3 Smartcuts to Accelerate Your Success

Maze Shortcut

Are you looking for a shortcut?  Or the secret that will unlock your career?

Why do some companies launch to huge public success while others are never discovered?  Is the secret of success hard work and determination?

Or is there something else at work?

 

Take A Smartcut

Entrepreneur, cofounder and chief creative officer of media technology company Contently, Shane Snow, has just authored a book called Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.  Every week, I’m asked by executives for the most recent, most thoughtful book I have read.

I now have the answer:

Smartcuts.  It is an extraordinarily interesting read, full of insights and yet entertaining.  The book was just released.

Let me introduce three of Shane’s smartcuts that will make you think about success differently.

Your book is full of hacks, ways to become successful much faster than average.  As I read your book, I noticed that you often upended traditional thinking over and over.  We can’t begin to hit them all, so let’s talk about just three of them:

 

The secret to success is not hard work and persistence.

 

Hard work.  Persistence.  Put in your dues.  You throw all the commonsense wisdom out and instead offer “Smartcuts.”  What is a smartcut?  Would you share an example of one?

Smartcuts are a smarter way of doing things.  Essentially, it’s the mindset that the conventional path everyone else takes in business (or any career) is by definition average.  To beat the average, you have to think differently.  Shortcuts, or cheating, tend not to be sustainable; Smartcuts are a faster, often counter-intuitive way that manages to speed success while providing value.  For example, it turns out that some of the most successful U.S. presidents, CEOs, and entertainers manage to get to the top and make game-changing breakthroughs without having paid as many dues as their counterparts.  They do incredible things and change lives but without having slogged it out in Congress for 30 years, etc.  This demonstrates what we humans are good at doing: correlating the wrong things.  Time spent, it turns out, does not equal merit.  The danger, of course, is that no time spent does not equal merit either.  There’s something about these “ladder hacking” success stories that makes the difference, and there’s something about their nontraditional journeys that lead them to be good leaders and players without having to go the needlessly slow route.  I get into the nuances of how they “hack the ladder” in the first three chapters of the book.

 

Time spent does not equal merit.

 

 

Positive feedback is not always the best way to improve performance.

 

“You did really well!” says the parent, thinking that positive motivation is the way to build self-esteem.  Instead, you say that negative feedback is a better route to success.  Why?

SmartcutsResearch shows that negative feedback helps us learn and grow more quickly than positive feedback.  Muscles build when you test their limits.  However, negative feedback only works if we’re in the right mindset, otherwise it can be catastrophic.  You see experts in many fields accelerate their growth by craving negative feedback, and that’s because they’ve managed to de-personalize feedback—make it about the thing they did and not about them.  That depersonalization is hard to do, and it’s why our bowling game gets worse when our friends tell us everything we’re doing wrong (and we start to get in our heads about it).  You have to be really secure to feel good about yourself if all you’re getting is critiqued.

So really, the key is to build up your kids’ self-esteem muscles by showing them that they are ok when things go wrong, and that feedback is about what they’re doing and not who they are. De-couple the performance from the self-esteem.  When you can do that, you can push them like the Karate Kid, and they’ll grow much more quickly.

In the book, I talk about how The Second City comedy school puts this principle into practice, to take frightened students and turn them into stars in a short time.

5 Ways to Increase Trust in the Workplace

Building up trust concept: Black alphabetic letters forming the

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask James M. Kerr a few questions about culture, trust and engagement.  Jim is a Partner at BlumShapiro Consulting. He is a business strategist and organizational behaviorist.  His latest book is The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change.

Increasing Trust

 

You cite studies showing that trust in business is at an all time low.  What do you do to reverse that and increase trust?

It’s really up to the senior management team to set the tone and do what is necessary to build a high trust work environment.  Some of the ideas that I discuss in The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change to reverse the trend include:

 

1.  Place Focus on the Outside

The competition lives outside the four walls of the organization.  In-fighting just wastes time and energy and can contribute to distrust.  Placing focus on the competition allows a firm to put that energy to good use and diminishes the time that staff dedicates to internal politics and positioning.

 

“Focus on the competition to diminish the time dedicated to internal politics.” -James Kerr

 

2.  Make It a “No Spin” Zone

Management must set an expectation that all of the business dealings of an enterprise are done with the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in mind.  Eliminating “spin” improves transparency and enhances trust.

 

“Eliminating spin improves transparency and trust.” -James Kerr

 

3.  Don’t Play Games

If you play games and pit one group against another, you’re encouraging others to follow suit.  Play the work setting straight-up, with no innuendo – just honesty.  Trust will follow.

 

“Play the work with no innuendo – just honesty. Trust will follow.” -James Kerr

 

4.  Do Your Job

It’s our job to ensure that everyone knows what success is and what their role is in achieving it.  Once that is established, attention must shift to making sure everyone “does their job.”  This focus contributes to establish a high trust work environment.

 

“Ensure everyone knows what success is and what their role is in achieving it.” -James Kerr

 

5.  Do Your Best

Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.  As they do, confidence will rise accordingly.  The need to play games and be deceitful will lessen and trust will fill the void left behind.

 

“Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.” -James Kerr

 

Creating a Winning Culture

A Leadership Course for the Rising Star

Cutlery Set

 

The Case of the Missing Cutlery

As a new manager, Kevin volunteers for the most unusual challenge.  Kevin is the manager of an airline catering company.  The airline is furious when it discovers that silverware is disappearing at an accelerating rate.  Given an aggressive deadline, Kevin needs to find out why the cutlery is disappearing and solve the problem.

As he is solving the case, Kevin learns about team building and motivation.

 

The Case of the Missing Cutlery is your personal story of learning leadership.  You found yourself managing a team with a major problem, with limited time to fix it, and with limited resources.  Why is this story resonating with readers?  Have you shared it with some of your colleagues working on “the case”?

The Case of the Missing CutleryThere’s so much great literature on leadership, but when I was coming up, it was hard to see how the high-flying exploits of C-level titans applied to me as a newly-minted shift supervisor.  People can easily relate to stories on the shop floor as well as colorful characters that we all have shared at one time or another.  I have received nothing but warm reactions from my peers including Angela Ahrendts, Burberry’s former Chief Executive (and now with Apple), who endorsed the book.

 

What is buoyancy?  Why and how is it created?

Contrasted with the command and control of yesterday’s hierarchical organizations, buoyancy is the concept that you “float” by connecting with the hearts of your people, galvanizing them on a journey toward an amazing goal.  They “float” you because they believe you are worthy and reward your belief in them with their belief in you.

 

The Importance of Story

Why is storytelling an important skill for a leader?

Storytelling is man’s oldest form of communication.  Throughout the ages, we have used this resonant means to impart vitally important values, beliefs and principles. It is powerful because it is human and emotive.

 

What is the “six o’clock conversation” and how is it important to leadership?

Well it’s funny you should ask: I remember vividly when I got my first leadership role at venerable ad agency McCann Erickson.  Mike, my mad-man boss, slapped me on the back and said, “Well, kid, congratulations.  You are now dinner conversation.  Everything you say, and more importantly how you say it, will be shared at dining tables all across your organization.”

Putting thought into the positivity and the emotive quality of what you say can move mountains, or as poet Maya Angelou would say, “ You may be forgotten for what you said, or forgotten for what you did, but never forgotten for how you make people feel.”

 

Kevin Allen is best known for his work at the top of advertising behemoths McCann-WorldGroup, the Interpublic Group and Lowe and Partners Worldwide where he worked with brands including Microsoft, Nestle, and Lufthansa.  He pitched the famous “Priceless” campaign for MasterCard.  He is the Founder & Chairman of employee engagement company Planet Jockey, which specializes in gamified learning and business transformation company re: kap.

 

Define real ambition and why it’s important.

