“The business environment is so uncertain that no can afford to miss a step. Some forces are out of out control–recessions, cutbacks, layoffs. But being the best we can be at our job is not. We have total control over that.”
--From the Introduction of The Six Fundamentals of Success
Everyone has his or her own style at work. But if you look at the people who are successful, you’ll see similarities. They always do the most important things first--they know how to prioritize. They can sum up how their company stands out from the pack in only a few minutes. They work with a sense of urgency, every day. These are the kinds of qualities and habits that never go out of style. Moreover, they are crucial to any successful career and life. By pursuing them regularly, you and your company are more likely to get ahead.
In The Six Fundamentals of Success, CEO and business consultant Stuart Levine spells out exactly how to practice the constants of business success--whether it’s satisfying customers, developing strong relationships, or communicating clearly--through six fundamental principles, gained from decades of experience working with top executives. But it’s the way Levine zeroes in on these fundamentals--add value, communicate well, deliver results, act with integrity, invest in relationships, and gain perspective--and brings them to life through dozens of pithy, to-the-point rules that makes the book so practical and useful. With no-nonsense lessons like “Face time counts,” “Do breakfast,” and “Share the good news--and the bad,” Levine offers concrete examples of how to behave, respond, and motivate others.
Aimed at business people and entrepreneurs at all levels, whether they work in companies large or small, The Six Fundamentals of Success provides the smart, action-oriented guidance people need in today’s challenging climate.
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THE SIX FUNDAMENTALS OF SUCCESS
Stuart R. Levine
Make Sure You Add Value
Adding value to an organization means you increase its worth and its capacity to serve its customers. A company's worth is linked to its profit potential. So if you help the organization make more profit than it does now, you're adding value. And if you add value, you'll be more valuable to the company. Practicing the rules in this section--whether it's "Act like an owner," "Complete one important thing every day," or "Stop financial hemorrhaging"--will increase your individual worth as an employee, and, in turn, make the company worth more. And there's nothing your boss likes more than increased corporate worth. It's one of the fundamental ways you can advance your career, and increase your own paycheck. (Note: In the not-for-profit world, this translates into financial stability. Even museums strive for a "profit" margin in order to maintain their treasures and acquire new ones.) You can increase your organization's value in four ways: help it sell more, cut costs, get higher prices, or improve quality for the customer. All of this is a balancing act because if you cut costs indiscriminately, you might be cutting quality so much that you lose customers.
You can add value from any level. In fact, often you're uniquely positioned to do this. A server at a major chain restaurant once suggested a change that eliminated a liaison position between the kitchen and waiters and saved the company almost half a million dollars a year system-wide. She was able to do this because she lived on the front lines every day. The people at the corporate office would never have seen it. This kind of input is vital to a company.
The surest way to add value every day is to make sure at least part of your daily work contributes to a strategy. Business strategy is designed to increase an organization's value, so by working on a strategy for at least part of every day you know you're adding value.
To make adding value part of your daily actions and behavior:
*Know how your organization creates value for the customer and how you fit in.
*Understand how your company spends and makes money.
*Focus on the things that are important to adding value.
*Care passionately about customers.
*Continuously improve your skills so you can keep finding new ways to add value.
*Come up with and test new ideas.
See your customer as a person
In order to care about your work, you've got to see how you add value to the customer. Who is the customer and what does she want? What need does your organization meet? What's your customer's life like? For example, if you do billing for a cardiac health center, your customers are usually over fifty years old. They probably have children who care about them and grandchildren who want them around for a long time. Ask your team to think about people in their families who might fit the profile. How would your sister or dad feel coming into the cardiac health center? How does your work make things better or worse for that person? Start from the moment the customer gets your product or service, work backwards, and chart the pieces that come together to deliver it. Where do you fit? Who relies on your team? What happens if you're late? How does it affect other departments? How does it affect your customer?
If you and your team know how your contribution fits in the process, it'll be easier for you to see how your work is important. People give their best to work that's important. So do you.
Know your industry
Know your industry and your company's position in it.
1 ) Read the business section of the newspaper, watch the business media, and stay current with economic trends that impact your industry. Don't ignore global trends. They affect your organization as well.
2) Read your industry's trade publications, even if you have to borrow your boss's copy.
3) In talking with clients and suppliers, listen to what they have to say.
