Keep it Going: Sustaining Your Success

OMG you did it!! The months and years of working hard and working smart, of knowing when to listen to your inner voice and when to listen to a good adviser, the months of living on four hours of sleep and no vacations for what seems like forever and—–your company grossed $1 million over four consecutive quarters! You’ve reached a milestone that defines success.

OK. So now that you’ve reached the mountaintop, you have to figure out how to keep your footing and stay up there.  In fact, because you are focused, ambitious and determined, you’re already thinking about climbing even higher.  But sustaining and growing your success might demand as much work and determination as you invested to attain it. Here are four commonsense choices that can help you hold on to your earnings and continue the positive slope of your company’s future.

Pay taxes

Meet with a business accountant and figure out how much money you should reserve each quarter for tax payments (usually 30% – 40%). You don’t want to wait until the annual tax time and realize that you owe big money to the IRS.  Before you spread money around, pay the quarterly tax bill and set aside enough to ensure that all remaining tax bills in the calendar year can be covered.

Smart celebration

When you hit the revenue milestone that you’ve defined as your “made it” metric, whether the amount is a net or gross figure, you owe it to yourself to celebrate. What’s important, though, is not only how you celebrate but also with whom.

First, don’t overspend.  If you want to take a week-long spa vacation then go for it, because that will dissolve your stress and prepare you for the work you’ll do to build on your new-found success.  Or maybe you’d like to visit a place you’ve always wanted to see, or return to?  A splurge that refreshes and replenishes your energy stores is likewise always worth it.

Where you want to be careful is the amount you spend on consumer goods.  You may need a new car and if you can afford it, then do so, but be careful about splurging on luxuries.  Buying a Saab or Volvo probably makes more sense than buying a BMW or Benz at this point.  Save real luxury purchases for when you’ve raised your net worth to a more substantial level.

Others may want to throw a party.  Caution is advised when developing the guest list.  The sad fact is that there will be certain individuals, including family members, who will feel more envy than happiness upon hearing news of your success.  If a party is a must-do (and why not?), invite only those who supported and believed in you.

Fair-weather friends, frenemies, passive-aggressives, or critical types who claim that they’re just playing “devil’s advocate” or being “objective” are mostly about undermining and sabotaging. They are not your friends, even if they’re family members.  Don’t invite them and don’t let your mother guilt you into including them.  They don’t belong.

Save money

After you’ve paid down or, ideally, paid off any significant debts, business and personal, it’s time to save money.  Start with your retirement fund. Research options available to you in accordance with the business you own and pay the maximum amount allowed by your age and income level.  Investigate opening a Roth retirement account as a place to hold after-tax money if you anticipate having surplus cash.

Once you’ve figured out your retirement fund strategy, focus on other long-term investments. By all means, invest in the equipment, staffing, technology and office or manufacturing space that will support operations (including customer service), generate ROI and advance the business. But what if the building where you lease space comes up for sale? It might be a good move to buy the building, so that you can control your costs more effectively and also collect some rents.  For that, you’ll need money and a good credit score.

You can give yourself a wish-list savings account to build up cash reserves. There are other investments that can be made as well and to learn about your options, ask people you trust to recommend an investment counselor.  If you’ve got even $5000 to invest, investigate certificates of deposit, online banks such as Everbank, index stock funds, or actively managed mutual funds.

Keep doing what it was that made you successful

Now that you have a blueprint for making lots of money, continue to follow the template and don’t slack off! Don’t think that once you reach a certain level of success that things will just cruise along on their own. You must continue to do those things that created the conditions for success.  You can, however, devise methods that help processes become more efficient—that comes from experience. Operational efficiencies make money.  Plan your work to give priority to income-generating activities, such as sales calls and networking, to conserve your energy and bolster your stamina and creativity.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Emanuel Leutze (1816 – 1868, Germany) Washington Crossing the Delaware (River) December 25- 26, 1776 (1851)

Coaching Guide

Have you ever worked with a business or life coach? I worked with a business coach as I built the foundation of my consulting practice and the experience was useful.  When a significant life goal is on your agenda and you’re unsure how to achieve it, or you recognize that you’ll need some expert assistance to help you make a plan, consider checking in with a business coach.  Also, if you find yourself thwarted as you attempt to move forward in life and achieve goals that you find meaningful or essential, but now you’re stuck and at a loss for a remedy, seeing a skilled business or life coach may be beneficial.

