Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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‘The Prospect of Good’

This post was written by Gregg Hake a few weeks ago and its one that makes you really think so I wanted to share.

“I have a new philosophy. I’m only going to dread one day at a time.” ~ Charles M. Schulz

Illness has a way of narrowing down your scope of concern. The more severe it is, the more it seems you must withdraw into your heart and mind to deal with it. Long-term fears and dreads tend to fade from consciousness or are perhaps crowded out by more pressing immediate concerns and if you’re lucky, the process can actually put life back into perspective.

Charles Schulz’ “new philosophy” is funny in a painful kind of way, but life is generally a thorough mixture of matters pleasant and disagreeable. You may have come to realize that the mixture is a given and largely beyond your control, but how you face the mixture is completely up to you. Further, you might have noticed that you really do have an option when it comes to the way you think about the future.

Think about it this way: you can give the prospect of good more weight in your heart than you do the dread of evil. The moment you do, the tide of your life will begin to turn. You cannot exert a radiance influence on the world around you when you are paralyzed with dread, but you can have a tremendous impact when you are buoyed by the prospect of good.

You needn’t contract a terrible illness to come to terms with these realizations. You needn’t wait for a life-changing moment to change your life. You can be a force of change in your world, an agent of creative change, by simply allowing for a change in emphasis. Give weight to the prospect of good. Stop wasting time and energy dreading ill things.

The circumstances you face will be what they are, but you can be who you determine to be when you open the door to greet them.

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Life’s Influence

I’d like to say that when I was younger I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life and where I was going – but the truth is like many young people I really didn’t have a clue.  And I do believe that some of the paths I almost took would likely have led to a destination I wouldn’t be happy with today.

But how do you know what you don’t know?

A business colleague asked me the other day what influenced me to start my own business rather than continue to grow with an organization.   My reply was pretty quick. The practice of managing people is often the weakest link in an organization and yet we depend on our employees to run our organizations.    I wanted to take all of the experiences I have gained over the years and offer that expertise to organizations that can’t afford fulltime HR staff, but need guidance in creating work environments that attract and retain top performers.

I started thinking though.  I believe I was always meant to help others in some form or fashion.  So many people influenced my life in many different ways. Not always good, but always good learning.  I would love to take the credit for all the positive choices in my life, but the truth is, even in the worst of times someone is influencing your next decision.

But in my reply to my colleague I reflected on two separate conversations I had in my mid 20’s: one with a more experienced coworker, and one with my boss at the time. I won’t go into the details, but I will say that a couple of 20-minute discussions truly did change my life.

These two people apparently recognized my strengths and understood my struggles. Their suggestions for my professional development came unsolicited; and as I look back I know I probably would never have asked.

If I hadn’t taken advantage of their wisdom when it came to me, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today. It’s impossible to predict just where I would have ended up, but I do know that I am very happy with how it’s all played out so far…

So, to me, those two short conversations were powerful mentoring moments that shifted the course of the rest of my life. I’ve learned that mentorship can come in the form of a structured, formal program; or that it can show up as an impromptu 20-minute conversation while eating lunch.

Who’s helped you out through their words of wisdom? How did that change your life? Were their moments in your life in which you wish someone had offered up their knowledge? When have you been a mentor, and how could this have potentially changed a life?

The point is to not hold back. Share your wisdom. You never know the impact you may have with your words. And the bonus is that the more we give, the more we get back – and the happier we are!

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Managers – Mediators of Motivation

Watch a manager who is hard at work. Chances are you’ll see a person struggling, intellectually and emotionally, to create a desire in others for goal-directed action.

Here’s the thing: people are motivated to do what they like doing. Everyone is motivated to do something. The slacker who sits across from you may also coach the State Champion little league team, 3rd year in a row, the result of vigorous practice every week.

Someone I respect as a leader very much told me the best advice he ever heard about motivation was a quote from former U.S. President Harry Truman. When asked how he managed to get people onto his team and fired up, he responded: “I find out what people want. Then I help them get it.”

Important message hereTake time to discover people’s interests and what is important to them. Just ask them. I haven’t met anyone yet who won’t talk about themselves and their interests. If you find that job security is paramount to one person, emphasize the relationship between new long-term projects and the potential security they provide.

Discuss your own interests and goals with your team members. Then, have a discussion about aligning personal goals with the business targets and related tasks. You’re not going to satisfy every desire; people understand that. But when people feel that their own input and interests are valued, they are more committed to the business results—and to each other.


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Mutual Agreement

Negotiation is a fact of life. Everyone negotiates something every day. At work we negotiate about schedules, budgets, task allocation, you name it.

One thing is clear: certain people will shy away from negotiating because they fear the confrontation.  One way to minimize the whole confrontation thing is to establish a tone for a mutually worthwhile conversation

Think about using questions like:

1. “What would you like to see as one of the outcomes today?”
2. “What else can I tell you about my situation?”
3. “What else can you tell me about your ideas so that I can better understand your perspective?”
4. “What do you need from me that would be helpful?”

You get the idea.

You’ll know you’ve reached the most cooperative agreement when everyone at the table says, “This is the best decision possible given all the facts we have.” Emotionally, no one will feel worse off than before, and may have even greater respect for each than before.

The biggest possible payoff: A result that offers bigger benefits than anyone originally thought possible.

Any method of negotiation should be judged by three criteria:
Should produce wise agreement if agreement is possible;
Should be efficient;
Should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties.

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Creating a Sustainable Competitive Advantage

To survive and prosper, small and midsize companies must establish a marketing presence based upon a sustainable competitive advantage.

I often speak with company owners and CEO’s that want to grow their organizations, but don’t know how to take the next step.  It’s difficult when you’ve worked so hard to build your current business to slow down enough to look what’s next.

So where do you start?

Examine your Marketing Presence.  This is the message your organization communicates to its prospect and customer base.  Is your message effective?  To be effective, the message should be clear and simple — and contain the key attributes you want associated with your business.

What is your Competitive advantageThe sum of those attributes that differentiate your business from its competitors. This is your core competence. You develop, build and enhance it through a clear understanding of your customers’ wants and needs. You implement it through a strategic plan (a directional compass) that can help you quickly adapt to changes in their wants and needs.

Is it Sustainable? Can it keep in existence, maintain and affirm the validity of, support the spirit, vitality and resolution of, encourage, endure and withstand. Only through your continuous understanding of what makes your business competitive can your business survive and prosper. GE’s former CEO, Jack Welch, once said, “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”

Since it takes two — a buyer and a seller — to make a sale, the reason for establishing a viable marketing presence is for your business to be on the prospective buyer’s “short list” when the buyer is ready to buy. You want to be sure that your company is among those being evaluated when the prospect’s need arises.

When you think about your competitive advantage, consider that in your prospect’s mind your company “fits” into some category.  For example, you are either a “low-cost” or “value-added” supplier. A low-cost supplier is categorized as one who consistently provides a lower cost with acceptable quality. A value-added supplier provides a differentiated product or service that contains substantial attributes which command a premium price.

Likewise, you are either a “generalist” or a “specialist”. A generalist is categorized as having a broad scope — serving all types of customers in an industry or geographical area, offering a broad range of products or services.  A specialist focuses on specific products or services and dedicates all efforts to that one niche or market segment.

The key element in your thinking should be to make a difference. You must take the risk to create a recognizable choice from your rival companies.  Your worst error here would be to imitate rival companies or being all things to all people.

As you think strategically about establishing or re-establishing your market presence, consider this process:

Conceptualize your strategy — this is pure and analytical. Engineer general agreement to the strategy — here you are muddling over the practicality of what you want to do and sharing your ideas with others and getting their input.  You might also seek the help of a business coach during this period.

Prepare a mission statement and business plan — to discover and clarify what business you are in and how you plan to approach it.

Communicate the statement and plan — both internally and externally.

Live the plan — if all the steps feel right, start to implement the plan — but with the full expectation, knowledge and intent (this is really important) you will continuously adjust and adapt it to market changes.

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Taking Responsibility

Like discipline, responsibility is one of those words you have probably heard so many times from authority figures that you’ve developed a bit of an allergy to it. Still, it’s one of the most important things associated with growth and maturity and more important taking responsibility makes you feel good about your life. Without it as a foundation nothing else really works.  When you blame others for your circumstances, you give up your power to change your circumstances.

Not taking responsibility may be less demanding, less painful and means less time spent in the unknown. It’s more comfortable. You can just sit back and blame the problems in your life on someone else. But there is always a price to pay. When you don’t take responsibility for your life and your choices you give away your personal power.

One of the biggest reasons people’s self-confidence suffers is they don’t take responsibility for the choices they make in their lives. Instead someone else is blamed for the bad things that happen and a victim mentality is created and empowered.  This of course damages vital parts in your life, including ambitions, goals and achievements as well as relationships.

By taking responsibility for our lives we not only gain control of what happens. It also becomes natural to feel like you deserve more in life as your confidence builds and as you do the right thing more consistently. You really begin to feel better about yourself.

It is often said that your thoughts become your actions. But without taking responsibility for your life those thoughts often just stay on that mental stage and aren’t translated into action.  Most often than not, the only person standing in your way is you.  You start to self-sabotage or hold yourself back in subtle or not so subtle ways and that alone keeps you from achieving the success you dream of.

Taking responsibility for your life is that extra ingredient that makes taking action more of a natural thing. You don’t get stuck in just thinking, thinking and wishing so much. You become proactive instead of passive. You may be able to do a little about that by affirmations and other positive techniques. But the biggest impact by far comes from taking responsibility for yourself and your life. By doing the right thing.

So how do you take responsibility?

Well, it’s simply choice that you have to make. One of my favorite quotes from Charles R. Swindoll says it all.

“We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”