How 1 Executive Became a Transformational Leader

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In every organization, regardless of size or industry, success rises and falls with leadership. Sure, an organization with average leadership can experience some success, but the longevity of that success and growth will be drastically shortened compared to that of an organization with a transformational leader.

So, what exactly is a transformational leader?

In my own view, a transformational leader not only builds an incredible organization that grows each and every year, but inspires his or her people to constantly innovate and reach their full potential.

Transformational leaders create an extraordinary vision for their organizations, one which employees are then eager to fully “buy into” and work incredibly hard for every day, to bring it to life. What’s more, transformational leaders are obsessed about developing their people, not just collecting a profit.

To put it simply, transformational leaders positively disrupt individual organizations and entire industries.

In an article in Psychology Today, Ronald Riggio wrote that, “Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders. Why? Because transformational leaders hold positive expectations for followers, believing that they can do their best.

“As a result, they inspire, empower and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance. And, transformational leaders focus on and care about followers and their personal needs and development.”

I recently had the pleasure of spending the day with Bill Darcy, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Darcy has not only transformed an organization, but an entire industry. Darcy is a transformational leader through and through. When you speak to his employees or colleagues at different companies, the impact and influence he has had is clear.

In our conversation, Darcy and I discussed three factors that have helped him rise to the top and become the transformational leader he is today.

1. Make each day count.

Spending the entire day with Darcy, I could easily see that he truly lived each and every day to the fullest. It’s not a coincidence that he listed this as number one when I asked him the three most important things that helped him get to where he is today.

Darcy said he’d learned the importance of making each day count when his son was born with a rare congenital abnormality and it was unclear whether the boy was going to make it or not. “Going through the experience of nearly losing my son changed not only my life forever, but also how I work and lead on a daily basis,” Darcy said.

Transformational leaders, in short, don’t waste their days. They make every single day count, and it shows in everything they do. They possess an incredible sense of urgency, which inspires their team members to act in the same manner. As legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Make each day your masterpiece.”

2. Perseverance is key.

If you dig deep into the backstory of any transformational leader to analyze this person’s path to where he or she is today, you will often notice an incredible level of perseverance. Leaders, like anyone, experience plenty of tough and challenging times. Transformational leaders, however, stay poised during these times and trust in their process to get the job done.

Darcy said, “I have been rejected in my career more times than I can count, but the one thing that I always stayed true to was to always keep fighting for what you believe in. When you keep fighting, breakthroughs eventually arise.”

3. Effort equals results.

At the young age of 25, Darcy was working for the billionaire and Penske Corporation chairman, Roger Penske. Penske instilled in his organization and all of his employees the slogan “Effort equals results,” and Darcy told me that he was able to see firsthand how vital those words were in the company’s growth and success.

“Every detail mattered and the slogan that Penske used created a huge cultural influence,” Darcy said. “No one ever had to guess what was expected of them when they showed up to work in the morning.

“As a leader, you set the tone within your organization,” Darcy added. “The one thing that we can all control when we show up to work is the effort that we put forth.”

I hope Darcy’s story of becoming a transformational leader inspires you to have the same kind of influence on not only the organization that you lead, but the entire industry that you are in.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

5 Ways to Succeed in the Changing World of Sales

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I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Ryan Estis, who is the former chief strategy officer for the McCann Worldgroup advertising agency. Estis is now a wildly successful keynote speaker known for his unique ideas on improving sales effectiveness and preparing for the future of work.

We talked about a lot of different topics, but the one thing I was extremely fired up to share with all of you was our discussion about how professional sales is changing. Forrester predicts that one million B2B sales jobs will disappear by 2020.

Being a former professional athlete, I’ve found that one of the main reasons why the category of sales was always so intriguing to me was its competitive nature.

The professional world of selling is more competitive than ever and it’s only going to become more so. Estis had this to say about the evolving world of sales: “The first ones to go will be the salespeople who can’t differentiate themselves — who can’t make themselves part of the value proposition.”

He continued, “In 2020, the most successful salespeople will be the teachers. The ones who can help clients think differently about the future of their business.”

Succeeding in sales in 2020 is going to require a whole new level of skill set, discipline and preparation.

Here are Ryan Estis’ five ways to succeed in sales in 2020.

