Never Underestimate The Power of Asking A Question

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identity Picture with ? Marks

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.

When You’re Afraid…Start Paddling

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keep-paddling2
On Wednesday of last week Alyson and I drove to Hood River, Oregon to pick up her new Stand Up Paddle Board. It was a whirl wind trip, but one that provided me with a potent reminder of the power of just starting.

We went white water rafting on Thursday morning with a fabulous outfitter by the name of Zollers Outdoor Odyssey in White Salmon. In the safety talk before hitting the water Mark mentioned one of the cardinal rules when hitting a rapid…keep paddling! Even though you’re afraid and want to stop paddling…start paddling.

Our guide was Seth, a 20 something with an unbridled enthusiasm for rafting and helping those in his charge have a wonderful time. Seth has only been guiding for one year, and while that would normally make me nervous, after hearing Seth’s story I was convinced Seth was the best guide for us. Why is that?

Seth has a “yes, I can mindset.” When Seth learned about a guiding school hosted by Mark at Zollers he said yes to going, but didn’t have the money. I can’t remember if he begged or borrowed the money, but he attended guide school. After graduating he traveled the river over 50 times before taking a group down the river solo. Yes, he was required to learn the river by Mark the owner, but he LOVED rafting so much he was excited and eager to travel the river and learn as much as he could. He was so enthusiastic that he didn’t limit his learning solely to the names of the rapids, bends and falls, he set out to learn about the history of the land that cradled the river for seven and a half miles.

We’ve all met people like Seth who have what we euphemistically call a “spark” or a “fire in their belly.” In my consulting and coaching work I recommend leaders hire for mindset and train for skill set. Why? We’re drawn to people like Seth because their first answer to how they’re going to get something done is a simple and unequivocal “yes.” They know they want to do something and they start. They don’t have all the steps laid out in front of them. They just know they have to start. They do what Mark said to do when hitting a rapid…they paddle knowing that paddling is the only route to their destination.

Hugh’s Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

1. Name the one area of your personal or professional life where the fire is on the verge of being extinguished.

2. Name the destination where you want to arrive if the fire was blazing with regard to question #1.

3. Say yes to one thing this week that fuels your fire. Don’t try and have all of the plans laid out in advance as that is nine times out of ten procrastination. Just say yes and start paddling until you make it through the rapids of not knowing. You may get wet, but the alternative of sitting on the shoreline with no fire in your belly is far more scary than a five foot waterfall.

Happy paddling!

The 3 Reasons Why Your Learning Initiatives Fail

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I’ve seen first hand the successes and failures organizations experience when they try and learn new ways of doing things. All too often there are more failures than successes. Why? The number one reason is that in a world of do more, do it better, faster and cheaper, it is hard to push through from learning about something to learning to be something. Here’s what I mean.

There are three levels of learning.

1. About– Learning “about” something is primarily rooted in having new information or data. It oftentimes comes from watching a documentary, reading a book, or listening to a lecture. I can learn about leadership from books, but until I move to the second level I can’t grow as a leader and become more effective. Can you think of a leader who relays the merits of new information they’ve acquired but never changes their behavior? This is learning about something.

2. Doing– Learning to “do” something comes from “doing” what’s been read or listened to about a subject. It requires practice and is something that is done consciously. Once the current literature on leadership has been read it’s time to practice what’s been learned in order to truly learn how to “do” leadership. For example, a librarian who has read volumes of books about investing cannot become a better investor unless they convert their intellectual understanding of investing into practical and real world experience.

3. Being– Learning to “be” something is achieved when we internalize and take ownership for what we learned in levels one and two. We embrace and embody what we’ve learned in previous levels and take great pride in exemplifying what we’ve learned. We do so because it makes us feel more successful and satisfied.

Too many people believe level one is sufficient in order to create extraordinary results and to live an extraordinary life – that’s simply not the case. You have to move to level three in the most important areas of your professional and personal lives in order to be successful.

Hugh’s Monday Morning Challenge
Start your week by creating two lists. Your “to-do” list as well as your “to-be” list. Your to-be list should have a maximum of three traits or characteristics on it that you will be the exemplar for. These traits or characteristics; if embodied in an authentic and passionate way, will communicate to your most important customers what you stand for, what you value and what you believe.

What are the three traits or characteristics you will be this week?

The Three Lessons I Learned From Robert Cialdini

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Last week I spent the day with renowned author Robert Cialdini. Bob wrote THE book book on Influence entitled, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He’s sold over three million copies of Influence and was a perfect guest at a three day summit I attended called Thought Leadership.

I learned three things from my time with Bob. They are:

1. To influence others we have to be open to being influenced. Leaders, parents, partners, husbands and wives all want to have influence and shape the outcome of their interactions with others. What’s required is communicating that we are open to being influenced. When we don’t, those we are trying to influence see us as rigid in our point of view and are less likely to be open to our perspective.

2. Asking for advice trumps asking for opinions. When you poll your employees or customers and ask them for their opinion the question creates an “us” versus “them” perspective in the mind of the person asked for their opinion. But when you ask for advice the dynamic becomes one of partnership and collaboration to create a better outcome. A small shift in the words you use will produce a big result.

3. Negotiations are best when personalized. In contract negotiations where two sides have distinct and seemingly intractable positions, the likelihood is that the negotiators are viewing those on the other side of the table as the opposition and know very little about them personally. When negotiators start by sharing personal information and getting to know the people on the other side of the table stymied negotiations drop from 30% to 6%.

Each of the above lessons learned is simple to understand and can be applied without any training, education and or planning. The only thing required is a desire to have greater influence.

Which will you use today?

Cross Your Heart and Hope To Die

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What promises will you make today?

Seven Steps To A Compelling Leadership Brand

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One of the most beneficial activities I have my leadership coaching clients participate in is my Brand Audit. Specifically, they answer three leadership branding questions:

1. What is their default brand?
2. What is their desired brand?
3. What is their designed brand?

My brand audit involves the following seven steps.

Step 1. Define your Default Brand. The starting point for building your leadership brand involves writing four words or phrases that you believe best describe your leadership. Don’t overthink this; simply capture what you see is the essence of your leadership. This is your default brand from your perspective.

Step 2. Create a list of eight to ten people you trust and respect. They can be colleagues, managers, coworkers, direct reports, former employees, and or friends. Your list should be a list of people whose opinion you value.

Step 3. Ask for their insight. Call and or speak in person with those on your list and let them know you are involved in a leadership activity that requires candid feedback. As someone you respect, his or her assistance in seeing your leadership from an outsider’s perspective is essential. Specifically, ask them to provide you with four words or phrases they believe best describe your leadership. It can be a one word descriptor such innovative or inspiring. It can also include phrases such as “can do attitude.”

This step will capture thirty-two to forty words that represent what others see as your leadership brand. Review the words you received and compile a list of themes or patterns. Similar words or synonyms should be distilled into a one-word descriptor that best represents what you believe is the tone and or feel of the words.

Step 4: Clarify your brand from others perspective. The overarching objective of step four is to clarify your leadership brand / reputation from others perspective and to distill the feedback you received into the fewest words possible. To do so, whittle your list down to a list of four or five words that best represent your leadership from others perspective. After completing step one through four you will have your Default Brand from your perspective as well as the perspective of others.

Step 5. Look for gaps. Determine if there is a gap between the personal descriptors you generated and the list generated by your observers. Ask yourself the following questions:

a. Am I being seen in ways consistent with my goals and aspirations?
b. Is my list of descriptors (both my own and from my observers) distinctive or simply the price of entry for being in my role?
c. What is the upside and downside to my leadership brand / reputation?
d. Am I excited about the words used to describe me, or am I neutral?

Step 6. Define your Desired Brand. YOur Desired Brand is exactly that. The brand you want to be known for and that will enhance your influence and reputation. You determine your Desired Brand by asking yourself the following questions:
1. What is it that I want to be known for?
2. What traits, characteristics and or values are essential and or non-negotiable to me?

This step is less about logic and what’s probable; it is rooted in articulating your highest hopes and aspirations for you and your leadership.

Step 7. Define your Designed Brand. After determining your Desired Brand, ask how you can behaviorally live your Desired Brand. What behaviors will you exhibit in order to be seen as your Desired Brand? Again, ask yourself if the behaviors you’ve identified are distinctive or simply necessary for being in your role?

These seven steps take courage to undertake. It especially takes courage to see ourselves as others see us, to isolate the gaps and to venture into a new way of leading that is more effective and rewarding.

If you have any questions, or would like help working through these seven steps on a guided basis, drop me an email at hugh@clarisconsulting.net or call me at 206.829.9413.

What are you tolerating that you shouldn’t be tolerating?

