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Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills – Which is More Important?

D o you remember that one special teacher from back in your school days? Mine was a math teacher who somehow was able to make math class a real joy. It certainly was not because algebra or the Pythagorean theorem were so much fun, it was because something magic happened whenever she was teaching. Her flair, passion and outside-the-box presentation skills made math class just fly by. She is a great example of someone well developed in both hard and soft skills.

I also remember the opposite: teachers who were really competent in the subject they taught, but who lacked the empathy, leadership and ability to motivate. That made classes boring at best, and frustrating and demotivating at worst. While the hard skills were certainly present, the lack of soft skills blocked them from making a real connection with their students. They just ‘taught’ us a subject, instead of inspiring us to learn.

What’s the difference between hard and soft skills? Are soft skills more important than hard skills, or is it the other way around?

This brings us to a very valid question: what’s the difference between hard and soft skills? Are soft skills more important than hard skills, or is it the other way around? And, if soft skills are so important, is there hope if you lack somewhat in that department?

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are measurable, functional or technical skills. Examples include calculating, reading, writing, typing, accounting, working with technical devices and computer programming, to name a few. Specific professional knowledge such as knowledge of human anatomy or Chinese economy would also qualify. Hard skills are skills that you can verify through individual exams, tests or assignments. Results can be compared to a set of predefined, hard criteria.

 

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are “soft” due to their being hard to measure objectively. Often, we call them personal skills. When we say soft skills, think about skills such as leadership qualities, working together with your teammates, listening to others or inspiring an audience. Soft skills are not all about others, they can also be applied to the self.

Think about self-care, the ability to focus or showing resilience in the face of setbacks. The hard thing about soft skills is that one cannot measure them on the basis of criteria-based tests. The absence or presence of a soft skill will only show itself in response to a series of different and varying situations.

Which is more important?

Both types of skills are important. Certain professions require very specific and well-developed hard skills. Without them you would fail instantly. But even then, soft skills will assist you to develop and use your hard skills successfully.

Imagine what happens if you are a brilliant neurosurgeon (hard skills) but you have a short temper (soft skills). Or as a fireman you can swim very fast (hard skills), but you cannot cooperate with your teammates (soft skills). Or you are a certified TTISI trainer or coach (hard skills) but you have difficulty listening to others (soft skills). It’s not so hard to predict you may struggle to save the lives you intend to save, or to help your clients to develop themselves.

Soft skills enable the neurosurgeon to keep severing blood vessels precisely even when that operating room nurse keeps annoying him.

Soft skills enable the neurosurgeon to keep severing blood vessels precisely even when that operating room nurse keeps annoying him.

Soft skills allow the fireman to work together with his teammates to get a victim out of the vehicle in the water. They also enable a certified trainer to respond to the individual needs of his/her clients. Soft skills are the key to success!

 

Why soft skills now?

Only a few decades ago, a customer was mainly dependent on what was on supply. These days, a customer has so many options that the customer journey has become a key concept in the boardroom. Whoever delivers the most flexible, attractive, trustworthy and innovative product and/or support wins over the customer.

Today, you can buy advice, counsel, coaching, mediation, search, or support in all areas of work and life, delivered by entrepreneurial professionals. Since service is a less tangible product, soft skills are vital to make a difference in a market full of well-informed and assertive buyers. How to handle stress, or how to address the modern customer, may spell the difference between success and failure.

 

Both skills are necessary to succeed

There is absolutely still need for hard skills in a changing marketplace. It’s still crucial that a bus driver owns a license, a judge knows the law and a pilot can fly a plane. And it’s certainly helpful if a math teacher can continue to tell us what the Pythagorean theorem actually means.

In the age of the customer, soft skills become more important than ever. Soft skills will make your hard skills more valuable. They are like oil that makes an engine run smoothly.

Soft skills will make your hard skills more valuable. They are like oil that makes an engine run smoothly.

Like Dr. Watson next to Sherlock Holmes. If they grow together symbiotically, they both become a unique buying point for your customers.

 

Conclusion

The good news is that, just like hard skills, soft skills can definitely be developed. However, they do require a different learning approach. It all starts with getting to know yourself, such as how you tend to do things, what drives you, and how you respond to feedback. With a fair amount of introspection, some patience and a will to improve, you can develop soft skills which can help bring out the best in all of those hard skills you’ve learned over the years.

Article written by Rieke Geerlings, Customer Care Professional at TTI Success Insights Benelux.

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10 Things Successful People Do Every Day

H ave you ever wondered if there is a secret formula for being successful? Why is it that some people seem to have a Midas touch while others struggle to get by? American historian, best-selling author and keynote speaker Kevin Kruse recently interviewed more than 200 highly successful people, a group that included seven billionaires, 13 Olympians, and accomplished entrepreneurs from many walks of life. One simple question provided a tremendous amount of insight. The question was: “What is your number one secret to productivity?”

One simple question provided a tremendous amount of insight. The question was: “What is your number one secret to productivity?”

Avoid meetings like the plague

Notorious time killers, meetings can derail positive progress in a hurry. Billionaire Mark Cuban advises, “Never take meetings unless someone is writing a check.” If you find meetings are absolutely necessary, keep them short and to the point. Stay focused.

