Top Five Habits of Highly Successful People

Regardless what capacity an individual may have within their organization - whether they are salespeople, or software developers, or executive assistants, or any other function you can conceive of - there are certain facets of their work ethic that distinguish those whom are successful from those whom are unsuccessful. Successful people straddle many lines, all the while remaining in full control of their destiny.

Indeed, it becomes hard to point out our own deficiencies that prevent us from reaching the peak of our personal performance. Much of the time, those individuals who find themselves on the losing end of a sales deal or even just a more basic interaction with their colleagues have one or more of these particular deficiencies in their work ethic:

  • Successful people are open-minded: Ideally, this would be self-explanatory. But let me explain further in order to ensure we are all on the same page. People whom have a propensity to being successful don't discount ideas simply because they do not fall into their preconceived ideas or because those ideas did not originate from them; rather, highly successful people relish the opportunity to work in conjunction with their team and are open-minded with the ideas brought forth by their colleagues. This idea applies in our personal lives, too; if you're successful in your life, you never did it on your own; rather, you loved working with others to not only expedite the completion of the work but also to learn new skills that can be transferred to future tasks.
  • Successful people take ownership of all ideas - good and bad: Have you ever met someone who took tremendous pride in all the good things that they did, but retreated when the going got tough and opted for someone else to take the fall? Those are highly unsuccessful people in the long run. Failure is a big part of what forms a successful individual both personally and professionally. If you're unwilling to own the bad times with as much fervor as you own the good times, then you're selective in your presentation of yourself. You're not doing yourself any favour by omitting the bad times because you're not giving yourself a chance to reflect on what went wrong and on how to mitigate that for the next time.
  • Successful people function as leaders whether they're called to it or not: You may not have 'manager' or 'executive' in your job title; however, you still have an affinity for all things that put you reasonably close to the driver's seat if you're driven by success. Whether your team leader is asking for ideas on how to sharpen a sales strategy, or your spouse wants you to confirm dinner plans for the evening, it's important for you to lead the charge in a non-aggressive manner. In other words, don't force the issues at hand; be assertive and give ideas that have substance and weight to them, let those ideas be what compels your boss, or your spouse, to make a decision one way or another. This applies, too, for people in a leadership capacity and lends itself handsomely to the point of being open-minded in all things we do.
  • Successful people are well-rounded and reasonably educated: Let me clarify this point. I do not mean to suggest that only individuals educated in post-secondary institutions have the means to be successful. Instead, what I am offering is that successful people are more inclined to make educated decisions by way of gather examples of proof, researching, finding references and perhaps even relying on the testimonials of others. This lends itself to the idea of being well-rounded since people whom are well-rounded are willing to look at the bigger picture and make decisions based on the larger scheme of things. It's not that they are experts at what they do, but they are focused on having a reasonably good understanding of what it is that they are speaking about. Being well-rounded also means to make time for things that improve your love of life outside of work - just don't let that consume you and set you off-track of your career ambitions. Let it complement your career ambitions!
  • Successful people are focused on delivering results, rather than the minutia around them: This is the easiest to explain, and yet the most challenging to implement, of all elements that make up successful people. Often times, those people whom are successful are laser-focused on the task at hand. They dislike distractions in their lives and especially dislike distractions while they are completing a task. Their primary objective is to get from point A to point B without losing focus of the goal-post, so to speak. If you can find the means to be focused to this level, you are guaranteed success. If you're having difficulty completing a delegated task, then ask for support - but always have the final objective be to complete your tasks with the highest level of proficiency.

In your pursuit for success, always monitor how closely you align yourself with the above stated points. This is what will separate you from your colleagues and allow you to reach the points of success you know you deserve.

It's Not Glassdoor's Fault - It's Yours. Fix It!

There are very websites that have the ability to drastically hurt the fortunes of a company in quite the way that Glassdoor does. As prospective candidates for hire do their due diligence on your company, they often make a point to visit Glassdoor and solidify their decision based on the reviews made on Glassdoor. 