If you’re not the type of person who feels comfortable sharing intimate information in a counseling situation, or if the necessary time or money are restricted, it’s possible to coach yourself.  The ability to coach (yourself or others) to success is a powerful professional development skill.  We’re all capable of giving ourselves and others a pep talk.  We’re all capable of creating a list of goals, with timetables for completion.  We are also capable of asking ourselves eight insightful questions that when we answer them truthfully can help propel us out of a rut and put us on the path to achieving our most treasured goals.

The Difficult and Troubling Situation Exercise questions below were developed by Jack Canfield, corporate trainer, motivational speaker and author of The 25 Principles of Success  (2007).  You can use the questions to either self-coach or partner with one or more friends or supportive colleagues and conduct a group coaching session.  When a question is asked, answer thoughtfully and honestly, but without elaborate explanations or equivocations.  Let the questions do their work.  What is the difficulty or troubling situation in your life?  How and when will you overcome it?

  1. What is the problem or troubling situation?
  2. How are you contributing to the problem, or allowing it to continue?
  3. What are you pretending not to know?
  4. What is the pay-off for maintaining the status quo, for keeping things as they are?
  5. What is the cost of not changing the situation or your behavior?
  6. What would you rather be experiencing in your life?
  7. What actions will you take and what requests will you make to bring the conditions or experiences that you want into your life?
  8. When will you take those actions and requests for guidance or support?

Question 1 asks you to state the problem, or if working alone, to write it down.  Admit the problem or obstacle out loud or in writing.  Acknowledge that you have a troubling situation on your hands—a roadblock or obstacle, a significant disappointment, or a run of bad luck that is thwarting your desire to attain certain goals and live a life that would make you happy and proud.

Question 2 asks you to accept responsibility for the existence of the problem, or  ignoring it, perhaps enabling it and at the very least, prolonging it, or allowing it to continue.  This question helps you pull the plug on playing the victim, poor pitiful me.  If the roadblock or bad luck in your life remains there for a while, it’s likely that you’ve played some role in bringing it there or keeping it there.  Here is your mindset switch.  Let yourself know that just like you’ve allowed this obstacle to appear or linger, you can remove out.  You have know-how and power.  You are not incompetent and helpless.

Question 3 shakes loose the denial that surrounds your difficult situation.  In every seemingly intractable problem, it’s likely that s/he who is mired in the mess is pretending not to know why the matter exists.  So if your daughter hasn’t spoken to you in 5 years, don’t pretend that you don’t know why she’s cut you out of her life.  It’s just that you find it inconvenient to admit to yourself that you know.  You find it easier to hide your head in the sand and deny what you know because if you admit to yourself that you know, then you’ll have to do something about it—and you’re probably afraid to do that.  There is some seemingly greater difficult situation that you’ll need to confront and resolve.  Oh, no!

Question 4 requires that you recognize and catalogue the benefits you receive from allowing the roadblock to remain in place, for the problem to fester.  Maybe you run from responsibility?  Do difficult conversations make your skin crawl? Might the probable solution to your obstacle cost more money and/or time and commitment than you think you can muster, or cause you to stand up and take charge of your life in a way you fear you cannot?

Returning to school to earn an advanced degree or certification is daunting.  There are classes to attend, exams to take, papers to write and all are uniquely costly, in some way.  Ugh, why do that when you can go shopping when you feel frustrated about not advancing in your career? Shopping is fun and so is going out drinking with your friends.  Many of us prefer to just settle in and become “comfortably uncomfortable,” as my late friend Chris Nieves used to say.

Question 5 compels you to calculate the losses that have piled up as you allow the problem to continue,  through your lack of action— a stunted career, diminished income, an apartment that’s not in the part of town that you’d rather live,  the inability to provide certain extras for your children, an estranged relationship?  Refusing to act has  consequences.

Question 6 urges you to love and respect yourself enough to envision the things in life that would satisfy you—a fulfilling relationship with a worthy significant other, a home that makes you feel comfortable, a healthy body, a business or employment that showcases your skills and pays you at a rate you find acceptable, the ability to travel.  What conditions or experiences do you want in your life? Verbally paint the picture.

Question 7 reminds you that the resolution to any problem or obstacle demands that you get out of your comfort zone and take action.  The action might require you to reach out and request physical help or advice.  It’s OK if you cannot take on the problem alone.

So if someone is violating your boundaries by doing any number of things that make you feel uncomfortable, then you must speak up and put a stop to that behavior and apply impactful consequences to those who disrespect you.

Question 8 requires you to establish reasonable target dates to move forward with your actions.  Develop a timetable, add milestones and chart your progress.  Success is waiting for you!

Thanks for reading,


Image: Telemachus (l) and Mentor (who in the coaching of Telemachus was actually the goddess Athena, who disguised herself as the wise old man). Illustration by Pablo E. Fabisch from Les Adventures de Telemaque (1699) a book based on Homer’s Odyssey by Francois de Salignac de La Mothe-Fenelon (France)

Getting and Giving Advice: Who to Ask, Frame the Question

We’re back with more thoughts and suggestions regarding how to navigate the matter of business advice, giving or receiving.  Previous posts have explored how to effectively give advice and the importance of using tact when advice is offered.  In this post, we’ll examine how to obtain business advice for ourselves.  As you might guess, it’s a delicate process.

Getting and Giving Advice: Skill Set

Getting and Giving Advice: Tact

First, if you are in need of advice, then there is either a problem or an opportunity that you must address (or ignore).  You are concerned and maybe even scared.  You are stressed and making decisions when stressed is seldom a good idea.  Stress impairs judgment and therefore increases the potential for an undesirable outcome.  Nevertheless, you recognize that another perspective could help you to sort things out. Who are you going to trust?

Yes, trust is a big factor when seeking advice. You must trust that person’s expertise and since confidentiality is likely involved, you must feel confident in the person’s ethics and practice of discretion.  You do not want someone who is unqualified to give the advice and neither do you want your private affairs indiscriminately shared.

Let’s start by helping you to identify a good advice prospect.  You may know more than one person who appears to own the experience and expertise that should make him/ her a good candidate,  but who should you approach?  Here are guidelines to assist your decision.

First, avoid asking someone who has competitive advantages that are significantly beyond your reach. If the person is prone to unusually good luck, or has a wealthy and influential family or spouse, then do not ask the individual for advice.  S/he may have built a highly profitable business, but because fate smiles on all of his/her endeavors,  s/he has faced no real obstacles.  Such persons cannot solve problems, because they’ve never had the need to do so.  They’ve never borne the consequences of either bad luck or their mistakes.

Second, look a little more at how the prospect has garnered  success.  Whether it was a fast climb to the top or slow, someone who has taken an unusual path has probably encountered an array of unexpected obstacles and opportunities that had to be conquered or exploited along the way.  Of necessity, that person has challenged assumptions, rethought the status quo and has the courage to move forward  when more conventional types might hesitate. As a result, that person has learned to be quite resourceful and could have real wisdom to share with you.

Next, confirm your advice prospect’s expertise in your area of need.  Just because someone has climbed the corporate ladder or built a million dollar plus company does not mean that the person is an expert in all disciplines.  A talent for strategy development is probably a strong point across the board,  but most people are strongest in either finance, operations, sales or marketing. Further, it’s been my observation that the intelligence possessed by computer geeks is very deep and very narrow, rendering them useful for IT questions only.  I would be reluctant to trust many of them to go the grocery store to buy bread and milk in a snowstorm.

Now, let’s consider the right way to ask for the advice.  As the late management guru Peter Drucker noted,  one will not find the fight answer unless the right question is asked.  Advice experts recommend that you NOT ask your prospect what you should do in your situation,  because s/he may get insulted if you decide to ignore their advice and follow another route.  Instead, ask if s/he has ever faced a situation like yours and if so, what did s/he do or say in response?

WRONG: “I feel that a big wholesaler is being unfair about the payment terms extended to me. What should I do”?

RIGHT:     ” Have you ever dealt with a big wholesaler who you felt was unfair about the payment terms extended to you? Were you able to do anything about it”?

