Friday, October 11, 2013

"Life-Making" Decisions

That title is a catchy cliché for an important concept in the development of your career. When your eyes open in the morning and you are lying there in the quietness of your bedroom, does the thought come to mind, "AWESOME, I wonder what I can accomplish today." Or is it more like, "I can't believe it's only Tuesday and I have to get out of this bed and go to work."
The difference between "GET TO" and "HAVE TO" seems to have a direct correlation between building a career or having a job. The simple choices we make day after day and the perspective we take with us each morning toward our work determine the difference between making a life or simply making a living.

We begin to "make a life" when we have the mindset that life is good and I get to make it better, as opposed to making a living by moving aimlessly through each day of the workweek struggling just to earn a paycheck. The attitudes sound so drastically different and yet they can be separated by a mere thought or a few seemingly innocent actions. The results over time, however, are drastically different. Below is a link to one of my favorite stories on two men; one chose to make a life and one a living. One was likely a Builder and one a Destroyer. Even if you have read it before, it is a fun reminder of the potential of the choices we make in our careers. Take a few minutes to reflect on where you are today and where you would like to be. Then ask yourself, "What is the simplest thing I can do today to move myself in a 'life making' direction? 

Click here to read the "Are You a Builder or a Destroyer?" article. 

Success Factors in Building Your Career

Have you worked at building a network of contacts that can be called on for insight to a problem or to open a door to a prospect? People that are moving forward in their careers have a list of contacts that they can pull from continually. If they are making a decision on running their business, they will call one of the dozens of business owners they know around the country. Careers are built by the number of people you have impacted and are willing to help in return. 

The old saying "You are known by the company you keep" is certainly true in developing your career. It goes without saying that being a member of the professional associations related to your business is important to stay on top of industry trends. But what else have you chosen to participate in? For example, if you want to continue to develop your sales and marketing savvy you may choose a professional organization such as SME, Sales and Marketing Executives, where contacts and information could be invaluable. Also think about getting connected in your community through charitable causes and belonging to local boards.

Think about the professionals in sports ... the true champions. Tiger Woods constantly talks about something he learned on the practice tee or what his swing coach has him working on. Professionals continue to learn and they welcome every opportunity to do so. They seem to always be reading a book on people skills or personal development. They read periodicals relevant to their business and interests or have audio books on their mobile devices. Career builders are passionate about learning and applying their knowledge.

In my career as a business coach, I have had the opportunity to meet many people in many companies. When we come into work with an organization I get to know the management and sales staff very well. Over the years I have seen a lot of individuals building their careers and a lot destroying their careers. (Again you can refer to the article linked above about "BUILDERS AND DESTROYERS," or click here.)

Those individuals that are building are investing time. They are not afraid to spend an "all-nighter" finishing up an exciting design and presenting it at 10 am the next day. They will meet on a Saturday afternoon with a client from out of town and do so without feeling sorry for themselves and usually have the support of their family and spouse. This support comes because when the BUILDER was not at work, he or she was at home or engaged in a family activity. Even though they put in a good number of hours, there is balance throughout the year and everyone understands that. The career DESTROYERS on the other hand, seem to look for the fastest way out of working often delaying paperwork, returning phone calls, or neglecting to share information with their peers that would make everyone's job easier. The interesting paradox is the BUILDER seldom complains about the hours being invested. The DESTROYER will be the first to tell you they are overworked and underpaid, which is a key indicator of the person only making a living and letting life pass them by.

Those professionals building their careers know it is never too late to get better. Many professionals have stumbled and even failed along the way. It is this failure that has sparked a passion for success. Learning from past experiences and taking corrective action is the mark of a true professional. Failure is a temporary state until a better solution comes along and the BUILDER is constantly looking for that better solution. The choices that determine the difference between a career and a job, a life or a living, are made one at a time ... over and over again. The perspective you take to work each day reflects the choice you have made about yourself and your profession. What choice have you made today?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Business Decisions

Just Decide

One of the most crippling diseases that can creep into an organization or someone's personal life and affect productivity, enthusiasm and accomplishment is the mind-boggling condition of indecision. As we avoid, procrastinate and sidestep decisions that need to be made, we are not only "treading water," but slowly sinking into a sea of complacency and confusion. Individuals and organizations often find themselves in the mire of unfinished projects and unresolved issues because no one has the courage to simply make a decision.

It is easier to offer someone else a multitude of choices and allow them to take the blame if it ends up being the wrong one than to take the responsibility yourself and move forward confidently in your choice. As Earl Nightingale once said, "The minute we choose to not make a decision about something we put ourselves in the hands of circumstances, or under the control of others who will make a decision. Decide, and even if you make a wrong decision, it will usually become apparent, and you can correct it. But if you make no decision at all, you will never find out what is right or how you could have made it right."

It is so evident when I enter a company that has developed a culture where individuals can approach their daily work with confidence in making good decisions that people are thriving on the opportunity to think and act. Taking ownership for both good decisions and bad liberates individuals and allows them to grow and make better, more important decisions in the future. Children that have the opportunity to choose with the guidance of their parents and then pay the consequences of those decisions become more independent and develop a greater self-esteem than those that are told what to do and when to do it right up until the time they leave home. We learn by risking being right and we move forward by making better choices the next time around. If we limit our employees, our children or even ourselves by avoiding tough decisions, then the future is always in the hands of others and grows more uncertain and confusing than it needs to be.

- Jim Paluch

Brain-Rattling Questions

Often our indecision comes from lack of clarity or lack of information. One of the best ways to get information that will help in the decision-making process is to ask thought-provoking, emotionally jarring questions that cause us to seek out an answer and take action. Here is a list of these types of questions that will make you think and may just cause you to take action and move forward with an important decision:
  • Right now there may be somebody in your company or in your life that should not be there...Who is it and why are they still around?
  • At this moment there is someone needing information or a response from you so they can make a decision...Who is it and what is keeping you from responding?
  • There is a family issue that needs to come to closure...What is it and what is your first step to finding this closure?
  • You are considering buying something or getting rid of something...What is it and how will you benefit from taking action?
  • You are avoiding a health decision...What is it and how will someone in your life benefit from you taking action?
If the questions have caused you to think and motivated you to find the answers, you are on your way to doing just that. If the answers are just not there, you might consider one possible answer that could universally answer each: you're afraid of being wrong. Just go for it and know that taking action is the right decision that puts you far ahead of the disability of indecision.

Tips that Help You Decide

The way individuals make decisions varies as widely as the people making them, but a few common tips can help anyone aid the process and speed the results.

  • Prioritize the decisions you need to make. Delegate and enjoy the help of your decision-making team.
  • Trust your judgment in making the decision and focus on the next step. Even if the decision was wrong, move on. Make a decision, make it yours and die by it!
  • Timing is a big player in the decision game. Do it when the time is right. The right decision at the wrong time is no better than the wrong decision at the right time.
  • Small and consistent decision making prepares and disciplines you for the bigger ones that really matter.
  • Weigh out the pros and cons of any choice by writing them down. This removes the questions and directs a clear decision.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Time Travel

Do you believe in time travel? With the risk of losing every reader we have, I must admit that I do and that I have experienced it many times. The time travel that I am referring to is not quite the same as the science fiction movies; you know, jumping into some wild-looking machine, firing up the flux capacitor and flying off, back to the future! I've never dialed in a date on some odd-looking gizmo and then miraculously jumped there in a flash, yet when I think about how I've arrived right here, right now, it does seem as if I got here a lot faster than I thought possible.

The Ghost of Business Past
Jim Paluch with Five Important Things
Recently Beth and I had the opportunity to have dinner with a great young couple. They are expecting their second child, and their first is a tremendous blend of mother and father who, at two years old, already seems to have life all figured out.  We sat at our table for several hours and talked about building a business, building a team, building customers and building a life that would be meaningful and significant. From my seat in the restaurant, I traveled back 25 or 30 years to a place where I was sitting on the opposite side of the table, asking the questions, looking for answers, and, in my thoughts, comparing and contrasting the answers I was hearing with other answers I had received during other such dinners. Dwelling in that moment in history, I remember being hungry for information from every book, tape, or person who would talk with me. It seemed that back then there was plenty of time to get things accomplished. I had goals. My feet were leaving the starting blocks. The race was on, and I could run and never get tired. I had Beth and the boys cheering every step of the way, and then somehow I must have stepped into a time machine--a time machine that was set for this table in this restaurant, with this couple and talking about the race that is still being run.

Beth and the boys helping set up eventOver the past 25 years I have had the privilege of being involved with hundreds of great companies and spent thousands of hours guesstimating with thousands of great people. All of this experience becomes the fuel that enables me to travel forward in time to get a glimpse of what might happen in the lives of the people I meet today. I have watched individuals who were literally making minimum wage digging ditches 25 years ago transition and grow into leading a crew or a branch or a division or their own companies. In contrast, I have also known many natural-born leaders and salespeople who were never able to get out of the starting blocks and have spent their time failing from job to job creating turmoil in their family and a trail of burnt bridges. What is the difference in the two?

Jim Paluch preparing for eventThe ones who found success did so because they were committed to becoming the best ditch diggers possible. From the beginning, they started by doing all of the simple things that made them successful in that position and formed the foundation for greater success in the future. Showing up on time, working hard, and being grateful for the current income they were making; they trusted that better opportunities would come if they put themselves in the position to earn those opportunities. In contrast some individuals with an excess of talent and potential had a tendency to never progress beyond wanting more without giving more. Ultimately the only career path open to them was to bounce around between equally unfulfilled situations. 

This is all much clearer in hindsight and much easier to see when we're measuring up someone else. It can be very difficult for us to see which person we are at the current moment, yet if we stop and reflect, we may know. On the other hand, I believe it is possible to predict where any person, including oneself, will arrive over time. If we are putting ourselves in a position to get better at what we are doing right now, whether it be a business owner, doctor, teacher, or ditch digger, there is a great chance that we will arrive in the future having enjoyed the journey and happy with the destination.
One opportunity for time travel that I have recently had has been through my re-acquaintance with a gentleman by the name of Jim Gibbs. About 15 years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Jim and his company Gibbs Landscape in Atlanta, helping the sales team to unleash their potential and the production team to welcome the challenges of a growing company. I enjoyed the several visits to work with them and on one such occasion had the opportunity to stay in Jim's guesthouse at his home north of Atlanta.

Learning From a Master
As we walked through the gardens and tremendous outdoor spaces surrounding the house he talked about how he one day planned to develop the entire 220 acres into a public garden that thousands of people could enjoy.  Thinking back to those conversations I don't remember thinking to myself what that would be like, or having any real interest in if he would reach that goal, but what I did know at the time was that the gardens were beautiful and inspiring.  I knew that Jim's passion and enthusiasm for them burned inside him and kept him going day after day toward that dream.   I recently returned to those gardens to talk with Jim about allowing us to bring a group of salespeople and business leaders to the exact gardens he had described 15 years ago. 
Walking with him through 220 acres of gardens, I realized that I had traveled through time. In that early visit to Gibbs Gardens, he was telling me about what the future would be; in my recent visit it seemed as though I had simply arrived in that future. He had fueled his journey with vision, passion and enthusiasm that allowed him to become a Master Gardner, a Master Business Builder and, if you believe in it, a Master Time Traveler.
As we finished our dinner with our young friends and were laughing over the dessert we were trying not to eat too much of, one of them asked a great question, a question that had me instantly sorting through the database of people and places and stories that I have accumulated over time to find the best possible answer: "Why do some people succeed when others do not?"
Gibbs Gardens
I repeated the question back, trying to stall and hoping that an answer would come to me. Then the answer just arrived in one of those moments when you seem to be listening to yourself speak, "Those individuals who have succeeded as a leader or contributor are simply those individuals who kept going. They faced each obstacle or opportunity as just another step as they as they travel through time."
- Jim Paluch
On April 1, Jim Paluch will sit down with Jim Gibbs for the fourth installment of the Come Alive Outside EDGE Webinar Series. Tune in to find out more about how Jim Gibbs became a Master Gardener as well as a Master Business Owner. This webinar will be a great preview to what the experience will be like at Sales Jam on June 13-14 at Gibbs Gardens in Atlanta. Register here for the webinar on Monday at 3:00 p.m. EDT.
Tips for Time Travel
  • Be aware of the present moment.
  • Gibbs Gardens Today Collect stories and appreciate the people you meet.
  • Know that what you observe today may help you tomorrow.
  • Enjoy recalling memories, and do it often.
  • Practice imagining your future self.
  • Set goals.
  • Think on things worth thinking about.
  • Just keep on traveling.