Posts Tagged ‘success’

Budget Season! Time to Start Thinking about 2012

by Matthew Carmen on May 23, 2011

Well here we are in May. 2011 seems to be flying by – the year is almost half over, and in the corporate world you know what that means:

Time to start planning for 2012.

This is that time of the year everyone dislikes. For operations and the overall business, it is essentially time away from what they want to focus on, and for the finance teams, it is that time when they find themselves refereeing battles between operations and business for the finite amount of dollars.  All in all, this time of the year is where the challenges of the year ahead are discussed, strategized around, and hopefully addressed.

The three distinct groups – business, operations, and finance teams, each play a role in ensuring a successful budgeting and planning season.  In the case of the business, each area – whether a business unit, product line or service; needs to have its strategy fully developed by the executive team and communicated to all levels of the business.  By doing this, each person – from the lowest level all the way up – will know:

  • What the corporate strategy is, going forward,
  • How their work will help move the company towards the goal, and
  • It will provide management teams the direction in which to plan programs and projects.

By establishing a clear direction across the board, the business will be able to have conversations with the operational areas (such as IT) to make sure that the needs of the business are top priority for everyone.

No Personal Agendas

In my experiences, which have taken place in each of the three distinct areas, one thing has always been paramount to success, “Don’t come to the negotiations with a personal agenda”.  The more emotion that is brought to the table, the longer and more drawn out the negotiations become, and feelings are hurt at the end of the process.  Many times these feelings carry forward and the working relationships between people, groups and departments can be irreparably harmed.  This definitely does not help the long-term growth of a company.

The IT Operations View

In the case of the IT operations groups, this time of year is typically focused on two major things;

  1. The planning of programs and projects that benefit the business, and
  2. The planning of the IT organization.

In the case of the second point, IT has to weigh the benefits to the business versus the needs of the IT organization.  This means that with a finite amount of budget dollars available, the IT department needs to find the right mix of dollars for the benefit of the business while having enough budget to make sure the IT department is able to do the things it needs to do to ensure the business survives long term.  This internal IT spend will likely include: disaster recovery, continued infrastructure modernization, replacement systems for facilities, server and storage growth and refresh, etc.  These areas of spend need to be voiced to the business and discussions need to take place at this time of year, at times, the business seems to forget that ongoing operations need to be sustained and this costs money. May and June are critical communication months in the budgeting and planning season.  Communicating now means that once the finance team is ready to open the budgeting tool, usually right after the July 4th holiday, the whole budgeting project goes more smoothly.

The Finance Team View

The finance team always hopes for a smooth budget season.  Depending on the work they do in these early stages of the process, this smooth season is possible.  At this time of the year, the finance team needs to make sure that its message is communicated as well.  The finance team needs to make sure that all of the business and operational groups know and understand the process by which the budget will happen, what the key dates are, what the budgeting system will include and what business and operations will need to add to it.  These are all very important, the more the business and operational groups understand about what they are responsible to do at this point and throughout the whole budgeting process, the easier it becomes for everyone.

Another area that the finance team needs to be working on at this point is the final testing for its budgeting system.  Changes to the system from previous years may have been done due to upgraded equipment and upgrades in software functionality.  If a completely new system has been implemented (Hyperion and Cognos-TM1 are the two largest systems currently in use by midsized and large companies), the work becomes even more challenging.  Lastly, on the finance side of the budgeting triangle, training the usage of the system must be planned for.  All planning sessions need to be calendared, and anyone who will use the system including: cost center managers, department managers, executives and financial representation should be included in the training. (Either a complete training on a new system, or in the case of the use of the same system, a refresher course will be needed as well as complete training for new users.)

Plan Ahead for Success

Just like most endeavors, the more work that is put into the early phases of the annual planning exercise, the easier it become to achieve success.  The easier the complete budgeting process is, the less evasive to all areas involved it is.  Remember, for most people involved, the budget process is an addition to their “regular” job.  Remember, throughout the whole process, nothing is personal, it is all about moving the business forward…the right way.  Lastly, there are professionals, like myself, that can help with anything from questions to process and system integration.  We are here to help and make your business grow.

As the Paradigm Shifts #F: Fear

by Rosie Kuhn on May 18, 2011

The current paradigm within which we are deeply rooted and that is ingrained in every cell of our body is cultivated solely around fear-based thinking. Research shows that 70% of our thoughts are precipitated from fear. Imagine that! How did we come to reside in such an environment permeated with a pervasive and automatic trigger to think fear-based thoughts? Is there another way? Do we have a choice in the matter?

In the previous blog I distinguished essence-based thinking from fear-based thinking. We have a knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that we are something far beyond the fear-based reality within which we are immersed. At the same time, there is a field or paradigm that corrupts this knowing fragmenting it into millions of tiny particles that then reflects back to us in mere instances the brilliance and radiant beings that we are.

History of war and persecution for thinking and being different than what is prescribed by political and religious dogma reminds us that we are not immune to the horrible things that human beings can do to one another. We remember and imagine what it has been like to be subjected to such treatment. And, the same time we may be living it, unconscious of the pervasiveness of it within our everyday life.

Notice Your Thoughts

Imagine heading to work. You in your car, on the train or bus and you’re sensing some anxiety, resistance or something that isn’t peaceful. If you were to just notice for a moments the thoughts running through your mind that is the catalyst for these feelings, what would you notice? If researchers are right and 70% of what you are thinking is negative and fear-based, what environment are you creating inside your head as you prepare to engage with the work, the people and the environment? Are these thoughts and bodily sensations preparing you for a day of peaceful, fun and creative interactions, or are they preparing you to do battle with yourself and everything that confronts you? Are these thoughts memories of what occurred in the past? Are they worries about what may unfold, or are you thinking about what you might say or would like to say to someone who is really bugging you?

So much of what is occurring in our brains are random firings of impulses that have become habitual in nature. Honestly, we have no clue as to how many programs are running concurrently in our brain. Some of them are essential and some of them are just a form of masturbation, stimulating endorphin and adrenaline that make us feel good about ourselves, and at the same time allow us to distract ourselves from feeling bad about ourselves.

Say STOP!

As long as we are in this game of focusing on maintaining what we’ve gained, avoiding loss of any sort, and ignoring the choice-making process that keeps us playing the same strategies over and over again, winning will never be the outcome. It isn’t even a possibility because we’ve limited our capacity to think beyond the fear-based paradigm.

Einstein’s words come to mind.

“We can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them”.

There’s a practice I’ve been working with for years. When I catch myself thinking thoughts that are not serving my essence-self, which desires peace, clarity of purpose and fulfillment, I just say STOP! A couple of curious things showed up when I first started this practice. First, that part of me that wanted to think all of the “what if’s and shoulda’s and coulda’s; it didn’t stop. It went right on blabbering. Much like an unruly child, my mind had learned it didn’t need to respond to my demand that it stop. I had to become more insistent before it would even consider listening to me. And…

I realized too that when that unruly part of me stopped creating thoughts that contributed to, well essentially nothing, what showed up was fear. I found myself fearful of not having fear-based thoughts! I experienced a great deal of fear when I insisted my mind take a break. I didn’t know who I was when I stopped thinking.

Questions to Ask Yourself

In the workplace, we are constantly bombarded with circumstances that require an incredible amount of attention. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What’s the degree of quality you are bringing and is it in alignment with what you are wanting for yourself and your business?
  • Is fearful, anxious, antagonistic or resistance the foundation upon which you want your actions to come from when engaged with customers, clients and all of those with whom you interact?
  • What commitment is underlying this come-from?

For me, I come from anxious, worried and disempowered when I’m committed to staying in an old story of a helpless, powerless, victim. I have to ask myself frequently; am I really committed to that story? I then have to give myself an alternative – that to which I know I’m committed – empowered, engaged and empowering of others.

Yes, I too sit in the dilemma of what to choose – my fear based commitments or my essence-based commitments. More effortlessly than ever before, I’m able to take action in alignment with my choice to grow myself and my work from my essence-based truth.

Shifting the Paradigm

Shifting our paradigm requires each of us to be willing to perceive our reality through lenses that reflect the positive attributes of our reality, making that the 70% of our thinking process. This in itself would make such an incredibly profound contribution to our work environment, not to mention to our family, friends and the world at large.

Consider being curious about your thoughts and emotions. Notice that your emotions are just energy that is generated by your thoughts. Shift your thoughts and your emotional state will shift immediately. I know it’s a lot to ask, however, I believe you are ready to step into the question. Enjoy the journey!

Many people assume that most any business can become a big business.  But if that’s true, why is it that 95% of all businesses in the United States never reach a million bucks in annual sales?

Surprising as it may be, most businesses simply don’t have what it takes to grow significantly.  In fact, only two or three businesses out of a hundred will ever grow past the Mom & Pop stage – past the owner’s immediate span of control.