1. Prepare like a champion.

In order to be great in anything you absolutely must do your homework. It’s amazing that so many salespeople still to this day don’t prepare and do their homework. Estis said, “I get four or five cold sales emails a day. Rarely does the seller take the time to properly research my company.

“If a seller researched me, determined I was a good fit for their solution or service and reached out in a way that focused on me and my business challenges, you’d better believe I’d pause before hitting ‘Delete.'”

2. Look for customization and personalization.

You are missing out on an incredible opportunity if you choose not to personalize and customize for every client of yours. On the topic of the importance of customization and personalization, Estis said: “Do you believe deeply that you can help the customer? Prove it. Get specific.

“Tell prospects why they should care, and show up prepared for impact. Your ability to customize for every client is imperative. It’s what the customer expects today.”

3. Focus on being a teacher.

The best salespeople fully understand that teaching sells. “Teaching is a gateway into a credible relationship built on trust. Look for every opportunity to contribute value and provide expert guidance up front.” Estis said.

4. Better is what actually is better.

Automation makes it easy to blast out an email to 20,000 people on a list. Somebody’s got to respond, right? Wrong. As Estis said, “I cannot think of a faster way to take a relationship from neutral to negative than to consistently assault someone’s inbox with irrelevant information.

“Instead, slow down and make every interaction count. Every touchpoint with a potential customer is a chance to add value and advance the relationship.”

5. Always look to build a meaningful connection.

When you think of sales as a human connection rather than just another transaction, you are well on your way to differentiating yourself from the competition. Said Estis: “Sales isn’t just about the science. There’s a craft to professional selling. Look for ways to build a meaningful connection. That might mean closing the laptop and finding a way to talk to your clients and prospects, on the phone or in person.

“Can you differentiate and win on human connection? The best way I know how is to deliver a little bit more than the customer expects every single time. Be remarkable, consistently.”

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

5 Ways to Open and Nurture Your Imagination

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Your imagination is the key to creating your dreams and building your future. When you are creatively blocked, you are going to have a more difficult time being your best self at work or at anything you attempt to achieve. Too often, those of us who are ambitious and production-driven, will ignore creative pursuits because we think we don’t have time for them. You might be saying, “But I’m not a creative person. I’m a business person, so what does creativity and imagination have to do with anything?”

The answer is, “everything.”

Here are five ways to open your imagination, which will in turn, ignite that spark of creativity within you so you can create more with your business, as well as enhance your life.

1. Reading.

I’ve mentioned before that when I get up in the morning, I read something for at least 30 minutes. The reading offers fuel for my imagination and inspires me to think of new business ideas and marketing strategies. Even if you just pick up something and read for 10 or 15 minutes, you are “waking up” your brain and stimulating the thought process. Make this a daily habit. You can also do this in the evening before you go to sleep. Reading can transform not only how you see yourself, but also how you see the world.

2. Writing. 

I am a big proponent of journaling. I carry a Moleskin leather journal with me everywhere I go and I jot down thoughts, ideas and feelings into this journal. I love to go to cafés or bookstores and just sit and journal. I cannot begin to tell you how this creative exercise opens up my imagination to new ideas for work, solution to current roadblocks and life, in general. Many people like to journal first thing in the morning — either in their own handwriting like I do in my Moleskin journal, or on their smart phone, or tablet. The idea is to spend quiet moments with yourself and write out your thoughts. If you do it in the morning, it will clear the air, give you an opportunity to write out your frustrations and start the day fresh. Words are powerful, after all, and this action can influence important change in your life.

3. Movies. 

This might sound like a self-indulgent activity, but it can be more than that. Seeing a movie can be productive, inspiring, motivating and creative. When you go to see a movie — and I enjoy seeing them by myself — it opens up your mind and imagination to possibilities. The sounds, colors, action, stories and characters, are all potential motivators to remind you of something you can do to enhance your business and life. So, while seeing movies is entertainment, it is also a great way to open your creativity and imagination.

