Feb 24

The Power of Positive Networking

DSC_6559Why is Positive Networking so Powerful?

What is it?

Networking is simply linking 2 or more things or people together, but it can be very powerful. Let’s talk about the power of positive networking.

Networking typically has an objective. The objective can be to accumulate lots of friends, to bond over common ideas, to enhance the chances of getting a better job or new business for your own company, or to work together toward a common goal. Networking, when done correctly, offers benefits for all parties. It shouldn’t be a 1-way street where one person is always giving to the other. A person in that scenario is better defined as a benefactor than a networker. We all network in one way or another to different degrees. We just might not categorize it as networking. ere are some examples that come to mind.

  • Church parishioners network over shared ideas of faith and religious practice.
  • Families network to plan holidays or reunions together.
  • We network with anyone who provides services for our home, like housekeepers, building contractors, or landscapers. They provide benefit through the service we seek, and we provide benefit through the money they seek.
  • Professional affiliations bring together networks of people that want to learn more about their niche together.
  • Swim clubs bring together people in a similar geographic region that enjoy swimming during the hot weather.

The examples are many.

What do I Mean by “Positive” Networking?

Well of course, just like anything in life, there is the concept of good and evil. Networking with your LinkedIn connections to help a friend find a job is a good example of networking. However, there are also negative examples. The mob and drug cartels are also examples of networking, albeit nefarious examples that I don’t support or condone. They join like minded individuals toward a common goal. By “Positive Networking”, I mean undertaking activities with your connections that result in benefits for all parties and accomplish something ethically good (not bad) for yourselves, a third party, a beneficial organization, etc.

Networking in Unlikely Places

Most people network within their own sphere of accomplishment. If they are mid-career software engineers, they reach out to other mid-career software engineers. If they are professional chefs, they collaborate with other professional chefs to devise innovative new recipes. This is fine if the intent is to reminisce over similar experiences, or to grow within a limited scope, but simply doesn’t paint the whole picture. Although networking can be beneficial when all parties are of similar experience, it can spark a true transformation when open minded people from different backgrounds converge. Consider a custom car builder who created a car with a very exotic design that does not appeal to most consumers. Let’s pretend this car includes a valuable feature never before seen in any other car like a magnetic force field that prevents other cars from tailgating too closely. Although this car builder struggles to reach a large target audience due to his exotic car exterior, millions of people would benefit from this technology.

What is The Power of Positive Networking?

Consider our example of the custom car builder above. This is where the Power of Positive Networking comes into play. The car builder uses his social networking connections to meet a brand licencing expert who helps him forge a lucrative partnership with one of the major well known luxury automobile manufacturers. The Power of Positive Networking has made everyone a winner:

  • The car builder is able to share his innovative technology with the world and be paid handsomely for it.
  • The major well known luxury automobile manufacturer is able to charge more for their vehicles and position themselves as a leader in luxury and safety in their market sector.
  • The licensing expert receives a percentage of the contract revenue and the satisfaction of knowing that she has helped potentially save the lives of millions of people due to accidents that will now never happen.
  • Finally, a much larger consumer audience becomes aware of this new feature and benefits from its superior safety characteristics.

Notice this networking collaboration resulted not only in everyone benefiting, but also in an outcome that is ethically positive. Three parties put their skills and experience together to greatly improve the safety experience of driving for potentially millions of consumers. It’s OK to make money if you are accomplishing positive things for others in the process.

Why is Positive Networking so Powerful?

Positive Networking is a powerful tool for professionals aspiring to increase their contributions. It helps us tap into a vast geographic or virtual landscape that would otherwise be fully out of our reach. Trying to succeed all on our own is very hard, and a mistake in most cases. Some people take pride in accomplishing things alone, but it typically wastes a lot of time and money on activities that would have been much easier using the Power of Positive Networking. I’d rather be happier with an accomplishment sooner than be prideful and struggle. In today’s world of online social networks, it is easier to network than ever before. We can connect with people who are extraordinarily accomplished in their fields in a way that would be highly improbable before these technologies existed. For example, I’ve connected with renowned TED Talk speaker, Ernesto Sirolli on LinkedIn over similar interests. The technology we have available lowers the confidence hurdles we would have had in the past with forming these connections in person.

