Monday, February 25, 2013

Investing in... You!

If you want to be wealthy and happy, learn this lesson well:  Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.      Jim Rohn
Many people in business make the mistake of believing that the company will take care of their development.   After all, it's part of that yearly 'plan', part of the 'review' process isn't it?  Consider though, whose best interests does the organization truly have in mind?  Are they looking to your growth or their needs?  Don't think for a second that they are always synonymous.  Consider also the commitment the company has to your growth when training budgets are being cut or what happens to your development when the money has been spent. That's it for you for the year? No more learning?

Don't leave your growth and development in the hands of someone who in no way could possibly care about you and your future the way that you should.  All too often I have clients who say that they aren't personally going to pay for a course because that's the company's responsibility.  If 'they' aren't paying for it then 'they' aren't going to benefit from it.  But who really benefits?  Warren Buffet puts it this way...
Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do.  Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you.  They can run up huge deficits and the dollar can become worth far less.  You can have all kinds of things happen.  But if you've got talent yourself, and you've maximized your talent, you've got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.
Investing in yourself is the single most important investment that you can make in your lifetime.  If you want to have 'more' in your life than you currently have, in any facet of your life, you have to become more than you currently are.  We shouldn't consider that we are students only when at school.  Life is the biggest school that there is and we are therefore all students as long as we continue to breathel.  Start living your life as a student, become that life-long learner.

Focusing on your development means that you are constantly evolving and creating opportunities for yourself.  Many of those opportunities are ones that you likely wouldn't have envisioned for yourself previously because you didn't 'know' what was possible.  Uncover your possibilities by using some of the following suggestions to contribute to your growth.

  • Take a course.  On line, in person... it doesn't matter.  What's something that you have always been interested in?  Go out and take a course in it, learn about it.  There are tons of free courses offered by many universities, even MIT offers free open courseware.  How cool would it be to take a course from MIT?
  • Read a book.  You want to play with the big-wigs around the senior table?  Read what they are reading.  Learn the latest buzz words and theories.  Bring something new to the table by getting a jump start on something still in their 'to be read' pile!  Look for new ideas that could be applied to your area. I typically have 3 books on the go at once and am never without at least one in my briefcase (more if I have my ipad with me!).  If I find myself with downtime because a client is running late I spend time with a book rather than checking on the latest facebook post.  
  • Follow blogs.     Many subject matter experts are writing regular blogs where you can follow some of their latest thoughts.  Consider subscribing to their feeds or set yourself up on something like where you can key in what your interests are and what blogs you'd like to follow.  They compile it for you on your personalized home page, making it a one-stop resource.  Add and delete as your interests and focus shifts.  When you find yourself with a moment or two, check out some of the titles, and read a post that hits home.  Not sure what or who you'd like to follow?  Give Stumbleupon a try and see what you come across.  Follow or bookmark sites that interest you.
  • Create learning files.  I love using a 'shared' system like dropbox for this.  Whenever I am browsing for one thing on the internet, I inevitably stumble across an article, website, resource relating to something else.  Instead of getting pulled off track or losing out on the new information, I save it to my dropbox file so that I can return to it when I have a moment.  This means that whenever I find myself with a moment or two (waiting for appointments is always a popular one!) I access that file from any device and catch up on items I might have missed otherwise.  Sometimes important and informative, sometimes merely interesting, they often come together down the road in unexpected ways.
  • Listen to books.  Many people don't like reading themselves, in which case audio books are a great alternative.  I love reading, but I listen to books in my car all the time.  If you spend time in a commute, spend time in the gym or on long runs, want to listen to something while you work on finishing that car engine or jigsaw puzzle, consider listening to a book, lecture or training program rather than music.  Use the time you have to learn something you might need.
  • Check out TED talks.  If you haven't already you should.  Here you can listen to talks from the best of the best.  If you only have 5 minutes, do a search on 5 minute talks.  Search by topic, see what's new.  I have watched some talks on topics that I didn't think I'd be interested in only to be fascinated by new science, new technology, new research.  A great resource to access and a great platform for learning.  Or give youtube a closer look.  It is much more than simply a place to watch viral videos or talking animals.  

 Become what you need yourself to be to achieve what you want.  It's that simple and that challenging.  It does require you to start though.  Do one thing each day to move you forward.  Reading this was a good place to start.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Building a Case for... Ambiverts

What Personality type makes the best sales person?  Most people will quickly respond with - Extroverts.  Indeed, this is typically what most hiring professionals will look for when hiring for 'sales' specific roles.  However, there is actually no direct evidence supporting the assumption that Extroverts make the best sales people.

Consider now the fact that Leaders sell.  It is a primary function of the Leader role, regardless of what the job description actually calls for.  They are constantly selling ideas, concepts and action plans to employees, suppliers, customers, clients, funders, board members, stockholders...  Likely it is their number one job function and responsibility.  If we believe the assumption above, that Extroverts make the best Sales Professionals then, by extension, it would follow that the best Leaders are Extroverts.

In new research, from Adam Grant, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Management (to be published in the Journal of Psychological Science later this year), it was determined that true Extroverts fared little better in sales success than did true Introverts.  Surprising results given the common expectation concerning the extroversion/sales connection.

Grant used a 7 point scale to assess the degree of each participants Introversion (1 and 2) to Extroversion (6 and 7).  He assessed a group of software sales personnel over a period of 3 months.  His findings?  Introverts fared the worst, averaging $120/hr in sales.  However, the true Extroverts did little better, averaging about $125/hr in sales.  Most interesting was the finding that the Top Performers were those in the middle (4/5/6), the Ambiverts, those individuals that are neither extremely introverted or extroverted.  The absolute top performers were those that were a '4' on the Introversion/Extroversion scale, selling roughly $208/hr.  A big leap ahead of everyone else.

