Sunday, June 29, 2014

Redefining Greatness with Humility

What then, is greatness? And how does one redefine it? These questions are tough to answer for many individuals, including those who appear on the surface to be successful.

To be great. We see greatness redefined in a negative sense, as when one falls from grace. When one is "heir to the throne," only to realize there is no kingdom, and the company who was grooming them finds them no longer necessary.

That is when one's best opportunity to redefine greatness may be. When the ladder you're climbing up no longer supports you. When phone calls go unanswered, and emails go unread. When innovation no longer pervades your thoughts. Instead, the floodgates open to: what do I do now.

Sound familiar? It does to me, resonates loudly from experiences I've had professionally and personally. But what I would not do, and what no one should do, is lay down and die! There is no time for that, unless you are literally lying in a bed in a hospital and there's a plug to pull. But even then, I say, don't give up.

Because here's what happens. What once was impossible, will seem possible. What once was improbable, will become so. And if you (or I) would have given up, the world would have missed our new greatest moment. Our resurgence. Our reemergence. Our "Failure to Launch" vertically becomes our greatest PR in this race we call life, only in a totally new and horizontal direction.

So greatness redefined, amongst other things, is to never stop moving. If the door closes, go out the window, or to another door. If you can no longer climb, take a look at your surroundings. Does it lie ahead, instead of above you, or even beside you?

My first manager's most valuable advice was, "the answers are in the room". Whether there's 1500 people in that room, or if you're the only soul. The answer most definitely lies within.

  1. Life. Fitness. Love. Choose all of the above.

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Based on the above title, you may have thought I was going to insert the all-too-often used cliche`. Nope! When life gives you lemons, make Arnold Palmers, extra sweet. Okay, so that wasn't super-creative, but it wasn't expected, right?

That's what happened to me, something unexpected.  After starting a job that seemed to be the "perfect" fit for me, I get an email you'd only expect on April 1st: your position has been eliminated.  Except it wasn't April.  This was for real. I had only been there for 3 weeks, and had turned down another offer to start this one.  I never thought about the definition of at-will, and you usually don't think about Human Resources jargon until that moment.  But that indeed happened.  Once you get over the initial shock, you have to face reality. I need a job. Now.

And how does one explain a 3 week stint at a company?  You explain it, sticking to the facts.  Your position was eliminated.  Period.  And ask to be allowed to share your contributions.  This is why I stress to people: make your impact immediate and memorable.  Companies hire because they have a need.  They don't want to have a 100k expense (that would be you), for nothing.  They want results.  Figure out what they are lacking and start filling that need.

Also, don't take it personally they decided to cut you from payroll.  Like that boyfriend from college: "it's not you, it's me." Believe it this time!  Business is business, and they can get rid of you without a reason. Although eliminating a position is plausible, they don't even have to tell that much. What you must focus on, beloved, is how you're going to go about your recovery.  Yes, recovery.  It's a traumatic experience, no matter how steely you are, to be terminated from an organization.  But you've got to recover.  Why? Because I'm sure tuition/mortgage/groceries/car/gas/kids/vacations won't understand.

Do not let an experience like this shake your confidence, although it undoubtedly will at first.  Remind yourself they hired you, didn't they?  Everything you contributed is documented and you formed relationships with fellow employees to some extent, right?  Of course!  Then ask yourself, would it have stung less if you had been there longer? Working for the same employer for years and them eliminating your job may arguably hurt more.  And unless you're 3 paychecks from retirement, you have to get back out there and convince someone else that you would be a valuable asset to their company too.

Of course, there's still an alternative: use this opportunity to start your own business.  What, you say? You just lost a job, have no replacement income, and how are you going to start your own gig?  But think about it.  Have you been working for 15, 20, 25 years, and never once thought about doing your own thing? People often don't think about entrepreneurship because they haven't been kicked out the door.  Think of it as an opportunity to think bigger.  You can't eliminate yourself.  When companies trim the fat, they don't usually skim the top dogs; rather, they trim the expendables.  They trim the ones they don't believe will affect their bottom line.  And it's easier to let someone go you haven't gotten to know too well.