Process everything just once

How many times have you gotten a memo or an email and you read it, set it down and put it in your to-do-later file. The next day, you glance at it again but still take no action. Finally, on the third day, you finally respond to it. Time spent looking at it the first two days was wasted time, since you didn’t take action until the third day. Make it a point to finish what you start so you can maximize the use of your time.

 

Carry a notebook

Many people consider Richard Branson to be the standard by which entrepreneurs are judged. His secret to success is having a notepad handy at all times. Regardless of how technology savvy he and his company may be, Branson is most comfortable writing down ideas on paper when they appear in his mind. Doing so gives him a starting point from which to build a more robust concept later. Writing things down allows the idea to have a place to live, freeing his mind to focus on other things.

 

Live in minutes, not hours

The absolute most valuable commodity in the universe is time. Successful people try to use every minute wisely.

The absolute most valuable commodity in the universe is time. Successful people try to use every minute wisely.

To that end, why schedule a meeting for an hour if you may really only need 37 minutes to accomplish what you set out to achieve? Using every minute to its fullest helps a person simply get more done, and do so more efficiently.

Schedule activities through calendar only

How many people spend time creating to-do lists that somehow never get fully realized? Studies show that only 41% of items on to-do lists ever get done. This lack of resolution leads to something known as the Zeigarnik Effect, a fancy term indicating these unresolved tasks will cloud one’s mind until they are resolved. Instead of creating these self-imposed mental distractions, schedule everything through your calendar and leave the to-do lists for the amateurs.

 

Limit distractions

Remember how excited we all were when email was first created, and we could instantly communicate with others with just a few keystrokes? How do we all feel about emails today? What used to be a welcome new addition has become, for many, a pesky gnat that won’t go away.

Like any other task, emails need to be managed. Limiting time spent reviewing emails will help you focus more and be distracted less, allowing you to accomplish so much more. Be sure you are managing emails and not letting emails manage you!

 

Create a consistent routine

Having a solid foundation for starting one’s day off right leads many successful people into hugely productive days.

Having a solid foundation for starting one’s day off right leads many successful people into hugely productive days.

Habits can vary from person to person. The key is to find what works for you that makes you feel good, provides energy and propels you to attack the day with vigor and purpose. For some, these habits include a morning run or yoga. Others prefer eating a healthy breakfast or a period of mediation. Find what works for you and do it consistently.

 

Master the art of delegation

Successful people don’t need to have their hands in everything. They simply want projects to get done. Those who understand delegation realize it’s about the task, not the person, and completing the task is far more important than having an active role in the process. The more that can be outsourced, the clearer the mind to focus on the things that really matter.

 

Prioritize the important things in life

The most successful people on Earth find time for the things that matter. Going back to Richard Branson, he often breaks midday from work to go kitesurfing. This activity provides an opportunity for him to clear his mind as he focuses on staying upward in the water, while serving the added bonus of being a great form of exercise. Nothing like clearing one’s head while doing the body good!

Work hard, but be prepared to walk away when the work is done. Make time for those who are important in your life. Have family dinners. Be present for the kids’ recitals. Take the family vacation and extend it an extra three days, just because. When you prioritize what matters, it creates a balance that makes everything else become that much easier and more enjoyable.

Article written by Dave Clark, Staff Writer and Editor at TTI Success Insights.

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4 Ways to Unlock Creativity

J ohnny Dwinell, veteran Nashville artist/producer/businessman, recently shared insight into increasing one’s creativity. Inspired by John Cleese of Monty Python fame, Dwinell recounts Cleese’s wisdom on how to get into a creative zone, do it quicker and remain there longer.

According to Cleese, creativity is not an innate ability that you either have or you don’t. Creativity is not, in and of itself, a talent. Creativity is not related to IQ. Creativity is a way of operating.

Creativity is not an innate ability that you either have or you don’t. Creativity is not, in and of itself, a talent. Creativity is not related to IQ. Creativity is a way of operating.

Becoming creative is all about being able to get into a particular state of mind, a playful state. Psychologist Donald Wallace McKinnon studied creativity and described it as an ability to play describing the playful mood as ‘childlike’ among most of the creative people he studied. Getting into this playful mode allows people to think without restrictions or judgment. The more free a person’s mind is during creativity, the more creative the person can be.

In his talk, Cleese mentions another study that breaks down the functions of people into two modes: OPEN and CLOSED.

Closed is the mode in which we spend most of our time. Closed is where we are purposeful with our actions: we are getting things done; we are practical, pragmatic, and businesslike. This mode is very is very results-driven and comes with a certain amount of anxiety, expectation, and pressure. Creativity does not happen in the closed mode.

Open is a state of creativity. You are open to anything.

These aren’t judgments — both are necessary. In fact, you need to be in the closed mode to execute that which is created in the open mode.

Four requirements to unlock creativity

1. Space: Like a garden, creativity needs space to grow. The mind doesn’t naturally switch on and off, it needs space before the necessary mindset can be achieved. Finding a place that is free from daily tasks and stresses, a creative “oasis” of sorts, can help the mind get to a creative state quicker.

Think of it like an old car on a cold winter’s day. If you start the car and immediately drive it without letting it warm up, it won’t perform well. Giving it a few minutes to heat up will allow the car to perform optimally. Your creative state is the equivalent to an aged car engine on a winter’s day. Let it warm up and watch it roll!

 

2. Time: Give yourself ample time in which to be creative. When you start down a creative path,  you need time to separate yourself from the rigors and stresses of daily life. Creativity won’t come immediately, but the longer you allow yourself to be in this stress-free state, the higher the chances for creativity.

Creativity won’t come immediately, but the longer you allow yourself to be in this stress-free state, the higher the chances for creativity.

A good rule of thumb is that if you wish to yield 60 minutes of creativity, give yourself 90 minutes of total time so you have time to transition from a closed to an open mind where creativity flourishes.

When it comes to creativity, the goal is to try to resolve a situation; to find a solution to something. These situations can be anything from writing a song, creating a story or painting a picture. Creative endeavors often do not have a definitive start and ending point. Wanting to reconcile the “problem at hand,” the brain may produce something rather quickly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the first thing you come up with will be all that great. Give yourself enough time to think beyond those initial thoughts that come to mind, and you’ll likely get to something better.

 

3. Confidence: In the realm of creativity, there is no “wrong” or “bad.” There is no room for judgment. During brainstorming of ideas, it’s all about creating as many ideas as possible, then focusing on the strongest of those ideas.

Those creating in solitude need to reserve judgment about their own ideas and keep moving forward. Those creating with others need to employ a “yes, and” approach, rather than “no, but” response. Any form of negative feedback can easily derail, if not outright sabotage, a brainstorming session. There is no “bad” creativity; keep it positive.

 

4. Humor: Injecting humor into your world is the fastest way to go from a closed to an open state. Humor relieves stress and puts people in a playful mood. Watching a funny movie or TV show or listening to your favorite comedian can transport a mind from “stern and serious” to “loose and playful” in minutes.

When we understand the concept of creativity being a way of operating, we can better work toward channeling our inner creativity and be creative more often.

Final thoughts

When we understand the concept of creativity as a way of operating, we can better work toward channeling our inner creativity and be creative more often. The best part about creativity is that it is irrespective of intellect; absolutely anyone can be creative if they know how to put themselves into the proper state.

All you have to do is make the time, enjoy the ride and have some fun along the way.

Article written by Dave Clark, Staff Writer and Editor at TTI Success Insights.

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How to Use Core Values to Craft Your Perfect Job

G iven that we spend about a quarter of our lives at work – maybe more – it’s kind of a travesty to say we’re going to spend most of our waking hours doing something that we don’t think matters that much. So it’s not a surprise that people are searching for meaning in work.” These are the words of organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who specializes in improving the work lives of employees.

For those who want to change their fortunes at their place of employment, the key may lie in the ability to identify what you are passionate about and work those passions into your job.

 

Discovering core values

“Make a list of the biggest sources of meaning in your life,” says Grant, and then ask yourself a one-word question about each: Why? The goal of the exercise is to eventually reach a core value. These values are at the heart of who we are as individuals. Incorporating core values into your daily activities will provide a much happier and satisfying work life.

Make a list of the biggest source of meaning in your life.

Grant says that once you identify your core values, two actions need to be taken. First, connect parts of your job that don’t feel meaningful to a core value. Second, find ways to work core values into your job.

To illustrate the first action, I will use a first-person perspective. As our company’s staff writer, I craft all types of content from blogs to website copy to emails. Without a doubt, there are some things I enjoy writing more than others. Email composition resides pretty low on my list of preferred tasks.

However, an important core value I live by is to be a great communicator. I strive to communicate in a way that is easy to understand, and leaves little room for misinterpretation. While emails may not be terribly inspiring, doing so gives me a chance to connect with my core value of being a good communicator. When I think of it in those terms, I view the task much more positively.

 

Job crafting

Grant referenced an article from the Harvard Business Review when he discussed the concept of job crafting.

Job crafting is this idea of saying, I have unique interests, values and skills that I could bring to the table that would allow me to be more effective and find more meaning in my work. So, I’m going to become an active architect of my job and I’m going to change the way that I do it, or I’m going to change what I work on.”

Job crafting does not advocate turning your job into a free-for-all, but it does mean incorporating elements that will inspire you and help you maintain a high level of energy and engagement. One idea is to come up with a side project from your day-to-day duties that really speaks to a passion you possess. Even if you spend just 10% of your work time on that project, it will help put you in a better place mentally to take on the rest of your tasks with a clearer mind.

Depending on your interests, this idea might come to fruition in the form of a social group that meets outside of work, such as a book club that furthers learning, or a charitable activity that can benefit your workplace.

Job crafting involves serious introspection about your job with the purpose of redefining it to incorporate your motives, strengths, and passions. Going through this process helps you to have influence on your daily activities, creating a job that will feel more meaningful and fulfilling. It serves the additional benefit of giving you more control over what you do on a day-to-day basis. You are the one that ultimately controls your outcome, not your boss or the leadership team.

Job crafting involves serious introspection about your job with the purpose of redefining it to incorporate your motives, strengths, and passions.

Why would an organization support job crafting?

Most people have more to do than time in which to do it. Having the ability to delegate tasks can free up time to address other important job tasks. Typically, leaders are the ones that determine what a worker does on a regular basis. By delegating job crafting to the employee, it frees up the manager to accomplish other things.

Not only does job crafting empower employees, it can serve the additional bonus of being a company benefit in lieu of cash bonuses or time off.

 

How to job craft

Begin by identifying motives, strengths, and passions, three vital components that will lead to higher engagement, better performance and overall happiness. Then look at how those things apply to work-related tasks, relationships and perceptions. Considering each of these three factors will ensure a thoroughly devised plan and greatly increase its chances for success.

Make sure that you are shaping your job, not letting your job shape you.

Conclusion

According to a survey of 5,000 U.S. households by The Conference Board, only 45% of those polled say they are satisfied with their jobs, certainly a downward trend from the 60% who were satisfied in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted. More recent studies from Gallup about job engagement show numbers even more disheartening.

Much of that dissatisfaction may lie in whether or not individuals control their own workplace destiny or are simply following orders and completing tasks on a daily basis. Make sure that you are shaping your job, not letting your job shape you.

Article written by Dave Clark, Staff Writer and Editor at TTI Success Insights.

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When It Comes to Developing Your Organization, Do Your Numbers Add Up? [Infographic]

W hen it comes to training your current workforce, including your next generation of leaders, having a first-rate training plan that employs assessment solutions is key. Assessments can be used to uncover the how and why behind behaviors, soft skills, and EQ, producing results and increasing engagement.

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5 Reasons Why Training is Important

T  here was a time in my previous life when I worked in the beer world. Being on the craft side of the industry, knowledge and training were vital to the success of our brands. My job took me inside hundreds of food and drink establishments every year and I was simply amazed at the absolute dearth of training in the industry, as a whole. Not only was finding a well-trained bar or restaurant staff the exception instead of the rule, it was truly like finding a diamond-in-the-rough when I did encounter one. I often wondered why it was this way and what could be done about it.

This real-life experience left a lasting impression on me, but by no means was a lack of training confined to the beer industry. Have you ever called a major corporate entity and suffered through a painful conversation with a robotic call center employee? Or maybe, you’ve had a less-than-stellar experience at your local post office or DMV?

Have you ever called a major corporate entity and suffered through a painful conversation with a robotic call center employee?

Some companies find success in spite of their training techniques (or lack thereof). Can you imagine a world where training was deemed as important as the products the companies were selling; where training was considered part of the very DNA of a business’ modus operandi? Here are five good reasons to make sure your employees have the best training possible, and what happens when they do.

Employees work harder

When an organization takes a genuine interest in an employee, the employee feels the need for reciprocation and tends to put forth a better effort. Work becomes more meaningful and a the employee feels a certain responsibility to execute the job tasks to the best of his or her ability. It’s human nature to want to work for someone that respects us and shows that respect.

Company loyalty increases

When a person feels as if they are a meaningful part of an organization, they become and stay more engaged. Employees who are engaged will outperform those who aren’t. Companies that support its employees build loyalty, resulting in deeper dedication, better efforts, less sick days used and other ancillary benefits.

When a person feels as if they are a meaningful part of an organization, they become and stay more engaged.

Untrained workers equal lost customers

Who wants to do business with a company that appears to be inept? A negative first impression is hard to overcome and if you have a negative experience the first time you deal with a company, chances are you won’t be inclined to give them a second chance. The opposite of that is also true.

If you have a consistently good experience with a company, then run into an isolated incident where something isn’t right, you are much more likely to forgive that company and overlook the indiscretion.

Untrained workers are inefficient and mistake prone

When a worker is going through the motions, their heart and mind are not on the job they are performing. Because of this, they are more likely to make careless mistakes by losing their focus. Mistakes cost companies money, especially if it means lost customers.

These non- or disengaged employees feel much less inclined to work hard since they are, effectively, just going through the motions to collect a paycheck. They might be marginally useful and still perform to some degree, but there is still a level of loss for the company since that position could be filled by someone who engaged who would work harder.

Workers want to advance

Talented employees take an interest in a company and want to grow within that organization. These employees are good contributors and they typically want to stay onboard longer since they feel like they are a part of something exciting.

Talented employees take an interest in a company and want to grow within that organization.

It’s important to distinguish between training and developing employees. Training usually focuses on the acquisition of new skills, according to lessonly.com, while development is concerned with the improvement or extension of existing skills. Once a person is trained, they need to be regularly developed in order for them to continue to grow.

Conclusion

Going back to the beer industry reference earlier, I challenge you to pay special attention to the staff’s training next time you go into your favorite establishment. Does your bartender put your beer mug into the spigot when they pour your beer? (They shouldn’t!) Can they ably explain the differences between the beer styles that are currently on tap? (This should be a prerequisite before hiring.) If they don’t know, do they at least find the answer and get right back to you? (Let’s hope so.)

Think about how much happier you are when you go into an establishment that seems well run by an engaged and knowledgeable staff. Sometimes the service can leave more of a lasting impression than the food or drink itself. Now take that thought process and apply it to your business. If everyone who does business with your company can feel that same sense of satisfaction when they do business with you, then you know you are doing things right.

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10 Ways to Get Out of Your Own Way and Achieve the Success You Deserve

I t may be easy to cite someone we consider to be successful, but it’s not always as easy to figure out exactly how that person became successful in the first place. Most of the time, success or failure is staring us in the mirror. If we fall into bad habits, including filling our heads with negative thoughts, we may find ways to self-sabotage our own endeavors that can lead to our own undoing.

Inspired by an article written by Larry Kim of Inc., being aware of your pitfalls is the first step in overcoming them. If you have an important goal you’d like to achieve, it’s best to avoid doing these ten things:

 

1. Comparing yourself to others

There are over seven billion people in the world. You’ll be better than some, just as easily as some will be better than you. If you are judging your value solely on how you stack up against others, you will be fighting a battle you likely won’t win. There are very few people who are the absolute best in the world at what they do, and the odds are stacked against you that you are one of those people.

If you are judging your value solely on how you stack up against others, you will be fighting a battle you likely won’t win.

The key isn’t necessarily to be the best; the goal should be to do the best you possibly can and to be better than you were yesterday. If your progress is consistently moving forward, chances are you will be successful.

2. Being afraid to fail (excessive risk mitigation)

I had a friend who wanted to open a brewery. He was an amazing brewer who made better beers than most commercial operations. He had tons of experience on the amateur level and was well schooled, graduating from the esteemed Siebel Brewing Academy. He had every tool needed to be a successful brewery business owner, except one. He was a professional risk mitigator.

Instead of moving his project forward, he’d continuously review his business plan, tweaking and tinkering, always trying to mitigate risk. While due diligence is important, there is such thing as too much thinking. In trying to mitigate risk, he mitigated his entire brewery concept because it never opened. So consumed with what could go wrong, the project never got off the ground. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself and go for it.

3. Becoming complacent

When you feel like you’ve reached a place where you just can’t improve any more and have nothing further to learn, an alarm should sound, flashing lights should go off and a mechanical punching bag should activate. The world is constantly changing and there is always something new to learn. While there’s nothing wrong with being confident in one’s abilities, complacency is the place where the world passes you by.

4. Losing faith in yourself and your abilities

Having doubts is a normal part of life and entirely natural. Doubts can be the fuel we need to double down on our efforts to accomplish a goal. However, continuously second-guessing yourself can be unhealthy and can retard forward progress on goals, if not sabotage them altogether.

“It is human nature to feel confident about yourself one moment, and doubt yourself the next. Some of that has to do with life experiences while other times it can be caused by a shift in chemicals within the brain. Regardless of the cause, maintaining a steadfast belief in yourself and your abilities is what will power you through, day in and day out.”

5. Surrounding yourself with negative people

The reggae artist Lloyd Brown shares wisdom in his song Know Yourself when he says “You need to fly with eagles and no walk with chickens.” It’s much harder to aspire to greatness when you hang out with mediocrity or less.

In no way is this referencing someone’s socioeconomic status. The negative in the term “negative people” refers to people who do very little to better their own lives while spending time denigrating others for attempting to better theirs.

Energy exists in the world. The more you surround yourself with positive energy, including positive people, the more energized you’ll feel. You are much more likely to achieve greatness if you are operating out of a positive energy state more often than not.

6. Thinking you’re not good enough; having “perfectionist” theory

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with trying to improve. If you are passionate about something, your goal may be to try to become the best you can possibly be. Sometimes being good, or even excellent, needs to be good enough. If you don’t understand this, you may forget to enjoy the ride.

It doesn’t matter what you do or the scale of that particular endeavor. Maybe you make donuts for a living or maybe you are a garbage collector. Perhaps you’re a major league ballplayer or a fiction writer. Regardless of the endeavor, the key is to do your best, but not get hung up on trying to be perfect.

Even the greatest in the world have off days. The seemingly unhittable pitcher Nolan Ryan, author of seven no-hitters, found a way to lose 292 games during his career. I have yet to find anyone that would consider Ryan to be anything close to a failure.

7. Basing success solely on finances

When do you know that you have “made it?” How do you judge your own success? While it’s understandable that entrepreneurs will often judge their success or failure by their bottom line, there are so many other factors that go into whether or not a person or a business is truly successful.

Money generated is one factor, but other factors include: how many jobs has your company created for others? How much revenue has your company generated for your community? Have you created a product that has made the lives of people in your neighborhood better? Certainly, money can be one area where one judges success, but it should never be the sole consideration.

8. Wasting time on regrets

Maybe we tried something and failed. Maybe we failed to try something we should have. Whatever the case; it’s time to move on. Living life in the past, dwelling on things that went wrong, or didn’t happen at all, is neither productive nor inspiring.

Living life in the past, dwelling on things that went wrong, or didn’t happen at all, is neither productive nor inspiring.

Everyone gets five minutes to feel sorry for themselves. Then it’s time to get off the mat, believe in yourself again and start making forward progress.

9. Using words that lack action

On their 1983 blockbuster album Pyromania, Def Leppard declared, “Give me action, not words.” A perfect theme for an album that is the soundtrack for the 80s big hair generation, it also applies to life in the everyday world. What good is talking about doing something if you don’t actually do it?

It’s great to visualize an idea, and part of that visualization often includes verbalizing your ideas. Verbalizing your intentions to do something brings that idea to life. However, ideas without action behind them are meaningless. Picture your idea in your mind, verbalize it, then begin immediately to put that idea into action.

Picture your idea in your mind, verbalize it, then begin immediately to put that idea into action.

10. Envying success of others

There is nothing wrong with admiring people who have achieved success. In fact, having role models can be a great way to help you visualize what your ideal situation looks like.

For example, as a musician and a bit of an aspiring entrepreneur, I completely admire Sammy Hagar. Not only is he a fantastic songwriter and performer, he’s capitalized on his celebrity by creating multiple, highly successful brands, including his Cabo Wabo Tequila and his Sammy’s Beach Bar restaurant locations.

The key is to admire, and not to envy, those who have found success. I view Hagar as an inspiration who earned what he has by putting every ounce of passion into his craft. Now he gets to bask in the rewards of all his hard work. Rather than waste a moment being envious, I envision myself being similarly successful, and maybe one day celebrating that success over some of that Cabo Wabo with the man himself.

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5 Characteristics of Great Leaders

T  he hope of every employee is to work for a leader they like and respect. While each person may have their own definition of what constitutes a “great leader,” we can agree there are certain traits that appeal to the masses.

If you are a leader and you possess these five traits, you are probably quite successful. If you don’t think these traits describe your leadership style, working on one or more of these areas would be a great place to start in order to build a better rapport with your teams.

Humility

We may often think a successful leader needs to be a commanding or charismatic presence, yet often it’s exactly the opposite type of leader that appeals more so to a workforce. A leader who shows humility steps out of the spotlight and lets that light shine upon the team. While having a fiery or attention-grabbing personality may be great for a leader doing a public speaking engagement, that approach can wear thin with workers on a day-to-day basis.

We may often think a successful leader needs to be a commanding or charismatic presence, yet often it’s exactly the opposite type of leader that appeals more so to a workforce.

Sue Shellenbarger of The Wall Street Journal said, “Humility is a core quality of leaders who inspire close teamwork, rapid learning and high performance in their teams, according to several studies in the past three years. Humble people tend to be aware of their own weaknesses, eager to improve themselves, appreciative of others’ strengths and focused on goals beyond their own self-interest.”

She ascertains that humility leads to lower turnover and absenteeism, because these leaders tend to let their teams get the majority of the attention and the accolades, making them feel more engaged.

Conviction

Author Nishant Bhajaria wrote an article entitled, Four Mistakes That Made Me a Better Manager. In this article, Bhajaria cites four key attributes that any leader needs to have to empower them for success: conviction, courage, good listening skills and the ability to mentor.

“Believing in the mission is at the foundation of everything a manager does. All plans and strategies are built from that mission. You can’t build a sound structure without a solid foundation, and it works exactly the same way in business. As the leader, you are responsible not only for yourself, but for every member of your team. You have to believe in them to be able to support them in times of need. The bottom line is simple: employees want to follow a leader they believe in and a leader in whom they trust.”

Courage

Put more than one person in a room and disagreements are bound to occur. When there is a disagreement, a great leader needs to be able to stand their ground believing in their position, while still being receptive to the opposition’s point of view. Conversely, they have to understand that there are occasions when their beliefs may not be best for the organization and they must be willing to be flexible. The key is to win others over through a sound and calm fact-base case rather than by becoming emotional or argumentative.

Part of having courage is trusting your people to do the job without a lot of interference.

Part of having courage is trusting your people to do the job without a lot of interference. Constantly being involved with minutiae can become more of a distraction than a help, and it impedes an employee from wanting to take chances and expand their comfort zone. An employee that is constantly challenged becomes tentative, and eventually, complacent. A great leader will provide instruction and direction, then trust that the employee is capable enough of carrying out the duties out in a meaningful way.

Great listener

A great leader certainly needs to be a support system for the team, but the leader must also let the workers grow. With growth comes the occasional failure, which is perfectly acceptable since it leads to expanding comfort zones and learning new skills.

Workers typically want to know that when they have a need or a concern, their manager will be there to listen to them and lend support, if needed. Sometimes, just letting an employee verbally brainstorm or even vent is all that is needed. Being a good listener can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than a “fix it” manager who always feels the need to try to fix problems that may not actually exist.

Mentoring

Very few people are “born leaders.” Most leaders need to learn their skills somewhere and from someone. Virtually every great leader can immediately recall someone who helped them over the years, especially when they needed help the most. Even if the mentor’s involvement seemed insignificant at the time, it can often leave a long-lasting positive impact on the person who was helped.

A great manager understands that the more they listen, the more they can learn, and let’s the employees do the majority of the talking.

Virtually every great leader can immediately recall someone who helped them over the years, especially when they needed help the most.

Mentoring can be done in a structured, formal capacity or very casually. Mentoring is simply helping others get to where they want to go. It can be a full-fledged training program or a properly timed pep talk.

When I was a young sales executive, I didn’t have an official mentor or a predesigned career path to get into management. I did, however, have a high-ranking division leader that I went to when I needed words of wisdom. That leader came through every time, no matter how seemingly insignificant the issue. While he may not have even realized he was being a mentor at the time, I credit him with a key role in my eventual move into sales management because of his words of wisdom and the things I learned from him, including the example he set as a leader.

Conclusion

There are many people who hold positions of authority, but there is a shortage of great leaders. When I think back to the leaders who made the greatest positive impact in my life, there were a few consistencies. These were the leaders that respected me as a person and a worker, supported me in good times and bad, and gave me the space to do what I did best – produce results.

At times, a week could go by without more than casual conversation with these great managers. This was perfectly ok with me because I knew what I needed to do and the manager knew I was getting the work done at a high level. Micromanaging simply wasn’t necessary. But when I needed the manager, they made themselves available. The mutual respect led to a great working relationship and the results spoke for themselves.

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How To Work Smarter, Not Harder

P ersonally, I feel there is nothing natural about waking up before the sun rises. In fact, I’d call it lunacy. Since the word lunacy derives from the term lunaticus meaning “of the moon” or “moonstruck,” it really does fit. When the moon is out, the only thing I want to accomplish is catching up on my sleep.

Now, by no means does that indicate a slacker mentality. When I do wake up, I’m the kind of person that gets going and doesn’t stop until the moon is back up high in the sky. I often refer to myself as being like an old car; it might take a moment for the car to warm up and perform optimally, but when it does, get out of the way because that old heavy metal thunder will be barreling down the road with a purpose.

2 simple rules of life

I’ve found that life is really quite simple. There’s a few basic rules I try to follow and, when I do, I find things work out quite well. The first rule is that there is no answer for lack of sleep. You can drink all the coffee, tea, Red Bull, Monster or heart-racing beverage of choice and it doesn’t matter. For every energy peak, there is an equally intensive crash to follow. For me personally, it’s not worth the ups and downs.

Keep it simple: get enough sleep and do things that give you energy. If you can accomplish this, life improves.

Another rule I follow is to try to do things that energize me. Every single thing you do, every interaction you have and every moment of your life is spent either being energized or having your energy zapped. I’ve found that if you can at least be energized 51% of your day, that day will be considered a success. Think about how you feel on those days where your energy gets zapped; do you feel lifeless, unmotivated and maybe a little crabby too?

People frequently talk about doing what you love and having a career that provides meaning, but that all ties back to either being energized or energy drained. Keep it simple: get enough sleep and do things that give you energy. If you can accomplish this, life improves.

What’s the rush?

Sadly, today’s workplace encourages overworking employees. It’s seen by many as a badge of honor if you can outwork your peers, even if the end result is your mental and physical health. Instead of protecting employees against burnout, some companies push workers to the limit, and then replace them with reinforcements that they treat in the same manner.

Why not just work at a reasonable pace? Get the work done and do it well. Work shouldn’t be a competition and, last time I checked, quality work is still a valued commodity.

Get the work done and do it well. Work shouldn’t be a competition and, last time I checked, quality work is still a valued commodity.

Modeling success

Richard Branson is someone I admire a great deal. Whether it’s his success, his carefree spirit or willingness to expand his comfort zone daily, Branson is an inspiration in many ways. I find it interesting that Richard Branson does not believe in spending time in an office. In his book, Finding My Virginity, he talks about his preference to work from home where he finds he is much more productive.

He talks about waking up, jumping in his hammock, catching up on correspondences and communicating with key business contacts until midday. At that point, he typically breaks to enjoy kite surfing in the waters of his British Virgin Islands home. He doesn’t time his midday break, rather preferring to let the ebb and flow of the day dictate how long he decides to step away from work.

Branson claims that when he returns to work, he is recharged and ready to go. Despite exerting energy to kite surf, he has re-energized both his body and his mind, making himself ready for the second half of his day.

It’s hard to argue with the success of Richard Branson, and it certainly appears his daily approach seems to be working. While kitesurfing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I can imagine the benefits of a good midday hike, run or meditation could work wonders for someone’s energy levels.

The value of a proper night’s sleep

According to an article written by startup founder Anna Auerbach, recent research at Hult International Business School shows how sleep deprivation affects job performance. She says, “Many survey respondents reported poorer workplace performance due to tiredness, with over half admitting to struggling to stay focused in meetings, taking longer to complete tasks, and finding it challenging to generate new ideas. Along with a lack of focus and diminished creative capacities, participants also indicated a reduced motivation to learn and be less able to manage competing demands.”

Many survey respondents reported poorer workplace performance due to tiredness, with over half admitting to struggling to stay focused in meetings, taking longer to complete tasks, and finding it challenging to generate new ideas.

In Arianna Huffington’s book entitled Sleep Revolution Manifesto, she proclaims, “Sleep is a fundamental and non-negotiable human need.” And, “Exhaustion is a sign of chaos, not a badge of honor.” So why do we continue to push ourselves beyond reasonable limits? What are we trying to prove and who do we feel we need to impress?

Commutes

traffic jamLet’s talk about commutes. How productive can one truly be behind the wheel of a car? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute in the United States is 25.4 minutes. Of course, in larger cities with more traffic, that number is typically higher.

In our metro area of Phoenix, the average commute time is 25.9 minutes. However, according to employment agency Robert Half, Phoenix also has the dubious distinction of being ranked at the 4th most stressful commute in the country, behind Los Angeles, Miami and Austin, just ahead of San Francisco. With many people believing 101 is the speed limit and not the interstate number, who am I to disagree?

 

Imagine what could happen if you trade in that 30-60 minute stressful daily drive into productive time spent working when you are ready to perform at a high level.

Your work would improve, your stress would reduce and you could exchange that commute time for an extended midday break to recharge.

Summing it up

The world we live in doesn’t always revolve around a clock, nor should it. There is no defined proof that a person works better during specific business hours. So why do we continue to confine people to these hours? The key is to make work hours flexible in order to accommodate life and livelihood. Being happy and energized at least 51% of the time will improve the chances of increased productivity and a better overall state-of-mind.

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Mentoring Using DISC

L eading a successful team can be compared to a directing a musical performance, such as a classical orchestra or choral concert. Individuals who bear little resemblance to each other often need to learn how to harmonize and respect the differences they bring to the team. Their diversity in style and substance, when properly harmonized, makes beautiful music.

It is rather easy for a conductor to identify who plays what instrument. It is no less important for managers to know the behavioral or work styles of the individuals they manage and how they can best contribute to the organization.

Behavioral styles, such as DISC, can tell a lot about how a person will typically behave a majority of the time. The DISC indicators can be considered predictors of how a peer or colleague might approach a challenge or influence others to their way of thinking.

Being able to adapt to people who possess different behavioral styles is the key to success in both business and in life.

Being able to adapt to people who possess different behavioral styles is the key to success in both business and in life. Since behavioral styles are observable, it’s easy to determine someone’s style and react accordingly.

As someone who specializes in mentoring, I often discuss ways a mentor can best work with a mentoree, even with very different behavioral styles. While the examples below illustrate the mentor/mentoree relationship, these skills can be applied between any two people communicating in any setting.

DISC Defined

DISC is an acronym that stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. The science of DISC explains the “how” a person does what they do, and can be a strong predictor of future behavior.

When someone scores higher in one particular area of DISC compared to the others, they are considered “high” in that particular factor. High-D’s are all about results. High-I’s are about interaction. High-S’s seek stability while the high-C is all about following rules. This basic understanding helps to illustrate how to identify various behavior styles when entering a room with other people.

Working with an opposing behavioral style in a mentoring partnership

Sometimes, you might be paired with someone because of their career trajectory or technical expertise but find that you do not share much else in common. Here are some ideas for working with a partner whose DISC style feels in opposition to your own:

A high-D and a low-D — For the high-D adapting to the low D: Slow down. Drop the intensity. Create a safe learning environment.  If the low D feels calm and comfortable, they are more likely to admit “I don’t know” or “This is where I need help.” Low Ds like lessons to follow and a forum to discuss problem-solving options.

A high-I and low-I — Outwardly, these two styles share very little in common — one is people-oriented and the other is task-oriented. One tends to trust indiscriminately while the other tends to remain guarded and untrusting. The high-I will have to respect the low-I’s low-trust level and will need to seek to build trust gradually. Ask the low-I for their input while planning development activities and for their impressions on how comfortable they are with stretch assignments.

A high-S and a low-S – In this relationship, the calculated decision maker must adjust to a high-risk taker. In other words, someone who prefers a slower pace (high-S) needs to work with someone who moves quickly. The high-S will need to pick up the pace when communicating with the low-S: cover only the high points and strive for directness.

A high-C and a low-C – Because the high C and the low C are both task-oriented, the area of potential conflict lies within the scope of compliance and risk taking. The risk-averse high-C competes with the low-C’s need for independence which can many times cause a considerable amount of tension. The high-C will need to give the low-C honest feedback if they are tackling problems with little regard for the possible ramifications of a quick decision.

Using DISC to design developmental activities

No matter which style each partner brings to the relationship, savvy mentors will look for opportunities to move the mentoring meetings beyond philosophical chats and/or venting sessions. In other words, to maximize learning, mentors should engage the mentoree in a variety of situations and developmental experiences.

To maximize learning, mentors should engage the mentoree in a variety of situations and developmental experiences.

To keep your mentoree engaged, consider their DISC style (both highs and lows) when designing development activities.  For example:

High-D’s, high-C’s or low-I’s – Tend to put tasks before people, so they struggle with interpersonal skills. If the goal is to enhance people skills — ask your mentoree to consider investing one day each month listening to the concerns and needs of his/her employees or peers.  Encourage them to look for opportunities to help someone talk through a project with which they are struggling.

High-I’s or high-S’s — These two behavioral styles have trouble setting clear standards and holding others accountable – particularly people over whom they do not have authority. In this case, perhaps the goal would be to work with your mentoree to create a project management system for following up on outstanding tasks and action items.

Low-S’s or high-D’s —These two styles tend to struggle with maintaining emotional intelligence during difficult times/situations. The ideal developmental activity would be to identify someone for the mentoree to shadow who is going to lead a team through a difficult conversation about a failed project.

Low-D’s, high-S’s or high-C’s — These styles need time to think things through before making a decision or taking a risk. To help build confidence in decision-making and risk-taking, encourage your mentoree to journal about what holds them back from making a decision. At your next mentoring meeting, discuss the pros and cons of the decision and an action plan for moving forward.

DISC as a guide for mentoring meetings

When meeting with a high-D or high-C: Expect these meetings to be brief and to the point.  Be sure to show up on time and prepared to dive into business.

When meeting with a high-I: Provide a friendly and fun environment. Give them plenty of time to talk. Remember they get pretty excited about things – lots of things – so you might need to ground them a little.

When meeting with a high-S: Just like the High-I’s, they need a friendly environment. Don’t rush headlong into business, give them a chance to break the ice and warm up to you. Always give them time to think things through. Be sure to send an agenda ahead of the meeting so they know what topics you would like to discuss.

When meeting with a high-C: Be sure to show up on time and stick to business. Don’t expect the meeting to run a full hour if they run out of things to discuss. Be careful of appearing too lighthearted, casual or showy and be sure to follow through on your promises. Just like the High-S’s, they will appreciate an agenda sent ahead of time.

Conclusion

Whether you are in a mentor/mentoree relationship or simply communicating with a friend or co-worker, understanding and being able to adapt to differing behavioral styles is the key to great communication and success in work and in life.

Download Our Free Hiring Guide.

In this guide, you’ll get access to the seven most important questions to ask when hiring someone. And yes, they go way beyond a basic job description.