Monthly Archives: August 2010

Your Words Have Power

Every cell in your body eavesdrops on your internal dialogue. Whatever you consistently tell yourself becomes true for you. Words have power! What you express, you impress. Reciting empowering mantras clears your mind of disempowering self-talk and directs your energy wisely toward your goals. Here are a few mantras I’ve used to maintain my commitment to my goals, even when life seems challenging.

With faith the size of a mustard seed, I can move mountains. That’s a big claim! Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It’s tiny! To have faith that minuscule leaves no room for doubt. Absence of doubt is key to achieving goals. Tell yourself: There’s always a way when I’m committed.

When you commit to achieve great things, you must often leave behind old beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve you. Many people are afraid of change or letting go of the past. This mantra helps me move beyond the past and embrace the magnificent future that awaits: Nothing great leaves my life without something better replacing it.

Most people re-create the same experience of reality in the midst of infinite possibilities. This mantra inspires me to create my life by design: I am in the eternal moment of choice and I have the freedom to choose.

The outside world may seem fixed or static, but in reality it is malleable based on your thoughts, words and actions. This mantra reminds me that I create my experience of reality. I am the Master Alchemist; the universe yields to the power of my intention.

And finally, my favorite mantra: When I change, the world around me changes – I have that much power!

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

Are we in control of our decisions?

I don’t generally post videos in my blog, but I found this one interesting.  This is a TED presentation featuring Dan Airely.  Dan presents some interesting findings on decision making and human behavior.  He shows how decisions we often make in life are predictable based on what is perceived better or easier.

The vast majority of people take the road most traveled because it is the easy choice. The decision is made for them and they blindly follow.  I call this the “Cruise Ship Mentality.”  All decisions are made for travelers on a cruise ship.  They show up and from that point forward everything is taken care of.  Conversely, successful people generally ignore anything that deviates them from their objective.  They pave the road that takes them to where they want to go.

The decisions we all make in life are key to our successes and failures.  We are faced with thousands of decisions and choices we have to make daily.  How we respond to them is what shapes our lives and makes us who we are.  The only thing that limits your potential is you. 

Amazing insight into personal decision making

NOTE: My blog clips the video a bit.  If you want to watch it on the original site in full size click here

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

Keys to Total Quality by Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey wrote this awhile back.  It home with me, so I thought I’d share it with you:

The key to a total quality company is a total quality person who knows how to program and use a compass. I’ve always liked the expression, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” In reality, you and I are the keys to total quality. It’s what I call an inside-out approach to quality, and it’s a cure for the cynicism that often comes with “yet another program.”

As Donald L. Kanter and Philip H. Mirvis write in The Cynical Americans: Many companies undertook programs in hopes of gaining a quick fix for productivity, quality and morale problems. Such innovations were marked by fads and easily recognized as a sham. Cynics aptly called this the “program of the month” approach to change.

Programs of the month are characterized by external treatments of internal problems, by an outside-in approach. But quality cannot be inspected in it must flow from the hearts and minds of the people doing the job. You simply can’t manage yourself out of problems you behave yourself into. You can hire the hands and backs of people, but they volunteer their minds and hearts. To get quality, we need a principle-centered, character-based, inside-out approach, meaning that we start with ourselves our paradigms and motives. His often requires personal changes not personnel changes as it requires us to function effectively on four levels on the basis of four principles:

1. personal trustworthiness;
2. interpersonal trust;
3. managerial empowerment; and
4. organizational alignment.

Trust is the foundation of total quality, and trust is made up of both character (what a person is) and competence (what a person does). A corporate culture, like the human body, is an ecosystem of interdependent relationships. If we seek quality with something other than a principle-centered approach on all four levels, our efforts will be necessary but insufficient. Many managers suppose that if they correct the structure and systems (programs), the problems with people (programmers) will go away. The reverse is actually true if you correct the people first, the other problems will go away. Why?

