Self-Questioning: A Magical Move that Leads to Success!

Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, Triggers, was released on May 19 and is a New York times #1 Best-Seller. This guest blog is from his latest Thinkers50 blog at Marshall Goldsmith Library.

The act of self-questioning—so simple, so misunderstood, so infrequently pursued—changes everything! It is a “magic move” that leads to success. It is a triggering mechanism, and its objective is to alter our behavior – for the better.

What is this magic move called The Daily Questions Process?

Daily questions are such an important part of my life that I do a self-questioning exercise every day and have for years. I value the process so much that I teach all of my clients this exercise in my coaching engagements and classes!

Every day I challenge myself by answering 32 questions that represent behavior that I know is important, but easy to neglect given the pressures that surround all of us today. The number 32 isn’t magic, the idea is to just ask the number of questions that seems ‘right for you’.

Each question is put on an Excel spreadsheet and is answered with a ‘yes’ (use a 1 to represent this on the spreadsheet) and ‘no’ (use a 0 on the spreadsheet) or a number. The process moves very quickly!

In my case, I have a woman call me and I read my answers to her. This helps ensure accountability.

One rule: there is no negative feedback. No matter what answer I give, she says nothing that might produce guilt. She might make positive comments that reinforce success – but this isn’t necessary.

Here are some of the questions that I ask myself. Please remember my questions reflect my values, and might not work for you. Please use these just for example and write your own.

First, I begin with six ‘active questions’ that lead to higher satisfaction with life. Each question begins with, “Did I do my best to…” The good thing about beginning these questions with “Did I do my best to…” is that it is very difficult to blame someone else for my failure. No one can be responsible for “Did I do my best to…” but me!

Did I do my best to:

  1. Increase your happiness?
  2. Find meaning?
  3. Be engaged?
  4. Build relationships?
  5. Set clear goals?
  6. Make progress toward goal achievement?

In terms of the happiness question, my philosophy of life is simple: Be happy now. I have a great life—wonderful wife and kids, good health, love my job, and don’t have a boss. If I am not happy today, someone is screwed up and that person is me!

In spite of all my blessings, I can still sometimes get caught up in day-to-day stress, forget how lucky I am and act like an idiot. It helps to get this daily reminder of the importance of happiness and gratitude.

Here are more of the questions that I ask myself:

  1. How meaningful were your activities?
  2. How many minutes did you watch TV?
  3. How many hours did you sleep?
  4. How many sit-ups did you do?
  5. What is your weight?
  6. Did you say or do something nice for Lyda?
  7. Did you say or do something nice for the kids?
  8. How many alcoholic drinks did you have?
  9. How many minutes did you spend trying to change things you can’t control?
  10. How many clients are not up-to-date?

Some of my questions are about health, such as “How many sit-ups did you do?” (This works. Today I did 200 sit-ups at once. Not bad for a 66-year-old guy!)

Disciplined follow-up is the key to the success of my teaching and coaching. One question is “With how many clients are you current on your follow-up?”

My relationship questions include, “Did you say or do something nice for your wife? Your son? Your daughter?” I am certainly not a perfect husband or dad, but this process helps me get better.

Why does this process work so well?

Because it forces me to look at and live my values every day. If I believe something matters I put it on the list and do it! If I really don’t want to do it, I can see the long string of 0s next to my daily attempts, face the reality that it isn’t going to happen, and let it go.

Imagine that a coach was going to call you every night and listen to you answer questions about your life. What questions would you want to ask yourself, every day?

Now, try it out. Write the questions that you would need to ask yourself every day. Even the process of writing questions will help you better understand your own values and how you live or don’t live them on a daily basis. If you really have courage, recruit a coach or friend and start asking daily questions to each other. You might be as amazed at the results as I have been.

Marshall has more leadership tips in his SoundviewPro course: Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Be the Rock Star

Our guest blogger is Karen Huller, founder of executive career coaching firm Charesume and personal branding company Epic Careering.

