Connect! Connect! Connect!

As you’ve noticed, I often mine Alex Sanfilippo’s Creating a Brand podcasts for “golden nuggets”. I found a real gem to share with you this week, I think! I hope you agree.

Michelle Tillis Lederman and I have been connected on LinkedIn for some time. Her approach to communication and teamwork fits right in with mine. Michelle refers to herself as the relationship-driven leaders’ coach. When I saw her name on Sanfilippo’s website, I promptly listened to their conversation.

In this interview, Michelle focuses on 3 of the main points from her recent book, The Connector’s Advantage. I bought the book and read the introduction and first chapter. I recommend it! You can buy it at the link above ($9.99 on Kindle)

  • Connectors are open and accepting. Authenticity is a major part of this. You must be comfortable with who you are to be open and accepting. Hiding behind a false façade makes this impossible.
  • Connectors believe in abundance. A scarcity mindset makes deep connections impossible. An example she focuses on in business: When someone else lands the customer you wanted, what’s your reaction? Are you happy for the customer and the company they’re working with? Do you hope to learn something from what the other company did to win this client? A connector believes there are plenty of prospects in the market. They believe the customer that belongs with them will buy from them.
  • Connectors have a generous spirit. This goes with the abundance mindset. Connecting with someone is a gift. Connecting two other people is a double gift. Connections are gifts. Compliments are gifts. Of course, so are physical things. It’s important also to be generous to yourself. Be willing to say no, and be OK with it, when you can’t give as fully as you would like to.

Practicing gratitude with intention is a great way to help yourself exhibit these qualities. A great question to ask yourself often, especially when you’re having a tough day: “What’s the best thing about today?”

Michelle’s belief is that being a connector is always a learned skill. Nobody is born as a connector. No doubt it’s easier for some to learn than others.

When I heard her say this, I thought, “I’m a natural connector”. Reviewing my history though, I’d have to admit that I learned to be a connector. It’s something I learned quite easily. I seemed to recognize the benefits of being a connector without much urging from anyone. However, I wasn’t born with a “connection muscle”. Michelle is probably correct in saying no one is.

What I’ve written here is a mere sketch of what Michelle and Alex cover in their conversation. Check it out!

What Do The World’s Most Effective Leaders Do?

My continuous quest for ideas to help leaders do business better led me to this article by Justin Breen. Justin is the founder and CEO of BrEpic, a PR company that leverages a brand’s unique story to grow. In that work he interviews hundreds of high-performing entrepreneurs.

He’s identified 8 patterns of these leaders that appear repeatedly. I find these concepts appearing often with the coaches and mentors I work with.
Hopefully without stealing too much of Justin’s thunder, I’ll summarize the core concepts in these ideas:

  • Formulaic approach to difficulties and obstacles:

————-Identify, create an action plan, execute, get on with business

  • Simplicity
  • Abundance mindset
  • Vulnerability
  • Confidence (not arrogance)
  • Collaboration

I’ll leave Justin to flesh out these concepts and put them in action for you.

These all appear to be pretty simple ideas. It can be difficult to keep the discipline to apply them when things get tough. A somewhat crude quote I love, which illustrates this concept well, is:


“When you’re up to your ass in alligators it’s difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp”.

The source of that quote eludes me. I think we can all relate to it.

Who’s Responsible for…?

Each month, I write a message of inspiration for the department managers of La Estancia de Cafayate. That’s the beautiful community in northwest Argentina where I’m fortunate to live. This month’s message seemed like a good topic for The Unity Community. Here’s what I offered them, and now offer you.

How are you getting along in the current state of the hysteria over COVID-19?

Here’s a concept that may be new for some. 

You are responsible! Whether or not you choose to accept it, YOU are responsible.

COVID-19 got you down? You can’t change the virus and the restrictions resulting from it. Accept responsibility for how you deal with it!

Dry weather, wet weather, hot weather, cold weather interfering with your plans? You can’t change the weather. Accept responsibility for how you plan, and function, around it!

Does a person, an event, or an obstacle make you angry? 