Because people are the programmers, and they use systems and structures as the outward expressions of their own character and competence. Effective executives lead by principles. Principles are like a compass. A compass has a true north that is objective and external, that reflects natural laws or principles, as opposed to values which are subjective and internal. Values are maps. Principles are territories. And the maps are not the territories; they are only subjective attempts to describe the territory. The more closely our values or maps are aligned with correct principles with the realities of the territory, with things as they are the more accurate and useful they will be. But, when the territory is constantly changing, when markets are shifting, any map is soon obsolete.

The map provides a description, but the compass provides more vision, and direction. An accurate map is a good management tool, but a compass is a leadership and an empowerment tool. We are too locked into certain mindsets, into management by maps, into old models. The old quality model is obsolete. It’s a road map. The key to creating a total quality company is to first create a total quality person.

The manager of corporate training for a major U.S. company recently told me: “The single most important benefit we’ve received from your Seven Habits program has been increased personal effectiveness because that’s the key to corporate results. By improving teamwork, communication and employee empowerment, the Seven Habits played an important part in boosting profits in our overseas operations by 90 percent the first year!” People who don’t make quality their number one priority won’t make it through these tough economic times, say winners of The Malcolm Baldrige Award.

The best way to predict your future is to create it. In today’s chaotic market, road maps are obsolete; only a compass can help you navigate the rough, changing terrain.

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

How to Take Charge of your Personal Life so your Professional Life will Soar

Think your personal and professional lives aren’t intertwined? Think again. Chances are that despite your best attempts to keep the two separate, the quality and stability of your personal life often have a direct impact upon the quality and success of your professional life. In fact, for many people, their professional life mirrors their personal life.

When your personal life is stable and happy, this mirroring is a good thing. Your professional life will be productive and rewarding because you’ll be able to direct your attention and energy to your work, your customers and your teammates. However, if your personal life is filled with turmoil, grief or pain, your professional life will very often suffer. When you’re emotionally drained from hours of conflict, sadness or abuse at home, it’s difficult to focus on even the simplest work-related task. It’s no wonder then that when asked to choose between two equally qualified employees, managers will routinely choose to keep the person with the stable personal life.

To many people, this may seem unfair. After all, your personal life is private and none of your employer’s business. While this is very true, the fact is that many employees do not keep their personal lives private. Instead, they bring their personal problems into the workplace, thus affecting their ability to do their job well. Since organizations must focus on profits and customer satisfaction above all else, they cannot afford to allow unproductive workers to stay on the payroll.

However, many employers do realize that there will be times in their employees’ lives when circumstances beyond their control may affect their ability to perform on the job. In these instances, most organizations not only understand, but are also willing to make arrangements to help employees through these difficult times. With that said, though, the employers also have certain expectations of their employees.

They expect employees to try to deal with their personal problems on their own and to ask for help only with the most serious problems.

They expect employees to make every reasonable effort to get help if they need it.

They expect employees to work with them to find a solution, such as a temporary replacement or a new work schedule, so they can continue to provide the best service to their customers while they work together with their employees to deal with their problems.

Regardless of what may be occurring in your personal life at the moment, there are steps you can take to meet your employer’s expectations while taking charge of your personal life. Following these guidelines will enable you to become the employee your organization fights to keep.

1. Separate the “Big” Stuff from the “Little” Stuff
If you’re constantly upset, depressed, stressed or involved in a life “emergency,” your job performance will continually decline and your employer’s patience will finally wear thin. No organization should be expected to accept a drop in work performance for every stressful event that comes along. Your employer counts on you to deal with most situations on your own, most of the time, without affecting your ability to have a positive impact on customers and co-workers. Before you bring your most current “crisis” into the workplace, decide whether it’s big enough to warrant assistance. While you can expect compassion and help for dealing with big problems, such as the death of a spouse or a catastrophic illness, you can’t expect the same kind of support for little problems, such as the dog being ill or your child’s softball game being rescheduled. Once you learn to separate the big stuff from the little stuff, you can keep your personal life in order by reacting to the problem appropriately.

2. Get Help If You Need It
As understanding as employers may be, they can only do so much to help you. Ultimately it’s your responsibility to make every effort possible to work through your crisis, even if it means getting help from outside sources. However, the hardest thing for many people to do is admit they need help. They mistakenly believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness, when in reality the opposite is true. For the most part, people who ask for help tend to be very strong and determined not to become victims of abuse, neglect, violence or tragedy. How willing are you to get help when you need it? If your personal life is in turmoil, then you may be able to benefit from some of the many excellent services available in your community or through your organization. Remember, whether you solve your problem yourself or with the help of others, the results are worth the effort: peace of mind, healthier relationships, a new outlook on life, and of course, better on-the-job performance.

3. Work with Your Organization to Find a Solution
When you do have a “big” problem that justifiably affects your job performance, let your manager know about it as soon as possible. Trying to keep it a secret or hoping no one will notice may increase the stress already induced by the event. But instead of revealing your situation and then waiting for your organization to come up with a solution, bring to the meeting some possible solutions that would work for both you and your employer. Perhaps you could be temporarily transferred to a department that requires less customer contact, or maybe you could make arrangements to switch schedules with someone in order to give you the time you need to deal with your problem. When you show your employer that you respect their objectives and are prepared to do what it takes to get your personal life back on track, there’s usually little they wouldn’t do to help you.

Today’s organizations expect their employees to come to work ready to put their full effort and energy into the task at hand. Maintaining a stable personal life is one of the surest ways to accomplish that. But while no one’s personal life will ever be perfectly in order, being able to separate the “big” stuff from the “little” stuff, asking for help when you need it, and working with your organization to find a solution for your problems are the keys to weathering any crisis. Always remember that when your personal life is in order, it will be reflected in your work and in your ability to ensure your future employability.

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

The 7 C’s of Success

Having studied top achievers and peak performers my entire career, I’ve found that in most cases they have all mastered what are called the Seven C’s of Success.  I thought I’d share them with you:
  1. Clarity – Eighty percent of success comes from being clear on who you are, what you believe in and what you want.
  2. Competence – You can’t climb to the next rung on the ladder until you are excellent at what you do now.
  3. Constraints – Eighty percent of all obstacles to success come from within. Find out what is constraining in you or your company and deal with it.
  4. Concentration – The ability to focus on one thing single-mindedly and see it through until it’s done takes more character than anything else.
  5. Creativity – Flood your life with ideas from many sources. Creativity needs to be exercised like a muscle, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it.
  6. Courage – Most in demand and least in supply, courage is the willingness to do the things you know are right  
  7. Continuous learning – Read, at the very least, one book or magazine a week on business to keep you miles ahead of the competition. And just as you eat and bathe, organize your time so you spend 30 minutes a day exploring e-mail, sending messages, going through web sites, etc. because like exercise, it’s the only way you can build the the mental mussel you need to succeed.
Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

A Leader Always Falls Upwards

Abraham Lincoln really was born in a log cabin. The fact that he went on to become President – and to lead the country through the most difficult period of its history – is truly remarkable. It is even more amazing when you consider what it took to be an important leader in the middle of the nineteenth century. Although we hear a lot about people like Lincoln or Andrew Jackson or Ulysses S. Grant – people who came from nothing to wield great power – these were most definitely the exceptions that proved the rule. Moreover, the rule was, most successful people started out with all the advantages. Financially, it was much harder to get rich a hundred and fifty years ago than it is today – and if you failed, it was much harder to get back on your feet. There was no safety net from the government or from anywhere else to make sure that you did not go hungry. In those days, it was every man for himself.

With that in mind, let’s look for a minute at some of the things that Lincoln faced and overcame. You have probably seen lists similar to this, describing Lincoln’s failures, but I’d like to go through it again in order to make some important points, which we will take up immediately after the list. As you are reading this list, I’d like you also to think of setbacks you have faced in your own life, and how you responded to them.

