Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Feeling fuzzy? Start dreaming.

Originally uploaded by Chintan S

Are you feeling a bit fuzzy and out of focus? Are you having a difficult time choosing which task should come next? It might be that you're suffering from one of the multitude of little bugs circulating right now, or you might be depressed. Maybe it's just another day of dreary skies and rain getting your goat. But more likely is that you don't have goals toward which you're working, or you haven't prioritized them.

Remember the old commercial where the alarm clock rings and the fellow trudges out of bed muttering, "Time to make the donuts..."? When your work and your life don't include aspirations you're likely to look at them in the same way as the donut guy. Another day, another dollar fifty.

Does a plan for the day or a plan for your life guarantee that it's going to work out the way you want it to? Of course not. Stuff happens, priorities change, unanticipated events throw logs across the road you're traveling. But what if? What if, with some concentrated attention and action (and some belief thrown in for good measure,) you could really turn the the trip from a drudge to an adventure? What if you could create something that you love, or do something that you believe you were designed to do?

Someone will be setting the agenda for your life, and it might as well be you. Start by making a blue sky list - a dream inventory. Date your entries, and put down the things you would like to do, the places you'd like to see, or the people you'd like to meet. Start thinking about the possibilities.

Dreams are the place where the "want to" goals begin. You don't have to commit to all of them, or any of them right now. But when you write them down you won't lose track of them. Once you've made your list, mark the ones that you think that, if you really wanted to, you could achieve in the next 12 or so months.

This is your list. Nobody's going to tell you that you have to do anything about it. But if you want to emerge from the fuzzy land of autopilot, this is your first step.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stuck on the escalator?

Swiss Cottage Escalators
Originally uploaded by Tetramesh

I was reading an economic forecast a few days ago by Alan Beaulieu of the Institute for Trend Research. In it, he said he anticipates that

"the shape of this recovery will be a broad "U". For the next 12 months we
will be bouncing around on the bottom of the "U"."

He doesn't see indication that there will be a quick recovery, or a small recovery followed by a downturn.

So, assuming Beaulieu is correct, what do you do when you're at the bottom of the "U"? It can feel similar to being stuck on an escalator. You expect it to go up, all the time. Now that it's stopped you can choose to continue to stand there and wait for it to start going up again.

Now imagine this: you're standing there for a few seconds and it's no big deal. You stand there for a minute and you're starting to feel impatient. If the escalator stays stationary for more than a minute you're likely to take matters in your own hands and start walking it.

The stopped escalator is not preventing you from making upward progress. It might not be helping you, but it's not stopping you. If you don't want to wait you will need to exert your own energy for the steps to lift you to the next level.

We have seen evidence that forward-motivated companies are starting to walk it. They're not waiting for the escalator to carry them. They are ramping up their sales efforts, training their staffs while they have more time to do so, and they are refining their longer-term plans with specific strategies to deal with the bottom of the "U". They are determined to be prepared, and to be the first ones up as the escalator resumes its climb.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Refining your marketing message

Thanks to Ryan Scholz for the inspiration for this post:

How do you describe what you do? If you're like many privately held business-to-business companies you're probably not spending millions of dollars on ad campaigns. You might not even maintain a regular relationship with a marketing firm. How, then, do you help prospects understand that they should have a chat with you about buying your product?

It's not about you - the message starts with them

Who are your customers? Are there particular market niches that you serve? What do they have in common with one another?
  • "I work with businesses who won't take no for an answer."
  • "I provide process improvement services to the food processing industry."
  • "I help family-owned businesses create and implement their long term plans, including the owner's plan for his or her eventual retirement."

It's focused on problems or issues the customers face

Think about the situations that precipitated a purchase from you. What were some of the scenarios?

  • The owner wants to spend more time on big picture, more strategic issues and less time up to his elbows in the daily work processes.
  • The company has a need for high quality cutting tools.
  • The company's sales force is slumping in its activity level and conversion rate.
  • Productivity is down because of employee concerns about job security.

Incorporate the outcomes your products or services create for customers

  • "Many of our customers have been able to shave 20% or more off of their production waste."
  • "Our clients have reduced their downtime because our product requires fewer changeovers."
  • "We've seen sales increases of 15-50% as a result of helping the sales staff and sales processes improve."