If you are like most job seekers, interviewing makes you nervous. Job and interview coaching experts, like me, all agree that preparation is the best prescription for performing your best at an interview. There are some great tips on common sense and “extra mile” steps you can take to ensure that you put your best foot forward, like how to be calm, confident, and on time. However, even the most prepared interviewers may not be using the most proven techniques for top interview performance – meditation, visualization and mental practice.

None of these techniques are new. In fact, I’ll bet someone you admire has been applying one or all of these techniques already.  Meditation has been known to curb tobacco cravings, improve test performance, and shorten reaction time. Top athletes use it to enhance their performance. Coach Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks implements meditation into his program for its ability to develop grit, a known key ingredient for success.

Last week I introduced the concept of creating an alter-ego as a tactic for overcoming your hesitancy to or fear of promoting your value and negotiating the salary you deserve. I outlined the first few steps to creating your alter-ego, but then, the big question remains:

How do you use an alter-ego to get job offers?

Once you develop a good idea of the ideal version of you, a gap remains between the consciously manifested version of you and your subconscious identity. The key to bridging this gap lies in an activity, better recognized as a discipline, that provides your conscious mind greater access to your subconscious mind.

Meditation

Meditation traditionally occurs through a biofeedback type of exercise, where you focus on your breath and relaxing your whole body one part at a time. There are many techniques to achieve desirable results. Some require that you breathe in for so many seconds and out for so many seconds. Some want you to imagine yourself from above, or sense that you are connecting to a higher energy. It is sometimes recommended that you hold your hand on your heart and feel your heartbeat slow down, or rather will it to slow down. Whatever way you arrive at a meditative state, there is one major ingredient that you use if your intention is to tap into this super version of you.

Visualization

Once in a meditative state, characterized by theta brain waves, which are usually associated with light sleep and drowsiness, start by recalling an emotion – pride.

Remember a time when you felt proud of yourself. It could have been a major accomplishment, or something as minor as keeping your cool during a time of chaos, or having a witty comeback that made everyone laugh. Whatever it is, focus on the emotion and let other details filter in. Notice your posture. Notice where you feel the pride in your body. Is your chest high? Your head tall? Are you smiling? Is it a big smile or a slight smile? Once you go through the sensations in your body, notice with your other senses what is around you.  What can you smell? Is it warm or cold? Who is there? What is the light like? What are people wearing?

Now that you have fully tapped into a point in time where you were an ideal and authentic version of yourself, you can add more depth and dimension to your alter-ego version of you and imagine what happens next. Imagine that this version of you immediately leaves this scene to go to a prospective employer’s office. During the commute in your ideal car, the traits of your alter-ego become enhanced, kind of like a hulk effect, only you are transformed optimally by these ultimate positive traits. You can even use the commute to visualize what traveling to your ideal employer would be like. Perhaps you would prefer to bike to work through a park. Use all of your senses and be as descriptive as possible. Is there a stream in the park? Who do you pass in the park? What reaction to you do they have?

A powerful technique to enhancing your ability to embody this alter-ego is using “I am” statements. In the present tense, as you imagine you are traveling to meet your ideal employer, repeat to yourself that you possess the traits of your alter-ego. For example, “I am incredibly charismatic.” Take the opportunity to take that a step further and describe what it looks like to possess that trait. “People are intrigued by me and hang on my every word.”

Now, you have arrived at your destination, your ideal employer. Visualize what the building looks like. Is this a large campus, or a work-share space?  How is it decorated? How does it smell? Who greets you?

Now that you are there, it is time to use one more technique to make sure that all of your preparations lead you to optimal performance in the interview and the ultimate outcome – an enthusiastic job offer with a very pleasing compensation package.

Mental Rehearsal

I first became aware of mental rehearsal while reading The Intention Experiment by Lynne McTaggart. A follow up to her book, The Field, this book chronicles many amazing scientific discoveries that substantiate the effectiveness of all of these techniques, but the results she cited actually prove that not only is mental rehearsal a powerful supplement to physical training, but it is almost as effective BY ITSELF! It turns out, you CAN actually think yourself thin, strong, fit, pretty, etc.

