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Never Waste A Good Crisis

As a crisis and risk management specialist I have helped Governments, Corporations and Entrepreneurs manage crises that involved natural disasters, economics, reputation management and financial meltdowns. When a crisis or bad news hits us, we all tend to overreact and get into fire-fighter mode. While this is natural, we should all learn to slow down, let things calm down, and better assess the move’s impactful options. In the early stages of a crisis, what you don’t do is more important than what you do, as these early actions set in motion a chain of reactions that will impact the future of the crisis and its effective management. Most of the time for the worse if these actions are not planned well.

Some of these crises are the result of neglect, bad decisions, excessive risk taking, but often are the result of external factors that we have no control over. The bottom line is, don’t lose sleep on any of this, but rather get to work, and while others panic, seek the silver lining in these crises. These opportunities are in disguise that are difficult to see. Keep in mind that there will be windows of opportunities that become available. For instance, during a crisis, you may realize what are the indispensable employees you need for your company to survive and prosper. In other words, during a crisis you can cut expensive personnel and bring in younger and more cost-effective staff. This stuff will bring in new perspectives and new models that you did not know you needed. Stay open and flexible and focus on what you can control.

Change is the only way forward during economic crisis

Periods of economic and geopolitical disruption as those since 2020, are challenging but rich in opportunities. The biggest mistake businesses make during a crisis (be it recession or any other type of crisis) is waiting too long to make changes, such as replacing expensive staff and overall reducing costs. While it is important not to overreact at the beginning of a crisis, the longer an entrepreneur waits to react and prepare for change, the further the negative impact of a crisis.

One area to prioritize during unpredictable ones like the recent ones, is to establish new partnerships with customers, competitors and tech companies that can help make your business processes more efficient and cost effective.  Think of other market participants as you partner to bring your service and products to new users at lower prices.

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We Become the Average of the Five People We Spend Most Time With

Many of us perform jobs for extended periods of time that are not the perfect fit. We perform tasks we do not like, and that do not match our skill set. We often choose to work with people we do not like nor respect just because we need to pay bills and make ends meet. Oh, well that is part of life, and part of learning and growing. While we all must go through some of this in life, we all have a chance to stand up, make some firm choices to build our own future that is best for us and for our families. I say this as over seventy percent of Americans and Europeans spend most of their lives in jobs and careers they do not like, often because of job security, risk averseness, and overall lack of a plan. These career choices often are also the result of the wrong advice, often benign advice done by our parents or our teachers.

Well, I think this can be changed for the better, and as I argue in several of my interviews and blogs, success and happiness are choices, and not the results of random events. To get there though, we need to implement decisions that help us get to the identified objectives. As a start we need to prioritize the decision we need to focus on in order to build the self-confidence that allows us to advance our personal growth.

Keep in mind that we perform around 30 thousand decisions per day, and if you are an entrepreneur this number is much higher. In order to focus on those decisions that make us grow the fastest, and “Become mentally and physically unstoppable”, here are five areas of focus to build a path to success. I call these “low regret actions” as they will deliver lasting success regardless of your identified life’s objectives”

  • Exercise every day for 1 hour. While this seems like a lot, it is not when you start counting how many hours a day you spend on social media, or on other digital “non-growth actions”. Focus on your body wellness and fitness as it will deliver happiness and self-confidence.
  • Read a book a month in the area of your expertise. The more you read, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more you learn. If you are not a reader, become one. It is just a matter of prioritizing your inner growth, which coincidentally is an investment in yourself.
  • Spend 15 minutes in nature every day as this will help you understand your priorities in life. Nature will act as a way to meditate and will help you prioritize what matters and let go of everything else.
  • Start with no when you get offered to join a project, go to a party, and/or any other distracting event. Instead of trying to please everyone and saying yes, start saying no unless the yes will help you accomplish your N1 goal in life.
  • Surround yourself with outstanding people: As we become the average of the five people we spend most time with (outside of our close family), we’d better be very selective about who you spend time with. Ensure that the five people that enter your lives are likable, ethical, energetic and talented. This will deliver lasting results and positive energy.

Final Thought

Thriving in life is the result of the sum of decisions. And often, what you decide not to do is more important than what you decide to do. Hence understand and use No as your default decision setting. Don’t worry about right or wrong decisions, as there are not such things, think instead of the smartest decision you can make that will get you quicker to your most important goal in life and in business. What you should not do to start with, is work with people you don’t like, and you don’t respect. While accomplishing this will take time, start a list right away listing people that you need to remove from your life. The sooner you replace bad or unnecessary people with incredible people in your life, the sooner you will start learning, become more confident and focused on the actions that matter most.

Resiliency Makes Businesses and Countries More Competitive

In today’s globally interconnected economy, the intersection between business and policy is more important than ever. Governments, corporations, and civil society organizations engage with each other like never before, producing sustainable arrangements to promote growth in emerging markets, and pooling resources and know-how to address and mitigate financial crises and shocks. The most resilient countries and businesses are those who understand this reality, and are equipped to measure, avoid, and manage all risk types, whether they be natural disasters, resource scarcity, pandemics, population displacement, political or economic instability, or disruptive technological changes. The World Bank Development Report (WDR) 2017 highlighted the fact that job creation and a stable market occurs not simply because of economic growth, but because a country encounters fewer episodes in which crisis or conflict damages its economy or prevents essential capital and expertise from reaching its local markets. 

Identifying “points of intersection” between public and private sector interests in these regions enables a productive dialogue to identify and implement sustainable, longer-term solutions to developmental challenges, crises, and disruptive events. Ideally, Governments and other public organizations provide the services, security, and institutions necessary to the welfare and livelihood of their people. Yet, public resources are often insufficient to fulfill these needs, or to adequately promote a country’s economic growth. Resource-strapped governments must often turn to private sector expertise and resources to deliver key services (like health, education, food) and to provide access to capital to facilitate market development. Rather than patchwork or ad hoc solutions, a longer-term collaboration between public and private sector interests with respect to proactive risk management, resource allocation, and crisis mitigation offers tangible solutions for crisis-affected communities while setting the foundation for longer-term growth. 

Roundtables for Resiliency in 2023

During this time of crisis, resiliency becomes even more critical for countries and corporations. In order to explore how the private and public sector can better collaborate, the Empower Capital in partnership with Hybrid Power System Group is organizing quarterly Resiliency, and Green Growth roundtables that will bring together leading global CEOs, Minister(s) of Finance, and risk management practitioners. A key aspect of the discussion is understanding how private firms leverage their often-robust distribution networks, supply lines, sophisticated risk management crisis planning and operational policies to ensure continuity of operations and access to vulnerable population groups (in hard-to-reach places) during crises. The networks and business continuity of the private sector, supported by appropriate incentive structures, could potentially be leveraged by humanitarian and development groups to deliver support that saves lives and builds resilience. 

Ignore the Noise and Focus on What you Have Absolute Control Over

I was inspired by reading one of the diaries of General Napoleon Bonaparte, the great French military leader and Emperor who conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century. The diary talks about the emperor’s ability to stay focused. One of the tactics Napoleon followed strictly, was to instruct his spies and generals to wait 2 to 3 weeks before bringing him the most urgent letters and intelligence. He did this because by the end of the  2nd or 3rd week most of these urgent issues would have been resolved. A lot of these letters were rumors, or generals asking for an increase of salary, or someone complaining about something, etc. In other words, by ignoring information deemed important by the top leadership, Napoleon was able to selfishly focus on what he considered a priority and what allowed him to pursue his success.

It is mostly noise

Success and happiness are choices, but to get there you need to remove noise and distractions from your life. Start by eliminating the distracting shiny trends, and those artificial deadlines that are created by people and events around us. In doing so, you free-up so much time to focus on the decision that will move the needle of your success. One of the keyways to win at the game of life and reach happiness is about making the right moves, making the right choices, day in and day out. That’s all there is to it, it is that simple. In order to do that however, you have to reach a high level of focus eliminating the irrelevant events and information that are so common in our digital lives.

Talk less and produce more

When you constantly produce, you build mental fitness and resilience. You create space to act and to take risks safely. You create incremental positive momentum which is indispensable for winning. The more you produce the more self-confident you become and the better you become at shutting all the noise out. Let others do the talk and instead stay focused on delivering solutions, services and impact every day. This is what winning is!

Follow your expertise. Don’t follow the shiny trends!

In a post Covid world, it is hard to ignore the success of digital trends, investment platforms, and new video games. But if those type of businesses aren’t what you know best, they probably don’t represent career opportunities for you. 

Instead of being seduced by these shiny trends and in my view “speculative transition businesses”, take your expertise, ignore the trends, and find the consumer or what is broken in the marketplace that needs to be addressed. Start with what is broken. Identify a feasible solution, and then create a product or service around it. That’s how you can leverage your expertise beyond what you’re currently doing.

As I write this blog, I think of two of my favorite quotes from billionaire investor Warren Buffett that relate to the topic at hand. First, “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing”, and second “Never invest in a business you cannot understand.” These two quotes have been guiding me throughout my career and have allowed me to learn to focus, to prioritize and take decisions within the areas of expertise I am the best at. In so doing I have continued to grow, become more impactful and stayed away from the shiny trends that could have distracted me from reaching my goals.

I say this, as I have learned the hard way how to focus. I have started companies in areas outside of my expertise, I worked with people that I did not fully trust, nor respected, and I took unnecessary risks. These were all bad decisions, influenced by emerging trends, disruptive technology and noisy opportunities that dominated the media. Sometimes you have to make bad decisions in order to get to the right place. 

Perseverance is underestimated

If you can persevere, continue to learn, and invest in yourself, success will come. Perseverance, is silent, is relentless, is lonely but it allows you to learn, grow and in so doing make more money. Become the best at what you like, surround yourself with people that bring the skills, the ethics and the energy that compliments you, and the rest will happen alone. 

Success does not happen overnight

Success is always the result of hard work, trial and error, and consistency. When you fail, and make mistakes, those should be taken as market feedback instead of setbacks. It takes at least 5 years to build a stable company, and often more than 10 to build a successful business. So be patient, and continue to grow, and as Buffett teaches us “the more you learn the more you earn”.

Ambition is Your “Brain Horsepower”

Thomas Jefferson said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” Despite this, in many countries, including my own, Italy, people consider ambition a negative trait as this is often associated with excessive power, arrogance, disrespect for the law and greed.

In this blog, I am trying to counter that argument to inspire all people out there, particularly the younger professional that are at the beginning of their careers. My message is: stop doubting yourself, follow your passion, work hard, develop an expertise and you will outperform your competitors. 

Talent and mental abilities are overrated. There is abundant research proving that IQ is not sufficient to succeed and be happy. There is even stronger evidence that Emotional Intelligent people, those that have strong self-awareness and social awareness, are more successful, happier and make more money.  Guess what, ambitious people typically work hard on their social skills and when they combine it with their General Mental Ability (GMA) they become better at performing a wide variety of intellectual tasks.

Strategies to bank on your ambition
So where do we go from there? Let’s start with the definition of Ambition. Ambition is the outcome focused personality trait found in people with strong desire to succeed regardless of the level of effort required. Ambitious people are self-starter and risk takers. They tend to be self-aware and develop social skills that help them building relations. They step outside of their comfort zone even when they don’t have the skills required. They embrace failure as a necessary path to success. 

Here following are a few actions that can help you execute on your ambition: 

Decide now: Decide what your goal in life is. And if you are not sure about it, start with something you like doing and where you can continue learning. This will allow you to focus and get better at what you do every day.  The more you focus, the more you produce, and the more you produce the more self-confident you become. Once you have confidence and you have reached high level of expertise, people and the market will follow you.

