Short answer is yes, but here’s a slightly longer one.
My first mentor was Mike Sparkes who started as my agent when I was freelance but ended up my friend and business partner before his untimely death aged 38.
During the time I knew him this is what he gave me: -
- Inspiration: I couldn’t wait to be with him because of how he made me feel
- Knowledge: he knew more then than I know now and he was utterly selfless in sharing what he knew with me and with others.
- Experience: he liked me to have a go and was OK with me failing provided I learned from the experience.
- Challenge: he wasn’t a great believer in comfort zones and the status quo. Always pushing and helping me realise my potential.
- Confidence: he always believed in me and was never shaken by my many catastrophes.
- Support: especially in the early days he was always there for me particularly when my confidence was low.
- Motivation: I just wanted to do more for him.
- Friendship: not really a prerequisite for a mentor but he gave me his anyway.
Since then I have had many mentors and each has provided one or more of the above. I have no doubt that a great deal of my success in business stems from the contribution these men and women made to my development over the years. Even better than that it hasn’t cost me a penny.
I hope I have repaid my debts down the line though (but you’d have to ask those I have tried to mentor of course) and I will continue to do so. I think it’s as important to give as it is to receive - be generous with what you know.
My advice then: if you don’t have a mentor seek one out that you can trust and who can help you become what you are capable of being. You won’t regret it and it will make a big difference to how successful you will be.
Why do it all yourself when there’s an easier way.
Earlier in the year I wrote a post explaining why being great wasn’t really all it was cracked up to be (here it is). But some people; a small number of people actually, really want to be great and are prepared to do what it takes to realise their dreams.
This post is for them.
Over the years I must have read hundreds of “how I became successful” books from Robert Townsend’s excellent book Up the Organisation in the late 1970′s through Thriving on Chaos, Good to Great and Seth Godin’s masterpiece Outliers. Added to that I am also an avid reader of biographies.
So what you have here are the top 5 things that most of those people seem to be able to do all presented in bite-sized portions.
1 – Sweep away the barriers – believe anything is possible.
At the beginning of 1954 some 100,000 after modern man evolved nobody had run a mile within 4 minutes. Roger Bannister changed all that and by the end of the year so had another 4 runners. Why? Because once the mental barrier had been removed people began to believe and with belief comes achievement.
We clutter our lives with all sorts of self-imposed barriers that only serve to hold us back. Sweep these aside and REALLY believe that you can do anything you set your mind to and your world will change forever.
2 – Become obsessed with quality.
I looked up the definition of the word “obsession” and here it is: “a persistent idea or impulse that continually forces its way into consciousness”. Say what you like but consistent high quality always differentiates and the greats have never settled for anything less.
If you want to be great make absolute quality a daily obsession with the small things as well as the big.
3 – Give yourself time to improve.
I’m in the improvement business and let me tell you people do not give themselves enough time to change. Olympic athletes don’t win gold medals without practising, great golfers spend a lot of time with their coaches on the range and you won’t get fit and lose weight without finding the time to look after yourself and work out.
You can’t improve without investing some time and the more you invest the better you’ll get. Full in-boxes, blocked-out calendars, needy staff and the inability to say “no” when you should all conspire against us but if this sounds like your life then I’m afraid your chances of becoming great are as slim as my son’s wallet when we go do the pub.
I suggest 20 minutes a day to learn or experiment (both are necessary for change) – add that up and it comes out to about 10 days a year all invested in making you better. Now that’s time well spent!
4 – Fail, fail and fail again.
You need to experiment to improve. fact!
You will fail sometimes when you experiment. Fact!
Therefore if you want to improve you have to be prepared to fail, learn from the experience, decide what to do differently and then try it all over again.
Persistence is omnipotent!
5 – Feed yourself with greatness.
Should you reinvent the wheel every time you wanted to go for a drive? I think not.
Should you work out the best way to deliver a presentation from scratch? Nope.
So should you really spend time working out how to do something when somebody else has almost certainly done it already and written a book about it? Of course you shouldn’t but people do.
These days there are plenty of ways to absorb data but until we can have an implant into our brains like in the Matrix (I would start with learning how to play the piano or any kind of dance) we have to do it ourselves. Here are my top four sources of information: -
- Blogs – there are millions of them. You can find them through Google or better yet, by following the right people on Twitter and they’re concise enough to be read and absorbed quickly. Fast food learning right there dear readers.