No! YOU make you angry! Decide not to! It’s always possible to decide how you’ll react to things. Make the decision not to get angry. Only you will be hurt by it if you get angry.

When you are angry it eats you up inside. It damages you more than anyone. Anger, and hatred, are harmful emotions – to the person who is angry, or who hates. Not only that – you usually make poor decisions when you’re angry or feeling hate. Poor decisions may compound the damage.

When it’s a person, forgive them! You don’t even have to tell them if you don’t want to. Truly forgiving releases the negative emotion within you. To help assure your forgiveness is genuine, write a message to the person. Send it or not, as you choose. The biggest benefactor of that message will be you, whether or not you send it to the other person.

Do you like to complain about:

Weather?

Your aches and pains?

COVID-19?

Other people?

Whenever you do that, you are seeking to avoid, or shift, responsibility. If it’s something you can fix, fix it. (This might include discussing it with someone who can control it). If it’s something you have no control over, get along with it the best you can – quietly. No one else wants to hear your complaining. It just makes you unpopular, and signals that you view your life as controlled by outside influences – a pessimistic view. Avoid complaining!

Here’s a slightly different slant on these ideas from Jim Smith, a coach I’ve recently connected with.

Great Productivity Advice from 10 Women Leaders

During the past 20 years I’ve striven to understand ways to make my life more productive. Of course that also makes it more rewarding. Here we often discuss my own and others’ methods for improving mindset, attitude, work routines, and other ways of improving productivity. This issue continues that. We check out Anna Meyer’s assembly of success tips from women business leaders. Anna is an assistant editor with Inc. magazine.

Lately it’s in fashion to focus on women business leaders. My view is that good leaders’ techniques are always worth studying, no matter the leader’s gender, race, skin color, etc. The tips in this article are valuable for all business people. For that matter, they’re valuable to anyone wanting to live a more rewarding life, business or not.

One of the elements of a fully functional life style is an organized morning routine. In a minute I’ll share my own. Among the leaders discussed here, Jeanne David discussed her morning routine in more detail than the others. The great importance I find in morning routines leads me to focus on her section of this article.

Ms. David discusses her morning routine as a means of staying focused when life brings unimportant things into her view. The mind is most receptive in the first hour or two after waking. She suggests reading, praying, journaling, and making notes of gratitude during this time. I can only say “Amen” to that.

My own routine includes those things plus a cold shower, drinking 20 oz. of water, and some light exercise. Not being religious, my forms of prayer are meditation and journaling (including gratitude). The shower and drinking water are in the first 5-10 minutes after waking at 5 AM.

All of these leaders have great suggestions for ways to succeed in business. My focusing on Jeanne David needn’t detract from the value the others offer. I happen to believe morning routines are especially important so that’s where I focused.

Check out all the other great suggestions here.

The coronavirus and the huge amount of discussion around it have occupied many people’s attention. Since few of us can do anything about it, it deserves less of our attention than many people give it. Our focus needs to be on things we can affect. Many of the articles I’ve written in recent months discuss mindset and its importance, especially now.

Is Your Business Thriving, or Struggling, During COVID-19?

Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend. I imagine there were fewer and smaller barbecue parties than in other years. I hope you were able to enjoy the holiday with your families.

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan and proponent of coaching in all forms. Anyone who tries to learn a skill without help is making it harder than it has to be. Kevin Ryan of Inc. magazine, tells us here about a company offering on-line sports coaching from Olympian athletes.

Omer Atesman built and sold a fast-growing solar company, then used the proceeds to start The Skills. He enlisted the help of his well-connected former colleague to engage top Olympic athletes. A great example of the value of good connections in business. Working through your network can make good things happen fast. Several big name players and many less-known athletes have signed on. Two, Maria Sharapova (tennis) and Larry Fitzgerald (NFL football), have taken equity stakes in the company. Both are also coaches and advisors.

Tennis great Maria Sharapova is a contributor, advisor, and equity owner in The Skills. As many coaches and observers have pointed out, sports is a microcosm of life and business. Maria discusses the value of the coaching to other pursuits in life.

The companies who do well in the COVID-19 era are those whose leaders think “out of the box”. Those who pivot to offering new and adjusted services and products. Often this means attractively offering something on-line that’s traditionally been delivered over-the-counter or in-person. The Skills is a good example.

We’re seeing here several aspects of the concept of working with your network to get things done. In some cases you pay for that help. In others, it’s a win-win transaction among friends and associates. So find the people who have the skills and/or connections to help you.

And enlist their help!

Do You Value, and Nurture, Your Friendships?

John Stevens

Friendships! Positive relationships! How much do these elements matter in business? In health? In happiness? I suppose many people might agree that they’re important for health, especially mental and emotional health. Probably most people would agree that they’re important factors in happiness. But in business?


According to Shasta Nelson, they’re just as vital for business as for other areas of life. Give a listen while she explains all this in an interview with Alex Sanfilippo. Scroll down on that page for related links and textual explanation of some of Shasta’s ideas.

My Birthday Party in 2017

Many entrepreneurs describe themselves as lonely. Shasta starts her discussion by defining loneliness. It’s recognition that more is possible in personal relationships than we’re currently experiencing. It’s often not a lack of social skills – just a matter of seeing other things as more important. We may be communicating with many people in business. However, we don’t have enough or strong enough ties with people we want to be more intimate with. Shasta says studies show 70% of our happiness comes from relationships.

She also reports that many medical people find loneliness to be the prime factor in many serious ailments. Proper sleep is the only factor which may be more important to overall health than how supported and how loved we feel.

Entrepreneurs may experience this more than some others. According to Shasta though, 61% of all Americans describe themselves as lonely, so entrepreneurs are not alone in their loneliness,

Alex relates a story about an acquaintance who died in his early 70s. Outwardly this guy appeared to be very successful – in business, in finances, etc. He told Alex during his later years that he realized his life lacked in friendships and close relationships. He was sure he’d have been happier and healthier with more close relationships. He regretted his inattention to those things.

A little aside: This all supports my belief that my tranquil life among friends in Argentina might well add 10+ years to my life-span.

Shasta defines “frientimicy” – the close relationships in our lives that are unrelated to romance. She says the lack of frientimicy is much more prevalent for men than for women. I agree. And…they need it just as much as women. Men are culturally discouraged from pursuing these relationships. Perhaps they’re also less inclined. If so, social cultures support that disinclination.

Shasta has polled 15,000+ people on how they rate the friendships in their lives. Average self-scores are about 6.

That’s too low! The three things she says are most important to meaningful relationships are:

  • Consistency
  • Positivity
  • Vulnerability

Look in these areas to see how you might improve your frientimicy. And remember to include your business life as well. Contrary to some people’s belief, you can be friends with those you work and do business with. Some of those friendships can have great depth. Well-run businesses recognize this and promote supportive relationships.

We need to have a mix of relationships where these factors are present in varying degrees. We need some frientimate relationships and some more distant ones. As in most things in life, variety is important.

Shasta explains these concepts in more depth and thoroughness than I can in this short message. I recommend you listen to her interview with Alex to get her full import. It’s about a half hour long and well worth your time.

This relates loosely to the article I wrote a couple of weeks ago on the subject of “play” in addition to, and part of, work. I’ve posted other articles on related subjects on my blog page. Search for relationships – you’ll find several.

Your Employees are Your “Front Line”!

John Stevens

Simon Sinek opens this TED talk with a story about meeting Noah, a coffee bar tender at his hotel. We’ll call this hotel A. He enjoyed a lively conversation with this guy so much he left a 100% tip. Noah told Simon how much he loved his job and looked forward to coming to work.

Why does Noah love his job?

He says that all day long managers ask him, “How are you doing? Can I help you in any way?” Not only Noah’s manager – any manager! Noah feels cared for. He feels that his employer “has his back”.

Noah Preparing Coffee

Noah also reported that he did similar work at hotel B. There, the managers were often critical – catching people making mistakes. I’ll let you guess how much Noah liked that job! Also importantly, do you think Sinek would have enjoyed a conversation with Noah at the other hotel? He said that there, he kept his head down – tried to stay “under the radar”. His only interest in working there was to collect his paycheck.

The managers at hotel A are leaders. The managers at hotel B are just managers, not leaders. Leaders are responsible for the well-being of those in their charge. Employees who feel like Noah does at hotel A will do the best job they know how to do. If they want help to understand how to do it better, they’re comfortable asking. And the help is there.

This is how business is done right! Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers. Any company emulating hotel B is missing a huge opportunity.

Sinek believes many obsolete business attitudes were born in the booming 1980s and 90s. That may be. I would suggest that true leadership has been pretty scarce throughout the history of employment. It matters not whether times are good, bad, or indifferent.

Managers like those at hotel B believe they’re “in charge”. Sinek suggests they should be responsible for those “in their charge” This clear distinction needs to be conveyed throughout any organization. It must be understood from top to bottom. The difference in attitudes between the two hotels surely reflects senior management style. If the senior managers at hotel A were harsh and critical, the floor managers would act like those at hotel B.

What’s needed here is empathy, which builds trust. Sinek contends, and I agree with him, that it’s in short supply all through society.

The concept we’re discussing here goes a bit deeper into leadership concepts than I did here, a few weeks ago.

Is There Play in Your Work?

John Stevens

Natural “player” that I am, my eye was drawn to a TED talk on the subject of play. How vital it is to a sane and balanced life. How to make it happen. How human play correlates with and can interact with animal play. Fascinating, at least to me! I hope you find it similarly engaging. The video is a little over 20 minutes long. For those short on time, I’ve noted the time on some passages that relate to parts of the talk I discuss. Of course it all “hangs together” better if you listen to the whole thing.

The speaker, Dr. Stuart Brown, is a lifelong student and practicing doctor of psychiatry and clinical research. He founded the National Institute for Play to further this fascinating study.

The big bear is ‘dancing” with his meal

In this talk Brown starts with a photo of a big polar bear intent on his next meal. When the bear encounters a husky in play mode, he engages playfully with her. Of course the little dog would have been a tasty meal for the bear. Her playful demeanor distracted the bear from his hunger.

Children, of course, unless they’re in pretty grim circumstances, are inclined to and usually encouraged to play. As adults, we become more concerned with doing things, we forget to play. To our detriment!

Doing something because it’s fun, or feels good, is beneficial to the human and, it seems, the animal spirit. Play should be focused on fun and enjoyment, even when it’s producing something useful. Ever notice that some golfers get so obsessed with improving their score that they aren’t fun to play with? Of course striving for improvement is natural and positive. When it becomes work, though, it’s not play.

Brown goes on to describe many kinds of play – e.g. social, object, spectator play. He talks about the brain science that supports the concept of the value of play. Of course, as he also mentions, play should not be at the expense of others.

Rats, often studied as a proxy for human instinctive behavior, can die as the result of not playing. Brown relates a study (at 11:30 in the video) which demonstrates that.

He points out that the basis of human trust is established through play signals. He defines neoteny, a word unfamiliar to most of us. It’s the retention of immature tendencies into adulthood, and it can be beneficial.

Criminal behavior has been a part of Brown’s research. He relates that many violent criminals have been found to have lived lives devoid of play. Kevin Caroll wrote a book (described at 15:10 in the video) about coming from a dreary childhood. He discovered that watching others play boosted his spirits. Following up on that, he made a productive life out of a situation that otherwise would have led to no good.

At 17:30 in the video, Brown recommends we all examine our lives. He suggests recalling something as far back as we can remember that’s big-time playful. Replaying such an experience can help you relate to your “fun side”. Among other things it will improve your creativity.

At 18:40 we begin hearing about an experiment with students playing with play. Among other things they explore how to make meetings more interesting. He suggests that all activity can be infused with play. Then there’s no need to stop working to play. Enjoy whatever you do. Have fun with it!

Writing these letters does that for me. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them! This writing is a highlight of my week.

A few months ago I wrote about the value of taking a break after a period of intense work. Today’s discussion of intentional play takes this conversation to another level. Taking a break is important. Perhaps with Brown’s advice we can incorporate fun with work, and with rest.

