Never Underestimate The Power of Asking A Question

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As the Mastering Your Mindset Intensive enters it’s penultimate week, I asked the participants an important question. When they entered the program 50% of participants said the performance improvement they expected from the program would be between 50% and 75%. The remaining 50% said their improvement would be between a 75% and 100% improvement. These are lofty aspirations; which I knew was possible, but didn’t think participants would see the potential as being that high.

I asked participants if they were on track to get the performance improvements they envisioned. 80% said they were. That is a very encouraging percentage and helped me learn two important lessons from asking this question.

The first lesson was to never underestimate the desire and drive people have to make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of those they work with. There is a deep thirst that the Mastering your Mindset tapped into that has people excited about changing the course of their personal and professional lives.

The second lesson was to trust my instincts. I had a “feeling” about what the program would create for participants, but my rational mind tried to hijack the process. Doubt entered my thought process, but my gut (and some client feedback) told me to start and make adjustments along the way.

One of the areas where my instincts was on high alert related to an idea that came to me out of nowhere and led to what is now called the Mindset Laboratory. I originally planned for a portion of the program to be a 20 minute Q&A, but during one call I envisioned a 20 minute interview / hot seat type of interaction where one person was interviewed by me and we brainstormed ideas for how they could more effectively and more rapidly deploy what they were learning. Everyone who has been in the hot seat has said it was fabulous and those that watched and listened learned at a faster rate also. Equally important, I learned a lot about each person and could personalize my recommendations. It was a win, win, win.

So, on this Monday morning, there is an opportunity for you to learn some important lessons also.

Hugh’s Monday Morning Mindset Challenge

1. Think through your week and identify one area where you are underestimating people’s desire to make a difference.

2. Think through your week and identify one area / project / aspect of your work where trusting your intuition can have a bigger impact.

3. Choose new and more powerful language to describe one of the two situations you identified.

For example, when you replace “I have to” with “I choose to.” This seemingly simple change will have a powerful impact on either situation. When you use the words I “have to” it is most often triggered by an external event or person that leaves you feeling obligated. When you use the words “I choose to” it is grounded in volition and purposefulness.

Choosing empowering words and language instills in you as well as others a belief that you are confident and capable of seeing the best in others and trusting your instincts to make people’s lives better. Being seen as confident and capable will lead to a positive and oftentimes surprising improvement in your performance.

The Worlds Simplest Formula For A Happy Customer and Employee

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Do you know what the world’s simplest formula for a happy customer is?  It is surprisingly simple.

Here it is: Do what you say you’re going to do.

Doing so results in happy customers as well as happy employees.  When you articulate what you stand for as a business and or as a leader and act accordingly you’re seen as credible. You build trust and respect with the people who matter most to you because you do what you say you will do.

The moment you fulfill your promise a customer and or employee feels good because their interaction and transaction with you was completed in a way that’s in alignment with what they expected. In essence, you’re making a persons life easier because you are confirming they made the right choice in choosing to do business with you. When you don’t act in ways consistent with what you said you’d do your credibility goes down, trust goes down, and customer loyalty goes down also.

I’m experiencing that firsthand where I have reached out to a particular organization where I shop and asked for an update on a particular product. Not once, but twice. I haven’t heard back from them. The first time I asked, they said, “yes, we’ll get right back to you.” One week went by. One week! And I didn’t hear anything. Then I tried to be somewhat light and said, “hey, whoever has the information about where the particular product is, can you go hit them over the head, can you shake their shoulders and tell them, the customer wants to know? And we can’t tell them one or two more weeks. He wants to know specifically.” That was on Monday of this week. Five days later…no call. Nothing.

So now I’m in a difficult situation. I like the people and I like the product, but they don’t do what they say they’re going to do. Now I’ll have a conversation with the store, but some of your customers are not like me and won’t have a conversation with you. They’ll just leave.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week; where are you fulfilling the promise you’ve made to your customers or your employees? Where are you doing this well? Identify it and celebrate it.

And then ask, “where am I not living up to my promises? Where am I not doing what I said I was going to do?” If it is with a customer, TODAY, not tomorrow, implement one strategy to alleviate this because it is the death knell to your business.

Do not let today go by without identifying one place where you’re fulfilling your promises and one area where you’re not. If you do so you’re going to have a fabulous week!

What do corporate fraud, prison breaks and leadership have in common?

