1. Time doesn't fill me. I fill time.
Deadlines and time frames establish parameters, but typically not in a good way. The average person who is given two weeks to complete a task will instinctively adjust his effort so it actually takes two weeks. Forget deadlines, at least as a way to manage your activity. Tasks should only take as long as they need to take. Do everything as quickly and effectively as you can. Then use your "free" time to get other things done just as quickly and effectively. Average people allow time to impose its will on them; remarkable people impose their will on their time.
2. The people around me are the people I chose.
Some of your employees drive you nuts. Some of your customers are obnoxious. Some of your friends are selfish, all-about-me jerks. You chose them. If the people around you make you unhappy it's not their fault. It's your fault. They're in your professional or personal life because you drew them to you--and you let them remain. Think about the type of people you want to work with. Think about the types of customers you would enjoy serving. Think about the friends you want to have. Then change what you do so you can start attracting those people. Hardworking people want to work with hardworking people. Kind people like to associate with kind people. Remarkable employees want to work for remarkable bosses. Successful people are naturally drawn to successful people.
3. I have never paid my dues.
Dues aren't paid, past tense. Dues get paid, each and every day. The only real measure of your value is the tangible contribution you make on a daily basis. No matter what you've done or accomplished in the past, you're never too good to roll up your sleeves, get dirty, and do the grunt work. No job is ever too menial, no task ever too unskilled or boring. Remarkably successful people never feel entitled--except to the fruits of their labor.
4. Experience is irrelevant. Accomplishments are everything.
You have "10 years in the Web design business." Whoopee. I don't care how long you've been doing what you do. Years of service indicate nothing; you could be the worst 10-year programmer in the world. I care about what you've done: how many sites you've created, how many back-end systems you've installed, how many customer-specific applications you've developed (and what kind)... all that matters is what you've done. Successful people don't need to describe themselves using hyperbolic adjectives like passionate, innovative, driven, etc. They can just describe, hopefully in a humble way, what they've done.
5. Failure is something I accomplish; it doesn't just happen to me.
Ask people why they have been successful. Their answers will be filled with personal pronouns: I, me, and the sometimes too occasional we. Ask them why they failed. Most will revert to childhood and instinctively distance themselves, like the kid who says, "My toy got broken..." instead of, "I broke my toy."
They'll say the economy tanked. They'll say the market wasn't ready. They'll say their suppliers couldn't keep up. They'll say it was someone or something else.
And by distancing themselves, they don't learn from their failures.
Occasionally something completely outside your control will cause you to fail. Most of the time, though, it's you. And that's okay. Every successful person has failed. Numerous times. Most of them have failed a lot more often than you. That's why they're successful now.
Embrace every failure: Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, things will turn out differently.
6. Volunteers always win.
Whenever you raise your hand you wind up being asked to do more. That's great. Doing more is an opportunity: to learn, to impress, to gain skills, to build new relationships--to do something more than you would otherwise been able to do. Success is based on action. The more you volunteer, the more you get to act. Successful people step forward to create opportunities.
7. As long as I'm paid well, it's all good.
Specialization is good. Focus is good. Finding a niche is good. Generating revenue is great.
Anything a customer will pay you a reasonable price to do--as long as it isn't unethical, immoral, or illegal--is something you should do. Your customers want you to deliver outside your normal territory? If they'll pay you for it, fine. They want you to add services you don't normally include? If they'll pay you for it, fine. The customer wants you to perform some relatively manual labor and you're a high-tech shop? Shut up, roll 'em up, do the work, and get paid. Only do what you want to do and you might build an okay business. Be willing to do what customers want you to do and you can build a successful business. Be willing to do even more and you can build a remarkable business.
And speaking of customers...
8. People who pay me always have the right to tell me what to do.
Get over your cocky, pretentious, I-must-be-free-to-express-my-individuality self. Be that way on your own time. The people who pay you, whether customers or employers, earn the right to dictate what you do and how you do it--sometimes down to the last detail. Instead of complaining, work to align what you like to do with what the people who pay you want you to do. Then you turn issues like control and micro-management into non-issues.
9. The extra mile is a vast, unpopulated wasteland.
Everyone says they go the extra mile. Almost no one actually does. Most people who go there think, "Wait... no one else is here... why am I doing this?" and leave, never to return. That's why the extra mile is such a lonely place. That's also why the extra mile is a place filled with opportunities.
