Posts Tagged ‘engagement’

Flexible Focus #73: The Power of Ritual!

by William Reed on October 13, 2011

Ritual Enhances Engagment

There is an energy crisis that rarely makes the front page, yet affects you each and every day. That is the internal energy crisis that comes from lack of full engagement in what you do.

Energy is a combination of spirit and vigor, which determines how much you enjoy your work, contributes to your staying power, and improves your performance. The crisis occurs when you do not have enough energy to meet and surpass expectations.

If your energy is not up to the task, then you are likely to perform poorly or put it off until later, neither way a productive strategy. Continuing to work like this will lead to burnout, or put you in the cue for the exit door.

If you feel out of synch like this, it is easy to blame the boss, complain about your colleagues, or decide that you deserve better. And perhaps you do. The problem is that entitlement has never been a ticket to empowerment.

The superior strategy is to navigate with full engagement, because its energy empowers you to enjoy and accomplish more, and actually increases your options on the path.

One of the most useful ways to generate energy is the power of ritual, developing a personal power routine. Institutionalized ritual is nothing new. It has been practiced for centuries as a means of cultivating energy in groups. It has also proved effective in enhancing performance in sports, and many top athletes stick to their rituals religiously.

In the martial arts and calligraphy, the power of ritual is self-evident. Training itself is a ritual, and the cumulative power of practice leads to improvement at all levels.

Part of the power of ritual is in repetition, where intentional effort gradually turns into automatic ability. The power of ritual is the power of habit. We are ruled by our habits, good and bad, as Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) said:

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken.”

There is a Japanese proverb which advises to sit 3 years on a stone (Ishi no ue ni mo san nen). The implication is that it takes 3 years of effort, engagement, or sometimes endurance for something to take effect. Although this seems counter-intuitive in a world brimming with promises of instant results, patience and perseverance were once considered to be the secret to success.

In fact, if you engage in a regular ritual, you can break bad habits and form good ones in a matter of weeks or months, not years. But you need to start, and you need to stay with it. A good place to start is with a morning power ritual, which you design yourself and make a personal priority to practice.

Have fun designing a ritual that works for you. Your rituals must have flexibility, or they will not last. My personal rituals are phrased in such a way that they are easy to practice and allow for variety. For example, to spend some time on my feet every day can be achieved by walking, running, Aikido, or dance. I commit to daily work on my Mandala Diary, Idea Marathon, and create at least one sketch-poem a day.

Food rituals are important too. You cannot deny the effect of food on your physical energy. Choose fresh ingredients, chew your food well, don’t overeat. Take responsibility in what you eat, so you don’t have to suffer for it later in life.

The coolest thing that I have discovered about ritual is that the more you engage with it, the more it transforms from a routine into a journey of discovery. The 30 to 90 minutes that you invest at the start of your day will set the tone for the entire day, help you stay focused and strong, and build momentum that makes you more productive.

Develop Your Talent

If you have an interest in improving your skills in any area, particularly performance, you owe it to yourself to read The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle.

Written by an award-winning sports journalist who turned his own talents toward investigating the process of talent itself, what it is, how it develops, what is universal. The subtitle offers the promise: unlocking the secret of skill in math, art, sport, and just about anything else.

He breaks the code into 3 essential parts: Deep Practice, Ignition (Passion), and Master Coaching, and ties it together with a biological key that could revolutionize the entire field of learning and teaching. In a word: Myelin, the insulating sheath of protein that forms protective layers around the axons of neurons.

The author’s metaphor for a well-formed myelin sheath is extra bandwidth, formed through repetition and particularly deep practice, which increases the speed, accuracy, and frequency of nerve impulses which result in the performance of a particular skill.

He traveled around the world to visit the “talent hotbeds,” places which produced an extraordinary number of world class performers in music or sports, and came back with some surprising findings. Regardless of how different the language, the culture, or the field of play, there were surprising consistencies which the author describes as the Talent Code. Slow, deliberate mindful practice over thousands of hours made all the difference.

This is actually the power of navigating your way steadily over a period of years to achieve outstanding results. Whether your goal is to boost your energy, achieve something you want, or develop your talent, you can only benefit by employing the power of ritual!

My experience with life in any business environment is, that these three words empowerment, essence and engage, are the most powerful. They support and enhance personal and professional growth for both you and the business within which you are employed. The degree to which you are engaged with your work and your environment from an empowered perspective is the degree to which you will experience fulfillment and healthy dynamics within the workplace.

