Two Daughters, A Shortcut and Leadership

My older daughter just graduated from college and my younger daughter will graduate in another year.  As the oldest started to contemplate her career path, I realized that she would have to duplicate a lot of the trial and error learning that I had done to figure out what prosperity meant to me and how best to pursue it.  I wondered if it was possible to give her some advice to shortcut that learning process.

I wrote Shortcut to Prosperity for my girls and anyone who thinks that the status quo isn’t enough and wants to read some fresh ideas about how to figure out what they are really excited about creating and 10 proven shortcuts to make it happen.

What are the keys to your success so far?

  1.  Learning from great organizations and people.
  2.  Bringing my best effort to every experience.
  3. Thinking deeply about what I wanted and creating a personal vision.
  4. Choosing a life partner who supported me in ways that I could not have imagined (Shortcut 9).

What advice would you give to people in todays current job market and environment?

Let your natural curiosity drive you toward the depth of knowledge (Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours) it takes to develop a differentiating level of knowledge.  This is best done by pursuing a career and learning from a company that excels at providing the product or service that is the focus of your passion.  By advancing down the learning curve you earn the right to choose one of two great paths.  You can leverage your expertise to become a leader within an established company or find an underserved niche and strike out own your own.

What one thing do leaders need to be doing to influence?

Genuinely care about the people you aspire to lead.  Because caring instills trust and organizations built on trust perform at incredibly high levels.  When people know that you really care about them, they spend less time and energy worrying about politics and more energy supporting your agenda.  It works because you can’t fake caring.  It stands out in the workplace and people rally toward people who care.

About Mark Hopkins

Mark Hopkins earned engineering degrees from Cornell and Stanford and then spent the next twenty-five years deciphering the factors that make some people prosperous, successful and happy. After building a leadership career with companies like Hewlett Packard and Emerson Electric, Hopkins founded Peak Industries, a medical device contract manufacturer, which he grew to $75 million and later sold to Delphi. He then founded Crescendo Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Catalyst, a private foundation supporting Colorado-based nonprofits and micro-lending in the developing world.

4 Symptoms of Unhealthy Teams and 11 Fixes

When you are sick, you go to a doctor.   Or, you fight through it and gut it out.  The symptoms are usually pretty clear, a sore throat, runny nose, cough and a headache.

If you catch it early enough, you can get some medicine and diminish the severity of it.  If you don’t, it gets worse before it gets better.

It’s the same when you have an environment that is not healthy.  Catch it early and you can fix it.  You can mitigate the collateral damage.  If you don’t, it gets worse.  It can take months or years to get better.

It’s your responsibility as the leader to keep the team environment healthy.  Recognize the symptoms when a “cold” is coming.   You need a healthy team operating in a healthy environment.

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The Symptoms

#1 – A lot of turnover.  If you are losing people at an unhealthy rate, you need to take some medicine.  You probably have an unhealthy culture.  People quit leadership not the organization.   You are obligated to create a healthy environment for your team.  Fight for it.  If you continually lose people, the environment in not healthy.   Something is wrong.  Find out what it is.

#2 – A lack of feedback.  If you are not getting good, consistent feedback from your team, they are scared and intimidated.   They are fearful and not fearless.  You should invite feedback and your people shouldn’t hold back.  If they do, there’s a reason.   Find out what it is.  It may be you.  You want your people to be fearless, not fearful.

#3 – Finger pointing and blame.  If there is a lot of finger pointing and blame, the culture is unhealthy.  There is a lack of accountability and responsibility.   The leader sets the tone.  Take responsibility for the successes and failures.  Be extremely clear.  The blame game will not be tolerated.   Make each employee read John Miller’s book “The QBQ”.    Then make them tell you what they learned and how they will apply it in the organization.

#4 – Gossip is accepted.   If you have constant gossip, the culture is unhealthy.   Gossip never does anyone or any organization good.  It drains energy and enthusiasm.  Gossip leads to a lack of loyalty and trust.   Get rid of gossip and don’t tolerate it.  It destroys the unity of the team.

“Gossip about the company, or about leadership, is a particularly evil form of disloyalty.  And it is suicidal when the person gossiping is hurting and running down the place and the people who pay him so he can feed his family.  Gossip is evil, it is insidious, and it is contagious. “ Dave Ramsey, EntreLeadership.

Don’t let these symptoms linger.  If you do, they will spread like a virus and ruin your team chemistry and culture.   People will continue to leave the organization.

Recognize these symptoms and start taking action.

Some Medicine

  1. Create a healthy environment and culture for your people.  Make it more about them and less about you.  Inspire them.
  2. Be vulnerable (speak from the heart).  Be humble (humility). Competent. Calm. Courageous (small acts of courage go a long way).
  3. Forgo your own comfort for the teams benefit.
  4. Invite feedback.
  5. Don’t tolerate finger pointing and blame.
  6. Don’t tolerate gossip.
  7. Give your people a purpose and passion.  A “why” to work, not just a paycheck.
  8. Promote fearlessness not recklessness.  Dont punish people for mistakes.  Encourage and teach.  Make sure they learn something.
  9. If you see a lot of turnover, find out why.  What are you missing?  What is causing people to leave? Dont let people continue to leave without asking them why?
  10. Shepherd your people.  Shepherds care about their sheep.
  11. Make sure each team member knows they matter.  They are indispensable.  Each one of them has something to learn and teach.  They may lead a two or twenty.  It doesnt matter.  They lead!

Having a cold is no fun.  You want to be healthy.  It’s the same with the people you lead.  When the environment is unhealthy, it’s no fun.  They leave.  They have other options.

No one wants to work in an unhealthy culture.  Not 40, 50 or 60 hours a week.

Create a healthy environment for your people.  Fight for it.  If you don’t, no one else will.

11 Reasons Leaders Need To Be Remarkable

It was a typical day today.  Typical as typical can be with three daughters, two dogs and a wife.  Is typical good enough!   Did typical make a difference?  No.

No one likes typical.  Its average said differently.  Ordinary.  Why be typical when remarkable is a choice?

Typical happens every day by millions of people and thousands of organizations.  Typical products and services.  Typical leadership.  Typical employees.

What if you made a choice?  A decision.  No more typical.  No more average.  No more common.  No more ordinary.  Each day you can be typical or remarkable.

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Typical or Remarkable?

  1. Typical goes to a job.
  2. Remarkable finds a passion.
  1. Typical is satisfied.
  2. Remarkable searches for remarkable.
  1. Typical drudges through.
  2. Remarkable cant wait for another day.
  1. Typical fits in.
  2. Remarkable stands out.
  1. Typical needs motivation.
  2. Remarkable creates motivation.
  1. Typical takes care of the customer.
  2. Remarkable “wows” the customer.
  1. Typical avoids failure.
  2. Remarkable learns from failure.
  1. Typical is smarter than everyone else.
  2. Remarkable knows it’s not smarter than everyone else.
  1. Typical considers working hard for something and failing a waste of time.
  2. Remarkable knows it’s one step closer to remarkable.
  1. Typical wants “overnight success”.
  2. Remarkable works 10 years and creates overnight success.
  1. Typical climbs the ladder.
  2. Remarkable finds life balance.

What can you be remarkable at?  What can you do better than anyone else where you work right now?  Go do that.  Be remarkable where you work.

Typical is expendable.  Remarkable is indispensable.

Every day you have a choice.  You can be typical.  You can be remarkable.

Be remarkable.

7 Leadership Temptations

#1 Thinking or believing you know it all You don’t know it all and people don’t want a leader who thinks he does. If you know it all, why do you need anyone else on the team? Why do you need followers. People want to be a part of something where they contribute, think, create and make a difference.

#2 Not asking for help Pride is one of the biggest reasons for failure in leadership. When you need help, go get it. Don’t let pride get in the way of making the best decisions for your team and organization. Asking for help is a sign of strength and humility. Not asking for help is a sign of pride and selfishness. Be humble. Ask for help and lead.

#3 Fear Letting fear determine how you lead and make decisions keeps you in the status quo. Standing still. Never making progress. Fear is a voice that will tell you “You can’t. You won’t. You don’t deserve it. It’s too risky. No one will listen.” Author Steven Pressfield refers to this as the resistance. Resist the resistance.