If you’re a small business owner with visions of growth, these facts can be a little unnerving, and more than a little disheartening.  What these facts tell us is that if you want your business to grow into a substantial enterprise, you need to do something that roughly 25,000,000 other business owners have been unable to do!

So where do you start?  You start by confronting the brutal facts.  You start with perhaps the most important question a business owner can ask:

Is the market sufficient?

Two factors comprise the market, demand and attachment.

  • Demand is about quantity – how many people want what you’re trying to sell.
  • Attachment is about quality – how much do people want what you’re trying to sell.

For a business to grow significantly, there must be high demand or strong attachment, preferably both.  Although it’s a little unwieldy, here’s a question that gets to the core of market evaluation:

Do enough people care enough?

Sometimes, the answer is no.  Last year about this time our company released an online service called ReallyEasyHR.  The service provided a complete small company HR program for $30 a month.  It was a great service and a remarkable value.  But guess what?  Nobody cared.  It turns out that small business owners have virtually no interest in spending even a few dollars a month on HR.

I believed ReallyEasyHR was going to be successful.  And I suppose I could berate myself about how wrong I was.  But here’s the thing:  You don’t know how the market will respond until you start trying to make sales.  The hard truth is, until you ask a prospect to fork over some cash, it’s all just guesswork and speculation.

That’s true in small companies like ours and it’s also true in huge, wildly successful organizations.  Not so long ago the brain trust at McDonald’s looked at emerging demographic trends and saw what they thought was an opportunity.  People were living longer and the older adult population was burgeoning.  In response, McDonald’s spent $300 million to develop and launch the Arch Deluxe, a sandwich positioned as “a more sophisticated burger for the adult palate”.  The Arch Deluxe was a complete flop. As it turned out, people didn’t want a sophisticated burger from McDonald’s.  Which just goes to show you that some of the smartest people on the planet can be flat-out wrong when projecting demand.

Demand is one thing your company can’t grow without.  Unless enough people care about the product or service you’re trying to sell – and care enough to go out of their way to buy it – survival is unlikely and growth is impossible.  So here are two important reminders for owners who want to grow their businesses:

  1. You won’t know if there’s enough market for your product until you offer that product for sale.
  2. There’s a chance you’ve overestimated demand, so don’t go all in.  Make sure you live to fight another day.

In my next article, I’ll offer some thoughts on the other factor of market potential, attachment.

Project Reality Check #19: Focus on Success

by Gary Monti on April 26, 2011

As different as they appear to be Success and Failure can have a lot in common! They both can bring about a fair degree of misery unless a proper focus is maintained. That focus comprises a subtle but important distinction. Let’s explore.

Plan Without Consequence

The trick with success is to plan without consequence. It sounds paradoxical so some explanation may help. The idea is to avoid getting attached to the success. Or said another way:

“Attach to success to the same extent you would attach to failure.”

Now what does that mean? Simple. It means if someone chooses to define himself solely in terms of what happens to him then he should prepare for a life of misery. If he has lots of money, fame, or what ever else he craves then he thinks he is good. If he loses what he craves he thinks he is bad. It is similar to how some people view disease, i.e., if they get it, they must be bad and God is punishing them. “Plan Without Consequence” means strive to achieve by remembering:

“I am more than what life does to me.”

Looking at it from another direction can help. “I was successful” and “My plan was successful” are two very different statements. With the former statement there is the risk of identifying with my project plan and losing my personal boundary. With the latter statement detachment is present which brings something very powerful to the table. It is the ability to maintain options. It is this capability that makes for a high-quality project manager. This subtle difference can be seen when contrasting two words easily confused.

Awareness vs. Vigilance

What I am trying to say is expressed in a more entertaining manner in the book, Who Moved My Cheese. The book fundamentally gets down to the distinction between two words, awareness and vigilance. With awareness one simply looks at life as it is and makes decisions. “No more cheese here. Okay, I’ll move on and search somewhere else.”

“No more cheese here!!! Who moved my cheese?!” is more in line with vigilance. It’s the attachment mentioned above. It’s the poison of expectations. Expectations that confuse getting something good with being intrinsically good and deserving of more.

With vigilance misery results since there is an attempt to force life to conform to expectations. With awareness freedom is present; the freedom to choose other options and move on to different forms of success. Last time I checked, that freedom and the ability to explore options is at the heart of project management, i.e., a temporary endeavor providing a unique product or service.

Flexible Focus #49: The eight frames of life: Personal

by William Reed on April 14, 2011

The Mandala Mirror

In the Mandala view, it is in the Personal frame of life that you meet yourself and address your personal issues. This is a space for reflection, but of a particular kind, and this is where the Mandala Chart provides a unique perspective.

We spend a lot of time interacting with the things and people outside of us. We need to spend some time as well exploring the world within.

Reflection is deep thinking. Looking deep into the reflection, rather than just at the surface of the mirror. This is a space for clarity and insight, not for melancholy or self-importance. You meet yourself in the mirror, the person that has been with you from the beginning and will be with you until the end.

You may think you know yourself pretty well by now, but ask yourself deeper questions concerning your mission and core message, and you will understand the need for deeper reflection to discover your living legacy. Your personal happiness is related in part to the time you spend in front of this Mandala Mirror, and what you do about it as a result.

The Mandala Mirror is quite different from the mirror of Narcissus, the proud and self-admiring hunter of Greek mythology, who died for being unable to leave his own reflection in the water. The Greek roots of the word Narcissus mean sleep or numbness, a far cry from the clarity of self-knowledge.

Personal Growth

Personal is an adjective. It works best when it modifies a noun, such as personal growth, personal development, personal happiness.

Personal development is about helping yourself to change in positive ways. Many books have been written in the self-help genre, but one author, Tom Butler-Bowdon, has undertaken a remarkable project which took ten years to complete, in which he read, reviewed, and summarized the essence of 50 classic books, from ancient to modern, in each of five categories. He published these in a series: 50 Self-Help Classics, 50 Success Classics, 50 Spiritual Classics, 50 Psychology Classics, and 50 Prosperity Classics.

What kind of a perspective does such a massive project give you? His selection spans world religions, cultures, philosophies, and even centuries of time. Each classic book is summarized, culling out the key points, including comments to put the author and the book in the context of why it was written. Each review includes a list of books which were influenced by that classic or share a similar view. Certainly a great deal of reflection went into the 50 classics project, and the author takes you on a reflective journey through the books of its leading lights.

Tom Butler-Bowdon spoke at the Speakers for Business Showcase 2011, at which he discussed the perspective this project gave him on such important topics as motivation and personal growth. In this talk he says he learned through this project that real personal transformation and lasting change is far more likely to come through the disciplined application of the strategies revealed in these works, rather than the emotional enthusiasm espoused by many motivational speakers in this field.

You can download a 50 Classsics PDF Mandala Chart showing the covers of his books and website which I created as an overview of his work.

Make a Wish List

The Personal frame of the Mandala Chart does not need to be used exclusively for deep reflection. It can also be used for constructive daydreaming, positive thinking, and image training to improve your condition or performance.

This is perhaps one of the most enjoyable uses of the Mandala Chart, because you get to use your imagination in the service of making yourself a better person, and living a better life. This is best achieved of course by helping and improving the lives of others. There is no happiness in hedonistic self-absorption.

But rather than drifting in fantasy, it is best to capture your wishes on a list. The Mandala Chart helps you organize your list into categories, and focus on implementation as well. Your wishes might be related to improvements in your character, behavior, or performance. The discipline of gradual improvement and repetition is also important. You don’t just wave a magic wand and expect your wish to come true.

Because presumably you will wish for things that you want, the element of pleasure and anticipation can lend just enough to incubate your wishes until they hatch. Then you can cultivate and nurture them as they grow. This is where dreams come true.

3 Keys to Successful Integration Projects

by Matthew Carmen on April 11, 2011

Integration Projects

When a company goes through a merger, acquisition, purchase of a business unit, a strategic partnership, etc, there are activities that need to take place to make multiple entities into one cohesive unit.  These activities include: reaching the stated financial goals of the combined new business through operational and departmental combination, the selection of ongoing IT systems, and cost cutting initiatives.  All of these tasks, that create the new company, are integration projects within the larger program.

According to research done by the consulting company NGTO, over 50% of mergers are considered failures and 60-70% of these failures are due to significant misses regarding financial goals tied to the merger.  For public companies – and these are the mergers that people hear and read about – the financial goals are the key.  The true goal of a company is to grow shareholder value, be those shareholders stockholders in a public company or partners in a private entity.  If shareholder value is not improved by acquisition or merger, then what truly was the point?

Further research done by my own firm Datacenter Trust shows that when failure occurs, it is most often due to the stoppage of the integration process after reaching a portion of the total goal; say the merger of business units or reaching the financial goal set by the companies upon announcement of a deal.  By stopping the integration process, the new entity never reaches the strategic state that it set out to accomplish through merger.  Without reaching this state, optimal shareholder value is either not attained (as happens in most cases) or takes much longer and is more costly than was originally estimated.

Mitigating Integration Failure

As a financial professional with nearly two decades of integration experience, I would love to tell you that all the keys to success are based on dollars saved vs. dollars spent, but this sadly would be a lie. If I said all integration projects are successful, this too would be untrue. What I can tell you is that communication is the largest factor in a successful integration project.  Communication is followed closely by understanding – meaning that the people who will be doing the work must understand what the future state of the new organization is meant to look like.  Finally, there is program management – empowering the community that will perform the integration projects while having clear leadership and participation from the executive suite to ensure the program is aligned with the overall strategic vision. Now, lets look at these 3 a bit more closely:

Communication

I cannot stress enough that communication is the largest factor in the mitigation of integration failure.  The executive leadership of the company must ensure that the execution team understands the goal and the look and feel of the future state organization.  Leadership also must make it clear that they are willing and active participants in the program being developed.  Leadership must serve as the sounding board and approvers of each project so as to ensure the entire integration program stays aligned with the evolving strategic vision.  Without communication, there is zero chance of successfully integrating the new organization as advertised to stockholders, employees and the public at large.

Understanding

Understanding is an offshoot of communication.  I would argue that if the execution team as a whole does not completely understand the job at hand, then the notion of communication was unsuccessful.  Also, there cannot be any weak links in the execution team; everyone from the project managers to the network and database administrators must fully understand how their role will ultimately lead to success.  Without understanding, members of the execution team will invoke their own decision rules (e.g. loudest demands, squeakiest wheel, bosses whim, least risk to job, easiest activity, etc.)  Allowing this type of behavior is asking for trouble.  Integration initiatives have a finite amount of time to be completed and must be with the utmost skill and timeliness.

Program Management

Finally we come to program management; the company needs to get the best program and project managers available for integration.  This might even mean going outside the company to contract with consultants specializing in these types of integration projects.  As stated above, the project needs to be completed on time, on budget, and most importantly it must succeed in meeting the goals.  Setting up a ‘program office’ to manage integration properly is an imperative.  The program office manages expectations both up the corporate ladder to the executive suite and down to all areas of the execution team.  Management of the individual project managers is an important area of the program office as well.  With a limited amount of resources, each member of the execution team needs to manage his/her time down to the minute (remember, these team members have regular jobs as well) as the ongoing operations of the company need to take place on a continuing basis.

Countless other activities will help an integration initiative to succeed, but those I’ve covered here are the main three.  In the end, there are many intangibles that come up on a minute-by-minute basis during the project engagement.  The real key is to keep in mind that great people always lead to better results:  Empower the execution team while managing the alignment of integration and the new corporate strategy, ask for external help if needed, ensure leadership is fully engaged, and you’ll be on the path to success.

Any worthwhile study of leadership begins with the realization that there is no foolproof formula for success. The “right” way to lead is most often a function of the organization and its people, and therefore highly dependent upon a large combination of stationary and moving parts. Many factors come into play, including the product or service provided by the organization, skill levels and experience of the work teams, organizational environment, and the personal attributes of the firm’s leaders. As these things change over time, good leaders are usually able to adapt by instinctively modifying their styles as required. If there is such a thing as a common denominator for success, it is trust between the workforce and its leadership. But there are many leadership styles that can achieve this result.