If your message isn't customer-focused and instead is oriented toward yourself and your product, you could wind up sounding like a rep from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (from the movie Forrest Gump for you non-moviegoers):

"We've got fried shrimp, steamed shrimp, shrimp creole, popcorn shrimp, shrimp bisque, shrimp on a stick..." You get the idea.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Support structures for personal change

Originally uploaded by tilo driessen

No matter whether the change you're seeking is for yourself alone, or for a company of thousands, it always comes down to the individual level. Even some of the biggest changes are the result of a multitude of personal ones. So, given that many, if not most, people are in their own groove and don't find change easy, how can you increase the likelihood of success?

In times of change people need process and structure.

Think about the big events in your life - at a wedding you have a ceremony, attendants who support you in your decision. You have pre-marital counseling (if you're being married in a church) to make sure you and your intended are entering marriage without reservation, and to provide you with some tools for getting along. There are presents to help you stock your new combined household, and a honeymoon where you can become accustomed to the new status of your relationship (and take care of the other business that makes it official!)

Funerals, graduations, baby showers - they all provide process and structure. Because we need it. In times of intense change we are likely to be in a more emotional state, no matter whether we perceive the change to be good or bad for us. It's helpful to have a prescribed path to walk so that we don't have to figure it out when we're distracted.

Successful behavior change has its own supporting structure and process

  • Self-awareness building - In order to identify the performance gap to be bridged by the change, the individual has to become aware of his or current state by doing self-evaluation. This creates a very different (and more open) mindset than it does to be evaluated by another person, even when it's an authority figure doing the evaluation.
  • A knowledge base around the desired behavior - It's not helpful simply to decide NOT to be a certain way - the person needs to have reliable information about the habits to which he or she aspires. In certain instances the knowledge base helps the individual because it gets specific about the goal, in others the knowledge base helps to persuade (and remind) them of the benefit of change
  • A means by which to change -Exhortations from other people or from oneself don't cut it. The desired change needs to be made specific in the form of a measurable goal. If the change is intangible the person needs to define the tangible behaviors that add up to the intangible goal. Otherwise they won't know whether they are on track or off track, and will likely lose their motivation. A plan for the change also enables them to anticipate and overcome obstacles that would prevent them from making the progress they want to make.
  • A peer group with whom to relate - Not all changes require peers to go along. Some individuals, however, benefit from having compatriots in the journey. In a company setting, group processes among peers help create the informal pressure that helps people move forward. There can be benefit in having differing authority levels in the same group, but it can also create tension that prevents participants from being truly open.
  • A coach or mentor - The coach and mentor play different roles, both in support of change and growth. The coach's job is to help the individual build confidence and competence, and to "hold up a mirror" so the individual can more easily observe and evaluate his or her own patterns of thought or behavior. The coach need not be in the company. As a matter of fact, it is better for the coach to be a completely neutral party, devoted only to the goals of the coachee and not split between the individual and a company's concerns. A mentor is different in that he or she is often inside the company and in a position more advanced than that of the mentee. The mentor shares knowledge gained in their own journey and gives a "hand up" to the mentee in the form of connections, recommendations, and sometimes in-company opportunities.
  • Accountability methods - Even the individual most committed to change stays more committed when he or she can measure progress. Outside of a business setting and example would be weekly weigh-ins at weight loss programs, or regularly scheduled sessions with a parole officer for the person who has crossed the lines of the law. Weekly sessions with a coach or peer group can keep an individual on track - they will sometimes do for other people what they will not consistently do for their own benefit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How much can a person change?

365: Day 28
Originally uploaded by tadashistate

How much can a person change? Let's say it right at the outset - this conversation is very different depending upon the perspective you're using when you read this post. If you're thinking about yourself, I'll just have to answer, "Who knows but you?" and you'll demonstrate your ability to change through your actions. If you are thinking about someone else and how much you'd like them to change my question is, "Are you asking how much can they change, or how much can they change to be the way you want them to be?" Choosing to change and being changed are two very different things.


Face it - there are some elements of us that are hard-wired. We don't know exactly what proportion of our temperament is inherited, but it's evident looking at two siblings coming from the same household, even in very similar timeframes, that they are different in temperament. Perhaps one is more laid back and the other is more fiery in disposition, for example.


