Financial, Goals, Leadership

Your Relationship with Money

By ActionCOACH Mark McNulty


Stressed Over MoneyLast month I wrote about the Identity Iceberg, and how understanding yourself in that context could unlock the keys to your personal success.  One of the biggest areas of development for business owners I work with is their beliefs.  Over the years, some of the most negative beliefs I have had to help business owners overcome relate to their relationship with money.  There are entire industries that have developed to help (and take advantage of) people’s fear and loathing of money.  The reality however, is that there is nothing about money to be feared, as the only problem with money is what we believe about money.

When conducting workshops on business finances, one of the first questions I ask is simply: “What are five beliefs you have about money”.  We then go around the room and listen to people’s beliefs, and typically for every positive belief there are 2-3 negative ones.  It is no wonder that people have a hard time charging what they should for their products and especially their services!  It is time to confront your negative beliefs, understand them, and develop new positive and productive beliefs about money.

Two of the most common negative money beliefs I hear are that money is the root of all evil, and that there is never enough of it.  In order to overcome these two beliefs simply requires that we understand what money really is.  I define money in the following way – Money is an idea backed by confidence.  Prior to the early 1970s, money was defined based on the amount of gold stored in government vaults.  Since then, the value of money is simply the value that the financial systems assigns, and varies according to our confidence in these systems.

In your business as well, money is simply an idea backed by confidence, with the addition of action, as shared by Tom Palzewicz in his book Consistent Cash Flow.  So if the second most common belief I mentioned – there is never enough money – is your belief, then the solution is easy.  If you need more money in your business or life, you simply need to work on one of the three components of the definition.  Do you need more ideas, more confidence, or do you need to take more action?  I rarely run into the business owner who has truly run out of ideas.  So which are you lacking – confidence or the courage and discipline to take action?

Money is simply one of the results of confidently implementing ideas in your business.  Since you charge for your products and services, the result of your increased efforts is more money. For those with the belief that money is evil or dangerous, the real question to ask is not about money, but about the components of money.  Are your ideas for how you intend to gain or use your money inappropriate?  Are the actions you intend to take to either get money or what you intend to do with the money illegal, immoral, or unethical?  If so, then money isn’t the problem, your plans for it are the problem.  To put it another way, money is never the problem, the love of money is what can cause a problem.

The richest men in the world, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and others have ideas on how to spend their wealth to improve the world for today’s children and future generations.  They have ideas, confidence in the people they have selected to implement their ideas and they are taking action all over the world for the benefit of millions of people.

So ask yourself what your money beliefs are, and evaluate any negative beliefs against this new definition.  I believe that you will find new beliefs to use to build your life, your employee’s lives, and the lives of those in the communities in which you live and do business.  Share your ideas, have confidence in those around you, and take decisive actions.

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Are You Focused On the Right Things?

By ActionCOACH Mark McNulty

GrowthCLUB webAs we get closer to the end of the year, I often talk to my clients and business owners about finishing strong, and as part of our 4th Quarter planning process, we talked about the importance of focus for a strong finish.  Finishing strong has many different meanings at this time of year depending on the industry you are in.  Yet whether you are a retailer planning for a strong holiday season, or a service provider preparing your clients for the cold weather, or any other business category, the key to a strong and profitable finish is the same – unrelenting focus.

The end of the year can bring a lot of chaos and noise into your business, and your job is to sort through all of the noise and to keep yourself and your team pointed in the same direction and more importantly, aiming at the same target!  Here are some tips to creating and maintaining your focus.

Set Goals – At the beginning of the year, as part of the annual planning process, I often have my clients set 10-12 goals for their business, as we have 12 months to work on them.  Now that we are in the home stretch, we narrow the focus to 2-3 goals at the most, and pick the goals that will have the biggest impact on the business between now and the end of the year. We ask ourselves “What are the 2-3 most important outcomes for the business to achieve between now and the end of the year?”.

Share Your Goals – While setting goals can help YOU focus, sharing them with your team, your board, your mentors, your business friends, and your spouse can help you to stay focused, and can help your supporting cast get and stay focused on the same outcomes.  Be sure that your team knows what the most critical goals are, and help them plan their days and weeks around achieving them. Be sure that the daily conversations are focused on the critical few and not the important many – everything is important in business, you need them working on what is vital and critical right now.

