Think You’re Above Average? You’re Not Alone

by Vikram Mansharamani

Last year, while delivering a talk to a group of investment professionals, I asked a simple question: “How many of you feel that you are better investors than your peers in the industry?” About 80% of the audience answered affirmatively using anonymous electronic polling devices.While this may seem shocking and the audience chuckled, I noted that there’s nothing inherently wrong with everyone in the room being above average. After all, the room was filled with individuals who had invested time, money and efforts towards their professional development. They weren’t typical of the industry…and in fact, it is highly believable that they are better than their peers in the industry.

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So I asked another question: “How may of you feel that you are better investors than your peers in this room?” This time slightly less than two-thirds (65%) of the audience answered affirmatively.   Again, the audience chuckled…and this time, I joined them.

We had just demonstrated the Lake Wobegon effect , named after Garrison Keillor’s fictional town in which all children are above average. In fact, this illusory superiority is a cognitive bias that has been researched with consistent results across a host of professionals from doctors to investors to academics. It’s also found across age groups.

Continue reading Think You’re Above Average? You’re Not Alone

4 Reasons Why a Stock Market Drop May Be Good For Your Business

by Gene Marks

A precipitous drop in the stock market can of course have a negative effect on your business. It creates uncertainty. It holds back your customers from spending. It gives you pause before you invest. It has an overall negative psychological effect on everyone, dampening spirits, cutting wealth, giving an indication of tough economic times ahead. It effects jobs and livelihoods. We know all this.

But a stock market drop also brings a few benefits to your business too, both tangible and intangible. Don’t believe me? Here are just a few.

A stock market drop validates you.

Remember how you were telling anyone that would listen that those stocks seemed overvalued? And you resisted investing in those tech stocks because your gut told you something didn’t make sense. You were right. You’re a business owner. You see three kids from Stanford start a company that’s loosely based around texting friends where they’re having dinner and then a year later that same company is valued at over a billion dollars and you scratch your head and say out loud “this doesn’t make sense.” Yes, you were right. Like every bubble, there is a limit. And you saw this coming long ago. That’s because you know that the true value of a company is based on a combination of real and intangible assets, infrastructure, contracts in place, processes, customers, revenue streams and market sizes. Those companies that have those traits will continue to build their value and create real, long-term wealth. When you see the stocks of those companies that don’t have those traits suddenly fall down to earth you’re sad, but feel a little vindicated too. Common sense prevailed. There is order in this crazy world. Your gut was right.

You are reminded where the real value is.

Continue reading 4 Reasons Why a Stock Market Drop May Be Good For Your Business

Does prevention save money? __ Yes __ No

DocWPatientOr…it’s complicated.

The New York Times today published a story titled, “No, Giving More People Health Insurance Doesn’t Save Money.” A piece of the argument is, as the author Margo Sanger-Katz puts it, “Almost all preventive health care costs more than it saves.”

What do you think? What’s the evidence? Leave aside, for the moment, the “big duh” fact that at least in the long term saving people’s lives in any way will cost more, because we are all going to die of something, and will use a lot of healthcare on the way. Leave aside as well the other “big duh” argument: It may cost money, but that money is worth it to save lives and relieve suffering. Leave that argument aside as well. The question here is: Does getting people more preventive care actually lower healthcare costs for whoever is paying them?

My thoughts? #1: No consultant worth his or her salt trying to help people who are actually running healthcare systems would take such a blanket, simple answer as a steering guide. Many people running healthcare systems across the country are seriously trying to drop real costs, and how you do that through preventive care is a live, complex and difficult conversation all across healthcare.

#2 thought: It depends. It needs analysis. It depends on which preventive tests, screens, and prescriptions you’re talking about, and how it is decided whom to help with them. Sanger-Katz’ article only shows that we cannot assume that every preventive screening or test saves money and/or is worth the money spent. Mammograms, for instance, show no benefit (no extra tumors caught, no lives saved) over breast exams alone (Canadian Breast Cancer Study, n=89,000 over 25 years).

This is true of many preventive items, including the annual checkup — it’s hard to show a true benefit from them. So yes, if you assume that every preventive test, screen, or prescription is worth it, and then you give more people access to those, you’ll end up spending more money. Equally important, the assumption is that you screen everyone, and you do it the most expensive way, like giving older people regular colonoscopies as a test for colon cancer. There are far less expensive ways to pre-screen people for that. This one assumption alone costs an estimated $10 billion per year in the U.S..

The problem is that these assumptions mean giving a lot of medical care, much of it not even effective, to people who are well. There are reasonable ways to narrow the focus of expensive, personal, procedural preventive care and maintenance to the 5% or so who really need it. Find that 5%, give them extra care, and you will save money.

