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Are You Giving Employees Permission to Speak Freely?



     Hiring and keeping the right team players is tough—often because people don’t have what Anne Katherine, therapist and author of Boundaries Where You End and I Begin, calls good “boundary intelligence.”

    During the trial employment period, Katherine recommends giving new hires some boundary dilemmas and asking them how they’d handle each situation. Common boundary issues at work include office gossip, project overload and personal issues on professional time.

   Ongoing, use your regular meeting times to help team members develop the soft skill of boundary setting. “I work with entrepreneurs a lot, and one of the things I train them to do is to actually have developmental conversations with their people,” says John Townsend, Ph.D., a business consultant, psychologist, leadership coach and co-author of 27 books, including Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.

    Your employees are looking to you for help in developing not just in sales, marketing or operations. “We’re supposed to develop them as people as well,” Townsend says.

    Even with the best team, setting an example as a leader is vital to keeping healthy boundaries throughout an organization. So rather than blindly assign tasks, give people permission to speak freely, as they say in the military. Encourage them to be candid with you about their workload, interest level and issues regarding projects with potential teammates.

    In his organization, Townsend also encourages team members to give him candid feedback about his own performance. “If they see a problem in my workload or my attitude or my behavior, and I’m not aware of it and they don’t say anything, then my career could go off a cliff,” he says. “I think every entrepreneur needs to give their people permission to speak freely because they’re seeing things that we’re not seeing. They can be extremely helpful in solving problems and meeting challenges. We need their feedback.

“What you find is that the culture begins to change,” he adds. “People feel empowered. People feel stronger. They feel trust. They feel more confident. And work gets better.”

Leaders Eat Last

                              Leaders Eat Last


Being a true leader, says Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’’t (Penguin), isn’t about being in charge, having all the answers or being the most qualified person in the room. Instead, it’s about creating a “circle of safety,” a culture that leads people to feel protected and free from danger inside the organization. That, in turn, allows them to focus their time and energy on protecting the organization from outside threats and on seizing big opportunities.

Here, from Sinek, are five precepts of his leadership vision.

1. Leaders have to accept that their responsibility is not the performance of the company but the performance of their people, and that doesn’t mean numbers but whether people are working to their greatest potential. Are they being given opportunities to try and fail and try again?

2. Leaders, whatever the size of their organizations, are those willing to put the interests of other people before their own. For entrepreneurs or small-business owners, that means committing ourselves to the success of our clients and our customers and showing up every day not simply to grow our own bottom line but to help somebody else’s bottom line.

3. Online communities function like any other community. You can’t just milk social media to tell people about your company without being willing to serve. Instead, use these platforms to offer and share information that has value to other people even if it has no direct impact on you whatsoever.

4. When an employee is going through a slump, don’t fire them, coach them. Consider the tech company Next Jump, which has a policy of lifetime employment. Once firing wasn’t an option, more care was taken to hire the right people—evaluating not just skills and experience, but character as well. Training became much more comprehensive; peer counseling groups were formed in every part of the company, and performance evaluations became more open, honest and real. Turnover went from 40 percent—average for the industry—to 1 percent. The best leaders don’t come down harder on people whose performance is lagging; they come to their aid.

5. Temper idealism with realism and accountability. While we’d want all our client relationships to be long, fruitful and marked by reciprocity, the economic realities of business sometime require us to say yes to clients that we know are going to be difficult. If someone rakes you over the coals during the contract negotiations—guess what?—they’re going to rake you over the coals later on, too. Treat the relationship for what it is: a short-term hit. When you’ve gotten what you need—better cash flow, say—politely move on. We sometimes need to take on difficult and unreasonable clients, but let’s do it consciously.

Entrepreneur Test: Do You Have What It Takes?



                     Entrepreneur Test


“Among other challenges, business owners have to be able to fight off legions of rejections.”
-Jason Dorsey-

    It was 9 p.m. Friday in the middle of summer. The weather was perfect. My friends were out on the town, having fun and taking pictures they’ll have to explain in future job interviews. I was holed up in my tiny apartment typing away. Why? Because I was becoming an entrepreneur.

    Ask anyone what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and you’ll hear a variety of responses: a great business plan, access to capital and a bunch of other phrases straight from a college PowerPoint presentation. But when you talk to those in the trenches who are pursuing their entrepreneurial dream every single day, the answers are different: passion, purpose, grit and being a little irrational
—because these character traits are essential.

“Most businesses fail.” Your mom told you that. “Get a job with benefits.” Your dad told you that. “Your business will never make it.” Everyone else told you that. But true entrepreneurs push on anyway, because we have to. It’s what feels right.

If a desire to be an entrepreneur keeps you awake at night, try these three free ways to see if you have what it takes:

1. Pitch your business idea to 30 people. Not five or 10, but 30. If presenting to 30 people seems ridiculous because you know most of them will be unenthusiastic, no need to read any further. A typical business owner will receive hundreds of rejections his or her first year. If you can’t let go of rejection quickly, you’re better off sticking with a steady paycheck and online dating.

2. Make the first investment. For each of the next two weeks, commit to working an extra 20 hours. Spend those extra hours becoming an expert in your new venture. Identify your competitors. Learn about your customers. Map out the first 90 days of your new venture. If it’s right for you, you’ll grow even more excited (to work another 20 hours the coming week)!

3. Interview 10 entrepreneurs. Ask these people—all of whom started a business at zero revenue—about the good, the bad, the ugly and the inspiring. Interviewing entrepreneurs changed my life and gave me a new appreciation for “big hat, no cattle.” The wealthiest entrepreneur I met lived in the smallest house (and still does).

After 17 years as a business owner, I can tell you it’s simple to become an entrepreneur. Anyone can print business cards that say CEO or founder. It’s tough to stay an entrepreneur. Staying an entrepreneur means you pushed through all the challenges, naysayers and distractions without giving up on yourself or your dream. I know you can do it.

All I ask is that, once you make it as an entrepreneur, you share your experience and story with others. Hearing an entrepreneur’s story changed my life and inspired me to take the path I live today. And, yes, I still work some Friday nights. But now that I’m the boss, I can fire myself, too!

Take our fun (and totally unscientific) quiz to find out your entrepreneur quotient—or at least get in a few chuckles.

John C. Maxwell: How to Retain Talented Employees


                     Finders Keepers

     In 1997 I decided to move my organizations from San Diego to Atlanta. I knew the relocation would mean saying goodbye to some great friends and colleagues on these teams. I wondered: How many would stay in a city they loved and how many would pick up their lives to make the move with the rest of us?

You can imagine my delight when more than 60 people came with us. Though I have always known the importance of hiring the right people, in that moment I realized how special my people were, how committed they were to our vision and how fortunate I was that they wanted to stick with us even when it wasn’t convenient.

Every day I am grateful for the people who work alongside me, some of whom have been with me for decades. The quest for the ideal team is the biggest, most important task you’ll face as a leader. Your ability to find, develop and retain the best people is the single greatest factor in determining your success.

No pressure, right?

I’m always on the lookout for winners. I’m always excited to introduce talented newcomers to my team, but I hold onto them only loosely. Here’s why: I want to work with people who want to work with me. I’m fortunate that many have chosen to stay.

How do you create an atmosphere that makes those top performers want to remain by your side? How do you keep them from being lured away by the competition or opportunities elsewhere? The key to keeping talented people is to create a culture that’s hard to walk away from. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Know your team. My greatest pleasures in life come from three things: great food, great friends and great conversations. Luckily the people I work with are also some of my closest friends. As a result my work and play blend seamlessly. That’s important because relationships matter. People don’t leave companies; they leave people.

They also stay for people. The time you invest in creating personal connections with your team pays dividends in the long run.

2. Coach for improvement. Your top performers are probably just like you—always striving to advance. Don’t just be their boss. Be their coach. Become the guiding force pushing them to excel.

