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The Power of Gratitude in Business

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Gratitude is the key to happiness. Happy workers are more productive workers. Together, happiness and gratitude create highly enjoyable relationships, and relationships are everything in our careers.

Whether you are a transformed motivational leader working to build a dynamic culture, or you are in business development looking to bring in more clients while taking care of existing clients, or if you are looking to make a career change or advance in your career, the more you practice showing and acknowledging your gratitude, the more you feed and grow relationships with a really good vibe.

It is also important to acknowledge people’s good work because it contributes to a company’s growth and success. When people are acknowledged, they feel truly a part of the company and this encourages them to want to continue to give to and grow with the company. So give credit where credit is due.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Have your acknowledgements be sincere.
Let the people know specifically what they did and what it meant to you. Don’t assume they know or they won’t get to hear it. Importantly, acknowledge who they were being – let them know you recognize who they are and what they stand for in a way that demonstrates that you know what they care about. For example, I would say this to my blog team: “Thank you for helping me come up with and publish these blog topics every week. You make sure we come up with excellent points and you help me think them through, which I couldn’t do the same without you. I appreciate how thoughtful, insightful and committed you are in having us deliver useful, simple and powerful ideas with the people who read our blog.”

2. Keep track of your acknowledgements.
If you want to carry an attitude of gratitude every day, each night make a list of the people whose contributions you are grateful for and what they did. Express your complete gratitude the next day.

3. Surprise people.
Acknowledge people when they least expect it. That shows an extra generosity of spirit and is a lot of fun.

4. Show gratitude for bad news.
Be grateful for set-backs and problems. That sounds counter-intuitive, but if you show an appreciation for people telling you things that might be difficult for them to communicate, you open the door to more open and honest communication. This leads to an awareness of what’s going on and that could make the difference between success and failure. I will enlighten you more on this next week when we talk about handling problems powerfully.

So what about you? How will you practice showing gratitude? Who in your world deserves a thorough and sincere acknowledgement from you today?

Powerfully Planned Role Playing

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From little league to the Olympics, athlete get in a winning game with rigorous training, including scrimmage practice. Practice that simulates real competition is critical to success.

Similarly, role playing is practice that takes concepts and ideas and turn them into skills. This is particularly true if you are in a business development role or in sales management. Role playing also helps if you’re a transformational leader building high performance teamwork or are networking and interviewing for a career transition.
Role playing, which for some is awkward at first, builds confidence and develops competence. My colleague, Mitch Weisburgh, and I have been coaching and training sales people to succeed for many years. We think that you’ll benefit from learning our role-play strategy. While we focus here on our approach to sales and business development coaching, the strategy is easily applied to any situation.

A. Define the situation. It’s always wise to begin with the end in mind and to clarify the answers to these key questions:

· What is the desired outcome?

· What are the likely problems that the desired outcome helps solve?

· What are the likely objections and obstacles?

· What are the selling or communication skills we want to improve?

The goal of the role-play might be around any step in the sales process, for example to arrange for a demonstration, to set to a meeting, or to close the sale.

B. Establish the three roles - Prepare the players for their roles.
1. Seller: He is the hero who is being trained and developed. He is baring his soul to a process that will come with some criticism along with constructive feedback. The person playing this role has a say in the questions outlined above. What challenges does the Seller typically have and in what stage of the process? What techniques are we practicing? Get this clear before proceeding.

2. Buyer: The antagonist of our role play is someone else from the sales team - a manager, a coach or trainer, or anyone who can portray the role of a decision maker. The sales trainee who plays the Buyer gets to vicariously experience being in the shoes of the person making the decision, which can be highly valuable for developing a thoughtful approach to selling.

3. Observer: The observer listens very carefully to both sides of the role play. The Observer answers these questions:
Where did the Seller best use the desired techniques?

Are there one or two areas where the sales person could be coached to perform better?

Are there ideas for how to use language or pace differently or where to ask a question and listen longer?

What other questions, selling points or techniques might be worthwhile to bring into the equation?

C. Perform the role-play
This takes between two and five minutes. Please recognize before starting that role-playing can be uncomfortable and awkward at first. Moving outside of our comfort zones is really the only way we all become more competent, and the practice will soon get easier. Early in the process and certainly in the first try, the observer should call a few “out-of-role” time-outs to make learning suggestions, offer encouragement and positive feedback. Have a few laughs along the way.

It’s important to repeat the role play two or three times after feedback, so that the Seller is able to build confidence, grasp the new skills and use them effortlessly. After a few repetitions, most people find they get comfortable, and the session becomes an exciting, enjoyable game that has the added benefit of building competence.

