(Yikes! Look! A video version. Don’t get used to this. It’s a one-off because a few of you asked. Your wish is my command. -Randy)

“Coach me and I will learn; challenge me and I will grow; believe in me and I will win” is the quote from Dr. Robert Halgren, Michigan Science Olympiad Site Coordinator. And I like it very much. I also agree with it. Not just for athletes, but for entrepreneurs and leaders, too.

Confidence is mysterious. I don’t claim to understand it. I’m not sure anybody does. But I am sure it makes an E-N-O-R-M-O-U-S difference in our outcomes. I’m equally sure that expressions of confidence – within ourselves and the expressions of others in us – have a big impact. A positive impact.

Over at the hobby podcast – LeaningTowardWisdom.com – I’ve begun a project called Craving Encouragement. Sparked by the many interactions I was having with high achievers I began to direct questions and conversations about times when people had been encouraged in a meaningful way – a way that was so powerful it changed an outcome in their life. As I watched people’s eyes widen, and their cadence quicken, it was obvious every single person understood the value of encouragement – expressions of belief.

I broadened the conversation to include anybody and everybody. Ordinary folks. People like me. People like you. People seen by others as financially successful. People seen by others as not so financially successful. People with a long list of accomplishments. And people who struggle to list much of anything.

I discovered something I knew was likely true, but something I hadn’t thought of so deeply until I began this effort. No matter who we are, or where we come from, or what education we have (or lack), or how accomplished and financially successful we are (or aren’t)…we all CRAVE encouragement. It quickly resonates with every single one of us.

Are expressions of belief in you so rare that you can instantly think of THE time when somebody encouraged you in a way that impacted your life? For many of us, the answer is, “Yes.” Yes, they are that rare.

I wondered why. Why is that true since we all understand the value it? Why is this true when we’ve all experienced our own positive impact by the expression of belief others offer us? It’s so powerful and so universal…why don’t we do it more?

Entrepreneurs and leaders were asked, “When is the last time you offered such strong encouragement to somebody that you walked away confident it would make a positive impact in their life?”

Thankfully, sometimes I get a fairly quick response. But sadly, more often than not – the same people who just told me of a time when somebody encouraged them – these people struggle to remember a time when they did it for somebody else.

Why?

They don’t know.

Many are too embarrassed to try even though it comes naturally for us if we’ll just lean into it. Others have such a jaded view of the world and others, they honestly find it difficult to find something worthy of encouragement. Such a cynical viewpoint is deadly to productive output. They’re like that little boy in the movie, Sixth Sense. Everywhere they look they see idiots, not dead people. The idiots have done nothing worthy of encouragement. “I think you’re an idiot. Keep it up, I believe in your ability to constantly disappoint me.” That’s not quite what I’m going for. 😀

Believe In Me

As we end this week let’s give this some practical power. It starts with how you feel and what you think. Firstly, let’s make YOU the aim of your own belief and your own encouragement. Self-encouragement. Self-belief.

Does it begin with you saying it, then convincing yourself of it? Or does it begin with you really believing it, then expressing it? I don’t know. Or care. I know both matter. I’m rather sure the order you put them in – whatever order works for you – is of no consequence.

There have been times in my life when I struggled to believe so I began with self-talk. Was I fully convinced? Did I truly believe? No. Not even close. But I somehow knew if I put language to what I wanted and what I knew I needed, then it couldn’t hurt. It helps that I have a deep belief in visualization. For me, visualizing details – as many details as possible – is a powerful tool. Try it, if you haven’t.

Belief isn’t fake, even though I’ve often prompted it with talking to myself first. I challenge myself with the truism, “Great leaders see the future first.” Attempting to always prove that I’m a great leader (perhaps more accurately a good leader working to become great), I want to see the ideal future and encourage myself to pursue it.

Words are just words until and unless they become what we believe. But words can help. Choose them wisely. Be thoughtful in how you speak to yourself.

Now, let’s aim outward, our expressions in and toward others.

You naturally know others are silently saying, “Believe in me.” Just like you’re silently saying to others.

So do it.