I learned this from the very best, legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, whose mentorship changed my approach to leadership. He told me that he showed up for practice every day with one question: “How can I make my team better?” This single-minded emphasis on improvement led him to the kind of record-breaking success (10 NCAA Championships) that is not only rare, but unlikely to be replicated.

Also consider the philosophy of D. Michael Abrashoff, former captain of the Navy destroyer USS Benfold. Abrashoff started his command of this ship—plagued by low morale and poor evaluations—by asking every crew member the same question: “It’s your ship—how would you fix it?”

“Every leader needs big ears and zero tolerance for stereotypes,” he states in his book, It’s Your Ship. When you value every person regardless of their position, you receive more feedback at all levels of the organization. And when individual team members know they have a voice, they’ll enjoy their work more.

3. Make fun a priority. At the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, you can see fishmongers tossing salmon, performing tricks with halibut—even inviting customers to smooch the fish. They generally have a grand old time at a place normally not associated with entertainment. But “fun” is an essential part of the market’s culture. Each fishmonger, in the words of the English philosopher and minister L.P. Jacks, “draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play.” As a result, the employees and the customers are happy.

That’s the kind of atmosphere I’ve worked to create at my companies, too. I love to have fun. I laugh a lot. In the business world, I think, leaders are too reluctant to relax around their teams. Perhaps they feel letting their hair down would detract from their authority.

That fear has never crossed my mind. Instead, I intentionally create experiences for my team so we can have fun together. I believe that is one of the reasons we work so well together, and a reason why the founders of Pike Place succeeded in their one, seemingly far-fetched goal: to be world famous!

4. Focus on values. People can quit a job, but they find it hard to quit a cause. People want to know that what they do every day matters. That’s why, when assembling a team, I look for people’s values—not just their potential and skill. If you create a team based on shared collective principles, it is easier to keep everyone engaged and aligned.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has done just that. He’s made “happiness” the central theme of his company. He says, “Happiness is about being able to combine pleasure, passion and purpose in one’s personal life.”

Companies today face tight competition for the top job candidates. Hsieh has created a culture that focuses on shared values and sustaining an enjoyable workplace. As a result Zappos has far more talented applicants than they have positions to fill. What a great problem to have.

As you make your workplace irresistible to job seekers and too good to leave once they’re in the door, remember those four guiding principles. I hope you don’t have to make a cross-country move like I did, but I do hope your crew feels the same sense of loyalty to you because of the opportunities you offer, the respect you show them, and the good times you have together.

Embrace both the obvious and nuanced aspects of on-the-job contentment to help your company thrive. Learn the formula for happy employees.
– See more at:

John C. Maxwell: A Guide for Making Tough Decisions


                           Tough Decisions


Good leadership is not a popularity contest. One of the most important days in my career was the day I realized that leading well was more important than being well-liked.

Anyone who has had this epiphany know it’s a tough moment: We’ve all wanted to be the “cool kid” since our grade school days. Now we sometimes find ourselves sounding like the principal.

But our careers are filled with difficult, sometimes unpopular choices, and our success rests on how we handle them. I once heard Colin Powell say, “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering different rewards based on different performance because some people might get upset.”

We’re tempted to postpone and avoid tough decisions and hard conversations. The great American financier T. Boone Pickens once cautioned: “Don’t fall victim to what I call the ‘ready-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome.’ You must be willing to fire.” Decide. Act. That’s your job as a leader.

How do you find the motivation to do what you wish you could avoid? How do you learn to do what others don’t want to do and say what others don’t want to say?

In a nod back to that grade school analogy, I’m giving you some homework. This worksheet will help you identify the decisions you have to make and the steps you must take in order to make them. Ready?

Step 1: Take Responsibility.

The bottom line is this: Nothing changes if nothing changes. Procrastination kills leadership effectiveness today and leadership potential tomorrow. Whatever is your biggest problem now will be your biggest problem next week and your biggest problem next month unless you do something about it.

