Have you ever met someone who seemed really exciting to be around and exuded energy and confidence? These kinds of people are not always the most talented or intelligent people but they are often the people who end up being the most successful. How did they get to be this way?
I currently work for an excellent leader in my company who exhibits these traits.
I have found something amazing about this particular leader. Even though he asks me to do more work and has higher standards for the work that I do, I still like working for him more than some other leaders in the company! I am more willing to do extra work for him and will even think about projects he gives me in off hours because of the motivation and energy he brings to our team.
I have put into practice many of the traits that I see in this leader and have been amazed at how helpful they have been in my personal success and in motivating others to succeed as well. Three of those traits have stood out as the most important ones to me.
Make a Personal Connection
This is incredibly important. To be successful in almost any field you need to make a personal connection with the people you work with. Think about it: how much easier is it to ask from someone if you have made a good personal connection? These kinds of personal connections are best done in person but can also be done in a phone conversation. Here are some tips:
- Ask the person what they do for fun because if you can get them talking about their interests they will associate you with the activity they enjoy
- Give people the sincere and deserved compliments to show that you notice their unique talents and contributions – a little of this goes a long way
- In conversations look for things you share in common in a positive way and emphasize those things when talking with them in the future
- Smile, make eye contact, speak boldly, and be confident in what you are saying
- Always dress and groom yourself to look your best and to be properly attired for the occasion
- Don’t be afraid to make a personal connection with people who are different from you in terms of gender, race, religion, and economic status – when you open your mind you will make new friends and allies
Stay Positive (and Avoid the Negative)
There is something invigorating about being in a positive environment. Boundaries seem to disappear and almost anything seems possible. In this environment, it is so much easier to be creative and to collaborate successfully. A positive environment fosters trust and honesty which leads to mutual understanding and progress towards a common goal.
I recently was involved in an initiative to improve a monthly process. Unfortunately, this process is performed as part of a meeting in front of senior leaders and had recently gone poorly. We had been tasked with improving the process by the next meeting and there was a strong sense of urgency from multiple levels of the organization to get it right. There was a potential for this to be a downward spiral of negativity involving blaming others, finding a scapegoat, making excuses, and generally bemoaning the process and meeting had gone so poorly.
However, I decided to look at this from the positive side of things. We had just been given an opportunity by management to assemble a cross-functional team and dedicate time and resources to improving a process which, if perfected, would benefit all of us. This was actually a great opportunity for everyone to benefit from improvements and also to get the credit for making something better.
I set up an early morning meeting with the relevant parties and immediately thanked them for coming and complimented them on the good ideas that they had brought to the meeting at my request.
This created a positive atmosphere at the start which is very important. Starting a meeting or special project with positive and encouraging comments is always helpful and sets the tone for the entire effort. This can also diffuse conflict if you can highlight significant contributions made by people who do not get along. This helps everyone see the value of contributions from others – even if they don’t like that person! Think about mixing in some humor in the positive comments. There’s nothing like sharing a brief laugh at the start of a meeting to diffuse tensions.
After opening the meeting with some positive comments I immediately pushed for feedback from the two people not directly involved with the process to get them talking and make them feel comfortable contributing to the discussion. After various comments from these individuals I championed the most helpful ones with the rest of the group by emphasizing the ways I felt these ideas would help. This made everyone feel more comfortable giving feedback as the tone of the meeting continued to be positive.
We quickly reached multiple helpful solutions. As more people offered ideas there was a level of trust and security established where honest (but still positive) feedback began to snowball. The momentum began to build and we ended up with an outline for all the process improvements that would ultimately become our last recommendation. We had one additional meeting to finalize and confirm our recommendations and we were finished!
When you stay positive and avoid the negative great things can happen. Making new friends and acquaintances is fun as well and can be valuable later. I made one new friend and one new acquaintance and deepened a couple of relationships in the meetings and those are important byproducts of team projects as well.
Never Give Up
Make a daily practice of being determined and never giving up. How many great and successful people make a habit of giving up when things get difficult? Some of the most successful people have also had a great many failures – but all on their way to success. Failures and missteps are often ways that we learn our most life-changing lessons.
And it isn’t always a failure or mistake that tempts us to give up. Sometimes it is a challenge that seems impossible and frightening.
I was recently given a special project to lead an investigation of senior leaders which would result in recommendations for costly and far-reaching process changes. This was all going to be communicated in a lengthy report and presented directly to my CEO and his boss! Not only that, I had to interview ten people – many of whom were my direct leaders! I was told this was a great opportunity but to not screw up. So no pressure!
I was very tempted to give up and throw in the towel. How was I going to interview senior leaders and determine what changes should be made? How was I going to present this to the CEO and his boss in a persuasive way? It was all very overwhelming.
But there was one thought that kept coming to my mind during the project and that was, “never give up.”
Every step of the process I just kept pushing forward and not giving up. When the investigation team hit resistance we never gave up. When one of the investigation team didn’t provide data for our presentation? Never give up.
Persistence pays off. We finished the investigation, presented our findings, and were finally told that we had done an excellent job.
Truly great things happen when you make good personal connections, stay positive, and never give up. Like many things in life, patient persistence pays off.
About the author: JH lives in the Mid-Atlantic region with his wife and children. He is a finance manager for a Fortune 500 Company with over 10 years experience and have an MBA and CPA. He writes for blog Patient wealth.