Creativity: A Success Factor

Does your organization foster creativity or stifle innovative ideas? If you don’t encourage creativity, you’re missing the boat. Creativity is one of’s 9 success factors. Creativity helps transform knowledge into valuable ideas and successful implementation of ideas and strategies. Our Fast Track to Success program, emphasizing creativity and eight other success factors, is backed by research – and results we see in the clients we work with.

To examine creativity and innovation, here’s an important distinction: innovation and invention are not the same. An invention might be clever, but it won’t lead to success if it has no value to customers or other stakeholders. On the other hand, innovation is a sustained approach to projects or a business that delivers value to customers. But all too often, companies stay the course – and stay busy – therefore never addressing new, creative ideas and approaches.

Why Does Innovation Matter?

Innovation can do more than give you a few more products or services to sell; it can disrupt a market. These are the kinds of moves that spawn success and even put competitors out of business. Innovation leads to more rapid change – and change that is ahead of the curve instead of reactive to the market. The only way to grow is to provide value, and those innovative moves that deliver new value lead to the best results.

With a continuous emphasis on innovation and creativity, people at all levels of the organization come up with new solutions for old problems, too. When your people and your culture are curious and willing to take risks, you delve beneath the surface of problems, solutions and new approaches and eventually become known for your innovation. In turn, employees feel a part of something bigger and feel their opinions and work are valued.

How to Encourage Innovation

Organizational rules and hierarchies serve their purpose, but companies wanting to encourage innovation and leadership in their respective markets must have the flexibility and culture to not only allow innovation, but expect it!

You can begin by promoting innovation and innovators. Instead of having a few key people come up with marketing or product development plans, encourage creativity throughout the organization. Most of all, don’t punish frontline employees who think outside the box or offer new solutions to old problems. Give people the opportunity to take some risks and the right to be wrong.

Finally, be sure to put your money where your creativity is. New products and approaches deserve the resources needed to make them work. In turn, they will bring in new revenue. We can help you promote a culture of innovation and creativity in your organization. Give a call at 425-485-3221 or email

Truths About Leadership

Leadership experts James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner released a book in 2010 outlining decades of research about the “10 laws of leadership.” The book, titled The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know (Jossey-Bass). The authors’ extensive research found deeply ingrained attitudes, belief in self and other truths common to true leaders.

SuccessFactorsInc.Net has nine success factors based on interviews and case studies conducted over the years with successful self-starters. We found a solid similarity between our success factors and the 10 truths uncovered by the research of Kouzes and Posner. Our development program focuses on mindsets around nine key competencies, or success factors. We found that the Big Three Success Factors, Vision, Passion and Perseverance, align closely with the Kouzes and Posner laws of leadership.


Kouzes and Posner say that visionary leaders are set apart by their focus on the future. At Success FactorsInc.Net, we’ve learned that vision gives you direction and intention. Or as Kouzes and Posner say, vision offers energy toward completing a roadmap. Our experience following, interviewing and mentoring successful leaders has found the same: We know that people with Vision have a clear image of what they want to achieve in life and who they want to become. Kouzes and Posner say leaders should provide their followers with a future-focused vision and help understand and connect others’ visions for team success. We help spot people who have vision, help leaders and potential leaders refine and commit to their vision, and tie personal vision to the mission of your team and organization.


Passion arises from the kind of clarity that emerges when an individual time to focus on a vision for the future. According to Kouzes and Posner, leadership is an affair with the heart. Successful self-starters have passion and heart behind their vision that drives them toward making vision a reality. We’ve found people who are passionate about their vision and what they do are more self-motivated, driven and focused. And when you enjoy what you’re doing or the process of reaching a vision you feel passionate about, you have fewer setbacks and more steps forward. Individual employees consistently demonstrate passion for their work, largely by engaging in the organization’s values and vision. Managers with passion help spread enthusiasm to those who report to them. Executives with passion create the kind of powerful sense of purpose that generates excitement in the organization’s culture and individuals.


