Six Golden Rules To Succeed!

Today was one of those days that invariably help reiterate the inherent value of what one is doing. For any Executive coach or leadership mentor, the biggest high is when you are able to visualize tangible changes in the lives of people you have coached at some point in time.
For me, that is one of the most significant aspects of what I do as a coach. Not the money, nor the prestige! They are natural by-products of the profession. But they do not define the profession. The worth of a coach is eventually defined by the achievements of those who have been coached. Nicholas James Bollettieri is not hailed for the tennis he played himself. He is defined by what his proteges did. Every time Monica Seles or Andre Agassi let off a winning serve, Nicholas probably knew he had done something right. So did others, which probably explains why his repertoire of clients include the like of Mary Pierce, Maria Sharapova, the Williams sisters, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova and Boris Becker, among others.
Today I got a call from a person I had coached twelve years ago. It had been my first coaching assignment, after I moved out of a banking career in 2004. The call was to let me know two things:
The fact that he had recently sold off his latest venture (a technology company) at a price that is indecent to mention anywhere these days :) 
And that over the past twelve years he had seen considerable success; a lot of it attributed to the coaching he had received
Now, don’t get this wrong. This article is not about my coaching skills. On the contrary, I must confess that I never cease to be humbled by the trust people have placed in me over the years. This article is more about the coachee, or technically speaking the protégé. He mentioned to me that there were SIX things that had really helped him get ahead in his life and career. I felt, after listening to him that these are things that may benefit a lot of other people out there too. That is why I am going to mention (more or less verbatim) the six golden rules he said helped him so much:
Golden rule # 1: Don’t believe people who say perfection is not attainable. Not only is it achievable, it is a great asset, no matter what you do. Perfection is when you have done something and you know (and everyone else does too) that it can’t be done any better.
Caution: Perfection is not the same as nit-picking on every silly issue. That only serves to drive everyone up the wall and you might get the perfect brew but no one to partake it with.
Golden rule # 2: Sweat the small stuff. It’s the finer details that get missed out and can lead to total disaster. Most people focus on the bigger pieces, and it is the logical thing to do. Most times, being oriented around the larger issues is sensible. However, if that becomes a habit, one tends to miss out the subtle nuances that can make all the difference.
Caution: As in rule 1, sweating the small stuff is not about picking out small errors or nitpicking. It’s about making sure you haven’t ignored those things that might look minor but have a major impact on the success of whatever you are doing.
Golden rule # 3: Don’t hire the “best” talent in the market. Now I have your attention! Yes you heard it right. Hiring the “best” talent in the market is what most people want to do, and the one thing it leaves them with for certain is a big hole in their pocket. What might be the “best” for others might not be the ideal one for you. Identify people who have not only done well in their current roles, but (more importantly) have demonstrated the ability to adapt themselves to shifting priorities and dynamic scenarios. These are the people who will be an asset when you find your business in a tough spot. Performance is important, but demonstrated ability to adapt and innovate is the differentiator when it comes to hiring talent.
Caution: Don’t ignore past performance. That is a must! Additionally they need to be able to adapt. And once you have them on board, make sure you value them. This sort of creative talent requires a challenging environment and room to innovate.
Golden rule # 4: Don’t “sell” them the job. Most companies and business leaders end up selling the job to people when they come across a particularly talented resource. That is a bad idea to say the least. For instance, I could be a really persuasive leader and I might just end up convincing a candidate that this is the best job for them. And if I am good at it, nine times out of ten I could be successful at hiring the guy. The point is – when you “sell” a job to the person, you are focusing their attention on the best part of your game. What happens when they come on board and realize the game has considerable flaws? At that juncture, you end up spending time clearing up the crap rather than being focused on the things that matter. The other thing with “selling” the job is that you haven’t really encouraged the candidate to share why they are the absolute right resource for the job. The “buy-in” becomes subservient to the “sell-out”. Consequently, a person who has been “sold” the job usually comes with baggage that takes a lot of executive time to manage. Therefore, time that needs to be spent on growing the business is actually spent on managing expectations of the resource.  
Caution: Do talk about what makes your company or your business so great. But, don’t fail to mention the imperfections either. And when you do that, ask the person how they feel about the prospect of working with you. Let them commit to the business upfront rather than selling it to them. That way there will be greater buy-in once they join, and they will be as committed as you are towards making positive changes to the business.
Golden rule # 5: You are not perfect. An inordinately large number of leaders fall into the trap of creating firewalls around themselves once they achieve a modicum of success. The more successful they get, the more impenetrable the firewall becomes. Finally, they fail to listen to what the people around them are speaking. It’s a vacuum that can not only cripple the business leader, but can sound the death knell for prospering businesses. Look around you at the companies that have fallen by the wayside and you might find that at one time they were the market leaders in what they do. But the inability of the leaders to listen to their own people (and sometimes external customers) results in total disconnect with what is happening around them. Accepting that you are as fallible to making errors as anyone else, keeps you on your toes and willing to listen to what people are trying to tell you.
Caution: Be careful who you take feedback from. The last thing you want to do is listen to those people who will tell you only what you want to hear. Don’t scare away the folks who have the courage to say you are wrong when you feel you are right. It won’t happen overnight. People who have been loath to give you feedback aren’t going to start doing do right away. You will need to earn their trust, and the quicker you start the process, the faster the firewalls will begin crumbling.
Golden rule # 6: Focus...Focus...Focus You want to be the best keyboard player in the world? Forget everything else and focus on playing the keyboard. You want to be the world number one in Tennis. Alright! Practice the game ten hours a day and with a lot of talent behind you, you might just make it. The world is full of people who have achieved the impossible and gone against all odds to do it, because they have focused on what they do best, and then given it their all! Unfortunately the world is also replete with a whole lot of other folks who might have been more talented than the ones who succeeded, but unlike the latter these others ended up trying to do too many things at the same time. The world does not talk about them; the world does not know about them. What works in other spheres, works in the business world too. If you have a great idea, focus on that. There are bound to be distractions because highly talented people are usually good at more than one thing. But, focus on creating excellence in the one thing you want to be the best at. The difference between a guy who practises to be a boxer for ten hours a day and another guy who is equally talented but spends five hours on boxing and the remaining five on tennis is that the first guy becomes Mohamed Ali, and the other one neither excels at boxing nor at tennis. You know Mohamed Ali. You haven’t heard about the other guy.
Caution: Choose what you want to excel at with care, because you are going to be dedicating the next few years of your life to make it happen. And then stick with it. However, in the rare case that you feel (after a reasonable time) that you are not getting anywhere, you may want to introspect and also take feedback from people (whom you can trust and who are credible) on whether this really was the right thing to focus on. If it wasn’t, there is no harm in pivoting and making a change. Just make sure you are not pivoting too often, as it might mean you haven’t actually spent enough time choosing the right thing to focus on.
And that is the sum of all that my former protégé shared with me! He says these principles helped him succeed. And I know these very rules have enabled several others to get ahead in their life too. I hope they can make a difference to yours too. If that happens, this article has been worth my time writing, and yours reading....
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