4 Things Successful Leaders Do Every Day

Few world leaders or Fortune 500 CEOs knew from the beginning that they were going to be successful. Instead, they learned their craft and surrounded themselves with key advisors and role models and set actionable goals. Some attended world-renowned universities and others taught themselves at home or in their garage.

No matter how you started your career, these four habits of successful leaders will help you improve your life at work, no matter if you're looking to improve how you run your team as a manager or how to become a strong member of your team as an entry-level employee.

1. Take an interest in people

Great leaders don’t like to hear themselves talk. They know that you can learn the most by listening to people, including asking their peers or teams for feedback and encouraging them to ask questions.

And when you're listening to someone, make eye contact, it’s a powerful and yet overlooked way to connect. With all of the distractions today, the extra effort to show that you’re actively listening to someone and connecting with what they’re saying goes a long way. Try this in your next meeting you'll find that you internalize more with this small adjustment.

2. Continue learning

Warren Buffett read between 600 and 1000 pages per day when he was beginning his investing career. Books are a great way to expand your vocabulary and knowledge and you can choose topics that interest you. Craft your “education” to fit the career you want. Interested in moving into a management role? Pick up the latest title on developing good leadership skills. Want to become the best financial analyst on your floor? Read up on future financial trends and how to prepare for them. Challenge yourself by trying a new genre or joining a book club, and you'll be surprised with what you can learn.

3. Show up

We live in the age of distractions, multitasking and missed connections. Successful mentors make an effort to keep in touch, especially if they haven’t heard from a mentee or someone they care about in a while. An email with a link to an article of interest and a line asking how they’re doing is a thoughtful and easy way to reach out. If you prefer to meet in person, send an email or text proposing a quick coffee. Relationships are built on trust, which takes time so make time for other people and you’ll find it pays off in the long run.

4. Ask questions

Steven Spielberg said, “the delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” The best way to help mentees can be to ask questions, rather than answer them. Help them work their way through a problem or issue, asking “why” and “what if you look at it this way.” Use your experience to guide them to the choice that’s best for them.

If you're not managing others, you can still apply this to your work life. Ask questions when you don’t understand something or need to clarify instructions. Also, feel empowered to innovate and question processes that might be inefficient. Questions show that you’re actively listening and are not afraid to ask for help, all skills that future leaders should develop early in their careers.

You don’t need to learn all of these habits in a day but they can act as a guide to slowly adjusting how you interact with your colleagues at work and how you spend your free time. You can also apply them to your personal life, helping you strengthen friendships, maximize your free time, and create a fuller life.

If you’re looking to create an advisor network for your professional organization, company, or educational institution, learn more about our private label one-on-one video technology by emailing info@instaviser.com.

 

Ask InstaViser: Expectations for Mentees

Ask InstaViser: I’m about to have my first call with a mentor, what are their expectations for me, as the mentee?

Specific expectations will vary from mentor to mentor but it’s helpful to understand a few of the basic ground rules. Based on feedback from our networks of mentors, we have three hacks for mentees looking to make the most of their mentoring opportunity:

Do your homework.

You wouldn’t go in to take a test without studying and a session with your mentor is no different. To save time for both you and your mentor, be sure to do your research on their professional background and interests before your first meeting. Utilize online resources like Google and LinkedIn to find out what companies your mentor has worked with, any articles they’ve published or other insights that can help direct your conversation. Referencing their past experience or a recent feature on them in the news shows that you’re committed to investing in the relationship and came prepared.

Be on time.

If you’ve set up a time to talk, make sure to be available to talk at that time. When you’re ready to dial-in on time, if not early, you show that you’re respectful of the mentor’s time. For the best video calls, find a room where there will be limited background noise and a decent wifi connection. But even mentors understand if you need to make a last minute change due to events that you can’t control. Communication is key so send a note apologizing for missing the call and a brief explanation for why you couldn’t make it. 

Mentors are sounding boards, not oracles.

Good mentors will advise you based on their professional and personal experiences, but few will try to direct your life choices. It’s unfair to expect that your mentor will be able to give you all the answers or tell you exactly what to do. What they can do is help you organize your thoughts, weigh your options and listen to your decision-making process. 

Mentor/mentee relationships can be meaningful for both parties when you both understand the other’s expectations. If you follow our guidelines above, you’ll be setting yourself up for a successful mentoring experience, no matter if you’re looking for one video call or a longer mentoring relationship.

If you have any questions about mentorship or how InstaViser can help you build a mentor network at your company, send us a note at coach@instaviser.com and your question could be featured in our next “Ask InstaViser” post.

