Tag Archives: failure

REAL Connected Women of Influence: Interview with Michelle Bergquist

Women Lead Radio logo  Listen to Women Lead Radio as Joanie Connell, your host of REAL Life Lessons, has a conversation with Michelle Bergquist, CEO & Co-Founder of Connected Women of Influence, on how you can be a REAL woman of influence.  Listen here.

Highlights:

Michelle acknowledges that business is competitive and gives suggestions for how we can still support each other, in spite of the fact that women haven’t been as supportive of each other as men.

Michelle talks about how she’s had to experience “epic failure” to get to success.

Michelle also talks about how to balance authenticity with confidence.

It’s a great show, listen in!

 

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Worry, Just Do It

Flying without a Helicopter Book Cover finalBy Joanie Connell.

My husband said to me one day, “Do you know what I love about you?” My heart beat a little faster as I fluffed my hair and stood up a little straighter. “You get things done.” He finished.

I tried not to let my disappointment show. “I get things done? Seriously? That’s your compliment?” The conversation in my head began. But, I reflected for a moment. “It is true, I do get things done.” I reconciled and simply said “Thanks.”

One of the things that differentiates people who get things done from people who don’t is that they actually DO it. It’s as simple as that. They don’t sit around and worry about it. They don’t think of all the things that can go wrong. They don’t rouse up all the reasons why they can’t do it. They just do it.

WHAT’S THE SECRET TO GETTING THINGS DONE?

The first steps and the last steps are the hardest. What stops many people is taking action in the first place. Another stumbling block is lack of follow through. We talk about these in business language as being “results oriented” and having “execution skills.” You can talk all day about getting results and you can brainstorm ideas on how to get good results, but if you don’t execute, it won’t happen. Likewise, if you don’t follow through till the very last step, you won’t get the results either.

I just finished a book and people often say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’m impressed that you actually did it.” And that’s the secret. I just did it. I wanted to write a book, I took the first steps, and continued on, followed through till the very end and now it’s out there. I won’t say it was easy, because it wasn’t. Getting things done rarely is. I ran into many stumbling blocks along the way, but I didn’t let them stop me because I wanted to get it done. I’ll also admit that following through till the end has been excruciating at times, but work always is. In fact, I write about that in my book.

DON’T WORRY!

Engineers are great at figuring out what might go wrong. But the good ones don’t worry about it; they prepare for it, work around it, or fix it or sometimes just live with the fact that nothing’s ever perfect. In other words, it’s okay to recognize potential obstacles, but worrying about them does no good. “Problem solving” is another skill we talk about in the workplace as being critical to success—in any job. As the complexity of the task grows, so does the number of problems. Expecting problems and working through them, not only require creativity, but also resilience. But what they don’t need is worrying and fretting and gloom and doom.

GETTING NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS DONE

Making a commitment to getting something done is a good first step, but then you need to take action. For example, making a resolution to get fit requires you to exercise. Sometimes the hardest step is to make it out the door to the gym, the jogging path, or wherever. But if you commit to getting out the door, no matter how tired or unmotivated you are, you will find that you’ve actually gotten something done. You made it there. The next step is easy because you’re already on a roll.

Keeping up with your resolutions can be tricky. You may get busy or frustrated with your fitness plan after a couple of months, but don’t give up. Remember, the difference between people who get things done and those who don’t is that they just DO it.

Bill Treasurer: 5 criteria for evaluating whether a risk is right or wrong for you

BBill Treasurerill Treasurer is an expert on Risk. He has graciously shared tips for assessing whether taking a risk is right for you. Millennials, especially, consider Bill’s advice. Women too. You have been raised in a risk-averse environment, but risk is actually a good thing if done right.

Bill Treasurer: 5 Criteria for Evaluating Whether a Risk Is Right or Wrong for You

When considering a risky move, most people resort to simple math, asking “What will I get and what do I stand to lose?” But big moves need to consider more than just gains or losses. It takes more than simple math to judge whether to take a risk. As explaiRight Risk book coverned in one of my other posts a Right Risk is one that is congruent with your deepest held values. It’s a risk that should help close the gap between who you are and who you aim to be. What matters most isn’t how much you stand to gain from the risk. What matters most is whether the risk is true for you. Risk should be about more than compensation. It should be about destination. Not, “What will this risk get me”, but “Where will this risk take me.”

Here are 5 criteria that you can use that will help you access your risk at a much deeper level than just jotting down a pro and con list. Using the 5 Ps won’t guarantee that your risk won’t be a wipeout, but they will increase the probability of success.

Passion: A Right Risk is something we care about intensely. Right risks are often ordeals, and ordeals involve suffering. The word “passion” comes from the Latin verb pati, literally translated as “to suffer.” By arousing the strongest, most untamed parts of our nature, and stirring up the wild mustangs in our soul, our passion gives us the raw energy and wherewithal to suffer through the anguishing moments that often accompany right risk. Ask, “What about this risk energizes me?”

Purpose: A Right Risk is taken out of a deep sense of purpose. Purpose serves to harness our passions and give them direction. Right Risks are rich with meaning. They stand for something beyond sensory or ego gratification. Ask, “How will this risk make me a more complete person? How will this risk further my life’s purpose? How will it help me get to where I want to go?”

Principle: Right Risks are governed by a set of values that are both essential and virtuous. As mentioned, risks are essentially decisions, and when facing a decision of consequences, principles form a set of criteria against which the risk can be judged. The principles that right- risk takers often use as the basis of their decision-making include truth, justice, independence, freedom, mercy, compassion and responsibility. Ask, “By taking this risk, which of my deepestly held values or ideals will I be upholding?”

Prerogative: Right-risk taking involves the exercise of choice. Right-risk takers view the power to choose as a privilege, and then honor it as such. By consistently making choices at a conscious level, they are better able to make superior judgment calls at an instinctual level — in fast-moving situations. After all of the input of naysayers and yea-sayers are considered, the Right-risk taker makes the final judgment as to whether the risk is right for him or her. Ultimately, a Right Risk is an exercise of free will. Ask, “Am I taking this risk because I have to, or because I choose to?”

Profit: A Right Risk should come with a real potential for gain. Risks are, well, risky. And in exchange for assuming the potential risk of hardship, you are entitled to some real and unequivocal upside gains. Notice, however, that Profit is the fifth “P”. It’s the criteria that should be assessed last, otherwise you’ll be in danger of getting too enamored with the pot at the end of the rainbow, which can distort your decision-making. Ask, “What gains do I hope to reap from this risk?” and “How enduring are the gains likely to be?”

Bill Treasurer is the author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations can use to build workplace courage. Bill’s first book, Right Risk, draws on his experiences as a professional high diver. Bill has led courage-building workshops for, among others, NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To learn more, contact info@giantleapconsulting.com.

Stop and Think

by Joanie Connell

stop and thinkThe downside of operating at lightning speed is that we don’t have time to reflect on what we’re doing. We respond to challenges with knee-jerk reactions and leap onto the bandwagon without ever stopping to question whether this is the right way to go. We think it is right because everybody else is doing it and we don’t want to get left behind.

In today’s world, we are all under an enormous amount of pressure to do things quickly. We need to keep up with minute-by-minute stock prices, what is “trending now” on social media, whose kid is participating in the most extra-curriculars, which traffic lane is going the fastest, and what emails are already stacked up in our inboxes. It’s exhausting! Yet, we don’t stop. We keep running faster and faster, managing more and more information.overwhelmed

Ironically, the need for speed is slowing us down. Really. It. Is.

How could that possibly be? It is because we aren’t taking time to stop and think. When we run at full speed, we make careless mistakes. When we do too many things at once, we make haphazard decisions. When we feel pressure to keep up, we mindlessly follow the pack. If we don’t take time to stop and think, we may end up losing the race—remember the tortoise and the hare—and trampling others along the way.

CARELESS MISTAKES

Typos, bugs, and safety recalls are often caused by careless mistakes. We are racing to meet deadlines, under pressure to get torace car print or to market quickly, and we work fast without checking it over. Careless mistakes cost us time and money. For example, the most common reason for the IRS to reject an income tax return is because of a careless mistake, like the person forgot to sign the form. A rejection is usually accompanied by a fine. Thus, slowing down to proofread your tax form could speed things up and save you money.