We've heard a lot over the years about Introverts versus Extroverts, but have paid little direct attention to the value of those in the middle, those individuals that carry traits of both.  True Extroverts often focus more on themselves, talking more than they listen, which can be a strong disadvantage for a leader.  Their personalities can seem like a force onto themselves, often overwhelming those around them.

Introverts, on the other hand, have challenges of their own in leading others.  They prefer to process their own thoughts before sharing, which can make them appear hesitant to speak their mind, share direction or to close the deal.  Employees often feel that they are not as well-informed as they would like or need to be.

Enter the Ambiverts.  They tend to strike the right balance between the other two styles.  They can speak smoothly and convincingly when needed but are also capable of listening to and including others.  They know when the Extrovert's initiative and gregariousness is needed and when the Introvert's quiet confidence and thoughtfulness is called for - shifting comfortably and seamlessly between the two.

The truly good news coming out of this finding is that the majority of us are Ambiverts.  Most of us sit somewhere in the 3 to 6 range used by Grant in his study, making more of us better at Leading others than we might previously have thought.  The downside of course is that we no longer can hide behind the belief that we are not 'extroverted' enough to lead.  As it turns out, sitting somewhere in the middle of this scale is more than enough for leadership success.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Your Daily Plan for Success

I'm sure that you have a plan for your day; a to-do list, a schedule of appointments.  You may use a different system than I do (phone, computer, notebook) but you likely have a list of what needs to get done today and may already have things listed for tomorrow and subsequent days.

Have you ever wondered about what your daily agenda, your daily schedule of events, has to say about you?  John C. Maxwell, author of over 60 books on Leadership, says that...
The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda
He believes that simply looking at how you structure and organize a 'typical' day, how you build your daily agenda, will provide him with firm insight into how successful you will ultimately become in life.

Let's face it.  Most of us merely jot down those items that we feel 'must' get done that day - those urgent and necessary activities.  However, this is just planning to 'keep up'.  In so doing, we are seriously underestimating the value and power of 'today'.  We leave for 'tomorrow' any thought or plan of our own growth and development.  

Instead, you need to have your own Personal Growth Plan. You need to have a vision for yourself of your development.  This is not something to leave to your boss, they will have their own agenda.  This is your agenda for you.  This is you crafting your life, the direction it will take, the role you'll play, the person you will become.  When you have created a strong enough vision for yourself, you need to build action steps into your plan.

Each day your agenda needs to include at least one thing you do to grow and develop.  One thing.  This is not something to be put off, this is not something to be deferred to the weekend.  Each day you need to take one step, however small, toward your growth.  Think of this as making a daily deposit into your bank account.  This is you investing in you.  Each day that you fail to make that contribution means that you will have that much less to work with at the end of the year and the longer you will have to 'save' until you can reap the rewards.

Consider how often we short-change ourselves.  Our daily agendas get packed full of action steps we feel we 'must' take in order to move other people's agendas forward.  Look at your list.  How much of your day is currently taken up with doing for others?  How many scheduled items on your list are you doing for your benefit?

Add one thing.  One thing each day, every day, that aids you in your Growth Plan.

No compromises.  No excuses.  If you want success in your life it begins...  today.  What's your one thing?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Mythology of You

We live through events.
We replay those events in our minds.
We talk about our experience of those events.
We remember the events we share with others.

Sounds like a pretty clear cycle and yet, it is this cycle that leads us to create our own Mythology, to shape our personal story.  We all experience 'things' throughout our lives.  Large and small, these experiences help to shape and define us.  But... is it really the 'actual' event shaping us or our interpretation of that event?

We replay events over and over in our minds. The more important they were to us in some way, the more frequent the replaying.  Much like a favourite movie that we pull off the shelf to watch, though we've already seen it a dozen times or more.  With every replay and retelling of our stories though, we reshape the events, morphing our memories into our 'version', the one that fits best for us.  In doing so, we have created our own mythology, our own story of us.

I know that it feels 'real', that it feels as though we are merely telling it 'like it was', but if we were able to put a film-version of the events as they occurred side by side with a film version of our story of it, there would be distinct and clear differences between the reality and our reality.  This is true for everyone.  It's one of the reasons why witnesses to events are so unreliable and why multiple witnesses are often needed to gain a clear picture of what truly occurred.  The actual story needs to get pieced together.

What is important for each of us is not to try to avoid all embellishment, to strip our memories down to the bare bones of 'reality' or 'truth' but, rather, to come to understand the reshaping.  The way in which we morph our memories tells a great deal about us, our needs and what is important to us.

Understanding our mythology, and that of others, is more important than uncovering the 'truth' of the event.  It is enough that it has become our (or their) truth.  Our mythology helps to shape and define our future choices.  It's not important whether it's accurate, only that it's our story, whether we are highlighted as the victim or the hero, the antagonist or protagonist, the come-from-behind Queen, the Lover, the Leader, the Warrior or Peacemaker.  Our Mythology has served to shape the person we are and will continue to mould the person we will become.  We are now as we once imagined ourselves to be.

Don't like the ending that is likely to play out for you?  Start rewriting your story.  As the author of your Mythology, you have control over the telling of your story.  If yours isn't heading toward the ending you desire, get out your metaphorical eraser and get started on the rewrite.
Despite our shared conception that we are rational actors making intelligent decisions based on an accurate view of the world and ourselves, precisely the opposite is true.       Seth Godin