Facing challenges

Just a few weeks ago, I was faced with a few regulatory challenges in my business.  There is no shortage of regulations in the USA when it comes to commercial business.  Due to the abundance of regulation, it can be difficult to operate at reasonable costs.  At the same time, when we look at places like China, I would not want our country becoming over polluted due to lack of regulation.  This blog is not supposed to be focused on regulations, but the feeling of overwhelmingness when we are faced with stiff challenges.

Upon receiving information of specific challenges I would need to overcome if I were to continue purchasing property and building a commercial building, I became very stressed.  It was now brought to my attention that I would need to spend a significant amount of money, which I did not plan on spending to get the property to where it needs to be for a commercial building.  Due to the property being commercial-highway and in the pine lands territory, there are extra steps necessary to make sure we are approved to develop the land.

Instead of putting my tail between my legs and walking away, I decided I would continue to pursue my dreams.  I made a few phone calls and got a few leads.  After making a few calls and receiving more clarity on the situation, I now know my goals are possible.  It will still be more expensive than I first budgeted for, but do still think it is a great investment.  Fortunately, I did negotiate the property for 1/3 its worth and that gives me a little room to play financially when it comes to developing the land.

Facing challenges can be super difficult and stressful.  We want to lay out all the possible risks, but also weigh in on the rewards too.  Work is always required when new challenges present themselves and that is normal.  We cannot be lazy and need to get our hands dirty from time to time.  A more challenging project is typically more rewarding than a less challenging project.  This is because we know how much work was required and we can be proud of ourselves at the end of the day.  If you are facing challenges, no matter what challenges, try and really push yourself to overcome them.  We only get one life and need to make the most of it.

Lack of direction and what it means

My last post was titled, Lead by example and today’s post is titled Lack of direction and what it means.  As just a FYI, I do not plan the sequence of my blogs or even put much thought into what my next blog will be.  It just so happens I decided to write about similar subjects on back-to-back days.

Currently, I am in a corporation where there is lack of direction because leadership is dealing with their own problems.  While the members of the C Suite are searching for purpose and new strategy, their direct-reports and their reports, and their reports, and so on are lingering.  It is too easy to sit back and wait for direction, but is that the best approach?  I personally say, NO.  Understand your personal objectives and determine how you can still make contributions.  It does not pay to be lazy.

An approach that makes sense (at least to me) is to create your own direction.  Make sure you are finishing up your work and producing results.  I am hoping leadership at my corporation do present their new strategy and I hope it is a strategy I agree with.  In my personal business, I try my best to constantly build strategy and make sure everyone knows their place.  Lack of direction by leadership is never a good thing.  It typically means, your leaders are not ready to lead or having difficulties finding the right strategies that work for their business.

Lead by example

Previously, I have been in a situation where members from my team were not actively participating in a project.  Once my team members became complacent not contributing, motivating them was a near impossible task.  I was hesitant to pick up their workload because it was only showing them, they really did not need to partake in the group activities.  After several days of no participation, I decided it was time for me to lead by example.  I started to pick up tasks that should have been done by my team members and pushed myself to really excel.  I would update the team on my progress daily.  Eventually, the lazy team members decided to take more interest and began participating in the group activities.  Of course, this helped the project move more quickly and allowed me to utilize my time more wisely on my own portion of the project.

It is really upsetting when team members of your group are not partaking in the group activities to help push a project forward.  It is very disappointing when these team members sit around and just watch everyone else working.  Why the hell are we paying these lazy people?  How do we get rid of these people?  These are the type of questions we ask ourselves.  Since it is not always easy to get rid of poor employees, it is sometimes better to try and make them better.  A word of caution is do not become so heavily involved in helping another poor performing employee if they are not willing to help themselves.  They need to show a little interest before you start providing guidance and spending your efforts on them.

As a leader, we cannot just direct our team and will need to participate in some of the activities in the weeds.  This shows your willingness to participate and be one with the team.  Additionally, this helps motivate your team to work hard and try to please you.  As a leader, you will want to make sure your team can trust you and rely on you in case they are short handed or need help somewhere.  In my personal experience, I am more likely to respect a leader when I see their willingness to help me out.  There should not be a barrier where the leader feels he/she is too good to work on certain things.  In my opinion, leading by example is a very important trait and tool to motivate your team to drive themselves to get the work done.

Judging others

Although Civil Accomplishment is focused on the topic of success through sharing useful information, gathering information, understanding our goals, and so forth, I also feel it is important to discuss the topic of judging others.  I cannot speak for everyone, but I do feel many of us have judged others before really getting to know them.  It is often easier to push negative feelings towards someone different from you that you do not really know than welcome them and get to know them better.  A lot of these negative feelings are due to fear, which many of us are not willing to admit.

Someone once told me, “flaws are not chosen by us, but given to us, so why hold it against someone”.  For example, if someone is slightly different because of a disability or flaw, then why do you hold it against them or make fun of them.  This can only make it more difficult for that person to achieve their goals because they feel people are opposing them.  Everyone has flaws.  Some are just more visible than others.

The point of this blog is to bring attention to our unconscious efforts to put others down due to personal low self-esteem or fears.  I am not saying everyone does this, but there are many that do.  If you are someone that does this, try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes less fortunate than yourself.  Instead of putting others down, try to support them and give them a reason to succeed.  This can help them through a tough time and provide satisfaction to you.  It can also help you gain an interesting friend with a different perspective on things.  Today I will make sure I emphasis this and really respect the power of different.  Different people really make our world more interesting and a better place to live.

Refresh yourself…

Yesterday, my blog was titled Daily push and I spoke about the importance of pushing everyday because it really does matter.  Today I will talk about the importance of taking time for yourself to refresh yourself and clear your mind.  You may ask, how can you talk about pushing everyday and also talk about taking time off?  My response is- it is not always what you do, but sometimes how you do it.  When you are thinking about going on vacation or just taking a day for yourself randomly, you will want to make sure you are not falling behind on your responsibilities.  You will want to plan well in advance to make sure you are caught up and do not fall behind.  There are wrong and right ways of doing this.

First, you will want to make sure you know when you are planning on taking off.  You will want to know how many days you are taking and what your schedule looks like for those days.  You would most likely not want to take your vacation in the middle of your busy season at work.  You would also not want to take your vacation on the fly without any planning ahead of time.

Secondly, you will want to make sure you are open in your communication.  At work you will want to make sure your team cross-functionally know when you are going out.  They will want to know who your backup is, so they can reach out to them if anything comes up while you are out.

Lastly, when you are out you will want to take your mind off your day-to-day responsibilities.  This is the purpose of taking time off and you should receive full benefit from it.  I’d recommend leaving all work-associated topics, cell phones, lap tops, materials away from you during your vacation.  This will help you keep your mind off work.

These are just a few thoughts I had on being refreshed and not too stressed from work.  Although, just yesterday I talked about pushing everyday, it becomes difficult to do this when you are tired.  We all need vacations to rebuild energy to drive ourselves forward.  This will help us really push efficiently and effectively when you are pushing.

Daily push

I cannot emphasize enough, each day matters and you do not want to waste it.  On the path to success, you are going to want to participate in the daily push because every little bit counts.  Take notice of professional athletes or olympians and how the winners often only win by a hair or a point.  If the winner of these events did not push daily, then he/she could have lost the competition.  The push can be their training sessions and other preparatory steps to prepare for the big event.  The push could also be the actual event itself and how the participant never ‘slacked off’ or ‘took it easy’.

As mentioned before, I deem myself as average to slightly above average.  I would not say I am a super-star in much of what I do, but I put >100% effort into everything I do.  I am proud of the fact that I push daily on everything important to my goals in life.  We must also realize there are key activities we must partake in and other non-key activities we may want to spend minimal time with.  It is up to us to understand what is crucial to our success and what is not.  It did take a few years to understand that not every step in a process is crucial.  Sometimes people add steps that are not necessary and they do them because it comforts them.  This is a topic for another day.

The daily push is super important and we need to make sure we are doing whatever we can to stay engaged in achieving our goals daily.  Continue to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing and what you need to do.  Also, take time to reflect on your successes and the progress you’ve made along the way.  This is rewarding and incentive to continue on, especially when it becomes challenging.  I write daily in a journal to keep myself engaged.  Writing my thoughts also forces me to think things out before I execute.  This is where I can catch a lot of my mistakes.  6 months after writing those journals, I review to make sure I am on target.  As humans, we have a tendency to forget our failed attempts and often repeat the same poor decisions we may have made before.  All of these things we need to keep in mind going forward.