Spend a few minutes each morning reviewing the news to grasp the top-line trends. If you see an article that might interest a colleague, highlight the pertinent information and send it to her. Add a note about how it could be useful (especially if you're sending it to your boss or a client). Bringing someone's attention to what's relevant helps others, and shows people around you that you understand the industry. They'll see you in a different and better way.
As you scour the media or talk to people in your industry, you'll develop a fuller grounding in the deeper implications of actions and events. And as your understanding of your industry grows, your broadened perspective will help you make better decisions faster.
Develop your financial IQ
It's crucial to understand the language of money to add value to an organization. It will help you strengthen your performance and confidence and further your career.
1) Identify a financial point person in your organization who can help you to gather and interpret financial information.
2) Make sure you and everyone on your team can read a balance sheet and understand its implications.
3) Ask your boss for the profit margins1 of all your organization's products and services. Find out how your team might increase or threaten that margin.
4) Start meetings with a financial update, such as reviewing monthly business results. Explain what the numbers mean and how the people in the room can affect the numbers. When wrapping up, connect the meeting's discussion back to financial performance.
5) Coach team members one on one about how their work affects financial performance. Ask, "Do you understand how your work affects our ability to achieve results?"
6) Don't assume everyone understands financial terms. Whenever you use such terms, define them. When someone else uses an unfamiliar term, ask him or her to explain.
7) Never pretend to understand something you don't. Ask for clarification when you need it. It shows people on your team that it's okay to "not know," and that asking for help is a sign of confidence, not ignorance.
Demand strong "numbers literacy" from yourself and your team. Make yourself an integral part of your organization's financial health.
Work with a sense of urgency
There are important things at stake every day--your organization's goals, your department's financial performance, the customer's experience. Work fast, work hard, and do as much as you can do well.
Urgency isn't mania, however--don't crank out work just to cross it off your list. Work hard to produce a high standard of quality. Let your sense of urgency come from a genuine passion for delivering something of value to your customer, your team, or your work. Urgency should be paired with pride in getting it right.
Working this way gives you and the people around you energy. You'll finish the day feeling you've accomplished a lot.
Make yourself promotable
To get promoted, you need to already have developed the skills needed to do the job you are working toward. Voluntarily assume more and more of the responsibility. Learn as much as you can from the people currently working in that position by asking them questions or pitching in to help. Usually, they will be happy to have your interest and assistance. And they can be important allies in helping you make the move when the time is right.
Get your boss's support by helping her achieve her goals. As you pursue your career goals, don't give your boss any reason to think you don't care about doing great work in your current job. You'll need your boss's support to get the job you want and if you're not doing your current job well, there is no way you'll be promoted. So be sure your current work doesn't suffer, and that you make your boss look good. That's your job today.
If possible, train and develop the person who is likely to replace you. If you want to move up, make sure it's clear to decision-makers that you've groomed a replacement. Don't avoid this to make yourself seem indispensable. It doesn't work that way. Training your successor will get you promoted instead.
Create your own performance dashboard
How do you know if you're on track to meet your goals? You need a system to assure that you get there. Think of a car's dashboard. There are gauges and indicators that tell you whether critical functions are working. Do you have enough gas? How hot is the engine? How fast are you traveling? This information "snapshot" is designed to monitor your car's performance and help you make necessary repairs before the car breaks down. Design a dashboard for your job performance as well. Use it to see if you're getting where you want to be this quarter or this year.
Set goals that you'll accomplish within a given time period. Goals should always be timed and measurable--you either meet them or you don't within the time you defined. The only exception is "learning goals," such as presentation skills, which can be more difficult to measure. Discuss your goals with your supervisor. Ask for her agreement that the goals you've set line up with how she'll assess your performance. Include any learning goals you've established to emphasize their importance in your professional development. Here are a few examples.
By the end of this quarter:
Increase productivity by 10%
Decrease project budgets by 15%
Strengthen meeting management, presentation, and coaching skills (learning goals)
Get the information you need to make sure you're making progress toward your target. If you're falling behind, step on the gas or reevaluate the route you're taking.
By measuring your accomplishments you not only work better, you can also better communicate your progress to your boss--the person who assesses your salary and bonuses. Never assume your boss knows what you're getting done. Each quarter, share your dashboard results.
Know what's on your boss's dashboard
Helping your boss achieve his goals is good for your career. It's also your job. When designing your performance dashboard, include at least one goal that specifically supports one of your boss's. Even if your boss doesn't keep a formal dashboard, his performance is being measured. When you schedule time to review your personal dashboard, be sure to ask how your department's performance is measured and what your boss needs to achieve.
Here's an example. At a small retail chain, a new CEO was chosen to turn the company's financial performance around. She worked with the senior leadership team to define a number of initiatives. Her long-term survival depended on being able to assess store-by-store progress. The controller saw her challenge and made it his goal to retool the financial reporting system so the CEO could get the information she needed to make better, faster decisions. This move enabled her to take actions that saved the company $50 million that year.
If you have employees who report to you, tell them your goals so they can help you achieve them.
Create a plan
Create a personal plan every year that shows what you need to get done in the next twelve months. Make sure your plan lines up with your dashboard goals and your boss's expectations for your team. Divide the goals into monthly action milestones. If it involves your team, ask for input in setting those milestones.
At the start of each month, create a mini-operating plan that shows what you will have to do to meet your monthly milestones. Prioritize it. Then schedule it. Next, create a detailed "To Do" list for the upcoming week. Integrate this into your monthly calendar or PDA or personal organizer--whatever works for you. (Always do it in the same place.) By Sunday night, create a detailed list for the next week.
Each evening before you leave work, review your list for the day and cross off what you've done. Reschedule what you weren't able to complete, add in new work that's come up, and review the next day's list, and the week's list.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, review what you've accomplished in the previous four weeks. Planning ahead and tracking your progress day by day, and week by week will help you to get more done and move steadily toward a larger objective.
Do what matters most first
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the saying goes. But six e-mails and ten voice mails don't necessarily make a decision or project the most important issue in your inbox. Great managers know how to identify what's truly important and do it first. Take your "To Do" list and rate each item. Keep it simple: use an I for important things and a T for time-sensitive things (use both if an item is important and time-sensitive). Do things that you rated as both important and time-sensitive first. Do things rated important, but not time-sensitive second. Do things that are rated time-sensitive, but not important, after you've done everything else. Delegate everything you can that is not "important" but still needs to be done.
Important things help companies make money in seven ways:
*Getting new customers
*Keeping existing customers
*Delivering great value
*Reducing costs without compromising value
*Advancing the business strategy
Time-sensitive things are more pressing. If you don't take action now, you will lose an opportunity or suffer a negative consequence. For example: You have to put in your request for new office supplies by noon every Friday. On Friday at 11:45, the deadline is pressing but it's only important if you're in immediate need of new supplies or equipment.
Good bosses expect you to handle 98 percent of your time management decisions. If it is a high-stakes situation and the priority isn't clear, get your boss's input. Otherwise, use your best judgment.
Prioritizing can help you focus on what matters most. Effective managers not only work hard, but work smart. They do this by making the right choices on where to focus their energy and their time at any given moment.
Complete one important thing every day
How many times do you end the day feeling like you didn't accomplish anything? That feeling you get when you review your "To Do" list and you haven't crossed off anything important on it. You fought fires all day and got nowhere. It's draining.
Do at least one important thing every day. Refuse to leave until it's done. It's okay if it wasn't on your list, as long as it's truly important. If you have the chance to spend time with a major customer or your boss asks your team to support another team that's facing a tough deadline, do it. If it involves your team, send an e-mail thanking them for their hard work. By e-mailing them, you've done something else important--you've given them energy and set them up for success the next day.
You need to motivate yourself before you can motivate a team. Knowing you did something that added value will give you a feeling of accomplishment as you end your workday. Give this to yourself every day.
Excerpted from The Six Fundamentals of Success by Stuart R. Levine Copyright© 2003 by Stuart R. Levine. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
From the Hardcover edition.
What People are Saying About This
Management fads come and go. This book reminds us that the way to get strong, predictable results is to master the fundamentals. A terrific tool for people with the commitment to get real results--by maximizing people and processes to give customers great value.
president, Fortunoff Fine Jewelry
I am a firm believer in Levine's fundamentals. 'Conduct yourself and your business with integrity' and 'Make sure you add value' cannot be taken lightly in today's business climate. This is an incredibly helpful book.
Director of the Year, 2003, National Association of Corporate Directors
"Targeted at people at all levels in any organization, the sage advice directly relates the...concepts to how to behave toward...and motivate others . Alan Sklar's rich, clear narration further stabilizes this material." -Library Journal
An important primer for anyone who wants to make a difference in the workplace.
senior associate dean, Harvard Business School