Five Lessons I’ve Learned


Five Lessons I’ve Learned

A week into my my month-long sabbatical, I’ve been reflecting on how my business has grown and what I’ve learned over the past six years as an entrepreneur. Recently, I shared some of those lessons on two of my favorite business podcasts. One was Leading Matters with Joel Capperella, and the other was an interview on The Launch To Greatness, with Dan Mori.

Here’s a recap of what we discussed and links to further reading and resources on each topic.

Embrace Continuous Learning

To thrive in our permanent state of reinvention, you have to keep learning.

When I hit a plateau, it’s usually because I’ve relaxed on my commitment to learning. I’m well aware that past performance is no longer a very good indicator of future success. Our world changes way too fast and success today means that we are willing to change with it.

One approach to learning something new: Step out of your comfort zone and work with experts. Last December, I learned how to surf. This summer, I applied that experience to learning how to wakesurf. In both instances, my path to performance was accelerated from working with experts (Thanks, Keith and Seth!). Training properly dramatically cuts down the time to improved performance.

It’s also critical to carve out the time for learning. That’s been part of my challenge but I’m back to building in learning time on my calendar. I have also selected 10 books to read over the next 4 weeks, giving each week a theme. This week was sales effectiveness. Next week is mindfulness. The week after is going to be straight fiction.

I’m looking forward to the learning and trying challenge myself to consider: Did I get a little better today?

Make Mornings Meaningful

Having a set, specific plan for each morning gives you the discipline and focus to make things happen.

I’m always interested in learning about successful people’s morning routines, and I’m committed to starting my day with meditation, gratitude and focus. If you haven’t thought about your morning routine, consider how you might incorporate even a little “me” time each morning to jump-start your day for success. I’ve learned there isn’t a right or wrong way to start the day. Everyone is different. I continue to experiment with my own morning routine, looking for the routines and rituals that help me succeed.

Take Action Now

What good idea could you take action on right now that would have an impact?

The TAN Plan is an important technique I’ve used to turn ideas into meaningful action.

In our always-connected world, it’s increasingly easy to get distracted and lose sight of our most important goals. I spend a lot of times at conferences and I know that people often feel inspired by great ideas at an event, but when they get back to the office, reality sets in fast. They have to clear out hundreds of emails and voicemails. Tasks and to-dos demand their attention. It’s human nature to put new ideas on the shelf and go right back into the same old routine.

With a #TANPlan, you commit to immediately to moving forward on three ideas that will create some meaningful momentum in the next 30 days. In my experience, simplifying change makes it more likely that you’ll actually take the next step. Our biggest breakthrough is usually right at the edge of our comfort zone and commitment to a #TANPlan forces us into action.


Celebrate the Big and Small Victories

Celebrating progress — even the little wins — is an important way to sustain momentum and stay motivated.

Many organizations celebrate major milestones, but most don’t celebrate progress along the way.

Celebration connects people, creates confidence in the future, reinforces the right behavior and is a good excuse to have a little fun.

If you’re managing a team, celebrating becomes even more important. Look around at what your team is working on. Are you making progress that deserves a little reward and recognition? Is it time to create an opportunity for people to connect and have a little fun?

Know Your Purpose

When people connect to a larger purpose, they step up and contribute.

Helping employees understand and connect to your organization’s purpose and values is important, too. Art Papas, CEO of Bullhorn, saw his company move in a different direction when he clarified the company purpose and core values.

Having a clearly defined purpose (and helping people feel connected to it) is key for any company that wants to be competitive.

So many employees want to contribute to something larger than themselves. If your people aren’t aligned — or if the only clear purpose is maximizing shareholder value — chances are you aren’t unlocking their deepest commitment and capability. Purpose and values inform the right behavior and serve as a guide for decisions and action.

Mike Kirley, COO of McGladrey, shared with me that “culture leads strategy. I’d much rather have the culture leading the firm than attempt to take a strategy and implement it. We almost had to invert our org chart to make this happen. We’ve moved away from the idea that culture or strategy can be implemented from some far-off pinnacle on an org chart. Instead, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on client-focused, field-based employees.”

Culture change is a long-range, multi-year journey. You can’t have one meeting and expect major culture change to take effect. Four years into their new strategy, McGladrey is still looking forward. “Four years ago, we set engagement numbers as our target. Now, we’re there, and those numbers aren’t our target anymore — they’re our foundation.”

To get a deeper dive on all of these topics, and hear more lessons I’ve learned, check out the full podcasts:

Launch to Greatness

Leading Matters

Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.

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