Archive for October, 2009

Every Damn Thing is Your Own Fault

When something goes wrong in your team, department, or organization (and it will), do you blame others for what might really have been your fault?  We all do at one time or another.  Unfortunately, in the heat of the battle we forget this, and worse, we forget the devastating effect misplaced blame can have on others.  The way to stop shirking  responsibility for failures is to realize that by accepting it, you maintain control over your life, your environment, and your business!

In his novel “Green Hills of Africa”, Ernest Hemingway recalls how he missed an easy shot at a prized sable bull.  He could have blamed his guide, who had surprised the animal, but he didn’t.  “Every damn thing is your own fault…if you’re any good”, says Hemingway.

To be successful, managers, coaches, or leaders, people must accept responsibility for everything.  If they don’t, they’ll always find excuses that will keep them from achieving what they want – “It’s our lousy location…”, “He’s just not motivated…”, “They don’t communicate…”, “I can’t get an answer…”, all familiar statements of blame that if really believed by a leader, will ensure little or no progress.

Example:  A store manager watches a sales person that is trying to show a customer how a product works.  The sales guy bungles the job, and loses the sale.  The unsuccessful manager blames his employee for not knowing his stuff, or for folding under pressure, or for not taking the opportunity seriously.  He chooses this option to put distance between himself and a problem, but by so doing, he gives up control of his and the store’s success.  The successful manager, on the other hand, says “I need to train him better”, thus taking not only responsibility, but control over his and the operation’s destiny.  A good leader OWNS it all!

Lead on………..    Cliff

October 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

“Will you PLEEEEEEEEZZZZ listen to me?”

“Will you PLEEEEEEEEZZZZ listen to me?”

 Have you ever heard this from someone you manage?  Probably not, but chances are, if you’re like most managers the thought has crossed the mind of someone that works (or has worked) for you.  If you’re not sure, here’s a simple test: 

Has ANYone, at ANY time, EVER said the above words to you?   Your spouse?   Other family members?  Friends?   At home?   At the club?   At a party?

If the answer is “yes”, you can be sure the words have passed through at least one of your employee’s minds.  You may think you listen to them, but do you really LISTEN?  Letting others talk is not, by itself listening; it’s a good start, but it’s not enough.  You’ve heard it said, “listening is a skill”.  This really is true!  You have to work at it, the same as you do for anything you really want to be become successful at.

Here are five keys to becoming a better listener…especially to your employees:

1)       Put away your work, or at least set it aside.  As soon as an employee comes to you to talk (not merely for a brief interruption) carefully note where you were and set your work aside.  Eliminate the temptation to dilute your focus from what is most important…the employee.

2)       Bite your tongue.  The best sign that you’re not listening is…that you’re talking.  There are other signs as well, but the worst thing you can do is to cut someone off mid-sentence or mid-thought.  It sends several messages including, “you’re wrong”; “you’re thoughts are not as valid or important as mine”; or “you’re not important”.  Make certain your employee is finished before you begin speaking.

3)       Smile and lean forward.  A [smile is] worth a thousand words.  By smiling and leaning forward you demonstrate full interest and participation in what the other person is saying.

4)       Ask questions even if you don’t have any.  You can’t ask intelligent questions if you haven’t been listening.  Questions are the best indication that you’ve been listening and that you are truly committed to resolving whatever’s being discussed.

5)       Begin your own comments by paraphrasing their comments.  As with asking questions, integrating the employee’s comments into your response demonstrates listening and shows consideration of their perspective; it also helps you frame the issue more clearly in your own mind.

Really listening truly is a skill worth learning, with a pay-off many times the investment!

Lead on………..    Cliff

October 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm 2 comments

Be the “Purple Cow”

I received an email message from a friend the other day.  Paraphrasing, it said:

“I read something In Golfdom Magazine a while back that really caught my attention.  Pat Jones, the Publisher, was commenting on the need to, and challenge of, “standing out from the crowd”.  It hit home because that’s our biggest day to day challenge in wholesale distribution.

As the publisher of a national magazine, Pat is constantly being “pitched” by marketing and public relations types trying to get editorial space in the magazine on their products and organizations.  One day he received a call from someone at Bayer Environmental Sciences (a turf chemical co.) telling him he really ought to talk to Dan Carrothers, Bayer’s V.P. of Sales about…the “Purple Cow”.  Intrigued, Pat called Mr. Carrothers.   When he answered the phone, Pat quietly said “Purple Cow”, expecting it to be some kind of code.  Dan, on the other hand, just hung up, thinking there was some kind of nut on the other end. Not one to give up easily, Pat called right back and explained why he’d said “Purple Cow”, and then Dan laughingly explained the mystery.

Dan explained it this way… “Say you’re driving down a long country road straddled by miles and miles of cow-filled pasture.  As the scenery becomes all too familiar, you just tune it out…  Then POW!!  Out of the corner of your eye you see a PURPLE COW!  It really grabs your attention…because it IS so different!

In a crowded market where everyone does pretty much the same thing, it’s critical that you do SOME things very different from all the rest…if you’re going to stand out from the herd…like a “Purple Cow”.  Bayer has challenged its salespeople to be the “Purple Cows” in their markets – to become interested consultants and customer advocates rather than the traditional order takers.   To me, this was refreshing reinforcement for the Ewing approach of “taking care of the customer”…through genuine “relationships”.  The deeper the relationships, the more they see us as partners in their business, and the more likely they will be to rely on our knowledge and expertise.  As a result, “price”, and even “product” become less of an issue, and our distinguishing features (the Purple Cow) keep us far ahead and apart from the rest of “the heard”.

Good analogy to keep in the front of our minds as we try to be the “Purple Cow” in our industries and our individual markets.

And now…, for a good “Purple Cow” experience I had this morning on the way to work…

Two or three times a week I like to grab a bagel on the way in to work.  There are three bagel places on my way, and each of them have one bagel that I like in particular.  So, where I stop is always determined by which bagel I feel like that day.  Well, today I really had a hankering for a whole wheat bagel, toasted, easy butter… so I drove past the other two bagel shops as I headed for the Bagel Nosh.  When I pulled in I was disappointed to see an unusually long line.  I almost left, but instead grabbed one of their free newspapers and got in line.  It took forever…and then when I finally got close to the counter, the guy in front of me said “I need two dozen bagels”…and THEN he wanted to hand-pick them!  I’m thinking “you’ve GOT to be kidding me!!”  Finally, it was my turn, and as I put the paper down to order, the girl at the register held out a bag.  I said, “oh, no…I haven’t ordered yet”.  She then said the most amazing thing…  “Whole wheat bagel, toasted, easy butter…right?”  I stared at her and said “what?”  She repeated it, and I just said “right…that’s amazing”.  I paid, still stunned, told them they were awesome, and left.  I then told everyone I saw about the experience…and here I am telling all of you!  Not bad publicity… 

What they did really was amazing…..yet so simple!  They just pay attention to their customers…all of them!  They watch for patterns and routines.  They empathize…putting themselves in the customer’s shoes…and then create “Purple Cows”!  Amazing…yet so simple!

It really does work!

Lead on…

Cliff 

October 11, 2009 at 9:34 pm Leave a comment

The “Easiest” Job in the World

The other day as I stood in the checkout line at an office supply store, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation behind me.  Actually, I could only hear one side of the conversation…a lady on her cell phone.  Here’s what I could make out…

“…Yah, I heard he just got out of jail…”

“…it must’ve been pretty bad…I guess he was in for seven years…”

“…that’s right, I heard he’s working there now…”

“…Yah, all the guys just coming out are working there…”

“…customer service…”

“…I heard it’s a great job…you don’t have to do anything…”

“…I know…customer service is the easiest job in the world…”

Sure (I thought to myself),…it’s easy…if you’re apathetic, heartless, selfish, have no drive…and no conscience!  It’s easy if you view your job as avoiding saying “yes I can” or “yes I will”.  It’s easy if you’re a master at superficial smiles, insincere responses, and thoughtless quips.  Yes, customer service, or serving customers, can be the easiest, and LEAST SATISFYING job in the world.

Or…it can be the hardest……and MOST SATISFYING job in the world.  It all depends on your orientation and attitude.  If you love people, and enjoy finding creative and mutually satisfactory solutions to problems, and are driven by putting smiles on people’s faces, then it just doesn’t get any better than serving customers!

Yes, customer service can be easy…or it can be hard.  Great organizations and companies prefer doing things the HARD way!

Lead on…

Cliff

October 4, 2009 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Great Advice

The following advice, given by an eleven year old girl, is a great reminder of how smart we once were before we began adding all the “baggage”.  Resist the temptation to take this message at face value and just toss it………there is immense wisdom in these simple words:

“Always smile,  be kind,  and listen.”

These words, if practiced, all but guarantee success in whatever we do, and in any role.  As we smile, practice kindness, and truly listen, we create an environment that cannot help but effect everyone, including ourselves, within its reach…..

Or………we can take ourselves too seriously, work a whole lot harder, and overly complicate all matters by forcing our influence upon others (and ourselves) in much less effective, futile, and painfully coercive means.

Lead on ……and succeed……

Cliff

October 4, 2009 at 6:45 pm Leave a comment

Be a Champion!

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…and it’s definitely tough out there!  The economy has taken its toll.  Our customers just don’t seem to have enough work, to require enough products from us, to help us meet our sales goals!  They’re just not bringing in enough business!  So what do we do?  Adopt a “there’s nothin’ I can do” attitude?  Just keep waiting to see what happens next?  Or do we sit in the corner worrying and wring our hands?  Any of these options will do…if we’re content with losing!  But, the winning spirit is the spirit of a champion, and a champion does whatever it takes to win!  A champion takes matters in to his or her own hands and creates success!  That is our task…and this is our moment!

When I think of a champion, I think of Mariel.  Mariel was born in Selma, Alabama in 1972.  She was born with a club foot, and had to wear corrective training shoes as a toddler.  But that wouldn’t stop this active sports-loving child.  Mariel spent her childhood on Air force bases around the country, moving frequently, never really having much chance to put down roots.  Despite attending two different high schools, she was able to become a star soccer player at both schools, and to become the youngest (15) member ever of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.  She would go on to win four NCAA championships at the University of North Carolina, win the World Cup championship, win a gold medal in the Olympics, and was eventually honored by Nike when they named the largest building on their corporate campus after her…the Mia Hamm Building!  Oh ya, Mariel’s nickname is Mia…you all know her as Mia Hamm!

Mia had all kinds of opportunities to succumb to her “circumstances”, but she would not have it.  Like the champion she is, she took matters into her own hands and created a destiny!  She met adversity in a positive way.  She zigged when life zagged, constantly making the necessary course corrections.  She relentlessly and fearlessly pursued victory until it was hers.  She was a champion!  In fact, she epitomized her own definition of a champion: “The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.”

It’s game time folks!  The clock is ticking, the wind is in our face, and the odds are long.  So be the champion in your business, in your market, or in your department.  Think hard, play hard, and never give up…especially when “…nobody is looking”!

Lead on…

Cliff

October 4, 2009 at 6:16 pm Leave a comment


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