This article originally published on Forbes.com
Entrepreneurs are faced with an endless array of daily decision making. And, if not handled with conscious control and discernment, it can lead to decision fatigue, causing a decrease in productivity, effectiveness and ability to achieve and sustain success.
As a veteran entrepreneur who has conducted business worldwide, I’ve been directly involved in extensive decision making processes, both on my own behalf and as agent for others. I’ve had the opportunity to witness decision making habits of executives of private and publicly traded companies, Fortune 50 company executives (including their legal counsel and primary partners) and solopreneurs.
Through decades of that direct personal experience, I’ve discovered a pattern of what works to deliver the minimum amount of decision making stress and strain possible and the maximum successful outcome.
1. Eliminate and/or minimize daily, nonessential decision making. When it comes to your daily agenda, use self-control to focus only on what is essential. This keeps your mind fresh and sharp, enabling it to think optimally to achieve the highest outcomes.
2. Avoid polarization. When it comes to business agreements, seek out the core values of the company or person you’re making a decision about. Make sure those values are compatible with yours. When core values are in alignment, communication, problem-solving and shared responsibility flow more easily and effortlessly. When they are not aligned, there is a predisposition toward roadblocks, delays or even failure to achieve success.
3. Avoid people-pleasing. There is a natural human tendency to engage in people-pleasing with the people we like as opposed to those we don’t. Liking someone makes it more challenging to say no or to set a boundary when it’s required and can lead to poor decision making. No matter how much you like another person, don’t lower your standards when it comes to doing your homework. It’s business.
4. Assess personality compatibility. If you don’t like someone yet choose to do business with them anyway, you add extra stress, strain and fatigue to the business relationship and can diminish positive returns. Find someone you have more synergy with.
5. Don’t feel pressured to make decisions on someone else’s “need-by” timeline. Rushing your decision making process to accommodate someone else’s timeline is never a good idea. If the timeline can’t be negotiated to match your needs, it’s a sign that it’s not a good match and will lead to other hard-lining behavior in the future.
6. When in any doubt, don’t make a final decision. Making a final decision in spite of lingering doubts is allowing an unconscious or conscious fear to drive your decision. This is an emotional decision, not a rational one, and it often leads to making poor choices. Wait until you are free from doubt.
7. Don’t rush your contract negotiations for any reason. Rushing negotiations is often a sign of being too hungry for success. It means that you are coming from a place of fear or desperation, which will not net you the positive returns you’re seeking. This will only cause a delay in achieving the success that you want or need.
8. Get references, no matter how renowned or grand the recommendation. It’s imperative, in every circumstance, to do your due diligence to make the wisest, risk-averse decision as possible. You need to hear firsthand the answers to your specific questions. Assuming the answers is a risky proposition.
9. Don’t allow fear to rule your decision making process. Fear is an irrational feeling, and not a rational thought. An irrational mindset leads to mistake-making. Take the time to do all the research, investigation and rational analysis prior to making a decision so fear doesn’t override your rational judgment.
10. Get advice, trust your gut and make your own final decisions. Nobody knows your goals, values, wants, needs or point of view like you do. Not even the most seasoned expert is likely coming from the same position as you, which can lead you astray. It’s important to get expert advice, but it’s imperative to make your own decisions to achieve the outcomes that you want and need.
Getting mired in too much decision making can lead to decision fatigue, and therefore, failure. Both Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg know this all too well. That’s why they eliminate all the nonessential decisions. When Obama was president, he chose to only wear blue or grey suits every day. “I’m trying to pare down decisions,” he said in an interview. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Similarly, Mark Zuckerberg almost always wears a grey T-shirt and jeans for the same reason. “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. And there’s actually a bunch of psychology theory that even making small decisions around what you wear, or what you eat for breakfast, or things like that, they kind of make you tired and consume your energy.”
If not made carefully, every decision, big or small, can deplete your time and energy. By consciously and consistently abiding by the top 10 tenets of successful decision making, you’ll optimally be conditioned to avert decision fatigue and achieve maximum returns and success on your energy spent making decisions.
Everyone wants to achieve unending success. Entrepreneurs and solopreneurs work endlessly to keep their pipelines filled with new clients, customers, new marketing strategies and new opportunities. And, while all this activity is good for building your success, it can cause you to burn up and out, unless you do this one very important thing….