How to Create a Winning Business Culture

Star Shape Gesture
This is a guest post by Sandra Mills. Sandra specializes in covering management topics that are relevant in business and healthcare. She has managed both large and small projects on a number of occasions. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+.

When you’re trying to grow a successful business, attitude is often more important than specific skills and experience.  Someone who is eager to learn can easily be trained to meet your business’s needs, but someone who will only do the minimum to collect a paycheck will never help your business grow. Here are 6 ways to build a winning culture that will drive success.

 

1. Set clear goals

Employees who are eager to please can’t improve if they don’t know how you’d like them to improve. Broad statements such as, “Get better,” or, “Increase profits,” don’t provide a clear direction for them to follow.  A specific goal such as, “increase sales by 5%,” gives your employees a visible target to shoot for.  Once that goal is set, they’re more likely to know exactly what needs to be done to reach it.  Even if they don’t, they’ll at least know where to start to get there.

 

2. Make sure goals are reasonable

The goals you set can’t be too high or too low.  If they’re too low, they’ll be easily attainable and will create a culture of complacency instead of one of growth.  If they’re too high, employees might initially be motivated but then quickly realize they may never get there.  When that happens, morale will drop, productivity may return to or drop below previous levels, and future goals will likely be ignored.  Encourage employees to write down goals to stay focused. SMART goal planning (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timely) can keep goals challenging but reasonable.  Encouraging goals to be written down will keep them measurable and in focus as well.

 

3. Don’t lose sight of the big picture

The best employees still need a strong leader in order to function well within a company. When you’re setting your goals, always think about where you want your company to be in five or ten years.  For example, sacrificing quality may increase profit margins now but may also lead to customers who leave and never want to come back.  Try to make all decisions from the top down.  Come up with a true vision for your company, the main ways to achieve it, and then set specific steps employees can take to get there.

 

4. Promote responsibility

Failure Is Not Defeat

bigstock-Orange-Racing-Car-And-Chequere-2484520

This is a guest post by Tom Panaggio,
 Author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Edge. Tom is an entrepreneur who spends his time advising companies, speaking and spending time on the racetrack.

Vince Lombardi never admitted to failure. He always said that he never lost a game, he just ran out of time. To Lombardi, failure was not fatal; it did not mean that hope was lost. He simply refocused his team and made the necessary game strategy alterations. In his mind, he never lost or failed because he always made the necessary changes going forward.

There is a difference between failure and defeat. Failure is temporary, but defeat is permanent. I’d love to see the statistics for how many entrepreneurs mistook a failure as defeat and gave up. For anyone who accepts defeat, there is no hope, only regret.

 

Failure is temporary, but defeat is permanent. -Tom Panaggio

 

Today, I am an amateur race car driver. That obsession began in 1983 after I attended a sports car race at Daytona International Speedway. My background was in traditional athletics, and I knew nothing about racing or how to even begin to get involved. All I knew was that I wanted to do it. After conducting some research, I found that I needed to go to two accredited racing schools to qualify for a license, with the caveat that school number two must be a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) sanctioned school. If I didn’t pass this second school, there would be no racing for me.

9781938416446The first school I attended, Skip Barber Racing School, supplied everything needed, including a real race car and all the safety equipment. The second SCCA school supplied only the racetrack and instructors; I needed to provide my own race car. By luck, I knew someone who owned a race car and was retired from driving. He was gracious enough to let me borrow his car if I paid to get it track ready. That turned out to be a mistake on his part.

I failed at the second racing school. Twice. In consecutive weekends, I failed due to mistakes. (Okay, I crashed both times.) The second failure caused the untimely death of the borrowed race car in a spectacular crash at over a hundred miles an hour. I can still see the track workers leaping from their protective bunker moments before I plowed into it.

Everyone told me to quit, to give up. They said that I didn’t have what it takes to be a race car driver. Even I had doubts, but my desire to race had not lessened. In fact, everyone else’s doubts made me want to prove that I could do it. I was determined, and I wouldn’t let failure defeat me.