December 30, 2011

3 Career Trends to Watch in 2012

Hybrid Entrepreneurs: The number of entrepreneurs with full time jobs will increase. Businesses survive with money. If you can make more money on your own, go for it. If you can't, why put extra pressure on yourself? That means keep your day job and swing your business (idea) on the side. When your current job is holding you back from making more money with your own business, quit. Most entrepreneurs have a hard time making money. There's no shame in admitting creating a steady source of income on your own is challenging. We have bills to pay before we have dreams to chase.

Face to Face Networking: Online profiles and resumes don't land you jobs, in person meetings do. If you can't put a name to a face, you're simply forgettable. Most social networking tends to be done locally, so why not take the next step and meet in person? The reason for so many network events popping up all over the place is at our core we are social beings. Online access is great, but face to face conversations will always be better. 90% of people don't follow up after meeting a contact. Follow-up in person and you'll stand out as that 10% who do.

Rise of Local Partnerships: If small businesses are going to bring the economy back, then we have to do it together. It's not one or two small businesses that will start the trend, but the sum total working cohesively. Reach out to your neighbors and figure out how you can partner up to serve a similar customer. If you've created a niche, it only benefits you to link arms with someone else to provide a product/service that will enhance their experience. Stop with the "silo" mentality and learn from the younger generation. We're better together than we are apart.

December 26, 2011

What I Learned in 2011

2011 was the year of change. New experiences forged a range of emotions, but there is much to learn from the previously unknown. Let me share with you my takeaways:

Achilles Injury: In late January I tore my left Achilles tendon playing basketball. It wasn't painful when it happened, but immediately I knew something was wrong. After resting it for a couple of days I got a couple of opinions and if I ever wanted to play sports again, I had to have surgery. The next two months were spent in a cast and I felt helpless. I fought to be independent, but needed care especially from my wife. I figured my business would be on hold for a while, but to my amazement I was provided a couple of opportunities in the next several months. 

Serial Entrepreneurs: During a monthly network event that I started at the beginning of the year, a friend who owns several companies asked if I would consider helping him out. At first I thought he was kidding, but after confirming, I took the opportunity. Limping around from meeting to meeting was a chore, yet I was able to sit with numerous entrepreneurs and hear stories that you can't read in a book. A couple of months later I stepped down and tried a new venture, joining a sales team for a new product. Being part of a strategic new launch is exciting and tedious at the same time. In the end, both weren't a good fit, but I took the blame for my skill set not being a good "fit" and maintained my professional and personal relationships with two men I consider business mentors. 

Shift in Mindset: One of the main reasons I've wanted to have my own business is for freedom and flexibility of schedule. What I've learned over the past 4 years is businesses survive and thrive based on cash flow. Since selling isn't a natural strength of mine I've been applying to university positions in hopes to land a more stable position and expand my current platform. It took me a while to tame my ego and fully pursue a job that would essentially replace my own business. I now understand what it feels like to be in my clients' shoes (I'm a career coach). Through networking I have some leads and will continue to build my connections because that is what I believe is your greatest career asset.

Looking back there was a lot to be thankful for. My faith and dependence on others was tested while I was recovering. I learned a lot (and was humbled) by working with two serial entrepreneurs. I'm now comfortable pursuing a position, then eventually swinging my business on the side. One of the highlights of 2011 was starting a monthly network event geared towards young professionals, called Career Synergy. There I've experienced the power of networking and met some great people I respect both professionally and personally. I look forward to 2012 with much optimism, but take time to pause and thank God for all I've experienced this year. What did you learn in 2011?  

December 16, 2011

Farm Raised or Wild?

Which one do you prefer? Farm raised means the environment is controlled. You can figure out what wild means. This question has a direct application to your career...

"Farm raised" is working in the same job, for the same company for a long period of time. Baby Boomers call it loyalty, but the younger generations call it boredom. If your career is condensed into one experience, your mind has limited options because that's all you know. You can become an expert and narrow-minded at the same time.

Wild means you've jumped around. Your experiences are diverse and changing: a mixture of internships, volunteerism and positions. You may be labeled as a generalist, but it's much easier to adapt to the task at hand. Wild means you're open to new and innovative ways to accomplish your goals. Your mind is piece of clay, ready to be molded.

When I was in 8th grade, I had attended private schools all my life. As the school year came to a close, I decided to attend a local, public high school. There were some negative adjustments (such as my grades dropping), but overall it was the right choice. Growing up in private schools all my life I was sheltered. Public education opened my mind to new people, experience and ways of learning. In ways, I transitioned from being farm raised to wild.

In today's economy we may not have as many career options. I encourage you to work hard where you are, but never stop looking (or applying to) for new opportunities. There's no finish line when it comes to your career/learning. Challenge yourself to grow by exploring "wild" environments and stay open minded!

December 12, 2011

Why is Growth so Painful?

Look a plant's life cycle. Each season parts die and/or are "pruned" in order to grow. Humans aren't much different. In order for you and I to grow, we have to be willing to be "pruned" in certain ways also.
Change is uncomfortable. We want to know what's next. The unknown scares us. Take for example this recession. Economic stability is fleeting. What job is really safe anymore? 

We are creatures of habit. When traveling in uncharted territory, we feel lost. We thrive on routine and when that is broken, sometimes so are we. Think of all the traditions you celebrate. It's hard to imagine our lives without it. Tradition isn't a bad thing, but have you ever questioned it's purpose? Constant evaluation is key.

Growth is hard. Take for instance strength training. Your muscles need to be challenged beyond what they're used to in order to slightly tear. These tears make us sore, but without them muscle can't be built. Growth is a long process. It takes perseverance and drive. 

Growth starts with you. It begins with your attitude. You have to be willing to hear constructive feedback (yes, that means potentially negative comments) and accept it. Take responsibility and be your own catalyst for growth. Be willing to uncomfortable, break tradition and be patient knowing that in the end growth is a long-term investment. How will you challenge yourself to grow in 2012?

December 1, 2011

When Plan B is Plan A

How often does Plan A happen? Does it lead to disappointment? What if we started looking more favorably at Plan B? How would that affect how we view our current situation? 

Here's what that shift in mindset from Plan A to Plan B looks like:

Be Flexible. Things aren't always going to happen the way you planned them to. That doesn't mean that you don't have plans. It just means be willing to respond to situations accordingly. You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to circumstances. In my experience as a coach, one of the greatest assets I've seen in my top clients is the ability to cope. Flexible people cope more effectively.

Be Realistic. This economy forces us to be more creative and innovative with our resources. You may have to extend the time frame on your dreams. Be willing to make sacrifices short-term for what you want long-term. Having idealistic expectations leads to disappointment. Adjusting your expectations based on the context of your situation will help you view life more favorable. Changing your perspective changes everything.

Be Thankful. Instead of focusing on what you don't have, why not be thankful for what you do have? Your attitude is like the rudder of a ship that determines the direction traveled. Even if you are part of the 99%, there's still a lot to be thankful for. Count your family and friends as blessings. There are a lot of people in much worse situations than you are. Honestly, in times of frustration, one of the best things you can do is reach out and help someone in need. What are you thankful for today? 

Switching from Plan A to Plan B isn't about settling. It's more of an attitude shift to help you cope with today's challenges. The most successful people deal with failure the best. In fact, they've probably dealt with failure more often because they're willing to face rejection. In my own life, most of the time Plan B worked out much better than Plan A. When you and I focus on the future too much, we fail to enjoy the present. I learned this lesson over time through my wife. She's more flexible, realistic and thankful than me. Are you willing to embrace Plan B? 

November 28, 2011

An Introvert's Guide to Networking

You've heard that building your network is important, but how do you do that? 
Seems easy for an extrovert, but what if you're an introvert?
Rewind my life 5 years ago and I'll personally answer this question for you...

When I started my business in 2007, I had few contacts. I heard networking was a good idea, so I joined my local Chamber of Commerce. After attending two events, I collected a ton of business cards yet left feeling tired and hoarse. Networking wasn't for me. Next, I attended conferences, but left feeling the same way. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I made the switch from networking to connecting and everything changed.

Networking is a bad word. Connecting is building relationships. When I focused on meeting people, getting to know them and figuring out ways to help them succeed, results changed for me. Instead of chasing people at different events, I created my own, Career Synergy. My advice to you is create your own network group. If you don't have a desire to do that, try these 3 easy tips:

Ask current contacts to introduce you to new contacts. Think temperature. Warm leads are better than cold ones. When introduced to a new contact through an old one, you have something in common to talk about. Listen more than you talk. Ask questions before telling the person why you're so great. Start a relationship that can last over time. 

Quality over quantity. Sure, it's a numbers game, but would you rather have 10 strong connections or 100 acquaintances? Strengthen what you have before you try to reach the masses. Relationships are meant to be long-term investments. Over time build trust to the point where you can refer others and vice versa. 

Follow-up. 10% is meeting the person. 90% is what you do after. Starting is easy. Finishing is hard. Most people don't follow up, so if you do, you're standing out. Mean what you say when you mention following up. That's integrity. If your goal is to be a trusted connection, then follow up is crucial. Be a closer.

The next time you attend an event or get introduced to a new contact, try these tips. Networking is simply building relationships. Focus on that and you'll be fine. When you're ready to practice these skills in person, check out my network group or sign up for my workshop!

November 16, 2011

When Good Becomes Bad

"Good is the enemy of Great." - Jim Collins

There's nothing inherently wrong with "good" except when it's used for measurement. For example...

Lack of honest feedback. When you ask for an evaluation and the only response you get is "it was good," then someone's lying. "Good" is a vague, non-descriptive answer. If you really want to be helpful, be truthful and specific. Don't just compliment to be nice. If their performance was bad, call them on it. If it was great, tell them why. I've been around too many groups who only want to hear positive feedback and reject any constructive criticism because their egos are too sensitive. Last time I checked, you can learn more from areas you can improve upon, than always being showered with praise. 

Low standards. What does "good" really mean? Better than average? When you and I live in the "land of good" everything is the same. The bar is lowered because it slowly disappears. "Good" is a lazy response that we can't learn anything from. It doesn't tell us anything. It's neither hot nor cold. It's in between.

"Good" saps your motivation. It's a generic label. Be bold enough to ask for clarification the next time someone mentions the word "good." Why settle for good, when you can strive to be great?

November 10, 2011

The Importance of Local Partnerships

If small businesses really are the solution to our economic woes, how do we make that happen? 

Local partnerships.

Communities need to embrace businesses around them.
Business owners need to partner and work out deals to support each other.
Consumers need to spend their hard earned dollars in their neighborhoods.
Local is the new global. Look at an organization like Unique LA. Their push is to "buy local" and strengthen your community. If each city took care of themselves, we could turn this economy around. It's going back to pre-internet times where you'd buy what's around you. Picture links in a chain. We're stronger together.
Networking is like forming a partnership. Local events draw local crowds. The same thing you and I do to build our personal network can be done on the local level. Connect online, but meet in person. It's easier to build trust face to face. Aim to build local partnerships. It's the pulse of your community.

Local growth is organic. Visit your local farmer's market. Nothing fancy, just good product delivered consistently. Everyone starts small, but treat your customers right and they become your salespeople. It may take longer, but in the end it's more sustainable.

I've been fortunate enough to experience this at a group I created called Career Synergy. We have monthly network meetings where the motto is "relationships first, business second." This inclusive community has a friendly, give-first attitude that's infectious. Personally, I've invested my time building new and strengthening old relationships which I know will result in the collective success of the group.  

Wondering how to get started? Step outside your home and reach out to the local businesses in your neighborhood. Introduce yourself and offer your hand to support them. We can turn the economy around together, not apart. Nothing great is accomplished alone. Who will you partner with in your community?

November 7, 2011

What Separates the Good from Great Speakers

"The two words 'information' and 'communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through."  
- Sydney J. Harris

Communication is one of the most powerful tools we have. You hear tons of messages daily, but what actually sticks? I believe one factor separates the good speakers from the great speakers: FOCUS.

Good speakers focus on themselves. Great speakers focus on their audience. 

Good speakers are more interested in hearing their own information and in the process they create a divide between themselves and the crowd. Outwardly, good speakers communicate, "I'm smart, you're dumb, listen to me."

Great speakers cater their message to who's listening. They study the characteristics and values of who they are communicating to and speak to their hearts and minds. Outwardly, great speakers make it feel like they are talking directly to you in a conversation.

Preparation to speak should be based on the 70/30 rule. Spend 70% on the presentation, 30% on the content. As a speaker, when you try to "teach" too much information, people end up leaving with nothing. The biggest mistake as a communicator you can make is speaking too long. Engage the audience with stories, visuals and conversation. Remember, when speaking it's NOT about YOU, it's about the audience. Spend more time on "how" to say it, than "what" to say.

Good and great speakers also differ when it comes to response.
Good speakers stick to their notes regardless if the audience is bored, confused or distant.
Great speakers have a Plan A, but are willing to improvise to Plan B if needed. 
As a speaker, where is your focus? Is it about YOU or your audience?

Speaking is personal branding. It's not what you think of yourself, but what others think of you. Speakers make the transition from good to great based on their focus. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Great speakers listen to the pulse of the audience, so they can prepare and perform a message that inspires action. What will be your focus the next time you speak? Don't settle for just giving out information, communicate to get through to your audience!

Career Synergy Tomorrow! Last Chance to RSVP!

October 27, 2011

How to Develop Talent

Talent is defined as a special natural ability or aptitude. Sometimes talent is labeled as potential, yet if undeveloped it becomes wasted. Once talent is identified, it's vital to develop it into a strength.

Let's use the show X-Factor as an example:

Coach/Mentor - Find someone more successful than you and ask them to mentor you. Since they are where you want to be, ask them to help you refine your talent. Talent needs to be invested in and nurtured. A coach can help you see your "blind spots" and keep you humble. All the top athletes hire coaches to perform at their highest level, why not you?
Measure it Against the Best - Talent never gets tested without stress and competition. Surround yourself with others as good or better than you. You'll never know how good you are in isolation. If you want to be the best you need to compete with the best. Strength and accountability rise in numbers.

Challenge Yourself - Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. There's nothing worse than underachievement. Even with additional help and perspective, it still comes down to how much effort you put forth. No one can force, motivate or push you harder than you can. Ultimately, it's your responsibility to develop your talent into a strength.

Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become successful (that's 2 hours a day for 10 years!). If that's the case what are you waiting for? Make sure you find a coach, compete against the best and push yourself to greatness. Practice may not make perfect, but it definitely makes better. If you don't do the hard work, there's always someone hungrier ready to take your place.

October 20, 2011

Mind + Body Connection

Performance in sports is about 80% - 90% mental. Is work performance any different?
Athletes spend more time training and resting before they perform, what if you did the same?

Strong Mind + Strong Body = Strong Performance

As "Corporate Athletes", you and I need to train our mind and body if we want to perform at our highest level. Here's an easy way to remember how:

Visualize. Imagine your ideal outcome. What is your goal? What are you going towards? Positive thinking has a huge effect on our energy. What we choose to focus on usually happens. Add in routine breaks while you work so you can muster up short bursts of high quality productivity. Visualizing means reprogramming your mind towards the desired outcome.

Initiate. Your ability to manage (cope) your emotions will either drive or drain your energy. How will you respond to situations and circumstances that come your way? Ever see athletes listening to music before a big game? Music can be a "pre-routine" to calm yourself. Emotions exude in your body language; the way you carry yourself. Surround yourself with a support system of friends. To initiate means preparing yourself for the stress and unexpected ahead.

Perform. A combination of exercise, eating and sleeping habits (all physical). Did you know that working out in the morning actually boosts your mood for the next 12 hours? What you eat and when you eat adds to or takes away from your daily source of energy. Lastly, studies show you need 7 - 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. That may seem impossible (especially if you have kids), but it's something to shoot for. Performance is the sum total of your preparation. (Remember to give your mind and body a break after 90 - 120 minutes of sustained activity or your productivity declines.)

Performance is all about managing your energy. V.I.P. (visualize, initiate, perform). How you prepare determines how you will perform. So start thinking and training like an athlete today!   

October 13, 2011

What DWTS and Your Career have in Common

Each week a celebrity couple gets excused from the competition, but is it just me, or are the wrong people getting sent home? When you add "America's Vote", it no longer becomes about competence, but popularity. How is this similar to your workplace?

Skills are vital, but politics and popularity rule. Look around your workplace to see who gets "promoted." In DWTS, the judges play a more objective role, yet the viewers ultimately keep couples around each week. In the workplace, you are judged on more than just performance. How well do you get along with your co-workers? Do you stand out to other department managers? Have you given your supervisors a reason to look your way? Politics and popularity are part of the game. You may want to sit on the sidelines, but I suggest you participate.

Playing the game isn't about selling your soul or going against your morals. It means your job isn't just about you. It's about the organization. You can be the most skilled worker, but if you can't get along with your co-workers, do you think they will want to help you? It's important to be socially and self-aware. For example, my wife and I are frequent Disneyland visitors and it never ceases to amaze me how unaware people are in the parks. Whether they stop right in front of a crowd or let their kids run wild, they're blind to how their actions affect others around them. Today, take a step outside of yourself and think how your actions affect others. 

Your career is much more than experience, skill set and performance. Those are all very important, but remember how much "people" are involved. Some of the best leaders don't carry a big stick. They don't need to be the best performer or the smartest. Think of the best leader you've had...they were probably great listeners, cared for people, humble, confident, etc. Instead of thinking of how you can get ahead, pause and ponder how you can help others around you. What will you do to raise the level of your team?

October 7, 2011

How Zappos Changed the Game

A couple of years ago, my wife and I took a tour of Zappos in Las Vegas because I wanted to meet their coach at the time, Dr. Vik. I was impressed how they picked you up at your hotel, dropped you off for a 1-hour tour of the company and brought you back for free! You may have heard of Tony Hsieh, CEO and author Delivering Happiness. What you may not know is Zappos started as a shoe company, but what turned them into a billion dollar company was their core values.

Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers. Simple, yet revolutionary.

Currently I'm working with a business development team, Status Gro, and they're helping me formulate a business plan. Since I've never tackled the hard questions about my business, it's a challenging process, but I understand the importance. As for all the things we've worked on so far, I'm the most satisfied with our core values.

Relationships First by valuing our relationships with employees and customers first, we will create long, genuine relationships that are about more than making a profit

Be Uniqueacknowledge and express the unique contributions your strengths and style can make

Be Efficientwe will constantly evaluate our work processes and priorities to work smarter

Create Freedomit is important that we allow enough flexibility for our staff to get things done, their way

Constant Growthwe will encourage our employees and customers to constantly challenge themselves to continue setting goals and pursue learning opportunities

Creating a culture before you hire employees attracts the right type of people. My core values are centered around my strengths. Core values are behaviors that shape the organizational culture. Whether it's your personal or company brand, core values matter. Don't wait until you need them, think about them now. What are your top 3 - 5 core values? 

September 30, 2011

The Next Level Networker

Beyond being a connector (as Malcolm Gladwell mentioned in his book "Tipping Point"), how do you become a next level networker? Having more contacts? Strengthening your network?

The answer is: forming triads. What is a triad? A triad (explained in "Tribal Leadership") is when you introduce two people to each other. There may be no direct benefit for you, but the idea is to create a bond between two people you know so they might form a connection. The indirect benefit of this is you being the source of the connection. If networking is truly about giving, not receiving, than a triad is one of the purest forms of connecting out there. 

The downside is your ego. Use the example of leadership. Most people desire to be labeled as a leader. Yet, the most effective leaders don't talk about themselves as leaders, but are more concerned about developing those around them. The "followers" of the leader determine how effective the leader is. The hard part is true leadership is more about succession than success

You can apply the same principle to networking. You and I would rather connect for personal benefit, not to help others and get potentially nothing back in return. The challenge is to take your ego out of the situation and be focused on helping others succeed. Lately, I've experienced triads myself. It's fun to connect two people who can mutually benefit from each other. Consider the larger your network, the more opportunities you can form triads. It doesn't mean you have to physically introduce the two people in person (although it is the most powerful way). You can also do it via email or social media. 

Remember, think of networking as a lifestyle, not a task. If it's a task, you'll do it with an end in mind. Instead, why wouldn't you want to connect with more people for the rest of your life? The next level networker isn't concerned with getting the credit. Be genuine. What matters is the heart. What two connections can you introduce today?

September 26, 2011

The 2 Reasons Why You Lose Focus

The gap between aspiration and achievement is focus. Good intentions aren't good enough when it comes to accomplishing your goals. What if you knew the two reasons why you lose focus?

Fear of the unknown and fear of failure. Remember trying something for the first time? If you don't know what to expect it can sometimes prevent you from trying it at all. If you have a tendency to dwell on past failures, it makes it nearly impossible to succeed in the present. Don't let fear stop you from staying focused on your goals. Instead, treat past experiences like a blank slate. The past doesn't predict the future, so give yourself a fresh start by moving forward and stay in the present.

Greed. Picture this gambling example. The emotional gambler lets greed drive his/her decisions. They bet based on how they feel. Since feelings are unstable, they're not a good gauge for making decisions. On the other hand, a logical person sets a plan ahead of time by setting a limit on how much he/she spends. This prevents you from making poor decisions based on what's happening. In life, there are times we go for too much. Being ambitious is one thing, but being careless is another. Don't get greedy when it comes to your goals. Set your goals lofty, but be realistic. Don't get caught up in the chase. Remember what you're after.

Imagine fear and greed at the ends of a spectrum. Staying focused means being disciplined enough to stay between the extremes. Increase your chances by asking someone to keep you accountable. Set milestones along the way to build momentum. Fear and greed are distractions. Stay focused on your dreams and they will eventually become reality . What's keeping you from staying focused today?

September 19, 2011

Are You Socially Fit?

We hear the term "physically fit" a lot, but have you ever thought of being socially fit? I'm not talking about social media, but instead, face-to-face conversations. As a coach, interpersonal skills are crucial to building trust and eventually a connection.

For example, success in the workplace has a lot to do with how you manage the relationships around you. A star performer can only go so far with limited relationships in the organization. Some people refer to it as politics, but the truth is the workplace is a political game that you have to participate in. Like it or not, much of upward mobility lies with who you know.

Knowing how important communication skills are, here are three ways to improve your social capital:

Public Speaking - Historically, speaking in front of people is the #1 fear of most. In this case, practice makes perfect (or at least better). Few are naturally great at public speaking. Those who are spend hours practicing to refine their skills. Many employers will offer the opportunity to present in front of the company as a test to evaluate your ability to communicate publicly. Pass this test and your reputation skyrockets.

One on One Conversations - Turn off your laptop, smartphone and internet for a second. How well can you carry a conversation? Initiate conversations with a diverse group of individuals and try to build connections. The goal of networking is to build trusted connections that lead to business opportunities. We like to do business with people we like. You build rapport one conversation at a time. You can only improve your social skills if you practice with real people, in person.

Ask for Feedback - Most people say they want feedback, but they really want praise. Sometimes the truth hurts, but what hurts only makes us stronger, right? The next time you ask for honest feedback, prepare yourself to hear where you can make improvements. Only fools turn a deaf ear to criticism. That doesn't mean take everything to heart, but listen to what's being said and filter it objectively. Observe how you respond, both physically and emotionally. You may feel a bit defensive, but thank the person for sharing their thoughts (especially if you asked them for feedback). How you carry yourself while experiencing some "tough love" reveals your maturity.

Being socially fit means having conversations, face-to-face. Don't hide behind technology, instead take advantage of every opportunity you can to connect with others in person. Your ability to communicate with others is one of your greatest assets. Think about referrals. We tend to refer people that we've had positive interactions with. Don't you think it's time to get socially fit?

September 12, 2011

Are you the hunter or hunted?

In your career, there are times where you are the hunter and times where you are the hunted. As you grow, it's your choice which role you want to embrace. Before making a decision, let's look at the pros and cons for both: 

The Hunted
Pros: In order to be the "hunted" it means you're on top. You've worked hard to be in this position and now someone wants what you have. In sports it's beneficial to have a dominant team/player that everyone is gunning for. You either love or hate them. It brings more attention to the sport period. It's the same in the business world.

Cons: Sometimes when you're number one, you get lazy. Past success breeds complacency. There's an arrogance that can follow success and take you down. If you're too used to winning, your motivation dwindles and you stop doing the things that put you on top. Be careful not to become entitled and believe you deserve to be where you are. There's always someone ready to take your place.

The Hunter
Pros: You have your eyes on the prize. Your radar is locked and you are ready to kill. It's crucial to have a target and something to go towards. Focus brings the best results. Being the hunter means you're motivated to work harder than everyone else to achieve greatness. Hunters don't make excuses, they just want results.

Cons: Part of being the best means you know what it takes. It's hard to strive to be the leader when you lack experience. Doubts creep in when you don't see your desired results. It can be overwhelming and you question whether you have what it takes. At the same time, being a bit naive about a situation can cause you to take more risks in hopes to breakthrough.

This is a personal decision. For me, I prefer being the hunter. It keeps me hungry. I'd rather play to win, than try not to lose. As a coach, it's essential to go towards a target versus avoid something. Choose the one that motivates you to be your best. Which one do you prefer? Hunter or hunted? Please share your comments below.

September 1, 2011

Do you REALLY want Feedback?

Last night on America's Got Talent I watched how contestants responded to the judge's feedback. They love to hear praise from Howie Mandel & Sharon Osborne, but none of them are receptive to constructive comments from Piers Morgan (even though he spoke the truth). Have you noticed that we live in a world that only wants to hear positive feedback?

The problem with only receiving praise is you become complacent with no desire to grow. Hearing criticism is tough, but it's good for you - it can motivate you to become better. Next time you want helpful feedback, try asking these questions:

What areas do I need to improve in?
What should I be focusing on?
What should I be doing more of?

Brace yourself because you may not like what you hear. Most people don't want to listen to negative comments, because they take it too personal. Focus less on the messenger and more on the message. Use the feedback as motivation towards a new goal.

At the heart of the problem is a lack of awareness. Both self-awareness & being aware of how other's perceive you. Knowing your strengths means you should also know your weaknesses. People who deny, are blind to, or are just plain naive miss out on crucial insight to improve themselves. It is a privilege to hear how you can get better. Take advantage of it.

True mentors point out your deficiencies so you can eliminate them. Be open and willing to listen to what others are saying about you. That doesn't mean you don't filter ignorant comments, but if someone is trying to help you by sharing areas that you can improve upon, listen closely and thank him/her for their concern. (The truth may hurt, but it's still the truth.)

Leaders learn from teachable moments. They put aside their ego because they value growth. You can learn a lot more from your mistakes than you can from your success. Stay hungry by asking for feedback, then challenge yourself to make the necessary changes to become the best version of you possible!

August 30, 2011

The Old School Community (a.k.a. Community 1.0)

Back in the day, before technology existed there was community. The internet has globalized our capability to connect to people, but there is power in the origin of localized communities. Let's talk about the benefits & how to create an authentic community from scratch:

Relationships - Communities grow organically. It starts one conversation at a time and builds from there. The idea of networking birthed from relationships. If we treat building our personal network based on forming relationships, connecting is much easier. Social media, Skype & cell phones are great, but nothing beats a face to face conversation. This generation is losing its ability to communicate effectively in person, because we don't practice enough. Relationships are the core of community. 

Resources - Communities are your referral network. Be willing to ask, "How can I help you?" without expecting anything in return. Everything you need can come from your community. A true community wants to freely give because it cares for the whole, not just the individual. For example, small businesses are the engine to revitalizing our economy, if we choose to invest locally.  

Small Groups - Within a community, conversations happen in a smaller setting. Small groups are the unit for transformation. They are the bridge between the individual and the larger group. Think about how cliques normally form. There's nothing wrong with cliques as long as they are inclusive. Instead of meeting in the same group of 4 to 6, interchange people and start conversations with people you don't know as well. Conversations bond and before you know it, your inner circle widens.

Local is the new global. Provide live events as a means to build community. People are hungry to connect and the best place to do that is within a community. Find a common purpose and create meaningful tasks that bond. Technology will never surpass human connections. Community takes time to grow, but when in full bloom it's a beautiful thing. So what community will you help build?

August 19, 2011

What's your Social Equity Worth?

"Social Equity is the perceived value of an individual, organization, or brands reputation and following online. This value increases or decreases based on the online buzz and conversations that take place across the various social media channels on the internet which ultimately transcend to the offline world."

Isn't this just a fancy way of saying your online presence precedes your reputation? 

Communication is rampant via social media, but how accurate is your participation online with who you really are? Companies and individuals can easily search for personal information about you online. Is that how you want to be portrayed?

Instead of trying to create a persona, just be yourself. 
Focus on your strengths. Delegate your weaknesses. 

When posting, think twice before sharing emotional reactions in the moment. 
Do you really want your future boss to see that picture of you?
Nobody wants to listen to you broadcast each move you make.

When at work, monitor your boundaries. The lines are blurred in these days of work-life balance, but remember your actions affect others. You may be able to work the system, but act with integrity. Even if no one knows, you do. It's called being professional.

Your social equity is built on interactions. Treat it as a relationship. Online connections are a means to an end. We do business with people we trust. It's harder to build trust online than in person. 

Don't substitute your social presence for interpersonal skills. As technology rises, the desire to connect face to face will continue to grow. That means how you interact in person matters. There will never be a substitute for relationships

Social equity is your first impression. Put your best foot forward. You never know who is looking at you for the first time. Seems like that's worth a lot...   

August 12, 2011

Be Willing to Be Uncomfortable

Everyone knows what it feels like to be uncomfortable. It's a not a great feeling, but sometimes it's a good thing. In order to grow, we have to put ourselves in position to be uncomfortable. Not easy, but how else will we try new things? Let me give you a couple of examples from my own life that might better illustrate this point:
I'm impatient. I hate waiting. This past month my wife and I were in Hawaii for a friend's wedding. If you've ever driven in Hawaii, you know they drive much slower than in L.A. On our way from the airport to the house we were staying in, cars were traveling at 35 mph (with no traffic ahead). At first, I had to contain myself from swearing and passing them on the shoulder of the road. After a couple of days, I got used to the pace (although I prefer to move faster) and it didn't bother me as much. Nothing changed, only my response to the situation.

I like to be in control. I wouldn't consider myself type A, but I do like to plan. Normally, I schedule everything a week in advance. I'm not much into surprises, I'd rather know what to expect. In fact, I usually like visiting somewhere the second time more than the first, so I can plan where to stop and what to eat. My wife is the exact opposite. She's very spontaneous, more adventurous and would rather not have plans, but decide in the moment. Over the 12 years we've known each other, I've learned to compromise. I still prefer to know what's going on, but I'm much more flexible now.

In both examples used, the circumstances didn't change, I did. Sometimes we beat our head against the wall because the world doesn't see things through our lens. Meanwhile we miss being present and make it less enjoyable for those around us. Part of growth is being able to look back at yourself and laugh. For me, learning to be more patient and flexible will only help me in the future. It's not about losing authenticity, but maturing in character. I'll still struggle in the areas I mentioned above, but I'm aware of it and will purposely put myself in situations that are uncomfortable because I know it's good for me. 

So what about you? What makes you uncomfortable? How would putting yourself in uncomfortable situations benefit you in the future? Your desire to grow will determine your next move.

August 8, 2011

The Applicant and the 3 Resume Piles

Have you ever wondered what your chances of landing a job are when applying? As an applicant, there are 3 piles your application/resume can fall into. Based on what category you're in, determines your chances of getting hired. Let's take a deeper look:

Pile #1: Not Qualified - You lack the experience and educational requirements for the position. Once you apply, you're hoping for a shot, but you really don't stand a chance. You never hear back from the employer because they saw your lack of qualifications and threw your application and resume away. 
Chances of landing the job: 0 - 5%

Pile #2: Qualified - You meet the experience and education requirements for the job. Most applications fall into this category. You're looking for a position that fits your current background. Your resume is impressive and you feel your chances of landing the job are pretty good. The only problem is there are others with similar backgrounds and they know someone within the company. 
Chances of landing the the job: 30 - 40%

Pile #3: Know/Referred by Someone Within the Company - Here you stand the best chance of becoming employed. You want to believe we live in a objective world, but you don't. Who you know is more important than what you know. There may even be a few requirements you don't meet, but if you have a friend inside the organization vouch for you, all is waived. Human subjectivity rules, so when applying for a job try to get the inside track from someone you know. Trust me, the screening process works like this. 
Chances of landing the job: 70 - 80%

The power of your personal network is huge! The three piles are similar to cold, warm and hot leads. You should always start with your best chance for success. Next time you apply for a job, think about the three piles and where your chances lie. In today's economy, this can save you time and stress by increasing your chances for employment. Good luck and happy hunting!

July 26, 2011

Snoop Blog

If you've watched TV, searched the internet or gone shopping lately, chances are Snoop Dogg promoted one of the products you've seen. Would you consider him a master of self-promotion? Personal branding guru? Regardless, here are 3 ways you and I can learn from his business ways...

Get comfortable with promoting yourself. You are gifted with unique talents, but the question is do others know? You could be a great coach, artist or teacher, but if no one knows, your talents are being wasted. Focus on your strengths and figure out what gifts you can share with others. Keep developing and evolving. Practice may not make perfect, but it definitely makes you better. Don't be afraid to share with the world how you can make a difference.

Shout-outs. Thank those who are helping you. Whether it's public or private, just make sure it is genuine. Nothing great is accomplished alone, so give credit to your supporters. The #1 reason people leave their jobs is because they feel unappreciated or under-valued. Tell others how much you value their presence in your life. Appreciation goes a long way.

Exposure, exposure, exposure. Stand out. Don't blend in. Give people a reason to look your way, or they won't. For example, if you offer a service, speaking is a great way to show people you are qualified to be a professional. Social media is a free way to let others know you're around. When it comes to networking, meet in person (if possible). Help others to put a face to your name. Be aware of your body language, it communicates more than a phone call or email ever will. The more comfortable you are talking to others about what you do, the better the chances of them hiring you!

I'm not saying take every opportunity to promote yourself like Snoop Dogg does, but take what he does and make it your own. In a world dominated by technology, its those with exceptional interpersonal skills that will rise to the top. The clearer you can communicate in front of others, the better your chances of getting "hired." Peace.

July 25, 2011

Knowing When & How to Fold

Life is about how you respond. The average person will have 13 careers in their lifetime, at least one will be as an employee. Just like in poker, how do you know when it's time to step away from a position (fold)?
I believe it comes down to "fit." Character and competence are important, but you need to find a role that suits your individual strengths and fits within the team structure. You may be on the right bus (company), but ask yourself, "Am I on the right seat (role) on the bus?" Put your pride aside when it tells you "I can make this work." Your job should be challenging, but know your strengths and limitations. Be true to yourself and to your employer about how effectively you are contributing. If you're not producing at a high level because it's outside of your skill set (and you won't get trained properly with a generous learning curve), do the right thing and step down.

How do you exit properly?
Be gracious and honest. Don't burn bridges you might cross in the future. Think of your career as a sub-category of your personal network. Last week I addressed the concept of work-life balance, where the lines of your career and personal relationships merge together.  Just like posting information on social media, what you say and do after leaving a job leaves a permanent imprint on the future of your career. Approach your supervisor and share with him/her why you don't think your current position is a good fit. At that point, you have done your part (regardless of their response) so let the cards fall as they may. Your results are a reflection of your competence. The way you handle yourself is a reflection of your character.

This post hits home for me because in the past 6 months I've stepped away from two opportunities. I went in with an open mindset, but after a short amount of time, it was clear that I wasn't a good fit for the position(s). In both situations, I had honest conversations with owners I have a great amount of respect for. Even though I would have liked it to work out differently; it was about doing the right thing. During our conversations, what mattered to me the most was respecting the person across from me and maintaining our relationship. There were points where I felt weak and vulnerable, because my ego wanted to make it work, but in the end we came to an agreement that what was best for the organization(s) was that we went our separate ways for the project(s). 

These experiences have taught me a lot about business and life. I hope my experiences will help shape and equip you to face the same types of scenarios in the future. 

July 18, 2011

Can you achieve work-life balance?

Just like a relationship, work-life rarely achieves a 50-50 balance. 
Today's career is about finding the perfect "fit" that is:

1) an extension of who you are 
2) passion + strengths + experience
Life is a mixture of different categories, but primarily relationships. The challenge is not necessarily balancing the two, but prioritizing. For example, if you are career driven, you might put your social life on hold because you love to achieve. On the other hand, if relationships are what you're all about, your work may not be as important. There are points where perfect harmony can be attained, but it's very rare.

The point is: you have to choose which one comes first.

I can't tell you which one is "better," but I can share from my own experiences. I value relationships. My wife, family and friends come first. That doesn't mean I don't care about my career, because I do, but if I have to choose, it's my relationships. I have my own business, helping people identify and grow within their careers, but my primary motivation is the flexibility of schedule. Controlling how I spend my time means I can work my schedule around my wife's. Even the network group I created, Career Synergy, is relationships first, business second. I truly believe that your strongest career asset is your personal network - the people you know.

So can you achieve work-life balance? The short answer is yes. The better question is: What's more important? It's said if you want to know your priorities, look at how you spend your time and money. Instead of trying to be a master of juggling, figure out the order of importance.  

So for you, which comes first? Work (career) or Life (relationships)?

July 7, 2011

What does Networking and a Torn Achilles have in Common?

In late January, I fully tore my Achilles tendon playing basketball and once surgery was recommended I was devastated. I love to workout and a huge part of my business model is meeting people for coffee. Knowing I was going to be in a cast for 6 weeks and couldn't play sports for months, I prepared for the worst.

Little did I know from then until now, I learned a lot about business through unconventional ways. 

Ironically while I was recovering, some of the relationships I had nurtured for a while started to blossom into opportunities. I was asked to join a couple of start-ups in roles that were outside of my strengths. Instead of backing down, I challenged myself to be uncomfortable. It has been a roller coaster of emotions, but it's forced me to get out of my comfort zone and learn different business models from seasoned veterans. 

I share my experiences with you because just like recovering from an injury, networking is a slow process.

At the core of networking is relationship building. You and I do business with people we trust. If you like someone, chances are better that you'll pursue an opportunity with them. We do business with people we like. 

Take a look into your personal network. Forget the size, but measure the strength of it. If you were unemployed, who would you turn to? I'm not talking about your co-workers. Instead consider yourself a brand. Who would you partner with to grow your idea? After all is stripped away, you are left with your network. 

The model has changed for good. It's not about climbing the corporate ladder anymore. It's about linking arms with those you want to go into battle with. Networking is no longer an option, it's a necessity. During lean times, we can't place our security in positions. They can be washed away in an instant. You and I have to meet people, figure out how we can help each other and make sure to follow-up

As vulnerable and helpless I felt while I was in a cast, the shining light was knowing I had others in my corner supporting me. Networking is not a long-term goal, it's a way of life

If you're looking for a place to start building your network, check out Career Synergy. If you have a strong personal network, continue to build it. As far as we have come with technology, it still comes down to who you know. People will always be your greatest asset. Go forth and network! (now)

June 30, 2011

How Powerful is Group Accountability?

Very powerful. Like Barry Bonds on steroids powerful...

Group accountability provides the added incentive to do what you say. It's easy to let yourself down, but it's much harder to let a group down. (Picture LeBron James here) Use positive tension to push you to be your best. Accountability is extra motivation to finish what you started.

Where else will you receive objective feedback? Tough love is not what you want to hear, it's what you need to hear. Sure, you may think your idea is great, but ask others what they think. Collaboration is also key to refining your ideas and revealing your "blind spot(s)." Listen to different perspectives and be open to critiques. Think, a group of peer mentors.

Results are what matters. Group accountability helps you accomplish your goals faster and more consistently. You are not short of ideas, but it's challenging to implement them. Sure, you need time to imagine, analyze and ponder, but don't let opportunity slip through the cracks by waiting too long. Those who procrastinate...(you can finish the sentence yourself). I'm just saying... 

So how do you find group accountability? Well, you can gather a bunch of friends together or you can join a Synergy Group (a form of a mastermind group). Group accountability is about commitment. Commitment is found with like-minded individuals. Don't wait! Your window of opportunity is closing...

Find out more information by attending Career Synergy or contacting Scott.

June 24, 2011

When Goals Shouldn't Be The Goal

Having goals are a good thing. So when are goals not the best thing?

As a coach, I'm focused on helping my clients set and achieve their goals, but part of what I love about coaching is the process. Development takes time and if you rush it, no long-term success can result out of it. 

Several years ago I groomed an intern to be my successor in a position I would be leaving. Over the 13 months we worked together, I took him everywhere I went and had him shadow me with everyone I talked to. In the end, someone else was chosen for the job. Sure, I was disappointed (even a little pissed) yet if the intern process was only about him getting the job, I would have looked at my time spent as a waste. Instead, I look back on the time very favorably because I wouldn't have done it any other way. We had great conversations, I took interest in him as a person and we got the opportunity to develop a lot of people along the way. If you focus only on the end goal, you miss the beauty of growth.

Goals keep us focused, but you can learn so much through the journey. It will be rocky at times and there will be points when you want to quit, but stick it out. Most of the time what our initial goal is and what actually happens are two completely different outcomes.

Imagine yourself on a road trip. Your goal is the destination, but don't forget to enjoy the ride. Our learning curve is at its highest during the process. Don't forget to pause, look around and enjoy the view.

June 20, 2011

Why Potential is Overrated

Why are we so enamored with potential? It's exciting to imagine the possibilities, yet rarely does potential live up to our expectations. With great potential usually comes great disappointment. The goal isn't to depress you, rather ask yourself, "What am I doing to fulfill my potential?"
Talk is cheap. Show me results.

Potential can mean you're talented in a particular area, but I'll take the hard worker over the more talented any day. Sports are a great example. The NBA champion wins because of their chemistry and execution, NOT because of their potential. 

Look at the tortoise and the hare. We're drawn towards the flashy rabbit (potential), but the perseverance and commitment of the turtle (results) wins the race. Potential isn't a bad thing, but with great potential comes great responsibility (to fulfill it!)

Apply this to your career. Develop your areas of competence. Don't settle or become complacent. Near the end of 2008, I "rested" because I had a great contract with a good company, then BOOM, the recession hit and I didn't have a back up plan. That incident is a painful reminder that no matter how great I believe my business can be, I always need to look for ways to grow. The moment I stop working hard is the moment I fall behind. 

Today is the time to start. Don't wait. How can you develop your potential? Challenge yourself to grow. If you're not Growing Forward, you're going backwards. There is no middle ground. Remember that. 

June 13, 2011

Yelp: The Food Superhero

Whenever I am searching for a new place to eat, I always turn to Yelp. I prefer Yelp over sites like CitySearch, Zagat's, etc. because it resonates with me. I'm not interested in what a food critic thinks because we have different values.

Yelp has a lot of applications that transfer over well to business (as well as the ability to rate businesses). 

Real customer feedback. How can you get better if you don't know what's wrong? Feedback can uncover blind spots. Your customers determine whether you thrive or shut down. Listen to what is being said, even if you don't agree. Serve your customers well and they will repay you with loyalty.

The ability to respond to negative feedback. It's great to receive compliments, but your response (or lack there of) to complaints can make or break you. I've left a negative comment on Yelp about a restaurant before and on a few occasions the owner has gotten back to me. I may have had a bad experience, but the owners willingness to make things better made me want to give them a second chance. In my experience it's not about perfection. Sometimes initial skeptics can become your biggest fans.

Brand awareness. It's not what you think, but what your customers think your brand is that's important. That means when sifting through customer comments, look for patterns. If you're focusing on a particular aspect of your business, see if it is reflected in the feedback. We can be deliberate about strategy, but we only know if it works based on customer sales. Make your biggest fans your marketing department. Even with technology, word of mouth referrals are king.

Customer feedback shouldn't be taken lightly. How you respond influences the customer experience. Yelp is a great example of the power of reviews. Listen to your customers. They are giving you the answers to your problems...

June 5, 2011

Freelancer 2.0

The economy has a funny way of testing your career agility. Once you create a plan for yourself, some uncontrollable circumstances nudge you to change, but ultimately it's your choice. Being flexible is responding to your environment, not succumbing to the pressure.

Recently, I've encountered some of those changes in my career and want to share my insight to give you a new perspective on moving forward.

The model has shifted. It's difficult to be a sole proprietor and be financially thriving. Most entrepreneurs start their own business with the intention to make more money on their own, rather than under someone else. The flexibility of being your own boss is great, but the inconsistent cash flow is rough. I believe the new model consists of juggling a stable position, while learning to scale your business in your spare time.

Scaling comes in different forms:


Instead of spending time explaining each of them, think how you can take yourself out of your business. That's right. What changes can you make so your business isn't dependent on you?

This isn't an overnight process, but more of a shift from thinking like a "technician" to a "franchisee." If you want to grow your business, you can't be involved in every move. It's not for everyone, but the tension of having limited time forces you to become more limber and innovative

Personally I'm enjoying facing this challenge right now. I hope to experience new lessons and growth that can help me succeed in the future. Personal and business growth only happen when you're willing to be uncomfortable and change what is comfortable for the greater good. Freelancer 2.0 is a new model that juggles a full-time job and a business efficiently and effectively.

Are you ready to be a Freelancer 2.0?