The Secrets of Morning People Revealed

50005208 - strong confidence woman open arms under the sunrise at seaside

For most of my life, I couldn’t stand morning people. They seemed so annoyingly happy. They got up early, they planned their day, they worked out and they always seemed to be in a good mood. I was the guy who maximized the snooze alarm, quickly got ready and rushed out the door with my extra-large cup of coffee. It was only until I tried getting up early that I learned their secrets.

“Love it or hate it, utilizing the morning hours before work may be the key to a successful and healthy lifestyle.” Jennifer Cohen

I must confess, I’m a convert. Where once I enjoyed staying up late and sleeping in, I now treasure my mornings. I understand why they are so important. Since I’ve started to get up early, I’ve had much more control over my life and I’m not the only one. According to research, morning people are more proactive and productive than night owls and tend to be more successful in their professional lives.

“On its own, waking up early isn’t a superpower or anything special. Its real power is that you gain access to the highest quality hours of the day.” Srinivas Rao

Why is that? Why is early rising a common trait found in many world leaders, successful CEOs and other influential people? Srinivas Rao suggests the main reason is that you are accessing the highest quality hours of the day. Early morning is a time when you can do deep work and focus on activities that add meaning to your life. He also points out that mornings are uniquely important in five distinct ways:

  1. Your willpower is at its highest
  2. Your mind is less scattered
  3. You’re less likely to be interrupted
  4. You increase the availability of time
  5. You start your day with a sense of accomplishment

“Most of the people spend their mornings running around trying to prepare for the day, and spend whatever is left of the day in much of the same way – in a rush.” Roxana Jones & Arnaud Saint-Paul

Successful people understand getting up early is essential because it sets a positive tone for the work day before it even starts. Jonathan Chan suggests this is because the entire day is in front of them. Night owls tend to be playing catch-up because most of the day is already gone by the time they get up. Instead of being super productive in the morning, they tend to be working to keep up with everything they wanted to do that day. They end up stressed, filled with anxiety and unable to fall asleep which continues the cycle.

“It’s simple: If you want to be more productive, get up early.” Ryan Holiday

I get up at 4:00 am every weekday. I know that sounds crazy but this is my favorite time of the day. Since my official work day starts at 8:00 am, this gives me four hours to prepare for the day. Here are six things I do every morning.

Serve. The first thing I do every morning is prepare the house for my family. I make coffee, I empty the dishwasher, I take out the trash and I organized the kitchen so it is neat and tidy when my family gets up.

Create. The morning is when I read the latest leadership and business articles from my favorite writers. I also write content for my blog. I find I am most creative first thing in the morning.

Think. I use the morning to visualize my week and my day. I try to think about the most important activities I need to get done.

Plan. I like to map out my day by looking at the key things I need to get done. I also know I’m most productive in the morning, so I put the most difficult tasks in my schedule before lunch.

Sweat. I enjoy working out in the morning and I look forward to my time in the gym. I have a home gym (which I highly recommend) so there is no excuse for not working out. I exercise for about an hour while watching the news. I accomplish two things through this, I burn calories and get up to speed on current events.

Learn. I have a long morning commute so I spend the time listening to leadership podcasts and audio books. I also record voice memos of the things I’m learning to journal them later in the day.

“If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning.” Larry Page

I have gone from hating morning people to becoming one. Since converting, I have found I am more productive, organized and focused. I now start the day accomplishing big things like thinking, writing, planning, learning and working out. I feel like I am gaining extra hours in the day. While the world sleeps, I’m up getting things done. Being an early riser isn’t for everyone but it’s a practice I will continue for a long time.

What do you think? Have you become an early riser too? How has that changed your productivity and performance? What are some things you do in the morning? Can night owls be just as productive? Do sleep habits change as you get older? Let me know in the comment section below.

Fail Fast & Fix It Faster

Roosevely on Decisiveness

As a leader and entrepreneur, there is nothing I hate more than to see a leader who can’t make a decision. In my career, I have seen dozens of good people get stuck in “paralysis by analysis” while searching for the perfect answer. In business, there is rarely a time when you have all the needed information to make a fully informed decision.

The fog of war is a term used to describe the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by military leaders in battle.  It’s a real problem for business leaders as well. Many times, the data needed to make a good decision isn’t available or doesn’t exist. When faced with this high level of uncertainty, many leaders just do nothing and that’s the worst thing they can do.

Not making the tough decisions creates a toxic environment in the organization. People get frustrated, conflict increases, and uncertainty grows when the path isn’t clear. By failing to make a decision for fear of getting it wrong, the leader actually creates more problems for the team.

As a leader, being decisive is critical. Your job is to make the tough calls and establish the direction for your team.  It’s important to gather the information and to listen to the debate but, in the end, you have to make the decision…even though you might be wrong.

