A New Year’s Resolution that will Always Work

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“…a little less talk and a lot more action” ~ Toby Keith

It’s the time of the year where we begin planning and talking about our New Year’s Resolutions. It’s the leading topic of conversation at work, home and parties. Planning to make a change in the new year makes sense because we all love a fresh start. Statistic Brain estimates that 45% of Americans are likely to make a resolution this year and half of those resolutions are focused on self-improvement.

The biggest problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that a vast majority of people never achieve them. Statistics show that 1 out of 4 people will drop out after just one week of trying. At best, only 8% of people ever reach their goal.

So, what’s the problem?

In general, we talk more than we act. We over-commit and under-perform. It’s easy to talk about all the things we’re going to do but it’s much more difficult to do them. We underestimate the time, effort, and willpower it takes to meet our commitments. We also overestimate how easy it is to give up.

“People with good intentions make promises. But people with good character keep them.” ~ unknown

How can we create a New Year’s Resolution that will always work?

It’s simple, under-commit and over-perform.

  1. Set realistic goals. Be brutally honest about the effort it will take. Don’t be afraid to set easier goals in the beginning, especially if you are going to be making a big change.
  2. Fully commit. Once those goals are in place, fully commit to achieving those goals. Make a promise to yourself that you intend to keep.
  3. Just do it. Take daily action to meet your goal.

It sounds easy but let’s be honest, there’s a limit to effort and willpower. Shear will, determination, effort, and willpower will only get you so far. To make a real change to your lifestyle, you need to develop habits and patterns. You need to create daily activities and routines that make it easy for you to meet your goals.

Let me give you an example. Say you commit to drinking less soda and more water. Depending on effort and willpower alone to make the right decision every time you go out to eat is difficult. You must rely on willpower several times a day. An easier way would be to always carry a water bottle with you and only drink from it throughout the day. This is a simple routine that, over time, will become a habit.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts… Never, ever ever ever ever give up” ~ Winston Churchill

The other thing to consider is that you are going to fail. You’re going to slip up. You’re going to cheat. You’re going to go back to your old habits. This is where most people give up.

The simple trick to not giving up is to remember Step 3 above, just do it. If you fail one day or even one week, don’t worry or beat yourself up. Start fresh the next day and just keep going. Don’t wait another year before you start again. Remember the promise you made to yourself.

To create a New Year’s Resolution that will always work, be a person of action not just a person of words. Learn how to under-commit and over-perform. Create daily habits and patterns to make it easier to meet your goals. Have the perseverance to never give up, even after failing. Applying these principles will help you become part of the 8% of successful people that achieve their goals.

What do you think? Is this the year you make the big change? Is this the year you fully commit to your goal? Is this your year of action? Is this the year you don’t give up?

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Should I Stay or Should I Go? What to do when you Disagree with Management

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“If I go there will be trouble, An’ if I stay it will be double” ~ The Clash

The new year is a time for reflection.  It’s also a time for renewal.  The beginning of a new year is a great time to make a change.  In fact, according to Statistic Brain, more than 45% of Americans make a New Year’s Resolution and 47% of those commitments are for self-improvement.  Many are seeking a career change due to frustrations with their current jobs.

When do you know if you should stay at your current job or look for a new one?

I began to think about this after a friend contacted me for advice.  He works for a large company and has had a long, successful career.  Lately though, he has been frustrated with a long line of seemingly short-sided management decisions which have been announced with virtually no explanations.

His question was simple; do I question leadership or do I just stay quiet?

The problem with questioning authority is obvious.  You might get cross-threaded with management which could lead to termination or getting passed over for future promotions. Staying silent, however, can lead to frustration, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and disengagement.  This, of course, can also lead to termination or getting passed over for promotions.

I imagine a lot of people find themselves in this situation.  If I look back in my career, I can recall times when I strongly disagreed with a management decision but kept my mouth shut to preserve my job and my advancement prospects.  It was very frustrating and my ability to lead others suffered because of it.

“Next generation leaders are those who would rather challenge what needs to change and pay the price than remain silent and die on the inside.” ~Andy Stanley

Andy Stanley’s quote from his book, Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future, was the basis of my advice for my friend.  Remaining silent and dying on the inside is no way to live your life.  It’s probably time for him to talk to his boss and voice his concerns but it needs to be done in a respectful manner.

“Question authority; but, raise your hand first.” ~ Alan M. Dershowitz

 If you find yourself in this situation, it’s fair to question leadership, but do it in a way that is private, respectful, and considerate.  You may find their explanations make sense or they decide to make changes based on your feedback.  In this case, you have resolved the conflict in a respectful manner and can go back to enjoying your job.

If, however, you find they don’t appreciate being questioned or their answers don’t make sense, it may be time to start looking for another job.  And that’s OK too.  It’s better to fully understand your situation and know it’s time to go than stay at a job where you will be unhappy and dissatisfied. Plus, it’s always easier to find a job while you still have one.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to make a change.  Where do you stand?  Are there unresolved questions in your mind as to the direction of your company? Are you staying silent on major disagreement with management just to save your career?  Have you reached the stage of frustration, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, or disengagement?

