5 Guidelines to Maximize your Most Valuable Resource: Your Time.

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As an executive, business/sales professional or entrepreneur, your ability to manage and maximize the resources at your disposal will always dictate the success you achieve. This includes the people you come in contact with, the assets you have access to and, most of all, your personal productivity.

Time is a professional’s most valued and valuable resource. It is a constantly diminishing resource that is finite, measurable and unforgiving. Your ability to maximize its impact and minimize its constraints will dictate the results you achieve. Use these time management guidelines to increase your personal productivity:

Be prepared. A manager’s two important skills are to think and to plan. The more time you invest thinking about what’s important to success for both you and your enterprise, the more you will emphasize putting time and effort in those areas. In addition, the better your plan, the easier it will for you, and everyone else involved in your business environment, to know what activities will produce the highest return. A written plan is one of the most important time management tools you can create. Make it a point to think and plan every day.

Be strategic. Know the difference between being efficient and being effective. Being efficient is getting a lot done. Being effective, on the other hand, is ensuring that you get right things done to move your business  or career forward. Leadership, by its very nature, accepts there will never be enough time to get everything done. The key to professional success recognizes that focusing the most important and valuable tasks, and getting them accomplished, will always be enough. Your most questions should always be “what is the important thing I can do NOW to move my business or career forward?”

Be structured. As a business professional, especially in the early stages of your career or mandate, it’s common to get overwhelmed, then simply try to work harder as the tasks pile up. This strategy will only exacerbate the problem, adding anxiety and exhaustion to the mix. Develop the habit of creating a daily written task list and prioritizing each item relative to its importance and value to your personal and professional success. This will not only reinforce productive time use, it will also increase your confidence. If ever you feel uncertain or overwhelmed, simply find a quiet spot, and revise your list based on your current situation. This is one of the most powerful time management habits you can develop.

Be ruthless. Because you have accepted total responsible for your life, you are under constant time pressure. You must develop the skill and the discipline of being ruthless with your time while staying gracious with people. This is why being prepared, strategic and structured are important. They allow you to weigh a request for your time in the context of its value for you, your productivity and your professional outcomes. Accept that it will be necessary for you to say “no” to certain time requests. Prepare for this eventually by developing options that will minimize the negative impact. Replies like “looking at my schedule, I can’t see how I can do this”, or “check back with me tomorrow” can let you off the hook without damaging a relationship.

Be balanced. Entrepreneurship or management can be an all-consuming vocation. Before you know it, it can take over your life, sometimes at the expense of other equally-important life categories. Your life and your time require a holistic approach. The professional and personal areas of life are inter-dependent and inter-connected. Non-business areas like health, relationships and spirituality will always have an impact on your outcomes. For this reason, it is essential that you include all areas of your life in your time and priority management perspective.

The four cornerstones of effective time management.
1. Clarify your focus in your main life categories
2. Create a written plan that includes goals in all major life areas
3. Implement a daily prioritized action plan.
4. Review and revise your time management plan on an on-going basis.


Michael Hughes is known as North America’s Networking Guru. To find out more about him, or have him share his wealth of knowledge at your meeting or event, visit www.NetworkingForResults.com.

Networking with Millenials – Hey Teacher! Leave those kids alone.

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I’ve been sitting on the sidelines, reviewing with great interest the negative comments being heaped on our next generation of professionals: they’re rebellious, they don’t listen, they can’t communicate, they’re too focused on technology, they don’t have adequate people skills, etc, etc.

I’ve been interacting with young professionals for the last twenty years. I find today’s young people just as positive, personable and enthusiastic as ever. That being said, we need to accept that, in many cases, the enemy is us.

Not better or worse, just different. Young people have always been at the forefront of change. This new crop of executives, entrepreneurs and career professionals represent our future. I love listening to them. I enjoy interacting with them. Stop seeing them as problem children or rebels. Accept that they are different. Accept that they will have different ideas and ideals. This is good for us all.

It’s not about the technology. Yes, the younger generation has grown up embracing technology. It’s an integral part of their lives. It has contributed to accelerating their knowledge capacity, expanded their mindset and liberated them from limiting beliefs. Stop focusing on their obsession with technology. Instead, invest more time learning how they benefit from it. They’ll love you for it.

It is all about communication. There is a misconception that because young professionals use technology more to communicate, they aren’t competent communicators. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, their social skills incorporate a wider range of options due to their expanded communication options. It’s not a drawback, it’s a benefit. Once you see it this way, you can embrace their environment and maximize it.

No one is “entitled.” I keep hearing that young professionals have a sense of entitlement. And why wouldn’t they? They live in a world that offers them unparalleled opportunity and unlimited potential , yet we want them to wait until the time is right. Now who’s falling back on a sense of entitlement? It’s time accept that young professionals have a sense of urgency and that part of our obligation is to help them move forward (whether we like it or not).

The last word. I have accepted that today’s young professionals aren’t to be resented or rebuked. I seek them out. I work to discover their aspirations and their frustrations. I invest in assisting them in their journey. After all, someone did that for me years ago. It’s time for us to stop seeing the next generation (whether called Millennials, Gen Xrs) as an impediment to progress when they are really the engine of our future success.

Why aren’t we more accepting of these motivated and assertive young people who care enough to question the status quo and clamor for the change we all know is required to succeed? Whatever they choose to call you, I’m here with you. I’d love to hear from you.

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Michael Hughes is known as THE Networking Guru. To find out more about him and receive a complimentary copy of his ebook “Managing The Networking Experience”, visit his web site at www.NetworkingForResults.com.

7 Lessons from my Toughest Negotiation Course

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I’ve been in and around the business world for over 40 years. I’ve discussed important issues, bartered services, and bought and sold some pretty high-priced items. I thought I had a strong hand when it came to negotiating, but nothing prepared me for having to deal with my two-and-half-year-old granddaughter during her recent holiday visit.

I had to completely re-think my position when I found myself, either single-handedly or as part of the support team, participating in everything from diaper changes to meals to what clothes to wear to playtime schedules to movie choices to nap or bedtime curfews. It was both exhilarating and exhausting. Here are the most valuable lessons I learned as part of the exercise.

Plan for success. Dealing with a two year old requires planning and preparation. Every encounter is full of surprises. This means taking time prior to any action to think through what will be required. Attention to detail (the right plush toy for diaper change) and advance planning (knowing the right story for nap time) facilitate the process for everyone concerned.

Think in terms of outcomes. I’ve heard it said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. A two year old can change her mind between the time she sits at the table and when the food arrives (7 ½ seconds). Having the ability and willingness to adapt from asking her to eat everything on the plate to some of everything means everyone walking away happy and content.

Ask more than tell. Knowing what you want to accomplish is important. Knowing what the other person wants to accomplish is the difference between success and failure. This tactic alone can be the difference between a stalemate and a discussion that moves everyone in the same direction. Even young people have an opinion that matters when it comes to how to get dressed.

Always have options. Every conversation represents an opportunity. Developing options, whether planned or propitious in nature, helps pave the way for a successful outcome. The more options you have, the more ways you have of moving the conversation forward, whether you’re talking about extra ketchup to eat one more french fry or agreeing to watch a favorite movie for picking up toys.

Give to get. Everyone wants what they want. No more so than a child. Helping her keep to a schedule or agreeing to a recommendation is sometimes easier when she feels she’s getting what she wants in exchange. Are you any different? Being willing to capitulate in one area proves to be a great way to get agreement in another. Everyone feels better.

Take a break. Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes they don’t even get off on the right foot. Even the best of intentions can go awry when either or both parties can’t agree on a common course of action. That’s the time to take a deep breath and take a break. Better to mend the fences, get everyone back on track, and try again in a short while.

You can’t win ‘em all. There will always be times when, no matter what you try, nothing seems to work. Nowhere is this more exasperating then when dealing with a child. It could be due to a cold, a missed nap, an overtired parent (or grandparent), or some external factor. The good news is that love allows for small misgivings. All is better in the morning (or within the hour).