#4 Content and complacent Contentment sits in the corner and waits. It waits for everyone else to do something. To go. To make a difference. Being content keeps you average. Content is comfortable. Complacent. Unchallenged. Satisfied. Not hungry. Good enough is good enough. No it’s not! Letting things just stay where they are is not acceptable. Battle the temptation to let this happen.

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#5 Trying to do it all Leaders who try to do it all don’t trust their people. If they did, they wouldn’t try to do it all. It’s that simple. Learn the power of delegation. Make it a part of your company culture. When you delegate, you can do exponentially more with your time. If someone else can do a task as good or better than you, let them do it. You can’t do everything. It’s a lie you tell yourself. Tell yourself something else. Delegate and don’t try to do everything. Let your people contribute. Use their minds, skills and abilities.  What they bring to work.

#6 Blaming others and making excuses Author John G. Miller has an entire book about personal accountability, The QBQ. Every organization should require everyone to read this book. Leaders need to own their jobs. When you have success, give your people credit. When you fail, do as author, Jim Collins states, look in the mirror. Don’t finger poing and blame. Don’t make excuses. No one cares. Results matter. Excuses don’t count. They are boring and average. It’s easy to do what’s easy (blame and point fingers). What matters is doing what’s right. Owning responsibility and accountability.

#7 Wasting time Everyone wants your attention.  Todays society makes it real easy to wast time.   Social media, ineffective meetings, gossip, surfing the internet, blogging wars and much more.  All of these present themselves every day.  Its easy to find ways to waste time.  Because its easy to waste time it makes it hard to focus your attention on what really matters.  Just turn on your device of choice.  Temptations abound.  You can choose to waste your time or invest it.   Everything seems urgent.  Its not.  Focus your time on whats important but not urgent in the moment.

  1. Building relationships
  2. Mentoring
  3. Self-development
  4. Building trust
  5. Accomplishing small wins that build confidence
  6. Vision casting
  7. Motivating and communicating
  8. Hiring and keeping great people
  9. Delegating

Temptations are everywhere.  Leaders face them every day.  Learn how to recognize and control temptations.  Dont let temptations minimize your effectiveness.  You cant stop temptations but you can control them.  You can choose to fight through them and lead.

What other temptations do you deal with every day as a leader?  How do you handle them?  

Don’t Try to Make Selling Easy

If your business model isn’t lowest price, and it almost certainly isn’t, then you can’t afford to sell price. As much as you believe it would make it easier to sell, it would do nothing to help your produce better sales results. Here are a few reasons why.

Execution Is Impossible

If you can’t obtain the price you need to produce the results you sold, then you will fail your client. Your company’s business model requires that you have the profit you need to execute, and without that profit, you can’t perform. If you sell a value proposition that is customer initmacy, high value, high touch, you simply don’t deliver it without the required profit.

When you fail to execute, you violate the trust of the people who were counting on you. Especially if you sold them your real value proposition. That trust isn’t going to be easily regained—if it ever can be. If you allow your client to underinvest because you needed the business, then you put your needs before theirs.

By trying to make selling easy, you make execution impossible. And you lose clients forever.

Changing the Company

There is another problem with trying to make selling easy by selling price when it’s not your business model: you change the company—and not for the better.

If your company starts delivering something different because you don’t have the profit to deliver what you sold, then your operations people to deliver something less. You start cutting corners, taking shortcuts, or skimping on what’s important, and you tacitly endorse that behavior. Instead of changing their delivery only for the one or two accounts to whom you sold price, your team starts to change their delivery for everyone. If it’s not important to do all of the things your business model is built on for these priced-too-low clients, then why is important to do it for the clients that are paying more?

Think they can tell the difference? Think they can deliver high value, high touch for some and deliver  transactional-commodity value for others? Think again. Over time, you erode and destroy the relationships you have with the clients that bought your real value proposition, the one that has nothing to do with being the lowest priced provider.

You don’t need selling to be easy. You need to be better at selling. You might wish you could sell price because you believe it would be easier, but if it isn’t your company’s value proposition, it isn’t easier; it’s dangerous.