Quick, Easy Ways to Improve Your Focus

 

Sometimes it seems that for as many hours there are in the day, there are three times as many interruptions that take you away from work that needs to get done.  So what can you do to get a little more clarity and get rid of those distractions? Give some of these suggestions a try.

1. Turn off the background noise.

What you thought was “white noise” from the TV or radio could be a bigger distraction than you realize.

2. Have a calming mantra. 

Post a sign or post-it near your workspace that says something along the lines of “quiet mind.” That will be your signal to take a deep breath and try to relax.

3. Clean up.

Make sure your office or desk is orderly, comfortable and well lit, so you are in the optimal space to be productive.

4. Take it one thing at a time. 

If you feel yourself getting pulled in different directions, just stop and focus on one task until it’s completed.

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

5. Switch off your cell phone.

Or if you can’t turn off your ringer for whatever reason, shut off the tweet/text/e-mail alerts, especially if you know you jump every time you hear it.

6. Take a break. 

Go through your to-do list and prioritize. Ask yourself, does this really need to get done today or can I do it tomorrow?

7. Use the Internet sparingly.

If you know you’ll only need it for a specific bit of research, get it out of the way and then unplug while you do the rest of your work. This will help you avoid the urge to go down a browsing rabbit hole.

In just a few short moments, these pointers listed above will lead to more productivity and less stress.

Credit: Nina Zipkin

Photo Credit: StateYourBusiness.com

Related: 10 Common Career Killers

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Negotiate Your Salary Without Playing Hardball

 

A few times a week, I get requests for advice on negotiating a job offer. They usually start like this: I’m in the recruiting process, and I just received an offer from the organization that I want to join. I’d like to sign, but I was hoping for a higher salary. What should I do?

According to conventional wisdom, the best way to boost your salary is to get an offer from a competing employer with a higher salary. It’s true that a competing offer gives you leverage, but many people find this strategy distasteful. If you’ve already decided where you want to work, and you’re not well along the way with other employers, it’s disingenuous to start interviewing elsewhere, not to mention a waste of your time.

In many cases, I’ve proposed a different strategy. It requires no hardball negotiating and keeps your integrity intact.

It’s an approach that I used during three years negotiating advertising contracts, where I started out as a doormat but somehow ended up setting a few company records. Since then, I’ve taught it in my negotiation courses to executives and students, and it proves highly effective.

The starting point is to approach someone in the organization who (a) you trust, (b) has some influence, and (c) has a vested interest in hiring you. From there, there are three steps to follow:

(1) Express your enthusiasm: “I’m thrilled about the offer. This is my first choice, for the following reasons, and I’d love to join.”

(2) Explain your contribution and/or need: “I just have a few questions about the terms that I’d like to address before I’ll be ready to sign.”

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

The merit version: “I know this position often pays $Z, and I believe I can add enough value to earn it.”

The need version, if you’re comfortable: “I put myself through school as an investment in education, and I’m in debt $X from student loans. I’ve calculated the cost of living at $Y; I’m concerned about being able to support myself and my family.”

(3) Ask for advice: “I trust you, and I’d very much value your recommendations. What would you suggest?”

By that point, according to clever studies by researcher Katie Liljenquist, three things tend to happen. First, you’ve flattered the contact. As biographer Walter Isaacson wrote, Benjamin Franklin excelled at appealing “to their pride and vanity by constantly seeking their opinion and advice,” and found that “they will admire you for your judgement and wisdom.”

Second, you’ve encouraged your contact to take your perspective. In order to give you advice, the person has to walk in your shoes. With that usually comes a bit of identification and empathy: “I remember when I was in a situation like that.”

Now that the contact has a good feeling about you and appreciates your dilemma, you’re in for the third response: commitment. In the best case scenario, the contact will take the initiative to advocate for you directly. Failing that, you’ll gain some valuable advice about who to approach and how to make your case, as well as some possible history on precedents for negotiating in your role.

Related: Quick, Easy Ways to Improve Your Focus

Advice-seeking is a powerful way to have influence without authority. If you’re worried about manipulation, I have some good news: it doesn’t work if it’s not authentic. When Liljenquist instructed people to use advice-seeking as an influence strategy, their negotiating counterparts saw right through it. It was only effective when people were genuinely interested in learning from the contacts they sought out.

In most situations, I find that this strategy is just as effective as the hardball approach. When it doesn’t work, people sometimes develop doubts about taking the job, and it becomes appropriate to continue interviewing elsewhere. Once a comparable offer comes in, it’s still not necessary to play hardball.

All you need to do is share the terms of the competing offer, and say, “I’d rather come here. Is there anything you can do to make this an easier decision for me?”

More often than not, the answer is yes.

Credit: Adam Grant

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CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

 

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Your Startup is Up and Running. What Now?

 

A startup is like an infant: it keeps you awake from early in the morning until late at night. An established business is when your kid is all grown up, has left the house and now you can finally go and get a real holiday!

But what about the transition between startup and a proper business, what about those awkward teenage years?

Well, the good news is that the hardest part is probably behind you; you’ve got a product that the market enjoys enough to have given you either a stable/growing income, and/or you’ve got investors who love your product enough to push you to the next phase: growth.

But what does that actually mean?

When you were a lowly startup you would have classified many of the problems you encountered at this phase as “nice problems to have”. Well guess what? Those problems have let themselves in your house, and have already messed all over your favourite rug (which is too bad, it really tied the room together).

So how do you navigate your business through the uncertain waters in this brave new world? Approve a more aggressive sales strategy? Invest in developing more products? Design new or better referral agreements? There are probably an infinite number of choices.

Related: Hobby or Startup? Important When Filing Your Taxes

While all of these questions are on the right track, they focus too much on the details; too much attention on the wood, too little thought on the forest. Remember, we’re interested in growth here, so the one question you need to associate with every question you now ask is: “How does this action make my business scale”?

If you fed your teenager the same amount of food as you did when he was a baby, your teenager wouldn’t grow enough (in reality he’d probably describe his angst, prepend it with a hashtag and tweet his misery). What you want to be able to do for your teenager is give him all the food he needs so he can grow as big as possible. Your challenge is to make sure that the food keeps flowing, and every decision you make has to bear that in mind. You can’t make a decision that’ll limit his growth; your decisions need to allow for significant growth first.

This question forces you to think about your business from a more holistic point of view, and not as a series of integrated, iterative processes that come together and form a product offering. In other words it forces you to focus less on how to sell just your product, but how to expand every part of your business on the back of your expanding product sales, making it more resilient and ready to capitalize on future opportunities.

Related: 10 Start-up Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

A great example of this is McDonald’s. One of the reasons McDonald’s is as successful today as it is, is because the man responsible for its meteorite rise, Ray Kroc, knew that the wasn’t in the hamburger business; he was in the business of being in a hamburger business. In other words, he didn’t think how he could make a better burger (indeed many would argue this is noticeable). Instead he focused on how to make the business of selling hamburgers better. He thought about distribution, consistent quality, speedier preparation of burgers, and so on.

You may notice the one thing that all of these improvements made have in common: they all address the issue of scale! McDonald’s cares about how many burgers it can sell first. Sure, it cares how the burgers taste, but only to the extent that the better they taste the more they sell. Everything comes down to scale.

Once you’ve proved your product works and has a market and you find yourself in the growth phase, the temptation is to simply continue doing things the way you’ve always done them, but just do them better. Sure, you will actually be doing a lot of this, but if you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to grow at the pace you’ve always grown. To grow exponentially you need to always be thinking about scale, in every decision you make.

Related: Marketing Tools Entrepreneurs Should Keep Handy

So yes, by all means, please ensure that your product gets better and better, but make sure that you don’t focus all your resources into just this. There are now other important problems that you need to solve for.

Ensure your processes are as automated and as thorough as possible, prepare for explosive growth and not just gradual growth. If you prepare for gradual growth but have a product that’s good enough for explosive growth you might find it brings your company to a screeching halt, and you lose all credibility in the market place.

At the startup phase it’s ok to think about solving a problem; the better you solve the problem the better your business. At the growth phase you need to start thinking about the return growth has on your business. If your business doubles are you happy with a just 2x increase in profit? What about 5x or 10x? Some investors are only interested in 100x.

Whether or not you’re interested in making a ton of money, or really just want to solve a problem, at some point you have to think about scale, and it’s not just for the sake of investors (who start thinking about that return in the startup phase). In fact it doesn’t matter if you don’t ever want an investor, we live in a free-market – that means that competitors who might well have or want investors will start thinking about scale.

Of course there are more factors to consider during your growth phase, but if you can’t master your ability to scale you simply won’t survive in the long run and your teenager will never turn out to be the well adjusted young adult you hope for.

Related: Get The Most Out of Your Startup Team

Credit: Paul Brown

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CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

 

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10 Common Career Killers

 

Most careers rarely follow a smooth, linear trajectory. If you’re experiencing a stalled or faltering career, and most of us do at some point or another, take a good look in the mirror.

Are you guilty of exhibiting any of these common behaviors?

These ten career-killing pitfalls can mean the difference between an upward ride and a downward spiral at work.

If you recognize your own behaviors here, make it your mission to change them, before you have to.

In time, you’re likely to see your career move from a stall to a soar.

1. Misfiring on performance or values — Overcommitting and under-delivering

2. Resistance to change — Failing to embrace new ideas.

3. Being a Problem Identifier vs a Problem Solver – Ensure that every time you identify a problem, you have solutions to accompany them.

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

4. Winning over your boss but not your business peer group – No one person can do it alone. Respect and support from your peers is priceless!

5. Always worrying about your next career move versus focusing on the present – This isn’t a slight to planning or forward thinking. However, don’t ever lose sight of what is directly in front of you.

6. Running for office – It’s totally transparent to everyone but you. Don’t be that guy or gal!

7. Self-importance — exhibiting a humorless, rigid attitude.

8. Lacking the courage and conviction to push back on the system – One of the truest forms of leadership is standing up for what is right. Don’t be afraid to be great.

9. Forgetting to develop your own succession plan for when you get promoted – Know and understand what steps you have to take for the next job and what’s needed to take care of your replacement

10. Complacency – You’ve stopped growing.

Credit: Jack Welch

Photo Credit: BusinessGrow.com

Related: Quick, Easy Ways to Improve Your Focus

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

 

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