Passion can help leaders stay on track toward their vision, but occasional setbacks are inevitable. In our studies of successful self-starters, we’ve found consistently high levels of perseverance and focus through minor setbacks and major adversity. Those who persevere stay the course in working toward their vision. Kouzes and Posner recommend a “learning” mentality, so that leaders know it’s OK to learn from mistakes or challenges rather than feel defeated by them. The authors say the best leaders are inherently resilient. We find that individuals who have high levels of perseverance take the kinds of steps needed to deal with setbacks. Persevering managers model self-discipline when times get tough and guide others to help them cope with demanding situations. Executives with perseverance hold firm to the company’s missions during setbacks and lead others by maintaining a culture of resiliency.

Focus on Long-term Development

We encourage HR managers and organizational leaders to start thinking more about development and how to solidify the commitment, employee engagement and other benefits of professional development.

Our Fast Track to Success program requires commitment from those who participate, and commitment to developing and working toward a vision of personal and organizational success. It includes assessing success factors and completing activities that lead to action. Your organization can tailor the program to a format that works best for you: an intensive few days, onsite or online sessions, or a combination. We follow that with 12 weeks of coaching to solidify learning and ensure accountability.

Let us know how we can help your organization improve the professional development of key individuals for the benefit of the team, and especially the future. Learn more at or call us at 425-485-3221.



Start a Success Initiative 

Success seldom comes to those who do things the same way they always have, then sit back and relax. Over decades of discussions with self-starters, I’ve found that those who throw their Passion, Vision and Perseverance into an initiative usually succeed.

You can use these Big Three Success Factors to jump-start your own professional initiative and encourage the same behavior in those who work with and for you. In our Fast Track to Success! program, we help participants craft and manage an initiative that ignites passion and makes a powerful and positive difference.

Organizational and Individual Initiative

We’ve helped plenty of companies craft new visions for success and we’ve also helped identify and guide self-starters within their organization. A successful initiative needs both! Let’s say you want to improve customer or client satisfaction in your company. As an initiative, that’s pretty broad. But you can begin with small initiatives, such as reassessing your customers’ needs. Your approach can be formal, such as extensive market research, or informal research, such as reviewing complaints and positive reviews, talking with key employees and managers.

Vision and Passion

No matter the approach, a few key steps help your initiative succeed. The first step, of course, is to consider ideas and the focus of your initiative. For a company-wide initiative to succeed, the idea needs to match or support your company Vision and strategies. At the individual level, your vision and initiative should be based on what you’re most passionate about. You might be surprised by asking yourself key questions about what fulfills you most, or what you’ve dreamed about since childhood to help target your true Passion. And we can help individuals in an organization tie their passion and values to the company vision.

Commitment and Perseverance

Successful initiatives require commitment to making a breakthrough in success. Here’s where Perseverance enters. Commit to your initiative, and success in general, on a daily basis. When setbacks occur, you’ll continue with your initiative, clear in your vision and commitment.

As you go on throughout the year with business as usual, you’ll need to continue committing to your initiative and looking for star employees who display initiative at work every day. These are the people who try things a little differently, but within the rules or guidelines, and who are among the first to volunteer to take on a new project. Set these employees on track as you broaden your initiative and improve overall company performance.

Of course, the root of the word initiative is initiate. So, the only way to really create positive change in your company or as a professional is to initiate, or start. Now.

Learn more about how SuccessFactorsInc.Net can help your and your employees develop success initiatives through our coaching, webinars and Fast Track to Success program. Call us at 425-485-3221.

Breakthroughs Make, not Break, Your Business 

Think about the business successes and self-starters foremost in your mind. How many successes resulted from just plugging along and even getting lucky, and how many occurred following a breakthrough?

Let’s look at an example or two: Microsoft could have continued selling packaged Office software, along with the associated manufacturing, design and packaging costs involved. But instead, the company had (another) breakthrough: Office 365, a Cloud-based subscription for the company’s popular Office programs and tools. The company reported a 10 percent spike in revenue at the end of January, and Office 365 is a big chunk of the consumer and commercial earnings pie.

Microsoft might have “shaved off” costs and improved their product, but Dollar Shave Club used a subscription service to revolutionize a segment of the personal care business. Founder Michael Dubin is more than an innovator; his breakthrough idea solved a problem for men frustrated by making it easier, and affordable, to buy razor cartridges. He started the business from his home and by year three, had $65 million in revenue. A simple problem with a simple, but breakthrough solution.

Is your business, or some aspect of it, in need of a breakthrough? Are you out of ideas? But wait, do you have a team of managers and staff? Hmmm… maybe one of them has the sort of breakthrough idea or solution you need to reach the next level.

Here’s what you most likely need for that big breakthrough:

  • A willingness to take a risk. Individuals and companies that stand out do so because they risk going beyond the norm or relying on soft data (because hard data might not be there for a truly innovative idea). This also means taking a measured risk on the intellectual capital in your company – your people.
  • Expert help from innovative people who know your company, customers or industry. Sure, you have experts in product development or sales. But have you ever asked a salesperson to help drive product redesign? Have your product development people ever talked to a customer? Think outside the norms of departments, protocols and pecking orders.
  • A desire to change “business as usual.” Unless you’re willing to let go of some tradition or structure, you might not reach the breakthrough you’re looking for.
  • A culture that rewards innovation and breakthrough thinking. The only way intrapreneurs and truly creative employees can come up with the next breakthrough solution is if they are empowered to do so, whether formally or informally.

If you need help getting to a breakthrough, we can help. Learn more about our services, including our Fast Track to Success program that can help you and your team be more engaged and innovative. Or check out our turn-key Success Factors Program for coaches, facilitators and consultants who can guide you long term. This exciting program with powerful outcomes can be yours! Call us today (425-485-3221).

What does Thanksgiving have to do with increasing your bottom line?

Occasionally I like to draw my readers’ attention to noteworthy articles that they may not have had the time to read. This is a precis of an excellent article from The Wall Street Journal on gratitude: Gratitude is Good for Business (11.24.18).

According to the author, Sam Walker, leaders who instill an ethos of gratitude within their companies tend to do better in terms of bottom line results. Walker used the first Thanksgiving as a “case study in how extraordinary leaders build happy, productive teams.”

As stated by Walker, much research on the happiness factor shows that cheerier workers score “higher on engagement, creativity, loyalty, and retention.” What more could you ask for?!

This conclusion goes hand-in-hand with studies around positive work environments that create in turn high performing teams which outperform others in revenue growth, “sometimes by a factor of two to one.”

Add to that my current research on positive thinking (one of our 9 Success Factors), which shows that positivity allows people to flourish rather than languish in negativity. Positive people create a positive environment which creates a great place to work which in turn creates an amazing culture which in turn creates bottom line profits.

Another interesting study that makes this point was done by KPMG. It found that leaders who shared the company’s vision and mission were viewed by 94% of their workforce as a great place to work. What struck me about this is that vision (another one of our 9 Success Factors) is really the key to so much in life in regards to upward motion, satisfaction, focus, accomplishment, and most importantly, success.

Want to learn more about our 9 Success Factors and how we use them to create high-performing employees and grow leaders? Contact us, we would love to talk to you about our exciting work!

Will You Disrupt for Success or Fall Behind?

You might have a negative reaction when you hear the words “disrupt” or “disruption.” We’re all taught to conform, and certainly to avoid interruptions or “upsetting the apple cart.”

Market disruption occurs when one individual or organization introduces an innovation that indeed upsets the apple cart. But that kind of upset is what drives innovation – new apple cart designs, new ways of keeping apples from spilling out onto the ground. In other words, disruption driven by innovation also drives success, but only for the disruptor and others willing to innovate!

A recent article in eCampus News argued that changes in higher education are not temporary or to be ignored. If anything, changes in education delivery driven by technology (and innovation!), along with customized learning, are leading the education industry into a state of broad disruption. Ignoring and bemoaning these kinds of changes could lead some institutions into declining enrollment and value. Those who acknowledge disruption – like it or not – are more likely to survive or thrive when disruption occurs.

In fact, disruption is so important in markets that CNBC publishes a list each spring of companies that stand out, the ones investors see promise in. Consider a few examples from the 2018 list:

  • Airbnb, which has completely altered how we book travel lodging.
  • 23andMe, the path to a genetics roadmap for individuals to learn ore about their personal genomes and researchers to gather treatment-changing data.
  • Rent the Runway, a way to expand your wardrobe by mail. Users can rent clothing for special occasions and then return it.
  • Pinterest for sharing ideas online, which is now 200 million active monthly members strong.

All these companies disrupted their markets with new ideas or new approaches to adding value to their customers. Why buy a $4,000 gown for your daughter’s wedding when you can rent the same gown for $200 and return it in a prepaid mailer?

Are you taking steps in your organization to innovate? Do you ask for and encourage the kind of thinking and approaches that disrupt the status quo and maybe an entire market? If not, it’s time to look forward and see the vision and possibilities of a future designed by you. That’s a lot better than looking at the backs of your competitors speeding away.

SuccessFactorInc.Net’s 9 Success Factors include two that lead to the sort of market disruption that propels you above the crowd: Risk-taking and creativity. They work hand in hand to bring forth innovation. That’s because you can have great ideas but be afraid to try them, or you can take risks without a creative plan to add value people need. Combine them for innovation and you’re golden.

The SuccessFactorsInc.Net program is a model in how to turn theoretical ideas into disruptors. We get you and your team there through a sequential, proven program. Get results and lead the way. Give us a call at 425-485-3221 or email

Combine Discipline and Creativity for Breakthrough Success

Football – a world of discipline, practice, and plenty of rules. But sometimes, a little improvisation helps a player break through – literally, as in a line of five strong and quick defenders — for long yardage or a touchdown.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is a proponent of creativity, or adding a little bit of art to the discipline of football plays. In a Seattle Times article , Carroll discussed how he lets many of his experienced players take some risks on the field. The article quoted Carroll from a recent podcast as saying: “Being able to take risks is what gives you the chance to do great things.” 

Of course, Carroll also emphasizes that players shouldn’t take every risk they consider. This is where discipline, experience and planning come into play. Sure, you can encourage your employees to “think outside the box” and be more creative in their daily problem-solving or approaches to complex projects. But you can’t let them simply jump from brainstorming to implementing their creative ideas.

Companies, teams and individuals who succeed take calculated risks that consider return on investment, for example. It’s up to the company’s leaders to recognize and encourage creativity in the right people, teams and situations. Carroll can’t let all of his players make instantaneous decisions on the field on every play. As the leader, he supports creative risk-taking when appropriate. And any business leader can do the same. Here’s how:

  1. Identify employees who have commitment and passion. These employees are likely to be more creative, as well as confident enough to take some risks.
  2. Place creativity in the context of solving a business problem. It’s great if employees have new ideas for the break room, but you want creative self-starters to apply those skills to increasing sales, decreasing complaints and of course, improving the bottom line.
  3. The Seahawks’ leadership and players know that solving a business problem with creative approaches requires a team approach. This means encouraging creativity without initiating a culture of “anything goes.” Everyone in the team should support risk-taking and creative approaches to problems.
  4. Come up with a plan. When you can help employees successfully combine discipline, experience and lessons from past mistakes, with their creativity, everyone wins. Although Seahawks players like Earl Thomas make some brilliant plays that go against the norm, they also make some mistakes. It took years for Thomas to develop the discipline and knowledge basis for his snap decisions. Leaders can improve the chance of success among employees by making sure creative ideas are more than ideas – that they come with a plan for success.
  5. Support and encourage activities that promote creativity, commitment, engagement and problem-solving on the job. Seahawks safety Thomas credits drumming as a youngster with his ability to break form. The music is more free flowing and rhythmic.

Learn more about how to spot and develop successful employees and encourage creativity for individual and organizational success at SuccessFactorsInc.Net. Our Fast Track to Success program walks employees through a proven assessment of their success factors, creating possibilities and committing to their vision and ideas. They’ll leave the program with a completed success initiative and the support of our own team of coaches! Give us a call to find out more!

Are you a ‘Mr. Earl’?

I shared the story and video of my high school experience with guidance counselor, ‘Mr. Earl’. And I know most people I speak with – successful or in need of some help from – have their own ‘Mr. Earl’ moments to share.

But what about the flip side of the coin? Are you a ‘Mr. Earl’? And if so, what can and should you do to help others achieve, especially if you supervise or manage employees or lead an organization?

Pros and Cons of ‘Mr. Earls’

I’m sure there are times and places for “honesty” and tough love. But is there ever a time when a supervisor, counselor or other influencer should tell a person he or she is stupid and will never make it at “fill in the blank”? Even if ‘Mr. Earl’ had been right about me, how could he have handled his concerns differently?

Why You Should Check Your Inner ‘Mr. Earl’

Most importantly, what sort of effect can ‘Mr. Earl’ moments from managers have on your company, including employee engagement, turnover and performance?

They say, people don’t quit companies, they quit their managers! In fact, a 2017 a Gallup poll reported that 75 percent of the reasons employees cited for quitting their jobs boiled down to factors their managers could influence. Examples are lack of promotional opportunities, lack of fit for the job, scheduling and inflexibility, and especially the management and general work environments.

What to do instead? Develop Potential and Foster Success!

You can address each of these reasons (above) and to keep your employees engaged and on the path to success. We can help! For example, why not help an employee whose skills or passion don’t quite line up with current job tasks and shift him/her to work that does match? Won’t this flexibility make for a stronger team?

Could you spend more of your time helping develop potential and less time looking for faults or criticizing performance? I’m not asking you to ignore problem behaviors or performance issues, but determine when it’s better to foster skills and talent than try to change a person entirely.

Finally, there’s a difference between constructive criticism and being critical of a person. If ‘Mr. Earl’ had told me he thought I should prepare more for college, he would have seemed a little more supportive, honest and less critical. Even better, he could have based his criticism on facts, such as: “You will have a hard time getting into your desired universities with your current GPA. You need to bring your grades up, or maybe consider community college as a stepping stone.” That might not have been what I wanted to hear, but advice based on reality rather than opinion is much more constructive.

As I said in my speech to University of Southern California women, ‘Mr. Earl’ served as a curious source of power for me. Sometimes, being told you can’t do something gives you more vision, more perseverance. Who’s to say, however, that I – or a fellow student – would have taken the criticism to heart, lost confidence and let it affect self-esteem? And do you want to take that chance with people who work for you, contribute to your department and company bottom line?

It can be too easy to personalize an employee’s shortcomings and voice frustration in a personal manner. Avoid your inner Mr. Earl by taking a step back and looking at the employee’s potential. What value does he or she bring to your team? Is this employee a star and possible self-starter?

Once you look for potential instead of faults, you can develop employees’ talents for the good of the individual and your organization. Learn more about how (425-485-3221)  can help you and your team focus on the passion, power and vision to succeed.

Can You Have One Success Factor Without the Other?


Our research on successful entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs led to hammering out 9 factors they had in common – factors that helped them succeed. And we found the Big Three Success Factors of Vision, Passion and Perseverance as the most critical to star achievers.

Over the years, we’ve helped CEOS, managers, frontline staff and entire teams assess and improve their success factors. And it’s been, well, successful. But let’s take it to the next level and consider how intertwined Vision, Passion and Perseverance are in attaining our goals and achieving the highest pinnacles of success in our personal and professional lives.

Let’s review each Big Three Success Factor:

Vision: All successful endeavors begin with a vision. It’s more than a goal or affirmation – having a Vision connects your dreams and desires with a clear picture of achievement. By asking detailed questions of you or a team, we help you align inner visions with the mission and goals of your organization. Vision inspires possibilities!

Passion: Everyone is passionate about something, whether it’s a hobby, fitness, family or loyalty to one’s organization. Having passion, or a powerful purpose, ignites energy and excitement. Passions typically match a person’s core values, which brings that sense of purpose to bear, and helps employees stay engaged in their work.

Perseverance: Few successful people ever tout their luck or “how easy it really was.” Most overcame adversity and setbacks. Those who have natural perseverance step around obstacles and find alternative ways to succeed. They move through excuses and roadblocks and keep plugging along.

How Vision, Passion and Perseverance Lead to Success

Any of the Big Three Success Factors contributes to success for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, and we’ve interviewed and featured many leaders and start-up founders who stood above the crowd for their Vision, Passion or Perseverance.

But let’s look at some of the ways the Big Three Success Factors connect, and even rely on one another. First, Vision is the manifestation of a dream, an internal picture of how success looks. It’s likely a person’s inner vision is based on what he or she wants – success driven by a powerful purpose or core value. In other words, one’s Passion often factors into one’s Vision.

You can work with members of your team to create an organizational vision, but the company’s vision does not always address the inner vision of those who must carry it out. The inner vision is each individual’s clear picture of success. That often means helping individuals align their inner visions with that of the organization and seeing how well they fit. Your most engaged and successful intrapreneurs likely share core values and purposes with your company. Passion and Vision work together!

Passion, Vision and Perseverance work together! Find out how to bring the Big Three Success Factors together for a more engaged and effective team with Success Factors Inc.Net. Find out how at or call us at 425-485-3221.

Four Lessons From a High School Coach

Good coaches can cultivate winning teams, but they also can teach young men and women some life lessons.

I recently came across an article from the Wall Street Journal I had saved since 2011. It was a tribute to – and lessons from – the high school basketball coach of actor David Duchovny. In it, Duchovny personally explains how a high school coach taught him several life lessons and supported him. The support wasn’t coddling, but a refined combination of toughness, kindness and leading by example.

I’ve taken four key lessons from Duchovny’s story that apply to nearly any leader of a team, department or entire company:

  1. Although Duchovny’s coach telling the young man to cut his long hair so he could see seems tough, the coach talked to his players with a degree of respect. As Duchovny said, he never knew whether the coach liked him, but as a teen, the player was firmly aware that the coach saw potential in him. That led to more self-respect. As a manager, do you either bark orders to ensure your status as a leader or attempt behind-the-scenes manipulation to assert your ideas and rules to avoid confrontation? Neither leads to greater employee respect and engagement than direct discussions that show you respect the skills of your team members while knowing you must guide them.
  2. Duchovny said the coach’s approach made him care less about how many points he scored and more to contribute to every aspect of the game. He eventually learned what it was like to perform well for someone else, including for the good of the team. Business leaders can purposefully focus more on “the good of the team/vision/goal” and less on micromanaging or criticizing failure to “score a lot of points.” If you have an employee with big ideas and who cooperates with other members of the team, encourage that behavior. I’m not saying to overlook failed performance expectations, but keep the big picture in mind.
  3. Duchovny also referred to his Princeton coach, who drove his players to be the best they could be, regardless of whether they were at the top of conference standings. The players in turn felt the success that comes with individuals and a team’s feeling they performed at the top of their personal or group level. Sure, your organization wants to be the best, most successful, have the highest profit. But to get there, is it more realistic to drive employees to beat records or to meet realistic goals and strategies and help you reach your shared vision…
  4. After a devastating loss to a rival team, the high school coach came into the locker room. Instead of yelling or expressing disappointment, he simply expressed how much the loss hurt with a personal gesture. Duchovny said the gesture gave him and other players permission to care, and even cry. This was more a life lesson for a group of teenage boys than a coaching fundamental. This doesn’t mean leaders have to reveal personal feelings, but it helps to acknowledge how setbacks affect all involved. it’s yet another form or personal respect and an indirect encouragement to persevere.

When employers and leaders in an organization become coaches instead of referees, they help their team members learn while also supporting their efforts. Managing like a good coach can lead to more engaged workers and more successful teams. Learn more about how you can keep teams performing at their best and employees engaged in your vision from
SuccessFactorsInc.Net or by calling us at 425-485-3221.