D. Review
The Observer provides notes and feedback to both parties. Additionally, the Seller may ask for feedback from the person who was playing the buyer or from other listeners.

Role-playing is central to developing effective sales and relationship building techniques. We hope this guide helps you develop effective role-playing practices to help you reach your goals.

Call us or coaching and training if you want to reach the highest peaks of performance.

Reinvention and Innovation

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Companies don't get to be 100 years old without constant periods of transformation and reinvention.

UPS began in 1907 with a teenager who, with a $100 loan, bought a few bicycles and delivered messages. The telephone made this service unnecessary. It then evolved to delivering packages between department stores. It has grown from a US-focused small package delivery company to one of the world’s largest logistics companies with nearly 400,000 employees.
Its Chief Financial Officer Kurt Kuehn, says, “In this environment there was risk and there was opportunity. We had just not looked broad enough to see what happened before and after the package came to us. The opportunity was there. We had to stretch our boundaries and invent the future. So we changed our UPS mission. This was as big an internal message as an external one. We told our employees our charter was to enable global commerce.”

While physical book stores are going out of business, Amazon, that started off as a book seller is now a virtual store of everything from Botox, to massages to auto-detailing services at a discount.

Business leaders must broadly interpret what they do and what their company does to serve the marketplace, whether you are a transformational leader, business development professional or even in your own career or career transition.

Steve Jobs reinvented Apple. He did not see it as purely a computer company. He included the delivery of music, and then all types of content, across mobile devices and completely changed the landscape, creating whole new industries.

Netflix kept relevant by reinventing itself as a producer of shows while Blockbuster and Eastman Kodak are all victims of not being able to see beyond where they started and did not morph with the times.

Netflix nudged Blockbuster off the stage first by challenging the DVD and VCR retail renter with its cheaper DVD-by-mail. Then it made its own original television series using top talent. Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacy and Oscar winning director David Fincher teamed up for House of Cards series, now in its second season. The American political drama won a Golden Globe award this year.

Companies need to be in the stage of constant innovation and reinvention. Those that snooze, lose. For example, BlackBerry was the standard across corporate America. But it did not see, nor react to, the speed of change around them.

By the end of last year, BlackBerry laid off 4,500 employees, reported a $1 billion quarterly loss and its shares traded at a 52-week low of $5.80. All signs are that the company will go bust this year.

So what about you? In what way can you look at your business more broadly to reinvent a way to expand how to make a difference in your market?

Business Boredom Busters

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“If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.” Infinite Jest by bestselling author David Foster Wallace.

For a business to be most successful and growth oriented, there are times when the most productive thing for a business or a person to do is steadily and consistently repeat a working method and ride its success up the S curve. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” For example, when a sales script is working for a particular target market, or when a production method is producing results in a predictable way. For some people, that kind of consistency is more calming and satisfying than the disruptive need for newness. For others, the repetition can get boring.

ON the other hand, when businesses are innovating, which we’ll talk about next week, there is a lot of excitement and energy as ideas are bounced around and new possibilities are explored.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, author and founder of the Cambridge Zen Center and Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, advises; “When you pay attention to boredom, it gets incredibly interesting.”

Here’s how to deal with boredom:

1. Recognition – you can’t combat boredom unless you recognize how it shows up in your career. What is your boredom cycle? When do you get anxious if there’s nothing new and different going on? Look at your resume. Were there times when you jumped ship? And have you done this frequently? Was it necessary or were you bored? Perhaps what you needed to do was to energize your current career instead of looking for a new career.

2. Acceptance – boredom is only a problem if you declare it as so. Thomas Szasz, award winning author of “The Myth of Mental Illness” says, “Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” The steady state of boredom can also be called the serenity - a space many of us seek- the feeling we have when we go hiking, or to the beach. Life’s a beach. Relax and enjoy exploring the next point.

3. Faith and Patience – sometimes boredom is accompanied by a sense of anxiety. We all like to feel needed. When business activity gets repetitious, do you worry about not providing enough newness to add value? Check in before you jump to conclusions. The best way to ride a business growth wave may be having faith in patiently staying the course.

4. Wonderment and Curiosity – The best boredom buster of all is to “be unborable,” as Wallace continues in “Infinite Jest.” Take some time to look deeper at what you’re doing, who you’re being, what relationships you can strengthen by wondering what’s possible.

