Tag Archives: personal development

What Really Matters in Life?

Marshall Goldsmith is today’s guest blogger. 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.

Most people don’t want to “do nothing’ all day. We have hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions. We want to contribute to the world, make it a better place, not “retire” from it to a life of “leisure”. For most of us, the prospects of sleeping in late, lounging on the beach, improving our golf scores, living on cruise ships, and lazing about all day may sound good for a short time, but they hold little allure for us in the long-term.

So, what really matters in life? I can boil the answer to this question down to six major themes:
1) Wealth
2) Health
3) Relationships
4) Contribution/Achievement
5) Meaning
6) Happiness

First a little discussion on the themes.

Wealth – some have more than others, some have less, but most of the people I run across agree that while it can be used to pay for nice homes, fast cars, and fine dining, it can’t purchase meaning. Beyond a middle-income level, the amount of money you have bears little correlation to how happy you are.

Health – is critically important to enjoying life. Good health is a combination of luck, a healthy lifestyle, and medical care.

Relationships – are very important. Everyone I meet clearly values their relationships with friends and family members and sees that these relationships are key to their emotional wellbeing.

Contribution/Achievement – for most of us reading this blog we are fortunate in life and seek to give back, make a positive contribution, even leave a legacy. Helping others as we’ve been helped is important to us.

Meaning – work that has meaning is important to our sense of well being. We want to feel that we are making a real difference in the world.

Happiness – everyone I’ve ever met wants to be happy. True happiness can’t be bought – it has to be lived!

As you contemplate these themes and set your goals for 2015, you might choose to volunteer or work on projects that make the world a better place. You might choose to change to a job or a career where you have more opportunity to serve. For me, I still teach and give classes, but I focus more on advising people how they can have a great rest of their lives rather than just work harder and “make more money.”

Reflecting on life’s purpose should start when you’re young—and never stop. I served on the board of the Peter Drucker Foundation for 10 years, so I had a chance to observe Peter personally. He worked until his death at age 95! He was never interested in retiring. He was interested in working to make the world a better place. Through his example, I learned that making a difference means more than, and is very different from, making a living.

Think about your life. Now’s a great time to start planning the rest of it. How can you make a contribution? How can you find meaning? What will make you happy? How can you make this time count—for yourself, the people around you, and the world?

To learn more from Marshall Goldsmith about improving your life, check out his SoundviewPro course Engaging Ourselves at Work and in Life.

A “Selfie” Of Your Time Management

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

Selfie

Selfies are everywhere! These self made photos of people doing everything from standing with a best friend to kayaking down a river blindfolded (just wait) are appearing at the rate of one million per day… and that’s the ones we know about. According to an infographic at stylecaster.com, here are some other interesting facts about these portraits:

  • They make up 30% of the photos taken by people 18-24 years of age
  • Selfies are more popular in Australia than any country in the world. Second is Canada and third is the United States
  • 34% of males state that they retouch their selfies while only 14% of females make changes to their selfies before posting

Even world leaders, including President Obama and Pope Francis have snapped pictures of themselves! The picture at the top of this post is one of my favorite selfies, taken with my younger daughter.

All this interest in selfies makes me wonder what a quick and spontaneous “snapshot” of how we are managing our time would look. Would yours:

  • Show you spending time working on our highest priorities, or just switching from one task to another to get through the day?
  • Be more likely to be taken with a friend or loved one… or alone because you keep rationalizing you will have time for them later?
  • Be a generally fuzzy picture because you aren’t sharpening our focus on 3-4 key tasks each day?
  • Reflect a celebration because you stayed focused on that complex assignment and finally finished it?
  • Have you looking exhausted and anxious because you keep denying yourself much needed rest?
  • Be snapped in a spot where you are taking some time for solitude and reflection instead of always trying to cram more and more into each day?
  • Show your children or significant other looking longingly out a door or window or be a snap of them running toward you with a HUGE smile and outstretched arms?
  • Include your phone, tablet, or computer screen showing your 30th post to social media today?

What would your selfie reveal about how you are managing your time?

Learn more about personal productivity at Jones Loflin’s SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

10 Things Everyone Should Know Before Becoming An Entrepreneur

Today’s guest blogger is Faisal Hoque, a self-professed “devoted student of life, entrepreneurship and humanity. Originally Published at Business Insider.