Starting today look for the things – the positive things in others worth encouraging. If you’re in the habit of being critical, thoughtless and filled with judgment — well, you’ve got more serious to work to do. Work that no 10-minute podcast is likely going to help. Stop being a miserable human being. Figure out what happened to your heart. Find out where along the way you lost your compassion and get it back. If you never had it, then the depths of your problems will likely require years of professional help. That’s way above my pay grade.

It’s probable that you’ve not developed the habit of being an encourager. Change that. Today.

As you walk around, interacting with others, pick people you already believe in, but you’ve neglected to tell them. Make today the day you tell them. That way you don’t have to work too hard to get in touch with your belief in people. Branch out from there.

I Will Win

Again, let’s start with YOU. You will win when you can express belief in yourself and it’ll be amplified when others express it in you. I know it’s popular to talk about not caring what anybody thinks or says and I get it. We can’t care more about other people’s opinion of us as much as we care about our own opinion. I even did a show about this just 2 days ago (episode 170).

But let’s face the truth – people matter. The people in our lives matter. We matter in the lives of others.  I don’t want to contribute to the popular belief that we’re so powerful we don’t need others. It’s simply not true! We need each other.

I’ll end this week by making an appeal to the U.S. based entrepreneurs in the audience. Do you believe that the people who surround you can accelerate your success? How would you feel if you were surrounded by 6 other entrepreneurs on a regular basis to share experiences, insights and to work together to maximize the opportunities in each other’s businesses? Find out all the details by visiting ThePeerAdvantage.com. It’s a 7-member peer advantage group just for entrepreneurs. All the meetings are online, done virtually using a video conferencing platform. I encourage you to apply – the application is short and doesn’t commit you to anything except a brief phone call with me so I can answer your questions and find out more about you and your company.

I believe in you. My mission is to help more of you win, not just in your business, but in your whole life.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

A problem prospects have and don’t want

A result prospects want and don’t have

Most businesses operate in one or the other. A few may operate in both ways.

Over time we often get complacent and stop looking at such basic things. Big mistake. Fundamentals are often where the real power is found.

Over time we lose sight of our business fundamentals because fighting fires become our habit. And each day has a variety of distractions that must be managed. Like taking time to do important things – like rest or exercise or meditating – our schedule forces us to concentrate on the urgent, pressing matters. That’s why perfectly intelligent people – like us – can neglect our health and wellness. We know what to do. We just don’t discipline ourselves to take the time to do them. Often, until it’s too late.

Today, I’m urging you to get on with it. “It” being putting the fundamentals of your business model back in the foreground of conversations.

Let me suggest something to you – an exercise to conduct with your leadership team. Carve out 45 minutes of uninterrupted time between now and the end of next week. Give this meeting one agenda item – just one: to discuss the value we provide our customers.

Write it on the whiteboard:

A problem prospects have and don’t want

A result prospects want and don’t have

Don’t dominate the conversation, but lead it. Pose the question, “Where do we provide the most value to our customers?”

Listen carefully. Make notes.

Let the team engage in debate and dialogue. Disagreement is fine. You may learn something. So may your team.

Does the team see it the same way? If not, is that a problem?

Where are the constraints and challenges?

Where are the opportunities?

How can we do better?

I’m a big fan of Jack Welch’s view of strategic planning. It’s just two questions and this discussion is a great time to ask your team to wrestle with them.

  1. What can our competition do within the next 18 months to nail us to the wall?
  2. What can we do to our competition within the next 18 months to nail them to the wall?

Your customer base is the business coin. It’s where the real value is in your business. There are two sides to that coin: the haves and the have nots. Get your team very clear on those and then turn people lose to evangelize it throughout your company. It’s time to take your business to a whole new level.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Tap the brakes. I’m not talking about you domineering everybody in your life. And I’m not talking about how wonderful people are who refuse to submit to anybody over anything at any time. I’m talking about the most dreaded factor in our daily lives.

FEAR

Business owners – excuse me, entrepreneurs – often feel like they’re supposed to be immune. It’s like we all lined up at some secret clinic and got vaccinated with a vaccine unavailable to ordinary folks. That’d be great, wouldn’t it?

Culture presses on us unprecedented glorification. In my lifetime I’ve never seen business ownership or business startup glorified more. It’s the grand panacea for what ails you. Start your own company and all your wildest dreams will come true. Leave your 9 to 5 and enter the land of Utopia.