Make taking care of your existing customers top priority. If you don’t, your competitors certainly will, and you will lose your biggest asset (your loyal customer base) and your opportunity for unending success.
I’m an extremely loyal person in all my affairs, including business. I seek to make and keep long-lasting relationships. If I’m your client, you’ll have me forever unless you royally f-up. And, unfortunately, I encounter this far too frequently. It’s truly an inconvenient truth. Worse than delivering this truth is the inconvenience of the time, energy, and money that it costs us loyal customers when our trusted contractors drop the ball. But, out of the wreckage of a company who can’t or won’t make servicing and valuing their customers a top priority, is the foregone conclusion that the customer will always find someone to replace the company that drops the ball.
Unending success is a simple math equation. A company that can’t keep a customer happy, will burn up and out no matter how many customers they add. And, the company who can, achieves sustainable success.
The Top 5 Non-Negotiables to Ensure Your Never-Ending Success:
- See Your Clients as Cash in Your Bank Account:
Realize that every time you drop the ball on going the extra mile to service their needs or to make sure they’re satisfied and happy will automatically withdraw cash from your account until it’s eventually wiped out. But, if you go the extra mile, the balance keeps getting higher.
- Consistently and Continuously Ask Yourself “How Can I Serve My Clients Better:
This includes how you can make it easier for customers to continue to do business with you. If your competitors are making it easier than you are, you’re going to lose market share.
- Always Maintain Good Relations:
Even when and if you lose a client, it’s important not to end on a bad note. Keep the door open.
- Don’t Make Doing Business Difficult:
Do what you say you’re going to do and deliver it in the time frame you promise. And, make communications easy and effortless.
- Go the Extra Mile:
Show your clients that you value them by never taking them for granted. A simple personalized token of appreciation always returns 10x above what it may cost in time or money. Send a simple handwritten note or gift or make a check-in phone call. Routinely ask your customers if there is anything that you can do to make things easier or better for them.
The true art of doing business is found in the art of taking care of your customers.
Commit yourself to being a brilliant artist who can show a wide array of brilliant colors that wow your patrons. If you do, you’ll be amazed how much more success you will attain and sustain.
In Conclusion My Shocking Confession: I admit, I got real bitchy y’all! I wanted to do a big-time upgrade to one of my operating systems in one of my buildings. I had been using the same company for over a decade. So, naturally, I called them and gave them the “come get me” speech. Told them I wanted it asap. Well, after a decade of being a paying customer with virtually not a single complaint or issue on my account, began the series of dropping the ball. The events went like this: It took them forever to send account rep; he came and stayed forever to “run out the clock” at work; he lost his notes; gave me a price that later the manager confirmed, then the manager changed his mind and added 25% more; account rep while visiting cut off existing service and didn’t realize it; company’s system didn’t detect it; continued to charge me for service which non-operation left my building exposed to harm. And, lastly, when I had no recourse but to reach out to their competitor to get new service, former co. made it ridiculously difficult and burdensome to close my account and insisted that I pay for the period of non-service! Bridge burned… never going back. I love my new company 😊
The word “boundary” has a negative connotation these days. And yet, it is a key concept that defines how to achieve successful relationships of every kind. Every person has limits. Each person’s limits are different based upon many factors. There is no one-size fits all personal or professional boundary. This is what can make relationships risky.
Entering into any type of relationship, agreement, partnership or contract requires a lot of due diligence and even when due diligence has been performed at the highest levels, there is always inherent risk present. You just don’t know what the other person is capable of doing when faced with challenges that might arise during the engagement. Even in the absence of challenges, the other party may fail to perform.
I’ve been an entrepreneur all my adult life and have conducted business all over the world with small, mid-sized, fortune 500 companies and solopreneurs. The risk is all the same, but the damages that can occur as a result of not knowing, setting and honoring your own boundaries can vary from minor to catastrophic. The bigger the fish, the greater the potential loss. But, regardless of the size of the fish, the sheer waste of time and energy expended to correct the breach is a drain financially, mentally, emotionally and physically.
The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything. ~Warren Buffett
Here’s How to Know, Set and Honor Your Boundaries to Maximize Your Success and Minimize Your Losses:
1. Know Yourself and Your Values. What behaviors are unacceptable to you? What’s you rule about 2nd chances? Do you allow 1 strike, 2 strikes, or none? What’s your #1 core value that if someone can’t abide, you walk away?
