Tag Archives: personal development

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.

5 Things You Need To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

Serial entrepreneur and author Faisal Hoque is the founder of SHADOKA and other companies. His newest book is “Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability” This blog first appeared in Business Insider.

To be an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to jump into the deep end. And that takes courage.

But courage is just the beginning. At a fundamental level, most entrepreneurs need to repeatedly overcome adversity and pursue opportunities with very limited resources.

My path as an entrepreneur has been marked by the adversity I’ve experienced in my own life and the struggles I’ve witnessed in the lives of others.

Here are the five essential things that I believe are must-haves for any successful entrepreneurial journey:

1. A companion

Nobody succeeds in a silo. The majority of life’s travels include a partner or two or many. Be it a significant other, friend, or business colleague, you are most likely to have some company. If I’ve learned anything from my entrepreneurial journey, it’s that your choice of partners — be it a life partner, cofounder, management team, investors, or board members — can make or break a venture.

The people you surround yourself with are the difference between failure and success. It’s also how you interact with them that makes the difference. It’s important to be reminded of the people who believe in and support you and to cultivate those relationships. Spending time with people who make you stronger requires intentional effort and is a key component in being able to move forward.

Equally important is to avoid people who bring you down, waste your time, take you backward, and have no interest in your suffering. A close friend constantly reminds me to “get rid of toxic people from your daily life.” While you cannot always avoid them, at a minimum you can choose not to allow them to weaken you.

Your job, then, is to continuously search for those right companions at each new stage. It is only when the right person shows up that you see why it has never worked out with anyone else.

2. Good timing

The timing of your product or service must be right in the marketplace. If the market isn’t ready and you are way ahead of the market, then you must possess the drive and the willingness to sacrifice in order to make that product or service work.

You will need to choose to either wait for the market to catch up (requiring the resources to survive during that period, and accepting the risk of emerging competition), or you’ll need to adjust your offering to something more palatable to the market’s current readiness.

Smaller businesses have the advantage of being able to make choices and implement changes without the exhaustive process and conflicting points of view that slow down major corporations. You need to anticipate your market and customers’ needs and constantly innovate to stay ahead. This requires leadership with agility, resilience, and a willingness to fail — and to recognize that failure quickly enough to adapt and move forward.

3. Connection with your audience

Today’s innovative “social economy” requires entrepreneurs to create positive memories for customers and partners, or customers will turn to a competitor in search of a better experience. If you want to create a scalable business, you have to understand just how crucial it is to build products and services with brand equity and emotional connections. The emotional attachment that links customers to your products, as opposed to any other, translates into sustainable growth.

Here are some basic rules to connect, shape, influence, and lead with your products and brands:

  • Choose your target audience: The surest road to product failure is to try to be all things to all people and to be overly complex. 
  • Connect with the public: Your objective is to make your audience feel an emotional attachment to your products and brands.
  • Inspire and influence your audience: A simple, inspirational product and brand message is far more influential than one that highlights many product features and functions.

Here’s more on the topic of audience connection and value creation:

4. Scale

Creating a unique product and a unique brand isn’t enough. It takes repeatable sales processes to create a scalable business. It is one thing to sign up a few customers; it is another thing entirely to identify, design, and implement repeatable sales and customer-delivery processes. You have created a repeatable and scalable sales model when:

  • You can add new hires at the same productivity level as the entrepreneur or the sales leader.
  • You can increase the sources of your customer leads on a consistent basis.
  • You have a sales conversion rate and revenue that can be consistently forecasted.
  • The cost to acquire a new customer is significantly less than the amount you can earn from that customer over time.
  • Customers get the right product in the right place at the right time.

A repeatable sales model builds the platform to scale. Like the search for product and market fit, it can take major experimentation and R&D to find a repeatable and scalable sales model.

5. Ways to de-stress

Most entrepreneurs consider managing the ongoing success of their business to be twice as stressful as maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse or partner, nearly three times as stressful as raising children, and more than four times as stressful as managing their personal finances.

The stressors can be relentless. But if you’re not happy, healthy, and motivated, you can’t create a business model that provides a positive market experience. You set the tone for everyone who works with you. Nobody wants to do business with a grouchy, bitter, and exhausted entrepreneur. Therefore, investing the time and effort to adequately take care of your physical and mental well-being will further increase your chances for long-term success.

