Success Is Temporary

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WWW 05.03.17 1 from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

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.

Does Your Project Matter?

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Hand draw business sketches over grey background. Business idea concept

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

Unfortunately, projects have earned a bad rap lately. Some projects are cumbersome and lumbering. They involve people who view the project as a time suck and in turn lack the creativity and enthusiasm for doing meaningful work. Or, projects can be a vehicle for doing meaningful, fun and transformational work.

To be the latter, a project needs to answer yes to five “does the project matter?” questions.

1. Does my project provide meaningful and significant value to my customer? Will it leave them in a considerably better position?

2. Does my project fulfill a compelling need for my team and/or organization? Or, is the project a milk toast project where it would be nice to have it completed, but there’s no real compelling reason to do it.

3. Does my project matter to me? Can I get behind this project with gusto, commitment and passion? Or, am I meek and lukewarm about this project?

4. Does my project require me to learn something new, grow and or become a more successful leader or team member? Is it stretching me in ways that are rewarding while also uncomfortable?

5. Does my project have smart, talented and enthusiastic people on the project team? Or, is it populated with people who were available, but disinterested and disengaged?

Make no bones about it, transformational projects answer yes to all five questions.

When you think of your biggest current project, can you answer yes to all five questions? If not, what’s one thing you can do today to convert your no to a yes?

Mindset is not just for athletes, academics and cave dwelling mystics

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Having a positive mindset allows you to be significantly more successful in virtually any endeavor you choose to participate in. If you bring a positive mindset to your leadership, you will infuse stronger beliefs about what is possible, instill hope that the work you and others undertake will be beneficial and create optimism about the level of success that’s possible.

This is not blind naiveté or looking through rose-colored glasses. In my coaching and consulting work I’ve found that eighty percent of a leader’s success in creating greater business outcomes is mental. For example, there are leaders who believe that work is a long, slow slog through enemy territory on their belly with bullets flying over their heads. This mindset will produce lower performance one-hundred percent of the time. There are others that don’t have the best talent, but who knock the socks off their goals because of their positive beliefs and expectations.

I say this because there’s something I know about you and your team that you may or may not know. I know you and your team have within you more untapped potential, more misdirected energy, more talent that has never been exploited and more capacity for growth than you recognize.

Let that sink in for a minute. You have more potential; potential for greatness, than you recognize. That’s similar to having a Ferrari parked in your driveway but never driving it. That’s a waste of a finely tuned piece of automotive art.

In order to perform at the greatest level possible your mindset must be at the greatest level possible. How can you cultivate the greatest possible mindset? Here are my three strategies:

1. Stop settling. Far too often we settle for what we think is probable as opposed to chasing what’s possible. We’re playing not to lose as opposed to playing to truly win. I’ve done that and it’s a terrible way to live.

2. Get help. When someone has achieved what we want to achieve we should want to be coached or mentored by them. It’s time consuming and ineffective to spend time trying to learn the lessons they’ve learned through our own trial and error. We want to learn faster and more effectively from someone who we know can help us.

3. Be uncomfortable We humans are creatures of habit that try and avoid pain and discomfort whenever possible. We know that pain and discomfort are necessary to grow and flourish, but we avoid them. The vast majority of the people in health clubs are on automatic pilot when they enter the gym. They are not there to be uncomfortable. I know this too because without my trainer I would never work as hard as he pushes me. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable.

Which of the three strategies would you benefit most from implementing in 2016?

Why We As Americans Need A More Global Perspective

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Last week I attended a lecture about Syria and the Middle East. The lecture was delivered by Rev. David Nazar, SJ who was recently appointed by Pope Francis to be the Rector of The Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. The Oriental is a Catholic funded University that teaches Eastern Christianity to people of all faiths from around the world. The Rector is similar to a university president.

Fr. Nazar is an expert in Middle East Studies and made the discussion about Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees come alive. For example, one of the key points in his presentation is the fact that Syria had a population of 10,000,000 people before the Arab Spring and now there are 5,000,000 people living there. The sheer volume of humanity leaving the country; likely never to return, is staggering as are the demands on the European countries assimilating the refugees.

I walked away from this lecture with three shifts in my thinking:

1. I want to learn more about the Middle East, its history and the cultural, religious and political aspects of the region. If I don’t understand the Middle East I cannot comment on the dynamics intelligently. One book that was recommended to me is A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin.

2. I have copious amounts to be grateful for. I live a life that is comfortable beyond measure and live without the threat of death from tyrannical dictators. My family has not traveled thousands of miles by any means possible in the hopes of gaining refugee status and I’m not struggling to learn a foreign language while also trying to support my family. That is an amazing and even herculean feat.

3. As a Catholic, the Catholic Church; and especially the Jesuit’s, have an intellectual rigor and are far more welcoming about divergent faiths and perspectives than I knew. Father Nazar spoke both lovingly and eloquently about all faiths and role modeled religious tolerance and acceptance.

No matter how stressful and tumultuous our week is going, we must create the white space to master how we think and perceive the world around us while becoming more informed about the world around us. When our mindset is closed to new ideas and perspectives we live a closed and limited life. When our employees and coworkers have a closed mindset the opportunities to provide meaningful value to customers, patients and our most important constituents is stunted.

Thank you Fr. Nazar. You changed my perspective of an important issue and I’m grateful for your ability to expand my thinking with insight, compassion and eloquence.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

What part of your personal and or professional life would you benefit from changing your perspective? What is the one action you can take to do that this week?

The 3 Steps To Taming Your Calendar

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The world of work for many of the readers of my blog has become overwhelming. It became evident in my recent blog survey where readers unanimously said they were experiencing the following:

1. A never ending to-do list that leaves them overwhelmed, overworked and feeling unproductive.

2. Not enough time to think clearly about how they want to purposefully rather than accidentally live their professional and personal lives.

3. Not enough committed, engaged and or talented enough employees to achieve their strategic priorities.

4. A growing negative mindset.

5. Unrealized performance based on the above four points.

It is hard to address any or all of these issues without more margin in your life. If you don’t have the time to slow down, think differently and plan accordingly you’ll feel as though you’re caught in an endless showing of the movie Ground Hog Day. For those of you uninitiated movie watchers, you can watch the trailer to the movie here for the gist of the movie.

How Do You Get More Margin?

The best answer I have is to be ruthlessly protective of your schedule and time. I know this may be hard to hear for those of you who are given directives with timelines from bosses who seem less concerned with you than they are with results. I recognize it may fall on deaf ears when your personal life is filled with obligations to children, spouses / partners and even your community obligations. You’ll read my recommendations and claim your boss or family control your calendar and not you.

Here’s the rub. You have significantly more control over your calendar than you give yourself credit for. Yes, the above is true. Yes, you have obligations. But don’t lose sight of the fact that you agreed to adhere to the expectations.

For example, I heard a middle manager with twenty-five employees say to her colleagues last week, “I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to try and do everything. The onslaught of work around here is never ending and all consuming, but I’m not willing to live my life trying to keep up. I’m committing to working out in the mornings and leaving early at least once per week. I don’t know how this will all play out, but I know it will not play out well if I continue selling my soul to my to-do list.”

Is it challenging to positively influence your calendar? Yes. Is it impossible to positively influence your calendar? No. Changing your calendar requires three things.

1. You must have a clear and compelling reason to change. If you lack the hope and optimism that a more rewarding and uplifting tomorrow holds, the reality of today will prevail. You must define what the best version of December 31st, 2016 looks like for you.

2. You must have courageous conversations with yourself and with your boss regarding expectations. Nothing changes until the conversations we have with ourselves and others changes. Candidly, is work fun? Is it draining you? Does work by Friday leave you exhausted and ready for two days of recuperation? Having a conversation about the impact work has on you is the jumping off point for meaningful change.

3. You must have the grit, determination and commitment to not give up until you’ve made the progress you want. This recommendation is a deal breaker. You can have all of the clarity about the future you want and the courage to talk about your future and how to get there, but without massive amounts of grit and determination the likelihood of you being successful is limited. Severely limited.

Your Challenge:

For employees and leaders to rethink and or reconfigure their work and the years of doing what they’ve always done requires clarity, courage and commitment. The number one question you must ask yourself this week is: which of the above do I need more of? Am I clear but lack the courage. Am I courageous, but not tenacious? Answering that question will provide you with more margin as well as a greater sense of control.

Managing Your Leadership Message

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This week I want to talk to you about managing your leadership message.

Ladies and gentlemen, every day, by the words that we use and the actions we take, we are communicating a message to the people that matter most to us. Whether it’s our family, an employee, a key stakeholder, a shareholder or a board member, we’re communicating a message.

An important question is: are you doing it purposefully or accidentally?

If you are communicating your message purposefully you can and will get so much more leadership traction and will be so much more effective…if you manage these three messages.

1. The message you send to yourself. The six to eight inches between your ears is the most important repository of the messages you send you can manage. Are you sending messages to yourself of optimism, a can-do attitude and playing to win? Or, are you sending messages of the inverse? Whatever message you plant in between your ears creates a mindset that is cascaded throughout your entire organization.

2. The message you send to employees. Are you sending the message that you want every employee to be an owner as opposed to an employee? Are you sending the message that you want every employee to be engaged in creating the extraordinary? What message are you sending through the words you use and the behaviors you exhibit? This message needs to be managed purposefully in order for you to have the greatest success.

3. When employees or key stakeholders respond to you, how do you manage the message that you send to them in return?

There are three messages: one to yourself, one when you deliver messages to others and one grounded in how we respond when we receive messages from others. These are three critical messages that will help you become a more effective leader.

Monday Morning Minute Challenge:
This week, identify one meeting you will attend and the message you want to deliver. How will you craft this message? What words will you say, what examples will you give, what results will you associate with your message?

After delivering your message the second part of this weeks challenge is to learn from your experience and ask, “what worked, what didn’t work and what will you do differently next week?”

By engaging in this weeks challenge you’re sending a message to yourself about continual improvement, getting better, learning and growing. And that’s a fabulous message to cascade throughout your organization also!

Why You As A Leader Must Discriminate

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This week I want to suggest that you need to discriminate more. Not discriminate against a person, or race, a religion or ethnicity. Oh no, au contraire. I suggest you discriminate toward higher performance.

If you don’t discriminate toward higher performance you accept and tolerate lower performance.

This is a mindset shift ladies and gentlemen. Some employees play not to lose as opposed to playing to win. If you tolerate that then you are lowering the performance bar. You’re lowering the performance bar as opposed to raising it by saying, “we will always strive towards higher performance. We will always strive toward higher employee satisfaction and employee engagement so that we have truly flourishing employees and customers so that this business can flourish.”

In order to not become anesthetized to the pockets of lower performance that grow in all organizations, this week discriminate toward higher performance. No longer accept the reasoning, the excuses and the lack of accountability that some have toward higher performance. The moment you do that ladies and gentlemen, you’re toast. Your business is toast. Your performance is toast.

This week discriminate more towards higher performance. When you do, you’ll develop the flourishing leadership that fosters flourishing employees and that creates a flourishing business. And yes, it all starts with you discriminating. Discriminate more this week ladies and gentlemen and you will have a fabulous week.

Are You A Human Doing Or A Human Being?

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This week I want to ask you…are you a human doing, or are you a human being?

That question is designed to tee up a fascinating subject which is: the vast majority of employees and leaders I come in contact with feel overwhelmed. They feel that they have too much to do and far too little time to accomplish it. They feel they are on a treadmill running at twenty miles an hour and there is no time to catch their breath.

I say to them, “do you feel that you are a human doing (doing one thing after another after another after another) to get things on your to-do list done, or are you a human being? Being a human being allows you to be fully present with employees and customers in a meaningful way; ways that allow you to learn from them and be fully engaged with them?” The vast majority say, “I feel like a human doing.”

Ladies and gentlemen, there is really only one recommendation I have for you this week, and it is this: recognize that the longer you remain a human doing, the easier it is that you will end up feeling as though you’re crawling on your belly through enemy territory with bullets flying over your head. Life becomes a long, slow, slog.

For some people, human doing-ness has been their modus operandi for years. For some people it is short term, intermittent or short lived. But the reality is that what’s required for you to be fully present on the human being side of life is for you to have quality time where you detach from all of your professional and personal obligations. There comes a time when you have to slow down, breathe, and think creatively.

The only way to do that is to shut off your phone, your email, and to pull back and separate from the busyness of the world of work. When you do you can think in ways you normally don’t because of the pressures of doing more with less in shorter periods of time. To be able to consider alternative perspectives and their implications and applications you must have greater margin in your day. You simply cannot do this when you are on a treadmill running at twenty-five miles an hour.

This week I only have one recommendation for you. Put on your calendar a minimum of fifteen minutes to think through your work, what you want to accomplish as well as your strategic priorities. You must be able to pull aside, to think creatively and say, “what can I do to be more effective in this regard?” When you do that; and you build up to thirty minutes or an hour once or twice a week you’ll be astounded at how much more effective you become.

One of my clients just started with two – one hour segments per week, and he said last week, “my wife and son are now seeing me for dinner, and they don’t really know what to make of it because I’m so much more attentive as well as effective. My team now tells me I am thinking so much more clearly, and that I am a more effective leader because I am taking the time for myself.”

That’s the power, ladies and gentlemen of taking the time for yourself. You no longer will be a human doing, you will become a human being and will be so much more effective.


The Three Percentages Successful Leaders Use To Drive Performance

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This week I want to share with you the three percentages all successful leaders use. They are: 1%, 100%, 0%. Let me put some meat on the bones.

The 1% Rule. The 1% rule is that you can get 1% better each day and by doing so be 1% better tomorrow then you were today. Getting better by 1% every day means that at the end of seventy two days you will be 100% better than you are today. That is the 1% equation that is so important in leadership.

The 100% Rule. You are 100% accountable and responsible for taking this idea about getting better every single day and infusing it into your organization and into your leadership. You are 100% responsible because nobody else will do so.

The 0% Rule. Ladies and gentlemen, there may be extenuating circumstances, but there are zero excuses for having an organization that does not learn, grow and innovate every day and week. There are no excuses that can be tolerated. I know this sounds black and white, but in the world of work learning, growing and innovating are essential.

Customer expectations are changing rapidly and organizations that flourish are learning 1% every single day, have leaders that take 100% responsibility for cultivating and infusing learning and growth into their organization and make zero excuses.

That ladies and gentlemen are the three percentages that successful leaders pay attention to. If you adopt them this week you’re going to have a much more effective work week.