Independence Inspired Success

This coming weekend here in the US we’re celebrating the Fourth of July, or Independence Day, the day that congress declared independence from Great Britain. With all the talk that’s already been happening around the holiday I thought today I’d share some success insights based on this holiday.

It started with courage. It wasn’t easy at the time to choose to leave the safety of Britain, it wasn’t easy to start over in a completely foreign place without any of the resources that you’re used to having access to, it wasn’t easy to figure out a completely new place and the nature-based challenges that came along with it. So it took great courage for not only the first couple groups of people to head over to the US, but also for all people through Independence Day and the American Revolutionary War to choose this new and developing nation.

It continued with teamwork. The only reason the signers of the Declaration of Independence were able to do so, is because they had the foundation from the people who originally colonized the US, as well as the support of all who were alive and part of the revolution in the 1770’s. Each of the men who put pen to paper, each of the men and women who fought in one way or another to make that independence a reality, to the children who were given the opportunity to live in “the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” are all part of this team and the motivation behind these people coming together to take a stand.

It is still a work in progress. Any good victory starts with one step of success. Independence Day was one of the steps in the long journey of the US, a journey we’re still on today. No, we’re not still working on our independence, but we sure have a ton of kinks we’re still working on as we develop our nation, just like other nations around the world who have been around for much longer than the US.

So as we continue to navigate 2020 it’s more important than ever to look back at 1776 and the first Independence Day, and remember what it was that helped it succeed, because those same things can help us succeed in bringing this country to the next peak on its journey.

Ready for a Fresh Start

We’ve finished 5 months of 2020, although they felt more like at least a year in and of themselves. Of course with finishing another month means we’ve entered into a new one. I love fresh starts and new months because we sometimes do get stuck in ruts and need a little help, psychological or physical or otherwise, to get out and moving again. It’s particularly interesting because we’re really beginning to emerge from months of being stuck at home to fight or avoid the virus, and now restrictions are being lifted and slowly we’re able to get back to a level of business as usual over the next few months.

Fresh starts don’t mean that the past can be erased or forgotten. On my other blog today I referenced the phrase “you can forgive someone but not forget their actions.” The past couple of months have been painful on many levels, pain that most of us alive today haven’t experienced before. With the events of George’s mistreatment and death, plus the unacceptable deaths of other African Americans over the past few weeks, months and years related to racism or inaccurate racial profiling, the pain has reached a new point as we enter this new month. We clearly haven’t won the war on racism yet, and regardless of how some people are acting today, we haven’t beaten the virus yet either (just take a look at the news and the many thousand new cases that have appeared in our country and other countries around the world today alone).

So where do we go from here with our brand shiny new month? I think we start by remembering that we don’t have to do life alone. That means that we support each other with our ears and hearts as we listen, with our bank accounts as we buy the products and services others sell, and physically supporting each other in whatever ways and whenever it’s safe to do so. There’s no rule that says we have to go big or go home with life right now, it’s going to be the small but steady steps we take in truly learning to work together as a community, hearing the issues we each have, truly caring about the issues we each have, and being willing to work a little harder so we all have win-win-win experiences whenever possible.

Life wasn’t perfect 4 months ago, and it won’t be perfect 4 months from now. But we can choose with each new day to make that day as good as or better than the day before. Choose to do one kind act for someone, choose to do one thing that will help the economy start moving again, choose to do one thing that will make your future better each and every day. We may have our own individual dreams and goals in life, but no one should ever think or feel that they’re alone, because they’re not.  We’re all part of this world together.

What Comes Next: Partnership and Teamwork

In continuing the essential conversation of where we go from here as businesses, I think one great place to start is with looking at what we’ve been doing during this pandemic, and that’s working together. I’ve always been a big supporter and encourager of doing joint ventures, cross promotions and supporting each other, especially as small businesses. Yes, some larger stores like Target, Costco and BJ’s are well known for selling some products from small businesses, typically buying a block of products and selling them until they run out. And that’s a great step up for many companies on many levels. But they rarely do promotion of those products or the companies that run them, unlike small businesses often do for each other, exposing them to their audiences physically and virtually.

