Skill Assessment: The Quintessential Success Trait

What does it take to reach success in any field?

I believe it entirely depends... if you are trying to fully explain each high-achiever's individual success. The most common traits that show up on these lists include determination, luck, hard-work, timing, passion, intelligence, networking, etc.

However, upon closer examination you will find there are a few commonalities.

My day job for the past 10 years has been teaching people how to be better leaders and, ultimately, how to do life better. Therefore, I have spent thousands of hours studying, examining and thinking about success and how to help people get there and stay there. Through this I have discovered a very powerful common trait among successful people.

I call this common trait... The Threshold Thread.

The Threshold Thread is a concept I have developed to frame the quintessential success trait of high achievers. They all have developed the ability to push their capacities further than the average person. They have expanded, enhanced and empowered -- this is the threshold part -- a large variety of skill areas -- this is the thread part, this capacity is woven throughout many aspects of their life.

The Threshold Thread concept leaves us with many questions:

  • How did they achieve this capacity expansion ability?
  • Who are some specific examples of The Threshold Thread?
  • What are the most common skill areas high-achievers have pushed the threshold in?
  • How does this concept gel with the success concept of getting highly skilled in one or two very focused areas?
  • What is preventing the average person from achieving this?

These are the questions I will be challenging you to think about and work through over the next few posts as we close out 2009 here at the Personal Leadership Insight blog. Keep checking in for more...


Fostering Relationships: Negotiating With Your Advisor

I teach leadership to thousands of young people and professionals every year. One common question I get often from student leaders is, "How do I get things done when my advisor keeps saying no and shutting me down?"

Here are the strategies I shared with a recent group of young leaders:

1. Understand why they are saying no. A good amount of their motivation for saying no (especially if they are a veteran advisor) is because they have been burned by previous students in your position who have had great ideas or wild ideas that the student didn't follow through on and the situation ended up with the advisor having to do all the work. Your advisor may also have constraints or barriers that are only visible to them (administration pressure, peer pressure, funding limits, school rules, etc.) and sometimes it may be quicker and easier for them to use the strategy of just saying no instead of doing what they should do which is to say no (if they have a valid reason), explain to you why they are saying no and then helping you come up with an idea that will work.

2. Which brings us to strategy number two, when you approach your advisor (either on the local, state or national levels) be prepared for a no response. Ie - don't get so emotionally invested in an idea or project before you seek approval that a no is going to totally topple you.

3. If you do get a no response, ask for an explanation why and start going to plan B with them. Plan B should be a version of Plan A with compromises made. This is where the negotiation strategies begin. This will demonstrate a few things: you are committed to the idea at least enough to fight for it, you are willing to work with them, and you have put enough thought into your idea to actually have plan B. And of course, have a Plan C, D, and E ready also.

4. There are some strategies you can employ to give your plan A a fighting chance right off the bat though:

A. Do as much information gathering beforehand as possible. Find out school/organization policies, do market research, get your team together, etc.

B. Do some initial work to demonstrate your commitment to the project. Now, it is important not to do too much and it is important not to use that pre-work as a bargaining chip. Ie. don't say, "But how can you say no? Look at all the work we have already done!" This is a negative negotiation strategy that will cost you trust chips with your advisor, not earn them.

C. Be ready to answer questions from your advisor to support and sell your idea. Most ideas get shot down early not because they are bad ideas, but because they didn't have someone doing a good enough job championing them.

Good luck and if you need specific help with your specific struggle, feel free to email me at rhett @ yournextspeaker.com. Or send me a Facebook message - Rhett Laubach.


Fostering Relationships: The S.M.I.L.E. Formula to Networking Success

There are many times when leaders (especially younger, student leaders) are called to host events, attend events or otherwise be in potentially uncomfortable or "new and different" social situations where you are seen as the leaders of the room. In these situations, it is important to remember that you can make or break the situation. Ie - if you look bored, disengaged, stressed, etc. - these body langauge signals are read by and mirrored by a large portion of the group. However, if you look, feel and act energized, engaged, joyful and excited - again these signals are picked up and mirrored.

Therefore, in order to remember how to maximize these opportunities, remember to S.M.I.L.E.:

S - Socialize...

...with as many different people in the room as possible from as many different groupings as possible. These groupings may include age, profession, school, how well you know them, etc. It is important to look and be active, moving and welcoming to all. It is also vital that you not look like you are showing favortism to any one person or group.

(Student elected leaders - your natural inclination in situations like this will be to hang out with your safe and comfortable friends on your officer team. Avoid this. Set a 10-feet rule and try to stay at least 10-feet from the other members of your team. This will be a way to ensure you are spending your time with the students/parents/teachers and not just your friends.)

M - Model...

...what a gracious, friendly and excited leader should look, feel and be like. Even if you don't feel like it, fake it until you find it. You are the leader in the room. Your presence is felt in a large way. Make it a good one. One that makes people feel glad they chose to come to your event, meeting, etc.

I - Interested/Interesting

This double "I" is so important. The first I is Interested. As you work the room and make people feel at home, be interested in what is going on with them. Have a list of standard questions you are going to ask people. If you need help with this, visit this post. Also, be interested in terms of their needs. Is the room hot/cold? Do they have everything they need for the purpose of the event (paper, pen, drink, food, place to sit, etc.)?

The second "I" is to be Interesting. This means when they ask you questions or you have an opportunity to share, have something interesting to say. Be knowledgable about your organization, the event, yourself, etc. The point here is not to get the attention on you ("The best conversationalists actually say the least." Dale Carnegie), but when the attention does fall on you, be worth listening to.

L - Laugh

The best way to lift a room and get people ready for a great event, meeting, etc. is to look and feel in a good mood. Throw a smile on your face (you will look better) and remember to have fun. Even the most serious meetings and events need a foundation of humor, laughter and positive emotion to take the edge off of the room and the people in it. You will also find that if you laugh and enjoy yourself, your stress will turn into positive stress and you will actually enjoy yourself more. This is especialy true when something goes wrong (which it always will.) Remember this phrase: take your job serious, but not yourself.

E - Energy

I have personally attended or spoken at thousands of meetings and events. The number one strategy I use to help influence the mood and feel of the room is to express energy in my body language. Walk fast. Lean forward when people talk. Ask questions. Respond in a positive manner to questions. A week after your event, the majority of the people at your event will have forgotten what was said or what they ate, but most of them will remember how they felt when they were around you. Lift their spirits by having your energy and engagement high. (Here are a few tips from one of my favorite bloggers on the right ways to find and maintain energy.)