The 7 Virtues: A success story built on values!

One of the core themes of my website is the mantra “Do good to do well.” In the media, there is frequent discussion around what it takes to ‘make it.’ Invariably, people wonder whether it is possible to succeed following their principles, or if certain sacrifices are required.

Barb Stegemann and her perfume line, the 7 Virtues personifies a business that is focusing on doing great work and giving back to the community while experiencing tremendous success.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail profiles Barb and her company, which she started after her friend was almost fatally wounded while working in Afghanistan. She used her Visa to buy $2000 worth of essential oils from a local farmer in Afghanistan who was trying to get farmers to grow orange blossoms and roses instead of illegal poppies for the heroin trade and transformed that investment into $30,000 of perfume sales.

Two months later, she was on Dragon’s Den, making a pitch to obtain $75,000 in funding for a 15% equity stake, which enticed three of the Dragons, including W. Brett Wilson, to join.

Her organization continues to live the core values with which she started. I had the pleasure of interviewing Barb a few years ago and I can say that she truly lives up to the core values of her brand.

Please take the time to read this great column to learn about how doing good and doing well can go hand in hand.

Posted in Do Good to Do Well, Purpose

An exercise in self-awareness

self-awareness word in wood type

self-awareness word in wood typeResearch and anecdotal evidence point to the importance of self-awareness for our personal and professional success. A recent example comes from a study of executives conducted by Green Peak Partners in collaboration with the School of Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. The research team concluded that although self-awareness is generally not a priority in the search for leaders, it should actually be a top criterion, as it was the strongest predictor of overall executive success.

So how do we increase our self-awareness to leverage its benefits? We are naturally biased toward our own opinions and behaviours, which can make self-reflection a challenging undertaking. (See Robert Sutton’s detailed exploration of the obstacles to self-awareness here.)

Therefore, an effective strategy for overcoming our own bias is to seek information outside of ourselves. One exercise that can be used to great effect is the Reflected Best Self Exercise. This evidence-based tool is one of the most robust available and was born from research conducted at the University of Michigan. Here is how it works:

1)      Ask a cross-section of people who know you well to write a story about a time when they saw you at your best. These individuals should be friends, colleagues, and even family members. More diverse input will lead to better quality information, so make sure that you are engaging people from different parts of your life.

2)      Look for patterns – When you receive or listen to the stories, focus on identifying patterns in the narratives. By putting these patterns together, you can make a list of your top themes or ‘strengths’ that emerged and pull out key examples for each one.

3)      Build your ‘strengths profile’ – Now that you have gathered the commonalities amongst this information, you can write about who you are at your best. This can be an invaluable frame of reference in terms of setting yourself for success and recognizing when conditions may not be in your favour. Another equally powerful benefit of this exercise is the collection of stories that feature you at your best, which may be an especially powerful boost when going through a career transition or a period of disengagement at work.

4)      Actions speak louder than words – Don’t stop there. Build an action plan (and hold yourself accountable) for putting your strengths to work in your personal and professional life. The most powerful form of learning comes through the application of what you are developing.

Self-awareness is a highly desirable and elusive goal. The Reflected Best Self exercise can assist us making headway in this journey. Once you have identified your strengths, make sure that you find ways to put them to work to help you continue benefitting from the best of you.

I would love you hear your experience with this exercise. Feel free to share any modifications or ask any questions that arise and enjoy the process of getting to know your best self!





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Posted in Self Awareness, Success

You may be your own lucky charm!

Luck - Fingers crossed

Luck - Fingers crossedOur mindset is a powerful thing. I often speak and write about research that shows how our views of the world influence our reality. One of the most widely discussed studies in this field comes from the compelling work of widely respected psychologist Ellen Langer, who documented how targeting the thoughts, feelings, and actions of elderly men profoundly impacted their psychological and physical well-being. I recently came across another provocative study, which looked at how our beliefs about luck also influence our drive to succeed.

A team of researchers from UCLA and Columbia University found that our beliefs about luck can be divided into two camps: stable or fleeting. As the name suggests, the first group would be those who feel that luck is a fairly constant phenomenon. Essentially, people are generally lucky or unlucky. These individuals would say that they consistently have good luck or they consider themselves to be lucky. People who see luck as fleeting would be more likely to believe that “Rather than following a stable pattern, luck follows a path of ups and downs.”

What was most interesting to me about this research was how the participants’ beliefs about luck impacted their success drive. People who saw their luck as stable tended to have a significantly higher drive to succeed than those who viewed it as transitory.

Another interesting finding from this research was that part of the relationship between luck and achievement motivation was accounted for by the fact that people who possessed stable luck beliefs also felt they had more control. This makes sense when you think about it. If we feel luck is ‘stable’ and within our sphere of influence, we are much more likely to persevere towards our goals. However, if we see luck as an essentially random phenomenon, we may wonder “what’s the point?” which may effectively undermine our desire to push on.

Given the above, we may do well to revisit how we see luck. Viewing it as something beyond our control may significantly impact the likelihood of our future success. Reflecting on our beliefs about luck may actually be the key to improving it. As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I am a big believer in luck, the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Although fairly simple in design, this study has an important element for us to contemplate. How do we view luck? Given the above results, it may be beneficial for us to adopt a more stable versus fleeting definition. In doing so, we may maximize not only our luck in general, but our success as well.

What do you think? Do you feel lucky?

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Posted in Mindset, Success
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