Motivate Yourself and You’ll Motivate Your Team

motivation-for-entrepreneursThere was a recent meeting I attended with my leadership team that got me thinking about motivation. We were discussing sales numbers, and I encountered a typical problem – the numbers were good, but they could have been much better. This can be difficult to communicate to staff, because some think that “good” is enough, and simply don’t have the motivation to improve their methods.

There are countless articles online that discuss how to motivate your employees. In fact, I encountered one great article from Inc.com that details three questions that you should ask your employees every few months to gauge their motivation. After reading this fantastic article, something occurred to me. At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you, yourself, are motivated to become a better worker, a better entrepreneur, and essentially a better person. Once you can keep yourself motivated to do better, you’ll understand how to motivate your team to do better. Here are three pieces of advice I can offer fellow entrepreneurs to help you motivate yourself:

Prioritize your Tasks: It’s easy to get bogged down by little tasks that may seem incredibly important to you at the time, but aren’t truly essential for day-to-day operations. If you keep getting distracted by little tasks, it will eventually drain you and leave you with little “juice” left to focus on the important items on your list. Take a step back and prioritize what tasks are truly essential to business operations, which will keep you focused and inspired to perform to the best of your abilities.

Realize That People Are Depending On You: They may not blatantly tell you to your face, but your team is depending on you in many different ways. They depend on you for guidance, mentorship and general leadership. Of course, it’s not just your team that is depending on you either – your family is depending on you too. When you realize that you have so many people counting on you, you’ll recognize that you have to become better in more ways than one.

Think about the Flip Side: As an entrepreneur, you ultimately decided to take the risk of running your own business for one central reason: you despise the idea of working for someone else. This one point alone is usually enough to motivate most entrepreneurs, but hectic days can make you lose sight of this. Remind yourself that you opened the doors of your business because you not only wanted to be your own boss – but you knew that you could do it better than anyone else.

What methods do you use to keep yourself motivated? Do you find that motivating yourself helps your team stay focused? I’d love to chat with you about this in the comments below.

Making goals is easy – Sticking to them is the challenge.

The beginning of the year can be hectic for entrepreneurs. Once the year has settled in, it becomes far too easy to lose the focus and determination you had at the beginning of January. As I mentioned in one of my recent blog posts, I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, yet I still find myself being more focused at the beginning of the year. It takes dedication to keep that focus going, and it becomes more difficult as the months pass by. Anyone can stay determined for a month, but it takes a lot of strength and willpower to stay determined for an entire year.

There are many things you can do to stay focused on the goals you’ve set for yourself, and these are just a few things I do on a regular basis to stay focused.

Making sure that you have clear goals for yourself is very important, but it’s also important to be realistic about them. Instead of telling yourself “I’m going to reach a certain goal by the end of the year”, break them down to weekly or daily tasks. Doing this is an easier way to keep yourself accountable to your long-term goals, and it’s also easier to check things off when they come up instead of auditing yourself at the end of the year.

An important part of staying focused is also making sure that you’re taking the necessary time for yourself to unwind. I’ve been talking at length in the past few weeks about how I have been unwinding with some close friends on my beer league team of the Screaming Eagles. It’s important to find a past-time that you not only find entertaining, but that also lets you completely escape and forget about the stress that was brought about from your work.

Another way to de-stress is to simply unplug yourself from your smart phone and e-mail for about an hour or so before you go to bed. While that may seem challenging to those of us who are constantly checking our e-mails, and may also seem counter intuitive to staying focused, but no one can operate on a 24/7 basis and over-working yourself is one of the traps that entrepreneurs fall victim to that makes them lose sight of their goals.

These are just a few ways that you can stay focused this month and, in reality, for the rest of the year. Now that the first month of the year has passed by, this is the time where you can prove to yourself that those goals you made for yourself weren’t just for show – now it’s time to attain them.

Success is Revenge!

Based on the popularity of my recent hockey blogs I’ve decided to write about another on ice experience.  Due to some travel I missed a couple of games in a row and hadn’t been on the ice for a while, because of my improved play of late it was actually flattering and uplifting when my line mate Tommy Siskos was eager to have me back.  In a very nice albeit odd choice by team captain Grobo, he actually called on our line to start (almost never happens as we are usually the second or third line).  Coaches usually do this at time to fire up a line or reward a line that has been performing well of late so we did not disappoint, I scored a goal on our second shift and added another assist on one of Tommy’s goals in the second period.  We went deep into the third period with a 2-1 lead in what was a very tight game without a single penalty called on each team, yet at that point something very odd happened.  In the offensive zone, with only a minute to play Tommy had a very questionable penalty called on him, there is an unwritten rule in hockey code that says tight games where no penalties have been called you don’t call one with one minute left in the game especially on a marginal call in the offensive zone to boot!  Well needless to say Tommy was furious and venting in frustration (happens after almost any penalty) and the referees knowing this was such a debatable call should have understood but to add insult to injury gave him an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct!  They had crossed the line, even I burst out yelling and I’m the soft spoken one on the team, how could the referees not only make such a silly call late in the game as opposed to letting it play out, but actually now be factoring into the decision?  It was ludicrous.

Well as luck would have it we were scored on almost immediately which forced overtime but because it was a double minor we would also went into the overtime period shorthanded 4-3 which given the momentum blow we just took almost meant a sure defeat.  As any hockey player reading this will relate too as it’s happened to us all, Tommy just felt awful that his mishap would cost us the game, he wished he could just disappear yet there he sat alone in the glass penalty box for everybody to see.  What happened next in this game as what often happens in life when we are faced with challenges was awesome.  As we were a few seconds away from killing off the penalty Grobo yelled out my name to go on the ice next when Tommy’s penalty had expired.  I don’t blame Grobo for the choice, I had played a great game scoring a gorgeous near perfect goal on a very good goalie to break the 0-0 tie late in the second period which gave us the belief that we could finally beat this stingy goalie.  I had then made a perfect pass to Tommy to give us the go ahead goal.  However, I had a gut feel, call it intuition or my belief in the powerful motivating force of redemption or sweet serendipity but as I was about to take the ice, I was standing right beside Tommy who was in the penalty box eagerly waiting for his penalty to expire when I looked at him right in the eye and said, “Tommy, you go out there AND score!”  What was a fraction of a second I saw a mix of emotions of surprise of the selfless act, excitement at the possibility of redeeming himself and what looked like a jolt of energy in his eyes as he yelled “ok!” with sheer glee and enthusiasm.  He skated directly into the offensive zone and scored in under six seconds flat and we won the game!  Sweet poetic justice.

Although nobody likes to face challenges, we tend to embrace the comfort zone or clear sailing so to speak, but in life we learn most when we struggle and face challenges.  We tend to find another gear, we dig deeper into our souls and further into our inner core for the strength to pull us through.  Whenever the storms or injustices of life hit me, I always find some solace in the fact that I’m about to learn a life or business lesson, gain yet another amazing experience or battle scare to mold me into a better human being capable of doing more to make this world a better place.  This attitude is always harder when we get dealt a blow that doesn’t seem fair, crap happens in life out of happenstance or coincidence but when we are clearly wronged by another intentionally to do us harm, it’s at those times that we question whether there is a force or God out there or whether there is even meaning in this life, so it’s not a comfortable feeling to say the least.  I’m a firm believer in the laws of compensation and when you sow good seeds, good things come back at you in different ways that you can’t even imagine.  When it comes to bringing justice to the world when unjustifiable acts happen, I urge you to immediately say to yourself “success will be my revenge”.  It’s what I do every time life or somebody knocks me down and I focus all my energy into what it takes to succeed in the circumstances and visualize what I want the end result to be, exactly what I did when I put the team first ahead of myself and put Tommy in knowing with all my heart that he was going to redeem himself.

Where there is no leadership, the people will perish!

My last posting I introduced my life long hobby of hockey and my beer league team of the Screaming Eagles.  Since that posting I’ve become a lot more in tune of some potential on ice lessons and been on a pretty awesome point streak.  In the last post I spoke about how our team doesn’t have a formal coach and how we essentially have to hold each other accountable as peers and I spoke about the brilliance and effectiveness of that.  However, two games after that one our team organizer as I’ll call him, John Grobanopoulos (Grobo), not to be mistaken with George Strombolopolous (Strombo) who is another lifelong school mate, missed a game.  We joked prior to the game as we were getting dressed that his presence on the ice probably won’t be missed as we had several of our more talented players in attendance but what took place even before the puck dropped was noticeable and as a result reminded me of some valuable lessons in leadership and organizational behavior.

Right after warm up it was time for the puck drop and one of my team mates yelled out “what are the lines?” and all I heard was silence,  I knew immediately we may be in for a long night.  John although not the formal coach, looks after all the administration and setting of the lines, we were lost right off the bat, nobody seamlessly took over what might be a menial task yet an important one that can set the tone for the game and ultimately be the difference between winning and losing.  After some comical back and forth and mass confusion of who was starting even after we organized the lines we finally dropped the puck.  After we observed the pace and assessed our opponent, it was clear that our speed and talent far exceeded theirs and we should be able to easily defeat them.  However, without Grobo on the bench to make game observations to see who was on and which pairs were clicking, we suffered from a lack of discipline, taking too many penalties and ultimately not moving our feet enough.  Since we had more talent we kept it close and went late into the game holding a one goal advantage yet we let that slip away with only mere seconds left in the game.  This meant overtime which was also Grobo’s responsibility to decide who the best players of the night were and who deserved to play the extra session and ultimately give us the best chance to win.  Well needless to say especially since we were shaken by giving the late game tying goal, confusion and ego prevailed and we entered the overtime period as discombobulated as we had started the game and it took only 30 second for our weaker opponent to finish us off and emerge victorious.

As the screaming eagles retired to the dressing room and did what we do best (yell and drink beer), I sat and reflected and couldn’t help but notice how the lack of at least some organization, guidance and gentle accountability can be fatal to any team or organization.  It’s not always about being a charismatic game changing vocal leader who can quote all of Jack Welch’s books, sometimes all that is needed is someone who can keep order and eliminate confusion within an organization.  Upon John’s return when he asked how we lost to such a weaker opponent everybody chimed in with some excuses but I paid John a compliment and said we really missed him, and not necessarily his fierce back checking (he will resent that sarcastic comment) but his leadership.  Like the humble effective business and team leader that he is, he shrugged it off and taught me another lesson when he comically said “The key to leading or motivating a bunch of type A personalities is simply to out yell them”.  Can’t say I ever thought about that but at The Wish Group I lead several Presidents and a management team of over 20 type A’s and come to think of it I do yell a lot.  It’s an old biblical saying yet it’s true, without leadership regardless of its form a group or organization striving to achieve a task will perish or at least not be merely as effective as it can be.  I encourage each of you to reflect on times where nobody takes leadership of a situation and observe what occurs, it may be enlightening, and maybe that will motivate you to step up and take the leadership, because often leadership isn’t given, it’s taken.

New Year’s Resolutions

With 2014 fast approaching, many of us are already starting to look back on the year that was. Was 2013 the year you had hoped it would be? Did you make the lasting changes you had wanted to this time last year?

I must admit, in general I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I have never made any in my lifetime and it seems to me that people who do use the date as a chance to justify putting off much needed change, such as quitting smoking, going to the gym or eating healthier. The crowded health clubs from the first week of January simmer down to the usual traffic by February 1st, and most of the people who claim to quit smoking for the new year are still puffing away come February.  In fact, I highly recommend turning many of your resolutions into goals that you can focus on during the entire year. Goal setting is much more focused, deliberate and success-driven, and that’s why I find it more effective.

But, having said that, for some strange reason I find myself much more focused this time of year, and upon further reflection I feel that resolutions do have their place. While I consider goals to be measurable accomplishments that are frequently complex and made up of many different mini-goals, resolutions are simpler, behavior-driven activities that typically do not require advanced planning. Resolutions are almost mantra-like, in that they are meant to give you motivation and encouragement as you work at bettering yourself.

For example, a business goal may be to increase profit by 5%, and includes a number of actions from attending more networking events, asking for client referrals, and launching a new marketing campaign. A resolution may be something as simple as: I will respond to all client emails within 12 hours. See the difference?

So in that vein, here are some of the top business resolutions you can make for 2014.

  1. I will think and speak positively each and every day.
  2. I will stop procrastinating and hold myself accountable.
  3. I will do something each day that will force me to get out of my comfort zone.
  4. I will focus on what’s important as opposed to what’s urgent.
  5. I will work harder AND smarter.
  6. I will visit each one of my clients at least once this calendar year.
  7. I will remember why I love what I do.

While these resolutions are meant to give you focus and motivate you for the New Year, they are too simplified to include measures for your success. But you can create goals out of any of these resolutions that truly resonate with you. It’s simply about staying focused and excited about all you’re able to achieve.

Creatures of Habit

If you make something a habit it doesn’t tax your willpower constantly. Think about the last time you needed to engage your willpower… Ugh, it is draining just thinking about it. The more you create habits in your life the more you have willpower for other tasks. The good news is it only takes 21 days to create a habit, whether a good or a bad one, so choose to make them good!

First decide what task or goal you want to accomplish, maybe start with something small such as: I want to spend more time ___________.

Let’s say you chose “selling”. You get busy everyday with admin work, writing content for your blog, taking service calls, planning out marketing messages, filling in expense reports, whatever. But you still want to spend more time selling, you know you want to do this, it’s just not happening. Every day, from 9:30 – 10:30 you are now selling, no other option. Force it to become habit until it does not tax your willpower every day. It will take great discipline and willpower for the first few weeks but there will be a time where you will move from using willpower to simply, a habit. And a habit requires little to no willpower. Mark it in your calendar, using a calendar as a tool to keep you disciplined and accountable is one of the tricks I learned very early in my career and it works like a charm. You are more likely to actually complete a task or take the time to do what’s important versus urgent if you schedule it in your calendar.

As a salesperson from my experience most of us don’t want to prospect or spend time on the phones trying to schedule appointments with potential clients. To make it easier what we do at The Wish Group is schedule an hour each day where every sales associate clears their desks of everything besides their phone and call script and essentially we make a concentrated effort to schedule meetings and usually average 20 dials, we call these our “Hours of Power”. We like to make declarations to the team ahead of time of what our goals are for the hour, and twice a week we even get on a conference call with associates across all the offices throughout the province to share our results and success stories.  I’ve been trying to exercise and get in better shape for years to no avail, when I look back at why I’ve struggled to maintain consistency I realize that if I apply the good habits that I’ve done in selling to the gym I would have a much better chance at success. This is why I think cross fit is a fitness craze that might actually stick. The principles of having a clear schedule every session, the benefit of having a leader or what is essentially similar to having a personal trainer to keep you motivated, targeting all types of training and using the method of team and accountability are all proven to assist in developing consistency and creating a habit which is ultimately the secret to all success!