Important!

Now it’s time to hear from you. Tell me about a time when you leveraged the Power of Positive Networking to accomplish something great for yourself and for others.

 

Feb 13

5 Ways to Avoid Brain Freeze

BrainFreezeWhy Do We Allow Ourselves to Take on too Much?

Do people ask too much of you? Yeah, me too! All the time! It’s as if their constant need to dictate makes them totally abandon the idea that they want to set me up for success. People ask us to do things because they want them done right after all. They just sometimes forget how to put us in a position to do this.

Too many simultaneous requests can bring even the smartest most capable people to a standstill. This happens in professional settings just like it does in the household. Our brains can only handle so many details at a time. I recently saw Richard Wiseman on television saying this number is 5 – 7 on average. For me, it is usually less :) .

We should prioritize and politely refuse to do anything that doesn’t register on our priority scale. It’s fine to collaborate with someone to establish priorities, but they need to work for you, and everyone needs to stick to them.

Here are 5 ways to avoid Brain Freeze:

  1. Make sure you have enough time to prepare. In the workplace, people are too often treated like intellectual robots who are ready to accept and execute commands at a millisecond’s notice. Human beings don’t work this way. We work better when there is an agenda and we are given time to rationally solve the nuanced problem – something that computers and robots cannot do like humans can. Taking time to prepare for a complex discussion is not s knock on your intelligence or skill. It is a reflection on your refusal to give someone less than your best work. We need to encourage those who demand things from us to understand this concept. Any resistance we give them to slow down or give us time to prepare is only going to give them a better solution in the long run.
  2. Clarify – Be vocal about words that are not clear. If the speaker says that he wants you to flip the zip widget and then import it into the galvanizer, you might be familiar with zip widgets and galvanizers but not with the terminology of “flipping” them. He might be using a synonym for something you understand very well, but there is no shame in clarifying this. We need to fight the feelings of incompetency that keep of from asking clarifying questions. Notice that successful executives are never afraid to say they don’t understand something and ask clarifying questions. They are adept at putting the responsibility on the speaker to communicate clearly rather than accepting responsibility that is not theirs. Remember that any hesitation you have with asking supposedly stupid questions is far outweighed by the superior solution you will be able to provide when you have all the information.
  3. Pace yourself and the speaker. Someone is asking something of you. You want to do a good job. Make sure it is communicated at a pace you dictate. People have a tendency to speak faster than the audience can transcribe those notes. It’s human nature. The speaker does not want to sound silly by pausing for a long time, so he continues to speak. As the recipient of the message, it is your responsibility to politely demand enough time to write things down, especially with a highly technical or complex set of tasks.
  4.  Accept only one command at a time. Multitasking is a myth. Let me repeat that: Multitasking is a myth! We try to work on multiple things at a time to prove our intellect and professional prowess, but we inevitably end up apologizing for missing a detail in either the 1st task or the 2nd task. Lets avoid all this controversy and just do one thing at a time but do it well. People have a complete vision of what they’d like to communicate. In their heads, they know the whole picture, but you don’t. You need to condition them to communicate only 1 command or task at a time and not to progress until you say you clearly understand. Most likely, the sequence of steps they will tell you includes later steps that build on earlier steps. You need to make sure you understand the foundation steps before you try to understand the later steps.
  5. “Stop, Collaborate, and Listen” – In this sense, Vanilla Ice was a genius. If you have more information coming at you than you can process, ask for a break, then have a back and forth question and answer session so both parties can understand each other’s position and get on the same page, and then start listening to the next step in the task list. This approach should work well to reset expectations, but if things go awry, just “Stop, collaborate, and listen” as many times as needed.

Why Do We Allow Ourselves to Take on too Much?

We do this because we want to demonstrate our skill and ability. We have the misconception that taking on everything is more impressive than taking on 1 or 2 things and delivering impeccably on them. During my career, I’ve become more and more comfortable pushing back on requests with the reasoning that they are preventing me from producing my best work. This applies to being asked to work unreasonable hours or being asked to do too many things at once. Everyone wants my best work. I do, my employer does, and my clients do. It’s a win-win-win for everyone. There is no shame in admitting that our best work is only possible when we have enough time to think the solution through clearly.

If none of the 5 steps listed above are working for you, try making the face that I’m making in the photo to the left (Maybe it will come naturally). People who actually care will want to stop causing you pain and stop barraging you with too many simultaneous requests.

Important!

I’d love to hear your stories about fighting back again Brain Freeze. Tell me about a time when you just couldn’t take anymore requests and took a stand. What great outcomes came from it?

Jan 24

Mastermind

Why are Mastermind Groups Absolutely Essential for Driven Professionals?

What is it?

First things first – What is a Mastermind group or Mastermind Alliance? Is it a collection of all the smartest people in the world? It’s actually not that at all.

It is a grouping of like-minded individuals who have similar goals, experience levels, and a desire to help others succeed while they themselves learn and succeed as well. The reason why these groups are so important for driven individuals who are actively pursuing goals is that most other people simply don’t care about us. Family and friends (the good ones) typically care enough about us to hope we aren’t in accidents and that nothing horrible befalls us, but they don’t usually care enough to take active steps to support our business goals. I wrote my first book this past year.

If I tell you what percentage of my sales came from people I actually know, I would be very embarrassed and you would feel very bad for me. However, as I watch people around me, I see that I’m not unique in this situation. There is a small percentage of driven individuals who welcomes the success of others because it pushes their own excellence through competition, but this is a VERY small percentage of the population. Most people cannot summon the motivation to pursue their real goals and settle for status quo. The same apathy they apply to their own success gets applied to supporting their friends and family. People who genuinely want others to succeed exist, but they can be hard to find.

Mastermind Infrastructure

That’s where Mastermind Groups come in. Their very core is that every participant cares about the success of the others very deeply. Mastermind Groups are formed through a process of interviews where the facilitator hand-selects individuals who have demonstrated accountability and supportive characteristics. The participants are people that excel as cheerleaders for the success of others and as vehicles of accountability. They encourage success and make sure the other members are actually taking the steps they commit to take. When Mastermind Groups are done correctly, they are hugely valuable to the participants and help them achieve objectives quicker and with better focus. So, it makes sense that the participants pay a membership fee. That’s kinda the definition of “valuable” after all. However, just like with any product or service, the value gained from being a member needs to outweigh the price. This also produces a secondary effect. Most people will follow through on their promises if they are paying a fee to participate. Think about it. Would you work harder to complete a professional certification that has a due date and cost you $1,000, or a free one that has no time limit?

Why are Mastermind Groups Absolutely Essential for Driven Professionals?

The answer that I’ve discovered is simple. For the most part, people are jealous and don’t care about supporting your success. They don’t want to put in the work to succeed in their own objectives so they wish mediocrity on you as well. They tell you that you aren’t special enough or skilled enough or lucky enough to achieve your goals because either that’s what they think about themselves or they are afraid of competition. Mastermind groups have been around since Napoleon Hill first coined the term in his 1937 hit book Think and Grow Rich. Whether people call it a Mastermind Group, a group of trusted advisers, a cabinet, or what have you, every very successful person has a support system like this. For the most part, they are not more skilled, special, or lucky than anyone else, with some exceptions. Even elite athletes are competing against other elite athletes. They are all more or less equally gifted. It is the drive for success and the support system that makes the difference.

The other key to a good Mastermind Group is that the individuals should have complimentary skills and experience. Where one person lacks, one or more other people can fill in the experience gaps and vice versa. The key is that each person has something to learn and that someone else in the group has the ability to teach that subject.

Important!

People don’t care about your success, but I do.

Maybe it was my upbringing, but I enjoy helping others succeed. It feels like a personal success for me when I do it. I take joy in the simple process of helping others be happy. If I can condense everything I’ve learned over years of experimenting and failing into a quick win for someone else, I feel truly fulfilled. Honestly, it’s what life is all about. If we don’t have happiness, what else is there really? Competition can be fun, but collaboration is much more fulfilling. Putting 2 minds together to achieve something unique can be literally impossible by yourself. It’s a wonderful feeling. Think of it like putting a 20 foot long piece of wood in place to start building a house. Working alone, it would be impossible to build the house, but working with just 1 more person, amazing things are possible.

