Category Archives: Leadership

What Will Success Look Like in 2012?

When you think about what would ideally fulfill  you personally and professionally, what does it look like? Can you visualize what success would feel like, what you would experience?

What are the key steps it would take to get you there? What things are holding you back? New Year’s is the perfect time to step back and think about what is most important to you, what would give you the most satisfaction, and what the road map would be to get there.

red carpet award runway up steps to trophy prizeVisualizing can be a powerful tool to thoughtfully reflect on what would bring us joy and fulfillment – whether it is personal wealth, starting a new business or changing careers, meeting an organizational vision or target (e.g. increasing revenues or specific segments of donors, members, clients, customers), balancing spending truly quality time with your family, and/or meeting personal fitness goals. Brainstorming and creativity techniques like mind mapping can be useful to articulate your ideas and vision.

Can you think of people who have achieved similar goals or who you admire that you can turn to for advice and encouragement? This can include people you personally know and people you would like to get to know – including thought leaders in your field you can follow on twitter, google plus, facebook, et al to soak up their philosophy and thought processes.

Are there things you are doing now that just use time that you could use to fulfill your dreams and vision? Whether endless meetings that don’t bring you closer to your dreams or enhance your team’s collaborations, or the allure of mindless email or other time wasters, curtailing them can help buy us the time we need to meet our personal and professional goals.

Here is to a very successful – and most importantly – fulfilling and joyful 2012 spent pursuing our dreams and what is truly most important to us. What are you envisioning for 2012?

Embracing and Anticipating Change Critical to Ongoing Success

Today change is the only constant. The world is in perpetual motion just as most of us are. If we are too distracted by the endless day-to-day tasks to keep an eye on the whole picture we can lose sight of critical trends, technologies, and changes that will affect our future.

changing colors of leaves in a group of autumn treesWhat are the trends and issues that most impact your profession, industry, organization, and customers? What are the best sources for not only tracking but anticipating the changes that will affect your organization and ultimately your career? Are you reserving some time for reflection about these issues?

Continuously seek opportunities to learn, read, and talk to customers and key influencers in your field. Watch what both thought leaders and up and coming dynamic newcomers in your profession and industry are saying and doing.

Embrace with enthusiasm that change is an ongoing part of the fabric of our lives. Change is constantly unfolding around us whether we like it or not. So finding excitement and natural optimism in the opportunities that change can bring to our careers and businesses will surely be more satisfying than worrying about negative aspects of having to learn new things or resisting letting go of aspects of your business or products that are no longer successful. None of us want to be a case example of the alternative (aka Borders and Blockbusters).

Over the generations, it is the people who have embraced the new technologies of the Thomas Edisons and Alexander Graham Bells who have truly impacted their worlds. It is the unique thinkers like Warren Buffet who recognize the paradigm breaking technologies to invest in or capitalize on for their world. We like to say that things are changing more than ever today. While the speed of change has increased, dramatic change has affected most every generation. Think how the world felt before and after electricity, the telephone, and indoor plumbing.

What new ideas and strategies can you find in the demographic, technology, and social changes you see happening in your slice of the world that can drive new business? How can you use what you are learning to anticipate your customers, members, or clients’ needs and problems and solve them? What will solve their problems and wow them will undoubtedly be different next year than what it was last year.  Are you staying on top of the curve to anticipate those needs?

Following Your Dreams – In Honor of Steve Jobs’ Legacy

In honor of Steve Jobs, let’s take every opportunity to pursue our dreams and focus on what it is most important to us. In the hours since his passing I have reflected on how much he not only emphasized in his words but more importantly lived his life pursuing his passion. He built his career, Apple, and Pixar on his unique vision of what was possible, impacting our world in ways we could not have imagined.

Touching tribute articles have reflected on how committed Steve Jobs was to delivering the ultimate customer experience using his keen sense of every design detail to ensure every font, bell, and whistle was just right.  He said “Design is not just what it looks like. Design is how it works.” He meticulously thought through how the devices and experiences he created would feel to people who used them.

Yet he also ensured that his vision was executed. He shipped. Regularly.

When we sense we are spending more time on meetings, emails, and other minutia of daily life that don’t help us achieve our dreams, let’s stop a minute and think about what we most want to accomplish that will really matter to us. Looking back later, what will I be glad I did? Attended another meeting? Connected with people? Launched a product, program, or company that will make a difference? What will it take to make that happen?

As Steve Jobs said so eloquently in his famous Stanford commencement speech, “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” I am grateful for the amazing impact Steve Jobs made on our world that will be felt for generations to come.

7 Ways to Avoid Procrastinating and to Achieve Your Most Important Goals

Overcoming the temptation to procrastinate can be challenging with the constant inflow of email, calls, seemingly pressing but not critical tasks, and 24/7 social networking. But you don’t want what you aren’t doing to stand in the way of your own success.

With two businesses and family priorities on my mind, here are seven tips I use to balance the goals in the different quadrants of my life and get the most important things done:

1) Pinpoint your most important goals and what you need to accomplish each week to achieve them

2) Each morning take a few minutes to visualize what you’ll focus on and do a gut check as to whether you have covered your priorities. Is what you’re devoting  your time to helping you meet your most critical goals?

3) Set a schedule and stick to it – carve out the time you need for each of the most critical things on your list. If you need to write or do other creative, thought intensive work, block out interruptions and pledge to spend the next hour or however long it takes to get that stage of your project done.

4) Post reminders everywhere within reason that you can – for example, I use my online tasks list and notes on my online calendar but also have white boards posted in a couple of strategic locations to keep my goals front and center.

5) Don’t always say yes. Be politely assertive about saying you can’t do things that you know will derail your goals by taking time away from your priorities. If you are torn because you really want to do something that you know you don’t have time for now, you can always say you would love to do it but in a few months or next year.

6) If you’re stuck, sometimes the best approach is to take a walk and take along a notepad, smart phone, or iPad so you can think through the issues while you stroll and stop and jot down notes as they come to you.

7) Refuel your energy by exercising, getting quality sleep, and eating healthfully most days of the week. I became enthusiastic about exercising when I realized I could recharge and refresh while doing my metabolism and health such a great favor.

I think most people have days when you knock it out of the ballpark and other lower energy days, it’s about plugging away at what’s most important but taking time for fun, relaxation, and family that balances everything.

What are your tips for meeting your goals and making the most of your time?

Understanding Customer Needs Key to New Product Development

The best new products and services fulfill an unmet need of a specific segment of customers, developed based on robust knowledge and understanding of their motivations, daily lives, and problems. But what is the best way to achieve it?

Market research, regular conversations, and listening to customers is pivotal, so that you know them as well as possible. However, many experts caution about asking customers what new products or services they would like you to develop. The problem with basing new product development on customer input is customers might not be able to envision the truly blue sky possibilities.

As Henry Ford said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have told me, ‘a faster horse.” It is doubtful that any customer would have thought in 1991 to ask for a product like the MP3 player to be developed.

That is why many successful organizations observe their customers in action. For example, an association taking field trips to shadow members in their professional day-to-day roles, or consumer products companies watching customers accomplishing a task like doing laundry to see the real problems they are coping with in action.

Use observation to truly understand your customers’ daily lives and problems rather than relying on asking them survey questions like which of the following products would you be interested in. Many popular next generation new products like the Swiffer were developed with this principle and by carefully studying and replicating the problem the customer was coping with (in this case how to make mopping dirt and messes easy).

Testing and focus groups are commonly used to refine ideas and products. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” as Steve Jobs is credited with saying.

What Will Success Look Like?

In the midst of never ending projects, emails, calls, colleagues stopping by to chat, and social media updates, do you have a clear perspective of which are the most important goals you want to achieve in your professional and personal life?

It is so easy to be pulled into the maelstrom of seemingly urgent tasks and lose sight of what will really take your career to the next level, or more importantly, feel most satisfying to you personally.

Seagull flyingWhat are the top three professional goals that will take your organization and career to the next level? What about in your personal life? What is truly most important to achieve and how will you know you have succeeded?

Whether you are an entrepreneur or a professional serving a large or small private sector company or a nonprofit, keeping your eye on three overarching goals and the milestones and measures to get you there is critical for success. The same is true for your personal life — for example, striving to keep work/life balance through getting regular exercise and/or spending quality time with your family.

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Are You Focusing on What Is Most Important?

It is easy to be distracted by the endless mundane but seemingly urgent everyday projects and talks, but they do not position your organization or your career for the future.

Does your organizations have three clear goals and messages that are most important for success?

close up photo of forest treesDo you keep an eye on changing trends in the marketplace, your constituents’ needs and wants, and the impact of constantly changing technology? And then regularly update your goals?

 

Having overarching goals for your organization gives staff a shared understanding of your future and your priorities. It is also vital to know the strategies, milestones, and measures that illustrate what success looks like.

It is common over the years for  organizations to have a wide variety of products, programs, projects, and procedures that evolve to meet different staff’s interests and expertise. But do they serve the mission and guiding strategies for the organization? Or do they eat up time that could be better utilized to ensure the future you envision?

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Resilience: The Most Important Ingredient for Success

What is the most critical factor that individuals and organizations need to succeed in any personal or professional challenge? Reflecting on my conversations with hundreds of people from California to Cleveland to Washington, DC and New York who have shared how the economy has impacted their businesses and personal lives, I believe the answer is resilience.

Seedling growing

A strong, resilient spirit sparks the optimism, ingenuity, and foresight to explore new opportunities, adapt to a constantly changing marketplace, and see opportunity in the possibilities ahead.

 

Adversity happens. There are situations you cannot control, it’s how you react to them that counts. It’s how you try to foresee what might happen in the future and proactively plan that will see you through.

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