The Formula for Success

The Seven Essential Factors

Twenty-five years of research into the differences between successful people and those who struggle to improve their circumstances, but never manage to reach their goals, has led me to one clear conclusion; wealth and success are not possible without the presence of the seven essential factors identified in this article.

No matter how much you study the “how to’s” of success, you will never achieve it until these five factors are in place and developed to healthy levels. Without them you are either spinning your wheels (working very hard, but not getting very far) or simply gathering information and storing it away.

The good news is that the information you have gathered over the years in an attempt to become successful is wasted ONLY if you fail to develop these five essential factors. Once these essentials are in place, everything else you have learned can then be applied to whatever degree you choose to apply it and you will begin experiencing the successes you long for.

(1) A clear awareness of your TRUE nature. Few people think about self-awareness because it appears to be the most natural thing in the world. After all we live with ourselves twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We are privy to all our thoughts and feelings and all our secrets. Who could possibly know us better, right? Wrong. Research suggests that the majority of the population (84%) is not self aware enough to profile accurately. Why? Because conditioning begins for most people very early in life and continues to impact us in ways we rarely recognize. Most of us are so thoroughly conditioned as children that by the time we reach adulthood all we are able to see is the conditioned mask we donned as children in order to be accepted and acceptable by our family, our school systems, our society, our religion, our co-workers, etc., etc., etc.

If we believe the mask is our true self and make life decisions based on that false view, we often set ourselves up for a lifetime of struggle. Those who are functioning according to the conditioned mask rather than according to their true nature, are essentially swimming up the swift river of life, always struggling to keep up with the demands of the world, rather than floating gently down life’s river in accordance with their nature. To the degree that we have been conditioned away from our nature, life is difficult. To the degree that we are working with, rather than against, out nature, life is satisfying and joyous.

(2) Clarity of purpose and direction. As the old adage state, if you don't know where you are going, you are likely to end up some place you don't like. Few things are more important than clarity, yet few people take the time to lay out goals and determine the steps that will get them to their intrended destination. In face, many people don't even have a destination in mind. People tend to experience success to the degree they have clarity.

(3) The healthy development of your natural traits. In truth all traits available to human beings are available to each of us, but some traits are difficult to sustain. We can do anything we put our mind to, but we don’t enjoy or have energy around just anything. Our least preferred traits are effortful. They drain us of energy so we have a lot of resistance around them. The traits we most prefer naturally are easy to sustain over long periods of time. They actually feed our soul and generate huge amounts of energy, enthusiasm, motivation and drive. The graph below demonstrates this concept.

You have a whole brain and the capacity to use every part of it and I encourage you to do just that. But you only have so much energy to give and, if you are giving it to traits that drain you, a lot of energy is being wasted and you are likely not having much fun either. By discovering your true nature and knowing which traits energize you and which ones drain you, you can order your life in such a way as to have the greatest part of it be joyous and filled with positive energy.

Only through the healthy development of our natural traits and through using them in the right order can we tap into our genius and passion and develop Emotional Intelligence (EQ), the ability to cope with stressors effectively and to defer gratification in order to do the right thing in the moment.

Emotional Intelligence popularized by Daniel Goleman in his book by the same name has been shown to be the number one predictor of effectiveness in life and relationships. But EQ is possible only through the healthy development of naturally preferred traits and we cannot develop them until we are aware of what they are. For EQ to develop to really healthy levels all five of the factors presented here must be developed.

(4) Healthy Personal Boundaries. Healthy personal boundaries are not possible until we know who we are authentically. Healthy personal boundaries require that we know and can define who we are and who we are not, as well as what we are and are not willing to accept from self and others. Only when you are fully aware of who you are authentically, and what parts of your self-perception have been forced upon you by conditioning and erroneous messages, can you separate the two, lay claim to your truth and purposefully discard all the garbage others have heaped upon you over the years. Once you know who you are, where your passions lie and what you really stand for, it’s much easier to determine your worth.

Once you have established your worth in your own mind you can more easily build and maintain the second part of your personal boundaries, that of determining what you will and will not accept from others. With good, healthy personal boundaries in place, the fifth factor begins to develop and grow. To have healthy personal boundaries, you must be able to define and articulate four things; (1) Who you are, (2) Who you are NOT, (3) What you will accept from yourself and from others and (4) What you will NOT accept.

(5) Self-Confidence. Self-confidence is the factor that convinces us that we are capable of achieving whatever goals we set for ourselves. Confidence around anything is a product of knowledge, experience and positive feedback and, without knowledge of SELF self-Confidence is not possible because we don't know who we really are or where we should be headed in life. Our internal compass is working; always pointing True North, but we don't know how to read it so are forever lost. And lost people are never truly confident.

Notice that the first part of the confidence formula (Knowledge + Experience + Positive Feedback = Confidence) is knowledge. Without true self-knowledge we cannot experience our truth and without experience we cannot give ourselves positive feedback or believe the positive feedback we receive from others. If you have ever tried to give a genuine compliment to someone who doesn’t believe in their self, you know that they don’t accept compliments very well. Many don’t accept them at all. When others compliment them, they either assume the person is just trying to manipulate them or is too blind to see the truth. Without the ability to receive positive feedback from self or others, confidence is not possible.

(7) Self-esteem. Self-esteem is the factor which tells us we are worth whatever effort it takes to achieve our goals and realize our dreams. Self-esteem in combination with self-confidence is essential to success. We must believe that we are worthy of the continued effort that is necessary to keep moving toward our goals in spite of the trials and tribulations that life continues to present to us on a regular basis (self-esteem) and we must believe we are capable of getting past them (self-confidence).

Self-esteem; the belief that we are worth the effort, is absolutely essential for follow through. Without it we just buy the books, attend the seminars, buy the gym memberships, make the New Years resolutions and so on, but never follow through. We have to believe we are worth the effort or we won’t keep making the effort. But we can’t have self-esteem until the other four factors are in place.

We have to know who we are to determine where our passions lay (self-awareness). We must have our natural attributes developed and healthy to turn our passions into worthwhile goals (healthy development of natural traits). We must have the depth of awareness and strength of conviction to keep ourselves tracking authentically and to prevent the agendas of others from pulling us off course and derailing our efforts to achieve the goals we set for ourselves (personal boundaries). We must believe we can reach the goals we set before we will seriously pursue them (self-confidence) and we must know we are worth the effort (self esteem).

(7) Effective self-management. This is the piece Daniel Goleman calls emotional intelligence or EQ. It is the ability to manage our own emotions and delay gratification for the greater good. Research suggests that less than 5% of the general population has developed this essential attrubute.

Once these seven factors are in place, then having the particular knowledge that will help you successfully navigate your chosen path comes into play. AFTER; not before. If information on HOW to get rich or HOW to stay fit and healthy or HOW to have great relationships was enough, we could all just read a few good books and be everything we ever wanted to be. But, in spite of having hundreds of thousands of books, tapes, seminars, etc. at our disposal, most people never achieve success to anywhere near the extent they desire. The internal work has to be done first. If it isn't, you are just wasting your time and money.

Even people like Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling who rose to the top of Enron and made a fortune before the Enron scheme fell apart, had a strong sense of self, certain traits developed (though not likely healthy), personal boundaries that kept them from allowing others to infringe on them (never mind that they infringed on others), plenty of self-confidence and self-esteem. Clearly they believed they could pull off their scheme and that they were worth the effort, the money, the success, etc.

The Enron story also makes it perfectly clear that success is possible without principles such as honesty and integrity. Lay and Skilling appear to have been lacking in those values, yet they were, at least for a time, very successful. While principles and values may be optional, you MUST have the five factors outlined above. And it is my belief that to have true and lasting abundance, you must also have principles and values, such as honesty, integrity, generosity and consideration of others in place as well.

Principles and values are to abundance what nutrition is to the body. The human body can sustain itself for a very long time without nutrition, but if nutrition remains lacking eventually the body begins to break down, falls ill and dies. The same holds true for what appears to be abundance. The facade can be sustained for some time before the walls come tumbling down, but you can be sure that what you see on the outside really is just a facade. On the inside things are slowly (or perhaps rapidly) falling apart.

Absolutely every person you will ever run across that is truly successful has all five of the factors presented here in place. Every person who is unsuccessful has one or more of the essential five missing; sometimes all five.

To gain all five essential factors, you MUST begin with self-awareness. There is no other way to genuinely have the other four. And if you are not happy and content with who you are – not necessarily where you are in life – but who you are, you can bet that you don’t have sufficient self-awareness. You don’t know your authentic self. I can state that pretty safely, because everyone loves the self nature gave them. In 25 years of working with people I have never seen a single exception to that truth.

The only tool I know of that can get past the effects of conditioning and uncover an individual’s true nature is the CORE Multidimensional Awareness Profile (CORE MAP). It is truly a MAP to the CORE of your being; to your authentic self. No other tool I have ever seen, and I have searched for 30 years, has the ability to do so much, so quickly and effectively. If you are not certain that you are functioning from your authentic self, you owe it to yourself to experience CORE MAP.

You have the formula now. The rest is up to you. Find your truth and your passion will become apparent. Find your passion and your motivation to realize it will drive you toward your goals automatically. Begin moving toward your goals and your sense of self will grow stronger and healthier because you will begin experiencing successes. As your sense of self grows stronger and your successes multiply, your self-confidence and self-esteem will increase and you will stop allowing the opinions of others to negatively impact you. It’s a beautiful circle that begins with you (the real you) and results in your overall happiness and success.

Enjoy the journey!

Article by Sherry Buffington, Ph.D.

Sherry Buffington, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of the Dallas based training, consulting and coaching firm, Star Performance Systems, which specializes in helping individuals succeed and organizations increase their productivity and profits by maximizing the potential of their people.


Cultivating Exceptional Employees

If you’ve ever found yourself feeling more like a parent, trying to keep unruly children under control, than like the leader of intelligent adults, you’re not alone. It’s a national problem.