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What do corporate fraud, prison breaks and leadership have in common?

They’re all an inside job.

At Enron the corporate fraud there evaporated $78 billion worth of value. It would never have happened were it not for the CEO, Jeff Skilling’s inside knowledge. The Clinton Correctional Facility where two prisoners escaped would never have happened were it not for the seamstress working in the correctional facility that provided the necessary tools to escape.

Leadership is an inside job also. In my coaching and consulting work I see leaders in the face of adversity crumble under the pressure. I listen to leaders conversations and hear their internal self-talk, they too are crumbling. Leadership cannot crumble under pressure and you enjoy extraordinary performance.

So, I am reminding you this week that leadership is an inside job. When leaders get their inside set right; and by that I mean what happens between their ears, when leaders get their mindset aligned / pointed in a direction that is rooted in success, abundance, and about cascading excellence throughout their organization, they experience the performance benefits they want inside their organization.

But, here’s a tricky question for all leaders to ask. When you look at situations inside your organization that are not going well, rather than finding blame outside of yourself, ask  “what is it about my leadership that’s allowing this situation to happen?” Or, “what is my leadership hindering?”

When you start thinking about leadership as an inside job first, what you’ll do is set out to master your mindset. You’ll see what transpires between your ears as THE most important leadership tool you have access to. If things are not working in between your ears you’re going to be toast.

As a reminder, if you have not downloaded the Mastering Your Mindset special report you must do so.

It will help you see leadership as an inside job.

The Simple Formula For A Flourishing Business

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Here is a simple yet powerful question.

Are you flourishing as a leader?

I ask because there is a simple formula my most successful clients use to achieve accelerated results. It goes as follows:

1. Flourishing businesses have flourishing patients/clients/customers.

2. Flourishing customers are created by flourishing employees.

3. Flourishing leaders create flourishing employees.

As I wrote in my Special Report, Mastering Your Mindset: Nine Negative Habits That Hold Executives Back and How to Break Them for Accelerated Business Performance, more often than not, the lack of flourishing is not a skill set issue, but a mindset issue. Here are two examples.

I heard of a hospital CEO who wanted to recruit a cardiovascular surgeon scheduled to leave his current hospital. The surgeon was a brilliant physician, had a history of positive clinical results and brought an assured profitability to the hospital. When the interview panel of six SVPs returned a unanimous “do not hire” recommendation due to the physician “not valuing their team culture, argumentative on small issues, a poor listener, dismissive of all employees other than physicians as well as holding a negative view of the CEO”, the CEO hired them anyway. The reason? “You’re being overly critical and you can learn how to work with him.”

This CEO dismissed the feedback of a smart and talented group of SVPs and communicated his real criteria in decision making: money trumps culture along with my VPs opinion. Money is important, but when financial performance becomes the key strategic driver and culture is dismissed without significant thought, long-term performance is on life support.

I also heard from an entrepreneur of a brilliant employee whose skill set was perfectly aligned with an emerging technology the company needed, but whose mindset held a “my way or the highway” way of doing his work. When he was pushed to choose between the corporate culture of delighting customers and his way of doing his work, the customer came in second. Any time a customer comes in second to an employee preference for doing their work flourishing is destined for failure.

These two examples represent the cancer the nine negative thinking habits are to an organization. And as is the case with cancer, oftentimes leaders don’t know they have a cancer in the workplace until the only solution is a massive and radical medical intervention.

To help you identify if there is a cancerous mindset inside your organization, I developed my Leadership Mindset Assessment. On the following ten questions rate yourself using a 1 – 10 scale. One is I don’t have or do this regularly, and ten is yes, I have and do this regularly. You can also apply this assessment with direct reports.

1. I have a clearly defined and communicated leadership purpose.

2. I am currently and actively engaged in growing my leadership mindset AND skill set.

3. I devote a minimum of 10% of my workweek to thinking holistically and strategically.

4. I set, pursue and accomplish my priorities with enthusiasm.

5. I track leadership results and share them with a trusted partner weekly.

6. The people I interact with most say I infuse hope, confidence and optimism into the workplace.

7. I read broadly and welcome opposing viewpoints and perspectives.

8. I am comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity.

9. I’m committed to having a positive impact on one persons life; both personally and professionally, daily.

10.I am having fun at work and at home.

