Tag Archives: creating consensus

The Power of Habits – Part 1

All of life, is but a mass of habits.  Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not.  They’re habits.  And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.  One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the action people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.  Only in the past two decades have scientists and marketers really begun understanding how habits work—more important, how they change.  Habits can be changed, if we understand how they work.

When you woke up this morning, what did you do first?  Which route did you drive to work?  When you got to your desk, did you deal with e-mail, chat with a colleague, or jump into writing a memo?  When you got home what did you do first?  Your actions were habits.

The Habits of Individuals:  The habit Loop—How Habits Work: 

Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.  Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.

“An efficient brain also allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, such as walking and choosing what to eat, so we can devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and eventually airplanes and video games.

But conserving mental effort is tricky, because if our brains power down at the wrong moment, we might fail to notice something important, such as a predator.  So our basal ganglia have devised a lever system to determine when to let habits take over.  It’s something that happens whenever a chunk of behavior starts or ends.”

The process in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine is known as chunking and it is the root of how habits are formed.  This process within our brains is a three-step loop.  First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.  Then, there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional.  Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time this loop—cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.  The discovery of the habit loop is so important is that it reveals a basic truth:  When habit emerges, the brain

stops fully participating in decision making.  It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks.  So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.  Habits never really disappear.  They’re encoded into the structures of our brain.  The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.

This explains why it’s so hard to create exercise habits, for instance, or change what we eat.  By the same rule, though, if we learn to create new neurological routines that overpower those behaviors—if we take control of the habit loop—we can force those bad tendencies into the background.  And once someone creates a new pattern, studies have demonstrated, going for a jog or ignoring the doughnuts becomes as automatic as any other habit.

Without habit loops, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life.  People whose basal ganglia are damaged by injury or disease often become mentally paralyzed.  Without our basal ganglia, we lose access to the hundreds of habits we rely on every day.  As long as your basal ganglia is intact and the cues remain constant, the behavior will occur unthinkingly.

Researchers have learned that cues can be almost anything, from a visual trigger such as a candy bar or a television commercial.  Routines can be incredibly complex or fantastically simple.  Rewards can range from food or drugs that cause physical sensations, to emotional payoffs such as the feelings of pride that accompany praise or self-congratulations.

Habits are powerful, but delicate.  They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed.  They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts.  They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.  By learning to observe the cues and rewards we can change the routines.

The Craving Brain—How To Create New Habits:

Claude Hopkins, a famous marketer in the early 1900’s, was best known for a series of rules he coined explaining how to create new habits among consumers.  These rules would transform industries and eventually became conventional wisdom among marketers.  Throughout his career one of his signature tactics was to find simple triggers to convince consumers to use his products every day.  Craving, it turns out, is what makes cues and rewards work.  That craving is what powers the habit loop.

His most famous product was Pepsodent toothpaste.  This was at a time people did not use toothpaste.  The cue he related to was film on teeth and the reward was a

bright smile and the routine was to use Pepsodent toothpaste everyday.  Hopkins first rule was to find a simple and obvious cue and secondly, clearly define the rewards, and lastly to generate a craving.

Habits are so powerful because they create neurological cravings.   Most of the time, these cravings emerge so gradually that we’re not really aware they exist, so we’re often blind to their influence.  But as we associate cues with certain reward, a subconscious craving emerges in our brain starts the habit loop spinning.

Craving example—email.  When a computer chimes or a smartphone vibrates with a new message, the brain starts anticipating the momentary distraction that opening an email provides.  That expectation, if unsatisfied, can build until a meeting is filled with antsy executives checking their buzzing smartphones under the table, even if they know it’s probably only their latest fantasy football results.  (On the other hand, if someone disables the buzzing—and thus, removes the cue—people can work for hours without thinking to check their in-boxes.)

Countless studies have shown that a cue and a reward, on their own, aren’t enough for a new habit to last.  Only when your brain starts expecting the reward—craving the endorphins or sense of accomplish.  The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.  Craving is an essential part of the formula for creating new habits.  And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier.

The Golden Rule Of Habit Change:

Tony Dungy’s coaching philosophy and belief “the key to winning was changing players’ habits.  He wanted to get players to stop making so many decision during a game.  He wanted them to react automatically, habitually.  If he could instill the right habits his team would win.  Champions don’t do extraordinary things, they do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react.  They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

So rather than creating new habits, Dungy was going to change players old ones.  And the secret to changing old habits was using what was already inside players’ heads.  Habits are a three-step loop—the cue, the routine, and the reward—but Dungy wanted to only to attack the middle step, the routine.  He knew from experience that it was easier to convince someone to adopt a new behavior if there was something familiar at the beginning and the end.

How to Diffuse Workplace Conflict

I recently conducted a workshop on a highly emotional topic: humans in the workplace. After all, every human being—employees and bosses—shows up for work accompanied by their unique drives, triggers, and tendencies. All things considered, it’s a wonder we get any work done at all.

My message to the attendees may be of value to you, too. As your company leader, it’s your job to boost productivity, which means it’s also your job to diffuse workplace conflicts and create consensus, keeping your teamed focused on achieving your goals.

There are many theories on how to accomplish this. Based on what I’ve learned from my small business peer groups and my own experience as a CEO, I’ve identified up four main strategies for dealing with difficult people and creating an emotionally-healthy, productive workplace. I’ve summarized these briefly below, and you can download my complete PowerPoint presentation at http://propres.com/difficult-people-ppt/.

Understand Yourself

Do you know what makes you tick? Do you know what ticks you off? The best managers are those who are aware of their emotions but not enslaved by them.

Good managers typically have a high Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)—that is, a high level of self-awareness regarding their emotional reactions and the emotions of others. Self-awareness is the first step toward self-management, the conscious management of one’s behavior.

To raise your EQ, check out Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

Understand Others

Good managers also have good social awareness. They not only pick up on other people’s emotions but know why they act the way they do. More and more employers are using personality assessment programs to better understand how their employees think.

One program I like is the DiSC® personality assessment system. DiSC is based on a four-part model of human behavior: the Dominant, Influencing, Steady, and Compliant traits. The DiSC test measures patterns of behavior, and then creates a personality profile that reflects an employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and drives.

Use Your Understanding to Manage Behavior

The whole point of understanding your emotions is that it will allow you to manage your behavior consciously and positively, as opposed to reacting emotionally in the moment.

The whole point of understanding the emotions of others is that it will allow you to behave in a manner that will get the desired response from others. In the workplace, this often comes down to diffusing conflict and creating consensus among employees.

Remember the old adage about counting to 10 when you’re angry? Turns out, it’s right on target.

For more about managing behavior, read Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at their Worst by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.

Use Your Understanding to Hire Wisely  

You can also apply these principals to make more successful hires. Instead of hiring new employees on the basis of a resume, look for people whose values and communication styles are harmonious with your own. Do they hold themselves accountable? Will they “get” your company culture?

If you’re seriously interested in a candidate, you can use a personality assessment to see if they’d make a good match for the position and your company. By choosing the right people, you can proactively diffuse conflict before it happens and create consensus from the get-go. Which means you’ll have to do a little less of the other three strategies further down the road.

Sell Smarter – Ditch the Pitch

Ditch the PitchHow to Sell Smarter: ‘Ditch the Pitch’

Review by Ray Silverstein

There’s one subject entrepreneurs can’t get enough of: how to increase sales.

Well, here’s a thought. If your current sales pitch isn’t delivering the results you want, it’s time to switch things up. Better yet, why not do something radical, and ditch the sales pitch entirely?

My friend Steve Yastrow, a shrewd business advisor and wonderful author, recently introduced this fascinating “Ditch the Pitch” approach to selling, which you’ll find in his new book of the same name. It’s so packed with worthwhile ideas, I asked Steve for permission to share my top takeaways with you.

Fact: Nobody Likes a Sales Pitch

You don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of a canned sales pitch, do you? I know I don’t. And, let’s face it, our prospects don’t either.

So, when you do get valuable face time with a prospect, don’t waste the opportunity by launching into a flat, unwelcome sales pitch. Shake things up: try using these three strategies instead.

Engage in Persuasive Conversations

People want to talk about the things they care about, not listen to monologues. You’ll get much further by drawing prospects into meaningful conversations about subjects that matter to them.

Yes, your sales pitch is a comfortable crutch. Engaging in real conversations will require you to improvise. But this is something you already know how to do. After all, we are all improvising our way through life. Assuming you know your stuff, businesswise (of course you do), you’ll do fine. And you’ll actually enjoy your sales interactions more.

Say Less to Notice More

Most people are better talkers than listeners. So let your prospects do most of the talking. Your first job is to listen, observe, and process what they’re saying. By doing so, you can identify their hot buttons and pain points, and then figure out how your products or services fit in.

That way, when you do open your mouth, what comes out will be interesting and relevant to them, which will get you closer to your goal.

Create a Shared Story

Here’s a great rule of thumb: make 95% of the conversation about your prospects. They don’t need to know everything about you and your business, only the parts that matter to them. Be very selective in what you share.

And another great sales tip: only speak about a paragraph’s worth of words before tossing the conversational ball back to your prospect. That way, you weave your story in with theirs.

In addition, your story is more likely to have a happy ending, in the form of a successful sale.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you can’t expect different results. Now is a great time to try a new sales approach. You can learn about Steve’s book, Ditch the Pitch, at www.yastrow.com. And you can get my complimentary Weekly Sales Worksheet—a real-world sales activity tracker—by emailing me at Ray@propres.com

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

The One Thing

The One ThingTHE ONE THING

The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Gary Keller with Jay Papasan – reviewed by Ray Silverstein

The author states “The One Thing is the best approach to getting what you want.” “What’s the One Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier?”  The author further states, “Where I’d had huge success, I narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.”

If everyone has the same number of hours in a day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others?  The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach.  They go small.

“Going Small” is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do.  It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most.  It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.  The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go small as possible.

Technological innovations, cultural shifts, and competitive forces will often dictate that a business’s One Thing evolve or transform.  The most successful companies know this and are always asking:  “What’s our One Thing?”  If your company doesn’t know what its One Thing is, then the company’s One Thing is to find out.

Andrew Carnegie addressed the students of the Curry Commercial College and stated “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket is all wrong.  I tell you to put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.”  So, how do you know which basket to pick? The Focusing Question will tell you.

Life Is A Question:  You may be asking, “Why focus on a question when what we really crave is an answer?”  It’s simple, Answers come from questions, and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.  Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer.  Ask the right question, get the right answer.  Ask the most powerful question possible, and the answer can be life altering.

Voltaire once wrote, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”  Great questions are the quickest path to great answers.  How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.

Example of a Focusing Question:  What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?  The Focusing Question can lead you to answer not only “big picture” questions (Where am I going? What target should I am for?) but also “small focus” ones as well (What must I do right now to be on the path to getting the big picture?)

The Focusing Question always aims you at the absolute best of both by forcing you to do what is essential to success—make a decision.  But not just any decision—it drives you to make the best decision.  It ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters is the foundational habit to use to achieve extraordinary results and lead a big life

To stay on tack for the best possible day, month, year, or career, you must keep asking the Focusing Question.  Ask it again and again, and it forces you to line up tasks in their levered order of importance.  Then, each time you ask it, you see your next priority.

For the author, The Focusing Question is a way of life.  He uses it to find his most leveraged priority, to make the most out of his time, and get the biggest bang for his buck.  Whenever the outcome absolutely matters, he asks it.

The Focusing Question is a foundational habit.  The author uses it for some things and not and not at all for others.  He applies it to the important areas of his life:  spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and financial life.  He addresses them in that order—each one is a foundation for the next.

The Focusing Question can direct you to your One Thing in different areas of your life.  Simply reframe The Focusing Question by inserting your area of focus.  Examples:

Spiritual Life—What’s the One Thing I can do to help others?

Physical Health— What’s the One Thing I can do to achieve my diet goals?

What’s the One Thing I can do to ensure I exercise?

What’s the One Thing I can do to relieve my stress?

Personal Life—— What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my skill at ­__?

What’s the One Thing I can do to find time for myself?

Key Relationships- What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my relationship with my spouse?

What’s the One Thing I can do to make my family  stronger?

Job—————– What’s the One Thing I can do to ensure I hit my goals?

What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my skills?

Business———– What’s the One Thing I can do to make us more competitive?

What’s the One Thing I can do to make our product the best?

What’s the One Thing I can do to make us more profitable?

What’s the One Thing I can do to improve our customer experience?

