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Lead through Adversity: How to Succeed in Today's Economy - Guaranteed!

by Joe Calhoon

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Lead through Adversity: How to Succeed in Today's Economy - Guaranteed! Imagine Lance Armstrong's best day. Do you feel the wind blowing against your sweaty face?  Are their fans cheering as you cross the finish line?

Or, is there the scent of antiseptic, the chill of a thin gown, and the buzz of fluorescent lighting in a dreary hospital room?

Surprisingly, Lance Armstrong said his best day was not on his bike but on his back; the day he learned he had cancer. The character he developed through this adversity helped Lance Armstrong win Le Tours de France a record seven times. His proudest achievement, though, was still to come.

He has encouraged thousands of cancer survivors and raised millions of dollars to fight the disease.

What adversity are you facing?  Your ability to handle this adversity is one of the most robust predictors of your personal growth, future contributions and happiness in life. Organizations that develop their capacity to handle adversity improve morale, performance and profitability.  Blaming, whining and complaining are symptoms of individuals and organizations beaten down by adversity.

Every individual and every organization has a unique purpose, a mountain to climb, a contribution to make. There are three ways to deal with your personal and organizational mountains. You can climb, camp or quit.
  • Climbers are relentless in their ascent. They are constantly learning, growing, adapting to change, and experiencing life to the fullest. These individuals are energized by challenges and refuse to be insignificant in their life's work and their relationships.  This group is a small percentage of the whole. They are engaged.
  • Coasters are usually retired climbers. They've lost their edge. They've exchanged their highest dreams and aspirations for the comfort and security of the common life. They put in their time. They're getting by. This group represents the vast majority of people. They are disengaged.
  • Quitters have retired on the job. They are bitter and depressed. Adversity has shut them down. They resent the coasters and climbers. They are actively disengaged.
Adversity provides the opportunity to develop extraordinary character. Character inspires greatness.  The character you develop helps you make greater contributions while overcoming adversity of all kinds.

Here are six ways to lead through adversity and keep climbing your mountains.

1. Check Your Mindset.  There are approximately six billion people on the planet, and it's estimated that two billion of them live on $2 or less per day.  Put in all in perspective; our standard of living is the highest the world has ever seen.  Kings and queens in centuries past could not imagine our automobiles, TVs, or cell phones, not to mention our computers, airplanes and household appliances.  Check out the Web site, www.GlobalGichList.com; if you enter your income as $20,000 (U.S.), you will see you are in the top 10 percent of income earners in the world.  Maintain perspective.  Focus on what you have, not what you don't have.  Count your blessings.  Have an attitude of gratitude.  You'll be happier and healthier. You'll be a more attractive person.  Choose to be happy with what you have while you pursue what you want.  The French have a wonderful saying, noblesse oblige, that means with wealth, power, and prestige come responsibilities.

2. Develop Your Character.  Thousands of people were recently asked what is most important to them:
  • What they have - possessions
  • What they do - achievements
  • Who they are - character
Approximately 95 percent said that their character is most important. About five percent said that their achievements are most important. Only a few individuals value their possessions more than their character and achievements.

When have you experienced your most significant character development? Virtually everyone says, during times of adversity. In order to effectively lead our lives and organizations through adversity, we must develop these character qualities.
  • Courage is the quality of mind that enables you to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness and resolution. Associate with people who build your faith, not your fears. Limit your exposure to negative input.
  • Perseverance is the continued pursuit of any endeavor or enterprise. This character quality is demonstrated as you continue to climb your mountains. The entire world is facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Don't quit now.
  • Integrity is doing what you say what you will do. Be honest with yourself and others. Build trust with those closest to you. Your relationships always matter most.
  • Patience is uncomplaining endurance; calmly and contentedly waiting for something you hope for. The lack of delayed gratification is a major cause of our problems. It will also be a significant part of the solution. Produce more than you consume. Live within your means.
  • Humility is freedom from pride and arrogance, a modest estimate of one's own worth.  The most respected leaders are servant leaders. The most valued employees are those who consistently serve others.  Acknowledge your limitations and learn to work more effectively with others. We're all in this together. We need each other to succeed.
3. Live a Balanced Life of Meaning and Contribution.  Make a list of the five most important elements of your life - family relationships, vibrant health, personal faith, meaningful contributions at work, a satisfying hobby, a volunteer role, and financial stewardship, for example.  Now, number these areas in order of importance.   Put this list on a card and carry it in your wallet or purse.  Each area of your life invites you to make specific contributions that improve quality of life for yourself and others. Living a balanced life means that you give your best in all areas.

Work-life balance means that work intrudes on family as much as family intrudes on work.  That's balance.  Sometimes you choose to work longer. Sometimes you choose to invest more time with your family.

4. Become Obsessed With Your CEO. Businesses that obsessively focus on serving customers, employees and owners (CEO), while fostering leadership throughout the organization, perform much better than comparison companies. These enlightened organizations:
  • Grow revenues four times faster
  • Create jobs seven times faster
  • Grow owner equity 12 times faster
  • Produce profits that are 756 times greater
During times of adversity many people disengage. It's easy to escape into habits of self-absorption and selfishness. However, it's more productive and satisfying to give your best efforts to serve others. You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.  Continue to give your best efforts to serve others. Give to those less fortunate. The principle of giving and receiving is the key to unlocking success in all areas of life.

5. Achieve Your Most Important Priorities. Priorities are what matters most. They may be:
  • Problems to solve
  • Goals to achieve
  • Capacities to develop
As you clarify and achieve your most important priorities, you make progress in the most important areas of your life. Only you can make your unique contributions in these areas. To prioritize effectively, ask yourself what are the most important actions you can take in each area. Then, prioritize the actions as follows: A = must do B = should do C = could do.  Do the A priorities first, then the B priorities. You'll always be focused on things that matter most. It has been suggested that one minute of planning time may save 12 minutes in execution time. Prioritize your list. Go to work.

6. Create an Inspired Definition of Success. Webster defines success as, "the accomplishment of what is desired or aimed at; the attainment of wealth, fame and prosperity."  This is an inadequate definition. We all know people who have achieved what they "aimed for" only to make themselves and others miserable. Many others have discovered wealth and fame are short-lived and unsatisfying. There is much more to success than achieving "something."  Success is best defined by our contributions to others. That kind of success can be achieved by anyone in any economy.

Joe Calhoon is the President of PriorityAdvantage, a business growth firm based in Kansas City, Missouri. He has 25 years of experience working with business owners and business leaders who want to develop higher performing organizations. In addition to helping start more than 20 new business ventures, Joe has served 500 different organizations on four continents. Joe's newest book is "On the Same Page- How to Engage Employees and Accelerate Growth."  For more information please visit www.joecalhoon.com or call (816) 285-8144.

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