Seems easy, until you start digging in

Have you ever thought something looked easy, but when you started trying it yourself you found out there was much more to it?  Recently, I have run into some challenges with a project I have been working on for my business.  I would not say I thought it would be easy, but I definitely did not think it would be this challenging.  We have a signed contract to purchase a commercial property for my business.  The intent is to build a larger building in a more favorable location to help us generate more business.  There have been several challenges along the way, which were expected and a few challenges along the way that were not expected.

Expected challenges

A few of the expected challenges include negotiating price on the property, getting a ratified contract, obtaining funding, and selecting the right builder for the building.  Since I live in a town full of farmers that potentially could buy up available land much easier than I, I was fortunate the property was listed in the middle of their peak farming season.  I do believe this moved their attention to their farms and not purchasing land.  I have lost bids on land prior due to farmers swooping in with their bags of money and power, which resulted in me not winning the bids.  There have been a few things in my favor during this process and I am very grateful for that.

Unexpected challenges

This is where it gets a little bit sticky and we are not out of the weeds yet.  In actuality, we are just getting started and the challenges are exciting, yet scary.  For one, due to the property being in a highway-commercial zone, we do need to bring it to the planning board.  We will also need to gain approval from the Pine lands, which can get complicated.  We found out that there is city-water available to our property, but may not have city-sewer.  We are still learning more about this each day, but if we do not have access to city-sewer, then our expense can easily shoot up significantly.  We can put a septic system in, but this will be modeled after our specific needs and does not help our resale value down the road.  City-sewer would be most beneficial to us if we can get it for $20,000 or less.  This will be the most expensive toilet I will have owned in my life.  On top of this, we will need to get our lawyer involved in addition to a hired engineer to survey/layout the property.

My thoughts on throwing in the towel

It is easy to throw in the towel and give up on the whole thing, but where does that leave me?  It would surely not help my business expand and would put us back to square one.  We are purchasing the property for 1/3 its value, which is absolutely phenomenal.  After development of the property, the value will shoot up significantly.  I realize this project is part of a larger long-term strategy and I need to keep reminding myself.  We are not going to erect this building and move in as quickly as I once thought, but by sticking it out, we are going to get some major long-term benefits.  It is a highway-commercial property, which will continue to increase in value.  I must keep reminding myself of the benefits and why we are doing this.

If you are in a similar situation, think about the pros and cons of each side.  Realize that there may be a bigger picture you need to look at and not just the stresses being caused by today’s challenges.  Since much more effort needs to go into this project, my father is taking on more responsibility in sales to help our business maintain cash flow.  New strategies are being created to generate more cash.  We are working as efficiently and effectively as possible since our time is limited.  The appropriate adjustments are being made to increase our chances of success.  I will be writing much more about this in the next couple of months as new discoveries develop.

Your career has great impact on your life

Here is career advice for the younger generation thinking about the next steps after high school or college.  The next 20-years of your life will be highly dependent on the choices you made early on in life.  It is never too early to start planning out your career and the earlier the better.  There is a progression we need to follow to reach our goals and more often than not, we are not able to skip steps without it impacting us in someway down the road.  Our elementary school performance determines what classes we take in high school.  Our high school performance determines what colleges will accept you.  Your college performance determines what job you will get after college.  There are some standardized tests along the way that you need to pass too, but generally if you do well in your classes you are going to do better on those standardized tests.

For many young adults, it is difficult to realize that your school work is a significant impact on the next 20-years of your life.  I am not saying if you did poorly in high school, that you will have no chance in life.  I am saying better performance in high school will give you a jump start in life.  I personally did not do great in high school.  I came to the realization that school matters when I was in college.  It was more challenging to catch up on the basics and get up to speed after I had been in the habit of not doing well for so long.  I decided in college to build the right habits that would accompany me throughout life.  Someone once told me, “the habits you have in college will follow you throughout your life”.  I find this true.  I became a better student in college, attended the gym normally, and became more involved with my community.  I still do these things today 10-years after I graduated.

We all learn at our own pace and that is completely fine.  Knowing that education is such a big piece of our success in life, we should push harder to do well in school.  Additionally, if you do not plan on using school later on because you are going to join the family business or some other reason, it does not hurt to become more educated.  For example, you can go back to school for business and get a job at another company for a few years.  This does wonders for your career development and will bring you more knowledge that you can take back to your family business.  One day I would want my son to graduate from college, get a job at another company for a few years, and then join my company.  This also helps socialize him in a professional environment and learn expectations from others.

Now to the main point that I was trying to get to, but I did digress.  Your career has a huge impact on your life.  For one the salary you make will determine the quality of life for you and your family for the most part.  A higher salary can provide better food, better education, and a better financial future.  In addition to a higher salary, you will want to manage the money well and not buy stupid stuff you do not need.  Those with lower salaries may not be able to provide their families with the same opportunities as the wealthier individuals.  A lot of salary comes back to how well you did in your earlier life in high school and college.  A better jump start gets you on a better track for more money.  I have lived through low paying jobs and I can definitely see the difference between those days and now.  I would not want to go back.  Think about it earlier on and make sure you are making the decisions that get you ahead.

Determining what is important

Imagine joining a new role with a new team you have never worked with before.  The first thing you may want to do is setup a bunch of meet and greets to better understand your new team and the key players you will be working with.  This will help build background on where everyone is coming from, what is important to them, and how you are going to work with them moving forward.  At this point you are starting to dive into importance of your new role.

Another step in the process of understanding your new role is to start working on some projects to get your feet wet.  In the beginning, you are going to have a lot of questions and may feel slightly confused.  You are going to work through the challenges by partnering with your team and eventually become a key player yourself.

The third part, which is super crucial is determining what is important.  You will not know what is important on day one.  You may not even know what is important on day two or three.  As you better understand your role, your team, and your projects, you should start understanding how you can make a great impact on the organization.  At the end of the of the day you will want to ask yourself, what value do you bring to the team?  This is why a company pays you.  It is not just to have you sitting around doing nothing.  They want you to contribute value and generate more money for the organization.  This is no secret!

So, think about your current role if you have not or are not changing roles.  Think about rebuilding relationships and forming new relationships with key players in your organization.  Leverage them as much as you can.  Understand which projects are able to provide most value for the organization.  Projects that are not providing much value can be put on hold or cancelled.  Of course, you will want to gain team alignment on these decisions.  Push forward!

Strengthen your weakness

I am driven by results and when I am not seeing those results, I take a step back and assess the situation.  First, I will want to understand why I am not meeting my goals. Second, I will try and find a reasonable solution to resolve the issue(s) holding me back from reaching my goals.  As an example of a barrier I see in my personal business during the early years was our ability to sell our products.  The products were great and price point was right, so why did we have trouble getting our sales up?  Our weakness was our ability to sell.  Both my father and I have technical backgrounds and the ability to create good products.  We are not formerly trained in selling, nor do we have a natural ability to sell.  Being a good salesperson was our true weakness and it was clearly evident.

Now that we knew our weakness was selling, we needed to fix it by improving our ability to sell.  I purchased books on selling.  I watched youtube videos on selling.  I sought advice from professional sales people.  I was pushing for a significant improvement in the area of selling.  Of course, this was not our only weakness, but a huge weakness that we could solve for immediately.  I truly believe improving your weaknesses, which are holding you back will help you tremendously.

Finding your weakness

Some weaknesses are harder to find than others and some of these weaknesses are touchy subjects for some.  You may not want to admit you have a particular weakness, which is fine.  You must understand that until you admit your weakness, you will not be able to fix or improve it.  It is always difficult to admit that you are insufficient in an area, especially when it is a sensitive area to you.  You do not need to announce it to the world, but do need to announce it to yourself.  It may also help to have supporters support you in these changes you are embarking on.  Some weaknesses may not be obvious to you and this will require you to ask for feedback from others.  By asking for constructive feedback, you will be able to get a better understanding of what others think of you and where you could improve.

