As an executive and team coach, I spend most days listening, asking, and providing counsel to business leaders and their teams.
Yet, when I’m at the airport or train station, I tend to be a little more introverted. In fact, I’m satisfied with munching on guilty treats and people-watching my fellow travelers as they move along on their journeys.
However, when another road warrior initiates conversation, I’m all in. After all, connecting with others is what I do. Over the past few months of traveling, I’ve collected opinions from executive leaders from New York to San Francisco on what it takes to be successful.
Wisdom From The Road
The advice I’ve garnered covers the spectrum. Given the range of their experience, coupled with information that’s available from business books, workshops, and social media, that was expected.
Although the success formulas I’ve collected vary, they share valuable common themes that can benefit everyone from the recent college graduate to the seasoned executive:
1. Start with a SASE.
No, I don’t mean a self-address stamped envelope. This is much more important. SASE is an acronym for Self-Awareness and Self-Expression, the building blocks of emotional intelligence (E.Q.), which is by some measures a greater predictor of success than I.Q.
How self-aware are you? Are you as willing to share the truth about your fears and challenges as eagerly as you share wins and successes?
The best go below the water’s surface. They don’t overstate their strengths and or discount their weaknesses; they focus on both. Opinions differ on where we should put our focus. Some say strengths; others say weaknesses.
I don’t believe it’s an “either-or” game. Rather, it’s about “both-and.”
You can look to athletics for examples. Would Lebron James be as great without a balanced attack? We know that he isn’t as effective driving to the basket when he has trouble draining an outside jump shot.
Serena Williams is one of, if not, the best female athletes when her tennis strokes and mindset are at their pinnacle. However, when her mindset is off, she’s beatable.
When these sports champions take a “both-and” approach, they neutralize their weaknesses and magnify their attributes.
2. Earn your Ph.D.
Like the sports champions above, leaders who get stuff done tend to start out Poor, Hungry, and Driven. They resist the, “I made it,” comfort-zone trap. Like Angela Duckworth, they know that grit propels them forward. As a result, they keep their P.H.D. mindset.
They also realize a potentially hungrier version of themselves is coming up the ranks. That’s why they keep moving and stay driven. They know that things don’t get easier as they advance; they just get more complex.
“New levels bring new devils, more favours means more haters.” – T.D. Jakes
3. Park your BMWs.
No, I’m not talking about the ultimate driving machine. In this case, BMW stands for bitching, moaning, and whining — the ultimate disaster machine.
Here’s the deal: Every job has its challenges. You can decide to remain a victim to them or to take action to overcome them. It’s that simple.
Nothing changes until you change.
Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
— George Bernard Shaw
4. They DVR it: (Dissatisfaction x Vision) > Resistance
Resistance is the enemy of progress and success, and it never sleeps.
Resistance lives within all of us, pretending to be concerned with our safety. It promises to protect us from perceived harm. Resistance is our make shit up (MSU), self-talk movie that tells us, "You don’t need to do it today; it can wait tomorrow."
We can overcome Resistance with powerful Dissatisfaction with the status quo and a compelling Vision for the future. That’s when leveling-up and getting out of our comfort zones finally feels possible.
The best leaders understand that change is necessary if you want to stay relevant. And it’s only possible when they DVR it: (DxV) > R*
No matter where you are in your career, differentiating yourself is what makes your vision of success possible.
The bottom line is this: Listening to the advice of experienced leaders is one thing; taking action on their advice is another thing altogether.
To start taking action, I encourage you to find a mentor, advisor, or coach who can you guide you, challenge you, and hold you accountable. Today’s business challenges are as complex as ever and can no longer be considered solo projects to tackle alone. It takes a strong tribe or peloton to get stuff done.
* This change formula also includes F (DFV>R). F stands for first steps.