Friday, November 27, 2009

Success Habit - Mantras

Ok - I admit it, I talk to myself.

Mantras are talking to one’s self is a tool to keep on track. I am not talking about meditation mantras. (although I am also a believer in meditation).

I am a great believer in self-talk. We tend to listen to what we have to say. Self talk can be positive and reinforcing or it can be negative.

I do not talk to myself all the time and I tend to change what I say to myself depending on the circumstances and what I want to accomplish.

Some of the simple mantras that I use:

"Successful People do Tough Things" – When I dread something but need to get through it regardless. I view myself as a successful person so this prompts me to get going and keep going.

"What the heck, go for it anyway" – This one is useful when building up courage to do something. The scenarios are endless, negotiating with a company about a charge or cost of an item, making new friends, starting a project even when a odds may be stacked against you etc.

"I am very healthy, I heal very quickly" – Half the battle with regard to health is in the mind. I am by no means making the suggestion to forgo medical treatment if there is something legitimately wrong with you, but a little positive reinforcement can go a long way.

"Garbage in, garbage out" – Useful for poor eating habits, media garbage (not meant to slam all media - some is good), bad TV (that would be most of it which is why I watch very little), bad reading etc.

"I honor my mind and body" (or when I am in Canada "I honour my mind and body") - same as the Garbage in, garbage out one.

"Back to Work" This simple mantra helps me regain focus. Often I can become distracted from my top priority. This gets me back on track.

So think "talk to yourself" to get on track.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Success Habit - Every Day is Thanksgiving

I lead a charmed life.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. This is a great day to count our blessings. One trait I have seen in successful people is they are always grateful. This is often called "have an attitude of gratitude".

Anyone who is reading this has many reasons to be grateful. Obviously they can read (in countries like Afganistan, it is only 28%). They can read English. They know how to use a computer and have access to one. These simple things are already way beyond simple food and shelter which are challenges for so much of the world population.

A few tricks on implementing this Success Habit:

1 - Keep a separate section in a journal with a list of all you have to be grateful for.

2 - Set a time each week to go through this list.

3 - Help someone or some group less fortunate than you. Nothing drives home how lucky I am more than helping someone who is disadvantaged or challenged. And it feels good.

4 - Have mantras that remind us how fortunate we are. I often say "I lead a charmed life".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

On a recent flight, I read "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs - How to be Insanely Great in front of any Audience" by Camine Gallo.

It comes at an interesting time when I am doing a lot of speaking gigs.

Jobs is clearly one of the most captivating speakers of our day. He has been able to attract almost a cult of followers because of his ability to public speak.

I recommend the book, just like I do Toastmasters or Dale Carnegie courses, because I think everyone in business should be able to speak well in front of audiences. It is one way that a leader can gain leverage.

The book covers why he is a great speaker and gives a ton of tips to help any reader to also become a great speaker. It covers things like the 10 minute rule (people drift after 10 minutes so you need either a break or major shift).

One interesting comment. "People have forgotten how to listen and take notes instead". Then it goes on to explain how bad PowerPoint multi bullet slides are. Slides attract note taking. I, on the other hand, think note taking can increase retention.

In any speech - answer the one big question. At most have 3 main points - often supporting the one big question.

The book talks about passion. Clearly Jobs is the king of this. Passion sells and passion makes for great speeches.

Simplicity is key. According to Jobs, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"

The book does not speak about how the credibility of the speaker greatly enhances the receptivity of the audience. One reason Jobs can captivate an audience if because of what he has accomplished - people listen.

I have thought about becoming a professional speaker but have concerns that my message (which is about how to run a business, efficiency, time management, entrepreneurship) would become weak over time if I am not actively involved in other things.

My article on 4 Things Marketing Cannot Do was published on the CMA Blog.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good For Business

"Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of - for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear. " -Socrates

I recently read a book called Good for Business: The Rise of the Conscious Corporation
by Andrew Bennett, Cavas Gobhai, Ann O'Reilly and Greg Welch.

The gist of the message in the book is that it's smart for business to be socially [and environmentally] conscious and the company should do good because it's smart business..