2. Don’t Violate Your Own Values. If you can’t honor your core values than you can expect nobody else will and it is the surest way to fail.
3. Walk Your Talk. If your behavior isn’t consistent with your promises or in general is inconsistent, the weakness will be noted and capitalized upon.
4. Clearly Communicate Your Requirements and Expectations. Take the time and make the effort to clearly set forth your requirements. This is an area where I see many companies and solopreneurs fail which causes them loss and hardship which could have been avoided.
5. Don’t Bluff. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you set a clear boundary with a promise to seek remedy, then follow through. Making false threats only escalates the problem, is a character trait of a poor leader and set’s you up for potentially even greater losses.
6. Fearlessly Set Your Boundaries. Learn to say no. Don’t let fear make your decisions for you. If you’ve been wronged, harmed or damaged by wrongful behavior of another party, then step out of fear and into action. Nonaction or delaying action can cause you to suffer far greater consequences than standing up for yourself early on.
In Closing My Shocking Confession: A CFO of a major national bank had just committed perjury against me in a take-over attempt to seize everything I owned! WTF!?? Even my well-seasoned attorneys couldn’t believe it. My very expensive team of attorneys immediately told me I’d get crushed and lose everything if I tried to go up against the giant with the truth. They told me to cut my losses and payout the huge amount of money and hand over the assets that they were demanding. I was exhausted after months and months of court proceedings. I was about to throw in the towel, when I thought about how my letting this guy get away with this was going to give him the confidence to keep doing this to others. I had to take the risk and honor my core values which included honesty and having a social conscience. Exhausted, I dug deep, sorted through mountains of data and correspondence and found the one bit of evidence that confirmed his fraud. Fearlessly, I reported the individual to the appropriate authorities and sent the evidence along with a letter to the founder of the bank (against all attorney advice). He immediately fired the CFO and dropped the claim. I later received a thank you letter from an executive within the bank stating that both the employees and customers had endured years of abuse from this man.
This article originally published on Forbes.com
We’ve all been told and conditioned to believe that success is whatever you define it to be. The great untold truth is that this is a misguided directive that has prevented a huge percentage of the population from achieving sustainable success.
In my coaching practice, I regularly ask my new clients what their definition of success is. The most common response is a big pause and then an impromptu answer. The second most common response is a nebulous, non-specific one. For example:
Coach: “Can you please tell me what your definition of success is?”
Coach: “What does happiness mean to you?”
Client: “Feeling fulfilled”
Coach: “What fulfills you?”
Client: “Having a lot of money?”
I think you get the unclear picture presented. There is one hardcore fact about achieving success that I’ve learned. If you can’t clearly and specifically define it, you’re either going to:
1. Not achieve it.
2. Take the long, slow road to get there.
3. Not be able to sustain it if you, by chance, achieve some.
I remember as a young entrepreneur starting out, I was determined to become “successful,” and I thought I’d better be clear on society’s definition of success. I consulted the go-to resource for the answer. I grabbed my Merriam-Webster dictionary, and this is what it said:
“a: degree or measure of succeeding
b: favorable or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence“
Upon reading the definition, I felt disheartened and confused. How could success be caught up in fame, respect or money? It just didn’t feel right. So, I kept researching. I then came across a famous success expert’s definition. In his book Born to Win!, Zig Ziglar says that success cannot be defined in one sentence, but instead it is comprised of many things.
Now I was really confused. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a clear, specific and universal definition of success that was one-size-fits-all. Why was there so much lack of clarity on the meaning of success?
In my personal journey of overcoming life-threatening health challenges, financial adversity and spiritual tests — and then becoming a self-made multimillionaire, medaled amateur athlete and coach to people from all walks of life, from main street to Wall Street, gang members, cons and ex-cons — I discovered the true and singular definition of success, the one that is indeed the one-size-fits-all definition. It’s the one definition that, if used collectively by society, would help us achieve success more rapidly and sustainably.
So, here it goes: Success is defined as a balanced achievement of wealth and well-being through consistently living the truth of ones’ grace-inspired values.