Leadership Styles

  1. Visionary Leadership. Simply put, a visionary is one who is able to see beyond that which most people accept as the norm, and is also able to inspire others to share his vision and help him make it a reality. This type of leader is very adept at inspiring others and influencing team members to improve or change. He is emboldened by his vision, often in the face of disagreement or inertia, to lead the way across a new road into sometimes uncharted territory. In doing so, he tends to walk a fine line between the ideal world he envisions and the real world with all of its obstacles and impediments.  History is replete with Visionary leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, just to name a few. The corporate world has had its share of visionary leaders too. Some of them include Lee Iacocca (former chairman of Chrysler Corporation), Sam Walton (founder of WalMart), and Helmut Panke (former chairman of German auto manufacturer BMW). Modern examples of corporate leaders who have adopted a visionary style are Steve Jobs (Apple) and Sir Richard Branson, whose successes with Virgin Group Ltd. is described here.
  2. Supportive Leadership. This style is characterized by leaders who are able to recognize those situations when people require more support than direction. This type of leader will never hesitate to express sincere appreciation for a job well done or to console an employee who happens to be going through a rough time. Supportive leaders are usually great listeners who also have an uncanny ability to tune in to the emotional signals around them. They make it a point to know their team members well so that they can take an active interest in them. An example of how this leadership style can be very successful is the Hewlett-Packard Corporation. Its co-founder, Bill Hewlett, was noted for genuinely caring about his employees while he was CEO. As part of his executive responsibilities, he regularly walked the floors getting to know his employees and becoming involved with their issues on a daily basis.
  3. Servitude Leadership. Closely aligned to the supportive style is the servitude leadership style. The two are similar in that both of them are characterized by a caring and concerned attitude. However, the servitude style is more action oriented and often has the leaders putting the needs of their subordinates ahead of their own. CEOs who subscribe to this leadership style involve their teams heavily in decision making and very often work hands on alongside their employees to get something done. A good example of the success of this style is Wal-Mart chairman S. Robson Walton, whose overriding mantra is to always listen to employee and customer needs. He has made this philosophy a guiding principle of his billion-dollar enterprise.
  4. Shared Leadership. The idea of a single figure at the top of an organizational hierarchy is no longer a given. This type of structure made a lot of sense when companies were smaller and less complex. But there is a growing trend, particularly in companies whose populations are large enough to rival those of some small nations, to institute a joint leadership arrangement with multiple heavyweights sharing power at the top. This model is often seen in large educational institutions, where the Dean and the President have cognizance over different domains but are both viewed as equal leaders. And to a growing extent, the concept is gaining popularity in the business arena too.

Over the last decade, the corporate world has seen the rapid rise of Google, which ascended to prominence under the direction of an executive management group comprised of three individuals who shared responsibility. Since that time, other companies have adopted a similar business model where company leadership is divided between engineering and sales. This structure has proven successful and has eradicated a lot of the bottlenecks and other problems plaguing extremely large corporations.

Right Leadership Style

So which of these leadership styles guarantees success? The answer is none of them. Anyone looking for a guarantee is looking in the wrong place. There are several approaches which have proven to work very well, but the key is to match the right leadership style to the right company. The sign of a good leader is someone who knows his organization well enough to find that custom fit.

Leader driven Harmony #7: Failure is required (Part II)

by Mack McKinney on January 14, 2011

In the previous post we learned about the danger of not experiencing enough failure in life and we watched John make a bad decision that could have gotten him killed.  We also talked about how well-meaning people who shelter us from failure can rob us of the mental toughness that we need to get through life, thereby actually increasing the chance of our failing later on in some major way.

In business we are seeing Gen-Yers enter the workforce having never been allowed to really fail at anything.  People who have tried and failed are much more attractive to most employers than people who have led sheltered lives, protected from failure, with teachers and parents hovering over them and protecting their increasingly brittle self-images.  Job applicants in this latter group often have fragile egos, cannot accept constructive criticism, and (worst case) may feel entitled to a career that is completely arranged and managed for them, not by them.  This is a recipe for career disaster.

Companies like to see some minor failures in a new hire’s past because they understand the value of the subsequent lessons-learned.  Candidates don’t list failures on their resumes, of course, so corporate interviewers in HR listen for “I made a mistake and learned from it” statements during job interviews:

  1. “I launched a small business in computer repair in high school but it failed after only a year.  I didn’t understand marketing and the local Geek Squad put me out of business pretty quickly.”
  2. “I started a business in web design but I could never afford the design software programs (Dream Weaver, etc.) that I needed to do a first class design.  So I learned the hard way about the importance of getting enough capital up front when you start a small business.”
  3. “I tried free-lance video production for a year but I could never buy a really good camera, so my videos couldn’t compete with established firms.  Also I had no formal training in camera work and I guess that showed.”

But just reading about other entrepreneurs’ failures won’t really drive the lessons home – – – only personally failing can do it.  Losing your own savings in a failed business venture is much more effective as a teaching tool than watching somebody else lose their savings.  Not catching a cash flow problem in time to fix it, and having to lay-off a friend who works for you, will teach you a banking lesson you’ll never forget.  The stakes are lower in school as opposed to the rough and tumble business world, but the lessons are even more important.  I hope you’ll learn (or DID learn) in school that:

  1. Failure is a part of life.  And getting past failure and learning from it are the most crucial of life-skills.  Not everyone in a class should get an “A” grade.  Some people should get failing grades and teachers who do this are doing the student a favor.  After about the third grade, not everyone on a sports team should get an award because, if they do, ALL the awards mean nothing.  The competitive spirit will be stifled.  There SHOULD be awards for the best students in a sport, class, contest, etc.  And parents of students who did not get an award should tell their children “Hey, not getting the award doesn’t make you a LOSER.  You were just not the winner. You’ll need to try harder next time.”  This builds determination, helps youngsters set high goals for themselves and work toward them, and helps them form a resilient character for protection against occasional disappointment.
  2. If well-meaning people are preventing you from ever failing, they are doing you no favors and you are not pushing yourself hard enough!  Ask them to let you climb out on a limb a little by permitting you to make non-life-critical decisions and then living with the consequences.  You’ll still want a safety net to prevent cataclysmic failures while you are learning the ropes, but you need to be allowed to screw-up!  My old flight instructor Larry Davis had my friend John as a primary flight student.  One day during pattern practice at the local airport, Larry emphasized the importance of maintaining flying speed and staying at the correct altitude.  After letting John get too low on the approach, and slightly (but not yet dangerously) slow, Larry said quietly and calmly “John, unless you do something pretty fast, we are both going to die.”  – – – Notice that Larry didn’t tell John WHAT to do. – – –  With heart now racing, John had to quickly scan across the gauges and see the low airspeed, and then see the low altitude on the altimeter, and then fix the problem by immediately adding power (gas) to speed the airplane up and start a climb to a safe altitude.  Larry let John feel the rising panic, and sort it out on his own.  He let him fail in his approach to landing and only intervened just short of a fatal outcome, perhaps also a self-preservation tactic in this case!   The story was embarrassing when retold around the airport and John learned the lesson well.
  3. If you are still in school, you need to get a little more “edgy” in your academic efforts.  My son is a senior in an Exercise Science program at a major university but instead of the normal progression into physical therapy after graduation, he is interested in medical school and surgery.  The college’s internship program pushed him toward spending all 480 hrs in his last semester “shadowing” a physical therapist.  But instead, he worked with the college and with a local hospital to build an internship program split among the hospital’s emergency room, the surgery department and physical therapy.  It had never been done and required a lot of schmoozing and coordinating but it is working!  He started this in time to either get it arranged, or not, by the deadline for internship arrangements.  And he had a back-up plan (480 hrs in a PT department) in case the other plan didn’t come together.  But he wanted to try the non-standard, custom internship approach and his college counselor had the wisdom to say “Sure, try it.  See if you can get the college to agree to it and then see if you can find a hospital willing to do it.  What the heck.”

So I am asking you to fail.  I am asking you to push yourself hard enough that you sometimes screw-up.  As you fail, don’t let your failures unnecessarily impact innocent people and don’t fail in catastrophic ways.  For example, risking your college savings on launching a competitor to Facebook might not be wise;  and moving to Nashville so you can meet Taylor Swift and have her fall in love with you doesn’t have much chance of succeeding.  But push enough in your hobbies, job, profession or academics that you fall short sometimes.  Set goals that stretch your performance.  And fail sometimes.  It is OK. You’ll learn the sting of failure, you’ll learn how NOT to do it next time, and you’ll develop the mental strength to fail, get up, and try something different.  Life demands failure but you get to decide when!   Paradoxically, the occasional failures on little things, through the years, will make you much less likely to make (or become) a major failure later in life.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Leader driven Harmony #6: Failure is required (Part I)

by Mack McKinney on January 7, 2011

Failure is Required!

If any of the following is true about you, you are in danger:

  • Your parents worried a lot about your self-image when you were growing up, so you got lots of encouragement
  • Your parents helped you with homework and projects so you could get a better grade or win the grand prize (and you often did!)
  • Everyone on your sports teams got a trophy for something (best helper, trying the hardest, etc.) so nobody would feel left out at awards banquets
  • Your parents set you up in your first business(es) and made all the tough decisions for you so you wouldn’t fail

These actions by loving, caring parents and coaches and teachers throughout the 80s and 90s have inadvertently helped create a generation of emotionally-dependent Generation-Y people (aka Gen-Yers or “Millennials”).  If you grew up during this time, you are likely affected.  But the condition can be corrected and no surgery is needed.  You just have to fail at a few things and you’ll be OK.  But you need to carefully choose the things at which you might fail (sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?).

In his outstanding book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell talks about his discovery that seasoned professionals (airline pilots, doctors, etc.) don’t really get good at their craft until they have accumulated roughly 10,000 hours doing it!  That is the equivalent of 5 years of five-day weeks, 8 hours each day.  And you can bet that, hidden in those hours are many successes and many failures.  Let’s look at just one profession, aircraft pilot, and talk about the training possibilities and we’ll look at two types of students:  those allowed to make mistakes and those prevented from making mistakes.  We’ll then compare the training they get with the way YOU have been treated by your teachers, coaches and parents and show you why that puts you in danger of being a failure in life!