From the book:
"Today, the notion that corporate "do-gooding" is antithetical to profits has been turned on its head. AS we will discuss in this book, study after study has shown that reputation and a more ethical approach to business reap riches. That is why as many as nine in ten fortune 500 companies now have dedicated initiatives focused on corporate social responsibility. And it is why risk to a company's reputation is now seen as important to guard against than any other risk, including regulatory, credit, and market risks....The fact is that corporate reputation matters more today because brand matters more."

The Internet and social media and social media is helping to drive the necessity for business to be socially good. It is so easy for a reputation to be sullied by poor corporate actions that's absolutely critical for companies to try to build a corporate goodwill account.

The book has an interesting story of innocent ??drinks, who lives by "leaving things a little better than we find them". This company managed to gain 72% market share in the UK, smoothing market by interacting with their consumers in a friendly, familiar and fun way and emphasizing honesty, community and charitable values.

From the book "In our work with different industries and with all sorts and sizes of companies, we have come to view the following actions as essential to success:

-Find the right fit
-Commit the appropriate resources
-Build alliances and get your halo certified
-Be ever vigilant
-be loud and proud
-keep pushing forward
-get consumers involved

Some companies are even moving from a mission statement to a we believe statement.

"Twenty-first century CEOS will be judged not only by how well they changed their industries, but also how well t hey led their companies to have positive impacts on the world."-Hector Ruiz, chairman and CEO, Advanced Micro Devices.

And an urban myth debunked. It takes more muscles to smile than to frown so only frown if you are feeling lazy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Inflation and the Canadian / US Dollar

I am likely more aware than most people on the exchange rate between Canadian and US dollar. I have income, expenses and assets in Canada and the US.

The US Dollar has weakened considerably in the last few months by almost 15% compared to the Canadian dollar.

I have a concern that current government spending will cause inflation. One way for government to deal with debt is to expand the money supply, creating inflation. So, if inflation starts to happen, how is the best way to deal with?

Ways to deal with inflation:

1. During inflationary times, it's good to own things so this would speak to stocking up on inventory and real estate.

2. If we go into a period of inflation, as prices rise it makes sense to lock things in. This would speak to locking in your lease rate, electricity prices, signing more longer term contracts.

3. In times of inflation, interest rates tend to rise, so it's a false economy to buy a lot of inventory now on credit and end up paying a higher interest rate, so consider locking your interest rate in longer term. The problem with locking in your interest long term is that the markets have figured out this is likely to happen, so longer rates are considerably higher than short term rates.

4. Regardless of whether there is inflation, it's always a good idea to have fewer expenses than income or revenue. This speaks to simply running a good business, leading a smart life.

Inflation is just one other turbulence in the market. Something that can be dealt with, not something to be feared, but it is something to consider.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Your Next Move: The Leader's Guide to Successfully Navigating Major Career Transitions

I recently read Your Next Move: The Leader's Guide to Successfully Navigating Major Career Transitions. The book is very appropriate for my current circumstances. I'm still considering what my next move will be.

Michael Watkins is author of The First 90 Days. Although I don't use his exact system, I have implemented a variation of that in everything I do.

The First 90 Days talks about 7 elements of successful transitions.

1. Organize to Learn. - Figure out what you most need to learn, from whom, and how you can best learn it. Focus on the right mix of technical, cultural, and political learning. This one is not a problem for me. If anything, I likely enjoy learning so much that I can spend too much time in it rather than doing.

2. Establish A-list priorities. Identify a few vital goals and pursue them relentlessly. Think early about what you need to accomplish by the end of year one in the new position.

3. Define strategic intent Develop and communicate a compelling mission and vision for what the organization will become. Outline a clear strategy for achieving the mission and realizing the vision.

4. Build the leadership team - Define your assessment criteria and evaluate the team you inherited. Move deftly to make the necessary changes; find the optimal balance between bringing in outside talent and promoting high-potential leaders within the organization.

5. Lay the organizational foundation for success . Identify the most important supporting changes you need to make in the structure, processes, and key talent bases of the organization. Put a plan in place for addressing the most pressing organizational weaknesses.

6. Secure early wins. build personal credibility and energize people by identifying "centers of gravity" where you can get some early successes. Organize the right set of initiatives to secure early wins.

7. Create supportive alliances. Identify how the organization really works and who has influence. Understand who needs to champion your success and create key alliances in support of your initiatives."

Your next move talks about

1. The Promotion Challenge - Understanding what "success" looks like at a higher level in the hierarchy. Adjusting your focus and approach to delegation. Developing new leadership competencies and cultivating "presence."

2. The Leading-Former-Peers Challenge - Being promoted to manage people who were formerly your peers. Deftly establishing your authority in the new role. Reengineering existing relationships. Dealing with problematic former peers.

3. The Corporate Diplomacy Challenge - Moving from a position of authority to one in which strong influence skills are critical for getting things done. Mapping the influence landscape. Building supportive alliances.

4. The Onboarding Challenge - Joining an organization and adapting to a new culture. The pillars of effective on-boarding. Building the right political "wiring." Aligning expectations up, down and sideways.

5. The International Move Challenge - Moving to a new country and leading people in an unfamiliar culture. Moving one's family and rebuilding the support system. Preparing for entry. Beginning to engage with the team and the business.

6. The Turnaround challenge - Taking over an organization that is in very deep trouble and figuring out how to save it from destruction. Diagnosing the situation, designing the business model, driving alignment, and dynamically adapting.

7. The Realignment challenge - Confronting an organization that is in
denial about the need for change. Creating a sense of urgency before emerging problems erupt in a crisis. Adjusting your leadership style to match the situation.

I think the book is very appropriate if you know what your next move is going to be. I particularly like the propensity for action and keeping the action periods short, demanding meaningful results in relatively short period of time, things like early winds.

I was expecting from the title that it would be more applicable to my personal situation and helping me decide what to do next.

It's still a great book.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Vanishing of a Species

I read a book called The Vanishing of a Species? A Look at Modern Man's Predicament by a Geologist, written by Peter Gretener on the weekend.

The book was published posthumously and had been written mostly in the 1970s. It's largely a compilation of opinions and views on what impact man is having on the world and what it means for us.

The book is divided into three parts. Yesterday, where we were... Today, where we are..
Tomorrow - where we might go..

He quoted from George Gaylord Simpson, a paleontologist whose research contributed heavily to our understanding of evolution, "Man was certainly not the goal of evolution, which evidently had no goal".

He noted that one of the major challenges is population growth. He believed that the world's population was doubling every 30 years, although at 7 billion people today, it didn't quite double in the last 30 years (but almost).

He then went on to talk about the crowding problem: "One point on which there seems to be general agreement is that crowding enhances latent aggression or invokes aggression. This appears to be true for animals as well as man. Scarcity of room, resources or other vital ingredients is likely to lead to a tooth-and-claw ethics."

The book talks a lot about scarcity and he calls himself a realistic pessimist and challenges unreasonable optimists. His view is the resources in the world are limited and that it's not likely technology will change this and it's likely the standard of living will reduce for all dramatically.

"Much of the confusion that exists can be traced back to what one can label "the battle of the optimists versus the pessimists." The optimists are more pleasant to listen to, while the pessimists are usually right. This, of course, in itself represents a biased statement. The optimists are those who believe the present status can be perpetuated, that growth can continue, and that technology –a little improved perhaps–can solve anything. The pessimists are those who hold that our present way of life is doomed and drastic changes, voluntary or impsed, are inevitable."

He devoted a whole chapter to the most devastating invention which was not the nuclear bomb, rather the television. "an instrument that destroys our most valuable assets of creativity and originality."

The clear message in the book is to strike a balance between doomsday pessimism and irresponsible optimism.

The book contains much fact intermixed with commentary on many areas of life from working mothers to leisure time, to consumer vs producers, to ego etc.

An interesting read.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Getting Results: Five Absolutes for High Performance

I recently read Getting Results: Five Absolutes for High Performance by Clinton O. Longenecker and Jack L. Simonetti.

Everyone of course is interested in getting results, so although the book does have a short chapter on why we need results, I don't think we need to be sold.

