We’re usually wrong about people.

Mighty Google once surveyed tens of thousands of interviewers and interviewees, tracking the way one scored the other and then how the candidate eventually performed–and as we learned yesterday, there was “zero relationship” between the interview scores and on-the-job performance.

Turns out we’re just as bad at hiring as we are at dating.

But why are we so easily fooled?

As Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck coauthor Anthony K. Tjan observes on the Harvard Business Review website, we often grope after obvious signals of who a person is, though such “extrinsic markers” leave ham-fisted first impressions: net worth, social status, titles, academic scores, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, dietary preferences, resume font, facial symmetry.

But these markers, he cautions, don’t tell the whole story: They miss out on the more subtle traits that make up a person’s character (and whether they end up in jail).

You can teach skills.” Tjan quips, “Character and attitude, not so much.”

Since these character traits are finer signals–the why and how that drive their actions–you need to tune in more closely to pick them up. Tjan’s full post breaks down 10 tips. We’ll take a few in depth here.

Do they listen or talk?

One of the best ways to become a hate-fetching boss is to interrupt everybody all the time. But this issue is higher than the higher-ups. Though we know the loudest people aren’t the smartest–Tjan says you want people who aren’t afraid to express their views.

But if they’re talking more than 60 percent of the time, he says, you need to ask why:

Is it because this person is self-important and not interested in learning from others–or just because he is nervous and rambling?

Who are their people?

Sage-in-residence Warren Buffett says that one of the keys to growing your professional life is to associate with first-class people.

Similarly, Tjan reports that a key to getting a super-important hire right is to go out with their spouse, partner, or close friend–the company they keep will predict the company they’ll be.

How do they treat the cab driver?

Relatedly, Tjan says to cast a keen eye on to how a person treats those they barely know: Do they banter with the barista, cackle with the cab driver, warble with the waiter–or ignore them or treat them like crap? This will signal their kindness and empathy–two leadership keys–or if they’re emotional vampires. Which kind of person would you want to put your stake in?

Is struggle a part of their story?

During their research on Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck, Tjan and his coauthors found an nonobvious predictor of entrepreneurial success: some sort of resilience-breeding hardship earlier in life. He explains:

“Around two-thirds of people who were ‘Guts-dominant’–those who had the desire to initiate and the ability to persevere (so crucial in entrepreneurial ventures)–had some financial hardship or other challenges in their formative years.”


What’s the lesson? “Early failures and hardships shape one’s character as much or more than early successes,” Tjan observes. Or, as Sartre said, freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you–and whether, as a result, you treat everybody like a jerk or like a friend, whether you’re an indispensable resource or a reprehensible asshole.



How Young Entrepreneurs Can Rein in Their ‘Toxic’ Emotions

When it comes to dealing with toxic emotions and overheated outbursts, few have more stories than Ken Lindner.

As agent to media personalities like the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, Mario Lopez of Saved By the Bell fame and Dateline‘s Lester Holt, Lindner has soothed his fair share of flared tempers.

He even wrote a book about his experience. In the newly released Your Killer Emotions (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013), Lindner offers advice about how to keep one’s feelings in check and avoid making decisions based on toxic emotions — key skills for startup founders and CEOs alike.

So what then is the proper way to diffuse an emotionally-charged startup environment?   Here are Lindner’s top tips:

Always have a goal in mind.
What it is that you need to accomplish with every interaction? By having a mission, it is less likely that emotions will cloud your best judgment.

Don’t make decisions when emotional.
Never make an important business decision when you are overwhelmed with emotions. Step away, take some time to cool off and think about what you need to accomplish. Then figure out what steps you need to achieve it.

Think about the consequence before you act.
If you do something that appears improper, the consequences can be horrible. “When you think about how it can set you back — how it could be career derailing, how it could impact your family, your livelihood, your reputation — it could make you stop dead in your tracks,” says Lindner. Instead, focus on the positive consequences and let those propel you to make great decisions.