In 1832, Lincoln was working in a general store in Illinois when he decided to run for the state legislature. However, the election was some months away, and before it took place, the general store went bankrupt and Lincoln was out of a job. So, he joined the army and served three months. When he got out, it was time for the election – which he lost.

Then, with a partner, Lincoln opened a new general store. His partner embezzled from the business, and the store went broke. In addition, shortly thereafter, the partner died, leaving Lincoln with debts that took several years to pay off.

In 1834, Lincoln ran again for the state legislature, and this time he won. He was even elected to three more terms of two years each. During this period, however, Lincoln also suffered some severe emotional problems. Today he would have been categorized as clinically depressed.

By 1836, Lincoln had become a licensed attorney. At that time, a law degree was not required to pass the bar exam, and Lincoln had been studying on his own for years. He later became a circuit-riding lawyer, traveling from county to county in Illinois to plead cases in different jurisdictions. He was one of the most diligent of all the lawyers doing this kind of work, and between 1849 and 1860 he missed only two court sessions on the circuit.

In 1838, he was defeated in an attempt to become Speaker of the Illinois legislature, and in 1843, he was defeated in an attempt to win nomination for Congress. In 1846, he was elected to Congress, but in 1848, he had to leave because his party had a policy of limiting terms. In 1854, he was defeated in a run for the U.S. Senate. In 1856, he lost the nomination for Vice President, and in 1858, he was again defeated in a race for the Senate. Yet in spite of all these setbacks, in 1860 he was elected President of the United States.

What can we learn about leadership from looking at this chronology? To me, the most remarkable thing is how every time Lincoln failed at something, he was soon trying for something even bigger. After he lost his seat in the state legislature, he ran for the national congress. After he lost a bid for the Senate, he tried to become vice president – and after he lost the Senate race again, he ended up President of the whole country.

Lincoln saw himself as a leader long before anyone else did – and this is the first key to his leadership genius. He may have failed many times, but somehow he always failed upward. He was propelled by a sense of mission, and he was willing and able to do whatever it took to get that great mission accomplished.

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

How to Trigger Great Ideas

A major stimulant to creative thinking is focused questions. There is something about a well-worded question that often penetrates to the heart of the matter and triggers new ideas and insights.

Questions Stimulate Creative Thinking
Some of the best questions I’ve found for business problem solving are the following:

Clarify Your Desired Result
Question #1 “What are we trying to do?” Whenever you become frustrated with slow progress for any reason, step back and ask this again and again, “What are we trying to do?”

Analyze Your Current Methods
Question #2 “How are we trying to do it?” If you are experiencing resistance, perhaps your method is wrong. Be willing to objectively analyze your approach by asking, “How are we trying to do it?” Is this the right way? Could there be a better way? What if our method was completely wrong? How else could we approach it?

Could You Be Wrong? It requires courage to face the possibility that you may be wrong but it also leads to your seeing new possibilities. The rule is: Always decide what’s right before worrying about who’s right.

Question Your Assumptions
Another good question is, “What are our assumptions?” About the person, the product, the market, the business? What are our assumptions? Could we be assuming something that is incorrect? Someone once said that “Errant assumptions lie at the root of every failure”.

What if your unspoken or implied assumptions were wrong? What would you have to do differently?

Put Past Decisions on Trial
Another form of focused questioning is what I call “Zero based thinking.” This method requires that you put every past decision on trial for its life regularly by asking, “If I had not made this decision, knowing what I now know, would I make it?” If I had not hired this person or gotten involved in this project, knowing what I now know, would I do it over again?

If the answer is “NO” to one of these questions, then your aim should be to get out of the decision as fast as possible. Be willing to “cut your losses,” and try something else.

Action Exercises
Here are two things you can do to trigger more and better ideas.

First, be very clear about exactly what it is that you are trying to do. Write it down and describe it as if it were already achieved.

Second, question your assumptions continually. What if there were a better way? Be willing to try something completely different.

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.