Habits of thought and behavior are taught and learned. Facts and figures are acquired and retained. I think of two examples here - kindergarten and boot camp. In both instances the raw material is brought to the process and molded in the ways of the culture. But in both instances there is an element of choice, of the person choosing to be molded. The process of making the choice to be changed creates an openness to the information. Granted, there are children who only go kicking and screaming onto the school bus in the morning - they resist. But ultimately the trainer, their teacher, finds ways to engage them and create the open space for learning.

Significant Life Events

In the training and development field, this would be called "impact learning." Not all of the changes are chosen by the individual, they are not all intentional. It's difficult (some would say nigh on impossible) to engineer an impact situation in such a way that you can reliably elicit a specific type of change. This is where temperament and training converge to create what may appear to be a completely new and different person. The catalyst of the significant life event may elicit a change that's completely unanticipated.


Popeye used to say, "I yam what I yam." What you saw was what you got, consistently, over and over again. There is some comfort in that consistency, even when it doesn't serve the current goal or purpose well. But when the goal or purpose is compelling enough, and the desire is strong enough, significant, even dramatic, changes can occur.

When, on the other hand, the desire for the change comes from an outside source, all bets are off. Change, if it happens, will be coming from other motivators internal to the individual - like their desire to be respected, or their fear of losing their job, etc. You can train people to respond to situations in specific ways, but the training will only stick for the long term if their temperament and their desire holds it fast.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Communicating in conflict - part 2

I'm a mediator
Originally uploaded by maxbee

This is part two of a two-part post on communicating in conflict:

So now you find yourself between the proverbial rock and the hard place, in a conflict situation. Assuming that your goal is not to escalate the conflict, what's a leader to do?

If you're directly involved

  • Stop and listen. There is the specific point of disagreement, and then there's everything else attached to it that's creating the emotional state. You want to understand both pieces of the puzzle in order to find a way forward.
  • Acknowledge the feeling and the content coming from the other person. Feed back what you think you're hearing, for two reasons. First, it confirms to the other person that you were indeed listening. Second, their response to your feedback helps you identify whether the real source of the conflict is in the issue itself or in something else. (For example, people have projected their work frustrations on their families for years, arguing with the people who love them instead of the people who could fire them.)
  • Identify common ground or a common goal. When you can, start with a basis of some agreement and go from there. When you agree on part, it's easier for one or both of you to concede, compromise, or find a completely different third option together.
  • Determine whether it's truly important that you agree. Sometimes it's OK for two people to occupy their own spaces, believing or doing different things. Some conflicts are caused when you step out of your own space and invade that of the other person. When you release your desire for unnecessary control of the other person, the conflict fades.
  • If what needs to happen is not agreement, but rather compliance, say so. If you are in an authority position you are ultimately in the driver's seat - it is not always a democracy. Your power is enhanced when you can inspire the "right" actions in the other person via the relationship rather than by wielding your authority, but sometimes your authority is an appropriate tool in getting things done. In addition, sometimes people need to see that an action is right by seeing it work - the conflict will resolve itself once they see the success of the recommended (mandated!) action.

If you are not directly involved:

  • Stay out of it unless you have a designated role as leader or moderator. Let the parties work it out among themselves. When you step into a conflict without some designated role you are taking on the role of parent. Even with children, when you step into a conflict and don't allow space for them to figure out how to handle it you are preventing them from acquiring the tools to do so.
  • Share information if you think it will help to shed light on the content of the conflict. Sometimes conflict arises when two completely misinformed or uninformed parties verbally duke it out over false assumptions or bad information. It works best to ask both parties before you enter the conversation, or you will find yourself in parent role, and now a participant in the conflict.
  • Contact the appropriate authorities if the conflict looks severe enough that it could escalate to the point of physical violence. They are trained to calm conflict situations, or in the worst case, to restrain violent or threatening individuals.