Laser vs Wide Spectrum Focus – There are 100 watt light bulbs that fill a room with light, yet fade as you go down the hallway, and there are 10 watt lasers that can reach the moon.  Make sure that you are the 10W laser beam, lining up all of the light rays (your team, your time and energy) and pointing them in the same direction.  It is too easy to let our businesses become like that 100W light bulb, shining light everywhere, but never getting us where we really want to go.

Develop Focus Habits and Rituals – What are your daily rituals for getting “in the zone”?  What do you do at the start of every day to make sure that you and your team are spending your valuable time on the right things?  Here are a few of the habits of the successful: Daily Affirmations or “I Am” statements, Visualization, Meditation, Motivational CDs or Readings for 10 minutes, Exercise, and Goal Review.  What are your success habits that help you to focus on the critical few every day.

First Things First – As Stephen Covey wrote, plan your day the evening before, identifying what you MUST do the next day, what you SHOULD do, and what you WANT to do.  Focus on getting the “must do’s” completed as early as possible so you have room for the should’s and wants.  This time of year, there may not be a lot of time for anything but the must do’s, so be sure to get yourself and your team focused on them every single day.

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Goals, Leadership, Sales, Team

What is in Your Iceberg?

By ActionCOACHMark McNulty

icebergWhen we are not achieving the success we want in our lives, too often we look outside of ourselves instead of inside.  The observable parts of our success – our actions, behaviors and results – are what we spend too much time focusing on, and the hidden aspects of ourselves often remain out of view, like an iceberg.  While it is true that our results are directly related to our actions and behaviors, we need to dig deeply into our personal icebergs to learn how to take new and better actions and learn new success behaviors.  We call this personal iceberg the Identity Iceberg.

The first layer of the Identity Iceberg is your skills.  When your actions are not getting the results you seek, the first thing to evaluate is whether you need a skill upgrade.  Whether it is your sales results or your understanding of your financials, take a good inventory of the skills required to perform well.  In the information age there are a multitude of free resources for business education, and you should be allocating time every week or month to advance your skills.

Once you have evaluated your skill needs, now it is time to look at the second level of your Identity Iceberg, your beliefs.  Take the time to think through the areas where you struggle and ask yourself what beliefs you have about those areas of your life.  Whether it is sales, money, leadership or your team, your beliefs will dictate the decisions and actions you take.  If you have negative beliefs, get some help to work through them to unlock your abilities to achieve more in those areas.

The third layer of the Identity Iceberg is your values, which are those things that are critically important to you.  The question to evaluate here is whether the actions you are taking or considering taking are in alignment with your personal values.  All too often, we put ourselves in a position where we unconsciously begin adopting the values of those around us, and chasing what is important to them instead of staying true to yourself.  Are you chasing someone else’s dreams at the expense of your own value system?

The last layer of the Identity Iceberg is your identity – how you see yourself.  Most coaches and motivational speakers correctly teach us to write out the definition of our ideal self in the form of “I Am” statements.  These descriptive phrases and sentences can be used to train our minds to help us accomplish more, and to be who we want to be, who we need to be to achieve the success we seek.

The last consideration to think about to unlock the power within you is your environment.  Who and what are you surrounding yourself with?  Are you spending your time with positive people who build you up or with negative people who bring you down, or suck you into the drama of their lives?  The personal improvement industry tells us that where we will be five years from now is directly related to the books we read (skill development) and the people we associate with (beliefs, values, identity, environment).  Are your friends and family helping you build a positive, success oriented environment, or are you stuck in “poor me” world with them?

When you are ready to take your life and business to the next level, start with your personal iceberg, and do an honest assessment.  Only then will you have identified what you truly need to do to achieve the success you seek.

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Financial, Goals, Leadership

Get Out of Your Way

By ActionCOACHMark McNulty

Message Stones Whether you are a business owner, an employee, a student, an athlete, or any other label you wish to use to describe yourself, you probably have dreams and goals for yourself that you are not yet achieving.  Over the past ten years of working with a wide variety of businesses and entrepreneurs in dozens of industries, from startups to 3rd generation family businesses, I have seen dreams come and go, some fulfilled but many not.  Looking back at my own experiences and listening to and learning from others much wiser than I am, it is clear that the number one reason people do not achieve their goals and dreams is that they are unable to get out of their own way!  We tend to blame pretty much everyone and everything else for our failures to achieve, but in the end it really comes down to each and every one of us and our own personal limitations.

So how do we fix that?  Well, the mind is a powerful thing, and whatever thoughts we put into our heads and hold there will determine our level of success, achievement, and fulfillment.  In other words, we will be as happy and content as we allow ourselves to be.  The key is to stop putting disabling thoughts in our heads and to replace them with enabling thoughts so that we can push ahead towards our dreams and goals.

The first step is to make sure that our purpose is crystal clear, our personal motivators.  We call this “Finding Your Drive”, the singular purpose that makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning, to work through lunch, to stay late, to overcome the obstacles the world throws at you.  When you find your drive, you have that extra little burst of energy and strength to push through the barriers the world throws at us.

The most difficult barriers to overcome, however, are not the ones the world throws at us, but the ones we come up with for ourselves.  One of the most common is the “I’m Not Good Enough” belief.  If you really believe this is true, then find another line of work where you will be good enough so that you can be successful.  In most cases this belief isn’t actually true, but is a fear we hold onto.  What we need to do is turn this fear into a question – “What If I Am Good Enough, Then What?”.  By allowing the possibility that you are good enough, you unleash your inner creativity and passions to push past the fear and, in the words of Jack Canfield, “act as if” you are good enough.

We spend too much time in our businesses and lives thinking about negative what if’s – what if I fail, what if this doesn’t work, what if I don’t get the promotion.  In order to get out of your own way, you need to turn these negative questions around instead ask yourself questions like: “what if this succeeds”, “what if this works out”, and “what if I get this job”.

The last tip I want to share is related to how we tend to spend our personal energy.  There are two primary types of goals and motivators in our lives, positive and negative.  Many people spend the majority of their energy on negative goals, or moving away from pain.  We focus on things like getting out of debt, having less stress, or avoiding losses/failures.  When this is the  focus of our energy, we settle for mediocrity, far short of our dreams and goals, because we are satisfied with being relatively pain free.  Positive goals on the other hand move us towards pleasure, towards personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

So if you are ready to finally start moving towards the achievement of your dreams and goals for yourself and your family, take a few minutes to think about the barriers you create for yourself.  Ask yourself what thoughts hold you back, what anchors you in your current situation, and then make a conscious decision to let go of these anchors and replace them with enabling thoughts.  The only “what if” you should ever ask yourself is “what if I could”.  Let go and get out of your own way today.


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Leading the Way

By ActionCOACHMark McNulty

iStock_000017346252_MediumThe economy is improving, your customer base is growing and changing, and people are buying again.  Your world has changed, yet in many ways it remains the same, as business is still business, yet somehow everything feels different.  The reality is actually some combination of the above, with the fundamentals of business mostly unchanged, yet the business environment completely different than ever before – not better or worse, just different.  So how do you navigate your business, your team, through the uncharted waters?  It’s simple really; you must be the leader that your team and business needs and lead them through it.

The first reaction I often get to that last statement is “but I’m not a great leader” or “leadership doesn’t come naturally to me”.  My response is always the same, because, as Peter Drucker said so eloquently, “Leaders are not born, they are grown”.  True leadership is often misunderstood, and is often confused with personalities and communication styles.  Leadership is not about personality, it is about behaviors, and all behaviors can be learned.  Here are six keys to leading your business and your team to success this year.

The first and most important key to leading your team is to create the Context of your business.  What I mean by this is to define what your company is all about – Vision, Mission, Culture, Core Values, and Philosophy.  We often focus too much on skills and procedures, yet without a well defined context, skills and procedures can be misapplied.  As Simon Sinek wrote in his bestselling book, start with your why.

Once you have established the context of your business, you need to provide your team with a vision for the future which inspires the team, gives them a reason to come to work and give their very best every day.  The vision is the picture of what can be, if only they let themselves believe it.  Your job is to then help them believe it is possible and that it is worth working for.  You do this by ensuring that they can see themselves in it, that they see how achieving it is for the common good, that it is easy to get involved in and exciting to accomplish.

