Friday, February 26, 2010

Getting your mind out of the way of attraction


Sweet attraction
Originally uploaded by cattycamehome

The concept of the Law of Attraction sounds great, doesn't it? (For those skeptics among us, perhaps this post will explain why you're feeling skeptical.)  Attraction says you focus your mind on something and all of a sudden - poof! There it is in front of you, the very thing you have been wishing for. But it isn't that simple. You and your habits of thought might be the biggest thing standing between you and that whatever you've been trying to bring into your life.

Here's the deal: sometimes the thing you're trying to attract is a little hard for you to believe. It would be nice, but you don't have complete faith that it will happen. Perhaps you're unsure that you can really return to a size 6 dress or a 34 waist. You might be doubting that the good-looking, interesting partner that you want to attract wiIl be attracted to you. So instead of keeping your eye on the thing you want your focus turns to your current lack of it, or you're thinking, "I don't know if it's realistic to expect..."

You might not be allowing that which you want to come to you because the word "because" is interfering. "I can't return to a size 6 because overweight runs in my family," or "I can't get my Ph.D. because I'm too old."  The usual go-to tool for we coaches is positive self-talk to help clients get past their doubts, but in the case of attraction the belief factor is so important that we need to add some extra bells and whistles. The typical affirmation incorporates four criteria:

  • First person singular "I"
  • Present tense (as though you have it or are doing it consistently already)
  • Within your ability to believe
  • Related to your goals
That third bullet can be an elusive little stinker. Michael Losier, author of Law of Attraction: The Science of Attracting More of What You Want and Less of What You Don't recommends that when you're attracting you might want to tweak your affirmation by adding words that make it more believable for you:
  • I am in the process of ... ("I am in the process of attracting my ideal mate"), or 
  • I have decided...("I have decided that I'm going for my Ph.D.")
If you even need more convincing so you can build your belief, gather some evidence. Has someone else achieved what you want to achieve? Have retirees built successful businesses before? Have singles met their ideal mates after age 40? Have other people already done what you want to do, or received what you want to receive?  If you see that others have done it, you will have an easier time being convinced that the thing you want to attract isn't completely out of the realm of possibility for you.

Last, start noticing signs that attraction is at work. Perhaps you'll have a "chance encounter" with a business owner who just happens to be in the industry in which you want to attract a new job. A quarter you find on the sidewalk might be a sign of more money working its way toward you.  It's possible that the clues are around you already, but that you haven't been focused enough on whatever it is that you want to notice them and make the association.

The thing you want to attract probably won't drop on your head in one fell swoop. It might reveal itself in opportunities that you need to take advantage of, or in people that you need to take the initiative to get to know. But keep your eyes open, because it's out there.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Want to avoid wasting money while improving your company?

For some business owners over the past eighteen months, no decision has been their decision about trying to move their business forward.  From what these owners have expressed to us, the reasons are various:
  • There simply isn't cash to do it, even if we had a compelling idea
  • We're waiting to see what the market does so we can respond effectively
  • We downsized to reduce our costs, and the remaining staff is working as fast as they can, with no time to do anything but the essentials
  • I'm so depressed at the reversals we've experienced that I can't summon the energy for a project
  • I've wasted time, energy and money before on an initiative that didn't work, and I can't afford to risk flushing those resources again
  • I'm not sure where I should start, so I'm not doing anything right now
There is no one perfect answer to these concerns.  In addition, there is no perfect sequence of iniatives that suits every company situation.  You are where you are, and your next best move takes your current position into consideration.  Here are the overall ingredients that go into the improvement soup:
  1. A formalized plan that includes your long-term vision for the company, shorter term mission (what you want to accomplish during the planning period toward the vision), critical goal categories that will ensure that you reach your mission, and specific, measurable, achievable business goals that guide the daily behavior of your employees.
  2. People development so you can create the mindset, increase the skills, and focus the actions of your staff.  Ideally this is started at the top (they make or break your working climate) and goes all the way through your company in various forms.
  3. Process improvement so you are operating effectively and efficiently to create products and services that attract and retain loyal, repeat customers while earning a reasonable profit.  Some improvements might be incremental, where you look at specific sites of variation and correct them.  Other improvements might reveal their best forms when you reinvent the entire process by which you engage in the work.  Yes, I'm talking Six Sigma (variation) and Lean (process redesign.)
If you want to take a first step now, even before knowing which initiative is the best place for your company to begin, our book, Changing Results by Changing Behavior, gives you the information that you need to know to make a successful transformation in your company.  Find it at Amazon.com by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Leaving money on the table


Cashy Money, how it falls
Originally uploaded by Graham Binns

I'm a fan of figures of speech, some would say an addict (my book editor for one.)  Metaphors can be extremely descriptive, though.  They can get the point across with few words.  Here are two bumped together that describe what happens in business all the time:  "They went after only the low-hanging fruit, so they walked away leaving money on the table."

The Double-Tongued Dictionary, which defines slang, jargon, etc., defines the concept of money on the table this way:

to refrain from taking the utmost advantage of something; to not address every aspect of a situation; in the form leave money on the table, to negotiate a deal that is less financially beneficial than is expected or possible

Low-hanging fruit are those benefits that are easy to reach.  Taking time to overcome the easy obstacles or achieve the easy win is not necessarily a bad thing.  Especially early in a person's development, the low-hanging fruit can provide the positive track record that creates the impetus for more action.  The problem in sales is that anyone and everyone is looking to bump into those low branches.  The wins are smaller and the competition is greater.

In process improvement, money is often left on the table because the obvious problem step in the process is the low-hanging fruit.  OK all of you Six Sigma black belts out there, I'm all for reducing variation in that part of the process, but sometimes you don't experience the entire benefit available to you unless you take a look at the whole thing, throw all of the desks up into the air and reinvent the process from beginning to end. 

Is the sweetest fruit at the top of the tree?  I don't know - it might be fun to investigate.  But I do know that if I use a ladder (a comprehensive process) to reach a larger portion of that fruit and not just the few pieces that bump me in the forehead while standing on the ground, my client and I will both enjoy a more satisfying meal.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Considerations for giving (and receiving) feedback

Intuitively we all know that it's good to get feedback from other people.  In communication the feedback process helps us and the receivers of our message ensure that the intended information was, indeed, the information that got through.  We ask for feedback on projects and presentations, partly because we thrive on the affirmation that comes from being told we did a good job, and partly because we need the feedback in order to get better.

When we're asking for feedback, it's beneficial to pause for a moment and consider these:
  • Do we truly want feedback (the strengths and the weaknesses,) or do we just want affirmation?
  • Can we commit to hearing the feedback without becoming defensive, self-justifying and/or argumentative?
  • Are we open to changing something if the feedback tells us that it didn't go as well as we wanted?
Sometimes, of course, because of our respective roles in companies, families or organizations, we're going to get feedback.  It's part of the expected process.  Our boss shares responsibility for our work output, and our parents share responsibility for our learning how to brush our teeth properly in the morning.  They let us know how we're doing so we can be trained to do better.  But when we iniate it - when we ask for feedback from peers, colleagues, friends, etc. where the roles aren't so clearly and formally defined - the interaction has additional potential to create relationship obstacles if we don't handle our end of it correctly.

When we're giving feedback, we need to consider these points:
  • Have we been asked to provide it, and/or have we accumulated the relationship capital to do so?
  • Are we providing specific descriptive information so the other person understands what we mean?
  • Are we focusing on the work product or on the general character of the person?  (We need to stay focused on the work product.)
  • Do we understand that the other person ultimately has the choice of whether or not he will take action in aligment with our recommendations?
We have such potential to learn, and to help others learn, when we can give and receive feedback effectively.  Ultimately, the benefit of feedback is tied to the relationship between the giver and the receiver.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Balancing creativity with consistency

This topic has personal and professional application, so bear with me for a second. 

First, for the personal example:  when choosing names for our children, we used several criteria:
  • Did we like the sound of it, especially when combined with our last name
  • Did the name have some other significance, such as honoring a family member or leader in the public sphere
  • Were there meanings attached to the name that we could live with (and could our children make it through school without name-based heckling)
  • Did the name communicate the sort of adult we'd wish for our children to be
  • Could we avoid creating initials that spelled "funny" words
But there was another rule we used when we found something that met all of the other criteria - the name needed to be able to be pronounced and spelled fairly easily and accurately by our child and others.  Some other parents enjoyed the individuality of Sharmayne instead of Charmaine, or a completely new, invented name that nobody recognized.  That wasn't for us.

Now for the business examples -

In the corporate setting where I sprouted my management wings there was a mandated style sheet for our company logo.  It could only be presented in black, gold or a specific Pantone blue.  Only one font was allowable for copy that accompanied any presentation of the logo.  The company was conservative and wanted a consistent, reliable message, and that meant nobody messed around with the corporate image.

On the flip side of that situation, back in earlier days, how many different ways did we see the Mtv logo represented?  I checked it out here and found more than 3 million versions!  The big block M and the scrawled TV stayed consistent in shape, but after that it was anything goes.  The handling of the logo represented the variety and freewheeling creativity that Mtv was selling.

When a company invests thousands of dollars to obtain a unique and meaningful visual representation in the form of an image or logo, then dagnabbit, they want it to be used.  It's the brand.  What's important to you in your company's (or your personal) message?  Are you the only one who uses the logo or image?  If other people are involved, to what extent do you want them to stretch their creative muscles to adapt or invent whatever their idea of the image is? 

This is something you want to know before you open the door to their creativity - you want to know the degree of consistency that's important to you and to your customers in the representation of your brand.  Then you communicate your expectation and protect it.  It may be one of the most important assets your company owns.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Are you driven by possibility - or by fear?


Fear of the Dark
Originally uploaded by stuant63

Some people go through life seeing opportunities everywhere.  They receive a motivational lift from their pursuit of the next new thing.  They find an idea, set a goal, and off they go.  The downside of being attracted to so many things is that they can be scattered in their energies, not devoting enough time and focus and persistence to achieve all of their goals.  The point is that it's the attraction that's driving them.  The pull of possibility will help them arrive early at a networking function, or even to go on a blind date.

Others are motivated primarily by fear.  They aren't looking forward but instead are looking back over their shoulders to make sure that whatever they see as a threat isn't getting any closer.  Their focus is avoidance - avoidance of embarrassment, avoidance of risk, etc.  Goals don't pull them - immediate threats or longer term consequences push them.

You're motivated by whatever motivates you - the key is in knowing what it is and then with that awareness use it to your advantage.  If you know you need to be running away from something in order to take the first step, give some detailed thought to the downside implications of not taking action.  If you get energy from the next attraction, give yourself time to explore the possibilities in your head in advance and you'll have no problem getting your hands and feet to move in that direction.

If you're not sure which is more motivating to you - possibility or fear of consequences - ask yourself  questions like these:
  1. Do I tend to arrive early, or am I perpetually late because I leave at the last possible minute? 
  2. Is my focus generally on the upside, or do I worry a lot?
  3. Am I constantly flitting to the next new thing?
  4. Do I work more effectively under a crushing deadline?
When you're the leader you are most effective when you are taking both of these motivations in mind, and manage the way in which you communicate to your various team members.  For the possibility motivated, frame tasks in light of the grand vision or innovation they are helping the company build.  Fear motivated individuals respond better when you show the relationship between the task and the avoidance of current or future threats.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Deconstructing the web of process and system


screen-0536
Originally uploaded by zero-g

In many companies the transition from people and performance thinking to process thinking is not an easy one.  There is a lingering concern that things will only get better when the people get better.  I'll not dispute the benefits of personal and professional development, but nobody goes to work thinking, "How can I mess things up royally today?"  In many instances good, diligent people are being held hostage by ineffective processes.

In addition, the impact of just one ineffecient, ineffective process is intensified in that the process connects to other processes to create the company's operational systems.  Deconstructing the web of processes to make real improvements sometimes appears so daunting that, instead of fixing the offending process, employees live with it and develop work-arounds.  What they need to do instead to get their arms around the problem is to deconstruct it - take it apart - to see the opportunities for improvement.  They need to avoid rushing to judgment about the whole thing until they look at it up close.

We had a recent experience where a client company wanted to fix a business process that was consuming way too many hours and was extremely frustrating for the designated persons to complete.  We embarked on the usual first step in analysis, which was to create a block process diagram.  The group got all tied up and frustrated because the process appeared to have so many inputs and variables that they couldn't possibly represent it in a simple diagram.

What the group ultimately discovered was that they didn't have a process - they actually had three interconnected, interdependent processes to deal with in this instance (a system.)  One process was a feeder for the next, and that process was the foundation for the problem child process that they had identified.  Now that the group has greater clarity in its understanding after diagramming and taking the identified system apart into its component processes, the redesign team has something manageable to improve.  They will look at the first process first and use the improvements in it to create a better feeder for the next process.

When a group is embarking on a new environment of process focus it's so tempting to take on projects with the complexity of "world peace."  The desire to overhaul is so strong that an inattentive steering committee can inadvertently set up a group to fail because the bite is too big.  They will be more successful and gain more rapid positive momentum if instead they start with "peaceful dinner conversations at home" or some such key contributing process that is a subset of the whole system.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life beyond goal achievement

A friend of mine has gone throught some very tough times in her personal life over the past six months or so.  She has always been an enthusiastic and focused goal achiever.  When asked the question, "How's business?" she'd be able to tell the inquirer exactly what percent her revenues were up over last year.  She'd then be excited to share the new methods she was using to achieve her improved results.  It was a continual climb up the ladder of success for her.

Now six months later when asked the same question, "How's business?" she responds "It doesn't matter."  WHAT?  What does this answer mean?  Are things really terrible and she just doesn't want to talk about it?  This is really uncharacteristic of her.

I found out that she has changed her focus from vertical personal development (striving and goal achievement) to lateral personal development (expanding her awareness.)  Her prior focus on goal achievement, on vertical personal development with its milestones and victories, its orientation toward the future, was causing her not to notice the things that were happening here and now.  She missed opportunities that weren't planned, and she didn't get the level of enjoyment that she wanted to get out of just being present.  She became a human doing rather than a human being.

Her orientation now is to see and absorb what's around her.  She is taking some paths that are more circuitous sometimes, but it's not the end that's important to her anymore.  It's the journey that interests her.  She says that she is open to opportunities that appear - she hasn't stopped desiring growth, only shifted her focus toward broadening her experience.

For my friend this might be a swing of the pendulum.  She might return to a more vertically oriented, goal focused life.  But now that she has realized the growth potential to be found beyond striving and achieving predetermined goals she's unlikely ever to be that unaware again.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Choosing to do it now


Do you have a dreaded task that's staring at the side of your head right now as you're reading this? Have you been putting it off? How long do you think you can sit there, pretending you're too busy with other tasks or more interesting pastimes to get to it? It will continue to burn a little hole in the side of your head (and perhaps in your stomach) until you face it and do it.

So what's been holding you back? Is it not fun? Does it require that you use skills that you don't like to use, or that you don't think you have? Will it reveal a shortfall of knowledge, of completed homework, of cash? Is there somebody who will be upset if you do it? Do you think it's bigger or more powerful than you are?

How long do you want to let this thing run your life? It is running your life, you know, as it cycles through your short term memory loop: "Don't forget that you have to do X," it prompts. Right in the middle of a moment of concentration, or just when you're trying to escape - there it is again.

Let's assume for a moment that whatever your "thing" is, it's important enough that you need to get past this hesitation, this procrastination. What would happen if you would choose to stop whatever else you're doing and get it done? At least divide it into manageable chunks and do a piece of it. Or perhaps delegate it. What would happen?

There's only one way to find out, you know. Test and measure. Check it off of your list. Take the first step, even if there are a thousand more to take beyond the first one. It won't have the power to stare at the side of your head any more. You'll be the one in charge again, and you'll feel better for it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Getting what you asked for


What a beautiful sight out the window this morning in Pennsylvania! The sun is sparkling on almost four feet of accumulated snow from the past few days, birds of every color are at the feeder, and the air is crisp and calm. Kids home from school aren't peeking even one eye open yet, and the dogs have been fed and walked. Ahhh, the quiet - except for the sound of one or two early snow-blowers in the neighborhood.

I've been looking forward to one of those stop-everything storms where you have to stay home, you see your neighbors, and the normal routine of life gets shaken up a bit. The kids have been wishing for one of those bonus days off from school - found time for playing, lounging, and indulging in special treats. It has been years since we have had any decent snowfall to speak of, and I couldn't help but think that my girls have been cheated of one of the simple pleasures of my youth - the snow day.
I have to say, though, that by the end of the day yesterday, after the third day of shoveling (today will be the fourth) a little corner of my brain said "Enough already!" It's much easier when you don't have to shovel a path for the dog who can't navigate the snow in the yard. It's a bit less stressful when family members aren't shoulder to shoulder in the house 24/7. And the laundry! I won't even talk about the quantity of snow pants, gloves, fleeces, socks, hats, and other accoutrements have gone through the washer and dryer as a result.
But what about the beauty of the snow? I asked for it, wished for it in idle daydreams. And although I'm not convinced that my asking sent the snow my way - I've been told that El Nino played a role - I'm going to enjoy it. The reality of it isn't the same as the fantasy of it. The slushy mess of it isn't as appealing as the Christmas card image of it. But it's here, and we're going to remember it in its drama and uniqueness - and I'm going to do what I can do to help others' memory of this snow be as captivating as my own of storms past.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cleaning the closets of your life

Are you saying, "Enough winter already!"? Socked in for yet another snow event? Instead of vegging out in front of the tube, how about investing some time to create an opening for new things to come into your life? Nature abhors a vacuum; unfortunately, many of us are brimming over with stuff - too many clothes we don't wear, too many files we'll never refer to, too much clutter in our workspace, too many activities in our schedule. If you remove something, something else will enter to fill the void.

In her book titled Coach Yourself to Success, Talane Miedaner talks about making space for what you want. "If you want a new relationship, you may need to let go of an old one first. If you want a new client, it may be time to clean out your files at work. If you'd like some new clothes, go clean out that closet."

Miedaner goes on to say that it doesn't really matter what you get rid of. "Matter at its essence is simply energy so anything you throw out will give you more space. You can clean out the garage and get a new business client."

If too many activities are creating stress for you think seriously about which ones are creating value and which ones are simply habits. Stop doing the ones that have lost their meaning for you, and simplify your life. Say no when you want to say no - after all, saying no is better than saying yes with your words then saying no by your actions and not following through in a way that you can be proud of.

If some of your relationships are no longer providing the mutual support and benefit you seek, consider whether you need to let go of them, and move on to ones more consistent with the person you are now and the person you want to become.

If the strain of finances is creating negative energy in your life, consider what you can let go. Do you really need cable TV? Are you really using the health club membership that you're paying for every month?

Are there chores that you are not skilled at doing, or that you would prefer not spending your time on? Delegate them. Invest in a cleaning service, or a handyman, or a lawn mowing service.

How much is "stuff" weighing you down? Make room for the things you want by recycling old magazines and donating clothing. Throw out those files you've been keeping for the someday that hasn't come in the past ten years.

When your life and your heart are light you can attract more of what you want. Spring may still be five weeks away, but there's no time like the present to get started.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sometimes you just have to jump into the pool


Here I go...
Originally uploaded by Carplips


So you have set a goal. You have committed yourself to achieve it. Feeling a bit nervous? Worried that you're going to meet up with some obstacles you can't overcome, or that you might embarrass yourself in front of people you want to impress?

Sometimes you just have to jump into the pool. It might smack you on the tummy the first couple of times, but you won't cool off until you make that leap.

Sure, preparation can be important. You can manage your risk by identifying known and potential obstacles and then figure out solutions. You can gather information, watch other people to get a success model in your head. But sooner or later you have to jump in.

Maybe your parents told you, "What's worth doing is worth doing right." Yes, but sometimes what's worth doing is worth doing wrong until you get it right. Experience will teach you volumes more than reading and watching will.

And as for the old ego, well - maybe some minor glitches the first time out (or the second, or...) will be evidence that you're human after all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Is your obstacle a brick wall or a mud puddle?


Almost no goal worth its salt is achieved without meeting some obstacles in the way. The most highly valued goals (value determined by the goal-setter) will be achieved despite a dozen or more identified obstacles. And yet others whose implications are less clearly defined get abandoned at the first bump in the road.

The motivation of the goal-setter is evidently a factor. But there is a method for sizing up obstacles to help you determine whether the goal has good, bad, or moderate odds for being accomplished. For each identified obstacle, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this within my sphere of control? (Can I overcome it without anyone else's help?)
  2. Is this within my sphere of influence? (If I have the right person or persons on my team, can we resolve it?)
  3. Is it outside both my control and my influence? (If so, is it a big factor in whether or not I achieve my goal? Is it likely to happen?)

If your goal is predominantly within your sphere of control, then the obstacle is only a small mud puddle. Step over it by developing several potential solutions, and then select the best one or ones and write specific action steps around them. Document the action steps in your PDA or planner to make sure you don't lose them in the crush of the daily "To Dos."

If your goal relies on other people to help you get it done, evaluate your risk by assessing how likely it is that the needed partners are going to be equally motivated to achieve your goal. Recruiting and negotiating with goal partners might be the most involved part of the goal plan for you. You'll need to communicate effectively with all parties who have a key role in the outcome. And if you want to lay the groundwork for future collaboration, you want to make sure to recognize their contributions to the achievement when you've reached your target.

Your goal might contain some obstacles that you can neither control nor influence. These might be complete brick walls, or they might be possibilites remote enough that you'll take your shot anyway. If they are present right now (not contingencies) and they show no signs of going away, you might be better off devoting your energy to goals that have a better chance of a win.

You notice that I say you MIGHT be better off with goals you can achieve instead of battering against brick walls. There are some goals, some visions that are big enough that they require you to find a way to broaden your sphere of influence. So you might find yourself setting a companion goal specifically to take actions that will chip away at the brick wall. Only you can determine how many and how big the obstacles can be and yet not deter you from taking action.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Crisis prevention or crisis management?


Grocery Line
Originally uploaded by skew-t


Today's news and my Facebook wall are filled with stories and comments about people trekking to the grocery store for things like bread and milk, cat litter and toilet paper - even beer and peanuts - to get ready for the predicted foot and a half of snow arriving later today. Some are in good spirits, looking forward to the opportunity for something novel and the chance to be a slug for the weekend. Others (with work commitments or a lot of stocking up to do) are a bit stressed out.

Realistically speaking, in our neck of the woods it's rare for a snowstorm to keep people socked in for more than a day. Snowplows come and life resumes its usual rhythm.

Snowstorms aren't that different from other crises that come along. Some people routinely keep enough dog food in the house (or money in the bank) that a small disruption or even a large one isn't going to cause them to have to scramble. Others choose to (granted, sometimes have to) live a little closer to the edge. That means that when one thing goes wrong they can be sent into a tailspin.

Unpreventable and unforseeable circumstances can send almost anyone into crisis management mode. But a lot of crises are preventable with planning and forethought.

You'd probably acknowledge that there are some people who seem to thrive on the adrenaline rush that comes from fighting fires - figuratively speaking. I'll bet that you know some people who appear even to create emergencies for themselves so that they can handle them. Crisis mode is an intense way to live, but over time protracted stress can take its toll. In addition, the inadvertent mishandling of a crisis can create unintended consequences that last a long time.

Are preventable crises creating extra stress for you? Is it possible that you are receiving some internal reward or satisfaction from handling them? How would your life be different if you didn't have to fight traffic and stand in a long checkout line every time a storm hit? It's worth considering.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Letting go of the reins


How can you discover the true quality of a person or a team that you lead? In my experience, one of the best ways is to let go of the reins. Give them the opportunity to show you what they can do.

When a company is moving its mode of operation from a senior-management focused decision process to an employee involvement model, one of the biggest challenges is for managers to let go. They say they want to involve employees in making decisions that impact the work they do, and they are being genuine when they say it, but when push comes to shove it's difficult for them to bite their tongues and let the people really do the work without intervention or direction.

Certain groundwork has to be laid before a manager lets go. There has to be training on the fundamentals so employees have a sound foundation upon which to base their decision making. It also makes a huge beneficial difference when employees are indoctrinated with a process to help them get from point A to point B in decision making and implementation of projects. This kind of preparation helps to lessen the risks associated with using someone other than The Old Salt to get work done.

Even with employee training and effective process, sometimes it gets down to a personal level with senior managers. All their own training and experience - and now they have to stand by and give someone the chance to mess up. Some managers fight feelings of irrelevance when they're not in the thick of it. And sometimes it's just a matter of wanting that authority and control.

But what serves the company more? To concentrate all the knowhow and decision making juice at the top of the house or to leverage the brainpower of the entire organization? In a company of 100 where everyone has an average IQ of 100, that's the difference between applying 100 and 10,000 points of mental capacity to a given situation. In that light it could be considered downright irresponsible to hold the reins too tightly.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Even if you're not in sales - you're in sales


"I'd hate to sell." "I'm so glad to be out of sales." "How do people have the guts to be in sales?" "This work would be great if it weren't for the sales part of the job." I've heard these comments countless times over the years, and I can respond simply to all of them: Everybody is in sales.

Think about it for a minute. What is it that a salesperson does? The role (done well) has to do with helping prospective customers fulfill their needs. A sales transaction results in a fair exchange - my product for your money, a couple of chickens, or whatever the agreed arrangement is.

You might be representing someone else's product or service, or you might be representing your own. Regardless of who owns it before the sale, consider this: helping someone accept an idea is sales. Presenting a work proposal is sales. Convincing your parents that you really need the latest version of the iPhone is sales.

Whatever the venue and whatever the product, your goal is to help the other person see the benefit in "buying" your product, your service, or your idea and then exchanging something for it. The benefit to you might not be in the form of cash for the non-sales sales transactions - instead it might be in the form of recognition or influence, or in some other result that you're seeking.

Regardless of whether you're doing sales in the traditional sense or in this broader sense, you have similar factors to consider in order to be effective:

  • You have to know your audience, their wants and needs.
  • If you don't know their wants and needs already and you want to increase the likelihood that your "Product" will be accepted, you need to find out and figure out how your product meets them.
  • Your track record and overall credibility is the first thing they will "buy" - or not. The perceived value of your product will be tied to their impression of you.
  • Any attempts at pressure on your part (or perceived pressure as the prospect observes you) will increase their resistance. Untrammeled enthusiasm on your part can be experienced as pressure by the prospect.
  • Their acceptance of your product or idea is a combination of logical and emotional processes. Ignore one of these motivators at your own risk.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Consciousness raising or behavior changing


Consciousness raising
Originally uploaded by tourniquet84


Years ago as a teen I saw a movie titled "The Cross and the Switchblade" with my church youth group. It was a moving tale of redemption through Christianity, and at the time I was so affected that I cried and cried. I had already joined my church, but to some degree was only going through the motions (I was only a young teen, after all.) That movie hit me in the pit of the stomach and I still have a memory of it today.

Did that movie change the way in which I behave? It certainly was an impact event, and I suppose for a while I walked a slightly straighter path (I was already walking one that was pretty darned straight,) but I was not permanently changed by the movie's message. I still did the questioning and acting out that teens, young adults, and older adults do.

It's interesting how when companies or individuals try to enact change they do so by giving a strong message and then the equivalent of , "go forth and sin no more." While consciousness raising through impact learning can be important, it's not reliable for behavior change.

  • To some degree impact learning is like a bucket of water that you pour over someone. At the time they could be a sponge or a stone, and if they're a stone the water will roll right off. Even if they're a sponge, they'll dry up unless you keep pouring water from time to time.
  • Impact learning requires the conditions to be just so: no distraction from the room setup or temperature, no fatigue or preoccupation on the part of the viewers, and a presenter that truly connects with the audience, among other things. Otherwise the impact won't be significant enough to be memorable.

Adults need to understand the relevance of information to them, and they want to know how to apply it. They are critical thinkers who are conditioned to think negatively about change at first, and they have to figure out how to assimilate it for themselves, where they sit.

Too much information at one time blows people's hair back. If they learn 50 new things on one particular day, it's long been accepted that they will only retain one idea beyond 2 weeks after the event.

For effective learning, spaced repetition is much more reliable for retention and application. If you want to remember how to be a Christian (or whatever faith you practice,) you're much more likely to do so effectively if you are regularly engaged in study of some sort, and in taking intentional action to see how you manifest it in your life.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Question for my readers re: training methodology

I'm curious, readers - what methods are you using (or have you participated in) for developing staff?
  • Team sessions with trainer leader who serves as presenter?
  • Team sessions, facilitator driven with lots of participant interaction and input?
  • Individual coaching in person?
  • Individual coaching on phone?
  • Online self-study?
  • Webinar presentations?
  • Individual reading programs?
  • Targeted learning topics as part of standing meeting agendas?
  • Audio?
  • DVDs?
  • Other?

I'd like to know what you're using and why, and I'd also like to know how well it's working. Are you seeing improvements in behavior as a result? Is it lasting? And is it impacting your bottom-line results in a positive way?

There's a difference between training and development. Training is when you increase a person's inventory of skills and knowledge, whereas development is when you increase a person's USE of skills and knowledge. We won't split hairs here about whether what you're doing now is training or development or both. So readers - what are you seeing out there?