Collaboration Even Successful in Nature

In Shawn Achor’s latest book, Big Potential, he starts off with a story of lightning bugs in the mangroves of Southeast Asia.  This particular variation of lightning bug (Photinus Carolinus) synchronize their flashes to increase the likelihood of finding a mate.  Flashing alone, fireflies have a 3% chance of finding a mate, but by synchronizing, that probability rises to an astonishing 82%.  This is a simple example of how nature understands that working together collectively and collaboratively leads to greater combined success of the group and the individual.  This same phenomenon can enhance individual performance in organizations through collaboration that drives mutual success leading to personal growth.

By the way, in nature, this also causes a spectacular sight when the entire forest lights up at the same time with the lightening bug synchronization.

While, in this instance, nature figured out that collaboration produces better results than competition, it is counter intuitive to our beliefs or how we are raised that this could be possible for humans.  We continue to believe that we need to shine above everyone else to gain the spotlight.  This belief starts early in our lives and has been around for generations; however, it has been proven, through studies, that over time this obsession with being #1 has strengthened and has had a negative impact on true cooperation and ultimately both personal and organizational performance.

Companies continue to maintain “cooperation”, “collaboration” and “team work” in their corporate values slides; however, establish measurements that are counter to these statements.  For instance, it is very common for a challenge to be created along the lines of “the first team to achieve $100M in revenue receives a special bonus”.  On the surface, this may seem like friendly competition to drive both teams to strive harder to reach the $100M target.  But what if by cooperating the teams could have achieved $200M more quickly or even $250M by identifying additional synergies?

Throughout my career, I have seen examples on both sides of this equation – individualism undermining potential success and true collaboration driving greater success.  While maybe not flashing in 100% synchronization as the Southeast Asia lightning bugs, the teams operate toward common success and support the value of team strength.

In one instance, I was lucky enough to be part of an organization that grew revenues 7X in 4 years.  Additionally, we went from operating at a loss to significant operating margins.  While there were many reasons for this growth – great people, strong market and a leading product, other regions had many of these same elements, but lacked the level of collaboration that we created in our region.  While the corporate culture was more cut throat, we were lucky enough to be a remote region and isolated from that divisive atmosphere.  We knew that we wanted to deliver the highest corporate results, what we often referred to as “big bags of cash” to corporate (in the form of operating margin), and we had our style to drive that success.  Being in the Americas region and part of a UK based company, we were considered “cowboys”.

Our team was built with diverse core capabilities that could operate in unison to continue to deliver sustainable successful weeks, months and quarters.  4 key elements of the culture we built were –

  • Respect – the foundational core value that everything else layered on was respect. We listened to each other’s inputs, exchanged ideas and accepted constructive advice for improvement. Once organizations lose respect within their teams, the core will begin to crumble and put it in a downward spiral.
  • Commitment – each member of the team was committed to achieving our greater purpose and ended up with seeing significant opportunities for their personal growth. The team also experienced personal joy of collaborating.
  • Team Results – by setting a collective team target, made up of a combination of the individual goals with clear responsibilities, the team worked together. Even if an individual focused solely on achieving their personal targets, they may achieve that particular goal, but wouldn’t be specifically recognized until the collective target was achieved.
  • Accountability – as we worked toward the team targets/goals, there was a level of holding each other accountable as well as ourselves individually. Based on having a core value of respect, this was managed in a professional manner, but the reality was that everyone wanted to perform to support the team.

As you build out the culture of your company and team, remember the phenomenal increase in success that the lightning bugs in the mangroves of Southeast Asia achieved by collaborating and operating in unison.  I know you will see significant results.

Happiness Hack #71 – Find Ways to Matter

happiness_help_others

We all want to matter and make a difference in the world. The best way to do that is to make an effort to help someone else.  Whether it is a working with a charity, helping a friend move, or just helping a co-worker get through a tough day, being able to make a small impact on someone’s life has a big impact on our happiness and how we feel about ourselves. Because of the chaos of life, we get caught up in our own challenges and what we need from others in order to be successful or happy. We lose track of what really gives us a deep sense of fulfillment and what really makes a difference in our lives. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, we don’t become fulfilled by focusing on and meeting our own needs. Rather than content, that leaves us empty and hollow. We evolved to be social and contributing members to our tribes, so our brains are wired to gain satisfaction when we help others improve their lives.

 

How can you help someone else? How can you reach out and make someone else’s day a little better? Find ways to matter and make a difference for someone else and you will be happier and more successful.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Tis the season to be grateful

 

Guest blog by Jess Stuart.