Delay gratification.
Often times, we opt for a quick fix to make us feel good in the moment, such as yelling or retaliating, but hastily reacting isn’t usually best for us in the long term. Remain disciplined and devise a plan of attack.

Communicate, calmly and frequently.
It’s important that when there is a problem with someone to sit down and talk about it.  Seeing where the other person is coming from, will hopefully cause your anger to dissipate and allow for a common ground to be met. Plus, when you, as a young entrepreneur, take the time to understand an employee or colleague’s point, they are more likely to respect you, says Lindner.

If it’s you, change.
If you’re continually flying off the handle or a particular behavior is generating bad results, you may need to modify your approach or eliminate the problematic behavior. While easier said than done, you may need to admit you are the problem and then take steps to correct it.

Get to know your personal triggers.
Often when people hear the word “trigger,” they view it in a negative connotation. While this can be true, these triggers can also deliver positive consequences. As Lindner states, these triggers are “things that move you the most to make positive decisions.” Once identified, keep those in the back of your head when confronted with tense work environments.

If you mess up, learn from your mistakes.
Failure is a gift,” Lindner says. “It teaches you what you still need to work on.” If you screwed up and you’re acting inappropriately, you need to acknowledge you made a mistake and not get defensive. “There is nothing wrong with failure. But hopefully you go back to the drawing board and you shore up on the things you need to work on.”

How did you handle emotionally charged situations at your startup?

Please share your experience below.


10 Ways To Inspire Your Team

At the same time, leaders are trying to make their employees feel more secure in order to keep the ship afloat, aware that if too much disruption leaks out into the workplace, there is risk of losing top-talent which is difficult and costly to replace.     In this ever changing workplace terrain, leaders need to think differently about how to keep their teams on track.  They must become more intuitive; diverting from the traditional ways of leading that have become too predictable and uninspiring.

Many leaders are out of touch and disconnected from their employees, focusing solely on their own personal agendas.   This is most evident in leaders that still try to use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to earn trust, build loyalty and stimulate team and individual performance.

Leaders must understand that in today’s new workplace, there does not exist a single recipe to encourage employees to perform better.   Rather, it’s about how to maximize the ingredients in order to create hundreds of recipes that are customized and authentic; that provide long-term continuity and impact.    To get you started, here are ten ways to inspire teams to optimally perform.

1.  Solving, Not Just Selling

Stop selling your employees about why they need to perform better.  Explain why their contributions help solve problems and contribute to the company’s advancement.  Employees are more inclined to step up their game when they know their work can add-value to the healthier whole.

For example, I would always show my team the outcome of their collected efforts.   We would go to the manufacturing plant and watch a new product on the production line or to the stores to see new label designs  on the shelves.   Inspire performance by connecting the dots of your employees’ efforts.

It’s not only about what you are trying to sell, but also what the team is able to solve along the way.

2.  Purpose, Not Just Profit

Employees are inspired by knowing that their hard work  makes a difference beyond profitability.  Employees want leaders who see beyond the obvious and look to create wider reaching impact that extends into the community and influences social causes.

Look what IKEA did in 1995, after they discovered that some of the factories that manufactured and sold carpets to IKEA were exploiting child labor.  Founder Ingvar Kamprad and his IKEA executives immediately took action, addressing the problem from within and taking all steps necessary to ensure that an IKEA product never again would be created by manufacturers that exploited children. IKEA then solidified its commitment to eradicate the problem at its root. The company partnered withUNICEF to create a program to help prevent child labor by changing the conditions that lead to child labor in the first place, namely: poverty, hunger, and illiteracy.  Today, this same program serves more than five hundred villages in India’s Carpet Belt, an area with a population in excess of 1.3 million.

3.  Know the Ingredients, Not Just the Recipe

The secret recipe to inspiring employees is to know the “ingredients” of the people you are inspiring.  People want to know that their leaders understand their tendencies, aptitudes and behaviors well-enough to best work with and motivate them.   The best leaders and coaches always do.

When you spend time with your employees, make it matter.   Don’t just expect your time and title to inspire them.    Employees want a leader that pays attention and genuinely cares about them.

Great leaders take the time to know the ingredients before they can create the best recipe for success.   Employees are most inspired when a leader takes the time to know them and show that they have their best interests at heart.

Leaders that know how to prepare thousands of recipes are those who continually make the ingredients better – and keep them from spoiling.

4.  Learning, Not Just Lecturing

Employees are tired of being told what to do.   They are eager to learn and remain relevant.   But they find it difficult to be inspired by leaders who only inflict fear.    In today’s fast-paced world, people don’t have time for lectures; they want continuous coaching and leaders that are paying attention.  Eager to grow, they want objective feedback.

Simplify the process.  Don’t exhaust your employees through complexity and buzz-words.    People seek direction that is too the point.  Remember, most people have mastered the art of execution.  Let your employee do their jobs well by providing the right tools and support to make them better at carrying out their roles & responsibilities.  Be a great teacher, but quickly shift into facilitator mode.   People are inspired when given the opportunity to learn how to do new things. Stop lecturing and start teaching.

5.  Innovation, Not Just Ideation

Employees want to create impact.  Allow them to be part of the innovation-based projects in your company by letting them get their hands dirty.    Ideation is important, but being part of implementing the ideas that come to life can be a more exciting and meaningful growth opportunity for your employees that will inspire them to perform.

Additionally, provide your employees the resources to be innovative in their work.   Stay close enough to your employees’ activities to know the 2 or 3 tools  and/or resources that  each would require to take their performance to the next level.

When given the right tools and resources, the best employees will instinctively challenge themselves to be more innovative in their work – and will perform better.    That is why incentives inspire performance – but remember that money alone is not the sustainable answer.   Focus on giving your employees the opportunities to elevate their individual value while serving the needs of the company.

Allow innovation to inspire performance.

6.  Significance, Not Just Success

Helping your employees to be successful is important, but not inspiring enough in itself.  People want much more out of their leaders and if you can activate the natural talents of your employees in ways that make them feel more responsible about their jobs, you will be inspiring something that is more significant – and has longer lasting impact.

The next time you conduct an employee performance review, evaluate each performance in two areas:  success and significance.   Let’s say that “sales” is a performance category – and your employee has performed at 90% of plan.  That’s good.   After you discuss what is required to reach 100% of plan, measure the significance of the sales generated.  For example, perhaps reaching 90% of plan generated enough revenue to hire 5 more people or contributed to a particular community outreach plan as a result of a local market push.  You never know the significance of someone’s performance until you measure it; and when you do, it’s an effective way to inspire even greater performance.

7.  Ownership, Not Just Accountability

Enforcing accountability is a key component to sustaining performance momentum. However, when you can give your employees “ownership” in the process of defining how accountability is enforced – you inspire trust and a desire to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Giving your employees ownership means that you have shared and entrust them with your authority.   You are now allowing your employees to “call the shots” based on what they believe is in the best interest of the team and the organization.    For example, create a special project and allow an employee to take ownership of it.   Outline your expectations for the end-result, but allow him or her to take charge of the project.  Agree to meet once-a-week and observe the change in attitude and desire to perform.     Use the results and what you learned along the way about the employee as a means to customize your approach to best inspire that employee’s performance long-term.   Again, this is a great way to learn more about “the ingredients” as noted in point #3.

8.  Respect, Not Just Recognition

Beyond appreciation and praise, show your respect and admiration for the work of your employees.  While people want to know they are respected, you must establish the ground rules for how respect is earned.

There are too many recognition addicts in the workplace.  In a world of fierce competition, we have come to believe we are our own best allies. We believe we must rely only on ourselves. We believe we can sell ourselves better than anyone else.  But this attitude puts our long-term careers in danger.