Hugh’s Mastering Your Mindset Challenge:

There are three important questions that need answers after completing this assessment. Where am I today, where was I one year ago and where do I want to be in one year?

1. If your score was lower one year ago, what have you done to improve? Quite simply, do more of what made you successful.

2. If your score was higher one year ago, identify what caused your score to decrease and identify one strategy for increasing it.

3. Where do you want to be in one year?

Identify one or two areas where you want to flourish and choose two or three strategies from the Mastering Your Mindset special report to accelerate your progress.

There is one final key point you can take from this article. You cannot have a flourishing business without flourishing leadership. It’s that simple and that powerful.

Are your flourishing as a leader?

If you want to download your complimentary copy of my special report, use this link.

Three Reasons Employees Ration Their Effort

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This week I want to talk about why employees ration their effort. When you think about the word ‘rationing’ it has a negative connotation. If there are low food supplies you ration the food available and only provide the quantity of food necessary for survival. If there is a drought and or low water supply you ration your available water supplies.

Why would an employee ration their effort in the world of work? I think there are three reasons why.

#1 No clear future. When employees are unclear about the future state or direction of their department, of themselves, of their organization they take their foot off the accelerator and place it firmly on the brake. Ambiguity and uncertainty slows everything down.

What should you do? Provide the clarity that engages the hearts and the minds of everyone involved. Paint a picture of the future that is real, tangible and inspiring.

#2 No personal connection. When employees are unclear as to how they can actively help achieve the future state they disengage from the future and again, they take their foot off the accelerator and put it on the brake.

What should you do? Your job as a leader is to make a direct connection between what each employee does and the linkage to what the department or organization is working to accomplish.

#3 No accountability. When employees don’t take accountability and measure their results they do what they instinctively know how to do…they take their foot off the accelerator and put it on the brake. Some employees know where they are heading individually and organizationally, but without clear metrics and accountability for accomplishing the desired results will underperform.

What should you do? Look at the absence of metrics and accountability like playing a sport without keeping score. Successful leaders find a way to measure everyone’s performance and communicate regularly “this is what you are doing well and should keep doing. This is what you are not doing as well and can improve.”

Ladies and gentlemen, if you ever find yourself or someone inside your organization rationing their effort you now know there are three things that cause it and three things you can do to rectify it.

Which of these three reasons for rationing effort are impacting you?

Taking Stock of Your Human Capital

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This week I want to talk to you about taking stock of your human capital. The best way for me to do this Monday Morning Mindset is to show you a bottle of Westland single malt whiskey. This is an American craft single malt whiskey I learned of yesterday while on a tour with the Single Malt Tasting Committee from The Rainer Club. While there I met Matthew Hoffman who is a co-founder and the Master Distiller. Matt is twenty-six years of age, and is passionate and excellent at what he does. One of his whiskeys was named 2015 craft whiskey of the year. That is one of multiple awards Matt and his team is receiving at Westland.

Whenever I visit an organization I’m always looking at the leaders and asking, “what level of human capital is this person and what are they exemplifying?” When I watched Matt several things jumped out to me. Matt exemplified enthusiasm, passion, and a commitment to excellence. It was evident in all he said and did. As I watched him I thought, “Matt is a really strong leader and he’s going places.” If I was able to invest in the distillery I would feel very comfortable with Matt at the helm.

What does this mean for you? I suggest that the term taking stock can and does have implications for your employees and that you can benefit from viewing employees in similar ways as to stocks. I don’t mean this in a crass way, and I’m not suggesting you become a day trader with employees. What I am suggesting is that inside your investment portfolio are stocks that are going up in value and that you will keep, some that are remaining flat, but have high potential, and some that are going down and that you may eliminate. Your decision as an educated investor is to review each investment and determining which ones to keep, which ones to invest more in, and which ones to jettison. The same holds true with your human capital.

That begs the question, which employees are growing in value, which ones are flat, and which ones are going down in value and will never recover? For the latter group we need to find a dignified and respectful way to separate ourselves from one another.

So here’s one idea to transform your business. Find the top ten percent of performers inside your organization, and by that I mean the top performers with regard to their mindset and skillset. Find another ten percent that have the potential to become top performers and create a mentoring and learning relationship between the two.