With the context and vision now in place, you need to begin behaving the way you expect the team to behave.  We call this “Modeling the Way”, and it is the most important leadership behavior in your business.  Your team will watch how you behave before beginning to behave in a new way themselves.  They will not adopt new behaviors that you refuse to adopt, and they will expect you to Do What You Say You Will Do.

Leaders also need to be constantly challenging the status quo.  Too many people think that this means you need to be incredibly visionary and creative, constantly coming up with breakthrough ideas.  Some leaders do have those skills, but most don’t, and they are not necessary to lead your team.  All it really takes is to always be asking questions about how you and your team do things.  My favorite status quo question is simple: “How does that process/behavior/activity help us achieve our Vision and Mission for ourselves and our customers”.  The discussions that result from this question can lead to the dozens of little things you can do to turn your team and business from good to exceptional.

The next thing that great leaders do is enabling their team to act by establishing a culture and environment of trust and support.  When your team knows that you have their back, they will begin to try new things without fear of retribution. Your job as their leader is to give them the framework to succeed and then get out of the way.

The last key to great leadership is to always look up.  Too many business owners spend too much time looking down and looking back.  What happened yesterday is over and done with, and you can either dwell on it or learn from it.  Leaders learn from the past, apply the learnings in the present and future, and regularly look up and out to ensure they are heading in the right direction and identify the icebergs to avoid and the next opportunity to steer towards.

So there you have it, six easy keys to being a great leader.  If you can only remember one, make it the last one – Leaders Always Look Up.

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Is Your Business Your Retirement Plan?

By ActionCOACHMark McNulty


RYou’ve probably seen the statistics, read the stories, and perhaps lived the reality.  The American population is aging, as baby boomers hit retirement age at the rate of 10,000 per day.  This means that the owners of many small and medium sized businesses are reaching retirement age as well.  Although business owners tend to stay in the work force longer than traditional employees, the numbers looking to sell and get out over the next 10-20 years are staggering.  The good news is that with the economy improving and the job market going through massive fluctuations, there are more potential buyers than ever, as people of all ages are looking at business ownership as a way to take more control of their lives.  The bad news is that most business owners I speak with have a significantly inflated view of what their business is worth.

So what does it take to maximize the value of your business?  While there are different methods for formally calculating the value of your business, including assets, liabilities, brand recognition, and cashflows, there are two overriding themes that will always have the largest impact on your valuation.  The amount of free cashflow your business generates is the first, and the extent to which your business requires you to be involved to create those cashflows is the second.  When a buyer (at least a smart one) is looking at your business, they aren’t really buying your business; they are buying your current and future cashflows.  They will want to know how much cash they can generate both today and tomorrow as their return on investment for the purchase.  Today’s net cashflow is easy to see, while the future cashflow is projected.  One of the biggest factors in the future cashflow is how deeply your business depends on you to be there to sustain it.

One of the most common questions I get from owners in this position of needing to cash out for their retirement lifestyle is when should they start planning for selling.  Other than the obvious answer of NOW, I usually tell them that 5 years is a good starting point, and then talk about what they need to do to prepare in the two key areas.

Improving cashflow is Business 101, and there are no mysteries on what you need to do to make improvements – sell more and/or make more money per sale and manage your overhead expenses.  There are dozens of ways to make improvements in each of these areas, you just have to make the decision to go about improving in a disciplined, focused and sustained manner.

The second area is a little harder, but equally important – getting your business to run as well without you as it does with you.  Are you the best salesperson, or the top technical expert?  If so, then you need to start developing your team to be able to sell and produce without you doing it for them.  Will your clients stay if you leave, or will they be loyal to the company and not just you?  Will your key employees stay as well?  It can easily take 2-3 years to develop the management and leadership necessary to sustain a business after the owner leaves.  What are you doing right now to build your team? You need to lower your value to the business and raise your team’s value to maximize your business as a retirement asset.  If you are the biggest asset, and you are leaving, what is left to buy?

