Learn From Mistakes

The best companies allow employees to experiment and make mistakes. In many organizational cultures, innovation is discouraged when leadership doesn’t encourage risk taking. Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Managers who do not empower employees to take risks to avoid consequences of their actions will depress learning and development. Many people avoid taking risks because they don’t want to experiences consequences. Others make mistakes and don’t learn when they look to avoid consequences.

The same principle applies in our personal lives. I haven’t always made great decisions, though I accept responsibility for and learn from my mistakes. At one point, I started a business without doing my due diligence or consulting my wife, who wisely was against the idea. Four years later, we had depleted our savings and our home was in foreclosure. In the end, we were forced to give it back to the bank. This was devastating. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. Experiencing the consequences of our actions can be a catalyst for change.

Failing to take responsibility and ownership for our decisions can be very costly. We lose the opportunity to learn and grow. I had a friend who was losing his home a couple of years ago. In his case, he decided to stop paying his mortgage when the value of his home fell below what he owed. Many people did this expecting a bailout from the government. When he was complaining about why the president wasn’t doing enough to help him, I interrupted him and told him his blaming was preventing him from finding another solution. He was being a victim. Experiencing the consequences of our actions is incentive to quickly learn and change course. I know first-hand how painful it is to lose a home. But blaming others for our predicaments only hurts us….we give away our power to change. If we believe our problems are generated externally, we may think we have no choice. If we think nothing we do will matter, we may choose to do nothing. When we take personal responsibility, we change our behavior and our outcomes, creating opportunities to learn, grow, and change. It all starts with choosing our response, and learning from the consequences of our choices.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Create Success From Failure; Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;  How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

Start Beating Yourself Up!

The Only Person You Need To beat Is Yourself

The cries of “my mommy beats me!” could be heard throughout the student-housing complex. The mother of the shrieking three year old was hoping in vain that none of the neighbors heard. She didn’t want to get a call from child protective services. If you didn’t know what was really happening, you might be tempted to call the authorities yourself. However, on this fall morning while I was in classes at the University of Utah, my wife had taken our only child at the time shopping. Upon arriving home there was a challenge given and accepted to see who could get from the car to the apartment first. My wife, wanted to teach our child to give her best effort, so she pushed out in front as the race ensued. Then came the words famous in our family lore, “my mommy beats me!”

The spirit of competition started early in our family of seven, when we play games, you play to win. There is no whining if you lose. You give your best effort to win. Someone usually is upset in these situations. I suspect we are not unique in teaching our kids to compete. All of my children have played sports. Each coach seems to focus on winning above all else. Both my sons play on a winning volleyball team at their school. Their team has a reputation for winning. As a result, many people cheer against them. They have learned to embrace the battle of competition. We all have. We learn that we have to compete to get in the best classes in high school. We learn we have to compete to be accepted to the best universities and to earn scholarships. We learn we have to compete to get the best jobs. We learn we have to compete against the competition in business.

I had been raised with this competitive mindset. In my career, I wanted to excel and be the leader. In sales, I wanted to be the best and highest producer. I would even get upset if others “beat me.” I would congratulate my competitor and seem happy for them, but inside, I was not happy. Because of my competitive nature, I found myself upset at losing. I would often compare myself to others. If I learned from their success, this could be positive. However, often, I would compare myself to others in an unhealthy way. My focus on beating them actually caused me to have less success. It would seem that the harder I pushed, the harder it was to succeed.

I know I am not the only one to have had these feelings. Just yesterday, I was having a discussion with a competitor of mine. He was telling me how one of his business partners had a plan to go after one of the biggest competitors in our industry. He wanted to undercut their pricing and steal all their customers. His motivation was to beat his opponent. This zero-sum (win/lose) mentality drains our energy, creativity and happiness. It is a poor long-term strategy in business. I have worked hard to overcome my zero-sum mentality. It is difficult when so much of our culture is focused on winning at someone else’s expense. The pull to win can be so strong that some are willing to cheat or do unethical things to win. It is not uncommon for kids to cheat in school or college because they are more focused on getting the best grade instead of increasing their own knowledge.

We are just wrapping up March Madness in the United States. We now have 4 college basketball teams who have defeated 60 other teams. Only one will be the champion. If you do not support one of those four schools, you may find yourself unmotivated to watch, you may even be cheering for a team to lose. I find myself often cheering for the underdog.

What I am learning, is that in business, there is room for more than one champion. In my business, I truly have a tremendous amount of competition. There are ten’s of thousands of coaches and business consultants in the world. When I was asked how I compared to my competitors, I used to outline all the ways we differed. I focused on what they did and what we do. Some of my competitors are really talented and effective. Focusing on why we are better doesn’t create loyal high paying customers. It seems to create more people who want to prove they are better than you. Simon Sinek argues that people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. (Start With Why)

Today, I don’t mind talking about the strengths of my competitors. When I am asked about the differences. I focus on our purpose and our strengths. I no longer choose to compete against others or compare myself to them. Instead, I am competing with myself to constantly UP my skills and talents. In other words, I beat myself…UP. When people ask why they should hire us, I answer: We will do our absolute best to elevate and lift your team to be more effective. We will constantly strive to improve how we serve and support you.

Since making this shift, my confidence has increased. People are more willing to support us and help in our mission. I am more satisfied and happy in my work. I am focused on lifting, inspiring an elevating others instead of beating them. The only person I have to beat is myself.

The author Spencer Horn, is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Other articles you may be interested in: Elevate Your Impact; Cure For The CEO DiseaseHow To Create Success From FailureIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Improve Your Leadership Under Pressure; One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence.

The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions

We are two weeks into our resolutions. How are you doing?

If you are like me, we are two of the over 145,000,000 Americans who make resolutions to lose weight (21.4%), self-improve (12.8%), make better financial decisions (8.5%), quit smoking (7.1%), spend more time with loved ones (6.2%), provide more service (5.2%) and more. However, according to a recent survey by Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 9.2% actually achieve them. More than 59% of Americans refuse to make resolutions or make them very infrequently. Why go through all the trouble of setting a goal you probably won’t achieve and then you will probably feel worse about yourself than if you did nothing? If the statistics of how few Americans achieve their goals are accurate, the majority of Americans have a point.

Why then do so may continue with the practice? Perhaps they have experienced the euphoria and enthusiasm of achieving goals as I have. My personal goal setting successes help me to persist. To help those considering capitulating on the opportunity to make a fresh start each year, I want to share what successful resolution and goal setters did that the rest did not. There are several things we can do to help us succeed in our goals. To simplify, I am going to focus on just two: How we set resolutions and behavioral balance.

One of the reasons we fail to achieve goals is how we set them. If you look at the list of resolutions above, what do you notice? Most are broad statements that are hard to define and achieve. What does self-improvement look like? How much more time will you spend with loved ones? Where will that time come from? How much weight will you lose and by when? How much time will you exercise each week? Many goals tend to focus on massive or extreme change. When life gets busy, we quickly lose track and motivation for goals, which no longer seem attainable. With fatigue, our will to pursue goals and resist going back to old habits is eroded.

 


The key to success is to use our understanding of brain science to set and achieve goals.

1.    Simplify your resolutions:

Set a series of smaller specific goals and focus only a few goals. If you set too many and or intangible goals, the brain rebels. Our brains are easily distracted and do not understand how to achieve a vague goal. I had wanted to lose 25 pounds for many years and not been successful. It wasn’t until I broke that bigger goal down into smaller goals that I had success. Last year I set a a smaller specific goal on January 15th to lose ten pounds by March 15th.

2.    Focus on behaviors to achieve goal, not just the goal:

Next, I changed my focus from losing the weight to focusing on actions, which cause me to lose weight. The two things I could control were diet and exercise. Everyday, I would measure the calories I consumed. This was very time consuming, and the discipline kept me focused on the actions I could control, which was calorie consumption. I also measured how many calories I burned on a daily basis.

3.    Regularly self-evaluate:

With this simple focus, I reviewed each week how I was doing. Resolutions seem overwhelming because we only do them once a year. I would resolve at the start of each week to stick with my plans. Thought leader Brian Tracy suggests you review your goals every day. Greater frequency is needed for success.

4.    Reward success:

After a particularly successful week, I would celebrate. I would give myself permission to eat something I enjoyed. I want to achieve my goals and I want to also enjoy life. This kept my brain engaged and motivated to move forward. After two months, I had lost 12 pounds! I was so excited and motivated to lose the next 10 pounds. However, because of my success and over-confidence, I no longer measured my calorie intake to go along with my exercise. The discipline of measuring my calories everyday was hard and time was limited with all my obligations. The result was that I only lost 2 pounds over the next seven months. Returning to the discipline of measuring calorie intake made the difference.

The second key to achieving goal success is finding behavioral balance. Our behavioral temperament can often conspire against us in achieving our goals. Last week I was conducting a communication workshop with employees of an IT services company. Over 50% of employees had what we call a high patience trait. When I asked members of the class what they thought they could do to improve communication, most of them said that they needed to be more assertive. This is a behavior that is difficult for people with high patience.

You may be asking, “What does this have to do with achieving goals?” When these technicians work with co-workers, clients and others who talk too much, they find it difficult to interrupt and get control of the conversation. High patient people find themselves at the mercy of other people who hijack their precious time and they do not want to be perceived as being rude and cut them off. As a result, they feel powerless to control their schedules. Many people with this behavioral tendency have a really hard time saying no. These individuals may become overwhelmed with helping others and run out of time to achieve their commitments. They end up working longer hours and putting their personal goals on the back burner. If you say yes to everyone else, you may be choosing to say no to your goals.

If you can relate to this personality, you can learn to be assertive without being rude. Set expectations around your communications. If someone interrupts you, let him know you really want to listen. However, if the conversation is going to take more than five minutes, you will need to schedule time to talk. This gives you permission to set expectations without being rude. Learn to say no, and you will be so much happier.

Each personality type has behaviors, which may cause self-sabotage and imbalance. This lack of balance makes it hard to achieve our goals. High dominant personalities may delegate responsibility but hold on to authority because they feel the need to be in control at all times. This causes them to be overwhelmed because they are often unwilling to let others have more authority. Some high conforming personalities get out of balance because of their desire for unattainable perfection. The high extroverts get out of balance when they spend too much time socializing. Also, their desire to be liked may cause them to say yes to too many assignments, which leaves them too little time for their own goals.

These are only a very few of behavior tendencies which have the potential to work against your efforts to achieve your goals. If you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself, here are a few suggestions for you.

1.    Identify your behavioral preferences:

There are many great behavioral surveys that will help you identify behaviors which may be causing you to be out of balance. I love the ProScan Personal Development Report. It is highly accurate tool, which provides a tremendous amount of information you can immediately put to use. You will become more aware of your behavioral tendencies, which may be helping or hurting you to achieve your goals. Armed with this knowledge, you can make the necessary adjustments.

2.    Identify an accountability partner:

Share your behavioral results and goals with someone you trust and respect. Empower them to let you know when your behavioral tendencies are getting in your way. This will help you make needed adjustments more quickly. A coach is a great accountability partner option. Not only can she help understand how you are getting in your way, she will help you identify how to leverage your behavioral strengths to achieve your goals.

Simply change the way you set goals. Make them simple and tangible for a specific time. Then learn how you may be self-sabotaging. Our behavioral tendencies can cause imbalance, which can inhibit our ability to achieve our goals. Learning how to leverage your behavior and partnering with an accountability partner will help. These suggestions will help you achieve your goals in 2017 and every year.

The Author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. For additional information consider the following topics: “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired;” “The Power of Accountability;” “Act As If…Today!:” “Silence Your Saboteur!”

How To Create Success From Failure

Fail Successfully

As a child, you were constantly failing. You formed words in your mouth, which instead came out as sounds. Those failed words were music to your parent’s ears. You fell hundreds of times as you attempted to walk. You crashed your bike as you began to ride. You made cacophony instead of melody as you learned to play the piano. From all of these failed experiences, you were learning. If you quit because of these failures, you would have remained silent, never learned to ride a bike or play the piano.

What were the conditions that allowed you to find success from these failures to learn, grow and develop? Your parents or guardians most likely encouraged you when you were learning to walk, especially when you fell. They kept talking to you when you were making sounds instead of words. They motivated you to get back on your bike after you skinned your knee. They applauded your staccato rendition of your favorite song at your first piano recital.

As we get older, many of us have learned to do what it takes to get rewards for good behavior and avoid punishment from mistakes. Consequently, many gain a sense of satisfaction when they are praised, and shame for reprimands. Much of an individuals self worth may come from the acceptance and reward they receive. As children grow through adolescence they become less and less willing to take risks, which might lead to embarrassing attention. In our middle and high school classrooms, fewer students raise their hands, for fear of being wrong.

I remember being in Mrs. Martin’s 12th grade honors English class 34 years ago. We would read books like the Heart of DarknessWalden and other fun reads. Mrs. Martin would ask questions and rarely got answers. I was a fairly smart kid, and the son of an English teacher. I often knew the answers to her questions. However, I would not raise my hand. Instead, I would answer under my breath, just loud enough for some kids around me to hear. This happened often enough that the kids around me started to laugh when Mrs. Martin gave the same answer I had just muttered. Eventually she asked why the kids were laughing and they said, “Spencer always has the answer.” So now she deliberately called on me. In those moments, however, I never seemed to have the answer.

I struggled to get a good grade from Mrs. Martin. When I complained to my mother, also an English teacher, she told me I just needed to work harder. I had a paper due on Thoreau’s Walden. I told my mom it was not worth it to try, I would just get a bad score. My wonderful mother decided to teach me a lesson that a good grade was possible and wrote my paper. (The only time she had ever done this.) She, and I, received a C+. She was so furious; she told me she was going to talk to the teacher. Instead of making a kerfuffle, I wanted to avoid embarrassment and further humiliation so I dropped the class. I had what Psychologist Carol Dweck calls, a fixed mindset. If I had what she also calls, a growth mindset, I may have been more willing to learn from my mistakes. Instead, I avoided the learning opportunities afforded me in her class and just rested on the fact that I didn’t need another English credit to graduate. I settled for avoiding discomfort and protecting my ego.

I’m sure I am not the only one that has had a fixed mindset at some point. As we mature, many of us participate less and less in successful failure. Many avoid situations, which may lead to failure in their lives and in their businesses. In my business, I see many people who are unwilling to change habits and patterns. They are afraid of getting feedback that does not reinforce a positive self-image. Feedback can be a valuable tool to help us improve. Instead, we label it as unjustified criticism to protect our ego and need to be right.

Some of us have behavioral characteristics that are more disposed to avoid failure. Some people have a bias for perfectionism. This may cause them to delay action because they fear making mistakes. Other people may be very demanding. They focus on task, and minimize relationships. These demanding and critical leaders shut down innovation and, may take few risks themselves to avoid their own medicine. Others dislike confrontation, or difficult situations, so they avoid them. Still others are so focused on being right, they may not be willing to risk being wrong in order to learn. Click here to request our powerful assessment to identify your behavioral characteristics. When we send you our link, the process only takes 5-10 minutes.

In business, we have management processes whose entire existence is to eliminate or mitigate risk. Project Managers manage risks of various types such as technical risks, monetary risks, and scheduling-based risks. The International Organization for Standardization, created standards relating to risk management known as ISO 31000. These standards create systems and processes designed to reduce risks. However, they may also create a bias against taking risks. This risk aversion can permeate organizational cultures and stifle growth.

I do not suggest recklessly taking risks or accepting failure. Instead I suggest developing a culture of innovation and growth. The marketplace is changing so often and so rapidly, it is impossible to succeed with the status quo. According to a recent HBR article, “Increase Your Return on Failure,” one of the biggest reasons companies fail to grow is a fear of failure. The authors, Julian Birkinshaw and Martine Hass, cite a Boston Consulting Group survey, which identifies 31% of respondents identified a risk-averse culture as a key obstacle to innovation.

The solution? Foster a culture where “Fail Fast,” “Fail Often,” and “Fail Forward” is embraced.

  1. Fail Fast:

    Use failure as a call to action; to improve, to learn. Be willing to avoid complacency and take action. Avoid perfectionism and analysis paralysis. Set parameters for experimentation and innovation. Edison and his team learned 10,000 ways a light bulb doesn’t work. Their process of experimentation led to success.

  2. Fail Often:

    Focus on what you can control. Lon Kruger, Head basketball coach at Oklahoma is a great teacher. He wants to win, like most of the people on his staff and his team. He teaches the athletes to pay less attention to the final score and more attention to their individual effort. Did you dive for every loose ball? Did you do what it takes to win the rebound battle? Did you do your best? Coach Kruger stresses that when we continually do our best, the scoreboard will eventually reflect our effort.

    Avoid complacency. The environment is constantly changing. What worked last year, last month, last week, yesterday, may not work today. Continually look for ways to improve and innovate. That requires being willing to accept some risk and failure. Click here to watch a short video of a Japanese entrepreneur who embraces fail often.

  3. Fail Forward:

    Change your approach. Avoid the victim mentality. When things don’t work out the way you planned, change your approach and move past it.

    Learn to appreciate feedback. If you have a fixed mindset, this can be very difficult. I have learned to ask myself, “is there truth to what they are saying, or wisdom in their perspective?” I needed to learn that their perspective was valid to them. When I dismissed feedback as inaccurate, I would do nothing new, or different, and would stay stuck in my behavior.

    Learn from every failure. It is not easy to take time and look in the mirror about what went wrong. Sports teams have made a science of this. They study video images to see what went wrong so they can identify what to do differently. I regularly watch and listen to myself giving presentations. It is painful, to be sure, because I see all my weaknesses exposed. But, this is a great opportunity to improve my craft.

    We are currently experimenting with google adwords to help grow our business. We have set aside a small budget to experiment with. We want to learn what works and what doesn’t. We have created multiple ads to track responses. The ones that perform poorly are replaced. The ones that perform well are given more investment. We are learning from failure and success. Both are valuable. After a month of this process, we have a strategy we are confident will work. We will then commit a larger budget to a winning strategy.

    Learn from your mistakes and mistakes of others. Gather new information and data continuously. Then share what you learn. This will let people know you are serious about learning. By avoiding talking about mistakes, you send a message that failure is not acceptable. Encourage others to share their mistakes and lessons learned.

To quote Pixar president, Ed Catmull, “Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil, they aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new and should be seen as valuable.” Your focused and deliberate efforts to create a culture that encourages successful failure will pay dividends.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. For additional topics read: Sick And Tired of Being Sick And TiredHow To Get Your People To Change TodayThe Power of AccountabilityHow To Defeat The ‘Fog of War’ In Business

What Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?

Have you ever gone to a movie when the theater was packed and you scanned the theater for open seats? You finally find them and take your seats. After the movie, you run into some friends who happened to be at the same show. They said they had two seats next to them and were waving at you when you came in, but you did not seem them? Or perhaps you were watching your favorite sports team on TV and you did not notice your significant other asking for your help. Have you ever been so focused on something that you missed what was going on around you?

This phenomenon is called innattentional blindness, and was first discovered by Ulric Niesser, known as the “father of cognitive psychology”, at Cornell University in the 1970’s. It is also known as perceptual blindness and occurs when an individual fails to perceive or recognize an unplanned stimulus clearly in their field of vision. When we are focused on something specific, it is possible to miss other plainly visible details that may appear.

Niesser’s experiments gained interest and popularity in the following decades. Harvard Psychologists, Daniel J. Simons and Christopher F. Chabris tested his experiments further. Their findings are reported in their article, Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. The research points out we are missing a great deal of what is happening all around us. They have since written a book about their findings, The Invisible Gorilla.

When I first saw the monkey business video, I was focusing on a specific task and I completely missed the man in gorilla suit who appeared on the screen for a full 9 seconds and pounded his chest. I was happy to learn that I am not the only blind casualty of this psychology experiment. About 50% of people, under the same conditions, do not see the gorilla. So what does this have to do with you and I? This implies, that to our detriment, we miss a great deal of what goes on around us. I work with many hard charging, results oriented, get it done now, professionals. These are certainly good qualities, but they come with cost, if we are not careful. Just as with the above example; of someone not noticing their partner while watching a sporting event, it is possible for us to not see how we are impacting important people, in our business, by our narrow focus.

As a CEO, I remember I was so focused on accomplishing a particular task, that I gave my administrative assistant some assignments, almost unconsciously. I failed to notice she was under tremendous stress because we had multiple clients in the office, she was supporting. At the end of the day, I could see more clearly and recognized that I had created a great deal of stress for my good employee. She was not about to tell me no for several reasons: My position power as CEO made it hard for her to say something like, “now is not a good time” or “can I complete these tomorrow?” Additionally, she was generally conflict avoidant, a behavior I knew to be a part of her behavioral traits and personality profile.

At the end of the day, I apologized to her because I wanted her to be a happy engaged employee. I did not WANT to put her under unnecessary stress. She was working hard and helping our customers. What I asked for was important, but it surely could have waited for a day. I was just hyper focused on getting things done; I did not notice the impact of my focus. The apology was accepted, yet how often do we repeat the same behavior. What happens to our team member’s engagement when the leaders poor behavior is repeated again and again? Employees become disengaged. They lose trust in leadership and the culture is weakened.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to get the job done (results). However, we can never get everything we need done alone. We must enlist the help of our team. We get so much more done when we have a team that is engaged and motivated. Leaders who have developed relationships of trust most easily achieve this condition. To get our desired results, we must also pay attention to relationships. Some leaders seem to have a natural talent for this. Some leaders can spend too much time on relationships, sometimes at the expense of results. The best leaders learn how to effectively balance tasks and relationships.

Let me give a personal example of balancing task and relationship. I have five children and I want a great relationship with each of my children. I also enjoy having a clean house and order especially when I come home after a long day at work. It just so happens, that some of my kids come home from school and immediately take off their shoes and socks. They just leave them where they are, which is usually on the family room floor. If I am just focused on the task when I come home, I see the socks and the first thing I say to my son, “why are your shoes and socks on the floor again?! Go put them away!” He gets up after rolling his eyes and takes his things stomping out of the room. When he returns, I want now focus on the relationship. I ask, “How was your day? How did your math test go?” My efforts at relationship building are not well received. My son is no mood to talk to me now.

Let me change the scenario. I come home tired, and I notice the socks and shoes on the floor. Instead of immediately focusing on the task of creating order, and a clean house, I focus on the relationship I want with my son. I ask him about his day and math test. I ask him how volleyball practice went and if the girl he asked to the prom responded to his proposal. We have a great conversation. I then turn my attention to the socks and shoes and say, “where are those supposed to be?” he says, “Away.” I say, “go take care of that please.” In this scenario, the outcome is so much greater. I have strengthened the relationship and improved household order. You can have both, and in the long run, balancing both is so much more effective and rewarding.

If you are like me, and get too focused on “task”, there is hope. You can improve your awareness and perceptional limitations. It takes a desire to improve your self-awareness. Improving your emotional intelligence will be a great help. Some of the suggestions I have given in other articles about emotional intelligence will apply here and some are unique. (See links at the end of the article.)

5 Suggestions To Improve Your Vision:

  1. Think about the end result:

    Sometimes in our rush to get things done, we may not think about the consequences of our actions and behavior. Slow down a little and think about the outcomes. We may still be innattentionally blind to some of the outcomes even when we slow down, however, this practice will help us to improve more and more over time.

  2. Change your focus:

    I find that if I am watching TV and focused on a sporting event and my wife talks to me, I may not hear her. I have learned to stop, disengage in what I am doing, and focus on her. The benefits of this to my relationship should be obvious.

  1. Schedule time to focus:

    As a busy executive, I am often focused on important tasks. If you are like me, you get many interruptions throughout your day. People constantly stop by my office with “got a minute?” situations. Several problems arise in these situations. Possibly, you ignore them because you are so focused, and they leave disappointed. Or you keep doing what you are doing and pay only partial attention to what is needed. You miss important details and send a message the employees concerns and the employee is not important. Maybe, you continually stop what you are doing, to focus on the needs of your employees, because you value the relationship. This can cause your own tasks to suffer.

    A better option is to let your team member know they are important. Tell them you want to give them the time they deserve, however, right now is not a good time, unless it is an emergency. You schedule time when you can give your complete attention to their concerns. You can effectively balance task and relationship.

  2. Identify your blind spots:

    Become aware of when you have blind spots. When you are talking on your cell phone, watching TV, in a stressful situation, giving a presentation, managing a project, etc. Our behavior in these situations is often predictable and tied to our preferred behavioral traits. Knowing your behavioral trait patterns will help you identify your blind spots. Use a behavioral assessment you trust and work with a trusted advisor to help you understand the implications of your behavior traits.

  3. Be vulnerable:

    Give others permission to give you feedback on what you may be missing. In order to see what we are missing, it is helpful to understand situations where this occurs. This help will come to you when you encourage feedback and avoid being defensive. That takes admitting you may occasionally miss things and it requires a willingness to improve.

The cost of not improving your vision is great. When you are so focused on the task, much is missed. We can miss changes in competitive landscape. Changes in market conditions. We can miss changes in our employee’s engagement. We miss opportunities to strengthen and improve important relationships with our team, clients, family, and friends. We miss areas in our behavior, which may be holding us back from being as successful and happy as we want to be.

Related Topics: Cure For The CEO Disease, How To Defeat The Fog of War in Business, One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence, Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?

The author, Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team

Effective Questions Help You Motivate, Coach, Mentor, Challenge, Engage, Discover, Understand and Improve

So often leaders feel they need to tell their employees what to do and answer all their questions. This can cause them to miss valuable opportunities to help teach and develop their people. By asking your people to come up with their own solutions, you let them struggle which causes greater learning and learning retention.  By asking questions and for input in meetings and on proposed initiatives, you get great feedback which may improve outcomes and avoid mistakes. You also increase engagement. Telling people what to do causes them to be less engaged. If what you tell them does not work and they are not bought in, they blame the leader instead of taking ownership.  Asking questions helps reduce emotions during conflict and challenging conversations by engaging the logic center of your brain. Learning the art of effective open ended questioning will help you be a more effective leader. Take time to learn this skill today!

Another really effective tool for getting the information you need is “help me understand…” or “please give me a specific example…” You can ask about thought process, how confident some is about a decision, how they made a decision, or why they took a specific action, etc. This is especially helpful when you are frustrated with someone and you want to ask “why did you do that?” Instead, take a calm and curious approach. You may find the the decision or action was exactly what was called for and you will maintain a professionalism the ensures the confidence and trust of your team.

Act As If…Today!!!

Experience the fulfillment and happiness of achieving your future goals, your new year’s resolutions TODAY!

Over the years I have learned a principle of success called “act as if”. Believe, think, act, dress, talk and feel like someone who has already achieved success. The idea is to begin to program your subconscious to find ways to help you achieve the success or goals you desire. William James considered by some to be the father of psychology said, “If you want a quality, act as if you have it.” The famous Jack Canfield writes about this principle in his book “The Success Principles”.

It is fascinating how powerful our thoughts are. I heard of a study that looked at why college students drink. Several students reported they drank so they could be more sociable, outgoing and fun. They thought the alcohol helped them to achieve these goals. The experiment divided students into two groups, one with alcohol and the other group were told they were getting alcohol when in fact the drinks where non-alcoholic. The first group with alcohol behaved how you might expect at a college party. The second group, surprisingly, behaved very much the same. Participants laughed and socialized and even behaved as if they were inebriated. The point is; they did not need the alcohol to be outgoing, fun and sociable. They just needed to think they were those things and they were.

If you want to get a promotion at work, start behaving in a way expected of those in the desired position. This will make it easier for management to believe you have the ability to do the job and may help you get the promotion. If you want to lose weight, behave like people who are healthier. If you see yourself as healthy, you will put down the doughnuts and begin eating better and exercising more. As a result, you will lose weight and be healthier. Visualize the success you desire and begin behaving today as if you had achieved the success.

Wayne Dyer wrote a book called, “You’ll See It When You Believe It”. Do you believe this or do you believe the more common maxim, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? If you prefer the scientific method to a principle of faith, consider how many people successful in business, sports, or life believed they would achieve before the evidence of that success appeared. Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest. I said that before I even knew I was.”

Perhaps you want more scientific proof that faith works. Within two decades of Einstein discovering his theory of relativity, Dutch physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg made a similarly profound discovery. The units that make up the atom act in a much unexpected way. The mere act of observing atomic particles influenced the way they behaved. Meaning our thoughts influence matter. Thought is what the universe is made of. Matter and energy are two of the forms that thought takes. Everything in the world is made of Atoms. Atoms are made of energy. Energy is made out of thought. This has enormous implications for the power of your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your results in business and in your personal life. Napoleon Hill says “thoughts are things.”

The Heisenberg principle has been applied in psychology. We know that just observing people in test groups influences the outcome of the experiment. You probably behave differently when your boss is watching or your employees behave different when you are watching.

Acting as if, does not mean you have all the answers or know everything you want to know. It means you believe you will know in the future. Several years ago I was consulting for Larry Miller Theater’s in Salt Lake City. I was working for the late, highly successful businessman Larry Miller. He developed one of the largest car dealership operations in the country. He owned the Utah Jazz NBA team and other businesses. My office was right next to the Utah Jazz offices. I was hired to help provide expertise on the IMAX theater Larry was building at his Megaplex development in Sandy, Utah. This was a new venture for him at the time. Larry was very financially successful. I was a consultant with no such wealth. Despite our financial disparity, Larry wanted to learn everything he could from me.

I love the quote, “When you come to a point you have no need to impress anybody, your freedom will begin.” Larry did not need to impress me. He wanted to learn from me, which I believe helped him have more success in his venture. The characteristics exhibited by Larry did not begin when he was successful. They started before and continued on after.

Act as if you are already successful and you will see success come to you. Here are some of the behaviors successful people I know demonstrate. I will be working hard to “Act as if”, with these suggestions in 2016, WILL YOU?

  1. Acknowledge other people’s ideas and contribution:

    Successful people are confident enough to not be threatened by brilliant contributions of others. Always look to lift others up. This in no way will hold you back. Celebrate others successes. Recognizing others good work and contribution builds trust and respect. This will make it easier to get through tough times with team members it will also help them listen when you have to correct or discipline them.

  2. Apologize for offenses and mistakes quickly:

    Be willing to admit when you make mistakes. No one is perfect. Even the most successful leaders make mistakes. Hiding your mistakes will only make things worse. If you have caused offense, address the situation as soon as possible. You want as much help as possible on the way to your goals. Unfortunately, we are often our own biggest stumbling block. Showing humility will get you back on track faster than ignoring or covering up.

  3. Listen:

    When you are talking, you are not learning.

  4. Speak well of others:

    If you truly do not like someone, take advice from Abraham Lincoln who said, “I don’t like that person. I must get to know them better.” You cannot lift yourself by tearing others down.

  5. Be honest:

    The most successful people I know have high levels of integrity. Always tell the truth. This does not mean we have to be harsh and critical as some popular politicians of our day. I have the most respect for successful people who tell it like it is with dignity and respect.

  6. Ask questions:

    This is one of the fastest ways to success. It requires you to think and listen, two habits of highly successful people. Click here to learn more about this.

  7. Be interested:

    Care about others. Most people are not successful by themselves. They mostly receive the help, mentorship, labor, effort and support of others. Show you care about others and they just might be willing to help you more.

  8. Be in the moment:

    Enjoy today while you are striving for future success. I have heard people say, “never be satisfied”. I believe a better approach is to be constantly improving. Too many of us miss the benefits of being happy with who we are and where we are today. A fear of complacency may be fueling this. Remember successful people, from our perspective, have arrived. They enjoy the fruits of their success. They also enjoyed it along the way. If your eye is always looking to the horizon, you never arrive. Worse, you miss what is happening in your life now. Enjoying today is not complacency. By all means, strive. Just remember to enjoy the ride.

Waiting until you are successful to demonstrate these behaviors will slow your efforts to achieve them. Start today. Act as if. Enjoy the ride!

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”, “The Power of Accountability”, “Silence Your Saboteur”

The Power of Accountability

5 Steps to Achieve the Outcomes You Desire Through Greater Responsibility

There is great power in being accountable, which means being responsible or answerable, to yourself, your family, your employees, your employer, your faith, your cause, etc. In this article accountability and responsibility are interchangeable. Being accountable will help you be more fulfilled at work and in your personal life. Interested? Often we think the key to being fulfilled is dependent on external circumstances. External circumstance may include: Being treated fairly by management, or ownership; competent direct reports; efficient systems and processes; and positive culture, etc.

Although these external circumstances are desirable and can help with satisfaction and fulfillment, they are not the answer. Fulfillment comes when we begin to take responsibility for all outcomes in our work and life. Each of us has the power to choose how we will think and act regardless of external circumstance.

Steven Covey said, “Responsibility is the ability to choose your response.” Recognizing we create outcomes, by choosing our response to the events in our lives, is empowering. Take a moment to look in the mirror and catalogue what you have achieved in your life so far. The results you are experiencing in your career, your happiness and the quality of your relationships come from the thoughts and actions of the person looking back at you! Sounds too simple? The concept is simple but difficult in practice.

One of the biggest reasons it is hard to be personally accountable has to do with how our brains operate. The brain is designed to keep us safe. Sometimes, it can interpret discomfort the same way as physical danger. Many of our life experiences conspire against us. How we were rewarded, how we were punished and how we react when a situation is overwhelming creates strong neural pathways in our brains. These then create patterned responses. These habits of thought and behavior that can hold us back. We may say things like, “this is just the way I am.” Or we blame our ancestry: “I am Latin”, or “I am German”, or “I am Irish”. In moments of tension or when we feel overwhelmed, the mind rebels and wants to keep us in our comfort zone. It gives in to fear and doubt. It will delete, distort and simplify information to keep us safe. When this happens we limit our ability to respond effectively.

We live in a society where avoiding responsibility and placing blame is deeply rooted in our culture. Science has proven that attitudes can literally catch and spread like a virus. This can infect all of us. Blaming is an infectious disease. Blaming is often associated with strong emotional feelings. Author Daniel Goleman writes, “…emotions are contagious. We ‘catch’ strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus – and so can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.” (Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence) American Psychiatrist, Daniel Stern, says our minds are continually interacting through a type of neural WiFi. (Daniel Stern, The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, 2004, p. 76)

 Parents blame teachers for low test scores, teachers blame parents for unruly children, employees blame their bosses when work gets too hard, and citizens blame the government for their economic woes.

So how do we overcome our own physiology and social influence to start being more accountable? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Power in Purpose:

    The first step of being 100% accountable is to get clear about what is important to you. What do you value?Values represent our guiding principles and influence our attitudes and how we act. I used to think identifying values was just a good idea. Then I learned what happens when behavior is truly aligned with what we say we want. There are several processes to help you determine your values. A good coach can help you identify these.Take responsibility for the things that are most important to you. How does this give you power? If you allow life to happen to you, it will fill up with trivial activities. I hear others and myself from time to time say, “I am too busy!” Make time for the things you value most. It will energize you. It will force you to be more efficient and effective. You are practicing taking back power over your life.If you believe family is important, schedule family events first. Twice a week my son has volleyball games at 5pm. I want to be there to support him. That means I schedule time to attend his games and adjust work hours earlier.

    Having a purpose in your life gives you power. As you look back at your days and weeks you have made time for the most important things in your life. You will have a greater sense of satisfaction as you exercise more power and control over your life.

  2. Be the Cause:

    Forget blame. Be accountable even when things that go wrong which are not your fault. Recognize you make mistakes. When you are willing to shoulder more responsibility, more opportunity will come your way. Be the cause means you recognize your results are caused by your actions. It is the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow.

    The Newtonian physics law of cause and effect is very applicable in our lives. What is cause and effect? I can’t say this enough…you are the cause. Believing this gives you power. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”The truth is that no matter what challenges or stimulus we experience, we have time to choose our response. When we have created conditioned thought patterns, that space is milliseconds, yet there is a space.Viktor Frankl lost his entire family in the Nazi concentration camps. In the camps, everything was taken from him, EXCEPT the one thing he and you and I have that can never be taken, choice of what we think.

  3. Fail Forward:

    learn from your mistakes: I haven’t always made great decisions. At one point, I started a business without having done my due diligence. Four years later, we had depleted our savings and our home was in foreclosure. In the end, we were forced to give it back to the bank. This was devastating. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued.I know first-hand how painful it is to lose a home. But blaming others for our predicaments only hurts us….we give away our power to change. If we believe our problems are generated externally, we may think we have no choice. If we think nothing we do will matter, we may choose to do nothing. This will cause us to remain stuck in our current situation. The more we think like this, the less power we have to change our circumstances.This thought from Viktor Frankl applies: “When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change our selves.” This is the heart of accountability.

  4. Learn up:

    Learn from those who have the ability to teach you something. Kids in school often would rather listen to their classmates and friends rather than to the teacher who could help them learn up. A great example of this principle is John Wooden, the most winning Basketball Coach in NCAA history. He won ten NCAA championships in 12 years at UCLA. A record, which has not been broken yet! He began winning in his late 50’s!!! He said “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” This is a man who understands we are never finished growing!

    We have all heard knowledge is power. I believe taking responsibility to increase our abilities to act and then taking action and being accountable for those actions is power. Think about the cost and impotence of being ignorant. Alvin Toffler said, “The Illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Can you afford to not be responsible for your constant learning and development? Find mentors, experts and coaches who can help you learn up.

  5. Choose your thoughts wisely:

    David O. McKay said, “Your thoughts are the architects of your destiny.” What you read, watch and listen to will create positive or negative thoughts leading to positive or negative patterned responses which will lead to outcomes.Everything in the world is made of Atoms. Atoms are made of energy. Energy is made out of thought. This has enormous implications for the power of your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your results in business and in your personal life. Napoleon Hill says, “thoughts are things.” Sounds nice, but do you believe it?Perhaps you have heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The science behind the self-fulfilling prophecy is intriguing. Dutch physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg discovered the mere act of observing sub-atomic particles influenced the way they behaved (Heisenberg Principle). Meaning our thoughts influence matter. Thought is what the universe is made of. Matter and energy are two of the forms that thought takes.The Heisenberg principle has been applied in psychology. We know that just observing people in test group’s influences the outcome of the experiment. Your employees probably behave differently when you are watching. You may behave differently when your boss is watching.

The power of accountability is about recognizing that choosing to take responsibility for the results in our lives gives us power. It gives us power to take more responsibility, which gives us more opportunity. Choosing to be accountable causes us to avoid making excuses and blaming external circumstances. When we blame external circumstances for the results in our lives, we become victims. When we think the cause of our problems is external, we may not change and grow to get a different result. We don’t have power to change the economy, our boss, our partner, etc. We do, however, have power to change ourselves. When we understand this, we have the power to change our circumstances and results.

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”, “Silence Your Saboteur

When Being Too Smart Hurts You

Is being too smart getting in your way of being more effective as a leader?

In his article “Leadership that Gets Results” (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2000), Daniel Goleman reported on studies, which rated emotional intelligence as a predictor of success in business as more significant than intelligence and technical skill. He states, “New research suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of distinct leadership styles—each in the right measure, at just the right time. Such flexibility is tough to put into action, but it pays off in performance. And better yet, it can be learned.”

Do you know someone who was a good employee who was promoted to a supervisor or manager and failed at that position? Think about why they were not successful. Typically it is because they lack the skills required to manage people which are different from the skills required to manage a task. How well do you balance your tasks and the people you manage or report to? Balancing tasks and relationships requires emotional intelligence. Our knowledge and technical skill can only take us so far. It is usually what gets us hired. However, it is our emotional intelligence that gets us promoted or fired.

Most of us understand that emotional intelligence is important. We have heard of it, yet just knowing about emotional intelligence does not make us emotionally intelligent. Talent Smart surveyed 500,000 people around the world about their emotional intelligence in business. Only 36% were able to identify their emotions as they happened. This means, most of us are controlled by emotions and are unaware of how to handle them effectively. Perhaps you have worked with some of them, perhaps you are one of them.

Why do so many have low emotional intelligence? I believe it is because we are conditioned to be right. We judge ourselves by how right we are or how smart we are. We are rewarded for being smart, for having the correct answer. Relying only on intelligence and wanting to be right might work if we all worked alone and never with a team.  As a leader, how do you get things done? You get things done through other people’s efforts. You must be aware of how to accomplish goals by creating engagement and teamwork.

There is nothing wrong with intelligence unless it is getting in your way from being an effective leader. The research suggests, the smarter you are, the less effective you may be in a leadership role when you are unaware of the impact of your emotions. It does not matter how smart we are when our emotions take over. Author Malcom Gladwell argues dedication and practice opposed to raw intelligence are the most crucial determinants of success. If you want to improve as a leader, please read, “Cure For The CEO Disease”  Remember, unlike IQ, EQ can be learned.

Improvement takes constant effort. Success to you!

Disengagement And The “Love What You Do” Myth

5 Dynamics of Increased Engagement

Diseangaged Employees

I am not sure how many times I have heard the saying, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” (Marc Anthony) If you are like me, you have heard this or something like it a bunch. When I heard this, I felt inspired to search for what I love, because after all, I don’t like to work! My life experience, and the experience of some very successful people I know, has taught me this philosophy is costing business, relationships and families dearly.

Have you ever had an employee that you were so excited to hire and it didn’t turn out well? Have you been the employee and starting a job with so much hope and enthusiasm only to find out it was not what you thought or expected? Have you experienced team members who became disengaged, frustrated, or angry and left?

Have you ever been in a relationship that started of with great promise? You found your soul mate, only to realize that initial feeling was not sustainable? When this happens, many leave their current partner and go off in search of the ideal they thought they found the last time. This cycle can be repeated again and again searching for the perfect ideal.

What is going on here? According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged. Disengagement caused by unrealized expectations is the problem. Well-meaning parents and other mentors in our life want to inspire and encourage us. They tell us how great we are. They tell us we deserve the best things and the best people in our life. They tell us to follow our passion. They tell us we will be most successful when follow our passion. You want to believe this. I want to believe this! Who wouldn’t want to believe this?!

It is important to follow our passions and interests. It certainly makes life better. However, take caution about “never working a day in your life.” A quote by the singer Toni Braxton adds balance to the Marc Anthony quote: “To do what you love can sometimes be stressful.” We need to be prepared to handle the adversity and challenges of life that will surely come. What happens when things don’t work out like you planned? How do you react when things don’t go your way? I know that this has happened in my life and in the lives of almost everyone I know. We have had jobs and careers were we were following our passion and doing what we loved. However, even in these circumstances, we all had to do things we were not excited about, that felt like work.

Many of the youth today and our current workforce are not equipped to handle the challenging environments of business. They have not learned how to work. They are not prepared to handle the disappointments of relationships. Many give up when things don’t go the way they had expected. They may quit a job or relationship. Or worse, they stay and are miserable. It is how we behave in these challenging times which defines individuals as leaders, and as dedicated spouses and significant others. Many who are not equipped to handle disappointment show up in a way that is detrimental to the business or to the relationship.

The point here is not that we can’t pursue our ideal and passions; it is that we learn how to manage our disappointments, challenges and setbacks. There are definitely valid reasons to leave personal or work relationships. There are also many relationships that can be saved, improved, and become deeply fulfilling when we fight through the storms.

Five dynamics of increased engagement.

  1. Create a great culture:

    When ranking job satisfaction., 72% of respondents indicated that respectful treatment of employees at all levels was “very important”. This was the top contributor to overall employee satisfaction. This ranked higher than pay and benefits. Hiring and HR professionals must ensure their workplace culture and employee engagement strategies are of equal importance to compensation, benefits and other responsibilities. Here is an additional reason to develop a great culture!

  2. Be honest: 

    64% of employees rated trusting their senior management as the second most important contributor to job satisfaction. (SHRM, Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Study, 2015) Be open about the way it really is at your company. Don’t paint the picture that everything is perfect. Let candidates know there are challenges. The pay received is based on work, which requires effort. Being honest will help develop trust with leadership and narrow the gap between expectation and reality, which are necessary ingredients of employee engagement.

  3. Hire for behavior, train for skill:

    Find the people who are willing to be flexible and fight through adversity. Use effective tools, these will help remove the frustration of hiring by helping you, better match people to jobs. There are effective tools to create accurate job models based on your best performers and input from management. With the correct application of these tools, you will more effectively attract the best candidates. These tools will also help hiring managers ask the right questions to find the best possible person for the job. When you effectively match people to positions, you will strengthen the culture, increase employee engagement, increase productivity and reduce turnover and waste.

  4. Provide the right praise:  

    Many of the younger generation, coming in to the work place, do not know how to respond well to adversity and criticism. Many are part of a generation, which have been praised by well-meaning parents who told them how smart and talented they are. Sporting programs meaning to boost self-esteem may also be contributing to the problem by providing awards for kids who just show up. The result is well stated by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, “many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move.” (Mindset, Carol Dweck, 2006) Employers are perpetuating the problem through recognition programs to support these employees who need constant reassurance and can’t take criticism. The alternative is to praise for taking initiative, for commitment, for overcoming a setback, for learning something new.

  5. Develop your people:

    Organizations that dedicate a portion of their budget to professional development send a message that they invest in their employees. Additional benefits of professional development include personal development and greater opportunities for career advancement. Although employees continue to place value on professional development opportunities, fewer organizations are investing in these types of benefits. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2014. Workplace Visions: Trends in Workplace Professional Development. Issue 3)
 As more and more of the experienced workforce retire, developing employees becomes more necessary. Employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel their employers are invested in helping them develop their careers.

Implementing these suggestions takes commitment. The payoff will be worth the investment!