As much as we like to think that we are good at multitasking, the evidence is to the contrary, especially when it comes to complex tasks. Of course, doing a load of laundry while you are washing the dishes is fairly benign (unless you forget about the laundry). Texting while driving is not. At work, we read email during meetings and wonder why our meetings are so ineffective. At home, we do our homework while instant messaging. It’s hard to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. You can shift back and forth, but even then you may lose time reintegrating yourself into each task. Often, completing a task before you move to another can save you time.

CROWD MENTALITY

Much of our world is online and crowd driven. Add time pressures to the mix and we end up with impulsive, irrational decisions that are made carelessly, without contemplation. Stock market crashes, fads, and riots are caused by a crowd mentality. We lose ourselves in the presence of a crowd. It’s called “deindividuation” in social crowdpsychological terms. When we get caught up in the excitement and momentum of a crowd, we lose our judgment and do things we wouldn’t normally do on our own. Riots after sporting events are a good example. Most sports fans would not smash car windows and set fire to things on their own, but when they get caught up in the post-game fury of a stadium full of fans, they can find themselves doing extreme things. The same is true in business.

Online interactions have a similar effect. People deindividuate when they are online. For example we’ve all seen people post comments on blogs or send emails that they would never say in person. We feel less personally accountable online, similar to when we are in a crowd. And what are we doing online? Creating crowds! People these days define their value by their numbers of followers, friends, likes and retweets. The news reports on what is “trending now” on social media to acknowledge what the largest numbers of people are doing and saying. It may be “trending” but it doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

SOCIAL COMPARISON

People feel better about themselves when they are better than someone else. When you get a B on a test, you feel better when you find out someone else got a C. Social comparison is a way to feel better about yourself by thinking or saying negative things about other people. Gossiping is the quintessential example.

The flip side of putting others down to make ourselves feel good is to compete with others to do better. To feel good, we want to outdo our neighbors, coworkers, classmates, FB friends, and Tcompetitionwitter followers. For example, if my friend is taking 4 AP classes, I should take 5. If the competitor is decreasing costs by 5%, we should decrease by 10%. If my coworker works 10 hours a day, I should work 12. If my teammate runs 12 miles a day, I should run 15. This also manifests with opinions and positions. If others in my political party are moderately liberal/conservative, I will be more liberal/conservative to show I am better or more committed to the group. After enough people do that, the party is broadcasting extremist statements. This is called “group polarization.” We all know what calamities that can lead to.

It’s tpauseime to stop and think.

It’s time to slow down and check our work to avoid careless mistakes. It’s time to pause and make well thought-out decisions to make sure we are doing what we want to do. It’s time to question the crowd to see if it is going in a direction we think is valuable for us to follow. The cost of not thinking is far greater.

Rearing Resilience

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

–Frederick Douglass

1st place ribbonI went to a youth music competition this weekend.  There were 12 musicians in the age category I watched.  They varied a great deal in their ability.  After an hour of performances, the judges announced the winners.  There were 2 First Place winners, 4 Second Place winners and 6 Third Place winners.  Everyone won.  I overheard one of the Third Place winners asking her parents if Third Place was really Last Place.  The parents looked at her, not knowing what to say as she took the medal off her chest and put it away.  She wasn’t fooled.

crying babyThere is a movement toward sparing the feelings of children when they lose, make a mistake, fail, or simply aren’t the best at something.  We raise our children in a culture where “everyone’s a winner.”  However, when they grow up and find out that only very few people get into the best colleges and very few end up in their dream jobs right out of school, they are dumbfounded and caught off guard, and they crumple in defeat.  We aren’t preparing our children to survive in a world where everyone really isn’t a winner.

Resilience is probably the most important quality for success at work and life. Being able to stay strong, even in the worst of times, is what leads to success. It is the rare individual who goes through life without adversity. In fact, it would be surprising if there were any such people. Some people face greater adversity than others and have to be strong to get through it. For example, think of cancer survivors, kids who have escaped from neighborhood gangs, Holocaust survivors, or the Lost Boys of Sudan. How did they endure? What kept them going? It was inner strength and optimism. They never gave up.

Hopefully, none of us will have to face such severe adversity, but it is important to be able to get through what adversity we do encounter. How do we develop the inner strength to stay strong? We train for it just like we do for everything else. We start out small with low levels of adversity, such as not getting the piece of candy we want, working out our differences with our school friends, and learning from a failing grade that we have to study for tests. We move onto bigger problems to get through, such as handling the pain of breaking an arm or getting stitches, denting the car and having to pay for it ourselves, and working through our first heartbreak. Then we move onto even bigger things, such as learning to live with a difficult roommate, turning down an evening out with friends to save for the rent, and sticking it out at a miserable summer job. These experiences prepare us for the critical ones that require us to draw from our strength to get through trying circumstances and forge optimistically ahead.

Successful people are resilient.

Guest Blog at the Rady School of Management at UCSD

I recently posted a guest blog at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego on the issue of risk mitigation.  The blog uses the recent chaos that ensued after the snowfall in the South as an example for thinking about mitigating risk in companies.  Click on this link to read the blog.  It will inspire you to ask the right questions beforehand, to be prepared and not caught totally off guard when unexpected things happen at your company.

Failing to Succeed

by Joanie Connell

successWhat does it take to succeed? Isn’t that the burning question? Of course, it depends on what your definition of success is to begin with. Is it money, fame, power, happiness, self actualization? The first step in success is to know yourself—what is important to you, what do you value, what are you good at, what are you not so good at? Failing that, you will never truly succeed.

I was an electrical engineer before I became a psychologist. I went into engineering for all the wrong reasons. They seemed like the right reasons at the time, because I was young and inexperienced, and I was looking for a short-term solution. I wanted to make money, and my parents made it abundantly clear that I needed to be able to support myself upon completing college.

I spent many a night flipping through the book of college majors, looking longingly at music, French, and sociology, but questioning what kind of money I would make if I went down one of those paths. Given that I was good at math and computers, I chose the one major I could find where I could start out as a professional with only an undergraduate degree: electrical engineering.

I did succeed at making money, but I was not happy. I had to go back and do a lot of soul searching. I bought the book “What Color is your Parachute?” and diligently worked through all of the exercises. I explored and prioritized what was important to me. I solicited feedback from friends and family on what they thought I was good at and what would be a good fit for me. I interviewed many professionals in a variety of jobs to see if these jobs would be a good fit for me. Through this process, I decided to become a communications consultant. I learned that I needed to go back and get a Ph.D. to be successful at that. I learned that I liked to solve problems (like an engineer) but they needed to be people problems. I learned that I did have to make enough money to support myself, but not as much as an engineer. I learned that I needed to make a positive impact on the world (even in a small way) to be successful in life. That’s what is important to me.

A few years back, during a coaching session, an executive told me that I had found my calling. It was the best compliment I have ever received at work. I realized then and there that my strength and passion are to help people reach their potential in life. I’ve gone through countless failures to get to that point, and it hasn’t been easy.

Like with exercising and diets, people want to learn the shortcut to failuresuccess. The New York Times Bestsellers list is full of books on how to be a successful leader. The problem is: there is no formula for success. It takes discipline and hard work, and every successful person will tell you that they have failed.

Even the Harvard Business Review has dedicated a special issue to failure. Every article talks about major business failures. The key message, however, is to learn from your failures.

Proctor & Gamble’s former CEO, Alan Lafley, says that, in his experience, “we learn more from failure than we do from success.” He says that 80% of new product innovation fails in the industry of household products. It wasn’t until he had P&G go back and systematically study their failures over the past 3 decades and define what success meant, that they understood why. Needless to say, they’ve improved their success rate ever since.

People are the same way. Instead of forgetting the past, we need to learn from it to do better in the future. We also need to take risks to succeed. If we wrap ourselves up in a security blanket, we will close ourselves off from opportunities to grow.

In the end, failing is important to succeed.