Consider the words of Andy Stanley and don’t remain silent.  It’s acceptable to question leadership, but do it in a way that is private, respectful, and considerate.  Their answers will make it very clear what you should do next.

The 7 Best Employee Gifts

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This is the time of the year where we think about gifts. We gather with family and friends and exchange gifts that we hope will be meaningful.  It’s also the time of year where we begin to reflect on the past year and plan for the next.

As you think back on this past year as a leader, what gifts did you give to the people who work for you? I’m not talking about physical gifts but the things you did that will leave a lasting impact on your employees.

A 2013 study by Glassdoor found that 66% of employees believe their direct managers had an impact on their careers. 52% said the impact was positive while 20% said it was negative. Whether we like it or not, leaders affect the careers of the people who follow us.

As I look back at all the leaders I have worked for, I can think of many gifts I have received that have helped me grow in my career but these seven stand out as the best:

  1. The Gift of Trust – As a junior officer assigned to my first submarine, I had a commanding officer who regularly chose me for the toughest assignments. Even though I doubted my own skills, he trusted me. That trust gave me confidence.
  1. The Gift of Appreciation – I once had a boss who sent a large basket of cookies and snacks to my home after he hired me. He included a note that said, “I’m looking forward to all the great things I know you will do.” It was a simple gesture that said he appreciated me as a person even before I started work.
  1. The Gift of Faith – The leader who selected me to run my first manufacturing plant chose me for the job, despite the fact I had never run an operation before. His action told me that he had faith in my abilities and I worked hard to prove him right.
  1. The Gift of Support – When I was going through a career transition, I had several former bosses go out of their way to provide support and advice.  Their support during a stressful time was exactly what I needed to make a successful transition.
  1. The Gift of Encouragement – As a young design engineer, I had a major failure of a new product at the test lab costing my company thousands of dollars. I had to call my boss to give him the bad news. Instead of a reprimand, he encouraged me to learn as much as I could about the failure, improve the product, and to get back to the lab.
  1. The Gift of Recognition – I have had bosses present me awards or have recognized me publicly for my actions. In most cases, it was a total surprise. Although I don’t work for the recognition, it is nice to get that type of positive feedback.
  1. The Gift of a Challenge – I once had a boss challenge a business plan I developed. Even though I had created a solid plan, he asked one simple question which changed everything. He said, “This is great, but what are you missing that could create even more growth?” That challenge was the catalyst that changed our entire thinking and business model.

As we approach the end of the year and begin to reflect, think about the gifts you have been giving. What are you doing to grow your employees? What lasting impact will you have on their careers?  What is the spark that will ignite their growth as a leader? What can you do differently in 2017 to give even better gifts?

Are you Leading a Rebellion in your Industry?

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“Rebellions are Built on Hope” ~ Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Yes, I am a Star Wars fan. In fact, I’m old enough to have seen the first three movies in the theater when they were originally released. I love all the movies in the Star Wars franchise but Rogue One spoke to me as an entrepreneur and a leader.

If you haven’t seen it, the story features a character named Jyn Erso who leads a small team of rebels to capture plans which will help the Rebellion destroy a powerful new weapon the Empire has developed.

In one scene, the leaders of the Rebellion are meeting to decide on how to confront the Empire and their new weapon. Discouraged by fear and the overwhelming force of the Empire, the rebel leaders decide to disband and hide.

It’s at this point when Jyn and a small team of committed volunteers decide to do something about it. Against all odds, their tiny band of rebels takes on the Empire. Their heroic actions create a spark that ignites the rest of the Rebellion forces to join in the fight.

As a leader of a small company competing against large industry giants, I have been in those meetings where fear was present.  It’s natural to look at the size and strength of your competitors and become discouraged. What gives me confidence in these situations is to remember other David and Goliath stories.

One that I recall the most is the story of Netflix and Blockbuster Video. Back in 2000, Blockbuster was the giant in the industry and Netflix was just a small start-up. I can imagine the small team at Netflix was easily discouraged when they considered the size and strength of their rival who had 60,000 employees and 8,000 stores.

“A leader is a dealer in hope.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

This is where hope comes in. Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the most brilliant military leaders in history stated that, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” This is especially important in a small business facing overwhelming odds. A leader must be the spark that ignites the rest of team.

As in the Rogue One story and the case of Blockbuster Video, large and powerful competitors always have a weakness. It’s the job of the leader to find that weakness and rally their team to exploit it. We should never underestimate what a small team of committed volunteers can do against overwhelming odds.

We each have the power to lead a rebellion in our industry. So, what are you doing to lead your rebellion? Have you found the weaknesses of your largest competitor? Are you rallying your team to exploit those weaknesses? Does your team look to the future with hope or are they discouraged by fear?

As a small business leader, we deal in hope. What hope are you providing today?