4. Art.

We are not all Picassos, but if we enjoy art in any form, then don’t neglect it. I have friends who are traditional artists, but tell me they never have time to paint anymore. That doesn’t sound logical to me. If art restores your soul, if art nurtures your imagination and creativity, then why aren’t you doing it? You can surely find 10 to 15 minutes a day to devote to something you love. When painting a picture or any other type of artistic craft that you enjoy, you are tuning into your inner self and tapping into a creative well that will nurture and inspire you. That will help to inspire you further in your work. Maybe your “art” is decorating a room in your apartment or house. Then, do it. Maybe your “art” is body-building or gymnastics. Maybe it’s dance. Maybe it’s music. Maybe it’s gardening. There’s a true art form to activities that people don’t often recognize. “Art” is more than just painting a picture. It is anything that’s creative. Strengthening your creative muscles will help you tune into your inner wisdom and will open your imagination to all kinds of possibilities.

5. Daydreaming. 

Finally, I want to emphasize that daydreaming can be an important tool to opening your imagination and creativity. Sure, I imagine we all remember when we were in elementary school and teachers told us to stop daydreaming and get to work. When you daydream, you take yourself out of the ordinary moment and open yourself to possibilities. Naturally, you don’t want to live your whole day in a daydream world, but taking moments to relax and “daydream” are small exercises that can open your imagination to new ideas and dreams. And those new ideas and dreams can help you thrive in business and in life. And isn’t that what we all want? So, start daydreaming today and enjoy those little moments of creativity. Everything starts with a dream, even a “daydream.”

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

3 Ways to Catapult Your Business Success

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Something that has always deeply fascinated me is learning about the journey that has helped in the development of a majorly successful company get to where they are now. I absolutely love hearing about all of the strategies and tactics that have drastically helped in their growth as an organization, but also all of the obstacles that they had to overcome along the way.

The one thing that I have learned over the years having the great fortune of sitting down with executives from major organizations as well as successful startup founders is that there is a learning opportunity within their success for all of us to benefit from regardless of what industry one is in.

Recently, I had the great opportunity to sit down with the founders and Managing Directors Dick King and Mark Timmerman, along with Vice President David Modiano of City Capital Advisors (“City Capital”) based in Chicago, IL.  City Capital is a uniquely positioned investment bank whose sole mission is to provide senior level expert advice and execution services to leading middle market companies and their owners.

In its relatively short 10 year history since Dick and Mark left 20 year careers at William Blair & Company, City Capital has successfully completed over 50 transactions aggregating over $4.0 billion in value. They advise owners and management of private and publicly held middle market companies, typically valued between $25 million and $500 million with merger and acquisition advisory, capital formation for executing leveraged buyouts and ownership recapitalizations, as well as executing corporate financial restructurings.

City Capital’s biggest and most notable merger assignment to date concluded just two weeks ago when they advised Indiana’s family-owned Jayco Corporation in a successful merger with publicly-traded Thor Industries Inc. for $576 million.

When sitting down with Dick, Mark, and David, we discussed how City Capital went from a small two-man show to becoming a leading deal broker and investment banking firm in the middle market space. Here are three things that City Capital credits to their success as well as help you to implement into your own business.

1. Find your niche market and grow there.

Whatever industry you are in, it’s absolutely vital that you find your niche market and then develop a laser like focus to direct all of your time and energy in servicing that space. When Dick and Mark started City Capital, they admit that they didn’t have a concise business plan, but the one thing that they did know was their niche market of middle-market companies and how they were going to bring extreme value there. You may be tempted to explore different, more potentially lucrative markets such as larger companies in City Capital’s case, but don’t give in. The leading companies that are dominating their markets make it a major priority to find their niche and then operate solely within the confines of that space.

2. Relationships matter most.

Co-founder and Managing Director, Dick King said, “We knew from the beginning that the one way we were going to differentiate ourselves was to build thriving business referral relationships. Everything in our business revolves around people and relationships, and that is one key area that we take very serious.” I personally talk a lot about the importance of relationships, and when analyzing and digging beneath the surface to see what truly makes City Capital stand out from the rest of the competition, it’s clear to see the strength of their professional relationships is at the top of the list.

One of the best things that you can do right now whether you are a startup or an established company is to place an enormous value on your relationships and always striving to give more than you take. This type of mentality will always serve your future success more than you can ever begin to imagine.