Leverage Reminders:  Set up ways to remind yourself to use The Focusing Question.  Such as a sign on your desk that says, “Until my One Thing is done—everything else is a distraction.”

The Focusing Question should be “Big” and Specific.  It should not be big and broad, or small and broad, or even small and specific.  Example:

“Big” and Specific—What can I do to double sales in six months?

Big and broad—What can I do to double sales?

Small and broad—What can I do to increase sales?

Small and specific—What can I do to increase sales 5% this year?

The challenge of asking a Great Question is that, once you’ve asked it, you’re now faced with finding a Great Answer.

Extraordinary results require a Great Answer.  If you want the most from your answer, you must realize that it lives outside your comfort zone.  A big answer is never in plain view, nor is the path to finding one laid out for you.  A possibility answer exists beyond what is already known and being done.

A Great Answer is essentially a new answer.  It is a leap across all current answer in search of the next one and is found in two steps.  The first is a stretch.  You uncover the best research and study the highest achievers.  Anytime you don’t know the answer, your answer is to go find your answer.  In other words, by default, your first One Thing is to search for clues and role models to point you in the right direction.  The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer.  A new answer usually requires new behavior, so don’t be surprised if along the way to sizable success you change in the process.

Extraordinary Results:

There is a natural rhythm to our lives that becomes a simple formula for implementing the One Thing and achieving extraordinary results:  Purpose,

Priority, and Productivity.  Their link leads to the two areas where you’ll apply the One Thing—one big and one small.

Your big One Thing is your purpose and your small One Thing is the priority you take action to achieve it.  The most productive people start with Purpose and use it like a compass.  They allow Purpose to be the guiding force in determining the Priority that drives their actions.

Think of Purpose, Priority, and Productivity as three parts of an iceberg.  What’s visible to the public—Productivity and Profit—is always buoyed by the substance that serves as the company’s foundation—Purpose and Priority.

The Power of Purpose:

Purpose is the straightest path to power and the ultimate source of personal strength—strength of conviction and strength to persevere.  The prescription for extraordinary results is knowing what matters to you and taking daily doses of actions in alignment with it.  When you have a definite purpose for your life, clarity comes faster, which leads to more conviction in your direction, which usually leads to faster decisions.  With faster decisions, you’ll often be the one who makes the first decisions and winds up with the best choices.  And when you have the best choices, you have the opportunity for the best experiences.  This is how knowing where you’re going helps lead you to the best possible outcomes and experiences life has to offer.

Discover you Big Why.  Discover your purpose by asking yourself what drives you.  What’s the thing that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going when you’re tired and worn down.

Live by Priority:

Live with purpose and you know where you want to go.  Life by priority and you’ll know what to do to get there.  Purpose without priority is powerless.

Goal Setting to the Now will get you there:

By thinking through the format of Goal Setting to the Now you set a future goal and then methodically drill down to what you should be doing right now.

Example of Goal Setting to the Now:

Someday Goal:

What’s the one thing I want to do someday?

Five Year Goal:

Based on my Someday Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do in the next five years?

One-Year Goal:

Based on my Five Year Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this year?

Monthly Goal:

Based on my One Year Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this month?

Weekly goal:

Based on my Monthly Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this week?

Daily Goal:

Based on my Weekly goal, what’s the One Thing I can do today?

Right Now:

Based on my Daily goal, What’s the One Thing I can do right now?

With this method you’re training your mind how to think, how to connect one goal with the next over time until you know the most important thing you must do right NOW.  You’re learning how to think Big—but going

small.

Live For Productivity:

“Productivity isn’t about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil….It’s more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time.    Margarita Tartakovsky

Productive action transforms lives.  Putting together a life of extraordinary results simply comes down to getting the most out of what you do, when what you do matters.  Most people think there’s never enough time to be successful, but there is when you block it.  Time blocking is a very results-oriented way of viewing and using time.  It’s a way of making sure that what has to be done gets done.   Time blocking harnesses your energy and centers it on your most important work.  It’s productivity’s greatest power tool.

If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time.  Each and every day, ask the Focusing Question for your blocked time:  “Today, what’s the One Thing I can do for my One Thing such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.”  When you find the answer, you’ll be doing the most leveraged activity for your most leveraged work.

