Succeeding in the Business of Life

Success in business is akin to success in life: hard work pays off. Life is simply better when you're on your game, and when you excel in deed, word and thought, you exude that confidence to others, whether that's your spouse or your colleagues. So, how can you operate at your very best every single day and motivate the people around you to do the same? Here is some advice on succeeding in the business of life.

 

Embrace Your Uniqueness

Explore your uniqueness...what makes you YOU? Is it your leadership style? Is it your enthusiasm and zest for life? Is it your never-back-down attitude? Is it your propensity to be kind to everyone no matter their status in your organization? Those are all great qualities to explore. Your uniqueness also stems from your personality and those daily quirks that make you endearing to others. Decide what your differentiator is, embrace those traits that make you uniquely qualified, experienced and interesting, and channel the confidence that is sure to evoke a positive response in others, says Inc.

 

Don't be Afraid to Take a Gamble

Successful people don't get where they are by always playing it safe. They aren't afraid to take a risk, take the road less traveled, stifle their fears and truly go after something they want. In fact, the best entrepreneurs are gamblers by nature. Yes, it's risky but it can also be incredibly rewarding and  fun. Successful entrepreneurs combine a healthy tolerance for risk with diligence, backed by diverse experience. They aren't afraid to fail, learn and repeat, over and over again. Those trials and failures are what will make you a better person and ultimately more successful in the business of life.  

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Simple Yet Effective Leadership

Leadership is not a complex beast. It's simple, yet not easy to implement. Natural and not forced. Sought after but not always achieved. Leadership is simple, yes, but it also has to be effective in all the right ways. Leadership is all about relationships, says Inc., and they are far more important than issues. Even so, most leaders focus on the issues without ever truly developing relationships of trust. When the relationships work, the bottom line will work itself out.

Good leaders, when confronted by a challenge, must determine which role everyone will take and how they will tackle the problem at hand. Just like people aren't two-dimensional, neither is leadership. It's possible and even expected to take on different roles and styles depending on the situation and person you are involved with.

Trust and Correction

Just like a romantic relationship or a friendship, when there is trust between people or a group of people, feelings aren't hurt when correction is offered. That so-called healthy conflict is vital to growth and progress. But because very few people foster trust in their relationships, they fail to engage in healthy conflict, often reverting to lying to their leaders and vice versa. Correction must happen in a leader/employee role. There is no way around that. Performance may even improve for a time. But often, that unhealthy conflict doesn't have the long-term intended effect it was meant to have. That's because the relationship is not secure, which can lead to disaster in no time flat.

That's why leaders must strive for a deeper relationship of trust. Without healthy doses of communication and trust, employees have no sense of security in their roles. They're not even sure what their leader is thinking, what he or she really wants, or even how to deliver it. Lacking stability, it's nearly impossible for followers to bring their A game when it comes to creativity. This is where the relationship fails and goals are not met. Trust. It's so simple yet lacking in so many relationships in a business setting.

Shortcuts to Effective Leadership

You don't need an MBA or hours of executive training courses under your belt to be a good leader. All it takes is some common sense and emotional intelligence. It's so obvious that most leaders miss it. Check out these shortcuts to effective leadership:

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How to Be Your Most Productive You

At the end of the work week, you may look back exhausted at the 60 hours or more that you put in at the office and be dismayed at all the work you actually didn't get done. But you were there every day, from sun up to sun down. You had meetings, company lunches, hours of work at your desk each day. Why couldn't you get it all done? Are you feeling less than satisfied with what you've been accomplishing? It's likely not your lack of drive that's to blame. It's more likely that you're unproductive, failing to make the best use of your time. One of the keys to success is using your time wisely, rather than spinning your wheels and exhausting yourself. So, how can you be more productive in your work and life?

Set Clear Goals

Take some time to plan out your goals, or clarify and adjust the ones you already have. Seeing them on paper can push those goals into reality rather than something that's just floating around your head. Set both personal and business goals for the long and short term. Identify the goal, be specific, and set a time frame. This will help keep you accountable. To avoid procrastination, set clear and concise time frames for an added challenge, suggests Forbes. Don't forget to add in any setbacks you may predict that could roll back your goal. 

Stop the Excuses and Distractions

Setbacks and distractions have the power to weaken your goals and defeat you. Come up with a strategy that allows you to push through those challenges, past the pain, and into the pleasure of accomplishment. Adopt a laser focus to that one task, every day, reaching your goal closer and closer. Set priorities within the task. What has to be done first? What can wait a bit? Think about what you are currently doing: does it serve your goal or pull you away from it?

Embrace Your Strengths

Only YOU know YOU! If you do your best work first thing in the morning, follow that urge. If you do better late at night, burn the midnight oil and take advantage of your creative juices. Perhaps you do your best work after your fitness routine. Do you work best from home or does the chaos of a busy office fuel you? Whatever it is, identify the environments in which you thrive and get to work. Don't fight them. Working against your instincts will burn your energy and productivity.

Set Aside Time

Each day, set aside time for extreme focus for at least 90 minutes. Put away the phone, don't touch your email, tell your co-workers not to disturb. Use this block of time to work solely on your goal. Once finished, that sense of accomplishment will drive you forward another day.

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How To Build An Effective Team For Success

Building a team is much like building a home: brick by brick, step by step. The first building block is exceptional leadership. From there, everything else will fall into place with the end result being a pretty even blend of both an art and a science. A leader who can consistently build high-performance teams is key to the success of the whole operation. Large and small, companies need someone with the knowledge of building long-lasting teams -- something many managers can't do and the reason why many leaders don't reach the highest forms of success. Forbes puts it this way: it requires the ability to master the art of people, knowing just how to maneuver hundreds of people at the right place at the right time. 

Akin to a game of chess, building an effective team takes strategy and a little bit of luck, with strength at the forefront even amidst the knowledge that the wrong move could cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nothing like pressure, right? Well, leaders operate their best under pressure. Building a team is just another day at the park for top executive leaders. So, how can you get there? Let's take a closer look.

Focus on Roles

A thorough selection process brings long-term benefits, even if this means you spend more time recruiting than you have time for. Hiring someone just to have bodies in the room can imperil your team, points out Entrepreneur. You don't want to run the risk of becoming a revolving door, whether that's because prospective employees view the role as a temporary landing pad and don't really want to put in the investment of learning, or because you realize later that they won't make a good fit. Either way, time is money. Invest resources in people whose roles truly match with objectives set forth by your company. Often, this isn't something that sticks out on their resume. No candidate will say "I'm only aiming for this job as a stepping stone to something better." Often, this takes gut instincts on your part -- another quality of a great leader.

Play to Strengths

Understanding what each individual member's strengths are allows each person to shine. It's rare for an employee to vastly improve on a deficiency, especially if that deficiency is just a part of their character. A team member who isn't good at managing details will probably never be good at that task. But if you play to their strengths -- perhaps they're great at communication with clients -- and pair them with a detail-oriented team member, you'll shore up both parties.

Encourage Transparency

Just like families, teams need to know how to work things out on their own. You can't be called in to referee every little disagreement. When things start going off the rails, bring together those who aren't getting along and make them work through their concerns, suggests Inc. Letting them put you in the middle of a he said/she said situation wastes your resources that could be better spent elsewhere (like making money for your company). Your job as a leader is to help your team members understand each other better. Sure, it will be uncomfortable at first. Such transparency is always raw at the beginning. But instilling this strategy right off will encourage them to try resolving internal issues on their own, only bringing you into the equation when absolutely necessary.

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How The Executive Team Can Help Transform Company Culture

Company culture: you hear this term a lot these days. But what does it mean exactly? Is it fluffy and abstract or quantifiable and measurable? Turns out, a little bit of both. Company culture forms the core of any business, large or small. It's what everything else is built around, forming the foundation of success. But while integral to each company's staying power, culture can't result from a top-down mandate that demands compliance; rather it has to be cultivated organically and reside in the collective hearts and habits of the people who work for you, points out Harvard Business Review. This shared perception of "it's just the way we do things here" has to be instilled from day one. You just can't teach optimism, conviction, creativity and trust. However, you can foster, grow, cultivate and encourage change.

It's up to the executive team to carry this through. It's the team's job to plant the company with culture, water it and watch it grow.

Turning the Ship Around

So, what happens when the company culture has gotten a bit off track and needs to be steered anew? Transformation is in order, and the executive team is the one to lead the charge. As someone who holds the valuable position of leadership, it’s your job to effectively facilitate a workplace culture that encourages each employee to flourish, says Business.com. Be prepared, any change you propose will likely be met with skepticism. After all, people as a whole tend to get into routines and become resistant and even hostile when challenged with sudden calls for change. That's why you must facilitate sustainable change that gives each employee a reason and a chance to flourish and succeed.

Changing company culture doesn't happen overnight. It's not like you can trade in your old culture for a new one like you would a car. It takes time, dedication, patience and a lot of tenaciousness. Attempting to push through a big change isn't as easy as it looks, especially when you know that cultural habits are well ingrained, for better or worse. Drawing on the positive aspects of the culture and turning the tide toward your advantage can offset many of the growing pains you'll experience along the way.

Tips for Fostering Sustainable Change

So let's get right down to the nitty gritty. Infusing change in company culture isn't a one-and-done proposition. It needs to be sustainable to effectively meet the challenges of longevity. Here are some helpful tips you as the member of your company's executive team can try to ease the burden of transition.

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Why We Need Mental Toughness

Do you feel constantly behind the eight ball? Are you chasing the elusive definition of SUCCESS every single day but it's always just out of your grasp? Your mental strength may need some fine tuning. There are many reasons why certain people are more successful in business and other aspects of life than others, and mental toughness is one of those deciding factors that puts them over the top. Everyone has mental strength to varying degrees. It's what you do with what you have, and how you create and develop what you don't have, that can separate you from the pack.

Mental toughness is defined as the ability to work hard, be persistent, and respond with resiliency when faced with failure or adversity. It's an inner quality -- not easy to quantify -- that enables a person to stick to their long-term goals no matter what. Grit...determination...unwavering focus on the end goal. These are all words to describe people with mental agility and strength. That's great. But how do you get it and why do you need it?

Tips for Becoming Mentally Stronger

Working your mental muscle doesn't just fall in your lap. You have to work at it, not just periodically but every single day. Inc describes remarkably successful people as being great at delaying gratification, withstanding temptation, overcoming fear, and prioritizing consistently. Here are some habits of professionals who master mental toughness. Try these tips in your own life.

Always Act in Control

Notice how we didn't say "always BE in control." There's a big difference between being a leader and being a dictator. You can't possibly be right or have total control over things 100 percent of the time. We're talking more here about the illusion of control through confidence in your daily life. Many people assume luck has a lot to do with success; however, successful people will tell you luck may play a small role but they didn't wait for luck to carry them through. They act like success -- and by extension, failure -- is well within their control. Remember that old Dry Idea antiperspirant commercial that said "never let them see you sweat"? Well, the same principle applies here: never let them see you out of control.

Don't Waste Mental Power on Things You Can't Control

Mentally tough people rarely waste brain power on things in which they have no ability to impact. Mental strength, like muscle strength, doesn't come with an unlimited supply. It must be used wisely. Misdirected worry saps you of the energy to focus your mind on more important areas of your life, funneling the important stuff off to the side. Instead, do the greatest good in areas that you can.

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Creating Highly Successful Habits

We look at them with envy. We want what they have: that charisma, that business success, that certain something that makes them stand out from a crowd. They are highly successful people, and they are envied. What do they have that you don't? Turns out, they have dedication and an unflagging sense of persistence. That's not all. They have a laser beam focus on the end game and the best path to get there. They don't let distractions get in the way, they broaden their minds every single day, they put their health first and they have a PLAN. Not just for tomorrow but for a decade, two, three from now.

Creating highly successful habits in your own personal and professional life doesn't take an MBA. It doesn't even take a lot of cash. Here are some habits of successful people and how they view life just a little bit differently from the rest of us.

Talk to Yourself

Even at the top of your game, even when you're bringing in the numbers that make everyone else jealous, there's another level that goes beyond honing skills to be even technically better. It involves perfecting your internal dialogue. Research suggests that talking to yourself like you would to someone else in your same situation can help you better handle stressful experiences, says Business Insider.

Make a Plan

Many people wait till the morning when they get behind their desk to make a plan for the upcoming eight hours. Successful people are one step ahead -- they do it the night before. Getting off track is easy when you don't have a plan. It's even easier when you wait till the last minute to make that plan. Without looking ahead as early as the night before, you won't really know what you want to accomplish and how to get there. By the time you make a plan in the morning, already an hour has gone by and you've wasted critical energy that could be better spent on productivity. Give yourself clear goals the night before your day and you'll be able to wake up and hit the ground running, advises Success.

Eliminate the Negatives

The secret to planning, then, is to begin with the negatives and systematically eliminate them from your path to success, advises Early to Rise. First, identify the obstacles in your path. It can be something as simple as hitting snooze five times in the morning or as complex as not hitting your sales goals for the quarter. Isolate the obstacle, then develop two solutions for each, as having both a Plan A and a Plan B virtually guarantees you will stay focused.

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CEOs Must Invest in Digital Transformation

Does your company have a digital boss? What we mean by that is, do you have a leader on board who can easily leverage new technology advancements in order to grow your business? In today's business climate, this "luxury" is no longer an option. In fact. Raconteur says that "data is the new oil." They both generate substantial wealth and power global economies, but one crucial way in which they differ is their longevity. Oil is a finite fossil fuel, meaning it will come to an end at some point. Data, by contrast, is infinite. Just take this example: within the next couple of years, 40 zettabytes of new information will be created, translating to four million years of HD video.

So, then, it's a no-brainer that CEOs must make significant investments in digital transformation. Indeed, it's a strategic imperative for any business that wants to surge ahead rather than just limp along. Digital resources are taking on a new importance, making them serious contenders as asset classes that are well worth the investment. The big challenge, then, is to blend the strengths of the old with the opportunities of the new, requiring tech-savvy CIOs to dive into and own the data themselves to interpret, analyze and align.

A Climate of Exponential Digital Growth

Think the Industrial Revolution was a frenzied pace of advancements and breakthroughs? Well, it was -- then. But it pales in comparison to the exponential pace of digital transformation now. The next decade alone will bring furious growth into many sectors, from 3D printing and neuroscience to digital telepresence and cryptocurrency, points out New Scientist. Therefore, it's not really a choice to embrace technology enablement; rather, it's mission-critical to the survival of every company. CIOs and CEOs don't necessarily have to be tech experts themselves; however, they must have a clear appreciation of how technological advancements will redefine their business models, operational processes and customer experience engagement, says CIO.

How Industries are Evolving

From retail and banking to media and healthcare, new technologies are injecting themselves into all sectors -- in many cases, pushing out traditional companies through the leveraging of digital advancements. There is no more room for ignorance. Just look at the Blockbusters and Borders of the world that failed to migrate into new territory as smoothly as icons like Netflix, Amazon, Google, Airbnb and Zappos.

So, what are these relatively new entrants into traditional industries doing right? They have been able to build market share fast by:

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Winning Brands Have Winning Cultures

A few weeks ago, we talked about building a winning culture and how fostering workplace culture that is considered "winning" goes much further than your bottom line. In fact, you must develop and nurture an environment that is conducive to forward-thinking, a successful mindset and a deep-rooted belief that you're all in this together. Today, we segment off that topic just a bit and talk about winning brands and what kinds of workplace cultures they are known for.

The strength of any initiative is driven by the core of the team behind it. Good isn't enough. Great is. In order to deliver great, you need to surround yourself with people who can drive the efforts to those goals fueled by the right attitude and determination. Once you have this in place, it's up to you or your designated "brand champion" to focus the team’s potential and deliver results. The brand champion is responsible for setting the tone of the company, inspiring a culture of positivity and unity so the team can better align itself with the big picture. That unity is the glue that holds the company together, ensuring its goals and objectives are met.

In order to have a winning brand, you have to:

Establish unified company goals.Create a long-term plan that works with those objectives to reach goals.Offer team incentives to meet goals.Celebrate the wins and use losses as teachable moments.Be a leader and guide the path to success.Keep a positive attitude and have fun.

While all those bullet points are important, the last one may be the most. When you look at winning brands in this country, like Amazon, Google and Apple, you'll see the culture revolves around creating a low-stress atmosphere built on mutual respect that embraces out-of-the-box thinking. When you think of a winning brand, you don't picture people in cubes tied to their desks in suits (although that works for some companies!). Rather, you picture casual work environments where creativity is welcomed and the lines of management are blurred.

A lot of this culture-driven change stems from the generation leading the charge.

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Keeping Your Goals in Focus

Eyes on the prize: this is the mantra of many leaders in business. This laser focus commitment to goals is certainly noble, certainly something to aspire to. But in reality, it can be quite difficult to keep those goals front of mind, especially when you're trying to lead a company fraught with distractions at every turn. You're likely confronted with many choices every single day: bottom line vs. company direction, sales vs. strategy. Sometimes the two can coexist. Sometimes they can't. So how can you keep your goals for success in focus as the leader of your organization?

Persistence

Self-doubt. Negative thoughts that stifle creativity. Lack of change despite efforts. All of these things can creep in and threaten your ability to remain focused on the end goal. But even when your goals seem out of reach, the key is to stay motivated. Try these strategies:

Surround yourself with positive people. Feeding your soul with positivity surrounded by those who only have your best interests at heart can bolster your resolve and lift you up. Brainstorm. Ask for opinions. As a result, you may find a solution you never realized was right in front of you. Isolation can be the biggest road block to goals of success.Keep the big picture in your crosshairs. When your attention sways to the daily minutiae of company operations, your focus on the end game can shift all too easily. Sometimes just having a big sticky note or picture of your goal in front of your face all day, every day, can serve as the reminder you need to stay on track, says Entrepreneur. We all need to be re-energized every now and then.Reach out for help. If you're stuck in a rut, don't be too proud as to fail to ask for help. Go to your boss, a manager or a mentor. It doesn't always have to be someone above you. Just the act of reaching out can bring a new light to your dilemma and open the door you need to step forward.Perseverance

If you, like everyone else on the planet, has ever developed a goal and then failed, you probably know the crushing defeat you feel. Sometimes you even forget what your goals are. You may even get frustrated, feeling that your plans failed you. However, it's actually the other way around. Every goal set is achievable; it's usually the person setting the goal that gives up on it mid-way. The goal setting is the easy part. Even the implementation is easy. It's the follow-through that gets most people by the throat.

Distraction isn't taboo. It's normal. Embrace it, know it will happen, then do all you can to avoid it. Try these strategies to persevering even in the face of the apathy that can creep in so slowly you don't even know it's there until it's sapped you of your will to reach your goals.

Narrow down your goals: If you find yourself losing focus too easily, it could be that you're over-burdening yourself. Instead of setting a checklist of lofty goals, stick with between one and three. Don't even think of other goals until you can check those off. Reaching your full vision on two goals is much more effective than making partial progress on five goals that never see a resolution.Compile a vision board: This is essentially a collection of pictures and images that represent your goals and dreams. Designed to help you more clearly visualize your end goals, a vision board can inspire you to take consistent action, points out Business Insider. It can also remind you of your goals every day when you glance at the board, so put it in a prominent place in order to reinforce your goals daily.Break down your goals into manageable chunks: One overwhelming goal can actually distance you from the vision. Instead of setting one large goal, break it up into several small ones that you can check off after you've achieved them. This will reduce the chances of discouragement and procrastination. Taking a breather in between can bolster your confidence and inspire you to go on.Track results: How can you know if you're getting closer to your goal if you don't track results? Identify one to two performance metrics and review them daily or weekly, whatever works for you. View them as a connection to your end goal -- a weathervane of guidance, if you will. Use these metrics to stay on track or adjust your plan as needed.

The crux of any goal is to create a set of action plans, followed by immediate action to keep positive momentum moving forward. Success can only come about by persistence, perseverance, and consistent follow-through.

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Why High Performing Organizations Always Win

Winning. It's a place everyone wants to be, but few can actually claim. From sports to politics to school: high performing individuals make things happen. It's no different in business. You may already be an Executive of a high-performing company. Or you may be a competitor of one, always striving to hit that mark. So, what makes an organization a winner in terms of performance? From engagement of employees to leadership through all levels, there are certain qualities that define a high performance organization (HPO) from top to bottom. Let's take a further look.

Areas of Focus

Companies who hit the nail on the head in terms of top performance tend to focus on:

Performance goalsEmployee engagementPhilosophy about why and how people workValues-driven work cultureTeamwork approachEfficient, effective processes that garner resultsStrategic organizational vision and executionLeadership throughout all levels

High performance organizations have been a subject of study for many years. In fact, the HPO Center has created an entire strategy to achieve it. They define a High Performance Organization as one that achieves financial and non-financial results that are far better than those of its peer group over five years or more through the focused discipline that truly impacts the organization. Research shows that there is a direct and positive correlation between certain factors and organizational results, despite which sector, industry or country you are in. They point out the five strands of success as being:

Management qualityOpenness and action orientationLong-term orientationContinuous improvement and renewalEmployee quality

By following these factors, organizations can vastly improve anything from revenue growth and profitability to Return on Investment (ROI) and Total Shareholder Return.

The Why's of Winning

In order to understand why high performing organizations are successful, it's important to take a look at the foundation of the whole concept of the organization and how it's run. It takes a holistic approach to bring a healthy foundation of knowledge and experience to complex systems, organizational culture and performance improvement. It also becomes necessary to challenge existing beliefs as to what truly makes a winning company, working from the inside out to build and sustain powerful change capabilities. Interaction within all levels of organizations must take place, as each level shares experiences and resources to stimulate further success. Examples of foundational principles that define this approach include:

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What Do Boards Really Want From CEOs?

Designating the right person to lead a company in the CEO position is perhaps one of the most critical roles of a board of directors. Second most important is monitoring that leader's performance on an ongoing basis to ensure consistency. The right CEO, says Forbes, is someone who can assist the board in developing and implementing strategic and business objectives while driving performance to achieve those objectives in a sustainable way. At the heart of it all is collaboration. No board wants to hire a CEO that goes his or her own way, with little input from others as to which direction to take the company. Rather, the ideal situation is when both parties work in conjunction to stay the course.

This doesn't mean there aren't clear roles between the two. By nature, a CEO's role is to manage, while the board's role is to govern. Board members also known as directors, are elected by the corporation's shareholders. Their role is to provide guidance and strategic planning to the company’s top officers, who are often busy running the daily operations of the business. Another main role is to hire, oversee and, if necessary, fire the company’s top officers, including the CEO.

The CEO's role is to determine and communicate the organization’s strategic direction, balance resources (capital and people), foster the corporate culture consistently, make the final call on all decisions, and oversee and deliver the company's performance, points out Entrepreneur.

What's the connection between the two entities?

Built on a foundation of trust and honesty, boards expect their CEOs to achieve two things: apply skills, industry knowledge and experience to fulfill company objectives; and commit to an open yet constructive relationship with the board. These objectives are all well and good, but how can they be quantified? What happens during the scouting, recruiting and hiring process whereby a board decides on the ideal candidate?

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