- Books – still my favourite because of the range and depth of material covered and the fact that the author can take their time conveying their message. Of course you do have to find the time to read it…….
- People – every thing you need to know is known by the people you know and the people who they know. Go out of your way to mix with the right people and soak up what they know and what they can do. Most people are flattered to be asked too.
- Videos – with YouTube and TED.com stuffed with fascinating, informative and extremely easy to watch video content you are never short of something to watch. Check out my top 10 TED video’s here.
What next then?
- Decide if you really want to be great – how much are you prepared to sacrifice?
- Print off this blog post and stick it to your fridge door.
- Do what it says.
This is an old IT saying and relates to data: if you load up your spanking new computer system with incorrect or incomplete data the information you get back will be incorrect or incomplete. Shocker eh?
Most things are like this. Cook a meal with poor ingredients and the finished dish is not likely to be very tasty; use low grade paint on your house and you’ll be painting it again next year and stock your garden with the cheapest plants you can find then watch as they slowly wither and die.
So if you don’t invest in yourself to make sure you’re as good as you can be and if you fail to keep accurate and complete data about your clients how can you possibly expect to work at peak performance?
In a business world that has never been more aggressive and difficult to work in can you really afford to operate at anything below peak-performance?
This is a guest blog by Alan Kenny who is the European General Manager of Mimecast a crazily successful provider of cloud-based email management software for archiving, discovery, continuity and security. He has a long track record of sales and sales management and if he says something works you can bet your last Rolo that it does!
You know I used to always believe that I was a great motivator of sales teams. I have had teams that have delivered tremendous results and of whom I have been extremely proud. I used to love it when I heard my boss say that I drive the team with ‘tough love’ and that although it wasn’t obvious I really did have their best interests at heart.
Good times and I wouldn’t change them for the world, but it’s just not sustainable.
The danger with being the key to your sales team’s motivation is that it can only ever be a short term effect: it lasts for as long as you can maintain the energy to drive, cajole and manipulate their behaviour. Worse still, you can become an accidental diminisher rather than a multiplier – a scary thought!
The real key to motivating your sales team is to ensure that you do not de-motivate them!
Believe me this is not as simple as it seems. It requires communicating a clear vision for your sales team embracing methodology and behaviours as well as publicly demonstrating enormous trust in the people themselves. Not to mention quite a lot of patience which is very often lower on the list of qualities exhibited by us sales leaders than it should be!
So here are my top 5 rules for building highly motivated sales teams.
Rule #1 – Recruit the right people – You probably have an Ideal Client Profile for selecting new clients but do you have an Ideal Rep Profile to help you clearly identify the Talent, Experience & Cultural characteristics that a sales person must exhibit. Whatever happens never compromise: never accept anything less!
Rule #2 – Develop, Develop, Develop – David Beckham never stopped practising free kicks, sales people should never stop developing their skills – Fact! So have an on-going training and development program to help them ease their weaknesses and hone their strengths.
Rule #3 – Explicit Expectations – Create a personal contract with your sales people which makes clear what you expect from them and what they should expect from you and then hold each other accountable.
Rule #4 – Social Accountability – Create an environment where results and performance are stated publicly along with a commitment on actions to course-correct if required. There is nothing more binding than a person’s public commitment to their peers provided you hold them accountable for delivery.
Rule #5 – Consistency on the first 4 rules – If you don’t follow best practise then don’t expect anyone else to!
In case you think that I have completely nailed all of the above then you would be wrong: you can never sit back and say “that’s it, the perfect approach”. I’m just committed to creating an environment that allows people’s self-motivation to flourish and then trying to stay out of the way!
If this sounds like a journey that could be of value to you then I recommend the following 5 books as they have become my bibles.
- Multipliers: How the Best Leaders make Everyone Smarter by Elizabeth Wiseman and Greg McKeown
- The New Solution Selling: the revolutionary sales process that is changing the way in which people sell by Keith M. Eades
- The Inner Game of Work: Focus, learning, pleasure and mobility in the workplace by Timothy Gallwey
- Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action by Simon Sinek
- Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel Pink
Let me start by illustrating the two occasions when training is not a waste of money; that is, you don’t just learn some new things but you actually change as a result.
When you have no choice.
In the 80′s I was a programmer working at a large UK council. I was trained in a database language called IMS (I know you don’t really care but I’m a stickler for factual accuracy) when they decided that the project I was working on would use a different language instead called DB2 (there I go again).
We were all given new development plans and sent on a training course to learn the new language and when we came back were expected to be able to write programs using DB2. I have to tell this was a great incentive to learn and sure enough I came back from the course and began to use my new skills immediately. The training had worked!
So what can we learn from this?
- Change happens when the new skills you are learning become an integral part of your working life and you cannot function without them.
When you REALLY want to change
I had somebody attend one of my 1-day personal effectiveness and efficiency courses a few years back who had paid to come on it themselves. He worked for a medium-sized property company and had reached the stage where he was “going to have a nervous breakdown” if he didn’t do something about the hours he worked and the stress he was under.
This was most unusual because everybody I had seen before had been sent, and paid for, by their employer presumably because they felt they needed to improve. He had chosen to come because he really wanted to change his circumstances. I have to say that he was by far and away the most motivated and involved participant on that day; perhaps ever and he was determined to get every ounce of value from it.
This story has a very nice ending in that he wrote me an email only very recently to say that he had transformed his life after the day by saying “no” more often, delegating properly and only doing the things that really mattered (pretty much the course in a nutshell there folks saving you the expense of having to attend – I’m just a giver I guess).
In truth it wasn’t me who changed his life; he did it himself by his determination to improve his circumstances.
Another lesson then.
- Change is much more likely if somebody passionately wants to move on.
So why is this important?
Well industry spends billions of pounds on training every year and according to a study run by Xerox only 10% of it actually results in a change in the workplace. Even if you doubt the figures think about the last course you went on and now be honest and say how much of what you learned is actually part of your everyday lives today.
So if you want to make your training budget have more effect you should make sure that you either create an environment where people cannot function without using what they have learned (what we do in Flair) or only select people who are desperate to change. Preferably both!
I am a big fan of personal development but I cannot stand waste; if you’re with me why not review your training strategy along these lines and see where it takes you?
I don’t mean to be unkind or even judgemental it’s just that in reality most people you come across in business are just average.
When you think about it this has to be true. An average is effectively the most common value (technically I know that’s not the case before any of you swots point it out) so most people are it.
But who cares about statistics; the plain fact of the matter is most people have average intelligence, commitment to the job, creative talents, attention to detail, belief in quality, organisational skills and attitude towards risk.
So here’s the good bit: if you want to stand out you only need to be a little better than average. I’ll concede you can’t do much about your IQ but the rest is entirely down to you.
Just being a little bit better at a number of things creates a large cumulative difference between you and the next guy so what are you waiting for?
Success is about being above average and being above average is a choice not a privilege.
Winston Churchill wrote in 1945 “risk taking in peace as in war shall bear our fortunes forward finding profitable work and profitable trade for our people”.
The alternative is to try to eradicate risk from our lives (if I had my way there’d be a lot more ‘elf n safety office space up for lease these days) but by so doing we also suppress the energy of enterprise and so dull the cutting edge of growth.
Churchill was referring to nations but does the same apply to each of us as individuals: when we stop taking risks do we stop growing? I am unshakeable in my belief that this is true because it is only by trying something new, and risking failure, that we can grow.
Successful entrepreneurs cannot be risk averse because a key ingredient of being in business is seeing an opportunity that looks out of your league and saying “ah to hell with it let’s give it a go” in other words they focus more on the upside than the downside.
But can the same mentality prevail in the corporate world? Of course it can but the real question here is how do you translate the phrase “I’m prepared to take risks” into action. It’s easy for entrepreneurs because what they are mainly risking is money, in one form or another, but what about Intrapreneurs like you?
Right then: taking risks leads to growth and, on occasions, pain so what’s next? Well…….
- Actively look for opportunities: Real Intrapreneur stuff – it’s been done like that for ages but is there a better way?
- Ask what are you really risking: a slap on the wrist, lost time, humiliation, a bruised ego and a raised eyebrow are small prices to pay to achieve greatness.
- What are you prepared to sacrifice: assess the risk and then ask that question. Only you know the answer.
- JFDI – Just Fecking Do it. Like leaping off the high board; the more you dwell the less likely you are to jump and feel the thrill of it all.
- A risk shared is a risk halved: find another brave soul and “smoke fags behind the bike sheds” together.
Without risking failure you can never achieve your potential so step forth dear reader and see where the road less travelled leads.