A broken definition of success is one that does not take a holistic approach. It leaves out some aspect of the whole person. The whole person is:
Does fame provide nourishment to the whole person? Does accomplishing one singular goal? Does wealth cover all aspects? No. Only a balanced achievement of wealth and well-being can do that. And, one can only accomplish that balance through consistently living the truth of their values. If not, the “success” is at risk of failing. I could go into a multitude of real-life stories of people who achieved some aspect of success and then lost it because they either compromised their values or, through not knowing their core values, failed to prioritize living them out in all their decision making.
How do you start to clearly and specifically define what wealth, well-being and your values are? First, ask yourself these two essential questions:
1. What is the most important thing in the world to you?
2. Why is it the most important thing to you?
Answering these two questions will start you on the path to clearly understand what innate forces drive you so that you can craft a picture of what a balanced achievement of wealth and well-being looks like — one that supports your core needs and provides you with fulfilling and sustainable success. After decades of success coaching and working with both individuals and corporations, I’ve discovered that every single goal anyone goes after is an attempt to fulfill only one of two things: security or recognition.
When defining success and goal-setting, take your whole person into account, know your core values, understand what’s important to you and understand that you’re always either seeking security or recognition. Make sure that all you seek is grounded in humility rather than ego to ensure you’ll achieve sustainable “success,” as defined as a balanced achievement of wealth and well-being.
Ever hear that Yiddish adage, “Man Plans, and God Laughs”? When I first heard that saying I thought it was written by a really, negative person who also had a punishing God concept. I quickly discarded the age old “wisdom” as not applicable to me and continued on being and doing my Type A workaholic behaviors (back in the day).
Hi, my name is Linda and I’m a recovering hardcore planner. LOL! No, seriously, this is a very important principle of success to pay attention to, especially if you’re an overachiever. Overachievers tend to plan, plan, plan and back-up plan. That was me! I would freak out if I lost my Franklin planner (I’m showing my age here—grimace) or left it at home, or god forbid, Franklin Covey ran out of stock and I had to wing it.
I clearly remember the turning point when I realized I was not helping, but rather, hurting myself with this unrelenting habit of having to stick to the plan and achieve the desired outcome or call myself a loser for not being able to make it happen. I had this blinding moment of clarity that my unwillingness to accept the reality of the facts in front of me was a rigidity and inability to let go and trust in the organic flow of where I was meant to go, grow and succeed.
Here’s How to Let-Go and Let God, the Universe or Life Help Guide You to Succeed Beyond the Plans You’ve Made:
1. Accept the reality that you won’t ever know in advance how it will go or turn out when you make plans.
2. Trust yourself that you do have the strength, courage and intelligence to make necessary adjustments to your plans on an as needed basis on your journey to success.
3. Give yourself the permission to cancel a plan if it reveals itself to be against your core beliefs, values or is harmful to your wealth or well-being.
4. Don’t make plans just because that’s what “you’re supposed to do” or to fulfill the need to have “to do” something.
5. Only make as many plans that your intuition, innate intelligence, rational analysis and spiritual practice reveal that is necessary to grow and nurture yourself in healthy constructive ways.
“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
We can’t control life, but we can control our perspective, attitude, thoughts and actions. We can learn to accept the uncertainty of life and have faith that the journey is organically leading us to our highest and best destiny. We can make it an easier, softer, more exciting and rewarding journey by learning how and when to let go.
Be assured, you are not a failure and your future is not fatal should you decide to change your plans in order to embrace the flow of life.
What will you decide? To be flexible and go with the flow or remain inflexible and insist it’s your way or no way? I can tell you from personal experience, the latter makes life harsh and harms your ability to achieve the fulfilling life and destiny that is meant for you to have.
In Closing My Shocking Confession: I worked on this multi-million dollar high profile deal for years. All sides wanted it to work out. Everyone was putting in maximum effort. And yet, at every turn we were presented with a new obstacle. I was determined not to give up on the deal. It was life-changing money to me. I was representing both sides. Both sides were emphatic that they should have it their way on the deal breaker contract terms. Neither side could or would budge. I had the aha moment that it was time to let go. Or was I just tired of the arguing and failing to bring the deal to fruition? I dug deep within myself and realized it was time to walk away. The parties were too rigid, and I was wasting my valuable time and energy. I took my $10M in financing with me and moved on. And, to this day (years later) that seller still hasn’t closed a deal with anyone. And, through this letting-go, I was led to start an entirely new business which has been far more rewarding and giving me a life that I love.