When all is said and done, the time we spent together allowed me to learn much more about myself and my ability to deal with an energetic, enthusiastic and beautiful being who lights up my like in more ways I can express.

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Michael Hughes is known as Canada’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at www.NetworkingForResults.com and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience

Renewing Your Passion – Strategies to get through difficult times

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Each of us faces adversity. This could come in the form of a sudden job loss, unanticipated career change, work-related challenge, serious personal issue or some other unexpected curve in the road of life. Here are some strategies I have used to deal with these difficult times.

Focus on your strengths. In the early years of my business start-up, I faced a number of difficult times. I remember one particular situation where I had all but given up hope. In fact, I had decided to quit the entrepreneur route and was going to find “a real job”.

When I reflected on my strengths, I realized that my primary skills revolved around coaching, teaching and helping. These are my most powerful assets. In re-focusing on these areas, I rekindled the flame of my life mission and red-doubled my efforts. What are your strengths and how might you use them to rekindle your spark?

Collect success stories. Dark times have the capacity to rob us of self-esteem and self-worth. They carry with them a weight that can seem all-encompassing, making us oblivious to the essence of our lives. I have been rocked by any number of challenges. What keeps me grounded is the list of accomplishments and contributions that attest to my value. I fall back on these when I feel discouraged or disillusioned.

Make a written list of all your success stories, both personal and professional, no matter how seemingly insignificant today. They are the true measure of your character and your courage.

Look for the good news. The spouse of my best friends was dying of brain cancer. Although we lived in different cities, I kept in touch. One of the things I remember most about those calls is that in every conversation, as my colleague updated on their difficult situation and shared the disease’s ever-growing negative impact on his wife, he would add “but the good news is…(she was lucid for a few moments and we had a good chat, she was well enough to call her mom).

The lesson he taught me was that included in every negative situation, there is an opportunity to learn, grow and become stronger. Dig into your challenge and look for the good news. It is there waiting to help you.

P.S.: I’d love to hear any additional strategies you have used to deal with the challenges in your life. Someone out there may need to hear about it today.

Michael J. Hughes is a recognized authority on utilizing networking as a business strategy. To find out more about him, or to have him present at your next meeting or conference, contact him at his web site at http://www.networkingforresults.com/.

Avoiding the New Year’s Resolution Trap.

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Another new year has arrived with all its potential and possibilities. Like turning a page, it offers a clean slate; a chance to start anew. Not that the challenges and disappointments of last year have disappeared, they just seem less weighty in the light of this new beginning.

I know that you’re reflecting on the year just passed and committing (or re-committing) to goals and objectives under the guise of “New Year’s Resolutions.” Before proceeding any further, make sure you position yourself to avoid these four self-defeating Resolution Traps.

The purpose trap. Often, we set a “resolution-de-jour” because it seems like the right thing to do. Goals work best when they are grounded by a higher purpose. Weight loss is simply a vehicle that leads to better health and a longer life. Without a deeper purpose, you will not be committed enough to fight the status quo and persist in the direction of your goal.

The plan trap. Too many people succumb to the myth that resolution-setting and planning is the same thing. Setting a goal is the first step. Planning is the process that confirms its achievement. Running a marathon in five hours by a specific date is a goal. Planning the activities required, by breaking them down (on a monthly, weekly and daily basis), is the basis for its accomplishment.

The productivity trap. Every resolution has a honeymoon phase during the first couple of weeks, driven by enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Setting a goal to learn a new language is great, but without a structure to measure progress, the goal quickly seems unattainable. Activity, without productivity, is wasted effort. Monitored effort stimulates action and motivates on-going commitment.

The patience trap. Even though you buy into the resolution-planning concept supported by a productivity model, the reality that this is hard work, it will take time and cause stress. The biggest challenge is always to convince the mind to stay the course. Patience isn’t a virtue; it’s the mindset that drives resolution success.

A New Year’s morning decision is easy but a New Year’s Resolution is a wonderful gift you give to yourself. Choose it carefully, unwrap it slowly, use it wisely and keep it close. By following these simple steps, you’ll guarantee that it supplies lasting value and immense satisfaction, after all, aren’t you worth it?

