I am constantly seeking inspiration and knowledge about all I do – and the easier to access the content is for me the better. Which is why I love articles like Jeff Haden’s “9 Things Highly Successful People Say Every Day.”
My challenge is to NOT immediately apply the things I learn to the organizations I lead or participate in without providing the same context to other people that my reading and discernment has provided me. I have learned over time that I can’t just take cool thoughts and drop them like science on others.
Part of that context-providing process for me is sharing my thoughts on what I’m inspired by, what resonates with me and where I’ve found what I think are good principles that we should apply in my business, projects and committees. The more people who are looking to us understand where we get ideas and why we think these ideas are valid, useful and applicable, the more people can shortcut their way to understanding how they need to participate; and the more they understand the less confusion; the less confusion, the more efficient we all are; AND the more efficient, the more fun we all have.
With that I share with you this article I read this morning that really resonates with me and how my own career has followed these 9 successful leaders principles even if I don’t actually say them every day. (Perhaps if I did say them every day I would be “incredibly successful” as the author Jeff Haden indicates – point taken.)
As Jeff says “Accomplishments are based on actions, not on thoughts — yet the thought is always father to the deed. Achievement starts with an idea, a perspective, a point of view, or even just an attitude.” I love this.
His 9 things successful leaders say and my thoughts on them below:
“No one else is willing to do that…so that’s what I will do.”
We changed Double Forte’s business model in 2009 for one reason: because very few people got hired in our business between 2000 and 2005 we were going to run out of people with at 10 years of experience to recruit to the agency between 2010 and 2015. We were looking at a donut hole of about 5 years when we’d be hard pressed to find people with the minimum years of experience required to work at the company in the old model, and if you’re not bringing in new blood to an agency it’s hard to stay current and relevant; 5 years is too large of a hole to wait out.
At the same time I was unwilling to adopt the typical pyramid agency model which puts about 75% of the workforce below 7 years of experience billing clients 95-115% of their time, given the pitfalls this model automatically creates. So we moved to a “square” model with equal numbers of people above and below the 8-9 year line.
I talked with more than a dozen other leaders of agencies (big and small) in the Bay Area and beyond to vet the model. To a person the feedback I got was “that sounds ideal – let me know how that works out.” I couldn’t find anyone else who was doing it, but I knew the company’s model at the time would be a death knell in the short term, and that the pervasive model in the industry is fraught with challenges I have no interest in facing (again).
So into the breach we went. It took us a while to get there since I didn’t just cull the team and hire an equal number of 22-28 year olds. But we’ve reached our goal and are experiencing the successful metrics we anticipated in terms of longevity of client engagement and longevity of staff tenure.
“Let’s Try it”
Jeff has “Wow. That wasn’t so bad after all” and this statement doesn’t resonate with me as much as “let’s try it” – which often leads to “that wasn’t so bad.” When you recognize a gap (which leaders are looking for all the time) and figure out what you need, sometimes you have to take the leap to change the game. A “let’s try it” attitude is what moves organizations and teams forward in great strides – just doing the same thing over and over again is guaranteed to get you the same result. So try it – -whatever it is. It may not work; and it may be a huge success. And it may be something in the middle. It will definitely be a learning experience.
“I can’t do everything today…but I can take one small step.”
We all have goals and wishes, and without a plan, they’re all just dreams; and those plans are all just pretty diagrams without taking the first step.
Writing my book was an exercise in eating the elephant one bite at a time. Many people I meet tell me “I’ve always wanted to write a book but haven’t found the time.” Writing a book is time consuming – writing a good one, even more so. But if you don’t start, you don’t achieve. Here are some resources I should have looked at before I wrote mine. A little every day gets you to the goal.
And as Jeff says “The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.”
“I should just be quiet.”
Leaders are looked to to talk, but we often should just shut be quiet. Filling the void with sound – even if we think it’s entertaining – is diverting and time-sucking. Listening loudly is one of the most important skills a leader can develop, and that only happens when we shut our mouths and consciously listen – to others, to the chatter, to what’s happening in the world.
“I don’t care what other people think.”
I actually do care what other people think – well, what the people who matter to me think. At the same time I’ve learned that living my life true to myself means that my definition of success will not match most other people’s definition; my definition of what’s important will not line up with many’s, and the choices I make may make absolutely no sense to other people who “look” like me.
I’ve learned that with a clear sense of purpose and a guiding set of values I make decisions pretty quickly, I relate to people in a meaningful way, the people around me achieve what they want to achieve and the things that I’m involved in make progress at a good clip.
You can’t make everyone happy. What’s important is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and be happy with who looks back.
“I’ll show you.”
I don’t get insulted much (or I’m deaf to it!) so I can’t say that insulting me is a good way to motivate me. I’m more motivated by not letting people down – and will do anything in my power to meet the promises I’ve made. And when I do miss the mark, I work hard to make the gesture that the other person or party recognizes as acknowledgement. I always want the last thought to be positive – to be the last person to try. This is typical for my assortment of types – ENFP, 3, High I,D, low S,C.
At the same time, being able to say “you were wrong” can be highly motivating for lots of people – particularly SJs, High Cs etc. So if that’s what works to get you moving, then use it to your advantage.
“It’s not perfect… and I’m OK with that.”
Good work complete is better than perfect work late. Period. Full Stop.
Your perfect is another person’s “good enough.” And when you’re done you (and the people around you) will find lots of ways to improve your finished product. The most important thing is that you’re making progress and not spending inordinate time on small improvements that won’t have exponential impact.
“I should have done better.”
Great leaders know they are human; at the same time they know they can do better, do more, be better. And they say it out loud. To themselves and to others. And then the next day they do their best to not repeat their shortcomings.
“That’s OK. I’ll just outwork them.” And I’ll just quote the whole thing from Jeff here:
You may not have everything in the plus column that you think your competition does, but what they don’t have is you.
As Jeff Haden ends his article “Like Jimmy Spithill, skipper of America’s Cup-winning Team Oracle USA, says, “Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy…Even when everything else seems stacked against you, effort and persistence can still be your competitive advantages — and they may be the only advantages you truly need.”
So not rocket science actually – a “I can do it” attitude and work ethic that drives successful leaders forward and projects confidence and the wherewith-all for others to follow.
And because I really liked the science Jeff dropped, here’s some more science to inspire you: