Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Excel to Stand Out

Let's face it, you can use a lot of little gimmicks to stand out and be more memorable.  Sometimes this will work for you, sometimes it won't, depending upon how well you have determined what will appeal to your audience.  However, when it comes to business, there are three clear, proven and sure-fired ways to ensure that you will excel in your chosen profession and stand out from the crowd.

1.  Be Productive.  This may sound trite, but getting 'stuff' done is an important aspect of standing out, and one that many people overlook.  The top people in any field are those that have figured out ways to ensure that they operate at their most productive levels throughout the course of their day.  They simply manage to get more done, in the same time frame, than anyone else.  It doesn't mean they are smarter, or that they work harder, but it does mean that they work smarter.  Take a close look at the way in which you work each day, the systems you have in place to support what needs to get done, and start implementing some changes to help you work smarter.  This might involve some creative strategies that exceed setting up better filing systems or hotter to-do lists.  Three essential ideas...
  • Consider whether there is some of your more menial work that you could farm out to a Virtual Assistant.  The company may not pay for it but it might be the very thing that frees up enough of your time to bang out that project, getting on senior management's radar and getting that promotion. Sometimes it only takes $20/week to get the time you need, in which case consider it an investment in your future. It may be hiring someone to take care of household tasks or chores to free up time (I love my robot-vacuum... known around the house as Rosie).  
  • Work on the one most important item from your to-do list first. Always ensure that the item(s) that is going to have the biggest impact gets done.  Generally this means taking care of it before your day gets away from you.
  • Exercise and eat for the energy you need to maintain your productivity.  I've spoken about this many times and likely will many more to come.  If you want to get things done, you have to have the energy needed to do them.  Productive people know this, use this and live by this.  Become one of them.
 2.  Solve Problems.  Put your time into solving problems - for the company, the customer, your boss.  This is where the money is within any organization.  You increase your value and worth every time that you develop solutions that eliminate issues.  Crush those roadblocks, create work-arounds, find a solution for someone's sleepless night.  Value is added each time, taking your personal stock price higher.

3.  Take Risks.  No one ever truly gets ahead by playing it safe.  Playing it safe keeps you firmly ensconced in mediocrity.  If you want to excel then you have to take some risks along the way.  You can't keep doing exactly what you've done, the way you've always done it, if you are expecting bigger, better results.  Take a few risks, try a different approach, switch things up if you want to net greater returns.

Sure, you could go for the snazzy suit or take to wearing hats to stand out or... you could out-work the competition to be remembered.  Quality and content will remain long after the flash and sizzle have faded. Building a reputation on deliverables is a marketable, portable and powerful strategy to excel and get ahead, that works in any industry.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Problem with... No Problem

You've all likely said this at some point...  in response to someone thanking you for helping them out or doing them a favour... you've responded to their Thank-You with the phrase... 'No Problem'.

It sounds innocent enough, a couple of words offered often as a way of remaining humble in the face of someone's thanks.  However, sometimes our words can work against us, in ways we don't realize, and this is one of those times.  In fact, I want to categorically state, up front, that my hope is that, after reading this blog, you forever and always strike the phrase 'No Problem' from your vocabulary. Forever!  Truly!

Here's what happens.  Someone asks us to do something.  Typically, it is something that they want and need immediately because they failed to plan properly and are under the gun.  This is their issue, not yours, and yet their request of you now shifts it into being - your problem.  Although you are busy yourself, you succumb to their pleas, tears and Bambi-like eyes and somehow manage to squeeze it into your already overloaded schedule.  That bathroom break you had planned?  Gone!  That quick pop out to actually get some lunch? Not going to happen.  Their work though?  Done!

In the face of their thanks then, why would we ever want to leave them with the impression that fulfilling their request was, in fact, no problem?  It was a big problem!  We didn't eat.  We put our work on hold, some of which we will likely take home with us to get done.  We didn't have time to pee for heaven's sake and yet, we politely inform the other party that fitting their work into our day was... No Problem for us.

Think for a moment of the impact of those seemingly harmless two little words.

  • The other party believes that this was no problem for us and therefore won't hesitate to dump things our way in the future.  We obviously aren't all that busy.
  • The other party is wounded and feels diminished because work that they struggled with caused you no angst.  Hmmm... are they that 'slow' around everything?
  • Your time and efforts have now been de-valued.  The other person needn't be indebted to you because what you did for them was not a big deal.  No favours owed here!
  • When it comes time to recognise those that go over and above in helping others, your name is curiously missing from the list because, after all, everything you had done was no problem and is therefore not remembered.
There are so many other ways to respond to someone else's thanks that don't diminish you, your value or worth... start using them!

  • You're welcome.  (Plain, basic, to the point, but sometimes simple works best!)
  • My pleasure.  (Great to use when it is true!)
  • It was a challenge but I know how important this was for you.  (Good one to use when you know you're going to need to ask a favour of them soon!)
  • I'm pleased that I managed to make it happen!  (Good for highlighting that you weren't sure you could but were willing to go out on a limb for them anyway!)
  • I can't always manage to squeeze more into my days but I'm glad I was able to accommodate you today (great if you want them to think twice about asking in future!)
The above are good starting points and likely are highlighting for you many other, more creative, and more positively impactful ways to respond to someone else's thanks.  And... before you thank me for offering you this lesson today, let me respond upfront with a very heart felt...  It was my pleasure!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Price of Success

Everything in life comes with a price.  Sometimes it is a small, negligible, barely-even-noticed-it price, which
is easily and often unconsciously paid.  Sometimes it is a bigger price, calling into question... are we willing to pay it?  Everyone focuses on success; what it means to them, how it would change their life, how much they want 'it'.  In focusing only on the desired end result, they then use that to measure where they are at, often berating themselves for not being successful 'yet'.  However, they may not be using an accurate measure for themselves of what they 'truly' want to achieve.

People focus on what they would like to 'have', but fail to focus on what it takes to get there.  If you aren't willing to do what is required to get there, pick a different destination, otherwise you are setting yourself up to fail before you begin.  If you select goals for yourself that you have no intention of EVER doing the work needed to complete it, how could you ever manage to achieve it?

No one has even succeeded without paying a price.  

John Maxwell, (Leadership expert, Author, Pastor, Speaker extraordinaire) tells a story of delivering a speech one day and being approached afterword by a young man who looked at him and said... 'I want to do what you are doing!'  John looked at the young man, smiled and said... 'Of course you do son, but the true question for you is whether you are willing to do everything I have done to get here.'

People don't get great at something overnight.  We all start out bad.  There is a price to getting good at something, at developing your skill.  There are sacrifices and choices 'the great' have made that have allowed them to build their skills to get to great.  Are you willing to make those choices, those sacrifices?

It's easy to get caught up in the dream of success.  But to truly become successful, you must immerse yourself in the actions that are needed to get you there.   You need to be prepared to pay the price that's required for you to get where you want to go.  If you are unwilling, it likely isn't the vision of success that you should hold.  Create another.  Your desire for the success you envision has to be bigger than the price you will need to pay.  If it isn't, then it either isn't the right vision or it isn't big enough.

Opportunities exist around us, doors are there for us to open and walk through.  But those doors stop opening for us when we stop being willing to pay the price that each door requires.  We all hit a point when we are satisfied, when we have created the life we want, the vision we held.  At this point, we likely aren't looking to open too many more doors at any price.

If we aren't there yet though, then we are still building, learning, creating and growing.  We need to be prepared to pay the price for the opportunities we need and want to move forward in our Success Plan.  

What is your definition of Success worth to you?  If it isn't resonating within you, motivating and shaping your days, and you're not where you want to be in life, your definition and vision need a tune-up. Revise them until you have something worth working toward.  The Vision has to be bigger than the Price if you are going to pay the price needed to move forward.  It all comes down to one simple statement...

When we stop paying... we stop playing. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Someday Syndrome

The Someday Syndrome is a real phenomenon and, without even knowing specifically 'who' is reading this post, I know you have each suffered from it at some point, if you are not suffering from it now.  It is that pesky thought that...

  • You will write that book... Someday
  • You will take that vacation... Someday
  • You will start that exercise program... Someday
  • You will learn to speak a second language... Someday
  • You will go for that promotion... Someday
We have all heard ourselves say this at one point or another, but it's important to recognise the negative influence that the word 'Someday' has upon our accomplishments, experiences and dreams.  It is a form of procrastination.  While Procrastination is the habit of putting off something that you need to do, but don't want to do, the Someday Syndrome has you putting off something that you want and dream of doing.  Why would we and do we do this to ourselves?

Our use of the word 'someday' becomes an excuse to not take action, serving almost as a 'free pass' of sorts because we are not openly denying that we'll take action, we are simply deferring it to some later point in time.  
Our Somedays then come to represent the collision between our good intentions and ideas, with our excuses.
We are fooling ourselves into believing that we will get to it eventually.  However, every someday lacks a specific 'start' time, resulting in us simply waiting for 'someday' to come around.  Our weeks have a lot of 'days' in them but... none are named 'Some' and we therefore keep waiting for the right day to roll around.  

Instead, we need to shift Someday to This-day.  When is a good time to start, if not now?  Use the following steps and ideas to help you eliminate the Someday Syndrome from your life!
  1. Set a specific start date.  When are you going to start?  If not now... when?  Setting a specific date helps to make the intention firm.
  2. Write it down and tell people of your intention.  If you really want to make this happen, create some accountability.
  3. Create a plan.  Map out the specific action steps you will take to making your ideas and visions a reality.  They don't need to be big steps, but you do need to create a plan detailing 'how' you're going to turn your someday into reality.
  4. Get support.  There is certainly no rule that says we have to do things alone.  Get support for your journey or find someone who is also interested in shifting their Someday to This-day and get them started with you.  Having others who support your intention makes it easier to push on through the difficult moments.
Turn all of those Someday dreams into reality by shifting the way you think about them.  If there is Some-thing you are thinking of doing Some-day then you need Some-one (you!) to step up and take action, shifting Some-day to This-day if not to To-day!