3. Create a culture where everyone feels important.

Culture is and will forever always be a critical component in determining the health and success of any organization. The best organizations all the way from Fortune 500 companies down to small family-owned businesses with five employees create a culture where everyone feels important and wants to do everything possible to carry out the organization’s overall mission. When discussing culture, Mark Timmerman said, “We wanted to create a culture where not only everyone feels important, but is also part of a tangible contributing factor to the future of our success.” One of the ways that City Capital has created this culture is to not appoint a CEO. Even though Dick King and Mark Timmerman founded City Capital, they pride themselves in having developed a culture where other senior team members don’t view them as bosses.

As a leader, it’s your job to instill and demand a culture that makes everyone feel accountable mainly to themselves and of course to their customers. By creating a collaborative atmosphere and attracting highly-productive and talented senior investment bankers, it’s truly amazing what can happen. City Capital is another example of just how important culture truly is, regardless of how big an organization is.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

5 Things the World’s Greatest Achievers All Have in Common

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Something that has always fascinated me is what separates the world’s greatest achievers from everyone else in the world. What do they know that we don’t?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lewis Howes, New York Times bestselling author and host of the wildly successful podcast, The School of Greatness. Lewis has one of the most successful leadership and success podcasts in the world; some of his recent guests include Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, Russell Simmons, Daymond John, Alanis Morissette, and Tim Ferriss. What’s interesting about The School of Greatness is that it’s less about where the popular and ultra-achiever guests are right now in their lives, but more about the process, attitude, and journey that led them to their greatness.

Here are five things that the world’s greatest achievers all have in common.

1. They all have some practice of daily gratitude.

Howes says, “Gratitude matters most. It’s one of the core themes shared by all of the guests who come on the show. These are some of the most successful people in the planet. They can be, do, and have anything they want, and every single one of them is quick to talk about gratitude.” It’s hard to be angry, resentful, upset and grateful at the same time.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? I have talked a lot about keeping a gratitude journal and writing down 3 to 5 things that you are grateful for each and every morning. Another great practice to unleash the tremendous benefits of gratitude is to try a Walk of Gratitude in the morning. It can be just 10 minutes around the neighborhood before the kids get up, or it can be a walk with your dog. This helps set the tone for a fantastic and happy day ahead.

2. They set a high bar.

The guests who have appeared on The School of GreatnessShow are there because at some point in their lives they decided to set the bar high and dream big. It’s all the more challenging to become the best version of yourself, make an impact in the world, and become all that you can be in the business world if you don’t do the same.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Take your most important goal right now and expand it. If your goal is to make $300,000 next year, increase that number to $400,000 or $500,000. Whatever that goal may be for yourself, set the bar even higher. Don’t worry about how is it going to manifest or all of the obstacles that you may run into along the way. Get into the habit of expanding your thinking and the goals that you set for yourself. Even if you do fall short, you will more than likely have done better than what your original target was.

3. They work ridiculously hard for long periods of time.

Greatness takes time and persistence. As Lewis says, “most people want instant gratification and the rewards right away, but in reality, all of the seemingly overnight successes that you hear about takes 10-plus years.”

Working ridiculously hard for long periods of time isn’t nice to think about. Most people want instant success without putting in their due diligence. But line up leaders in any industry — from business to the arts — and I am certain you will hear each and every one of them talk about how insane their work ethic has been over the years even when they didn’t see much in return for their efforts right away.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Take that most important goal that we just discussed about earlier and schedule an extra 30 minutes to an hour of working on making that goal become a reality each day. Be persistent about working longer, smarter, and harder than everyone else. You will be amazed at what evolves when you regularly add an extra 30 minutes to an hour of working on your most important goal.

4. They know they need to care of themselves.

Nothing will get done if your mind and body aren’t performing. Don’t wait until you have a health scare or lose a loved one to force you to take complete charge of your health. Taking care of yourself needs to be a regular commitment.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Don’t wait for next month or next week to take action on making your health a priority. Hire a personal trainer, gather friends together who share this same goal and work out together, start a new fitness program, work on improving your diet, or sign up for an upcoming marathon. Keep great people around you and make sure you’re not isolating yourself.Whatever it is, take the initial step toward improving your health, which is always the hardest. Schedule it into your daily activities every single day.

