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Losing Graciously (#110)

This past weekend, I decided to tempt fate and head to the Super Bowl once again, this time with my father and brother.  While the outcome was not what we wanted, we had no regrets. We saw a great game and had an incredible experience that we may not get the opportunity to have again.

We felt grateful to have been able to experience the game live and did our best to be as gracious as possible in defeat to the elated Eagles fans who surrounded us; their city had suffered long enough and their team won a hard-fought game. They more than deserved to be proud and celebrate.

Earlier this week I had an experience that was the exact opposite of this. I was forwarded an e-mail that was sent by a salesperson in response to learning that their company had lost a deal to a competitor. Their approach was to reply in frustration, speak poorly of the competitor’s product and make false assertions.

What they did not do was to seek understanding as to why their product was not chosen.

I strongly value and encourage competition. I also appreciate that, even in friendly competition, no one likes to lose. However, losing poorly is not the sign of a champion. It’s reflective of people and organizations who prefer to look outward, not inward, to justify their failures.

People and organizations who continuously blame external factors for their failures/loses rather than honestly examining their own shortcomings will simply repeat their mistakes and be blind to their weakness. It’s always better to ask what could have been done better and learn from that for future situations than blaming exogenous forces.

Had this person taken this approach, they may have learned about a key selling point of the competitor that they could leverage in their pitch next time. Instead, they made a bad situation worse for both themselves and their company’s reputation.

World-class performers don’t like to lose but they learn how to lose well and lose graciously. They study their failures and always look inward first. This is one reason we have made it a policy at Acceleration Partners that managers must complete a debrief form when we lose a client or make a major mistake. The author is asked to note specifically what they and the organization could have done better and share ideas for how we can improve going forward.

We’ve also gained great insights by asking potential prospects why they chose a competitor when we lose a deal—and we listen intently without judgment.

Furthermore, if you think someone made a bad decision, telling them that after they made the decision is futile and doing so will do more harm than good. Instead, be gracious in the moment and call back in a few months to see how it’s going with the person/company who went in another direction.

One of my favorite operating principles at Acceleration Partners is “Keep Moving Forward,” which we describe as:

We avoid the roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. We celebrate our wins, remain humble and move on to the next challenge. Likewise, we reflect on our failures, adjust, and move forward without wondering what might have been.  

None of us like to lose, but how we lose determines whether we increase our chances of turning the lessons of that loss into a greater victory.

Quote of the Week

“If you can accept losing, you can’t win.”

Vince Lombardi

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2017 in Review (#104)

Sometimes, what we need is a reminder of what we already know rather than learning something new.

Because many of you (myself included) are on vacation this week, I thought that, instead of writing a new post, I would highlight the top Friday Forwards of 2017 and give a quick summary of each.

The Human Element: In many ways, our focus on technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is causing us to lose our ability to effectively communicate with and relate to each other as humans. It doesn’t always feel like progress.

18 Summers: This post affected a lot of parents. Many wrote to tell me that it inspired them to make similar plans with their family.

BS of Busy: Saying we are busy has become a cultural crutch. Being busy doesn’t make us happier or more productive.

Bad Week: The story of how Dr. Mary-Claire King was able to push forward during the worst week of her life, leading to a medical breakthrough that has saved millions of women’ lives.

Freedom to Fail: Important lessons from a soccer coach on how we all need to have room to fail, learn from our mistakes and grow.

Beautiful Day: This is the story of a man who created a wonderful legacy for his family.

Tri-It: Reflections and lessons learned from running my first Olympic Triathlon, including why you should practice on stage.

RV Reflections Part 1 and Part 29 lessons learned about life and business from a 10-day RV trip with my family though Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

Burning Bridges: Why it’s never a good idea to burn a bridge, even when you need to walk away from a relationship.

Carpe The Diem: The improbable story of how my son and I ended up together at the greatest Super Bowl in history after I decided not to be a hypocrite and take a chance.

Quote of the Week

“Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought.”

Napoleon Hill

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Time Span (#100)

Today is the 100th post of Friday Forward. As we head into December, I’m reflecting on past posts. I’m also thinking about the future of Friday Forward and what the next 100 weeks might look like. It’s a good time of the year to be both reflective and prospective.

This future view of time ties in to an interesting, and even somewhat controversial, concept developed by Dr. Elliott Jaques, a multi-disciplinarian in Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Philosophy and Linguistics. Jacques concluded that we all have a natural time horizon we are comfortable with, a concept he coined “Time span of discretion.”

The idea is that each person’s ability to grow, lead and make good decisions in their job is limited by their capacity to think about certain time spans, or when these decisions “come due.” In other words, we each have an absolute upper limit on our capacity to handle time.

Here are some examples:

  • Some jobs involve routine tasks with a time horizon of up to three months. E.g. shift workers, customer service representatives, mechanics, etc.
  • Some jobs require people to make decisions over several years. E.g. various managerial positions with time horizons between one to five years.
  • Some positions require a multi-year (5-10) view of work and outcomes. E.g. small company CEOs and large company executive vice presidents.
  • And some positions require that time be spent regularly thinking decades – even centuries — into the future. e.g. visionaries like Einstein, Mother Theresa and Naveen Jain.

