The Six Hour Strategy Session

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In last weeks Monday Morning Mindset I asked what the number one question you wanted to have answered was. The first question I received came from Peter Marks. He asked:

“I want to know if I have the right organizational strategy. It’s a very competitive market for us now and I want to know if I’m headed in the right direction.”

Peter, there is one key concept about organizational strategy I want to share before I specifically answer your question. Here it is: customers don’t care about your corporate strategy. They only care about one thing and that’s whether your products or services make their life easier or better.

In turn, the best organizational strategy is to answer the question, how will we improve the customer position? This type of strategy; which can be completed in six hours maximum, is simple and powerful.

But here are some specifics. You’ll know you have the right strategy when the following five results are present.

  1. Your customers love your work. You hear repeatedly that you are making your customers life better, more successful, more rewarding or easier. This is not a one off type of comment, but rather a continual refrain from your ideal customers. Either in customer interviews or project completion meetings, clients rave about your work.
  1. Your employees live your strategy. You hear from each employee a clear, confident, compelling recitation of the corporate strategy in 60 seconds or less. When employees can do this they aren’t intellectualizing the strategy. They are living the strategy and that is a game changer for most organizations.
  1. Your sales pipeline is full of unsolicited referrals. Without question, referrals and recommendations to peers, colleagues, friends or family members is the greatest compliment you will ever receive and it is a clear indication that what you are doing is valuable and worthy of being referred. Your customers will only refer others to you if they believe that by doing so the person they refer to you will benefit from the introduction.
  1. Your P&L is flourishing. Not only are you receiving a full measure of unsolicited referrals, your current clients and prospects are willing to pay you for high value. They’re not bottom feeders looking for a deal. They’re savvy partners that recognize value and are willing to pay you for the quality of your work. This leads you to have a flourishing P&L.
  1. You’re attracting top tier talent. Not only are you receiving a continual flow of unsolicited referrals to new customers, you are also receiving a continual flow of top tier talent that want to work for you. The work you do and the value you provide has created the reputation of superlative work and an excellent place to work.

The bottom line is that an effective strategy works for the benefit of your customer, your employee and your bottom line. Which of the five results do you want to create this week?

What’s Your #1 Most Pressing Question?

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I spoke with several CEOs and entrepreneurs last week and asked what I thought was a good question, but that in hindsight turned out to be a fabulous question.

I asked, “what is the one question you have about your work, business or personal life that has yet to be answered successfully for you?” I heard the following:

  1. How do we remain committed to our values in a marketplace that is increasingly misaligned with our values?
  1. How do I reduce my sense of being overwhelmed with my t0-do list?
  1. How do I grow my business with no money to invest?
  1. How do I get my board to be less scattered, more focused and actually read my email updates?
  1. What do I do if I can’t establish clear expectations with my employees?
  1. What do I need to do to feel more successful and satisfied?
  1. How can I tame my work life in order to enjoy my personal life more?
  1. Is my partner a dumb stupid jerk or is it me?

If you are like me, you may be fascinated by the unanswered questions people have. The unanswered question a person has represents the area of concern, hope, frustration and or desire, that when addressed successfully makes life easier and more rewarding.

Over the coming weeks I’m going to answer the most common burning questions you have. I will provide you with tactical and actionable answers to these questions.

So, let me ask you.

“What is the one question you have about your work, business or personal life that has yet to be answered successfully for you?

You can hit reply to this email or you can go to my blog and respond there. But,  however you choose to respond, be prepared to have your question answered.

What do you have to lose?

Growth Requires Being Comfortable With Feeling Uncomfortable

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We all have a comfort zone, a place where things are known, safe, and predictable. However, remaining in our comfort can become the greatest inhibitor to accelerated performance. Without the discomfort of learning something new and growing beyond our current capabilities, we will not experience the greatest rewards possible.

I recently spoke with a client who said that the last three months of our working together were the most uncomfortable three months of his professional life. We specifically discussed the level of skill his leadership team had for being a magnet for top tier talent, executing on strategic initiatives faster and more reliably, and fostering the mindset of customer excellence throughout the organization.

