10 Words Entrepreneurs Should Use With Caution

by Jay Goltz

Recently, I did a workshop with some young entrepreneurs — mostly, I would say, between 24 and 38 — and I soon realized that in this new and enlightened age, every conversation about entrepreneurship seems to include the same 10 words, words that have become a new jargon. At the same time, one very important but old-fashioned word seems to have been all but forgotten.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of these words have some value, but many of them are misunderstood, or are euphemisms, or are overused. So here is my Top 10 list. Sprinkle them through any conversation about entrepreneurship, and you will sound progressive and “in the know.” But think about what you are really saying.

Passion. You hear this all the time, usually in a sentence like this: “If you follow your passion, the money will follow.” While passion is clearly important, this is probably the most destructive and misleading cliché about starting your own business. Lots of businesses fail, and most of the people who started them had plenty of passion. What they may have lacked is business acumen, or money, or customers who were willing to pay the right price. And here’s a related thought: It’s great to hire employees with passion, but they should also be competent.

Team. I’m sorry, but just because you insist on calling your employees a team does not necessarily mean they work well together or get the job done. Personally, I think teams play sports, and in sports there are a lot of missed plays, fumbles and mistakes. And most sports teams lose about half of the time. Business should be about flawless execution and getting the job done. But then again, I am old. I do understand that the term is well intended.

Corporate Culture. This notion of parties, Ping-Pong tables, dress-up days, bringing your dog to work and emphasizing having fun may be a good way to find and keep staff members, but it says nothing about how the company treats customers. I think corporate culture should also be about how far the company will go for customers, how much is expected from employees, how employees are expected to treat other employees, and what results are expected. I believe in a customer-driven culture.

Transparency. There are many times when transparency is valuable and constructive. There certainly should be more of it in government, and it can be helpful in finding, training and developing a staff. Customers can appreciate it. But it is not the be-all and end-all. Is it anyone else’s business if the owner decides to lend $10,000 to a valuable employee who gets in trouble? Not everything should be transparent.

Challenges. Back in the old days, we called them problems. Today, that sounds too negative. And we certainly don’t want to be negative! But there is a difference between a challenge and a problem: Trying to improve your website’s conversion rate or to find good people is a challenge. Losing your house or having to fire your brother-in-law is a problem. Both words have their place.

Scale. Will this business scale? Listen to you sounding like a venture capitalist! But I don’t know if that means growing to two stores or 10,000 stores, going international or going public, making you a billionaire or finding one crucial employee to help you do some of the work. But it is such a big word that it doesn’t need any more conversation. Checkmate! If a business can scale, no one dares to ask any more questions.

Funding. “I’m looking for funding,” sounds big time and sexy. But the question is, do you have a viable business plan, or better yet, have you had any success? The fact is, most businesses are started with savings, credit cards, and money from family and friends. Very few people get venture capital — at least outside of technology companies. I admit it. I am not a big shot. I have never raised investment money. But I have built my business to more than 100 employees with my own — and sometimes the bank’s — money. Maybe I am a medium shot.

If you don’t already, watch “Shark Tank.” It is a good show for starting to understand business. It often features entrepreneurs, and I use the term loosely, who have no clue what they are doing. And after they get beaten bloody by the sharks, often for good reason, they leave the shark tank and look into the camera and say, “No one is going to stop me from reaching my dream!” I cringe, because you can see that they didn’t hear a word. I wish they would say, “I’m going to go back and rethink my plan.” There is a thin line between vision and delusion.

Accountable. For many years, I have seen this word spread like kudzu. Yes, politicians should be accountable, companies should be accountable, and employees should be accountable. But in business, especially if it is your business, people should be held responsible. It is not the same thing. Do you want to hire a babysitter who is accountable or responsible? Holding someone responsible means that person has to fix the problem or pay consequences. Accountable is responsible without a response. Maybe it is thatnegative thing again.

Motivation. People always ask me what I do to motivate employees. I always tell them the same thing. There are many ways to motivate people: money, promotions, titles, trips, awards, parties and more. But before I worry about any of those, I would consider the hundreds of ways that people can be demotivated: being yelled at; not being reviewed on time; having to work with people who are abusive, incompetent, or lazy; not being given clear directions. There are many more.

Business Model. I actually like this term. It really does have meaning, and it covers everything people should pay attention to, including that word I mentioned that has been all but forgotten. And what is that word? Profit. I believe that we are living through a period in which growth is wildly overemphasized and profit is frequently ignored. How do I know? When I talk to entrepreneurs who throw around all of the above terms, as I frequently do, they look startled when I ask whether they are making a profit. But then again, as I told you, I’m old!

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4 Challenges Leaders Always Face

by Mark Sanborn

If there weren’t challenges, we’d have little need for leaders.

For leaders everywhere, some challenges are unique and temporary, but many others are common and ongoing.

After 25 years of advising leaders, here are four challenges I’ve found that leaders always face, and what to do about them:

1. To be respected and to be liked.challenge

Too many leaders use “being respected” as an excuse for not being liked. If you really had to choose one over the other, then respected is the better choice. But you don’t have to choose.

Being competent at what you do gains respect. Being nice to people gets people to like you. To do both takes only a little extra effort. You don’t have to be patronizing (that won’t get you liked anyhow), but you need to pay attention to how you treat the people you lead.

2. Balancing the needs of the organization and the needs of people.

Neither should this be an either/or choice, but many leaders are better at one than the other (or willing to sacrifice one for the other).

You can’t succeed for the long haul if you don’t pay attention to both. Both needs aren’t always perfectly balanced, but if people don’t feel cared for and supported with necessary resources, they won’t produce desired results. There are times when sacrifices will need to be made and most people understand that. But if you continually achieve results at the expense of your team, you’ll experience resentment and high turnover.

Of course if you can’t turn in results for your organization, you likely won’t get to stick around to take care of your team. Being liked but unable to deliver results is faux leadership.

3. Staying motivated.

The biggest mistake a leader can make is waiting for or hoping someone else will motivate him or her. Motivation is ultimately an inside job. An employer can provide a positive environment and aid in motivation, but staying motivated is something a responsible adult does for him or herself.

There are many ways to stay motivated, but knowing your purpose is a great beginning point. While Friedrich Nietzsche is over-quoted and not a philosopher I agree with completely, I do agree with his statement that he who has a reason why can bear almost any how. Low sense of purpose, low motivation. High sense of purpose, high motivation.

One of the biggest failure points of leadership is when “what” trumps “why.” Leaders rarely last when they don’t have a clear sense of the why, their purpose.

4. Maintaining focus.

There are many demands on a leader’s attention and too many leaders allow others to determine theirs. Effective focus comes from knowing what is most important and choosing to focus on that first. Not all distractions can be ignored, but most can be tabled until a better time to deal with them.

Not all tasks are equal, and just as a clear purpose helps in staying motivated, so does it help in staying focused. Never confuse activity with accomplishment. One is an input, the other an output.

At the beginning of each day, in addition to your to-do lists and other time management tools, ask yourself, “What is the most important thing we need to accomplish today?” Make sure your team knows the answer, too.

Learn to look at challenges as the real work of leadership.

5 Steps to Achieve Peak Productivity

by SUCCESS Magazine

As psychologist Abraham Maslow explored the idea of human motivation, he pondered the concept of what really motivated people. Through his research in 1943, he identified primary needs people must satisfy before moving forward. This became known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a five-level pyramid that illustrates the pattern of motivation. (You can see what it looks like below.)

To get from one level to the next, one has to master the basics first. Productivity can work in much the same way, according to Tamara Myles, a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) and author of The Secret to Peak Productivity (AMACOM, February 2014).

Myles recognizes that people are constantly bombarded with information, and multitasking causes stress and is usually counterproductive. She wants people to step back and to simplify—to feel in control.

“Productivity is not about being able to do more, to get through your entire to-do list, but instead to be focused and able to get through the most important items, the things that are going to move your company or career forward,” she says.

Inspired by Maslow’s work, Myles created the Peak Productivity Pyramid—an approach to a more productive life.

“[The system makes it] so easy to see the entire roadmap, to identify where you are and where you are headed,” Myles says. “It is, after all, much easier to get where you are going if you have directions, if you have a map.”

Like Maslow’s, this pyramid has five levels, and each tier supports the next. Here are Myles’ key pieces of advice for each productivity level, starting at the base:

1. Physical organization: Myles suggests employing the “Three To’s” of sorting: To Toss, To Do, To Keep.

“Too often people get bogged down trying to sort and file at the same time. By eliminating everything that can be tossed, identifying everything to do and everything else to be kept (filed), eliminating clutter becomes a manageable task,” she says.

2. Electronic organization: Here, she introduces the ABCs of email processing: Access, Batch, Check, Delete, Execute, File.

“Keeping your inbox clear at regular but specific intervals should give you hours of additional time each week, decrease your stress from worrying about forgetting something, and increase your overall effectiveness at handling what is most important in a timely manner,” Myles writes.

3. Time management: Myles approaches time management from the perspective of choice management—and with the following three P’s: Plan, Prioritize, Perform.

In her book, she writes, “We can’t manage time. Time happens. We can manage our choices in relation to the time that we have, what we choose to do with our time.”

4. Activity-goal alignment: Here, you must make sure you’re working on the tasks that best support your goals.

“Living a life with purpose means living each day thinking about the desired outcome. To do that, you need to take a step back from the chaos of everyday life and see the bigger picture. What do you want to be when you grow up?” Myles writes.

5. Possibility: Once you have your goals—and the rest of the pyramid—in order, the realm of possibility becomes available to you.

According to Myles, “Possibility means striving to be all a person can be while looking at all aspects of one’s life, exploring the possibility of achieving goals that might seem impossible.”

Thankfully, productivity doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process.

“Focus on one area at a time and make small improvements, build new habits. The more you start making positive changes, the more excited you will become to continue improving. It’s an upward spiral.”

It’s up to you to take control of your time. Will you make that choice today?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

From the base—containing the most essential needs—upward, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs looks something like this:

• Level 1: Physiological, or what we need to survive. Examples: air, food, drink, shelter, sex and sleep

• Level 2: Safety. Examples: personal and financial security, health and well-being

• Level 3: Love and belonging, or relationships. Examples: work, family and partner

• Level 4: Esteem. Examples: self-esteem and others’ respect

• Level 5: Self-actualization, or fulfilling our greatest potential