christine e. middleton

By day... dot connector. consumer strategist. practitioner. coach. helping executives find new ways to expand + grow their bottom lines.

In between hours... student of life. passion for inspired living + wellness. truth seeker. advocate of level playing fields. fan of creativity, art + design.

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"Adopting a modest attitude enables us to focus unreservedly on personal growth rather than on seeking recognition.

Though success and acknowledgment tend to go hand in hand, many people find the glow they feel when praised addictive, and do all they can to invite admiration into their lives.

When our desires are centered on improving ourselves and realizing our individual dreams, we naturally prefer the self-esteem boost we receive from our own sense of pride. We thus waste little energy courting commendations or detailing our triumphs to the people with whom we live and work.

Modesty serves us well by reminding us what is lasting and valuable and what is fleeting.

You’ll have little trouble dedicating yourself to your duties…when you maintain an attitude of humility.” 

(Sage wisdom taken from DailyOM.)

What you focus on becomes reality. What and who you surround yourself with also has the same affect.

Sandwiched between these two quotes in this Inc. article on success, is a good reminder of what it takes…

Written by a former Navy SEAL, mind over matter is the bottom line.

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, persistence, and learning from failure."

- Colin Powell

"If you can’t fly you run, if you can’t run you walk, if you can’t walk you crawl, but no matter what, you keep moving forward."

- Martin Luther King Jr.

This is exactly why I left the TV industry 20 years ago. 

Hysterical commentary on the latte salute.

Fair, equal reporting seems to be a thing of the past; never mind trivial commentary insults anyone who knows how to think about an issue from all sides, let alone have have mature conversations…

…and knows what constitutes as news.

Journalism used to be a hard-working, fact-based profession. Ad revenues, 24-hour cycles, and ratings changed all of that.

Now, our news outlets are becoming the TMZs of Capitol Hill.

For the same reason no one trusts Congress - twisting of facts, propaganda, winning at the expense of others (when we’re all on the same team), focus on non-important issues for votes (or ratings) - news outlets have lowered their standards.

Who cares?

We all should. This is our country and it’s swirling around the toilet bowl.

If you live in DC and know how this town works, have been inside the broadcast industry, and know the tactics of political PR, it’s depressing how much the interest of you and I (or the betterment of this country) ends up the last priority.

Manipulation is the name of the game for short-term wins, money and power.

Think I’m over reaching? Believe everything you hear… from one source? Or, do you do due diligence and form your own opinion after listening to multiple sources? 

Sure about that?

And, really, who has time to research every bit of news to find the middle?!  

But really the jokes on us and where we’re headed as a country. 

Sure, there are good people in media, in Congress, in public affair agencies and lobbying firms, and living in DC (many actually). But, what game are we playing with each other by creating division and lowering our standards? And at what expense?

Aren’t we all on team U.S.A.?Shouldn’t we be creating a win-win culture rather than us vs. them?  

When has playing for short-term grabs (aka ratings and elections) ever paid off long-term? In business, relationships, stocks and life they rarely lead to sustainable winning outcomes.

Call me pollyanna, but if you don’t know how the system works, than you are being used.

And like any business whose incentives support behaviors inconsistent with reaching specific goals, then a dysfunctional culture prevails. Just look at Congress or the fact that lattes constitute as news.

So the more we buy in to the rhetoric and pick sides versus unifying and finding common ground, the more "sucker" should be written on all our foreheads.

And, I’m sorry, John Stewart, to say this - but it’s a sad day when middle ground can only be found on Comedy Central.

"One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.”

— William Feather, American publisher

Cutting corners just to cross the finish line…

Of course moving fast is important for any executive, CEO or entrepreneur trying to execute a big idea or launch a new business. Time is money and investments don’t last forever. Plus…

The quicker you get to market, the faster you’ll be making money.

But one common theme that drives good ideas (and new business ventures) into the ground:

Poor decision-making.

No doubt, when in “start-up” mode decision-making becomes a daily obstacle course with new information and choices (aka compromises) constantly barraging the person in charge.

It can wear anyone down quickly. 

So the instinct for many is to start limiting information (and the people delivering it).

Unfortunately, as a result, details impacting quality become overlooked or seen as tomorrow’s problem – not important to address in order to cross the finish line.

This is such a common reality and the under belly is over time this type of thinking begins to eat away at the leader’s credibility and eventually the company’s reputation

(Morale drops internally, vendors stop caring, and/or costly fixes start popping even before the first unveiling even takes place.)

Of course, being perfect is also not an option. 

Anyone leading or working in a start-up environment has to work in overdrive, and cutting corners is a competing reality. Some processes you’d otherwise prefer to handle more authentically need to be skipped or short-cuts found. 

However, quality should not be compromised, especially when it comes to the customer or end user experience… or creating a vulnerability your competitor can exploit.