I recommend that you use mental rehearsal to apply what you have already learned about promoting your value in an interview.  As you progress through the interview as your alter-ego, picture the interviewer asking exactly what you want them to ask, and answering exactly as you have been instructed, advised or coached. Imagine the interviewer’s excitement and interest building as you lay out what hiring you will look like, how you plan to offer your highest professional contribution, and what impact that will have on your boss and the company. Since we are imagining the ideal interview, make sure the person with whom you are interviewing is your ideal version of a boss and has ultimate authority to hire you on the spot.

Making it easier every time

As I stated earlier, meditation is considered a discipline. It takes practice to learn how to quiet your mind if you are not accustomed to doing so. Start small, with 5 minutes, and build up to a good hour on a regular basis. This may seem like a large investment of time, but the results are the return on your investment, and if the results come with a large salary, I think you’ll agree that it’s quite worth it. Plus, once you have practiced your visualization multiple times, you can condense it to a 15-minute exercise that you can do right before each interview, or even just a meeting. Set your intention and imagine it playing out just as you would want it to.

Record yourself (or someone else) describing this scene for you, bringing you through an optimal hypothetical outcome that would be probable if you were to embody all of the characteristics of your alter-ego.

The point of this is not to be someone different than who you are. If you admire these qualities, you already ARE those qualities. But your every day experiences, failures, etc. result in you unlearning who you are intrinsically. It is often unintentional, but our self-esteem and self-worth is sometimes sacrificed in the wake of self-improvement, just when we need it most. Even those with thick skin who recognize the need for constructive criticism can feel degraded by a delivery that lacks compassion.  Little by little, these conscious efforts will bleed into your subconscious and you will start to embody these characteristics with littler effort each time.  Use these techniques to reclaim your highest self and achieve the ultimate EPIC career path and package.

Please share with us if you use these techniques AND what they have helped you create.

You can learn more about successful interviewing at Karen Huller’s SoundviewPro course Interview Skills to Get You Hired.

New Courses from SoundviewPro

We’ve just released a new batch of courses on our website at SoundviewPro. Check them out below and see which ones fit your current career needs.

Creating a Fiercely Loyal Brand Community with Sarah Robinson

You can create a loyal following by following the set of strategies outlined in this course. Sarah Robinson gives you a ground-level view of how to help your company connect and communicate with the people who will convert others to become fans of your brand.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12: Fundamentals with Stephen Monastra

Why pay someone to digitally edit your photos when you can do it yourself? This course will give you the techniques to do everything from scanning, color balancing, cropping and adding effects to your photos.

Microsoft Word 2010: Beyond the Basics with Gemma Cretella

Design newsletters, create flyers and edit documents all with one program! This course will help you move beyond the basics and learn the finer points of Microsoft Word 2010.

Creating an Insanely Positive Workplace Culture with Larry Johnson

Make your workplace an insanely great place to work. This course will give you the steps to help your company build a culture about which employees will rave.

The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor  with James Lukaszewski

Get into the inner circle of your organization by learning how to become a trusted strategic advisor. This course will help you develop the communication and strategy skills necessary to become a go-to strategic advisor for your boss.

The Leader’s Journey with Ron Price

Powerful principles to become a better leader form the basis for this course. Whether you are beginning your leadership career or in need of a tune-up, leadership expert Ron Price will provide you with strategic principles to guide you to get the best out of yourself and your team.

QuickBooks Online 2014: Essentials with Davita Pray

Make the switch to QuickBooks Online. If you’ve been hesitant to migrate from the desktop version of this popular accounting application, this course will give you a complete overview of why there’s never been a better time to change. Learn how to set up and navigate QuickBooks Online and perform day-to-day transactions from a Certified Public Accountant and certified QuickBooks Pro advisor.

Do You Think Triggers Will Change People’s Lives?

Marshall Goldsmith’s latest book, Triggers, will be released on May 19th. This blog is his answer to those with questions about the concept of behavioral triggers.

The sole purpose of this book (Triggers) is to help you become the person you want to be, to help you change your life. In Triggers, I won’t tell you who you should want to be. I won’t judge you or tell you who should become.

I will tell you why we don’t become the people we want to be. And, I do this for the sole purpose of helping you become the person you want to be. For instance, I explore the Two Immutable Truths of Behavioral Change. These will stop change in its tracks!

  • Meaningful change is very hard to do. It’s hard to initiate behavioral change, even harder to stay the course, hardest of all to make the change stick. Adult behavioral change is the most difficult thing for sentient human beings to accomplish.
  • No one can make us change unless we truly want to change. This should be self-evident. Change has to come from within. It can’t be dictated, demanded, or otherwise forced upon people. A man or woman who does not wholeheartedly commit to change will never change.

What makes positive, lasting behavioral change so challenging—and causes most of us to give up early in the game—is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course.

How do triggers work?

Belief triggers stop behavioral change in its tracks. Even when the individual and societal benefits of changing a specific behavior are indisputable, we are geniuses at inventing reasons to avoid change. It is much easier, and more fun, to attack the strategy of the person who’s trying to help than to try to solve the problem.

We fall back on a set of beliefs that trigger denial, resistance, and ultimately self-delusion. They sabotage lasting change by canceling its possibility. We employ these beliefs as articles of faith to justify our inaction and then wish away the result. These are called belief triggers and a few of them (there are many!) include:

  • ‘I have willpower and won’t give in to temptation.’
  • ‘Today is a special day.’
  • ‘At least I’m better than…’

The environment also triggers us. Most of us go through life unaware of how our environment shapes our behavior. When we experience “road rage” on a crowded freeway, it’s not because we’re sociopathic monsters. It’s because the temporary condition of being behind the wheel of a car, surrounded by rude, impatient drivers, triggers a change in our otherwise friendly demeanor. We’ve unwittingly placed ourselves in an environment of impatience, competitiveness, and hostility—and it alters us.

Some environments are designed precisely to lure us into acting against our interest. That’s what happens when we overspend at the high-end mall. Other environments are not as manipulative and predatory as a luxury store. But they’re still not working for us.

The environment that is most concerning is situational. It’s a hyperactive shape-shifter. Every time we enter a new situation, with its mutating who- what- when- where- and- why-specifics, we are surrendering ourselves to a new environment—and putting our goals, our plans, our behavioral integrity at risk. It’s a simple dynamic: a changing environment changes us.

The Solution

The solution I describe is to identify our behavioral triggers (any stimuli that impacts our behavior). These can be direct or indirect, internal or external, conscious or unconscious, etc.

The more aware we are, the less likely any trigger, even in the most mundane circumstances, will prompt hasty unthinking behavior that leads to undesirable consequences. Rather than operate on autopilot, we’ll slow down, take time to think it over, and make a more considered choice.

We already do this in the big moments. It’s the little moments that trigger some of our most outsized and unproductive responses. The slow line at the coffee shop, the second cousin who asks why you’re still single, the colleague who doesn’t remove his sunglasses indoors to talk to you.

Isn’t it time to learn how to be who we want to be in every moment possible? If your answer is “Yes!” then this book is for you.

To learn more from Marshall Goldsmith about improving leadership skills, try his SoundviewPro course: Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Time Poverty Is Half Of The Issue

Today’s guest blogger, Jones Loflin, is an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

An article in the Economist entitled, “Why Is Everyone So Busy?” got my attention with the term “Time Poverty.” The word “poverty” is one I don’t use often because I most often think of those “living in poverty.” Listening to my mother and father talk about growing up during the Depression is what I think of when I hear the word poverty. Seeing the conditions that many in the world live in is my visual of the word. So, I wasn’t completely comfortable when I began learning more about this term, “Time Poverty.”

Then I had to remind myself that the word poverty, according to Merriam Webster, means “scarcity or dearth of something.” I can work with that. However, I was still a little perplexed because unlike financial or food poverty, we are all provided with the same amount of time each day. So, I googled time poverty to get a better understanding of the phrase. Turns out that it has its origins way back in the 20th century to describe individuals who were financially wealthy but had little leisure time. Now we’re getting to the bigger issue.

