David Harding

It’s OK to quit. Think about how much time we waste with stuff that isn’t working.

Quitting doesn’t necessarily mean failure. It’s OK to change your mind, to quit a job where you are miserable or to let go of a partnership or a goal that is no longer moving forward.

Seth Godin, said it in his best-selling book “The Dip”:  “Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations.”

Strategic quitting — or proactive, thought-out change — is not about stopping because something was harder than you anticipated. Life is hard. Strategic quitting is about identifying the wrong turns. It’s about not wasting your time when nothing is going to get better.

This applies not just to business, but to everything in life. Quit the eating patterns that don’t make you feel healthy. Quit the drinking habit that leads to fuzzy thinking. It’s OK to change something when it isn’t working.

When deals fall through

It’s the same thing with the occasional business deal that just doesn’t happen. It looked glorious from afar, full of promise. But then, something changed and you face the stark reality that the big new client/new piece acquisition/leveraged buyout isn’t going to happen after all.

It happens to us all. My advice? Communicate. Never be afraid to give people the bad news. Let your team know what happened and be transparent. Tell them your vision, the next steps to get there, and move on. It will make you happier when you “quit” and move on to something that makes you more excited.

So many people are not in love with what they do. What they do for a living — and what they do outside of work.

Plenty of great business-savvy men and women just don’t get this connection. They are far too focused on the brass ring (money, stature, success) and not on their passion, the emotional ground wire that lights up inside them.

To get passion, you need to want it

Few leaders “get” this. And that’s unfortunate, because without passion — a mission that you love — you burn out. It’s true in business and it’s true in relationships.

You have to want the concept of passion to get it. You’ve got to love what you do, to feel the kind of success that lights you up, where you don’t “hate” to go to work each morning, and can’t wait to get there because you’re excited to attack the day.

When you work with someone that lights up, you know it. You feel that positive energy radiating out, and it is absolutely contagious.

When I talk to people about whether they are passionate or not, most often I get a blank stare. They have never been asked about it. In fact, many people don’t know what I mean. I like to ask them what would get them excited to go to work each morning. What would they be thinking about when their mind raced and they couldn’t get to sleep? If money didn’t matter, what would they be doing?

Finding your passion is very difficult. But when you do, it’s amazing how you feel and what you can accomplish because you’re excited. If you do what you’re passionate about, good things will follow.

Robert Pagliarini is president of Richer Life Media. Here are some questions he thinks may help you find your passion:

What would you do that would give you a sense of pride? What would an ideal day look like for you? What have been the most significant experiences in your life (traveling, studying, awards that you’ve received)? When are you at your best? What does it look like? Suppose you had 24 hours to live. What would you regret not having done?

So what’s your passion? Do some digging. Figure it out. Put it into daily practice at work and at home.

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 dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

It seems like our attention spans are getting shorter. We are bombarded with so much information today that it’s hard to concentrate.

Brian Tracy, whose books I think are great, such as “The Power of Self Discipline,” said, “To start anything new, you must stop doing something old. Getting in means getting out.”

Need to get more done in less time?

Analyze your time and have the courage to stop doing things that are no longer as important for you:

What do you do every day habitually, that you don’t need to do anymore?

Can you delegate it?

Which activities could you discontinue to free up more time for higher value work?

Compare your daily activities against your annual income. Would you pay someone else your equivalent salary to do the same thing? If not, stop doing those activities and pass them onto others.

You can only gain control of your life to the degree to which you stop doing things that are no longer as valuable or as important to you as other things you could be doing.

Working over capacity

Today’s average person works at 110 percent of capacity, and that’s with multitasking. So how do you fit more in? Change your priorities. The things that were important may no longer be as important as you age, your family evolves and your work changes.

To stay at peak efficiency you have to continually ask yourself, “What can I cut back on, delegate or discontinue to free up more time?” Make this thinking your top priority each quarter.

Think about a mini-project, something that you can do in an hour or less that will either move you forward or help you catch up.

I keep a list of these handy, jotting down new ideas as they occur to me while working on larger projects.

Schedule work on a mini-project at least once a week. I usually jump on a mini-project that appeals to me to fill time that’s suddenly free — for instance when an appointment is canceled at the last moment.

The idea is to keep your list short. When the list gets up to about six projects, start scheduling time to complete a few. You’ll like crossing them off your list, and if you’re at all like me, you’ll relish the time spent on something invigorating, spontaneous and off-the-beaten path.

Drive your day — don’t let it drive you

Don’t you hate it when you have a full schedule planned, and by mid-afternoon you’re basically in the same place you were first thing in the morning? Stuff comes up that needs attention. And it’s never-ending.

Instead of letting your day drive you, drive your day. Don’t rob yourself of control over your most important asset: time.

Divide your days into three sections. Make your contacts (phone calls, e-mails, meetings) in the morning when you are fresh and you are most likely to catch people in. Do your large scale, important work in the afternoon (thinking and problem-solving) when you are likely to have more information at hand and the office is quieter.

Lastly, plan in the evening so you’ll be ready to roll the next morning. This will clear your head and help you sleep better. But, for those times you lie in bed thinking about what you have to do the next day, keep a pad of paper on the nightstand. There are even devices called “Nite Note” which hold 3-by-5-inch cards. When you take the pen out of the device it lights up. Your head is a bucket for holding information. The more information you get out of your head, the more free it is to think creatively.

These are routines that work. See how they change your productivity.

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 dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

It has been said that during challenging times, true leaders emerge. Since challenging times are absolutely upon us, it’s time to check in and see how you are doing. Here are some areas on which to focus.

Step up to the plate.

When difficult decisions come across your desk such as layoffs and salary cuts, it’s time to take the lead. Recognize the rewards you received during better times, and let your team hear that although you may ask everyone to make a sacrifice for the company’s well-being, you will do so first.

Then, let your team know what you are personally doing (no bonus, taking a pay cut, etc.). Be the general that your troops will love to fight for.

The big picture.

A good leader will not get caught up in company problems. True leaders have a vision that helps keep the rest of the team focused. Help lead the charge toward that vision — which will slowly affect positive growth and change.

Reward creative ideas and those that find interesting ways to impact the bottom line most effectively.

Where’s your sense of humor?

Keep it alive and spread positive morale around the company. Find ways of rewarding your team that won’t break the budget ? perhaps leaving early on Friday afternoons, bringing in breakfast on Mondays, having a little fun with contests or unusual awards.

Environmental status.

Keep your business a pleasant place in which to work. You don’t want to lose your best employees due to worry or strain. And you do want to lead by example. Buckle down… with a smile.

Find ways to re-focus the energies, and minimize the internal strife.

Remain calm.

Panic leads to chaos. Anger and irritability often make the best people uncomfortable and inspire panic in others. Panic can lead to gossip about firings, people leaving in droves and other chaos.

Performance based on fear will not foster the peak functioning needed to pull ahead. Remaining calm brings strength to the best decisions as well as your team.

Small wins.

Great leaders know that there is a fine line between your staff wondering if they can win and giving up. The extraordinary leader takes large goals and breaks them into small incremental targets that their team finds achievable.

They reward these goals and in the process, build the esteem of the staff as they regroup to hit the next target.

Communicate more than you think you should.

Employees get nervous about job security and this means lost productivity. Keep the channels of communication wide open, informing employees about what is happening and how the company is responding.

When rumors emerge, respond promptly and factually while maintaining confidential.

Be visible.

Your team needs to see more of you. Make regular “rounds” of your office, satellite branches and offices nearby. Talk to middle management, new employees, interns, folks in the mail room, IT department and those in your call centers. Put this on your calendar and make it a priority. Remember names, ask about family and commend your staff for what they are doing to help the company move through this difficult time.

There’s a saying that when the flight is going well, the pilot lets people enjoy the movie. But when there’s turbulence, travelers want to hear the calm voice of their pilot telling them how long the turbulence may last.

Focus on gaining market share.

