Life

The Most Powerful (and least used) Leadership Tool

“Dialogue leads to connection, which leads to trust which leads to engagement.”

~ Seth Godin

Authentic and conscious dialogue is the most powerful tool available to us as leaders. It’s also the most underutilized.

Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships and it tends to grow over time – with mutually beneficial dialogue. Dialogue is the process of fostering ‘power with’ instead of ‘power over.’ That’s why it engenders trust.

Leaders often fall into the trap of believing in their own ‘power.’ Little do they know that their power is limited by their immediate circumstance and is always ephemeral. Even Presidents turn over every 4 years.

Dialogue is an art. In dialogue, we offer our thoughts and feelings as new dimensions of the collective exploration. In dialogue, we place the emphasis on hearing everyone and considering all facets of a problem until the best obtainable truth or solution, agreeable to all present, emerges. Dialogue refers to people exploring meaning together. “Meaning” might refer to ideas, experience, or feelings. In other words, things we talk about in dialogue are not trivial or irrelevant. In dialogue I’m engaging with meaning, not just socializing.

In dialogue, we are mining for shared values, affinities and understandings. This usually involves a more sophisticated process. It involves partnership. Engagement in dialogue requires conscious awareness. Authentic dialogue involves following an unfolding inquiry.

In dialogue, we are practicing co-evolution, co-exploration, co-intelligence.

There are many ways to explore meaning together. And there are many aids to mastering dialogue as a skill. More will probably evolve.

In my experience, the quality of exploration in dialogue depends largely on how open people are willing to be with each other – it depends on how conscious we are. If the dialogue is being facilitated, it also depends on the quality of facilitation. Positive, collective engagement and conscious dialogue is the progenitor to positive change. So what does that look like?

In conscious dialogue, we start from a place of appreciation.

In conscious dialogue, our attention is the currency of exchange.

In conscious dialogue, we use silence as well as words.

In conscious dialogue, we are fully present.

In conscious dialogue, our orientation is towards a solution.

In conscious dialogue, we are active listeners.

In conscious dialogue, we employ, rather than avoid confrontation.

In conscious dialogue, we have no hidden agendas.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

10 Time Tested Tips to Make You Unstoppable at Work

May 11, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Where you will sit when you are old, shows where you stood in youth.” —African Proverb

Are you good at work? Notice I didn’t ask, are you good at your work? There is a difference between being a good financial advisor or whatever you do and being good at work. Work is sport. There are rules to follow and scores that are kept. Competition is sometimes fierce and teamwork can make all the difference. Some players stand out. Others fade into retirement or obscurity. Those whose names become synonymous with their sport work hard and reach the upper limits of their talent band. Yes, they have talent, but they also always have self-discipline, grit and resilience. The best players have a playbook for success and they follow it religiously.  The practices highlighted below are based on 30 years of leadership and management experience and a playbook for success at work.

Game on.

  1. Have a vision – you have to know where you are going in order to know how you’ll get there. Without a vision or a destination, you are just sitting in the traffic jam that is your career. The only way traffic is tolerable is when you know you’ve got a nice place to go. So, be sure you check the map each day and keep your ultimate destination in sight.
  2. Be relentless with your self-discipline – without self-discipline, success is impossible. Period. Done. End of story. Self-discipline is the variable that forces us to go the extra mile, to put in the extra hour, and the extra work that leads to success. Self-discipline breeds consistency, focus, and skill building. It is the engine behind the volume of work you need to produce to be ahead of the game. Without it, the game is lost.
  3. Build out your network – people need people. Your next job is likely coming through who you know rather than your education or work experience or polished resume. You need to connect with other and be vocal about your interests and build relationships with key people in your industry. You never know which relationship leads to the next opportunity so treat each one well and burn no bridges.
  4. Take on more work – taking on more work pushes you out of your comfort zone which is how you grow. Instead of looking busy and stressed out, look for busy and stressed out co-workers and lend them a hand. By doing this, you provide value and build relationship equity.
  5. Learn continuously – acquire new knowledge and continuously stay on top of trends or research relevant to your field. Become an expert so that you can be the first person people think of when there is a new project on the horizon. Read, research and talk to others who are experts themselves. Wear your curiosity on your sleeve.
  6. Make yourself visible – experience is important but so is exposure. If you are stuck in a cubicle in the back of an office and afraid to show yourself, you’ll be invisible to the world. No one will know about your talents and the value you can create for them. Seek opportunities to be in more meeting and gain access to more decision makers.
  7. Take initiative – don’t wait for the next assignment, create it. Be proactive in looking for tasks that are falling through the cracks and complete them. Your colleagues and your boss will appreciate the effort and you’ll be seen as a strong member of the team.
  8. Be self-directed – You know what managers appreciate most? Not having to be one. When you are self-directed, you relieve your manager of the burden of delegation and decision making. They can now concentrate on other more high leverage activities than figuring out how to keep you busy. Self-directedness conveys confidence and professionalism. It also maximized team productivity.
  9. Manage emotions effectively – there is nothing worse in the work place than being toxic. Negativity, gossip, back-stabbing, anger outbursts and the like simply don’t have a place in the world of work. Of course, we all have frustrations with our bosses and colleagues. We all feel from time to time that we treated unfairly, that we are not seen for our worth or our work. There is nothing wrong with emotions but being emotional about every single slight will take its toll. Learn to manage your emotions effectively so that people know exactly what they expect from you on a day-to-day basis.
  10. Persevere in the face of failure – in life and in work, there are inevitable failures and setbacks. Learn to use failure as a learning opportunity rather than a reason to self-flagellate and reinforce limiting beliefs. Perseverance is the mindset of champions. History is littered with examples of those that failed yet persevered their way to success. Struggle, setbacks and short-term failures don’t have to drain your motivation. It can be the opposite as long as you adopt the right mindset.

So, there you have it – your success playbook for whatever work you do, whatever environment you may be in, and wherever you may be on your career trajectory. To put these tips in motion, you will need passion, purpose, commitment and intentionality. Where ever you may be, start today. It’s not too late. You can still win the game.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

 

Why Your Values are the Secret Ingredient to the Life You Want to Live (and How to Discover Them)

May 8, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”

~ Elvis Presley 

Values are everything. They act like an internal compass. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea. When our values are met, we feel great. When they are missing, we feel lost.

Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. When you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. So why are values so important and how do you discover yours?

Values are in your DNA

Your values are probably your parents’ values. People are values driven. People are attracted to other people and to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time as does your social network. It’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. The glue of the in-group is values.

Values drive decisions

We make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions are a reflection of our values. Or at least they should be. If you let the temporary pain of an immediate problem drive your decision making, you will likely be led astray. But your values will never abandon you. You don’t realize this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.

Values trigger emotions

Your values determine how you handle conflict. When you’re angry about something or frustrated, you’re likely experiencing a values conflict. Your values form your conscience and together they are your court appointed attorney. When something or someone makes you behave or act against your values, then your conscience will raise an objection.

Values determine performance

If you want to correct performance, you have to focus on behavior not personality. Behavior best responds to values. You are more likely to change behavior (and to sustain the change) when the motivation comes from within. Values are embedded deep within.

 

Values work from deep within

When you are not living by your values, it can feel like a beach ball being held under the water. There is a feeling of constant pressure pushing to the surface. Your values are buried deep in your unconscious mind and bringing them to the forefront of your consciousness is a simple but important exercise. The more tricky equation is living by your values once you’ve surfaced them.

So how do you discover your values and know which are core values?

You can “pick” values from a list but this often leads to people choosing “SHOULD Values” – that is to say, the ones they think they ‘should’ have.

Instead, start by asking yourself what you need for your personal or professional life and what is important to you. What can you compromise on and what is non-negotiable. Your mind will immediately lead to a value that is important, such as “Trust” or “Independence” for example.

Now, dig a little deeper and come up with another value that is greater than trust and keep on collecting words that you feel are important to you until you find your core value.

So how do you know which is your core value?

Your core value is the value that is greater than any other value. It is the center of the target – the one where you feel that there is nothing more important than this value. Find at least 5 of these and begin to live your life in congruence with them. Again, easier said than done. Courage is often needed to live by your values.

A final word

If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know what success looks like for you? That’s why in a coaching context, we often start by discovering values.

We must also be aware that there are limiting beliefs that can hold us back from meeting our values. These are the road blocks that will prevent you from reaching your goals and can even block you from meeting your values. You need to be aware of these roadblocks as well as your values and work consciously to change limiting beliefs to empowering beliefs. This is how you bring limitless happiness into your life.

The alignment of empowering beliefs with core values and behaviors that match, is the secret sauce to a life fulfilled.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Motivation, Commitment, and Intention: The Secret Sauce to Success

February 27, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Our intention creates our reality.” ~ Wayne Dyer

It’s a general management belief that employers are able to get the best out of people if they follow what motivates them. While it’s true that to lead people effectively, you must first understand them, research suggests that the link between motivation and performance is not a linear causal chain.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is broadly defined as the willingness to exert energy and effort toward goals. The root word, ‘motive,’ is defined as something that causes a person to act. There are two basic types of motivation:

1.      Intrinsic Motivation: Intrinsic motivation is done for reasons that are internal to one ’s self. It is for self satisfaction and not for the fear of a consequence. The reward is within the action itself and does not need external factors to guide behavior.