When we speak of time poverty, I think we are really saying that there is a scarcity of something we want in our work or life. In many cases, it’s not that there isn’t sufficient time; the challenge is that we have made (and continue to make) other choices with that time. Maybe I’m still stuck on my original thoughts about poverty. If someone is living in poverty, they do not have the money or food to sustain life at a certain level. When it comes to time, we all have the same amount; it’s just how we use it that makes the difference. Granted, some people have control over more of their time than others.

I bring this up because I think to accurately solve any issue you have to correctly identify it first. To simply say you are suffering from “Time Poverty” doesn’t address the full challenge you’re facing and seeks answers in trying to find more time… which there isn’t. A more comprehensive approach is to specifically identify where you are sensing a scarcity as it relates to your daily activities or desired goals. Some examples might include:

  • Focus poverty
  • Time with family poverty
  • Personal time poverty
  • Professional growth poverty
  • Creativity poverty
  • Sleep poverty

Once you have identified your specific poverty you can take any number of specific actions to address the area. They include:

Evaluate your current choices of how you are using your time. Where could you spend less time on something to give you more time for the area of scarcity?

Revisit your priorities. Because of limited time resources we have to make choices about where we want to excel and where we are willing to fail, or at least not be the best.

Determine if this is a short term or long term poverty situation. As I wrote about in my article, When A Lack Of Balance Is Okay, there are times when we have to expend more resources in one area than another. A work assignment that creates “personal time poverty” for a few weeks is one thing. Work requirements that have been creating this type of poverty for a year are yet another.

In all the articles and blogs I read about time poverty, I found a strikingly similar solution in all of them: Start where you are. Like most people living in the “other” type of poverty, there is nothing that can be done about the past, and they don’t know what the future holds. Our greatest opportunity lies in what we do in the next moment to improve our impoverished situation… whatever that poverty may be.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

-Asian Proverb

To learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin, try out his SoundviewPro course: The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

Process versus the People

Today’s guest blogger is Linda Sharkey, author of Optimizing Talent. Dr. Sharkey is an HR Executive and Business Strategist with experience coaching and developing leaders and teams in Fortune 10 companies.

Is your Performance Evaluation System Helping or Getting in the Way of a Talent Rich Culture

Process versus the People

Are your year-end performance discussions more painful than they are worth and would most of your managers prefer to throw the system out?  Are you doing them merely to comply with legal requirements or to decide who gets paid what?  If so you are missing the mark on a very powerful system that can build your brand as a talent based culture and market leader.

We need to consider some key human resource systems to make sure that they are aligned with the culture you are creating and not working against it.

As we researched performance management systems in over 500 Fortune 1000 companies and talked with HR leaders in over 60 of them we discovered that the process was often more important than the outcome.  Checking the box once a year to make sure the employee and manager had at least one performance discussion seemed to be the prevailing outcome achieved.  Others focused on compensation alignment.  Few focused on creating a system where employees and their managers truly had a dialogue that actually helped employees understand how they could continue to grow and improve.  To quote several senior HR leaders “we are highly tactical in our approach and we don’t really use it to drive alignment to our culture and to our overall business strategy”.

Getting it Right

Here are ten proven steps that everyone can use to support a talent rich culture.

  1. Be crystal clear on the purpose of your performance management system.  What is the people philosophy that you are trying to promote through this system?
  2. Ensure that the system aligns with your values.   Make sure that these values are discussed so that everyone understands that what you do is as important as how you do it.
  3. Create a working profile of what the values look like in action.  State the values in terms of behaviors that everyone can recognize.  This way everyone in the organization understands the standard of the” best”.
  4. Train all you leaders and managers to recognize great behavior, assess talent and provide specific and actionable feedback.
  5. Teach managers and leaders how to effectively coach.  Agree on a coaching model and consistently apply it throughout the organization.
  6. Create peer coaching circles to help teams support each other in learning new skills and “grooving” new behaviors.  These circles enable employees to learn to ask each other for help when they need it and share suggestions and ideas.
  7. Create a simple form for year-end performance reviews that is 1 page – no more than 2 if you must.  Include specific business achievements, behaviors demonstrated, career goals and aspirations and finally what the employee needs to do to continue to grow in their current role or prepare for the next role.
  8. Don’t just reward for business outcomes; reward for expected behaviors as well.
  9. Measure and track the impact your system is having on the desired culture.  Examine your employee engagement scores to ensure feedback and coaching is happening through the year and measure your alignment to your culture so that you don’t lose sight of keeping your values on track.
  10. Link all your talent and performance discussions together to make sure you are sending consistent messages in the talent discussions as well as in performance calibration discussions.
  11. Communicate, communicate and communicate more about the impact of an effective system and how it is building a great place for shareholder value, customer loyalty and employee engagement!