Be early. Stay late. Make the extra phone call. Send the extra email. Do the extra research. Help a customer unload or unpack a shipment. Don't wait to be asked; offer. Don't just tell employees what to do--show them what to do and work beside them. Every time you do something, think of one extra thing you can do--especially if other people aren't doing that one thing. Sure, it's hard. But that's what will make you different. And over time, that's what will make you incredibly successful.
Failure to Use Group Memory: People can only tolerate so much pure discussion without having something written down. If the facilitator encourages discussion and listening without writing anything down, participants may begin to feel that this is a just an informal discussion. Facilitators must create or reference visual memory at least every fifteen minutes. As the meeting proceeds, the amount of written documentation will continue to grow. It is also important to make use of any support materials before, during or after the meeting. Remember that written words, and diagrams, are more memorable than spoken words.
Problems with ParticipantsThere may be minor problems with some of the participants during a session. However, there may be some serious problems with an individual participant that can impact the entire team. So let me explain what I have encountered.
Blue-Sky: Blue-Sky participants are progressive and optimistic people who believe they can accomplish complex tasks. They tend to view their objective as part of the group as a mission to seek out new information, to discover new ways of doing business and to venture where no other team has ventured before. This type of person wants to take on as much as possible, to change as much as possible and to totally re‑engineer the business often using new and advanced technology. The problem is that the organization may not be ready for such drastic changes. The intent of this type of participants is good but the facilitator must rein in this person by directing questions to all of the other participants. The facilitator should determine if the ideas in the discussion are realistic and achievable within the boundaries and the budget of the project scope. The facilitator should involve the team in determining the direction of the conversation rather than trying to cut off the discussion point.
Snowball: This type of participants likes to continually add one more item to the discussion. They usually say, "While we are doing that, let's also do this..." The difference between a blue sky and a snow ball participant is that the blue sky participant will talk about doing everything at once, while the snow ball participant adds one thing at a time. This technique can add quite a bit to the discussion points over the course of the meeting. The facilitator needs to recognize that the added item identified in this manner is not directly part of the effort. The facilitator should validate with the group if the discussion point is within the team's scope and a part of the team's objectives.
Wanderers: This type of participant likes to meander during their discussion point or talk about something that is not related to the topic nor follows the dialogue that was in progress. Wanderers enjoy tangents and digressions. They tend to begin to speak before they have thought out their ideas. The facilitator must stop the wanderer before too much time has been wasted and/or as soon as the facilitator recognizes that the discussion point is not relevant to the topic. The facilitator should consider if it is a digression or not in order to get back to the topic. Often these points can be put on a "parking lot" to stop the discussion and return to the points at hand.
Philosophers: This type of participant likes to inject academics into each discussion topic. This person's language skills are advanced and often speak using a large vocabulary of difficult and often unrecognizable words. Participants who are more practical will find it difficult to work with the philosopher. The facilitator will need to rephrase, or summarize, what the philosopher has said in order for all the participants to comprehend the discussion point. The facilitator needs to verify with the group if the ideas expressed in the discussion point are practical and feasible for the organization. The facilitator must not allow the philosopher to carry‑on without the idea being documented in the group memory.
Conversers: These participants are usually more social and tend to seek out other participants who share the same characteristics. Most of the ideas they express are not related directly to the topic, although it may appear that way as they begin their discussion. They are similar to the wanderer, who also like tangents and digressions. However, they are not as far off from the topics as the wanderers are. The facilitator needs to listen to the converser's idea, assess if it relates to the topic and limit that person's time to speak. The facilitator should determine their ideas are a part of the topic or relate to something else. The facilitator must monitor this person's contributions more closely than others in order to keep the other participants from becoming frustrated with what appears to be unnecessary and time wasting discussions.
Devil's Advocates: This person is always negative when expressing their ideas. They tend to state that things will never work, that things can't be done or that the technology is too complex. These pessimistic people can become a real downer to the other participants because they will be viewed as being against the rest of the team. The facilitator must request that this person keeps an open mind to the ideas that are expressed and only when there is a negative aspect that others haven't identified, should they point this aspect out. This type of person can become very harmful to the overall team's motivation. Too much negativism can turn the meeting process into a frustrating experience for all participants.
Followers: These people like to follow the lead of the others, especially others from their own department. They always align themselves with their manager or an influential person in the group. They are always in agreement with that person and are reluctant to express their personal view. This may be due to previous experiences when having been in meetings with their manager or this influential person. The facilitator needs to recognize that this person is continually repeating what others have said and should try to ask a specific question that will enable them to express what they really feel about the topic. The facilitator may need to stand between the follower and his/her manager to block his/her view.