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For most of my career, I’ve heard experts say that many businesses will cease to exist due to innovation and/or unique technology advances that would make them obsolete or no longer viable. I’ve seen it happen, and you probably have too.

Despite change and obsolescence, I believe smart people adapt and learn to take advantage of change. Many people have a positive attitude toward the changes occurring in their businesses and choose to embrace them. They see their cup more full than empty. My advice: take advantage of the opportunities and make them work for you. The ability to see change as a positive is a critical advantage.

There are techniques that have helped me adjust to change. I hope they help you take better advantage of all your opportunities.

Keep Learning

The best way to excel in whatever business or industry you’re in is to strive to know more. I always tried to know as much as I could about the industry and business I was in, and what changes were coming. I really wanted to become an expert in whatever business I was in.

Early in my career, I was asked to be a partner in an advertising agency. I knew the ad business, having been the director of advertising at Bank of America. But to become more knowledgeable of all aspects of advertising, I created a course and began teaching advertising at San Diego State University. I taught this course for several years and not only was it rewarding, but it gave me a much broader foundation in advertising. It made me better.

I’ve found it pays off to have a mindset to keep learning. I’ve had several different careers in my lifetime and I continue to learn; it’s been a real advantage.

Know the Details

Don’t get your head so far above things that you fail to recognize what’s happening on the ground.

I’ve made a point of getting out with the people who do the work to find out what’s working and what’s not. It’s usually the little things that make the difference between winning and losing. And the added benefit of getting up from behind the desk and out of your office is that employees feel reassured by seeing you out asking questions. They know you’re in touch. It’s a win-win for you and them.

Embrace Change

See change as a friend. Embrace it, don’t fight it, and learn to take advantage of it. Every time I hear or read change is occurring, all I think of is, “opportunity is coming my way.”

The key is to take the next step; do something about it and make something positive happen. Get together with your team to review the opportunities and challenges created by the change. Do what you can to make the situation an advantage down the road. It’s good to review the pluses and minuses and create a clear plan to turn a potentially negative situation into a positive result.

 

When it Fails, Keep Going

Things don’t always happen as planned; at least for me that’s true. But the secret is to review the details and find out why something failed. And with that knowledge and insight, try again — and again, if needed!

I heard some phenomenal statistic of how many people fail and never try again. They just quit trying. Don’t let yourself become that statistic. There may be one or many reasons it didn’t work originally, so figure it out. I believe the outcome will surprise you and be better than you thought or dreamed.

Determine how to best take advantage of the change or changes.

Always Have a Positive Attitude

In many ways, it does come down to attitude. Do you have the belief that change is good? Your mindset will determine how you handle the changes occurring. Someone once told me that attitude is everything. I know it can be a real game changer.

I am reading a book at the moment called “Lead for God’s Sake,” and a quote from it struck me as appropriate to include here as a closing thought. “If you don’t pursue your goals with passion, how can you expect to ever make it to the top, regardless of what you are striving for?”

The business world is certainly changing, faster than we even realize. Make change work for you! Have the right attitude, involve your team or others, and take advantage of it.

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Pumpkin spice syndrome. What is it?

It’s that warm, cozy feeling we get when we start pulling out our sweaters and thinking about family meals, decorating, holidays, gift-giving and all that happens this time of year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it as much as you do.

But if the first part of your year wasn’t everything you hoped it would be and you still want to finish strong, now is not the time to put on holiday music and check out.

As a leader, this is the time to lean into it.

Chances are, your competition is slowing down and you have an opportunity to gain market share, close more transactions and set yourself up for a great Q4 and Q1.

Here’s how you can stave off pumpkin spice syndrome and finish the year strong.

Review Your Yearly Goals

Maybe you haven’t accomplished every goal you set at the beginning of this year. Maybe you’re not even close. But whatever you do, don’t abandon those plans in the fourth quarter.

Instead, leaders should intentionally review their yearly goals in the fourth quarter, says SnackNation.com CEO Sean Kelly.

This will allow you “to reassess what you can realistically accomplish and to set Q4 goals that make an impact and track back to your yearly goals,” Kelly says.

Start by looking for gaps between where you are and where you wanted to be by now, and consider what you need to do to bridge those gaps.

If you can achieve a few more goals this quarter, you’ll gain momentum to tackle even more in 2019.

Tidy Your To-Do List

With only a few weeks left in the year, now’s the time to get crystal clear on your most important activities.

Narrowing your focus can be a challenge if you’re also trying to wrap up a half-dozen minor projects by the end of the year.

Inc. Magazine Contributing Editor Jeff Haden recommends that you “unclutter your workday” by letting go of lesser tasks so that you can spend at least half your time on your highest-payoff activity.

While some of your other projects might not get done, you’ll see greater returns from focusing on your most important work.

Boost Your Productivity

Even with a clear set of goals and a tight to-do list, it’s easy to let the distractions of the holiday season creep in at work.

If you find yourself checking your email excessively, not prioritizing your biggest projects or spending a lot of time talking to coworkers or cruising the Internet, you could be wasting critical work time, says job search and social media consultant Miriam Salpeter.