If you follow these ten steps you will build a system that becomes part of your DNA, where people and leaders regularly help each other to succeed through effective feedback and coaching.  This was you will be providing performance feedback through the year and the end of the year “pain” goes away!  Try it you might like it.

You can learn how to apply these talent principles to transglobal positions in her SoundviewPro course Winning with Transglobal Leadership.

Cultivating Winning Relationships – How to network successfully

Today’s guest blogger is Morag Barrett, the founder of Skye Team and author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships.

You’ve heard the phrase “six degrees of separation” I have come to appreciate that in today’s world, it is more like “six degrees of connection”.

Here is a personal story to illustrate how closely we are connected. I was sitting at Anchorage airport having facilitated leadership programs at the North Slope, Alaska. It was my first trip to Alaska, and I knew no one in Anchorage. The royal wedding was being broadcast on the screens in the terminal, and the lady next to me started to chat. It was early, and I wanted to see the dress before boarding, so we talked. Eventually the conversation turned to current things. I shared that I lived in Colorado. She knew someone in Colorado… it turned out that her friend was someone I know well. We immediately went from strangers with nothing in common to acquaintances with someone in common.

Whether you find it easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger or someone who has a hard time meeting and talking to new people, networking and cultivating winning relationships is a necessary skill if you’re looking to get ahead.

With that in mind, here are six tips to help prepare you for your next networking opportunity.

Build Your Network

  1. Start before you arrive.  Review the agenda and speaker bios, check your social media connections to see who is attending and who you might like to meet. Then contact them via email, LinkedIn or twitter.
  2. Practice your “hello”. You need to think about how to say “hello” and introduce who you are and a little context as to why you are at the event.  30-seconds or less, make it genuine and remember the intent is to open up a conversation not simply toot your own horn!
  3. Get out of your comfort zone. Talk to “strangers” you may be surprised at just how connected you are. Remember relationships are not just for today… maybe this new contact could be your boss, colleague or new client next month, next year.

Maintain Your Network

4. Connect. I use LinkedIn to keep in touch with my contacts.  Send a personal invitation (not the standard wording) to the people you would like to remain in contact with.

5. Stay in touch. There is a new tool on LinkedIn that allows you to set reminders to get in touch with people (open a profile, click on ‘relationships’ and then reminders). Look for opportunities to send a quick congratulations message, or an article and “thinking of you”.  Ask for help and input from your network, you may just receive a suggestion you hadn’t considered!

6. Share your network. In Cultivate, The Power of Winning Relationships I talk about the concepts of Generosity and Abundance.  The most successful people are the ones who share their network and expertise; they give more than they take.  Make introductions, share your wisdom and build a reputation for being the go-to person.

Don’t simply attend events, participate, get involved, speak to those around you and cultivate a strong and powerful network that helps ensure your success, and theirs.

How do you cultivate and maintain your network?

You can learn more about cultivating relationships at Morag Barrett’s SoundviewPro course Business Relationships – Moving from “Me” to “We”.

Leadership Lesson: Respect The Bull, Not His Reputation

John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, is an executive coach and the author of many books, including MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership. This blog appeared first at Forbes.

“Some guys made heroes out of [bulls].,.. In their mind they become impossible to ride.”

That is Gary Leffew, owner of a bull riding school that bears his name. As he explains in a New York Times documentary by Joris Debeij that kind of talk is self-defeating. “I tell my students not to hang around with people who make a bull sound impossible… tell you all the reasons why you can’t ride him.”