Why Coaching Is the best Way to Spend your Time

by Mike Abrashoff

Coaching is one of the most difficult challenges facing leaders today. For starters, it places many outside of their comfort zones because they view it as “an additional requirement for which I have no expertise”. They might also view it as an added requirement at a time when they are already overburdened and resent an additional requirement being placed on them. What most do not grasp is that by effectively developing your subordinates, they can lift burdens off your shoulders. By doing your ten dollar an hour work, you have the bandwidth to do a $500 or $10,000-an-hour job.

When I was selected to be the US Secretary of Defense’s number two assistant, I was thrown into a pressure packed office and nobody had the time to coach me. I was disheartened and frustrated and almost quit until I started to train myself to “think like my boss.” My boss was the Senior Military Assistant and a two-star Army General. It was the same job Colin Powell had when he was a two-star. I observed the General every day and tried to anticipate his decisions to prove that I could think like a two-star. When I made the same decision the General made, I realized I could think like a two-star. When the General made a different decision than I would have made, I would sit back and try to see where my training needed to be improved so that next time, I would make the correct decision. When I couldn’t figure it out, I would find a quiet moment and say to the General “I’m trying to understand how you made that decision. Could you please share with me your thoughts so that I can be better prepared the next time?” Over time, my decision-making ability improved. At the same time, the General started to trust me more. He started to shed some of his responsibilities to me which eased his stressful job. I went from being an individual contributor to being responsible for the trip planning teams, the security detail and the communications group.

What made this coaching model successful is that we both had something to gain. I learned how to think like my boss and he had burdens lifted off his shoulders. It would not have been successful if I did not feel comfortable enough to challenge him at an appropriate time and say, “I don’t understand. Can you please explain to me your thinking on this?”

I took this model with me to USS Benfold. I put the onus on my officers to start thinking like their bosses. I also made sure we were approachable so they could ask us if there was something they didn’t understand. It wasn’t an additional burden or program but it became ingrained in our culture and how we operated. Along the way, I tried to groom these young men and women to be able to command their own ships some day and to this day…have the highest percentage of junior officers from one ship to command their own ship.

The Best Time to Market a Product, Service, or Idea

timeNow

Now is the best time to market a product, service, or idea!

It’s the best time ever.

We can reach our buyers for free.

It can be fun creating content and publishing it to the world.

People are looking for what you have right now. Potential customers are going to the search engines to solve their problems and research their questions. Are they finding you?

We use social networks to ask our friends, colleagues, and family members for advice about products and services and frequently the answers include a link. Are people linking to you?

We’re in an era where educating and informing works much better than interrupting and selling.

How lucky we all are! For the first time in human history we can influence a global audience from anywhere and at little or no cost.

Then

I remember the old days of spending weeks making a brochure. Ugh. Struggling over words and images before you commit to press. If you made an error, the entire run ended up in the landfill.

To get our ideas into the marketplace, we had to convince the media to write or broadcast about us or pay the big bucks to access somebody else’s audience. We had no choice but to screw around with expensive advertising.

Right now

The time is now.

Are you a part of the revolution? Or are you playing by the old rules?

For more information, read David’s new book: The New Rules of Sales and Service

BUSY is a Four Letter Word

by Christine Cashen

sorry_were_too_busy_graphic1Is your life rocketing by? People often say (when I say ‘people,’ I mean me), “Where is time going?!?” Who the heck knows? Every time I turn around I get a “due for a dental visit” postcard. Wasn’t I just there last month? Six months seem to pass like six weeks. Are you with me on this? When a new season hits, it is always a surprise. Wasn’t it just Christmas? Valentine’s Day? July 4??

If you ever wonder where time is going, consider your wonder a gift. Just having the realization is key. [The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?] In that moment of clarity, STOP and evaluate whether you are in control of your time, or is your time controlling you?

The key is to look hard (really hard!) at how you’re spending your time. Me? True confessions? I’m a Mashable/ Buzzfeed junkie, which leads me to click on another story, then another…oh look, an article on 10 ways to avoid procrastinating! I also admit to an ongoing Facebook addiction, as well as a growing fixation with Pinterest.

What about you? Are you watching Law and Order reruns from 2003 when you want to learn conversational French? Are you complaining that your boss doesn’t appreciate you and wishing for a new job, but sending ZERO resumes out?

Now I truly believe we should allow ourselves SOME time for these mindless dalliances. Some downtime is good, right (check out my Downtime is not a Crime post)? But clearly I need to set limits. Do you?

So next time someone asks you what’s new and you start into your rant about how busy you are, think about what you’re really busy with! Everyone you talk to is busy. If you complain about being BUSY,stop it. You can fill your time doing a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean they are important.

The next step? Decide to do something. Recognize and stop time thieves by
Becoming a Time Tamer:

• Take a moment to evaluate time wasters and replace them with things that are important
• Activate time limits for web surfing and social media. It is easy to click your way into a 3 hour time void. Stop checking, start doing.
• Mark time for YOU on your calendar. Stop overscheduling (this goes for your kids too!) and actually schedule rejuvenators – exercise, meditation, quiet time.
• Eliminate the YES SYNDROME – you can say NO more often.
• Remember to be in the moment – it truly is a present to be in the present.

Don’t wait for time to slow down. It won’t. Take charge today and tell time what time it is! Isn’t it about time?

Home Prices, Sales Up — But Don’t Get Carried Away!

by Terry Savage

The housing industry is starting to boom again. The latest reports show that sales of existing homes rose to their highest level in eight years, and the median price for an existing home sold in June rose to $236,400 — the highest ever recorded by the National Association of Realtors — and surpassing the July 2006 peak. The Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 4.9 percent in May.

Home builders also report their sales of newly built homes have reached a seven-year high. Only sales of existing homes disappointed, with many analysts saying the problem has been a shortage of inventory.

While the surge in home buying started with investors looking for bargains to flip, the most recent sales have been to individuals, based on mortgage statistics showing a much higher percentage of purchases being made to homebuyers using low down payment FHA loans.

The American dream of home ownership is coming back in a big way, as the nightmare of the 2008 mortgage crisis fades from memory. But before you jump in to buy, here are five things to consider:

1. Your home is your residence, not a trading investment. Now you know that home prices can go down as well as up. Don’t speculate with the roof over your family’s head. In fact, when counting your assets, don’t even include your home equity.

2. The family home is not a liquid asset. If you think you might move in the next few years because of your job, think twice about buying vs. renting. While homes might be moving quickly now because they are in short supply, builders are rushing to build new, more desirable homes, adding to inventory. It could take months to sell your existing home — and you’ll be paying costly commissions on both sides of this transaction.

3. Pre-check your mortgage qualifications and costs. Get written confirmation from a mortgage lender about the amount you will be able to borrow. As well, check the interest rate you would be paying if you closed today. Of course, rates could move higher, but you want to know if you will be paying a higher rate than other borrowers because of past credit problems.

4. Check insurance costs. Yes, the cost of homeowner’s insurance may also depend on your credit score. But the big unexpected cost would come if you are required to take out private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is designed to protect the lender in case you default. Typically this is required if you put down less than 20 percent of the value of the house — unless you have a special deal like a VA mortgage.

5. Don’t get caught in the middle. It’s easy to fall in love with the next house. But put your current house on the market first. There may be enthusiastic buyers who don’t qualify for a mortgage. Even worse, your house may not appraise for the selling price. I’d you get caught owning two houses you could be very vulnerable when interest rates start to rise.

The easy part of buying a home is the hunt. That’s where optimism always overcomes financial common sense. Remember that remodeling always ends up costing twice the estimates, not only because of the problems you uncover but because of the three most expensive short words: “as long as….” Projects only come in on time and on budget on HGTV!

If you plan realistically, your home could be your best investment, especially with today’s low mortgage rates. Just don’t count your profits before you sell, and don’t withdraw them in a home equity loan. That advice will let you sleep well. And that’s The Savage Truth.

Do Unto Others: The Only Leadership Advice You’ll Ever Need

by Don Yaeger

LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 27:  Running back Walter Payton #34 of the Chicago Bears is honored during pre-game ceremonies in his last regular season game on December 27, 1987 against the Los Angeles Raiders at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  The Bears won 6-3.   (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Walter Payton
Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is this weekend. There have been many inspiring speeches delivered at the HOF over the years, but the greatest of all time occurred in 1993 when 12-year-old Jarrett Payton quietly stepped to the podium and, in a high-pitched voice, introduced his heroic father Walter “Sweetness” Payton.

Payton (in my opinion) is the greatest football player who ever lived, and the epitome of a service-directed life. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985 and broke Jim Brown’s all-time record for career rushing yards—but it’s what he did off the field that made him so special.

“My father told me when I was young that it was your responsibility, once you’ve had some success, to reach back and bring someone with you,” Walter Payton said to me.

And these were words by which he lived. Like the greatest companies in sports and business, Payton knew his audience; he often noted that many Bears fans were blue-collar workers and could only afford to attend one game a year. He decided that if they saw him in that one game, he’d give his all for them. Payton viewed his football games as a gift to whoever may be cheering for him.

“Someone gave to you, and that is why it is your job to give back,” Payton would say to me as we were writing his autobiography.

Continue reading Do Unto Others: The Only Leadership Advice You’ll Ever Need

3 Ways to Eliminate Faulty Focus

by Colette Carlson

motivational-speaker-colette-carlson-says-eliminate-faulty-focusIt’s never too late to go after what you want, and you don’t have to wait until a New Year rolls around to get started. Today is the perfect day to begin to eliminate faulty focus and choose to manifest the life you want.

Start with a clear vision. Decide what it is you are seeking. Better relationships? Optimal use of time? Being more present? Here are some guidelines to realizing those outcomes.

1. Right Relationships. Loyalty is a wonderful quality, but not when it keeps you stuck in relationships that no longer serve you. One clue to spotting such a dynamic? You dread showing up and leave wondering why you bothered. If you’re an average of the five people you surround yourself with most often, is this representative of who you want to be?

2. Time Tested. Be honest, are you frittering away too much time on mindless activities like social media or nightly TV? What about when you get together with others? Is it for networking groups or to deepen your knowledge in your field? Or do you solely get together for things like book club or bunko? Either way, consider, is this your tribe of choice or convenience? Do you walk away feeling full or empty? Set your priorities like billionaire businessman Warren Buffet does. He has said that for every 100 opportunities presented to him, he says no 99 times.

3. Perfectly Present. If your mantra is, “There’s not enough time,” chances are you can’t get focused because there are too many distractions. Choose mindfulness over multi-tasking. When you eat, eat. Don’t simply gulp something down while working at your computer. When you are talking with someone, look them in the eyes. Connect with them. If you are listening to a podcast, listen, rather than checking emails throughout. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a breather. Literally. Set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes, breathe deeply and reset. This mini-meditation not only clears your mind, but comes loaded with health benefits.

When a light is focused, it becomes a laser. Think what you can achieve in the next few months when you hone your focus.

Focus Forward Pledge: If you’d like to be held accountable, hit reply and send me your focus commitment for the rest of the year. At year end, I’ll send back your pledge for reflection and celebration. Not sure what to choose? Select the one behavior that will have the greatest impact on your career when implemented or would bring you the most freedom and joy in your life.

My Focus Forward Pledge: When in the office, I will invest a fast 15 minutes sorting email before setting a timer for 90 focused minutes on my highest priority deliverable.

Together, let’s make this happen!

Productivity? In Healthcare?

by Joe Flower

Obamacare is built on the assumption that healthcare can be more productive, that we can squeeze more health per dollar out to the system that is built to give it to us. Practically everything I write is based on the same idea — big time. I believe we could do healthcare better for half the money we pour into it now.

There is a widely-cited theory that this is fundamentally impossible, popularized by William Baumol, a New York University economist, in a 2012 book, The Cost Disease: Why Computers Get Cheaper and Health Care Doesn’t. Baumol trades on the idea that healthcare is mostly the individual labor of highly trained professionals (doctors, nurses, and technicians) whose labor cannot simply be baked into machines and software. So we can’t expect healthcare to become any more productive, especially as healthcare keeps getting more complex.

We can’t both be right. What’s the daylight between these two radically different points of view?

I believe that the Baumol argument assumes many things that are simply not true. These include:

  • We are using doctors and other personnel at their highest and best use (when in fact we waste masses of clinician time on documentation and other processes that do not add value at all, let alone value that only they could add)
  • The goal against which productivity should be measured is provision of healthcare processes, such as how efficiently one can do a gall bladder removal or an uncomplicated birth (as against, say, improvement in health of patients and patient populations)
  • There is not much wasted motion within those processes (when in fact there is a great deal wasted, as anyone who has applied lean manufacturing principles to healthcare processes has discovered)
  • There is little that a doctor or nurse does that could be supplanted by a machine, or helped by automation in a way that would make it more efficient (a laughably bald assumption being disproven every day in every sector of healthcare).

Most importantly, the Baumol argument assumes that everything we do in healthcare is necessary and beneficial (when in fact at least a third of all we do is waste, unnecessary, not helpful and often actually harmful). What is the productivity of doing a procedure more efficiently, if it is a procedure you actually shouldn’t be doing at all? How do you measure the productivity increase of dropping an unnecessary or wasteful procedure (such as routine colonoscopies as mass screening for colon cancer)?

The flip side is: The Baumol argument takes no cognizance of the many procedures that could be supplanted by less expensive treatment paths, such as medical management for simple back pain in the place of complex back fusion surgeries.

The search for greater productivity in healthcare will lead us somewhat toward streamlined processes, a fair amount to automation, and massively to simply not doing what does not need to be done.