One of the specialty offerings of my firm is the advanced coaching and consulting we offer to companies, business leaders and their teams around the concept of maximizing business relationships and optimizing client engagement. This is a vast area of study and I could fill a book (coming in late 2018!) with the various approaches and proven best practices I have found to be most helpful for my business clients. One of the biggest areas of interest for my clients is their desire for the essential tactics and simple engagement approaches that are critical for building effective business relationships both inside and outside their organizations.
Up until about five years ago, I would say that I maximized my days as well as anyone and was always comfortable juggling multiple projects and tasks. My business thrived, my books were selling well and I achieved a modicum of success by the world’s standard, but I began to recognize that I was often missing out on the truly important things in life. My hectic pace, which mirrored the pace of so many other professionals in my circle, began to negatively impact the quality of time I was spending with clients, friends and loved ones. My crazy schedule and the countless meetings I was having each week began to blur together and I felt that I was not being truly present for the people who richly deserved my full attention, especially my wonderful wife and two sons. The pace I was keeping also had a deeply negative impact on my ability to gather my thoughts, reflect on lessons learned and ponder the future. This epiphany, which occurred in the last few days of 2012, became the basis for my commitment to slow down and begin living life in “real time”.
“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – G. K. Chesterton
I remember at a very young age the constant urging of my parents to always say “thank you” in response to any kindness or friendly words shared in my direction. For many years, I saw this advice from my parents as simply good manners and what people were supposed to do. In my mid-teen years, I was mature enough to observe the heartfelt sincerity my parents always showed when they said “thank you” to others, offered prayers of thanks or expressed appreciation for the simple blessings in their lives…and how different it was from my perfunctory use of the words. They really meant it and I began to understand that their use of “thank you” transcended mere courtesy and it clearly meant something much more meaningful and powerful to them. What I observed my parents practicing so well was the beginning of my deeper understanding of the word gratitude.
My first and greatest mentor in life was (and is) my father Steve. He was a master of building business relationships and was well-respected and trusted by all who knew him throughout his long career. I remember well the advice he gave me 30 years ago, soon after I graduated from UGA and was about to begin my career. He told me to think about three basic approaches when I was encountering new professionals as I began my first post-college job:
- Be helpful/Serve their needs
- Be sincerely curious
- Always add value
Over my 25+ years in business, I have had the good fortune to serve on a number of non-profit boards and am grateful for the enriching experiences, people I have met and worthy causes I have served. One of the benefits I’ve gleaned from years of community service are lessons about how to effectively serve on a non-profit board. This post seeks to summarize these lessons into an easy-to-follow road map that will hopefully enrich your board service experience and help add value to the organizations you serve.
As they ascend the corporate ladder, many leaders do a curious thing … they stop networking. This can have a significant long-term negative impact on a career. I have observed this phenomenon over much of my professional life, most recently in conversations with a number of senior business leaders who have unexpectedly found themselves in career transition. Many spend the first few months of the job search rebuilding networks they failed to maintain while employed. However, the need for leaders to maintain effective, dynamic networks goes well beyond a possible date with destiny in the ranks of the unemployed.
There is no shame in losing your job – it will likely happen to many of us at some point in our careers. Look at it as an exciting opportunity to take stock of your life and a rare chance to be more intentional about the next move in your career. In my current role as an executive coach for senior leaders, through my past role as a partner with a respected national executive search firm, and previously in my role as head of recruiting for a billion-dollar restaurant company, I have had the opportunity to interview thousands of job seekers around the country. These conversations have helped me develop an actionable list of best practices for those seeking new roles, which I hope you find useful.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who is an executive with a mid-sized software company growing rapidly through acquisition. We discussed the various challenges his leadership team is facing and the approaches they were taking to solve them. His company is struggling to assimilate the cultures of the acquired firms, reduce expenses and create synergies from the combined companies. He admitted they had a solid plan to address the financial side of the issues, but they felt overwhelmed by the more complex people side of the equation. In my experience, many senior leaders like my friend and his peers typically develop a “business response” to their “business problem”, which, on paper, seems logical. Where these plans sometimes fall short is in how leaders miscalculate the unintended consequences for their employees resulting from the decisions that have been made and how these decisions are communicated to the organization.
A few weeks ago I received a thank you note from someone who attended one of my corporate workshops on how to maximize business relationships. The person was thoughtful in sending the note, but I especially appreciated the specific reference to the best practices that resonated with her and how she planned to apply them in her life. The note of gratitude and the lessons it contained have stuck with me and been the catalyst for some deeper thinking about the importance of random acts of praise, kindness and gratitude or “RAPKG” for short.
You are in a staff meeting listening to a work colleague drone on about his success on a recent project, but you know he is actually behind and over budget. What do you do? One of your direct reports has a few self-limiting behaviors that are impeding her career growth and negatively affecting the team, but you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Performance reviews are coming up and you need to rate her work. How will you handle the situation? A colleague lacks self-awareness about the negative reputation he has earned in the company. He doesn’t work for you, but you want to help him get back on track. How will you approach him? One of your company’s senior executives consistently asks for feedback, but you doubt his sincerity. A business problem arises that you know will reflect poorly on decisions made by this leader. Will you have the courage to speak up?