Business literature is filled with definitions of entrepreneurship. And we often speak of entrepreneurship within a tech or startup space, though surely the family running your neighborhood market is also an entrepreneur. Many people around the globe are forced to become entrepreneurs just to survive. 

Unfortunately, there is no exact formula for entrepreneurship. Rarely one finds overnight success. There are no quick fixes. It is unique for each individual. 

For me, entrepreneurship started with the need to survive, then moved on to fulfill my dream, and finally graduated to a need to make a difference (in whatever small way I can). But in many ways, the challenge remains the same. 

I have learned many things through trials and tribulations:

1. There is no substitute for love. 

The great poet Rumi once said: “What you seek is seeking you.”

Sooner or later, our entrepreneurial journey needs to support what we each love to do. It is only when we find the love of our true calling that we find inspiration to fight for our purpose. Our love drives our passion — gives us the energy for the long haul. 

And to discover such love, it takes self-awareness and connecting with ourselves. 

2. You are your greatest investment. 

In rough waters when there is no one to call upon, it is our skills that save us. Mastering our skills requires utter devotion. It is only through daily devotion that we improve our authentic craft. Devotion is our best sustainable self-investment. 

Devotion is what gives us the daily dose of confidence. You can lose everything, but no one can take your authentic craft. 

3. Mindfulness helps you survive.

Several decades ago, the term mindfulness was used to imply Eastern mysticism related to the spiritual journey of a person, originated by Gautama Buddha.

Today, psychologists define mindfulness as “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999). Being mindful allows us to focus and execute one task at a time.

More importantly, being in the moment allows us to escape from adversity and conserve our inner energy.

4. Suffering needs to be your friend.

I love this Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

The more things we try, the more likely we are to fail. And that’s very much the essence of being an entrepreneur. 

Failure and adversity inherently invokes pain, suffering, and disappointments. Accepting and growing through our pain is part of entrepreneurial growth. This is hardly easy. Like any other skill, learning to suffer well requires conscious practice and learning. It is only when we learn to welcome suffering, we are able to get up repeatedly. For an entrepreneur, pain is a must — therefore suffering needs be optional.

5. You need to inspire yourself every day.

Inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone. Mine often comes from meditation, cooking, writing, listening to music, or watching movies.

For example, writing allows me to consciously put these positive reaffirmations on paper to visualize my destiny. I have also found writing is therapeutic for coping with my adversities. It allows me to turn my anger, fear, and disappointments into inspiration for myself and my readers. It serves as stress relief when I try to turn negative into positive by finally expressing what I feel down deep inside.

6. Avoid people who hold you back.

We all know that the people we surround ourselves with make the difference between failure and success. If you’ve ever been around someone who leaves you feeling exhausted and drained, you have probably encountered an emotional vampire. These people don’t drain your blood, but they do drain your vital energy. Emotional vampires can be found anywhere. 

It is important to avoid people who bring us down, waste our time, take us backward, and have no empathy in our suffering. Make a deliberate effort to spend time only with people who uplift you and make you stronger.

7. Believing in chance encounters moves us forward.

In any journey — entrepreneurial or otherwise — there are many encounters. Some are planned; some are by accident; and some by divine intervention. I have had many amazing “chance encounters,” where it seems as if the universe rallied to come to my aid when I needed the help most. 

They have occurred when least expected — and many of the people I’ve encountered have become business partners, friends and family. And whenever those encounters initially left me with a “negative” experience, they turned out to be much-needed lessons for me. I believe chance encounters happen to those who remain optimistic no matter what. 

8. Saying “no” and making tough calls is essential. 

It takes more courage to say “no” than to say “yes.” But if we do it, we protect ourselves from making poor decisions. This tactic can help us stay focused and prevent unnecessary complexity and wrong turns. It can also keep us from getting involved with the wrong people.

Dr. Judith Sills in Psychology Today writes:

“There’s a lot of talk, and a lot to be said, for the power of Yes. Yes supports risk-taking, courage, and an open-hearted approach to life whose grace cannot be minimized. But no — a metal grate that slams shut the window between one’s self and the influence of others — is rarely celebrated. It’s a hidden power because it is both easily misunderstood and difficult to engage.”

9. Being intentionally omnivorous allows us to be diverse. 

An ongoing part of identity building — both in our individual working lives and as part of a team — is to practice inviting a breadth of experiences, a pool of experiences from which we can draw on later in life. When journalists ask artists the lazy question “Where do your ideas come from?” the answer can only be this: their experiences.

To gain a diversity of experience, it requires entrepreneurs to be intentionally omnivorous.

10. Treating yourself kindly is a must.

In his book, “The Art of Happiness,” His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama wrote, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Entrepreneurs are often very hard on themselves. For many, even though it may be easy to show compassion to others, it may be hard to accept, embrace, and be compassionate toward ourselves. Some of us blame others for all our miseries and some blame ourselves. Often it’s easy to blame oneself, feel sorry, and/or put oneself down. It is only through being able to let go, have compassion for oneself, and self-encouragement that we can pursue a long-lasting journey.

Learn more about entrepreneurship at Faisal Hoque’s SoundviewPro course How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset.

The Olympic Sized Power Of Routines

Jones Loflin, an internationally recognized speaker, author and trainer, is our guest blogger today.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, USA rifle shooter Matt Emmons was poised to win his second gold medal. He had one shot left, and only needed a score of 7.3. The lowest score on his last nine shots was 9.3, so the gold was certainly to be in his hands soon. Sure enough, Emmons took the shot, and hit a bullseye… on the wrong target. He was awarded 0 points and finished fourth in this particular competition.

When discussing what happened, Emmons explained that he normally looks at the number of the target through his viewfinder on his rifle, and then lowers his gun. Notice what he said next: “On that shot, I was just worrying about calming myself down and just breaking a good shot, so I didn’t even look at the number. I probably should have.”

First, let me say I can not imagine the pressure faced by any Olympic athlete. As a novice rifle shooter, I struggle to hit the center of the target in my own backyard. And to Emmons’ credit, he did recover from the mistake and win a gold medal in a different competition the next day.

What this story affirms for me each time I see it is the incredible power of routines to help me “hit the right target” in respect to my daily goals. I know that if I get the right amount of sleep, exercise first thing in the morning, and eat a healthy breakfast, I can have a productive day. I’ve followed the routine countless times, but when I stray from it, I am setting myself up for failure. And it is sometimes just the day it was imperative for me to be at my best.

Notice that Emmons said his emotions were what got him out of his routine. Ironically, it’s a routine that helps us perform well under heavy stress. It’s why athletes, military personnel, and anyone else who has to perform well is engaged in continuous training. Deviate from the proven routine… and who knows how things might turn out. It could be the difference from being on the top of an Olympic platform, or watching from the crowd.

As you work through your day, reflect on the routines that you know help you to be productive and hit your mark. Look at developing new ones that could take your work to the next level. Most importantly, recognize that straying from a routine that works can have disastrous consequences… in the Olympics and in the game of life.

Learn more about personal productivity from Jones Loflin in his SoundviewPro course The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity.

Networking tips for Young Professionals

A guest blog with Cyndee Woolley, APR, a consultant in public relations and the author of Building Brand [You]. For more information, visit www.BuildingBrandYou.com.

In speaking with seasoned executives, one of the biggest lessons they learned through the course of their career is the value of building a network. Often young professionals are thrown into the waters and take years to hone their networking skills – losing valuable relationships along the way. Hopefully, these tips will help you stand out from the crowd and build your network.

Take time to think through your brand
With limited professional experience, many young professionals haven’t taken the time to develop a brand for themselves. Instead, they have a haphazard, thrown-together image that may appear polished externally but slows them down professionally. Your brand is more than a sharp suit and fancy business card. It is about developing a clear vision of your ideal future and weaving in important elements like your values and priorities to reflect a solid brand that people can understand.

Target your networking
It is important to be open and receptive to new ideas and possible work relationships. After all, many opportunities come from unexpected sources. However, with a realistic understanding of your time limitations – both professionally and personally – it is perfectly reasonable to approach your networking efforts in the same way that you do a sales project. Focus your efforts on the people who can help advance your career skills and lead you to your ideal life. Beyond sales prospects, consider networking with these three types of individuals:
• Mentors – Keep your eye out for mentors. These individuals are living the life that you would like to enjoy, or perhaps have a skill that you would like to develop. Don’t ask them to be your mentor, but ask them for coffee or lunch to learn about what they do.
• Peers – It is important to have a network of peers that are in the same industry as you. They will be your resource for referrals to potential vendors and possibly clients that they can’t handle. By working together, you can both develop your professional skills and advance your career.
• Inspirational Relationships – In a competitive atmosphere, there can be great pressure to perform that can lead to burnout and frustration. Inspirational relationships can be as simple as belonging to church, Rotary, or Kiwanis. But, don’t overlook that best friend who always leaves you charged up and ready to take on the world or the child in your life who helps you see things from another perspective. Keep these relationships strong during the good times so that you can pick each other up during the really hard times.