The implications of Jaques theory on our professional lives is profound as it suggests we are most effective working within our natural time span of discretion. When a job/role is beyond this time span, we are more likely to fail. Similarly, if work decisions fall below our time span of discretion, we may not feel challenged and will be equally dissatisfied.

It is not that simple however, as there is also a chicken and egg angle with this theory. It follows the same principal of comfort zones in that we need to break out of a routine in order to learn and grow. For example, if we operate in one time span at work 90 percent of the time, then we are likely to carry the same thinking into our personal lives and vice versa. I am guilty of this as I often think more about what my family needs from me in the long run rather than in the present moment.

Whether your natural time span of discretion is shorter or longer, it’s important to step back from time to time to evaluate both the short- and long-term. This is one reason why our leadership team gathers for an off-site every quarter to plan out our goals for 2018 and beyond. Quarterly and annual off-sites are a great way for everyone to work “on the business” and not “in the business.”

The opposite is also true. Visionaries often benefit from shortening their time horizon and taking stock of how their long-term planning is materializing in the present. Elon Musk, for example, has a vision of revolutionizing the automotive industry, but his company’s most pressing need is to figure out how to produce the cars it has presold before it runs out of money.

As we head into December, it’s a great time to begin thinking about where your natural time span of discretion lies; how you can both leverage that innate strength while simultaneously operating outside your comfort zone to gain perspective.

Quote of the Week

“Long-range planning does not deal with the future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”

Peter Drucker

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Thankful Reflection (#99)

As we head into the last few weeks of the year, it’s a good time to reflect, celebrate and make connections. Two weeks ago, the Acceleration Partners team did just this. We gathered our employees from around the world for our sixth annual AP Summit, our most impactful one to date.

I thought I would share a few themes that I took away from our week together that have both personal and professional applications this holiday season.

Connecting in Person: These days, we have a lot of ways to communicate with each other. And while video calls are a big upgrade over voice alone, in-person face time matters. People connect differently in person. They tend to open up and share more vulnerably. For example, one of the highlights of the week was our employee TED talks. Team members spoke on topics that were important to them and shared ideas they felt would add value to others.

With this in mind, let’s make the time this holiday season to cultivate our most important personal and professional relationships. Let’s spend quality time together, face-to-face, talking about things that matter; not on our phones.

Demonstrate Gratitude: Throughout the entire week of our AP Summit, there was a lot of gratitude given, formally and informally. Everyone likes to be appreciated, but I think we often underestimate the impact showing gratitude to others has on our own outlook. When we take the time to recognize and appreciate others, it often feels better to see the impact it has on someone than to receive it ourselves.

Celebrate Humbly: Historically, empires fall from within. There’s no faster way to ensure your demise than by believing you are great and have nowhere to improve. Sure, it’s important to reflect on what went well and celebrate successes – both individual and as a team. But, especially at the end of the year, it’s also important to keep a level head and acknowledge that future success is never guaranteed.

In my opening AP Summit presentation, I shared what I believe to be one of the best speeches of 2017, delivered by Dino Babers, head football coach at Syracuse University. Just after his team defeated the number one-ranked team in the country in a major upset, Dino displayed some key leadership themes, which members of our organization took notice of.  He:

  • Did not take credit
  • Was humble
  • Showed respect for the competition
  • Was emotional and vulnerable
  • Reminded his team to take care of each and get back to work the next day

Before you rush to the store for a Black Friday shopping spree, take a few minutes to watch Dino’s Barber’s powerful speech. This is what great leadership looks like.

Quote of the Week

“If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.”

Frank Clark

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Majoring in Minor (#88)

A reality that many of us just don’t want to face is that we spend too much of our time on things that don’t really matter; we major in minor things.  

Every day, I come across people who have their priorities backwards. They spend considerable time and energy on things that are inherently not important, either to them or society at large, and that actually distract from their stated goals. They:

  • Can’t separate the urgent from important
  • Easily lose sight of the big picture
  • Struggle to let go of something insignificant
  • Feel the need to always have the last word
  • Make poor decisions about their time and energy on a daily basis
  • Don’t know how to say no

A great deal of their energy is also wasted on negativity. They fixate on the unsatisfying dinner they ate at the restaurant last night. They consume themselves with replaying the frustrating customer service experience they encountered. They spend hours of their precious time complaining about things instead of moving on from them. It’s quite possible that, due to these factors, they are frustrated with where they are in life.

In the grand scheme of things, this is all minor stuff. You know this type of person. You might even be this person. I know I certainly have been.  

High achievers don’t live their life in this way. Instead, they focus their time and energy on what matters most; on things that are positive and productive. The rest, they let go, delegate or move on from.

If this sounds like you, here are a few tips to up your game, move up to the majors and make a bigger impact.

1) Mind Your Time: Keep track of how you spend your time for a week. Note how much of that time is spent on things that are important to you (i.e. that support your core values or goals). It should be around 80 percent.

