Success tips: Listen more and do more

by Kate on January 4, 2010

The Classics?

The Classics?

A recent conversation about the ‘must read’ books for business owners got me thinking about the challenge of how to benefit from today’s ceaseless flow of  information and ideas, and still keep the wheels of business moving and bills paid today.

Who should we listen to?

Leaders often turn for inspiration and guidance to those who have travelled a similar path or who have blazed a trail ahead and there’s no doubt this is an excellent way to fast track your own success.

Both on-line and off-line there’s no end of people with suggestions on how to run your business more profitably, more efficiently and while having more fun.

But does The Answer lie in ‘Good to Great’, ‘The Four Hour Work Week’, or ‘Crush It!’, or perhaps the four classics pictured here are all we really need? What about blogs – whose should I read? And on top of that there are conferences, webinars, magazines …

It can be overwhelming, and lots of people feel they don’t have time to do more than meet today’s urgent needs. True enough – we do have a business to run and bills to pay, but that’s not a reason to stop paying attention to the ideas and experience of others.

To survive in our dynamic, competitive landscape we must pay attention to the world around us and proactively seek – and act on – ways to improve our businesses and ourselves. Today we need to read, think about and explore new ideas more, not less.

Still, we can’t pay attention to everything, so how can we decide what to read, listen to, watch and attend?

I find it helps when I’m clear on my priorities and focus. What are the issues I face today (and the ones on my radar to watch for) and where am I heading? … What I should pay attention to depends very much on where I want to go.

The answer to “What should I listen to?” is “It depends. When you know where you’re heading you’ll be able to decide.” So a good way to avoid the overwhelmed feeling and yet still absorb new stuff is to take time to get clear on what’s important.

Still, it doesn’t matter what I read or listen to unless I do something. Wise words and even positive thinking won’t make a scrap of difference to my customers, my business or my life unless I change how I do things. Armed with a constant supply of new ideas, how can we turn these into actions that create better business?

How to get more done this year

Advice from experts can leave us feeling that we should get things right first time. So it’s tempting to over-work the first attempt at a new thing, which heightens the sense of frustration and loss of enthusiasm when we don’t get the stellar results the expert got (once they became an expert).

Unfortunately, paralysis induced by our information and advice laden world is one of the biggest impediments to getting things done. Even for those most inclined to action there’s the threat of scope creep getting between good intentions and results. Add the frustration factor when things don’t work the same way for us as they did in the book and it’s no wonder we sometimes struggle to implement new things.

One way to break free of these frustrations is to adopt a deliberate Do-Review-Improve mindset. Here’s a way to try this:

  1. What’s the goal? Aim for something specific and measurable and set a deadline e.g. Send newsletter on first Friday of each month, starting this month. Add 15 new subscribers per month.
  2. Gather enough information to achieve the goal.
  3. Do it!
  4. Look at the results. What happened and what did you learn?
  5. Ask “What can we change to get a better result next time?”
  6. Return to step 1, revise goal if required and repeat the process.

Questions to start you thinking

  • What are your priority goals and issues?
  • What can you get started on today?
  • Where are you getting your fresh ideas from?

Join the conversation

  • What book has had an impact for you and why?
  • How do you get focused on action?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tony Hollingsworth February 26, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Hi Kate
Great to see more blogging from you – with such purpose too.

To your discussion questions:
What are my priority goals and issues?
Goal: Helping people, without any thought of reward.
Issue: Finding the time to do that whilst working and paying the bills! Seriously though, part of my goal of helping people IS my work. It’s why I tweet/blog/connect, and in my “AskTonyIT” capacity I serve my clients by doing the same for them, or teaching them to. In my enterprise consulting business with IBM Business Partner Task Exchange, these practices still apply: we talk to our clients, and deliver solutions that they have asked for. Effectively, we connect with them, listen, and deliver.

What can I get started on today?
More blogging. With the simplicity of Twitter, writing detailed blog posts, for me, has gotten harder. Yet there is much value to offer clients, my community and the world, by blogging. For a start, blogging helps define who I am, and what I have to offer, attracting the right clients to me without having to go find them! Don’t we all like the situation that we have more work on than we can handle? I do!

Where are you getting your fresh ideas from?
1. Twitter
2. Coffee Mornings
3. Blogs/the Web
4. Constantly meeting new people and asking them to tell me about themselves, what they’re doing and why.

By the way, I like your “Do-Review-Improve mindset” It’s how I work with my software developers – prototyping. It’s very easy to build a mock-up based on a client’s needs – review it with the client – improve it based on feedback. The challenge often becomes working to budgets. If only they were unlimited!

Finally, my book recommendations:
What Would Google Do, by Jeff Jarvis
Linchpin, by Seth Godin

You can see more of my reading list on Goodreads – a great site by the way.

Look forward to reading more from you Kate


2 Kate Groom January 16, 2010 at 5:52 am

Hi Jody,
Thanks for stopping by and for the book recommendation, it sounds like an excellent read and I’ll certainly check that one out.

3 Jody Keck January 16, 2010 at 5:47 am

Hi Kate-

Was looking over your website and blog for the first time. Looks great!

As far as books go, thought I’d toss in one. The best (and most practically useful) book I’ve read in a long time was ‘Bargaining for Advantage’ by G. Richard Shell. Great practical suggestions for using your own style and personality to benefit most from all different types of discussions and negotiations — both personal and professional. I’d highly recommend it!

4 Kate Groom January 6, 2010 at 6:07 am

Thanks so much for this, Robin. You’ve nudged my thinking to a different plane. People are at the heart of business so of course everything that helps us think, feel and grow as people has an impact on how we show up and how we run our businesses. This fits so well with the notion of ‘one hat’ which Howard Behar talks about in his book It’s Not About The Coffee (worth a look).
It’s wonderful to have you sharing your creativity here, thanks for stopping by!

5 Robin Dickinson January 5, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Hi Kate,

It’s great that you are building up momentum on this blog. You are obviously walking the talk.

I love business books and have a vast professional library, but the books that really impact me are those classics that explore the human condition – Dickens, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, Hemingway, McCarthy and Shakespeare – to name a few. Crime and Punishment left me sobbing – as did The Road. War and Peace stunned me. Old Man and the Sea was extraordinary. Hamlet, a masterpiece. And so the list goes on.

These books leave me gasping, aching, thrilled and desperate for more. They shake and rock me – take my mind and heart to new places. They provide depth, stimulation and richness that contrasts strongly with my collection of business titles. As an ideas-person, these titles provide a healthy and highly productive counter-balance to the biz books

Best to you, Robin

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