If you are one of those planning on your business providing the funds for your post-ownership lifestyle, I encourage you to establish a relationship with a business wealth planner, one who specializes in exit planning for business owners.  Your business wealth planner can help you to put together a plan that maximizes your retirement options by combining the traditional retirement plan (save a bunch of money), with maximizing the value of your largest asset, your business.  They are trained to help you understand the value of your business, its role in your retirement plan, and the value drivers you can work on to maximize the value of the business when it comes time to sell.

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Are Your Business and Life Out of Alignment?

By ActionCOACHMark McNulty

Businessman Thinking on StepsMany business owners I know get to the point in their business and their life where things just stop improving.  They reach a comfortable level that many call a plateau, where things are good but not great, and the majority of their previous level of dissatisfaction is now eliminated.  They have sometimes even achieved more than they ever imagined they would!  While this may sound like a nice place to be, and it can be for a short while, it is also a dangerous place to be.   Staying at this plateau can led to complacency, and the theory that “if you aren’t growing you are dying” kicks in when you least expect it, often slowly taking you right back where you were without you ever realizing it.  The reality is that getting to this point is a major victory, and it is an opportunity to take things from very good to amazingly great if you get the help you need to do it.

To help business owners get from “having it good” to “having it great” is a four step process of introspection, reflection, and then application of the lessons.  I call this process the Business and Personal Alignment, and it can be a powerful way to take your life to levels you never before imagined.  The main reason you can’t get there without this is that you have previously held yourself back by not believing in a better future for yourself, and when your beliefs are limited, so is your achievement.

Step One – Where did you come from?  In this step, I want you to reflect on who you were when you started your business.  How did you see yourself, what identity did you give yourself as a business owner?  What were you original values and beliefs about yourself, your business, your employees, your spouse/significant other, your family and friends?  The last reflection is regarding your original goals and vision for your business and your life.  What were you hoping to achieve?

Step Two – Where are you now?  In this step, we evaluate and celebrate your accomplishments thus far in your business and life.  We look at who you have become, your new identity both at home and at the office.  We also look at your current belief and value systems, and how they have likely either changed or become more deeply understood and ingrained in the different parts of your life.  Last, we review your current vision and goals for yourself, and how that compares to the original versions.

Step Three – Where will you go from here?  This is sometimes the hardest step, as so many people who achieve that first level of success haven’t ever given themselves permission to think past the first level of success, as they barely believed they could achieve their initial set of goals.  Now that they have succeeded, they often need help thinking beyond that initial success.  This is where we take the time to ask ourselves this simple question: Now that I am the person who achieved all of that (where you are in Step 2), what does that mean I am capable of achieving next?  What should my new vision and goals be for myself, what are my new bigger dreams now that I have unlocked the power to achieve?

Step Four – Who do I need to be to get there?  Now that you have bigger and more amazing dreams, and a value/belief system that supports getting there, the last question is simply “Who do you need to be”?  You have already developed the powers to figure out what needs to be done and how to get it done.  Now is the most important time to work on yourself, to become the bigger and better you who can take your business, your family, your community to bigger and better things.

When all of your Dreams, Goals, Beliefs, and Values are aligned with who you are as a person and a business owner, then you have what Tony Robbins calls Unlimited Power. If you look in the mirror and recognize yourself as one of those who has succeeded yet you know you aren’t done, take yourself to the body shop and get an alignment.


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Leadership, Team

Communication is the Response You Get

By ActionCOACHMark McNulty

iStock_000010361595_MediumGrowing businesses often face the challenge of inter-personal communications amongst team members as they add staff to help deliver more and better products and services.  As you add staff, you should be mixing personality and communication styles to round out your team, yet this can often lead to challenges if you are not also teaching them how to communicate with each other for results.  One challenge I have seen several times in the last year is the difference between what I call the “logical” communication style and the “emotional” style.  Different behavioral and personality profiles will label these individuals in different ways, for those familiar with the DiSC profile, I am talking about the difference between the Highest I personality and the Highest C personality.  For those not familiar, a High I values relationships and being liked above all else.  A High C values accuracy and being right above all else.  Can you see where these two might have a hard time communicating?