But when it's your baby, and you've cultivated the business from its infancy, more than likely you'll decide who goes and who stays.  And you won't be blindsided by any of it.  You have to consider: do you want to be the one who blazes a new trail, or do you want to be the one who walks behind that guy, with a flashlight? Both have their place in the business world, and are necessary.  Both have inherent risks.  You could be the trailblazer, only to find out someone else did it faster, better, and your product is not enough of a niche to be noticed.  And you could certainly be along for the adventure, watching it grow but having no real control over your upward mobility (or lateral, for that matter).

So can you imagine who I want to be? Yes, I would rather be the one who sees change before others do.  Who leads others to perform and is responsible for results.  That's why coaching interests me so much.  I can think of nothing more gratifying than helping a rising star get closer to realizing their potential by coaching them for success.  By opening the doors to possibilities with digital and print marketing, content management, streamlining processes, and making the decisions that lead to profitability.  By having them re-think their customer base, challenging them to consider what their true needs are, and to respond accordingly.

So allow life to give you lemons! It's what you do with them that matter.  You may just be a trailblazer in the making!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How a 7 Year-Old Does It

My 7 yo son had a swim meet today.  When his father signed him up earlier this month, I didn't fully realize the commitment.  Practice is every morning or every evening for an hour, M-F.  This is our first time on a fully organized team, mind you.

His first meet was last week.  He was scheduled to do 2 events, just two! 25m freestyle stroke, and 25m backstroke.  I was a bit nervous, and he, well, wasn't.  I had to look for him during those several hours, and he was usually running around (think outdoor pool, grassy areas and playground).

Fast forward to his first event, the FREESTYLE.  So we talked about it the night before, we talked about that morning, and the coach told him as well.  Get ready, set, buzz! Go Gavin! Go Gavin! Wait, he's not doing freestyle...  Maybe I don't know what freestyle is, I thought.  Why did I have that thought? He was doing the butterfly stroke, instead of freestyle!

So quick stroke lesson, freestyle is usually everyone's fastest event, and the one for which they post great times.  The butterfly, in contrast, is a significantly slower event for most of the same kids.  Including my son.  When he finished, I was puzzled.  What happened? He wasn't focused, and thought he heard the coach instruct him to do the butterfly.  Whoops!

His backstroke event was better, in that he did the correct stroke.  Once his father and I got over a little embarrassment, we hugged and kissed him for trying his best.

The following week, I made sure he focused at practice.  I kept calling his name to listen to the coach and follow his exercises.  He had a much better week of practices.  For the following meet, which was today, he was placed in the same 2 events.  Okay.  This time, he's going to get it right.  And sure enough, he did.  I don't know what his time was for his freestyle, but his form was an improvement over last week!

About 2 hours passed between his first event and his backstroke.  His father and I upped the ante for him to do well.  We both have a sales background, and subscribe to incentives.  He committed to giving him a $50 shopping spree to the toy outlet of his choice; I added $25 to the pot.  What did he have to do? He had to place: 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the backstroke.  He made us repeat what he had to do several times.  We knew he got it, and he was going to go for it.

So the perfect fairy tale end would be he placed, right?  There are no fairy tales, remember? He didn't place overall, but he did place 1st or 2nd in his heat.  Which meant he was probably 4th or 5th overall.  Of course he was disappointed, he had his best time ever.  He kicked his legs like we told him to, he paced himself, and definitely tried his hardest.  Yet it wasn't enough to get his name called, nor the $75 worth of toys.

What does this have to do with greatness redefined, with leadership, with coaching? Plenty!  My son showed me what good looks like, and then he showed what great looks like, on him.  You don't always win.  But he will.  You will.  You just have to redefine what 1st place is!  Perhaps it's breaking even this month with your business, or turning a profit after several months' worth of losses.  Perhaps you're becoming healthier and stronger and more "fit" in your business and your life.  Your business plan is more lean, and your training methods are working better than before.  You gained a new client, or twenty.

Point is, you always need someone to show what good to great looks like, and to sometimes redefine it from what you've known.  What made you successful before may not work this time around.  You may have to take a detour.  And there will be another race.  But most never win, without a lot of coaching, practice, and heart.  I have no doubt he's got that goal in the back of his mind, and every practice from here on out is going to be trying to get there.  Tenacity and consistency are common traits of profitable businesses.  Make it happen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How Fit Are You (for growth)?

When you are attempting to reach a goal, you have to assess where you are, or your jump off point. Once you know where you are vs. where you want to be, you can start filling in the blanks. For example, if you want to start a new fitness regimen, it helps to know what your level is. Can you do a 60 minute Spinning class? Or do you get winded after 10 minutes on the treadmill at 3.5mph? And if you happen to want to lose weight, you need to know your starting weight, your goal
weight, and how many weeks or months it will take you to get there. You'll have to add in a meal plan, and stick to it to see results, as well as increasing your calorie burn.

This is the same in business, and where the basis for business coaching is. I know many business people who have built a rock-solid business from the ground up, only to have it plateau. And once it plateaus, the natural thing to happen if measures aren't taken quickly is to LOSE business. Every business leader's fear. There are those who have been successful at their business, despite having little to no social media presence or coaching. However, with the increase in our reliance on technology as a source for business decisions, this is an incredible missed opportunity. And if the competition gets wind of how valuable diverse media is, even that business leader's plateau can erode.

If you are still thinking of picking back up on that fitness journey, start today. If you've reached a plateau in your training, despite being a well-oiled machine, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're in the business of helping others transform their bodies, you might have neglected preparing for increased exposure and success. The point is, whatever your business is, chances are you're not the smartest person in the room, in every area. And that's great! You know why? Because when you know you're not the smartest at say business planning or online media, you seek out that expert. You hire the business coach or the media consultant. You hire a content marketer, or content manager. You don't have to know how to create, write for, nor maintain a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blog or website. You can hire someone to manage all of that.  And a coach offers you invaluable insight into how to achieve your realistic goals. So you can get back to the business of sustained growth.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Facing Reality

I have a house. A BIG house. It has a lot of rooms. It has a large lot. What I had before would probably fit into 1/3 of my basement. When I bought this house, I loved it! I immediately took to tending to its needs- finding the best neutral Benjamin Moore colors, installing hardwood floors in two bedrooms and the family room. Outside, I was creative with my platings. All was well until...

My windows started leaking, I mean really leaking! Not every time it rained, just when it was "driving rain". They leaked inside, and since they were floor ceiling windows, leaked onto the sill and down onto my beautifully installed hardwoods. And they. Still. Leak.

Then, my basement flooded! My sump pump failed. Miserably. Then Home Depot failed. To have a sump pump with all its parts. During a crazy storm. My big basement's Berber carpet had to be removed. I cried like a baby. Don't judge, until it happens. And by the way, you don't think if you have a sump pump failure rider until it fails. One quarter HP piece of plastic. Never again. And no, I didn't have enough insurance. Geez!

I started to regret buying the big house. I started to regret loving the house enough to purchase it. I hate floor-to-ceiling windows. That leak. I hate below grade basements. They should only be for pools, since water loves hanging out down there.

So I installed a cast-iron sump pump, and a backup too. For a brief moment I felt like I won this battle. I had the windows that leaked repaired. But I should have known it wouldn't last, especially when the contractor said, "we hope we fixed it. But you know, windows are so tricky, the only way to definitely know is to remove ALL the siding (the wall is 20ft wide)". So I resolved to hope for the best.

Then I wondered if the problem was fixed. It wasn't. The windows leaked all winter, and I have towels that have taken up permanent residence in my family room. Nice, I know!

And my house makes a lot of noise. If walls could talk, I would ask them what else was installed improperly.

So,what does this have to do with greatness redefined, with coaching you to be your best self? I'm not giving up on my house. And the contractors who did shoddy work- I believe in karma. The reality is, I'm not a DIY'er and not an original owner, so I have no recourse against poor craftsmanship. But when I take a look at this house for what it is, a solution to lack of space in my condo, I was able to afford the mortgage and down payment because I planned for it, that I'm learning way more about houses than I ever thought possible, and at the end of the day more space is really not all it's cracked up to be.

Whatever your reality is, that the dead-end job you're at may not appreciate you, that you're not getting raises any time soon, that if you don't start watching your portions you're going to balloon, that he or she really doesn't love you, that the time is NOW to start living/loving/giving/exercising/being, own it. Appreciate it. Respect it. Change it. Because if you don't, the only one to blame is you. The resources are there. Coaches are there. Everything you need is there. Go get it!