5. They know the value of giving back.

Whether it’s loving what they do, loving other people, or loving the climb to the top, successful people approach each day with a “love and service” mentality. They understand that whatever they put out into the world will come back to them in some way. The greatest business leaders, salespeople, and athletes try to serve life. Look at the great life of the late Muhammad Ali. He served not only the millions of people who watched him in the boxing ring,but used his celebrity to support humanitarian causes.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Rather than looking at it what can you receive in return, start examining the different ways that you can give to life. Donate your free time to charities. Offer to help a neighbor or friend in need. Go the extra mile to listen to someone in need. Do not expect anything in return for your service. Love the process, love others, and embrace the challenges that you will experience along the way.

Originally Posted on Fortune.com

3 Ways to Remain Calm and Execute When Starting a Business

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Although it can certainly bring extraordinary excitement and fulfillment, there is nothing easy about starting a business. Launching a new business or even a new division within an existing business can be chaotic. There will be plenty of ups and downs, twists and turns, and wins and losses. Building a successful business has very much to do with how you respond when you get knocked down.

Below are three critical steps that can help you remain calm and execute your vision fully when the going gets tough.

1. Surround yourself with those who are already doing what you want to do.

When I first started writing and speaking, I knew absolutely nothing about how to go about turning it into an actual business. The first thing that I did was email and reach out to those who were already doing it, asking them how I might be able to help with whatever their most important project was. Some would respond and some wouldn’t, but every single day I put in the effort. I offered value in whatever way I could in the beginning, and over time, that transpired into a solid mentoring relationship. When you really care about what it is you do and eager to learn more, you would be surprised at how many highly successful people want to help.

2. Be obsessed with your vision.

Creating a blueprint of possibilities is the new “business plan.” No great entrepreneur has succeeded without developing an obsessive mentality surrounding the value of their product or overall vision of what they wanted to do. Coupling a steadfast dedication to your vision and value with an attitude of adaptability helps business owners and entrepreneurs to gain unbelievable momentum. And Big Mo as I like to call it—momentum—equals success.

3. Learn to love failure.

Failure yields opportunity. Entrepreneurs fail because when obstacles hit, they surrender to the negativity and attach their identity to this feeling of frustration. That’s not productive. All great entrepreneurs accept roadblocks as incredible opportunities to pinpoint areas of growth and get better. By learning to detach from the negativity and dig into the reasons these obstacles have arisen, entrepreneurs can narrow in on the aspects of their business that require extra attention or adaptability. Behind every failure and setback is a fundamental key to your business growth.

Originally Posted on Fortune.com

3 Things I learned in the NFL About Being Successful in Business

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Making it to the top of any profession requires an insane amount of hard work, perseverance, belief, preparation, and precise execution. Being a former professional athlete in the NFL required everything I thought it was going to take and more. And yet my football career didn’t last all that long; in 2010, I was injured in my first game as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears and, during the months-long recovery, decided that my true calling was in helping people find their true calling.

Now, having established a career as a business-performance strategist and motivational speaker, it’s amazing how much of what I learned in football applies to business. I wish more athletes, particularly those nearing the end of their careers, were able to see that what helped get them to the top as an athlete can also play to their advantage in business.

Here are three things I learned in the NFL about being successful in business.

1. You must win from the neck up before you win anywhere else.

I tell people all the time: the only way I was ever able to at least give myself a chance to play in the NFL was to work on developing my mind. The best athletes in the world will tell you just how important it is to have vision and focus. The same goes for business. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, executive, or employee, for you to win, you must first win in your mind.

Motivational books can help interrupt the negative inner dialogue that often shrinks your vision; some of my favorites are As A Man Thinketh by James Allen and The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. I also find it helpful to read the autobiographies of people who have achieved a great amount of success in the world. It’s important to engage in conversations that build you up instead of tear you down. It’s important to go to work on your mind every day of your life. And when you do, you will begin to experience a whole new level of happiness and success that will prime you for a bigger future than you ever imagined.

2. Preparation breeds champions.

Every single football coach I’ve had since the age of 6 has rightly preached the importance of preparation.Preparation breeds champions. The football teams with the best cultures and Super Bowl records prepare like no one else. That same trait carries over to the most accomplished leaders.

In my short time with the Chicago Bears, I saw the value of preparation in probable Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, who consistently put in the time and effort to perfect his craft. Look at Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and other business legends; they prepared and worked to master their craft. Make it a priority to make sure that your preparation is second to none.