Unfortunately, too many people want recognition because they forgot thesignificantly greater value of earning respect.   Re-train your employees about the importance of respect and lead them in how to earn it.  When they see the greater impact respect delivers, they will be inspired by your example.

9.  Personal Growth, Not Just Responsibility

Historically, leaders have used “increased responsibility” to inspire performance.    While this approach may still have merit, it is when a leader can help foster the professional growth and development of their employees that performance most flourishes.    Leaders must take more time to mentor and / or guide their employee’s development and growth.

Encourage networking opportunities and performance development forums.  If the budget gets cut,– put your money where your mouth is.  For example, purchase copies of a book that you believe will help your employees advance and grow in their work.

Phil Jackson, former basketball coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls, has won 11 NBA championships – the most in history.   Jackson became known for giving each one of his players a specific book that would help the player be a better teammate, decision-maker, leader, etc. on the basketball court.

10.  Trust, Not Just Transparency

Ultimately, it is a relationship based on trust that inspires employees to perform.   When you are mindful of managing and concurrently implementing points #1 – #9 this will certainly jump-start your ability to earn trust with your employees and inspire their performance.  When you trust someone, you believe in them.   People are inspired when they know that their leaders believe in their capabilities to deliver.

As a young executive, I had a boss that I trusted, not only because he was transparent with me – but more importantly because he believed in me.   He created an environment that helped me grow and prosper.   For example, he assigned the most significant corporate growth strategies to my team and me.   This level of trust inspired us to perform not only for the sake of seizing the unique opportunity that was given to us – but equally to prove to those above my boss that it was the right decision for the organization.    We wanted our boss to earn respect and recognition for the bold decision he made to place such a significant amount of trust on the youngest leader and team in the organization – and not to let him down.

Inspiring employees to optimally perform requires a leader who can see beyond the obvious in people.  Inspiration comes not from something that you turn on and off, but rather   from constant behavior – triggered through multiple ways – that makes your employees feel that they matter and that you genuinely care.


7 Tips for Relating Better as a Leader

I have said many times that if you want to know the effectiveness of a leader, then ask those who are led. This is because there is no perfect assessment, no bright-line test for what makes a leader effective, and no model that can perfectly determine great leadership. We all know of examples of leaders who excelled in one environment and failed in another, as well as leaders who were average in one organization and proved spectacular in a new role. One of the factors explaining this phenomenon is that leadership is a relational skill; it is about how you interact with others. Sometimes we relate well, and other times not so well, but how we relate is always having an impact on our leadership effectiveness.

So how then can we relate more effectively as leaders? Here are 7 simple steps for improving your ability to do so:

1. Express genuine care and concern. Odds are, unless you are some kind of misanthrope (in which case I am surprised you are reading this article), you have some level of care and concern for those you work with. Expressing that professionally will help you relate well. Ask “What are the issues you are facing with this assignment?” and then listen attentively to the answer. Asking questions about the impact of something and focusing intently on the answer is one of your best methods for developing quality relationships.

2. Establish high standards. When you set expectations with those you work with and establish that your criteria for success are at a level of excellence, you communicate value. Belief in someone’s ability to produce quality output will forge a connection based on performance. Think about a time when someone expressed a belief in you to achieve at a high level.

3. Bring in the perspective of others. Ask people what their opinion is and share your interest in the views of others. This will allow you to increase the opportunity of others to contribute to discussion and provide value. This is particularly helpful if someone is shy or reticent to share their opinions, and does wonders for developing a participative team dynamic.

4. Share relevant information. Give people the information they need to perform their job better. That may be information about how to complete a task or it may be as simple as sharing new information about an upcoming project that will affect them. I’ve never worked with an organization where I heard that people are kept “too informed.” Go out of your way to transparently share information that affects those around you.

5. Role model the behaviors you want to see. You may wonder how this affects your ability to relate to others, but as a leader, you are always being watched. People will pay close attention to what you do, as it will establish a standard for behavior and interaction. This has a lot to do with how people will relate to you. If you want to have a culture where everyone works hard, show a strong work ethic. If you want customer focus to be a priority, behave in ways that highlight customer centricity.

6. Clarify your understanding. We have all been misunderstood enough to know it feels bad when it happens. One of the most important contributions you make as a leader is to prevent misunderstandings, and you do this by clarifying and confirming. This also allows others the opportunity to thoroughly express their thoughts to you, which further enhances relationships. Checking for understanding by paraphrasing or summarizing ensures that you have a clear and complete picture of what is being communicated.

7. Provide your reactions and candid opinions. People appreciate feedback, and withholding your approval or disapproval comes across as a lack of engagement. Help others to see that you are in fact engaged with them by responding to what they say, even non-verbally. As you provide your reactions candidly, support those you agree with and be appropriately candid about those you do not. People may not be thrilled when you disagree with them but you will establish great rapport by sharing your real reactions with people.

I should highlight that while these ideas may be simple, that doesn’t mean any of them are easy to do. The right behaviors are frequently filled with common sense, yet that doesn’t mean they are common practice. In the same way I completely understand how to swing a golf club, but am borderline incompetent when I have to actually do it. Consistent effort and attention to relating will improve your skill.


8 Ways To Undermine Yourself

As entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time honing our leadership style and working tirelessly to ensure our teams are motivated to work with us. There are countless resources to improve on various attributes you utilize both in and out of the office, but there’s less information readily available on pitfalls to avoid.

You might think you’re doing a good job, but here’s a list of how you might be undermining yourself.

Violate trust. This goes beyond straightforward lying, which should be a fairly obvious point. You can lose all-important team members’ trust by not doing what you say. Don’t make promises you can’t keep – big or small.

Be selfish instead of a servant leader. Your goal is to elevate your team and celebrate each person’s victories, not your own. Put employees’ needs before your own and do everything in your power to help them help themselves. If you spend your day celebrating yourself, you’ll not only stall your team’s progress, but you’ll also become extremely unpopular – and fast.

Lack focus and flip-flop on priorities. Your mission should be simple and straightforward for your team to follow and accomplish. If you’re not clear on goals and a clear-cut, prioritized path to complete them, how should you expect anyone to achieve anything? Figure out a plan – for this week, this month, this quarter, and this year. For that plan, establish the key objectives and the mini-goals each person is responsible for realizing.

Be user “unfriendly.” If you’re not accessible or kindhearted, or if people have to jump through hoops to reach you for a brief moment, it’s inevitable that you’ll leave a bad taste with someone. When you’re a user-friendly leader, you’ll constantly surprise people and leave them with a positive impression, rather than a dogmatic, negative one.

Deal in fantasy instead of science. Don’t get me wrong: vision is crucial. You need to have an end goal and believe in it strongly. However, that vision requires execution to make it a reality. You need to track progress obsessively with metrics, so you’re able to make real-time adjustments and tweaks. Without this, you’re just a used-car salesman spinning the wheels of everyone you meet.

Lack passion and creativity. If you expect your team members to be evangelical about what you’ve set out to achieve, you need to be a beacon with your passion, bursting from every pore. If you want your team members to think outside the box, why are you coloring inside the lines? If you’re ho-hum, your team will generate equally ho-hum results. Allow them to unleash their own creativity by setting yours free.

Play checkers instead of chess. As a leader, you need to think a few moves down the board, just like a chess player. We all should be doing the jobs we want, not the jobs we have. Help your team members decipher a sales target’s strategy or what the board of directors will say at the next proposal. Continuously drive the group forward and do so yourself – otherwise you’re just playing checkers, which I’m sure you can do in your sleep.

Act as if it’s just about what you say. This is the easiest method of all in a downward spiral toward undermining yourself. This is a trap – by phrasing things nicely you might think it’s enough. However, in reality, it’s really about how you make other people feel. In ten years nobody will remember what you said day to day, but rather your overall impression you’ve left on someone.


What have you done today, this week, or this month to show your gratitude? The difference between being polite or pleasant and completely making someone’s day doesn’t require much more effort – but it makes all the difference. That gap is what will separate you as a great leader, versus the sea of good ones out there. What legacy will you leave?


Seven Secrets to Resilience

Here’s how to develop the mental toughness to push through any sales challenge you face in your business.

As the economy performs in fits and starts, selling your products and services remains unusually tough. Never has resilience been more critical for small-business owners. The ability to steadfastly push through challenges is a valuable trait that seems to come naturally to some entrepreneurs. Others can adapt over time to become wiser and more confident after each trying situation.

So how can you quickly recover from setbacks in the selling process?

For starters, experts suggest viewing sales in your business as a long process with many wins and losses, much like a professional athlete’s season. “Try not to look at your sales record as just one good or bad deal or one good or bad week. You’re going to be at this for many years to come so you want to develop skills to be mentally ready to face the sales hurdles you have ahead of you.

Here are seven secrets to developing the resilience you need to staying positive, no matter how tough it may be to strike up new sales.

No. 1: Learn from your failures. Rather than feeling depressed that you made 100 calls without hearing back from a single prospect, take a long hard look at your approach. Maybe you called the wrong people or called them at the wrong time. Then, rethink your message. Perhaps you should stress something different about your business or stress it in a better way.

No. 2: Touch base with your ‘friendlies.’ If you’ve made 10 sales calls and all have gone poorly, it’s easy to feel that you’ll never get your company off the ground. If you have a day like that, consider reaching out to your ‘friendlies,’ customers that like you and appreciate your product, to fuel you for the hard work ahead. By talking to these positive contacts, you’ll re-anchor yourself to why you’re doing the work you’re doing and it will help you become more ready for the next deal.

No. 3:  Face your fears. Every single entrepreneur has faced fear, especially when a sales call goes awry. When I first started selling, a prospect took me to task in front of some of my colleagues and I broke out in a sweat. After I came to my senses, I could have walked out saying, ‘ I’m not cut out for sales.’ Instead, I worked hard to figure out what it would take to be successful and I moved forward, despite my fears. I truly believe that the ability to bounce back rests in your ability to look fear in the face and go forward anyway.

No. 4: Check in with colleagues for a reality check. While we’re taught to keep our feelings to ourselves when times are tough, it’s actually better to share our struggles with a trusted colleague. If you have a cathartic talk with a colleague who has empathy for your situation, it will help you let go of negative feelings. The process of speaking about your concerns and, even your sales struggles, will help you get ready to go out there again.

No. 5: Reach out beyond your network. Instead of relying on your usual go-to people, seek out a broader network. Talk to others about their business and your business, find out who they know and share your contacts. Entrepreneurs tend to retreat and that’s mostly because you’re wearing so many hats, from doing business development, working with clients, paying taxes and so much more. But, despite how busy you are, it’s key to leverage your connections. You never know where you might find new customers.

No. 6: Borrow someone else’s brain. Seek out sales strategies from another entrepreneur whose business is a bit further along in its sales growth. Try to intuit how this other business might approach their sales challenges. You can’t look at QANTAS Airlines or Mark Bouris and ask how each would approach sales, but you can look at someone who is just a little ahead of you. By walking a mile in their shoes, you’ll open up a whole new way of looking at things.

No. 7:  Take a break. If you’ve tried all these tips and still feel defeated, consider taking a time-out. Most people think they should keep their nose to the grindstone, but that’s not the best way to win your next customer. Prospective clients may be turned off if they sense that you’re desperate. Take a mental health break that lasts a couple of hours or even a day. “That will help you to start fresh and project a successful image.