For those of you who don't know what Glassdoor is, it's essentially a website that gives the public a good view of what a company culture is like and the general range of salaries for various positions held within the company and how those salaries compete with the industry averages. The most pressing thing that Glassdoor offers which can have a 'damaging' effect for a company is the ability for former and current employees to 'discuss' the company and its frailties online. It is a public forum and this potentially negative review can be challenging for companies to overcome.

Companies tend to be bothered quite a bit by these negative reviews (and their lack of an ability to respond to those negative reviews without being a paid business on Glassdoor.) They often cite that the reviews are complete lies that do not even approach the reality of what the business strives to do.  Sometimes, disgruntled employees - those who were unsuccessful for whatever the reason may be - are the ones posting these reviews as a form of retribution against their former or current employers. Whatever the case, these reviews can negatively impact your company.

Rather than complain, however, about these reviews, companies should utilize it as a teaching moment. They should also create a culture of pride and encourage that people positively react to their employer online.

Here are steps you can take to deal with negative reviews on your glassdoor account:

  1. Politely respond to these reviews - own the situation where it needs to be owned, and show a mature outlook on the future of the business following this review.
  2. Encourage your team, assuming you have a positive environment already instilled internally, to brag about your company online - particularly on glassdoor.
  3. If you have a negative culture, learn from this review and turn your company around! Make it a more pleasant working environment!
  4. Add a non-disparagement clause to your employer agreements. That isn't to say you should allow your organization to remain dangerously poisonous to your employees; rather, it's your legal right to protect yourself to the extent that you can control, to the best of your ability, your online public profiles.

This is not an exhaustive best-practice list for you on how to manage your online public profile; rather, it is a cursory look that verifies your ability to control the image your company has on Glassdoor.

Don't simply complain - go out and fix the problem!

Want Your Resume Tossed? Then Make These Cover Letter Errors

You've made several resume submissions; yet, unfortunately for you, you never hear back from recruiters or employers. Why is that? 

Well, often times the rejection of your resume may happen far before the end-reader actually gets to learning about your professional experiences. In fact, it may happen as early as the cover letter is read. Let me explain.

There are some very common 'phrases' utilized in cover letters that demonstrate a tendency for you as a candidate to be more 'generic' in your job hunt. Let's start with the most innocent, and obvious:

"Below is a copy of my resume."

First of all, thank you for alerting the reader of the obvious. But aside from the sarcasm here, the reader of your resume would much rather have a guided tour of your resume in your cover letter. It's always a great idea to identify what the reader can look forward to further dissecting once they actually get to your resume.

However, it is a bad idea to essentially scribe your cover letter in a harder-to-read format than your resume. Instead, try isolating two, or maximum three, examples of your work that highlight what you can bring to this position you are applying to.

"My name is [Insert Your Name Here]..."

It is well established that, unless you are a popular culture meme or are just very famous, you are not entirely well known to the masses - and that's not a bad thing. What is bad, however, is to start your resume by proclaiming what your name is. It should be abundantly clear what your name is by virtue of the name listed atop the resume.

I would suggest, instead, to begin your cover letter by identifying precisely what you are strong at. For instance, if you are a highly qualified business analyst with many years working in software implementation on the functional side, you may feel free to start off your resume in this fashion.

A good general rule of thumb is to try and closely align your proclamation statement with the specific role you are applying to - in other words, don't begin your proclamation statement telling the reader that you are a gifted mathematician who has many years of experience working within the financial world when the role you happen to be applying to is a fitness sales representative with a leading gym in your area.

The Dreaded Two or More Page Cover Letter

Okay. Wow. I suppose this is a no brainer but it needs to be stated. Having a cover letter exceed one page, or even completely absorb one single page for that matter, is a very bad idea. At best, your cover letter will simply be ignored in favour of reading your resume. At worst, your resume will get canned.

Keep your cover letter concise, and ideally, you should wrap it up by the three quarter mark of the first page.

When I Was Growing up, I Learned How to Sell By Opening Up My Own Lemonade Stand

Boring. Sure, it's a compelling story to tell during an interview - if you keep it concise and to the point. Sure, it's a great way to allow your recruitment consultant to help differentiate you by isolating your passion. But when all is said and done, your cover letter is an opportunity to simplify your resume - not to tell your life story.

In other words, keep the content of your cover letter relevant to the content of your resume and to the objectives of the job you are applying to. Any and all other miscellaneous details can be shared in an interview if it feels appropriate and if it is asked of you.

The Daily Recruitment Hymn: Always Be Scouting

Championship sports teams are made both through organic growth and through strategic talent acquisition. Locally, the most prominent example of a championship-calibre sports team is the Toronto Raptors. Let me explain.

Prior to the deal that landed the Raptors both Coach Dwane Casey & GM Masai Ujiri, this team was sad - correction, this team was horrible - to watch. Ever heard of a trainwreck? That was what my Toronto Raptors was. Fans like myself who had been around for a reasonably long while were always left disappointed by the poor performance of our beloved basketball club.

It all began in the summer of 2010, just prior to the start of the 2010-2011 basketball season - the entire landscape of the NBA changed. Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James all merged their individual talents to form a so-called 'super-team', poised to dominate the NBA for many seasons to follow. The sting to the Raptors' organization, losing their star player Chris Bosh, was painful for fans. The organization felt that they were a work in progress, and although they appeared stuck in what appeared to be perpetual mediocrity, the team was looking to make the right on-court talent acquisitions to elevate them from a mediocre basketball club to a championship level basketball club. Never did they think, however, that the loss of Bosh would result in them being a bottom-feeder in the standings.

Flash forward several losing seasons and several key personnel decisions occurred: firstly, the ownership group for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) changed. This ownership group, comprised of many key individuals but also included the newly added Bell and Rogers TV and Internet empires in Canada, strategically mapped out their collective futures. The rationale appeared simple: Yes, Toronto sports fans are loyal to their teams, but there is only so much losing an organization can succumb to before fans begin to lose their patience; therefore, the organizations must win now rather than become perpetual losers. Secondly, a coaching change was in order, along with a key player acquisition - and who better than defensive specialist Dwane Casey, the mastermind behind the Dallas Mavericks' championship winning season, and high-rising point guard formerly of the Houston Rockets, Kyle Lowry?

Furthermore, MLSE orchestrated a shake-up of the executive branches for virtually all of the teams under the banner of MLSE. In particular, the Raptors organization lost the weight of long-time general manager Bryan Colangelo. Although he was single-handedly responsible for developing a bridge of communication that resulted in the successful hiring of Dwane Casey and the trade for Kyle Lowry, Bryan himself represented a losing tradition for a Raptors organization desperate to re-brand themselves as a winning basketball club that talented players would be privileged to play for. Therein lies a key hire by MLSE: Masai Ujiri, a maestro in the boardroom capable of negotiating deals that bore fruit not simply for his home club, but also for those on the other end of the deal.

There, Masai went to work - canvassing for talent across the NBA, studying the roster he inherited from Bryan Colangelo, and ultimately making key trades that bring us to where we are today. Masai not only leveraged his roster depth to add complimentary talent to a young and nimble basketball club, but he also empowered his coach - whom he decided to keep as Dwane Casey - to play a style of basketball that Dwane wanted to play. In fact, the scouting process was - and still is - a mutual exchange of ideas between Dwane and Masai. As GM, Masai listens carefully to his coach and looks to acquire talent that will compliment Dwane's practical coaching style and the roster whom Dwane and Masai mutually agreed should remain with the club.

