And the Beginning of a New Journey! Join me….
I had ridden Rhythm, a 14 year old majestic Morgan horse, a few times before this recent visit to the barn. Though today was going to be different. I was on my own. For the first time, my riding instructor was not by my side. I was confident. As I lead Rhythm from the barn and to the riding arena I believed Rhythm and I were in sync. It was going to be a great ride.
As I entered the ring, I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the only noise was of the wind rustling the colorful Fall leaves. I prepared to step into the stirrups and sit in the saddle. I took one more look around. I was truly on my own. Thoughts flashed through my head. Is it smart to be riding alone? Can I really handle this horse? I mounted the saddle and settled in. Now, I was nervous. As I moved the reins into position, I thought this may not be such a great idea. Just one guy sitting on top of a thousand pound horse ready to run! I felt a bead of perspiration role down my brow. My hands shook. As I eased Rhythm into a walk, his head shot up with excitement. Was he nervous too? Clearly this wasn’t going to be a nice walk around the ring that I had envisioned.
Rhythm sensed I was nervous, and he became jittery too. We were heading towards the fence. I had to pull him into a quick turn to keep us from hitting the fence. I was breathing faster, and we tried again. I knew I needed to calm down, however I couldn’t summon the “calm” I needed. Once more Rhythm fought to run, then side to side he strained against my lead. Rhythm stopped and I dismounted. No way was this safe. Defeated I took Rhythm back to the barn.
During my drive home, I reflected on my failed ride. When I was calm, Rhythm was calm. When I got nervous, Rhythm got nervous. Clearly I needed to pull my nerves under control. Rhythm was sure that a nervous rider was on board. And following my lead like all great horses do, he became nervous and tense himself. As I turned into my garage, I realized this lesson in leadership applied to all that I do.
Just like our majestic horse, Rhythm, the great people I lead respond to my every emotion. A leader has to be cool under pressure, calm during a crises, and energized to succeed against all forces all the time. Your team will derive it’s strength from your demeanor, energy and enthusiasm for your strategic mission. You must control your nerves and emotions. If you portray panic and fear, then they will wither like their leader and spread the negativity throughout the team. So, to keep your team inspired and driving towards success, never let them see you sweat!
Tips for keeping calm in the storm:
Let me know how it goes.
What was your reputation…____________?
What are the reputations of your…____________?
Do you have a personal reputation filled with the Eye-Cubed qualities of a great leader that inspires others to innovate and implement? I ask the following follow-up critical question:
What came first, the reputation or your behavior that supported it?
This issue permeates psychology classrooms and has been debated among the greatest minds. Have we developed the personalities, which form our reputations, as a result of “nature” (what we were born with and cannot control) or “nurture” (the environment in which we were subjected, exposed and molded). This concept drives one of the key tenants on how to build an Eye-Cubed team that is inspired to achieve greatness and high performance. In the Eye-Cubed world around us, we control that which we can and believe we have the ability to influence results by executing a plan. As a result, I answer the nature/nurture debate as follows: NURTURE!
“Give the people around you a reputation to uphold.”
When I was a young boy, I was wrought with “confidence” issues. They manifested themselves in many ways. However, my mother Janice Sussman, refused to allow me to develop a negative self-image. Her consistent words and actions gave me the confidence to believe in myself. Over time, I grew to believe the positive stories she told me. I developed the very image she demanded I have of myself.
In high school, there were two English teachers whose actions, words and behaviors damaged my confidence and belief in myself. I nearly gave up writing completely as they said, “I have no idea how you ever got out of middle school English. Your writing is remedial.” However, there was another teacher, George Stone at The Hotchkiss School, whom I respected and admired. I listened to him. He praised my creativity. He described me as “powerful”, “influential”, “creative” and as a “leader”. He wrote a letter to my parents describing me this way. I took those words seriously and focused on following the footsteps of one who had those traits. I continued to write.
Throughout my business career, I developed the reputation of following in my father, Stanley Sussman’s footsteps as PFP’s innovator. I took that as a responsibility and honor to maintain while I focused a tremendous amount of time and energy on providing that characteristic to the company.
You, your Eye-Cubed leaders and their teams possess the qualities needed to excel (Read more about Leadership as the Prerequisite of Inspiration). Many know it today and need to hear it from you. Others need to hear it from you so they believe it tomorrow. By providing a “nurturing” environment, your team will achieve your vision.
Invest Short Term and Long Term In The Company of U!
With all the external pressures grabbing at our time, it is never surprising that we neglect to invest time in ourselves. I am not referring to meaningless ‘time’ that ultimately will be considered wasted. I am specifically referring to intentionally maximizing the time you have to grow your most important asset, the asset you are 100% responsible for, The Company of U!
In the same fashion that we approach the challenges facing our industries and business, we need to relentlessly pursue personal change to overcome the struggles, challenges and issues specific to our own progress. The commitment to The Company of U will reap the highest return.
