By Gino Blefari
This week my travels find me in Minneapolis, MN for the HomeServices of America, Inc. leadership meeting. The meeting proved educational, invigorating and inspiring, with presentations from top leaders in our organization. Monday and Tuesday, prior to this conference, HomeServices of America, Inc. held a Leadership Development Conference, which brought together 20 rising-star leaders from across the country. I had the opportunity to talk to this group about creating a winning culture, which I firmly believe is critical for the sustained, long-term prosperity of any company. As I always say, I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with, and that rang true as I met with my HomeServices of America, Inc. CEO family in Minneapolis.
Though culture is no doubt an integral part of success, there’s a less talked-about factor that can also help guide us in the accomplishment of goals: coincidence. I’ve written on the topic before (read how it played out at the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholders meeting here) and want to address it again today, though with one disclaimer: Coincidence only works in your favor when you take the time to connect. You must put yourself out there, ask questions, seek new experiences and only then will coincidence appear.
As an example, while in Minneapolis I ran into Maureen Sammon, president and CEO of HomeServices Mortgage, who also presented to the 20 leaders at the Leadership Development Conference. (I actually saw her on Tuesday 5:30 a.m. at the gym, although that part is no coincidence; I know she works out early in the morning like me.)
Maureen had just delivered a commencement address to the 2016 graduates of University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business and so, on the heels of my own commencement speech to the graduating class at Woodbury University, we exchanged stories about our experiences and even shared the speeches themselves. By pure coincidence—this was the first I saw of her address and the first she saw of mine—both our commencement speeches included seven secrets for success. Not six, not five but seven. At two different schools in two different states and during two different graduation ceremonies, our addresses both featured the exact same number of takeaways, collected from decades of business experience.
Even more exciting still, Maureen has graciously agreed to share her success secrets with us, so that we can be similarly inspired by her message and the lessons on life and leadership these seven pieces of sage advice contain. Here’s a summary of what she delivered to the 2016 graduates of the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business:
- Do your own job first but then look for ways to help the business beyond the boundaries of your job. Identify and solve problems. Make sure when you hand off your part of the work, someone else is taking it and moving it forward. Don’t let go until you know they’ve got it.
- Listen and learn from everyone around you, at every level. Welcome all new ideas, questions and solutions. Find people with a lot of experience and ask them how and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Ask a lot of questions and really listen to the responses.
- Treat everyone with respect, regardless of their behavior. You should always act according to your principles. You will meet people who have different principles but remain true to yourself. Help your peers, mentor your subordinates.
- Be present in your community. Represent your company and yourself in your community. Build a network. Support your business publicly.
- Be generous with your time to things you are passionate about. Your free time will be valuable, so make sure when you donate it, you’re passionate about the cause and you’ll benefit as much as the organization.
- Try not to say no to new things, especially if they scare you. Don’t say no to things you’re not sure you’re ready for—someone is asking, so he or she thinks you’re ready. That said, do your homework and make sure it’s the right opportunity at the right time.
- Twist, turn and bend, you never know where you’ll find opportunity, challenges and rewards. You can change your mind. What you’re passionate about now may be different in five years and that’s OK. Don’t stay in a place or with people that put boundaries around what you can do.
So, what’s the message? Coincidence can be a powerful thing—allowing you to rediscover a friendship or uncover valuable advice to help you grow but it only happens when you take the time to connect. In other words, to quote from Maureen’s graduation speech: “Wherever your journey takes you, reach up, reach down and reach out.”