List three decisions you’ve been putting off:

1. ____________________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________________

Step 2: Prepare Yourself.

Are you feeling anxious about those looming choices? Let’s do some research to boost your decision-making confidence.

Pick one of the above problems. List the information you need to move forward and the experts and colleagues who can offer insight.

Info needed: ___________________________________________________


People needed: _________________________________________________


Step 3: Reflect.

Once you’ve completed the first two steps, consider where that knowledge takes you. What insights did you gain? Did you discover things below the surface?

List your realizations:

1. ____________________________________________________________


2. ____________________________________________________________


3. ____________________________________________________________


Step 4: Determine your action plan.

What do you need to do before you take action? Should you meet with key influencers? Write a step-by-step strategy? Consult with an expert?

List your next moves and give yourself a deadline to make them.

Action: ______________________________________________________________

Deadline: ____________________________________________________________

Action: ______________________________________________________________

Deadline: ____________________________________________________________

Action: ______________________________________________________________

Deadline: ____________________________________________________________

Go through that four-step process, and I promise that decision-making will go from overwhelming to attainable. (Notice, though, I’m still not calling it easy!) Repeat that process for the additional situations you listed and the countless others you’ll face in your personal and professional lives.

Let me offer a few other strategies to make the process easier.

Act immediately. Although it is your responsibility to deliberate options and make educated decisions, you’ll also encounter situations in which you must think on your feet. Great leaders act with limited information. Don’t hedge! Take action using your knowledge and instincts to guide you.

Be confident. Don’t waste time and energy second-guessing yourself. Someone once told me that I have no rearview mirror. I believe that’s true: I have little desire to look backward. I make decisions and move on. You should, too.

Think payoff. Your motivation to act comes from the benefits you envision. Is your team morale likely to improve? Will productivity increase? Will you see an impact on the bottom line? Focus on those positives. It’s like going to the dentist—you may not look forward to the process, but the outcome is highly beneficial.

Change can be hard, but uncomfortable changes often lead to breakthroughs. In every challenge lies the opportunity for growth. One of the most difficult decisions that I ever made was leaving the organization my father led—the place I had committed 10 years of my life to. That decision was painful and a little frightening, but it was also the move that changed my career.

5 Tips for Turning Your Tiny Habits into Big Results


Following Stanford researcher and professor BJ Fogg’s principles in behavior design can painlessly and seamlessly change your life, all without using willpower or motivation. But it can be a bit tricky to master at first. Dive into our full-length feature on the life-changing Tiny Habits program, read our tips below, and then visit Fogg’s website to begin your journey.

1. Make your Tiny Habit “crispy,” or specific. Be very specific—“crispify” your Tiny Habit in a way that everybody understands the behavior. Think of your Tiny Habit as a solution you design for. Unlike aspirations, when you design for a solution, you don’t leave it to chance. Crispify, design for a solution and then iterate or repeat as needed.

2. Top Habit-eers think, “The starting point is never too tiny.” At Fogg’s SXSW presentation on Tiny Habits, he mentioned that his top Tiny Habit program participants generally think that you can never start too small with designing new behavior. Participants whose Tiny Habits weren’t effective only had to make their starting point even smaller in order for their desired behavior to effortlessly stick.

3. Design for ‘DO stuff’ behavior. When thinking of your desired goal or behavior, Tiny Habits work best when you design for “DO stuff” behavior—do a new behavior, do familiar behavior or increase an existing behavior’s intensity or duration. Behaviors that you don’t do are trickier to design.

4. Springboard your way to success! Behavior-wise, goals that are big leaps generally don’t work, unless you’re using the momentum of Tiny Habits. Fogg states, “As long as you’re doing these little tiny behaviors and succeeding, there comes a moment when it seems like you just step up to the plate for something big. You think, I CAN do this big thing that I’ve procrastinated for a long, long time.”