3. You can’t become great by yourself.

In order to be great in athletics or in business, it’s imperative you build a world-class team around you and seek out the best talent to carry out your vision.You may be able to reach a certain level of achievement by yourself, but it’s impossible to be great alone.

When I first started writing and speaking, the first thing that I did was assemble a world-class team of mentors and friends to provide me with the knowledge and skills to help me along the way. Take a long and hard look at the team that you have around you. Are they supporting your vision and helping you to grow and get better? If not, start now. It means everything.

Originally Posted on Fortune.com

Planning a Road Trip? If So, Use It as a Guide to Business and Life.

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May is the time when many people think about planning their vacations, and oftentimes, that vacation involves a “road trip.” No matter if you’re an entrepreneur or staff member in a company, road trips and vacations are nice getaways and can help recharge your batteries. Generally, we all need time and space to recharge our batteries.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about life and business and how all of it is like a road trip. A road trip in business-terms is a continual vacation and not just a once- or twice-a-year event. Because when people are on vacation, they have to constantly make decisions about what clothes and essentials to pack, the route they’re going to take, the vehicle they’re going to use and if they’re going to fly or drive.

 

They need a map to guide them, places they will stop and eat, or shop, places they will visit, expectations from the trip and people they will interact with. This is what you do on a road trip. But this is also what you do throughout life whether it’s in your personal, business or academic world. And all of these incorporate some trait of leadership that’s within you. You are the entrepreneur of your world.

Within these leadership and entrepreneurship attributes, there are four traits that contribute to whether you’re a good leader or a bad leader. Those are: positive attitude, honesty, listening to your inner voice and trust. I’ll explain further how each one affects your road trip and leadership style.

Think about this: What skills or talents can you as a business leader or team member bring to the table?

We’re all on journeys. Personal and business. We’re all on road trips in life. Just like it’s important to get fellow travelers’ opinions and ideas about the road trip, it’s important to do this if you’re having a meeting or planning an event at work. This encourages teamwork and it helps the co-workers feel valued.

1. Positive attitude

An important part of planning your road trip is your attitude. As you plan your road trip, what are your expectations? Are they positive or negative? If you go into a situation feeling negative, you immediately impact everything that you will experience as a way to validate your preconceived notion.

For example, if a fellow traveler says, “I don’t want to go to Orlando, Florida in the springtime. It will rain every day.” And then, you proceed to go to Florida, and it does rain every day, your travel companion says, “See? I told you it would rain!”

If you are negative about your journey, you will constantly be on the lookout for things that reinforce that negativity. For that “See, I told you so” moment. Unfortunately, along the way, because you’re looking for the negative, you may have missed some wonderful opportunities for enrichment and enjoyment.

Attitude is everything and is just as impactful on your road trip as it is in the workplace. It’s important to have a positive attitude instead of negative, but sometimes, you can take that negative attitude and put a spin on it, making it a positive.

In the workplace, you might find gratification and satisfaction in pointing out the errors others make. Many people who are trying to make themselves feel more important will do this. By pointing out negatives in others, it makes them feel superior. Now you might think of this as a very negative trait, and it can be. But, if you thrive on that negative feeling, you can turn it into a positive by explaining to others ahead of time that you have this tendency.

Point it out as a “positive” to demonstrate that the overall goal is a perfect product, and by catching these items you are only doing your job.  Explain that it isn’t personal when you point out the negatives in a decision or a product — that you are only thinking of the company and bottom line. When you do this, you put yourself in a leadership role whether you are the boss or not. And you are turning your “negative” into a “positive.”

Planning a road trip can bring out the worst and best of people — just like your work environment can. If you continually emphasize the negative with your fellow travelers without putting a spin on it and pointing out the positives, then, people won’t want to travel with you ever again, and in the workplace, they won’t want to work with you.

2. Listening to the inner voice

Part of maintaining a positive attitude while planning your road trip or conducting your “trip” at work, means trusting yourself to make good decisions. We all have an inner voice that is driven from our knowledge of our “self.” The better you know your tendencies and thought processes, the more likely you will be able to acknowledge your true self. This is your true voice — and this voice never lies to you. We don’t always listen to this inner voice, however, but it’s important to tune into that voice.