So starting with what we’ve been doing with the pandemic, what if we just started by asking how we can support each other? It’s what we’ve been doing to help each other survive through this very challenging time, but I think it’s also something that we should do more of after. Sometimes that need may be a product need, other times it’s a people need (team members to support a busy event), maybe it’s an introduction to a partner you’ve worked with in the past, other times it’s to do a joint venture on a product that would be great for their customers and provide some income for you. You can always say no or come back with another idea or different timeline, but there’s great potential to be had if we take the time to ask how we can help support each other and our communal success.

Beyond that, in the pandemic the big buzz word for many business owners is “pivot.” It’s not a new word, but recently become more relevant as we consider the current and possible future of how we sell and work together. In line with the idea of joint venture product production and asking how we can help, many companies are adjusting to meet the needs of people, including creating essential supplies that they’ve never planned or wanted to make. In some ways I think it will be more important than ever to be in the entertainment and hospitality industries in the future, that there will be an increased demand after seeing what we’ve lost or been unable to access. But we also have to consider what is really essential and how we can meet those needs in the future, because some businesses will definitely take a more permanent hit. I think all of our businesses will have to do some pivoting, likely by working together and learning from each other to do it.

Finally, I’ve been so excited and blessed by seeing how many companies and leaders are working together to get through this pandemic. I’ve been getting (relevant) updates from politicians, more than just requests for money from non profits, whole industries are working together rather than fighting for customers or seeing each other as competition, and companies are working together to get food and other necessary products into the hands of people who need them. Most of these don’t take a lot of money, but they make a big difference for a lot of people, even if it’s just to show that they care and aren’t just about the bottom line.

Do you have experience working with other businesses? Has this experience over the past few months changed how you’re going to do business and who you’re doing it with?

Time for Tough Questions

One of the things that is exciting for some of us about this virus that has completely upended our lives, is how it has forced us to ask questions. I’m a big believer in asking questions, among other things, and I appreciate that we’ve all been stopped in our tracks to really consider some of the finer points about how we’re living and working. Asking questions is interesting because they can lead you to other questions, to consider things you’ve never thought about, and sometimes they help you realize that you had it right all along.

As much as we stop at the beginning/end of a year or on our birthdays to consider how the past year has gone and what we want from the year ahead, I don’t think that most of us really take the time to invest in it to the depth that we have with this virus either personally or professionally. No, asking questions and taking time to consider doesn’t mean that you have to do a full stop on life or work. Just like you would never stop eating for an extended period of time until you’ve reconsidered and decided on a new diet, or you wouldn’t stop sleeping (or trying to sleep) just because you can’t find a pillow that really works for you, asking questions doesn’t mean everything has to stop.

So here we are, with many of us at a full stop, and others of us knowing that at some point in time when the craziness settles down it will be necessary to ask some tough questions. Questions about why we’ve always done things a certain way, or why we didn’t think of that in the past, or why we weren’t prepared, or what we could have done better; tough questions that don’t necessarily have easy or immediate answers. These are also questions that can help us all lead a better life going forward, a life that is more considerate of each other and our impact on each other.

It’s time to get out the hard questions like what do we really want out of life, are we really investing in the people that mean the most to us, are we living and working in ways that make the most sense for us and the planet, what is the best use of our time and resources, how can we support each other better, how can we better protect each other, and do I have enough fun in my life? Maybe they’re not new questions to you, but I hope that you’re thinking on them a little more seriously than you might usually. What questions has this virus prompted you to ask?

Creative Success

Over the past few weeks and likely for months to come, we’ll be seeing lots of examples of creativity. Not only have many of us been given the opportunity to be home and able to work on our home improvement projects that we may have put off, we’re also asked to be more creative when it comes to planning for meals and feeding our families, as well as getting creative about how we can support our communities from our homes while many people aren’t working.

I’ve been taking note of the politicians in my community that are both working hard and communicating frequently with their constituents and the organizations who are contributing in ways to those who are struggling and organizations who are working with the community and government to help those in need. They’re organizations and politicians and leaders that I want to support into the future both as life returns to a level of normal and to watch in the future from a success perspective.

Something that’s also been in the news a lot are the ways that people in the community are stepping up to both support each other and celebrate the first responders who are on the road, in the hospitals and in the essential businesses. It’s great to see companies and people really standing up for and recognizing the hard work that these people are doing. But there are more people who are staying at home than those who are out working, and that’s a huge challenge for our social world. So while it’s important to be supporting the front line workers right now, we’ve also had to get more creative about how we support each other. We’ve heard of communities gathering on their balconies to sing and cheer and chat. This morning I was reading about how the people in New Zealand gathered in their driveways to celebrate Anzac day and tonight I heard a commercial from a popular hot dog brand encouraging people to bring their grills to their front yards and do a front yard “neighborhood” cookout.