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Video Notes:

Good morning everyone, my name is Hugh Blane, this is the Monday Morning Minute, and this week I want to ask you, what are you tolerating?

Ladies and gentlemen I get to walk into leader’s offices and ask them how things are going, and I hear a long list of laments, things that are not working well and sometimes those laments involve things that they are tolerating that they shouldn’t be tolerating.

I want to ask you this week, is there anything in your personal life or your professional life that you are tolerating. And if there is, I want to suggest that if you want to have a more effective work week that you have to ameliorate that which you are tolerating. You have to reduce it, you have to manage it, but do not simply tolerate it because if you tolerate it, it will drain you, it will drain your energy, your creativity, your vitality. You’ll just not be a happy camper in the world of work or in the world of your personal life.

This Weeks Challenge:
Identify one thing that you were simply tolerating. Do one thing to manage it to its lowest toleration point possible. If you do this you’re going to have a much more effective work week and you’re going to feel like you’re in control and you’ll be actively managing those things that are draining you. That will lead to a positive week.

That’s the Monday Morning Minute. I hope you have a fabulous week and I’ll see you here next week.

Be Distinct or Be Extinct

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Be Distinct or Be Extinct from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Video Notes:

This weeks question comes from Sean Ellis at the University of Georgia. Sean asks, “Hugh, how do you develop your personal brand in general? With management, customers, peers or customers?”

Sean, that’s a really good question and I think the best way to position this idea is by sharing with you what my old boss, Tom Peters, used to say. He said, “be distinct or be extinct.” Tom believed that if there is nothing very distinctive about your work, in the eyes of the people who are important to you, you’d be extinct.

How do you become distinct? I have three strategies for developing your brand. They are:

1. Clarify your default brand
2. Clarify your desired brand
3. Clarify your designed brand

Let me put some meat on these bones.

Your default brand: Your default brand is what it is you are known for? It is the four words or phrases people use to describe you. If they describe you as evil, wicked, bad and nasty…your toast.

Your desired brand: Your desired brand is what you want to be known for in order to be seen as a strategic business partner or a valued added contributor? What do you need and desire to be known for so that you can have a seat at the executive decision making table? What do you need to be known for so you are distinctive in the eyes of the people that matter most to you?

Your designed brand: Your designed brand is how you plan on behavioralizing your desired brand? You may say that in order to live out your desired brand you will ask more questions than make statements. You might invite more people into the decision making process, or when working with others you’ll tell them what they’re doing well as opposed to what they’re doing poorly. These are examples of a desired brand that has been converted into actionable behavior.

Under the show notes I’ll attach my detailed instructions for learning how to each of the above steps. Specifically, you’ll learn how to determine your default brand.

Sean, and everyone else watching, I want to emphasize that your brand either helps or hurts your performance. Your brand either creates willing followers or it doesn’t. In turn, your brand is very important to your success.

This weeks Challenge: My challenge to you this week is for you to do the very first step in my branding process. Learn what your default brand is. If you do this you’ll have a much more effective workweek.

Hugh’s Brand Development Process:

Step 1. Define your Default Brand. The starting point for building your leadership brand involves writing four words or phrases that you believe best describe your leadership. Don’t overthink this; simply capture what you see is the essence of your leadership.

Step 2. Create a list of eight to ten people that you trust and respect. They can be colleagues, managers, coworkers, direct reports, former employees, and or friends. Your list should be a list of people whose opinion you value.

Step 3. Call and or speak in person with those on your list and let them know you are involved in a leadership activity that requires candid feedback. As someone you respect, his or her assistance in seeing your leadership from an outsider’s perspective is essential. Specifically, ask them to provide you with four words or phrases they believe best describe your leadership. It can be a one word descriptor such innovative or inspiring. It can also include phrases such as “can do attitude.” This step will capture thirty-two to forty words that represent what others see as your leadership brand. Review your words and compile a list of themes or patterns. Similar words or synonyms should be distilled into a one-word descriptor that best represents what you believe is the tone and or feel of the words.

Step 4: The overarching objective of step #4 is to clarify your leadership brand / reputation from others perspective and to distill your leadership into the fewest words possible. To do so, whittle your list down to a list of four or five words that best represent your current leadership. This is your Default Brand.

Step 5. Determine if there is a gap between the personal descriptors you generated and the list generated by your observers. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I being seen in ways consistent with my goals and aspirations?
2. Is my list of descriptors (both my own and from my observers) distinctive or simply the price of entry for being in my role?
3. What is the upside and downside to my leadership brand / reputation?
4. Am I excited about the words used to describe me, or am I neutral?

Step 6. Define your Desired Brand by asking yourself the following questions:
1. What is it that I want to be known for?
2. What traits, characteristics and or values are essential and or non-negotiable to me?
This step is less about logic and what’s probable; it is rooted in articulating your highest hopes and aspirations for you and your leadership.

Step 7. Define your Designed Brand. After determining your Desired Brand, ask how you can behaviorally live your Desired Brand. What behaviors will you exhibit in order to be seen as your Desired Brand? Again, ask yourself if the behaviors you’ve identified are distinctive or simply necessary for being in your role?

If you have any questions, or would like help working through the seven steps to a more compelling leadership brand, contact Hugh Blane at 206.829.9413, or email him at Hugh@Clarisconsulting.net.

Helping Employees Become Rock Stars For Customers

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Helping Employees Become Rock Stars For Customers from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Video Notes:

Good morning everyone, my name is Hugh Blane. This week I want to talk to you about caring for your talent. Over the weekend, I recorded fourteen videos for a new leadership development program I’m creating called The Transformational Leadership Project. This is something I am super excited about and you will hear more about over the coming weeks. But imagine converting your leaders from primarily transactional leaders into transformational leaders. That is the intent of this project.

To record these videos I wanted a transformational videographer to work with. And that’s what I found with Len Davis of Pangeality productions. Len did something really well. He recognized that the moment I stepped foot in the studio that I was the talent, and that any barrier or obstacle that would get in the way of me doing my best work – it was his responsibility to eliminate it. Thank you Len!

That prompted me to think about whether leaders do the same thing with their employees. Do leaders view each of their employees as a “talent” that interacts with customers in either a positive or negative way? Do they actively work to position thier employees in such a way as to be seen as rock stars in their customers eyes?

This Weeks Challenge:
Identify the barriers or obstacles that get in the way of your employees showing up like a rockstar for your customer. Once you’ve done that commit to eliminating at least one. If you do that you will not only have a really effective week, you will also ensure that your customers are supremely happy.

Thank you and I’ll see you next week.

The 3 Strategies For Dealing With Challenging People

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The 3 Strategies For Dealing With Challenging People from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Video Notes:

Good morning everyone, my name is Hugh Blane and this is the Monday Morning Minute where I am answering a viewers question. This weeks question comes from Dulce Frial and she asks, Hugh, how do you deal with challenging people? Especially when they’re clients or colleagues and you can’t avoid them?

That’s a great question Dulce. How do you deal with challenging people? You have three options:

You can avoid them
You can accept them
You can address them

If this is a great customer then there’s really no way for you to avoid them. But, if they’re a bad customer and they don’t produce the right amount of revenue, and they don’t give you referrals and they are an undue drain on your resources, I would avoid them by saying “you need to go someplace else and be serviced”. Somewhere else is option number one but most of the time that’s not a really good option. A small percentage of the time it might be.

You can accept them recognizing that they’re just persnickety and demanding, and in turn, they may actually be a catalyst for you to improve your operations. But, you accept them because they’re such a great client. And yes, even great clients need to be addressed at some point.

You can address them. Addressing them sounds like this:

1. I’d like to have a conversation with you about how we can ensure that our interactions with you are really top-notch and exemplary. Your interactions would leave you saying “wow, it’s great working with you.”

2. To do that, I want to hear from you what part of the interactions with us are working well and you want us to do more of. I also want to hear what parts of our interactions are not working well and you want us to do something different.

3. I also want to share with you, and this is important Dulce, “I want to share with you some best practices form our best and most successful clients. Best practices, when deploy allow us to have a partnership with our clients that has them seeing our work together as rewarding and enriching.

4. So, I want to engage you in a conversation about what’s working, what’s not working and to discuss our best practices and determine which one of these you think might work for you. I’d like to discuss them with you and then come up with one or two things we can do differently so you can have the best experience possible. Are you open to having this kind of conversation?

That’s how you address it Dulce. It is collaborative and respectful. It is something that when deployed well can be very effective.

This weeks rapid action challenge:
Make a list of your top ten, fifteen or twenty clients. Which need to be avoided, which need to be accepted and which need to be addressed using this framework? Then agree over the next seventy-two hours to take immediate action. You’ll hear great things as well as learn what needs to change in order to improve your customers satisfaction. If you’ll do this you will have a very successful Monday.

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