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The Way to Success: Know What It Looks Like

The Way to Success: Know What It Looks Like

I’m waiting for a meeting. It’s a biggie: depending on the report I give, someone either keeps or loses their job, in the next 20 minutes. I’ve already had two big meetings today (on of them resulting in a contact for my company which on its own takes us 20% of the way to our annual targets!). I’ve got a huge meeting to come with a very influential man in my field.

I really can’t afford to screw up at any point at all today, so I need to stay calm.

The killer question is “How?”

I’ve written in a lot of other places about tools and tricks. Here I want to concentrate on just one more – and it’s so simple I feel embarrassed typing it.

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But here goes…

Ready?

Know what success looks like.

See! Told you it was embarrassingly simple!

Here’s the deal.

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Everyone knows what it feels like to screw up, right? We all know exactly what it feels like to fail – or at least we can imagine it. It’s not hard… the laughter, the mockery, the sense of having let everyone down; the letter saying you didn’t get the job…

But what does success look like?

Okay, for getting a job the result is (usually) getting the job, fair enough (although there are jobs you’re better of not getting, trust me on this as I speak from experience!) but for much of the rest of what we do success is harder to describe.

Let’s take my big meeting last thing this afternoon. It’s with arguably the biggest name in my field (presentation skills training) in the UK and obviously I want him to think well of me.

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I can imagine a million bad scenarios in my head, but how will I know if the meeting has gone well?

Well, the trick is to figure out what ‘good enough’ looks like. That, of course, is easier said than done but the important thing is always (seriously, always) do that before you get involved. Once you’re up to your neck in something it’s impossible to be objective about things, least of all when to call it a day.

A tool we use…

One technique I’ve found to be remarkably useful is to jot down the project on a sheet of paper… make sure you write it down clearly…. and create three columns. (The image is a grab from my iPhone of a whiteboard in our office about a training day we’re planning.)

    The first is the one you’ll find easiest to fill in, so do it first: it’s examples of how you know you’ve screwed up.

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    Fill in the right hand column next – this one is the same items but now itemized as complete success. Instead of the report being late, the report is now (as an example) written a week early, giving time for reflections and reviews.

    With the right hand column filed in it’s much easier to get to the point of the exercise – filling in the middle column… the column of “Good Enough”.

    This middle column matches the others, item for item, but now things are only ‘good enough’. For example, if the first column might include the report being late and the middle column would include it being on time – just.

    Once you’ve done that, you’re finished. It really is as simple as it sounds. Like all good ideas, the main problem is remembering to use it in the first place! The ‘magic’ of it lies in forcing you to be objective.

    Featured photo credit: Sunset via Shutterstock

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

    Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

    Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

    Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

    It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

    • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

    • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

    • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

    In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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    Different Folks, Different Strokes

    Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

    Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

    People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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    Productivity and Trust Killer

    Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

    That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

    Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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    A Flexible Remote Working Policy

    Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

    There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

    Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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    It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

    What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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