Instinct? Facts? What’s the Best Business Guide?

Many years ago (more than I care to admit) I started out as a young entrepreneur.

My business offered aviation charter and training services. After a couple of years I’d reached the point of hiring a salesman. Jack (not his real name) was quite effective in promoting our business.

Up to the time of this episode, we’d mostly been carrying freight. We were dabbling in the passenger side of the business and wanted to do more. We needed a more attractive airplane than we had at that time. Since we couldn’t afford new, we researched what was available for what price in used airplanes.

We settled on a particular type of airplane we wanted. Jack started promoting that airplane to prospects. After a few weeks, we found an example of the type we wanted at a good price.

Investigation revealed some flaws with the airplane. I decided its good price would leave us room to correct the problems we found, and we bought it.

Wrong!

That decision turned out to be the most expensive mistake I’d make. It was likely the biggest factor in the ultimate failure of our business. I won’t bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say my intuition, as well as some hard facts, told us to leave it alone. Jack’s success in promoting the aircraft pressured me to override all that. We bought an airplane we never should have owned.

Joe Scarlett was CEO of Tractor Supply Company for many years. He relates that he made some decisions that facts fully supported. Despite his intuition saying “Don’t do it.”, he did. He wished later he’d paid more attention to “that small voice”. Joe recommends we always listen to our “gut”.

We gather experience throughout our lives. In considering a particular decision we gather facts for a few days, weeks, or months. Sometimes our experience tells us the facts are leading us to the wrong decision. Likely the subconscious memories in our experience are guiding us well.

At the very least, we should carefully review the facts before we go where they lead us. This is a great example of where consultation with others can be invaluable. Others’ experience, view of the facts, and sense of urgency in moving ahead, will differ from yours. Listen and consider!

Here’s an article I wrote last year quoting Jessica Stillman. She’s OK with intuition…sometimes!

About to make a decision with a significant impact on your success? Best to consider the ideas these articles offer. I hope you find them valuable.

Want to Make Your “Star” a Leader? Caution!

In business, it’s a common observation. Good leaders may have little experience with the work their team is producing. A good drilling manager may or may not have been the best driller. A good sales manager may or may not have sold so well. And, of course, the reverse is often true. The best “do-ers” may not make the best leaders.

Here’s an interesting article from Six Disciplines, a coaching company I’ve connected with recently. It focuses on the common mistakes such newly installed leaders may make. My focus is always on the positive side of issues. I’ll explain a little of what can be done to avoid these mistakes.

First, generally, it’s often the case that these people show up brilliantly producing something. They’re very good at managing tasks and things. They may be good salespeople, so they work well with prospects, customers and clients. They likely have little or no experience leading others to do what they’re good at. Leading people effectively is very different from managing things and tasks. These people are good at leading themselves, managing their time and tasks to produce what they’re expert at.

We manage things – time, tasks and resources. We lead people!

The four issues identified in this article which may need more attention than these new leaders give them are:

  • Under-performance – Here, a team-member is doing less than his or her share of work, Often he or she develops a pattern of lack of engagement. Expert coaching and counseling are likely necessary. Addressing the issue promptly and directly, before it becomes a morale issue for others, is important.
  • Over-performance – A “rock star” may begin to develop his or her own “empire” within the organization. Everyone must be an integral part of the whole team. If someone is standing apart, he or she must be brought back “into the fold”. Again this takes expert coaching.
  • Passive-aggressive behavior – This is one of many forms of non-cooperation. It too must be addressed with good leadership skills. If this continues, it will destroy trust among the team members. That’s a serious morale and performance issue.
  • Conflict avoidance – Some people tend to “go along to get along”. They can become non-functional or low-functioning team members. Letting others “run over them” or control their behavior compromises their individuality. Good team members are self-confident individuals who cooperate in a team effort. Again, strong leadership skills are called for to help such people join in, in a healthy way.

So…is the high performer on your team a good leadership candidate? Some are. Some aren’t. Perhaps some education/training is in order. The skills a leader needs are completely different from those that made this person a high-performing “do-er”.