If you are a designated leader or moderator:

  • Your job is to set the tone. Conflict can be healthy if it is an exploration of differing ideas, thus stretching a group and helping it learn. That exploration can be done without including personal attacks. If you are running a group, set ground rules (preferably with team input) to set the expectations for behavior ahead of time, and hold the group to it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Communicating in conflict - part one

prehistoric argument
Originally uploaded by Mattijn

This is part one of a two-part post:

It's relatively easy to say that you are an effective communicator when you are with friends, or when sailing on relationship water that's smooth as glass. One of the true tests of communication skill, though, is when you have to navigate the choppy seas of disagreement and conflict. When you're engaged head to head and you want to find a productive course through it, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it important that we agree? Many times the answer to this question is no. Yet we still allow ourselves to get all riled up, as though this were the game of the week and the winner gets a cut of the TV profits. When we get too ramped up about a particular perspective we place it higher in priority than our relationship with the person with whom we are communicating. And when we're firmly seated in our own "rightness" we are in parent ego state - not a mode that's likely to help the other people feel open to our input. It makes us less persuasive, not more.
  • What is the most important outcome of this conflict? Sometimes it's most important that a decision be made so that it can be acted upon. In other situations our priority is to maintain or repair the relationship with the other person. If the relationship is in the forefront for us we might choose to downplay or avoid the conflict-ridden subject, or detach ourselves from a specific outcome. If, however, we want our perspective to prevail, we might use various techniques to compete for the "win."
  • Does one opinion have to prevail, or can there be a blended solution? Not every conflict is required to result in "I win, you lose"or vice versa. Collaboration at its best includes the mental work of all participants. There is rarely only one right answer to a situation or a problem - despite the fact that one of the answers is yours.
  • Is it really about this conflict? This is a common situation in longstanding relationships - this disagreement contains a meta-message behind the actual content of the conflict. It represents, for example, autonomy or power - either yours or the other party's. Or you might be angry about some other issue that you haven't brought to the foreground, and this conflict is the opportunity to express your anger - it's a designated issue. If this conflict is a designated issue you won't truly feel better until you deal with the other, root issue. If you choose not to deal with the root issue, be prepared for replays of the conflict.

Part two of this post will contain tips for communicating effectively in conflict situations.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Developing Your Sales Pipeline on the Phone

Trans-Alaska Pipeline
Originally uploaded by Marc Shandro

How long are you going to wait for the economic worm to turn? Will you be one of the people waiting to hear good news before you start really cranking your business energy? Or are you going to be your own personal economic booster by developing your sales pipeline?

It's certainly easier to wait for the phone to ring, but that can leave you feeling like an unpopular sixteen-year-old on a Saturday night. Who needs that kind of energy-sapping experience? Instead, pick up the phone and make your own dates.

Before you go dialing for dollars it pays to stop and think:

  • You need a list with company name, contact name and phone number - with enough names on it to last you at least for today, preferably for a week or two of phone calls. What do your best customers have in common with one another? What needs or wants do your products fulfill? Look for new contacts who share those characteristics and add them to your list.
  • What products or services perform the best for you and for your customers? Look for new contacts who might be prospective users of those - in your community, in organizations to which you belong - in directories you can find in the library or online.
  • The straightest line between you and your next customer is the phone line. So what are you going to say? You need to create a call guide or script to make sure you sound confident and competent.
  • What is the goal of your phone call? In most business-to-business sales situations the only thing you're selling on the phone is an appointment. This is not a prospect you're talking to at the moment - it's only a suspect. It will take the appointment to truly discover whether your services or products are a match for their needs. In general terms, the longer you talk on the phone, the less they perceive a need to meet with you.
  • How many appointments do you want to set for next week? This isn't about the level of phone call activity as much as it is about generating the result - the opportunity to sit face to face in front of a person and start the buying-selling process. Set a target number to hold yourself accountable, because some people only need to make 10 calls to get 8 appointments, but others need to make 80 calls for the same result.
  • Admittedly, a phone call is an interruption in the other person's day. You want to make sure that it's an OK time for them to talk.
  • The best calls are short, to the point, and interactive. You will need to be prepared to explain what business you are in, so if you can't answer that without hesitation get your act together before you pick up the phone.
  • The longer you talk, the more you'll sound like you're pitching something that you haven't earned the right to present, and they will cut you off with a "no," or maybe even a "not interested. Go away."
  • What objections do you anticipate having to overcome in order to schedule an appointment? Write them down and develop alternative responses so you won't be caught with a brain cramp when you're live with a prospect on the phone.
  • Keep track of your numbers. Know your statistics on number of attempts made, number of contacts, number and percent of appointments scheduled, etc. Your statistics will help you determine where you might need to modify your approach. And the data will help you stay rational about the real level of activity in which you are engaging. (It will probably feel like more than you're actually doing.)
  • Manage your mindset. Lure yourself onto the phone by talking to a friend first. Put a mirror in front of your desk so you can see the kind of expression that's on your face (it comes through on the phone.) And if you need additional mental fuel, write and repeat positive self-talk (affirmations) to remind yourself just how capable you are.

I know so many salespersons who will do almost anything to avoid picking up the phone - they'll join leads groups, complain about (or develop) collateral materials, or rearrange the pencils on their desks instead of making calls. But the ones who realize that the phone is their friend and use it on a consistent basis are the ones with the great books of business.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creating a referrals-based business

Continuing our sales-related series of posts in preparation for ASAP - Accelerated Sales And Profits, our open enrollment workshop starting in November:

Sales and marketing efforts are expensive, and if you're running your own show and filling the role of Chief Sales Officer the expense isn't only in the dollars you spend. Part of your cost is the lost opportunity to be doing paid work during the time you're trolling for new customers. Among my fellow corporate coaches and consultants, approximately 70% of the revenue in established practices comes from referral and repeat business.

Many of them are not satisfied with that number - they're shooting for 80%, 90% or higher.So how does one go about building a practice without going out and pounding the pavements? After all, most owners are in business to do the content of their business, not to be a salesperson. As a matter of fact many business people have negative mental baggage attached to the label of salesperson - there's an old but persistent habit of thought about the loud sportcoat, fast talk, insincerity, and I win-you lose attitude that the sales role engenders. (That's a topic worthy of its own post.)

Creating strategy around being referrals-based means that more first contacts are warm, and in the best cases your referral sources are doing enough groundwork for you that the new contact doesn't wait for you to reach out to them. They make your phone ring, and have done enough forethought that they are predisposed to buy from you. You'll still need to earn their business, but the initial momentum of the contact is working in your favor.

What do you consider to be a referral? Are you looking for a list of names that are in essence sales leads? Are you wanting personal introductions? Would you like your referrees to call you?
  • If you want more of your business to come from positive WOM your job #1 is to figure out what part of your product and/or service will be buzz-worthy, and then work to get it to the standard that will create fans. Perhaps your differentiator will be your process, the visual appeal of your product, your own personality and skills, the quality of the service experience, etc. The idea is to be worthy of referrals by earning them.
  • Think about the timing of when to ask for them. It's more likely that you'll get valid referrals when you've completed results-generating work for a customer than it is to get them when you've only just met.
  • Consider how you want to ask for referrals. Are you looking for their help? Or are you giving your referral source the opportunity to help a friend or business associate by hooking them up with you, a reliable resource? These two positions come across very differently, and you want to be intentional about the situations in which you use them.
  • If you provide a service, it might not initially be obvious to potential referral sources exactly who would make a well-qualified prospect for you. It can be more beneficial to give them examples of successful situations that your services have helped, rather than a laundry list of what you do. Perhaps there's a demographic or psychographic description that will help - "My customers are business owners who are contemplating selling their companies," for example.
  • More and more leads groups are popping up around communities to facilitate the referral process. If you have a good track record and reciprocate regularly, leads groups can be very effective sources of referrals. If you're choosing to join a leads group, however, you'll have better results if you join one where the other members serve a similar customer base.
  • Overall, the first rule of referrals is to ask for them. The corollary to the first rule is to earn them. Demonstrate to clients and prospects that you're the provider of choice for their company and those of their colleagues and friends. It will be easier to ask when you're confident that you're providing outstanding value for the investment. And who knows? Your phone might start ringing on its own.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's not about the close

Jim Poland is our guest blogger today:

I've been told many times, "I just can't seem to close the deal." Salespersons have tried the assumptive close, the Ben Franklin close, the Dutch Uncle close, and assorted other tricks and techniques with mixed success. But it isn't about the close.

First of all, I object to the term "close." It implies that you're finished when the new customer signs the order. In reality, it's a mutual commitment - a beginning - like a marriage. The signing of the first order is the start of the official relationship. The commitment means that they are going to buy from you and you're going to meet, even exceed their expectations as their product or service provider. And the way in which you start the marriage sets the tone and the expectations for your and your company's future interaction with them.

You lay the groundwork for the commitment much earlier in the conversation, when tomorrow's customer is still a prospect. You understand and respond to their need to know more about you and your company, and their need to see evidence that you're good at what you do. You create the credibility and the rapport to earn the right to ask about their wants and needs. You help them think through the ramifications of achieving their goals, and the downside risks associated with missing them so they can determine whether their investment will be worthwhile. Then, and only then, have you earned the right to present your solution.

If you've built an open conversation and have been able to match a solution to the prospect's wants and needs, the commitment should be a natural next step in the conversation. Sounds simple, doesn't it? It is IF you know how to position yourself and your business, how to build rapport and credibility, and what questions to ask at each step of the process without jumping ahead of the prospect and resorting to tactics they'll perceive as pressure.

If you're not executing the earlier steps of the sale effectively, you're right - there will be an inordinate amount of focus on the close in your mind. You'll feel like you have to put on more of a show because you haven't taken time to establish a two-way conversation. You'll be concerned about potential objections because you will not have found out enough about the prospect before diving into your product bag and presenting. You will, in effect, be shooting an arrow before opening your eyes to find out where the target is located.

You CAN get better sales results, no matter what your numbers were this year or last. Contact us to talk with you about our 2009 ASAP (Accelerated Sales And Profits) program, and whether it might help you achieve your goals. Why leave your results to chance?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

ASAP - Accelerated Sales And Profits Workshop Series

Coach Mike announces an opportunity for you:

Business Owners - Sales are the front of the process that creates either success or stress for you. Nothing happens until somebody sells something, and sometimes that somebody is you. Are you an owner who started a business to have the opportunity to sell? Or is selling that thing you have to do in order to do the real thing that you love? Get better at sales and you'll spend more time doing what you want to do, and make more money in the process.

Sales Managers - Have you trained your staff and still felt frustrated at the lack of apparent improvement in results? Great salespersons aren't born - they are developed, and there's more to it than enthusiasm, the gift of gab and tricky techniques. The best salespersons do more than obtain one order - they build accounts that buy over and over again. Learn how to help your sales staff overcome the obstacles that are preventing them from engaging in the level of activity you want and building the customer base that will help your company dominate the market.

Salespersons - Are your numbers down, maybe significantly down, this year? If so, you've probably been hit directly in the wallet. You don't have to settle for a reduced income. You can learn how to develop a book of business that withstands changes in the market, even keeps customers loyal to you and your company when new competition enters your territory. Rediscover why you chose sales as your career, and reinvigorate your commitment to success.

ASAP - Accelerated Sales And Profits
Workshop Series
Nine Tuesday mornings 9-11 a.m., starting November 17th

Who should participate: Owners, sales managers, or salespersons who are determined to improve their sales results.

You will learn:
  • How to develop a killer sales plan. This is a plan written by you, for you, to work to meet your annual goal numbers.
  • A customer-focused sales process that will help your prospects WANT to buy now, and to buy from you.
  • The lifetime financial value of a loyal customer relationship in your business.
  • How to write a 10-second elevator speech and unique selling proposition that will make you more effective on the phone and in person.
  • Questions for each phase of the sales process.
  • The prospect's buying process. Unless you know what your prospective customer wants, no flashy sales techniques are going to work.
  • How to fill your pipeline and obtain a yes decision from a larger percentage of your prospects.
  • How to overcome obstacles in the sales process that are preventing you from achieving your goals, including stalls and objections and the ever-present voice mail and email (that help your prospects hide from you.)
  • How to manage the inner game that keeps your motivation high, even to do the things you usually don't like to do.
  • How to ask for referrals, and how to create the kind of customer loyalty that helps you earn them.
You will get:
  • Practice and feedback during the workshop sessions. You will also have the chance to talk about your current sales situations, and to benefit from the combined brainpower of the group to refine your approach.
  • A resource text - also in audio form so you can use it even when you're on the road.
  • An integrated action plan - assess where you are right now, where you want to be, and create a game plan to help you bridge the gap.
  • The opportunity to network with and learn from others in the sales field.
  • One individual sales coaching session with a Summit coach.
What to do: Contact one of the Summit team to set up a time to discuss whether you might qualify for the November 2009 ASAP group at Click the Contact Us button.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Values clarification - who are your superheroes?

super heroes
Originally uploaded by nazeee

Sometimes it's not so easy to identify our values, because they're always there but in the background of our subconscious. Sometimes we discover them only as we demonstrate them, and for people who are striving to live a values-driven life, that's not enough. Values-driven people and companies seek to be intentional, to make choices that they know - as they make them - are true to their belief systems. They don't want to have regrets - better to be congruent than to go for a cheap win.

If you want to uncover your values, think about who your superheroes are. Who do you admire, and for what? Are they adventuresome? Blunt? Dignified? Well-spoken? Practical? Brave? Kind? Selfless? Thrifty? Brainy? Visionary? Do they have integrity? Do they have a certain category of knowledge or talent?

Make a list of your heroes, your role models, then jot down the reasons why you look up to them. Do you see certain common themes emerging? These are your values. Once you have articulated your most important inner rules for your life you can use them as tests for opportunities that come along: "Will this help me live out my kindness value?" You can even ask yourself, "What would Albert Einstein do?" (If he's one of your heroes) Remember the WWJD bracelets that helped Christians keep Jesus' teachings top of mind?

The most effective leaders create a space between stimulus and response, and they insert thought into the space. It's like an internal pause button that allows them to consciously consider the best action to take, rather than to react based on reflex. The process of conscious choice in accordance with their values enables them to succeed on their terms, and to sleep soundly at night.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Which are you - intelligent or incomprehensible?

Although I'm a corporate coach now, I started out my college education as a theater major. I had lead roles in high school plays and musicals, did some shows at the local little theatre, and even performed (for pay) in a couple of dinner theater productions just after college. I had dreams of the lights of Broadway, just like millions of young performers.

What drove me out of theater and into mass communication as an intended vocation, however, was my fellow theater students' affection for esoteric pontifications in the theater lit class. I viewed a number of them as a bunch of blowhards, in love with the sound of their own voices and determined to prove their vast mental prowess via the use of $65 words en masse in sentences. Tiresome, and the opposite of illuminating. I couldn't imagine a lifetime of associating with those folks. I was outta there.

Taking class in journalism was a breath of fresh air. The goal was to take even the most convoluted, complicated information and transform it into something understandable for folks at a sixth-grade reading level or above. Now, perhaps you're thinking, "And that's exactly what's contributing to the dumbing down of our culture!" But I would beg to differ.

What is the goal of communication, anyway? It's to elicit some sort of action or reaction on the part of the receiver. Its success is measured in the feedback that's received and in the results it generates. Real communication is a two-way process, not a monologue. And the best communication is based upon a relationship, where the message is tailored specifically to reach the receiver - and delivered with the intention of opening the two-way channels and a win-win outcome.

One of the challenges inherent in communicating to groups is to be able to target the message and the packaging so that it can reach a diverse audience. A client of mine who LOVES language and the nuances of word choices told me one time that she was reprimanded by someone who said, "Save it for Scrabble!" In her mind it was important to choose the exact meaning she wanted - in her audience's mind it was perceived as an attempt on her part to show off and make other people feel stupid.

Perhaps sometimes (if we're honest with ourselves) our intention IS to try to make other people bow to our superior intellectual strength. It's verbal arm-wrestling, and the person with the most syllables wins. If the other person hasn't chosen to engage in a round of verbal jousting isn't it the equivalent of a bodybuilder kicking sand into the face of the 90-pound weakling? And that's without realizing that the person who you think is a mealy-mouthed twerp is actually a black belt in a compact package who could clean your clock! (I'm demonstrating here just how many figures of speech you can fit into one paragraph!)

We edit ourselves (I hope) to keep the cussing away from the kids, and to reserve adult subjects for adult time. I believe that the truly intelligent choice in communication is to edit your language to make the message accessible - even if you have to save your favorite words for the Scrabble board.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why are you angry?

Anger seems to have been embraced by our culture. We tune our TVs and radios for the entertainment value that anger provides. It appears that there is a part of us that enjoys both seeing other people being swept along by their emotions and being carried there ourselves.

Anger isn't so entertaining when it becomes a pattern in your response to events or people. It can arise from either external or internal triggers. In and of itself the "fight or flight" mechanism is designed to be protective, and it can help you feel powerful in responding to threats. But certain angry reactions can create long-term health and interpersonal consequences that are disproportionately large compared to the triggering event.

If you want to master your anger it's helpful to identify your triggering events. In general, the triggering events can fall into one of several categories, including:
  • Someone else not meeting your expectations
  • You not meeting your own expectations
  • Events or circumstances that get in your way
Internally, you might have some assumptions or thought patterns that also trigger anger, such as:
  • I can't do anything right
  • __________ never liked me
  • Everyone's trying to take advantage of me
The potential list goes on and on. You can challenge the assumptions and habits of thought once you become aware of them and are able to evaluate them outside of the anger situation, when your cooler head is in charge.

Check out these two links for more information on keeping yourself, not your anger, in control:
  1. American Psychological Association online
  2. Mental

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Should a CEO participate in staff development?

The short answer to the question, "Should a CEO participate in staff development?" is - yes, and here's why:

  • First and foremost, the CEO's role includes being a model for the people in the company. If he or she is saying change is necessary and yet not visibly making an effort to improve his or her own behavior, the change loses credibility. So does the CEO.

  • Second, any major cultural shifts create new vocabulary, tools, processes - and the CEO needs to be wired in to what the rest of the organization is doing.

The question that ultimately is asked is, "HOW should a CEO participate in staff development?" This is a case of "it depends."

  • When a CEO has a good relationship with his or her direct reports it can make sense to include them in that team for training sessions or workshops. It's important for the facilitator not to give them special dispensation for avoiding assignments or exemption from doing the team's activities. The word is participate, not sit in the back and audit.

  • Authority trumps relationship in a workplace setting, meaning that lower-ranked participants will tend to defer when the authority card is played - at least in front of a facilitator. The participant CEO is well advised to sit back a little and let the group process ideas before jumping in. As soon as the company leader states an opinion, the tendency of the group is to fall in line with it. Why bother developing the thinking to a higher level if they're not going to have to use it?

  • In many staff development processes it's appropriate to structure the groups according to peer levels in the company, to remove extra complexity caused by attitudes toward authority. The CEO might choose to undergo an individual coaching process with similar content to the process the rest of the organization will be going through. This can be effective when the relationship isn't comfortable (sometimes the CEO is a big part of the problem - sorry), and it tends to have a more flexible schedule that can help a CEO squeeze it in even with a hectic work agenda.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Six reasons to do it now

Originally uploaded by geoffconet

I know that there's something sitting on your desk or languishing in your house that you've had on your mental (or written) list for a while. For many of us these tasks catch our eye as we're on our way to something or somewhere else, so we don't stop to do them. And some of them bear some sort of emotional weight in our minds, so we put off dealing with them.

A great mantra for today would be "do it now." Here are some reasons why:

  1. The task, whatever it is, is consuming way more of your energy when you continually think about it than it would to actually do it. It's taking your focus away from other things that need your full attention.
  2. Some things go away when you don't do them, but some things don't. As a matter of fact, some things get bigger when you wait to take care of them. If you're not wild about it now and it's growing, just think what it's going to look like next week. Hello? Lawn mower?
  3. You might have the best conditions possible to get it done right now. Tomorrow might be busier, or you might not be feeling up to par, or the weather might not cooperate.
  4. You want the work product to be good, don't you? This product represents you to other people. So give yourself a chance to do it and review it, polish it if need be before it's due. When you wait until the last minute you don't have that opportunity.
  5. Accomplishing even one little corner of it will get you started, and once you get going it's easier to keep going. This isn't to say that you have to do the whole thing in one chunk - break it down if you need to do so. Was it Mary Poppins that said "Well begun is half done"?
  6. You'll feel better about yourself if you get on it. Meeting your own expectations for performance will give you the confidence to take it to the next higher level. OK, call it discipline if you have to, but it's self-discipline - and that puts you firmly in the driver's seat.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Teleclass now a webinar

We love teleclasses and phone-based coaching processes because they enable participants to be involved from wherever they are - at the office or comfortably camped out at home. Sometimes, though, it's beneficial to add the visual element - and now we can do so without removing the convenience.

Leading in a Diverse Workplace will be presented as a webinar Friday, October 16th from 1-2 p.m. Eastern time. It's free, but you need to register by entering your email address HERE. You'll want to be located at a computer when you participate.

Karen Young, President of HR Resolutions, will be joining us to share her expertise. We hope you'll be able to join us.