Adding the Five Percent

5_star_image_prefby James Hale,

In an interview with authors William Doyle and William Perkins, a successful partner in a management consulting firm credits attention to detail for her success.

She says, “I believe that battles are won and lost in the last five percent of detail.  Everybody gets the first 80%.  Most people get the first 95%.  What makes the difference is the people who get the last five percent.”

I can relate.  One day, a colleague of mine and I were partnering up to pitch a major training program to the General Manager of one of the largest hotels in the Southeast.  With over 900 employees, this was a big deal … for the GM and for us.

We put together our cost estimates, mapped out the series of classes we would offer, and projected the hotel’s return on the investment.

On a sunny summer day, my colleague and I walked into the GM’s office to make our presentation.   The GM was a surly, ‘numbers kind of guy,’ focused keenly on our ROI projections and the metrics we would use to measure project success.  With a furrowed brow, he put his hand on his chin and said, “There’s a lot of soft stuff in your proposal about training managers how to coach their staff and teaching staff to work as a team … what if we cut that out and focused on work flow, process streamlining, and maximizing efficiency?”

My brain started thinking about the edits we would need to make and how cutting out the content would reduce our time and therefore save on project cost.  After all, he’s the customer, right?  We need to deliver what he wants, right?  Before I could open my mouth to ask specific questions about the modifications, my colleague said, “No, that’s not an option.  This company was built as a family.  The founder made it feel that way.  He had a 5 star hotel that he was proud of and that was a place of dignity for the employees.  I looked you all up and you are not a 5 star hotel anymore.  You’re 3 stars.  3.5 at best.  Your performance has steadily slipped since the founder passed, and it is because of the degrading trust within this organization.   I ate at your restaurant last night and you could feel it in how the staff interacted.  Efficiency, work flow and process streamlining are the byproduct of an environment where managers coach well and people work together towards a common goal.  We cannot maximize the results of our training without the soft skills.  If you take that out, we are not the people to deliver the program.  We can’t be part of a company that doesn’t believe in teamwork and trust … that’s not how this empire was created.  It would be disrespectful to the founder and to the legacy he created.”

Then, there was the dramatic pause.  My mouth dropped open as I stared at my colleague.   I could have killed him.  This was too big of a project to be that forceful.  Sure, I was impressed with the boldness he had shown, but a major contract was on the line.

The meeting didn’t last long after that.

Then, in the elevator on the way down, my colleague told me about some research he had done.  He told me that  the hotel is family owned.  It was constructed by the father of the current owners.  He built the hotel floor by floor on a cash-flow system, building a new floor only when he had the funds to pay cash for the work.  An amazing man.  In addition to showing wise restrain in his money management, he had quite a reputation in the community because of the commitment to his church, his generosity to local charities, and his way of treating employees like they were family.  When my colleague ate in the restaurant the night before, his waitress talked about how this man gave her a chance when others wouldn’t because of her low education and her race.

We ended up getting the project, and the GM told us that the deciding factor was my colleague’s boldness … and because he had gone the extra mile in researching the history of the company.  He new the importance of the family legacy, and that made all the difference.

That’s what I mean about that last five percent:  attention to detail made a difference in the overall impression we left with that client.

Was it worth it?  I think so.   It’s that last five percent that separates the marginally successful people from those that will rise even higher.

When making an impression, go the extra mile by attending to the last 5%.

Five Truths: Part 5, Luck Favors the Prepared

Climb A MountainIn 2004, Pixar and Disney Studios released a brilliant movie called “The Incredibles.”  It was an animated film about a family of superheroes and their struggles to live in normal society.  There is a minor character in the film named Edna Mode.  Ms. Mode is a half-Japanese, half-German fashion designer specializing in custom-made outfits for superheroes. It is apparent that she feels infinitely superior to all other designers in the world and shows much disregard towards runway boutiques and modern fashion models.  She is very talented, overachieving, and a success in her special career niche.

Ms. Mode has several clever lines, but the one that applies to the job search is one she makes when questioned about all the flame-resistance, stretch ability, bullet-proof features, and attention to detail she provides in her designs, which her client views as unnecessary add-ons.  “Luck favors the prepared.”

Whether you call it divine intervention, attention to detail, or simply luck, the world provides advantages to those who invest time and attention to their life.  Whether it’s the job search, health of your relationships, or your dedication to what you are passionate about in life, more opportunities are presented to those who work to prepare themselves for the opportunities.  Luck does favor the prepared.

5 Truths: Part 4, Highly successful people are not hopeful…they are optimistic.

by James Hale, author of “Getting Seen”

You thought “hope” and “optimism” were the same? Just smile. They are not!

Oh, yes, they do have definite similarities, and in casual usage they are thought of as synonyms. After all, both hope and optimism are considered powerful emotions based on belief. Both anticipate a positive outcome for a situation. Both feed a desire for the future. But the similarity stops there.

Hope is passive; optimism is active. According to Dr. Emmett Miller, hope has an element of desire—we hope for things we want to happen and what we hope for is usually possible. (I hope Johnny gets the job.) Optimism has more of an element of confidence—we believe good will come from the situation, we believe good with triumph over evil in the end, or that our innate strengths will carry us through. (I know things will be okay even if Johnny doesn’t get this job.)

Optimism knows that things will be okay regardless of the outcome. If “hope” and “faith” had a baby, it would be named “optimism.”

Like gasoline fuels a car, optimism fuels our ability to solve problems and find creative solutions to life’s puzzles.

So how does this affect your job search? Hope has a trap. That trap is passivity. People who misuse hope feel they have no personal control over a situation. People who draw energy from hoping for success often fail to take complete action because they rely instead on simply wishing for the best. They trust that hope will fill in the voids from their limited efforts. They sometimes then simply accept their lot in life and do not take action to help themselves … even when they could.

Optimism is very different. The strength of optimism is that not only does it keep us moving toward the things we desire, it also enables us to let go of the situation if our desired outcome is not realized. Without this motion toward a positive outcome and the ability to let go when reality falls short of our dreams, we tend towards depression, despair, apathy, and helplessness. We give up.

But there is more. Like gasoline fuels a car, optimism fuels our ability to solve problems and find creative solutions to life’s puzzles. When your career path gets steep and rough—when you have those extended periods when no one returns your calls or responds to your resume—optimism helps you see the footholds and the shortcuts. If you cultivate optimism in a way that keeps you in action and keeps you focused on what you can do to influence the outcomes you desire, success will be achieved.

When something bad happens to you, like a layoff or struggles in the job search, it will always do one of three things to you:

  • It will define you, so that you identify yourself by the condition (I am unemployed).
  • It will destroy you (by creating bad habits like isolating yourself from those closest to you)
  • It will feed you power and strengthen you.

People who are naturally optimistic are masters of the latter.  If you are not naturally optimistic, here is a checklist on optimism from Optimist International. See where you are succeeding and where you might improve:

 To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

 To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

 To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

 To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

 To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.

 To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

 To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

 To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

 To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

Truths #3 of 5: You Need Help

by James Hale,

80 – 90 % of job openings are filled by people who knew someone within the company to put in a good word for them.  Chances are you have landed a job in the past based on who you knew.

Sample resume formatTechnical skills alone will not get you job offers.  You need friends, coaches, mentors, colleagues, family, and a nice mix of people who recognize your potential and want to help you succeed.  Maybe PathChoices can be one of the people to help you on your career path.  Regardless, there is no doubt that you cannot succeed by yourself.  No success in Hollywood, politics, or the business world did so alone.  You must surround yourself with people who help you learn, grow, and flourish.  Think of all the coaches and managers that surround the big name Hollywood stars and the great business talent.  The most successful people have surrounded themselves with an “inner circle” of 8 – 20 people who can help them.  The road to success is rarely traveled alone.

And while you are surrounding yourself with people who can help you, keep an eye open for people you can help.  The world is packed with both children and adults who do not recognize their gifts or potential. They have never had anyone who believed in them.  A few of them will succeed in life, but many others will fail because no one invested in them.

At any time, there should be at least one person in your life whom you invest in with confidential discussion, productive advice, and genuine encouragement.  This person should be someone you are not required to help and who cannot offer you any assistance as a payback.  There should be nothing for you in the relationship.  It should be a selfless, giving act on your part.  It should come from the heart, even if you do not want to and you need to force it just a little.

Work is a social undertaking.  No one achieves success in their career without the help of others.  Find someone whom you admire and take them out to lunch once a month to pick their brain.  Hire a coach who will be totally honest in encouraging you and helping you see your blind spots.  Get to know people who work for the business you want to work for.  Chances are, the next giant step on your career path will come from one of these three sources.

Truths # 2 of 5: You CANNOT be Anything You Want to in Life.

by James Hale,

No, you cannot be anything you want to be in life.

That is a lie told by well-meaning parents who want their kids to dream big and achieve greatness.  The reality is there are limits and restrictions on your potential.  One of these limitations is your natural skills and talents.  There are some skills—perhaps reading or math or caring for others or an ability to focus quietly—that come easy to you.  Maybe you have chosen to work on refining these natural gifts into perfected talents, or maybe you are like most of us and fallen a little short in this effort.  Regardless, these seeds must be watered and nourished if they are to grow.  Get to work perfecting your natural gifts.

That’s your natural gifts.  But there are other skills that are not as natural for you.  These areas can limit your options in choosing a career, and they can be your downfall in the job search.  For example, the brilliant yet introverted mathematician who cannot deal with people makes a lousy teacher, if he does not deal with his shortcoming.  Similarly, the extroverted people-person who lacks the discipline to master mathematics also becomes a lousy teacher, if he does not try to control skills that do not come naturally.  Recognize that you are set free by your natural skills, but limited by those that are not as developed in you.

But raw skill is not the only variable affecting your ability to choose your profession.  You are also either empowered or restricted by your finances, your network of support from family and friends, and the unique opportunities that come your way every day.  You cannot simple “will” your way into a job by raw desire.  And no matter how hard you work at achieving career goals, some will simply stay beyond your grasp.  When I was in school at Western Kentucky University I worked hard to be the Geologist Senior of the Year.  I was a lab assistant, I volunteered to help teachers outside of class, I tutored people who were struggling in geology, and I studied nightly into the wee hours.  I got the highest grades in the class on nearly all my tests … and I came in second.  Similarly, everyday thousands of talented, brilliantly gifted kids work tirelessly to become the next music superstar … but only one person can hold this spot.  You must live YOUR life, recognizing that you will not have the opportunities provided to others.

James Hale is the author of "Quiet Spaces"

James Hale is the author of "Quiet Spaces"

You cannot be anything you want to in life … but the reality is even better.  You have been placed on earth for a unique purpose … with unique skills  … at a unique place … at a unique time.  You cannot be anything, but you can be one thing better than anyone else.  Better than anyone!  That’s because you have a truly unique skill set and completely unique opportunities that no one else will have.  Just like you may not be able to be the next President of the United States, the next president cannot be you … even if he or she tried.  The opportunities come your way every day, but they are usually subtle and you have to look carefully for them.  They reside in the manager you walk by every day, but never talk to.  The back-to-school scholarship you never looked for on the web.  The on-line degree taught by the university half-way around the world. The article in the newspaper about a community problem.  Or the difficulties that a friend or coworker is facing.

Look for YOUR opportunities.  YOU can serve YOUR purpose like no one else because of the unique combinations of abilities you have, the unique lessons your life experiences have taught you, and the unique opportunities that will be presented to you and no one else.  Successful people focus on the short-term opportunities around them, rather than the vague dreams that can never be realized.

Coming up next: Truth 3:  highly successful people have help.

Five Truths: Part 1

by James Hale, author of “Quiet Spaces: Hearing God’s Call in a Noisy World”

“…think of the power a mosquito has trapped in your bedroom.”

Truth # 1 of 5:  You are endowed with the seeds of greatness … made in God’s image

Your power is much greater than you think.  Sure you have limitations, but you also have some tremendous strengths that you may take for granted. If you accept the fact that you were born for greatness, you will be surprised how you can control your own destiny.

Find that place deep within your heart where you know you where hardwired to succeed.  If you do not know where to look, it is that tiny spot buried under the busy-ness of modern day life and all the difficulties that have come your way recently. Find the spot, dust it off, and take a look. You know it is there. It has just been neglected for a while. It’s time to clean it up and give it some attention.

Seeds of GreatnessOnce you recognize the truth that you were born for greatness, ACT like the great person you know you were meant to be. Start getting your health under control. Pour some energy into the people around you. Set a goal for yourself. Start reading or learning or becoming an expert at something.

If these are all too tough for you at the moment, start by controlling some simple behaviors. Consciously put a spring in your step. Hold your head high when you walk. Look people directly in the eye and when they talk listen to them not just with your ears, but with your eyes and your heart. Introduce yourself first to new people you meet. Smile. Be a little bold in your speech by talking first and saying things that put a high energy positive spin on the conversation. These are the behaviors of a person who is born to win.

You need these behaviors even if you have to fake them at first. If you start to ACT like you believe in yourself, you will start to FEEL like you believe in yourself. When you start to act bold and confident and optimistic, you will draw people in, which will give you power. When people give you this power, you turn their expectations into reality by becoming the person they think you are… a person of greatness.

You may have self-doubt that makes you feel small at times, but think of the power a mosquito has trapped in your bedroom.  Despite its tiny size, the mosquito rules all.  You can rule your entire destiny and consciously alter your future … by a simple personal choice to succeed.

Because of this great potential, you must accept responsibility for all your actions.  You must consciously choose what thoughts to let grow in your mind.  You must act with graciousness and bold action.  Be aware of the self-doubt and the worries, but do not let these thoughts take root in your mind.  Instead, focus on turning positive, optimistic thoughts into tangible, concrete actions. When you have no time to entertain negative thoughts, no one will be able to stop you. You will constantly push on when you encounter setbacks, because you truly were designed to succeed. Like the world champ Muhammad Ali said, “It’s hard to beat someone who never gives up.” Your job search starts with the recognition that you were endowed with the seeds of greatness.

I save truth 2 for next time, but I’ll give you the title:  You CANNOT be anything you want to in life.

The Mustn’ts

Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.

Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the lmpossibles, the Won’ts.

Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.

Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

-Shel Silverstein

I remember my daughter climbing on my knee as I read her this poem. I talked to her about how life was wide open for her–full of choices and options. She hung on every word. I told her she could be anything she wants when she grows up. She listened intensely. I told her how achieving greatness is a decision, rather than a circumstance. She believed me.

 

Opportunities

Opportunities

And then I thought how I had just lied to my little girl. Her warmth in my arms, and I thought of the lie fresh off my lips. I thought about how, for all of us, “anything” is bound and chained by reality. The reality is that we have mental and physical limitations, and we have limitations of opportunity.

 

I thought how, for many of us, life has laid opportunities in our path that are not available to others … opportunities to have good families and sound employment.  Opportunities that have spared us getting news at the doctor that no one wants to hear.  Opportunities to live in a country where we do not have to worry about things like roadside bombs.

 

And in the same manner others have opportunities we can only dream of.  And no matter how much we may want to, we can never have the opportunities for fame or fortune or whatever opportunities God has selected to bypass us and fall in the laps of our neighbors. It seems we are dealt certain cards in life, and we are prohibited from handpicking through the deck.

 

Back to the poem … I let the lie rest with Rachael. I never corrected it, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because the dream is so much more appealing than the reality. Maybe it was because I was embarrassed that I had been told the same story and could never pull it off.  Whatever the reason, I’ve thought about this poem and my daughter a lot lately.  I’ve thought about how life is about hope, and hope is about convincing people that “anything can be … ” I’ve thought about kids with cancer, child rape, school lockdowns in Frankfort, school shootings in Ohio, and famous stars of Hollywood who have taken their own lives because behind the glamor and fame, life was just too hard.  I’ve thought of how 60% of the adult population is on prescription antidepressants.  I’ve thought of the burdens carried by hard workers caught in the cross hairs of a corporate downsizing.  I’ve thought of bullying at school … and I’ve thought of a million other problems I do not know how to fix.

 

It makes me sad.  But then I think of what Paul Harvey used to call, “The rest of the story.”  How I cannot be anything … without limitations … but I can be one thing very well.  I think of how, with all the people with all these problems, I get opportunities to live my faith each and every day.  Each day I get opportunities to be the Good Samaritan.  We all do.

 

The opportunity to be a Good Samaritan is not something far in the distance … it is at my doorstep.  You know the opportunities.  You see them in the eyes of the Walmart clerk.  You hear them hiding behind the words as a kid talks about school.  You sense them in the overweight coworker who just cannot loose the weight.

 

How great it is that our options are limited.  How wonderful it is that we can help carry a little bit of the load for friends and neighbors.  If that doesn’t open a world of possibilities, I don’t know what does.

Happy, Thankful and Awed

I have a personal mission statement for my life.  Hokey… yes.  Academic… just a little.  Trite and frivolous… no way.

You see, my mission statement pushes me to live my life and to view things in a particular way…in a way that I have consciously chosen to look at things.  A realist by nature and downright pessimistic at times, the life view demanded by my mission statement is completely different than how I would naturally look at things.  This mission statement forces me in a direction that is uniquely different from the way I would approach life on autopilot.

My mission statement is a bit of intentional dreaming I did years ago under one of my mentors, Tricia Thurman.  Tricia taught me that personal mission statements should capture the type of person we want to be, which for me was a long distance away from the type of person I was.

I wrote my mission statement as part of a class, and then reviewed it and edited it daily until it seemed right.  It took me three week of off-and-on thinking to craft my mission statement, and the months and years following were perhaps the happiest time of my life.  Everything I did, everything I saw, and everything I felt snuggled warmly against my newfound mission.  For the first time, all of life seemed to fit together, like a jigsaw puzzle with no missing pieces.

But then life got busy, two more kids came along, my mother-in-law got Alzheimer’s, my father-in-law died, my dad died, and for some reason I forgot my mission.  I started to withdraw.  Life for me grew darker…not bad, just darker.

Out of the blue, my mission statement popped into my head the other day.  I don’t know why it did.  I was just driving down the road and I guess my mind wandered.  (Thank you, wandering mind.)  Since then, my view of life has been a little clearer, my work has been a bit more productive, and I have seen a joy I haven’t noticed in quite some time.  Welcome back, mission statement.  I’ve missed you.

I know the path to your mission will be different than mine.  I know it won’t take you three weeks…it may be shorter or perhaps longer.  But I also know you will be happier if you spend the intentional time deciding what type of person you want to be when you grow up.

Post your mission statements on this blog, and let me know the process you went through to get to yours.  We’ll all grow from sharing our experiences.

James Hale—MISSION STATEMENT:  Happy with my life, thankful for my gifts, and awed by inspirations from those around me.

You can be anything you want in life. So not true!

Got Purpose?

“You can be anything you want in life.”

That is a lie told by well-meaning parents who want their kids to dream big and achieve greatness.  The reality is there are limits and restrictions on your potential.  One of these limitations is your natural skills and talents.  There are some skills—perhaps reading or math or caring for others or an ability to focus quietly—that come easy to you.  Maybe you have chosen to work on refining these natural gifts into perfected talents, or maybe you are like most of us and fallen a little short in this effort.  Regardless, these seeds must be watered and nourished if they are to grow.  Get to work perfecting your natural gifts.

That’s your natural gifts.  But there are other skills that are not as natural for you.  These areas can limit your options in choosing a career, and they can be your downfall in the job search.  For example, the brilliant yet introverted mathematician who cannot deal with people makes a lousy teacher, if he does not deal with his shortcoming.  Similarly, the extroverted people-person who lacks the discipline to master mathematics also becomes a lousy teacher, if he does not try to control skills that do not come naturally.  Recognize that you are set free by your natural skills, but limited by those that are not as developed in you.

But raw skill is not the only variable affecting your ability to choose your profession.  You are also either empowered or restricted by your finances, your network of support from family and friends, and the unique opportunities that come your way every day.  You cannot simple “will” your way into a job by raw desire.  And no matter how hard you work at achieving career goals, some will simply stay beyond your grasp.

When I was in school at Western Kentucky University I worked hard to be the Geologist Senior of the Year.  I was a lab assistant, I volunteered to help teachers outside of class, I tutored people who were struggling in geology, and I studied nightly into the wee hours.  I got the highest grades in the class on nearly all my tests … and I came in second.  Similarly, every day thousands of talented, brilliantly gifted kids work tirelessly to become the next music superstar … but only one person can hold this spot.  You must live YOUR life, recognizing that you will not have the opportunities provided to others.

You cannot be anything you want to in life…but the reality is even better.  You have been placed on earth for a unique purpose… with unique skills…at a unique place…at a unique time.  You cannot be anything, but you can be one thing better than anyone else.  Better than anyone!  That’s because you have a truly unique skill set and completely unique opportunities that no one else will have.  Just like you may not be able to be the next President of the United States, the next president cannot be you … even if he or she tried.

The opportunities come your way every day, but they are usually subtle and you have to look carefully for them.  They reside in the manager you walk by every day, but never talk to.  The back-to-school scholarship you never looked for on the web.  The online degree taught by the university half-way around the world. The article in the newspaper about a community problem.  Or the difficulties that a friend or co-worker is facing.

Look for YOUR opportunities.  YOU can serve YOUR purpose like no one else because of the unique combinations of abilities you have, the unique lessons your life experiences have taught you, and the unique opportunities that will be presented to you and no one else. Successful people focus on the short-term opportunities around them, rather than the vague dreams that can never be realized.

Endowed with the Seeds of Greatness

Seeds of GreatnessYour power is much greater than you think.  Sure you have limitations, but you also have some tremendous strengths that you may take for granted.  After all, you have been made in God’s image.  If you accept the fact that you were born for greatness, you will be surprised how you can control your own destiny.

Find that place deep within your heart where you know you where hardwired to succeed.  If you do not know where to look, it is that tiny spot buried under the busy-ness of modern day life and all the difficulties that have come your way recently.  Find the spot, dust it off, and take a look.  You know it is there.  It has just been neglected for a while.  It’s time to clean it up and give it some attention.

Once you recognize the truth that you were born for greatness, ACT like the great person you know you were meant to be.  Start getting your health under control.  Pour some energy into the people around you.  Set a goal for yourself.  Start reading or learning or becoming an expert at something.  Inch your way toward getting out of debt.

If these are all too tough for you at the moment, start by controlling some simple behaviors.  Consciously put a spring in your step.  Hold your head high when you walk.  Look people directly in the eye and when they talk listen to them not just with your ears, but with your eyes and your heart.  Introduce yourself first to new people you meet.  Smile.  Be a little bold in your speech by talking first and saying things that put a high energy positive spin on the conversation.  These are the behaviors of a person who is born to win.

You need these behaviors even if you have to fake them at first.  If you start to ACT like you believe in yourself, you will start to FEEL like you believe in yourself.  When you start to act bold and confident and optimistic, you will draw people in, which will give you power.  When people give you this power, you turn their expectations into reality by becoming the person they think you are  … a person of greatness.

You may have self-doubt that makes you feel small at times, but think of the power a mosquito has trapped in your bedroom.  Despite its tiny size, the mosquito rules all.  You can rule your entire destiny and consciously alter your future…by a simple personal choice to succeed.

Because of this great potential, you must accept responsibility for all your actions.  You must consciously choose what thoughts to let grow in your mind.  You must act with graciousness and bold action.  Be aware of the self-doubt and the worries, but do not let these thoughts take root in your mind.  Instead, focus on turning positive, optimistic thoughts into tangible, concrete actions.   When you have no time to entertain negative thoughts, no one will be able to stop you.  You will constantly push on when you encounter setbacks, because you truly were designed to succeed.  Like the world champ Mohammad Ali said, “It’s hard to beat someone who never gives up.”   Your job search starts with the recognition that you were endowed with the seeds of greatness.