Say to the top ten percent, “I want you to transfer your mindset and skillset to this second ten percent.” Say to the second ten percent, “you have potential that has not been fully realized yet, and in an effort to help you do so you’re going to partner with a mentor who will help you learn and grow in exciting new ways.”

The following next step is crucial. Once the mentee’s have learned to cultivate the mindset and skillset of a top performer, they are required to mentor one other person in a similar fashion. By doing this you take the very highest performing mindset and skillset and cascade it throughout your organization.

When you create a formal, structured and very enthusiastic process of changing the mindset and skillset of your employees, what will happen is you will achieve unprecedented performance. For example, if you have revenue of $225,000 per employee, my experience says you can increase that to $275,000 or $300,000. That’s how important mindset and skillset are.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge

This week, identify your two groups of employees and find and or develop your mentoring program. If you do, you’re going to have a fabulous week, month and year.

Leadership Crunches

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This week I want to talk to you about “leadership crunches.” When you think of crunches you will likely think about sit-ups and planks; the exercises we do to have a strong core.

The value we gain from doing crunches comes in the form of a stronger back and a flatter stomach. But, crunches cannot be done for one day and then forgotten. Anyone can do crunches for one day, but what’s really important is if we are doing our crunches on the third, fifth, seventeenth and sixty-first days.

There are four types of leadership crunches that when done consistently puts you as a leader in a category above and beyond all other leaders. What are the four leadership crunches? They are:

#1. You have to stay on message. Staying on message means that the core message you want heard is continually presented in team meetings, emails, speeches or presentations…wherever two or more employees are meeting you infuse your core message into the conversation. You stay on message about what you’re advocating and why it’s important and what people can do to help achieve the goal.

#2. Tell the truth. Telling the truth is important, but there’s two ways to do it. One way is to adopt the “brutal honesty” approach where you hit people over the head with the truth regardless of how it impacts them. Or, you can tell people the truth “in a way they can hear it.”  This requires you understand the best strategy for communicating with your audience. The latter is much more effective.

#3. Be a role model. If you want people to follow your lead you have to be the exemplar of what you want to see people doing. Yes, you need to stay on message and talk about your vision for the future until you think you’ve said all you can, but the more important aspect of leadership is backing up what you’ve said with how you behave.

#4. Serve others. Servant leadership at work is about making your employees and customers lives easier and better. Servant leaders serve others first by putting aside their own interests and desires and striving to fulfill the interests of others first.

The above leadership crunches will pay handsome dividends if they are done weekly.  Which of the above are you best at? Which needs your attention and focus?

Driven to Distraction

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This week I want to talk about being driven to distraction. It is without reservation that the majority of executives and entrepreneurs are driven to distraction. I’ve started to notice I have clients, colleagues and family members that when we are together their phones are not only close by but also frequently checked.  I have executives that tell me they cannot find 15 to 30 minutes uninterrupted time where their phone is not ringing and their email is not pinging.

We have become driven to distraction and we cannot focus clearly. In turn, we’re not thinking deeply, and it is changing how we think and perceive the world around us. I want to suggest that there is one ritual that can correct this. There is one ritual that will significantly increase the quality of your life, and if implemented will significantly increase the quality of your leadership as well as increase the quality of your business.

My suggestion will be one of the hardest things you’ll do. It’s one of the hardest things to do because when we wake up in the morning our first inclination is to working through our agenda, our to-do list and all the things we need to accomplish that day. I’ve said here numerous times that we have become human doings as opposed to human beings.

So what is the one ritual? The one ritual that changes everything is to spend the first fifteen minutes of your day (if you can only start with five, that’s fine), in some form of meditation, prayer, visualization or contemplation. When you spend time focusing on that which is uplifting, positive, joyful or encouraging, you infuse that mindset into the rest of your day. This time is sacred time. It’s sacred because if we don’t spend time in meditation or prayer the likelihood of doing so later in the day is small.

The ritual that will be the most transformative for you is to take the first fifteen minutes of the day in how you define as meditation prayer. Taking time for yourself will feel awkward at first; it may even feel decadent, but it’s the most important ritual you can adopt because it helps you to become less driven to distraction. It helps you become grounded and thoughtful.

 Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

Start one day this week without checking your email, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts for the first 15 minutes. Instead contemplate or read something that is uplifting to you. At the end of the day, notice how your day went.

9 simple strategies for living a more rewarding and enriching day

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I like to keep things simple. When I overthink and overcomplicate things I feel bad about myself and I accomplish less. I’ve learned the hard way that simplicity is my best strategy for progress and satisfaction. If you ever feel the same way, I have nine strategies for creating a more rewarding and enriching day.

1. Have a purpose. Having a purpose and keeping it clearly in front of me is essential. I don’t simply keep it in my head, I have it physically and visually on my desk and in my planner. The out of sight out of mind admonition comes to mind here.

2. Tell myself a story. Having a compelling story I can recount easily about accomplishing something noteworthy is my second recommendation. My story can be my story or a story about someone that I admire, but in either case it is about overcoming adversity and accomplishing something noteworthy.

3. Expect hardship and adversity. Yup, hardship is certain, but when I know it’s coming I’m not thrown off when it arrives.

4. Connect the dots.. I’ve found that when I view each of my daily tasks or goals through the prism of my purpose I’m more engaged and enthusiastic. It has become quite exciting for me to link everything I do, great or small, to my purpose. My days are far more focused and I feel more successful.

5. Continually refocus. Having a mantra, prayer or meditation that quiets my mind and refocuses me has been a game changer for me. It is so easy for me to lose my focus as well as my enthusiasm in the midst of busy and hectic days. Having a prayer or mantra refocuses my attention, quiets my drunk monkey mind and has become enjoyable.

6. Have a plan and work my plan. This is so simple, but frankly, I have to exercise considerable disciple to create an actual plan for each day. I like to improvise and am good at doing so, but it does not serve me all the time.

7. Follow the 1% rule. As a recovering perfectionist this is very helpful for me. The 1% rule says that if I can learn something or get better at something I deem important by 1% each day, at the end of 72 days I have improved by 100%. This allows me to focus on progress and not perfection.

8. View my life as a statue of David. Michelangelo carved his statue of David; one of the most stunning pieces of art ever created, by carving away every piece of marble that he thought didn’t belong to his vision of the statue. When I see my life as a work of art, I praise myself for all I’m doing well and purify or remove all of the things that don’t serve me. I do this daily, weekly and monthly. Plato was bold when he said, “an unexamined life is not worth living.”

9. Love it or leave it. The greatest positive accomplishments throughout all of history come from people who loved an idea, a hope or an aspiration. When I focus on the ideas that I would love to bring to my clients, family or friends, my enthusiasm becomes contagious and helps me and others feel alive. If I don’t love something I’ve become ruthless in delegating it or simply no loner doing it.

I hope one or two of these nine strategies will be of help to you. If so, use it today then share it with someone. Each of us have an opportunity to help others live a more rewarding and enriching life.

The Three Steps For Working Twice As Fast

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This week I want to talk to you about how you can double the speed in which you accomplish your most strategic priorities. Would you like to do that? Or, stated another way, would you like to do things in half the amount of time? If you want to do that, there are four things that you will want to have in place.

#1. Belief. The first thing you need is the belief this can be done. You have to have the belief that somebody you know or can know is working in the manner, and they’re doing it successfully. They’re doing something important to you in half the amount of time. If that is true, then you move to the second piece.

#2. Organization. The second aspect of working twice as fast is excellent organization. By organization I mean your work environment as well as your mental environment. You have everything you need to do things in half the amount of time.

Sometimes you don’t necessarily know how to organize a particular project in order to do it in half the amount of time, which means that you have to identify the person who does it in half the amount of time and learn from them how they are doing so. When you have a process and structure your thinking and environment you can organize your work and accelerate your ability to work twice as fast.

#3. Discipline. You must have discipline. You have to be able to turn off my phone and email if need be. I hyper-focus even if it’s only for fifteen or thirty minutes without any interruptions. I am so disciplined that whatever is requires for me to work twice as fast I do it.

#4. Discernment.  You need to be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Which aspect of working twice as fast am I simply not doing? Are my beliefs not in alignment? Is my organization really not where it needs to be? Is my discipline really what’s hindering me?

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s the rub. The rub is that the vast majority of people don’t believe they can work twice as fast. And, when it comes to organization, discipline and discernment, they’re simply lacking in those areas.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

If you want to have a much more effective week and dramatically increase the speed at which you accomplish the things that are most important to you, think about your beliefs, organization, discipline, and discernment. Identify the one or two areas where you need to improve and do one thing. What will you do this week?