How to Become a Great Leader

We all aspire to improve ourselves, whether it’s to become a future CEO, increase our income, or change industries. As you move along in your career, you will work under a variety of leadership styles, forming your own opinions on what makes a great leader.

Leaders can come in many different forms from company executives or managers to the ambitious intern or friendly face in accounting. No matter the industry, you will start to see key qualities about leaders that you look forward to working with.

Here's a little inspiration from influential thought and business leaders on their favorite leadership qualities and how great leaders can set themselves apart from the rest of the pack:

  1. “Hire well, manage little.” —Warren Buffett
  2. “The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” - Theodore Roosevelt
  3. "In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way." --Tina Fey
  4. “Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders.” - Tom Peters
  5. “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” - John C. Maxwell
  6. "Early on I realized that I had to hire people smarter and more qualified than I was in a number of different fields, and I had to let go of a lot of decision making. I can't tell you how hard that is. But if you've imprinted your values on the people around you, you can dare to trust them to make the right moves." --Howard Schultz
  7. "A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame; a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all; a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery; a leader makes it interesting." --Russell H. Ewing

Looking to make the leap from good to great at work? Talk with a mentor to learn about their favorite quotes on leadership and what characteristics they've found in great leaders throughout their career.

Allison Ball: Three Lessons I Learned From Building My Business

Allison Ball is a food industry consultant and a featured mentor on one of our InstaViser clients' platform. Based out of San Francisco, she specializes in helping producers understand the in’s and out’s of wholesale through her one-on-one client work and online group course, Retail Ready. Allison works to help small and medium-sized businesses figure out how to get their packaged product on the grocery shelf and keep it there. 

Three years ago I left my stable job, steady paycheck, and fantastic workplace to start my own consulting business. While there have been ups and downs since leaving, the freedom, excitement and challenge has made it worthwhile for me. Here I’ll share the three biggest lessons I’ve learned in building my business (so you don’t have to make these mistakes yourself!), and how you can apply them to your own company as well: 

1. Sell your audience what they think they need, not what you think they need. 
People will never pay to solve a problem that they don’t think they have. Why would they? When I first started my business, I was adamant that small producers needed to first gain a super-solid understanding of their financials before they took any steps towards growth. Turns out, many small producers didn’t see this as one of the first steps in launching their businesses. Instead, clients wanted to talk through getting their products in front of Wholesale Buyers, and how to get them to say “yes!” to carrying their product line. I shifted my thinking (and my sales pitches!) and started working with clients to help them approach buyers and get their products on the grocery shelf, regardless of whether or not they knew what their target margins were. Sure enough, more clients started coming through my doors and once we already had a strong relationship they trusted me enough to know they couldn’t ignore their financials forever! 

2. Have themes for your work days.

Multitasking can be perceived as a good thing, but I’ll argue that it slows down your productivity rate in your business. By assigning theme days to your work week, you’ll be better able to block & tackle your to-do’s. For example, I break down my work week as follows: Marketing Mondays, Client work on Tuesdays & Thursdays, New Client Outreach & Meetings on Wednesdays, and Financials on Fridays. This means that if someone reaches out to me and asks me to have a call to see if we’re a good fit for working together, I automatically schedule it for Wednesdays. I do all my invoicing & accounting on Fridays. I schedule all my social media posts & write my blog pieces on Mondays. Client work gets full days on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This schedule allows me to know exactly what my work week will look like, how to prioritize my time (and other people’s requests!), and how to stay focused during my work week. One of the biggest mistakes I see with my producer clients is that they try to accommodate their retailer’s schedules, taking orders, making product, and doing deliveries all different days of the week. Instead, batch everything so you can confidently tell your accounts, “I take orders on Monday, produce on Tuesday, and delivery on Thursdays.” Think towards the future, when you’ll need to have these systems in place! 

3. You don’t have to be an expert in everything.

 What are you bad at in your business? It can be anything from posting on social media, to calculating your taxes, to calling potential new accounts on the phone or running demos. I personally dislike creating powerpoint presentations to go alongside my in-person workshops (but love using them!), so I’ve stopped making them myself and instead outsource that to someone in my network who is better, faster, and more competent at creating beautiful, engaging presentations. I hate following up on aging invoices, and nagging clients to pay their bills, so I’ve found a person who loves doing that and gets satisfaction from tracking down missing invoices or following up on “lost checks.” By finding people who can assist me in the tasks that I don’t enjoy doing (or aren’t great at doing!), it allows me more time to focus on the things that I truly love in my business- connecting with clients, and talking through strategy for the retail environment. You’re not going to be an expert in every facet of your business, and the sooner you can realize that, and be okay with it, the faster you will grow. Find someone to demo for you, or trade your delicious product for someone to do your books, or hire expertise with someone outside of your field. There are people out there who are experts - financial consultants, lawyers, co-packers, packaging designers, brokers, business consultants (like me!)-  you just need to find them and ask for help. Be okay with having strengths and weaknesses! 