In my initial interviews with clients, regardless of their position, I ask: “What are you afraid people are going to find out or decide about you?” In quick order, even top executives will share aspects of their humanity that they are afraid will be found out. They’ll say something like “I’m afraid people will find out that I’m a fraud, that I’m unworthy of my current position; I don’t know as much as people think I know; I’m barely able to cope with the responsibilities I have; I sometimes doubt my capacity to do my job effectively. The list is endless as each of us has our own unique set of truths about ourselves that we want to keep secret.

The next question I ask “What do you do so people don’t find out that you are a (in this case) a fraud, unworthy of your position and the responsibility that comes with it?”

Bound by Ego

The answers to this question reflect a set of survival strategies, which over time become unconscious mechanisms that in a nutshell we call our personality or our ego. As you can see, our ego is fueled by fear-based precepts that have you believe that you flawed and have to act and be in certain ways in order to avoid being found out. Being found out, for most of us translates into being rejected, humiliated or annihilated. It takes an incredible amount of effort for our ego’s radar system to constantly be on the lookout for potential slips that could incur being found out.

Imagine the amount of attention you put towards this protective process I call your survival mechanism. It’s much like your computer that is set up with a virus detecting software. It has to be on alert 24/7. In the case of us humans, though we are alert for not only what might be coming in, but more importantly what we might be putting out.

In the business environment too many of us are working and being from our egoic self. What else is there, you might ask?

Free of Ego

Imagine if you will, a moment in your life when you are not operating from your fear-based strategies. What’s that like in your body? What’s the quality of the experience you are imagining yourself in? Sometimes it’s challenging for people to remember a time because it’s rare for them to not be stressed, fearful and on alert. However, most people will eventually remember a time or at least begin to sense into what it might be like. When they do they describe the qualities of being in that moment as, light, relaxed, free, creative, playful, fearless, engaged, connecting, open, flexible. This list too is endless as there are so many adjectives to describe this state of being without fear. We know this place; we just don’t visit it often enough.

The next question I ask my client is: “What would shift in your relationship to your work and your work environment if you were to coming from freedom, creative, relaxed, . . . instead of stressed, overwhelmed, intimidated, . .? The answers always astound the person answering. “I’d be more accessible to my direct reports, I’d be more engaged in their projects; I’d be less controlling and would delegate more easily. I’d be more fun to be around and I’d support people in being innovative. I wouldn’t be so stressed; I’d also be more willing to leave the office earlier, spending more time with family, friends and myself.

Wow! So by imagining being in a state that is not fear-based all sorts of possibilities show up that may have seemed otherwise impossible.

Once an individual is aware that they actually can choose to choose differently in how to be who they want to be in their work environment they then can begin to exercise muscles that will help them generate from this newfound freedom, fun and flexibility.

The 4 Questions to Ask

You would think that once experience and revelation has occurred that people would actually empower themselves to choose to begin the process of shifting from fear-based choice-making to what I call essence-based choice-making. This brings us back to that essential dilemma of wanting what is desirable, at the same time wanting to avoid what is undesirable. For those committed to bringing spirituality into business there will be the conflicting commitment of wanting to avoid repercussions. Again, those four basic questions need to be asked:

  1. What are you afraid people will find out or decide about you;
  2. What do you do in order to have them not find that out
  3. What qualities arise when you remember your vision of having the desired outcome; and
  4. What would shift if you were to be that now? What choices would you make and what actions would you take in alignment with that choice?

This line of questioning consistently brings the individual in direct alignment with their essence of being, and empowers them to engage in actions that will bring about the desired outcome.

I totally understand how terrifying it is to consider being in your essence, especially in the workplace. Rarely are we seen or acknowledged for our essence-self. However, we are not our survival strategies, they change as our circumstances change; we are not our ego either. If that were true we would never ever experience those moments when we know ourselves beyond or fear and limitations. It doesn’t make it any less scary.

This brings me back to my original introduction when I defined spirituality as the practice of faith-leaping; exercising muscles that allow you to consider the possibility of shifting from the perspective that life is scary, to, life is a daring adventure or it is nothing – as Helen Keller said. Engaging with your life as a daring adventure requires thoughtful presence to what it is you’ve come here to do and to be.

At some point you will realize you don’t have a choice but to begin to get those muscles in shape. It isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when you’ll empower yourself to engage in living into your essence of being and living your life totally on purpose.

Your book proposal for your first book is among the most important documents you’ll ever prepare. It often represents the formal beginning of your journey to a published book.

