Friday, January 30, 2015

Doing What You HAVE To Do

The older I get the more I understand that MOST of life is not really black and white.  Most situations are sprinkled with shades of gray.  There are nearly always two sides to every story.  You CAN be both right and wrong.

Let me explain.

We have all been victim to those situations where someone is doing everything they have to do to help us.  They are standing just on that side of the line.  They have fulfilled all of the recommended requirements, they have checked their box, and they can look at you with the indignation that says "I am right.  I did everything I had too to help you."  They did their job.  They are right.  But it feels very wrong.

Why?  Because they didn't do all the COULD do.

Have you ever had that disinterested customers service person (often with the condescending attitude) who COULD be more helpful...but is not?  They are doing all they have to do.  Ever experienced the instructor that is watching a student on the edge of success and failure just watch the student fall over the edge?  Sure they could have helped...but they didn't HAVE too.

So how do you want to live your life?  How do you want to do your job?  How do you want to be remembered? 

Are you the person that does just what they HAVE to do?  Or are you the person, that when someone looks you in the eye and asks for help, jump in and do everything you can to help?

I know what everyone will say.  But what are you DOING to prove it today?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

When To Quit

We have been trained that quitting is wrong.  And for the most part, I agree.  I have told my kids that once they start a "season" (whether sports, or dance or whatever) they must complete it.  I don't care if they start, but once they commit, they need to honor that commitment.

But not all quitting is the same.

I have walked away from several organizations in the past.  Some might call that quitting.  Maybe they are right.

On the other hand, what I have found, is that sometimes the dynamics and goals and personalities of organizations change.  So what might have been totally in alignment with my values and goals 5 years ago, might not be today.  Sometimes the personalities in the room change.  It's okay.  But when those values, personalities and cultures become inconsistent with my own, there can be unneeded friction.

Life's too short.

So I tend to look around the room and ask, "what is really important?"  What is the goal we are trying to accomplish here?  Is that what I am spending my mental energy on?

If the answer is no, it might be time to walk away.  It was for me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Want to Be Awesome?

I recently attended a conference in the promotional products industry called "SkuCon."  It was a day (scheduled before a giant trade show in Vegas) designed to educate, collaborate and inspire.  The event was organized by a software company in the promotional products industry called Commonsku.

It was a great event...but that is not what this post is about.

The night we got to the event, my wife and I were able to meet the the owners of Commonsku at dinner.  Mark and Catherine Graham are not only clearly saavy, creative entrepreneurs, but also a dynamic husband and wife we were excited to finally have this chance.

What struck me what how "important" they both made us feel.  Here we were, in a room full of their customers and friends, and both made a point of making time with us.

They made me feel awesome, so I thought they were awesome.

Consider that the next time you are with a prospect or client (or spouse, etc.).  Be "all in" on the conversation.  Don't check your phone.  Don't be looking around the room to see if there is a better conversation.  Make that person feel like the most important person in the room.

They will love you for it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Take Responsibility for EVERYTHING

“If it’s to be it’s up to me.”

Let me paint a picture.  You are meeting with someone you are trying to help “grow” (either professionally or personally).  At this get together over coffee, they start to explain why they have not completed a few of the tasks the two of you have set out for them.  You patiently listen as they tell you that “there was not enough hours in the day,” or  “they don’t have the money” or “their team won’t get on board,” or whatever. 

What do you tell them? 

If you are being honest, you look them in the eye and say, “It’s your fault.”  You won’t want to say it.  They probably won’t want to hear it.  But it's true.

The fact is, if you want to lead a more successful life, you need to take responsibility for EVERYTHING.  You need to look in the mirror and own your own decisions.  In addition, figure out what you could have done to make that current situation better.   (This is not just my internal control freak speaking).

Of course there are things in your life that you cannot control.  But what good is that kind of thinking?  Do you want things to just “happen to you?”  Welcome to the life of the victim.   If you want to take control, look at each of these situations and understand that you have an impact.

Not enough hours?  What can YOU cut out of the schedule to get you more time?  Can you get up earlier?  Stay up later?  Stop watching TV?  Whatever.  Each are choices that you are making.  Want different results?  Make different choices.

Not enough money?  What can you do on the side to make some extra bucks?  Who do you know that can loan you the money?  Invest in the business?  What can you DO to impact this?

You get the idea.  At the end of the day, own your current situation (refer to my tips on mistakes here).  

