6 Entrepreneurial lessons from the World Cup 2018

Originally published on Thrive Global

Did 2018’s World Cup surprise you? Germany, Argentina, Spain and Portugal didn’t come far. France didn’t play well in all the games but won the Cup. The results surprised millions of soccer lovers.

In this article, I will share SIX LESSONS Entrepreneurs can learn from this year’s World Cup:

1. Change is the fuel of survival

The only guarantee in a world of “snap-chat” moments is change. Winners are able to initiate change because they are smart enough to recognize a changing wind and follow its direction. Renowned teams such as The Netherlands and Italy did not evolve their soccer teams’ strategies. Consequently, they failed to qualify for the World Cup. Failing to change welcomes failure. In business, the same rules apply: If you resist the inevitable, you are destined to perish. Kodak was once a pioneer in the age of digital cameras but could not cope with the rapid flow of change.

2. Humility is the key to greatness

The big winners of yesterday will be tomorrow’s losers if their leaders do not learn new algorithms to grow to the next level. The movie giant Blockbuster comes to mind: their business model lost out to new comers for not refreshing its strategy and preparing for competition. Start-ups founded in a basement five to ten years ago, like Uber and Air BnB, are now powerful, multibillion dollar businesses.

3. Effective teams make the difference

In my new book, “First-Class Leadership,” I demonstrate how highly effective teams are built. These teams do not necessarily have elite players. Nor are they too dependent on such individuals when they have them. In fact, depending too much on an elite player may be a gamble and does not guarantee success. Argentina depended too much on Lionel Messi during this year’s World Cup. France bested Argentina 4-3 in the quarter finals. All teams can learn from Belgium and France, even when Belgium came third.

As an entrepreneur and author, I believe that highly effective teams get better results than individual stars do. If you are an entrepreneur and want to make it to the next round, you do not need to rely on individual stars but rather a team of players with complementary skills and who desire to function as a team.

4. Test your strategies, even on the top

Past success is not a predictor of future results. The big losers are often those who do not evolve their success strategies and stay with the old playbook despite an advancing game. This was the case with the German team. Joachim Löw, the German Coach, tested his strategy. While his team did not book convincing results during friendly matches prior to the World Cup, he did not evolve his team to be competitive in the Cup. Blackberry is a comparable example. The tech company that wowed the world in the mid-2000s stayed too long with its “qwerty keyboard.” Apple’s and Samsung’s smartphones embraced a new approach in software and touch screen technology and soon eclipsed Blackberry’s aging approach.

5. Fear of failure can be paralyzing

Teams aspire to grow to a level where they can beat their competition. The truth is that the competition grows as well. If a top team fails to embrace change and evolve, the upcoming teams who do evolve become tomorrow’s threats. Fear of failure can lead to failure. Some sport coaches believe in the adage, “Never change your winning team.” Perhaps Löw and the Argentinian soccer coach, Sampaoli belong to this category. New situations require new approaches.

Fear of failure keeps entrepreneurs hostage. A fear of failure sounds like, “What if I fail and lose everything?” It is important to remember that indecision is more destructive than making poor decisions!

6. Always conduct a reality check

As I’ve covered in my new book First-Class Leadership, the first principle that many great entrepreneurs apply in new situations is conducting a reality check – instead of thinking, guessing and assuming. By checking we consider that we may not know everything and may need to verify facts.


Today’s world of entrepreneurship is a gladiatorial arena. Every battle in business is won using “fit-for-purpose” tactics. Your adversary may not care about who you are or what your reputation is. To prove your merit, employ a forward-looking, evolutionary strategy to win the day. On guard!

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How to take a solution-oriented approach to resolving problems


Employees expect leaders to solve problems both big and small. But a leader’s attention will be focused on issues of significance (financial crises, unexpected mergers, and acquisitions), which means medium-sized problems are often put aside, to return later with a vengeance! As Noble Peace Prize winner and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said, “All too frequently a problem evaded is a crisis invited”.

Great leaders don’t play the blame game. Instead they use a “solution-oriented” approach to resolve problems.

They use the why lens. Highly respected leaders only solve problems within their control. Ones connected to their biggest why. They consider problems from a fundamental point of view.
They ask:
• Is this our problem?
• Why should we solve this problem?
• What happens if we don’t?
• How would the solution contribute to accomplishing our most important goals?
Once they have answers, they explore solutions. Around 2013- personally experienced- Royal Philips in Amsterdam noticed the lighting market was stagnating. CEO Frans van Houten asked those types of questions. Armed with the answers, he concluded it would not make sense for Philips to continue with lighting. Philips now focuses on healthcare technology. By approaching problems through the why lens, van Houten was able to change the direction of the company and keep it operable. A clear benefit of applying solution-oriented problem solving.

They are inspired by problems. Without problems, a business will lose its fire, passion, and dynamism. While many leaders perceive problems as distracters, first-class leaders embrace problems as opportunities to make breakthroughs. Leaders know that if they are unable to solve the problem their competitors will, pushing them out of the market.
Problems fuel great leaders, providing opportunities to learn and grow to the next level. Great leaders don’t say, “Why me?” or “Why now?”. They say, “Try me” or “Let’s make the most of it.”. The greater the problem, the hungrier they are for a solution. Leaders like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates view problems as golden opportunities to disrupt the market and revolutionize the customer experience.

They openly admit there is a problem. Great leaders acknowledge there is a problem and demonstrate the severity of the problem and the benefit of the solution to stakeholders, partners, and shareholders. By establishing an open environment, great leaders avoid creating silos. This way, the leader not only takes responsibility for making the problem transparent, they explore different dimensions of the problem, consequently benefiting from others’ ideas.

They separate problems from people. Great leaders keep asking questions until they understand the issue. A clear understanding of a problem delivers two-thirds of the solution. When people attribute blame, highly qualified leaders focus on the problem at hand, keeping emotions controlled. By doing so, they can approach the situation fairly and find a suitable solution.

They have a plan. Great leaders do not guess. They identify the core of the problem, forecast scenarios, and produce backup plans before formulating and sharing with stakeholders. This creates the trust and commitment necessary for implementation. They assess actions and adjust whenever necessary. By analyzing, they focus on the easiest implementation route and work around any blocks standing in the way.
Top leaders make sure their organization stands steady when in crisis. They create a thorough problem-solving process. Great leaders avoid panic at all costs. They remain cool and retain a sense of humor. They know if they panic, their team members will lose hope and motivation.

They engage those affected by the problem. Those who have a stake in the problem and the relevant solution often know the most. Solution-oriented leaders listen to the needs and concerns of all involved parties. When respected by the majority, leaders have buy-in and are able to focus on solutions. This caring attitude helps them build great relationships. When the relationship is good, people are prepared to walk that extra mile for their leaders.
Great leaders create an environment where team members can freely share their views without feeling insecure about their position. It is the leader’s responsibility to guarantee freedom to speak up without fear of negative consequences.

They don’t point fingers. Great leaders know that finger pointing does not solve problems. It only adds new ones. It makes employees singled out feel broken, guilty, and belittled. Instead of blaming anyone, the leader starts problem solving by narrowing down the issue. When the problem has been addressed, and potentially solved, they ask their team members what they learned from the experience and how they can improve vulnerable areas.

Now examine how you approach problems. What are the first things you do when you encounter a severe problem? What can you take away from the above to ensure your future approach to problem solving is more solution-oriented?

What do you think?
Would you agree or disagree with the above? Please share your thoughts and let’s learn from the way you approach your problems. Thank you!

You want more?
Follow me for more on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
The above blog is an adjusted excerpt from First-Class Leadership book that is available via all major book sellers such as Amazon, Google Books, Managementboek.nl, Bol.com, author’s website, and many local bookstores.


Originally published on Thrive Global

About the author

Best known for mentoring on leadership and personal development, Hamid Safaei is a bestselling author and certified executive coach who helps leaders, senior managers, and budding entrepreneurs overcome their fears: Fear of being found to be incompetent, fear of failure, fear of losing everything, fear of losing beloved ones, and so on.

Hamid is passionate about helping both individuals and teams to always be at their best. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies. 
His passion is to create a better world by and with better leaders.


You lead based on your attitude: the way you approach your people


Attitude is a choice
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines attitude as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about something.” This is pretty much how I define attitude. It is a conscious choice. Based on our attitude, we decide how to approach people and situations. We choose our attitude based on our knowledge, calculations, wisdom, situations, actions, reactions, and our experiences.
Attitude is simply how we look at life and the world around us. Do you see life as something meaningful, full of joy, excitement, and challenges? Or do you see life as something pointless without a happy ending? I have always said your life is how you approach it. If you approach your life as difficult, it becomes difficult, if you take life easy, it becomes easy. The same applies for leaders when they look at their organization, employees, environment, and their future.

The way you approach your people, your environment, your partners, and circumstances is the way you lead.
Leaders who have hope and an enduring vision behave and perform purposefully, and because leadership is all about people, how leaders approach their people is crucial. How about you? Do you see your employees as replaceable machines? Do you see them as money suckers? Or do you view them as team mates with whom you can achieve breakthrough results? The way you approach your people, your environment, your partners, and circumstances is the way you lead. Remember, your attitude is your choice and yours alone.
We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how to react to it.

Viktor Frankl, the famous Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, said, “The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedom is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance”. This attitude enabled Frankl to survive the concentration camp and teach us something precious, which is that everything can be taken away from us (positions, properties, wealth, and loved ones), but our attitude can never be taken because we can choose not to allow that. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how to react to it.

Great leaders learn to lead themselves before leading anyone or anything else.
How one treats people or situations is a choice, which means we can change it to get the best possible results. William James, a respected American psychologist, said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes”. This is exactly what first-class leaders do. Highly qualified leaders know that the foundation of leadership is learning to adjust their attitude; they learn to lead themselves before leading anyone or anything else.

Great leaders have mastered certain attitudes to approach people around them, their environment and circumstances. Using positivity, purposefulness, and flexibility, they approach actual trends to get the best out of them for their business. They know they cannot resist or change the inevitable, only how they deal with it. Author Charles Swindoll said it best: “We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it”.
A leader’s attitude has a lot to do with how they approach developments, think, implement strategies, hire new talents, and face challenges. First-class leaders have the capabilities to survive challenges and make breakthroughs because of their attitude. Attitude has a huge impact.

In chapter two of my recently released book First-Class Leadership I have explored the Common Attitudes of First-Class Leaders that are as follows:

  • First-class leaders remain positive
  • Great leaders are always proactive
  • Great leaders are grateful
  • Great leaders have purpose
  • First-class leaders are risk takers
  • Great leaders are solution-oriented
  • Great leaders are balanced and have a balanced team

You can download (FREE) the first two chapters of First-Class Leadership HERE
First-Class Leadership book is available via all major book sellers such as Amazon, Google Books, Managementboek.nl, Bol.com, author’s website, and many local bookstores. ONLY ON AMAZON: You can claim your kindle version of First-Class Leadership for 2.99 EUR ($3.67) instead of 16 EUR. Soon the price will go up:-)

A moment of reflection
Take a moment of silence and reflect on your attitude.
· Do you see your life as one of purpose?
· Do you happen to things or do things happen to you?
· Do you consider yourself as an ultimate risk taker or a safe player?
· Do you have balance in your life? Do you do what really matters most? If not, do you know why?
Remember, nothing will ever change in your life or business unless you create the environment to change.

What do you think?
Would you agree or disagree with the above? Please share your thoughts and let’s learn from the way you approach your people (they way you lead). Thank you!

You want more?
Follow me for more on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

The above blog is an adjusted excerpt from First-Class Leadership book that is available via all major book sellers such as Amazon, Google Books, Managementboek.nl, Bol.com, author’s website, and many local bookstores.
About the author
Best known for mentoring on leadership, personal development, and conflict resolution, Hamid Safaei is a certified executive coach who helps leaders, senior managers, and budding entrepreneurs discover and cultivate their potential. He has penned two books: First-Class Leadership and Your Journey to Fulfillment. Hamid is passionate about helping both individuals and teams to always be at their best. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies. He has developed ImOcean Academy, a unique institute where he applies first-class coaching tools and techniques combined with best practices.

Select your future leaders as eagles do

In an effective team, all members can achieve more than they could on their own, so put your best employees in strategic positions, so they can uplift each other when necessary. Some leaders, caught by their emotions, put incompetent relatives or people they care about in leading and strategic positions, which ruins their vision and their company. There are many ways to take care of people you hold dear. You need to make hard choices by giving space to the best performing employees to move forward, regardless of their background.

This is where we can learn from eagles.  As the eagle’s young get older, competition for food becomes tougher, space in the nest becomes scarcer, and the strongest chicks often kill or kick out the weaker ones. The mother does nothing to stop this because she knows that she can’t feed them all until they are able to feed themselves, she knows that the nest is not big enough for all of them, and she wants the strongest to survive.

There is profound leadership logic in this rule of nature. What happens if the mother interferes and doesn’t let the strongest claim its ground? All of them may go hungry, and none of the chicks may survive. The lesson I take from this is not about being mean, heartless, and watching unfair things unfold. It means that you cannot feed and save them all. You cannot afford to have unproductive, weak employees on board, your future leaders need to be strong and carry the organization forward.


The rise of populism survival of the fittest

The rise of populism survival of the fittest

Many are still staggered by the fact that Britons chose to leave the EU. And why was Donald Trump elected as the 45th president of the United States? The endorsements of the elite, and celebrities like Richard Branson, appear to have had no significant effect on the crowd.

As the author of the upcoming book First-Class Leadership, I looked to leadership psychology to understand the reasons behind this. If you influence others to do what you want, you are a leader. John Maxwell also said, “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” The populist leaders such as Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen know how to exert influence. In this article, I focus on several leadership aspects which populist leaders exploit effectively.

Effective communication

Effective communication may be the most important qualification criterion an effective leader should meet. Populists communicate more simply using tangible topics, which address the daily needs and issues ordinary people struggle with. They maximise the use of social media and IT giants, such as Facebook and Google, to connect with their audience. And when you are connected, you exert more influence. Populists tell their target population exactly what they want to hear.

Focusing on what is not working

Populists exploit subjects which are important to their target population, such as jobs, effects of globalisation, and national security. Current leaders, however, seem to be unable to provide understandable answers to counter the populists’ claims. For example, the UK Remain Campaign failed miserably when it came to selling the reasons why Britain should remain in the EU.

Light legacy

As a political leader with history, you make both friends and enemies. Media exposure during the elections is one of the easiest ways to ruin the life of a political leader. All you need to do is publish a damaging rumour which is at least partially true. Follow this with another rumour, which again has an element of truth. The negative publicity generated leads the crowd to start believing there is something wrong with this leader. Take Hillary Clinton and the news about her emails as an example. Unlike well-known leaders with their accompanying history, populists are not burdened by a significant legacy. They do not have as many enemies either. This gives populists the advantage of being able to focus on their own agenda, while the leaders with legacy also need to defend and restore their image.

Focusing on now

Populists cleverly address the most obvious pains the crowd suffers. They focus on the lower tiers of the human needs’ hierarchy as Abraham Maslow addressed in 1943-1954 (physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, self-actualisation and self-transcendence). Focusing on the basic needs (i.e. food, safety, and jobs) pays off when memories of an economic crisis are still fresh. Focusing on the upper tiers of human needs – the focus point of the political elite – works best when most of the target population is unconcerned with basic needs.

Strategically chosen target population

When designing their election campaign, populists home in on the biggest and easiest to manipulate portion of the population. Most Western countries, particularly in Europe, are aging. A percentage of the aging generation is not as skilled as the younger one. They have worked for 30 plus years doing almost the same thing and have limited options. This – eligible to vote – group is worried about their jobs, pensions and (health)insurance. They feel neither heard nor understood by the political elite. Therefore, they tend to be attracted to the populists who say what the aging population wants to hear about job security, halting immigration, and increasing national security.  In June 2016, a majority of Britons aged over 45 voted to leave the EU, rising to 60% of those aged 65 or over. The political elite appear to be disconnected from the aging generation.

Overestimate: a huge mistake for a leader to make

In February 2016, David Cameron, former prime minster of the UK, called for a referendum (which took place on 23 June 2016) about whether Britain should remain in the EU. Brexit was the result. Matteo Renzi, who recently stepped down as Italian prime minister, personalised the constitutional referendum (which took place on 4 December 2016) in Italy by threating to resign if the public voted ‘No’. The majority voted ‘No’. Most recently President Obama personalised his support for Hillary Clinton. He lost too. While the elite overestimate their position in society, populists underestimate themselves; the risks of which are often less than overestimation.

Influence by fear

Leading by fear is what populists do well. By focusing on matters such as immigration and globalisation they instil fear: of becoming jobless and feeling unsafe in your own home. Surprisingly, populists often have no sound plans about how they would fix issues. Astonishingly, nor do the crowd ask for these. They just like what they hear. It was clear right after the referendum that Brexiteers had no idea how to proceed. Donald Trump created a lot of fear. Moreover, he did not offer any concrete plans for how he would actualise his ideas. The elite has failed to manage the fear created by populists both in the UK and the US.

Speaking like the crowd

Unlike the political elite who tend to dress, behave and talk intelligently, populist leaders behave and talk like ordinary people. The psychological impact of this is evident as shown by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Your prospects are more likely to comply with your request if you speak their language. Instead of relying on intelligence and political correctness, populists choose to talk in simple, bold, unfiltered and easy to understand terms, which is language that speaks to the majority.


The populists are warming up to win the battlefield in the Netherlands, France and Germany in 2017. If the elite leaders remain disconnected from the aging crowd, we will surely see a continued rise in populism, an undesirable chapter in modern democracy. It is the survival of the fittest.

About the author

Hamid Safaei is the author of the upcoming book First Class leadership. He is the founder of ImOcean Academy. Hamid is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs make breakthroughs. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

What your children need

What your children need is not what you think

Some parents, particularly men, try to compensate for their shortcomings by trying to offer the best life they think their children can have. This category of leaders devotes their life to creating wealth for their children. They choose to travel for business, leaving their vulnerable children and partners behind at home. They think being a good provider means creating as much wealth as possible for “later”, which may never come.

The missing point

The point many of them miss is that their young children do not want a luxury vacation, car, or house. What they most need at a young age is love and a caring parent who plays with them. They don’t care where the toys come from. They care about who keeps them company, plays with them, and makes them laugh. They want to see their mom/dad among those waiting at the school pick up.

Don’t think, check instead

Some leaders assume their absence is acceptable as they believe they are doing the right thing for their children. This is something they may never have checked. Don’t think on behalf of anyone, check instead. When children are grown, they often prefer to live on their own, make something of their lives, and acquire their place in society.

You leave your children when they need you most, to come back when they don’t need you.

In fact, your interference at a later age may even interrupt their resourcefulness, creativity, and their own inner purpose.

Learn from the rule of nature

It doesn’t have to be black or white. Creative leaders can pursue an amazing career fueled by a lovely family sphere. Based on the unquestionable rule of nature, all superior species like lions, jaguars, and eagles return to their nest or basecamp after every adventure. They instinctively know any unnecessary delay can be fatal. They are excellent executers of first things first and so they create their nest first. This gives them the peace of mind and mindfulness they need to set their breakthrough strategies. It’s called family first! When you have to choose, reconnect with your biggest why, your inner purpose. If you do so, the rest will fall into place easily.

In my upcoming book First-Class Leadership (to be released in September 2017), I reveal breakthrough strategies to create better balance in your life.


What would you say to that? Please share your thoughts.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the author of Your Journey to Fulfillment and the upcoming book First Class leadership. He is the founder of ImOcean Academy. Hamid is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs make breakthroughs. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

Stress? Try These Tips

“How are you doing today?” you may ask a friend or colleague. “I’m good thanks for asking, yourself?” say, some.  “Very busy nowadays” say, many others. “Busy” may be one of the most heard words in the corporate world. Do you agree? And why is that? If you feel you are a busy person, have you ever asked yourself, why? Have you ever asked yourself how to manage your time and work pressure? I have been in the same shoes. And I am blast I have helped myself and many individuals with solving and dealing with work pressure. Read the following hints.

First of all, take care of yourself 

If you don’t nobody else may take care of you. Learn from the metaphoric security instructions prior to flights. The hosts say, if there is oxygen problem put your own mask first and then that of your baby. I believe this is a very well thought philosophy. If you cannot breathe well yourself, you simply cannot help anybody else with breathing. So, take care of yourself. Start with eating healthy and proper rest.

Be proactive to avoid work pressure

Being proactive is one of most appreciated behavioral codes in the corporate world. When being proactive you initiate often your desired projects. You schedule the meetings yourself or you give instruction to your PA to do so. Believe it or not when you take initiative, you plan as it best suits you. For example, you take into account when you have plans for holidays or when you have a busier schedule. And so you can manage your work pressure.  Therefore, be the first who offers options for a meeting. In this case you offer options that work the best for you. If you receive several options from others, the unwritten rule is, accept one unless you really can’t. There is a difference between what we can do and what we want to. Do you agree?

Get clarity

Clarity is one of the most important factors impacting performance, research has proven. Make sure it is clear for you what you are expected to do. Don’t you understand an assignment, then go to the right person and ask for clarity. How often has the following happened to you? You have done your very best but the results are not as expected. Why is that? In many cases because a clear common understanding of the assignment and the deliverable has been missing when accepting the assignment.

