From the Desk (and Mind) of Marc Landsberg

Celebrating Our Anniversary

1 February marked our official birthday. We were born 1 February 2012, so on Super Bowl Sunday, socialdeviant became 2 years old.

Two (2) years old.

That hardly seems possible.

We’ve accomplished so much, in such a short period of time.

And this is a milestone that we should regard, and make ritual. So, we’re going to establish a new tradition, starting this year. Every year on our birthday, we’ll do two truly deviant things. We’ll do a service project, and we’ll eat. This year, on Friday 14th February, we’ll spend the morning at the Chicago Food Depository. From there, we’ll have a great lunch and then call it a day. We’ll spend the day entirely in the company of each other, with some time to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.

So, as we think about 2014, the opportunity in front of us is enormous. As big, really as we want it to be.

I want to wrap up with a note I sent right when we started – fitting that we should launch our 3rd year as we did our 1st – with a focus on what it takes to be deviant, every day.

1. Be Prepared. Nothing Replaces Preparation. Take the time before every big meeting to do the research, anticipate the issues, study, clarify what success looks like and what the potential obstacles might be, and practice. This includes reviewing the bios of the folks with whom you’ll be meeting – find some common areas of interest if possible, and make a connection if you can. You’ll be infinitely more confident when the meeting rolls around.

2. Be On Time. For me, part of being composed is being on time. We should never be too busy to be on time. Plan your day, and your hours, accordingly. Being on time is respectful of those around you, and shows that you’re entirely on top of your game. There’s no such thing as fashionably late in the workforce. Being reliable is being valuable in any organization. Be the go-to person that others count on – to deliver, to be there when it matters, to never drop the ball. Be accountable, always.

3. Be Confident. If you say you’re an expert, then you’re an expert. Don’t apologize, unless you’ve run over someone’s dog or really, really messed up. And never apologize for you are or what you’ve done. Instead, focus on your skills, your effort, your ability to contribute, and be confident in every interaction. A corollary to this – try to eliminate words that reduce others’ confidence in you, like “not really sure”, “sort of”, “you know”, and yes… “um.” Take a pause, speak with confidence.

4. Make Your Point(s). Part of speaking with confidence is knowing how to make your points. I used to talk on and on (no peanut gallery comments) until someone told me to speak in 3’s. In every presentation, or big meeting, each time I spoke, I trained myself to make 3 relevant points. I’d even signal those points, as in “I have 3 things to say about that. First…” Be clear, be concise, make your points. Make sure the audience knows the points you’re trying to make – so speak as listenably as possible. Meaning – make it easy for them to hear your points, and to remember them. Take pauses, slow down, speak confidently. You’ll find if you have something good to say, there’s no need to rush and people will want to listen to you.

5. Own Something. The world is too full of generalists, so specialize. Find that thing about which you’re limitlessly passionate, and focus on it. Share your knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm with others. Be an expert, and to do this well, simply follow your passion.

6. Close the Loop. You want to be someone who is entirely reliable. Follow-up and follow-through, and 18 gold stars when you do this without any reminders. Be proactive, make your lists every day of tasks to complete, prioritize them, and check them off. Update those you’re working with on various projects, so they’re informed of the status of the projects you’re working on. Set deadlines and timelines and work to them, and make sure they’re mutually agreed and understood by all. Circle back to clarify where that’s needed. Above all, closing the loop – with colleagues, bosses, and all, clients – is a rare skill that will serve you incredibly well your entire career. It will show you’re on top of your work and are ahead of the game. You’ll find your own approach/rhythm here, but one thing is a must – follow-through, follow-up, over-communicate, and you’ll be great.

7. Focus on Outcomes. Never Confuse Efforts with Results. As I’ve said on several occasions, effort is really great, and in this life, all you can control is your effort. But make sure to map your efforts to the outcomes you seek. Constantly ask yourself – am I doing the right things to achieve my goals? Am I focusing my limited time and energy in the right way? You are a precious and scarce resource, so allocate yourself wisely.

8. Listen Carefully. One of the great untapped skills is the ability to listen. It’s overlooked, and it’s actually the most important part of being an effective communicator. I always say “two ears, one mouth.” By listen, I don’t mean waiting until the other person stops talking so you can speak. I mean, really pay attention to what’s being said, take notes, keep your ears and your mind open to what’s being shared.

9. Be Proactive. Take initiative, and do more than is expected of you. Always remember – surprise and delight those around you. Unexpected moments of value creation are absolute jewels in any company – and will make you an indispensable and highly valued member of any team. Go beyond the ask – always be thinking, “what can I do to create value?” I promise you, this more than anything else will ensure you’ll have an amazing career, in whatever field you choose to pursue.

10. Care. Care about the success of the company you’re a part of. Care about the quality of your work. Care about the rights and feelings of your colleagues. Care about how your clients perceive you, and what you can do to influence their favorable opinion. Care about doing a great job for its own sake. Care about making a good impression. Care about taking care of yourself – a day off, a mental health break, exercise, proper nutrition, and plenty of sleep.

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