If you do, you have the ability to change your future.  If not, you don’t.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Busy versus Selling

When you are in sales, it is really easy to get hung up on "being busy."  You have to attend meetings, go to training, read, check email, monitor social media, deal with management or team members, do research and prepare.  And you do need to do those things. 

The problem is, of course, none of those things is actually "selling." And nothing happens until something gets sold.  When sales professionals audit their time, most are shocked at how little actual "selling time" they have on their calendar.

So today (yes TODAY) make sure you focus on very specific activities that get you in front of your customers.  Be intentional about having real "selling time" on your calendar. Go and "see the people."

Better results will start to show up immediately.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Don't Brag About Ignorance

Every once in a while I will get in a conversation and someone will tell me “I never read.”  They say it like it’s a badge of honor.  I totally understand that “reading” is not for everyone.  But it’s a way to improve and grow and change.  (Side note, I didn’t just say “read books.”).

If you choose to be ignorant, that is your call.  But don’t brag about it.  The people you will impress with stupidity are not the ones you want on your side.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Don't Be Busy. Be Productive.

The most over-used word in the English language today is “Busy.”  It has become a default answer and a default excuse in our culture.  As my friend Danny Rosin has said, people wear it like a badge of honor.  “I’m busy” they say as if they are bragging. 

In addition, so much of the time, it is a complaint or an excuse.  “I would love to do something meaningful, but I’m busy.” It's BS.

The goal today should have nothing to do with “busy.”  Your goal should be to be “productive.”  It’s totally different. 

Side exercise:  Try to go for one full month without using the word “busy.”  The word has become so pervasive; it’s harder than you think!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Taking It Up a Notch

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I try to post, well, regularly.  But it's time to take it up a notch...or two.

So be on the look out for more posts...and more videos.  You can follow my Youtube Channel here for the videos.  Please do. 

I am also going to put content out in different formats in different times and locations.  I post to Linkedin (like this one where I tell you why Mark Cuban is wrong).  And I also post to Medium (like this one where I talk about your Digital Legacy). 

In addition, I post articles and videos (often by others) to Twitter. 

Long story's time to turn up the Hustle.  I hope you join me on the ride!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Say It Out Loud

One thing my team hears me say a lot is “This is a ‘Say it out loud’ moment.”

This usually follows a situation that seems absurd.  I want everyone in the room to say what is happening—out loud—and see if it sounds right ringing in their ears.

It might be, “So, we made a mistake and we are charging the client to ship it back.”  Hmmm.

 Or, “So you don’t want to pay for ‘x’ but you want to keep it and use it anyway.”  Hmmm.

Often simply saying it out loud helps to clarify what is being suggested…and sometimes helps to underscore why there is hesitation. 

Try it yourself.  The next time you are not sure if you are being silly, say it out loud.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Body Language Matters

The gym was full of people.  There was an air of intensity and pride.  The air had a smell of sweat and voices and whistles rang out in a chaotic intensity.  I was at a local wrestling match featuring 21 high school teams. 

I was focused on the finals of the 120 pound division. 

Both wrestlers were quick.  Both were clearly skilled and strong.  But one thing jumped out at me.  After the first period, one of the wrestlers carried himself with a clear air of confidence and purpose.  On breaks in the action, he jumped up and hurried to the spot on the mat where the action would take place.  His face showed very little.  The other wrestler looked frustrated.  His shoulders slumped.  He “looked defeated.” 

It’s worth noting that the score was tied. 

But I knew who would win…based on their body language. 

This is not just a lesson for individual sports.  When you are going for a sales call, interview, meeting or presentation, be mindful of your body language.  Be conscious to exude confidence.  It’s amazing how others feed off of that energy. 

So head up.  Shoulders back.  Look people in the eye.  Smile.

Your body language tells others how you really feel.  Make sure it is communicating what you want them to see.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Everyone Looks Good When Things Are Great

Sports can really teach us a lot about life and business.  (Non-sports people…wait!  Don’t roll your eyes.  It’s true.) 

You learn how to work as a team.  You learn to compete in a productive way.  You learn to work with a larger group to move toward a big goal. 

But one of the most important lessons sports teaches us is about crisis. 

The fact is, when you are the best and your team is winning, it is easy to be a team player.  Most of us are willing to pass and share credit and pat each other on the back.  There is plenty of all of that to go around.  There are accolades and parties.  The world is your oyster (or Crab Legs.  Sorry...that was a cheap shot FSU fans).    It’s easy when you are winning.

But how do you react when things go sideways?  How does your team do when things get tight?  How do you, as a leader react, when things seem to spiral out of control?  Can you re-group?  Can you rise up?  Can you be calm?  Or do you implode?