Finally, you need access to your preferred advice candidate. It’s preferable to approach someone you are already acquainted with and that is the best reason for taking the time to establish business and social relationships.  The person who can most effectively guide you might be in the gym with you,  or at church, or at the lunch table at a symposium. Asking for detailed advice from someone you’ve just shaken hands with is awkward.

Ask your advice question, beginning with your clarifying question to verify expertise, in person if possible.  Your specific advice question can be asked in a follow-up telephone call if there is no time to address it on the spot, or if privacy is an issue.  Good luck!

Thanks for reading,




Power Through Stress

There are two types of people in this world—those who make things happen and those who allow things to happen to them.  Reader friend,  I know that you are the first type,  a mover & shaker take-charge Freelance professional who knows how to make good things happen.

But every once in a while,  I also know that the best-laid plans will not produce the expected outcome.  Other times, responsibilities and obligations pile on to a distressing level.  Such events might cause even a high-performing Freelance consultant to feel helpless and overwhelmed and as a result, stressed.

University of Florida psychologist Timothy Judge and colleagues encourage us to give ourselves a pep talk during challenging times, to promote the feeling that we are still able to exert control over the levers of our life and business (occasional slips of the grip notwithstanding), because his team’s research quite clearly indicates that those who feel confident in their abilities and in control of their lives are much better at managing stress and getting themselves positioned to capitalize on opportunities and dismantling or avoiding obstacles that block success.

Those who feel as if they are in control of their life and work can simultaneously feel very intense stress and anxiety from time to time.  However, their resilience equips them to manage those feelings differently from the passive types.  The powerful get busy when adversity strikes, while the passive are inclined to accept negative circumstances as inevitable and conclude that there is no recourse. They give up.

The ability to manage emotions and remain calm under intense pressure has a direct link to performance and the ability to perform well has a direct link to success.  Luck plays a role (let us not arrogantly deny that force of the universe),  but we are sometimes able to summon good luck into our lives.  It is often said that fortune favors the prepared.

As regards defeating or minimizing adversity,  realism makes us more resilient.  Prepare yourself for change by accepting that ups and downs are inevitable and the good times will not roll forever.  When billable hours are abundant and additional cash is available,  create short- and long-term savings and investment goals.  If nothing else, add more money to your retirement fund.  Whatever happens good or bad, money will be useful.  Think also of Plan B and even Plan C  alternatives that you could pivot into should unfortunate occurrences darken your door.

If you are presently in the clutches of challenging circumstances, you have my deepest sympathy.  Moreover I can empathize, because I’ve been there and I’m terrified of returning.  Respectfully,  I suggest that you take steps to shift your perspective to adopt the viewpoint of power and gain the confidence to take the reins. There may be aspects of your dilemma that are beyond your control,  but you are capable of controlling your response to it.  Long-term wallowing in self-pity is not useful.

Stress and anxiety can put us into a choke-hold.  To slip out, take action to build up your body’s hormonal stress-busters,  endorphins and serotonin,  with some regular exercise.  Any kind will do,  so long as you partake three or four times each week for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Please see my post from December 22, 2015.

Once you peel away a few layers of stress and anxiety,  you’ll be able to apply your renewed confidence to identifying corrective strategies.  It may take a while to engineer your repackaging or pivot,  but the time to begin the transformation  from passive to powerful is now.

Thanks for reading,



Successful People Allow Success to Happen

When you implement your fourth quarter Action Plan, be aware that there are some basic and necessary behaviors that you must adopt to create the conditions for the success of your plan.  It can be oh-so-easy to get pulled off your game by people and circumstances that make demands on your time, adversely impacting your energy levels and ability to focus as they do.

You must learn to be “healthy selfish” and strive to preserve your boundaries. Be prepared for some people to get indignant. You may even be attacked by those who feel the most entitled. It’s uncomfortable, but you’ll come to know who our friends are and are not. Consider the process a character development and leadership lesson.

Those who love and respect us give us space to do our thing. They touch base with us every once in a while. They step in to offer assistance and encouragement when we are in need. They never devolve into controlling and manipulative behavior.

I.    Just say no

If you are not able to take on a certain project or agree to a commitment, then respectfully decline. Perhaps you already have many irons in the fire and your schedule is filled. Perhaps you would rather take it easy for a while, resting and recharging your energy stores.

If a proposal doesn’t feel right, seems unorthodox or unsavory, you are not obligated to participate. Those who have vowed to sweet-talk (or arm-twist) you into this arrangement may become furious. Let them do just that. Then cut them out of your life. The last thing you need in your life are manipulators and bullies.

II.   Define boundaries

Everyone likes to be liked. We feel good when we help others and make them happy. But the price of acceptance does not hinge upon the “right” of others to violate our boundaries.  When you feel pressured or uncomfortable by a certain request, recognize that feeling as a sign that your boundaries are being violated.

Someone is attempting to “cross a line”.  Someone does not know his/her place, or role, in the relationship that the two of you are in, even if that someone is a parent or sibling. No one has a “right” to violate boundaries. Politely, but firmly and resolutely, push back and do not allow yourself to be bullied. If the violator persists, well, now you know who loves and respects you and who doesn’t. It can be a bitter lesson.

III.  Ask for it

What do you want? The sale? The assignment? Your team to work at 110% capacity? If you want it, then ask for it!

You must also be prepared to earn it, to demonstrate that you deserve the reward. If you expect your team to work at 110%, then you must work at least that hard and more. If you want the sale or the contract, then show the client why you deserve it and how hard you’ll work to earn it and then fulfill or exceed all expectations when it is awarded to you.

IV.  Release the negative

Mistakes are made and bad things sometimes happen. You may feel hurt and maybe resentful, too. Maybe you should let yourself wallow in those feelings for a while because after all, you are human.  However, you cannot allow yourself to remain stuck in the quicksand of negative feelings. Take a deep breath and then let it go as you step forward toward your vision of a successful future. You have goals and an action plan to help you reach them. Let that propel you out of the muck of resentment. Success is the best revenge.

V.   Walk, don’t run

OK so you’re on a roll, you have a timetable, you want to get things done. This is a one-page, 90-day action plan you’re working through, you say! Patience may not be considered a virtue and explaining things twice becomes an aggravation. Due diligence can happen some other time?

Stop. Breathe. Look at the big picture. Remember now, an ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure. Avoid cutting corners. Do not get slap-dash. Some on your pumped-up, charging team may get a bit frustrated, but make sure that your execution is accurate and that you are moving in the direction that will bring about the desired outcomes. Take the time to get buy-in of key stakeholders. You will be successful if you allow success to happen!

Thanks for reading,


A High-Five Finish for 2015: Your One Page Action Plan

Happy September! Summer is de facto over, even if Labor Day Weekend is as late as possible this year.  We are back to business as of today. There is one month left in the third quarter. Start your estimated tax form today and mail it no later than the 15th. Then for your next project, lay the groundwork for a strong finish to the year and develop an Action Plan that you can roll out as the fourth quarter rolls in.

To get started, revisit your long-term goals—maybe you developed those last December or January?—and pick three that stand out as priorities that deserve attention in the near term. These goals will become your focus. Ideally, you will select goals that will substantively impact the success of your organization.

Examples of good focus goals  include operational changes that streamline how you deliver services; customer service changes, such as billing system improvements; hiring an intern or an employee; lead generation initiatives; or a marketing campaign designed to enhance sales or up-selling opportunities. I suggest that you limit your focus goals  to a maximum of three, so as not to overwhelm yourself. The idea is to make a positive impact on your organization within 90 days.

If you have in your employ a leadership team that shares in decision-making, be certain to include them in the selection of focus goals.  It is important to seek out other perspectives when determining goals that will be given priority.  Moreover, the Action Plan will be less successful if you fail to Involve the leadership team and get buy-in for its aims and implementation.

Once you’ve settled on your focus goals,  agree upon which outcomes will constitute their successful achievement. What will signal that you’ve crossed the finish line? Those outcomes will become your success criteria,  milestones that can be objectively and quantitatively measured.

An assignment from a new client; a marketing campaign that has been launched; a new operational efficiency that is in place; an employee or intern who has agreed to`a start date; or a process to bring in new, high-ranking leads that is ready to roll would be first-rate and quantifiable markers of success criteria  for your focus goals.  Give yourself two to four success criteria  for each focus goal.

