Can You Differentiate Between Your Rubber Balls and Glass Balls?

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Yesterday, I attended the first session in a series of Emerging Leaders seminars hosted by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. The session was hosted by Charleston Chamber President Bryan Derreberry, and focused on overall leadership principles: What separates good leaders from great leaders? How can busy entrepreneurs improve our “margin” to be leaders at home, at work and in our communities? How can we be better leaders whether we’re high or low on the seniority totem pole at our respective companies?

One of the great stories I took away from session was told by Bryan regarding a former colleague who found herself having to choose between spending time with her ill father and having lunch with then-President Clinton. A mentor told her this: “In life we have rubber balls and we have glass balls. We can drop rubber balls. We can’t drop the glass ones. Figure out what your glass balls are and make sure you don’t drop them.”

As such, she spent a wonderful two weeks with her father and bypassed the lunch with President Clinton.

It’s a great story and goes to the heart of the importance of having core values that guide our personal and professional lives. As Bryan put it, we should come up with an “core ingredients dashboard” for our personal and professional lives. What are those core values, the core goals that are essential? The rubber balls likely won’t make it into that dashboard — but the glass balls should absolutely be included.

The session with Bryan came at a time when I’m also working with great strategic consultant Tom Leonard on putting together a strategic plan for my companies. It’s led us to refocus our vision — and we are working now to determine those core values that will guide the future of my company. These core values will help me determine the rubber from the glass balls. They will help me determine the clients I want to work with versus those that don’t fit our value system.  (We’re still in the process of finalizing these values — so I will expand on them in a future post.)

What are your core ingredients for your personal and professional lives? Can you determine the difference between the rubber balls and the glass balls?

4 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Calvin Coolidge

calvincoolidgeI’m in the middle of reading Amity Schlaes’ great biography of President Calvin Coolidge, and can’t help but thinking there are some great lessons that entrepreneurs and business owners can learn from the 30th President of the United States (who was also a vice president, Governor of Massachusetts and former state legislator and municipal official).

1. Run Lean.

“As for me, I am for economy,” Coolidge said shortly after taking the presidency and announcing a series of budget cuts. The government budget, however, was not the only place Coolidge kept a tight belt. Even as he rose to political prominence and became financially successful as a result of his law practice, the Coolidge family lived in a rental home at 19-21 Massasoit Street in Northampton, Massachusetts. As president, he closely watched and trimmed the “domestic” budget for things like housekeeping and food. As president, he was a budget hawk who worked to keep government as lean as possible (or, as lean as he could given the political situation). He focused on spending priorities in both his personal, professional and political life — and it was the key to his success.

2. Keep It Simple.

“And be brief; above all things, be brief,” then-Senate President Coolidge said in his opening address for the 1915 Massachusetts Senate. That address was remarkable for its brevity. As Schlaes writes, the very length of the speech “made his point.” The remarks “he delivered that day contained only forty-four words, powerful in their combination of form and message.” Coolidge was brief in more than just that speech. Brevity, efficiency and communicating clearly was the foundation of Coolidge’s management style. Unlike the flowery language and long speeches utilized by politicians before him, Coolidge spoke “artillery style.” He communicated his positions clearly on topics, such as one of his telegrams, which read, “League of Nations — topic closed. World Court: yes. Bonus: no. Help for disabled veterans: yes.”

He kept it simple. It enabled him to sell his policies, such as his state-of-the-art “scientific taxation” program. It also allowed him to flourish as resident (which he assumed from the vice presidency when President Warren G. Harding died) when most of the D.C. crowd expected him to fail.

3. Live Your Values.

Like his values or hate his values — Coolidge stuck closely to them. Whether it was sticking to the rule of law while the Boston unions committed violence, or remaining committed to his unprecedented program of tax cuts despite political pressure — Coolidge made clear his values and lived them.  As I mentioned above, he not only preached “economy” and budgeting, he lived it. He briefly and clearly communicated these values so that everyone knew them — and then worked to ensure those values guided his administration.

4. Let Everyone Underestimate You — Then Win.

Coolidge was somewhat of an awkward-looking kid with a quiet voice. He was not accepted to the fraternities at Amherst College, and started out with poor grades. As a politician, people consistently expected him to fail, due to his quiet nature and his looks. He didn’t like playing the social circuit or living beyond his means simply for “show”. When President Harding died and Coolidge assumed the presidency, many expected him to fail. All along the way, however, Coolidge defied expectations and won. Whether becoming an accomplished orator at Amherst and one of its most famous alumni, to succeeding as an attorney, to staring down union strikers in Boston, to becoming a successful president — Coolidge didn’t let the doubters and haters get him down. He focused on his vision, lived his values, kept it simple, ran lean — and WON.

 

 

4 Popular Productivity Myths

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If you are looking for productivity tips, they are plentiful. From unconventional hacks to proven methods, there seems to productivity tricks that will work work for any lifestyle. But don’t necessarily buy into the hype of what some productivity “gurus” say are surefire ways to make you more productive. There are plenty of tips and tricks out there that are duds. To help you save your time, here are 4 productivity myths that just don’t work:

Cram as much into your day as possible.

Many people have the misconception that being productive means getting as much done as possible. That’s simply not true. While you might feel good if you finish everything on your to-do list, you might be getting all the wrong things done first. Instead of trying to cram as much as possible into your day, focus your time and effort on the tasks that are the most important. Even if you don’t end up completing them, you’ll at least make some progress.

Multitasking saves you time.

People who can multi-task successfully always get a lot of praise. But even if you can’t, don’t feel bad. Multitasking can definitely help save you time in some situations. But it’s not always the most productive route to take. Instead, put your focus on one thing at a time so that you can produce your best results. This will prevent rework and ultimately save you time.

If you want it done right, do it yourself.

We hear this all the time: “if you want it done right, do it yourself”. That mentality isn’t going to get you very far. You have the most control over the things you do yourself. But that doesn’t mean someone else won’t do as good (or even better of) a job. Not everything has to be perfect. It’s better to outsource and delegate your tasks so that you can give yourself more time. In the end, it’ll all work out.

There’s no room for ‘me time’.

When you have a lot on your plate, your schedule can get really hectic. It hard to find even a minute to relax. But make it a priority to schedule ‘me time’. Even just a little time to yourself can really help you refocus and refresh, which does wonders for your productivity. Try to schedule at least two 30-minute breaks each day when you step away from your desk and do whatever you like.

What are some productivity tips you’ve tried that just didn’t work out?

Why it’s important to celebrate the small wins

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We love to celebrate big wins. The milestones, achievements, promotions. We never fail to recognize when we’ve accomplished something big. It might not happen very often, which is why it’s such a big deal to us when it does.

But we also shouldn’t forget to celebrate the small wins.

It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you’ve achieved something huge. But on that same note, you can apply that thinking the other way around. When we only celebrate the big wins, we also overexaggerate the issues we face. It gives us a tendency to put even more emphasis on what has gone wrong and mistakes we’ve made. When we do that, our motivation to persevere dwindles.

In business, there will be wins – big and small. There will also be failures. To be successful, you have to learn to celebrate the smalls wins and not let the big setbacks discourage you.

Take a moment to acknowledge the small steps.

There are small wins every day in our lives, both personally and professionally. Most of what we do leads up to a bigger goals. It’s easy to stare straight at the end point. But take a moment to acknowledge the small steps we take to get there. Accomplishments are made up of stepping stones and while they seem small, they all play a significant role. So don’t downplay them. Every small step gets you closer to your goal.

Small wins add up to big ones.

When you’re celebrating your small wins, remember that small wins add up to big ones. Some things seem insurmountable when we look at it as a whole. But when we break it down, it’s not so bad. Dissecting our goals into smaller, easier-to-manage ones gives us the ability to focus on one thing at a time. And when you do finally complete one checkpoint, don’t let it go unnoticed.

You have win the battle in order to win the war.

This may sound cliche but at the end of the day, have you to win the battle in order to win the war. In other words, you can’t get to where you want to be without putting in the hard work day-to-day. Without the small wins, there would be no big celebration.

However, there is one caveat – you don’t have to win EVERY battle. Failure is going to happen and you should celebrate that as well. Celebrate what you’ve learned from it and use that to move on to your next step.

3 Tips to Turn Your Passion into a Career

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As a kid growing up, you always get asked the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And,  you probably gave your share of creative answers — astronaut, teacher, firefighter…the list goes on and on.

Then at some point in your life, probably around your teens, reality starts hitting you. You start thinking about going to college, getting a job, and making a living. That’s when we start pushing our biggest passions and dreams aside so that we can create a life for ourselves.

What if we just held onto those dreams for just a little bit longer?

Obviously, some of the passions we had as a child aren’t going to translate into adulthood very well (not everyone can live on Sesame Street). But when they do, give yourself the opportunity to explore them.

Don’t let fear hold you back.

When it comes to making real life decisions, we are often fearful and tend to go with whatever is the surest bet. It is difficult to task risks because of the possibility of failure. But at the same time, you never know what amazing things can happen. Don’t let fear hold you back. As long as you put in the work and the time, you’ve already reached success.

Know the difference between a job and a career.

A job and a career are two very different things. A job is something you do to make a living right now. A career is that, plus more. It’s something you want to cultivate, hone and perfect. It’s something you can see yourself doing long-term, even for the rest of your life. While you may be making a good living from your job, is that how you want to be spending your time?

Do what you love.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to do what they love. But at least once, give yourself the opportunity to pursue it. Whether you fail or succeed, you know that you have at least tried.

As the saying goes, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.