2.      Extrinsic Motivation: Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors where the actions are done because of what has been said. This means that if we are told to do something, we do it because of extrinsic motivation.

It is generally believed that when a person’s behavior is aligned with a sense of personal causation and self-interest, i.e., intrinsic motivation, it is self-sustaining. Extrinsic motivation is less powerful because when the external reward is taken away, so is the motivation. Therefore, intrinsic motivation is the more desirable and self-sustaining of the two.

Furthermore, new brain research suggests that dopamine – a neurotransmitter that carries chemical messages from your brain to the rest of your body – plays an important role in motivation. Long thought to be the happy neurotransmitter, dopamine is actually the reward and punishment transmitter. This means that its real job is to encourage us to act, either to achieve something good or to avoid something bad. These neuroscience discoveries point to the idea that the brain can be retrained to increase a person’s motivation for rewards. That means there is hope for your teenage slacker after all.

But wait. This is where things actually start to get complicated.

The Role of Commitment

Have you ever wondered why you can’t stick to your new year’s resolution? Research has shown that the better we feel about our new year’s resolutions and our ability to stick with them, the less likely we actually will. Or have you ever wondered why after motivating yourself to exercise and making progress on your goal, you still eat that yummy piece of cake? It’s your brain’s reward system kicking in and wanting to be indulged. Research has discovered that we are all too eager to use progress as an excuse to slack off and indulge. Dope-a-mine.

It turns out that commitment, rather than progress, is the deeper source of motivation. Commitment to the goal is even more important than progress made towards it because it changes how you feel about the reward of self-indulgence. So that reminding yourself why you set the goal in the first place, is a more motivating and self sustaining force for positive change. Ultimately it seems, we are more disciplined about our goals when our deeper commitment is activated than when we are just focused on progress.

Implementation Intentions

So you have motivation and you have commitment. Then why is it you still can’t implement?

It turns out intentionality is the key missing ingredient for most. When researchers in the UK gathered together a group of volunteers with the goal of regular exercise, the group that was asked to plan and write down their “implementation intentions” – where, when, what, they were going to do for exercise, and how frequently, and for how long – achieved far greater success. Amazingly, 91 percent of this group achieved their goal, as compared to just 29 percent of the control group (commitment) and 39 percent of the group who learned extensively about the benefits of exercise (motivation) but did not have an implementation intention. Over 100 separate studies in a wide range of experimental situations have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals. For whatever reason, our brains need that extra nudge.

A Final Word…

Success, motivation and progress are not so straight forward. But deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success. By simply writing down a plan that outlines exactly when and where you intend to do your thing – whether it’s a new exercise routine or finally writing that first novel, you are much more likely to actually follow through. As the research indicates, what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real–world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your intention for implementation.

In the end, both the journey and destination need to be intentional.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

15 Reasons Why Some People Outperform Others at Work

 January 30, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

I am an evangelist for personal effectiveness. Success is a weird thing. Consider how some people who are terrible at their jobs continuously get promoted while others who excel are blocked from advancing and quit or change careers.

Reflecting on my own experiences, I can tell you that how well you do your job has very little to do with how successful you are in your professional career. Rather, success is more about a set of skills and traits that people carry with them consistently from job to job. Skills and traits they have learned and honed over time achieving a level of fluency and mastery that allows them to practice and implement them seamlessly.

I’ve narrowed these down to 15 core skills that when enacted together, make for a powerful cluster of effectiveness. Let’s look at what sets some apart from others.

1.      They build and maintain relationships:

They understand that the world of work revolves around relationships. Their network is their greatest asset and they cultivate and nurture it. They don’t recycle jobs, people, and relationships. They don’t burn bridges or highways. They understand that being nice to people on the way up is important because they’ll meet the same people on the way down. They think about other people and act on those thoughts. When they have acted poorly, they take responsibility and own up to their mistakes. They are consistently giving to others and are generous with their knowledge and skills. When interacting with others, they are active listeners: They hear the message and value the messenger.

2.      They are cooperative:

They understand that people like to work with people who are cooperative. This means teamwork and collaboration are their modus operandi. They get the idea that no one has to lose in order for them to win. Isolation rarely leads to innovation. It is through cooperation with others that new ideas take shape. What they get implicitly is that cooperation leads to increased productivity and increased satisfaction in themselves and in their colleagues. Their mindset is to work towards the win-win and when conflicts arise, they have the skills to resolve them quickly.