Therefore, every step of the way leaders need to judge what decision to make and the pros/cons in making it.

This is not easy.

Choose short cuts wisely …making sure you don’t:

  • Assume your past credentials make you an expert in all areas. Hire experts in their field or outside counsel and listen to them. Your job as leader is not to know all (it’s not about you), but to shepherd the process swiftly and successfully. Start-ups really are about the team. 
  • Be a bottleneck for all decisions. You MUST have a great team you trust and are equally passionate surrounding you. (“Warm bodies” as team members will have you bogged down double checking every detail vs. leading, inspiring, pushing and rewarding.)
  • Become cheap when the building phase. Set appropriate budgets or expectations based on the budget you have. The start-up, or creation phase, is not just about building the product or service, but also about establishing the foundation – your reputational and strategic business infrastructure (including legal, marketing, IP protection) - that will either protect you or not once your idea enters the big bad world. Must cut this corner and later regret it. Don’t.

Do make sure you (are):

  • Flexible, nimble while keeping your eye on the finish line.
  • Understand how each decision it could come back to hurt you and plan accordingly. Listen to those around you despite the urge to shut everyone down and turn them into “doers”.
  • Careful what corners you decide to cut and how they impact the product, not just allowing timing and the bottom line to drive every decision (although they are critical).
  • Continuously listen and read between the lines. Don’t dismiss how different decisions will hurt your reputation, the quality of the product down the road, not just in the near future. Even if delaying your launch is necessary, don’t underestimate the fact you only get one chance to make a first impression.
  • Hire the best and listen to their counsel. Give them parameters and instruct them to report all the pros and cons – not just all the problems. Not everyone is against you succeeding. 
  • Reward along the way and be fair and consistent about it. This is about being a team vs. individuals.
  • Always factor in unforeseen costs, delays and assessing  outcomes every step of the way. Like building a house, there isn’t a straight line to the finish. Get that into your thinking from the beginning so the unexpected is expected. You might not share this thinking outright, but do set expectations in terms of budgeting, timing and process with key investors and stakeholders.

 

Most of the time, the responses you get from others is largely caused by the attitude you hold. The easiest way to change the responses you get is to change your attitude.

 - Colin Gautrey, executive coach

I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of dollars go down the drain because barreling through is the leader’s mantra.

In fact, many entrepreneurs and executives like to run with an idea full speed once it formulates in their minds. 

Time is judged as being wasted to drill down in the details in order to iron clad a product or service offerings. 

Dissension or questions are seen as a lack of confidence, loyalty, and/or a personal statement against the executive’s ability or idea.

What’s needed to succeed is altered to the point of compromising success as a result of past promises they’ve sold without knowing what something really takes.

Unfortunately…

The impulse of racing to the finish line, or destination, is actually the beginning of the end.

Certainly being first to market can be a winning strategy. But NOT if your concepts are half-baked… and not if there is a fractured confidence in your ability by those around you (who you need to succeed).

The biggest contributor to half-baked concepts:

Egos + ignoring information

Anyone who is in business (or life for that matter) can see new information presents itself all the time. The tighter your grip around your idea being executed in a specific way…  information is seen as an obstacle.

(So is the person delivering it.)

But what if that information - even at the 12th hour - is actually a saving grace or winning differentiator? What if the person raising the concern IS your biggest ally?

In a CoCreate post on Ken Burns, documentary guru driven by deadlines and time being money, Burns wisely points out part the creative building process requires (and therefore recommends):

  • It’s all a matter of perspective - “The amount of work required for an extensive project, and your enjoyment of it, both depend on the way you look at the challenges along the way.”
  • Never stop researching - “Even if it ultimately elongates the time spent on the project, and the project itself, continuing research the entire time helps ensure that the final product will have the best possible information.”
  • Cast a wide net - “In gathering material for a large project, there are many places to turn, both obvious and obscure. The trick to finding the best stuff, apparently, is canvassing everything in between and beyond.”
  • Accept there will be changes to your plan - “It’s important to map out your strategy and to stay the course as much as possible. However, it’s also equally important to remain flexible when the situation calls for it.”
  • Be willing to go a long way for a workaround - ”The flexibility of your plan, however, should not be restricted only to easy solutions. Sometimes the best way to get some long-term project finished involves going wildly out of your way to do it.”

Racing to the finish line can be the beginning of the end.  Full throttle all the time, in every phase, with every decision is dangerous.

BUT… using time (speeding it up or slowing down) can be very strategic.

There is a difference. And, no doubt:

  • The other side of too much planning is inaction and others beating you to the finish line.
  • Focusing on every obstacle or new piece of information will bog you down and keep you stuck. 
  • When launching something new, people’s fears will get in the way of progress so leaders must find incredible inner guidance and strength… and make unpopular decisions.

That said…

Focus + nimbleness + vision + determination + “sensitive” leadership (sensing which course to take each moment and what speed to go) make all the difference in successfully getting where you want to go.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

(The full quote from Steve Jobs)

"Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.”

— David Frost, British journalist

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do…

Have you ever walked into a room where there’s just been a fight? You can tell because there’s an energy of tension in the air.  

What about being around someone who carries a lot of anger? Whether they are smiling or not, you can sense something is forced or “off” about them.

Never under estimate the power of energy… and what vibe you might be putting off.

Many of us are unaware we are sending signals all the time about things we think we are hiding well. 

How do you change the vibe? 

Do not spend time associating with the negative record that plays in your head.

Do not plot out scenarios of getting even in your mind.

Do not spend time beating yourself up over that thing you said you wish you hadn’t…

Instead, say you’re sorry, let it go, forgive (yourself and others), move on.

Do so over and over… and over, and over.

Why?

When we choose to focus on the negative, what’s wrong, the flaws in others, we end up hurting ourselves most of all.

We lose perspective thinking we are justified and right, and then we grow angry. But we can stop this process - even reverse it. 

If we don’t, we give more power to our hurts and broken parts, than what is right and good. We choose being stuck.

It’s not about half empty or full. It’s a choice of darkness over light; associating with hurt vs. desiring to heal and become stronger.

We forget there is always another side. Information we didn’t know. (It’s not always about us or done to us.)

And everyone makes mistakes.

Move away from being narcissistic. See yourself different from what your ego wants you to believe. 

If you can do that, your world will open up. You will move from scarcity into abundance.  Train your mind to focus on what’s good, what you are grateful for, and what’s here right now… now, now.

Your mind will revolt. Do it anyway. Practice. Breath. Feel the sun. Feel the breeze. Feel the pain, joy, boredom. Be thankful you can feel.

Most of all, keep forgiving everything/everyone - even over the big stuff so that you can live in a place grounded in peace, freedom and joy.

AND, with that you communicate to the world just how attractive and powerful you are… 

Leading the way is never easy. But you can change the world if you start within.

Endings are really just new beginnings… It’s our job to let go.

When in business, we all have customers.

Internal AND external.

Both matter. 

One of the worst things we can do to hurt our success (and business) is to limit ways for our customers to reach us.

Taking a look at external customers first…

Here are a few pieces of (adapted) advice by a hotel industry blog – an industry in the business of customer service – to help us all do better at building positive reputations, especially in a digital age:

  • Remember that people do business with people. Be available. Making ourselves available is critical. Hiding behind technology (we can only be reached through emails or voice mail exchanges) will ultimately take away from our future success. Cold, lazy or uncaring is the takeaway on the other end. 
  • Websites need to be designed for the customer’s needs… and not how your/my company may be set up internally. Make websites easy to navigate and simple to understand BY THE END USER. Get into their heads. Create positive experiences (do not be so cheap you deter sales/success). Test and get feedback continuously to make sure what is being provided what is most efficient and useful. 
  • Be accessible through multiple channels. In other words, your company may have a great call center, but providing choices is critical. Make the investment — not all customers are alike. Remember, multitasking means making calls when running between meetings or using a mobile device while waiting in line to order lunch. Therefore, make digital platforms both user-friendly and multiply channels available, such as email, texting, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Make contact information available on every page of a website and in email signatures. Make it easy for a customer to call, email, or connect with customer service teams instantly.
  • Keep telephone hold times to a minimum. It can be frustrating for a customer to have to wait for extended periods of time. It sends a message that the company doesn’t care enough to staff properly. As an alternative, consider technology that will let the customer know how long the wait time is with the option of an automatic call back. And whether through a social channel or other means, always respond quickly – which means minutes, not hours or days. 
  • Share social proof. Use testimonials from happy customers to help increase trust and a customer’s confidence to do business with us. 
  • Ask customers to post online reviews. This shows that we have confidence and will take care of our customers and are dedicated to delivering a great customer service experiences by taking care of any problems that may arise – in such a way that will earn us glowing online reviews.

By applying these in large part to internal customers as well - boss, managers, peers, vendors, - we will also see traction in our reputations. (More on that in my next post.)

Four behaviors of innovative leaders… are you one of them?

"I’ve learned that I can’t have a packed work schedule and a packed social schedule and a packed personal life; I need to just have time to myself to sit and breathe and unwind.”

Kim Cattrall

Perpetual rushing, pushing, doing, going is toxic to the body and mind. It causes stress that leads to disease. 

Experience Life recommends:

"Find moments of silence and contemplation where you can just be. Create margins of sanity. Practice the defensive art of scheduling breaks and vacations."

Read how you can create more time and space to go the distance as our best selves.

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