I hope that we’ll go back to many of the things we used to, but I also hope that we’ll embrace the creativity that we’ve lived with for weeks and months now, moving into the future with more curiosity, more conversation and more consideration, rather than just blindly resuming our previous daily lives. What used to bring us together, what used to help us reach success may or may not work in the future. If we’re able to learn from and apply this creativity, adaptability and willingness to learn, change and grow, I believe we’ll have an even better future and greater success than what we’ve previously experienced.

Teamwork in Crisis

Something that this virus has really highlighted is the amount of teamwork we all rely on. It’s showed both how difficult life becomes when we’re not all pulling weight to make the world turn, and that we’re able to accomplish a lot more when we do work together. Teamwork has gotten us really far as a world: we can work with people in different countries on cool projects, learn about different cultures without ever leaving our living rooms, and find/give support when a country is going through a particularly challenging time.

One of the most difficult things about this virus is that the best way most of us can be team players is to stay home and do nothing. We’ve gotten pretty good at stepping up and taking action when a community is in need, so it’s so hard to sit here and do very little, and harder knowing that many of us aren’t earning our usual amounts if at all so we can’t even financially contribute to needy organizations.

Of course, this also means that it will be teamwork that will help us move forward and rebuild our world. It won’t be the same world when we get through this and we won’t be returning to life as we remember it exactly before the virus, so we’ll have to have extra patience, communication and greater willingness to work together to build a future that supports all of us. The time remaining between now and when our world begins to reopen is a great opportunity to really think about the contribution you are or will be making in the world, if it’s the best contribution you can bring to the table and if it’s the contribution that the world needs most from you now.

How are you being a team player through this crisis?

Cancelling Criticism

The world is going through an unprecedented time of confusion, challenge and change. We have yet to see how our lives change after the dust settles, and if I’m honest, I don’t want it to go 100% back to the way it was, because that means that we didn’t learn anything from all the people whose lives were lost as a result of this virus. My hope is that we’ll all get out of this situation wiser and better prepared for whatever the future holds for us, hopefully wise enough not to see a repeat of things as they’ve gone or worse.

We’re facing a lot of challenges on many levels right now, and along with challenges is the need to find the reason for the challenge or figure out what got us to this point. I think it’s important, not so that we can point blame, but so that we can do our best to avoid creating a similar situation in the future. Of course the likelihood is that there isn’t just one reason we’re in the situation we’re in, but several factors and things that have lead to this point on the health level. But beyond the health crisis, is the question of the response of people and businesses in a situation like this in the future and learning to work together better, both protecting each other and protecting all our finances, jobs and futures.

There has been a lot of reaction to this virus, instead of being able to respond with a pre-considered plan and immediate action to best support each other and the businesses in our areas and keep life as normal and productive as possible. That means all businesses and non-profits need an online presence and plan that could be put into immediate action should something like this present again to continue supporting both customers and employees in smart and safe manners as fully as possible. It means individuals and families need to do the best they can to get ahead, not on top of, their bills and finances. And it means each and every one of us needs to be on top of our health and wellness and taking necessary steps more consistently and proactively to protect ourselves and the rest of the people we share this world with.

I encourage you to shut off the criticism and instead start working on supporting and making proactive decisions to make our world better and stronger.

Lessons in Leverage

There’s always been a group of people who look for the shortest or fastest route through, around or to something or someone. I have no problem with letting go of things that are unnecessary or taking out unnecessary steps, but fastest/shortest isn’t always best. For example, for a time there was a large interest in buying likes and other social points to unnaturally inflate business accounts so they would look more popular or active than they were. It’s something that the social networks have cracked down on fortunately but still something a few people are still doing. I understand the desire to present large numbers to people, especially when some celebrities have so many social interactions and connections, but when you have fake likes etc. it completely screws up your metrics and any data you want to analyze and it means you’re not being honest with your customers.

So what can we do as businesses to grow faster or quicker? One option we have is to get really good at leveraging. What does this mean? It means that we build a business smarter, taking advantage of the tools and resources we have access to. Sometimes it means a little extra effort or resources expended, but in the long run you’ll connect better with your team and your customers, and be more successful for longer.

Let’s take a look at some examples. For social media there are many things you can do with a social account, but the question I often raise with clients is how fully they’re taking advantage of all that a social network offers. Are you posting, doing ads, being social and promoting the account through your emails, website etc. or just doing one/some of the above? If you’re not leveraging all that the social account has to offer, it’s likely you’re missing out on some great opportunities for growth.

Another example has to do with your employees, team, and customers. Do you have people of all ages on your team and are you talking with all of them to get different generational perspectives? Are you tapping into the different skill sets and interests that each of them have or trying to force them into your preferred box? What about your customers? Are you getting their feedback on what you’re offering and finding out what they need? These are simple conversations to initiate, and can pay off big in the long term if you’re implementing what you’re learning.

A final example is one that I share about regularly, and that’s holidays. If everyone around you is talking about the upcoming holiday, how can you leverage that holiday positively for your business? Rather than complain about the holiday or how it steals customers from you, turn it into a money making opportunity. Offer relevant seasonal offerings, surprise your customers with seasonal gifts, and be flexible with your team and their schedules so they can be with their families too (a happy team is a productive team). Make the holiday work for your business.

What about you? What are you leveraging in your business to help it grow?

A Coach for the People

This month I read “Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell.” This book is a look at the principles and practices and leadership of Bill Campbell who started by being a sports coach and moved to become one of the greatest business coaches, working with Apple, Google and other big businesses. The book shared about a man who had a really big heart, lots of smarts and great people skills. Everyone who knew him had great things to say about him, and even after his death his practices and teachings live on in the companies he worked with.

The core of the book and what Bill was all about, is people. Bill was all about teamwork, communication, openness, honesty and trust. He recognized that it all comes back to people: that people are what make or break a company, sell a product/service, help a customer, or buy a product/service; that to care about people you have to care about people; and that it’s not always about the problem but about having the right people on the team to get things done.

Much of what was shared through this book emphasized that it’s not just about having people to fill spaces or do a job, but about having healthy teams, healthy relationships, healthy lives and healthy communications. It’s not about perfection or getting it right all the time or not having disagreements or not having weaknesses, but about doing what’s good for the community; creating a culture of safety, clarity, meaning, and impact so teams can thrive; having dependable people on your team; keeping everyone on the same page across departments; and creating victories for today and tomorrow.

When it all comes down to it, what Bill knew and taught throughout his life was that while teams are essential and invaluable, everyone is their own person, responsible for how they live their life, how they give back, how they love, how successful they are, how they communicate, what kind of leader they are and what difference they make in the world. Each person Bill came into contact with was challenged to be their best, give their best and love the best they could.

As we head into the last months of this year, I would challenge you to not (just) focus on getting products and services out the door to as many people as possible, but to be a people person, to genuinely care about the people you connect with and to make each person’s day that you connect with a little better.

Summer Family Teamwork

Whether you’re a single parent or raising your kids with your significant other I believe every parent needs to have support. They should have the support of their kids as well as the support of other adults. Recently I heard a father say a great comment to his kids as they were waiting for mom to return and then all leave for vacation. He said “OK kids, go do what your mom would tell you to do before she gets here so we can leave sooner.”

Why is this such an incredible statement? From an adult and partner perspective it’s an incredibly supportive statement of his partner, as well as a proactive one. Yes, sometimes supporting means showing up and doing what you’re asked/told to do, sometimes that’s exactly what a parent needs. But it can also mean that you take initiative and get things done for them, especially if you know how they want things done or know what things need to be done on a regular basis. This father’s direction to his kids not only shows his care for his wife, it also shows that he’s aware that she’s going to want things done before they go on vacation and that it’s in all of their best interests to get to work on that sooner rather than last minute.

The other part of this statement that has to be considered and celebrated is the importance of getting the kids involved in supporting the parent(s). Yes, it’s a parent’s job to support their kids and care for them, but part of raising kids well is teaching them how to do as much as possible so they’re prepared when it’s their time to go out into the world. It’s also teaching them good relationship skills, about how to work together as a team, and teaching them to anticipate needs and plans of others and doing your best to help out.

Summer is a great time to hang out and have fun, but it also brings some unique opportunities to strengthen and support the relationships in each of our lives. What will you do this summer to help everyone, including yourself, have a productive and enjoyable summer?