3.      They are communicative:

They are effective communicators. You just can’t get around it. Humans are social by nature and the grease that keeps the social wheel moving is communication. When communicating, they are neither passive nor aggressive. They are able to communicate assertively with clarity and concision but they still bring the friendly. They are attentive to their own and others’ non-verbal communication. They are engaged listeners who are able to focus not only on the message but also on what’s behind the message. They avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to their own agenda. They are non-judgmental and appreciate individual differences. They use all their senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and/or movement to steer conversations towards positive outcomes.

4.      They are good at self-regulation:

In a nutshell, they are good at managing their emotions. They are able to quickly identify negative emotions such as frustration, irritation, anger, and disappointment and are able to keep them in check. They maintain composure in the face of challenges. They keep non-productive self-talk to a minimum. They understand that emotions must be processed and they take quiet time to do so. Being a bull in a china shop emotionally only brings those emotions back later to ambush us. They understand that emotional mastery is not about controlling your feelings, but rather it’s about working with them productively by acknowledging, exploring and understanding them.

5.      They persevere:

Those that outperform others understand that a central key to success is doggedness and grit. I would rather hire a person that is hard working than naturally intelligent or naturally talented. That is because perseverance trumps both. They also understand that the things that they desire will need endless effort and time for completion. Perseverance means fighting through and pushing past your comfort zone. It means not giving up at the first sight of adversity. People who have a mindset of always persevering simply go farther.

6.      They are focused:

Focus is the gateway to success. That is because of the finite nature of time – the only thing no one has learned to make more of. Focused people understand Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to take up the time available to finish it. They understand that they have to learn to filter their efforts through the time they have. They set goals and focus on the things that help them move in the direction of those goals. They exclude distractions. They obliterate clutter (internal and external), and they master the use of organizational techniques and technology. Finally, they are present and in the flow. They are able to focus on the here and now rather than on what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future.

7.      They have perspective:

I am always struck by how often people don’t consider the importance of perspective or consider taking different vantage points on a problem or challenge. Multiple vantage points multiply the opportunities for successful action. This is an important skill for anyone, and people who routinely outperform others at work adopt this mindset as a way of short circuiting frustration by considering alternative perspectives. They understand that empathy is all about shifting perspective and that by adopting alternative perspectives they can proactively quiet down emotional centers in the brain, which helps them approach a challenge with a more positive mindset and greater energy and investment. This helps them solve problems more effectively.

8.      They are resilient:

Resilience is a quality successful people have in common. They are survivors. They understand that they will come across challenges whatever path they’re on. Life comes in waves. There’s no way to stop the waves crashing, but you can learn to surf. They view challenges as experiences that have to be endured and fought against. Resilience is simply the ability to bounce back from adversity and setback. This comes from the mindset of viewing failure as an opportunity to learn rather than allowing it to paralyze you.

9.      They manage their expectations:

This means they don’t get too high when they experience a win and they don’t get too low when they experience a setback. They look for where expectation gaps exist or where they might arise and manage them accordingly. An expectation gap is the chasm that exists between the expectations that are created on one side and how people believe those expectations have been met on the other. People that outperform are able to bridge those expectation gaps proactively because they know that failure to do so can be costly. They also know that if they violate expectations, they will be me with suspicion and ire so they don’t over-promise or under-deliver.

10.  They understand office politics:

Some people shy away from office politics while others just plain hate it. Those that outperform others embrace them. Let’s keep this real. Some office environments can be brutal. Being a Pollyanna in such environments can be crushing. This is not an argument for being Machiavellian either. But paying attention to interpersonal relations and politics and understanding social psychology and behavior is beneficial. Instead of avoiding, learning to leverage your emotional intelligence to navigate the highways and byways of work and can actually help you grow.

11.  They strive for visibility:

The nature of knowledge work makes it inherently difficult to see the fruits of your labor. Yet, it has always been my experience that exposure and visibility are key to career advancement. If no one sees you, you don’t exist.  People that outperform others know this truth and seek exposure by looking for more visible projects and opportunities. They document their accomplishments by keeping a running record so that they have information at their fingertips when it comes time to review their performance or throwing their hat in for the next project. Above all, they are strategic about who they get exposed to, how and when.

12.  They have drive:

Intrinsic motivation is arguably one of the most important predictors of success. The most successful people simply keep plugging away at their work longer than others. Rather than passivity, their internal drive prompts them to action. It’s one thing to say you are motivated to achieve your goals; it’s another entirely to have that motivation translate into action. People that outperform others understand a basic fact: All else being equal, your reap what you sow. They make decisions and once decisions are made, they devote and dedicate themselves to making it happen with dogged determination.