5. The more Tiny Habits you create, the better you get at it. Just like the skill of practicing an instrument, the more you design for Tiny Habits, the better—and more successful—you get at it. Don’t feel guilty when something doesn’t work. Revise, practice and design your Tiny Habits to become even “crispier” and more conducive to change. Here are a few suggestions from Fogg, along with a Tiny Habit I’ve been working on.

Remember, the formula for creating a Tiny Habit is: After I (routine), I will (tiny behavior).

– After I check into a hotel, I will see where the hotel gym is located.
Professor Fogg has a set of Tiny Habits for when he travels, and immediately walking to the hotel gym makes the behavior of going to the gym much easier as his hotel stay continues.

– In the morning, after I first sit down at work, I will put a glass of water on my desk.
This was an example Professor Fogg used in his SXSW presentation. Instead of just saying you’ll drink more water, taking the small action of filling a glass of water encourages the natural behavior of drinking from it, and refilling it as the day continues.

– After I delete a batch of emails, I will take one deep, 5-second breath.
I generally delete emails after reading or completing the task associated with them, so this has helped me feel much more calm, accomplished and in control throughout the day.

Common routines that you can use as “triggers” to form your Tiny Habits:
– Pour coffee
– Park your car
– Sit down on subway
– Turn on the shower
– Pee
– Brush your teeth
– Enter your home after work
– Hear the phone ring
– Drop off kids at school
– Put on contacts/glasses
– Start the dishwasher

3 Powerful Skills You Must Have to Succeed in Sales

5 Things Never to Ask in a Job Interview

It’s that time of the year, college graduation is just around the corner and soon after, THE REAL WORLD! Looking for a job is an exciting adventure but definitely can be quite stressful at the same time. Here are a few tips on what NOT to ask in an interview.
Your resume didn’t fall into a black hole. You’ve been called for an interview. You picked out a nice suit to wear and you’re ready to dazzle them with your smarts. And you know it’s important to have questions for the interviewer because it shows you’re engaged and genuinely interested in the position.
The wrong questions, however, can tank even the best interview. You know better than to bring up salary, benefits or vacation early on in a discussion — those are still commonly viewed as taboo in a first interview. But there are other, less-known pitfalls to avoid as well.
Here are five questions you should never ask in a job interview.
What does this company do?

You’re here to interview with Consolidated Widget Makers, and you didn’t bother to look up what they do? That’s inexcusable.

This is an unfortunate, but common, mistake now that people can easily apply to multiple positions with the help of job boards, says Kenneth Johnson, president of East Coast Executives, a Philadelphia based executive search firm. “A Google search will uncover the answer and save you the embarrassment.”
Even if you’ve applied to dozens of positions and been on many interviews, treat each new one as the potential game-changer that it is. When you’re called, in addition to the time and address of the interview, be sure to take down the name of the company and interviewer so you can do some research and show up well prepared.

What is your drug testing policy? 

Johnson says this is the worst question he’s asked in interviews. “Even if the company has a very liberal testing policy, this question definitely raises some doubts about your candidacy.” Asking is unprofessional and a huge red flag to employers.

How long until I can have your job?

I’ve heard this one often, says Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. “Some candidates seem to think this demonstrates career focus and gumption. On the other side of the table it feels obnoxious. Demonstrate strong passion and commitment for the job you’re interviewing for.”
If you’re asked about your five- or 10-year plan, that would be the time to inquire or express your desire for advancement, but “until then, articulate your commitment and qualifications for the job at hand,” explains Hurt.

What about overtime?

Questions about overtime can get you in trouble a couple ways. First, employers who are worried about budgets and hiring hourly staff may be very sensitive to paying out for extra time. Asking if you’ll get frequent overtime may mean you’ll risk turning them off in favor of a candidate who will work efficiently within their regular hours only.

A question such as “Will I have to work overtime?” is also bad form. “Asking this question during the interview gives the interviewer the impression that you don’t want to put in any more work than is required. This does not give the interviewer a positive impression of you,” says Cheryl Palmer, owner of executive coaching firm Call to Career.

It’s probably best to ask what the normal hours for your position will be and leave it at that.

Any question about what you’ve already been told.