When you learn to fly, your instructor’s technique is absolutely crucial in preparing you for the real world of safely flying an aircraft around the sky, navigating from place to place and talking to controllers and other pilots.  Most flight instructors, military and civilian, use a combination of teaching techniques, pushing students when their proficiency permits, allowing students to make small mistakes and learn from them, etc.  But unfortunately there are also two extreme teaching styles that we should avoid:

  1. The “Nanny Instructor” who intervenes constantly and prevents the student from making any mistakes
  2. The “Deep End Instructor” who teaches flying like some people teach swimming:  throw the student in the deep end of the pool and don’t intervene unless they are about to die.

We will leave the “Deep End Instructor” discussion for another day.  But a quick examination of the “Nanny Instructor” and a comparison to some parents and teachers and coaches, is interesting.  First, what do we see when students trained by Nanny Instructors finish their training?

  • They are not Prepared. Since they have not been allowed to make many mistakes and have a tiny mistake insidiously multiply into bigger mistakes, they are not prepared when that happens to them when flying alone.  So they are not prepared for many things that can go wrong in the air but more importantly they are not mentally prepared with the confidence they will need to think through the completely unexpected problems they will sometimes face.  If all mistakes are preceded by the instructor saying “now be careful – – – your airspeed is dropping” or “now the needle is moving so let’s start our turn to the runway” then the student will never hear the stall horn on approach (scaring the crap out of you as it warns of an impending, possibly deadly approach stall).  And the student will never have the scary experience of flying through the course to the runway and having to then figure out exactly where he is and then remember that he hasn’t started his descent on time and then overflying the runway and having to call the controller and embarrassingly ask for another approach.
  • They Panic: These students are more likely to panic when a series of problems hits them in rapid-fire succession because they have not been allowed to see those big problems develop in training because the instructor always intervened.  Unfortunately, panic can cause the brain to almost shut down, often leading to fatal mistakes (the aircraft crash of Robert Kennedy Jr. comes to mind).

In the next post we will show how YOU may be like my pilot friend John, who could have killed himself had it not been for the excellent training he had received.  We’ll also see if YOU are in danger because people have NOT let you fail sufficiently as you grew up and why you now may be perfectly set-up to fail big-time in your life. It is like an earthquake:  experts don’t worry about the geologic fault zones that rumble and shake frequently because those faults are releasing energy all the time.  Instead they worry about the quiet fault lines, where pent-up energy is increasing and could let go with catastrophic effect.   Are YOU that pending earthquake?  Are you being unknowingly set-up, by well-meaning family and friends, for a major failure?  And if you are, what can you do about it?  We’ll show you in the next post.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Working Hard – Still no progress?

by Vijay Peduru on August 18, 2010

We all work hard but don’t seem to make much progress. In a lot of organizations, people seem to be praised high for working long and hard, but they never seem to get promoted or get noticed. Why is this. It is because the definition of “hard work” changed. A lot of people still believe in the industrial age definition that hard work is using your “body” to work hard , but if we look at our current situation, the majority of us do work sitting at a desk in front of a computer.

Many people are not aware that we have transitioned to an information age from an industrial age. According to most economic historians, the Industrial age ended about 20Yrs ago in 1989 when the Berlin wall came down and the internet came up.

In the industrial age, working hard meant, using our body and working long hours i.e physical labor . That is how machines worked and humans had to work similar to machines and humans were rewarded for this.

Now though, the majority of us are not working with machines, we are working with computers using our mind more instead of our body. Now hard work means emotional labor.. exerting our mind. Sure, we still work on long hours and weekends, but this is still not working hard as hard work is still translating into long hours. As Seth Godin says ” Hard work meant more work in the past. But the past doesn’t lead to the future.The future is not about time at all. The future is about work that’s really and truly hard, not time-consuming. It’s about the kind of work that requires us to push ourselves, not just punch the clock. Hard work is where our job security, our financial profit, and our future joy lie.

A lot of successful people work the same hours or less than we work, but they are still successful.  They get ahead because they do the new “hard work” As Seth Godin says

“Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you’d rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier. And, after you’ve done that, to do it again the next day.”

So, the easiest way to do hard work is to love change,train ourselves to love challenges and question the status quo all by using and exerting our mind.

From now on, let us start training ourselves in baby steps to do the new “Hard work” i.e “exerting emotional labor”.