Never Stop Learning. Challenge yourself with new courses and new skills. Go out of the box.
Be true to yourself. Live up to the reputation you have given yourself and do so throughout your day, every day. Hold yourself accountable and recognize when you need to refocus and adjust.
Manage your finances carefully and continually ask yourself: “Am I satisfied with my balance sheet?” Review revenue streams and expenses to keep The Company of U on solid ground.
When it comes to health, you can only control the things you can control. And, the list includes eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising and getting checked-out! The list might seem overpowering but Healthy Presidents need power.
Miscommunications and misunderstandings cause stress. Hone your skills.Think about what to say and how to say it to get the results you want. Take responsibility for your words.
You can exponentially increase the value of The Company of U by developing a strong, dedicated team. Create a positive environment to foster this synergy.
Give yourself the time and space to be inspired/ Test a variety of meditation and relaxation methods to free your mind of the ‘must dos’ and tap into your creative energies.
Like every company in operation, you too need to evolve to remain relevant. It takes many small steps consistently placed to effect change and see the desired results. Make the journey worth it.
You have a history that shaped you into the person you are today. The Company of U cannot move forward without the past as a foundation upon which to stand and build. You have accomplished incredible things to get where you are. There are people in your life who have helped you achieve. You have overcome obstacles and reached goals. Never forget that as you break new barriers and push for greatness, you are your biggest asset!
There are many advisors looking to help folks invest their money. They look for companies that have strong foundations with the greatest likelihood for sustained growth. The greatest investment strategy that an Eye-Cubed leader can follow is simple. Invest short term and long term in The Company of U!
There is nothing more empowering than to be inspired. And in our lives, we have experienced it many times. In fact, to be an Eye-Cubed leader, inspiration must be part of your wheelhouse and in the very fabric of your persona. Without it, you will be void of innovation and with nothing to implement. Inspiration is clearly the first hurdle to clear when achieving Eye-Cubed greatness. However, have you ever considered taking a collaborative approach to this very personal phenomenon? It is my contention that collaborative inspiration is not only possible, it is preferable. It will lead to a greater number of innovations with targeted results for the operation, performance and sustainability of your organization. Follow this four-step approach towards collaborative inspiration and evolve:
Step 1: Create an environment that is open to inspiration
Solidify the culture:
How are people treated when they are inspired? Make sure that inspiration is embraced and rewarded. Regardless of the results, if it is not openly encouraged, you can be sure it is discouraged. Make sure your organization openly expresses the value that stems from positive inspiration. The best way to do this is to model this behavior at the highest levels within your organization and to practice zero tollerance for any deviation to the culture.
What will happen when inspiration takes place?
Make sure you have a clear process that analyzes the innovations spurred from the inspirations. How do you know an idea is worthy to pursue? How do you judge competing ideas? (You Don’t Need A Plumber, You Need A Process) Make sure that inspirational ideas can be built upon by others in the group. The result will most often be a more complete and robust innovation.
Step 2: Encourage ideas that solve a specific issue
Why are we here?
There is a clear issue that needs resolution. This should be expressed and presented at the outset. A focused approach using collaborative inspiration towards this process will lead to the Promised Land. Where should our inspiration take us? We have to know where we are going in order to have a chance to get there.
What is lost without inspiration? What is gained with inspiration?
Is your organization losing money as part of an existing process or looking to add a new stream of income? At the end of the day, “This aint a hobby!” and we need to make money. How much money is at stake? The bigger the dream, the more inspired the team!
Step 3: Allow for the time necessary to “feel it”
Inspiration on demand does not work.
“Hurry up!” is not an effective charge for the team. Unfortunately, inspiration does not have an “on” and “off” switch. Allow the feeling to permeate the team and create an inspirational build-up that releases incredible concepts and innovations. A pressure cooker will result in a dinner for the team, not an innovation for your organization.
Stay with the plan.
If at first you don’t succeed, chill out! Do not give up on the team. They will deliver. Encourage them to get “unstuck” in old thinking. Change the focus if necessary. However, do not give up. You never know when inspiration will strike. And when it does, BINGO!
Step 4: Facilitate conversation that promotes inspiration
It is never “bad” to be inspired. And inspirations are never “stupid”. So don’t even joke about it. It is hard enough to let one’s guard down and communicate openly about ideas that reside squarely outside the box. Never chop off someone’s neck when they are brave enough to stick it out.
Open dialog free of legacy ideas and personal agendas
Your team will remain closed to inspiration if they feel there are “white elephants” (unsaid issues), protected groups or untouchable ideas. There cannot be a hierarchy within the group. All members are created equal and any topic is fair game during a collaborative-style inspiration session.
Research and knowledge of what is out there now – cross industry solutions
Work needs to be done either by the group or for the group geared towards educating the participants of the existing playing field. Look outside of the organization’s industry or niche. Others may have solved your issue already and your team may simply need the requisite inspiration to connect the dots between what they do and what you do.