Learn about professional etiquette
I had dinner with a young professional that worked in a very casual industry. It wasn’t surprising to see him in khakis shorts and a t-shirt instead of a suit and tie. But, when we ate dinner, he slurped his coffee and spoke with his mouth full – complete with little hunks of food flying out at me. This doesn’t just happen with young professionals, I’ve known a few adults that I refuse to have a meal without protective eyewear!
Take the time to learn about the nuances of professional networking. Small details like carrying your cold, wet drink in your left hand to keep your right (handshaking) hand clean and dry can make a big difference in how you are remembered.

Plan out some common conversation points
Networking can be intimidating, especially in that awkward silence when you don’t know what to say next. Remember, that other person is probably feeling the same way. Take the time to plan out a few questions or conversation points that will help you connect personally and kill the silence. These conversation points could be simple questions like:
• Tell me about the most exciting thing that happened to you this week. Be prepared to share one of your accomplishments too.
• What projects are you working on right now? This will give you more insight into their professional experience than just their job title.
• If you weren’t here right now, what would you be doing? Hopefully this opens up some personal hobbies to share interest in.
• Did you hear about….? Watch the news and keep abreast of what is going on in your industry for these types of questions.

Listen and observe before you speak
This tip has been shared frequently as it relates to social media, but it still applies in your professional networking. As a young professional, you might be eager to share your advice, projects, or experiences with perfect strangers in a networking setting. While you think you are being fun and friendly, other people might consider you abrasive and rude. Take the time to listen and observe the culture of the group that you are in before you rattle on and on. It will help you gauge what is socially acceptable in the group and gain the respect of the other members.

Learn more about building your brand at Cyndee Woolley’s course Building Brand [You].

It’s Showtime! One Key to Continual Motivation

Marshall Goldsmith is today’s guest blogger. Marshall is the three-time top-ranked executive coach in the world and one of the top 10 most influential business thinkers by Thinkers50.

Let me start with two well-known phrases:

  1. All the world’s a stage” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s As You like It.
  2. The show must go on” is a phrase in show business, meaning that regardless of what happens, whatever show has been planned still has to be staged for the waiting patrons.

Until recently, I always had a dilemma regarding the “stage” of business. As an executive educator, who helps successful leaders achieve a positive change in behavior, I, in a way, teach people how to act.

So here’s the dilemma: When is acting being professional? When is acting being phony? I want to help leaders learn how to be great performers, but I never believe that they should be phonies. How can I, as a coach, understand the difference?

And what makes you “buy” your boss’s, colleague’s, subordinate’s, or even a salesperson’s “act?” The answer is we buy someone’s act when they truly love their profession. We are with them when their “act” is part of the fabric of who, and what they are – and we can feel it in our interactions with them.

Let me give you two divergent examples.

First, one of the greatest leaders I know is Frances Hesselbein, the former executive director of the Girl Scouts of America and now chairman of the Leader to Leader Institute. I am not alone in my assessment of her talents. Peter Drucker once noted that she was perhaps the most effective executive he had ever met. As a tribute to her leadership skills, President Clinton awarded Frances with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be given to a U.S. civilian.

I am deeply honored that Frances is also one of my best friends. Like all humans, Frances faces the same problems we all face. She has lived through health problems, tragedies with friends, and family issues. And, like all great professionals, when it is time for Frances to work, she is always there. I have seen her turn down an invitation from the U.S. president because she had already committed to a talk (at no fee) for a non-profit organization in a small town. When she makes a commitment, if it is humanly possible to be there, she delivers. It doesn’t matter that a “better deal” came along later. She not only makes an appearance, she is upbeat and positive, she is inspirational, and she gets the job done.

For Frances, the show must go on, and she takes the stage with love, heart, and passion.  She believes in the core of her soul in what she is doing and anyone around her feels it and knows it. Simply put, everyone buys her act – because her act is truly Frances.

My second example is my client Ted, who helped me answer my dilemma question. I worked with him for a year, trying to help him fit in a corporate culture where he really didn’t belong. At the end of the year, I finally said, “Why don’t you leave? You are so miserable that you are starting to depress me!”

He saw the light, left the company, and is now doing something he loves. There was nothing wrong with the company. There was nothing wrong with Ted. He just didn’t belong there. It wasn’t him.