The person who wrote that job listing worked hard to make sure it conveyed the right information to the right group of people. It obviously worked if you’ve applied and gotten as far as the interview stage. Don’t make all their hard work seem trivial by not fully reading every communication they send.
“If someone asks me questions during the job interview that have already been covered in the job posting or emails, it makes me question their attention to detail,” explains Carol Cochran, HR director for FlexJobs, a job search service for telecommuting and flexible positions.

19 Hard Things You Need To Do To Be Successful

You have to do the hard things. 


  • You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
  • You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
  • You have to give more than you get in return right away.
  • You have to care more about others than they care about you.
  • You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.
  • You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
  • You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.
  • You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.
  • You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
  • You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.
  • You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
  • You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts.”
  • You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.
  • You have to try and fail and try again.
  • You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.
  • You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
  • You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
  • You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
  • You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

You have to do the hard things. The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.

Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

The hard things are the easiest things to avoid. To excuse away. To pretend like they don’t apply to you.

The simple truth about how ordinary people accomplish outrageous feats of success is that they do the hard things that smarter, wealthier, more qualified people don’t have the courage — or desperation — to do.

Do the hard things. You might be surprised at how amazing you really are.

Read more:

20 Things Twenty-Somethings Don’t Get….BUT SHOULD!

Here at Denali Executives, we specialize in leadership and entrepreneurship. Running a business and hiring “millennials” has been quite interesting and after reading this article on, a lot of things make since!


Time is Not a Limitless Commodity – I so rarely find young professionals that have a heightened sense of urgency to get to the next level.  In our 20s we think we have all the time in the world to A) figure it out and B) get what we want.  Time is the only treasure we start off with in abundance, and can never get back.  Make the most of the opportunities you have today, because there will be a time when you have no more of it.

You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated – Congratulations, you may be the most capable, creative, knowledgeable & multi-tasking generation yet.  As my father says, “I’ll Give You a Sh-t Medal.”  Unrefined raw materials (no matter how valuable) are simply wasted potential.  There’s no prize for talent, just results.  Even the most seemingly gifted folks methodically and painfully worked their way to success.  (Tip: read “Talent is Overrated”)

We’re More Productive in the Morning – During my first 2 years at Docstoc (while I was still in my 20’s) I prided myself on staying at the office until 3am on a regular basis.  I thought I got so much work done in those hours long after everyone else was gone.  But in retrospect I got more menial, task-based items done, not the more complicated strategic planning, phone calls or meetings that needed to happen during business hours.  Now I stress an office-wide early start time because I know, for the most part, we’re more productive as a team in those early hours of the day.

Social Media is Not a Career – These job titles won’t exist in 5 years. Social media is simply a function of marketing; it helps support branding, ROI or both.  Social media is a means to get more awareness, more users or more revenue.  It’s not an end in itself.  I’d strongly caution against pegging your career trajectory solely to a social media job title.

Pick Up the Phone – Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person.  It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities.  And when the Internet goes down… stop looking so befuddled and don’t ask to go home.  Don’t be a pansy, pick up the phone.

Be the First In & Last to Leave ­– I give this advice to everyone starting a new job or still in the formative stages of their professional career.  You have more ground to make up than everyone else around you, and you do have something to prove.  There’s only one sure-fire way to get ahead, and that’s to work harder than all of your peers.

Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do – You can’t have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility.  You’ll never get ahead by waiting for someone to tell you what to do.  Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure.  Err on the side of doing too much, not too little.  

Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes – You should be making lots of mistakes when you’re early on in your career.  But you shouldn’t be defensive about errors in judgment or execution.  Stop trying to justify your F-ups.  You’re only going to grow by embracing the lessons learned from your mistakes, and committing to learn from those experiences.

You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked – Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” would be the most valuable boss you could possibly have.  This is the most impressionable, malleable and formative stage of your professional career.  Working for someone that demands excellence and pushes your limits every day will build the most solid foundation for your ongoing professional success.