It’s taken years for me to learn these lessons, and there are still days when I still don’t follow my own rules (like today- it’s “Financial Friday” yet I’m writing this blog post and haven’t even looked at Quickbooks). The key is that I strive to follow my personal rules more days than not, keep listening to what my clients want and need from me and my services, and keep pushing myself forward day in and day out. 

For more information on Allison Ball and her business, visit her website at Alliball.com.

5 Morning Habits of Successful People

Apple CEO Tim Cook and former First Lady Michelle Obama have one thing in common: they both wake up before 6:30AM. Their early start enables them to workout, brainstorm new business ideas, and plan the rest of their day before the average American has even woken up.

We’ve compiled a list of the six most important habits successful “early-risers” use to accomplish more before the sun rises. 

Use a relaxing alarm.

Looking to feel the motivation to get out of bed instead of hitting the snooze button? Try scheduling in your favorite tune or song to wake up, not the standard annoying beep, and you’ll find you’re more motivated to face the day.

Stretch.

You’ve been lying still for 6-8 hours, your body will need a little bit of time to catch up with the rest of you. Stretching can also counteract the negative effects on your body from sitting at a desk all day.

Sweat it out.

Short, intense periods of exercise are enough to kick start your metabolism and lead you to burn more fat all day long. Seven minutes is short enough that you don’t need to take extra time in the morning but long enough to wake you up.

Start your day with green and protein.

The common grab and go breakfast includes granola bars, toasts, bagels, or oatmeal, all grains and dairy. Skip the bar and go for something greed and filled with protein, like scrambled eggs and steamed spinach or hard-boiled eggs and avocado. You’ll find that you have more energy leading up until lunch, you might even avoid the mid-morning coffee slump. 

Set 2-3 goals, something you know you can accomplish today.

To-do lists are helpful to provide your day with direction but they can quickly turn into an insurmountable pile of tasks and you don’t know where to start. The morning hours are the best time to set your list for the day, surrounded by the least amount of distractions. Keep your priority list short by focusing on two or three things that you would like to accomplish today that will make this day a success.

Studies show that you don’t need to drastically change your schedule to see improvements to your workday and beyond. Small adjustments, like waking up 15 minutes earlier, can have a large impact on your day and enable you to get more done, live more in the moment, or start your day on a calmer note.

Increase Your Productivity at Work in Five Minutes (or Less)

There are countless articles about how to improve your productivity from every business, personal development, and aspirational blog including Inc.com, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. Each is filled with lists offering 5, 10, even 25 ways to save time in the workplace. We’ve taken the best tips and tricks and consolidated them in a quick guide to help you save time this month and start your new year off right. 

Be the person with the plan in your office

Experts agree that most successful employees have a plan, whether they show it or not. Save time by taking time to plan. Sit down the night before, even just 15 minutes, to plan out your day and prioritize what needs to get done. You’ll go to bed knowing that you’re ready to attack the next day. 

Also, get a jump on little decisions you’ll need to make the next morning. Select your outfit for work the evening before, prepare your lunch in advance, set the coffee timer. The fewer decisions you have to make in the morning, the calmer you’ll be getting into the office.

Shorten your to-do list

Now that you have that list, learn how to improve it and save even more time. Entrepreneur Steve Olenski recommends implementing the "two-minute rule" to make the most of small windows of time that you have at work. The idea is this: if you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately.

Other theories include doing the task you dread the most first, that way you aren’t waiting last minute to finish the task. Clear it from your list first thing and we bet your 4pm future self will thank you.

Take care of your body

Standing desks have started to be all the rage but instead of asking for a cubicle makeover, try holding a standing meeting. Not only will it give your back a break from sitting, it is also believed to increase group engagement and performance. 

Most famous CEOs start their day with a morning run or workout to jumpstart their mental health and focus. If you need extra motivation to not hit snooze, think of all the ways you could spend your bonus or raise if your run helps you innovate at work.

Lastly, hydrate. Fill up a personal water bottle at your desk and keep it with you all day. Aim for 1.5-2 liters a day and you’d be surprised at what your hydrated brain can do.

Squeeze learning into your morning commute

Rather than trying to add an hour of reading into your day, download the latest audiobook or podcast and treat your commute as a learning session. Take advantage of this time to do something good for your brain. Whether you’ve been meaning to start mediation, keep up with world news, or catch up on that popular new TV show, there are podcasts on almost everything.

Learn to say no

This is probably the biggest takeaway from all the productivity articles out there. The biggest enemy of your time can be the little distractions and interruptions that come at you during the day. Be honest and suggest alternatives if it’s something you realize is important to others. For example, schedule a lunch catch up with the coworker who can’t wait to tell you about their weekend. It’s up to you to protect your time and if you word it nicely, your coworkers will learn to respect that. 

Planning plays a key part in everything from eating healthy to workouts to networking. We hope you’ve learned a few new tips on how to organize your day to increase your productivity at work and in your personal life.

Four Steps to Successful Networking

Networking has never become easier in the digital age with platforms like LinkedIn offering easy ways to connect with colleagues and future business contacts and numerous networking events in your city. The challenge can be to move casual connections to something more meaningful, possibly a future friend or coworker. Through the different stories we’ve gathered from mentors and business colleagues, we put together a four-step guide to help you avoid common pitfalls in networking and help you convert your loose connections to something more meaningful. 

Do Your Homework
No matter if you’re interested in finding a new client or reaching out to an alum who has experience in a new city that you’re moving to, it’s best to do a little research on the person. First, confirm that they are interested in the product you’re selling, work in the industry you want to learn more about, or live in the city you’re moving to. You can also see if they have any recent news or updates that you can reference in your email or phone call. With LinkedIn and other social media platforms, you have access to public information that will show you’re prepared and did your homework.

Play to Your Strengths
You want to put your best foot forward. If you’re someone who enjoys talking face to face rather than emailing, send a quick note to your new contact to set up a time to for coffee. Or maybe you prefer writing down your points before you present them, then send a well-thought out email laying out all of your questions. You want to feel comfortable and relaxed in your first interaction so email alone can work but challenge yourself to progress to a phone call to discuss anything that you can’t cover in an email.

Follow-up and Deliver
After your meeting, send a follow-up email the next day or two to thank them for meeting and follow-up on anything you discussed. It shows you’re responsible and you were actively listening during their meeting. It might even help to take notes during your meeting if you don’t want to rely on memory alone. Your follow-up email will continue the conversation and offer the opportunity for future collaboration like a new job offer or new friend.

Pay it forward
As you gain experience and expand your network, remember where you first started. Our mentors on InstaViser platforms enjoy the process of helping other professionals advance in their career or work towards a goal. Keeping yourself open to new connections can also lead to new business opportunities. Get involved in your alumni network or company mentorship program, and you might realize that you can actually learn from teaching others.

If you’re wondering how to start looking for a mentor or setting up that initial meeting, we have you covered. If you’re looking to build your own mentorship network platform, reach out to us at info@instaviser.com. 


Happy National Mentoring month from InstaViser!

Women Business Leaders Resolve to Lead with Solutions

By Gretchen Wahl - originally posted on BizWest January 13, 2017

Recently, a group of C-suite women business leaders in Boulder came together for the final Executive Women in Business luncheon of 2016. During the luncheon, there was discussion about progress that women made in the workplace last year and challenges that women have yet to overcome to level the playing field in corporate America.

As we enter2017, let’s take a closer look at how we can commit to creating more opportunities and breaking down barriers to professional and personal growth for women. The dialogue among local female leaders surfaced some resolutions that can advance the role of women and support their career paths at every stage of their life.

Step up the mentorship game. Mentorship is a key driver of success, yet women report that they still have a hard time finding mentors that can help influence their growth path in a company or help guide skills and professional development.  Women who are mentored by other women report that they feel more supported and are more satisfied with their career. Resolve to make time each month to connect with young women in your field to share advice and support growth into senior roles.

Build a legacy for the next generation. When the group of Boulder leaders was asked how they made a difference in their industry for the future generation of female leaders, most had trouble answering the question or responded that they did not believe they have made a difference at all. Whether it be leading a mentorship program, being a vocal advocate of gender equality or implementing a new position-sharing program at your company for working moms, identify what your passion is and make this year the year you make your mark.

Close the confidence gap. A recent social psychological study of 985,000 men and women across 48 countries that asked participants to rate the phrase: “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem,” found that across the board, regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women. Young women and girls often take cues from other women about how to act and speak.  As female leaders, the more we can model confident behaviors in how we speak, make decisions and carry ourselves, the more we will empower young women to close the confidence gap.

