Five Principles for a Successful Work Day

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In all of my years of watching companies “bring in experts” with shiny promises of change, there is one leader that will stand out from all the rest.  And sadly he recently passed in an accident. I’d like to share with you the five principles he taught me that will help you have a successful work day and, best of all, these work in all aspects of your life.

He had a trick for being heard. When he was in the room, people wanted to stand next to him and listen to what he had to say.  This isn’t about him being charismatic, people wanted to hear what he had to say; he told stories.  Stories are meaningful. They color a picture and give people context for the why and the how. Later, they reflect on the story and understand the concept.  They apply the story in their lives as a lesson learned because they don’t want to make the same mistake. When you want to teach a concept, you story tell it.

The Power of 'Free'

Give it away for free. I know what you are thinking, “No, no, no,  how will my business survive?” I’m telling you, it will thrive. When you are willing to give a little of yourself, people end up giving a lot more back and it just fuels the growth. The old adage “you got to give a little to get a little” rings true.  Remember the last time someone asked you for help and how great it felt when you needed to lean back on them and they were there for you.  I’m a strong believer of paying it forward, and sometimes that means you got to go first and give it away for free.  

Get a commitment upfront.  Everyone knows to have a great meeting, you must plan and agree to the agenda upfront. When you follow the agenda, everyone leaves the meeting happy. What if every conversation had that approach? What if every obvious scenario was played out ahead of time with agreed upon consequences so no one was surprised? Everyone knows their teenager is going to break curfew the day they drive off for the first time.  So before they leave, you ask “What should happen if you are late home?” In our working lives, this looks like “How will you fix it if you miss your deadline to the team?”  By having that conversation, everyone is aware that a commitment has been agreed to and people are counting on you.

When to Be an Expert

You don’t need to act as smart as you think you are. In the very beginning, you knew nothing and no one expected you to know anything and you asked great questions and learned. Until the day you decided you needed to be a little smarter and let everyone know how much you had learned… that day you stopped asking great questions. That day, you finished people’s sentences in your head while they talked and you thought to yourself, I’m an expert. And probably that day, you made some bad assumptions and relied on past experience to dictate answers to this newly unfolding situation. When they said, “light”, you should have asked light in color?, light in words?, light in mass? Which light? Let me be clear, there are dumb questions, but bad assumptions are even more costly. Stop being afraid of looking bad by not knowing something. It’s fun to reflect at night and think of all the cool stuff you learned that day.

Three Components to Doing

And lastly, he taught me “Just do it”. There are three components of an activity: the behavior, the attitude, and the technique. You know when you don’t want to go on a run and getting the outfit and shoes on were just impossible, but once you took your first step you were fine? In fact you were happy. That is behavior. Once you are doing the behavior, you can worry about your attitude; I was really positive when I put my shoes on to run today.  And lastly is the technique; I ran great and set new records for myself!  But I am telling you none of that matters if you don’t have the behavior. You just have to muscle your way through things sometimes. That ugly spreadsheet that you have to figure out what is going on or your pool pump that won’t hold prime, just do it. When the pump finally holds after the umpteenth time, you know that thrill of success will run through you.

The best part about these principles is when you have that situation that pop up that you just don’t know what to do. You feel stuck and ask yourself: Am I making bad assumptions around this situation? Have I communicated the story to be understood? Do I just need to get up and do it? Are we all on the same page and have agreed upon outcomes? This week, I had a blowup with my teenage son about a pizza box left on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t about the pizza box. He disrespected me by wasting a pizza and the money I had spent on it, and I disrespected him by the tone I took with him. So above all else, if none of these principles ring true, rely on what we already know how to do, be kind. Thanks Karl.

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