This aggressive canvassing resulted in what we see in today's Toronto Raptors basketball club: a championship caliber team that can play with the best teams anywhere in the world; a winning mentality and culture that every player is expected to embrace; a culture that other basketball players are excited to join and represent; and a revival of love for a basketball club that was on the verge of collapsing in on itself. Now, the Raptors are poised for future growth because not only are they healthy for the moment with their current roster, but the mentality of always scouting for talent and seeing where the gaps are and where the successes lie will ensure that this team is competitive long after the retirement of key players like Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan.

Interesting story, right?

There are practical lessons here that all organizations should study and emulate in their own growth:

  1. Be aware of changes to your team and the effect that those changes may have to your strategic growth initiatives: Just like the sudden loss of Chris Bosh dramatically dwindled the fortunes of the Raptors basketball club, so too can the loss of key staff dramatically hurt your bottom line. It's important for you to be aware of the culture with which you build your team under. If the culture is a perpetual bottom feeder or, perhaps, is perpetually mediocre, then you stand to lose your key staff.  Sometimes, these personnel changes are out of our control - after all, people are effectively agents of their own destiny and may leave your organization no matter what you do. That's not an excuse to allow your culture to deteriorate internally; rather, it's a reality check. Hire key staff, and ensure that those individuals whom effectively handle business critical roles have subordinates whom are poised to handle the mantle in the event of employee turnover. The simple solution: Always be Scouting.
  2. Study your organization from the top-down, not the bottom-up: MLSE demonstrates the power of this model. Prior to the ownership change, MLSE ownership appeared content with mediocrity on the basis of their faith that the Toronto sports fan would support their franchises under any and all circumstances. However, with the fate of multiple franchises under jeopardy, MLSE made ownership changes that brought in organizations with a vested interest in seeing success from their franchises. Bell and Rogers want to see winning teams because that's how you encourage people to watch the live broadcast of the games being played. Following this key move, MLSE essentially stripped down the executive branches of all of their popular franchises - the Jays, the Raptors, Toronto FC, and the Leafs - and revised their collective strategic growth initiatives to ensure that they were all aligned with one goal in mind: winning. The Raptors added the highly talented executive, Masai Ujiri, who is a maestro of scouting and deal-making. The result: The Raptors will Always be Scouting.
  3. Hold all members of the organizations - from the top-down - accountable for failures and reward their successes: Masai knows that if he decelerates at any moment and shows cracks in his character, then the MLSE ownership will be on the hunt for new talent. Just look at the Jays' former executive Alex Anthopolous as an example. Winning is the cultural norm now and absolutely nothing less ought to be expected from an MLSE franchise. That is not to say that you hastily execute fires and new hiring, especially since every situation warrants its own unique assessment and evaluation. Rather, this is an opportunity for the executive team and the ownership team to ensure that there exists a mutual interest in seeing success within their respective franchises. Furthermore, reward those who do good work for your organization - just as the Raptors have done with Demar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Dwane Casey, Jonas Valanciunas, and even Masai himself. But as owners, know you must always be actively seeking the best talent to join your organization. The result - you need to Always be Scouting.
  4. Utilize all resources available to you in your recruitment efforts: It is clear to me and other professionals whom proudly call themselves recruitment consultants that MLSE was in consultation with the most savvy recruitment consultants in the business. Why? The simple answer is that although they may have had access to every single individual player and executive in the business, they MLSE ownership group focused on what they do best: delegating responsibilities to experts in their respective fields. By the way, in case it was lost on you from earlier - that includes utilizing recruitment consulting agencies. If your organization wants to be successful, it must develop trusted relationships with advisors from this vertical - we have a pulse on the market and are able to get our hands dirty to identify, evaluate, and source key talent for your success. In this manner, whether your organization itself is actively hiring or actively reviewing potential candidates for hire, you will always have dedicated eyes and ears on the ground whom will be living the recruitment mantra: Always be Scouting.

Simply put, you owe it to your organization to take recruitment and staffing efforts very seriously. If you need any reason to understand why it's important, you should study the Raptors and their ascension to a championship-calibre for inspiration.