These conversations led him to realize that he had the wrong people in the right roles, and in turn that his hopes for higher performance would be stalled if he didn’t make significant changes. This meant asking several employees to leave.

This CEO accepted that his dreams of elevated performance were dependent upon his willingness to make uncomfortable decisions and asked for ideas as to how he could become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I suggested the following three strategies.

  1. Link your discomfort with your purpose

The most important growth catalyst is to focus on the idea, hope, dream or aspiration you have for your work or personal life. What is the one idea you will not tolerate leaving unfinished or undone? Hold this firmly in your mind when it comes to moving outside your comfort zone because without it change becomes intellectual and not emotional. Feelings propel you to change faster than facts.

  1. Associate discomfort with growth

This strategy is a mental jujitsu maneuver. Whenever you feel discomfort it is a reminder that you are poised for growth or undergoing growth. Poised for growth in the sense that you’re confirming the old way of working is no longer working, or that you are undergoing change and growing. Both send the message that change is underway.

  1. Fail forward faster

Discomfort doesn’t have to last indefinitely. Remind yourself that pain and discomfort last as long as it takes to achieve the result you want. The faster you make mistakes, learn from them and regroup the faster you’ll eliminate the discomfort.

Which of these three strategies will serve you best this week?

If you’d like to learn how to fail forward faster, drop me a line at hugh@clarisconsulting.net and we can discuss how my work can reduce your time to success.

Are You In The Fast Lane To Success?

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Are we there yet? That’s a common question heard repeatedly by parents traveling with small children. The children are so excited to arrive at what they believe will be the most enjoyable and fun destination of their short lives, they impatiently ask “are we there yet?”

As adults we too can become impatient about arriving at our desired destinations and we lose sight of the barriers holding us back from going full speed ahead. For some of my California client’s traffic congestion is a barrier, but for the vast majority of people accelerating towards what they want or need is mental.

Accelerating toward your destination of choice doesn’t happen simply because you want it to happen. You have to address five key areas: your strategy, how good you are at execution, how you deploy your talent, your mindset and leadership.

Today I want to address mindset by sharing an example of how mindset can be an accelerator or a brake for your performance.

A client emailed me to review a decision he made regarding postponing an internal project for 90 – 120 days because he felt “the timing wasn’t right.” After our call he realized two mission critical things about arriving at his decision.

  1. You Cannot Take Your Foot Off The Accelerator

In today’s world of work there is no longer a pause period after a period of exertion. It’s gone. We live and work in a world with a constant pressure to grow. In very real and pragmatic terms he could no longer win with customers by exerting himself and then resting. Why? Because there is an unending expectation from customers for him to provide higher quality, lower prices, faster turnaround times and better terms. With customers, he realized that taking his foot off the accelerator would lead to him getting passed by his competition.

  1. His Focus Drives His Results:

He also realized that he too frequently focused on what he cannot do rather than what he can do. Yes, he has lots going on as we all do, but when he focuses on what he cannot do he’s already falling behind. He realized the desire to postpone was a form of procrastination as well as avoiding the challenges he would have with the corresponding growth of the new project. By shifting to what he could do he could remain in a state of continual progress and growth.

In our phone call he realized he didn’t need to delay the project, but rather learn how to be successful and flourish in this new world of work. He couldn’t turn back time and have work be as it was 5 – 10 years ago, (more predictable and less chaotic) and said out loud, “I need to hit the accelerator and embrace this new world of work. I need to welcome the discomfort because this is where I will grow the fastest. And this whole mindset thing Hugh, it’s a game changer.”

Yes, mindset is a game changer. The rate of speed you’re making toward your desired future is a function of your strategy, how well you execute, the talent you have, your leadership and yes, your mindset. Is your foot on the accelerator of each area? Are you focused on what you can do versus what you can’t?

If you’re not, read my Mastering Your Mindset Special Report and read Habit #2 and #7 and the 3rd success strategy for both habits. They will help you accelerate faster without spinning your wheels. You can download it here.

If you’d like to learn how to hit the accelerator for yourself individually, as a team or organization, drop me a line and I’ll bring you up to speed.