Emotional communicators tend to communicate in stories, often embellished and generalized to try to fit everyone.  They look for ways to make everyone feel included in the situation, even if it means “dumbing down” or even altering the facts slightly to fit the crowd.  The emotional communicator tends to see everything as gray, as variable, on a sliding scale with no absolute right or wrong unless it comes to feelings.  Saying or doing something that hurts someone’s feelings is always wrong in their minds, even if you are technically correct.

Logical communicators are, of course, almost the exact opposite.  They speak in very precise terms and mean exactly what they say, no more or less.  They do not believe in the existence of a gray area in the middle, and view almost everything as either right or wrong.  They are not worried about hurting feelings, as they don’t consider feelings as being related to the correctness they seek to achieve.

Left unchecked, the logicals and emotionals can quickly learn to despise working with each other, and this can debilitate a team if left unchecked.  As their leader, you need to teach them the fundamental rule of communications, and then coach them on techniques for applying the rule with different styles.  The fundamental rule I refer to is this: Communication is the Response You Get.  If you aren’t getting the desired response, then you aren’t communicating well!

If you have some of this tension in your team, here are my top coaching tips for each style to learn how to communicate with the opposite style.

Coaching Emotionals – The number one thing to focus on is for them to recognize that Logicals start with the premise of everything being right or wrong, so get to your point as quickly as possible.  When listening to you, they are looking for facts to either confirm or refute your story, so minimize the embellishments.  Don’t try to move a Logical from their right or wrong approach by going straight to maybe, find a fact that you agree on and work slowly from there, moving them into the gray slowly from a point of agreement instead of jumping straight to the middle.  If you are losing them, try saying “I might not be saying this right, but my point is…”.

Coaching Logicals – The number one thing to focus on is for them to listen beyond the specific words for the message that is trying to be conveyed.  Learn and accept that Emotionals tell feel good stories that have an actual message in them beyond the specific words, and for a moment it is ok to ignore the technical correctness of the message and listen for the actual embedded message.  Let Emotionals finish before interrupting them, as they often make their actual point at the end of their story.  Sometimes it helps to use the technique of repeating back what you heard to confirm that you picked out the facts that were important.

There are many additional coaching tips and communication techniques, but start out with these and see how far you can take your team’s productivity with simple steps for better communications.



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Time Management vs Self Management


By ActionCOACH Mark McNulty


Time When I recently asked a room full of business owners what their biggest challenges were, one of the themes that rose to the top was the problem of not having enough time, most of them labeled it a Time Management problem.  Well the good news for everyone out there who thinks they have a Time Management problem is that I can solve that one easily! There is no such thing as Time Management, so therefore no problem!  However, there is still this problem of not having enough time to get everything done, and that can also be solved, but only if you recognize the source of the problem.  The source is not time, the real source of the problem is YOU, and the problem is more appropriately named Self Management.


There are two key steps to becoming better at Self Management, the first is the most important, and it is simply accepting a basic truth: You will never have enough time to get everything done, and that is a good thing.  I firmly believe that running out of things to do in a business is a very bad thing.  If you believe in the concept that you are either growing or dying, then when you run out of things to do, you are clearly going to fall immediately into the dying category.  This is true of both businesses and people.  What this means to you is that for the most part, you should stop worrying about not getting to everything, because you simply will not ever get to everything, and it is okay to accept that.  Once you accept this fundamental truth, you can let go of some of the stress that comes with believing that somehow you should be getting it all done.  Let it go.


The second step of Self Management is where you need to develop your personal skills, and teach them to your teams as well. This step involves the process of making decisions on how to allocate your time.  Since we now believe we can’t get to everything and that it is okay not to get to everything, we have to be absolutely sure we are getting to the right things.  The key to doing this well is to make decisions regarding the allocation of your time based on your priorities.


There are many ways to determine your priorities, and I can’t possibly cover them all here, but let me start with one of my biggest priority watch outs.  One of the biggest mistakes we can make in our business and in our lives is also one of the most common.  This mistake is letting others set our priorities for us.  Whether it is our biggest customer, our loudest employee, our family, or just the group of friends we hang out with, the biggest mistake I see again and again is letting someone else, or “the world” set our priorities and make our decisions.  The biggest problem with this method of prioritization and decision making is that the world very rarely prioritizes or decides in our favor!


