Why Your Closest Associations Matter

“I believe that close association with one who refuses to compromise with circumstances he or she does not like is an asset that can never be measured in terms of money.” — Napoleon Hill

Think about the people whom you hang around with. Do they encourage you, uplift you, and see you in your highest good? Or do they hold you back, fearful that you will leave them behind if you’re successful?

“When it comes to relationships, we are greatly influenced — whether we like it or not — by those closest to us. It affects our way of thinking, our self-esteem, and our decisions,” per Amy Groth in Business Insider.

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” Kai Sato expands on this concept in his article in “But it’s common for entrepreneurs to underestimate the importance of the company they keep. Bottom line: The people around you matter.”

If you consider the income levels of the five people whom you keep company with most, you’ll probably find that your earnings are approximately the average of theirs. What does that mean? If you want to reach a higher level of success, it’s important for you to be involved with people who have already reached the goals that you are pursuing. If you are the smartest, wealthiest, most successful person in your group of friends, it’s probably time to look for new people to attract into your life.

Oftentimes we are too intimidated to approach the people we admire, fearful that we won’t be able to bring anything to the friendship. After all, “What do I have to offer them?” is a question that you may ask yourself.

Relationships happen over time. If there is someone you admire and want to build a connection with, look for ways to be of service without expecting anything back from them. (No, I’m not telling you to stalk them.)  Maybe you can volunteer to help them at their next event. Or run errands for them when they are overloaded. Or simply send them thoughtful articles and reference materials that you feel they would be interested in having.

While at the National Speakers Association Convention in 2012, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Harvey Mackay. If you’re not familiar with him, Harvey wrote a New York Times best-selling book called “Swim With the Sharks Without Getting Eaten Alive.” Because this book was so pivotal in my sales career, I quoted Harvey in my newly published book, “The Upside of Down Times.” I also included this book in my “Recommended Reading” section. After lunch, I approached Harvey and expressed my gratitude for the difference he made in my career, and gave him a personalized copy of my book. We took a picture together and I figured that was the end of it.

One year later, I received a call from Harvey. Not only did he read my book, he wanted to use in for an article on gratitude in his syndicated news column. By having the courage to approach someone I greatly admired and giving a gift with no expectation of return, I received something that truly was priceless.

Look for ways that you can add value to the lives of those people you admire without asking for anything from them. It will be a refreshing change for your hero, and you may find that they are much more approachable than you think. When you give to people with no expectation of return, you receive unexpected gifts. Kindness works!

About the Author: Employee engagement expert and motivational speaker Lisa Ryan works with organizations to help them keep their top talent and best customers from becoming someone else’s. She is the best-selling author of seven books, and is featured in two films including the award-winning, “The Keeper of the Keys” with Jack Canfield of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”

photo credit: EU Social via photopin cc

Three Steps To Better Staff Development

Staff development is vital to a healthy business. Yet the way we approach it is still rooted in the models of fifty years ago. Despite a world of rapid change we expect objectives to be relevant for a year, when many will be out of date within months. Millenials used to swift, relevant feedback from a communications-obsessed world instead find appraisals occasional and slow. Few organizations take account of the growing number of emergent cross-department teams.

While every modern organization has a performance management system to support staff development, only 14% are happy with those systems.

How can we do better?

Focus on relationships

The old world was built on hierarchies. The new one, filled with social media, contingent workers and flattened organizational structures, is built on relationships. Building good relationships, and encouraging staff to do so, is therefore a vital part of development.

Managers should work on knowing and understanding those working for them, not just their peers. Get out into the workplace. Listen to the concerns of the people you manage. Spread your values and aims directly through these conversations – in the era of Twitter, when even the most famous are a key tap away, people expect this informal communication, and will take more away from it.

Work together with employees on challenges to show how they can tackle them, and to show that you understand their work. Take the opportunity to provide instant feedback.

But make sure that these exercises aren’t about showing yourself off. Humility inspires loyalty and improves teamwork, so apply it yourself in conversations and make sure that it appears in your leadership training program – it will lead to better relationships all around.

Keep things simple

The world is increasingly complex and we are overwhelmed with choices. This applies in work as well as beyond it. Which task to tackle first? Which email to answer next? What questions to raise in the short time available for a meeting?

You can make things simpler. Have a clear set of values that are simple and enduring, timeless goals that will remain relevant in a changing market. Build development plans around them, and remind staff that, when in doubt, they can always turn back to those values. Rather than cluttering everyone’s thinking with a dozen different directives, give everyone a direction and trust them to steer the right path in their own work.

Performance manage your performance management

With your values and purpose firmly in place, evaluate your performance management system to see how well it achieves those goals. Too many companies keep using the same old approach they always have, just adding another objective here and there, tweaking rather than fixing, adding to the complexity you’re now trying to avoid.

Compare every part of the performance management system with the values you are building staff development around. Does each part support those goals? Do any contradict them?

Don’t just trust to instincts – that’s how these systems got to be such a mess. Get feedback from staff on how they use the system and what difference it makes for them. Collect data on actual behavior. Has customer feedback improved since you added those objectives about better telephone manners, or has it just become another box to tick?

A good system is about more than just looking at individuals; it should help you to identify patterns. Is unnoticed and unintentional gender bias holding your female employees back? Are you failing to develop middle managers for promotion? Turn your performance management system into a way to develop your organization.

Staff development has fallen behind the times, tinkered with rather than fully reformed. Take the bull by the horns and see your organization improve.

photo credit: kevinspencer via photopin cc