5. Preparing for Improvement– if you are in a business development role, leadership role or considering a career change, use some of your time to prepare for future changes and refinements. Can you organize a list of things to upgrade your business model or your performance for when the time is ripe? Can you try one tweak at a time to make things better? If you’re a transformational leader, explore how you can motivate your team to discover possible breakthroughs for the future.

Choose to be fully engaged in whatever you do at whatever stage it’s in, and you will get great joy from your business and life. You’ll bring your passion to it.

So, what about you? What are you getting bored of that you could experience differently if you bring a sense of wonder to it?

Next week we’ll talk about innovation and reinvention.

Passion In Your Career

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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ― Confucius

Passion in your career is a driving force. Prior to this career as a coach that I’ve had for 16 years, I had eleven jobs in 10 years! I didn’t have any clarity of purpose. I didn’t have any sense of passion. I had no commitment. I was just blowing with the wind.

I don’t have regrets as the journey provided some worthwhile experience. I worked in corporate brand licensing for a year-and-a-half. I did some work helping inventors get out their ideas. I did a whole bunch of things. But every two years, I either quit or was fired because there was no real sense of commitment to being successful and no passion about my work. When I thought I was at the end of my rope, I took a job with my uncle in a very small investor relations agency. I was often grumpy and obnoxious. People didn’t want to be around me and my relationships soured.

Without clarity of purpose, your career is left to chance. And your attitude of dissatisfaction tends to spill out to other areas of your life as well.
When you have clarity and passion, you sustain a meaningful career and are excited about work every day, as I am now.

Whether you are in a position of transformational leadership and working to build a successful company; or you are in a business development role searching everyday for clients; or you are looking to make a career transition or a career change, it helps to have a career you love.

Here’s how I did it. Based on a personal development program called the Landmark Forum which I completed in 1995, I made a commitment. I spoke these words to myself out loud and to everyone I knew - I am committed to being successful in a fulfilling career that I love.

This is how you get from a mediocre career to a lucrative and meaningful career:

• Start with commitment - with clarity, declare to yourself, “I am committed to a successful, lucrative career that I love.”

• Explore and clarify your unique career direction, which you can learn more about in this blog post (http://jfcoach.com/blog/work-playground).

• Put your unique value proposition in your objective statement, in your resume and in your conversations around your network. Post it on a wall or mirror so you see it every day. Surround yourself with it and the programming will be imprinted into your brain and spur you to action.

• Tell people - talk to everyone in your network, talk to your friends, and reach out to your contacts.

• Keep declaring the commitment – out loud, and stay in that process. If you don’t quit, you won’t fail.

So, how about you? Are you ready to make a new level of commitment to a career you love?

Work is a Playground

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“The world, including my office, is my playground. The world, including my playground, is my office.” Jonathan Flaks.
Making your work place fun has significant, exciting benefits. Getting people engaged in work is one of them. In 2012, talent recruiter Towers Watson did a Global Workforce Study of 32,000 professionals at large and midsize organizations across a range of industries in 50 companies. Those with what they call a "high sustainable engagement" achieved an average operating margin of 27.4% which is almost three times higher than the average operating margin of other companies.

Whether you are in a position of transformational leadership, or if you are in a business development role and you are looking to get clients, or if you are looking to make a change in your career or get a new job, going about any of these serious matters with an attitude of fun just works.
It also lowers stress. Virtually all studies on the subject show that stress is a major factor in health, healing and wellness. Fun at work lowers stress and that reduces absenteeism. According to a 2001 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, “The median number of days away from work as a result of anxiety, stress, and related disorders was 25 days per year – substantially greater than the median of 6 days per year for all nonfatal injury and illness cases.”

Research by author Dan Clemens, founder of Quiet Path Communications and former Employee Communications Manager during the US West/ Qwest Merger impacting 52,000 employees, found that:

• Making work fun leads directly to better performance on the job. Having fun drives people to do their best work.

• To have a positive impact on productivity, quality, engagement and retention, fun must be ingrained in the work, rather that be special events separate from the work.
If fun reduces stress, and energizes people to produce greater output and profit, how do we bring this into the work place?

G. Guidelines – a well-conceived game is exciting. If you let people know that a game is being created, and take time to specify goals, explain expectations and expand the availability of resources, people with be crystal clear about how to play. When we all know what results we’re aiming for, we get to play with all we have.

A. Actions – as the game gets started, you’ll have better results if clear communication is provided as to who is responsible for which actions in order for the team to win.

M. Measure results - keep a scorecard and make sure actions and results are both held as valuable. Let people check in to see how they are doing and coach them to improve their performance.

E. End with excitement – morale is boosted if there is a celebration after every game, win or lose, You’ll get more out of every game if you celebrate victories and also celebrate efforts and learning from mistakes or setbacks.

S. Start over – don’t wait too long to get complacent after a win or dejected after a loss. Get back into planning the game as soon as the last celebration is completed and you’ve all had a little rest. Soon, you’ll have a sustainable spirit of fun at work.

This kind of good sportsmanship creates a lively culture in your workplace, and brings a competitive advantage in marketing, recruitment and retention and just feels great. You may never feel like you’ve really worked another day in your life. Fun at work works.

What about you? What’s an aspect of your work you can energize with a spirit of fun and sportsmanship?

Next week we will talk about finding your passion and purpose that will bring you joy in your career.

Overcoming Fear

“Fear can be good when you're walking past an alley at night or when you need to check the locks on your doors before you go to bed, but it's not good when you have a goal and you're fearful of obstacles. We often get trapped by our fears, but anyone who has had success has failed before.” Queen Latifah.

What she’s talking about is the fear of failure - the fear that stops you from pursuing your goals. It is the concern that if you attempt something and fail, it would be devastating.

It is important to get in touch with your fears so that you can overcome your fears. Or you may find that when you move towards something you want, you get a physiological experience and you talk yourself out of it. You remain stuck in the same old cycle.

With courage, you can look at and overcome your fears, and thereby be empowered to achieve anything you want in your life - whether you want to grow your business or bring in more clients as a business development professional; or to provide a fully engaged culture in a transformational leadership role or simply to get a new job on a new career path.

Here’s how to access courage.
• Identify what failures you are afraid of and jot them down on the left side of a page. What are some of the top things that you think might happen if you were to fail. What is the worst that could happen if you were to fail?

• On the right hand side of the page, for each fear you have listed, write down something you can do, someone you can count on for support or a different way of looking at it.

o For example – you might have a fear that if you try to engage in a conversation with a person who has authority over your position, you could put your job at risk – on the other hand, if you speak up, you might be able to generate an appropriate conversation that makes a difference. You could also recognize that your job is always at risk and you should have a resume and a strong network ready to connect with at all times.

• As you break down your fears, you will be able to see how you can step up and focus on your goals with a new sense of courage and a renewed confidence.

I am going to borrow from T. Har Eker’s “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind”. He said that poor people think that their problems are bigger than they are, while rich people consider themselves bigger than their problems. I include challenges when I use the word problems.

I invite you to consider yourself bigger, more capable, more resourceful, and more creative than you previously thought of yourself. I think of you as infinitely creative and resourceful. You are someone who comes up with new ideas all the time, and you have people to reach out for their support, and they know people, too. When you consider yourself to be bigger than your biggest challenge, you overcome any fear and achieve anything you want.

Yes, sometimes you will still have to muster up the emotional state called courage to deal with that feeling in your chest. However, every time you do spomethig bold, whether you accomplish a desired outcome successfully or if you fall short of your target, you will have a new experience from which you have learned and that builds confidence and experience. That confidence and experience will thereby require less effort to must up courage on your next try. And if you keep trying, you can’t fail.

How about you? What’s a big juicy goal you have and the challenge that you are facing that if you face it with courage you’ll gain experience and/or create victories worth celebrating?

Unstoppable Action

UNSTOPPABLE ACTION is the fifth element in our career success formula that we have been addressing over the last two weeks. This is about not getting stopped from taking the bold action you need to take to make the connection you need to make.

This is crucial whether you are changing careers, or want to advance in your career, or if you are a transformational leader or in business development.

Without access to this element of the career success formula, you are at the mercy of your moods – rejection, frustration and possibly depression. Take these tips to heart and you’ll have more energy and stay on track to the finish line.

To be unstoppable, first, take an earnest look at what stops you. What stalls you? What derails you from the most important actions and conversations for your success? Here’s how:

1. Identify your blocks – Write down the stop signs that interfere with your inspiration, motivation and flow. For some people it’s intimidation with a particular personality type. They don’t feel comfortable calling the highest decision maker in an organization or a center of influence in a community or network. Perfectionism gets in the way for other - of getting words into a letter or e-mail. You might feel overwhelmed or have some fears. Write them all down on the left hand side of a document.

2. For each block, counter it on the right hand side with an alternative perspective. It might be a positive, powerful thought to the contrary or a totally different way of looking at the block. It might be a resource you do have that would help you overcome the block, or it might be a person or group that would be reliable in helping you if that block were to get in your way.