Check out her new book ‘A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life’, A Guide to Living and Loving Life…http://goo.gl/Tlq2gs     –   Read more on her website; www.inspireyourlife.org

 

So the ‘stress’ of Christmas is over, the presents have been opened, we’ve filled ourselves with an abundance of food and we hopefully are now able to relax and breathe, until the credit card statement arrives! It can certainly seem a lot more complicated these days than it used to be.

For me Christmas is about family, living overseas this is one of the few times I get to be with my family and as we pull crackers across the table I can’t help but feel grateful for the time we have together, the abundance of things that really matter and how fortunate we are in a world where so many others are not. At this time of year I am also reminded of Christmas’s past and those family members who can no longer be with us and wish that I’d really taken the time to appreciate the big Christmas gatherings we had when we were children, the joy of Christmas and being with those we love, those times can never be repeated and during the moment we often overlook this.

 

“Happiness isn’t about getting what you want it’s about loving what you have”

 

We have a habit of focussing on what we haven’t got instead of all the things we’re lucky to have, even the basics like food, warmth, health, education, freedom. It is human nature to focus on the tiny bits that are not right rather than the large chunks that are. This leave us feeling dissatisfied and always wanting more but that is a never ending journey, we’ll always be left wanting more!

We feel we have to ‘have’ things to be free when in fact it’s the opposite, our struggle to hold onto things brings the very pain we are trying to avoid, we are terrified of letting go for fear we’ll have nothing but this is the true path to living. I look at those who live simply and can’t help thinking they know the secret, they have mastered the art of living. After all, everything material we have can be lost tomorrow and the irony is if you’re asked what you most value it’s likely to be the things money can’t buy and put under the tree, things like love, your health and your family.

 

“That man is poor, not who has little but who hankers after more” Seneca

 

It’s also the time of year for welcoming in the New Year. A time when we look over the year that has gone and look forward to the potential of a new start.

It’s been a year since I left my corporate job to follow my dreams and I’ve learned so much. I’ve published my first book and grown my business but I still catch myself focusing on the things I haven’t achieved yet, there’s been no media appearance or sell out tours! As I look ahead to 2016 and start to set my goals for the year I’m also reminded to be grateful for the last year and how far I’ve come, to celebrate the successes along the way.

Often in business and in life we can become so consumed with our quest for development and success that it’s easy to overlook the challenges we’ve overcome and the small successes along the way that get us to this point.

 It’s healthy to have goals to aim for and the start of a New Year brings new opportunities for progress. But if we always focus on what we haven’t got it can detract from the gratitude for the things we do have and the success we’ve had along the way.

This can also lead us into the trap of feeling we should be further along than we are, particularly in business. It can be easy to compare our success to others, or our own expectations and get stuck on the treadmill of wanting more. It’s worth remembering to appreciate the journey and celebrate our successes along the way.

Whilst it is the time for goals and a time for receiving it’s also a time for remembering all we have to be grateful for.
 

Jess Stuart – Wellness Coach & Author

Speaker, author and coach with a mission to empower people to realise their potential to achieve balance in life, inspiring people to find their purpose, rediscover what matters and make changes to bring about a healthier, happier world.

After a successful career in the corporate HR world Jess decided to follow her passion in Health and Wellness. A qualified yoga and meditation instructor with a certificate in Life Coaching. Jess has trained in Buddhist meditation and mindfulness. Having lived, worked and volunteered in many countries with some inspirational people Jess draws her life experience into her work to share the principles of health and happiness.

Her first book ‘A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life’, A Guide to Living and Loving Life is out now.

Read more on the website; www.inspireyourlife.org

 

 

Clarity – The Most Critical Aspect of a Successful Organization

If I had to pick one word that was most critical to defining and driving the success of an organization, it would be CLARITY.  Clarity is of vital importance to every aspect of an organization at a business and personal level.  Setting the overall direction of a company, roles and responsibilities, setting goals and recognizing success are all areas that can all be improved with clarity.

Through my experience, I have found that most companies, large or small, suffer from lack of clarity at some level.  While it may manifest itself in different ways, I believe that clarity is an underlying cause of many challenges.  And, while a major issue, it truly isn’t impossible to overcome.  If companies understand the importance of clarity and drive it across the organization, success will improve.

Here are a few key areas of critical importance to success:

Clarity of:

  • Purpose – By establishing a clear purpose for an organization or company, you drive an understanding of what the company is about and what it will take to be successful. This clarity of purpose can be trickled down throughout the rest of the company and departmental and individual levels.  Each level of the organization should be able to look at the clearly defined purpose of the level above and be able to understand their role in success.  This clarity will also drive a higher level of engagement because people want to know that they are part of a bigger purpose and that what they are doing matters at a broader level.
  • Roles & Responsibilities – Once the purpose of an organization is clear, clearly defining Roles & Responsibilities becomes critical. By having this level of clarity, an organization can operate more effectively and efficiently with less of a chance for overlap and conflict within an organization or across organizational boundaries.  Individuals will have full visibility to the roles of others and know how to help their success and when to lean on them for support.
  • Communications – having clear and direct communications minimizes the confusion in the organization and provides a common understanding across all parties. While everyone has a different communication style, from short one line messages to long drawn out explanations, it is important to encourage clear messaging.  People should understand if there is action required or if it is for informational purposes only.  If there is any question, then the message isn’t clear enough.
  • Objectives – When setting targets and objectives at the company or individual levels, the more detailed and clear the better. The objectives should be clearly linked to the overall purpose of the organization and/or role of the individual.  This linkage will drive a higher level of connection and engagement.

What other areas can you think of that would improve with clarity?  Make sure you make it a point to focus on clarity across your organization and at a personal level – I guarantee you will have a stronger impact and more success.

Why July 4th = Happiness

Every July 4th, we pack up our kids and the dog and visit my father-in-law for his birthday and for a big Independence Day celebration. I have been attending for the past 27 years I have known my wife and they have been having the party for another 20 years before that. My father-in-law Keith was born in England 88 years ago, but he insists that since his birthday is on the 4th of July, America is celebrating in his honor.

As I began looking forward to our celebrations on the 4th, I was pleasantly surprised to note all the opportunities for happiness provided by this special day.

  • We get to see and catch up with our immediate family, our extended family, and our family friends. The opportunities to catch up, reconnect, and nurture these special relationships is a wonderful source of joy and fun.
  • We all bring gifts for Keith’s birthday and even though giving makes us happy, being creative and finding that one gift he will appreciate is especially rewarding.
  • We get to enjoy the weather, great food and spirits, and of course the fireworks.
  • It is a time to reflect and appreciate that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of a family and a great nation.
  • Gratitude builds happiness and there are so many things to be grateful for on July the 4th.
    • I am grateful to have 3 days off of work and to get to choose what I want to do each day.
    • I am grateful for my friends and family
    • I am grateful to feel safe as a drive to another city without roadblocks and without the fear of roadside bombs along the highway.

But most of all, I am grateful to live in a great nation where freedom is so highly valued that people are willing to risk their lives to ensure that others are free; a country where we have the choices and opportunities to build better futures and of course a country where the opportunity for the “Pursuit of Happiness” is virtually unlimited.

 

Happy 4th of July and God Bless all those who made this day possible.

 

 

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My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

The Secrets of Success

Based on research, interviews, and personal experience, mastering these 4 concepts will result in a successful life.

 

  1. Success is today not tomorrow – Most people spend their time focused on their “when.” “When I get that job”, “when I get that promotion”, “when I get a better boss”, “when people recognize my talent.” Success comes from what you do with today’s circumstances. What are you working on today that will make you successful? Successful people don’t hope they will be successful tomorrow. They recognized what they have accomplished so far and then take another step today and every day to continue to be successful.

 

  1. Create Daily Habits – Success doesn’t come from one lucky break, one phone call, or one great project. Success comes from doing the right thing every day and creating habits that lead to success instead of mediocrity. Practice adding value to everything you do, helping people, and exercising discipline and perseverance to do things most people don’t do. As you get caught up in the chaos of life, you will have hundreds of things that need to be done every day. Make it a daily habit to start with the activities that will make you successful. Make success a part of who you are and your hard work will lead to lucky breaks, the hundreds of calls you make will lead to lots of opportunities, and every project will be a testament to how much value you bring to the company. Success is a daily habit, not a single event.

 

  1. Success doesn’t lead to happiness, happiness leads to success – I have never had a person tell me they want to be successful but they don’t want to be happy. Most people want to be successful because they think it will lead to happiness. However the research shows that raises, promotions, new cars, and even new houses increase our level of happiness for only about 90 days. After those 90 days, we return back to our normal happiness levels. On the other hand the research also shows that strong relationships, owning our consequences, exercising autonomy, and other indicators of happiness do lead to more raises, promotions, and overall job success. The habits related to being happier put us in a better position to leverage opportunities for success. Don’t waste your life choosing to be miserable so you can reach that point of success where you will finally be permanently happy. Practice happiness habits daily, and being happier will lead to daily success and the life you always dreamed of.

 

  1. Find your passion – We all want to matter and make a difference in someone’s life. We all work much harder and more diligently when we find something we are passionate about accomplishing. Your passion is your “Why.” Successful people know their “Why.” They know why they are going to get up early in the morning, why they are going to work so hard, and why they are willing to persevere and do what others are not willing to do. What are your values? What are your strengths? What do you care about deeply? It could be your music, your children, or your faith. It could be building something better, righting a wrong, or just making one small part of the world a better place. Find your passion. Find your “Why” and you will wake up every morning with unlimited energy and the will to create daily success for yourself and those around you.

 

One important note to becoming successful; these are not secrets because people don’t know them or have never heard of them. These are secrets because most people don’t have the discipline and perseverance to implement all four of them on a daily basis. Work to create happiness and success daily.

 

We created the MyHappiness app to remind you and provide you with the opportunity to be happy daily. Download MyHappiness on your iPhone or Android or visit MyHappiness.io on your web browser. There are no fees, costs, or advertising. It is 100% free to use. The app will help you practice happiness daily which will help you be successful.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happiness Hack #45 – Happiness Includes Sadness

Happiness includes sadness. Happiness is not about avoiding unhappiness. It is about experiencing the full range of emotions and being able to still feel good about the present and the immediate future. As we try to advance and grow as humans, we try to make our lives as simple and comfortable as we can. We don’t want to be too cold, so we build heaters in our houses. We don’t want to get too hot, so we add air conditioners and fans. We don’t want to be hungry, so we build farms, systems, and industries to ensure we never lack food. This drive to become more comfortable encompasses our emotions as well. Just as we don’t want to feel cold, we don’t want to feel sad, or scared, or rejected. So we invent all kinds of ways not to feel those negative emotions. We even go so far as to try to hide them or dampen them with drugs, alcohol, or food. The problem is, when we dampen the negative emotions, we also dampen the good emotions. Just as feeling comfortable at 72 degrees is hard to appreciate if you have never been freezing cold, feeling happy is much harder to recognize and appreciate if you have never felt sad. Happiness comes from experiencing life and emotion, not from avoiding it.

Embrace and feel all of your emotions, including sadness. Feeling deeply helps us feel alive and involved in life. Experience sadness and you will be happier.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Happiness Hack #46 – What are Your Values

Part of being happier is being confident that we are living according to our values. The deep inner feeling that we are doing the “right thing” provides a sense of fulfillment which helps us be happier. If we are not clear what our values are or that we are living according to the “right” values it is difficult to feel that sense of fulfillment.

Create a list of your values. What are the most important principles you feel should be guiding your life? Some examples might include Excellence, Creativity, Freedom, Fun, Friendship, Helping Other, Health and Fitness, Humor, Spirituality, Honesty, Serenity, Trust, Family, etc. Focus on your top 5. You will have more than 5 values, but make sure the Top 5 are not being compromised and you will have a good foundation for feeling fulfillment and contentment. Live according to your values and you will be happier. Here is an exercise to help you identify your values.

 

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About 

My Passion is helping people become successful and happy. I have found that many people want to be successful but just don’t know how. More importantly, people want to be successful because they feel that reaching some success pinnacle will result in them becoming happy. The research and my experience has shown that just the opposite is the case. Success does not lead to happiness. Happiness leads to success.

Importance of Social Connection at Work

While it may sound counter intuitive, today’s always connected world requires leaders to focus more on connectivity – social connectivity.  Today’s technology allows workers to be “connected” at all times, however, it is important that you focus on a level of social connection strategy for you and your organization.  Through this “always connected world”, business is becoming more and more flexible with how employees work – working from home, working remote and virtual offices are all concepts that are being adopted in today’s world.  In reality, some successful companies are 100% virtual.  This is great in providing employees autonomy and an ability to set their own hours (as long as they produce results and achieve objectives).  However, it is important to understand that in order to sustain a strong level of productivity, employees need a level of social connection.

Research shows that people need social connections to be productive – actually to survive.  This is important in our work lives as much as it is in our social lives.  In a 2012 article in Psychology Today, Dr. Emma Seppola summarized her studies by saying that social connections “create individuals who have higher self-esteem, are more emphatic to others, and, as a consequence, others are more trusting and cooperating with them.”   While Dr. Seppola’s study wasn’t focused on remote or virtual employees, it does provide a linkage between social connections and positive performance.

In today’s environment, leadership can become too remote from their teams allowing the employees to lose connection.  Not only do they lose the social connection with the organization, they also lose connection to the purpose, strategy and vision of the organization.  Without the ability to have casual conversations at the water cooler or routinely take lunch breaks with different members of the team, employees can quickly become distant.  This distance causes less engagement and therefore, less productivity.