“Think Tanks”, “Incubators” or programs with inspirational dynamics are formalized endeavors that trigger innovation. Most companies cannot afford them. Few innovators, leaders or executives have ever participated in them. In the most ideal setting, they work brilliantly. However, there is no reason why you and/or your organization cannot reap the benefits of collaborative inspiration by creating the environment described above. With the requisite attention to the four steps toward reaching collaborative inspiration, Eye-cubed excellence is well within your reach.
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This post is part II of a series of VII posts on collaboration.
The Eye-Cubed process of Inspiration that leads to Innovation and the ultimate Implementation of your idea is filled with challenges, no one challenge greater than “buy-in”. Gaining “buy-in” along the way is critical as part of each step. And communication is key.
Here are the steps. Eliminating any one can be fatal!
Unfortunately, implementing innovations do not always fit neatly into a 10-step plan. Sometimes we fumble along the way. Sometimes, we are still in the learning stage with regard to a key piece of the puzzle. Sometimes we are faced with challenges that transcend theory. Sometimes the “greatest” ideas just seem to get stuck along the way.
That very scenario played out with me recently. I had been spearheading a tremendous innovation project at my company, PFP. The seeds of the idea had originally germinated about five years ago and it took three years to set the stage for an official “test”. Two years later and after many successes along the way, the project hit a major crossroad. In spite of the progress, the innate challenges had become too complex to resolve with the centralized implementation structure that was in place. I had run out of time and ideas to execute the plan as originally drafted. We needed a change. And I could not bring that about on my own.
In a key strategic meeting on the project, I heard sweet music! I was elated, energized and inspired. The overwhelming message from the team was as follows:
“This project is too important for our future to fail. We have to find a way to make it work!”
I then saw a tremendous push from our top leaders to engage deeply into the initiative and immediately revive it, develop a renewed plan and begin executing that plan. This was all the proof I needed to know that the company had 100% buy-in. The most difficult battle had been won.
There is no doubt that while implementing a great idea, the road to victory and realized potential is riddled with potholes and other hazards that face us during our travels. Those bumps seem a bit smaller when we traverse them with colleagues willing to work together towards incredible goals.
I am proud of the collaboration. Put down the visor and put on the sunglasses! Our future looks bright.
Your innovation will drive revenue and profit to your company. Over the course of time, your results exceed expectations. Well done, you rock! But was the journey smooth? Did you grow consistently each year, month, week, day or hour? Of course not. The results of a successful implementation are not a straight line with ruler-like precision. Any similar theory on growth is just that…a theory. There will be setbacks along the way, many of them and for a myriad of reasons. So be prepared.
Obstacles of people:
It is difficult to align the priorities of everyone affected by the initiative. If you are using your existing team, it is likely that they will give you some time for the program to work. But never take their cooperativeness for granted. Understanding the motivation of your team helps to uncover any disconnect between your desires and the desires of your team. Most employees desire consistency, stability and financial reward. If your new endeavor will negatively affect your team in any of the aforementioned areas, do not expect them to remain interested in implementing your innovation for very long.
This issue has caused me a great deal of stress along the way. Essentially, for my team, forging new ground with innovations has destroyed consistency, eliminated stability and lacked enough financial reward to create a truly engaged and motivated team. The tension and confusion were not good for morale or for the pending success of my fantastic innovation.
Valley of despair:
A new process is always challenging to implement. There is a learning curve that results in the typical frustration referred to as the “valley of despair”. While it is nearly inevitable that folks will end up there, it is not necessary for them to remain there for a long time. With proper preparation, planning, training, effective rewards and attention to detail, they can coast through the valley of despair faster and more smoothly than ever expected.
Obstacles of process:
When innovations are first implemented, there is often excitement surrounding its success. People go the extra mile to make it work, even if it takes them away from their daily tasks and/or if the process is inefficient. The success that follows is an innovator’s dream. Everyone wants more. Unfortunately, the rapid growth uncovers all inefficiencies in the process and magnifies them exponentially.
Then comes the tsunami of success. When a process is built on a weak foundation and then is coupled with the pressure to produce, the flood of expectations roll over the entire organization. Cross-departmental issues are experienced from operations, sales, HR, recruiting, training, technology and other support areas. Each area may need a new process to support the innovation. It is difficult work to address this obstacle and correct the processes. However, this must be done before moving forward.
There certainly is a roller coaster of emotions throughout the implementation process of new and powerful innovations. And there is always a gap between an innovators vision and the resulting reality. The vast majority of projects result in a process that does not look exactly like the original plan. And the timeline to reach one’s goal seems to be consistently longer than anticipated. However, Eye-Cubed leaders, teams and companies understand this challenge and embrace the process of moving from theory to practice, from point A to point B.