Michael Hughes is THE Networking Guru. Receive a FREE copy of his 13-page ebook Managing The Networking Process at www.NetworkingForResults.com

5 Reasons You Aren’t Achieving the Success You Deserve (and What To Do About It)

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You were created to achieve. It’s in your DNA. You are destined to succeed. The only thing that can get in the way of this outcome is you. No matter how passionate, disciplined or competent you are, there are roadblocks that appear. Here are five of the most common and what you can do to blow them out of your way.

1. Misaligned purpose. You were put here for a reason. Discovering it, and driving towards it, is your ultimate life mission.  This will be the true measure of your success. When you become aware of the contribution you are destined to make, nothing will hold you back.

Life is a continuous process of discovery. Sometimes, we only have some of the pieces of the puzzle and presume that we have the whole picture, perceiving success only in monetary, career or personal terms. If you feel frustrated or discouraged, it could be that your purpose has not yet fully unfolded. If the answer is not clear, you simply need to ask more questions.

2. Incomplete planning. Everyone knows setting goals is a secret to success and that working towards them is another. How many times have you set an important goal and watched it disappear within a few weeks or months? How often have you started a new regimen, only to fall back into your old habits?

The problem is, too many people focus on each as a separate area. Long term goals are meaningless unless broken down into the individual components that create the intended outcomes. It is the goal-focused daily and weekly activities that accumulate to deliver your success. Success is a symbiotic process that marries goal structure to activity from concept to conclusion.

3. Ineffective accountability. Holding oneself accountable is a cornerstone of success. It is the link between determination and discipline. Being accountable means accepting that achieving success requires a structure that keeps you aligned with your destination.

The issue is that, too often, we incorporate an “accountability flex factor,” monitoring the measurement process in isolation. Accountability is more meaningful when it is measured in a transparent environment. Success-driven accountability means monitoring performance in a team environment or making it a public process.

4. The high score factor. Success is a journey that includes peaks and valleys. We often achieve positive results early, or hit streaks of higher-than-anticipated outcomes. These unexpected windfalls build confidence and confirm we are moving in the right direction.

An unfortunate by-product of higher-than-expected results is that they can negatively impact our performance and long term focus. Superb results can be the result of excellent work, but they can also mean goals have been set too low or the market is over-correcting. Remember, success always comes at a price. Are you being rewarded for the price you paid, or are you preparing to pay it later?

5. Lack of growth. You are an evolving creature. Knowledge is the fuel that propels you forward and upward. You have achieved your current level of success as a result of the investment you’ve made in developing yourself and your skills.

Just as your body continues to grow, develop and evolve, so must your mind. Continuously investing in personal and professional growth is the most effective strategy to accelerate success. The future is in the hands and minds of those who have the courage to grow. You are meant for more. Your mission is to create it.

Are you struggling with achieving success in your life?  Let’s chat. Simply email me at info@NetworkingForResults.com.

Michael Hughes

A Valentine call to action: Carpe Diem!

Guru thoughts on life, Miscellaneous, The seasons of networking No Comments

Who are you thinking about this Valentine’s Day: a loved (and loving) partner, a valued colleague or a significant person in your life? The Valentine’s Day “window” is a powerful reminder that relationships, especially personal ones, are core to our feelings of personal satisfaction, self-esteem and success.

This annual focus speaks to the power of “love”, but on a deeper level, it acts as a catalyst for validating and expressing the feelings that are the foundation of the deep and meaningful relationships in our lives. Here are five Valentine-focused strategies that can have a significant impact on those around you.

Realize the impact. The incredible power of Valentine’s Day lies in its reminder that love is all around us, and is expressed in any number of ways: deep personal relationships, intimate client partnerships, and inter-dependent professional connections. Take time to reflect and recognize who these people are and how they have impacted your life.

Express your feelings. This special day carries a window of opportunity to communicate your feelings of gratitude, so why not leverage the momentum and make it a point to tell others how you feel. Unless we share our feelings, others will not realize the importance they have or the contributions they have made. Do both yourself and those close to you a great service and tell them exactly how you feel and why. They will be pleasantly surprised.

