Follow Steve Jobs’ Example to Achieve More

Looking for ways to increase your productivity (and that of your colleagues)? Tom Koulopoulos recently shared a habit used by Steve Jobs, that is easy to use.

To put it into perspective, “being busy” does not mean you’re “productive”.  Ask people what they did on an average day, and you’ll get answers like “A lot, it was a busy day; non-stop action, meetings, phone calls, the usual!”  It tells you nothing about what was actually achieved – which is the real reason we work.  (A sales management expert said that most sales people spend less than 25% of their time actually “selling to customers”.)

Today, distraction is running rampant. The “tyranny of now”, things we think we should do – from meetings-without-agendas to emails and social media distract us from focusing on what we are paid for: to achieve a strategic company objective.

Steve Jobs understood that there is one question that will instantly address productivity: “What did you achieve today?” And if the answer isn’t consistent with your purpose of working, then you need to change how you spend time. And your accountability partner can help you do it.

Here’s a simple process to follow to improve productivity.

  • Before going home, identify what you want to achieve tomorrow – write it down and leave on your desk, so it’s the first thing you see. (In a prior blog, we shared a double-entry time management system you can use to accomplish ongoing goals.)
  • When you come in the morning, it takes only seconds to sharply focus on what you want to accomplish by reviewing the list and making any edits based on what’s urgent/important.
  • Monitor the time it takes to do each project; make adjustments as needed so priorities are met. Note how much time is being spent on distractions and build systems to reduce their interference with achievement. Many tactics are available for reducing distractions; find the one that works best for those that interfere with your work.
  • At the end of the day, (1) write out the achievements and time management plan for the next day and (2) list your achievements for the day and take pride in them!

If your achievement rate isn’t high enough, accountability partner/coach to help you see where you can do better.

Ready to give it a try? After two weeks, share with us how these ideas are helping you achieve more and feel greater satisfaction for doing so.

It’s Your 168 Hours: Use Them Better

How am I going to find time for that?

When I speak to CEOs who want more success for themselves, their companies and employees about Vistage Worldwide’s ecosystem of leader development services*, they inevitably get the value of leader development learning, but wonder how can they afford the time?

At that point, we discuss reality: all of us have the same 168 hours per week. the issue is how we use it. The difference between Richard Branson, who runs dozens of companies under the Virgin Brand, Elon Musk who runs countless different companies (Tesla, Solar City, SpaceX, the Boring Company, DeepMind, etc.) and all the other leaders of Conglomerates, is that they’re mastering effectiveness leadership. Instead of being the “Chief Problem Solver” for all companies, they manage their time by hiring the right people, delegating responsibilities, avoiding mistakes and capitalizing on opportunities by listening to other people, and managing their time.

That’s why the first thing we do at Vistage is focus on time management: where is your time best used and how can we build an effective team and strategy to use others’ time well also. Indeed, Vistage has great ROI: you invest 7% of your month in learning how to be more effective – and you can grow your company, as other CEOs do – 2-3X faster than competitors!

Indeed, Maura Thomas, in a recent Harvard Business Review article, noted that the key is attention management: “the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so that you can unleash your genius. It’s about being intentional instead of reactive… Rather than allowing distractions to derail you, you choose where to direct your attention at any given moment, based on an understanding of priorities and goals.”

In other words, instead of being the full-time “fire-fighter” – solving problems that could have been avoided and/or resolved by others – you should be mastering how to improve company performance, by mentoring and coaching your team to constantly improve company strategic performance and increase satisfaction at work.

It’s time to build your “time management muscle”. If you want to learn more about Vistage, call me at 646-290-7664.

The 4 Most Important Leadership Behaviors

When I work with presentation clients, the starting point is to identify what’s the most important thing the audience needs to know to get them to act in the desired manner (e.g., invest in the company pitching the deal). Reading a McKinsey article, Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters, I realized that as a leadership coach, I face the same dilemma when helping executives become more effective leaders:  identify which of the many leadership qualities are most critical.

The researchers, using their own experience and relevant academic literature came up with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits. They then surveyed 189 people in 81 diverse organizations around the world, and the grouped the sample by quartiles so they could compare the top and bottom in terms of leadership effectiveness. They discovered that 4 of the behaviors explained 895 of the variance between strong and weak organizations!

The four behaviors are:

  • Solving problems effectively: Key is gathering and analyzing the right data, and then considering the right options that can lead to effective decision-making.
  • Operating with a strong results orientation: Creating a vision is only the start, following through to achieve results with efficiency, productivity, and prioritization of highest-value work is key.
  • Seeking different perspectives: In this VUCA world, leaders need to monitor trends, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute meaningful ideas, differentiate important issues from those which aren’t, and give appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Success here involves sound analysis and avoidance of biases which often affect decisions. (Vistage CEOs engage in issue-processing sessions each month which reinforce the importance of this approach. It leads to incredible results (see case studies) and model the behavior in their companies.
  • Supporting others: These leaders understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in others, they build trust and inspire colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote efficiency, allay unwarranted fears and prevent energies from producing internal conflicts.

Obviously, different business situations often require different styles of leadership, but knowing which four behaviors provide a solid foundation will help every leader.  What do you think? What’s your experience with these behaviors?  Share with us!

Habits of Excellent Presenters

Reading Brendon Burchard’s most recent book, High Performance Habits, made me think about the habits developed by excellent presenters. For over two decades, we’ve served over 5000 clients who’ve presented on investment, fund-raising, marketing, sales, management and other issues. More recently, we focus on senior executives whose presentations are focused on closing large and important deals for companies involved with M&A, VC, Private Equity, etc.

Based on this experience, we see that excellent presenters develop the following five habits:

  • Competence: They immerse themselves in the material so they can build a Compelling Message. They know that “data dumps” and “long-winded wordiness” are distractions; short phrases, not full sentences, are presented; graphs, not tables full of numbers. They recognize that persuasive arguments are based on the right balance of logic and emotions.
  • Proactively Responsive: Meet the audience’s needs. When it comes to building a case, they do the necessary homework to understand the audience’s perspective: what’s their past experience on this topic? What are their current concerns (e.g., more logic or emotion)? Who else helps them make the decision? How will the setting affect their ability to process the information? Is the information succinct enough to get attention (from people whose attention spans often are limited) and have the desired impact?
  • Being Authentic: They immerse themselves in the material so they are presenting from a position of aligned values and self-confidence of the material. Demonstrate your sense of curiosity in learning the material and formatting the presentation for presentation excellence. Facilitate the audience’s development of trust in you.
  • Sharing: The goal isn’t to present “to” an audience, but to be part of a “community” in which they use their competence to share a story with the audience. The “field” includes presenter, audience, setting, context, message and possibility of a future relationship. They welcome questions, because it demonstrates that a relationship has been forged between the parties and enable the presenter to further demonstrate her/his expertise.
  • Practice: They recognize that everyone is nervous about presenting, with the only real question being how to channel it? By practicing the art of persuasive communication they harness nervous energy to make the presentation exciting, as opposed to allowing it to become a barrier between them and the audience. Handling pace, tone, body language, etc. are key to the transfer of enthusiasm – which is the ultimate goal of a presentation.

Are you an excellent presenter? Have you had the pleasure of listening to one or more? What additional habits would you include?  Please share!

Internships Should Be Part of Your Culture

“Finding great talent” is almost always reported to be one of the three greatest challenges by our clients. For smart ones, they use intern programs both to compliment staff on projects and to identify new talent who will fit into their culture. So, many interns are you taking this summer?

Providing students with internships is key for society as a whole. Researchers report that the failure ….

That’s why it was great to see Andy Kessler’s Wall Street Journal Op-ed piece encouraging companies to create internships. However, his conventional approach –that internships are programs that require external funding sources and therefore serve only a limited number of students – misses the bigger opportunity to do more. Companies should….

The research results of this failure to give students quality internships opportunities are tragic:

  • The youth unemployment rate is double that of the national average.
  • An AP study found that 50+% of all college graduates have not found jobs commensurate with their skills.
  • A McKinsey study found that many young people do not even know how to launch themselves on a viable career path.

Internships shouldn’t be thought of as learning opportunities that companies should offer students, often relying on external funding sources. Instead, companies should view offering quality internships as being as essential to serving our communities as is mentoring new staff and/or participating in community services.  Parents know that their kids often have little basis for making good career decisions because they don’t understand the world-of-work, which requires both hard and soft skills.

But here’s the real problem: they want their kids to have experiences but don’t advocate becoming mentors for students in their own companies! It’s really amazing getting calls from parents seeking help in finding suitable internships for their kids while defending the fact that their companies, with hundreds of employees, only serve a handful of summer interns.

During my career (in many sectors of the economy), I’ve hosted 600+ students to participate in “mentoring internships” year-round, so they can make better career decisions. While a mentor guides each intern, many staff members interact and contribute to the learning process. Interns work on meaningful projects where they can apply what they’ve learned, develop new skills, expand their base of knowledge and learn about new tools. They experience the workplace: how people collaborate, communicate, manage time, etc.; they discover the relationship between corporate strategy, group activities and individual contributions. They leave smarter and wiser, knowing more about what they can do in the future, including new classes and schools to attend, and careers to pursue.

Most important, the ROI for such programs can be quite high. Companies save money on projects using less-expensive labor; mentors get projects finished; employees learn how to supervise, delegate and manage others; and the company wins twice: by serving the community and often identifying highly qualified candidates for future jobs.

Any company can offer mentoring internships by creating a culture committed to learning. We call them CILOs (Continuous Improvement Learning Organizations). Encourage ongoing learning by employees and young people in the community so they can make better career decisions – regardless of whether that means they will later work for your company or someone else’s!

(A free e-book on setting up such programs is available at www.MentoringInternships.com).

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