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Understanding Bad vs. Good

November 4, 2012

Understanding Bad vs. Good

This past week we have been bombarded with negativity. We are consumed with negative campaign ads and claims about the deficiencies of the opposing candidate. Hurricane Sandy reminded us of the power and devastation mother nature is capable of.

While these are two of the most obvious, we’ve also had to deal with traffic, rejection, failed plans, hectic schedules, rocky relationships, low sales, unpaid bills, and the list goes on. Sometimes you have to wonder where the good is. There’s something about Bad vs. Good that you need to know.

Bad is stronger than good. Sorry, but the research shows that bad situations, thoughts, or emotions stay with us longer and affect us more powerfully than good situations, thoughts, or emotions. Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., suggests that this can be overcome when we experience more good in our lives by a ratio of about 3:1.

Having worked with small business owners for over 30 years, I can tell you that there is no shortage of bad to counteract, however it’s not a question of eliminating bad. Bad helps keep us on course. We just don’t want the bad things in our lives to dictate the course of our existence. Attempting to be positive all the time can also be harmful.

Fredrickson says we should work toward creating a mindset of positivity to get that 3:1 ratio and there are five areas we can focus on:

Be Open – When we are thinking about something bad that has happened or something bad we think is going to happen, we tend to forget about the good that is around us right now.

Be Appreciative – Recognize what’s good in your life. Gratitude is powerful.

Be Curious – Look for the good, ask questions, be open to the not so obvious.

Be Kind – In spite of Hurricane Sandy, acts of kindness are everywhere. Look for it and practice it where you are.

Be Real – Suggests the character strength of honesty and authenticity.

When we create more positive emotions “good things” in our lives, we will very likely experience more awareness and expanded vision – more possibilities.

Fredrickson and other researchers have discovered that increasing the number of good or positive emotions will:

Enhance our creativity

Help us be more resilient

Improve our ability to learn

Help us work more productively toward our goals

As a small business owner, would this be helpful? Think about the last time you were dwelling on something bad, either real or imagined. How was your creativity at that moment? Were you working productively on your goals? Were you thinking about the possibilities that come from being open minded?

“One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, my son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is negativity. It’s anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, and hate. The other is positivity. It’s joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, love.”

The young boy looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which one wins?” The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”

We have a choice. Isn’t it worth a try?


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Blinding Flash of the Obvious

October 6, 2012

As small business owners agonize over business growth and development, it’s not uncommon for them to focus on the obvious.

“If they could only get the economy thriving again…”

“If they would only elect the right people…”

“If they were only more pro-business….”

“If they didn’t have an unfair advantage…”

Sound familiar?  These statements of the obvious have been the focus of business owners, in this country, for over two hundred years.  We put so much energy and time in worrying about how these blinding flashes of the obvious will somehow make business growth possible.

How much time, effort, energy, and resources are you investing in changing “they”?

The Unique You

You can’t control “they,” but you can control how you deliver the true gifts you possess, the uniqueness of your product or service, the way you solve your customer/client/patients problems, and the way you communicate with your ideal customer/client/patients.  You can also control the way you see, interpret, and respond to the market and to the world around you.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “Many fail to grasp what’s right in the palm of their hand.”

Ever notice how some businesses owners thrive and grow even in the worst of times?  Maybe their focus is on a different obvious.

Your Success Profile

September 16, 2012

Your Success Profile

Every human being has his or her own definition of success and while there may be similarities in the definitions, each person’s path to that success is going to be different. No two people are the same when it comes to life experiences, talent, education, neural development, and even the unique combination of strengths that define who we are.

Our English language has twenty-six letters, yet the order those 26 letters are arranged in produce an infinite number of literary works of art, communication, educational literature, and even lyrics for songs.

The Great Gatsby Take for instance F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Leo Tolstoy’s, War and Peace. Each author had 26 letters to work with and yet their respective works of art are as unique and distinctive as the authors that wrote them.

War and Peace We couldn’t have expected Fitzgerald to write War and Peace just as we couldn’t have expected Tolstoy to write The Great Gatsby. Each of those men wrote from their life experiences, their education, their environment, their unique perspective on the world around them defined by their neural development and strengths. Just 26 letters and two completely different works of art.

We can draw parallels to success in business. There are basics in business, just like in writing. In writing you have 26 letters. In business there are fundamentals that we have to work with. A product or service that people need, a marketing plan that is effective, ability to sell that product or service, and basic record keeping functions to keep score. Where does the magic come from?   How do we know there is a path for us, a way to find that success that we are looking for?

Just like Fitzgerald and Tolstoy, we have to identify our unique success profile and honor the fact that this is where our personal gifts come from. What did our environment teach us? What kind of education have we experienced? What skills, talents, and strengths create a unique profile for us?

Studying successful people is enlightening to me, and one constant that continues to surface, in my studies, is the realization that successful people know either consciously or intuitively what their success profile is.

I enjoy watching the ABC television show Shark Tank and observing how the Sharks and the entrepreneurs think and communicate. Sharks Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, and Robert Herjavec listen to pitches from entrepreneurs looking for investors. Each of the Sharks made their fortunes in different ways and they will quickly declare themselves out of a deal if they don’t feel it fits their success profile.

ABC’s Shark Tank

Successful people stand out in their ability to discover their path and stay on that path. They know it is the shortest and truest route to success.

Knowing our success profile doesn’t mean we can’t continue to learn and grow as individuals, it means we have areas of strength to focus and build on. We can’t be good at everything.  Successful people, like the Sharks, know how to delegate so they can do what they do best.

Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton offered a life-changing perspective from research they shared in their book Now, Discover Your Strengths.

  • Each person’s talents are enduring and unique.
  • Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.

So how do you determine what your success profile is? Sorry to tell you this, but it does take some work and some time. The good news is that from day one of discovering your success profile, you begin to fit the pieces of the puzzle together and the profile begins to develop clarity.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. Your success profile is unique.

Your success profile will begin to emerge as you examine your background, your education, your experience, your talents, your strengths, the way you handle challenges, influence people, react to the pace of your environment, and respond to rules and procedures.

All of these elements defined Fitzgerald and Tolstoy’s success profile, just as they define the success profile of the Sharks.

Give me some feedback. I’d like to know what you think.

Little Things That Pave The Road To Business Success

August 11, 2012

It’s pretty common these days to hear business people talk about how hard it is to be successful. The economy is down, people aren’t buying, there’s too much competition, and the list goes on.  Much effort goes into marketing, advertising, and branding.

Is it possible that the road to success may be paved with doing a lot of little things right and making it easier for customers to do business? Consider these  10 little things that more than a few businesses (large and small) haven’t figured out yet.

Thumbs downForcing you into automated answering systems that take forever to reach a human being.

Company representatives that don’t speak clearly or talk too fast for you to understand what they say.

Businesses that post their hours of operation and don’t observe the opening and closing times.

Restaurants that never seem to have the time or personnel to keep their dining rooms and bathrooms clean.

Managers and supervisors that seem to think the best place to criticize and correct employees is in front of customers.

Companies that save money by not keeping their equipment in good working order. (Retail gasoline distributors come to mind but this applies to a wide range of businesses.)

Businesses that inflate prices and then offer you specials to make you think you are saving money.

Businesses that schedule a service call and end up being hours late and never once communicate with you.

Sales people that go into sales and closing mode without listening to the customer.

Businesses that have plenty of personnel and still find other tasks more important than helping  customers in need, or taking their money when they are ready to buy.

Businesses that don’t follow up when they say they will.

Yes, they may be little things, but as hard as you work to define your brand, these little things are what  really  define your brand, in the customer’s mind.

I would like to hear from you.  What are some other little things done right that can pave the road to business success?

What The Olympians Can Teach Us

July 29, 2012
What The Olympians Can Teach Us 

You are, no doubt, aware that the 2012 Summer Olympics, in London, are underway. I’m always intrigued by the Games, even many of the sports that I’m not familiar with.