I’m not a one-eyed unicorn. More of my kind certainly do exist. They can be hard to find, but they exist if you know where to look. To see more examples of people I’ve found who actually care about the success of others, visit Corbin Links at http://corbinlinks.com/ and Erin Smith at https://thestartersclub.leadpages.net/starters-challenge/. Tons of valuable information to be had from those resources!

Don’t Have a Cow

To my family and friends who actually do support my blog, my book, and my business coaching, you know who you are and the above rants do not apply to you. I appreciate your support. It has been immeasurably helpful.

Important!

Now it’s time to share your stories. Tell me about a time when a great support system helped you achieve an incredible goal.

Important!

Please share any ideas you have a great Mastermind Group subject matter. I’ll be starting to run one soon and would love to hear your ideas.

Dec 31

Risk Management

DSC_7234Is Risk Management Really That Important?

The 1st step in risk management is to identify the risks in the first place. We get so caught up in delivering solutions that we don’t take enough time to identify risks. Even when we do identify them, we don’t always communicate them to our own team or to the client.

Why Does this Matter?

So why does risk management even matter? Can’t we just create a recipe for delivering our product or service and just follow this recipe every time? Won’t a clearly defined process ensure our success? The answer is “no” because we are dealing with humans and their unpredictable behavior. Computers can be programmed to behave predictably (sometimes), but humans change behaviors for a variety of reasons. Risk management draws on our experience and intuition to notice when things are not going according to plan.

Aren’t we Already Doing This?

We manage risk every day in our personal lives. We judge how far away that moving car is before deciding whether to cross the street. We decide whether to peel the apple with the knife facing toward us or away from us. In my case, I assess the chances I will fall out of my juniper tree every year before I decorate it with Christmas lights. We do it in our personal lives so why wouldn’t we do it at work for the same reasons (avoiding being run over by the metaphorical car)? Take the guy in the photo to the left – a talented performer in Edinburgh, Scotland. He’s doing something obviously dangerous – asking another man to stand on a bed of nails on his chest. However dangerous this may be, the performer makes a living with these kinds of performances. He has obviously assessed the risks associated with these actions and come to the conclusion that he will likely not bleed to death and can perform again in 40 minutes.

So What Next?

Once we have identified the risk, we need to tell people about it so we can come to a consensus on what to do next. We should work together with our clients to decide on actions that work for everyone. A RAID log (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, and Dependencies) is a common tool used for this. Risks left unchecked become issues. A risk hasn’t happened yet and gives us a chance to avoid a problem. An issue is an actual problem. That is why we use the same RAID document to track both of these. Content management systems like SharePoint work well for tracking risks too. They have the added advantage of being a central repository that everyone can access instead of figuring out who has the latest version of an Excel file.

Now that we’ve identified the risks and communicated them, the last step is to decide on the action we will take. In the case of our careening car, the choices are to run across the street or retreat back to our point of origin. In the case of our street performer, he can use rubber tipped nails, or spend years building up his abs and callousing his skin with repeated practice stabbings.Generally speaking, there are a few actions we can take with risks. We can Accept, Mitigate, or Avoid them. Back to our street performer.

  • To Accept, he would perform even if it means bleeding to death, without having any reasonable degree of control.
  • To Mitigate, he would always select someone to stand on the board who weighs less than 140 pounds, or perhaps ensure the board has over 200 nails so the weight is spread more evenly.
  • To Avoid, he would simply not do this performance because it is too dangerous.

The idea is to figure out how risky a risk is and take the appropriate action based on this assessment.

Is Risk Management Really That Important?

Of course it is. Projects typically build things based on smaller things that have already been built. It costs more to fix something later than it does to fix it earlier. Consider an automobile. Let’s say a component in the middle of the engine is fastened with the wrong fastener. It’s cheaper to fix this while still assembling the rest of the engine than it is to fix it after the car is completely built and needs to be totally taken apart to get into the center of the engine. That’s why risk management is really that important. In a way, it’s just a fancy way of “paying attention”, and telling people what you notice. It’s really not that difficult. You can pay attention, can’t you?

Important!

Tell me your best stories about when well executed risk management saved your company tons of money or made you the hero of your project.

 

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