Growing Through Adversity

Positive growth can happen even under the toughest of conditions. Perseverance, determination, and the ability to adapt are what’s needed to push through the challenges and capture the growth that’s yours. New skills, new perspectives, new ideas.

As I walked around our property today I saw this beautiful petunia growing in-between some pavers. Oddly this is not a flower we have planted anywhere on our property, yet here it is. With temperatures in the high 90’s this past week, and no rain or water, seeing this thing of beauty grow in the most difficult conditions made me realize how possible growth is in any environment.

It reminds me of the line in Jurassic Park – “Life will find a way.” You really can do anything you set your mind to.

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12 Things Great Leaders Do Daily

McChrystal

By definition a leader is a person who leads or commands a group – at least that’s what Professor Google says.  My definition is a bit different.  Who wants to be commanded?  Sure there are times, situations, and circumstances when being in command is required.  Directing, ordering, and controlling are verbs that often come to mind when we think of leaders.

Just about anyone can be taught to do these things.  Just about anyone can dish orders, direct others, and attempt to control.  Many “leaders” regardless of training can do this for some period of time before being discovered as ineffective.  Great leaders however, take a different approach.  These leaders must do all the directing, ordering, and controlling as previously mentioned but it’s how they accomplish these things that set them apart.

Great leaders are great because they:

  1. Understand how to empathize
  2. Effectively communicate their vision
  3. Ask great questions, deep questions that provide insight
  4. Act in their own authentic way, not trying to be someone else
  5. Adopt a beginners attitude
  6. Surround themselves with people smarter than they are
  7. Spend time on self-reflection, how they operate and the result produced
  8. Network and connect with others to learn
  9. Ask for, and accept help when needed
  10. Lean on mentor(s) for coaching and perspective
  11. Roll up their sleeves, never asking others to do something they haven’t or wouldn’t do themselves
  12. Inspire others through their words, actions, and behaviors

So start today with some self-reflection.  What are you doing?  What do you spend most of your time on?  How do you interact with those around you?  What’s the reaction of others when you walk in a room, speak during a meeting, engage with others in a break-room?  Consider this list and strive to embrace each one in a genuine way and you’ll find your results improve in a timely manner.

Why Your Role as Sales Leader Isn’t to Motivate

MOTIVATION word cloud, business concept

Many people think “cheerleader” when they envision an effective sales leader.  Someone who gets the team fired up, screams and shouts, and sets everyone on a rah-rah march into the field to meet prospects.

The sales leader is expected to be a high-powered extrovert, charismatic, outspoken, aggressive, and perhaps even a bit shocking.  We have all worked for sales leaders that possess these characteristics and shall I dare say, some other, more wild ones to say the least.

Early in my career I worked for such a sales leader.  He’d stand on a chair or a table during sales meetings screaming at the top of his lungs, face beet red.  The hair on the back of your neck would stand on end.  You were pumped.  There was nothing you couldn’t do.  But when he finished his super-charged motivational speech, the result felt more like a tirade than an inspiration.  There’s an enormous distance between rallying a group with fear versus inspiration.

So what is the sales leaders responsibility as it relates to motivating a sales team?

Are you ready for the answer?  None.  You have no responsibility to motivate your team.  Each sales person on your team is responsible for motivating him, or herself.  So what is your job as the sales leader?  Provide vision and inspiration.

People want to follow a leader who demonstrates the confidence that he knows where he’s going, how he’s going to get there, and why getting there is so important and beneficial.  I’ve built a number of sales teams over the years.  I have worked hard to be an inspiration – doing this provides your team members with the “why” should they do what you’re asking them to do.  Inspiration transcends motivation.  You can motivate for an hour or a day but motivation is time constrained.  It lasts only as long as the instigator – you – are on duty.  But to inspire, creates a fire, that burns deep into desire.  The greater the fire you build the more insatiable the desire is to achieve the goals you’ve set – whether you’re around or not.

Your job is to find out what drives your team.  Is it money?  Is it recognition?  Is it invention or innovation?  Is it client engagement scores?  Once you know what drives each person on the team you will be able to create your inspiration roadmap.  That roadmap will provide a clear picture to:

  1. Where are we going?
  2. Why are we going there?
  3. What’s in it for us?
  4. What will we feel once we’ve arrived there?

Most organizations fail due to a lack of clarity around the vision. You’ve got to assemble a team that WANTS to a be a part of your vision.  Trying to convince someone they will be happy going to Buffalo in the winter probably won’t sell.  You can expend all your energy convincing or you can set out to find those who are interested or intrigued with going to Buffalo.  It’s the Good to Great philosophy of getting the right people on the bus and the right butts in the right seat.

