Thursday, September 30, 2010

Focus on Results

Recently, the following question was posed to me: "I work in strategy and business development within a major university. How can I change our mindset from a non-profit to a profit mentality?"

This was such a provocative question, that I thought I'd share my answer.

My first response is that this person should rephrase the goal!

I served on the Board of the Peter Drucker Foundation (now the Leader to Leader Institute) for twelve years. We have worked with thousand of leaders in non-profit organizations. Many would be annoyed by the very wording of the question.

The question implies that "profit mentality" is good -- while "non-profit mentality" is bad. Peter Drucker believed that many of the greatest leaders he had ever met (including Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of the Girl Scouts) came from the non-profit sector. The idea of changing one group of leaders to more closely resemble those in another sector will not sell very well. Several decades ago, I was a dean. From my experience with professors, I strongly believe that many faculty members would rebel at the very idea of having the strategy of their university copy the strategy of a for-profit institution.

Putting aside the wording of the goal, my guess is that the intent is to make the university more focused on results -- and less on process or activities. Drucker would applaud this desire to make this change happen.

Here are a few suggestions for those looking to make their institution more focused on results:

- Involve key leaders throughout the institution -- as well as their key stakeholders -- in clarifying the strategy. The more the strategy comes from them (not you), the more likely they are to be committed to making it work. Without their commitment to the strategy -- and its execution -- the institution won't get the results that it needs.

- Work with them to paint a picture of desired outcomes.

- Focus on results that are actually measurable -- not vague generalizations. Set clear timelines.

- Hold leaders accountable for achieving results -- and describe what this accountability will actually look like.

- Make peace with what you cannot change. Focus only on differences that can be made. Don't waste your political capital on debates that you cannot win.

- Read Peter Drucker's Managing the Nonprofit Organization for many more ideas

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to Increase Your Leadership Effectiveness

It's an age-old question: Are we influenced more by nature or nurture? Applied to leadership, the question becomes: Are great leaders born or made? It's one of the most frequently asked questions in leadership development.

Let's start with the definition of "leader." My good friend and mentor, Dr. Paul Hersey, defines leadership as "working with and through others to achieve objectives." Given this definition, anyone in a position whose achievement requires support from others can play the role of a leader. I love this definition because it supports the philosophy of "leadership at all levels," which is so critical in today's world of knowledge workers.

Indeed, millions of people who are currently working with and though others to achieve objectives are already leaders. Whether they think of themselves as leaders (not to mention whether they are fantastic or disastrous leaders) is another issue.

So can people who are already working to influence others become more effective leaders? The answer is an unqualified "yes."

My partner, Howard Morgan, and I conducted an extensive study on leadership development programs involving more than 86,000 participants in eight major corporations. Our findings were so conclusive that they are almost impossible to dispute. Leaders who participated in a development program, received 360-degree feedback, selected important areas for improvement, discussed these with co-workers, and followed-up with them on a consistent basis (to check on progress) were rated as becoming dramatically better leaders—not in a self-assessment, but in appraisals from co-workers—6 to 18 months after the initial program.
Five ways to become a better leader

Leaders who participated in the same developmental programs and received the same type of feedback—but did not follow-up—were seen as improving by no more than random chance would imply. Here are some specific ways to increase your leadership effectiveness:

1. Get 360-degree feedback on your present level of effectiveness, as judged by co-workers you respect.

2. Pick the most important behaviors for change—those you believe will enhance your effectiveness as a leader—e.g., "become a more effective listener" or "make decisions in a timelier manner").

3. Periodically ask co-workers for suggestions on how you can do an even better job in your selected behaviors for change.

4. Listen to their ideas—don't promise to change everything—and make the changes that you believe will further increase your effectiveness.

5. Follow-up and measure change in your effectiveness over time.

Are leaders born or made? If you are working with and through others to achieve objectives, you are already a leader. Can you become a more effective leader? Definitely.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How Adults Achieve Happiness

by Marshall Goldsmith and Kelly Goldsmith


Most parents will tell you they just want their kids to grow up to be happy (even if they're nudging them toward the Ivy League). But how does an adult achieve a high level of contentment while living a frenetic and distraction-packed life? The two of us have just reviewed results from our new survey designed to elicit insights into short-term satisfaction (happiness) and long-term benefit (meaning)—both at work and away from it. Our respondents weren't randomly chosen. They're well-educated (more than 60% have graduate degrees) managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals (split almost evenly between the sexes), numbering over 3,000.

Our findings were in many cases unexpected but clear-cut. There is an incredibly high correlation between people's happiness and meaning at work and at home. In other words, those who experience happiness and meaning at work tend also to experience them outside of work. Those who are miserable on the job are usually miserable at home.

The implication is unmistakable. Since work and home are very different environments, our experience of happiness and meaning in life appears to have more to do with who we are than where we are. Rather than blaming our jobs, our managers, and our customers—or our friends, family members, and communities—for our negative worklife experience, we might be better served by looking in the mirror.

One commonly expressed excuse for not getting more happiness and meaning out of life is: "I'm working too many hours." But our results show that the number of hours worked had no significant correlation with happiness or meaning experienced at work or at home. So much for that excuse.

Part of our survey asked respondents to rate their overall satisfaction level at work. Again, our findings paint a clear picture. The amount of time respondents spent solely on stimulating activities (high short-term satisfaction but low long-term benefit) had no bearing on their satisfaction at work. The same was true of more purposeful activities (low short-term satisfaction but high long-term benefit). Overall satisfaction at work increased only if both the amount of happiness and meaning experienced by employees simultaneously increased. This indicates that professionals don't gain satisfaction at work either by being "martyrs" or by "just having fun." Companies may want to reduce communications designed to encourage employees to make sacrifices for the larger cause. They may also want to cut out "fun" morale-building events that lack a meaningful purpose.

We had (mistakenly) guessed that those who spent more time outside of work in activities that produced more short-term satisfaction might score higher on overall satisfaction. After all, we assumed, people don't go home to find meaning; they want to relax. We were wrong. The correlations between happiness, meaning, and overall satisfaction at work and home were very similar. Those who were more satisfied with life outside of work were the respondents who reported spending more time on activities that produced both happiness and meaning.

These links between how we spend our time and how we feel may seem confusing, but specific patterns arose—some commonsensical, some not. Here are a few quick takeaways from our initial research:

• Reduce TV watching. It's stimulating but doesn't increase overall satisfaction with life—at work or home.

• Cut back on surfing the Web for non-professional reasons. It's negatively correlated with the experience of both happiness and meaning.

• Do as few chores as you can (whatever that word means to you).

• Spend time exercising and with people you love (respondents who did this had more satisfaction with life at work and at home).

• Feeling challenged is linked to greater satisfaction, so challenge yourself.

What can companies do differently? They might stop asking, "What can the company do to increase employees' experience of happiness and meaning at work?" which encourages dependency. Instead, managers can encourage employees to ask themselves, "What can I do to increase my experience of happiness and meaning at work?" This strategy may produce a higher return in employee commitment—and do so at a lower cost.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sorting Out the Bad Apple on Your Work Team

As a leader, you may have to contend with a team member who appears to be poisoning the rest of the group. This person is disconnected from everyone else you manage. The team used to work like a well-oiled machine and everyone got along well, but this year has proved difficult. You believe this team member's bad attitude is causing the problem. What can you do? Here are a few suggestions to manage your team, even when one member has a worm.

Work on improving the team behavior of every member. In this way, the problematic person won't feel "singled out" by you. This will minimize potentially bad feelings toward you and the rest of the group.

Next, have each team member ask every other member a simple question: "In the future, how can I do a great job of helping our team demonstrate effective teamwork?" This will foster healthy dialogue. Encourage all of them to stay positive and focused in their replies to other team members. Listen to them, learn, and express gratitude for the suggestions.

In one-on-one meetings, you might then have each team member discuss with you what he or she has learned from the other team members. As the team leader, after hearing the summary of other suggestions from this person's co-workers, provide your ideas.
Team must want the apple to thrive

Finally, to keep getting suggestions and to ensure reinforcement, ask each person to commit to following up with fellow team members on his or her plan for improvement. By participating in this process, you will lead by example, rather than just preach.

This series of suggestions will work only if the difficult individual has issues that are behavioral, is willing to try to improve, and will be given a fair chance by the other team members. If he or she is unwilling to try, has a sarcastic or cynical attitude toward change, or will not be given a chance to change by the rest of the team, this strategy won't succeed.

If the team member has a bad attitude, explain that a change in behavior is critically important. Let him or her know that you want to help, however you can, but that he or she has to make the effort to improve. An employee that still doesn't care should be fired. Or if the culprit is a critical contributor who can function well without team interaction, this person should work alone, not on the team.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Friday, September 24, 2010

Disagreeing with Your Reports

I often write about the importance of encouraging ideas from co-workers, but what if you are a manager with direct reports who already have strong opinions on a topic—and you wholeheartedly believe their suggestions just won't work? Here are my ideas on the subject:

First, my teacher and mentor Paul Hersey always taught me that "leadership is not a popularity contest." You, as a leader, have to focus on achieving the mission, which can sometimes mean disagreeing with your direct reports and taking a stand on tough issues. On the other hand, as my friend and colleague Jim Kouzes points out, "leadership is not an unpopularity contest." Great leaders focus on building positive, lasting relationships with the people they lead, and they should be sensitive to how direct reports perceive them.

Begin with a philosophy of doing what is right while at the same time involving and empowering great people. Ask yourself a simple question: "Is winning this battle worth it?" If you believe this is an important issue for the company, stand your ground. If it is important to your direct reports and insignificant to the company, let it go.

What If You're Wrong?

Another tip that will help you in many situations: Try not to prove that your direct reports are wrong. Chances are your direct reports are generally bright and interested in what they are doing—especially the ones who take the initiative to make suggestions. The fact that your ideas differ from their ideas does not always mean they are wrong. As difficult as it may be to believe, sometimes you are wrong.

Make it a point to listen and think before responding. Sometimes if you just back away and reflect, you will see things from a different and clearer perspective. And if you can execute components of their ideas, do so. Your direct reports do not expect you to do everything they suggest.

And, finally, if you just plain disagree, respectfully let them know that you have listened to their suggestions, thought carefully about them, and chosen not to execute their ideas at this time. Explain your logic. Let them know that well-meaning, intelligent people can disagree.

Don't win them all. Be open to going with their ideas when you can. When they disagree with you—and they prevail—support their ideas, just as you want them to support your ideas when you get your way.

I hope these ideas are helpful.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How Entrepreneurs Should Handle Succession

Entrepreneurs who create and build businesses from scratch are nothing if not street smart. They know business, as well as the trends that impact businesses. I am not certain that all successful family business founders know this statistic: most (60-70%) of all family businesses that lose a founder to retirement or death are sold or liquidated — i.e. not passed on to the founder's heirs.

Many theories attempt to explain why entrepreneurial ventures fail to thrive under the stewardship of a founder's heirs. Most pin it on the loss of founders' charismatic leadership and their personal devotion to the business. Assuming this is so, the fact that so many founders fail to prepare for the life of their "other child" — the business — after they are gone is very unfortunate.

My last post examined some of the most important factors responsible for this anomaly. This post will provide suggestions to founders who are facing succession. Our goal: To prevent the ancient Chinese adage about family firms — Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations — from proving true.

Given the devastation brought upon an entrepreneurial venture that has not prepared for a founder's departure, I advise all business founders to follow the procedures outlined below as soon as possible, even if they have no intention of retiring before age 99. It's an ounce of prevention that is worth infinitely more than a pound of cure.

The first step in preparing for an entrepreneurs' passing the baton involves adjusting their perspective vis-à-vis the leadership role they have held:

* In preparing for transition, founders first need to face the reality of the personal dependence that their companies — and their families — may have on them. Founders need to begin managing the practical implications of departure long before they leave the business.

* If founders plan to pass the baton of leadership to their children, they need to realize that this may well become not only a financial drama but also an emotional drama. Surprising heirs and potential leaders after the death of the founder is a terrible idea. Founders need to have thorough communication with family members about both who is going to do what as well as who is going to get what before the actual transition occurs.

* Founders need to pick a successor before they leave, and not put off this difficult decision until the last minute. This can be especially tough for parents, who have to balance their desire for the future success of the business with their desire for the future success of their children.

* Founding parents need to get objective third-party advice during the selection process. Even if the selection decision is made, it can be hard for parents to realistically assess the developmental needs of their own children. We have seen founding parents be both unrealistically positive — and unrealistically negative — about their children's potential for leadership.

* In some cases, eternal advisory boards may facilitate the succession process. Even though the founder may make the final call, family members may be more likely to accept the decision when external advisors make the recommendation.

* Parents and siblings need to be aware of — and avoid whenever possible — a common problem that Dr. Berglas defines as splitting. Splitting occurs when family stakeholders may go to Mom if they don't like what Dad is doing (or vice versa). They may also go to siblings and develop "sides" that end up in conflict. If founders are not careful, the succession process may begin to resemble the Survivor TV series more than an orderly transition that benefits the business. By counseling children about the dangers of splitting before it happens, founders can reduce the odds that it will happen.

In planning for transition, founders need to not only consider the needs of the business, they need to consider their own needs.

* Entrepreneurial founders typically prefer action to introspection. If they do not consider their own needs before the transition, their needs will begin to become obvious as the transition time nears. Transition is challenging — especially for founders. While many founders may seem themselves as tough business people, they may be very emotionally vulnerable when it comes time to let go of their business. By facing up to their own fears and concerns, they can be more honest in communication and planning with successors.

* Family members need to be advised to help more and judge less during the transition process. If family members are aware of the founder's vulnerability during this process they will react more with sympathy — and less with cynicism or judgment. The more supportive the families members are, the more likely the process will work effectively.

* One simple piece of advice that I give any of my friends who are getting a divorce is to reach an agreement as soon as possible. No matter how unfavorable the settlement may seem before the lawyers get involved, it is almost always better (for both parties) than the settlement after the lawyers get involved. I have the same advice for entrepreneurial leaders and their families. Reach an agreement concerning succession — make peace that everyone will not get everything that they want — and live with it. If a founder dies or leaves the business and a legal dispute follows — everyone will probably lose. Lawyers will make lots of money, family members will damage relationships, and competitors will rejoice — and may even recruit family factions to join them.

* Finally, entrepreneurial leaders need to find something else to do before they depart. If they don't, they will probably drive their spouses, adult children, and leaders of their business crazy. By finding work that will provide happiness and meaning after leaving the business, leaders can be much more effective in planning for transition while leading the business.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Build Your Self Confidence Like a Leader

What can I do to build my confidence in my capabilities as a leader?

You won't get to the top without self-confidence; to build it, you have to believe in yourself. Don't worry about being perfect — put up a brave front and do the best you can. That's it in a nutshell. Here's a little more background for you.

Last year, as I often do, I taught a seminar for MBA students at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business. A second-year student approached me and told me he'd read my book What Got You Here Won't Get You There. "In the book you talk about classic challenges faced by your clients," he said. "I noticed that you never discuss self-confidence problems. How do you deal with your client's self-confidence problems?"

This question really made me think. I rarely encounter self-confidence problems in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs. It is almost impossible to make it to the top level in a multibillion-dollar corporation if you do not believe in yourself. On the other hand, I am frequently asked to speak at business schools, and I have noticed that students in my seminars often want to talk about it.

This is such an important topic. I thought I would share a few suggestions about how you can build your self-confidence. I also hope you, my readers, will offer your own suggestions.

1. Don't worry about being perfect. There are never right or wrong answers to complex business decisions. The best that you can do as a leader is to gather all of the information that you can (in a timely manner), do a cost-benefit analysis of potential options, use your best judgment — and then go for it.

2. Learn to live with failure. Great salespeople are the ones who get rejected the most often. They just ask for the order more than the other salespeople. You are going to make mistakes. You are human. Learn from these mistakes and move on.

3. After you make the final decision — commit! Don't continually second-guess yourself. Great leaders communicate with a sense of belief in what they are doing and with positive expectations toward the achievement of their vision.

4. Show courage on the outside — even if you don't always feel it on the inside. Everyone is afraid sometimes. If you are a leader, your direct reports will read your every expression. If you show a lack of courage, you will begin to damage your direct reports' self-confidence.

5. Find happiness and contentment in your work. Life is short. My extensive research indicates that we are all going to die anyway. Do your best. Follow your heart. When you win, celebrate. When you lose, just start over the next day.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Leadership Isn't About You

I am having a difficult time leading my team. The team members will not follow my instructions, which I am sure would make our project much more successful. What am I doing wrong?

What you're doing wrong is very simple: you have simply forgotten that your team is more critical to the success of your project than you are.

Over the years, I have worked with many great leaders as an executive educator and coach. One client, Charlie (not his real name), in particular is still one of my favorites. He is the one who showed the most improvement — and he is the one who I spent the least amount of time with.

Charlie was president of a division with more than 50,000 employees. His CEO recognized his talents and asked me to help Charlie expand his role, provide more leadership, and build synergy across the organization. Charlie eagerly involved his team in this project. Each person took responsibility for creating positive synergy with cross-organizational colleagues. They regularly reported their efforts, learned from their colleagues, and shared what they learned. They thanked people for ideas and suggestions and followed up to ensure effective implementation.

What I find interesting is that of all the clients I have every coached, Charlie is the client I spent the least amount of time with. This inverse relationship between our spending time together and he and his team getting better was very humbling. At the end of our project, I told Charlie about this observation. "I think that I spent less time with you and your team than any team I have ever coached, yet you and your team produced the most dramatic, positive results. What should I learn from my experience?"

Charlie thought about my question. "As a coach," he said, "you should realize that success with your clients isn't all about you. It's about the people who choose to work with you." He chuckled; then he continued: "In a way, I am the same. The success of my organization isn't about me. It's all about the great people who are working with me."

What an insight! This isn't what most of the conventional wisdom of leadership dictates. Most leadership literature exaggerates, even glamorizes, the leader's contribution. The implication being that everything begins with the leader, that she is responsible for your improvement, she guides you to victory, without the leader there is no navigator.

This isn't true. An oft-quoted proverb says: "The best leader, the people do not notice. When the best leader's work is done, the people say, 'We did it ourselves.'"

Truly great leaders, like Charlie, recognize how silly it is to believe that a coach or a leader is the key to an organization's success. The best leaders understand that long-term results are created by all of the great people doing the work — not just the one person who has the privilege of being at the top.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Exercise in Changing Yourself

When I first began my career as an executive educator, I challenged my clients to pick one to three behavior patterns for personal improvement. Now I realize that three patterns were too many.

The problem was not a lack of motivation or intelligence — the problem was that they were just too busy. I teach my clients now to pick the one behavior pattern for personal change that will make the biggest difference, and to focus on that. If we pick the right area to change and actually do so, it will almost always influence other aspects of our relationships with people. For example, more effective listening will lead to being more successful in building teamwork, increasing customer satisfaction, and treating people with respect.

A Wonderful Exercise

My friend Nathaniel Branden is a psychologist and the author of about 20 books. He has a wonderful exercise that helps people isolate the pattern that makes the most sense to change, because it helps people figure out the benefits of change. This is how he helps people decide whether change is worth it: Five to eight people sit around a table, and each person selects one practice to change. One person begins the exercise by saying: "When I get better at..." and completes the sentence by mentioning one benefit that will accompany this change. For example, one person may say: "When I get better at being open to differing opinions, I will hear more great ideas."

After everyone has had a chance to discuss their specific behavior and the first benefit, the cycle begins again. Now each person mentions a second benefit that may result from changing the same behavior, then a third, continuing usually for six to eight rounds. Finally, participants discuss what they have learned and their reactions to the exercise.

When Branden first explained this exercise to me, I was polite, but skeptical. I couldn't see the value of simply repeating the potential benefits of change over and over. My skepticism quickly went away when I saw the process work.

Moved to Tears

Nathaniel and I were facilitators at a large conference that included many well-known leaders from corporations, nonprofits, the government, and the military. The man sitting next to me was a high-ranking military leader directly responsible for thousands of troops. He also was extremely judgmental and seemed to be proud of it. For example, when conference participants discussed the topic of character, he said: "I respect people with real character — and organizations, like mine, with real values. I don't believe in this situational crap!"

When we began Nathaniel's exercise, our military friend chose: "When I become less judgmental..." as his behavior to change. I was skeptical about his sincerity and thought his participation in the exercise would be interesting to observe. True to my expectations, the first time around he coughed and grunted a sarcastic comment rather than talk about a real benefit. The second time around he was even more cynical. Then something changed. When he described a third potential benefit, he stopped being sarcastic. Several rounds later, he had tears in his eyes, and said: "When I become less judgmental, maybe my children will speak to me again."

Since that day, I have conducted this exercise with several thousand people. Many start with benefits that are "corporately correct," such as: "This change will help my company make more money," and finally end with benefits that are more human, such as: "This change will make me a better person." I will never forget one hard-driving executive who chose: "When I get better at letting go" as the behavior he should work on. His first benefit was that his direct reports would take more responsibility. His final benefit was that he would probably live to celebrate his 60th birthday.

Try It for Yourself

Now, it's your turn to pick a behavior pattern that you may want to change. Complete the sentence: "When I get better at..." over and over again. Listen closely as you recite potential benefits. You will be amazed at how quickly you can determine whether this change is worth it for you.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Mark of a Great Leader

Years ago, when most organizations were based on the hierarchical business model of the Industrial Age, great leaders were those who were unemotional, rational, even mechanistic. Those days are gone. Today's leader, especially one who is in charge of a dynamic, global organization, finds himself or herself in desperate need of one key trait — self-awareness.

An organization's success today depends on such a variety of talents and skills that no one leader could possibly be gifted in simultaneously. There are technological issues, global issues, financial issues, human resource issues, leadership issues, employee issues, legal issues, and more. A leader who is self-aware enough to know that he or she is not adept at everything is one who has taken the first step toward being a great leader.

This sort of personal mastery entails having a heightened understanding of one's own behavior, motivators, and competencies — and having "emotional intelligence" — to monitor and manage one's emotional responses in a variety of situations. This variety of situations is not limited to the home office, or the boardroom. It is of a global nature, across cultures which are very different and can be difficult to navigate, especially for those who are not comfortable, knowledgeable, or willing to admit their individual strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has a shortcoming or two — leaders who are willing to admit these, who strive to improve, and who seek out a consulting team to fill in the gaps will 1) encourage followers to do the same and 2) make room for others whose talents lie where theirs don't.

Have you ever worked with a micro-manager? This is someone who thinks he or she needs to be involved in everything that happens within the company. These leaders are closing out the talents of others by not divesting themselves from the day-to-day problem-solving activities of the company. Great leaders let go of the day-to-day, problem-solving activities of the company. Rather, they choose to maximize strategic and relationship-building efforts. These contribute to the forward momentum of the company rather than causing a "bottleneck" at the leader's desk. No one person should do it all — and if they are self-aware, most people will realize that they really aren't capable nor knowledgeable enough to do it all.

Do you recognize the difference between what you need to do versus what you should pass along to your team? Does your boss?

Following is a short list of things you can do to achieve self-awareness and personal mastery in leadership.

* Monitor your performance. Note areas in which you excel and need improvement. Communicate these to your team.
* Realize that failures and mistakes are just one step on the road to success.
* Recognize that being aware of the impact that your behavior has on other people is a critical leadership skill.
* Remember that when criticism is difficult to accept, there is probably some truth to it.
* And, finally, learn to give yourself and others credit for improving.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to Keep Good Employees in a Bad Economy

As we make our way through the challenges of the global economic crisis, high-impact performers are in demand. I'm speaking here of the indispensible workers who are willing to do what it takes to help the company succeed even in the most difficult of times. Those who pick up the slack when the organization is forced to cut back; those whose ideas save time, money, and effort; those with a positive outlook who help keep the organization moving forward.

How do you retain these people? The answer, simply put, is leaders must manage their human assets (i.e., employees), and they must do so with the same vigor that they devote to financial assets. In tough economic times, this may seem difficult; however, it is critical for the success of the organization.

Here are some steps that organizations can take that will help them keep today's high-impact performers and tomorrow's great leaders.

1. Show Respect: This may seem rote, but genuinely treating employees with kindness, respect, and dignity will elicit the continued loyalty of employees to both the leader and the organization. It is possible to lead people through fear and intimidation; however, the odds of retaining and developing people using this style are slim.

2. Focus on a Thriving Environment: Creating an environment in which high-impact performers want to stay and will put their all into an organization takes more than a gimmick or enrollment in the fad-of-the-month leadership development program. It takes an environment where people are learning, getting training, and developing their skills — where through inquiry and dialogue, the leader creates an environment that allows each individual to thrive.

3. Offer On-Going Training: High on the list for leaders who want to retain high-impact performers is training and on-going education, both of which ensure that people can 1) do their jobs properly, and 2) can improve on existing systems. Cross training — giving people the opportunity to experience and train in different aspects of the company — is a great way to cross-fertilize between departments and across regions. This is a great competitive advantage when organizations are required to cut back on manpower. Cross-trained employees are equipped to handle different functions in the organization far more easily than those confined in silos.

4. Provide Coaching: By working one-on-one with employees in a coaching relationship, leaders can discover and tap the talents of individuals and direct their development, as well as align their behaviors and skills, thus becoming active as agents of change, enhancing the success of the organization.

5. Give Feedback: More than an annual review, leaders may give employees assistance in specific areas, such as developing networks, handling work/life balance, and attaining job and skills training. Providing feedback is more than an annual or semi-annual performance measure. It is a continual process which comes in the form of mentoring relationships, support groups, and action groups.

6. Money and Decision-Making: I haven't yet mentioned compensation, which is an obvious employee retainer, but it's not enough. In addition to compensation, people need to be involved in decision-making. The leader who asks people for their input on how the corporation can increase effectiveness is the leader who achieves buy-in from his or her employees. Not only does this help retain key talent, it also is a great way to generate ideas for organizational improvements.

Developing people is a strategic process that adds value to both the employees and the bottom line of the organization. Highly committed, highly competent people create financial rewards for the organization; organizations that develop their people and provide opportunities for growth are sought-after by high-impact performers. Great leaders know this simple formula. They understand it and strive to create an environment that supports it. And the result is success!

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Mystery of Identity: Who Do You Think You Are?

Who do you think you are? This question is more subtle than it sounds. It's amazing to me how often I ask this of people and their first response is: "Well, I think I'm perceived as someone who……"

I stop them immediately, saying: "I didn't ask you to analyze how you think other people see you. I want to know who you think you are. Taking everyone else in the world out of the equation, including the opinions of your spouse, your family, and your closest friends, how do you perceive yourself?" What follows is often a long period of silence as they struggle to get their self-image into focus. After people think for a while, I can generally extract a straight answer.

So who do you think you are? How do you define yourself?

If you ask me about myself, I'll tell you simply: "I am someone who helps successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior." These 10 words describe how I see myself as a professional. They are so much a part of who I am and how I see myself that they might as well be tattooed on my forehead.

I didn't always define myself this way.

As a teenager in Kentucky, I was "one of the boys." A few years later, I was the first member of my family to graduate from college. By my late twenties, when I had a PhD in organizational behavior from UCLA and a teaching position at Loyola, I saw myself as a researcher and professor. Finally in my forties—more than half the average person's lifetime—I determined the self-definition that I use today: "I help successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior."

Now tell me: Who do you think you are?


Identity is a complicated subject and we can make it even more complicated when we're not sure where to look for the best answer. For instance, you may hurtle yourself back to your past—to signal events, memorable triumphs, painful disasters—to define yourself. You may rely on the testimony of others—the good or bad review of a boss or teacher—as a means of defining yourself. Or you may project yourself into the future, defining yourself as who you would like to be rather than who you actually are. Other people's definitions of you aren't necessarily what you want to project to people at home or those with whom you work.

Let's remove the complexity from the question. Let's make it simple—so as to understand our identity and do something about it. At its core, our identity is determined by two dynamics that complement and compete with one another.

The first dynamic is the interplay between our past and our future. Many of my clients cling to their past. Some even use it as an excuse for current and future behavior. There's no getting around the fact that much of our sense of self is determined by our past. How could it not be? Still, if we want to make positive changes in our lives, we also need some sense of a future self—not the person we think we were but the person we want to become. The push-pull between our past and future selves leaves our heads twirling as we swing back and forth between the comfort of our past self and the unknown promise of a future self.

The second dynamic tracks the tension between the image others have of us and the image we have of ourselves. It's the different weights we assign to what others say about us and what we tell ourselves. If we are too concerned about what others think of us, we will lose our sense of identity in our quest to please others. If we are not sufficiently concerned with what others think of us, we will have little idea what changes we might make to improve how we relate to others.

To understand how you relate to any activity or person, you have to understand your identity. You have to understand who you are. When you are putting this identity out into the world, you may realize that you need to either create a new identity for yourself or let go of an identity that doesn't serve you. You might even want to rediscover an identity that you have let go.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting Beyond What Others Think of You

How do you define who you are? Think about the various components that make up your vision of yourself. Where did they originate? If you're like most people, your identity is formed to a large extent by what you remember from your past and by what other people think about you and tell you about yourself.

I call the intersection of your past and other people's feedback your "reflected" identity. Here's an example. Let's say you're someone who has a problem with follow-up. It's something your boss and colleagues have criticized you for. Now your spouse is telling you the same thing about yourself, reinforcing this image of yourself as someone who isn't good at follow-up.

As a professional who relies on feedback as a tool for helping people change for the better, I would never disparage the value of this sort of information. However, I feel obligated to note that not all feedback is offered in good faith or in the most forgiving or generous of spirits. That's why you need to be careful in terms of defining yourself through your reflected identity. If you define yourself solely through your reflected identity, you may find yourself stuck identifying yourself by behaviors that you don't often do anymore, if at all.

Perhaps your spouse constantly reminds you of your one or two failures as a mate. Or maybe you have a colleague who never misses an opportunity to remind you of one of your more serious workplace mishaps. Do you have a boss whose only impression of you is some less-than-brilliant statement you made in a meeting two years ago, which he repeats to anyone who will listen whenever your name comes up?


While most types of feedback are quite fair, some aren't. Sure, they might be masked as the ribbing and back-slapping that is supposed to be part of a lively corporate environment, where one-liners and "humor" are meant to be fun. Sometimes these little jokes and stabs at one another aren't fun. In an environment where we tend to become what other people say we are, the wrong kind of feedback can be limiting and destructive.

People who keep reflecting your worst moments back to you, with the implication that these moments reveal the real you, are no different than the friend who sees you attempting a new diet, then reminds you about how many diets you've tried and failed to execute in the past. Such people are trying to suck you back to a past self—someone you used to be—not who you are or want to become.

It's likely that we've all found some value in paying attention to our reflected identity, but it's important to keep a healthy skepticism about it as well. At its worst, your reflected identity can be based on little more than hearsay and gossip and may tarnish your reputation. At its best, it may enhance your reputation—and help you succeed. Either way, it's not necessarily a true reflection of who you are.

Even if your reflected identity is accurate, remember that it doesn't have to be predictive. We can all change.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, September 13, 2010

Identity: This Programming Is Interrupted

People—parents, bosses, spouses—send us messages about who we are and who we will become. When we take on other people's ideas of who we are, those people are programming our identities.

For instance, when I was a kid, my mother programmed two things into me: 1) I was smarter than all of the kids in the neighborhood; and 2) I was a slob. I realize now that the first notion was part of my mother's natural desire to have a successful son. The second was a product of my mother's own need to be neat and tidy. The result? I grew up with a delusional faith in my own intelligence, and I was a horrible slob. My mother had programmed me to believe that these attributes were integral components of what made me, well, me. It wasn't until I started understanding the dynamics of identity that I began to realize: 1) I wasn't always so smart; and 2) I didn't have to be a slob.

Imagine my shock when I arrived at graduate school to find that my professors and fellow students also had mothers, fathers, and other important people telling them how smart they were. (And, yes, some of them were much smarter than I.) I quickly realized I had to rethink my mother's programming about how smart I was. I also, if only to improve my odds of getting a date, worked on not being such a slob.

Your programmed identity has many sources. It can be influenced by the profession you enter, or the culture you grew up in, or the company you work for, or the entire industry you work in, or the people you select as your trusted friends. Each of these can shape your opinion of yourself, some more vividly than you may realize.


Recently I met up with an old friend from graduate school whom I hadn't seen for years. I remembered him as a quiet, earnest academic type who liked nothing more than dreaming up clever social experiments and writing research papers about them. Then he decided he needed more money than a life in academe would provide, so he became a trader on Wall Street. I caught up with him a few years into his new career, and the change in his personality was impossible to ignore. He was very aggressive and clearly cared a lot about making money.

"You've come a long way since the psych lab," I said, trying to make a joke about the "new" person sitting in front of me.

"It's the culture," he said. "Everyone in my company is there for only one reason: to make money. I was told that in order to succeed in this environment, I would need to become like everyone else. I guess I have."

He didn't disagree that he was a changed man, or that this change was not all positive. He simply gave himself a free pass by attributing his new personality to the way his industry programmed him and others in it to be.


And this is the potential danger of accepting our programmed identity: It can easily become a convenient scapegoat for our behavioral mistakes. I was once hired to work with a Greek-American executive who got abysmal feedback from colleagues and subordinates with regard to showing them respect. As I reviewed his co-workers' feedback with him, his first comment was, "I don't know if you've ever worked with men from Greece before …."

I cut him off and said, "I've worked with a lot of men from Greece, and most of them were not perceived as mean or disrespectful. Don't blame your problems on Socrates." He was blaming his acting like a jerk on messages he got somewhere along the way about how people with his ethnic heritage act.

Through the years I've become a connoisseur of people using their programming as an excuse. I've heard bigots blame their intolerance on the hateful small-minded town where they were raised. I've heard aggressive, don't-get-in-my-way salespeople blame their boorish behavior on their company's ruthless Darwinian culture.


For example, the U.S. Marine Corps excels at forging new identities for its recruits—and it does so in the relatively short span of eight weeks of boot camp. That's where new recruits are literally trained to think of themselves not only as soldiers but as members of a unit, whose mission is to look out for each other and perform well under the stress of combat.

This kind of positive programming is rare, however. Usually we reexamine our identity only when we experience an event for a second or third time and we can't blame it on anyone or anything else (e.g., getting fired or passed over for a promotion). Then it may finally dawn on us that maybe we can't lay all our problems on our programming. That's when we stop turning to the past and to others for our sense of who we are and look to ourselves.

What about yourself are you blaming on programming?

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Friday, September 10, 2010

Becoming Who You Want to Be

In my job as an executive coach, I help my successful clients achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. I am now realizing that often I should be helping them change their identity, the way they define themselves.

If we change our behavior but don't change our identity, we may feel phony or inauthentic, no matter how much we achieve. If we change our behavior and change the way we define ourselves, we can be both different and authentic at the same time. The people whom I have met who have been the most genuinely successful have created identities to become the human beings that they chose to be—without being slaves to the past or to other people's opinions of them.

I don't believe that anyone can become anything just because they choose to do it—for instance, I will never be a professional basketball player. I cannot wish away physical reality with positive thinking. However, I am amazed at what we can change if we do not artificially limit ourselves. I have seen leaders make massive positive changes, both in the way that they treat others (which is about behavior) and in the way that they see themselves (which is about their "created" identity).

Our created identity allows us to change, to become different people, to achieve higher goals. Our identity is not fixed; it is not immutable. It can be altered—and significantly so. One of the greatest obstacles to true happiness and meaning is the paralysis we create with the self-limiting definitions of who we are.


No one is safe from this defect. The client who hangs on to the self-image that he's bad at follow-up, long after it's true or meaningful, is literally living with a false identity. So is the boor who thinks his cultural heritage excuses his rough manner. Others know this isn't valid, but because he clings to that identity, he doesn't allow himself the possibility of changing it. These limiting identities prevent us from changing—and becoming someone better than we are.

When we define ourselves by saying we are deficient at some activity, we tend to create the reality that proves our definition. I once heard a client claim that he made a bad first impression. As someone who was favorably impressed by his manner the first time I met him, I asked, "What do you do the second time that reverses the bad first impression?"

"I'm much looser with people the second time," he said.

"Why?" I asked.

"I know them a little better, so I talk more freely, I joke around. I'm confident that I can charm them."

"Why can't you do that the first time?"

"I'm shy. Being outgoing with strangers just wouldn't be me," he answered.

"And yet, that is who you are the second time," I said. "Don't you find that odd?"

"I've always been like that," he said, as if that ended the matter, as if he was beyond forming a new version of himself and how he is with strangers.

This is a great example of self-limiting behavior. This client stopped trying to make a good first impression because he defined himself as being bad at it. The rest of us are no different. If we tell ourselves we can't sell or are bad at public speaking or don't listen well, we will usually find a way to fulfill our prophecy. We doom ourselves to failure.

Review the various components of your current identity. Where did they originate? If your present identity is fine with you, just work on becoming an even better version of who you are. If you want to make a change in your identity, be open to the fact that you may be able to change more than you originally believed that you could. Assuming that you do not have "incurable" or "unchangeable" limitations, you can create a new identity for your future, without sacrificing your past.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Mojo: The Secret to Success

Unlike my book What Got You Here Won't Get You There, which focused on classic behaviors that successful people get wrong, my new book, MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back When You Lose It, will focus on one attribute that all successful people share. I call it mojo.

My operational definition of mojo is: that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts on the inside and radiates to the outside. When I think about the truly successful human beings that I have met in my journey through life -- the people who are succeeding at both what they do and how they feel about themselves -- I realize they all have mojo.

There are people with mojo in every occupation and at every level of an organization. At a recent event, I watched the CEO give awards to employees who best demonstrated their organization's values. I was amazed at the great attitude -- the mojo -- shown by award-winners in such diverse occupations as cafeteria workers, technicians, nurses, and administrators. These people were all demonstrating mojo.

While I enjoyed observing these exuberant and motivated people get their awards, I thought about the thousands of people in similar jobs around the world who don't demonstrate mojo, the people who had a negative spirit toward what they were doing. That, too, starts on the inside and is apparent on the outside.

When There's No MOJO

In defining a term, it is often useful to think about its opposite. Mark Reiter (my agent, fellow writer, and friend) and I struggled to come up with a word that describes the opposite of mojo. We finally found the word that we were searching for: Nojo! I love it! Even the sound of it communicates the meaning.

When you get the chance, observe two different employees doing exactly the same job at the same time. One could be the embodiment of mojo while the other is the poster child for nojo. Case in point: flight attendants. For 32 years, my work has taken me around the world. On American Airlines alone, I just passed the dubious milestone of more than 10 million frequent flyer miles! All this flying has given me the chance to interact with thousands of flight attendants.

Most are dedicated, professional, and service-oriented. They demonstrate mojo. A few are grumpy and act like they would rather be anywhere else than on the plane. They demonstrate nojo. I've seen two groups of attendants doing exactly the same activity, at the same time, for the same company, probably at around the same salary, yet the messages that each is sending to the world about their experience is completely different.

How's Your MOJO?

How can we recognize mojo or nojo in ourselves and in others? Start by evaluating yourself and the people you meet on their mojo or nojo qualities, using the table above.

What are you learning? How can you either change yourself or your activities to empty the nojo in your life and fill it up with mojo? These are great questions to ask when you want to build your mojo.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

When People Don't Want to Change -- Don't Waste Your Time!

My job is to help people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. Every once in a while I run across someone who doesn't want to change. What do I do to convince them the change is good for them? Nothing!

Have you ever tried to change the behavior of an adult who had absolutely no interest in changing? How much luck did you have with your attempts at this "religious conversion"? Have you ever tried to change the behavior of a spouse, partner or parent who had no interest in changing? How did that work out for you?

My guess is that if you have ever tried to change someone else's behavior, and that person did not want to change, you have been consistently unsuccessful in changing their behavior. You may have even alienated the person you were trying to enlighten.

If they don't care, don't waste your time.

Research on coaching is clear and consistent. Coaching is most successful when applied to people with potential who want to improve -- not when applied to people who have no interest in changing. This is true whether you are acting as a professional coach, a manager, a family member, or a friend.

Your time is very limited. The time you waste coaching people who do not care is time stolen from people who want to change.

As an example, back in Valley Station, Kentucky, my mother was an outstanding first grade school teacher. In Mom's mind, I was always in the first grade, my Dad was in the first grade, and all of our relatives were in the first grade.

She was always correcting everybody.

My Dad's name was Bill. Mom was always scolding "Bill! Bill!" when he did something wrong. We bought a talking bird. In a remarkably short period of time the bird started screeching "Bill! Bill!" Now Dad was being corrected by a bird.

Years passed. When Mom corrected his faulty grammar for the thousandth time, Dad sighed, "Honey, I am 70 years old. Let it go."

If you are still trying to change people who have no interest in changing, take Dad's advice. Let it go.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Journey into Self-Discovery

Career Choices Are Life Choices

For the typical career professional, your daily pursuits are much more than just having a job and paying the bills. Remember the old adage about whether you "eat to live or live to eat"? We could easily compose a similar challenge about work: Do you "work to live or live to work"? Even based on the sheer number of hours we spend at work, this is an important consideration.

Assuming an eight-hour day and seven hours of sleep at night, approximately one-third of our waking hours are spent at work. For many professionals, especially physicians, this percentage is probably closer to one-half of their waking hours! That's a huge chunk of your life. This puts into perspective the significant impact our career choices can have on how we view our lives.

Understanding Culture and Language

Our language often betrays us. Notice that in the opening paragraph I used the word "spend," as in "the time I spend at work." This is how many people describe their work, and it doesn't sound like a highly satisfying pursuit!

This observation led me to create an exercise, which I have conducted with leaders regarding how they view their jobs. They are given three choices for assessing the content of their work. Please try this yourself. As I describe each of the three categories, estimate the percentage of your job that falls into each category.

The first category is "play." This is job content that is fun and what you would tend to do regardless of whether or not you were compensated for it. We have all seen people readily agree to do a task that was beyond the job description. Why? Because it was a task they viewed as fun, as an outlet for untapped creativity or a channel for self-actualization. If I tell myself, "I'm going to play," there is no resistance or creative avoidance. We all like to play.

The second category is "work." This is job content that is not play. It's work. This is activity that, although not fun, you would agree to do for reasonable compensation.

Illustration: My father was a mechanic and ran a DX gas station in Valley Station, Kentucky. He lived during a time when people might barter for goods if they didn't have the money to pay for them. A man asked my father, "I need my car repaired. Do you want to do it?" My father might reply, "No, I don't want to do it. I don't have any fun repairing cars. However, I will do it for reasonable compensation, say a 100 pounds of potatoes from your garden."

I can tell myself, "I'm going to work," and have a reasonably high level of commitment to follow through with this objective.

The third category is "misery." Job content in this category is not only not play, but there is no compensation imaginable to make it pleasurable. I tell myself, "I'm about to do something that I don't want to do and I'll be miserable doing it." I will be wonderfully creative in finding every reason to avoid that activity.

How do you see the composition of your professional experience concerning activities that are categorized as play, work, and misery? Here are the typical survey results among professionals:

* 15 percent of what professionals do is considered play;

* 75 percent of what professionals do is considered work;

* 10 percent of what professionals do is considered misery.

Assessing Instinct and Life Choices

Life should be rampant with fun. I believe that one of your life goals should be to move yourself into more activities that are fun and away from activities that bring you misery. The initial step in toward fun is to identify those activities that constitute "play." To do so, first clarify your natural tendencies for interacting with your world in order to make better life choices.

There are personal assessments that promote this aspect of self-discovery. For example, completing the self-paced "Extended DISC" assessment can aid you in making better life and career choices as well as in determining how to be more effective in your current roles. Such an assessment can help you understand your intrinsic personality traits and behavioral tendencies that coalesce in the following categories:

1. Results-oriented, take charge, make-it-happen
2. People-focused, extroverted
3. Loyal, task-focused, team-player
4. Quality-focused, detail-oriented, organizer

Certain specialties may call for different aspects of these four personality dimensions. For example, an accountant may require more of the task/quality focus and attention to detail and procedure where a sales person may be more successful in the people-focus and extroverted category. A person who has differing natural tendencies may need to moderate behavior in order to work effectively in this specialty and be successful. This is not to suggest that someone with differing natural tendencies couldn't be successful in that role--only that adaptation may be necessary for professional effectiveness and personal satisfaction.

When you have to adapt yourself to fit a role, you may not be miserable, but it will likely be hard work. For this reason, it's best to choose roles that match your personality and behavioral styles.

When you are in a role that has some mismatches, plan for some conscious moderation to enhance working relationships and performance.

Understanding Your Mojo

There is another concept that can have significant impact on your day-to-day energy and performance. Also, it can promote a greater sense of "ownership" and job satisfaction.

Ask yourself: "Given a set of circumstances, how can I make the situation not only more palatable, but how can I transform it by my 'positive spirit'?" This is referred to as "mojo"--literally, a type of magic charm. For purposes of discussion, it can be regarded as "that positive spirit toward one's activities that originates from the inside and radiates to the outside."

Your mojo is not fixed or limited in quantity at birth such that "when it's gone, it's gone." It is renewable and each person governs how it gets renewed -- and it changes with different activities and circumstances over time.

The goal in renewing mojo is two-fold: First, choose activities that more naturally maximize it, and, second, generate as much of it as possible regardless of the activity. On the inside, high mojo results in personal excitement about the activity in which you are engaged at the moment. As it radiates to the outside, which it will, you will experience spreading positive energy to everyone around you.

What You Bring to Work

The first aspect investigates what you bring to a certain activity in personal or professional pursuits. This includes enthusiasm and energy, knowledge and "know-how", skills, confidence, genuineness, and authenticity. Obviously, you bring differing amounts of these attributes depending on the activity. For some activities, you might bring high amounts of several of these attributes, and for other activities you might bring lesser amounts.

What You Gain from Work
The second aspect deals with what a certain activity brings to you. An activity can bring both short-term and/or long-term returns. For the short-term, an activity can be stimulating and rewarding and promote personal happiness. In the long-term, an activity can provide meaning and help you to learn and grow. Overall, an activity can engender a sense that it was a valuable use of time, promoting feelings of gratefulness.

As with your inputs, the short- and long-term returns differ by activity. Some activities might have either a short- or long-term impact, whereas other activities may bring both short- and long-term impact.

Concluding Thoughts

Ideally your day is filled with activities that score high on most of the above inputs and returns. Over time, if you know which activities bring you happiness and meaning and which don't, the intent is to manage your life so that you do more of those activities which bring up your mojo and minimize or eliminate altogether those that don't.

But, life is not ideal. The reality is that we all have to do things we don't like some times. However, we're not stuck. Here are some quick suggestions for how you might engage, retain, or regain mo, even while you're doing the most mundane activities.

1. Validate that the activity must be done and/or must be done as you are currently doing it. If it is not a necessary task, stop it and focus on a high-mojo activity. Don't assume that just because it's being done that it's important and must continue. On the second point, if you have options for changing it to any degree, see the next suggestion.
2. Brainstorm ideas for reframing or redefining the activity to more closely align it with what reflects your positive spirit. That might increase the short- and/or long-term returns. If you can simply add a little fun to the activity, the short-term stimulation might be worth it. If you can learn something new or find a deeper meaning in the process, then you've gained long-term value.
3. Identify actions for enriching what you bring to the activity. Perhaps training or coaching would enhance your knowledge or skills. That, in turn, could build greater self-confidence. Increased confidence could drive enthusiasm and create energy.
4. Rehearse expectations from the activity. Perhaps the activity, though not presently stimulating, is providing a long-term opportunity for growth. Conversely, an activity may not offer any long-term meaning, but, in the present, really brings happiness and stimulation. The attendant value of an activity, either in the short- or long-term, may not be obvious. Have a talk with yourself and deliberately focus on the value proposition for you.

Life is much too short to simply tolerate it. Continually pursue some aspect of self-discovery as we talked about earlier. Take responsibility for forging a new path that is a better fit with your personality make-up. If that seems unlikely, and that is the reality for most of us, then take responsibility for being more effective in your current situation.

As simple as it may sound, by increasing your effectiveness, you can elicit a more positive response from others. Finally, take action to discover and enhance your own happiness and meaning--through new pursuits, by reframing current activities, by extending what you bring to the situation, or by finding hidden value. In so doing, you will experience more positive associations with others and a richer, more satisfying life in general.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


Marshall's Upcoming Schedule

Monday, September 06, 2010

Solving the Human Inertia Predicament

We all say we want the same things out of life. Why do we do the opposite of what it takes to achieve them—maintaining misery instead?

When I ask people, "what really matters in your life?" they generally reply along the following five themes: health, wealth, relationships, happiness, and meaning. In the past, I have focused on relationships. My focus of late has been on happiness and meaning.

It's interesting that as much as everyone claims to want happiness and meaning, a paradoxical catch blocks us at every turn. Here it is:

• Our default response in life is not to experience happiness.

• Our default response in life is not to experience meaning.

• Our default response in life is to experience inertia.

In other words, our most common everyday process—the thing we do more often than anything else—is continuing to do what we're already doing.

Don't believe me? If you've ever come to the end of a TV show, then passively continued watching the next show on the same channel, you know the power of inertia. You have only to press a button on the remote (an expenditure of less than one calorie of energy) to change the channel. Many of us cannot even do that, much less turn the thing off. We continue doing what we're doing even when we no longer want to do it.

Inertia: more than mindless routine

Inertia is incredibly reliable as a short-term predictor. In fact, the most reliable predictor of what you will be doing five minutes from now is what you are doing now. If you're eating now, you'll probably be eating five minutes from now. If you're reading or surfing the net now, you'll likely be reading or surfing the net five minutes from now.

Once you appreciate the predicament of inertia, you may become aware of its paralyzing effect on every aspect of your life, and not just on mindless routines. Inertia affects the things that really matter, such as the level of happiness and meaning in your life.

How do you break the cycle of inertia? It's not a matter of exerting heroic willpower and discipline. All that's required is the use of a simple discipline, which comes in the form of an experiment I want you to try.

As you go through your day, I want you to evaluate each activity on a 1-to-10 scale (with 10 being the highest score) based on two simple questions:

1. How much long-term benefit or meaning did I experience from this activity?

2. How much short-term satisfaction or happiness did I experience in this activity?

charting your happiness and meaning

Record the activities that make up your day, both at work and at home, then evaluate each activity by applying these two questions.

There are no right or wrong answers or bad scores. No one else can answer the questions for you. This is your test, based on your experience of happiness and meaning. Do this all day and you will soon have a chart that tracks your experience of happiness and meaning. You may end up with much more than a score.

The two-question process can be applied to any activity. Say you are about to attend a one-hour staff meeting. You don't want to go; you think it's a waste of time. Before you attend the meeting, do the two-question exercise. Remember, it's your life. Do you want to derive as much meaning and happiness from your life as you can? Or do you want to feel miserable and empty? Remember, it's your choice.

You have two options. The first option is to attend the meeting and be miserable (probably assisting other attendees in being miserable, too). The second option is to make the meeting more meaningful and enjoyable. You might do this by more closely observing your colleagues, by asking the attendees a question you've been dying to ask, or by sharing an idea that you think will help the organization in the future.

What you have done is very simple. You have changed how you approached the activity. You have changed your mindset. You are no longer defaulting to inertia—miserably continuing to do what you have been doing. This is one simple way to solve the predicament of inertia, regain control of your future, and create positive lasting change.

Life is good.


My newest book, MOJO, is a New York Times (advice), Wall Street Journal (business), USAToday (money) and Publisher's Weekly (non-fiction) best seller. It is now available online and at major bookstores.


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