If you are wrong, that’s OK. Now you know what the right choice is. In the Navy, we used to call it the “50/50/90” problem. If there’s a 50/50 decision to make, 90% of the time you will make the wrong choice. In 20+ years of leading industrial businesses, I’ve made a number of wrong decisions. The good thing about a mistake is that you can fix it quickly.

Leaders need to make the call, be decisive, and watch for the results of that decision. If the decision turns out to be wrong, be quick to change course and get on the right track. The faster you fail, the quicker you can get on the right track for success.

What do you think? Have you worked for a leader who was indecisive? What was that like? What are the downfalls of being too decisive? What are the kind of decisions that need to be considered more carefully? Let me know in the comment section below.

10 Culture-Changing Ways to Honor Employees

Jim Goodnight quote

My Dad is awesome. As a retired high voltage electrician, he loves the fact that I run a business producing medium and high voltage products. He has always been interested in what I am doing with the company. He is especially attentive to the things I do for my employees. What’s even better is he suggests ideas from time to time. Last weekend, he made me laugh.

“You should implement Wiener Wednesdays,” he said. “Get all the employees together on Wednesday afternoon and have hot dogs. It would be good for morale and to build up the team.”

Despite the funny name, it’s a brilliant idea.

I’m a huge proponent of doing the little extra things to celebrate employees. In fact, I wrote about it in an article called Do Something Memorable for your Employees. I have had the honor to lead 9 different manufacturing businesses in my career and I’ve found that honoring employees, celebrating successes, and treating people with respect leads to improved job satisfaction, morale, and engagement.

“Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.” Jim Goodnight

Over the years, I’ve done many things for employees. Some of them were big and required significant planning, others were small, just a simple way to say thank you. Regardless of the size, each conveyed a message, “You are important, respected and appreciated.”

Here are ten examples of things I’ve done over the past 20+ years. It’s not a complete list but just a sampling of some of the things you can do for people. I hope it inspires you to think of new ways to honor your team.

Lobsterfest. During an all employee meeting, I once promised a factory workforce a lobster dinner if we reached 1,000,000 hours of safe work. When we hit the milestone, we had a huge celebration which included steaks and flying 400 lobsters in from Maine.

“I’m convinced that celebrating wins does more to clarify the vision than anything else.” Andy Stanley

 Family Day. In one business, we invited employees and their families to an annual family day at a large amusement park. Employees spent the day in the park with their families and then gathered for a group lunch in the pavilion where we held a raffle and gave out gifts.

Fridays on the Floor. At several of my plants, the first Friday of the month was reserved for the management team to work on the shop floor. This gave us a chance to get to know people better and to learn ways to make things easier for them.

 Open House. Over the years, I have held factory open houses for the friends and family of employees. These were fun events with food, activities, and a chance for employees to show off where they work and what they did.

Letters Home. One of the things I like to do is send a letter to the home of an employee who has done something above and beyond. I think it’s more powerful than just giving it to them at work. At home, the employee’s family can see the letter as well.

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” Stephen Covey

Buddy the Elf. At one business, I had the annual Christmas tradition to dress up like Buddy the Elf. I would climb on the back of a Cushman with another manager dressed as Santa. We would ride around the plant and give out candy to all the employees.

Wall of Fame. I started a tradition at one plant of hanging pictures in the lobby of employees who received a patent and those who had qualified as a Six Sigma black-belt. Every customer coming to our plant knew who our rock stars were.

Veterans Day. Being a veteran myself, I have always made a point to celebrate Veterans Day with all our veteran employees. It usually involves a small celebration with cake, a gift, and a ceremony to replace the American flag in front of the plant with a new one.

Team Pride. At one business, we had employees hang flags of their favorite sports team throughout the offices. We also had jersey days where the employees were encouraged to wear sports team jerseys to work.

 Swag. People like to belong and everyone loves logo-wear. Getting a shirt, a cup, or a hat with a company logo gives you a sense of pride and belonging. I love seeing employees wearing shirts they have received as gifts over the years. I’ve given out backpacks, coffee mugs, water bottles, jackets and even coolers to say thank you to employees over the years.

This list is just a small sampling of some of the fun things I have done to celebrate and honor employees. As a leader, I want to create an environment that is both safe and fun. I want people to actually enjoy coming to work each day. I believe in a workplace where talented employees are respected, empowered, and provided opportunities to fully serve the needs of our customers. In truth, honoring and respecting employees is not difficult or expensive but the payoffs are incredible.

For those who were wondering, I did take my father’s advice. We had our first Wiener Wednesday last week!

What do you think? What kind of activities have you used to honor employees? How has that changed your company culture? Is there a direct relationship between respect and employee engagement? Let me know in the comment section below.