3. Organize your action plan. What do you want to achieve? New ideal clients? A great new job or a transformed organizational culture? Start charting the steps it will take. I guide my clients using two tools – the “Game Plan Worksheet” for job change or project goals, and the “Goal Tracking Scorecard” for the ongoing performance of a handful of achievements like new clients or appointments.

4. Plan your to-dos and actions in your calendar. Plan your day every day, preferably in the evening before, and stick to your plan. Make sure to block time for calls and responding to e-mails so you don’t get distracted when you need to focus.

When you have fear or you feel stopped, push a little further, and then go back to your notes about your obstacles and alternatives. Make some new notes and refocus on new possibilities. You can also talk it through with someone and see what you create. You’ll get back into action if you don’t stay stuck in your head.

So what about you?

What are some of the stop signs that you might put on your list, and what might be an empowering mindset that will make you unstoppable?

We’ll go more deeply into fears next week. For now, have a great week and keep me posted – I love good news.

Clear Communication for Career Success

It’s time to let the world know about you so you can be discovered and engaged in rewarding work. That requires being really clear in your communication so that people can imagine you in the future you are creating and how to connect you.

The three components of Clear Communication:

Congruence or Authenticity - The sense people would have that you’ve done your homework and you look, feel, smell and breathe the career direction you have designed and the value you’re committed to providing. With that comes confidence.

Confidence - You believe anything is possible and something will turn up if you never give up. Confidence comes from preparation and knowledge. You know what you need to know to fulfill that role and you know how to find what you need. You are infinitely creative and resourceful and knowing that provides some confidence.

Concise - Be focused in language. Practice finding fewer words. That’s all.

Timothy Henglein, a senior from MacCaulay Honors College who attended my talk last month said that these insights “create an unquenchable desire for self-productivity”.

How about you? How will you prepare your communication, in writing and in speaking, to convey your true value?
Next week we’ll talk about the unstoppable action you’ll take to put out the communication you’ve prepared.

Career Success Formula - Part 1

Today I’m going to give you the formula for career success that will give you a competitive advantage and have you stand out in a crowd.

I’ve used this with hundreds of clients and shared this last Tuesday for students at MacCaulay Honors College near Lincoln Center at a talk sponsored by ACG Cares, a group of private capital investment and advisory professionals and friends of mine who are helping college seniors and graduates get their first jobs through networking.

The formula is useful for any career transition, career advancement situation or if you’re in a position of leadership and you want to simply ensure your career is on track. You can also use to create a business mission or for inspiration in a business development role where you’re looking to sell to and serve more clients.


There are plenty of people out there who have education just like yours and experience comparable to you. These days, the job market is a competitive playing field - If you can crystallize and powerfully communicate your unique abilities, you can begin to generate a level of confidence and performance that provides a competitive edge.


“The Flaks Formula” for career success:

Passion/Purpose + Top Notch Talent + Need in Society/Marketplace Need = Career Direction
(i.e. What do you love to do that you’re great at as it applies to a demand in the world?)

Career Direction + Crystal Clear Communication + Unstoppable Action = Career Success

One way to decipher where your passion and talent overlap is to
list your top 10 favorite accomplishments, which includes for each story:
i. The challenge or goal;
ii. The process you went through, especially what you liked most and achieved well;
iii. The outcome or result. Look at your best results and even your best failures. Include stories where you exceeded, met and where you didn’t meet the goal.

Once you’ve made the list, ask yourself these questions to uncover some new insights for your career direction:

i. Your Passion or your Purpose
Why were your top accomplishments your favorites? What inspired you or excited you about these accomplishments? What is important to you in terms of your values?
ii. Your top-notch talent
What transferable skills did you demonstrate? For example, are you more innovation oriented, or are you more design oriented? What are your special skills and accomplishments that make you uniquely qualified to provide value in the market place?
iii. Market Need
Look at the market place today. Where in society does the overlap of that passion and talent resonate? What’s going on in the job market, business or consumer market that you are interested in serving?

When you put those three things together through soul searching, conversations and research, you will get a clear sense of career direction.

Next week we'll talk about the last two elements of the “Flaks Formula” for career success - Clear Communication and Unstoppable Action.

So, what about you? What are your top 10 favorite accomplishments and when will you write them down and start clarifying your career direction?

Welcome! The purpose of this blog-cast is to provide thoughtful perspectives on leadership, team dynamics and peak performance for leaders and top producers. You'll start every week with savvy, upbeat and focused insights every Monday (read and/or listen) to produce exciting results by Friday (and beyond). Enjoy!

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