Use your inner voice to assist your leadership role in the workplace. It is important not to confuse this inner voice with irrational feelings. When we get overly emotional, angry or frustrated, we tend to act before we thoroughly think through the situation. By taking a moment to think about your options, your true “inner” voice will guide you with ideas for the best course of action based upon what you are most comfortable with or most qualified to do.

3. Honesty

No matter what your leadership style is, there’s one quality that should be taken for granted — but it’s not. Not everyone has this quality, and this can cause many problems on your “road trip at work” and your journey in business and life. And that’s honesty.

In the workplace, you need to be able to identify who will give you an honest answer.  Are you listening to the real experts? Too often, internal expertise is overlooked in favor or external guidance.

To be an effective leader, you must trust yourself and your abilities. Being your true self in the workplace provides an avenue for you to offer genuine qualities that others can respect and admire. Attributes like a positive attitude, honesty and listening to your inner voice.

All of our experiences are part of who we are and our leadership abilities surface when needed. It’s how we exist and how we survive, and in difficult times, it might be the one thing that sets you apart from others.

4. Trust

On a road trip, there are times when you are not in control, and the way you handle these situations can define who you are as a leader. If you’re a passenger in a car, on an airplane or on a cruise, you do not have control of the vehicle. You have to know how to let go of control.

Those who feel uncomfortable and have a tough time letting go may find themselves with a team of individuals in the workplace that view them as a micromanager or one who does not provide trust in others.

Trust is the root of not wanting to let go. We can all find things to occupy ourselves, but refusal to let go can demonstrate your ability to trust only what you can do. When people hand in their work or turn in a project, do you review it for errors? If so, you may be displaying a lack of trust. If you trusted that person, you would have confidence that it was thoroughly checked before handing the work in.

Leaders and entrepreneurs must be willing to let go if they desire to have a true trusting relationship with their staff members. Leaders recognize what each person needs to do their job successfully and ensures that the environment around them supports their talents and abilities.

What type of road trip are you planning this summer? Is it designed to enrich your life or learn something? Are you going somewhere to help others, to volunteer your services or learn a new skill?  Are you ready?

Likewise, as an entrepreneur or leader in business, are you ready?

No matter what kind of road trip you’re on — in life and in business — our road trips bring us “back to us” and help us establish an ongoing process of self-recognition, self-definition and self-awareness.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

By Failing to Prepare, You Are Indeed Preparing to Fail

20160421204910-prepareImage credit: Soren Hald | Getty Images

How many of you have heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail?”

If this is your first time seeing it, read it again. I cannot stress the importance of these wise words enough. People often talk about how they are waiting for their big break or that if they were just given the opportunity, they would take it and run with it.

But would they really? That would mean that they have to be prepared when the opportunity presents itself, and unfortunately, the majority are simply not. A really bad habit to get into is talking more about what you would do given the opportunity — than actually working to create that reality.

Those who are proactive about their possibilities know that they can create opportunities for themselves, and in that process, prime themselves for success. If you feel there is not enough opportunity knocking, ask yourself if you are preparing for it as much as you are talking about it.

One thing I’ve learned from being both unprepared and prepared at pivotal times in my life is that life presents us with limited windows of opportunity. These windows may never come again. Many are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. There are windows that will swing open, and if you’re not ready at that moment, you have to bite the bullet and accept it as a missed opportunity.

In high school, I was a baseball standout. I had MLB scouts coming to watch me play, and because I got involved in delinquent behavior, I was kicked off my baseball team. I wasn’t mentally prepared. I had all the talent in the world — but that wasn’t enough. I had to reluctantly accept it as a major loss, and understand that only I was to blame.

It is important that no matter how skilled, talented or knowledgeable you are in your respective field, you must spend time every day preparing. Prepare for the next step, the next goal, the next big moment when it arises — because you never know when it will come. I’ve found that the biggest regrets come from individuals who had a window of opportunity that they weren’t prepared for. Whether it was the job interview that they tried to wing, or the endorsement that they lost. There is nothing worse than the feeling of your dreams being close enough to touch and them slipping through your fingertips, never to return.

Whether I look at my life as an athlete or in the business-arena, preparation makes all the difference. Preparing for a game and studying your opponent is necessary in order to win. If you don’t know your opponents’ strengths, you’re going to come out blindly hoping that your skill level will outplay theirs. True champions do more than that. They don’t gamble on their skill level. They combine it with diligent preparation.

Going into a meeting looking for a capital investment for your start-up and relying on your knowledge and passion is simply not enough. True successors combine their passion and knowledge with meticulous research and preparation. You need to know who your investors are before you can convince them how valuable this investment is for them, not you.

Before a keynote, I don’t just go on stage and give a blanket speech on performance, leadership or sales. I study the organization I’m speaking to, crunch their numbers, address their challenges, and cater content specifically to them. This preparation makes all the difference and will set you apart from the people just going with the motions.

It’s often obvious to tell those who are prepared or not. Whether it’s the start-up pitch, the keynote speaker or the athlete taking the field, preparation is not a concept you can throw together quick. You cannot “fake it ‘til you make it,” and you can’t wing it.

It takes time, discipline, thought, effort, research, organization and even some meditation. It’s an investment in yourself, your product and your business, and those who are prepared are noticed. If you want to create possibilities, prime yourself for success, and capitalize on opportunity. You must simply begin to prepare as such.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Stop Comparing Yourself to Competitors. Start Perfecting Your Craft.

20141230200737-reflectionImage credit: Matt Niemi | Flickr

We’re hard on ourselves professionally. Competition is fierce in the business world. We compare ourselves to the competition every chance we get.

But I’m here to tell you to stop. Stop the comparisons. They’re doing nothing to your competition. Much like disliking a person that doesn’t know you exist, it only hurts you.

Emotional energy is what makes us great. It is the blood, sweat and tears that we experience when pursuing our deepest passions and dreams. The smile that comes when you get the sale or the tarnished ego that ensues when you don’t. It’s the yearning desire to want more and to keep pushing.

It can also be very draining and damaging if you don’t focus on the necessity of positive emotional energy. Do not sabotage yourself by draining your emotional energy on what everyone else is doing better than you. Your craft needs that emotional energy much more than your competition. Your craft needs your passion, your fire and your creative genius to push forward. Your competition is draining you of your competitive edge, and they’re not losing sleep over it — you are.

Yes, it’s important to know your market well and the others competing in your space, but keep it there. Have a concrete knowledge, but don’t worry about their quarterly sales, their new endorsements, how big their holiday party was, what media slots they are securing or what new clients they’ve gotten. The reality is that there is enough business out there for everyone. If you don’t believe so, ask yourself — how you are going to solicit a larger consumer base?

They are out there. This is where your energies need to be spent. This is where focusing on your craft comes in. Focus on the value that you, your product or your service brings to the industry. Spend time listening to what your loyal customers and clients are saying so that you can consistently perfect what you do. Focus on innovative marketing strategies, closing sales, satisfaction guarantees and new business outreach.

Most importantly, undergo the positive mind shift that is needed to protect your emotional energies. An attitude of gratitude is a foundation to win. Seeing the glass half full is half the battle. Think about what you do have and what you do exceptionally well. Focus on the consumers that already love what you do, and show them how much you appreciate them.

One thing I decided to do in the professional speaking world is that I reached out to everyone else in my industry that does what I do. Both new comers and heavy hitters. It definitely takes some guts to do. It’s very humbling, but it’s worthwhile. I introduced myself, congratulated them on their success and asked for a phone call at their convenience.

A few actually went on to become mentors to me. I strongly advise others to do the same. It is worth the time to reach out to people who have been there. You would be shocked at how many people will extend a hand to you. Your competition is curious about you as well.

Think about my alternative option. I could have spent the same, if not more, amount of energy on looking at everyone in my industry and assessing how I can beat them, surpass them or solicit their business. This idea would not have allowed me the important guidance and advice I received along the way. It also makes you a bigger target to take out. In business, you must strive to build bridges to success — not barriers to opportunity.

Because of this outreach, I’ve been invited to events to hear my mentors speak where I could learn valuable insights to incorporate into my own business. I have also had speakers who were unavailable to give a certain keynote due to prior bookings, refer me as the person to take their spot.

It doesn’t matter what industry you occupy — focus on what you do well. There is enough business to be had by all. Focus on forming allies and perfecting your craft rather than overthrowing your competition. Your craft needs your energy much more than your competition.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

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