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Articles filed in: Success

The Inner Scorecard

We regularly measure our status, progress and success against others. It’s no wonder.

We’ve been subjected to comparison since our parents bragged about when we got our first tooth. At school, the race to see who could collect the most gold stars was on from day one.

We are acutely aware of what makes us remarkable in the eyes of others. We have learned to live and work by, what Warren Buffet calls, an outer scorecard—often at the expense of doing what’s right, and what’s right for us.

If what’s on our inner scorecard grounds us, we must get into the habit of understanding and prioritising those things. Inner scorecards are essential for individuals and organisations alike.

What are you proud of that others would find unremarkable?

What’s on your inner scorecard?

Image by Volkan Olmez

Why Next?

My uncle Larry taught me to play chess when I was eight or nine. I learned just enough rules to get started because he said I’d learn how to play, by playing. The thing I’ll always remember is the way he taught me to make better moves. Every time I picked up a piece to move it he’d ask, ‘Why is this your next, best move?’

We’re all good at asking the question, ‘What next?’

In our impatience to make progress, we’ve become experts at looking for the next, new thing that will bring us more of whatever we’re after — more opportunity or more influence, more joy or more money—not necessarily in that order.

But we’re not so good and questioning, ‘Why next?’

We make more right moves when we reflect on how the next thing we’re about to do aligns with our values, and if it’s helping us to get to where we ultimately want to go.

Image by Kurt Bauschardt

Soft Metrics

Traditionally, we measure performance through the narrow lens of hard data.

Sales, profit and cash flow are seen as reliable indicators of how well we’re doing.
But hard data alone paint a two-dimensional picture of success.
There’s nothing to stop us prioritising outcomes we care about, but can’t reliably measure.

We don’t have to forsake ethics for profitability.
We can simultaneously pursue growth and generosity.

What we measure gets managed. And what we manage is the making of us.

Image by neonbrand

The Power Of Describing The Problem

Four hundred Barnes & Noble bookstores have closed since 1997. In the last five years, the chain has lost a billion dollars in market value. But it seems hope is on the horizon. The private equity firm that owns the UK bookseller Waterstones recently bought the company. Waterstones CEO, James Daunt, will move to New York to begin his new role as chief executive of the struggling bookseller.

Mr Daunt has a challenging—some might say, daunting task ahead of him. Where should he begin? Well, it turns out that he chose to begin by describing the problem.
Daunt was quoted in the New York Times as framing the problem like this:

“Frankly, at the moment you want to love Barnes & Noble, but when you leave the store you feel mildly betrayed. Not massively, but mildly. It’s a bit ugly — there’s piles of crap around the place. It all feels a bit unloved, the booksellers look a bit miserable,
it’s all a bit run down.”

We often dwell on the symptoms of the problem, instead of the possible causes. Booksellers could lament that people prefer to shop online or that they browse and don’t buy instore. Symptoms, not causes.

It’s tempting to jump ahead to creating solutions before describing the root of the problem. But we can’t we begin to have honest conversations about how to solve problems before we own them.

Image by Rumman Amin

Shame About The Weather

Some people have no choice but to pay attention to the weather. Pilots, fishers and farmers must make allowances for the state of the atmosphere on any given day. But for most of us, the weather isn’t a problem, unless we believe and declare it to be. And yet, we allow our thoughts about the weather to constrain us in ways we don’t always realise.

Our limiting beliefs about circumstances beyond our control don’t just apply to how hard it’s raining outside. We use often use metaphorical ‘bad weather’ days to justify our actions or inaction.

What if instead of looking for excuses not to do the thing we planned to do, we found reasons to do that, or more and better? How would that change the quality of our work and the impact we could make?

Image by Roberto Trombetta

The Bounds Of Possibility

Just twenty years ago, it wasn’t probable that you would launch a successful company, publish a best-selling book or get your idea funded by people you didn’t know. Twenty years ago, we operated within the laws of probability. We knew our limits. We lived, sometimes frustrated by, but mostly contentedly within pre-determined educational, geographical or societal boundaries.

And then the internet changed what was possible. The internet enabled us to share ideas. But more importantly, the internet helped us to find more of the people who believed what we believed and believed in. This changed the bounds of possibility, inviting us to think beyond the probable.

Now that we are no longer bound by the constraints of probability, we must face the fact that we have a responsibility to own what’s possible. Opportunity abounds. And that’s both a scary and empowering thought.

The onus to create the future we want to see for ourselves and others is on us. We get to own the story we want to live and tell.

 Image by several seconds

What’s Your Customer Acquisition Strategy?

The owner of the new gym that’s opening down our street stands outside armed with helium balloons to attract attention, and a clipboard to sign up new members.  Anyone who happens to be passing is fair game. At this stage, beggars can’t be choosers. The gym needs three hundred members to break even.

Every fledgling business feels the pressure to market to everyone. So we make compromises to get runs on the board. But it’s not until we find the courage and conviction to start serving our ideal customers that we get to do our best work. There are two ways to approach customer acquisition.

We can make something generic that we think most people want and do it faster and cheaper than our competitors. Or we can understand the unmet needs of a particular group of people we are keen to serve and intentionally create products, services and marketing messages for those people.

Successful brands and businesses don’t simply open the door to everyone and hope for the best. They know why they do what they do the way they do it, they understand who they serve best, and they tell that story to those people.

Successful selling is as much about customer discernment as it is about brand differentiation.

If you’d like to have a clearer understanding of your ideal customer, The Story Strategy Course can show you how.

Image by Anupam Mahapatra

Planned Progress

You will do things today that you hadn’t planned to do. You will react and respond to someone else’s agenda and put the things you’d prioritised on the back burner. You will find yourself entering digital rabbit holes that distract you from doing the work that matters. Maybe you’ll get a lot done, but will those things you accomplish be moving you closer to your goals?

If you’re going to build the business or create the impact you want, then you must be intentional about how you’re going to do it. You have two choices. You can wait for the next opportunity to present itself, or you can purposely plan for the progress you want to make.

There is no such thing as accidental momentum.

What’s your planned progress strategy?

Image by Dan DeAlmeida

The Myth Of Significance

Lately, we have come to believe in the myth of significance. Put our faith in being chosen, becoming ‘the one’. Striving to be bigger, noticed or more than, while simultaneously recounting a narrative of never enough.

In our minds, significance boasts a title, resides in a corner office, speaks from the centre stage, gaining recognition far and wide.

Significance, though, hides in plain sight. Carrying out seemingly small, unimportant acts, with intention and conviction. Without permission, to rewrite the future

Image by Anders Hellberg, Courtesy of TEIA

More Vs. Enough

We’re surprised when a business that seemed to be thriving closes its doors.

The juice bar that succeeded in one location but scaled too quickly.
The online education platform with a big production budget but not enough students.
The great cause that couldn’t attract the support required to create an impact.

Our culture has taught us that we should multiply our effort to maximise our reward. But a sustainable business—one that is viable because it delights customer and creator, alike, doesn’t always depend on exponential growth.

Success isn’t only about doing all we could do.
Often, it’s about doing the best we can do, and being able to do it again tomorrow.

For many of us, that is more than enough.

Image by Amir Appel.

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