Making Small Changes To Achieve Extraordinary Results

Give Just 5% More

What would happen to your life if you gave everything just 5% more effort?

Michael Alden, author of 5% MORE: Making Small Changes To Achieve Extraordinary Results, says it transforms everything. Success is often the result of applying just a little bit more effort.

It’s not always a massive effort, a radical change, or an overhaul. Often it’s just changing at the margin that makes all the difference.

 

“Success is just a little more effort.” –Sydney J. Harris

 

I recently had the opportunity to ask Michael about his research and new book. Michael Alden is the founder and CEO of Blue Vase Marketing and a recipient of SmartCEO Magazine’s 2016 Future 50 Award.

 

What made you decide to research the concept of 5%?

After the publication of my first book, Ask More, Get More, I received some fantastic feedback and accolades.  But as I continued to speak with people about achieving their goals, I found that many of them wanted more.  Despite all of the time and money they put into “personal development,” they were not where they wanted to be.  I wondered, why are so many people stuck?  Is there something that the average, everyday person can do to get ahead?  And is it something that is truly achievable, something that doesn’t cost money, something that yields real tangible results?

I reflected on what would happen if we applied just 5% More to virtually every aspect of our lives.  Was there research that showed what 5% More can do? I didn’t have the answer, so I began to study what our lives would look like if we had, did, or wanted just 5% More.  The information I found and the science to support what just a little effort can do in virtually every aspect of our lives was compelling.  But when I dug a little deeper for anecdotal evidence into my own life and the lives of other successful people, it was even more astounding and profound.  Instead of trying to make big changes, the way for any person, anywhere in the world, to improve his or her life, health, wealth, or relationships, and achieve their goals is by just adding 5% More effort.

 

“Get a little success, and then just get a little more.” –Maya Angelou

 

One More Makes A Leader

Would you share an example of someone who achieved success by applying the 5% More concept?

I sold cars right after I graduated from college.  There was a tall, skinny, somewhat awkward, but enthusiastic salesperson named Brian there whom I will never forget.  He taught me so many things, not only about selling cars but about how to approach life.  He was also on top of the sales leaderboard month after month, and he always gave just a little more effort every day.1119281865

One day, he sold FIVE cars.  Even for some of the largest dealerships in the country, five in one day is a lot of cars.  It was getting late, just before closing on a hot summer night.  Brian had already sold those FIVE cars, and he saw a customer out on the lot.  He jumped from his desk and headed out to greet the customer.  But just before he did, I asked him why.  I said, “Brian, you have already sold five cars.”  He told me something amazing.  He said, “Mike, every day I tell myself I want to just sell one car, then once I sell that car, I tell myself I want to sell just one more, until it is time to go home.”

Every day, Brian took himself just a little bit further and achieved above-average results.  You see, he was working until close anyway, so why not do just a little bit more?  Oh, I bet you are wondering what happened with that customer.  Well, Brian did not sell that customer that night, but the next day when Brian showed up for work, the customer from the previous night did as well.  Brian’s efforts, gave him a sale the next day.

 

“Success is dependent on effort.” -Sophocles

 

Change Your Health with 5% More

How can giving 5% more impact your health?

Michael AldenI’m a “big guy.” I played football my whole life, and I’ve told people if I have an addiction, it would be food.  I’ve always gone to the gym most of my life, but fitness results are mostly achieved through diet.  When you look at the diet industry and all of the fads that come out year after year, what happens with most if not all plans is that people can’t maintain them.  I did the research and our brains work best and adapt at optimal levels when gradually modified, when gradually changed until that change becomes habit.  So, as a big guy, I hit an all-time high weight about six months ago, and I was shocked.  I was 272 pounds.  I’ve tried everything you can imagine – from pills, powders and potions – for that quick instant change we all want.  But, it doesn’t exist.  Today, I am 245 pounds, still off from my ideal weight but much healthier.  That is a little over a pound a week that I have lost.  It hasn’t been easy, but it has been gradual and sustainable.  I put a plan in place that works for me, and each week I try to get a little bit better.  Am I perfect?  Absolutely not.  That is the best part about the 5% More mentality, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to work at it a little bit and be aware of your gradual steps each day.  I joke around and say my next book is going to change the diet world.  It’s a concept that I think most people will recognize.  The title will be Eat Less Exercise More.

 

“The last 3 or 4 reps is what makes muscle grow. The area of pain divides the champion from someone else.” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

Is it possible to be 5% more persuasive?

Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

Master the Coaching Habit

Michael Bungay Stanier is the founder of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do great work. His latest book, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, landed on my desk and intrigued me because coaching is a skill all great leaders must master. I followed up and asked him to share more about his work in this area.

 

“The essence of coaching lies in helping others unlock their potential.” -Michael Bungay Stanier

 

Stay Curious Longer

What is a coaching habit, and why is it essential to good leadership?

You may know Daniel Goleman as the man who popularized the concept of emotional intelligence. He has written widely on the topic of leadership; in his Harvard Business Review article “Leadership That Gets Results,” he notes that there are six styles of leadership, all of them useful at one time or another and all of them with pros and cons.

Coaching is one of those six styles. It is the most powerful style for employee engagement and impact on culture, and it contributes to the bottom line. It is also the least-utilized leadership style. We need to change that.

We don’t want to turn busy managers and leaders into coaches. But we do want them to be more coach-like. What that means, at its heart, is staying curious a little longer, and rushing to advice-giving and action-taking a little more slowly. That’s easy to say —but hard to do—and it’s what we’re tackling in my new book, The Coaching Habit. The coaching part is straightforward: seven essential questions that every busy manager and leader can use. We then help you put those questions into action with the New Habit Formula, a simple but powerful tool to help you change your behavior by building new habits.

 

“Saying Yes more slowly means being willing to stay curious before committing.” -Michael Bungay Stanier

 

Know the Difference Between Being Helpful & Coaching

What’s the difference between being helpful and being a coach?

The Coaching HabitWe all aspire to be helpful. Because you’re reading Skip’s blog, I’m certain you actually care about the people you lead and the difference you and they are making for your organization. You want to encourage great work: work that has more impact, and work that has more meaning.

However, in The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever we show how your good intentions often end up having the opposite effect:

If you have a tendency to jump in, fix things, take things on, rescue people . . . that’s not helpful.

If you, 20 seconds into a conversation, already have the answer and are just waiting for the other person to stop talking . . . that’s not helpful.

If you and your team are great at being tactical and getting everything done, but not that great at being strategic and figuring out the right things to get done . . . that’s not helpful.

If you are so busy helping everyone else that you don’t have the time to do what Cal Newport would call the Deep Work that your own projects require . . . that’s not helpful.

In short, if you recognize any of the three vicious cycles the busy manager faces — an over-dependent team, a sense of being overwhelmed, and a sense of disconnect from the work that matters — it could be that you’re guilty of being “helpful.”

Being more coach-like isn’t the only way to change this, but it certainly is one of the simplest and fastest ways. As I’ve said, at its essence, being more coach-like means staying curious a little longer and rushing to advice and action a little more slowly.

 

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” -Ernest Hemingway

 

Become a Better Listener

What techniques work for those who want to be better listeners?

Almost everyone knows the basics of active listening. The problem is that this has given rise to FAL: fake active listening. That’s when you put your head to the side, nod occasionally, look concerned, and make small “nonverbal” noises of encouragement — all the time while thinking of something else completely.

In The Coaching Habit we offer eight “masterclasses” on how to ask a question well, and the notion of listening well is woven through all of them. I suggest that these are the four best places to start:

  1. Ask one question only. It’s all too easy to end up asking three questions plus a few variations, which only leaves the other person confused.
  2. Start to notice how quickly you want to jump in and share a thought, give an idea, offer up advice. See if you can wait another minute before you actually do.
  3. Go deeper by asking the AWE question (more on that below).
  4. “Listen” and stay curious on all channels. You may be able to listen even harder and ask questions better when you’re emailing and IM-ing. That is, these skills aren’t just in play when you’re talking to someone face to face.

 

Ask the Best Coaching Question in the World

Would you explain for our readers the concept of AWE and how it can transform conversations?

Ah — you’ve picked up on the best coaching question in the world. And what’s perfect is that its acronym is AWE — so it’s literally an awesome question.

AWE is short for “And what else?”

And if this feels a little anticlimactic after the claim that this is the best coaching question in the world, let me explain the two reasons why it is.

To start, AWE supercharges every other question you have. I can promise you that the first answer someone gives you is never their only answer, and it is rarely their best answer. AWE helps mine what is there.

And then, AWE is a powerful self-management tool. You’ve picked up by now that my goal is for you to stay curious a little longer and to rush to advice and action a little more slowly. That’s harder to do than you’d think, because you’ve got a lifetime’s experience of jumping in. “And what else?” is the simplest question to ask to keep you curious. And if you’re asking the question, you’re not giving the answer.

 

Don’t Start With Why

You take on Peter Senge and Simon Sinek, saying to ignore both authors and not start a question with “Why?” I can’t resist: Why?Michael-Bungay-Stanier

Ha! I see what you’re doing here, Skip. Look, questions that begin with “why” can be very powerful, as both Senge and Sinek show. But for most busy managers, Why questions have two particular dangers.

First, you have to get the tone exactly right or your question will come across more as accusatory than simply curious. It can sound like, “Why the heck did you do that?”

Second, why questions are often about getting more details of the story — “Give me the background.” And you want the background information so that you are able to offer some really good advice. But here’s the thing: I want our leaders to be offering up a little less advice. So if you realize that it’s not your job to give advice (or at least, it is much less often than you think) but rather to help people figure things out for themselves, then you’ll also realize that you don’t need to know the details — so you don’t need to ask, “Why?”

 

“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” -Sam Keen

 

Be Comfortable With Silence

Silence is not something most of us are comfortable with. I’ve watched people fill in the empty space in every way possible. Why is it important to be comfortable with silence?

It’s true, isn’t it? One, two seconds of silence happen, and then the words rush in to fill the gap. Becoming comfortable with silence is an extremely powerful tool for a couple of reasons.

One, silence allows those who need a little more time to think things through to do just that. Susan Cain in her book Quiet has really helped wave the flag for the needs of the introvert. So follow the advice in the book’s title: be quiet and allow people to think.

And two, silence is a self-management tool. If you can get comfortable with silence, you’ve found a way to stop yourself from rushing in to fix things, solve things, make things better. The other person will fill that space for you.

 

“Silence is often a measure of success.” -Michael Bungay Stanier

 

Saying No is A Leadership Skill