Don’t try to please everyone: Learn to ignore what others think of you and your decision and stick to your plan. When you stop caring about other’s people opinion you free up so much time to focus on the decisions that matter most for your success. In so doing, you become selective, and you focus on learning. And the more you learn that more you earn. 

Become comfortable with rejection: The more you learn, the better your decision become, and when you fail, you convert shortcomings into positive feedback. You take rejections as positive guidance and empowerments inputs. When you are ambitious you tend to show up all the time even when you are not ready, and even when your product or service is not perfect. People that show up are those that believe in themselves and their plans and are willing to put in the hard work to get to the finish line.

Final thought: Compare yourself to someone you are competing against to win a 10 miles race. You are both in great shape, she is ambitious, and you are not. She has a stronger motivation to win than you do. Her chances of winning are so much greater than yours simply because she will do whatever she can to overcome her own limits, never quitting and always thinking of different strategies to win. This person has probably trained more and stayed focused to win the race regardless of her level of talent. 

Stop Trying To Please Everyone. Please Yourself First

For most of us the most difficult day-to-day challenge is “getting to a no” which is what we call the process for deciding on what not to do. While this sounds easy to accomplish, it is not, as we are all conflicted and tend to say yes to please other people, or to delay the no for a future date.

Learn to tell everyone what you really think, and they will respect you more even though they may get disappointed. You may offend some, and burn some bridges, but those people may not be worthy of your time if they are unable to accept your straightforward reactions.  

People have a low tolerance for conflict and so often agree to the request of others even when you don’t agree. You would rather act against your own desires rather than provoke an uncomfortable situation and even a conflict. My advice for you is that it is time to change. Start by saying thank you but no thank you. You will be empowered and gain a higher level of freedom and authority. You do it once, twice, three times and suddenly you will own more of your time, and you will be more effective with all of your decisions. Also, as you learn about the Power of No, you stop caring about what people think about you, and you reach a powerful level of freedom that allows you to focus on what matters most.

Be kind to yourself and to the world
Being nice or kind to someone else is powerful. In fact, it’s a valuable trait that empowers us while helping others. However, I am not talking about accepting any request just for the hell of being nice and because we want to please others. Being nice, means also saying no to request, and focusing on pleasing and celebrating yourself first. 

 Final thoughts
We have limited time and energy in our lives and people with the best intentions will take it away from us if we are not cautious with our decision. So, my advice to you is, whatever you do next, don’t say Yes. Make “No” your default setting. Be kind but say no. Saying yes comes with a massive opportunity cost as it removes limited time from the yes that really matters to your personal success.

Entrepreneurs Feel Stuck? Hire A Coach!

What I learned by advising Ministers of Finance, global CEO and Women Leaders, is that about 90% of the top performers have above average emotional intelligence and use coaching to improve it. Founders and executives that use business coaching for decision making, point to a 7X return on their investment within 12 months. Also, since I have been a crisis manager for over 20 years, I am happy to report that emotional intelligent salespeople, marketers, and investors perform better during recession and crisis.

Bottom line, most people could use advice to improve their daily decision making. To put it bluntly, we tend to suck at making decisions as we tend to look at them as a choice between right and wrong, good, or bad. This is the wrong approach.  As we deal with over 35,000 decisions every day, we should use expert advice and tools to make sure we prioritize the decisions that lead to greater opportunity. And delegate or automate everything else. 

Timing is everything
The starting point is, how do we know if this is the best time for the entrepreneurs to make this decision? I am thinking of this as we are all still stuck in Post-Covid Crisis mode, and we are often very “reactive focused” when making important decisions. We are also influenced by the news, the stock markets, and all the unnecessary digital noise that clouds our brain. If you are a CEO or an executive, you need to make sure you are not rushing a decision taking action in the wrong mental space. Meaning you need to better manage your emotions ensuring that important decisions are postponed to a time when you are calm and can assess all your options. When we are having a stressful day, we aren’t going to be very mentally effective, so it is good to postpone until our mental fitness is sharper to help us maximize the decisions returns.

Final Thought:
Think of coaching as the mechanism to help us achieve the success we define for ourselves. The coach becomes our trusted companion to help us build or restructure our plan, define outcomes, and try new things to implement our strategy. The coach is an extension of our team who facilitates action-oriented decision-making, problem-solving, or conflict management and negotiation. 

Executive and Entrepreneurs: Here is How to Use Silence to Your Advantage

While silence can be awkward, learning how to use it at the right moment can be powerful. Conventional wisdom tells us that if you make your voice heard, be it in a classroom, in a board meeting or at a networking event, you are going to get what you want. One of the quotes that tends to resonate with my thinking is: “the loudest in the room is the weakest in the room”. And what I have learned in over 25 years as an entrepreneur and as I senior advisor is that decision makers appreciate quiet leadership as they often associate that with mature judgment.  My advice today is going to be how to use silence to your advantage both in your personal and professional life. 

The power of silence
Being silent allows us to channel our energies and focus on the people and on the events that are happening around us. Silence gives us the clarity we need to calmly face challenges, uncertainty and negotiations. The hour of silence I practice each morning, and encourage you to practice as well, is a powerful time for collecting our thoughts, training our minds, and unleashing powerful creativity. When you get used to practicing it, you will get full control of the rest of the day. You will become effective at killing the noise around you, putting on shutters, setting goals, and moving forward on what matters for success.  

Many of us are so used to noise that we don’t even know that silence exists. We live in a world full of noise and chatter. A world in which our lives are challenges with distractions. These distractions are killing our focus and making our objectives less achievable. Adopt silence and you will regain focus and accelerate personal performance. 

Silence is also powerful for maximizing negotiations performance and for persuading your audience. If you are in a negotiation session, talk less and measure your words making your remarks definitive. Then stay quiet. The less information you give away, the more difficult it will be to anticipate your next move. This will help you to gain bargaining power and decision-making authority. If you are seeking attention, when making presentations or pitching investors, have long pauses in between your remarks. These can be 10 second longs in between slides and you will create a powerful crescendo towards your final remarks.  

Don’t forget that even a no-reply to an unpleasant email is a reply. Learn to leave silence and you will become happier, more effective, and more trustworthy.

Entrepreneurs Who Cultivate Positive Mindset Can Convert Crisis Into Opportunity

Training your brain to be positive is not so different from training your muscles through different sports. Simple efforts to develop new habits help you rewire the brain for the better. Here are few examples that over a month period can yield incremental results boosting your success and personal happiness:

  • Write down daily in your calendar 2 positive actions you completed and one improvement point
  • Help everyday someone in your business and social circle. It could be through an act of kindness. If you are going through tough times, helping others will accelerate recovery
  • Meditate in nature for 5 minutes every day with some relaxing music
  • Exercise for 15 minutes every day
  • Write down some of the decisions that you seem to struggle with
  • Repeat this every day and after a month go back to your notes and you will be amazed at how much progress you accomplished. You will also realize that most of the roadblocks encountered are self generated.

As you become more active and supportive and empathetic across your community and your business teams you will start experiencing strong returns on your happiness level, problem solving capabilities as well as clearer decision-making authority. Social support and social empathy are the greatest predictors of happiness and high-performance during periods of crisis, economic recessions, and periods of high stress.  

The above practices strengthen entrepreneurs’ awareness of the changing reality and how they are responding emotionally to these challenges. These routines allow leaders to shift from assessing challenges as constraints to seeing them as opportunities to finding innovative solutions to reach a higher level of performance. 

In a crisis, leaders must continuously adjust, unlearn, and absorb external inputs to better deal with the over 35000 decisions business leaders face daily. The above routine will help leaders reach a high level of integrative awareness eliminating noise in their life, preventing mental burnout, and becoming focused on transformative decision making.