Eight Paradoxical Habits of Wildly Successful People

leaders4You know what they say about opinions—everybody has one. If you want to see that truth in action, just Google “characteristics of successful people.” Some of the results will undoubtedly point to the famous Marshmallow Study at Stanford, which demonstrated that the ability to delay gratification is a key component of success.

But that’s far from the only theory:

  • According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, it all comes down to mindset. She conducted a series of experiments that demonstrated that, while the average person sees their abilities as fixed assets, successful people have, what she calls, a “growth mindset.” In other words, successful people focus on self-improvement and overcoming challenges rather than seeing their mistakes as the products of insurmountable personal flaws.
  • In another study conducted by Penn State and Duke, researchers assessed the social skills of 700 kindergartners. Twenty years later, they followed up and discovered a strong correlation between social skills and success. The children with the best social skills were more likely to have earned a college degree and to hold a full-time job, while the kids who struggled with social skills in kindergarten were more likely to get arrested, binge drink, and apply for public housing.

And the list goes on and on. So, what is happening here? Why are there so many different theories, complete with the science to back them up, about the traits that contribute to success? I think it’s because most wildly successful people are complex—so complex that many of their defining qualities are paradoxical.

Rather than an “either/or” set of static characteristics, they’re more likely to demonstrate both. This is a key to their success. Here are some examples of what I’m referring to.

  1. They’re polite, yet completely unafraid to rock the boat. Successful people are, what I like to call, “graciously disruptive.” They’re never satisfied with the status quo. They’re the ones who constantly ask, “What if?” and “Why not?” They’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom, yet they don’t disrupt things for the sake of being disruptive; they do it to make things better. Still, they’re polite and considerate, and they don’t draw attention to other people’s mistakes just to humiliate them. However, that doesn’t mean they sit back and let people wander off in the wrong direction. They won’t hesitate to speak up when it’s time to change course.
  2. They’re deeply passionate, yet rational and objective about their work. Successful people are passionate about their work, but they don’t let it skew their thinking. They have the ability to step back and look at their work with a critical eye and to accept their mistakes. If it’s a disaster, they’ll admit it, because they realize that it’s better to try something different than to put out something sub-par with their name on it. That sense of detachment also allows them to accept feedback from others without taking it personally.
  3. They’re convergent and divergent thinkers. Convergent thinking is what’s measured by IQ tests: rational thinking that typically results in a single right answer. Divergent thinking, on the other hand, is less precise. It’s about generating ideas and asking questions that have no solid right or wrong answers. Both are important. No matter how high your IQ is, you’re not going to be successful if you can’t think outside of the proverbial box. On the other hand, you need rational thinking skills to correctly judge whether your ideas have merit. That’s why this particular paradox is so important.
  4. They’re both energetic and calm. Successful people seem to have limitless energy when it comes to doing the things they’re passionate about, but they aren’t frantic. They can keep that energy under control. They work hard and focus on the task at hand with devoted concentration, but they’re so smooth that they make it look both easy and fun. Some people are so energetic that they’re hyperactive and unfocused and constantly bouncing from one thing to another. Successful people know how to harness their energy so that it works in the service of progress and doesn’t undermine it.
  5. They like to work and play. Successful people personify the often-repeated quote, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Because they love what they do, they find brainstorming, problem-solving, and grinding out tough projects thought-provoking, engaging, and deeply satisfying. And though they take their work very seriously, the enjoyment and gratification they derive from it blurs the common demarcation between work and play.
  6. They’re ambiverts. Successful people are comfortable acting in ways that amplify their introversion and extraversion, depending on what the situation calls for. They can sit in the back of a conference room and silently listen to what’s going on, or they can go up on stage, grab a microphone, and engage a huge crowd—and they look just as comfortable doing one as they do the other.
  7. They’re naïve and smart. No one would argue that intelligence isn’t an important part of success, but many successful people also have a childlike lack of awareness (or maybe it’s a lack of respect) for the type of constraints that other people blindly accept. They’re not limited by what other people tell them is possible.
  8. They’re both humble and proud. Taking pride in your work is absolutely essential for success, but successful people know they wouldn’t be where they are without the people who came before them and those they’ve worked with along the way. They know that they didn’t achieve their success all on their own, and because they’re OK with that, they don’t have anything to prove. That’s why so many incredibly successful people end up coming across as grounded and humble when you meet them in person.

Bringing It All Together

The reason that there are so many different opinions on what traits are necessary for success—and the reason that so many of them contradict each other—is that successful people are complex. They have a wide variety of paradoxical skills that they call upon as needed, like a mechanic with a well-stocked toolbox.

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Never Stop Listening

produce shotNever stop Listening

As she’s scanning organic bananas or buckwheat kernels at the checkout the assistant at local health food store strikes up a conversation. She’s curious to know if the bananas are just for making smoothies and what the customer uses the buckwheat for. These seemingly insignificant interactions are hardly worth remembering and yet over time they spark ideas for new menu items to be introduced at the in-store cafe and give rise to opportunities to better serve her community of customers.

Good marketing starts with the customer’s needs and wants, not with the company’s emergency.

A great marketing strategy is geared towards creating lasting connections instead of simply being focused on reaching short term targets.

The gifted marketer doesn’t simply try to sell what’s in stock today. She strives to understand what her customer will want tomorrow and then creates the culture and momentum to deliver that.

If your success and profits are by-product of satisfied customers, it stands to reason that your priority is to matter, not simply to make and sell.

The challenge that many organisations have is understanding what matters to customers, and rapidly transferring that understanding into developing products and services that matter to customers.  Don’t get me wrong, being on the shop floor and interacting with customers is a critical part of marketers and leaders’ role. Good retailers still spend a day or two a week out in shops, and Terry Leahey in Tesco formalized this with every leader spending a week in store: TWIST, Tesco Week In Store Together, starting with himself.

Using Data-driven technology can harness the power of your colleagues and customers to listen intensively to customers and anticipate their needs at even more scale.

At Coop we starting a Listen Act and Fix programme where we gathered ideas from colleagues and used these to understand and prioritise problems to fix.

At Sainsbury’s “Tell Justin” was a colleague crowdsourced ideas generation programme where 150,000 colleagues could write to Justin King the CEO with ideas. He saw every idea and they were passed to senior managers to review. Every Idea earned a certificate for the colleagues and a simple thank you from Justin. The best ideas when they were implemented were celebrated through the company.

At Starbucks in USA they have taken this idea further to crowdsource ideas from customers. My Starbucks Idea created a digital portal and crowdsources suggestions to improve service/experience and lets users vote for their favourite ideas. Every idea is responded to by management and customers are kept involved in development, through digital media or you-tube style updates.  Ideas such as writing name on the cup, or even suggesting baristas taught the basics in sign language are being seriously reviewed.

Aligning Organisations around Transformation

data worldDigital mastery in an ever increasingly digital world is one of the key priorities of an organisation. The road to travel on the journey to making your organisation more customer focused in a digital world is challenging and one that requires alignment and commitment from the CEO, the Board and Shareholders down.

There are 5 priorities for a chief customer officer  / chief digital officer

1) Build a clear vision of a radically different future state and align it with Shareholders Board, CEO and Exec.  ensure that they are involved in co-creating the vision and understand the elements of how it works. If you need to train them on Twitter, facebook, what’s app or programming, do it so they understand a digital world.

2) Engage Colleagues in a 18m-36m Goal and develop a clear action plan. Ensure that you have a detailed and well managed transformation programme with agreed outcomes. Engaging colleagues in building this will be critical. It’s amazing how digitally literate teens and twenty somethings in a retail organisation are!

3) Breakdown fear of data and digital across the organisation. Board-> Senior managers-> middle managers -> Colleagues. Communicate widely and use storytelling to engage at all levels. Be very pragmatic and engage people in learning by doing rather than telling ( run Twittter workshops, small projects designed to deliver quick wins, training by doing.) Focus on small wins early and let people tell these stories across the organisation themselves as their wins. Align objectives and remuneration to deliver the goal from Exec down to all colleagues.

4) Foster stronger bonds between technical and business people. This is a two way process to ensure the technical teams understand the commercial imperatives, and customer solutions you would like to build, and the business teams learn to trust the expertise of technical IT teams. It will also allow you to improve data quality through showing the business impact.develop a data strategy aligned to business goals , build tools as required to deliver commercial goals.

5) Steer the course through strong Governance. Digital Transformation should be governed through the EXEC as well as relevant touchpoints to ensure continual alignment.

These 5 priorities along won’t drive the transformation but applying them is a start that many organisations who are now Digital Masters followed.

Make Sure you take Holidays

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Leadership Tip of the week #83

It’s important to encourage your colleagues to take time off.

Make it clear to them that this is a business issue — not just a personal one.

Use a few minutes in a team meeting to share some of the research on the benefits of holidayies, such as higher productivity and less stress. Then keep track of how many holiday days colleagues have taken, and periodically update the team so that they know this issue matters to you.

When people do take time off, tell them that you don’t want them checking email or voicemail, and that you’ll keep a list of things that come up for when they’re back.

And if someone on your team isn’t taking their vacation time, bring it up during their next development discussion.

Most important of all, be a good role model: Take full, disconnected holidays so that your team will, too.

Have a great Easter break….

Adapted from “How to Get Your Team to Use Their Vacation Time,” by Liane Davey

Clever Cars

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What can your driving habits tell us? A lot is the answer. In fact, where people drive can reveal a lot more than Google searches and this is what advertisers, startups, and car-makers are quickly realising.

For years car companies have been installing software and sensors that collect driving behaviour and location data from our cars. This is invaluable to advertisers & car companies alike.

 

Car companies argue this data will enhance the driving experience CX.  It could help to predict flat tires, find parking spaces or charging spots, alert authorities to dangerous crossings & even track criminals fleeing from crime-scenes.

Advertisers are even more excited. Israeli startup, Otonomo, cleans up and organises data for carmakers. They let drivers select the information they’re willing to share with companies in exchange for rewards & discounts – imagine leaving work late and a £5 Dominos discount coming up on your display 🍕

This is only the start. Ford estimates that by 2020 their vehicles will have 100m lines of code and Gartner estimates 98% of new cars in the US & Europe will have an embedded cyber connection.

clever cars

What about BIG data?

The real interesting part is when all this data is aggregated. With all this data, companies can see trends that are linked to other events. For instance:

  1. Hedge funds could use boot sensor data to see how much people bought when they went shopping which would show consumer spending
  2. Banks could see how many people had stopped driving to work, thus suggesting they’ve lost their jobs, and if this number began to rise they could anticipate an economic downturn
  3. 3rd parties could track trips to the police station, domestic violence shelters, STI/HIV testing centres and infer sensitive information about drivers’ health and relationships.

Autonomous cars won’t stop us… 

One of the most important big-picture outcomes here is that car manufacturers are not only hardware companies now, they’re also software companies. It’s often been suggested that traditional companies will die off with the coming of autonomous cars, but this shows they’re using tech themselves to find new sources of revenue.

People need to be aware of the level of privacy they’ll be giving away. Soon your car could know more about you than your family…

How to get through to a Bad Listener

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How to Get Through to a Bad Listener

Leadership Tip of the week# 82

adapted from HBR

It’s frustrating to work with someone who doesn’t listen.

Whether your colleague interrupts you, rambles on, or seems distracted, the impact is the same: You feel ignored, and the chances of misunderstandings increase.

But you can encourage your colleague to listen better by emphasizing the importance of your message up front.

Before starting a conversation, say: “I have to talk to you about something important, and I need your help.”

This sends a signal to your colleague that they need to pay attention.

As frustrating as it may be, you may also need to make your point multiple times, in multiple ways. Be transparent about what you’re doing.

You might say: “I want to repeat this, because I want to make sure it’s understood.”

Then follow up with: “Does that make sense?”

That way you can know your message has been heard.

Adapted from “How to Work with a Bad Listener,” by Rebecca Knight

Data driven fitness community

data pulse #43

sweaty betty tamara

Now I’m not one into female fashion ( just ask my wife) , nor do I hang around the shops but I do love how Tamara Hill-Norton has used data to create a passionate community with Sweaty Betty since she set up the first boutique in Notting Hill in 1998 . Initially targeting “yummy Mummies” but now broadened out to connect fitness and fashion.

Sweaty Betty is a British retailer specialising in active wear for women, featuring in 50 from London to San Fancisco  and selling significantly digitally. Sweaty Betty aims to ‘inspire women to find empowerment through fitness’.

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Sweaty Betty has a real distinctive difference to its potential competitor Amazon : It distinctively  moves beyond traditional retail practices with added value services as well as great clothing and builds an active community. This is achieved through regular Sweaty Betty fitness classes that are actively promoted to its customers. These classes range from yoga, run clubs and boot camps right through to Pilates, and are held in Sweaty Betty stores around the world. For those who can’t attend in person, there are also online fitness classes.

Sweaty Betty Live was a event where 3000 Sweaty Bettys came to sweat learn shop eat & get pampered:

sweaty betty carnaby

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Sweaty Betty was very clear on their purpose and had a very clear story that was developed starting inside the organisation, and building out into their community. A data driven approach to brand building and creating community, loyalty and interaction meant people starting telling the Sweaty Betty story themselves.

checkout Tamara story:

http://www.sweatybetty.com/meet-tamara/

Sweaty Betty leverages a broad range of data-driven social tools – Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are all used. They also created ‘brand ambassadors’ and allowed customers to have a conversation, helping to underline the sense that Sweaty Betty is a ‘fitness community rather than just a sportswear retailer