Author Archives: Mike Williams

Stand Out From the Crowd-sized

Have You Noticed That No One Is Noticing?

One of my favorite Youtube videos was shot in the Washington DC subway.

In the video, Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians alive today, plays one of the greatest pieces of music of all time on a priceless instrument during rush hour one January morning. More than 1000 people rushed by and yet hardly anyone notices the incredible performance unfolding before them.

Later, he played a concert again in the subway, this time to a crowd of thousands.

Why You Need To Get Noticed

Maybe you’re not performing on a violin, but you do need to get noticed. When you get people’s attention, they admire your work, want to be around you, and want to learn from you. Getting noticed will make your life and relationships better at work, with your friends, and with your family.

Successful brands get people to notice them. We can do a few simple things to “brand ourselves” and get noticed.

What We Can Learn From Joshua Bell

Why didn’t anyone notice Joshua’s exquisite performance the first time?

There are probably several reasons, but let me mention the main reason that apply to us and our personal branding: distraction.

Distraction takes attention away from us. People are busy. It’s a preoccupied world and everything from Youtube videos, to email, to advertising draw people’s attention and keep them from noticing us.

3 Ways to Get Noticed (Besides Standing on Your Head and Spitting Quarters Out Of Your Mouth)

There are at least 3 ways that you excel and get noticed by your coworkers, friends, and family.

1. Live and work with passion.
We are all drawn to a person who is passionate about their life and work. Communicate your passion by the things you do and say, and people will take notice.

2. Learn the language of listening.
Everyone needs to be heard, but most of us like to talk. If you can learn to be a good listener, people will be drawn to you and will seek your attention and company. Your relationships will be more intimate.

3. Create loyalty and build trust.
By doing what you say you will do and being consistent, people will begin and trust you. Dependability is a strong magnet for others—especial in difficult times. Walk the talk, be consistent, and live out your values. People will take notice and want to be near you.

The people of Washington DC did get a do-over. The second time, the performer, the music, and the instrument were noticed—thousands came to hear Joshua Bell’s concert in the subway.

If you will live with passion, listen well, and build trust with those you love and work with, they will observe it and you will get noticed.

heart-Whole Sized

Why Should You Take the Goal to Heart?

I shared in my last blog about changing ourselves that I would talk about goal setting in this post. I have only one purpose today: helping you to remember how to set an effective goal.

How Do I Set An Effective Goal?

Many people mistake a dream or a wish or a desire for a goal. They are not. But, every goal will have 5 specific parts that are clearly defined: They are:

1. Able to be accomplished,
2. Clear,
3. Something that you actually do,
4. Measurable, and
5. Timed

The most popular way to remember how to set goals seems to be the SMART method. SMART is an acronym for:

S— specific
M— measurable
A— achievable
R— realistic
T— timed

Why I Don’t Like SMART Goals

“SMART” is a good acronym for goal setting, but I don’t like it because it is an acronym, and I don’t like acronyms. They are troublesome for 2 reasons.

1. It is difficult to remember what each letter stands for. Is the “s” for “smart” or “simple” or “singular” or “Seattle?” I can never remember, so acronyms aren’t very useful to me.

2. More importantly, they are not natural for our brains because they are based on words and our brains were not built for words. When you think, you do not think in words, you think in ideas and pictures. If I tell you a story about a little brown rabbit in the forest, you don’t think the letters “rabbit,” tree,” “grass.” You see a picture of a rabbit in your mind.

What Really Does Work Well?

If you will use pictures to memorize important information, you can recall details much more quickly and easily, and for longer periods of time than by using acronyms.


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So, when you want to set a goal, think of “Take the Goal to Heart” and remember the picture above. Our friend, the goal-setting heart, is what you should see in your mind that reminds you of the 5 important parts of a goal.

1. Contract in right hand—A goal is obtainable; it can be done just as a contract is an agreement to get something done.

2. Glasses—the goal is clear. You know exactly what to do.

3. Hammer in the left hand—You actually have to do something. It is actual work.

4. Ruler in the left hand—It is measurable. You know exactly when it is accomplished and when it is not.

5. Pocket watch—It is timed. The goal should be done by a certain date and time.

Instead of trying to remember what SMART means, just picture the heart in your head and the 5 parts of the heart cartoon will remind you to “Take the Goal to Heart.”

All In a State of Mind

2 Unchangeable Truths About Changing Ourselves

“It’s easy to quit smoking cigarettes. I’ve done it a thousand times,” Mr. Zhou said to me one day as he took another puff.

It seems that “the only thing constant is change” is true—unless it is concerning changing ourselves and our old habits, customs, and beliefs. Whether it’s sticking to a program of eating right and losing weight, quitting cigarettes, stopping wasting so much time watching TV, reading more books, or refraining from yelling at the kids when they misbehave, we have all had a hard time making changes and making them stick.

The Need for Change

The Law of Diminishing Returns drives us to constant change. What thrilled us yesterday will not satisfy us today; and what we enjoy today will be boring tomorrow. We were made for change and constant improvement—that need was built into us.

The 2 Truths

So why do we find making good changes so hard?

Truth #1: Meaningful Change Is Always Difficult

While it’s easy to start a diet and loose a few pounds, the majority of people never achieve their goal and worse yet, gain all the weight back (and more!) within 3 years.

While there are multiple reasons for this, one of the most significant is the fact that we usually don’t understand the power of past habits. A habit is like a well-worn groove that is difficult to get out of. We have to overcome inertia in order to enact real change.

Truth #2: No One Can Make Us Change Unless We Want To

While the idea of making a change sounds appealing, when it gets down to the real work of making that change happen, it gets much more difficult. When you’ve finished a big meal and you’re satisfied, it’s very easy to say, “I need to lose some weight.” That’s why every diet starts tomorrow. We have to have a real desire to make a change, not just a casual wish for change.

So, What’s the Solution?

Solution #1: Goal setting and Efficacy

Researches have studied for decades what factors help us achieve a desired end. There are many things that help, but two have been proven to have the greatest effect by far. These two things are the essentials for making sure you will achieve what you want: goal setting and efficacy. I’ll give some great tips on goal setting in my next blog and I’ve talked about the importance of efficacy before (14-11-20 Blog) so I won’t say more than these right now. But, you must have these two things!

Solution #2: Commit!

If you make the real effort to realize change is hard and commit to doing the dirty work of actually changing, you will take the first step to seeing it happen.

So, here are the 3 steps:

1. Really commit to making it happen

2. Set the goal

3. Increase your self efficacy

If Mr. Zhou will do these things, I believe that the 1001st time,  he will actually see success.


You Are Different Than the Rest of the World

You are unique, you little snowflake!

How many times have we heard that from our grammar school teachers and the motivational speakers. The truth is that we are not really all that unique when we think about it. Our DNA is 99.5% exactly like every other human on the planet. We all need about the same amount of sleep, food, and water to live. We all feel the same emotions and feel them from most of the same causes.

But the problem is that we all think we are different from everyone else. Other people should wear a motorcycle helmet, but we don’t really need to. The government should set speed limits, but it is okay for me to go faster than that.

In the USA, nearly everyone says that it is very bad to text while driving a car, yet more than 40% admit to texting while driving and probably more than that do it, but will not admit to it.

Here is a sad fact: The rules don’t apply to us, because we deceive ourselves into feeling safer than we actually are. We want to operate as an individual snowflake.

How Can We, as Leaders, Turn This Around and Use It To Our Advantage?

There are many possibilities, but let me mention one today.

The Two-Step Buy-In Technique

Let’s suppose you are a team leader and you need to get buy-in from your team members. You want them to join the team and work for a common goal.

By using a simple psychological technique, you can get much greater buy-in from your team. In fact, in one study* researchers used this technique to increase voter turnout for an election by more than 25%—no small feat!

The first step is to set up a socially desirably behavior and then ask your team if they will engage or not. Nearly all will agree because it would be socially awkward not to.

The second step is to have them give a justification as to why they will perform this socially desirable behavior.

After we as human snowflakes melt by admitting in public that we are going to do something, we rarely go against society and fail to perform what we say we will do.

A Real Life Example

If you are starting  a new team project and you need to get buy-in from every team member, in your first meeting describe why this is such a great project. Then, ask each team member if they are going to commit to helping with the project (Step One). After they say, “Yes” ask them to give one reason why they are going to participate (Step Two). Nearly all of us as human beings will perform a task that we agree to do in a public setting.

Try it. I think you’ll find you can make a pretty good snowball when all of your snowflakes come together.


*Greenwald, A. G., Carnot, C. G., Beach, R., and Young, B. (1987). Increasing voting behavior by asking people if they expect to vote. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 315– 18.

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How Can You Lead to Help Your Team Be Giants in Creativity?

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
― Walt Disney Company

Creativity is the lifeblood of modern business. People who are creative excel in their work and get promotions. But how can you become more creative?

The Secret of Creativity

A recently released *study from the University of Texas in San Antonio helps us understand some other things that are behind creativity in the workplace. They tell us one thing that hurts creativity and then share three things that help it.

First the Bad: Necessity Is Not the Mother of Good Invention

This research backs up what many have known for a long time: stress is the killer of creativity. Yes, if a new solution is necessary we will try to find a solution, but the more stressed we are about it, the less creative we become. Scientists think that this is because the creative process is chaotic process and stress has always been known to limit our solutions to problems.

What Helps Creativity?

According to this study, three things will help creativity.

1.) To be creative, people need the proper experience. If people have been creative in the past, they will be more creative in the future. Success breeds success and this is certainly true with creativity.

2.) To be creative, people need confidence. I have spoken before about self-efficacy in this post, this post, and this post, so I won’t go into detail here. The quick and dirty point here is that if you think you are creative you probably are creative and if you think you can find a creative solution, you probably can find a creative solution.

3.) To be creative, people need the help of their boss. This is one of the most surprising things about the study. Leaders who recognize and encourage great creativity will receive it from their co-workers. This is created especially through excellent interpersonal relationships. The authors say this should include “an emphasis on trust, loyalty and mutual professional respect.”

If you are interested in more of this, I deliver several excellent workshops on how to improve these leadership qualities.

So What Should I Do?

Here are four things that will help your team become more creative.

1.) Create a work atmosphere that is safe and free from stress.

2.) Think back and remember times when you were creative in the past and recall those experiences.

3.) Use those experiences to purposely build your self confidence in your creative abilities.

4.) If you are a leader, recognize and encourage creativity in the team when you see it. If you are not the leader, give them this post so they will start encouraging you!

Follow these 4 suggestions, and your team will be on their way to growing in the their creativity and becoming creative giants!

*Lei Huang, Dina V. Krasikova, Dong Liu. I can do it, so can you: The role of leader creative self-efficacy in facilitating follower creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2016; 132: 49

Skills Education

Why It Takes More than Education Or Job Experience—The Good and Bad News

When most companies decide things like hiring, promotions, and other advancements, education and work experience are usually the deciding factors. Not a good choice, according to a new study* released by the British Psychological Society.

The Bad News

Why shouldn’t we rely on college education or work experience for these issues? Because neither university study nor work experience prepare an employee for the soft skills necessary to perform at the highest level with other coworkers.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are “a cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people,” according to Wikipedia. Basically, they are skills that all of us need to cooperate and function well in a work environment and a team.

Several of the most important abilities are to effectively:

  • communicate
  • cooperate
  • be flexible
  • work in a team
  • think critically
  • make good decisions

These are the skills that move good companies to great companies by not only improving the bottom line, but also making the work environment more positive. This leads to more productivity and lower employee turnover rates.

The Good News

If you can’t learn these skills at college or by getting work experience, how can you learn these things?

I am so glad you asked! This is where your company’s HR department and consultants like me come in. The truth is that these skills can be taught and employees can develop these abilities with training.

(Warning! Shameless self-promotion) Professional Gulf Consulting can provide top-notch training to:

  • take your company to the next level,
  • help your employees to perform better and feel better,
  • decrease employee turnover, and
  • create a better work environment

Visit our website to see how we can help you! Besides, it’s cheaper than a college education and faster than gaining work experience.

*British Psychological Society (BPS). “University or University of Life?


We All Knew It: Men Are Idiots

Research* just came out that tests the MIT (Male Idiot Theory). Really; I’m not kidding. Scientists researched data from the Darwin Awards and found that of the 318 cases, 88.7% were men.

The Darwin Awards is a series of books and a website dedicated to people who take themselves out of the human gene pool by killing or sterilizing themselves by doing something stupid. A prime example are the terrorists who mailed a bomb with insufficient postage but with the correct return address, and then forgot what it was when it was returned to them. They opened the package and blew themselves up.

One theory for the unbelievable behaviors that the authors cite (besides the fact that men are just idiots) is that men tend to be greater risk takers.

So let’s think a minute about risk-taking.

Leaders do need to be risk-takers and the best leaders usually are the greatest risk-takers. Taking risks inspires coworkers to take risks, and as all economists will tell us, greater risk, when successful, brings greater reward.

How can we as leaders inspire our coworkers to take greater risks?

By supplying two necessary qualities to the people who look to you for leadership: security and inspiration.


Attachment theory tells us that people look for closeness to others who give them comfort. Think of a child that will not stray far from his or her mother.

But comfort alone will not challenge others to reach beyond. Security must be accompanied with a challenge to explore.


Inspiration provides the challenge to explore and take the risks that we all need to in order to achieve outstanding results. The combination of these two factors provides the atmosphere to help our coworkers produce more than anyone ever thought possible.

How Can We Do That?

Here is a short list of actions that will provide a safe base and a challenge to inspire those around us to greatness.

1. Stay calm in the midst of the storm—during struggles people will look to you for security.

2. Accept those around you and truly care for their needs—People will feel secure if they feel accepted.

3. Listen and ask questions—The best leaders always are the best listeners.

4. Share a powerful vision—The great leader always can inspire vision through great communication skills.

5. Center on the positive—Success breeds success and great leaders remember that and harness its power.

6. Encourage risk-taking—People will respond if they feel safe and are challenged to take risks.

7. Harness the power of intrinsic motivation—Studies have shown that people are much more motivated to work hard and take risks for things that they enjoy much more than they are motivated by financial gain.

If you want to help your coworkers achieve more, provide the security they need to feel safe and the inspiration to take more risk. Hopefully all of us will keep swimming in the gene pool for a while.

*B. A. D. Lendrem, D. W. Lendrem, A. Gray, J. D. Isaacs. The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behaviour. BMJ, 2014; 349 (dec10 20)

All In a State of Mind

It’s all in a State of Mind

Since we talked last time about how superstition can improve performance because it can increase self efficacy, I wanted to share my favorite poem on the subject. I memorized this poem as a teenager and quote it to myself often when needed right up until today.

It was written over 60 years ago—long before Albert Bandura  developed the concept of self efficacy, but that is exactly what it is talking about.


It’s all in a State of Mind

If you think you are beaten, you are:
If you think you dare not, you won’t
If you like to win, but don’t think you can
It’s almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost;
For out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in a state of mind.

For many a game is lost,
Ere even a play is run,
And many a coward fails
Ere even his work begun.

Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you’ll fall behind;
Think that you CAN and you WILL;
It’s all in a state of mind.

If you think you are out-classed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise;
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can.


It Turns Out You ARE Lucky-If You Think You Are

What do Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs have in common? Maybe several things, but one thing they had in common was that they are/were very superstitious. It is fairly well known that Michael Jordan, in every NBA game he played, wore an old pair of shorts from his college basketball days under his NBA shorts. Steve Jobs would sometimes go for weeks at a time only eating carrots and apples.

Why would they do this? Because they believed it enhanced their performance.

Did it really help? Well, it turns out that if they believed it would help them, it probably did. (For some interesting articles concerning this about Michael Jordan  and Steve Jobs  click the links.)

How could it possibly help them? The answer is self-efficacy, a fancy word for self confidence. The truth is that if you think you can do something, you are much more likely to actually be able to do it.

Consider this interesting experiment. Researchers asked volunteers to putt a golf ball into a cup. One group did 35% better than the other. What was the difference? They told the first group that they were using a “lucky” ball. That’s all! The fact that they believed the ball was lucky, made them 35% better at putting the ball. So, it really was lucky!

Without question, self-efficacy leads to enhanced performance.

How can we harness this powerful truth to help us?

When you are getting ready to make that big sales pitch, or give that big presentation to the executives of your company, or lead that important team meeting, change your self-talk to an attitude of confidence. If you have a “lucky routine,” do it; if you have a “lucky shirt,” wear it. Anything you can do to build your self confidence (self-efficacy) will probably increase your performance.

Maybe you won’t be able to dunk a basketball or create a new technology breakthrough, but you just might give the presentation of your life!

Verbal Abuse

Is Your Motivation Motivational?

I still remember parts of the first halftime “pep talk” from my American football coach my senior year in high school. Many of the words could not be repeated here and the finale came to a crescendo as he kicked the film projector and sent it flying across the room. That little move set him back a few hundred dollars because the principal (who later became my father-in-law) made him pay for that bit of destruction from his own pocket.

Coaches, and periodically managers at work, sometimes yell, scream, criticize, or belittle in order to motivate employees and players to higher performance. But does it work as expected? Does it help motivate players and workers to perform better.

The answer seems to be “no.”

In a recent study*, researchers asked employees how often their supervisors verbally abused them by putting them down or deriding them. They also asked them if the supervisors were trying to motivate them to do better by doing the ridiculing.

One month later, they asked the same employees if they had done any undermining behaviors such as stealing from the company or purposely wasting work time. The employees who felt abused acted in counterproductive behaviors much more often.

The interesting thing is that even if the employees felt like the supervisor meant it for good—that is to motivate—it still produced bad behavior. The undermining behaviors were aimed at the supervisor and at the organization as a whole.

It is important to remember that employees who are happy and feel valued will be more productive and will stay with a company longer. A kind and compassionate workplace is a winning situation for the organization and the employees.

Verbal abuse, no matter what the intent, causes harm and negatively impacts the organization in tangible ways.

So whether you are a football coach, a team leader, or a line supervisor: Be kind to improve the bottom line.

*Kevin J. Eschleman, Nathan A. Bowling, Jesse S. Michel, Gary N. Burns. Perceived intent of supervisor as a moderator of the relationships between abusive supervision and counterproductive work behaviours. Work & Stress, 2014; 1