The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
Survive and Thrive
We live in strange times and what worked 12-months ago in business might not work today. The pandemic has done nothing to level the playing field - all bets are off as to what it will take to be successful in life and business. We have seen nothing like this in our lifetime, so if you are going to survive, let alone thrive, you may want to revisit some of the basics.
If you haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers: The Story of Success, now may be the perfect time. If you have read it, consider re-reading it in light of the current economic situation. The book is full of great advice about how to be successful, but the 10,000 hour rule is a good place to start when thinking about how best to not only survive tough times but thrive in any conditions. Gladwell talks about a study done in the 1990s that discovered that elite musicians, the very best, had on average practiced for a total of 10,000 hours. More importantly, it found that prodigies (naturals) didn't become top players unless they practiced for that amount of time. What was interesting though, was that people who weren't prodigies (or naturals) were able to reach the top of their field if they did practice for that many hours.
Now, we aren't all going to devote that amount of time practicing the skills we need in business, but there are things that successful businesspeople (and people at large) do that help put the odds in their favour. So if you want to survive and thrive in trying times consider these seven tips.
Hard work – Following on Gladwell's theme, it goes to show that the more effort we put into something, the more likely we are to be successful.
Perseverance – When we are hit by a curveball, we have two choices; we can whine and give up, or we can redouble our efforts. The thing to remember is that if the curveball is also being thrown at your competitors, then let them whine while you step up to the plate!
Commitment – Redouble your commitment to success, to your employees, to your customers, to your business. Overcome your doubts by doubling down on your vision and plan for what is happening now, not what you had hoped it would be before the pandemic.
Consistency – During uncertain times your customers are going to want to work with companies that are showing steadfastness, reliability, and dependability. Assure your customers that you are there for them, and will be there for them, now and in the future.
Ingenuity – You can either follow the pack or you can trailblaze. When the world is changing at an uncontrollable pace it's not the time to hunker down and wait it out. Consider what the world is going to look like after the pandemic and plan for your business to still be relevant. Clue: If you think that everyone is going to flock back to bricks and mortar businesses and everything will magically go back to normal – think again.
Teamwork – Don't try to do it all yourself. Take a step back and look at what support you have, from employees, associates, advisers, friends, family, investors, customers, suppliers and anyone else you can think of that might help you in one way or another to survive and thrive. Use that support – going it alone is not heroic, it's daft!
Charm – These are stressful times and people are losing their cool all over the place. Everywhere you look there is tension; in stores, in schools, in politics, in hospitals, it's a tinder box out there. By being calm, rational, friendly and more importantly by being charming (an old word, maybe, but never underestimate its power). If two people want something from someone and both are polite, but only one is genuinely charming, who do you think is most likely to get what they want? It's human nature and in times of great stress, a little charm can go a very long way.
What do the seven points above have in common? They all require hard work; maybe not 10,000 hours but time spent focusing on your business at a time when so many of your competitors are losing their way.
5 Easy Efficiency Hacks
There are hundreds of ways to save time, but they all require effort, especially when dealing with that thing called procrastination – maybe you can do those another day. Here are a few simple things that you can do to be more efficient and save time right now. Now, not later or tomorrow!
Call the Person for Heaven's Sake – In a world of emails and texts we have got used to communicating without actually talking to people. The truth is, it's often more efficient to use the phone and talk to someone. Check your phone and count the number of text messages back and forth in your last business communication. Too many. Same with email. When was the last time anyone actually answered all your questions when they replied to your email – NEVER. Typing a long email, getting a reply, typing a follow up to clarify or remind them to answer the other questions you asked, getting the answer, asking a another question – it just goes on. In between each email you try to get back to work and then 10 minutes, maybe an hour, PING, they reply and you break off to write yet another missive. Pick up the phone, talk to the person and in a minute or two the matter is dealt with. Sometimes modern communication methods actually slow us down.
Close Your Email Browser – are you screaming yet? We all think that every email is urgent and vital to our business. In truth, there is almost nothing that won't wait for a couple of hours. Okay, if you are on a deadline and waiting for the next draft of a document, you are excused. For most of us, turning the browser off and checking our emails every couple of hours makes a whole lot more sense in terms of efficiency.
Tidy Your Desk – so very simple. You know you will feel better as soon as you have tidied up, filed a few things, found that lost cheque, or tic-tac. Seriously, it is crazy how much better we feel and how much more efficient we are when we are not working in a pigsty.
Tidy Your Computer Desktop – How many icons do you have on your computer desktop? If it's more than half-a-dozen you are wasting time looking for files. Develop a clear system to access files through logical and clear folders. You can organize by year, date, by client, by division, by project, it doesn't matter as long as it makes sense to you. And, don't bury a folder you are currently working on several layers deep, make it one of the six on your desktop. For those of you who use Dropbox, they have recently launched an app that appears on your computer screen that allows you to feature starred folders that live ten deep in a maze of folders, on the home screen. This allows you to have them filed appropriately, yet still easily open them with one click.
Don't Fight Through Tiredness – You are exhausted, you didn't sleep last night and you are literally falling asleep at the computer, but you soldier on fighting to keep your eyes open. STOP right now – what a massive waste of time, not to mention your efficiency is plummeting and you are making mistakes. Take 10-minutes, heck if you need it take 20, have a power nap. When you return to the computer after even a short rest, you will make up the time you invested in napping ten times over. The same advice goes for when you are having trouble focusing, or you know your work is sub-par. If it isn't exhaustion but brain overload, simply stop for five minutes and sit doing absolutely nothing. You can do that right? Okay, it's sort of a trick. You are really meditating, but those few minutes spent shutting off your brain will pay dividends in productivity when you head back to your computer.
We live in a world with sky-high expectations. Now is the time to work smarter not harder.
Coach's Corner - How Being Curious Helps Us Move Forward
"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."
― Albert Einstein
"When we are curious, we view tough situations more creatively. Studies have found that curiosity is associated with less defensive reactions to stress and less aggressive reactions to provocation. We also perform better when we're curious." wrote Francesco Gino, in an article entitled The Business Case for Curiosity (Harvard Business Review, 2018).
Curiosity is about asking questions. Those questions should be non-judgmental. If you ask the correct questions in business, you will be able to figure out what is the best thing for your company and its stakeholders including staff, clients, colleagues and you personally.
"Curiosity is the main energy..." ― Robert Rauschenberg, Artist
Looking to the future, it is important that you are curious; that you not only ask questions yourself but encourage your employees and everyone else in your realm of influence to do the same. The answers may be guides to assist you in moving forward successfully, and overcoming the current tough business climate.
Exploring possibilities with your colleagues, staff, and clients may allow you to come up with some solutions or ideas for some of the challenges you are facing. Not everyone thinks or views things in the same way. Being curious gives you the power to look at things from different angles and perspectives.
Here are five questions that you might ask, in order to gain some clarity for the future direction of your company, organization, or project.
- What do we know about our current situation?
- What don't we know about our current situation?
- What might we do differently over the next few months?
- What if we tried ... ? What would that look like?
- What else could we try, to improve our current situation?
Being collectively curious and continuing to ask questions allows us to make decisions and take actions to improve our companies and organizations in these uncertain times.
"Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity." ― Roy Bennett, Author
Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach