Dr. Alan Zimmerman has helped over one million people over the last 25 years. His success is seen in the fact that 92% of his speeches result from referrals and repeat engagements. This recent interview provides some of his key thoughts.
Q: How do you manage your time in order to allow for maximum success?
A: We all get 24 hours every day. Some people accomplish a lot; others achieve very little. Some of that can be attributed to the use or misuse of time. I follow three important regimens. First, I use a handwritten daily to-do list that sits on my desk, in view, all day. I write down the things I most want to accomplish that day, and then I tend to stay focused and not waste my time. It feels great to cross an item off the list as I complete it.
Second, I find and use a sanctuary—a place where I minimize distractions and maximize productivity. It might be at a table in the very back of my public library or a seat on a plane with my noise-cancelling headset on. I go to these places as I need them. Third, I delegate. I learned long ago not to do anything that someone else can do cheaper and perhaps better than me. Why spend an hour updating my database when someone else could do it for $25 and I could make several thousand dollars doing something else.
Q: How has your extensive continued education helped you?
A: I believe leaders are readers. You can’t win tomorrow’s victories with yesterday’s knowledge. Everyone needs to have a program of continuing education. I listen to podcasts or audio recordings every day as I exercise. I attend at least 7 days of training every year. I belong to a mastermind group that has met four times a year, for 2 days at time, for the last 16 years. That group has helped me find ideas and action plans that have dramatically improved our business and bottom line.
Q: At SCORE we encourage our clients to connect with a mentor. What makes a great mentor?
A: Mentors are critical. A great mentor is more concerned with the mentee’s success than with impressing someone else. A great mentor is open and honest about successes and failures, thus allowing the mentee to shave several years off his or her learning curve. I’ve had two mentors that have been especially helpful, and I still get together to talk to and learn from them.
Q: You say everybody wants the same two things out of life. What are they? Why aren’t they achieving them?
A: I’ve surveyed 100,000 people about what they want out of life. The most common answer is, “I just want to be happy.” The second most frequent response is, “I want to be successful.” Nothing wrong with either one of those answers. The problem is most people have never truly defined what they mean by “happiness” and “success.” In my new book, The Payoff Principle, I ask readers the most important question they could ever ask themselves: “What do you really, Really, REALLY want?” I then guide them through the process of figuring out how to answer that question.
Q: What do you mean by The Payoff Principle.
A: The subtitle says it all: The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets for Getting What You Want out of Life and Work. I’ve discovered that every success has three elements, which I’ve put into a formula: Purpose + Passion + Process = Payoff. In one sentence, “When you find purpose in what you do, exhibit passion for the outcome, and master the process to make it happen, you produce the payoffs you want, need, and deserve.”
Q: You mention connective communication in your book. To achieve connective communication, you say a person must refrain from killer statements. What are they and how do they get in the way of communication?
A: A killer statement is anything that says “I don’t believe in you, or your ideas, or your potential.” When you bring up an idea at work, others may say: “We’ve never done it that way… We’ve always done it this way… You’re right, but… We don’t have the time, money, personnel, or resources… That might work in your company, but… and…We tried that four years ago.” I’ve discovered the fifty most common and most destructive killer statements that will absolutely kill motivation and engagement in any workplace. I will share them with anyone who wants them. Just send me an email. I challenge the people in my audiences to take this list of 50 killers back to their next staff meeting and challenge everyone there to go one hour without using a single one of them. It’s tough, but it begins the process of turning their communication process from negative to positive.