Identify also one key performance indicator  KPI  for each focus goal  that will allow you to easily determine if you are on track to meet that goal and as well give you time to consider refinements to your Action Plan, if needed. For example, if hiring an intern or employee is a focus goal,  completing the first round of interviews with three or four candidates by a given date would make a useful KPI.  If improvements in your billing system would involve the purchase of new software, the purchase of that software by a given date would represent a quantifiable KPI.

The last step in the development of your one page Action Plan is to create action steps  for the focus goals  and choose reasonable completion dates. Consider what you can or must do to substantively impact each one. Lastly, with your leadership team, decide who will “own” and assume responsibility for carrying out each action step.

Thanks for reading and enjoy Labor Day Weekend.


Business Strategy Consulting: Two Client Success Stories

Little did I know that a phone call would make me feel so good! A client with whom I worked only twice in 2014, because his cash flow was limited, called to tell me that he has brought his dream into reality and I am thrilled. This gentleman has been a fundraiser at a Vermont prep school; a television cameraman; and he is now a successful documentary filmmaker. His 2015 film, Passage At St. Augustine, tells a pivotal and largely unknown story of the American civil rights struggle in the 1960s. Please see the trailer:

I have previously written about how I work, to help you understand what business strategy consulting means. I work with small businesses, mid-sized not-for-profit organizations and self-employed professionals and help them find ways to leverage their skills and competitive advantages to make money. I get called in when clients are stuck, or when they have a goal, but insufficient staffing to achieve it.

Defining reasonable goals is a big part of what I do. Like a doctor, I sit with my “patient”, the client, and examine obstacles, competitive advantages and critical success factors — that is, those things that must fall into place in order to create success. The client and I discuss what the desired goals mean in terms of sustainable business success and confirm the likelihood that the chosen goals will serve that purpose. Should other options be considered?

We then decide which goals are reasonable and appear to be attainable. We identify action items and create a time-table. We choose milestones that mark progress and keep the client motivated and on his/her path. We schedule a date to meet again, so that we can assess what has been done and the outcomes of those actions. We fine-tune the plan and scrap altogether those actions that do not bring about the desired results, or prove to be unworkable for some reason. Rinse and repeat. It’s an approach that yields tangible results for clients.

Over a much longer period of time, I’ve worked with another member of the creative class and helped her to achieve success that she could scarcely imagine. I’m pleased to tell you that this client referred the filmmaker to me. She is a successful painter and collage artist whose stature has grown greatly over the three years that we’ve worked together.

She’s illustrated a children’s book that will be released in September 2015 and there are three more book illustration projects in the pipeline. Please see the press release and scroll through to view the illustrations:

Working with a business strategy consultant can be very useful for leaders of organizations large and small. At some point, we all need to sort through the clutter and find our way to the path that leads to sustainable success.

If you are thinking about how to effectively evaluate and pursue business opportunities; overcome business obstacles; or reach the finish line of an important project at your organization or Freelance venture, you may have thought about consulting with a business coach. Business strategists and business coaches are not interchangeable, although each will be beneficial in certain circumstances. Please give a read to a post I wrote in March 2015 to help yourself make an informed decision.

Inviting a knowledgeable independent professional who has both corporate and consulting sector experience to sit down with you and your team to examine your unique business environment to consider how to evaluate business opportunities; mitigate organizational weaknesses; avoid threats from competitors; and achieve desired profitability and other business goals may be just what the doctor ordered. Every once in a while it is necessary to reach out to someone who can introduce fresh perspectives that like sunshine will burn off the fog so that you can see all that you can do.

Thanks for reading,


A Politically Correct Skill Set

Besides the whims of fortune (and luck is an enormous force in the universe),  what differentiates a successful person from an unsuccessful person? What defines a successful leader?  According to Samuel Bacharach,  co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group,  successful leadership is defined by the ability to rally support for an idea and inspire others to collaborate with you and help bring that idea to fruition.  Regardless of the quality of the initiatives that you’d like to advance,   you cannot lead without possessing highly developed political skills.  In the absence of good political skills,  the most brilliant plans will die on the vine.  A good agenda will never be realized and a legacy will be greatly diminished.