Managers nationwide report that undirected, unenthusiastic, poorly performing employees are increasing, and they worry that this growing problem will destroy morale and undermine the efforts of the entire organization. Recent workplace studies suggest that managers are spending over eighty percent of their time trying to keep employees directed and productive, which leaves little time for other important tasks.

Although most companies are at a loss as to why this trend is growing, evidence suggests that, in many cases, the companies themselves, in an effort to prevent employee dissatisfaction and avoid lawsuits, may be inadvertently contributing to the problem.

There are four primary factors that determine employee performance. These are:

(1) Environment or company culture

(2) Employee’s attributes

(3) Leadership/management and

(4) Employee’s attitude.

Each interacts with the others and affects them to a large degree. Ultimately, all four factors must be aligned for optimal performance. How seriously these categories are addressed and managed determines, almost entirely, how effectively an organization and its employees will function. To better understand how these four factors may be affecting your organization, let’s briefly examine each of them.

Environment and Company Culture
Every company has its own particular cultural environment, which functions somewhere within the boundaries of fast-paced or slow-paced, highly structured or flexible, stressful or relaxed, employee-centered or process-centered. Even in the healthiest of cultures, there will be certain types of employees who fit within it better than others and it is extremely useful to know which ones best fit the culture, and how to effectively manage those who don’t fit.

Most often a company’s culture falls somewhere between healthy and mediocre, but there are two types of culture that are decidedly unhealthy. One is a "No Mistakes" culture, in which everyone is called out on the carpet for any little mistake. This results in a fear-paralyzed workforce that doesn’t dare do anything new or innovative. Companies stagnate and eventually die within this overly strict environment.

The other unhealthy culture falls at the opposite extreme. It is a "No Consequence" culture, which on the surface might seem to be a laid-back, easy-going environment. What’s really going on in this culture, however, is that managers have decided that problem employees require too much of their time and energy to bother with. They have decided that it’s just easier to ignore them than to deal with them or to find and implement effective ways to manage and motivate them. This is not as uncommon as one might think in organizations where firing an employee is a multi-step process or where tenure or other "entitlements" are in use.

Unfortunately, the longer managers tolerate sub-standard work and negative behaviors in employees, the worse they tend to become. Worse yet, other employees notice that the difficult employees are getting away with all kinds of things and, in time, they too begin adjusting their productivity levels downward to the lowest level tolerated. Before long the majority of employees are simply riding the time-clock, collecting their paychecks, and doing just enough to stay out of serious trouble. Even potentially excellent employees function at less than half of their capacity in such an environment.

Once employees become accustomed to coasting and getting by with it, complacency sets in and turning the tide can be a real challenge, but it certainly can be done. There are ways to stop almost any downward spiraling trend, but any real and lasting change must begin with upper management and filter down from there. It is essential then, for company leaders to understand the reasons behind employee behaviors, and get serious about implementing measures that lend themselves to the development and nurturing of productive, dedicated workers.

Values-based management, which uses a set of principles to guide the decisions and directives of every employee, coupled with a people-centered approach has proven to be highly effective in all kinds of organizations. For company values to be meaningful and effective, they must consider the needs of the people as well as the needs of the company and must be presented as strict guidelines. Once established, every single employee must be held to those standards. If one employee is allowed to get by with violating a standard, the standard no longer holds any power and, once a standard has lost its power, it’s just a matter of time until it is no longer regarded as a standard. Worse still, if one standard can be undone, certain employees will then begin testing the others and, before you know it, managers are spending all their time dealing with problem employees and trying to enforce rules that are now powerless and no longer meaningful.

Employee’s Attributes
While no two people are exactly alike, all people fall into particular classifications that are useful in defining them and their abilities. The classifications generally used in the workplace, such as gender, age, education level, and work experience, are far less important than the less regularly used classifications of personality type, natural traits and abilities, behavioral style, values, emotional maturity and character.

Many companies never bother with the latter classifications at all, believing that they are "soft skills" which are incidental to getting the job done. Nothing could be further from the truth. Volumes of research data, such as the broad study done by U.C. San Diego professor, Dr. Judith Bardwick, clearly proves that character and personality influence behaviors and outcomes on the job more than knowledge and skills. Dr. Bardwick stated, "It is much easier for an individual to learn new skills and information than it is to change one’s personality and character; to make a timid person bold, for example."

Healthy character, one of the two components named as primary to employee success, is not possible without sufficiently developed emotional maturity, or as author Daniel Goleman coined it, emotional intelligence. In fact, emotional intelligence is cited in study after study as the number one predictor of outstanding performance in the workplace, and of overall goal achievement.

I have been training and consulting since 1984 and I have seen more instances of well educated, experienced employees who are also highly problematical due to emotional immaturity than I can count. Time and again I have found that the degree to which an employee is properly placed according to his or her natural abilities, and the degree to which he or she is emotionally mature is directly proportional to his or her overall effectiveness. Yet, few organizations address these two essential elements.

Of the two, emotional immaturity is cited as the number one cause of failure to perform well on the job. Emotionally immature employees can wreak havoc at any level, but the higher up the organization immaturity is allowed to flow, the greater the problems become. Emotionally immature employees are the sources of petty politics, time-wasting, gossip, loafing, slacking off, and a host of other completely counter-productive behaviors. It is estimated that these behaviors cost organizations more than forty billion dollars annually.

After emotional immaturity, the next greatest cause of failure to perform is trying to make employees perform well at something for which they have no natural abilities or inclinations. It’s like trying to teach a fish to fly. While you can’t teach fish to fly, you can force them to swim upstream until they are worn out and finally just give up. Managers waste endless hours and millions of dollars essentially trying to do just that. Potentially good employees in the wrong positions are, essentially, "swimming upstream" all the time. They are forced to work hard to do their jobs and, in time, even the most dedicated will burn out. If you add emotional immaturity to that equation, you’ve got real problems and even people who are relatively mature under normal circumstances, often become immature under stress and continually swimming upstream creates stress for everyone in time.

When emotionally mature employees are placed in jobs that compliment their natural strengths, they seem tireless. They can breeze through the same work as the poorly placed employee in a fraction of the time and enjoy it. They are more positive and upbeat and, according to two recent studies, can be as much as a thousand times more productive than poorly placed, emotionally immature employees in certain instances. (Computer programmers, the stars and superstars: J. Martin, Rapid Application Development: New York: Macmillan, 1990 and C. Jones, Programming Productivity: New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986)

Poor job fit occurs when employees are hired and placed without any consideration of their natural attributes, which is an expensive mistake. There is no way an individual can effectively alter natural abilities enough to excel at the wrong kind of work. A natural athlete, for example, with very little technical acumen is never going to be a whiz at computer programming. He may be able to learn the basics and perform the tasks to some level of competence, but he will never shine at it. Conversely, an individual with natural technical intelligence, but minimal athletic abilities, will never be a star athlete. As in the first example, he may be able to learn enough skills to compete as an athlete, but he too will never be a star. Reverse the roles of these two, however, and each of them will quickly shine in the area of his natural talent.

The same rule applies in the workplace. It is not uncommon to see people who have very little propensity for details occupying jobs such as bookkeeping, filing, data entry, editing and other positions that require a lot of attention to detail. Though they work very hard at getting it right, lots of costly mistakes occur. Finding introverted technical or systems oriented people with few people skills in customer service positions is fairly common too. Many customers are lost at the hands of these individuals, who likely mean well, but who really don’t enjoy dealing with people (and it shows).

Another major contributor to employee problems is poor communication and understanding between managers and their employees. Managers tend to be direct and to the point types, and that’s how they communicate. However, the majority of people are indirect communicators who process information differently, and who need more discussion or explanation than most managers are willing to give. Indirect communicators rarely ask for more information though. They tend to take what is given and use it as clues to lead them to a conclusion. The result is that directives that are often carried out wrong or poorly, not because the employee didn’t care and not necessarily because he or she was incapable of producing outstanding results. More than likely the poor outcome occurred because the employee didn’t fully understand what was expected and didn’t ask for or receive clarification.

Managers are frequently frustrated by the results they get from employees, and assume it’s because the employees can’t follow orders. Usually, however, it’s because managers start at "Z" (the outcome they want) and work forward. Employees, with different temperaments, start with "A" (the first step of a process) and work forward. So while the manager is talking about "Z", the employee is at "A" trying to figure out what on earth the manager is trying to convey. The solution is often as simple as learning how each type of person communicates, and communicating to them according to their understanding.

Communications, day-to-day interactions, outcomes and productivity all improve markedly when managers and their employees understand one another’s personalities, and learn to build on one another’s strengths and compensate for one another’s limitations. Most people want desperately to get along with others and to do their best. They simply need the means for doing it. Before this can occur, organizations must take the time and invest the money to ensure that every employee, including managers, recognize the differences that exist among personalities in order to learn how to best work together. It is also extremely important to discover each employee’s natural abilities and place them where their talents are best utilized. That, of course, is the domain of management.

Statistics compiled by The Small Business Administration states that nine out of ten businesses that fail do so because of poor management. One incompetent manager (who is usually too absorbed with protecting his position and covering his incompetence to actually lead anyone) can quickly destroy the morale of an entire department and, from a senior management position, of the entire organization. Where morale is lacking, so too is respect, dedication, ingenuity, forethought, productivity and just about everything else necessary to organizational success.

Great leaders are great because they are competent, not just at managing systems, but at understanding and developing their people. They have excellent people skills, which they apply wisely in order to get the most from every employee. True leadership is the ability to persuade others to do things your way and like it. To get that result, one must know what will persuade each individual and what will make doing the job enjoyable for that individual.

Without good people skills, the role of management will always be a challenge. I have asked hundreds of managers to name the source of their greatest challenges and ninety-nine percent of them name employees. The challenge can become far easier and even enjoyable when approached from a position of human awareness, as more and more organizations are beginning to discover.

One client, concerned about an employee he had promoted to management eight months earlier, confided to me that this individual, who had been an excellent employee for seventeen years, had suddenly become angry and tyrannical as a manager. He couldn’t understand it. He had tried everything he knew to lead this employee back to her former positive self, but without success. A profile of this employee revealed that, while she enjoyed working with people, she was very uncomfortable in a leadership role. She wanted desperately to please her manager however, so she was giving the new position all she had in spite of the extreme stress it was creating for her. The negative behaviors were a manifestation of her high stress levels and her mounting frustration as she saw that she was incompetent in this new position and couldn’t manage to will herself to do better.

My client didn’t want to lose this valued employee so, upon my recommendation, he gave her the option of moving back to her old position without taking a pay cut, provided she assist whoever replaced her as manager. The employee happily accepted the offer. She soon returned to her old, kind, reliable, productive self and, three years later, is still a valued employee. Had my client not learned to work with this employee’s nature and needs, and had he not provided an avenue for her to move back toward them, he would have lost a valuable employee.

I have had numerous managers tell me in hindsight, once they have learned about human nature and how it impacts behaviors and interactions, that they too have lost valuable employees by promoting them to positions for which they were unsuited or by unknowingly mismanaging them. They also frequently marvel at how profoundly the combination of company culture, individual attributes, and management can impact an employee’s performance and attitude.

Employee’s Attitude
In 1993 I was called into a large organization which, two years earlier, had implemented a program designed to unify employees and management. The problem was that, instead of improving morale and productivity as intended, things had steadily gotten worse. Employees were sullen and cranky, and petty wars were raging everywhere. The first thing I did was question employees in confidential interviews and really listen to what they had to say.

Essentially, what they told me was that they had been collectively wounded by the uncaring attitudes and lack of concern that had existed at all levels of management for years. Many of them had voiced their concerns about this and management’s answer had been this "joke of a program". Nothing, these employees stated, had changed except that they (the employees) were now supposed to pretend that everything was all better because the company had spent several million dollars on this program, which the managers were quick to point out while telling employees they should be grateful.

But they weren’t grateful. They were furious! And their furor is what was driving their attitudes and behaviors on the job. The employees well knew that their performance was lacking and productivity had decreased. They knew their behaviors had worsened. They didn’t care. They wanted to be seen, heard and acknowledged, in a genuine way and they had no intentions of making any improvements until that occurred. Unfortunately, for this company and its employees, top management was too immature and self-absorbed to hear what the employees were shouting loud and clear, and they refused to make the suggested changes. Instead they decided to continue with the "Rah, Rah, Let’s get fired up!" approach.

Surface change is not my style. I consider it a terrible waste of resources, so I opted not to continue working with the company along those lines.

Not surprisingly, the brightest, most employable people continued to leave the company in a steady stream to work elsewhere. The job turnover rate in this organization remained extemely high and productivity appallingly low utntil the company got bought out by venture capitalists and eventually wne the way of the other dinasaurs.

The only thing that kept this company alive as long as it remained was the fact that it was a utility company which held a monopoly in the area it served. In such a marketplace the high cost of poor management was simply passed along to customers.

I wrote about this expeirence years ago and proposed at the time that the because a vicious cycle had developed, only the healthy intervention of shareholders or top management could stop it. Neither of those event occurred and the company no longer exists.

The cycle at this comapny likely began, as it often does, with a company culture that was too process-oriented. Then employees, feeling overlooked and unappreciated, began complaining to their managers who themselves felt powerless to change the culture and so responded with what appeared to be indifference. This caused the employees to develop an indifference toward the company and its goals, which led managers to feel taken advantage of and to tighten controls. This further alienated the employees, and the cycle just kept getting more vicious.

Looking at this scenario, it’s easy to see how all four factors continually impact one another. Anytime you see a general malaise and wide-spread poor attitudes among employees, you can bet this is pretty much what’s happening. But attitude alone can set off a similar outcome on a smaller scale. When, for instance, one department is dysfunctional, it might be because the manager of that department is dysfunctional or it might be that there is a problem employee with a bad attitude keeping everyone else stirred up and off-balance. Like one bad apple, one bad attitude can spoil the whole bunch given enough time and latitude.

Because the causes of employee problems can be broad and varied and each factor plays on the others, the exact cause may at first be hard to see. But, whatever the cause, the good news is, it’s curable. But it must be cured at its source, and the source is always people. New systems, re-engineering, quality circles, team-building exercises, incentives, raises, and all the other things that are commonly tried will be temporary fixes at best, unless the source of the problem is addressed and healed. Healing comes from understanding. Understanding brings cooperation and cooperation fosters good working relationships. Good working relationships produce results, better results improve productivity, and greater productivity increases profits. The path to real and lasting productivity and profits is that of cultivating exceptional employees. Invest in it. You’ll discover it’s the path of many great returns.

Article by Sherry Buffington, Ph.D.

Sherry Buffington, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of the Dallas based training, consulting and coaching firm, Star Performance Systems, which specializes in helping individuals succeed and organizations increase their productivity and profits by maximizing the potential of their people.


Confidence: Your Key to Certain Success

One of the most important attributes an individual can have is confidence. Confidence is invaluable in every area of life, but in business or in achieving any measure of greatness, it is absolutely essential. Unfortunately, there are few places we can go to learn this essential skill. Yet, it is a skill and, as such, can be developed with the right tools.

The first tool for gaining confidence is knowledge. Knowledge of your own strengths and limitations, and knowledge of the arena in which you wish to excel. But knowledge alone isn’t enough. Knowledge leads to confidence only when it is validated by experience. We test the validity of what we think or believe by putting the theory into actual practice and gathering data or feedback from the experience. If the feedback is positive, we assume our theories are correct and act accordingly. If the feedback is negative, the bold among us will adjust our course, while the more timid often allow the negative feedback to stop them cold.

Confidence can be gained by knowing, understanding and correctly applying the following formulas and factors:

(1) Knowledge + Experience + Positive Feedback = Confidence.

(2) Positive feedback comes from successful outcomes.

(3) Successful outcomes are the result of consistent practice and repeated attempts.

(4) Repeated attempts are possible only when we believe we will eventually succeed.

The formula seems to be saying that we must believe in our ability to succeed before we have experienced any semblance of success, and that is true. That’s where the knowledge part of the confidence formula comes in, and why it is the first equation in the formula. Before we can believe we will succeed without ever having made an attempt, we must have some knowledge as to what success entails and what strengths and abilities we bring to the mix. We must also know the truth about “failure”.

Failure is not the result of attempting to achieve a goal and falling short of the mark. Failure occurs when we allow falling short of the mark to cause us to quit trying. Actually, there are only three ways to fail:

(1) Never get started.

(2) Give up before you reach a goal you really want or

(3) Continue on a path that is wrong for you.

Just because you can't be certain of success or have made wrong choices when you attempted to succeed, doesn't mean you should believe the path you are on is the one you must stay with.

Suppose, for example, a friend or business associate asks you to meet him in and unfamiliar location. Using failure formula number one, you wouldn't eve leave your home or office.

But say you did start out intending to meet the friend and along the way you get turned around and find yourself lost. Using failure formula number two, you would discover you are lost and attempt to correct your course a time or two. But, imagine that you are too far off course for just one or two corrections to get you back on track. Functioniong from failure formula number two, you might make another correction or two, but after three or four corrections you would decide you will never be able to find your way and give up never reaching your destination.

Using failure formula number three you would decide that even though you made a wrong turn, you must stick with it because that’s the direction in which you are now headed and to make a new choice would mean you failed when you made the original decision that got you lost. So you continue down the wrong road, knowing it’s wrong, but refusing to make an alteration because you’ve already made a choice, however wrong it may be.

Each scenario sounds pretty absurd in that context, but the world is full of people who never get started, give up and quit before reaching their goal, or stay with bad choices long after they have discovered they are bad.

To ensure success you must be willing to alter your course and keep altering it for as long as it takes. You must be willing to try again and again, as many times as necessary to reach your destination. Whether you reach it or not will depend on your belief in your ability to eventually arrive and that brings us back to the confidence formula.

The faith to keep trying ultimately comes from knowing yourself and your abilities, and knowing how to use them most effectively. In the hustle-bustle of today’s world, we sometimes forget to take a thorough look at our most valuable asset . . . ourselves. Only with self-awareness and understanding can we come to believe in our ability to find the right solution and to arrive at our goals.

People who don’t know themselves are easily side-tracked. They have no well-defined personal boundaries and no center of power. A thorough and accurate self-assessment can provide the compass we need to get and stay on track. Without a center of power and personal boundaries to guide us, there is no way we can achieve our goals because there is no way to know for sure what our goals are, or should be.

Happy, centered, well-directed successful people are people who know their own core being and honor it. These are the people who have the basic tools to attempt new things, to set new goals and to persist in pursuing them. These people succeed because every achieved goal increases their faith in their ability to succeed and enables them to try greater and greater things. The happy result is a high degree of self-confidence and success which just keeps perpetuating itself.

Article by Sherry Buffington, Ph.D.

Sherry Buffington, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of the Dallas based training, consulting and coaching firm, Star Performance Systems, which specializes in helping individuals succeed and organizations increase their productivity and profits by maximizing the potential of their people.


Ten Most Common Hiring Mistakes
(and How to Avoid Them)

Employers make lots of mistakes in the process of recruiting, interviewing and hiring new employees. Below is a list of the ten most common.

1. Too much talk, too little touring
The single biggest mistake made in an interview is spending the entire interview time talking. Talk is a waste of time by itself. Instead, take the candidate on a company tour. Introduce him to other employees. Show the candidate the tools he'll be using if he's hired. Ask him which of the tools and equipment he is familiar with and let him explain how he would use a particular piece of equipment. A job is about doing, not just about talking. Be sure the interview includes aspects that tell you something about the candidate’s ability to do.

2. Relying on an interview to evaluate a candidate
In a massive study conducted by John and Rhonda Hunter at The University of Michigan on the "Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance", the usefulness of an interview in accurately predicting success on the job was analyzed. The surprising finding: The typical interview increases the likelihood of choosing the best candidate by less than 2%. In other words, if you just "flipped" a coin you would be correct 50% of the time. If you added an interview you would be right 52% of the time.

Although the interview alone is a poor tool it is still the most commonly used selection technique. Experts suggest three reasons why:

  • Most managers don't structure an interview and determine the best answers before the interview.
  • Candidates do a lot more interviewing than most managers and are more skillful at presenting a strong appearance than the average manager is at probing past the interviewees "front."
  • An interview does help evaluate personal chemistry and allow the manager to get a feel for how well they might get along and work together. And, while it is important for employees to connect with their managers and co-workers and to fit the culture, too often hiring on personal chemistry results in the interviewer hiring versions of self.

3. Letting Human Resources do the interviewing
The problem with this approach is that an HR representative, no matter how skilled or effective, does not know how each department within the company works or what exactly the department does. Only the manager of the department and those who are in that department day after day know that. Therefore, it is wise to have the department manager do the actual interviewing or at least the initial interview.

As an example, technical people tend to be somewhat shy and many are not especially good at job interviews, which may result in an unaware HR person overlooking a good candidate. Making a prospective technical candidate step through a bureaucratic process before the manager of the technical department can even talk to him may also cause you to lose a good candidate to an employer who understands his style and works with rather than against him from the onset of the recruiting effort.

Very basic screening, such as background checks and checking résumé’s to ensure adequate experience should be the focus of HR. Departmental managers and team members should be the people who make the first contact with the candidate. When the team the candidate would be working with is the source of the candidate's first impression of your company, the odds of getting a good employee are greatly increased. And there’s a bonus to this approach. The team feels they had a say in the hiring of the new employee and are far more receptive and helpful in integrating the employee into the department. Which leads us to the fourth hiring mistake.

4. Leaving your team out of the loop
Involving team members in the selection process has several benefits; meeting members of the team a job candidate would be working with and managers of departments they would be interfacing with can put the candidate at greater ease. A candidate's ability to succeed in the job (if hired) depends intimately on the way the candidate relates to the people in the organization.

Employees are almost never in environments where they are working entirely alone. Their work, behavior and attitudes are impacted by, and will impact, everyone in your department and everyone the new hire interfaces with throughout the company. Each interaction the candidate has with potential co-workers and managers will reveal aspects of the individual you may never observe any other way. Don't leave team members out of the interview loop.

It's not necessary to schedule formal interviews for the candidate with all these people. It’s best to keep it an informal “interviewing by wandering around" process. Make it easy and casual, but make sure the people you involve in this process are prepared to conduct mini-interviews and report back to you.

5. Using the wrong method for duplicating successful people
It would seem like common sense to try to duplicate the most successful employees and, under the right conditions, it absolutely is. The problem is that many organizations look only at top performers and, often, the reasons they succeed are not clear. Unless you can determine critical traits like emotional intelligence (EQ) and overall development of job specific traits, you cannot know for sure how top performers are different from average and poor performers.

An example of a useless study is one performed by a large corporation at great expense. Their goal was to discover the top five characteristics of their top salespeople. They sampled over 100 sales superstars in various regions across the country and found that the top five characteristics their superstars all had in common were 1) the belief that good salesmanship required good problem-solving skills, 2) the belief that good salesmanship required anticipating and being prepared to answer objections, 3) being a good listener 4) wearing conservative clothes and 5) knowledge of the benefits of the company’s products and services.

However, when the poorest performers at the company were queried, the same five characteristics were found to be among the most common traits reported. As it turned out, the traits reported as important by both groups were often repeated by the company’s sales managers and all understood their importance, but not all had the personal attributes to do anything more than give the valued traits lip service.

The lesson: The structure of a study (the types of questions asked) can skew the results and, if you don’t have a means for discovering and validating the critical skills for success by comparing the differences in job critical traits between top performers, average performers and weak performers, the real factors that consistently distinguish the winners from the "also rans" will not be apparent.

6. Not researching the reasons people have failed in the job. Research consistently shows that people fail in a job due to factors different from the criteria used to select them. Most managers can list the three or four common reasons why people have failed. Surprisingly, however, this information is seldom part of the process used to select new candidates. Identifying predictors of failure and building the data into the selection process can reduce hiring mistakes by as much as 25 percent. Identifying predictors of failure and predictors of success and knowing exactly how well developed these essential predictors are in candidates can reduce hiring mistakes by a whopping 65%.

An example of how essential traits can be missed can be seen in the data on competitive sales averages. According to the data, it takes six sales contacts on average for potential customers to buy from a new salesperson. The average failed salesperson gives up after three contacts. So while some of their salestechniques may be adequate, if the tendency to give up too easily and too soon is never evaluated or discovered, a primary failure factor goes undiscovered.

7. Inadequate reference checks
In too many companies, reference checks are entirely inadequate. HR usually conducts them, using a carefully orchestrated, one-sided protocol. Yes, there are legal issues, and these must be addressed. But it's the hiring manager who should conduct these checks, after being taught how to do it right.

A reference call from one manager to another is very different from a call from an HR rep. Managers can delve into more detail, and they have both the expertise and the prerogative to pursue lines of questioning that HR lacks. Peers are more likely to be open and blunt with one another.

There's one critical question that comes across as much more profound when the hiring manager asks it, at the end of the reference call: "If you could have Joe work on your team again, would you hire him?" While the answer matters, it's the hesitation or the enthusiasm of the respondent that's critical. Manager to manager, this one question can reveal more than any other kind of reference check.

8. Failure to provide adequate information about the company
The typical job candidate arrives at the job interview knowing only what's printed in the want ad, and what your HR representative told her. What a great way to evaluate a prospective employee -- make it as much a "blind date" as possible! It is in a hiring manager's best interest to help job candidates prepare for the interview to the extent the candidate is interested in doing so. In fact, a candidate's interest or lack of interest in the company information you offer can tell you a great deal about the work ethic of the candidate.

Time and again, people who have just started a job share tales of woe. "The job isn't what I was told. There is no cooperation between departments. Sales aren't what they said they were.” Where such unpleasant discoveries await a new hire, it often isn’t long before he is interviewing for another job with another company.

What kind of information should you provide? That's up to you. But consider this: a candidate who makes good use of whatever resources you bestow prior to the interview will likely make as good use of the tools your department provides once she's on the job. It's a very telling test.

Here are some suggestions for prep materials. Prior to bringing the candidate in for an interview, offer her non-confidential information about:

  • your products and technologies
  • relevant but not-so-obvious web pages that might be useful
  • the problems and challenges your team is facing
  • industry issues that impact your business
  • the tools your team uses
  • methods you employ in project management competitors and vendors you deal with
  • articles about your company that illuminate how you run the business
  • historical information about your products and your company's growth
  • organizational information about how various departments work together
  • financial and profitability data, if your company is public (maybe even if it's not)
  • the names and telephone numbers of members of your staff

Treat the job interview as an open-book test, and give the candidate the book before the interview. Let her talk with you on the phone; let her talk to some of your team members; let her ask questions in advance. If you offer and she doesn't bother, you've learned something important. If she takes advantage of the information, imagine how fruitful the interview could be. You could talk about things that really matter -- like how the candidate can use what she has learned to make your business more profitable

9. Overly narrow job skills requirements
On the surface, this does not appear to be a problem. It appears to be an asset, which is why it is on the ten most common list. This problem usually occurs because a manager is in a rush to fill an open position. Usually, when a manager needs to add staff, it's because a project is behind schedule or a greater workload has created unanticipated problems. The manager needs help right now and doesn't want to have to baby-sit whoever is hired. They believe they can avoid that problem by hiring someone with the specific skills required for the job.

If you need specific expertise right now, the odds that you will find it as quickly as necessary are minimal, especially in a tight market. And the cost of leaving the work undone until you find exactly the person you want grows by the minute.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t clearly define the work you need to have done. You most certainly should. Just don't make the mistake of defining who can do the work in overly-narrow ways. There is great value in hiring talented workers and giving them the latitude to learn while they work.

Good people are thinking, problem-solving machines. They analyze, learn and quickly marshal their skills, abilities and knowledge to tackle and do the job at hand. It is skills and abilities, not specific knowledge of a technique or a tool that you are paying for when you hire a good worker. A good worker can quickly learn the specifics and master almost any tool you hand him. He might even introduce you to a few tools you didn’t know existed. A little guidance and a stack of manuals go a long way in teaching specific skills. Trying to teach problem-solving skills or a strong work ethic is another story.

10. Unreasonably long job offer process
If your company does not have a streamlined, fast-track job offer process, create one! A very common complaint among job hunters is that promised job offers take weeks to come through. Don’t schedule then cancel interviews, suggest that an offer is coming or make promises you cannot keep. It’s a good way to lose a lot of potentially great employees because the good ones won’t wait around.

Most companies are very aware that, if they drop the ball with one of their customers, it might cost them the customer, revenue and profit, so they go out of their way to be a responsible vendor. Yet, when it comes to hiring the people that ultimately determine how happy the customer is going to be, the process is not given anywhere near as much care as sales and customer service. When you are concerning yourself with the customer, but not the employees that ensure customer satisfaction, you are essentially slitting one wrist while bandaging the other. And, make no mistake, every single employee in your company impacts your ability to serve your customers.

Eliminate one blunder at a time
If your company is making some of these mistakes when hiring, don't plan on changing the system overnight. Eliminate one blunder at a time and enjoy the payoff as you continue to improve the process.

Adapted from Ask The Headhunter®.com

Article by Sherry Buffington, Ph.D.

Sherry Buffington, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of the Dallas based training, consulting and coaching firm, Star Performance Systems, which specializes in helping individuals succeed and organizations increase their productivity and profits by maximizing the potential of their people.