“Save your breath.”
My mother used to say this to me when I was desperately trying to explain my way out of a situation. In her view, the more I tried to explain, the more worked up I got, the less she was interested in my argument because she knew it was flimsy.
I believe the same philosophy holds true in business — and in relationships too, for that matter.
Maurice Saatchi, cofounder of the famed New York ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi used to say, “If you can’t reduce your argument to a few crisp words and phrases, there’s something wrong with your argument.”
My mother would have agreed with him.
Save time by honing your thoughts and streamlining your written words in all situations. Not only is this a worthy trait — but you will be heard. You’ll save time too.
The power of “no”
Should you learn to say “No?”
“No” is so very easy to say. With that simple syllable, you can safely obstruct change, thwart action, seize power, and slow things down.
No isn’t rebellion. It’s a status quo power grab, and it comes from fear.
“Yes” is the real rebellion. It’s harder to say because it involves innovation, responsibility, creativity, achievement and thought. Yes is ingenuous, strident, candid, open.
Say yes as much as you can.
But the word “why” is always valid.
Asking why is always appropriate. And it isn’t asked enough.
Why gets to the heart of any decision you or your organization makes. It’s too easy to assume the answer. And too simple to believe that “because we’ve always done it that way” is the right reason this time around. It isn’t, because the game changes every day.
Ask why this is the way we operate. Ask why we need to meet. Why did you decide no? Why is this our goal, our forecast, our policy, our plan?
Always ask why and wait for the real, not the flip or the most convenient answer. Do it because the real answer matters.
Have the goal of fewer meetings
That means dealing with the fact that the modern office is an interruption factory.
In the age of centralized files and costly office equipment, it made sense for people to work and collaborate in centralized workplaces. Today, that logic no longer applies. We actually need fewer meetings and interruptions to get more work done. That means, more work done remotely.
According to The New York Times, for example, an average office demands 5.6 hours per week in meetings — of which 71 percent of us report as being unproductive. Why do this to ourselves?
The truth is, the most fundamental reason we have not shifted away from the office is because we are stuck on the appearance of an office culture.
Who do you spend your time with? Take a closer look at those who surround you, personally and professionally. Choose your peers, mentors, friends, and advocates carefully — especially in the workplace.
It really is all about your energy. Once energy is added to any situation, it has to continue. You learned this natural law in high school physics class. But this law is just as true in our dealings with others.
When you get cut off in traffic and get angry, negative energy increases. When you provide encouraging words to someone, positive energy expands.
Communicate negative energy and very likely, you will receive even more negativity back. Only rarely will negative energy be calmly acknowledged and the situation neutralized. (When this happens, aren’t you impressed — and feel calmer yourself?)
Being aware of the energy you express. Add to the positive. Work to diffuse the negative without escalating.
Your energy can dramatically shift the outcome of your communications.
David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com
You will never get it all done!
My first job out of grad school was managing one product line, no people and a “to do” list that was a mile long.
I remember breaking down to my dad one night, who at that time was a bank executive who managed multiple divisions, hundreds of people and a lot more responsibility than I could ever comprehend. I was beyond frustrated working 70+ hour work weeks yet I couldn’t manage to get everything done, and my to-do list kept growing!
That’s when Dad gave me some of the best advice that I have ever received. He said, “David, they don’t pay you to get it all done. They pay you to get the most important things done.” Wow! That simple phrase changed my life.
Let me clarify by saying that some jobs, entry level specifically, do warrant the employee to get everything done; all phones need to be answered, hamburgers cooked, etc. prior to leaving for the day.
But as we begin to move up the ranks of responsibility we don’t want to take this mentality with us. When we are managing people, places or things, the options of what we spend our time on grows exponentially. We can conduct training, print a new catalogue, go to a meeting ... the list goes on and on.
Learn to focus
So many options and requests on our time and soon, we find that we can never get it all done. This is why it is imperative that as we grow in our positions, we learn to focus on the right things.
The power of prioritization is undeniable in terms of your future success and in order to be exponentially successful, you must learn how to differentiate time management from prioritization.
Peter Drucker says it best: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Don’t waste your energy just crossing things off your “to do” list. Instead, spend some time prioritizing. Then pour your energy into the projects and tasks that you have deemed to be the most important things to complete today.
In the early days of Defender, I was a young entrepreneur obsessed with thoughts about how I could grow our business. As Defender grew, our team members were presented with new opportunities everywhere we turned.
While sometimes it was hard to turn away from an opportunity to sell what was presented as the “next big thing,” early on I took a step back to really evaluate our business. Every time we said yes to a new idea or product, it meant more training, more options, more complexity.
Stay in focus
Success does create more and new opportunities, but that means we must stay focused say no more often! Otherwise, our team and focus will fragment and slow us down.
I hear so many stressed out business leaders say, “But it’s all important!” However, by definition, if everything is important, then nothing is important.
If you want to be the leader of a high performance, fast-growth business, then your No. 1 job is to figure out what is most important and to "keep the main thing as the main thing."
Still, today I divide my to-do list into A,B,C and D priorities and every morning I write my top three A priorities on a Post-It note, which I carry with me throughout the day as a reminder to keep me focused.
If each day I can get my top three most important things done amongst the chaos of life, I figure I'll have a pretty successful life.
Remember, there will always be more things to do than there is time to do them. You’ll never get it all done and your “to do” list will never be empty. Let this philosophy release you from the stress of trying to get it all done and put that new energy into getting the right things done today.
When we start off working as youngsters, most of us don’t have the common sense to move beyond our juvenile selves to assume more mature character traits appropriate for the workplace.
We also typically land in jobs where our potentially outrageous behavior can cause the least amount of damage — in my case, this included mating freshly-grilled burgers with appropriate-sized buns for the steamer storage bin at Burger King.
Later, our mismatched personalities of “future business mogul” and “party animal” duel it out in college during classes, internships and more responsible employment.
Then we madly scramble to figure out who we really are before we interview in the full-time professional world — where, of course, our potential employers think we’re only going to stay for two years anyway.
However, when each of us eventually enters the professional workforce, our youth and inexperience still typically dictate the creation of a brand new professional personality where one may not have existed before.
The result: a work-week personality vs. a weekend personality.
After all, it’s normally not advisable to do shots out of someone’s belly button in the Board Room.
As the years pass and our resumes expand, these dueling personalities pretty much have to unite as one — a multi-faceted persona, we can hope, but one nonetheless.
Even so, we were all young once. Beginning with everyone’s first foray into the workforce, an ongoing battle commences of “character” versus “characters” — who we are as compared to who we sometimes pretend to be.
Perception versus reality
These days, society doesn’t always help.
First, the wireless world has all but stripped today’s youth of the ability to communicate in person.
Then, with the increasing popularity of Reality TV, our “character” is often influenced by “characters” whose “reality” bears no resemblance to whom we are or who we should be.
For example, not immune to the allure of a Real Housewife, I still understand that I am sometimes being entertained by bad behavior while an impressionable youngster actually may tragically aspire to become “16 and Pregnant.”
And though “Saturday Night Live” alum Darrell Hammond has laid claim to the longest tenure of any SNL performer (1995-2009), this does not mean his personal character compares to the various “characters” he has portrayed: President Bill Clinton, Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney, Regis Philbin and an Alex Trebek-loathing Sean Connery.
My recent chat with “businessman” Hammond revealed a man who sermonizes the value of hard work, determination and goal setting. He’s not really a president — he played one on TV.
At least pop-culture icon Judge Judy Sheindlin presents a reality-based version of the legal system — one that rewards polished communication skills, honesty, respect and even posture. Like her or not, Judge Judy’s least-successful guests suffer very public consequences stemming from a lack of preparation and yes, character.
Facing the job ahead
Of course, we can still complain about the seemingly selfish behavior of our younger generation, but before we throw Gen-Y under the bus. Who was driving the bus in the first place?
Weren’t today’s successful CEOs, VPs, senior managers and entrepreneurs also the parents who raised Gen-Y?
The bottom line: experienced business professionals must accept a more significant role in mentoring our young charges as they are essentially playing an adult version of Follow the Leader.
There is simply no greater example of character in business than a willingness to mentor and lead by example.
Though, to an actor such as Hammond, "honest" refers to a truthful portrayal of a character, using "honest" as a character trait resonates equally well in the business world.
After all, no one wants to deal with a business professional who is acting the part.
Real character matters.
Speaker, writer and “professional storyteller” Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Fla. He can be reached at Randy@mindzoo.com or (571) 238-4572.
It is always difficult to find the right employees, not only people with technical skills but with other traits that will ensure long-term success for your organization.
Finding the right culture “fit” in terms of character and personality traits begins with the creation of the job requirements, preliminary candidate screening and the interview process. Preparation is critical before the interview to develop a series of questions designed to reveal the key traits desired of an employee.
At Clark-Reliance, our first hiring objective is to find candidates with superior technical qualifications and skills necessary to perform the tasks of a particular position. However, a candidate must also have the personal qualifications and skills to thrive in our corporate culture.