Book proposals serve two primary, and several secondary, purposes:

  1. Sales piece. If you’re hoping to have a conventional publisher sell your book through online and through bricks-and-mortar retail bookstores, your book proposal functions as a direct-response sales letter intended to them to invest time and money into your project. It has to spell-out the inevitability of your book’s success to skeptical readers.
  2. Marketing plan. Regardless whether you are looking at trade publishers, or intend to publish your book yourself, your book proposal must describe how you are going to market and promote your book before and after it’s publication. Your proposal has to describe the market your book addresses, the benefits it offers, how it differs from existing books on the topic, and the specific steps you’re going to take to sell it to its intended readers.

Secondary purposes include providing a sample of your ability to communicate in print. In many ways, the style and detail of your proposal are as important as the contents of the proposal. A professionally written and presented proposal communicates to literary agents and acquisition editors that you’re an author worth paying attention to. Even if the proposed book doesn’t meet their current publishing needs, a proposal can open doors to other opportunities.

But, a rambling proposal that hasn’t been thoroughly edited and proofread can close the door to future possibilities.

Elements included in book proposals

A book proposal includes seven sections. These provide the structure needed to communicate the details of your project. The sections include:

  1. Engagement. The proposed title and the first paragraph of your book must immediately engage the interest of your agent or publisher in the first paragraph, or two. The title and opening paragraph must communicate at a glance, describing what your book is about, how it differs from the competition, why it will sell, and how you’re going to market and promote it. The first sentence and paragraph of your proposal must “hook” your prospective agent or editor’s interest and “sell” the importance of reading on. Each sentence and paragraph must continue selling, providing details that support the premise, or big idea, behind your book. If the initial sentence and paragraph fail to convince, the remainder of your proposal probably doesn’t have a chance, either.
  2. Description. The second section, sometimes called an overview, provides an opportunity to step back and provide the details necessary to support the promise offered by your book title and first paragraph. Think of this section as the 30,000 foot view of your project, your qualifications, and how you came to propose the book.
  3. Market. Next, you have to prove that a market exists for your book. You have to describe the characteristics of the market you’re writing for and their goals and objectives. You have to prove that you know how to reach your prospective readers and tap into their urgent need for assistance solving a problem or achieving goals. In addition, this section must include a review of existing books, so you can show how your book provides a fresh, needed perspective that goes beyond any currently available book.
  4. Contents. After you have proven the existence of a market and the need for your book, you have to prove how your book will live up to the promise expressed in its title and the premise described in the opening paragraphs. It’s not necessary to completely write your book, but it is necessary to show that you have put a lot of work into organizing your book into sections and chapters. Each chapter should be described in a couple of sentences, followed by 7-10 bullet points corresponding to the main ideas you plan to include in each chapter.
  5. Author platform and promotion. This section begins with an overview of your current online presence, and goes on to describe how you are going to market and promote your book before and after its publication. Limit your marketing plan to the print, broadcast, public relations, and social media that you realistically expect to employ for marketing and promoting your book, and list the marketing affiliates and professional services you intend to work with. Remember that your marketing plan will be judged on both its detail and its creditability. Avoid unrealistic promises or a laundry list of media alternatives, but do emphasize your network of professional connections in your field.
  6. Qualifications. Why should a publisher trust you with their money? How do they know you will deliver. Rather than list your academic credentials, family situation, or employment background, place the emphasis on your accomplishments and achievements. It’s not important that you “love to write” or have “great passion for your topic.” It’s more important to communicate that you are driven to succeed and do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals. (Note: you don’t have to say you’re a good writer, because the writing in your proposal should speak for itself!)
  7. Details. This section, like the previous, can be relatively short. In this section, describe the anticipated size of your book and the number of pages you’d like to see in the printed book. Describe the number of colors and illustrations, or photographs, you intend to include. And briefly mention topics for follow-up topics that will expand the book into a series. Finally, provide a realistic date for completing the manuscript, following receipt of a publishing contract.

Your proposal is an investment

If the above sounds like a lot of work, it can be!

However, your book proposal is an investment that doesn’t have to be repeated! Once you have your proposal, you have done the hard part—you’ve identified a book that needs to be written, and you have identified the information needed, and you have organized that into a logical order.

You’ve also created a marketing and promotion plan for selling your book.

Many authors find it harder to prepare a book proposal than it is to complete a book!

Writing is easy when you know what you’re going to write, and marketing becomes easier when you know what you want to happen, and when.

Writing a book proposal can be a lonely proposition, unless you’re working with an experienced book coach. But, when you’re actually writing your book, you typically have access to editors and proofreaders who will provide the feedback and support necessary to create a successful book.

Prepare your book proposal as carefully as you’d prepare a marketing plan for your career. Your book proposal can be the catalyst that transforms your career and, with it, your life!


Branding – Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

by Laura Lowell on October 6, 2009

brand consistencyJust as in the world of Real Estate it is all about “location, location, location”; in the world of marketing it is all about “consistency, consistency, consistency”.