As I watched the opening ceremony and especially the parade of athletes, I was impressed by the fact that these athletes were the best their countries have to offer. Very few will win medals, but all of them has reached a level of accomplishment and expertise that is impressive.

In the United States alone, out of over three hundred million people, only a little over six hundred men and women were good enough to represent our country. It’s easy to use the words determined, driven, willpower, talented, and even courage to describe these athletes, but I would suggest one more word that cuts to the heart of their success. That word is goals. More specifically, these athletes are goal setters and goal achievers.

It’s not uncommon for us to believe that goals should be realistic to be attainable, but Edwin Locke, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, and Gary Latham, professor at the Rotman School of Business, at the University of Toronto, suggest otherwise.

In their book, A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance, Locke and Latham say that goals should be challenging and specific, and the absence of those components is the number one reason most goals fail.

Certainly athletes that set goals to represent their country in the Olympics are setting challenging and specific goals, especially given the fact that they are probably doing so years in advance. This story, shared by Caroline Adams Miller and Dr. Michael B. Frisch, in their book, Creating Your Best Life, demonstrates this process.

 

When Michael Phelps, one of the greatest swimmers in history, was just a tadpole, his coach, Bob Bowman, called his parents into his office for a goal-setting session.  

Bowman outlined an audacious training plan for the next few years that eventually resulted in the attainment of an Olympic medal in Phelps’s teen years. Phelps was only eleven at the time of the goal-setting conversation, however, so his astonished parents just looked at the coach and openly questioned his sanity.  

Bowman, who had a history of recognizing excellence, said that his goals might seem unrealistic at the moment, but that they were definitely something he felt would guide the talented young boy, and not intimidate him.  

To his credit, the young Phelps adopted these goals as his own, and actually accomplished all of them before Bowman’s predicted timeline, proving that some goals that appear to be unrealistic are simply challenging goals that demand that we give them everything we’ve got.

Challenging and specific goals. This isn’t just good advice and strategy for athletes. It applies to all of us, whether in business or our personal lives, yet how do we get into the mindset of thinking about challenging goals.

There seems to be a natural tendency to want to set realistic goals instead, perhaps because the chance of failure is much less. And along with that reduced chance of failure comes reduced commitment, creativity, and the safety of our comfort zones.

So, how do we change our mindset and begin to think of challenging and specific goals? Mark Goulston, in his book Just Listen, offers two questions to shake up our thinking. Ask yourself: What’s something that would be impossible to do, but if you could do it, would dramatically increase your success? Then, when you have the answer, follow up with this question: What would make it possible?

As Goulston says, “It creates a mental itch that needs to be scratched.”

Right now, during the Olympics, is a great time to ask yourself:

What’s something that would be impossible to do, but if you could do it, would dramatically increase your success?

What would make it possible?

Solo Practice Instructions?

June 26, 2011

This past week I had the misfortune to have a serpentine belt on my car disintegrate.  This belt is an inexpensive part, but connects and drives several systems within the car, and without it the car will not run.  Fortunately it happened just as I pulled into the driveway so it didn’t strand me on the roadside.  I knew it needed to be replaced, but hadn’t gotten to it.  I was lucky it happened where and when it did.

I called my son, Colin, and he assured me that it was something we could do together.  He came over on Saturday morning and we went to the parts store for the belt.  While there, he suggested that we replace the alternator belt and install new spark plugs while we were under the hood.  I was reluctant, but agreed to the additional repairs.

Colin knew I wasn’t comfortable with the repairs so he pulled up a step by step instruction sheet (for me), on the internet, that outlined exactly how to change the belts.  It was simple.  He proceeded to replace the belts and the plugs, and the car runs better than ever.  Later in the day, I couldn’t help but wonder how nice it would be if there was a step-by-step instruction sheet for managing and growing a solo practice.

Unfortunately, navigating a successful course for a solo practice isn’t as easy as 1-2-3.  Whether a medical doctor, dentist, chiropractor, optometrist, podiatrist, or attorney; no two solo practices are the same and no two professionals are the same.  There are many variables that have to be considered.  Location, personal strengths, motivators, skill set, and even the definition of success differentiates every solo practice in existence.

Fortunately, the instructions were exactly for my car, the parts store had a data base that identified exactly which parts I needed, and my son had the tools, knowledge, and confidence to successfully complete the job. As a solo practice owner, you need feedback, resources, and support that specifically focuses on identifying a successful course for your practice

The Practice to Business Report is a new source of feedback designed for the solo practice owner. This report provides an opportunity to participate in a short survey each month, receive results, and commentary designed to give useful information for realizing the success you work so hard for.

This resource is free and specifically for you, the solo practice owner.  Learn more about the Practice to Business Report.

It Never Happened

June 21, 2011

For years, the “results” of a study done with the graduating class of a certain Ivy League school has been circulating.  In the study, the success of the members was observed approximately twenty years after graduation.  Each member of the graduating class was evaluated and the study found those that set goals achieved significantly more than those that didn’t set goals.  The study went on to find that members of the graduating class (less than three percent) that wrote their goals down, far exceeded the graduates that just had goals but didn’t write them down.

You may have heard of the study.  I have, and I even used it in some presentations. The message is clear.  If you want to succeed, you must have goals and you must write them down.  Yes, goals are important and yes, writing goals down probably isn’t a bad idea, but there’s one big problem.  The study never happened.  It was probably made up by someone trying to emphasize the importance of setting goals.  The story takes a very simplistic approach to the solution for being successful by writing down your goals.

Stories like this do wonders for creating the myths of goal-setting and achievement.  The subject is far more complex, but fortunately there is research being done and there is dependable information to help us understand and make sense of the science of success.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D.  has just published her book, Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. Halvorson is a social psychologist and member of the Board of Advisors for the Motivation Science Center, Columbia University Business School.  She draws from her research as well as the research of her colleagues to give us an understandable and sensible approach to setting goals, reaching our goals, and succeeding.

I would recommend you read the book, but until you can get your copy, here are some of the big take-aways for me:

Fundamental to the goal-setting process is knowing where you want to go.  Desires, dreams, and wishes are fine, but if you don’t know specifically where you want to go, you probably aren’t  setting a real goal.

All human beings seek relatedness, competence, and autonomy according to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan in their Self-Determination Theory.  When our goals are based on one or more of those three we are pursuing goals that can give us a lasting feeling of psychological well-being.

Goals that support becoming famous, seeking power over others or polishing your public image do not provide a sense of psychological well-being.

“Why” thinking gives us the bigger picture of our goals.  “Why” is the abstract that helps us understand the greater meaning of our behavior (goals). Losing weight will help me be healthy, feel better, and look better.

“What” thinking gives us the concrete specifics of our behavior (goals). To lose weight I will eliminate soft drinks and exercise 30 minutes each day.

Mental contrasting is the process of going back and forth between the “Why” and the “What” to more fully understand your goal, determine how committed you will be, and your likelihood of success.

You are more likely to reach your goal if you see it as difficult as opposed to a goal that you will easily reach.  When your goal is difficult, you are more realistic about the work and commitment that will be needed to attain the goal.

Will power is like a muscle.  It can become tired and temporarily less reliable, but like a muscle, it can be strengthened over time.

It’s important to believe you have the ability to reach your goal, but it’s also important that you believe you can get the ability you need to reach your goal.

When we focus on proving ourselves we are adopting a mindset of “being good.” 

When we focus on “getting better” we adapt to difficulties and select goals that help us to improve.  People that adopt a “getting better” mindset often turn in better performances.

In most cases, we are better served adopting a mindset of “getting better” instead of “being good.”  It suggests that we are trying to become the best as opposed to proving that we are the best.

These are just a few of the concepts that I have taken from the book and as you can see, effective goal-setting, goal success, and achievement can be a very personal experience that leads to internal motivation that is much more fulfilling and effective.

I’ve only been able to touch on some of the concepts in Halvorson’s book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.  I hope you will put this one on your reading list.   

What do you think?  Share your comments.