A New Job a Year Isn’t a Good Thing ­­– 1-year stints don’t tell me that you’re so talented that you keep outgrowing your company.  It tells me that you don’t have the discipline to see your own learning curve through to completion.  It takes about 2-3 years to master any new critical skill, give yourself at least that much time before you jump ship.  Otherwise your resume reads as a series of red flags on why not to be hired.

People Matter More Than Perks – It’s so trendy to pick the company that offers the most flex time, unlimited meals, company massages, game rooms and team outings.  Those should all matter, but not as much as the character of your founders and managers. Great leaders will mentor you and will be a loyal source of employment long after you’ve left.  Make a conscious bet on the folks you’re going to work for and your commitment to them will pay off much more than those fluffy perks.

Map Effort to Your Professional Gain – You’re going to be asked to do things you don’t like to do.  Keep your eye on the prize.   Connect what you’re doing today, with where you want to be tomorrow.  That should be all the incentive you need. If you can’t map your future success to your current responsibilities, then it’s time to find a new opportunity. 

Speak Up, Not Out – We’re raising a generation of sh-t talkers.  In your workplace this is a cancer.  If you have issues with management, culture or your role & responsibilities, SPEAK UP.  Don’t take those complaints and trash-talk the company or co-workers on lunch breaks and anonymous chat boards.  If you can effectively communicate what needs to be improved, you have the ability to shape your surroundings and professional destiny.

You HAVE to Build Your Technical Chops – Adding “Proficient in Microsoft Office” at the bottom of your resume under Skills, is not going to cut it anymore.  I immediately give preference to candidates who are ninjas in: Photoshop, HTML/CSS, iOS, WordPress, Adwords, MySQL, Balsamiq, advanced Excel, Final Cut Pro – regardless of their job position.  If you plan to stay gainfully employed, you better complement that humanities degree with some applicable technical chops.

Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter – It’s who you know more than what you know, that gets you ahead in business.  Knowing a small group of folks very well, or a huge smattering of contacts superficially, just won’t cut it.  Meet and stay connected to lots of folks, and invest your time developing as many of those relationships as possible. (TIP: Here is my Networking Advice)

You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors – The most guaranteed path to success is to emulate those who’ve achieved what you seek.  You should always have at least 3 people you call mentors who are where you want to be.  Their free guidance and counsel will be the most priceless gift you can receive.  

Pick an Idol & Act “As If” – You may not know what to do, but your professional idol does.  I often coach my employees to pick the businessperson they most admire, and act “as if.”  If you were (fill in the blank) how would he or she carry themselves, make decisions, organize his/her day, accomplish goals?  You’ve got to fake it until you make it, so it’s better to fake it as the most accomplished person you could imagine.   (Shout out to Tony Robbins for the tip)

Read More Books, Fewer Tweets/Texts – Your generation consumes information in headlines and 140 characters:  all breadth and no depth.  Creativity, thoughtfulness and thinking skills are freed when you’re forced to read a full book cover to cover.  All the keys to your future success, lay in the past experience of others.  Make sure to read a book a month  (fiction or non-fiction) and your career will blossom.

Spend 25% Less Than You Make – When your material needs meet or exceed your income, you’re sabotaging your ability to really make it big.  Don’t shackle yourself with golden handcuffs (a fancy car or an expensive apartment).  Be willing and able to take 20% less in the short term, if it could mean 200% more earning potential.  You’re nothing more than penny wise and pound-foolish if you pass up an amazing new career opportunity to keep an extra little bit of income.  No matter how much money you make, spend 25% less to support your life.  It’s a guaranteed formula to be less stressed and to always have the flexibility to pursue your dreams.

Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It – Over time, your reputation is the most valuable currency you have in business.  It’s the invisible key that either opens or closes doors of professional opportunity.  Especially in an age where everything is forever recorded and accessible, your reputation has to be guarded like the most sacred treasure.  It’s the one item that, once lost, you can never get back.

                                                    –Written by Jason Nazar, Owner of Docstoc


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