Although the economy may realistically not allow for sales growth, you can outsmart your competition and market share will come your way. As you tighten your belt, engage your people in looking at ways to serve the customer during the downturns. Encourage your team to find ways to increase value, or the perception of value, with every customer and in any way they can.

How you lead during tough times says a great deal about you and your company’s culture.

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 dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

A true leader realizes he has flaws. Before he can be a leader he has to fix them.

The problem is never the other person; it’s you.

Many people I have mentored love to play the “victim.” “If only this hadn’t happened to me.” Or, “If this person hadn’t done this to me, everything would be better.”

One way to work on yourself is to hire a personal coach. Several years ago, I hired a personal coach, and it changed my life significantly.

My personal coach helped me “step out of my life” and think about things from a different angle. He helped me improve both my personal and professional relationships.

I met with him once a week until I felt as if I could utilize the structure and support he provided on my own.

In a sense, it was very much like seeing a therapist. My personal coach encouraged me to read books I would have never thought about reading, opening up entirely new perspectives on life. We would discuss how the themes in the books applied to me. He made me think about how I led.

I learned that you control how you think, act, and feel. When you’re in rush hour traffic and running late, who is to blame? Not the traffic ? you chose to leave during rush hour.

Define ‘being in charge’

“Control” doesn’t mean you should be controlling.

To gain total control of your leadership abilities, you don’t need a single best-selling author to tell you how. You already have total control over the process; you just need to let go of the control.

Somehow that doesn’t sound like the big idea for us perfectionists and Type A achievers, does it? Letting go sounds a little weak and threatening. That’s because what we’re really talking about here is vulnerability.

Interestingly, when you let yourself be truly seen, revealing your heart and soul ? and insecurities, lack of knowledge, prowess, certainty, whatever — what you truly gain is the power to be comfortable. And being comfortable to be yourself radiates security. It’s true. Vulnerability is amazing. People pick up on it like magnets.

What’s more, when you feel comfortable in your own skin, you do a much better job at work, at home, and in your personal life. Let go of control and let yourself be truly seen. Transparency is wonderful.

Practice being fallible

To one likes being wrong. When we were younger, we all considered leaders such as our president, parents, teachers or ministers to be infallible. But being an authority or a leader isn’t a person who is always right. In fact, being always right is impossible. There is no such animal.

A true leader — the real authority ? is a person (or institution) who has a process for lowering the likelihood that they are wrong to acceptably low levels.

Taking this to a level of reality and openness in your workplace, how do you accomplish this? Can those around you let you know when you are going down the wrong path? Do you think this is the case, or do you have the systems in place to make sure this is true?

If you haven’t been called on a decision you’ve made or something you’ve said in more than a month, chances are good that you haven’t made it clear to your colleagues you will be occasionally, absolutely wrong. Those you lead need to know you are counting on them to let you know when they disagree, and that you will be ready to hear their opinions.

Being wrong can be right

Be open to being wrong. This is vitally important to manage effectively. Those you work with will value your leadership and authority even more when they know this is the case.

Force yourself into uncomfortable situations. The only way you will ever expand your horizons is to expand your comfort zone.

If a situation is uncomfortable for you, acknowledge it. Say, “I’m really nervous about bringing up this issue. I’ve been worrying about it for days.” You’ll be surprised how the other person reacts.

As author Seth Godin said, “You can’t have success unless you’re prepared to have failure.”

A wise friend once told me to do what you fear. It will be your best ally.

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 dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

I admit it. I’m an expert on fear.

I became an expert when I found myself paralyzed with fear when my first child was born. I couldn’t believe that I was responsible for this tiny being and literally anything and everything could happen to him. I didn’t feel qualified to protect him or run my business. I was too busy worrying.

As you might expect, I was not much fun to be around. I didn’t enjoy being in groups, attending parties and would get depressed and tearful while alone in my office. I had a strong fear of failure that went way beyond parenting and into running my business – and everything else I was a part of. The odd thing was business was good, my son’s health was good, and life was in pretty good shape.

Things were going well, so what was the problem? Was it the increased pressure from my first child being born? Was I worried about proving something to my own dad? After quite a bit of self-observation, I settled on the latter as being the case with me. Then I took a step back from the situation and changed my perceptions.

I learned that fear really means False Expectations that Appear Real. Most often what you fear doesn’t actually happen. A thought enters your head and it spirals into something unrealistic that takes on a life of its own.

What do you fear? Step outside yourself for a moment and give your fear a reality check. If the fear involves money, write down the numbers.  If the fear involves telling someone bad news, tell them you are uncomfortable. If your fear involves something you can’t control (like going back in time and proving something to my father), write down your fears from greatest to least.

It helps to face your fears in black and white — and certainly takes away the power.

Mark Twain may have expressed fear best: “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

Here’s the thing. Fear of failure is not uncommon. Many successful people have this feeling. Fear is a great motivator.

I recently read a book where the author claimed Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, had a powerful fear of failure. Even after decades in business and having been named as one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, just prior to his death, Walton still allegedly feared he would lose his company. After reading that book, I remembered reading an article not long ago about one of the wealthiest men in Indiana who admitted he had a strong fear of failure.

Did you also know there is “fear of success?” Absolutely, and it’s more widespread than one would think. When someone sabotages their own career because they don’t believe they deserve success (either intentionally or not), they fall into that category. Psychologists might say if one is used to being at a certain level, they will limit themselves.

I once had a sales rep who was doing very well. After a particularly good year, her mother told her she had a “silver spoon” in her mouth. Guess what? The next year her salary (based on commission) dropped back to the level she was accustomed to.

Be on the lookout for fear of success. It may be limiting your staff. Maybe even you.

And what about fear in an organization? If you have fear in your organization, it’s a good measure of how much you communicate. When times are tough, you should increase communication to lessen fear. This is just as true when the economy is tough, you lose your best customer, or when a valuable employee leaves the firm.

Increase communication by walking around and talking with your staff, but also boost the number of communication tools like newsletters, social media and even meetings. Your team will appreciate your transparency and feel like you care.

Who knows? You might even ease an employee’s fear.

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 dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com

Managers waste a lot of money hiring the wrong people.

For a hiring, estimates range from 1.5 to three times the salary for the full costs including things such as benefits, taxes, equipment, training, office space, etc. But, it is even more expensive to hire the wrong person. The position becomes open; you place ads, search, hire and train. The person starts and you realize he or she isn’t a fit, let him or her go and start the process again.

That can easily waste a year, yet it happens all the time.

Taking your time is crucial

The most important thing you can do when hiring a new employee is to take your time. Finding qualified people who are a near perfect “10” match for your company does indeed take a lot of time. Anything less than a “10” will drag down your business. More times than not, when a position becomes open, managers very often hire quickly. Why is that?

Some managers really dread the interviewing process. It’s expensive, it’s a hassle, it’s an add-on to your busy day, and it’s tempting to move someone into place quickly to get the job done. No matter what the excuse, nothing is more important than hiring the right people. There are many ways to make sure you hire “right.”

Pre-employment profiling is one very valuable tool. When you Google “pre-employment profiles,” there are more than 7 million results. Pre-employment profiles tell you potential employee tendencies (something you are not likely to find out in a regular one-on-one interview). Profiles can detect characteristics such as sociability, fit, how likely the candidate is to stick it out in a demanding work situation, leadership traits and the like. Really good stuff to know.

You can also have top candidates take more than one profile. Your management team should also take a profile “to match up” with potential hires. In fact, many profile companies will profile your managers free of charge in hopes of getting more business.

When we’ve gone against a profile because we suspected it was wrong, we regretted it later. Profiling is a great way to get hiring done right. It’s much more accurate than your gut.

Check background and credit

Background checks are another way to determine whether or not to hire someone. If a person is having trouble with their life outside of work, it’s likely that will cause issues at work. Background checks are on a par with drug testing.

Here’s another idea: Why not do a credit check? Anytime I’ve mentioned this, people have questioned whether it’s right or not. If they have trouble managing their personal finances, they likely will have issues at work. But there may also be extenuating circumstances ? such as a divorce or illness in the family. Use credit checks to help get the “complete picture” of a person — and give them a chance to explain anything about the report they wish. Sometimes you can learn a lot by how a person explains or rationalizes.

There are also many online companies that will provide specific tests that can help you determine a person’s knowledge. For example, you could have a potential accounting person take a bookkeeping exam. The testing company will grade the exam and provide feedback. Or, you could create your own test detailed to the job requirements.

Break bread and talk

Take the candidate to lunch. You’ll learn more about them, and it helps to get away from the workplace atmosphere. They will open up and you will, too. Have them drive. Is their car a mess? This might show you how they will keep their workspace and whether or not they are detailed-oriented.

Let their future co-workers meet with them, too. The co-workers may see something you don’t, and it gives the candidate a chance to hear about your company culture.

When you hire the right people you have so much more time to work on the business instead of in the business.

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 dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

It amazes me that corporate America still hasn’t learned not to manage people. That’s just one practice blocking the path to effective leadership.

Why are so many managers afraid to hire people who are smarter than they are? I suppose it’s human nature to be afraid of the comparison, and fearful of being seen as less astute, less creative, less experienced and less … managerial.

In reality, shouldn’t your job be to hire people smarter than you are? Isn’t it easier to supervise people who don’t need a lot of managing?

Think of it this way: If the owner of the company hires managers less smart than he or she is, and each of those managers does the same, pretty soon you have a pretty “dumb” company. I call it “dumbing down” the organization.

Does your organization have a culture of “defer-up” when decisions are to be made? If you are making way too many decisions in your organization, even having the last word on smaller decisions that mid-level managers and employees themselves could be making, something’s wrong with the culture in your workplace.

A “defer-up” culture absolves people of making decisions ? and keeps them from getting results. The people that will be dealing with the issue should absolutely have the most say in solving the matter.

Build your dream team

A more evolved idea is to hire the smartest people you can find. In fact, build your dream team ? with the folks that have the strengths you may lack, and have each manager do that down the line.

So if you or anyone in management gets hit by a bus, the organization will be just fine.

Verne Harnish, an author I enjoy, said it best. “A business is simply people doing activities. You lead people and manage their activities. You don’t manage people.”

Most bosses don’t really get this simple rationale behind effective leadership.

As I said earlier, it astounds me that corporate America still hasn’t learned not to manage people. One manages his or her environment, manages equipment maintenance, or manages a budget, but one cannot effectively or realistically manage people.

Why don’t bosses get it?

Maybe it’s because we label so many positions as “managers.” These “managers” frequently resort to bossing, pushing or the worst offense, managing by intimidation.

People don’t like to be managed. Just as teenagers bristled under parental management, as adults, they hate it more.

Instead of thinking of managing people, consider improving equipment, processes, work environment, benefits, human resource programs, etc. Then hire great people. The rest will take care of itself.

Herb Kelleher, the famous CEO of Southwest Airlines once said, “I’d rather have a company bound by love than by fear.” He’s absolutely right.

And then mentor …

There’s nothing like being a mentor or a coach to your employees. I think it’s the icing on the leadership cake.

When you help an employee achieve a goal or coach them to be better, you are giving far more than your time or experience. You are paying your time and experience forward and establishing trust and personal connection. I have found employees appreciate this above almost everything and anything else you can do as a manager.

For example, an employee came to me a couple of years ago, embarrassed that she had never had a checking account. She was a single mother with three kids. Impressed with her frankness and desire to learn, I took her to the nearest bank where she opened a checking account. While we were there, we also talked about establishing credit, and she decided to take the additional step of applying for a credit card.

I’m excited to say in the last few years she bought her first car and then her first home. I can’t tell you how rewarding this process was to watch unfold and knowing you played a small part in it.

Mentoring can most certainly extend to helping someone achieve their career goals, even if that means they end up leaving your organization.

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 dharding@hardingpoorman.com. For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com.

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