2) For Not Against: Spend your time advocating for a cause, not against one. Negative energy is self-defeating. While there are certainly many injustices worth standing up to, its generally healthier to be for something than against something.

3) Delegate & Outsource: Sure, there are things that need to get done, but that doesn’t mean you are the best person to do it. Think about where your time is best spent (i.e. on your unique abilities). For things that fall outside those core competencies, it’s very likely that there are smarter, more efficient ways to get it done that require less of your time.

4) Value Your Time. Our time has value; it’s an opportunity cost. I’d argue that at least a $15 an hour value should be applied to anything we do to get at the true cost. A colleague recently shared that, to calculate the value of their day, a CEO or business leader should use the annual revenue of their company or division and divide it by the working days in a year. For example, if you run a $1M dollar business, it would be $3,800 a day. If its $5M, that number is $19,000.

5) Remember the Big Picture: We tend to get overly preoccupied by what’s in front of us versus what’s most important. Always keep the bigger picture in mind, whether that’s a relationship, a long-term goal or your priorities.

When you reflect back on your life, think about what the accomplishments/investments of your time will be. Are they things you really care about?

Quote of The Week

“Most people fail in life because they major in minor things.”

Tony Robbins

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RV Reflections – Part Deux (#87)

Last week, I shared my initial takeaways from our recent RV trip though Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. Upon some additional reflection, here are five more insights that I wanted to share.

5. Less is Often More: Living with four other people in 200 square feet of space for 10 days gave me some important perspectives. First, I was reminded that happiness is really not connected to material goods. Having less things (clothes, toys, gadgets, cars, shoes, bags, etc.) can be very liberating, especially as we traveled each day with all our possessions. Along our journey, we met many people who had sold their homes and belongings and were now happily living in their RV. They were fully mobile and enjoying life to the fullest. Although I didn’t bring that many clothes, I could have brought half of what I did and been fine.

6. Constraints Improve Creativity: Having constraints (space, monetary, etc.) forces you to be much more creative in solving problems and finding solutions, rather than just throwing money or resources at a problem. For example, we used duct tape and bungee cords in a myriad of different ways and a highlight of the trip was when we made an ice cream cookie pie in a frying pan over an open fire that will become a family tradition. We also got creative about recycling and waste, which you become aware of when you have to travel with your trash.

7. Over-Scheduling is Over-Rated: Somehow, we have come to associate being busy as being better. We spend our weekends running from activity to activity and have a hard time saying no, something that we often carry over into our vacations. I’m totally guilty of this. I tend to try and pack in way too much in a short amount of time; I over-schedule and then regret it.

With only ten days to enjoy two of the most captivating parts of US, we knew we needed some sort of plan – especially since we had kids with us. And while we scheduled hikes, swims and other fun excursions, some of the best moments of the trip were the unplanned ones. This included the kids’ playing cards on my son’s birthday while looking for bears at sunrise on the side of the road; roasting s’mores; and playing “do you remember” from past vacations. Often, the desire to see and do everything ends up diluting the overall experience.

We have decided to cut back on some activities this fall so that we can dedicate more of our weekends to “family time” instead of “divide and conquer” time.

8. Dare to Delegate: This entire trip would not have been possible had I not coordinated with team members, delegated my responsibilities and created processes and escalation paths that others could follow in my absence. For the very first time, I made the decision to completely walk away from my e-mail while on vacation, something that I was nervous about doing. I even removed my work e-mail from my phone.

Making and acting on the decision to truly un-plug forced me to create long-overdue delegation processes. Was it a perfect process? No. But one should never expect a new process to be. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Now, I know what worked and what didn’t so I can improve the process for next time. One thing that this email-unplugging experiment definitely did was allow me to see the value of permanently changing how I interact with my e-mail going forward.

9. Detox from Digital: Related to #8 above, this was my first real digital detox. As with any detox, I experienced some withdrawal for the first day or two, but it subsided quickly by the third day. It also helped that most of Yellowstone doesn’t have cell phone coverage, so there really wasn’t even an opportunity to cheat; nor did I want to. It was a welcome change.

There is a real fear that our technology has become an addiction and that our brains crave the dopamine in the same away as other stimulants. Without the constant distraction, I was able to read and write more attentively, think more creatively and contemplate strategically about the future of my business and family. I even had several breakthroughs on both fronts. It was also really nice to focus on and engage with my kids, play games and simply enjoy each other’s company.

If you have yet to visit Yellowstone, Grand Tetons or any National Park for that matter, I can’t recommend it enough. I think you’ll find the experience unrivaled, inspiring and truly memorable.

If you do plan on a trip to WY, reach out. I am happy to share our itinerary.

Quote of the Week

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Unknown

* Glazer Family Grilled Cookie Recipe: Light a fire and lightly spray a flying pan with Olive oil. Open package of Immaculate Baking Cookie Dough. Fill pan with dough balls, pressing them flat to cover up any seams. Cook for 20-30 minutes about three to six inches away from the flame, making sure outsides aren’t sticking to pan (similar to an omelette) with your spatula. Add a pint of your favorite ice cream to top and remember the handle will be hot. Enjoy!

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