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!