Identifying the major character traits that allow employees to fit comfortably into your organization and excel in their work allows you to create the appropriate interview questions. At Clark-Reliance, we have identified four major character traits necessary for an employee to have so that he or she will fit into our culture.
Self-awareness and personal accountability
Our goal is to find employees who have the ability to analyze and critique themselves. We want people to take accountability for their actions and success.
We want to find employees who are constantly seeking to sharpen their skills, which means either developing skills further or seeking skills they do not currently possess.
Simply stated, we want employees who have passion for their job and for our company.
We want employees who are willing to speak their mind as well as listen to other’s thoughts and ideas. A collaborative environment makes all employees invested in the development of the company.
In order to identify these traits in potential employees you should use behavioral type questions like the ones below:
- What are three accomplishments or significant successes that you identify with and take great pride?
- What would your present or former boss say about you? What would he or she have liked to see you do differently?
- Can you tell me about a mistake you made, either work or personal, that taught you a significant lesson?
- Where have you sought to improve yourself over the last three months?
- How would a co-worker describe you?
- What personal needs do you think this position will satisfy?
- What has been your toughest job? How did you handle this job?
- Has a job ever conflicted with your thoughts of what is right or wrong? If so, how did you handle it?
- What work situations irritate you or make you angry?
- If you were involved in a heated discussion with a fellow co-worker, would you be more comfortable in the role of the peacemaker or decision-maker? Why?
- Have you taken the initiative to handle something that is technically out of your area of responsibility? Why did you choose to handle the situation that way?
- How do you deal with your boss when he or she overrides a major decision that you have made?
Matthew P. Figgie is chairman of Clark-Reliance, a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries, serving the power generation petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries. He is also chairman of Figgie Capital and the Figgie Foundation, a member of the University Hospitals Board of Directors, corporate cochairman for the 2013 Five Star Sensation and chairman of the National Kidney Walk.
Rick Solon is president and CEO of Clark-Reliance and has more than 35 years of experience in manufacturing and operating companies. He is also the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation Golf Outing.
If you’re among the companies that start your fiscal year on July 1, it may be time to do some thinking and planning. But no matter when you start your business year, here are some points to consider.
The beginning of another business year is at hand. No matter what your business faced or how your organization pulled through, now’s a great time to provide your team with a well-deserved “pat on the back” and a thoughtful review.
First, give thanks: Consider a half-day retreat. Begin with a celebration or recognition lunch. Find something positive you can recognize in each staff member, i.e., “Rookie of the Year,” “Best Use of Humor in a Low Moment,” “Most Inspirational,” etc. Make a big deal of each success.
Second, measure: Take stock. List your division’s accomplishments. How close did you come in each category compared to your goal? Where was growth centered? How did this last year stack up to year’s past?
Third, staffing: Which sectors are growing? Where do you need to build?
Lastly, what did you learn: Where is your business headed? What will you keep as is? What needs to be changed or discarded altogether?
There’s no better time of year to reflect, regroup and analyze. If you take the time to do this now, it can prevent you from launching automatically into a repeat of the past year.
What are your strategies? What tactics will accomplish them? How will you delegate and hold people accountable? How will you track progress, share the vision and the results? How will you involve the entire staff?
Measurements are critical
The worst kind of clock is one that is wrong. Fast or slow doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is wrong. Why? Because it’s human nature to be tempted to accept what it tells us.
The same holds true to any measurement standard. Keeping track of the wrong data — or interpreting it wrong — is worse than not keeping track at all.
Are you sure you are measuring the right information for your business, your products, your team?
Exceed expectations by giving less; it doesn’t sound possible, exceeding expectations by giving less.
People (customers and employees) don’t care how much you offer them. What they want is to get more than they expected.
In our rush to get noticed, chosen, grow bigger or achieve more, we often promise the moon — and raise expectations above what is possible.
How about promising less and bragging less? Instead, deliver on the promise to delight.
Demand the best
Too often, we are presented with choices that don’t please us. And too often, we pick one.
Why settle? Because it’s easier. Or we run out of time. Or the best is too expensive. Name your excuse. It’s simply easier to choose the least objectionable alternative than to hold out for the best or go out and find it.
Like Steven Jobs — we should demand the best of our people, processes, vendors and standards.
What are you settling for?
By demanding the best, you are setting an example for your staff. Too often we set a “lower bar,” and if each time you set that bar lower, mediocrity starts to set in. ?
David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has voted the company as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana. Harding can be reached at email@example.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.