Question: What is the secret of success in business? The answer, according to Danbury-based business coach Chris Salem, is not much of a secret.
“The secret to success is found in what you do daily,” he said. “Some people might say, ‘Well, I do all of these things daily,’ but that might not be the things that are right for leading you to success. Adopting the right habits and disciplines, not once in a while but consistently — that’s the secret.”
Well, there might be a bit more to it. “Also, it is found in the process,” Salem continued. “Too many people are focused on the outcome: they want the outcome, but they don’t commit to the process. I think it’s because people are conditioned on instant gratification. They see somebody has become successful and they think, ‘I want that, too.’ They want it, but they are not willing to engage the process to make it happen. Or, they do things in pockets but without consistency. The difference between someone like Mark Cuban or Steve Jobs compared to somebody else is those individuals were consistent with their habits and disciplines.”
In recent years, Salem has become a ubiquitous figure in the business-coaching realm. A former media company representative in the aviation industry, he is the host of the weekly “Sustainable Success” talk show on the VoiceAmerica online radio network, the author of the books “Master Your Inner Critics” and (with Jack Canfield) “Mastering the Art of Success,” and a speaker whose audiences have included corporations, colleges and universities, nonprofits and government agencies. But Salem insisted that he is not a Mr. Fix-It, but rather a guide to help people identify and consider solutions for solving their individual issues
“I put out information to help people, to plant seeds and get them to think,” he said. “If you want to change, I’ll help you change. I can’t do it for you, but I will show you how to do it and keep you accountable.”
One key concern that Salem keeps encountering within organizations involves how people absorb what is being said to them. “The problem is most people listen to respond, not listen to understand, because they don’t know how to relate to people,” he said. “People open up when they learn how to relate.”
But this can be tricky, especially in larger organizations where the workforce spans generations. He recalled being invited to host a talk for the New York Police Department, where the workforce offered a wide age span.
“The NYPD have traditionalist people who are in their early seventies and still working,” he said. “They have baby boomers, they have Gen X, millennials, Gen Z. They have these different generation types and a lot of times they see things their way and don’t understand one another. This causes conflict — this is why there is often a disconnect between leadership and staff because they don’t know how to communicate properly.”
Salem’s work often includes consultations with human resources departments. He frequently advises on taking a different approach when considering job candidates.
“Companies need to do a better job of screening people,” he said. “They look at their credentials and skills rather than focusing on who they are, their personalities. Yes, skills and credentials are important. But think about a football team. You could get a team loaded up with first round draft picks, but now they come together as a team and they don’t really make much impact. But as an example, the New England Patriots don’t look at talent or skills, but they look at a player for who he is and how they could fit into a system. They do it differently. And because of that, they take average players or players who would not normally be on another team and they win and they go to the post-season year after year after year after year.”
While Salem acknowledged that a positive attitude is welcomed, it is not the only strategy for a business professional to employ. “The outcome is always a byproduct of the process,” he said. “When people say affirmations but don’t support it with actions, the affirmations are often meaningless. And while surrounding yourself with positive people can’t hurt, I wouldn’t say that by itself that it would help. If they’re positive, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be as positive.”
Salem also pointed out that too many individuals fail to achieve their goals out of a fear of failing, which he defined as a self-imposed limit.
“The only true fear is a life or death situation,” he said. “If you are hanging off a cliff with one hand and if you look down, you know that you’re gone if you drop — that’s real fear. But you’ve got to ask yourself: if you’re not going to die from it, then it is a fear brought on by yourself.”