The book comes up with five absolutes to get results:

1. Get everyone on the same page - Focus on the purpose of your organization.

2. Prepare for battle - Equip your operation with tools, talent and technology.

3. Stoke the fire of performance - Create a climate for results.

4. Build bridges on the road to results - Nurture relationships with people.

5. Keep the piano in tune - Practice continual renewal. This one is one that definitely resonates. My version is "be a constant learner - always study and prepare".

It had one interesting section on 8 common planning mistakes to avoid:

1. Being too busy or too undisciplined to plan.

2. Doing the wrong kinds of planning for your level in the organization.

3. Planning with inadequate information and input from your boss.

4. Planning in a vacuum without input from those who have to implement the plan.

5. Develop plans that are unrealistic or too sophisticated to get off the ground.

6. Failing to implement plans

7. Planning without accurate data.

8. Planning without a clear direction or real purpose. (I would have put this one first - know your goals)

It also had a chapter summary that dealt with habits:

"It has been said that "bad habits develop a day at a time and are broken a year at a time," which is undoubtedly true for most people. If an organization and its members do not break bad or dysfunctional organizational habits and practices they will quickly go out of tune. Managers must make renewal and development a way of life if they are truly desirous of better performance.

Developing and improving processes and people is essential for long term success. Developing yourself as a manager just might be the key to every other management practice that we have discussed in this book."

Lastly, a quote from the book: "90% of failures are the result of bad management".

Good book - I enjoyed it and it reinforced what needs to be done for high performance.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

New York Marathon

Even though it is only 8:30, I am tired. I ran the NY Marathon today.

The day started at 5. Up to catch the bus to Statten Island. This involved walking about 8 blocks from the hotel in a light rain. Then wait a bit on the bus, drive for about an hour (made the marathon seem like a long way). Then we got unloaded into a waiting hour for about 3 hours. It was about 45 degrees F.

The grounds where people waited were wet (although the rain had stopped by then) so I stood. More creative people had shower caps over their shoes. Many brought plastic to sit on.

I knew we would be waiting so I had a warm sweatsuit freshly purchased from Goodwill to leave at the race start(they collect all the thrown off gear for charity so it is all good). I also took a banana, some special sports water (Aqua Hydrate which helps speed recovery) and some pretzels - although they do provide some similar food.

The weather was perfect for a marathon. Overcast and about 50 degrees F while we were running.

The run starts up a long hill - the Verrazano bridge. It goes for over a mile. The crowd was thick but better than a couple of years ago since they changed to a staggered start. The other time I noticed the crowded running was at the end.

I ran strong for the first 10 miles. Enjoying the run. Feeling little pain. By 13.1 miles (hlf way mark), I was close to my target pace (I was 2:06:34) but was starting to struggle. I was stopping at every Gatorade stop (there is one per mile).

This did not impact my pace much until about mile 19 when I started to walk/run. And by the time I finished, I was walking almost half the time. My final 10K was 1:22 compared to 58, 1 hour and 1:06 for the first 3.

My final time was 4:46:14 to place 30717th out of over 63,000 runners (or 2357 out of 3233 in my age/gender). This is a 10:56 pace per mile which is frustrating to me since I can run a 7:30 mile pace for an hour. I just do not fare well on long distances. This was my slowest marathon yet.

Full responsibility though. In fairness, I did not train enough. Totally within my control (except perhaps for minor injuries which seemed to plague me this year).

I also have to give full credit to the spectators. They were thick, supportive and nothing short of spectacular. Lots of bands, music. Lots of cheering. Even offering Kleenex, paper towel, oragne slices, water, etc. I did give a lot of kids a high 5 on the way past (perhaps that is the reason for the slow speed). It was interesting running through the different boroughs of New York and see the changing scene and see how they all tried to out compete for team spirit.

I only achieved one of my 3 goals - to finish. I missed the other 2 (4:10 and 4:30).

One marketing technique is to tie emotion to a product. I find it interesting that Timex tied their brand to pain. They had a timer at each mile mark and every time I saw it, I tried to do a bit better so caused more pain.

(just teasing Timex - I appreciate that you sponsored the race (and also ING Bank))