All posts by Dr. Jim Taylor

Disruptive Innovation May Not Be That Disruptive

Disruption is certainly in vogue these days in the business world. Yet, an interesting and contrarian article in The New Yorker  challenges the conventional wisdom that disruptive innovation actually work. The writer debunks much of the findings of the Harvard professor and business guru Clayton Christensen that businesses and industries evolve or die through disruptive innovation.


Leader-as-Performer: Lead the Way to Maximum Success

In a recent post, I introduced you to The 5 Things Great Leaders Do Very Well, in which I described the five essential roles that leaders must fulfill to be successful:

  1. Leader as person
  2. Leader as performer
  3. Leader as team builder
  4. Leader as decision maker
  5. Leader as change agent

In the follow-up post, I explored Leader as Person in which I argue that who you are is how you lead.

In this post, I will examine your role as Leader as Performer and how this focus ensures that you and your team have the necessary tools to maximize your performances and, as a result, your successes.

Performance is so vital because it is the foundation for two higher-order goals of individual and organizational success in the business world: productivity and profitability. The only way to maximize these two is to maximize performance.

Prime BusinessPrime-Business

Though every business person would agree that the mind plays a central role in business performance, few can clearly articulate the specific areas that influence performance. I define Prime Business as “performing at a consistently high level under the most challenging conditions.” Prime Business is a goal toward which everyone in the business world strives, the result of which is maximizing performance, productivity, and profitability.

But few individuals or companies clearly understand the information and strategies they must use to achieve that goal. Nor do many have a structure and a process for working toward Prime Business.

Prime Business provides both a framework and a means for identifying and developing the key contributors to individual and organizational performance. In a post from March, 2008, I described my Prime Business Pyramid (recently reconceptualized as a “starflower”) which is comprised of the five mental areas that most influence business performance.

Motivation. Motivation involves the determination and drive to take action in pursuit of your goals. Motivation is so important because all efforts would stop and any other contributors to performance, whether the acquisition of information, skill sets, resources, or physical health would be moot. Motivation ensures that you do everything you can to be totally prepared to achieve your goals. Essential to developing motivation is understanding what motivates you to work hard toward your goals.

Confidence. From motivation and preparation in pursuit of your goals, you will gain the foundation of confidence on which success is built. Having put in the necessary time and effort, you will have a strong and resilient belief in your ability to achieve your goals. You will have confidence in your:

  • Knowledge, experience, and expertise,
  • Ability to fulfill your roles and responsibilities, and
  • Capacity to overcome obstacles, handle setbacks, and react constructively to challenges.

. From confidence and an abiding faith that you can succeed, you will have the ability to respond positively to the significant demands and high stress that are an inevitable and constant part of the business world. This healthy reaction means seeing stress as a challenge, not a threat and, as a result, wanting to face it head-on rather than avoid it. Part of your confidence comes from a metaphorical toolbox you develop that you can reach into for information, strategies, and tools to help you turn stress into an ally when it is an enemy for many around you. Your goal isn’t to just manage stress, but to master stress and use it as a tool to propel you forward rather than hold you back. The benefits of stress mastery can be found at every level of your business efforts including psychological, physical, and interpersonal.

Focus. With a clear mind that comes with stress mastery, you will have the essential ability to stay focused and avoid distractions while others are consumed by the chaos that often exists in the business world. Effective focus means being able to focus intensely on the task at hand, shift focus when the demands or the tasks change, and block out performance-interfering distractions that are ever present in business. Focus is especially important when faced with complex responsibilities, multiple tasks, deadlines, and uncertain outcomes.

Emotions. Developing the four previous Prime Business factors provides you with the foundation for emotional mastery, perhaps the most challenging of the performance factors. Emotions lie at the top of the Prime Business starflower because I have found that they are the ultimate determinant of your ability to perform consistently under the most challenging conditions. Emotions also contribute significantly to your abilities as a leader and a team member. The business world can provoke a broad spectrum of emotions, ranging from inspiration, pride, exhilaration, and contentment, to fear, frustration, anger, and despair. Emotional mastery doesn’t involve not feeling these emotions—as human beings, that’s impossible—but rather identifying, understanding, and expressing the emotions you feel in a healthy way. Most importantly, emotional mastery gives you the power to use emotions as tools to facilitate individual and team performance rather than weapons that hurt you and others.