Leaders need to learn to operate differently with a remote organization.  There is a different level of effort that is needed to ensure continued engagement and stimulation.  You can’t simply follow the old rule of “Management by Walking Around” anymore, you need to change the game.

Here are a few ideas to ensure your employees maintain a level of social connection –

  • One on One calls – set a regular cadence of one on one calls with each team member. The purpose of this connection isn’t for the employees to feel like they are being grilled on performance and providing updates, although that can be a part of the conversation.  The purpose of these calls is to simply engage – talk about whatever she wants to discuss.  Ensure they are not structured meetings and are allowed to flow naturally.
  • Call – Don’t Email – it is all too easy to send a quick email to ask a question or provide some guidance to others. However, it is important that you resist this urge for the “simple” and talk to your employees.  Pick up the phone and call.  It is sad to say, but these types of conversations often happen so infrequently, that employees “fear” calls from their management.
  • Encourage employees to directly engage – the social connection doesn’t always mean that leaders need to be a part of the engagement. Leaders should encourage their teams to interact with each other and people from other organizations – in person or over the phone.
  • Video Calls – there is a multitude of free technology on the market that allows for video calls. Take advantage of this technology to have video calls with your team.  The simple addition of seeing the other person leads to even stronger connectivity.
  • Face to Face meetings – if at all possible, make it a point to allocate a budget for face to face meetings.  The problem if you don’t set aside a budget in advance and commit to holding the meetings, it doesn’t happen. This can be difficult due to travel costs and logistics, but if possible, a good face to face conversation is helpful.

It is important for leaders and organizations to change and adapt to the new connected world.  Understand that connected (by technology) doesn’t always mean being connected to the organization and engaged with its success.

Alexia’s Legacy: Introduction

She was tragically taken from us, but her legacy lives on.  Every few weeks we will share excerpts from the book.

“I never knew Alexia but now I will never forget the lessons I have learned from her within the pages of this book. Like so many others, she has now touched my soul as well.”  5 Start Review from Julie Baswell

 

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Introduction

On June 15th, 2014, Father’s Day, the unthinkable happened – that moment in your life that you can never imagine, except in your worst nightmares. Alexia Ardeleanu, a beautiful young lady with unlimited potential was suddenly and tragically taken from us by a drunk driver. The drunk driver who killed her was driving 82 miles an hour when she plowed into Alexia’s car and others that were stopped at a stoplight in Houston, Texas.

We spent a lot of time crying and still want to cry every time we think about it. But we have chosen instead to honor her memory. We want to share the lessons she taught us and we feel she would have taught others, if she had been given the time. Alexia was special in what she accomplished and in how she lived her life. She had a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average in a double major of Accounting and Finance at the University of North Texas. She had taken her GMAT and was working on her LSAT so she could get double graduate degrees in Law and an MBA. She was successful in her job and was a campus leader. She was a Resident Assistant, had won multiple scholarships, and was President of the University of North Texas Professional Leadership Program. But most importantly she was a wonderful friend, daughter, and servant leader. She was special because of her daily focus on the important things in her life and how she unconditionally gave to others.

We want to emphasize that she was not perfect and that was what made her special. The leadership lessons we learned from Alexia are techniques anyone can learn and apply. She was not successful because of natural gifts; she was successful because she made choices every day that led her to be successful and a true servant leader. Our goal in this book is to share her real life examples and choices so you can learn how to make these lessons work for you. We hope that you can see the obstacles and challenges all successful people face and can learn how to persevere and live a life of happiness, success, and servant leadership.

Note from co-author Ray White:

I was lucky enough to be a mentor for Alexia; and as in most of my Mentor/Mentee relationships, I definitely learned as much from her as she did from me. In this book you will see a lot of emails addressed to me from Alexia. Our relationship included daily updates about how she was doing and whether she was on track for reaching the goals in her life and more importantly being happy and successful. We focused a lot on making sure she made taking care of herself a priority and took time for the actions necessary to keep her healthy and happy so she would have the energy be a successful servant leader for others. These emails are a great way to capture what she was thinking and what was really going on in her life. They give us the opportunity to not only see the important characteristics of a good leader but also to observe the concerns, challenges and imperfections as well.

We have structured this book to show real life examples from Alexia or people she interacted with, a summary of the lesson, and then an opportunity to help you reflect and improve on your related leadership skills.

We hope you enjoy the book and learn the reality about how you can be a servant leader who is both successful and happy.

 

 

 

 

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