Bacharach says that the essence of political competence is the ability to understand what you can and cannot control.  One must identify who will support the initiative,  who will oppose and when the time will be right to go public and move forward.  Those who possess political skills get things done because they take the time to think things through.  The politically skilled will not naively or arrogantly move forward alone,  but will instead win over the right people and build a coalition to take on the project. “Anticipating the obstacles your idea might face when you present it is a political skill that can help you get across the finish line”,  says Bacharach.  Politically skilled leaders will consult with a trusted ally or two to reality test their concept,  create a list of potential allies and detractors,  decide who to recruit for the launch team,  calculate the best time to move forward and create a roll-out strategy.

Political skill means knowing how to map out the battlefield terrain,  convince people to join your team and lead a coalition.   The best ideas do not always win out,  but the best launched ideas always have a good chance of seeing the light of day.  The highly respected movers and shakers in life are yes,  the luckiest,  but also they have political skills.

Some are born with a highly developed political skill gene,  but it is possible to improve your skill level.  As noted above,  taking the time to think through the arc of the initiative’s development and roll-out is a good place to start.  Who is likely to support you?  In whose interest might it be to see the project realized?  What can you do to make potential allies see that it will benefit them to support the project? Which of your allies has enough power to make things happen and bring other high-ranking players to your team?

Now who are likely to be detractors,  active or passive—who will feel threatened by a perceived  (or actual)  loss of power and influence if your plan is adopted?  Who might be able to withhold resources  (funding)  or start a whisper campaign to undermine you?  Can your team overcome these matters? Are there cultural,  historical or other barriers that you might face?

Assembling your winning coalition is the next step.  Work only with those whom you trust and respect and know that the feeling is mutual.  Be certain to compile a list of compelling benefits that will help you sell the merits of your idea to those with the power to make it a reality.

You may want to approach the mapping of the political terrain as strategic planning and conduct a SWOT Analysis (Strengths,  Weaknesses,  Opportunities and Threats),  to help you visualize the resources you hold,  any gaps in your war chest,  obstacles that you will likely face and opportunities that may strengthen your position along the way.  Anticipate the arguments that will be made against you.  Sell the benefits that will overcome those arguments and convince  (powerful)  allies to support your position.  Collaborate with supporters to bring your initiative to life.  Be an effective leader.

Merry Christmas,


Power and Success

Powerful people achieve success.  They are able to create opportunities that lead to success,  or they have opportunities to create success handed to them.  Power can emanate from several sources,  most famously from money and family connections.  Power also emanates from various other sources,  such as athletic ability (football hero);  musical ability (rock star);  intellect (IQ, intelligence quotient) that allows one to earn a degree from a prestigious school;  and relationships (EQ, emotional quotient / EI emotional intelligence) with powerful and influential people.  All of these power sources can be leveraged and used to propel oneself into environments where opportunities to create success are available.

For the majority of us power,  should we seek to pursue it (and most do not),  is an attribute that we develop on our own,  knowingly or unknowingly,  with or without intention and the EQ-based power that emanates from relationships is the power that is most accessible.   This variety of personal power is derived through the way we interact with others in personal and professional relationships.  To acquire this power,  one must be competent and trustworthy.   Additionally,  it is imperative to relate to others in a way that makes those who know you feel valued and good about themselves.  Those who acquire personal power through their relationships must be authentic,  or do an excellent job of convincing others that this is the case.  Powerful people inspire great loyalty and respect.

Personal power is an integral building block of leadership ability.  It can be argued that the wherewithal to develop personal power derives from the capacity to lead oneself.  Improving the ability to develop and sustain relationships by heightening EQ expertise helps one open doors that lead to opportunities that help us achieve success in business and life.  Here are guidelines that can serve as your EQ training regimen.  They were developed by Daniel Goleman,  author of Emotional Intelligence  (1995)  and based on the work of John Mayer,  personality psychologist at the University of New Hampshire and Peter Salovey,  social psychologist and president of Yale University:

I.      Self-awareness

The ability  (or courage)  to recognize and acknowledge one’s emotions,  motivations,  fears,  strengths and weaknesses and to understand the impact these have on our decision-making and interactions with others.  Accurate self-assessment and self-confidence are    required to master this element.

II.    Self-management

The ability  (or self-discipline)  to regulate,  control,  or redirect one’s disruptive  (read irrational,  inappropriate or destructive)  emotions or behaviors and successfully adapting to changing circumstances are the essential skills here.  This is not to say that one should knuckle under to adversity.  Just don’t throw any chairs.  Learn to fight back in a smart way that reflects well on you.  When necessary be flexible,  gracefully roll with the punches,  or devise Plan B.  Honesty,  integrity,  follow-through,  time management,  initiative and ambition reside in this element.

III.   Relationship management

Building bonds,  teamwork,  collaboration,  conflict management and social skills are the focus.  Those all-important interpersonal skills that allow us to relate to and connect with people are nurtured in this element,  as is leadership ability.  To strengthen these behaviors,  pay attention to feedback from others,   positive and negative.  Have the good judgment and maturity to display more of those behaviors that elicit positive feedback and much less of behaviors that generate unflattering comments.  Realize that there is such a thing as constructive criticism and avoid getting defensive and hostile when someone lets you know that perhaps you could have handled something another way.  Furthermore,  as painful as it might be,  listen also and check yourself when haters pounce,  for there might be a grain of truth in the venom they spew.

IV.   Empathy

EQ does not exist without genuine empathy.  Demonstrate that the feelings of others matter to you by be willing to consider the impact of your actions and decisions on others.  Think of intent vs. impact.  Challenge yourself to imagine how it might feel to be in the other person’s shoes and see the situation from another perspective.   Learn to take steps to hear and address the concerns of others.  Master this element and you’ll become a more successful negotiator.

Thanks for reading,


Cosi Fan Tutte: Uber Achievers

Hello again and welcome back to the list of suggested behaviors and activities that will help you achieve your 2014 wish list.  For the past three years I presented New Year’s Resolutions but this year,  you get to pick what you want to do.  I’m here to help you get what you want!  To do that,  I read up on motivational psychologist and Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University School of Business Heidi Grant Halvorson,  who writes for The Harvard Business Review.  Dr. Grant Halvorson is a highly successful professional,  but unlike many charmed individuals,  it is safe to say that she knows how she became,  and remains,  successful.   Here are the final four elements of her 201 1 e-book,  Nine Things Successful People Do Differently:

VI.   KEEP ON KEEPING ON: Be willing to commit to long-term goals and persevere in the face of difficulty.  Studies show that those who are able to put shoulder to the wheel and push through adversity obtain more education in their lifetime and earn higher grade point averages in school.  To help yourself along,  plan specific actions that when followed will bring you to your goal.  Devise a timeline for your action plan,  monitor the efficacy of strategies and reward yourself when important milestones are reached.

VII.  BUILD WILLPOWER MUSCLES: Our self-control muscle is like any other of our muscles.  When we don’t use it,  it eventually atrophies.  Use it or lose it! Give your willpower muscle a good workout by taking on small challenges that compel you to do something that perhaps you’d rather not,  e.g. taking on a home cleaning and organizing project.  Establish must-start and must-complete dates and then commit to them.   If you find yourself wavering and making excuses to put off the project—don’t!  Flex your willpower muscle and do some heavy lifting.  As you develop inner strength,  also known as self-discipline,  you’ll ready yourself to take on bigger challenges and achieve more life-changing goals.  It’s like training for a marathon by starting with 5K races.

VIII. DON’T TEMPT FATE: No matter how strong your willpower becomes,  it is important to always respect the inevitable fact that human beings have limits.  If you over-reach,  you’ll run out of steam or out of luck.  Avoid taking on more than one major challenge at a time if you can help it.  Do not be over-confident and bite off more than you can chew by setting obviously unattainable goals.  Successful people instinctively know what is in the realm of the possible and refrain from setting themselves up for failure.

IX.  FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WILL DO: …and not on what you will not do.  Research on thought suppression shows that trying to avoid a thought has the opposite effect and makes that thought grow larger in our minds.  The same holds true for behaviors.  By trying not to engage in a bad habit,  like smoking or eating junk food,  the habit becomes strengthened instead of broken.  Instead,  turn your thoughts toward implementing strategies that will bring you to your goal.

I hope that reading Dr. Grant Halvorson’s  Nine Things  helps you to acknowledge what you’ve been doing right all along.   As well,  I hope you’re able to identify the mistakes that have undermined you and that going forward,  you will develop successful strategies that pave the way to your most important goals.  Have a wonderful year.

Thanks for reading,