Happy New Year…Again


A new year can seem like déjà vu all over again, yes?!

It’s especially true for people in sales: Another set of goals, quotas, and annual targets; more metrics that don’t quite capture what it takes to be successful; that familiar feeling of wishing you could take the entire month of January off to rest and recoup from yet another blazingly intense 4th quarter.

It’s true for leaders, as well: New goals and objectives that continue to involve some type of stretch; updated policies and procedures that turn the familiar upside down; another set of priorities and strategic initiatives that still don’t provide the clarity or resources you need to get everything done.

Yes, a new year CAN seem like déjà vu all over again.

Let The Circle NOT Be Unbroken

Left unchecked, this over-and-over-again can wear down even the most resilient of us. But it doesn’t have to.

A quick scan of the following five categories can help you break the cycle and make you more E.A.G.E.R. to face – and be ready for – the challenges of the New Year:

  1. E – Your ENTHUSIASM – Never underestimate the value that enthusiasm can bring. So bring it. Big Time. ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it.
  2. A – Your AGILITY – Sure, you’ve got your favorite ways of doing things, and many of them are likely quite refined. But make a point of expanding your range, as it were. Being a one-trick pony may feel safe and familiar, but it all too quickly leads to boredom, which leads to inattention, which leads to making mistakes and missing prime opportunities to have a real impact.
  3. G – Your GROWTH – Now I’m a fan of strengths-based leadership, but truth is, if you don’t expand more than just your strengths, you’re likely going to start overcompensating for your weaknesses in ways that dilute your brand. So make this the year you hit things ‘head on’ by developing some new skills that you know you need to learn. Not sure which ones? Come on, now, yes you are!
  4. E – Your EASE – Intensity, well-applied, is a good thing. But constantly creating (or adding) stress and drama – often the unavoidable byproducts of intensity – gets really exhausting, really fast. Just ask around. You can immediately become a better role-model by NOT freaking out every time something new suddenly blips on your radar. It’s you chance to show others how to handle pressure. It’s your chance to be a SOURCE of strength, caring, and focus…for THEM. It’s your chance to be a source of strength, caring, and focus…for YOURSELF, as well.
  5. R – Your RESPONSIVENESS – Whether you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert, the workplace requires you to interact with the people around you. So be pleasant. Be patient. Answer the questions they’re actually asking. Wait. What? Seek to understand. Try to actually be helpful. Sure, it may feel like a waste and even a pain, at times, but it’s an investment – you don’t know who’s watching, you don’t know who’s listening, you don’t know whose help you’ll need or when you’ll need it most. Besides you impress no one by being pompous. That only shows others you’re not as impressive as you mistakenly think you are.

E.A.G.E.R. for the New Year

Here’s a little exercise:

  • For each of the five categories listed – Enthusiasm, Agility, Growth, Ease, Responsiveness – or for any other or additional categories you’d like to include, rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (10=already excellent; 1=embarrassingly not). These are your ‘EAGER 1a’ baseline ratings – where you currently are (or believe yourself to be).

E.A.G.E.R. for the New Year – Step 1

  • Add another column, and in that column add 2 points to each of your baseline ratings. (So if you gave yourself a ‘responsiveness’ rating of 7, put a 9 (7+2) in the corresponding box.) These are your ‘EAGER 2b’ intention scores (‘2b’ – ‘to BE’ – clever, right?!) and will help stimulate your imagination for what ‘could be’ for yourself and those around you.

E.A.G.E.R. for the New Year – Step 2

  • Next, list out 3 or 4 specific steps you can take to achieve your EAGER 2b ratings. (Would it be too much to call these your EAGER 2c – ‘to SEE’ – scores?!)

E.A.G.E.R. for the New Year – Step 3

  •  Save your spreadsheet, create a recurring task in your calendar to review your progress monthly, and then do so without fail.

Putting the ‘New’ in New Year

As Margaret J. Wheatley said, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

Hopefully, that’s reason enough for all this, but if not, just let me know.


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Optimism, Pessimism, and Career Sucess

glass-300558_640“While ample research has documented the benefits of optimism at work, dozens of studies in the past several years have explored the flip side of the coin—how a moderate amount of pessimism can yield better performance.”

So says How Being a Worrywart Helps at Work, an article from the WSJ in which they liken pessimism to being in a ‘negative’ mood (and optimism to being a ‘positive’ mood). The following chart delineates the relative upsides and downsides:

Source: WSJ.com March 31, 2015

Source: WSJ.com March 31, 2015

The Implications are Clear

“Certain occupations, including actuarial science, accounting, engineering and computer science,” the article continues, “tend to be a better fit for people with a realistic, detail-focused mind-set, research shows. These jobs are also less likely to pose obstacles for those who are pessimistic or worried.”

Which begs the question: How aligned is YOUR prevailing mood with your current job’s roles and responsibilities?

Do you agree with these research findings? Let me know.

What Next?

If this post helped you learn something about yourself, then great! Be sure to share your insight with others as a way of 'locking in' your learning. While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about the other self-study resources available from LeadershipTraction including:Thanks.

- bz

P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

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Improving the Odds of Success

cube-769322_640Depending on the day or circumstance, success can feel like something completely out of our hands, can’t it?! Like a roll of the dice (once we let go of them). So let’s spend a few minutes on how to increase the probability of success – YOUR success – by improving the odds, as it were.

Grand Plan, Supportive Strategies, and Specific Methods

Let’s start by defining some terms:

  • Grand Plan – A focused intention to achieve something of particular significance
  • Supportive Strategies – An array of plans enacted, en masse, to accomplish a Grand Plan
  • Specific Methods – A series of steps required by a Supportive Strategy

That said, we can meaningfully improve our odds by, literally, working with the odds – the odd numbers 1, 3 and 5, that is – in the following manner:

  • 1 – Choose ONE Grand Plan – the point of the exercise
  • 3 – Select THREE Supportive Strategies – to focus our energies and attention as we work to achieve our Grand Plan
  • 5 – Identify FIVE Specific Methods – for each Supportive Strategy
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Then, we just implement our Grand Plan from the bottom up.

“I Deserve a Promotion”

Let’s work an actual example – one that worked quite well for me, back in the day, and for many of my coaching clients, since:

  • 1 – Choose ONE Grand Plan
    1. Get an “In-Place” Promotion – Receive an increase in title, pay, and responsibility as recognition for the work you’ve already been doing
  • 3 – Select THREE Supportive Strategies
    1. Articulate Your Readiness to be Promoted – Help your boss realize/confirm that, yes, it IS time and, yes, you ARE ready
    2. Justify Your Promotion in Business Terms – You can’t just walk in and scream, BIWI (pronounced “bee-wee,” as in, Because I Want It”).
    3. Identify and Engage Well-Positioned Advocates – Ultimately, you’re going to need one or more opinion-leaders outside of your vertical to stand up and say your name.
  • 5 – Identify FIVE Specific Methods – for each Supportive Strategy, per the chart below:
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

How Difficult is This, Really?

So let’s level-set. How much work does this approach take? For me, my rough draft took about 10 minutes to build. And then I revisited it a few times over the course of a few days to fine-tune it.

But the bigger point is this: Consider the power of having 15 Specific Methods in support of 3 Supportive Strategies in service of  your Grand Plan – especially, as compared to just showing up in your boss’s office, one day, with not much more than a BIWI.

Does doing this guarantee success? Obviously, no. And might your Grand Plan, Supportive Strategies, and Specific Methods differ from the one’s I’ve used? Quite possibly.

(While I used a career acceleration example to illustrate the approach, this same process can just as easily be used to create a wide variety of Grand Plans and their cascading Supportive Strategies and Specific Methods.)

So remember: To improve your odds, work with the odds – 1, 3, and 5, GO!

What Next?

If this post helped you learn something about yourself, then great! Be sure to share your insight with others as a way of 'locking in' your learning. While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about the other self-study resources available from LeadershipTraction including:Thanks.

- bz

P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

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Hello, My Name Is…


How comfortable are you at introducing yourself to those outside your immediate sphere of influence? Many, if not most, are not. If that’s you, Money magazine offers five excellent ways to take the complexity – and awkwardness – out of it. “The key?” asks author Caroline Ceniza-Levine of 5 No-Fail Ways to Introduce Yourself at a Networking Event, “To be brief, but also leave enough information that you pique the listener’s interest.”

Here’s how:

  1. Bond Over a Shared Experience
    “If you’re at a wedding, open with how you know the couple. If you’re at a conference, open with your affiliation to the organizer or your interest in the topic. If it’s a company mixer, mention your role, department or years at the company. From this shared experience, you can share parts of your background that build from there. But you have already built rapport by starting with what you have in common. This is great for a career changer who may not want to associate himself with the role or company he currently has.”
  2. Tell a Client Story
    “Instead of just listing your title and company, talk about who you serve: ‘I’m an accountant with We Love Taxes. I prepare taxes for retail companies, mom and pop businesses, circus performers….’ The more specific the better. You can also drill down to one specific story: ‘I am currently working with a retail store owner who came to us with a laundry bag full of receipts, invoices and other papers, and I created an electronic system that can now be accessed on her phone.’ The client story is particularly useful if you’re a business owner and want to leave your listener with a clear idea of your value but without a sales pitch.”
  3. Give a Before and After
    “That anecdote of going from a laundry bag full of papers to a streamlined system is not just a client story, but also a before/after story. The before/after can be a client’s result but it can also be what you have brought to your role or department: ‘I manage logistics for We Love Mail. The company used to spend over $1 million on shipping costs, and my group figured out how to cut that cost in half.’ A before/after structure is accessible because it’s visual, and the conversational structure prevents too much business jargon from creeping in. Creating a before/after pitch also forces you to identify and specify the value you bring.”
  4. Focus on your Expertise
    “This is the most traditional pitch in that you summarize the arc of your career—industry specialty, years’ experience, and/or role: ‘I’ve been in marketing most of my career—consumer products, luxury, and now retail—specializing in social media…’ This is a dependable way of introducing yourself, and if you keep it concise, you’ll share a rich amount of information. One drawback is that many people use this pitch, so you risk getting forgotten, especially at a crowded event like a conference where introductions stack up. To be more memorable, that same marketer could have made the pitch more specific… ‘I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. I build a community for book lovers to discover our store online.’ Or the marketer could have tried to incorporate the before/after as well: ‘I am the social media strategist for We Love Books. We had a pretty dormant Facebook page three years ago when I started so I put us on YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook and now we a third of our customers hear about us first online.'”
  5. Get Personal
    “Most pitches rightly include professional history or accomplishments because people expect this. But an introduction is really about the start of a relationship. The professional sharing could come after. You might try sharing something personal first—where you grew up, a cherished hobby, a side project you’re currently working on. If the personal nuggets engenders a genuine rapport and a chance to talk again later then it’s a good pitch to use. You might combine it with the shared experience: ‘I’m a friend of the bride. We went to school together—elementary actually. I grew up in St. Louis and didn’t come to NYC till well after college…'”

So go, experiment. Mix and match. Watch and listen how what you say engages others – does their affect remain pretty flat or do they perk up and engage back? Based on that, vary your ‘what’ and ‘how’ the next time. And the time after that, etc.

Remember, an introduction is really about the start of a relationship – not about trying to complete an entire entire relationship in 30-some-odd-seconds.

What Next?

If this post helped you learn something about yourself, then great! Be sure to share your insight with others as a way of 'locking in' your learning. While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about the other self-study resources available from LeadershipTraction including:Thanks.

- bz

P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

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