Have a plan

When you need to manage an initiative or finalize an assignment, make sure you have a well thought plan. How to start, where to start, what you need, how you can get what you need, and so on. When you have a plan, you set the plan as it best suits according to your professional judgement. When you don’t have a plan you will become a part of other man’s plan. Having no plans makes you often busier than you really want to be. You will be scheduled according to other ones’ plans which sometimes goes hand in hand with work pressure.

Learn to say No when No is the best

How often has it happened to you? An important stakeholder gives you a ring asking “would you please do this for me by the end of the week?” You reply, “yeah, sure”? Short after you realize having your schedule in mind it is mission impossible to get the assignment done as requested. You feel embarrassed getting back to the requester. As a result, you feel a kind of pressure which you have created yourself. When you can’t meet the expectation just simply say you can’t explaining the reason. Be creative and come with an alternative. For example, “yeah, I’d love to, but not earlier than late next week. Is that OK”?

Schedule to be unscheduled to avoid work pressure

Make sure you have some time every day which is your time and yours only. It is also called scheduling to be unscheduled. I call it breathing time. Leave some 10-15 minutes between your meetings to act mindfully. Even robots need to be unscheduled from time to time. Block some time in your agenda to work as you want to, without pressure and at your speed. You can devote these blocks to matters which need your focus, your brainstorm. Use a part of your unscheduled time to clear up your head, to take a walk, to focus and to practice mindfulness.

Go to the bathroom often, without your smartphone

Go a few times to the bathroom every day and leave your smartphone behind if it is save to do so. If you take your smartphone with you do not start reading your emails and sending text messages while being in bathroom. Bathroom time can also be used as a moment to give your mind a break.

Don’t do the work someone else is hired for

Should I be doing this? is a healthy question. Of course we all have been helped by others someday. So we are supposed to help others when we can. When others (colleagues or reporters) need your help frequently, have them learn how to fish, instead of giving them the fish every time. Help the colleagues learn to do the work instead of doing the work for them. Hire a coach to help them how to use their potential. Do not be a control freak, focus on results and let your reporters work as they want to as long as the delivery is according to the plan and the company codes. Use the coaching and selling styles instead of commanding.

Skip unnecessary meetings to reduce work pressure

How many meetings have you joined which are actually not meant for you? Why am I actually here, what is my role, you may ask yourself. Skip the meetings which are not meant for you. I know a partner from McKinsey. When receiving invitations by which any bell rings, he always asks kindly “Hi there, happy to meet, would you please let me know what we would be talking about? I’d like to get prepared” When not sure just ask: what is the purpose of the meeting?

Read and answer your mails in one go

I spoke with one of my executive clients who received around 500 business emails per day, excluding text messages. He said he considered two slots per day in his agenda to read and answer his emails. He quickly scans his emails on several criteria i.e. subject, urgency, VIP sender and relevance. He forwards the emails to his team members based on subject matter, with the request “would you please pick this up” or “I guess this is for you”. Personally, I put my CCs in a separate box and read them 3x times a week. If I am the person to act, then I take action accordingly. Make sure you do not open several emails simultaneously unless they are interconnected. Sometimes you get involved in an escalation or exiting discussion. Then you close your mailbox and forget to read and answer the read mails again. As result you will receive embarrassing reminders and so work pressure and stress.

When you are free stay free

Manage your work during your work time so that you don’t have to work during your free time. Read another post of mine, 10 tips to enjoy your vacation. When you work during your free time, you cannot rest properly, you cannot spend enough quality time with your beloved ones. As a matter of fact, you may mix up your work and private life. The issues on either side impact the other. After a short while you feel a kind of huge pressure and stressful time. When you are stressful and under pressure, you cannot perform as you want to, or supposed to. So, work pressure and stress  become more and more and so will the private part. As a result, the work pressure and stress may lead to a burnout.

Find out critical success factors

Not everything matters and you cannot be doing things out of which nothing matters. When you have many things on your plate, create a common understanding with your sponsors and stakeholders what is important and what isn’t. Get clarity on the key success factors. Focus on the 20% of the activities or initiatives which represent 80% of your performance or success.  Plan the other 20% during your spare time. Find out when the assignment is succeeded. Remember, there is a very tiny distance between success and failure. If the critical things are well taken care of, you will be successful. If the same things are not well taken care of, you will fail. For example, as a doctor, your operations are only successful when your patient survives. The survival of the patient is the most critical factor in the whole operation process.

Don’t think, but check

Do not keep doing things assuming all goes ok. Do not act all the time based on what you think. Check instead. Have several checkpoints to evaluate if you are on the right path. If there are important factors in your project, or assignment make sure you have absolute clarity on the important factors. You can only be sure of something when you test or check it.

Work smart, play smart

Instead of working hard and playing hard, work and play SMART. Make sure what you do is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time related. So you can’t spend endless time on endless initiatives without a clear road map and predefined deliverable. To me, playing smart means doing things we enjoy the most within the devoted resources (i.e. time and money). For example, you are going to visit Disney Land together with your partner and two kids. When you are watching a movie together with your 6 years old son, please turn off your cell-phone. Be there for your son and watch and enjoy watching so that your son enjoys your company. I spend 3 hours every day with my son (almost 3). Every evening we watch 3x cartoons together (one hour in total), and my son loves this quality time. When you have a conversation of an hour with your partner, don’t reply to the annoying messages coming from all kinds of apps. Be there with all your attention so that you have a fruitful conversation with your partner.