Lead by example.  Walk the talk.  Model the behaviors.  Do these things and you’ll increase your ability to inspire your followers to achieve remarkable results.

Where Wisdom and Experience Intersect

wisdom

Great leaders possess many characteristics.  Courage, foresight, perspective, and vision are just a few thoughts that come to mind when thinking about leaders.  Leaders are not all-knowing, nor do they have to be right all the time.  In fact, knowing everything is impossible, and being right all of the time simply means you haven’t tested the boundaries.  Good leaders fail.  Great leaders fail often.

It’s been said that “wisdom is the result of experience, but experience is often the result of lack of wisdom.”  So where do the two intersect?  People ask you for advice because they admire your wisdom.  Job opportunities because of your wisdom.  Yet if it weren’t for all your failures you’d have nothing to offer, you would lack wisdom.  Great leaders possess this knowledge because they understand the importance of failure. They are able to see failures as deposits into their bank of wisdom, not withdrawals or setbacks.

Wisdom allows us to take chances.  It allows us to predict outcomes.  It enables us to maximize our chance for success but it does not guarantee our success.  Wisdom gives us the courage we need to attempt something that carries the risk of failure but doesn’t prevent us from trying.  Failure must be an option as we try new things and expand our horizons.  Wisdom helps us see that what we gain from these failures often times outweighs succeeding on the first try. 

So when confronted with a choice between a sure thing and one that presents potential failure, look first to your wisdom bank.  Do an honest assessment of what you will gain versus what’s at risk if you chose to take the chance.  Know that if you do take a chance and fail, you now have wisdom to share with others.  It is this wisdom that increases the value of your insight, perspective, and experience.   It is this wisdom that makes you unique.  This is the wisdom that enriches you personally, and the wisdom that develops you as a leader.

Are You Losing Sales? It’s Probably The Last 3 Feet.

table

Successful outcomes are the result of many different elements including preparation, practice, and skill.  With every action comes a reaction and the intensity of that reaction can be linked to the effectiveness of the originating action.  If you walk at a slow pace for exercise it will take longer to work up a sweat as opposed to a brisk walk or even a jog where you will sweat much quicker.  Action versus reaction.

How often have you left a sales call wondering where things went wrong?  You didn’t get the business.  The prospect seemed on board but decided to go in a different direction.  That reaction, whether we’d like to admit it or not is the direct result of an action we took at some point during the sales process.  In fact, the primary action that results in lost sales is communication.  Clarity of communication, followed by the ability to process that communication, is where many sales people fall flat.

In his book Exceptional Selling, Jeff Thull talks about “the last three feet” as being the distance that separates a prospect from a sales person sitting across a table from one another.   How often have you felt you’ve done everything right and in your final meeting – in that last three feet – with the prospect, you learn they decided against doing business with you?  It’s happened to us all at least once.  If you have been selling for years it’s most likely happened hundreds of times.  But why?

The main reason for this disconnect centers around a miss fire in communication.  You either said something to the prospect that turned them off, or you said the right thing that disqualified them as a prospect but you were too stubborn to see it.  We’ve all been taught to never walk away from a sales opportunity.  Further we  have been told for years that everyone is a prospect.  These ideas are just flat-out false.  Not everyone is a prospect and the quicker you find out who presents a real opportunity the better you’ll become at selling.  Remember your time, money, and energy are only of value to you so protect them.  The faster you can sort the real opportunities from the imaginary the better.

Watch for my next blog when I’ll present a sales strategy I have used with great success that eliminates the risk of the last three feet.

 

What It Means To Lean In

Trapeze

Life happens.  We have ups and downs, good times and bad, successes and failures.  It’s easy to be positive and happy when all’s going well but the reality is that nothing goes perfect forever.  Eventually even the best of us, the hardest working among us, and the most optimistic will be tested.  That’s life.  How we deal with those tests determine our success, state of mind, and fulfillment.  Notice I said fulfillment and not happiness.  Fulfillment in life comes from experiencing all life has to offer including the good and bad.  We learn and grow far more from our failures and the bad stuff than the good.  It’s during the times we are tested the hardest that our character comes to light and we grow as human beings. So how do you handle the bad times?  How do you deal with some of the tests life throws your way?  You lean in.

Years ago I was working through a rather difficult period in my career.  I was running Sales for a company that was in turnaround mode.  The company had experienced some success but was on the ropes with just about everything seeming to go wrong.  Sales and service were both failing and cash was tight.  Our employee morale was withering away to nothing.  With each stumble there were layoffs and cutbacks which led to a growing distrust across the employee population.  I had never seen anything like it before, and what had worked for me in the past wasn’t working now.  Frustration was running high and doubt was setting in.  That’s when I talked to Jeff.

I shared my thoughts and concerns with Jeff, a Board member and mentor.  I walked him through my plans, my thought process, and my confidence level relative to making the turnaround.  As a hugely successful entrepreneur, businessman, and corporate CEO, Jeff listened, sat back and said, “You’ve got all the right pieces. You’ve thought everything through.  Now you’ve got to lean in.”  This was the first time I had heard this phrase.  It certainly sounded good coming from Jeff but I needed to understand exactly what he meant by it, so I asked.

Leaning in, is about positive momentum.  If you’re on your heels self-doubt and second guessing quickly set in and you’ll surely fail.  You could have developed the best plans possible but failure will still visit you because you lacked conviction. Fear of failure causes us to lean back.  Failure makes us second guess ourselves and those around us.  It makes us focus on the wrong things.  When we lean back we’re looking for a way out, an excuse, someone to blame. We often get caught up in worrying about how others will perceive us should our plans not work out.  Fear that our personal reputation will be tarnished. And by leaning back we don’t fully commit.  We have one foot in and one out.  We’re the trapeze performer with a safety net under us.

In listening to me Jeff sensed I was leaning back.  He knew I had put a great deal of thought into the plan I developed.  He knew I identified the most probable risks and put plans in place to mitigate them.  But I was still leaning back.  He stressed the importance of leaning in.  He said, “Imagine you have no safety net under you.  What would you do?” And then he said the one thing that all great leaders don’t just say but demonstrate…he said, “Joe, I support everything you’re doing.”  Those words, backed-up by my faith and trust in him as a leader, gave me the added strength I needed to lean in.  To commit and not look back.

So when tough times arrive, or when everything seem to be going wrong, lean in.  Way in.  Imagine not having the safety net and that’s when you’ll realize that failure is not an option and you’ll make a bad situation into a good one. And most importantly find your “Jeff”.  A mentor is an absolute necessity to help you navigate the stormy waves of life.

10 Things a Leader is NOT

Badleader

Remember that bad boss you had a couple of years ago?  Every interaction caused stress, disappointment, and sometimes regret.  Here are some characteristics NOT found in great leaders.

  1. Selfish.  Great leaders make it all about their teams.  There’s no “I” in team and the leader knows that and embraces it.
  2. Mean-spirited.  Strong leaders lead with dignity.  They understand that even when corrective action is required every employee deserves to be treated with dignity.
  3. Know-it-all.  The best leaders are continuous learners.  They do not claim to have all the answers nor do they believe they themselves are the only ones capable of generating great ideas.
  4. Placating.  Successful leaders understand the need for honest and direct communication.  They do not shy away from conflict or pander in order to win popular opinion.
  5. Narcissistic. Effective leaders have an inner confidence that allows them to operate without ego.  Not so say they don’t have an ego but they are able to keep it in check.  They don’t have a need for others to know who they are, what they have, or how important they believe themselves to be.
  6. Micro-manager.  Accomplished leaders know that they must have the details but cannot micro manage.  They give trust to their teams and provide opportunities to people to take risks and practice their decision-making skills.
  7. Disingenuous.  Thoughtful leaders know the importance of service to others.  They have a strong moral compass knowing that others can see clearly who they are and likewise can feel their authenticity.
  8. Thankless.  Purpose-driven leaders understand the importance of gratitude.  Being gracious for a job well done separates a good leader from a bad leader.  There’s nothing wrong with expressing your gratitude or thanks to an employee who did a good job even though a good job is what’s expected.  It’s often the smallest acts of kindness that embolden a team to its leader.
  9. Ignorant.  Learning leaders recognize all things change including their products, their markets and their customers.  They can’t afford to be caught with the short end of the intellectual stick and are constantly working to educate themselves and their teams.
  10. Indecisive.  Enduring leaders know that making decisions are required for leadership longevity.  Those that shy away from making decisions, difficult or easy, don’t last long as leaders.  Indecisive leaders are some of the most difficult leaders to work for.

And one bonus characteristic that ALL leaders DO possess…ownership.  All great leaders embrace ownership.  Ownership of their teams, their decisions – good or bad – their plans, strategies, ideas, and opinions.  These great leaders never look to place blame, often times to a fault.  They are able to shoulder great weight and responsibilities with a sense of ease and grace.

Are you a good leader?