Support family growth and career growth.  At the luncheon discussion, many women expressed the professional challenges that came with taking time off for personal goals, such as having a baby or getting an advanced degree. More than two-thirds of companies today offer flexible programs to help balance work and life. However, less than 25 percent of employees take advantage of these programs.  Management support of these programs is critical to the success of employees who opt to exercise these benefits. Encouraging women to take advantage of programs such as job-sharing, flexible hours and remote working can help women advance into senior positions at a pace comparable to men.

Redefine balance. No longer are work and home life clearly separated, as technology makes us connected 24/7 and many positions require attention during off hours. Additionally, many women report that they met their best friends at work. Working women can redefine balance and seamlessly integrate both their work and personal schedules. Encourage young women to seek out a career that allows them embrace this new convergence of work and home life. 

As we close 2016 and enter a new year, we should feel proud of the accomplishments women are making in the workplace, in public office and at home. Research states that companies with women in the senior-most positions are more profitable, yet female CEOs still make up only 14 percent of S&P 500 CEOs.  As we look to 2017, let’s come together to help one another achieve even more professional and personal goals. Together, we can resolve to overcome the hurdles that remain before us to pave the way for greater opportunities for women to grow in their careers. 

Gretchen Wahl serves as senior vice president and commercial banking manager for First National Denver in Boulder.

 

National Mentoring Month Highlights the Value of Personal Development

2017 is starting out strong with the world focusing on mentorship in honor of National Mentoring Month. President Obama and the Golden State Warriors even teamed up to encourage viewers to become community mentors in this viral video.

With 33% of young adults growing up without a mentor, this puts young professionals at a disadvantage in the work force. It is becoming more and more common for employees to put “find a mentor” on their list of professional goals for the year. At InstaViser, we are dedicated to connecting aspirers of every age and walk of life for life-changing success.

Why is mentorship so important? One graphic from Nancy Kasmar's book So You Want to Start a Mentorship Program sums it up: "Why mentor? To create stars." That works for everyone involved, she said. "The foundation of the mentoring relationship is possibility. Mentor and mentee are open to what each might give and receive. A good relationship expands to become something bigger, providing mutual learning and experience. Both sides benefit, a win-win. That's when mentoring benefits the entire organization, and in this case, the HR profession."1

Throughout 2016, InstaViser had the pleasure of working with great organizations including the United States Olympic Committee, The Culinary Institute of America’s Food Business School, and the University of California-Berkeley Athletics Department. With over 140 mentors, our users have learned how to focus under pressure, refine their job hunt process, and learn what it take to bring their work to the next level.

If you are wondering how to start looking for a mentor or setting up that initial meeting, InstaViser has you covered. If you’re looking to build your own mentorship network platform, please email: info@instaviser.com.

Happy National Mentoring Month from InstaViser!

 

About InstaViser. Founded in 2013 by a team of Olympians, InstaViser was first created to connect professional athletes and world-class coaches with amateur athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Today, InstaViser’s reach has expanded to enable and empower a new world of global connection and learning for people of all ages and walks of life. The one of its kind InstaViser platform combines the power of human connection with technology to build private label effective mentorship and professional development networks for organizations, universities, and learning institutions. We are in the business of changing lives, one connection at a time. For more information please visit: www.instaviser.com.

1. From Mentoring is Integral to SHRM Certification

Ask InstaViser: How to Select a Mentor

Ask InstaViser: What tips do you have on selecting a mentor and setting up the first call?

At InstaViser, we’ve found that first outreach can be the hardest step in building a relationship with a new mentor. A good starting point for selecting a mentor is to find something in common. Most of our mentors have listed a short biography as well as a list of key topics they are particularly interested so you have a little context for what they like to talk about and this can help you build your initial list of mentors.

Next, you need to start talking to mentors. On InstaViser's platform, mentors have already indicated that they are interested in being a mentor so it’s a lot easier than cold-emailing someone in your industry or network. To set up your first meeting, it’s helpful to mention your common interest/topic in your initial outreach as this helps the mentor know what you would like to talk about. Your first meeting will be mainly to get to know each other and get a few of your questions answered.

After your call, it’s helpful to jot down a few notes about what you talked about, like a few key takeaways that you want to remember later. If you feel like you’d like to talk more with the first mentor you had a call will, send them a follow-up note thanking them for their time and setting a date for a second call. If not, it is still nice to send a note and then begin the process again to choose a new mentor.

Every mentee and mentor has different needs so you might be interested in looking for a long-term relationship with one mentor or you’re interested in learning from a variety. We encourage you to explore which model works best for you.

If you have any questions about mentorship or how to use the InstaViser network, send us a note at coach@instaviser.com and your question could be featured in our next “Ask InstaViser” post.