Once you’ve done your One Thing for the day, you can devote the rest of it to everything else.  Just use the Focusing Question to identify your next priority and give that task the time it deserves.  So, when you know your One Thing, make an appointment with yourself to tackle it.

Time Block these three things in the following order:

  1. Time block your time off.
  2. Time block your One Thing.
  3. Time block your planning time.

By planning your time off in advance, you are, in effect, managing your work time around your downtime instead of the other way around.  Resting is as important as working.

The most productive people design their days around doing their One Thing.  Their most important appointment each day is with themselves, and they never miss it.  In addition, the most productive people work on “event” time.  They don’t quit until their One Thing is done.

The last priority you time block is planning time.  This is where you reflect on where you are and where you want to go.  Block an hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals.  First, ask what needs to happen that month for you to be on target for your annual goals.  Then ask what must happen that week to be on course for your monthly goals.  You’re essentially asking, “Based on where I am right now, what’s the One Thing I need to do this week to stay on track for my monthly goal and for my monthly goal to be on track for my annual goal?

Protect Your Time Block:

For time blocks to actually block time, they must be protected.  Although time blocking isn’t hard, protecting the time you’ve blocked is.  The world doesn’t know your purpose or priorities and isn’t responsible for them—you are.  So it’s your job to protect your time blocks from all those who don’t know what matters most to you, and from yourself when you forget.

The best way to protect your time blocks is to adopt the mindset that they can’t be moved.  You own need to do other things instead of your One Thing may be your biggest challenge to overcome.

Diffuse Workplace Conflict

conflict - handsHow to Diffuse Workplace Conflict and Create Consensus

By Ray Silverstein

I recently conducted a workshop on a highly emotional topic: humans in the workplace. After all, every human being—employees and bosses—shows up for work accompanied by their unique drives, triggers, and tendencies. All things considered, it’s a wonder we get any work done at all.

My message to the attendees may be of value to you, too. As your company leader, it’s your job to boost productivity, which means it’s also your job to diffuse workplace conflicts and create consensus, keeping your teamed focused on achieving your goals.

There are many theories on how to accomplish this. Based on what I’ve learned from my small business peer groups and my own experience as a CEO, I’ve identified up four main strategies for dealing with difficult people and creating an emotionally-healthy, productive workplace. I’ve summarized these briefly below, and you can download my complete PowerPoint presentation at http://propres.com/difficult-people-ppt/.

Understand Yourself

Do you know what makes you tick? Do you know what ticks you off? The best managers are those who are aware of their emotions but not enslaved by them.

Good managers typically have a high Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)—that is, a high level of self-awareness regarding their emotional reactions and the emotions of others. Self-awareness is the first step toward self-management, the conscious management of one’s behavior.

To raise your EQ, check out Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

Understand Others

Good managers also have good social awareness. They not only pick up on other people’s emotions but know why they act the way they do. More and more employers are using personality assessment programs to better understand how their employees think.

One program I like is the DiSC® personality assessment system. DiSC is based on a four-part model of human behavior: the Dominant, Influencing, Steady, and Compliant traits. The DiSC test measures patterns of behavior, and then creates a personality profile that reflects an employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and drives.

Use Your Understanding to Manage Behavior

The whole point of understanding your emotions is that it will allow you to manage your behavior consciously and positively, as opposed to reacting emotionally in the moment.

The whole point of understanding the emotions of others is that it will allow you to behave in a manner that will get the desired response from others. In the workplace, this often comes down to diffusing conflict and creating consensus among employees.

Remember the old adage about counting to 10 when you’re angry? Turns out, it’s right on target.

For more about managing behavior, read Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at their Worst by Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner.

Use Your Understanding to Hire Wisely

You can also apply these principals to make more successful hires. Instead of hiring new employees on the basis of a resume, look for people whose values and communication styles are harmonious with your own. Do they hold themselves accountable? Will they “get” your company culture?

If you’re seriously interested in a candidate, you can use a personality assessment to see if they’d make a good match for the position and your company. By choosing the right people, you can proactively diffuse conflict before it happens and create consensus from the get-go. Which means you’ll have to do a little less of the other three strategies further down the road.

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is the University of Practical Business, a specialized resource for emerging businesses, solopreneurs and those who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.