Develop and use your soft skills

Remember, research has proven almost 85% of what we have achieved, is thanks to our soft skills. I believe we have failed in many cases due to our shortcomings in soft skills. So refresh your soft skills such as communication, relationship management, listening and sensitivity. Just ask your stakeholders, your manager, your fellows what they appreciate the most and what  you may avoid when engaged with them. Having proper soft skills reduces work pressure.

Let me learn from you

I am blast that I have many connections from whom I learn every day. Please let me learn from your comments and thoughts too.

Did you like the post? If yes, feel free to follow me by going to my LinkedIn page, click on Follow, the 3rd choice in the row.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the founder of ImOcean Academy. He is a qualified executive coach helping executives and high potentials unleash their potential. Hamid has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500.

follow ImOcean Academy on LinkedIn

Leadership lessons to keep your head high

Former UEFA president, Michel Platini’s spectacular fall from grace brought to mind a few leadership lessons I’d like to share. We can learn a lot from those giants who believe their sun will never set. Following these tips would have helped them save their good name and keep their pride intact.

1. Treat others as you want to be treated

Be generous and merciful when you are in charge. Do not think it will remain as it is forever. Youngsters, smarter ones and those on the rise will replace you someday. Then you may find yourself being treated the way you treated others. If you were merciful to others, they will most likely be merciful to you. If you let others down, you might be let down by others.

 As you ride someday, you may carry some other day. Be generous now. Tomorrow may be a different story, and not one in your favor.

2. Be a rebel from time to time

When you follow your boss blindly, you run the risk of making the same mistakes as the one you have followed. So it never hurts to question and rebel a little in order to shake things up and remain true to yourself. When considering offers I follow a very basic principle. I would not accept a great looking offer if it had the potential to make me unhappy. Over the past 20 years, I have disappointed several high ranked executives by saying no to their amazing offers. It may seem ill-advised or even rebellious. However, I have my own definition of happiness in which power and wealth are not high on the list of components.

Do yourself a favor and don’t follow others blindly.

3. Know when to step down

We’ve all experienced times in our lives during which we perform at our best. After a certain number of years, we will be done; having no more power, energy and up-to-date knowledge to lead our teams or organizations successfully. New challenges require new skills and new solutions. When we’re done we need to offer our place to the next generation voluntarily. If we don’t, it will be taken from us, harming our name and pride in the process. I admire people who voluntarily step down while at the top. When you do so you will be remembered as the hero, the powerful leader or the great world cup winning footballer.

When you continue until you make a terrible mistake (sometimes unconsciously) not only is your pride damaged, but you may also find yourself broken and psychologically bankrupt.

4. Top secrets may not be secure forever

We live in a time in which teenagers can hack highly secure systems and gain access to top secret information. In the course of time many secrets become public – planned and unplanned. Take for example the FIFA Scandals and the Panama Papers. There should be a good balance between risk and reward. Is the reward worth the risk? If you take the risk, bear in mind that it may become public someday. How bad would it be if your secret became public? If it became public, how great would the pain, shame and potential damage be? It’s worth thinking more than twice when taking risks. Remember, technology does not always work in our favor: instead of traditional trusted hard copies, almost everything is digital nowadays.

  When something is digital, we can never be sure it is 100% secure.

5. Our children may suffer because of our actions

When I was 15 studying at high school, a schoolmate of mine lost his father in a bloody war between drugs dealers. In addition to this painful loss, the poor boy endured several miserable years as his schoolmates regularly brought up his family’s past. Remember, there is at least one guarantee in this life. We’ll all pass away when our time comes. No matter who we are, or how much power we have. In some cases, innocent children pay the price of unacceptable actions taken by their parents. If we are well-known and leave a bad name behind, it may create difficulties for our children.

6. A new kid on the block will always appear

Time is the one obvious limiting factor. We may have glorious days, weeks, months, or even years. But it’s a fact that the glorious time will not last forever. The better days or years are always counted. Great leaders create more years of glory for themselves, their people and their country. I am sure many of you remember Nokia and Blackberry; the kings of mobile phones some 10 years ago. The leaders of these companies really believed there wouldn’t be any competition. Nokia and Blackberry didn’t see it coming. They were enjoying their huge market share when Apple came along with the serial revolution of iPod, iPhone and iPad.

7. Watch for arrogance

Arrogance has long been the enemy of success. When people are on top, they see one success after the other. After a while, they get used to success and take it as a given. That’s when hubris creeps in. Their conceit may be so great they believe nothing can happen to them. They start to operate in a vacuum as if they are immune to everything. The moment a leader starts to believe nothing can happen to him, is the moment when it all begins to break down.

  The biggest battle a leader should win should be the one with his own arrogance.

8. If it doesn’t feel OK, it is probably not OK

We’ve all been there. Things come along which don’t seem to be quite right. When we listen to our intuition it says don’t do that. In many cases if it doesn’t feel right it is indeed not right. Decisions that are ethically wrong, are being taken by some leaders every day. It will not remain sunny all the time. One day it may get cold. It may snow or rain heavily. You better be prepared. If you get an offer which seems too good to be true, find out what’s on the other side of the coin. If you accept an offer which may bring your integrity into question, do so with the knowledge that it may become public someday. If you believe you can live with the consequences, then accept the offer. But if you believe your reputation would be ruined if it becomes public, just don’t do it.

9. Never feel too big to ask for support

We’re human. Sometimes we’re mentally and physically at our best and sometimes we’re not making the best decisions. When you don’t feel comfortable about something, reach out for support; consult a trusted adviser or book a couple of sessions with a qualified coach. By enlisting the support of an adviser or coach, you’ll gain precious insights that will help you make better decisions.


What do you think?

Do you agree with the above? Do you have anything you’d like to add? Please share your thoughts. Always appreciated.

Did you like this post? If so, follow me for more insights. You can follow me by going to my LinkedIn page, and clicking on Follow, the 3rd choice in the row.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the founder of ImOcean Academy. He is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs unleash their potential. Hamid has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

Follow ImOcean Academy on LinkedIn

“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’ ~ Eckhart Tolle

So, there is a project deadline, or an exam, or your first interview, any of these situations can cause stress. Isn’t it? In general, stress has become a part of our lives. But that part, which never do any good to your health.

Different people respond to stress differently. However, this never means you cannot reduce, or eliminate it. Though there’s no “one size fits all” solution for stress handling, yet if you feel like your life is going out of control, it’s high time, you need to take some actions.

Stress management – is something you need to learn about. While it will teach you some healthier ways to cope with the situation, it will also aid in minimizing the harmful effects of stress in future. Below are listed some astounding methods to keep stress at bay;

Morning Ritual:

Start the process of ‘de-stressing’ as soon as the day begins. This means your morning routine needs to be changed. It will comprise of all set of actions which you take, i.e. from the time you wake up to the time you get ready to start your day. Wake up early. Yes, it might be difficult for some days, but gradually you’ll get into this habit. Welcome the ‘Sun’ and step out of your dwelling. Besides all the necessary activities you do, make sure you keep a special time for meditation. If possible, you can join some centers for this.

And most important- don’t underestimate the value of these morning rituals. Yes, it gives you a perfect start for your day, which is further helpful in creating a powerful momentum in your life.

Exercise Regularly:

This could be a part of the above mentioned point, but it holds a significant place in your stress management plan, and hence, it is added separately. Regular exercises have been a part of all highly successful people across the globe. And before you start running, it is better to clear that it is about all the physical activities which keep your body mentally and physically strong.

Now, if you ask about the ‘right’ exercise, then there’s no such ‘right’ one. You can initially choose any among those hundreds of exercises including weight lifting, cycling, a team sport or just simply a brisk walk. The main aim is to get regular with whatever you choose. You seriously need to find a timeslot for it in your busy schedule, and ensure that you follow it.

As far as the benefits are considered, it cannot be described in words. From great health to maintaining youthfulness, and from enhanced productivity to assured success, it shows significant effects in your life.

Taking Breaks:

To do something great, you need to ‘NOT DO’ anything. Don’t get confused!

For example, you are working on a project constantly, but not getting the desired results. What you do? You keep on trying harder, and harder, isn’t it? That’s good, but not great. This time, try out something different.

Believe it- Taking Breaks and disconnecting from work allows your mind and body rest, and then when you reconnect, it works better. Moreover, it offers a great sense of control over your energy throughout the day.

Planning Ahead:

Is your day planned? No? This might be a reason of greater stress. Setting up a time-based structure and scheduling your days in advance can simplify living.

Planning makes you more productive. The reason is quite known; it helps you getting the most of your day. Being confined by 24 hours each day, it is you and only you, who can work on your structural productivity. Optimizing your day proffers a real progress tracking system for your time and restores the sense of control.

Evening Routine:

Don’t let your evening ruin your day. The routine needs to wind-down process as you move closer to the end of the day, stepping forward to a fantastic night of sleep. You need to incorporate the ability to forget about worries and stresses. Meditation can always be a part of your evening. And the rest includes general advises like- leaving work at work, turning off your electronics, healthy diet, and a sound sleep.

No matter how powerless you are feeling right now, these amazing ways will help you gain control over your emotions, lifestyle, thoughts, and the way you deal with problems. Basically, it is not about changing the stressful situation; it is about changing your reaction towards it!

Be the best version of yourself

How can you be the best version of yourself?

How often have you found yourself asking the following questions? “I can do better, why am I still doing this job?” “I deserve better.” “God, when will this end?” The better questions to ask might be: “Do I know what I want to achieve?” Have I done anything to attain this?” “What am I capable of doing on my own?” “How can I be the best version of myself?” “Who can help me accelerate?

I’d like to share some thoughts which I believe will help you unlock your full potential.

Change is inevitable

If we want to obtain different results then we need to change something e.g. our approach, job, car, dress, meal, and so on. To achieve a different result, the first step to take is to prepare for change. We can’t keep doing the same and expect a different result. The fundamental question to ask is: “What exactly needs to be changed?

Find out what you’re good at

To find out what needs changing, it is necessary to find out what we are born to do. It is easier to optimize from good to great as opposed to moving from poor to great. “Everybody is a genius.”, said Albert Einstein, one of the brightest brains history has known. I truly believe we have all been born with potential. Unfortunately, we are not always aware of what we are capable of reaching. There are many models via which we can find out what talents we have. One of them is the Wheel of Life. It is important to find out what we like to do as opposed to what we have to do. When we love what we do, we do it with passion. Remember, willingness and passion bring perseverance, and perseverance brings success.

Set your target

We can’t hit the target we don’t see. Do you agree? I believe we need to have a clear understanding of what we want to achieve. We can’t say, for example, we want to grow. It is not specific enough. What does grow mean? What percentage of market share, and within what period of time? There are many models we can use to set our targets. GROW is a simple, yet very powerful, model many coaches use to help their clients with target setting. Read the short article What’ve you put on the menu for 2016 for a simple set of guidelines about how to set and realize your targets.

Find a role model

Saadi (the wise Persian Poet 1210-1291) said: “To do everything excellently we need to have two lives, one for trial and experience, and the other for accelerating our performance. Having two lives is impossible, the best alternative is copying best experiences of the best performers.” So, what would you like to become? A footballer? Then copy what Messi, Maradona, Cruijff, Pelé and Bekenbauer have done. Would you like to become the best investor? Then copy what Warren Buffet has done. Would you like to become a successful entrepreneur? Then copy what people like Steve Jobs, Marc Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have done. It is possible to become the same as your role model under one condition: doing whatever they have done. Use the Wheel of Life and GROW models to discover your potential and locate possible bottlenecks. A good coach can help you with this step.

Associate with successful people in your chosen field

Steve Siebold says: “We become like the people we associate with, and that’s why winners are attracted to winners.” If you believe you are an eagle, then do not behave like a turkey.  When you believe you have found your favorite field then create a list of who the most admired and successful people are from whom you can learn to move faster and smarter. Find out how you can get invited to their gatherings. Follow their strategies. Listen to their stories: how they made a billion; how they became professors; how they set up their business empire. When you have made your way to the group of the best people from whom you can learn, listen twice more than you talk. Remember, we have two ears and one mouth. Life is giving and taking so find out how you can help these successful people. When you do so, it will be easier to ask for something in return.

Overcome your limiting beliefs

They come to our mind uninvited: “…but you can’t do this in this situation.” “How can you change your job while your wife is pregnant?” “I can’t ask my boss. I need his support. What if he disagrees?” And there are many more examples of limiting beliefs.

I believe the first, and the most important, battle we need to win is the one with our own beliefs.

When we give room to our limiting beliefs, it becomes harder to get back on track. The right coach can help you with overcoming your limiting beliefs. However, by asking yourself a few questions you may reach a certain level on your own. For example: “Why can’t I change my job because my wife is pregnant?” “What would stop me taking care of my pregnant wife?” “What would change exactly?” “Am I going to have more or less free time by changing my job?

Make supporting positive friends

There is a Persian saying: “If you can’t be of any help, don’t create any trouble either.” When you have a grand ambition, some people may laugh at you. Don’t worry, that says more about them than you. “So many people I talked to at that time about Alipay, they said, ‘This is the stupidest idea you’ve ever had.’”, said Jack Ma to Bloomberg. When you decide to chase an ambitious target, you need two types of friends: 1. Positive supporting people who say, for example, “Wow, sounds fantastic.”, or “What an amazing idea.”; and 2. People who can offer you constructive criticism. This second group may be of even more support than the first one. They have the ability to make you think about your challenges, which helps you prepare for and avoid potential disappointments. They might also see deeper layers of your ambition which you might not have discovered on your own.

Many successes have been achieved after many more failures

It’s been said that Thomas Edison tried 1000 ways to invent the first lamp. If he had given up after the first few attempts, he would not have invented his first lamp. Next to the fact he was a genius, he is also a shining example of what you can achieve with perseverance. Failures are a part of the deal. Two top teams meet in the final, one will fail to take home the trophy.

There are no better lessons than the ones we learn from our own failures. The bitterness of failure teaches us how not do it.

Take the amazing story of Jack Ma (Founder of Alibaba), who in November 2014 was the richest man in China (Hong Kong not included), and the 18th richest person in the world. In his interview with Bloomberg he says: “There’s an examination for young people to go to university. I failed it three times. I failed a lot. So I applied to 30 different jobs and got rejected. I went for a job with the police: they said, ‘You’re no good.’ I even went to KFC when it came to my city. Twenty-four people went for the job. Twenty-three were accepted. I was the only guy.…”   So, success often comes after failure. Be persistent, consistent and believe in your success.

What would you be prepared to sacrifice?

We’ve all been there. Sometimes we need to make painful choices in our lives to move on. We love our partners, but we have come to the conclusion love alone is not enough.

To achieve something greater we may have to sacrifice some great things.

To hire a brilliant CEO, we need to fire a good one. The lighter our baggage the higher we can climb. Do you agree? Here is the deal. What are you prepared to sacrifice to achieve your dream? Imagine, you’re 19, you’re at the train station, you’re hungry and it’s midnight. You only have €3.75 cash, and the cheapest sandwich costs €3.00. You love ice-cream and you are about to hit the button on the only food machine around to buy yourself your favorite ice-cream costing €2.50. Suddenly a thought whispers in your head: “Hang on buddy, if you buy an ice-cream you will not have enough money left for a sandwich. Are you sure you still want the ice-cream?” Sometimes even the easiest choices may be difficult to make, but we need to make them to achieve our targets.

Find a mentor or coach

Many successful leaders – presidents, top performers and entrepreneurs – have had mentors and coaches. Bill Clinton, Andre Agassi, Serena Williams, Richard Branson and Hilary Clinton, are all examples of successful people who have made it far with the help of their coaches. Richard Branson says: “It’s always good to have a helping hand at the start. I wouldn’t have got anywhere in the airline industry without the mentorship of Sir Freddie Laker.” No matter how bright you are, how successful you already are, how mindful you are, hire the right coach from time-to-time and see the difference in your performance. If it helps, do it often.

Please share your thoughts

I am pleased that I have many connections from whom I learn every day. Please let me learn from your comments too.

Did you like this post? If so, follow me for more insights. You can follow me by going to my LinkedIn page, and clicking on Follow, the 3rd choice in the row.


About the author

Hamid Safaei is the founder of ImOcean Academy. He is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs unleash their potential. Hamid has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.

Follow ImOcean Academy on LinkedIn