In the case of Ted, when his show had to go on, he was simply going through the motions. When he took the stage, people around him did not truly buy his act – and Ted did not really buy his own act.

I learned through Ted that despite his greatest efforts, he was being phony when he did not love his work.  And loving your work is what makes great performers rise to the occasion.

On Broadway – Their Act Is No Act

This is why great Broadway performers are able to pour their hearts into each production. At times they overcome headaches, family problems, and more. Because, the show must go on.

Like great actors, inspirational leaders sometimes need to be consummate performers. When they need to motivate and inspire people, they do it. And we are inspired (or buy their act) because they are 100 percent invested in their work and the cause.

Believe in Your Act

If you are in the right job in the right company, and you are learning how to perform to the best of your ability, you are being a true professional. If you are in the wrong job in the wrong company and you learn to act so that you can better fit in, you are just being a better phony. It still isn’t you out there.

Today, Ted is a lot happier. He spends his time thinking up creative ideas in his new company, and he’s having a ball. He is not only adding value for the company, he is also adding value for the world.

Think about your job. As a professional, is your job consistent with the person you want to be?

If the answer is “yes”, be like Frances Hesselbein. Put on a great show. Be the consummate professional. Learn to keep developing your ability to perform, so you can get even better than you are today. If you love what you do, a great coach might even help you get better.

Every day we all take the stage. And, when you take the stage and the show must go on – are people buying your act? And, most of all are you buying your own act?

If the answer is “no”, change jobs as soon as you can. Why bother to become a better phony? Even if you do get a coach and learn to modify your behavior, it won’t count for much. Why? It won’t really be you.

Learn more about how to stay motivated at work with Marshall’s SoundviewPro course Engaging Ourselves at Work and in Life.

Put ‘Moxie’ Into Your Leadership

 

Today’s guest blog is from John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, first published at Forbes.

Once upon a time when we admired someone for their grit and determination we said they had moxie. It’s an old-fashioned word popularized in movies of the Thirties and Forties about those who battled the odds. It’s a word that has always stuck with me, and for that reason I decided to focus my newest book on what it means to have guts, gumption and perseverance – moxie!

Leaders operate in challenging circumstances. They need to advocate for their ideas as well as for the people in the teams they lead. It takes an individual with the courage of convictions to push forward, sometimes against big obstacles, in order to achieve success.

Leaders operate in challenging circumstances. They need to advocate for their ideas as well as for the people in the teams they lead. It takes an individual with the courage of convictions to push forward, sometimes against big obstacles, in order to achieve success.

Leaders must also persevere. There is no shame in being knocked down; it is what happens next that defines your character as well as how others perceive you. Roll over in defeat and no one will want to follow your lead. Get back up again and continue the struggle and people will pay attention to you.

At the same time, savvy leaders learn from experience. They may have been flattened for good reason. Their ideas may not have been well developed, or their perceptions of themselves was overblown. Too much ego and not enough awareness!

MOXIE spelled out

And so in exploring the concept of moxie I realized that if I turned it into an acronym it would illuminate what I believe how leaders should behave. Specifically, leaders must demonstrate five key attributes:

Mindfulness – being self-aware as well as situationally aware.

Opportunity – seeing possibilities where others see obstacles.

X-Factor – demonstrating character in all they do.

Innovation – applying creativity to risk and reward.

Engagement – working with others to achieve mutually beneficial goals.

Put these attributes together and you have an approach to leadership that will provide a way forward for leaders. In my experience in working with executives at every level, those who have succeeded demonstrate attributes of moxie in various ways.

First they are mindful they know themselves and they are willing to listen to others. They seldom accept the status quo. When it comes to opportunities they investigate. They also look at problems as opportunities. That is, if we can solve the problem we can solve bigger issues. They are individuals of character; they possess the right stuff of leadership. They innovate by pushing themselves, and especially their colleagues, to think about thinking differently and doing differently.

Most important perhaps they realize that as individuals they can achieve very little. They must mobilize others to action. Not with their words but through their actions. That starts by creating conditions for people to succeed.

Those with moxie are those who do not accept defeat easily. Rather they view it as a learning experience. For that reason they are people of determination. They also have grit, a willingness to buckle down when times are tough. And they are resilient types. And so while moxie might be word more popular in previous generations, it is as timely today as ever.

To learn more about being a top leader, try John Baldoni’s course, Do-It-Yourself Leadership, at SoundviewPro.

9 Essential Principles to Create, Lead, and Sustain

Today’s guest blog is from Faisal Hoque, founder of Shadoka. Originally Published at  Fast Company.

With the cascade of new technologies and social changes, we are constantly challenged to spark creativity, drive innovation, and ensure sustainability.

What are the remedies? How do we work with ourselves and others?

The newest problems of the world find solutions in the oldest timeless practices like mindfulness, authenticity, and devotion—because everything connects.

Connectivity is a sense of journey, to the sense of purpose—it is an individual, lonely pursuit and a collective, companionable one at the same time.

Our individual, interpersonal, and organizational working lives all interconnect. By examining these connections, we learn new ways to create, innovate, adapt, and lead.

From our new book Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability, let me dig a little deeper on how we can work with ourselves and others by connecting seemingly disparate dots.

How do we connect daily life with who we are?

1. Understanding is the foundation. The better we understand the nature of the world, the better we can move in the world. The better we understand the nature of ourselves, the better we can move within ourselves. This is why generations of thinkers and doers have told us in a multitude of ways to know ourselves—an intrapersonal intimacy that is the fruit of a long process.

2. Understanding leads to authenticity. When you know yourself, you can act with a confidence that is your own. This implies a rawness and vulnerability to the people around you, which is a very good thing, as that vulnerability is the foundation of the relationships that define us.

3. Devotion is mindfulness, mindfulness is devotion. You do not become strong by lifting one gigantic weight. You do not understand yourself by reading one book or attending one workshop. It is a daily practice of devotion. Devotion is our sustainable resource. With it we can day by day improve ourselves, our teams, and our world.

How do we inspire and lead inside and outside of our organizations?

We need to explore understanding that leads to long-term sustainability, the way to act in a manner that promotes mutual flourishing, and how, crucially, a leader can urge us along this process.

1. Give people freedom. People need freedom to do their best work, people need to feel they’re able to bring all of their effort into the task, which requires an open, autonomy-oriented culture.

2. Give people structure. But this is not anarchy; with freedom comes responsibility. Responsibility can be ensured with both quantitative and qualitative methods and springs from a thriving culture.

3. Curate talent. When we assemble lasting organizations, we’re gathering people around a common cause. When the right people are gathered in the right way, the whole becomes greater—perhaps much greater—than the sum of its parts. Gathering the right people at the right time in their lives, in the right combination of talents, is curation.

How do we to generate ideas, grounded decisions, and long-lasting value?

We need to arrange our lives and our organizations in a way that leads to long-term value creation: surveying the subtle and not so subtle arts of idea generation, decision-making, and creating continuous value.

1. Ideas arise from curiosity. Experiences are the fuel of creativity. Curiosity is the thirst for new experiences. That passion can be systematized.

2. We make better decisions after mapping them. When we make a decision, we tend to leave our understanding unexamined, whether as individuals or as organizations. Mapping them out lets us have a more granular understanding of how we work.

3. To create value over the long term, build platforms.The most sustainable way to create value is to continually invest in our capabilities both as individuals and as organizations. The most core of these capabilities is the understanding we have of ourselves and others.

This isn’t just a quick fix for our next financial quarter; this is how we will succeed in the long run. It is a systemization of our art, science, business, and spirituality.

To learn more about entrepreneurship from Faisal Hoque, sign up for his course How to Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset at SoundviewPro.

What is Customer Service?

This is a guest blog with Steve Curtin, speaker, consultant and the author of Delight Your Customers.

There are as many definitions of “customer service” as there are customer service books and gurus. And, while there is no single correct definition, I would like to submit mine for consideration:
Customer service is a voluntary act that demonstrates a genuine desire to satisfy, if not delight, a customer.

Within this short definition, there are seven elements that I suggest we explore further:

Voluntary: Providing exceptional customer service, unlike executing mandatory job functions for which an employee is paid, is always voluntary. Employees don’t have to deliver it. And most don’t. (This explains why you almost always receive the deli sandwich you ordered but might not always receive it with a smile.)

Act: Service is a verb. As such, it requires action. Without initiative, one’s readiness and ability to initiate action, there is no exceptional customer service.

Demonstrates: Exceptional customer service reflects job essence, an employee’s highest priority at work.

Genuine: Exceptional customer service is not about masking your true feelings. It’s about actualizing them. There’s no place for duplicity or phoniness in the delivery of exceptional customer service.

