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.

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, good things are about to happen. Pain is a prerequisite to cultural change, getting healthy, or improving almost any result. Last week I was in Colorado Springs for the annual PDP Global conference. Three years ago at my first conference, I wanted to see the local sights and go for a hike. My associates referred me to the Manitou Incline, the “Holy Grail” of cardio experiences. The hike is one mile straight up the mountain. You will experience almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain. At 6’7” and 282 pounds, this was a tough trail. Last year I hiked the incline and it was painful. I decided to change and get in shape. The pain caused me to lose twelve pounds and improve my stamina. I improved my time to the top this year by 15 minutes and I felt much better. Just 18 more pounds to go.

I regularly talk to business executives who seek relief from challenges and pain they are experiencing including reduced profit, financial losses, high turnover, weak succession and bench strength, or missed goals and opportunities. They want our help with an employee, a boss, a team or an entire company. When they ask for help, I want to know if they are serious about change. Organizational change must be supported and lead from the top to succeed. If the pain is not great enough, there is often little incentive to change.Manitou Incline 7-15-16

Throughout a company, there may be various levels of pain. One organization I recently met with has been having problems for years. The senior partners have been ignoring the problems and doing business as usual until recently. They are losing some of their best talent to the competition. The behavior of some the senior executives is causing new recruits to leave. The pain of departing recruits is magnified when they persuade other potential recruits they will be unhappy if they work here. Worse, they talk to current employees and entice them to leave. The problems where originally ignored as senior executives justified their behavior by convincing themselves the problems belonged to those who left.

The next levels of shareholders are clear about the problems and have been sounding the alarms for as many years. Their warnings have fallen on deaf ears until now. The pain is finally great enough for changes to begin. These senior executives have to support any change initiatives. Half measures will only prolong the pain and misery. When top leadership sit in their ivory towers and refuse to listen they allow pain to persist with their teams. Some shortsighted executives only change when they can no longer be insulated from pain.

Avoid or reduce organizational pain:

Listen to your team: They are your “canary in a coal mine.”

Take time to actively seek feedback from your direct reports.

Conduct regular employee and customer feedback surveys.

Develop a culture that is not satisfied with the status quo and strives for more.

Seek outside perspectives from industry experts, books, curricula, competitors, consultants, board members, etc.

Pain is healthy. It let’s us know something is wrong which can lead to necessary changes. Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Or do you need to be sick and tired a little longer?

Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Read related topics: Cure For The CEO Disease; The Power Of Accountability; When Being Too Smart Hurts You; Disengagement And The Love What You Do Myth; How To Defeat The Fog Of War In Business

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Silence Your Saboteur!

Learn How We Derail Our Goals And Steps To Get Back On Track

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach. I learned how I (and others) self-sabotage when working towards our goals. In my initial meetings through various processes, my coach discovered my values and goals in several areas of my life. Subsequently, I would meet with her weekly on the telephone and discuss how I was doing in my business and in my personal life. I would report on my progress toward achieving my various goals. Through this process, I discovered a saboteur that would show up from time to time and stop or slow my progress towards my goals. This saboteur was no foreign or domestic terrorist. This saboteur was grown much closer to home.

I had declared I really wanted to achieve certain financial goals. When I didn’t achieve these goals as expected, I would become frustrated. This caused me to push harder to achieve my goal. You might be thinking, “bravo Spencer, push on!” What I found was the harder I pushed the further I would get from my goal. I would become cranky and curt with co-workers and loved ones. In these moments, my way of being was blocking me from achieving my goals. My coach asked me to give my sabotaging behavior a name so I could recognize it when it showed up.