In conjunction with a sound brand strategy, you need a clear and concise message that resonates with your customers. These messages need to be integrated across your brand and into every customer touch point.  Now, you don’t need to use the same words over and over. However, each communication needs to reinforce the key messages that have been developed to support the brand.  It is a case where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – when the brand is consistently conveyed across multiple touch points, the customer is left with a clear understanding of what the company, product, service, or solution is and how it solves their problem. Simply put, they know what your brand is about.

Unfortunately, as marketers we often get bored with the messages we’ve developed.  We’ve spent hours fine-tuning them and testing them.  Finally, our campaigns launch and the messages are out there, but by that time they feel old and stale to us.  There is a difference between a “fresh” message (with unique language, a clever play on words, a connection to a current event) and a “different” message (not aligned with strategy, not related to existing messages, different for the sake of being different).  Research shows that it takes anywhere from five to nine impressions for an individual to actually internalize a marketing message.  That means they need to see it over and over again.  Not the same words, but the same idea supported by the same brand.

For example, an article in a trade publication mentions the company and their new product; the customer sees an online banner ad, they click on it, and get to a landing page with a compelling offer; they do a Google search to see what else comes up and there is a link to your latest white paper; at an industry tradeshow the company has a booth and is hosting a panel discussion…and the story continues.  With consistent use of key messages across multiple touch-points your customers comes away with the sense that your company is worth their consideration.

Now you have a place to start engaging and driving purchase decisions.  This model holds true for consumer and business marketing.  People are people, whether they are buying high-end mission-critical software or a new plasma HDTV for their living room.  They have a problem.  Through your consistent messages, you have convinced them to consider your product or service as they evaluate their options.  You still have to convince them that your product or solution is really the only one that really addresses all their needs – from technical specifications to user support, maintenance and financing (again, these apply to consumer and business purchases.)

Again, consistency is key.  Your customers need to see and feel that your company is honest and trustworthy.  If there is a disconnect between what you say and what they experience, you will lose the sale, and worse, probably the customer.  So, while consistency in messaging is important…consistency in execution is critical, too.  Both pieces of this puzzle need to be addressed in order for the whole thing to work.  If you only focus on the messaging, then your experience will fall flat.  If you don’t explain your differences and benefits, then you won’t get the chance to display your stellar experience.  No matter how you look at it, consistency is the key to growing you brand and your business

Social Media: A dangerous Opportunity!

by Himanshu Jhamb on September 1, 2009

social media dangerousNowadays, the web is full of success stories on Social Media. Indeed, the arrival (and the acceptance) of Social Media has opened the gates to many opportunities: enabling individuals and communities to brand themselves being perhaps one of the biggest. However, as is the case with every opportunity, it has the potential downside, too. The downside, if not paid attention to, can turn this opportunity on its head into a “dangerous” one.

Here are two fundamental questions that you must strive to answer, before you can turn any new tool into an opportunity for yourself.

1. What is my purpose of using it?
2. How do I use it effectively to get the outcome that I am after?

Take, for example, using a knife for the first time. You need to have a concern of cutting/chopping something before even thinking about using it. Without that, you are simply wasting your time (might I add, dangerously) if you’re running around with it. Then, you need to learn how to use it effectively – if you don’t, it is equally dangerous as you might end up slicing and dicing your fingers (didn’t mean to go to this extreme… but, you get the point!) instead of what you intended to use it for.

Social Media can be like a knife. You need to know what is your purpose behind using it first because, if you do not have a clear purpose, then you’ll end up squandering away the other opportunities in your life that you could have availed in the time you’re spending dabbling with Social Media.

You also need to learn to use it effectively… without that, you are playing with a dangerous tool.

I recently read a great CNN post on How Social Media can hurt your career… and though I loved the examples the author shared in there (some of them were downright scary), I felt the title of the post would’ve better served the content had it been “How you can hurt your career through Social Media” instead of “How Social Media can hurt your career“. You see, there is a subtle difference if I say it like that because the conversation you have with yourself on Social Media after reading the former title is on the lines of “Oh! I better learn how to use this properly” instead of “Oh! Social Media is too dangerous… I better stop using it”, which is what comes forth after reading the latter. Yes, there is a very subtle difference between the two but clearly, the former opens the possibilities of “getting better” at it and the latter closes the possibilities by instilling an unfounded fear in the reader.

Getting good at leveraging the opportunity that Social Media is, is a skill that beckons to be learnt and exploited to the maximum potential. For this is how your level of engagement will start reaping you the maximum returns… and you can be assured that you are playing on the “Safe” side of this dangerous opportunity!