Make a gesture. Sometimes words are not enough. If expressing yourself verbally is uncomfortable  (yes, I’m speaking to the men reading this), making a gesture can be even more powerful. Often, a personal note or special card can deliver a powerful message, without the embarrassment of a well-intentioned, yet fumbled few words. What gesture could you make that would show these special people in your life what they mean to you?

Deliver a gift. Valentine’s Day and gift-giving go hand-in-hand. In fact, there’s a whole economy around the formal part of this special occasion. This is probably the simplest and most effective way to show others in your life that you have special feelings about them. There’s a caveat though: make sure the gift matches the relationship. Without this link, the gesture holds little meaning and will have little or no value; it may even be misinterpreted.

Make it public. One of the most powerful ways to express deep feelings on this special occasion is to go public. We’ve all heard of public wedding proposals or seen them on Youtube. Every year, I buy corsages for each of the 4 special ladies in my life (mom, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law – and soon-to-arrive grand-daughter) and bring it to them at their place of work, so I can publicly and proudly demonstrate my love for each. What can you do to have a similar effect with your special Valentine(s) this year?

Michael Hughes is Known as Canada’s networking Guru. To get more info about him or have him speak at your next meeting or conference, visit his web site www.NetworkingForResults.com

 

a star terk perspective

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First Contact, as Star Trek fans already know, is a time filled with uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Minimize stress at the outset of a networking interaction by developing a personal introduction strategy: eye contact, sincere smile, offer your hand and introduce yourself. Practice it over and over, until it becomes second nature.

taking others for granted

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The most dangerous time in a relationship is when you take it for granted. This causes you to overstep your bounds, overstay your welcome or abuse your trust. Continuously check your ego and your emotions, asking yourself “whose motives will this action best serve?”

Networking and The Cupid Factor

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From the desk of Michel J. Hughes North America’s Networking Guru. The approach of Valentine’s Day always revives the interest in, and the impact of, my good friend Cupid. For those of you who may unbelievably still be blissfully unaware, Cupid is a mythological winged cherub who acts as a catalyst for romance.

His escapades are well-documented. He surprises unsuspecting couples, stabbing them with his invisible, love-laced arrows. Once Cupid has awakened this emotion, the two parties involved see one another in a completely different light. Their mutual attraction is almost overwhelming. Is this a myth that we should simply discard, or is it fact? Let’s take a look at how life operates.

You attend a networking event. A conversation partner, whom you’ve been more or less  putting in time with until someone better comes along, mentions, almost offhandedly, that he has a strong connection with a prospect you really want to meet. Your attention snaps back to this person and you immediately see him in a different light; it’s almost as if you’ve been prodded in a “Cupid-esc” fashion to see the value in the other person.

You are about to leave your association’s monthly meeting, when a colleague you barely know approaches with another person in tow. She introduces her contact, adding some comments about an event that her conversation partner has mentioned. She is adamant about the urgency that the two of you connect, as she feels you have the perfect topic to present at their next conference. You look at her, shocked and overwhelmed by this unexpected act. Her “Cupid-esc” networking strategy has given you a sudden, incredible appreciation for her value, both as a professional and as a person.

I believe our friend Cupid is continually at work in our lives. This time of year brings to the surface the powerful effect the Cupid Factor has, when applied strategically. An unselfish act, done to support or strengthen a relationship, always leaves both people enriched. How can you put the Cupid Factor to work as you network in coming days and weeks?

  1. Increase your awareness of the Cupid Factor, and trust in its effect. You will immediately see opportunities that you never thought existed.

  2. Become a Cupid by consciously investing time and effort to discover whom others want and need to connect with as you network.

  3. Create networking “Cupid-esc” connections with others. Simply setting this principle in motion produces unexpected and unanticipated results, for yourself as well as your Cupid Factor targets.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Want to get more networking information and insights from Michael? Sign up for his FREE weekly email networking tip at his web site.

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