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Captain Insano

The purpose of this exercise was to help me identify my saboteur. I worked to understand what my saboteur would sound like when he talked. I identified his fears and more importantly, his values. I needed to understand how the saboteur’s values would hijack and terrorize my declared values for his values. The name I gave my saboteur was Captain Insano, made famous by Adam Sandler’s “Water Boy”. In the movie, Captain Insano is a wrestler who the Water Boy idolizes. He offers his services to Captain Insano through a nationally televised fan show. When captain Insano learns the Water Boy is 31 years old, he maniacally laughs at him in front of the TV audience. In this moment his vulnerability is exposed, and his hopes and dreams of working with his idol have been sabotaged.Block What you think

After this original inspiration for the name of my saboteur, I learned that the Urban Dictionary defines “Captain Insano” as an individual who may or may not be at fault for their habitual stupidity due to their bi-polar nature and lack of general common sense. My saboteur would show up at vulnerable times and stop me in my tracks. Many of us construct saboteurs as a self-protection mechanism. Most often they protect us in an awkward way. They will say to us, “stay where you are at, it is more comfortable here!” “It is okay to be mediocre because not as many demands and expectations are made of you!” In a relationship, a saboteur might tell us to avoid taking a chance so we won’t get hurt.

When I declared I wanted to write a book. Captain Insano showed up and asks, “what have you got to say that people want read?” He convinces me I am neither interesting nor unique. When I became CEO of a company that had been struggling, I would hear Captain Insano tell me the fight I was experiencing was not one I could win. He said I should just give up and not put myself through unnecessary pain and misery. He told me I deserved to be successful and perhaps that could be achieved elsewhere. He justified for me why it was okay to give up and give in. If you are like me and want to achieve your goals, it is time to stop the saboteur inside your head for good.

Steps to defeat your merciless saboteur:

  1. Identify your saboteur:

    Notice when you feel frustrated, angry, sarcastic, dismissive, afraid, unmotivated or upset. Your specific block to success could be fear of failure, fear of success, conflict avoidance, verbally attacking others, steamrolling others, need to be right, focus on problems, inability to say no, controlling, inflexible, have to work too hard, need to be liked, fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection, overly skeptical, overly agreeable, analysis paralysis, critical, procrastination and many more. Consider asking someone you trust for help identifying your self-sabotaging behaviors.

  2. Name your saboteur:

    Notice what is happening when the above negative feelings arise. Begin to understand what situations give your saboteur power. Recognizing that you are recognizing will help you regain control of your thoughts and behaviors. Naming your saboteur will help you to not take yourself so seriously and become more objective about your behavior.

  3. Focus on the outcomes of success you have declared:

    When you hear the saboteur talking negatively in your ear, Block focus-on-where-you-want-to-go-not-on-what-you-fearstate the outcome you desire. For example, when Captain Insano tells me no one wants to read or hear what I want to say, I tell myself “people are interested in what I have to say. I have ability to influence people to achieve positive results.” As I focus on these positive statements, I hear the saboteur less and I begin to program my subconscious thoughts to start supporting my goals declared by my conscious thoughts.Block celebrate-what-youve-accomplished-but-raise-the-bar-a-little-higher-each-time-you-succeed-mia-hamm

  4. Celebrate your progress:

    Recognize that you are making improvement. If your saboteur is strong, understand it will take time to defeat and be kind to yourself. You may have years of practice listening to your saboteur. Avoid letting your saboteur talk bad about you. When you start to notice any improvement, it is okay to cheer yourself on. Gain confidence with each small victory and keep moving forward, even after a challenging time where you may have taken a step or two back to your old habits.

  5. Get out of your comfort zone:

    Look for opportunities to get outside of your comfort zone. This is where you will learn new empowering behaviors. Recognize the conversations with your saboteur are designed to keep you in your comfort zone. When that happens, you will not move towards your goals. Do something uncomfortable everyday. Call a new prospect, ask for help that you need, get up and give a presentation, etc.

  6. Breathe:

    When you are frustrated upset or angry, often during these moments you are not breathing effectively and the lack of oxygen encourages your saboteur. Slow down and breath. Oxygen helps Captain Insano fall asleep.

As I have gotten control of my saboteur, my results have dramatically improved. He still shows up from time to time. I am more equipped to deal with him. As a result, I feel much happier and more confident.

Start now to defeat your saboteur. Achieve the success you deserve! If you feel you are getting stuck, work with an expert who can help you, do it today! Remember…Block insanoThe 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;” “Act As If Today”

How to Defeat the ‘Fog of War’ in Business

5 Steps To Overcome The Challenges And Setbacks We Experience in Business

There is a phenomenon in battle called the “fog of war’. What it means is when individuals who are fighting in a war perceive they are losing. They may act according to the perception and retreat when in fact the unit or army they are part of is winning the war. The fog of war creates a challenge for generals and their armies. If individuals and individual units feel they are losing from their perspective, they may give up which prolongs the victory. The same phenomenon can happen in business.

In our daily fight to be successful in our roles, we will have defeats. Perhaps we have a disagreement with a co-worker or supervisor. Perhaps we lose out on a sale we were expecting to win. Perhaps a client has a poor experience with our service or product, etc. Sometimes these events can cause us to think and feel our isolated experience is a sign of enterprise wide problems. This can cause discouragement and discontent with some members of our team and can spread to others.

I have fought feelings of discouragement many times. I have experienced personal losses in a business sense and was tempted to think, we must be ‘losing the war’ as a company and maybe I should give up or move on. I also know from experience, we get what we focus on. We will find evidence of our predominant thoughts. When I focused on challenges and failings, I would feel discouraged and questioned whether we could achieve our goals. Conversely, as I began to focus my thoughts and energy around the successful outcomes I desired, my results inevitably changed and my perception of where we were as a company changed. That perception increased my confidence and satisfaction with my company.

The ‘fog of war’ in my experience seemed to happen when our business was in what Bruce Tuckman called the storming phase of team development.  Tuckman proposed his model of team development called forming, storming, norming and performing in 1965. Forming is where we set goals. This can happen at when a company is new or when changes occur. It can happen when we lose or add new people. Storming is where we feel comfortable enough with each other to express discontent and challenge each other. It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Norming is where we start to give up our own personal crusades and agree with others to make the team function. This phase is not about avoiding conflict, it is about coming together. The final phase, performing, is where the team is achieving goals and things are running smoothly. A company can be in one of the four phases as whole and individual teams may be in different phases. Individuals on teams can be in different phases as well.

It is easy for employees who are in the storming phase to experience the ‘fog of war’ phenomenon. If a team or company stays in the storming phase for a prolonged period, they have a greater chance of not emerging leading to business failure. If you are a leader of a company or team in the storming phase, have hope. Most companies go through similar phases. The following suggestions can help shorten the storming phase and remind team members that even though they may experience setbacks from time to time, they will ultimately succeed.

  1. Challenges Are Temporary:

    Let your team members know that the challenges of this phase are temporary. Educate your team that all companies go through similar phases. Just naming this phase of team development will help give the team hope things will get better keeping the, positively engaged.

  2. Focus On Outcomes:

    Keep your team focused on positive outcomes desired. It is easy to get fixated on failures. Remember, we tend to manifest the results of our predominant thoughts. Keeping the team focused on positive outcomes will help dissipate negative energy.

  3. Be A Role Model:

    Make sure you as the leader and your team leaders model the attitude that the team will emerge victorious. Team members must be able to look to the leadership for how to act in times of challenge and difficulty. A negative team leader will multiply the ‘fog of war’ dynamics if not addressed by discipline or replacement.

  4. Demonstrate Confidence:

    Show your team you have faith in them. Team members can lose hope and exhibit behaviors that hurt the team. Let them know they are a valued member of the team. Help them understand the impact of their performance and behavior on the success of the team.

  5. Celebrate Success:

    Encourage the team by sharing any team successes no matter how small. Celebrating successes will lift morale and give hope the team and organization is moving in the right direction.

The Benefits of Investing in Human Capital

Business executives are always asking training professionals to justify investing in internal and external training. These decision makers want to understand the return on investment (ROI) as they might with a new software program or a marketing campaign. Many also ask why leadership training? There is enough data available on training, including data on Rapport’s training, to justify an executive’s investment in their most valuable asset…their people.
To answer these questions, it is important to understand the current global economy. One of the greatest challenges that organizations face in their quest to thrive, is the ability to change. Thousands of companies have failed while others are thriving. The difference is those that are thriving have the ability to adapt and meet the new market realities. The quicker an organization can change, the sooner they are able to thrive. What allows companies to adapt and change is a culture of leadership.

Emeritus Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School, worldwide speaker, and the author of seven bestselling business books, John P. Kotter states: “Powerful macroeconomic forces are at work here, and these forces may grow even stronger over the next few decades. As a result, more and more organizations will be pushed to reduce costs, improve the quality of products and services, locate new opportunities for growth and increase productivity…..Leadership…creates organizations…and adapts them to significantly changing circumstances.” (Leading Change, John P. Kotter, pp. 3, 25.)

In 2008, IBM came to a similar conclusion in its Global Human Capital Study: “More than ever, today’s global organizations are focusing their time and attention on maximizing the value of their workforces. As corporations, nonprofits and government entities are becoming more globally integrated, and as traditional geographic and competitive boundaries disappear, the need to identify, develop and connect talent has never been more critical.”

The study surveyed senior HR executives from 400 companies in 40 different countries. The executives identified the importance of an adaptable workforce that can rapidly respond to changes in the outside market and leadership to guide individuals through change and deliver results. These companies also cited a lack of leadership capability as one of their top workforce challenges.

Successful organizations are acutely aware of the need for leadership development and the numerous benefits of leadership training:
• “The goal of leadership is to help people find their voice, where needs in the organization and marketplace overlap with talent, passion and conscience. When people truly find their voice, they don’t need to be supervised; they manage themselves because their motivation is internal rather than external.”
~Stephen Covey

• Improved morale: People need to have the feeling they are learning, growing and developing new skills. This keeps them engaged.

• Training helps people get connected to their company. To develop and share common goals. They believe more in their company and want it to succeed. When people start moving in the same direction with a common goal, they create a culture that will propel their company to success.

• Growth is change, and it will not happen without a shift in culture that changes the way employees work, act, innovate, talk, learn and collaborate. One of the greatest challenges an organization faces is changing its business culture. Training helps organizations create this culture shift by moving people out of their comfort zones and into the leadership behaviors that drive success.

• A 2008 leadership training study by Metrika-Phoenix found that leadership training strongly influenced behaviors that improve performance at work. The survey had a higher than 72% response rate, a confidence level of 97.5% and a margin of error less than 5%. Over 92% of training participants reported improvement in the following behaviors:
-Increased understanding of how their behavior impacts other people
-Willingness to take additional risks and push themselves.
-Greater willingness to support others and work as a team.
-They hold themselves and others to higher standards of accountability
-The ability to express more passion and enthusiasm.
-Greater self-confidence and a sense of increased self potential.
-More awareness of the potential in others.
-They are developing better focus on tasks and are getting better at showing initiative.

• The only thing that increases productivity within an organization is people. People are the only asset that appreciates in value. People may be developed and their performance improved. All other assets like buildings, equipment and systems deteriorate and depreciate.

• Talent shortages require organizations to focus on developing and retaining talent.

• When employees feel appreciated, they are more likely to stay with a company. Many employees feel training improves their opportunities for advancement and thath they receive the necessary tools to be more effective at work and in their personal lives. “Having employees whose work and personal lives are balanced has tangible benefits—both for the employees and the organization overall—including an increased ability to attract and retain skilled people and higher production, satisfaction, and morale.”
~Joan Gurvis

More than ever, it is imperative that organizations continue to invest in their people. The current economic challenges associated with globalization demand that organizations change their approach and develop new leadership skills. It is critical that employees are more focused, confident and effective than ever before. To be effective, successful leaders will partner with outside organizations to develop their skills and serve as role models and mentors.

The ultimate responsibility to develop leadership lies with the entire organization. Effective outside partnerships are not enough. HR departments acting alone are not enough. Potential leaders must be identified and provided with direction, opportunity and guidance in order to develop. When the entire organization understands the benefits of developing leaders and works together, the necessary cultural ingredients to adapt and thrive will exist.

Sources:
IBM Global Human Capital Study (2008).
Kotter, J.P., Leading Change