So how do we set priorities? I believe that there are a number of components to setting the priorities for ourselves and our businesses.  It starts with Values and Beliefs, which define what is important to us, and I mean REALLY important, and what our strongest beliefs about life, business, people, etc…, are for us.  We build on our values and beliefs with our Vision and Goals, which define where we want to end up, and our basic plan for how we intend to get there.  The last ingredient is a small dose of reality, the situation at hand.


The world throws interruptions at us on a regular basis, and we need to account for them in the daily execution of our plan.  The key to Self Mastery is to learn how to Respond to these interruptions instead of Reacting to them.  When we react, the world wins, when we respond we can all win.  The difference is simply allocating the time to consider the interruption at the right moment (which is not always immediately), assess the interruption against the priorities for the day/week/month that you have already established, and make an intentional decision on how to allocate time to the interruption.  The alternative option is to let the world decide, and as I stated before, the world rarely decides in our favor.


So to master yourself, simply define your priorities, make decisions based on those priorities, and accept the fact that it is okay to not get it all done.  There will always be a tomorrow for growing businesses and people.


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The Feeding and Watering of Your Team

By ActionCOACHMark McNulty

Closeup portrait of happy business groupWhile you are busy growing your business, who is taking the time to water and feed your employees?  As you have probably already noticed, there is only so much time in your day for you to do things, and as the business grows you need to rely on your employees, your team, more and more.  If you are like most business owners, the worry that your team can’t do it as well as you can has probably crossed your mind and even prevented you from delegating something.  Well, if you don’t make a plan to get out of that rut, you are guaranteed to remain stuck in it forever!

In the past, I have written that one of the characteristics of a winning team is that the team knows and shares the goals.  We usually talk about this at the business or departmental level, but it also applies at the individual level.  How can we expect our employees to be super achievers, if we haven’t told them what we expect of them, and had them agree to do what we expect?  It is really that simple, and I’d like to share my approach with you now.

There are two parts to getting this agreement – the first is having a Position Description for each employee, which outlines the Key responsibilities (not all) and the results you expect from the person in that position.  Don’t confuse this with a job description, which is typically an attempt to list every possible task you might ask someone to do – those don’t work, as they miss the point by leaving out the most important thing, the results you expect.

The second part is what I call the Position Skill Matrix.  This is a document that lists the skills that you expect the person in this position to learn, and more importantly, the extent to which you expect them to learn each skill.  There may be anywhere from 10-50 specific skills or tasks you expect someone to have some level of expertise in, and you need to get agreement with each team member on their skill requirements, their current level of achievement, and the expected level of achievement.

To create a skill matrix is a two step process.  Step one is the easy one, identifying all of the skills/tasks you feel they need to master.  I highly recommend asking your team for ideas on the skills to be listed as well.  The second step is a little harder, but vitally important.  You need to determine to what level each position should master a skill. I use four levels of achievement:  Aware, User, Specialist, and Expert.

Aware – This means that the employee needs to be aware of the skill/task, understand why it is important, and how it fits into the big picture.  They are not expected to be able to perform this task, but understand it well enough to perform their other tasks more productively as a result of the awareness.

User – This means that the employee is expected to be able to perform the task with moderate supervision, and understands the expected result of the activity. This means the employee has been trained and performs this task regularly enough to maintain a basic level of competence at performing the task and getting the desired result.

Specialist – This means that the employee is expected to perform the task at a highly productive rate with little or no supervision.  The specialist is also expected to train other team members to the Aware and User levels.  The specialist is also expected to identify improvements in how the tasks can be performed and better results achieved.  Specialists may have certifications and other evidence that have mastered a particular area/function.

Expert – This means that the employee has achieved complete mastery of the task/activity, and can teach others both inside and outside of your company.  Your experts will have advanced certifications and perhaps industry recognition of their skills, and may be involved in industry efforts to improve the stat of the art in their areas of expertise.

Armed with a simple skills spreadsheet and these four basic definitions, you now have a powerful assessment and development tool for your team that you can use to grow their ability to help you achieve your mission.  Your team is your biggest asset, don’t forget to keep them watered and fed.

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