It’s not just a cute metaphor.  The fact is, there are going to be times in your business, sales or even parenthood, where things will not go according to plan.  As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

How will you and your team react when you get punched in the mouth?  Everyone is good when they are winning.   But great teams can shake it off…and calmly…get back off the mat.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How Do You Treat the Waitress?

This story starts with me being out to dinner with a colleague.  Everything was going swimmingly until the waitress came out.  As she took our drink order (the very beginning of dinner), he was rude.  

Maybe I was being overly sensitive, I thought, so I let it go.  But when she came back to take our order for dinner, he did it again.  I can’t really even remember what he did.  But it’s just like your mom said, “It’s not what you say but HOW you say it.” 

When she walked away, I asked him, “What was that?”  He didn’t even know he was doing it.  And maybe that’s the problem.  He was being rude because she didn't matter.

Everyone is nice to his or her boss (they have to be).  Most people are nice to their peers.  But if you REALLY want to know the integrity of a person, watch how they treat people they don’t HAVE to be nice too.

If you are a jerk to the waitress, you are probably a jerk.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

3 Tips For Making Mistakes

Here’s a dirty little secret that you might not want to are going to screw up.  We all are.  Whether it’s in friendships, relationships, business, school, or life…we all get off the tracks sometimes. 

Sometimes we know it’s a mistake heading in.  We know we are making a mistake (or have a pretty good idea) and make it anyway.  But every once in a while, we do something with the very best of intentions and it turns out to be a mistake too.  I think those are the most painful.  We find ourselves at the end of that road saying “Hey!  I was just trying to help.  Look at what happened.” 

Either way, it was a mistake.  So what happens now?  If you want to get over it (and you do), here are three quick steps to moving on.

1)   Own it:  This is the hardest step for most people.  Because if you want to do it right, you REALLY have to own it.  You can’t say “I am sorry that THEY screwed up.”  It can’t be someone else’s fault.  If it’s someone else’s fault, you can’t truly be sure you won’t do it again.  You have to take full responsibility for it.   You have to OWN it.  Here is where you apologize (sincerely) if anyone else was affected.  That’s a BIG part of owning it.  Hard, yes.  Important, yes.  

2)   Learn From it:  Once you really own it, you can look at how you can avoid that same mistake in the future.  But it has to be your mistake to learn.  You have to exercise the control in order to keep from doing it again.

3)   Move On:  You made a mistake.  You owned it.  You learned from it.  But keep in mind, all of those statements were in past tense.  You can’t turn back time.  Now you need to take a step forward…and move on.

Do these three things every time you make a mistake (yes it will happen more than once) and you will be surprised how fast you get better. 

Remember, life’s a journey.  This was just one speed bump on the road.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Lessons from Heartbreak Ridge

In 1986, Clint Eastwood starred in, produced and directed a war movie called “Heartbreak Ridge.”  In it, Eastwood stars as an aging Gunnery Sargent Tom Highway, who goes back to his old unit to lead them.  There he takes over a rag-tag group of losers and is forced to “break” them and then build them up into a real fighting platoon. 

I loved that movie growing up.  It’s Eastwood at his gruff and meanest.  But it occurs to me that there are some real lessons we can take from the film and apply to business today. 

1.     Every Group Can Improve:  As I mentioned, Gunny Highway takes over the “Recon” platoon in disarray.  They are lazy, unorganized and uninspired.  But with Highway at the helm, they slowly start to gel as a group.  No matter where you are starting (as an individual or as a team) you can improve.  

2.     You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks:  When he returns to his old unit, Highway also comes back to find his ex-wife.  You come to know that he still loves her and knows that he messed things up.  In order to improve and understand women better, he reads Cosmo magazines through out the film.  It’s funny, but it reminds us that everyone can grow and learn…if we want too!

3.     Working Hard is the Key:  In order to mold the “recon” group into a fighting unit, Highway has the group up and running early every morning.  He works them long and hard each day.  They run drills.  They learn to fight.  The same is true for your team.  Want to get better?  There is no magic pill.  The best way to do it is to work hard.

4.     Improvise, Adapt, Overcome:  One of the key statements Highway parrots throughout the movie is that his team needs to “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.”  The fact is, no matter how hard you train and prepare, things will sometimes go sideways.  In those situations, you need to have the wherewithal to (intelligently) change.  You need to look at the challenge ahead and Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.

So the next time you are flipping through the channels and see Heartbreak Ridge on cable, stop and take a watch.  It’s a fun movie and you might just learn something!