One. Hundred. Percent.

I love the new year. It’s such an amazing opportunity to reflect on what went well over the past year and double down to really move forward and be all that you can be in the coming year (hat tip to my Army friends).

But there’s a catch. (Of course! There’s always a catch!) You see, if we want to move forward, we have to let go of what’s holding us back. And here’s the part that stings: what’s holding us back is… us.

When I was in coaching school, I learned a philosophy that I call the TEA formula. It is this: our Thoughts become our Emotions, which become our Actions. So if you want to change your outcome/results/actions, you need to first change your thoughts. Easy formula to understand; extremely difficult to do.

Here is my New Year’s gift to you – a way to start changing your thoughts (with credit to Jack Canfield and his book “The Success Principles”):

You must take 100% Responsibility for your life.

That means no more excuses. No more pointing the finger at other people. No more blaming your circumstances. Why is this Rule #1? Because finding fault with things outside your circle of influence will not help you. Will not change you. Will not move you forward. Finding fault with things that you cannot control leaves you stuck in the past.

We all know this, intellectually. Yet we all still do it in some form or another. Why? Because it’s so much easier to blame someone else for holding you back than to admit that maybe you didn’t do everything you could. In my world, it’s realizing that I didn’t create that program (an online management academy – in production now!), that I didn’t let people know what it is I actually do (I’m a corporate trainer and coach specializing in emerging leaders and new managers), and that I did drink a glass of wine most nights and maybe that’s why I have daily headaches (I’m doing the Whole30 program now to get to the bottom of those headaches).

Action Challenge of the week:

Invest a few minutes in yourself. Ask yourself two questions:

1) What is it that you really want to accomplish?

2) What is one step that you can take TODAY towards accomplishing that thing?

Happy New Year!

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Adjust Your Seat First

My daughter recently got her driver’s permit. She worked hard to get it and is now a diligent driving student: adjusting the seat first (she’s 5’2″ so there’s a lot of adjusting required), then the mirrors, then putting the car in drive followed by her hands dutifully at “10 and 2.” She’s a zealous learner, too, asking to drive just about everywhere.

Watching her zest for learning in this life event got me thinking – we really don’t change much as we grow up. Let’s take starting a new job, for example. We go through a lot of work to get that new position: polish the resume, search, apply, repeat. Then we go through the interview process, sometimes several times before we find the perfect fit. As the big day draws near, we are excited, nervous, and eager to get started.

When we got to the DMV on the day after my daughter’s birthday, she was excited and nervous and eager to get started. Then she went to take the test. And she failed. She came out of the room disheartened and extremely disappointed. This was not what her day was supposed to be like.

When your company doesn’t have a substantial Onboarding program in place, your new employees could feel like they’ve failed. I recently spoke with someone who shared that he nearly quit his job on day three because the new company had no Onboarding program, leaving him disheartened and disappointed.

Onboarding is important because it sets the tone for new employees. A strong Onboarding program will:

  1. Allow your new hire to connect with co-workers
  2. Clearly describe the new hire’s duties and expectations
  3. Demonstrate the corporate culture and values

When my daughter got to the counter at the DMV to say that she had failed, the assistant asked her if she’d like to take it again. Her face immediately lit up with the second opportunity for success. This time, she passed.

If your current Onboarding program consists of little more than “Hi, here’s your desk,” consider this your invitation to take the time to create a strong and empowering strategy to welcome new employees. When employees are provided with a structured Onboarding program during their first 90 days, they are 58% more likely to still be with the organization in three years. And with turnover costs ranging from 16% – 213% of an employee’s salary, it’s worth the time to create a solid program, complete with success metrics.

 

Jennifer Currence is an HR Strategy Advisor and Success Coach who focuses on making sure an organization’s people practices align with their corporate strategy. She lives in Tampa, FL with her two teenagers.

Who Needs Corporate Culture?

A thriving corporate culture. It’s the thing that businesses say they want but really don’t know how to achieve. They hold people accountable for corporate culture – usually HR or manager – but it’s rare that we see an established organization actually shift their culture for the better.

An article in the April 2016 Harvard Business Review invigorated my thinking about this paradox. The article, “Culture is Not the Culprit,” states that “culture change is what you get after you’ve put new processes or structures in place to tackle tough business challenges like reworking an outdated strategy or business model.” (p. 98) The article challenges us as business men and women to stop trying to fix culture and instead look at the programs we have in place in our organizations.

Culture is a big deal. A strong culture is key to reducing turnover, elevating productivity, and accelerating profitability. A strong culture is also a requirement for attracting and retaining high-potential employees – you know, those men and women who really are passionate and incredibly skilled at what they do. These “hi-po’s” are attracted to an environment where their ideas are heard and considered, where their hard work and acquired expertise is valued, and where they can make a difference – in short, an innovative culture. With today’s dizzying speed of business, we can’t have a strong culture by doing what we’ve always done.

Established organizations (when I say established, I mean that they’ve been in existence for 10 years or so) often fall into the trap of “this has worked for us in the past so let’s keep doing it this way.” The thing is, there have been radical changes in the way business is run over the past 10 years. Ten years ago, there was virtually no social media for businesses (no YouTube, Twitter, or Pinterest), smart phones were just creeping their way into the marketplace (Apple introduced the first iPhone in January 2007), and Skype, although released in 2003, was not yet fashionable or eloquent – forcing us to actually travel to other locations in order to conduct a visual business meeting. The world now is much faster, more immediate, and rapidly paced. So if a company is doing business the same way it was in 2005, they will soon be packing up their camera-less desktop computers and their fax machines and locking up their brick-and-mortar doors.

I’ve seen this happen to a small business. Despite the pleadings of several intelligent marketing professionals, senior management did not believe that they needed to spend their time and effort in social media. Over a period of about two years, they were able to eke out a small profit, but only because they lost nearly 1/3 of their employees (including the aforementioned marketing professionals… hmmm…). They now have a skeleton staff who are overworked and miserable in their jobs, because senior management’s lack of listening didn’t stop at the marketing department – it filtered all the way through the organization. That’s not to say that their painful existence is all because of their lack of grabbing on to social media; but it is one example of how that company’s management failed to embrace new ways of doing things, and it negatively affected their culture. So just how effective and productive do you think their employees are in their jobs?

Senior management must be willing to explore new opportunities and new processes and new programs. They must listen to their employees and value their input to glean these ideas. They must be open to evolving their business. Only then will they be able to make a positive impact on their company culture.

Jennifer Currence, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an HR Strategy Advisor who is passionate about partnering with companies to optimize their corporate culture. Learn more at www.OnCoreMgt.com.

What!? No Email!?

Although I’ve been writing all of my life, I am a relatively new blogger.

As it is with any new adventure, I’ve come across some challenges. In the entrepreneurial blogging world, my main challenge (er, so far) has revolved around time management.

The first hurdle I’ve had to overcome is one of discipline. It’s been hard to make time to sit down and write. It took speaking with one of my mentors to get me over the hurdle. He told me that he blocks out days every week to do certain tasks: if he has to travel, for example, he tries to do it Tuesday through Thursday. He has focus (/task/desk) time on Mondays and networking on Fridays. I’ve also read that Jack Canfield sets aside a large chunk of time every week to write. No exceptions. So I sat down with a blank calendar and mapped out what a perfect week would look like. After one week of realizing that I can’t possibly schedule every minute of every day and expect to follow it consistently (talk about blocking creativity!), I opted for designating chunks of time and subjects for days. For example, I write on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and try to limit networking to Wednesdays and Fridays. So far it’s worked really well for me.

After conquering one obstacle, I soon realized that although I had dedicated time to writing, I was easily distracted by the *ding* of my email. And then there’s that pesky little yellow notification envelope that stares at me, daring me to click away from what I’m doing so I can see what turns out to be the mass-sent solicitation email that I just couldn’t live without. By about the second day of this, I did something bold…. I turned off my email. Yep! I completely shut it down. Gone were the dings and the taunting yellow envelope. Present was my state of mind and focus on the task at hand. I realized that the solicitation email was still there two hours later when I opened my email back up. And, even more surprisingly, the world was still functioning just as effectively without my constant checking of emails as it was before. Amazing. And as a side benefit – I’ve found myself coming alive with the creative process of writing. I’ve unearthed a side of me that has been dormant since my college days.

Time management is one of those things that I believe each of us struggles with in our own unique ways. And there is no one “cure” for this ailment, as we all think and process in different ways. I’d love to hear your comments – what has worked for you as you’ve learned to manage your time over the years?

Identify Your BHAG

I have a brain-crush on Jim Collins.

It’s true. I’ve read and listened to his books at least 10 times and regularly slip in his ideals (properly cited, of course) to my students, in my speeches, and at my Monday girlfriend lunches. I’ve seen him speak and he autographed my copy of “Great by Choice,” where I got to shake his hand. **Sigh**

One of my favorite models that he introduces in “Good to Great” is the Hedgehog Concept. It gets his name from the animal who does one thing and does it really well: as Jim describes it (hey, I’ve spent a lot of time with him so I figure we’re on a first name basis by now), the hedgehog rolls into a prickly ball to protect itself from the sly fox. He translates this to business success which I translate to personal development. If you find yourself bored, stuck, or just plain depressed, do some soul searching around these three principles:

1. Do something you’re passionate about.
Something that you can’t help but think about. Something that you read about even when you’re on vacation. Something you do because you love it, even if you didn’t get paid. What are the things in your life that make you smile most? What injustice do you get most fired up about? You could be passionate about helping the elderly, or educating children, or assisting single moms.

2. Do something to drive your economic engine.
In other words, how can you take your passion and make money at it? I firmly believe that money follows passion. Your passion-money connection might not be immediately visible, or highly logical, or even in existence yet (think Facebook). A few years ago there was a “Silly Bandz” craze whereby rubber bands were molded into various trendy shapes and colors. Kids would collect them and wear them as bracelets and link them together and trade them. My daughter spent all of her allowance buying them, while I sat back and asked myself, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” (I asked myself the same thing about Webkinz.)

3. Do something that you can be the best in the world at.
This one can seem a little intimidating at first, until you remember that Jim is talking about companies, and I’m talking about personal development. So bring it down a notch. What can you do that you can be the best in your region? In the town? In your neighborhood? Start small and work your way up. You can always move up to being the best in the world. The key here is just to be the best. Often, this is something that comes very naturally for you. If you’re completely stuck, ask your closest friends and family members what you do that is unique, that sets you apart from others. If you have a life or workplace coach, ask him or her what they see in you that’s special.

The sweet spot where these three things connect is your BHAG – your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (another Jim-ism). What’s that one big dream that is so crazy you’re almost scared to say it out loud, let alone think it? Yet when you do allow your mind to wander there, you get a big smile on your face. This is when you’ve really made it! (My BHAG is to someday collaborate with Jim on a project. Yikes- I said it out loud! But I’m smiling!)

Don’t be afraid of your BHAG. He’s a friendly creature. Cut out a picture of him and put him on a vision board. Write him down and put him on your mirror. See him everyday and make him a part of your life. But acknowledge that it will take time. Acknowledge that it will take a lot of hard work. And acknowledge that it will never happen if you don’t take a step today (even a small step will work) in the direction of your BHAG.

Where’s Your Inspiration?

I identified my life quote when I was in high school.

With Emerson’s definition of success in mind, I set off into the world to succeed. Along the way, I’ve found leadership and inspiration from various people in a variety of ways.

At the risk of sounding trite and predictable, my mother was my first inspiration. As a single mother, she portrayed a sense of resolve that filtered through to me. She endured betrayal, yet still always looks for the best in others. When faced with a teenager’s dilemma, she didn’t tell me what to do; rather, she consistently encouraged me to do the right thing by answering to “the girl in the glass.” Most importantly, she led by example. She never asked me to do or behave in a way that she didn’t already exemplify. Her fortitude and perseverance have molded me into the woman I am today.

Perhaps also predictably, there are several nationally known personalities who have inspired me: Stephen Covey, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Jim Collins, and Simon Sinek, among others. They are not only leaders in their professions as authors and speakers, they are leaders in thought. I admire their intellect – their ability to take complex matter and relay it to us “common folk” for general consumption. They are leaving the world a bit better, and I aspire to be like them.

But sometimes leadership and inspiration can hit you when you least expect it.

EllieI’d like to introduce you to my cousin’s daughter. Her name is Ellie, and she was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. She was granted a trip to Disney World from the Make-A-Wish foundation, so when her family went in January, we made the short trip from my home in Florida to see them. The thing that struck me most about this active four-year-old was her determination. At one point, she was climbing backwards up a slippery slide on the playground. When she neared the top of the 6-ft slide but was having trouble rounding the corner to reach the top, I asked her to sit down because I was scared she was going to fall. She looked right at me and said, “No! I can do this!!” The look on her face was pure, solid resolve. It brought tears to my eyes. And it reminded me that no matter how hard life gets, if you keep trying, and maybe adjust your approach a little, you can reach the top.

This little girl, who laughs often and much, won the heart and appreciation of this honest critic. At the blossoming age of four, she has already succeeded.

Moving from Information to Wisdom

So many books, so little time.

Therefore, I frequently listen to audio books I get for free from the library to maximize my time while driving or exercising. (If you’re a book fiend like me and haven’t yet discovered the Overdrive app, check it out!) Recently before embarking on a long car ride I “grabbed” Ariana Huffington’s new book “Thrive.” In it she said something that has really made me think. I will paraphrase it here:

Information does not beget Knowledge
Knowledge does not beget Understanding
Understanding does not beget Wisdom

How often have you known someone who gathers a piece of Information and immediately considers themselves an expert? (Because obviously WE have never done this ourselves!) There is so much information out there that we consider ourselves wise if we read something on the internet. But I believe there are three important steps that need to take place first.

1. Remember It
Have you read something fascinating then tried to tell someone about it, realized you can’t remember the cool facts, then end up with, “Well, I’ll send you the link so you can read it yourself”? This is the classic and most common blunder of not really paying attention to the information enough to have the knowledge to be able to share it with someone else.

2. Apply It
If you have memorized the data points (and thereby have the knowledge), can you apply it? This has happened to me when I teach my university HR Management class. I have the information and the knowledge about the NLRB and Taft-Hartley Act and other labor relations tidbits, but I’ve never worked with labor relations, so I don’t have the understanding to be able to apply it. (Knowing this deficiency is why I always have my friend, who’s an expert in labor relations, come and be a guest speaker for this portion of class.)

3. Live It
Having true wisdom is akin to the Self-Actualization capstone on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: it reflects angelic-like breakthrough understanding that permeates all levels of the issue. (This is why I believe the best CEOs are those who started out as janitors, line workers, and fry-cooks.) It’s when you study and know and understand something so deeply that it becomes a natural part of your being – your gut reaction, or – as Seth Godin calls it – your “lizard brain.” Like when you can tell your child really doesn’t feel well or something is bothering your spouse. When you can answer a question at work without thinking about it. When you can take one look at a close colleague and know they are applying for another job.

Moving from Information to Wisdom takes acknowledgement, patience, and the courage to have the discipline and to ask the questions to get there. I am convinced we cannot be truly wise about everything (it would take away from the magical quality of wisdom!) but once we achieve true wisdom on those things that we are passionate about, it is a heavenly elation.