The Timesaving “Key” To Your Success

What got you here won’t get you there.”

- Marshall Goldsmith

I have a habit that drives my wife crazy. When traveling, I accidentally keep the room keys to the hotels. Being the creature of habit that I am, I tend to stay at the Hampton Inn whenever possible. On a recent trip I decided to conduct an experiment. 

I attempted to use the Hampton Inn key from my previous stay in the door of my current hotel. I slid the key and was disappointed that it did not work. The problem was that I was trying to go through a new door with an old key! If you have ever tried to get to the next level by doing what got you to where you are, you can relate to this experience. What then is the key to your success that will save time? 

Who, Why, What
Whenever I get to a new level, I ask myself three questions:

  1. Who is currently on that level that has the results that I want?
  2. Why are they successful?
  3. What do they do that I can duplicate to get the same results?

For example, early in my career I received a promotion to District Manager of a national automotive chain with responsibility over 16 stores. The district assigned had a history of poor customer satisfaction and always ranked at the bottom of the organization in this category. 

Initially, I attempted to solve the problem by doing what made me successful as single unit manager. This resulted in several weeks of frustration and embarrassment as our customer service scores ranked last in the company! I was so frustrated that I scheduled a meeting with my boss to ask him what he thought I could do to improve. 

Instead of answering my questions, my boss asked me the following: “Who has the best customer service results in the company? Why is he successful? What does he do that you could duplicate in your District?" 

After this conversation, I contacted the top performing district manager and discovered that we were doing many of the same things to improve customer service. However, there was one method of communication that he was using with his team that I had been neglecting. Although it seemed minor, I decided to give it a try. Once I implemented his strategy, my district went from dead last, to well above the national average in customer service results within three weeks! 

Asking the Who-Why-What questions were the keys that took me to the next level. Remember, what got you here won’t get you there! If you know of someone that needs the “key”, please forward this post using the share buttons at the bottom of this post. 

Eric M. Twiggs
Your Procrastination Prevention Partner

PS. For more information that will help you to save time, download my ebook.

Which Game Are You Playing?

When I Turned 40, I had the following conversation with my friend Mike: “ Mike, I can’t believe I am 40. I am getting old! Eric, no worries, you are in the prime of your life. After all, 40 is the new 30!” I was feeling pretty good about my situation until I cam across an interesting statistic. 

According to a recent study from The Washington Post, the average life expectancy in the United States is 74 years. After doing a little math, I discovered something disturbing. Divide 74 by two and middle age is 37. 

Half of your time has passed before even reaching age 40. As you can see, we don’t have as much time as we think. What can you do to make the most of your most valuable resource? 

Be Proactive
On the game board of life, you are either playing chess or your playing checkers. The game of chess is designed for the proactive. The successful chess player is thinking two to three moves ahead compared to the checkers player that is only focused on the move that is in front of him. 

Which game are you playing? Here is a story from my past to help you decide. I was scheduled to give a speech for Toastmasters International. I knew about this a month in advance. My presentation was on Tuesday. When did I start preparing? On Monday at midnight! 

I was playing checkers. Waiting until the last minute is stressful. If you are always stressed out, you won’t have the motivation to pursue your dream. What can you do to avoid playing checkers? 

Recognize Your Power Time
You have a genetic clock that gives you high energy levels at certain times of the day and lower energy at other times. This “clock” is known as your circadian rhythm. The key to being proactive is to schedule your highest priority activities during your highest energy times. 

For example, I have the highest energy level early in the morning. I made the mistake of preparing my toastmasters speech late in the evening when I had low energy levels. This lack of energy was a big reason for my procrastination. 

If you are not sure of your power time, you can search for “circadian rhythm” on the Internet and access several online tests that will help you to find out. If you recognize your power time, you will be motivated to be proactive. On life’s game board, more chess equals less stress! 

Eric M Twiggs
Your Procrastination Prevention Partner

PS. To learn my 5-step plan to become more proactive, download my ebook.

Do Not Submit If It Does Not Fit

“It is better to say NO to an opportunity that is not the right fit, than to say YES for political reasons.”

Success breeds opportunity, but not every opportunity is the right fit. The ability to demonstrate competency and deliver results at one level does not guarantee success at the next. It is better to say NO to an opportunity that is not the right fit, than to say yes for political reasons. The following true story from my past clarifies the point. 

Several years ago, I worked for a regional manager named Robert.  He was the shining star of the company with responsibility for over 100 retail locations in the New England region.   He won numerous awards for his sales and profit results, and had a reputation for being highly competent.  Robert was approached by senior level management and asked to take over the Washington, DC region, which was known to be very difficult and had been underperforming for many years.  He accepted the position and relocated his family. 

Unfortunately, Robert was not a fit for the new assignment.  He did well in New England because he inherited a team of seasoned managers that needed minimal direction.  The DC region required someone who was skilled at turning around failing organizations and recruiting good managers.  Robert did not posses these skills and struggled to keep up.  He was eventually fired for poor performance. 

The added stress impacted his personal life and contributed to him getting divorced from his wife.  This is a sad example of what can happen when you fail to evaluate a potential opportunity to determine if it is a fit. There is one key to making sure that you don’t end up in a position that is not right for you. 

Know Yourself
American psychologist Abraham Maslow said: “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself."  The key to knowing yourself is to have a realistic picture of where you are. Recently, I had an experience in the mall that illustrates this point. 

I went to the mall last week in search of a gift for my young daughter.   I could not find the toy store so I went to the map at the center of the mall. On the map I saw in big letters “YOU ARE HERE”. I also saw that there was another store closer to me that sold toys than the one I originally planned to shop.  Based on where I was, this was a better fit for me.  This experience taught me that knowing where you are is essential to getting the opportunity that is the best fit for you. 

Knowing “where” you are is not just a reference to your physical location.  By where, I am referring to your personality as it relates to the potential opportunity.  For example, Type “A”, driver personalities don’t fit well in positions that require extensive research and data analysis.  Analytical personalities are not a natural fit for positions that involve leading large groups of people.  My supervisor Robert was an analytical personality type, which contributed to the challenges that I mentioned previously. 

If you do not know your personality type, resources like Wonderlic and Myers Briggs offer tests that can help you find out. They can also help you to identify opportunities that are the best fit based on your test results. 

By making sure potential opportunities are a fit for you BEFORE you say YES, you will maximize your time and minimize your stress.

Address Your Blind Spots

“The difference between winning and losing is how you deal with your blind spot.”

I am a huge fan of the National Football League. The most recognized, and highest paid player on each team is the quarterback. If Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots were to show up at your favorite restaurant, everyone would know that he was in the building. If the man who plays the position of left tackle stopped by, he would go unnoticed. 

I would argue that the left tackle is the most valuable player on the field because he is responsible for protecting the quarterback’s blind spot. He blocks would be tacklers that the quarterback cannot see. Even though the average fan can’t name the left tackle, this player is the second highest paid on the team. The coach realizes that the difference between winning and losing is how he deals with the blind spot. Before I discuss how to deal with yours, let’s get clear on a definition of the blind spot. 

What is a Blind Spot?
A blind spot is a personal flaw that is invisible to you, but visible to others. Everyone has at least one, but not everyone has the systems in place to manage them. Poor blind spot management can cause you to lose time and fail to achieve your desired outcomes. 

For example, if I have a flaw in my keynote speech delivery, the organization that I am presenting to may not invite me back and I may never know why. If I have the right systems in place, I can find out and make the necessary adjustment. As an entrepreneurial executive, what systems can you put in place to effectively deal with your blind spot? 


360 Degree Feedback Surveys
A 360 degree feedback survey is a tool that gives people at every level of the organization an opportunity to give feedback on how they perceive their supervisor. Years ago, I was a young executive in charge of 500 employees and 17 retail locations. We were having a record-setting year in sales and profits and I received several awards for our performance. My boss and the senior level executives showered me with praise at our national meetings. 

I was shocked when I got the results of a survey of my subordinates. Many of them thought that I was too demanding and critical in my communication style. This survey made me aware of my blind spots and has shaped the way I lead and communicate today. If you implement a 360 degree feedback system in your organization, you can experience a similar result. 

Three Ups and Three Downs
As a result of the survey feedback, I began having monthly meetings with my team. At the end of each meeting I conducted my own informal survey. I handed out blank sheets of paper and asked my managers to evaluate me using the three ups three downs system. They would list three positive aspects (ups) of my leadership and three things that they would like me to change (downs). This was an anonymous survey so there was no fear in giving feedback. This saved me a great deal of time and stress because it helped me to do more of what was working and eliminate what was not. I use this method today whenever I deliver a workshop or keynote address. 

If you implement the 360 degree survey system and the three ups and three downs, you will maximize your time and minimize your stress. You can also use the surveys to get feedback from your customers and clients. If you are a team of one or one thousand, these systems will protect your blind spot like a great left tackle! 

Eric M. Twiggs
Your Procrastination Prevention Partner 

Have an Attitude of Gratitude

It is impossible to feel blessed and stressed at the same time.”

As an up and coming executive responsible for multiple business locations, I was trained to make fixing problems a priority. I was taught to “manage by exception” by spending the majority of my time focusing on the shops that ranked in the bottom third in sales results. Simply moving the bottom third to the middle would have a dramatic impact on the overall results of the organization. We had record setting sales results and I received nothing but praise from my superiors. 

Unfortunately, my intense focus on problems was turning me into a pessimist. My ego took a major hit as I read the anonymous feedback surveys from the managers that reported to me. To my surprise they perceived that I was picking on them and that I failed to recognize their progress. To make matters worse, my stress level was at an all time high and I was on the verge of burnout. What could I do to reverse this trend? 

Thank You List
The main source of my stress was that I only focused on my problems without recognizing the positives. The solution was to embrace gratitude on a personal level. I started making a list and reflecting on everything in my life for which I was thankful. Areas such as my faith, family and friends were included. I would review this list before starting my day. I was amazed at how my productivity increased and my stress levels decreased. I became more proactive once I adopted the right perspective. 

The Dime Test
Once I adjusted my perspective, I was able to address my team. I used a best practice known as the “dime test” to make sure I recognized the positives with my people. I would take ten dimes and place them in my left pocket. Every time I thanked one of my managers, I would switch a dime to my right pocket. My goal was to end each day with ten dimes in the other pocket. After about twenty one days, saying thank you became a habit and I no longer needed the dimes. 

According to a University of Pennsylvania study, an optimist will outperform a pessimist on the job or in a business situation by as much as 50%. Making a thank you list and adopting the dime test will generate optimism, increase your success, and lower your stress. 

Eric M. Twiggs
Your Procrastination Prevention Partner