

9. Cultivate a belief that mediocrity is a choice and never settle for the ordinary.

10. Make conscious choices…ask every house member what they want to be known for. Do they want to be part of the most successful fraternity on three continents? Or, do they want to be a member of a fraternity that is declining? Do they want to maintain the status quo? Or do they want to create something remarkable? Remind them that it’s their choice!

11. Be comfortable making mistakes… that’s the most powerful way to learn

The real story here is not what you can learn from Robert about leading seventy young frat kids. The real story is that everyday, in every walk of life, there are ordinary folks trying to achieve something important. For Robert, that’s giving back to his fraternity and seventy young men.

What is it for you?