She recommends tracking your time to see how many hours you can recover in a day. Apps like Toggl or RescueTime can help you take back your time and set better productivity habits as you head into the new year.

I find my clients typically have the most energy and momentum early in the day, so I encourage them to purposefully stack their mornings. That way, they can complete their highest-payoff activities before noon, without getting bogged down managing daily tasks and fighting fires.

This is an updated version of an earlier post, originally published Nov. 7, 2017

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Most of us don’t have many opportunities to get away and connect with the people in our lives, especially when it comes to our coworkers. But as our team of executive coaches has seen firsthand, teams who get away from the office to work together at a retreat or off-site return more engaged, aligned and excited to achieve their shared vision.

We recently asked 8 of our executive coaches and CEO Mentors to share what makes for an effective team retreat. Here are their tips to help you and your team get away, slow down and discover how to work even better together.

Create an Energizing Environment
  • “Be in a room that’s well-lit, preferably with natural light.
  • Feed people an assortment of good, healthy food known for keeping energy levels as even throughout the day as possible.
  • Choose venues that are aesthetically pleasing and physically comfortable: good artwork, nice architecture, cozy chairs, areas that allow for quiet thinking and solitude.
  • Build thinking and processing time into the agenda.
  • Don’t overload the agenda; less is more. Allow the conversations to go deep.
  • Have at least one meal together that is a non-working meal.
  • Build time into the agenda for something fun – a game, a contest, an excursion, an activity.”

Executive Coach Laurel Emory, Ph.D

Establish a Clear Path to Your Win

“When I reflect on team retreats, there are always a few key ingredients: First, find a location away from the work environment to help people explore new ideas together.

Next, create an agenda that has a good balance between hard work and fun — this keeps the team engaged and helps teammates connect on different levels.

And once you have those two set, establish a clear path to a “win” for the time away so the team can stay focused on that mission during the retreat. With those ingredients in place, you have lots of possibilities for success!”

Executive Coach Michael Regan

Tackle the Most Difficult Tasks First

“List the important and high-payoff items you need to get done during the retreat and start on them during your first morning together. Teams usually get most of these items done the first day. Tackle the hard tasks sooner than later — don’t let them linger — and make sure you’re communicating the good and not-so-good things quickly.”

CEO Mentor Jerry Baker

 

Give Your Team the Gift of Time

“A team retreat might not always seem to be the best investment of time or money, especially for busy, high performing executives, but if it’s done right, there will always be significant ROI.

The ‘where’ is really important. It’s worth making the investment to take the team away to somewhere special that has plenty of natural beauty, preferably where they have to stay overnight. And use the facility and environment fully; go for walks, go out on the water to play, ride horses, have some fun zip-lining or whatever the location has to offer.

There’s no substitute for simply spending time together to get to know each other as fellow human beings. Retreats should give team members plenty of time and space to just connect. This is the best way to build trust.

I’ve designed and facilitated dozens of such retreats, and the biggest lesson I’ve learned is ‘Less is More’. Don’t overcrowd the agenda or try to pack too much in. Give people the gift of time to build connection, process together and dig deeper for better quality decisions.

Recently, many of the leaders and teams I’ve worked with have expressed a need to improve their health and cohesiveness — how they operate as a team, versus what they work on. As a result of just spending 2-3 days together, I have seen tremendous deepening in the amount of trust team members have for one another, and the level to which they’re willing to be held accountable, and hold each other accountable, for their actions and behaviors. This can pay dividends in the months and years ahead.”

Executive Coach Jonathan Rogers

Take an Intermission

“I for one have never liked to use the word ‘retreat,’ in creating a working meeting. For many, the simple word equates with ‘Boondoggle’ or sponsored vacation! I like to think of team gatherings as ‘Intermissions’ — a place to openly discuss the reality of our team’s current condition and mid- and long-term targets. Intermission allows everyone to voice a way forward for the next portion of the mission.

In my experience, the best way to ensure success is to have a convenient, comfortable environment away from the workplace. Critical to the success is also an agreed-upon policy against outside communication, and the lure of email, text message and phone interruptions. An exercise I find valuable at the end of the meeting is an individual share from all attendees on an action to hold them accountable for until the next ‘intermission.’”

Executive Coach Ross Stonecipher

A Change of Place + A Change of Pace

“Mark Batterson’s quote of ‘A change of place + a change of pace = a change in perspective’ is so relevant for team retreats.

First, getting the team outside of their office to meet somewhere else allows for different conversations. The conditioned responses to think about the work at hand in the office changes once you get a team away. Also, it’s highly recommended that you get the team out overnight. Something happens over a meal, especially dinner, that allows the team to connect on a more human level. Communication lines open up much better with time and space to discuss key issues. And when your retreat is led by a coach or another skilled outside facilitator, it allows the whole team to get fully involved in the right sorts of conversations, which drive decisions more effectively.

The pace of an effective retreat should allow the team to not be rushed and to have the complete perspective of holistic opportunities and challenges that very few schedules allow. When a facilitator can architect the agenda, they can focus on the team’s desired end results first and then create the right processes, meeting flow and topics to achieve those desired end results. A good facilitator will mine for needed conversations around high-conflict dynamics, drive to agreement and ensure clarity around decisions so that ultimately the team will leave the retreat feeling aligned, clear and fired up about the next steps of their journey.”

Executive Coach Greg Harkavy

Ensure Alignment

“Effective retreats occur when you ‘retreat.’ Leave the crush of the day-to-day operating environment and find a different, inspiring or unusual setting that makes a statement about being ‘in retreat mode.’

Work to describe a desired end result before the retreat. Facilitators can be helpful because they allow all participants to be equal participants in thought and discussion. No one is burdened with leading sessions, coordinating agendas or watching the clock, so everyone is free to be a team member.

Build in time to have fun and get to know each other as people, not just coworkers. Review the decisions, directions and communication plans you’ve discussed and agreed upon before you adjourn for alignment.”

CEO Mentor Gerrit Cormany

End with a Shared Meal
  1. “Having a schedule is important, but not every moment should be scheduled. Give people time to bond, some time to recover.
  2. Have activities and topics build on each other, rather than skipping around.
  3. Have people work in different groups from their normal teams
  4. Pick a great location — peaceful, serene, conducive for contemplation. Make sure the room is conducive to great conversation by having as many windows as possible — no mirrors — and a place to be outside to see nature and breathe fresh air.
  5. End with a communal meal at a large round table, so each and every person can toast (not roast!) each other, share stories and express gratitude.”

CEO Mentor Raymond Gleason

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When my son was younger, we used to play a game where we would set up three stacks of blocks and take turns trying to knock each other’s towers down. Sitting on opposite ends of the hallway, we would send a small, motorized toy car on a path toward destruction. The particular car we used was one where you pulled it back to wind the motor up before sending it on its mission. Initially, this part was a bit of a challenge for my son.

When he’d pick up the car, his natural tendency was to immediately push it forward toward his target, not realizing that by pulling it back first you could generate more power. In his enthusiasm and excitement, he would quickly forget the instruction I gave him and push, push, push. In our busy and hectic lives, it’s easy for us to do the same.

Taking time to pull back, to stop, reflect, think and adjust, can be hard. In our endless quest to get things done, many of us find ourselves running from activity to activity with little time to pull back. But often that time is exactly what we need to be more focused, efficient and productive — both for ourselves and our teams.

As author and pastor Mark Batterson has written, “change of pace + change of place = change of perspective.” This is not only a great formula for the power of retreat and refreshing, but it also provides a great framework to unpack some of its benefits.

Change of Pace

The human body isn’t meant to run nonstop, and there are many benefits to taking time to intentionally unplug both personally and professionally. But knowing when to strategically slow down can also have a huge impact. In a study about which practice techniques were the most effective in driving performance of classical piano majors, researchers from the University of Texas found one behavior that stood out from the rest: they changed their pace and slowed down at just the right point, typically before a tricky section or where they had previously made an error.

Rather than always trying to push ahead (often at an increasing pace), the key to increased productivity and effectiveness can often be found in knowing when to slow down. Whether it’s strategic planning, preparing to launch a new product or finding better ways to serve your customers, invest the time to pull away, reflect, assess and plan – rather than trying to figure everything out while in the middle of the day-to-day business.

Plus, a change of pace can allow you to put some extra time, energy and effort into both strategic planning and execution. There’s an old saying that if a woodsman was given five minutes to chop down a tree, he’d spend three of them sharpening his ax. Sharpening your ax can be difficult if you’re always swinging it at the next task in front of you as fast as you can.

Change of Place

Our brains love habits and routines. From how we tie our shoes to where we park our cars at work, it’s easy to settle into well-known, well-worn patterns. The same holds true in our thinking. Faced with a multitude of day-to-day decisions paired with a past history of successes and failures, it’s easy to think of things the way we always have. “Well that would never work,” we tell ourselves. “This one way is the best way,” we find ourselves saying.

Changing places — literally going to a different location — can be a great way to break routines and energize our creativity and thinking. New patterns, sights and smells spark our creative senses. We see both new things and old things in new ways. There is also a growing list of examples of companies getting creative in where they meet — and they’re seeing increases in performance, engagement and productivity as a result.

And if possible, don’t be afraid to combine the pace and place components by intentionally building time in to get up and active. Studies have found that physical activity, including walking, can produce higher levels of creativity and more strokes of insight. And where you walk does matter. A study conducted at the University of South Carolina found that students walking in nature showed signs of increased memory and cognitive functions over their counterparts who walked in urban settings.

Change of Perspective

Ultimately, this is one of the greatest benefits of breaking your routine in terms of both pace and place. A fresh perspective allows us to see things in new and fresh ways. Sometimes it is a breakthrough in strategy as you see a new opportunity you’ve never noticed before. Sometimes it’s a stronger connection with your coworkers as you build trust and see their unique strengths. Sometimes it’s just the rest and distance you need to position yourself and your team for what’s ahead.

It’s easy to fall into the trap that moving forward is the only way to make progress. It can be hard to pull back when everything inside us and around our business is telling us to push ahead, further, faster. But often, pulling back is the best way to not only find a better path forward but also provide the momentum you need to achieve even greater results.

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