Mental health is not just about going to the gym to let off steam. It’s about achieving a state of mental calmness to see you though the relentless challenges — but that’s another topic in itself!

To learn more about entrepreneurship, try Faisal Hoque’s SoundviewPro online course How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset.

Emotional Intelligence. Have you lost it?

Today’s guest blogger is Morag Barrett, the founder of Skye Team and author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships. This is Part I of 2.

I lost it yesterday. I was at a meeting and all was going reasonably well. I was aware that I was tired and not focusing 100% on the matter at hand when it happened, I lost it. What happened? Someone made a comment and I decided to come out of my corner fighting. As soon as I did I regretted it.

How many times has that happened to you?

• Have you ever been in a conversation that started ‘heating up’, where the tension and/or complexity increased?
• Where you wanted to say ‘No’ but found yourself saying ‘yes’
• When things didn’t go as well as you would have liked? …

And a few minutes later you’re thinking, “Why didn’t I do this?” or “Why didn’t I say that?”

This is Emotional Intelligence in action… or in my case, re-action, as I didn’t effectively manage my response to the situation. My emotions ‘escaped’ and I only applied the emotional intelligence knowledge afterwards.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Daniel Goleman’s Primal Leadership is an excellent read. If you haven’t already obtained a copy I would highly recommend that you do. Daniel talks about Emotional Intelligence as the key ingredient that causes great leaders and performers to stand out. As you move through your career it becomes less about how smart you are or the results that you achieve personally…it is about your ability to build effective relationships and to motivate and inspire others – to achieve results through them.

Daniel Goleman’s model for EQ has 5 components.

Personal Competence – this comes from you and understanding the following:

1. Self-Awareness– understanding yourself. What is your default behavior, fight or flight? What causes or triggers you to react one way or another and it may be different at home than work. It may be situational, specific to individuals with whom you are working. Once you understand what drives you, you can move to:

2. Self-Management – how can you anticipate and plan for your reactions and triggers. If you know you are about to enter a situation or a meeting that in the past has caused you to behave in a way that is different to what you intended, how can you anticipate and influence your reactions and stay in the moment. And trust me, its one thing to know and anticipate an ‘amygdala hijack’ – when your brain takes control of your ‘sane mind’ and you speak without thinking and another thing to be able to manage it in the heat of the moment. Think about it, how many times have you thought about the ‘right response’ or “I wish I had only…” later on in the day, when it is too late?

3. Motivation -understanding what drives you to individual and team success. How you react to and explain successes and setbacks.
Social Competence -understanding and managing other’s reactions.

4. Connection – once you are aware of your reactions then you can apply these to others. Understanding from their perspective how they may perceive the situation, their reactions and seeking to start from their point of view, to learn and to move forward in an effective manner.
5. Social Skills-the ability to influence others, to communicate effectively such that the shared learning and understanding of different perspectives grow (rather than just focusing on one point of view). To lead and inspire others, to manage conflict effectively and to build relationships that collaborate and work effectively together to achieve common goals.

To Be Continued . . .

You can learn more about emotional intelligence at Morag Barrett’s SoundviewPro course A Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence.

Announcing New Courses for February

We’ve added several new course this month that you’ll want to check you, covering leadership, sales, software and more.

Transform Your Organization with the Executive Checklist with James Kerr
Learn how to better set your organization’s direction and manage change. In this course, taught by veteran expert management consultant James M. Kerr, you’ll learn to develop a strategic plan, engage your employees and help create your company’s vision for the future.

Creating a Networking Lifestyle to Grow Your Business with Guy Dunn
If you’re looking to improve your career, your focus should be on others, not yourself. In this course, you will learn how to take a strategic approach to networking. You’ll learn how to create a networking plan, execute specific action steps and ensure timely follow-up that gets results.

A Leader’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence with Morag Barrett
There are certain situations that bring on stress and cause you to perform at less than your best. In this course, global executive coach Morag Barrett will help you increase your self-awareness, recognize your emotional triggers and control the situation to keep you on the path to success.

Sales Onboarding – Keys to Success with David Leaver
As top sales management consultant David Leaver will tell you, sales onboarding is not a one-time event. Learn a powerful framework to help your sales professionals connect learning to growth and create effective execution to win more sales.

Final Cut Pro X: Beginner with Sean McKnight
Learn the basic video editing skills for Final Cut Pro X. This course will teach you the basics and includes a set of media files to allow you to edit your own version of the project created by the instructor.

Microsoft Excel 2010: Advanced with Robert Devine
Challenge yourself and maximize your skills in this advanced course for Microsoft Excel 2010. You’ll learn the full functionality of UserForms. You’ll also learn how to connect to a database and format and fit database records to a worksheet.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6: Intermediate with Tim Walker
Learn to combine creativity and complexity and produce professional videos. In this course, you’ll learn editing techniques to help you tell a compelling story that gets attention. To sharpen your skills, this project-based course will have you create an intro video, photo montage, short documentary and a commercial.

Enjoy!

The One Question You Need to Ask Yourself before You Say Anything

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.

Conflict is an unavoidable part of our lives, whether we’re CEOs, entrepreneurs, parents, spouses, engineers or ditch diggers. In some cases, conflict stimulates us to accomplish great things. It can also drag us off course, eroding our relationships, stalling our careers and keeping us from becoming the people we want to become.

So which conflicts are useful and which are counter-productive? As an executive coach, I’ve been helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior for more than 35 years. My experience with great leaders has led me to develop a simple formulation, one that can help you avoid pointless skirmishes and help you take on the challenges that really matter. Follow it, and you will dramatically shrink your daily volume of stress, unpleasant debate and wasted time.

I phrase it as a question:

AM I WILLING
AT THIS TIME
TO MAKE THE INVESTMENT REQUIRED
TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE
ON THIS TOPIC?

It pops into my head so often each day that I’ve turned the first five words into an acronym, AIWATT (which I find appropriately rhymes with Say What?). AIWATT doesn’t require you to do anything, it merely helps you avoid doing something you’ll regret.

Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘I don’t need to repeat a simple question to know which battles are worth fighting.’ But I believe that all of us – even the most brilliant and successful – need exactly this kind of help. In my new book Triggers (Crown, May 2015), I make the case that relying on structure – even something as simple as the AIWATT question – is key to changing our behavior.

Why? Because in every waking hour we are bombarded by people, events, and circumstances that have the potential to change us – the triggers in the title of my book. We often fail to appreciate just how much these triggers affect us, and how difficult it is to fend them off without some kind of support.

AIWATT is just one of the tactics I suggest. Of course, it isn’t a universal panacea for all our interpersonal problems, but it has a specific utility. It’s a reminder that our environment tempts us many times a day to engage in pointless arguments. And, it creates a split-second delay in our potentially prideful, cynical, judgmental, argumentative, and selfish responses to our environment. This delay gives us time to consider a more positive response.

Let’s look at the question a little more closely.

“Am I willing” implies that we are exercising volition – taking responsibility – rather than surfing along the waves of inertia that otherwise rule our day. We are asking, “Do I really want to do this?”

“At this time” reminds us that we’re operating in the present. Circumstances will differ later on, demanding a different response. The only issue is what we’re facing now.

“To make the investment required” reminds us that responding to others is work, an expenditure of time, energy and opportunity. And, like any investment, our resources are finite. We are asking, “Is this really the best use of my time?”

“To make a positive difference” places the emphasis on the kinder, gentler side of our nature. It’s a reminder that we can either help create a better us or a better world. If we’re not accomplishing one or the other, why are we getting involved?

“On this topic” focuses us on the matter at hand. We can’t solve every problem. The time we spend on topics where we can’t make a positive difference is stolen from topics where we can.

Like closing our office door so people hesitate before they knock, asking ourselves, “Am I willing, at this time, to make the investment required to make a positive difference on this topic?” gives us a thin barrier of breathing room, time enough to inhale, exhale, and reflect before we engage or move on. In doing so, we block out the chatter and noise – we make peace with what we are not going to change – freeing ourselves to tackle the changes that really matter in our lives.

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

Eight Signs You Discount The Value Of Your Time

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.

I have a bulletin board at the door of my office containing several items that would probably appear strange to you, but keep me focused. Some items come and go while others have a more permanent place. One is the memorial program for the recent funeral of a friend who unexpectedly died at 53. Another is an adorable “brochure” that one of my daughters created for me to use several years ago. One item that seems to always stay posted is a chart I picked up at a trade show many years ago that charts how financially valuable one’s time is at work, based on 244, eight hour working days per year. Here’s an example:

If you earn $40,000 per year:

  • Every hour of your work time is worth $20.49
  • Every minute is worth .3415
  • In a year, one hour a day is worth $5000

Every time I see this chart I am quickly reminded that I can not allow my day to be filled with activities that don’t give me a solid “return on investment.” When I do waste time, I frequently force myself to do the math on just how much that lack of intention cost me, and how I could have used those financial resources to support or grow my business, or just provide for my family. You can see the actual chart here.

Whether you work for yourself or for an organization, there is no question that there is a cost associated with not placing a high value on your time. If not financial, it might be in diminished quality of relationships, a lack of personal well-being, or just the sinking feeling (and fact) that your most important things aren’t getting done.

Here are eight signs that help me recognize I am discounting the value of my time… and not making a wise investment of these critical resources:

I accept interruptions as the normal mode of work. Whether the interruption is physical (phone or email) or mental (thoughts of unfinished tasks or other things I need to do), there are steps I can often take to create an environment where my higher priority tasks actually get accomplished. I can move to another work area, shut down my email, or just take a second and write down the thoughts that keep hovering around me like pesky gnats. Unfortunately I sometimes foolishly think I can keep all those thoughts in play and still stay focused.

I am too available. Don’t get me wrong. People sometimes need my attention immediately, but if I always drop everything at a moment’s notice, they come to expect it. And once they are trained that way, it’s hard to break the cycle.

I don’t put filters in place. In our book, Getting to It, Todd Musig and I discuss the use of filters in screening out unwanted interruptions or distractions. Simply put, decide what you will allow to interrupt your work BEFORE the interruption actually occurs. What phone call, email, message, or face to face interaction are so important that you would pause work on your highest priorities to handle?

I don’t create an effective task list. If I just haphazardly make a list and don’t prioritize the items in light of which ones will most move my work forward, it’s easy to get “check happy” and just start plowing through the list, finishing the mundane and unimportant. A more effective approach for me is to ask myself, “If I only got 3 things done today at work that are most aligned with my purpose and goals, what would they be?” With those three in mind, I build my day around them.

I don’t share my current work activities with others. A favorite moment in one of my training programs is when I work with those who are so frustrated with their boss or coworkers because they keep piling on more work. When I ask them if those bosses or coworkers know exactly what they are currently working on at the moment, the answer is usually, “Well…no.” If we don’t communicate what we are working on that is of value to the organization, the team, or to our own personal success, why is it a problem for them to want to fill our schedules with less important tasks? Even in my office I let Belinda know what I am working on so she can make a more informed decision about when to interrupt me…or not. For a more detailed strategy for sharing your work priorities with others, check out my CARD Techinque.

I don’t put limits on meetings or activities. I hear you screaming, “But Jones I am not always the one in control!” True, and for those situations you can only reflect back to the previous point and remind people that your current work is important and you need to get back to it ASAP. For those other events or meetings where you do have influence, reflect on the time needed for completion and plan with that deadline in mind. I’ve also found that if I tell others of my desired time limit, they will often work just as hard to meet it. Don’t tell them and…. you might as well be burning money. For more about the value of limits, click here.

I let multitasking rule my day. The starting and stopping process alone is like throwing money away with all the lost mental resources trying to regain focus. When I define what “done” looks like for a task (or at least how far I can take it with the information or resources I have available), and then work to that objective, I get so much more of value accomplished.

I’m too lazy to get away from distractions. When I first started writing this blog I had multiple messages vibrate on my phone and a number of notifications light up on my tablet. I hadn’t looked at any of them, but my mind was racing with the thought of, “I wonder who the message is from?” After checking the messages, I moved my phone and tablet out of eyesight, and turned my phone to silent. If I’m working on a new training concept or a keynote address, the last place I need to be is at my desk. There are just too many visual reminders that I could be doing something else. If I see my time as valuable, I’ll make other arrangements to get the right work done.

A poem I read many years ago highlights the incredible value each moment has if used wisely:

I have only just a minute, Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.

But it’s up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it. Give account if I abuse it.

Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.

-Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

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

5 Tips For Working Smarter, Not Harder

Our guest blogger Faisal Hoque is founder of SHADOKA and other companies.  His newest book is “Everything Connects”. This blog first appeared at Fast Company.

Working smarter requires a combination of critical thinking, discipline, and techniques that we can employ for making continual progress

Regardless of our background, location, or profession, there is one language that is the same, and that language is the language of progress.

Progress certainly comes from putting in the hard work, but working hard is not enough. To achieve our desired outcome, each one of us needs to find our own ways to work smarter.

Working smarter requires a combination of critical thinking, discipline, and techniques that we can employ for making continual progress.

Here are a few techniques that I find helpful:

1. Assess Everything That Needs To Be Done

There is a saying that 80% of our accomplishments come from 20% of our efforts. So what 20% of our work is the most valuable? Once we’ve identified it, focusing the lion’s share of our time and energy in that direction creates progress.

Selecting the right success indicators to drive our activities creates the tasks we can knock out first for greatest impact. Here are three fundamentals for assessing potential for success:

  1. Closely examine your strategy and execution methods from the perspective of your particular situation.
  2. Next, articulate and analyze the impact of your work on yourself, your team, partners, and customers.
  3. Finally, evaluate your own ability to execute, focusing on your assets structure, and capabilities.

2. Limit Your Short-term Goals

Once we have our long-term goal stated as an intention, we need to break it down. Let’s say your intention states a five-year goal. Where do you want to be in one year along the journey?

Let’s say that you want to build a new company. Your new company will offer a unique product. Your year one goal may include developing, commercializing, and market validation of offerings. Your first 30-days goal may solely focus on defining the purpose, audience, and the usage of the product.

Where do you want to be on your journey in the next three months? Perhaps doing market research, positioning, and developing the first version of the product. And so on.

It is very tempting to focus on many goals at once. As we mature our own personal techniques and disciplines, it is very possible to be involved in multiple initiatives. However, limiting goals for each initiative to measureable outcomes is what allows us not to overwhelm ourselves into a state of submission and defeat.

3. Work To Your Own Cycle

Our bodies work in cycles. There are times of the day that are most productive as well as times that are quite the opposite. The most effective way of staying productive is to learn your cycle. Which times of the day do you find that you complete the most tasks as well as those times in which all you can think about is taking a break?

For example, my maximum peak of productivity and efficiency generally occurs between 4:00 am and 11:00 am, so I prefer not setting up meetings during those hours.

Studies show that, on average, our brains are only able to remain focused for 90 minutes; then we need at least 15 minutes rest. This is based on the ultradian rhythm, the body’s “basic rest-activity cycle.”

By taking period breaks roughly every 90 minutes we allow our minds and bodies to refresh and be ready to fire off another 90-minute period of high activity.

4. Create, Modify, Reuse, and Automate

The biggest lesson from my computer science schooling was the concept of reusability. In computer science and software engineering, reusability is the use of existing assets in some form within the software product development process. More than just code, assets are products and by-products of the software development life cycle and include design and implementation technique. Reuse implies the creation of a separately maintained version of the assets.

This notion of reusability can be applied to anything we do. For example, as an author, I first write small blogs, the blogs turns into feature length articles, and articles become the basis of a new book.

Reuse is what gives us speed and efficiency without reinventing the wheel every time we want to create a new asset.

Much has been written about the benefit of automating repeated tasks. Automation can be a great personal and organizational productivity method. For example, you can use a social media scheduling system that posts your content on social media platforms regularly versus you posting repeatedly at different times of the day.

The trick is being conscious enough to connect the dots between our past, present, and future.

5. Summon Your Willpower

In her book Maximum Willpower, Professor Kelly McGonigal talks about three different aspects of willpower; I will, I won’t, and I want.

Understanding these three areas of willpower is key to reaching our productivity goals.

Having the I won’t willpower is saying no to things that will keep you from achieving your tasks such as getting easily distracted with emails, social media, and lengthy useless conversations with others.

The I will willpower is having the will to focus on productivity. As an example, we can use social media to move our work forward or we can choose to become addicted to self-entertainment.

The I want willpower is to remember the end goal and the reason why we are doing what it is that we are doing. Consistently exercising our willpower keeps us focused—and that takes disciplined practice.

You can learn more about techniques for entrepreneurs in Faisal Hoque’s SoundviewPro course, How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset.