Monday, October 26, 2009

Playing From Your Strengths

Do you view your life through your strengths or through your problems?

It has been about a year since all of the market upset, the onset of the recession and this period of doubt, uncertainty and feelings of helplessness. 

In the weeks surrounding the market crash, I received more than few calls from clients who basically said, “I don’t feel like I’m in control. I don’t know what to do. I’ve lost a lot of money. Things are not good.”

Things were not good for a lot of people. And though I’m a tax planner and not a financial advisor, I wanted to help. I wanted to give advice to my clients as to how to make that money back. I wanted to give sage advice that extended beyond: “Hang on…don’t do anything. The market went down, it will come back up.”

The market has come back a very long way but …

I realized that giving advice was not what I should be doing.

Collectively, we have all lost a lot of money, jobs, prospects and maybe perspective. Collectively, things might not look so good. But instead of focusing on all that money lost, all those opportunities down the drain, let’s take a minute to redefine who we are and what our goals are.

We know that we will live to fight another day. The market is back, for how long we don’t know.  So instead of focusing on all that might have been lost, let’s talk about who we want to be in the meantime. Instead of looking at the gap between what we had two, three years ago and what we have today, let’s simply look at what we have today.

By focusing on our current capacities, we can stop our lives of reacting. Instead, we must begin applying our strengths to address problems and obstacles with confidence.

In Say Hello to the Elephants I talk about the importance of wielding strengths.

Let me steal the following from my own book:
Strengths constitute your confidence. Your strengths will give you the confidence to discover hidden problems instead of evading them. Your strengths represent the confidence that gives you the ability to take advantage of opportunities and protect yourself from dangers. Your strengths stop you from standing in front of danger like a deer in headlights. By giving you confidence, your strengths develop, implement, and sustain your solutions. Your strengths will help you plan for various futures, be flexible about the paths you choose, and recognize opportunities others cannot.

Today’s Challenge:
Answer the following question—What are my strengths? What attributes, resources, and skills do I have? In what activities do I feel most confident?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are You a Building Crew or a Wrecking Crew?

A speaker at a conference I attended recently asked that question.

In other words, do you spend your time building other people up or finding fault and tearing them down? In an economic crisis, doing the latter is easier. If you find faults in and problems with other people, perhaps your own problems won’t seem so dire.

If you are one of these people, you are probably fixating on all the problems rather than throwing solutions onto the table.

Why not start acting as though things are going to get better? When Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich in 1937 during the Great Depression, he noted the power of positive verbal affirmation. In fact, he was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to do a study of the wealthiest people of all time, noting that one of the common characteristics of these people was that they were positive thinkers. Even when things weren’t going right, they came out with positive affirmations about how well things were going.

By the very act of pretending that things were getting better, things got better.

Today’s Challenge: Now is the time to fake it until you make it. If people ask you how things are going, tell them things are unbelievable. Say it positive and enthusiastically. And when other people talk about their problems, give them kudos for all they have accomplished. Encourage them by providing support and affirmation. Become a building crew.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators. Yawn. It’s not a fresh concept for most businesses.

KPIs are those things that help us understand how we are doing. Profit, productivity, cash flow, sales— – these are all KPIs for a business. They don’t have to be dollar- denominated KPIs, they can also be time- based goals, numbers, or instances  of any other meaningful measurement, so long as it is that can be SMART (Specific, Meaningful, Actionable, Relevant and Time Bounded.

Yawn again.

It’s much more interesting to hit the floor running than it is to evaluate KPIs. Start putting out fires and jumping on top of opportunities, right? This is how most of us respond to the challenges that each day brings.

And of course these things are important, but let’s also stay focused on what we should be doing to move past the economic slowdown.

Without identifying our KPIs, we forget what we are supposed to be focusing on, what we are supposed to be doing. Instead, we become like thimbles in an ocean, being tossed about, thrashing and fighting to keep our heads above water.

When you are working on your KPIs, you have much greater control of your own fate. You respond calmly, you have a clear picture of your priorities. You have a compass.

Today’s Challenge: Establish two or three KPIs for yourself. Post them somewhere visible so that each and every day, you are reminded of the meaningful goals you as an individual can work on to manage your world and your success.

My KPIs might seem boring, (boring but they work for me!):
  • Ten meaningful contacts with my clients per week;
  • Three meaningful contacts with Preferred Providers or other relationships that have a “Bigger Future” every week;
  • Keeping ahead of my paperwork by posting my time records in our cost accounting system and dealing with e-mails for any given week by the end of that week.