Desire: Employees must want to provide exceptional customer service. Exceptional customer service doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by choice.

Delight: Employees decide for themselves whether or not to expend the discretionary effort required to elevate a customer service experience from satisfactory (ordinary) to delightful (extraordinary).

Customer: Customers are our highest priority at work and the ultimate basis for our employment.

What’s your definition of customer service? If you don’t have one at your place of business, consider posing this question to the team at your next department meeting. Put everyone at ease by reminding them that there’s no single correct definition of customer service. Whatever you come up with together will be just right for your work group.

Besides tapping into the team’s collective genius, you’ll be raising awareness about the topic of customer service, which, besides actually serving customers, may be the best use of your time at work.

To learn more about customer service, enroll in Steve curtin’s SoundviewPro course, Delivering Exceptional Customer Service.

Leadership Is a Contact Sport: Ask

A guest blog with Marshall Goldsmith, the top-ranked executive coach in the world.

“Soliciting feedback” is just what the words imply. It is when we solicit opinions from people about what we are doing wrong. As simple as it sounds, it is not always so simple. Most people have two problems dealing with negative feedback. This may not sound like many, but they are big problems. The first is we don’t want to hear it and the second is we don’t want to give it.

The reason we don’t want to hear it is because negative feedback is inconsistent with our self-image and so we reject it. Did you know that of all the classes I’ve taught 95 percent of members believe they are in the top half of their group? While this is statistically impossible, it is psychologically real. Proving to successful people that they are “wrong” works just about as well as making them change.

The reason we don’t want to give it is because our leaders and managers have power over us, our paychecks, advancement, and job security. The more successful a person is the more power they have. Combine that power with the fairly predictable “kill the messenger” response to negative feedback and you can see why people don’t want to give feedback.

There are some other difficulties with traditional face-to-face negative feedback. Most of them boil down to the fact that it focuses on failures of the past not positive actions for the future. Feedback can reinforce our feelings of failure, and our reactions to this are rarely positive. More than anything, negative feedback shuts us down. We need honest, helpful feedback, which is hard to find.

That’s enough about what’s wrong with feedback. Let’s talk about the good stuff. Feedback is very useful for telling us “where we are.” Without it, I couldn’t work with my clients. I wouldn’t know what the people around my client think about what he or she needs to change. Likewise, without feedback, we wouldn’t know if were getting better or worse. We all need feedback to see where we are, where we need to go, and to measure our progress along the way. And I have a foolproof method for securing it.

When I work with coaching clients I always get confidential feedback from their coworkers at the beginning of the process. I enlist each person to help me out. I want them to assist not sabotage the change process. I do this by saying to them, “I’m going to be working with my client for the next year. I don’t get paid if she doesn’t get better. Better is not defined by me; it is not defined by her. It is defined by you and the other coworkers involved in the process.” I then present them with four requests. I ask them to commit to:

1. Let go of the past.
2. Tell the truth.
3. Be supportive and helpful—not cynical or negative.
4. Pick something to improve themselves, so everyone is focused on more “improving” than “judging.”

As you contemplate changing your behavior yourself, without my personal assistance, you will need to do this same thing with your colleagues. Pick about a dozen people with whom you’ve had professional contact—work friends, peers, colleagues—and ask them to agree to these four commitments. When they do, which they nearly always will, you are ready to begin soliciting feedback from them about yourself.

In my experience, there are a hundred wrong ways to ask for feedback and one right way. Most of us know the wrong ways. We ask people, “What do you think of me?” “How do you feel about me?” “What do you hate about me?” or “What do you like about me?” Think about your colleagues. How many of them are your friends? How many of them really want to express to you their “true” feelings about you, to you?

A better question (and in my opinion the only question that works) is, “How can I do better?” Variations based on circumstances are okay, such as “What can I do to be a better partner at home?” or “What can I do to be a better leader of the group?” You get the idea. Pure issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to 1) solicit advice rather than criticism, b) be directed towards the future, and c) be couched in a way that suggests you are in fact going to try to do better.

Finally, when you get the answer, when someone gives you the gift of what you can do to be better, don’t respond with your opinion of their advice. It will just sound like denial, rationalization, and objection. Treat every piece of advice as a gift, a compliment, and simply say, “Thank you.” No one expects you to act on every piece of advice. Just act on advice that makes sense to you. The people around you will be thrilled!

You can learn more about improving your leadership skills at Marshall Goldsmith’s course Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.