13.  They take risks:

Great, otherwise unforeseen opportunities often come from risk-taking. It is said that “a ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.” Taking risks shows confidence and helps you stand out. We also learn from risks because they push us out of our comfort zone. Stellar performers have adopted the mindset of fail fast and fail forward.They see failure just as important if not more important than success. Facebook was famous for their “move fast and break things” mantra and they saw rapid growth as a result. This doesn’t mean all risk is good. Risk, after all, has to be calculated. Taking risks is a discipline that starts small and builds on initial successes.

14.  They are adaptable:

Stephen Hawking defined intelligence as the ability to adapt. People that are adaptable tend to go with the flow rather than resist the tide. Their energy is better utilized and more in tune with the nature of things. While most people are averse to change, outperformers embrace it. They have a growth mindset and are more spontaneous and accepting when unexpected changes happen. They anticipate change and build in margins for making adjustments so they can adapt to any situation at any given time. Being willing and able to adapt your behavior increases your ability to communicate and build productive relationships with other people. Adaptable people are flexible people not set in doing things only their way.

15.  They have a positive attitude:

Finally, just about everything on this list is influenced by positivity or negativity. Out-performers understand that it takes a positive attitude to achieve positive results. They know that attitude creates the way you feel about people and situations and that a positive attitude is infectious. I generally start my workshops and seminars by asking a fundamental question: What attitude did you bring into this meeting? This question kicks into gear a level of attitudinal awareness that people don’t often have. Your self-talk determines your attitude, which determines how you present yourself to the world. Think of your mind as a software program. You have control over the programming. Whatever you put into it is reflected in what comes out. You can choose whether what comes out is positive or negative.

A Final Word…

You will notice that nowhere on this list did I mention technical skills, intelligence or talent. Performance is about the day-to-day attitudes and skills you bring coupled with the quality of the results you deliver. If you adopt these traits as your roadmap and practice them consistently, there is virtually no way you can get lost on the journey to success.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

It’s About Action Not Ideas: Why Inertia and Emotions are Your Enemy

January 16, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Ideas not coupled with action never become bigger than the brain cells they occupied.” ~Arnold H. Glasow

You may be married to your great ideas. You may think that it’s your great idea that will change the world or create your next business success. I am here to tell you that you are wrong.

The success of you, your team, your company or your community is reliant on one thing and one thing only: your commitment to action.

As evidence, please consider the work of Bill Gross. Bill founded the technology incubator IdeaLab in 1996. Since its founding, they have created over 150 companies with more than 45 IPOs and acquisitions.

Naturally, Bill has had a unique vantage point on why some companies succeed where others fail. He analyzed the companies founded by IdeaLab and ranked each company on a scale of 1-10 on 5 factors:

·        Idea

·        Team/Execution

·        Business Model

·        Funding

·        Timing

Timing beat out all other factors with Team/Execution coming in a close second. Here is how things looked:

·        Timing (42%)

·        Team/Execution (32%)

·        Idea (28%)

·        Business Model (24%)

·        Funding (14%)

Inertia (and Emotions) are the Enemy

Raymond Albert “Ray” Kroc took over the budding fast food burger chain from the McDonald brothers in 1954 and turned it into a nationwide and eventually global franchise. As he liked to say, the two most important requirements for major success are: “first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.”

You recognize this pattern. You are frustrated at work or with some aspect of your life. An idea comes into your head and you get incredibly excited. Your passions are stirred. You have found a way out. Your new idea rises to the top of your to-do list. But after a while, after thought, research and reflection, it starts getting pushed back down again.

As Gregg Krech writes in his book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, the problem with this approach to motivation is that it’s far too hung up on the importance of being excited about the idea –  on the emotional surge that results in a temporary rush of motivation that comes from believing we are about to change the world or to change our lives for good –  and that eventually gives way to actually doing the less glamorous work needed to advance the idea. The alternative is to stop riding the tide of emotions and do stuff anyway.

“The only way to really deal with the problem of excitement,” Krech writes, “is to stop becoming dependent on it.”

A final word…

All this doesn’t mean resigning yourself to a relationship or job you hate; it just means not relying on excitement, or the avoidance of discomfort, to decide on your next move. It means being a doer rather than a thinker. It means stop procrastinating while you hold out for perfection. It means slaying the fear dragon. Fear of success or failure. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of what others will think of you. It is action, not ideas, that contains the power to dissolve your fears. Non-action is exhausting. Non-action is de-motivating.

Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t overthink. Make a commitment, create momentum and embrace the power of doing something ‘NOW.’

After all, it’s what you do after the excitement fades that defines who you are.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Values Eat Strategy for Lunch

December 6, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Let’s pick up where we last left off.

In my most recent article The Workplace is Broken (and 3 Radical Ways to Fix It), I advanced the not-so- radical notion that values matter – a lot. So why exactly do values matter? Let’s dig in.

Values drive culture…

Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. People are values driven. People are attracted to other people and to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time as does your social network. It’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. The glue of the in-group is values.

Values drive brand identity…

Brand values reflect the very essence of a brand. There is no better example of that than Apple. ‘Think Different’ is a value not a strategy. Being ‘iconoclastic’ is a value not a strategy. Innovation is a core value not a strategy. Of all the big companies, Apple is famously subpar on its philanthropy. That was also a value (or rather a lack of value) driven by Steve Jobs.

Values drive engagement…

When a workplace is not values driven, engagement and retention tend to be weak. Values struggle to survive in a culture which is over-managed and under-led.People are motivated by meaning and purpose which is derived from values. Without this, they have nothing to cling to and their engagement goes down over time. Values help us lean our ladder against a building. Values are embedded in the vision that keeps us climbing to the top. Now imagine having nothing to lean your ladder against. That feeling is the same as working in an environment without values.

Values drive decisions…

We make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions are a reflection of our values.  Or at least they should be. If you let the temporary pain of an immediate problem drive your decision making, you will likely be led astray. But your values will never abandon you. I pursued graduate school because I value education. You don’t even know this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.

Values drive behavior…

If you want to correct performance, you have to focus on behavior not personality. Behavior best responds to values. You are more likely to change behavior (and to sustain the change) when the motivation comes from within. Your values determine how you handle conflict. When you’re angry about something or frustrated, you’re likely experiencing a values conflict. Your values form your conscience and together they are your court appointed attorney. When something or someone makes you behave or act against your values, then your conscience will raise an objection.

Values drive success…

If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know when what success looks like for you?  Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. And when you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea.

One Final Word…

Given the importance of values, I am always amazed that most people and organizations coast without any consideration of values. They just flap in the wind of endless strategy setting sessions. At best, they make the mistake of picking core values out of thin air and trying to fit them into their organization. As if values could be purchased off the shelf in a “one size fits all” fashion.

Here, I do suggest a radical change. Instead of describing or discovering your workplace values, try prescribing them. By doing so you’ll bend your culture towards more pro-social and ideal seeking behaviors. Providing you give people a mechanism to co-create the values, you’ll create an organizational environment that conveys positive emotions to all those within it and allow positive feelings to emerge in turn. You’ll create unity. Cultural change will happen, and soon. There is no choice. At the heart of that cultural change will be a new-found leadership emerging from the ranks, and that leadership will use the springboard of rediscovering lost values to take them where they need to go.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful and/or if it helped you think a little more deeply about a topic, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Unleashing Mindset and Mechanism: Why You Need Both To Succeed

November 28, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Wayne Dyer

How We Work…

As human beings, we have two basic kinds of capabilities that must work together to advance our progress: knowing and doing or what I call mindset and mechanism.

Mindset includes learning, discipline, work ethic, transparency, commitment, being proactive, how we orientate towards growth and development, how we make decisions, and how we plan for the future. We plan and make decisions largely based on using past experience to judge the future. Mindset is about readiness. Readiness for opportunity, readiness for change.

Mindset is how you view the world.

Mechanism includes execution, action, methodology, tactics, deployment of resources, mastery of skills, goal setting and adjustment. That means establishing goals, following a plan, and then adjusting it according to both reality and perception. Mechanism is about competency and consistency. Competency to implement solutions consistently.

Mechanism is how you act in the world.

The unity of mindset and mechanism are the pillars that uphold everything else.

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.

How Teams Work…

People, by nature, have the ability to know and do well. Success is about developing the right mindset and providing the right mechanisms. Then, stepping out of the way and trusting people to do their jobs.

From a team perspective, mindset comes in the form of motivation, buy-in, commitment, and synergy. Mechanism comes in the form of methods and tools the team can adopt and deploy to execute.

Everyone is involved in the planning, and everyone is involved in the execution.

After some time of working in this way, the team becomes proactive and synergized. The managers begin to let go of command and control.

In the old way, the leaders handled the knowing and followers the doing. When mindset and mechanism are separated, plans and decisions are made by a supervisor and tasks are done by lower level staff. Tasks are assigned without full involvement of the team. People don’t see the big picture, have less opportunity for personal development, and can’t feel achievement and growth. They aren’t engaged. They aren’t motivated.

Alternatively, the plan is made by team. Decisions are made by the team. The manager is only a facilitator. The team has the authority to decide how to carry out the project. The team feels empowered and they have buy-in to the process. They can see the big picture, they can volunteer for tasks that interest them (which helps their personal development), and they can feel a sense of achievement from their day-to-day decision making and implementation. They are given the tools to execute on their ambitions.

Old ways won’t open new doors. It is this unity of mindset and mechanism  that releases the team’s full potential and your own.

This is the key to transformation.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Are You a Socially Intelligent Leader?

November 15, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Getting angry is okay so long as you get angry for the right reason with the right person to the right degree using the right words with the right tone of voice and appropriate language.” ~ Aristotle

People throw this word around a lot. Leadership. “Thank you for your leadership,” they say. You’re welcome. But what leadership are you talking about? I put paper in the copier today. That’s not leadership. When you designate the word leadership to the smallest of efforts, you demean the word. I never understand it.

Let’s face it. Leadership is hard work. As a leader, people across your organization are looking at you, your actions, your moods and your behaviors as a guide. Leaders can set the tone for success. They can also set the tone for failure. Their energy can impact their team and their organization — with positive as well as negative results. Studies show that how you act can directly impact how your team acts. All good leaders know that shared behaviors create unity and united teams are happier, more productive, and more successful.

Social Intelligence (SI) is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for strengthening your leadership and your team.

In his book Resonate: The Art of Connecting, Daniel Goleman defines social intelligence leadership as the ability to:

1.      Discern how people feel and why,

2.      Express appropriate concern, and

3.      Interact skillfully to encourage positive states of thinking.

SI opens your eyes to how you come across to others and how your team’s behaviors can clue you in to what they want and need from you. Most importantly, SI helps you bridge the two for a successful, collaborative team that achieves excellence.

As leaders, we have to ask ourselves:

1.      What tone am I setting?

2.      How are my actions inspiring my team?

3.      How am I managing my emotions in tough situations?

4.      How do I influence others?

5.      How do I motivate others?

6.      How do I encourage collaboration across organizational boundaries?

As organizational leaders worry about the appalling low percentage of people who feel engaged in their work, academics are trying to understand what causes an increase in engagement.

They are finding that team members’ perception of shared personal vision, shared positive mood, and perceived organizational support (POS) have a direct, positive association on the members’ degree of organizational engagement.

Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis have come up with a way to measure an executive’s social intelligence and help him or her develop a plan for improving it. The seven key skills they focus on are more than just theory … more than just boosting your “people skills” — they’re about learning and understanding how people behave both individually and as a group. Listed here are each of the qualities followed by some of the questions they use to assess them:

1.      Empathy – Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?  Are you sensitive to others’ needs?

2.      Attunement – Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel? Are you attuned to others’ moods?

3.      Organizational Awareness – Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization? Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?

4.      Influence – Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests? Do you get support from key people?

5.      Developing Others Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring? Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?

6.      Inspiration – Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group pride, and foster a positive emotional tone? Do you lead by bringing out the best in people?

7.      Teamwork – Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?  Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

So, what do socially intelligent leaders do?

They Empathize. A key component of building trust with others is empathy and trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. When employees believe that their leaders are honest, open and transparent, they are much more likely to trust their decisions. Empathetic leaders are aware of another’s feelings and understand how those feelings affect their needs. Empathy means you can appreciate what another person is going through, whether they agree with them or can relate to them or not.

They Listen. When colleagues express frustration, a socially intelligent leader knows how to listen carefully, empathize, and take measures to help improve conditions.

They Support. Socially intelligent leaders know how to provide emotional support to a colleague in distress. Goleman’s research shows that paying attention to someone’s concerns, actually allows that person to process them faster, shortening the time spent marinating in negative feelings.

They Care. Employees want to feel like they are cared about on a personal level. A socially intelligent leader will take the time to ask about an employee’s personal life. Employees feel valued when leadership shows an interest. Period.

They Engage. The socially intelligent leader observes her employees to find out what they do best. She talks to them about what aspects of their job they enjoy the most. She taps into and leverages the instincts and skills her employees have. This creates a win-win as she is able to reap the rewards of employee satisfaction, and employees grow increasingly inspired and confident about their work, skills, and talents. Moreover, they feel appreciated, that someone has their best interests in mind.

They Communicate. They are direct, but sensitive. They realize that communication is essential. If they sees performance slipping, they won’t wait very long to talk about it. They never dodge the truth, nor do they hang onto or hoard company information that could help their employees. They are not threatened by their employees’ knowledge. Quite the opposite, they encourage it.

They Collaborate. People actually expect their leaders to work for the group’s collective best interests as opposed to their own. Duh! They expect their leaders to help them solve problems and to help make their team experience more enriching. It even means helping make their career more rewarding by providing resources and reassurances of support to help them attain their goals and objectives.

A Final Word…

Leaders who emphasize social intelligence drive increased productivity and engagement encouraging employees to stay with their companies. They affect people’s abilities to perform at their best. Socially intelligent leaders recognize that emotions have a ripple effect and therefore uphold their responsibility to maintain a positive environment. They are engaged and as engaged leaders, they are in synch with their team and they are the glue helping to keep the team together. Some may argue that ultimately the evaluation of effective leadership performance is a subjective task that is based on the individual’s unique personal preferences. However, the traits highlighted above show a consistent correlation between specific behavior and employees’ perception of their leaders. These traits are closely related to the basic psychological profile of humans, which can also be applied to many other relationships in life.

Good luck.

Wait, before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

9 Life and Leadership Lessons From the Three Little Pigs

November 14, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” ~ Henry Ford

The story of “The Three Little Pigs” was one of my favorite childhood stories. The central idea behind this tale, that taking the time to perform a task the right way is prudent, and that shortcuts are a false economy, has been adopted by many work organizations since the book was initially published in 1849. Here are a few other lessons we can learn from this famed fable:

1.      Hard work pays off – The primary moral lesson learned from “The Three Little Pigs” is that hard work and dedication pay off. The first two pigs quickly built homes in order to have more free time to play. But the third pig labored in the construction of his house of bricks. Compared to the other two pigs, the third pig’s extra effort paid off in the end. He wasn’t eaten by the big bad wolf.

2.      Short cuts can cost you a lot – The first two pigs built houses of straw and sticks. While they were able to get the work done fast and had more time for leisure, their houses did not stand up to the huffs and puffs of the big bad wolf. They ended up losing their homes and in some versions, their very lives.

3.      Plan strategically – While it can be argued that all three pigs created a plan for the future – the first pigs made plans that were ultimately unsustainable. A straw house or even a stick house would not stand up against a hurricane.  Disaster preparedness was not part of their plan. The first two, could not delay the gratification of leisure time. The third little pig, on the other hand, did some future planning and decided to build a house that could withstand any future scenario, including a big bad wolf.

4.      Plan for the worst, hope for the best – The first two pigs never anticipated the big bad wolf. The third pig seemed to take all things into consideration in his choice of building materials. He was prepared when the unexpected happened. As the saying goes: “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” By considering every possible scenario, you can build a stronger house.

5.      Know your limits– The big bad wolf thought he was invincible. His bravado and ego were boosted by his early successes. He easily blew down the house of straw, and the house of sticks, though a little harder to blow down, was still no match for his lungs. But when he came across the house of bricks, he fell short. He had failed to assess the situation properly, and therefore, used his resources up on trying to do the impossible.

6.      Know when to quit – Sometimes it’s worth pursuing a goal; sometimes you need to be willing to let it go. The wolf pursued the three pigs even though he wore himself out trying to blow down the house of bricks. He should have stopped while he was ahead and focused on easier prey. But greed got the better of him and he continued his pursuit which landed him in hot water, or hot oil, depending on which version you read.

7.      Work hard now, reap the rewards later – The first two pigs were more interested fun and vacations. Building safe, sturdy homes was not a priority. They paid a dear price for their inability to delay gratification. But the third pig knew that some extra effort and austerity in the present, would lead to greater prosperity in the future.

8.      Be philanthropic – The third pig spent the time and effort to build a house from bricks and mortar. While his brothers were enjoying a leisurely existence, he was busy working away building a strong house. In the end, both of the lazy brothers found refuge in the sturdy home of their more practical brother in the versions where the pigs manage to escape the wolf. Just because he was the smarter of the three, did not mean he would thumb his nose at them and leave them in the cold. The third pig was a role model for empathy and understanding.

9.      Be Patient – The third little pig is nothing if not patient, a somewhat unrecognized virtue in leadership. Building a career, company, relationship, or in the case of our protagonist, a house, takes time. In his wisdom, the third little pig was deliberate and patient and his reward for his patience was to get away with his life.

There are more than just construction lessons to be learned from the three little pigs. These little characters can teach a lot about life and survival and their personalities reflect their outlook on the world. These lessons are prudent and practical and can be found in many of the writings of the greatest business minds in history – yet everything you need to know, you were probably taught in preschool.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A