From-to Performance Shifts

With a new and deeper appreciation of what impacts your performance in the business world, you can now understand the shifts that you can make to optimize your work efforts, achieve Prime Business, maximize your and your company’s performance, productivity, and profitability.

from-to shift

Exercise #1

  1. Identify a high performer in the business that you admire.
  2. Describe the attributes that you believe make that person so successful.

Exercise #2

  1. Consider the next level you want to achieve in your career.
  2. Identify the Prime Business factors that are propelling you to the next level.
  3. Identify the Prime Business factors that may be holding you back.
  4. Describe the mental tools you can use to develop the factors identified in #3.

Sleep is Another Casualty of Technology

If you’re a parent a of teenager (or have a child that is going to be one!), this article should really disturb you. The bottom line is that when young people should be sleeping, many are staying up late spending the wee hours of the night on social media.  It’s called ‘”vamping,” as in vampires.

Says one teenager, “Sometimes I look up and it’s 3 a.m. and I’m watching a video of a giraffe eating a steak,” he said. “And I wonder, ‘How did I get here?’”


The Best Way to Motivate People is…

A fascinating article describes research that is both counterintuitive and has potentially important implications for the worlds of business, sports, education, and beyond.

The basic finding, not surprising, is that internal motivation (drive from your values, meaning, passions) produces the best outcomes. What is surprising was the finding that when internal motivation was combined with instrumental motivation (drive from external rewards), outcomes declined.

This goes against the conventional wisdom–and my own personal and professional experiences–that combining the two motivations should result in the best outcomes. Certainly, if you ask any professional athlete or high-level business person, they will likely say that they are motivated by both internal and instrumental factors. Interesting food for thought, to be sure.


For Athletic Success, You Pay Now or Pay Later

Just about every sport has an off-season during which a key focus should be on building your fitness that acts as the foundation for all of your other sports efforts. Because all aspects of sports preparation have become so sophisticated in the last decade or so, regardless of your sport, without the necessary strength, agility, and stamina, you have little chance of achieving your athletic goals no matter how good you are technically, tactically, or mentally.

The problem is that, for most young athletes, conditioning isn’t all that fun, in fact, it can be downright tiring, boring, and, yes, painful. Which means that you may not be entirely psyched to work out as much or as hard as you should. I heard this complaint twice recently from young athletes I’m working with. Both knew they should be in the gym regularly, but when it came time to head out the door, they just couldn’t pull the trigger as often as they know they should. Plus, when they got to the gym, they just couldn’t seem to push themselves as hard as they knew they should.

If you feel this way, don’t feel too bad because even the most successful and committed athletes don’t always enjoy their time in the gym. Even for the world’s best athletes, conditioning isn’t always fun and it is usually really painful. But each of them make a choice and you can too.

Pay Now or Pay Later

Before I describe some practical strategies you can use to get and stay motivated for your workout program, I want to share with you a perspective that I hope will be a wake-up call and will act as a kick in the pants for when you’re just not feeling your conditioning mojo. I call it “You pay now or pay later.” Let me explain.

You’re going to pay for what you do or do not do in your conditioning next season in one way or another. You can pay now in the currency of fatigue and pain by making a daily commitment to your conditioning and putting in your best effort in all of your workouts.

There are several benefits to paying now. First, your ROI (return on investment) will be big because your high level of fitness will result in improved ability to perform your best. Second, all of that suffering will make you feel tough and confident when you walk onto the field, court, or course next season (a former alpine ski racing coach of mine, Chris Jones, told me years after I retired that a lot of the conditioning we did wasn’t physically unnecessary, but he wanted us to believe that we were the strongest and toughest athletes on the hill).

The alternative is to pay later in the currency of emotional pain. I’m talking about the disappointment, frustration, and regret you will surely feel after a competition, a season, or your career because, as you reflect back, you realize that it might have turned out differently if you had paid earlier in physical currency during your workouts.

And here is the kicker that should really convince you that it’s better to pay now than pay later. The physical pain won’t last much longer than the end of the workout. But the emotional pain you will feel from having failed to achieve your goals because you didn’t pay earlier can last a lifetime.

Getting Motivated

I hope that my discussion of ‘pay now or pay later’ is enough to get you out of bed or off the couch and into the gym with a fanatical determination to put in the time and effort necessary to achieve your athletic goals. But it’s easy to say you want to pay now, but that bed or couch can have a magnetic attraction that can be hard to resist when it’s time to actually get up and head to the gym. So, here are a few practical strategies you can employ to help you start to pay now.

Focus on your long-term goals. To be your best, you have to put a lot of time and effort into your athletic preparations. But, as I noted above, there are going to be times when you don’t feel that motivated.

When you feel this way, focus on your long-term goals. Remind yourself why you’re working so hard. Imagine exactly what you want to accomplish and tell yourself that the only way you’ll be able to reach your goals is to continue to work hard.

Try to generate the feelings of inspiration and pride that you will experience when you reach your goals. This technique will distract you from the discomfort, focus you on what you want to achieve, and generate positive thoughts and emotions that will get you through the tough parts of conditioning.

Also, imagine how you would feel—lousy!—if you didn’t achieve your goals due to lack of effort. That alone should get you off your butt and into the gym!

Make it fun. Conditioning doesn’t have to be repetitive and boring workout routines in the gym. These days, with an emphasis on functional fitness, you can make big physical gains while doing things you love. No, bowling and golf probably won’t cut it when it comes to conditioning, but road cycling, mountain biking, trail running, parkour, motocross, crossfit, gymnastics, yoga, and martial arts, among others, can allow you to add to your fitness while having a great time. Plus, building variety into your workout program can remove some of the monotony for physical training and actually enable you to look forward to your workout sessions.

Have a training partner. It’s difficult to be highly motivated all of the time on your own. There are going to be some days when you just don’t feel like getting out there. Also, no matter how hard you push yourself, you will work that much harder if you have someone pushing you. That someone can be a coach, personal trainer, or parent. But the best person to have is a regular training partner, someone at about your level of ability with whom you can work together to accomplish your goals. The chances are on any given day that one of you will be motivated. Even if you’re not very psyched to do, say, five sets of power cleans, you will still give a big effort because your partner is pushing you to do those last few really painful reps of each set.

Focus on your greatest competitor. Another way to keep yourself motivated is to think about your greatest competitor. Identify who your biggest competition is and put his or her name or photo where you can see it every day. Ask yourself, “Am I working harder than him/her?”  Remind yourself that only by working your hardest will you have a chance to beat your greatest competitor next season.

Motivational cues. A big part of staying motivated involves generating positive emotions associated with your efforts and achieving your goals. A way to keep those feelings is with motivational cues such as inspirational phrases and photographs. If you come across a quote or a picture that moves you, place it where you can see it regularly such as in your bedroom or on your refrigerator door. Look at it periodically and allow yourself to experience the emotions it creates in you. These reminders and the emotions associated with them will inspire and motivate you to continue to work hard toward your athletic goals.

Daily questions. Every day, you should ask yourself two questions. When you get up in the morning, ask, “What can I do today to become the best athlete I can be?”  and before you go to sleep, ask, “Did I do everything possible today to become the best athlete I can be?”  These two questions will remind you daily of what your goals are and will challenge you to be motivated to become your best.

The heart of motivation. A final point about motivating yourself during conditioning. The techniques I’ve just described are effective in increasing your short-term motivation. Motivation, though, is not something that can be given to you. Rather, motivation must ultimately come from within. Whether you compete in your sport because you want to win an Olympic gold medal or play professionally some day, have fun competing, love being with your friends, or just enjoy seeing what you are capable of, you have to feel it deep inside and then express that feeling every time you work out. You must simply want to be the best athlete you can be. You just have to want it really bad!

Fascinating Article about Being ‘Cool’ at 13 (Hint: Not a Good Thing)

A fascinating article about a study that examined so-called cool kids as they entered their teenage years lost their way by the time they reached early adulthood. ‘Pseudomature’ behavior that resulted in popularity and being labeled ‘cool’ at age 13 was predictive of all sorts of problems at age 23.

My takeaway is that the rush to adulthood among children, pushed by parents and popular culture, is misguided because they aren’t developmentally ready to  assume the role of adult yet. Many young people become stuck in adolescence and never fully mature.

As the lead researcher stated, “To be truly mature as an early adolescent means you’re able to be a good, loyal friend, supportive, hardworking and responsible…But that doesn’t get a lot of airplay on Monday morning in a ninth-grade homeroom.”

Key takeaway: you don’t want your kids to be cool.

You can read the entire study here.