The reality is very different. Statistically, most don’t make it. Failure rates are extremely high. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go for it. It just means culture paints an unrealistic picture that sets very unreasonable expectations.

For those already in the game, it can press us to think, “My life isn’t like that. What’s wrong?” The average business owner isn’t living an Instagram kind of life. Fear is real. Fear that we’re failing. Fear that we won’t find success. Fear that we’re not as successful as we should be. Fear that we’re not measuring up.

Thankfully, there is an increasing volume of attention being given to the mental and emotional health of entrepreneurs. It’s a far cry from being able to offset the negative, fictionalized viewpoints, but it’s a start.

Do a Google search for the word “fear” and here’s what you get…

About 1,230,000,000 results (0.58 seconds)

The first results are definitions. Mayo Clinic defines fear as…

An unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined.

But Merriam-Webster defines it as…

fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage. fear of the unknown dread usually adds the idea of intense reluctance to face or meet a person or situation and suggests aversion as well as anxiety.

I’ll join the many who refuse to look at fear as the absence or loss of courage. That just adds to the negative pressures and imposes on us an unhelpful viewpoint.

It’s shallow to think that courage can’t coexist with fear because courageous people often confess their fear. Look in the mirror. You’ve exercised courage before. And you’ve done it in spite of fear. Courage is more likely doing what we need to do – or what we should do – anyway. In spite of fear or any other threat.

Let’s narrow our fear focus this morning. Let’s take aim at an action that has grown increasingly fascinating to me for the last few years – judgment.

Judgment

I’ve grown fond of a statement that I think is so ridiculously accurate. There are variations of it and I don’t claim to have originated it, but it’s brilliant and I rather wish I had.

just because you came into this chapter of my life doesn’t mean you know my whole story

But people think they’ve got it all figured out. We may think we’ve got others figured out. We judge each other. Easy to do because we’re not living their life. So we can second guess everything they do. And enjoy it.

That’s a real fear. A really big fear. Fear that people will judge us. Think less of us. Not be impressed by us. Blah, blah, blah.

Guess what?

They’re doing that now about you. And they’ll keep doing it. It doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters – how much headspace you’re willing to give to it. That’s why I’m becoming a more devoted convert to another truth.

Fear comes from a willingness to let someone else have the upper hand in judging you.

Why?

Because we’re human. Because we want to fit in. Because we want to be liked.

Even if it’s with and by people who don’t matter to us. 😉

Unreasonable? Sure. Completely.

But you’re mindful of your lifestyle in large part by how you look to others. If you want to own a multi-million dollar home with 12,000 square feet, then good on you. If you want to own a 1,400 home with a small yard and back patio where you can grill in the summer, then good on you. Truth is, neither one impacts me one little bit. If so, how?

Drive a $250,000 Bentley. Bully for you. Drive a Toyota Corolla, good for you. What you drive impacts me how? It doesn’t. Well, unless we’ve got a meeting and your car won’t start making you late or absent from our appointment. 😀

Passing judgment is indicative of people’s willingness and the duration, too. It’s passing. So why not let it pass without giving any oxygen to it?

Don’t admire anybody enough to take their point of view about you as more valuable than your own.

But we often do. It stymies us. Cripples us. Why?

Because these people came in on this chapter of our lives and we’re now going to let them write our complete story? How ridiculous!

Because that person judging you is somebody who is in your life for mere minutes (if that), and we give them the upper hand in making an assessment on our total life? Crazy, right?

Don’t listen to opinions that don’t matter.

What makes you happy with your business? What revenue goals excite you have nothing to do with me, or anybody else. Ditto for your lifestyle. Live as frugal as you want or as extravagant as you want, makes me no bit of difference. If so, how? And even if I judge you harshly – which is the tendency of many – what difference does it really make? Answer: it makes no difference unless you let it.

Unless you let it

Today, I’m encouraging you to not allow the judgment of anybody else to sidetrack you. Don’t give it any attention at all.

Examine yourself. Learn all you can about yourself and your circumstance. Seek understanding. Yes, solicit the perspective of people willing and able to help you. Perspective isn’t judgment. It’s a service from others that helps you eliminate your blind spots. Then grow! Make changes to improve. Forget what people think about you, your business or your choices. Your growth doesn’t depend on what others think of you.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Track It, Improve It – Grow Great Daily Brief #169 – March 19, 2019

One of the first rules of personal finance is to keep track of your expenses and income. That’s how you know where the money is. And where it’s going.

Knowing isn’t enough though. Nothing changes simply because you know that 18% of your money is going toward dining out. But without knowing that…you’re powerless to do much about it.

What your KPI’s? What key numbers are important to you?

Think about driving your car. Look at the instrument cluster on your dash. Do you pay equal attention to every gauge? Nope. Because some of them are unimportant. In fact, I’ll bet you don’t even understand some of them. Those are the ones you ignore completely.

Speedometer. It matters.

Fuel gauge. It really matters.

Check engine light. Yep, that one matters, too.

There’s 3. But we’re talking about your car, not your business. Both have more nuances that first meet the eye. In spite of the complexity of our cars, they’re mostly very simple to operate. That’s where the metaphor breaks down. Our businesses can seem simple, but we know how complex they truly are.

What are the three big measurements inside your business? The ones that really let you know what’s going on?

Sales / Revenues

Most owners will mention this first, and for good reason. No sales mean no customers. No customers mean no business. It’s the oxygen we need to keep our businesses alive.

There’s a problem. Sales and revenues don’t tell us how healthy our business is. Worse yet, these numbers can fool us into thinking things are okay. Even terrific. And merely tracking sales doesn’t necessarily reveal why sales/revenues are going up, or down. We just know it is what it is. Why is still a baffling question.

Profits

Gross. Net. Track both and now we’re getting a clearer picture of the health of our business. More is better, but simply tracking the number doesn’t indicate why it’s going up, or down. Again, the why can evade us.

Expenses

Tracking where the money goes and now we’re closing in the why of it all. Why is our cash flow being pinched? Expenses can tell us.

Why aren’t we keeping more profits? Expenses provide the answer.

What’s our customer acquisition cost? Without knowing our expense (investment), we have no way to calculate it.

Data is your friend, but you have to see it clearly. And for what it is. Tracking whatever matters is just the price you pay for the opportunity to improve the number. It shines a light on the thing (whatever THE THING is) so you can focus on it.

Track it, improve it centers on measurement, analysis and asking lots of questions…most of which revolve around, “What can we do about this?” Put another way, “How can we improve this?”

Improvement after tracking is an assumption we must make as owners. Don’t assume it can’t be made better!

Feedback

There are trackable things that have no gauges. You’re back behind the wheel of your car tooling to work at 60 miles an hour. Suddenly, a small vibration begins. You can’t tell where it’s coming from, but you know something is wrong. You slow to 50 miles an hour, but the vibration worsens. No warning lights go off on your dash. Nothing would indicate there’s a problem, but your senses don’t lie. Something is clearly wrong. So you pull off to the shoulder to have a closer look where you discover one wheel is loose.

Paying attention pays off. When we’re driving a car our eyes, ears and other senses help us navigate safely. It’s why developing autonomous vehicles has been slow coming. The human brain has an ability to process all the incoming data at unparalleled speed. Things that aren’t tracked – measured technically using meters or gauges – are instantly measured by the human brain. We adjust accordingly. That’s why you pulled your car over when that vibration began and didn’t improve.

So what’s the point? Brace yourself because I’m going to throw you a curveball. Track everything. I’m not saying make everything important, but give it to somebody to track. Solicit people inside your organization who love this sort of stuff. We need people willing (and happy) to track stuff – to measure it. If necessary, solicit as many people as you need. Why track everything?

Years of operating businesses with lots of moving parts has shown me that you don’t always know what’s important. Or when.

If everything is important, nothing is important. I started saying that decades ago because I learned as a young leader that priorities are needed if we’re going to grow great. I’ve not seen anybody grow great, or grow anything great by making everything equally important. But at the same time I’ve also learned the value of tracking everything. Not to make it a priority, but to keep an eye on it. To look for trends and patterns – which is largely what we’re doing as we operate our businesses. 