Rather Leffew advises, “Walk over to a winner and you ask him about the same bull and he goes, ‘Oh man you got him, that’s one I wanted.’” According to Leffew, 95% of people who opt to ride bulls fail at it chiefly because they cannot handle the mental aspect of bull riding.

Leffew knows of what he speaks; he won a world championship in 1970 at the age of 26 and is now in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. As a California kid his first love was motorcycles, but after seeing a rodeo he switched to riding bulls, something his father thought was safer.

A secret to Leffew’s approach is meditation, a practice he has being doing since his early twenties. “The goal is to dance with [the bull]. When you are dancing, you become one with the person you are with.” Same with bull riding. As Leffew told Caitlin Ryan for the blog The Last Word, “You’re so mentally in tune with [the bull] you go there together… The rankest bulls I ever rode… were always the easiest rides.”

Meditation is core to Leffew’s teaching. Students learn to meditate so they can prepare themselves mentally along with preparing themselves physically through their technique. His school has groomed more than a dozen World Champions. “If you’re willing to suffer through the temporary setbacks, there’s nothing you can’t achieve,” says Leffew.

While few of us will every climb on the back of a two thousand pound animal that has been bred for generations to buck and pitch whatever or whoever is on its back to the ground, Leffew’s lessons have meaning for anyone facing long odds… or any odds at all.

Mental preparation is critical to success. Too often the temptation is to prepare externally for a challenge while ignoring internal preparation. That is, executives go to great lengths in doing the work – doing research and marshaling resources – that they ignore their own mental state. Sometimes it does not matter; you are on the winning team. But when adversity strikes you are at a disadvantage because you have not strengthened your inner self. You may buckle at the first sign of resistance and like some bull riders overestimate the challenge.

One way to prepare is through the practice of mindfulness, which is the state of being fully present in the moment. You are aware of self and situation as well as what you can do or not do. As a leader mindfulness focuses also on situational awareness, being focused on the environment you are in and preparing yourself to deal with it.

Meditation is one method for learning to become more mindful but not the only way. What is required for mindfulness is learning to take stock of yourself regularly as a means of gaining perspective on your performance and your interaction with others. It is a form of self-discipline that requires commitment, the willingness to reflect and rigor to do it regularly.

Such mental prep may not ready you for the rodeo circuit but it will enable you to ride the bulls you face in your business.

Learn more about leadership from John Baldoni in his SoundviewPro course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

A Radical New Approach to Employee Engagement

Marshall Goldsmith has twice been recognized as the top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50. This blog first appeared on his website.

In my new book Triggers, I propose a radical new approach to employee engagement. To me, this new approach is the “other half of the equation”, the missing piece, the thing that we’ve been overlooking that could change the business landscape for good!

What is this radical new concept? It’s that the key variable in employee engagement is the individual, the employee, not the program. Although it may sound obvious, this idea is not taught or acted upon. Instead, companies spend billions of dollars every year trying to get employees and leaders to believe that the solution to employee engagement problems is “out there” not “in us”. For example:

  • Historically, almost all of the evaluations of leadership development programs have focused on participants grading the popularity of the speakers. The goal of the program developers is to develop popular programs. Who learns to take responsibility? Who is really being trained? The speaker! The speaker is reinforced for being a popular presenter. The speaker almost never has any responsibility for the actual development of the leaders. The leaders may or may not take responsibility for their own development. Many take no responsibility for implementing what they learn in programs and, not surprisingly, do not become more effective.
  • Historically, almost all of the evaluations of executive coaching is on the popularity of the coach. Companies want to hire coaches who are popular with executives. Who learns to take responsibility? Who is really being trained? The executive coach is reinforced for being popular. The coaching clients may or may not take responsibility for changing their own behavior. Many take no responsibility for implementing suggestions from their coach and, not surprisingly, do not become better leaders.
  • Historically, almost all of the evaluation on employee engagement has focused on the company. These are important things like delivering fair pay and benefits, providing tools and resources, creating a safe workplace environment, and so on. But who is learning to take responsibility? Who is being trained? The company learns to roll out popular employee engagement programs; however, the employees may or may not take responsibility for engaging themselves. Many take no responsibility for engaging themselves and, not surprisingly, do not become more engaged though they do have good benefits.

I am not suggesting that all development and engagement programs are helpful – or that if their ideas are implemented they will work. I am merely pointing out that ideas which are not implemented definitely will not work!

I want you to achieve positive, lasting change, and I want you to have a better life. And while some of your life is going to be impacted by your environment, by a program, coach, or company – a lot is going to be up to you! The fact is that while you can’t make yourself taller, you can make yourself more engaged. And maybe you can’t change your company, boss, or employee, but you can change your reaction to them.

Your success in becoming engaged, being happy, finding meaning, and leading people will largely come from inside you – not from some teacher, coach, or program. It is not just what you learn, but how you (and if you) use it that will make the difference.

You can learn more about becoming a better leader at Marshall Goldsmith’s SoundviewPro course Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Doing Nothing Is Really Something

Today’s guest blogger, Jones Loflin, is an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, and the co-author of the award-winning book Juggling Elephants.

In our activity-obsessed culture, the idea of doing nothing is not considered a positive thing to do. Oh we talk about relaxing and disengaging, but even those moments of idleness are incessantly interrupted by the ding, chirp, or ring of an electronic device. The tide is changing, however, and there is now mounting evidence that we need these moments of what I call “sacred idleness. Forbes had an excellent article on the subject just a few months ago.  I’ve taught the general benefits of taking an “intermission” in my work life balance training for several years, and am always looking for more neurologically-based facts to support the value of doing nothing.

Enter the book, Autopilot: The Art And Science Of Doing Nothing, by Andrew Smart. It’s an intense read about how the brain works when we are actively working on tasks versus when we are idle. While the author’s goal is to show how doing nothing improves our creativity, the information is beneficial to any of us who are trying to figure out how to enhance our focus and increase clarity in our lives. Some of Smart’s findings include:

  • Our brains need to go on autopilot. Smart gives a brilliant analogy of how putting a plane on autopilot allows the pilot to rest and conserve mental energy for higher risks tasks like landing. In the same way, Smart argues, we need to relinquish control of our brain and allow it go where it really wants to go-and let it take us there. Constantly trying to prevent the brain from acting in this manner (i.e. being busy), causes mental fatigue, whereas allowing our brains to wander actually refreshes our mental energy.
  • Idleness brings deeper thinking. Smart writes, “Through idleness, great ideas buried in your unconsciousness have the chance to enter your awareness.” Always being activity -focused subdues these more meaningful thoughts or reflections.
  • Letting your mind wander actually gets you more organized. Smart says that when we “space out,” information in our brain begins to flow more freely between different regions of it. Connections are made that are not possible when we are focusing on the completion of a list of tasks or just trying to get stuff done.
  • Constant activity reduces creativity. One of my favorite sentences in the book is, “As children become more scheduled, more measured, more managed to achieve, and more hijacked by digital media, they become less and less creative.” And couldn’t the same be said of adults? We allow so little time for informal interaction, brainstorming, and just casual discussion in the workplace. Every moment is hyper focused on getting something done… NOW! Ironically, some of the best ideas that move an individual or organization forward come when the focus is NOT on generating those ideas.

So what are some guidelines for doing nothing? Smart’s timeless example is lying in the grass on a summer afternoon, looking up at the clouds. The main requirement is that you not be engaged in trying to complete a task or focus on one external stimulus. This would include getting away from your normal work or life environment with all the reminders of incomplete tasks and all the stuff  you could be doing. I was intrigued to read that having random noise during our down time is okay, and even acceptable. It stimulates the brain to make connections between normally unconnected items or thoughts. Listening to music during our idleness, however, is not recommended. Remember, it encourages you to focus on just one thing (the music) and our goal is to let our mind wander… and wonder. I found some other good tips at Real Simple.

The strongest case Smart makes for being idle from time to time comes when he writes, “….as we organize our lives down to the last second, we are suppressing our brain’s natural ability to make meaning out of experience.” Sounds like a pretty good reason to do nothing.

How could you start building more moments of “doing nothing” into your week?

To learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin, try out his SoundviewPro course: The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.