Executing your changes for improvement

Now that you established your weakness or weaknesses, you will want to build a plan to overcome it.  This means you might need to write it down and develop key milestones you want to hit.  Typically, milestones will have timing associated with it. There may be times you do not hit your goals, but it is important you never give up.  Each day you push forward to improve your weakness, you are going to need to stay motivated.  This is where supports may come in handy if you are not someone who is self-motivated.  Drive yourself to achieve your goals in improving yourself.  Small gains over a period of time do add up, so do not be discouraged that you are not seeing huge leaps overnight.

Continuous improvement is crucial in the process of gaining success.  As hard as it is to work on your weaknesses, it is super important.  It is always going to be easier to exercise your strengths because you are so good at them already.  By challenging yourself in improving your not so great characteristics, will allow you to become stronger and better at what you do.  Our focus is to become more well-rounded and successful as we progress through life.  Try selecting a weakness, create a plan, and execute.  I am sure in a time you will feel great for improving yourself!

Influencing from the lower levels

One of the crucial activities in starting my new role at my workplace is meeting the team and individuals I will be working with.  It helps build relationships with your new co-workers and allows you to better understand their roles in the organization.  During my one-on-ones, I met with a very knowledgeable woman who said to me… 

“you do not need to be the CEO of this company to have power and can influence others’ decisions by first gaining their trust.”  

I have not really thought about this dynamic much, but it does hold true.  Just because we are not the boss does not mean we do not have the power to influence big decisions.  Before leadership promotes you, they are most likely looking for this ability of influence and if you have it, you are probably going to move up faster than someone who does not have it.  Influence is defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself [reference Google].  Keep in mind, with the power of influence comes great responsibility.  We want to make sure we are using the ability to influence to make positive impacts.  The continued trust of others in you depends on how you use your ability to influence.

To me it is very exciting to know that I do not need to be the CEO, vice president, director, or even program manager to influence others.  It is exciting to know that at all levels of an organization, you do have the power to influence.  It may be a little bit more challenging to influence when you do not have the big fancy title, but in time when you build trust, it will become easier.  As I speak from experience, I can think of many times I had to influence a cross-functional member to align on a decision with me.  There are many ways of influencing from push to pull techniques, which you can read up on the internet.  Some techniques are more forceful than others.  Some techniques use more data than others.  Whichever method you pick, without trust you are not going to get anyone to side with you.

Moving forward, keep influence in mind when you reach disagreements with others.  Ask yourself, how can I influence them effectively without ruining our relationship?  You may also want to make sure you are influencing a decision in a positive direction.  It is acceptable to fail, but try to fail less than you succeed.  Too many failed attempts often brings doubt on you and poor feelings towards you.  At the same time, no matter how many times you fail, never give up.  Just remember influence is always there when you need it and it should be used if needed.

Providing direction for your children

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  Similarly, we do not always need to provide our children with answers and instead, we can provide them with direction to find answers.  It is sometimes easier to blurt out the answers to questions our children may have.  If we provide the answers to all our children’s questions, we can be certain they will keep asking and not think for themselves.  We will not always be around when they need to make their own decisions, so it is best to get them into the habit of thinking for themselves.

This also holds true for co-workers, peers, friends, family, and anyone else that may be asking you for your help.  I am not saying we should not help, but by providing guidance versus the solution or answers, we are setting up our friends and family for success.  To further clarify, I can share an example.  At work a co-worker would constantly ask me for help in a system they were not too familiar with.  They knew I had more expertise in this particular system, so it was always easier for me to complete their work.  It would take them 20 minutes, while I could complete the task under 1 minute.  The problem is they did not take the time to learn the system and fully understand the processes within the system.  Although it was easier to complete their work than teaching them, teaching them would be more beneficial in the future.  I did set some time aside to further help them learn the system.  This 30 minute investment ended up freeing up my future time down the road because they were no longer asking for my help.

There are countless examples such as this and I want to emphasize that investing your time to get someone else on their feet and running is important.  It is also a great investment to teach our children to think for themselves and develop critical thinking from a young age.  When they are faced with difficult decisions later in life, they will realize these teachings did pay off.  You can worry less and know your children are making the better decisions.  Just a few thoughts I had on direction and guidance for your children.