Are You Surviving or Thriving? Both Are Your Choice

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One of the most prevalent issues executives and entrepreneurs face today is a feeling of being overwhelmed, over-scheduled and overburdened. What I see continually is that the absence of down time or white space in their calendar leaves them running from meeting to meeting and feeling pressured to make decisions quickly and oftentimes with insufficient information. The underlying belief is that they must do more, with less, do it better and still delight the customer. This leaves the majority of people feeling drained, marginalized and seeing work as a long slow slog through enemy territory on their bellies with bullets flying over their head.

There is an opportunity if this is your situation. The opportunity is that there is a replicatable process for not only making progress amidst the chaos that is your everyday work life, but for making decisions faster and more reliably regarding business success. There is a challenge also. The challenge is that the mindset most executives and entrepreneurs have restricts them from believing anything they do will positively address the situation. You can read more about this mindset in my Mastering Your Mindset Special Report.

If you want to experience greater enthusiasm for your work, to create higher levels of employee engagement, and drive increased execution on strategic initiatives, the following best practices are used by my most successful clients and will work for you also.

#1. Make a different choice

The first and most important best practice is to recognize that you have a choice as to whether you maintain your current state of affairs or do something different. You cannot control the situation presented to you each day nor can you control the exigencies of your day, but you most certainly have control over how you respond to them. You know this but need reminding that you have a choice.

Choose to break any patterns that no longer serve you well and actively choose to create your ideal day and life. You may find yourself saying the same thing that one of my recent Mastering Your Mindset Intensive graduates, Phil Hoffman, said. He said, “When Hugh asked me to define My Ideal Day, I thought “I can do that, but I doubt I can live it.” Phil was committed though and made a different choice. You can too.

#2. Start small

Getting back in shape is not done overnight. When I was twenty years old I broke my leg and for twelve weeks was on crutches with a cast up to my groin. I gained twenty pounds (I was depressed and ate more potato chips and dip than I care to admit), sat on the couch and felt sorry for myself. When the cast came off my leg muscles were atrophied and I couldn’t run from one end of our driveway to the other without getting winded. Yes, we had a long driveway.

I learned at an early age that setting small goals of running the driveway once was a great goal, and that running ten yards farther the next day was a great small success. In our busy lives the vast majority of us are impatient for faster progress, but learning to see small progress accomplished daily, works wonders.

#3. Have a success list

Success lists are game changers. When you keep a list of your successes or accomplishments daily, over time you will see your success and progress in black and white. Success lists allow you to stand back at the end of your week and see clearly where and how you’ve been successful.

Each day before you leave your office write down 3 – 5 ways you were successful and keep track for four weeks. This will be a game changer in your perspective.

#4. Focus on progress not perfection. There is only one area of my life where I have reached a state of perfection and that is being dissatisfied with my current level of perfection. I was raised in a family that “good enough” was not good enough. I could always and should always do more. That’s a rough way to live your life.

Today I work at being content with daily progress and am significantly better at doing so, but am still a work in progress in this regard. But, I’m making progress.

#5. Hire a coach

Without a doubt having a coach or mentor has made the biggest difference in my life. My coach is Alan Weiss. Alan is by far the best coach for consultants like myself and has helped me not only grow my business, but also live my personal and professional life more boldly, abundantly and more generously. Without Alan my new book would likely not be released in June. Coaches help you grow faster and more reliably than we can on our own.

My predictions:

100% of you that choose not to implement one or two or three of my best practices will remain frustrated, employee engagement will falter, performance will decrease, and you’ll never achieve your or your teams full potential.

50% of you will read this and agree with it conceptually and do nothing with it. Not because you’re lazy, dumb, or disinterested, but because you’ll likely be hit with a mission critical issue and will veer off course and forget to come back to it.

25% of you will start one of the best practices and do it for one to two weeks and then stop. You won’t see the immediate results and see the best practices as ineffective and neglect to consider your implementation.

15% of you will get results quickly and conclude after two to three weeks that your bad habits and negative thoughts have been addressed successfully. You’ll think you’ve got things conquered and over the next four to six weeks you’ll regress back to the mean of your prior behavior. Your success will be short lived.

10% of you will commit to making a choice to cultivate one or two of the best practices and make them new habits. You’ll choose differently, set a plan and work your plan, you’ll track your progress and have a coach or mentor help you grow faster and more reliably. For this cohort of people they will do great work, live an abundant life and convert work from a four-letter word into the highest expression of what work and life can be.

Which group are you in? If you want to be in the top 10% and would like my help getting there, drop me an email at hugh@clarisconsulting.net and we’ll discuss how I can help you create greater success faster more reliably and with a whole heck of a lot more fun.

Three Steps For Attracting Your Ideal Customer

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One of your key metrics as an executive or entrepreneur is how fast and profitably you’re able to grow your business. One of the easiest and least costly ways to grow your business is through referrals from existing and happy customers. Referrals are the platinum standard for business growth because they have a near zero cost of acquisition and the sales cycle is reduced significantly.

The power of a referral is as simple as a good friend telling you about their favorite new restaurant, movie, financial planner or car dealership. The likelihood that when you’re in the market for a movie, restaurant, financial planner or car dealership, their recommendation will prompt you to act on their recommendation.

How can you increase the number of referrals you receive each month to an ideal customer? There are three ways to increase the number significantly.

Raise The Bar

This is the foundation for getting referrals. If you do work that makes the life of a customer easier and better you are doing work that is referable. A dentist for example who comforts a nervous patient and makes their dental experience pain and anxiety free has raised the bar as far as what the patient thought was possible, and by doing so has opened the door to receiving referrals.

Key Question: What is the one area of your business you can or need to raise the bar, and by doing so will have an advantage over your competitors?

Elevate The Customer

This second step seems to be below some businesses. While in San Francisco recently I had two dining experiences in highly regarded restaurants. The first was in a very good restaurant with excellent food, but whose attitude from the hostess to wait staff was one of “you are lucky to be here.” The customer was in many regards an interruption and not a welcome guest.

The second restaurant was equally impressive in their food quality, but whose attitude was “we are so lucky to have you here.” They smiled, enjoyed their work and were enthused about making each guest not only feel comfortable but important and welcome. They believed that the customer truly came first and it showed.

Key Question: How are you exemplifying that the customer comes first in your business? Is this distinctive in the eyes of your customer? Would your customer agree with your assessment?

Blow Your Own Horn

The hard truth is that nine out of ten of the businesses I’ve worked with don’t ask for referrals because they’re afraid to ask. They’re afraid they will be turned down, make the customer feel uncomfortable or possibly lose the customer permanently for having asked. So they sit quietly on the sidelines hoping they will receive referrals.

When you believe that you provide exceptionally high value, your reluctance to blow your own horn goes down appreciably. In last weeks Monday Morning Mindset I outlined how you can gain a competitive advantage. Adding to that, I will say without hesitation or reservation that knowing your competitive advantage and what value you provide is the catalyst for sharing prominently what you do and how you help customers. You are not boasting or bragging, but rather helping people to become more successful.

Key Question: How confident and comfortable are you in communicating your value in clear and compelling ways? Depending on your answer, how much will your answer impact you blowing your own horn?

Regardless of your role in an organization, receiving a consistent flow of introductions and referrals to your ideal customer is essential for success and growth. Which of these three steps do you need to address this week?

Three Questions That Give You A Competitive advantage

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What Is Your Competitive Advantage?

No doubt you want a competitive advantage over your competition. A competitive advantage can come in different forms for different people. For example, if you’re a leader you’re competing for the mind-share of the individuals you lead. What will give you an advantage in influencing others behavior? If you’re selling a product or service you are competing with the budgetary requirements of the customer as well as with other vendors. What gives you an advantage?

If you want to position yourself in ways that give you an advantage over your competition I’m going to share one bold statement and three questions that will help you have a competitive advantage. Answer these three questions and you can have a competitive advantage.

Bold statement:
Your competitive advantage needs to be that you give a competitive advantage to your customer for having done business with you.

It’s really quite simple. By giving a competitive advantage to someone you will have a competitive advantage.

Three Questions:
1. What is it that you do extraordinarily well that is highly beneficial to your customer?

2. What are your customers strategic initiatives, and how are you helping them accomplish them in unparalleled ways?

3. What problem / issue are you addressing that it is a game changer for your customer?

When you answer these questions you will have a competitive advantage. But before you check this exercise off your to-do list, take one important and highly valuable next step. Confirm your answers with your customer.

If your answers to what makes you unique and distinctive are compelling for you but not for your customer you do not have a competitive advantage, but rather a performance disadvantage and all bets are off.

If you want to have a competitive advantage provide a competitive advantage to your customers. You’ll know you have done so when customers say, “we cannot imagine doing business without you.” When you hear that, you’re going to have a fabulous week filled with a competitive advantage.

The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

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Before giving testimony in a court of law we place our hands on a Bible and declare that we promise to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. If only it were that easy in our personal and professional lives.

Telling the truth is not something we can do on our own. We need several support mechanisms in order to do so. We need:

1. A process: many college and NFL football teams have a Tell The Truth Monday. It’s a review of the previous game and a process for finding what went well and what didn’t.

In our professional lives we need a tell the truth process. Whether you do so on Monday or Friday, you need a repeatable, non negotiable process that focuses your attention on what went well and what didn’t in order to improve and prosper the following week. In essence you need a process for removing your blinders.

2. A partner: We have a high capacity for deceiving ourselves. We tell ourselves the comfortable truth as opposed to the uncomfortable truth. The comfortable truth is the truth that allows us to stay comfortable and doesn’t require change on our part. Our partner in turn must be someone we know, trust and respect and who calls us out when need be.

3. A promise: Promises are key to telling the truth. When you promise yourself and the other important relationships in your life that you promise to look at your conversations, behaviors, word choices and impact on others, and do whatever is necessary to improve, you remove any doubt from the eyes of others and build credibility and confidence.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge
Tell yourself the truth before you go any further. Which of the three support mechanisms do you need today? And if today is your tell the truth Monday, what from last week must you tell yourself the unadulterated truth about?

Are you Living A Porsche Or A Prius Life?

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I am a visual person. Once I see something I want, need or would find enjoyable I hit the gas and go get it. Some things take longer to get though and require the virtues of focus, discipline and perseverance. This picture is of one such area in my life that requires these virtues.
This is a 1/18th scale 2012 Porsche 911 GT3 4.0 and has the following specifications:

0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds
0 to 120 in less than 12 seconds
A redline-limited top speed of 193 mph

I’m not certain I want this particular car, but I am certain that an assertively tuned, high performance and stunningly beautiful mode of transportation is what I want. Regardless of whether you want to drive a high performance sports car or a Prius, the point I want to make is twofold.

1. The moment you see and claim the future you want you accelerate toward it.

2. Far too many people are content to take a leisurely drive in the country toward their ideal life. There is no guarantee you will have tomorrow, so if you want something create a plan for getting it and savoring it now.

You’ll notice the car door in my picture is open. I did that on purpose. The invitation to higher performance, greater satisfaction and a joyous and thrilling life awaits you. But the question is whether you are willing to open the door and step into that possibility.

I am. Are you?

Stop Taking Yourself So Seriously

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There is a mindset shift I see as beneficial for the majority of people. The shift is to stop taking ourselves so seriously.

There is Buddhist saying that recommends we hold in one hand the belief that we are powerful and can create many wonderful, positive and beneficial outcomes. In the other hand we are told to hold that we are meaningless and powerlessness.

I am not an eastern mystic, but I do believe there is something to be said for doing our very best each day to positively impact those around us while also cultivating levity, playfulness and fun. Not the levity, playfulness and fun of a kindergarten class at play time, but rather a levity, fun and playfulness that dispels angst and anxiety.

This is especially important in the world of work where nine times out of ten it is not life and death. Some of you reading this will say, “actually, work for me is life and death. I’m an emergency room nurse or I’m a surgeon and I am confronted daily with life and death situations.”  If that’s the case, you have an even greater need to infuse levity, fun and playfulness into your life.

We all need an ability to pull away from the harshness of the day and to watch a funny movie, to tell a joke or to have something that brings happiness, joy or wonder into our lives. Without this ability to not take ourselves so seriously work and life becomes a long slow slog on our belly through enemy territory with bullets flying overhead.

Today, what is the one thing you will do to laugh, smile and not take yourself so seriously?