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

Barnevik on Decisiveness

Percy Barnevik

My first CEO was hardcore. And it was awesome.

In 1994, I left the U.S. Navy to work for the global engineering company, ABB, as a design engineer. Our CEO at the time was the legendary, hard-charging Swede, Percy Barnevik. In 1988, Percy created ABB by pulling off the largest European merger at the time, bringing together two engineering powerhouses, ASEA and Brown Boveri Ltd.

In his 17 years as CEO, 8 with ASEA and 9 with ABB, the company increased its stock value 87 times, an average of 30% per year, and became a leading global player.

What I loved about Barnevik was his bias towards action. He got things done. He was decisive and he expected the same from his employees. The company culture at that time reflected his personality. We moved fast and we fixed it along the way.

I learned a lot from his leadership style and it affects how I lead today.

How about you? Are there leaders in your past that affect how you lead today? Did you work for Barnevik during those early years? I’d love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comment section below.

Don’t Ever Start a Band: Six Things to Consider Before Becoming an Entrepreneur

4343684 - group of young male musicians playing on messy garage

Jimmy Buffett’s hit song, The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful, starts off with his band members demanding things from him. “Where’s my per diem? Where’s the keys to the rent-a-car? Jimmy, Jimmy, can I open the show in Atlanta please?” He then offers a warning to his listeners, “Don’t ever start a band!”

Buffett’s warning is perfect.

He reminds us that most people only see the glamorous side of making music. This applies directly to business start-ups as well. If you look at how entrepreneurs are portrayed, you would think starting a business is fast, easy, fun and everyone makes a lot of money.

The truth is, creating a successful business is extremely difficult. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half of all new businesses will fail in the first five years and only a third will survive 10 years or more. This data suggests you are more likely to fail than succeed in your new business venture.

Knowing failure is almost inevitable, why even consider a business start-up? Why leave the comfort of a good job to pursue a risky venture? For one thing, it is one of the most rewarding challenges a business leader can undertake. The odds are stacked against you and it requires your absolute best effort to succeed. It’s also yours. You can shape the vision and culture to reflect your personal values. You will sink or swim based on your own actions. For many, that is reason enough to dive in.

Having recently started a new business, Peak Demand Inc., I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned in the past year. Creating a successful business is difficult but you can make it easier on yourself if you consider these five important points:

Check your motivation. Examine the reasons why you want to be an entrepreneur. If you want to start a business just because you hate your job, you’re probably going to hate this job too. What’s your passion? Is it a lifelong dream? Are you trying to get rich quick? Are you trying to solve a problem in an industry? Do you see an unmet market opportunity? Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 thing so choose something you love doing and can make money doing it.

“Never start a business just to make money. Start a business to make a difference.” Marie Forleo

Understand your skills and experience. This is important. To be successful on your own, you need to be so good at something that people are willing to pay you to do it. If you’re in your early 20’s and starting a life coaching business, don’t be surprised if you struggle to find clients. You haven’t had enough life experience yet. Also, consider your competition. Are you better at doing something than the other players in the market?

“Revenue is vanity. Profit is sanity. Cash is reality.” Greg Savage

Have a solid plan. Create a business plan that will stand up to the scrutiny of a bank or private investor even if you are self-funding the start-up. Review your plan with respected colleagues and listen to their advice. Spend a significant time on the cash flow projections. You will likely need more cash than you think, so be very conservative.

Hire the right team. I wrote about this in an article called The Secret to Building an Unstoppable Team. To build a successful company, you need a great team. Look for individuals with complementary skills sets, those with a high level of competency, people who have proven themselves under pressure and have a “mission first” mindset. A bad hire will hurt a big company but it will be a disaster in a small company.

Build a support network. Building a successful company requires a strong network of support resources. Connect with other entrepreneurs in your area to seek advice. You will need a banker, a lawyer and an accountant as a minimum. You will also likely need marketing support for your brand identity and website. Look for resources who specialize in supporting small businesses.

Prepare to strap in. Starting a business can be a long and difficult process. Getting customers to understand your value proposition and recognize your brand won’t happen overnight. It can be an emotional rollercoaster with extreme highs and lows. If you prepare yourself and your family mentally for this journey, it will make the ride more enjoyable.

Starting a company has been one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences in my business career. Like many, I ignored the warnings, the statistics and the naysayers and dove head first into start-up life. If you are thinking of joining the ranks of entrepreneurs, carefully consider the six points above. The better prepared you are, the more successful you will be. So, go ahead…start a band!

What do you think? Are there other factors to consider before starting a company? Why do so many small businesses fail? Why is start-up life glorified? What has been your start-up experience? Let me know in the comment section below.