Retailers and manufacturers know the importance of tracking inventory. The companies that can do it best tend to churn to the top. WalMart did. Now you’ve got to do something with that data. Just knowing it isn’t the key. WalMart stores know what items are best sellers at one store versus the other one 10 miles away. Stocking levels are adjusted based on the rate of sale. The power is in the doing, but the doing is sparked by knowing. It’s the pressure to always close that knowing-doing gap.

Can it be tracked? Track it. Give the task to somebody willing (and excited) to own it. Challenge them to make sense of it. To look for patterns and trends. Then to make suggestions on ways it can be improved.

Meet with these folks regularly. Get them in a room together regularly. Let them nerd out about it. Don’t muzzle them. Turn them loose. Challenge them to make sure they’re tracking accurately. Question everything. Then listen!

In short order you’ll figure out there are some new things you’re tracking for the first time that you can now improve – things you never thought of improving before.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Spring break was last week here in DFW. While I don’t have school-age kids I do have school-age grandkids. More importantly, I have clients who have school-age kids and many of them (check that, almost all of them) took last week off to get in one last vacation before the end of the school year. Quite a few made a trek to Colorado or some other snow-laden environment where skiing and snowboarding happen.

I didn’t operate at full-strength last week (sorry, that’s a hockey reference meaning all 5 skaters are on the ice). Now that we’re into a new week, and folks are back at work, I thought we’d think about the value of stepping away. Vacations. Sabbaticals. Retreats. They’re all forms of stopping the normal, usual and routine. And they’re harder for some than others.

Stepping away. Unplugging. They’re often helpful if we want to more deeply connect. To something or somebody beyond or outside our normal routines. Maybe that’s the power – connecting to something or somebody else outside our routines.

In episode 165 I talked about NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments on the mental and emotional health of today’s NBA player. Watch athletes today as they enter the stadiums and arenas. Headphones on. Faces in phones. Connection, which feeds our emotional stability, is increasingly challenged by the need to be plugged in and always ON. But we know this and we’ve all read plenty about how social media platforms are designed to hook us to the rush we get by knowing what’s happening at all times. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real thing.

The irony is we are missing out. We’re often missing out on deeper conversations. We’re missing out on fueling our curiosity about others. A deep enough curiosity that compels us to engage in conversation, to ask questions and to form deeper connections.

Intimacy has given way to more shallow casual connection. I know what you ate for dinner last night. I know the concert you plan to go to tonight. I see the new clothes you bought. I feed on all these details, but I don’t really know you. I just know what you want me, and the rest of the world, to know. I know how you front to all of us. And you can easily see how I front to others, too. That’s the depth of our connection. We just see the storefront without ever taking the time to walk into the store and peruse the real merchandise.

When we stop fronting with a sincere intention on more deeply connecting with others, or even with ourselves, we gain something more precious than shallow knowledge of what food we’re eating, or what clothes we’re buying or where we’re vacationing.

ENVY

a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck

Being so plugged in feeds our envy, which in turn weakens our connections because it increases our judgment and discontentment. “Man, you went to Hawaii during Spring Break? I didn’t get to go anywhere.” So it goes.

No need to connect. No need to figure anything else out about you. I’ve got your whole story figured out.

Or do I?

Flip it around. How many people know your whole story? Come on, think about it. Answer it.

One? Two? Five? I’m betting most of us can’t name 5 people who know our whole story. People who understand the total person we really are. People who know and understand our context. But not just people who know us…people willing and able to help us.

Compassion is where it starts. That’s why it’s the first C on my list.

Compassion • Communication • Connection • Collaboration • Culture

Compassion opposes envy and judgment. Until we can establish compassion for each other we’re going to be severely limited in the depth of our communication. Without communication, we can’t truly connect. Not in a meaningful way where we can serve each other.

So today, let’s lift our eyes up beyond our phones and devices. It doesn’t mean we bemoan technology. It’s terrific. We all love it. But it can’t replace human curiosity and compassion. Or the care we need to take to nurture relationships.

Walk around your company today. Call people by name. Shake some hands. Brag on folks. It won’t seem so deep to you, but it’ll be deep to the people you serve. Keep doing it and you’ll find paths to deeper connections over time.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC