What it Means to be Authentic

Authentic

You’re nervous, scared.  You’re breathing is shallow and you’re beginning to sweat.  Your mind is racing but you can’t seem to find an answer to your problem that makes you feel good.  In fact all you see in front of you are choices that are not so good and plain bad.  You start weighing the outcomes of each choice in terms of personal perception.  How will I be viewed if I make this decision or that decision?  How popular or unpopular will I be for making such a decision?  Will my boss support me?  How about my wife/husband, my friends, my parents, my kids?  Your emotions reach a crescendo and you feel you’re about to collapse.  What now?

Try this interesting test.  It’s a simple and fast test that requires answering just one question no matter how difficult the decision is you are facing.  It can serve as your decision starter.

What would I do if I didn’t have to worry about any one persons reaction or perception of me based upon the decision I make?  Sure this sounds unfair but if you begin every decision thinking first about what others will think of you then you’re likely to arrive at the wrong place.  Like politicians that look at polls before deciding on their personal stance on an issue, people who worry more about what others think rather than doing the right thing will ultimately experience a short life cycle as a leader.

Authentic leaders don’t worry about what others think.  Not that they set out to offend, hurt, or alienate themselves from others but they instead focus on being true to themselves first.  After all, that’s what makes an authentic leader so appealing to follow.  You always know where they stand on an issue today and tomorrow.  They don’t waiver or pander.  They simply establish their position, communicate it effectively and stick to it.  If they do change their position it is backed up by facts and tangible learnings that justify their change.  Not at all based upon opinion polls, or pressure from stakeholders or markets.

They have a sense of intelligent fearlessness.  They are smart enough to understand where the pitfalls are but effective enough to lead through, around, or over them.  They are mindful of cause and effect and focus on communicating both the why and the implications of their decisions.  They are often times seen as bold, courageous, and confidence.  They use their intelligence to assess the situation and select the best approach.  Their intelligence coupled with their confidence in conviction allow them to lead others fearlessly toward the goal.  This does not mean carelessly.  The difference here is that an authentic leader through their personal intellect and confidence are able to make tough decisions without fear, while leaders whose only strength is to pander to public opinion live in constant fear of being judged.  As such the leader who lives in fear is always looking to make the decision that allows them to place or shift blame elsewhere.  To have cover when the sky begins to fall.  Authentic leaders understand the risks and have no problems being held accountable to their decisions.

Recently Kathleen Sebelius was replaced as the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).  In the interviews that have followed since her removal from office she stated that they had got it (the website http://www.healthcare.gov) readiness wrong.  It should have never been promised to roll out in October 2013.  Yet video clip after clip shows Sebelius saying with conviction it will be ready.  It is ready.  It’s working.  It’s right.  So where was her authenticity as a leader?  Where was her courage?  Unfortunately like so many others in leadership positions she sacrificed her authenticity for popularity.  If only people would realize that popularity is fickle.  Eventually inauthentic decisions and the leaders who made them always show themselves but by that time both have been cast as failures.  If only we could stay true, stay firm, stay authentic from the start.

3 Responsibilities for Every Marketer

Marketing

Marketing plays an important role in the growth of every business. Companies can no longer will their way to a win. Acknowledging the changes that have taken place in the buyers journey is critical for all companies trying to grow and increase market share. To do this…grow…a Marketing organization must perform with a strong sense of urgency, focus, customer insight, and innovation. Keeping an open mind and willingness to consider the unknown, or untested tactics, falls squarely on the Marketing organizations feet. After all, Marketing is all about generating new ideas that help increase revenue.

The 3 jobs every Marketing department must do include: define the pain, provide a vision for the solution, and finally communicate the value of the solution. How are these 3 jobs performed? Let’s look…

1. Define the pain. How do you know what your customers pain points are? Have you asked them? When did you ask? How long ago did you ask? What did you do to understand their business well enough to really “get” their pain? One method to help define the pain is to conduct a series of “Follow Me Homes” (FMH). This is a tactic that places you squarely in your customers place of work to observe first hand the operation of their business and the pain for which you believe your product provides a viable solution. Ask questions like, “what happens if you can’t do….”, or “how does this impact you personally?”. The personal focused questions will identify fears and potential risks if a solution is not found, such as a missed bonus, tension with the boss, etc. Understanding the pain is critical and cannot be overlooked.
2. Solution vision. Once you have a clear understanding of the pain and its impact on the decision maker you can begin to align your solution against the problem. Assuming your product eliminates or minimizes the problem and pain you must focus on exactly how it creates a better life for the business and its decision maker. If it saves time, how much? If it reduces “x”, by how much? Answer the “why” question. Why does it matter? What is to be gained? Connecting those dots and providing a clear solution vision is critical for the potential buyer to see…and believe in.
3. Communicating the value of the company/solution. It’s been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Your brand and its attributes are crucial components of your value communication. Your prospects want to know what you do, why you do it, and how you get it done. Often times the “how” is more important than the what. Think of a hair cut. Most people go to the same salon and hair dresser forever. It’s not that they can’t get a hair cut elsewhere and perhaps cheaper. But instead it’s the how, that keeps them coming back. The free coffee, cookies, conversation. The trust that’s developed over time based upon the consistency of receiving a quality hair cut is usually enough to keep you going back even if you could save some money trying someone else. Being able to demonstrate the “how” over and over again is key to communicating an effective message.

What do you think?

The focus is YOU!

You

Stop listening to all those who tell you it can’t be done, you’re too old, you’re not strong enough, smart enough, talented enough, or good-looking enough. Cut your ties with those who always seem to be holding you down for your “own good”. Their approach is littered with falsities all in the name of protecting you or not wanting to see you get hurt.

Be selfish. Be bold. Take a stand. There is more in life that we can control than we think. You can’t change how tall you are so don’t waste any energy wishing you were taller. Focus on the things you can change; your intellect, your strength, your talents, attitude, and your appearance are all within your control. No you can’t be 18 again, so stop worrying about it or wishing you could change it. Embrace exactly where you are today. If there is a part of today you don’t like – your job, the scale, your living conditions – change it.

The focus is on you. No one else. The saying, “you’ve got to love yourself before you can love others” is so true. If YOU are not important enough to change for YOU, then who is? Everything starts from within. Sure there can be external factors that motivate but if your changes are based on those factors rather than what’s inside they simply won’t stick.

Take charge. What if you don’t have the skills to get a new job? Read. Find as many books as you can on the subjects you want to improve on and read, read, and read some more. Sure it takes time, but how badly do you want what you’re so desperately missing? What if you’ve tried to lose weight and haven’t been able to? Look at what you’ve done and determine where the gaps are. What did your diet consist of? How often did you exercise? Everything from food to caffeine, and exercise to sleep, affect weight gain and loss. Dig in, be honest, make a pledge and then grade yourself, daily.

Most importantly stay close to those who provide positive influence and thoughts. The world is filled with naysayers and doomsday thinkers. These people are easy to identify as they use words like “can’t”, “never”, “be careful”, “watch out”, “tough”, “impossible”, “it won’t work”, and “we tried it before”. Find those that say “go for it”, “you can do it”, “study hard”, “work at it”, “keep plugging away”. Anything in life worth doing is worth doing well, and the best things in life are always the toughest things to do. Don’t settle. Be tough.

The Human Equation – Building Relationships That Last

relationships

Human beings are emotional creatures. We long to connect, to be seen, heard, felt, and understood. We strive to make good first impressions because we know what’s at risk if a first meeting goes wrong. Acceptance and recognition are perhaps cornerstones of what makes us human. We want to be part of the pack, to run with the herd. We crave recognition for what we contribute, and how we perform. Every race, every culture, every civilization yearns to feel united.

In business or in our personal lives the relationships we establish and maintain will ultimately determine our level of success, happiness and fulfillment. Building relationships is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Know this…the best things in life take time and a lot of hard work. Healthy, productive, and positive relationships are no different. And also know it’s a two-way street. The best relationships are not just about you, they are about the greatness that is produced as an output of two people, parties, partners, etc, coming together. With all great relationships the sum of the whole is much stronger than the sum of the parts.

Two specific elements are necessary for all great relationship to take seed: trust and authenticity. Both are difficult to establish but for different reasons. Trust requires risk and is a gift given to others. Authenticity requires truth and is a gift given to yourself.

Lasting relationships are built upon trust. Both parties must trust that the other has their best intentions in mind and in heart. If there is doubt in either, then trust does not exist. If breached, trust is very difficult to re-establish…perhaps impossible. Taking advantage of someone is the surest path toward damaging trust. In the business world this might look like playing hardball with pricing, financial compensation, terms and conditions, or a legal but perhaps unethical use of leverage. Doing what’s right is not the same as doing what is legal. My first boss taught me an important lesson….”if it’s right for the customer, and right for the business, and assuming it’s legal, then do it.” Notice the legal aspect is a given. It’s like integrity…it’s a must…it has to be there. Assuming it is, then focus on doing the right thing for the customer, friend, spouse, partner, etc., first…everything else follows.

Trust also is a reflection of character – acting authentically. Doing what’s right when no one else is looking. In the business world it is often easy to confuse charisma with character. I’ll write more on this subject in a future blog.

Authenticity requires self-awareness. You may be thinking that you’re already self-aware and if you are that’s awesome. But for most people the exercise of becoming self-aware is ongoing. It’s not a one and done. It’s a continuous assessment of yourself, your goals, your ideals, your philosophies, and your priorities. As circumstances change you need to reassess yourself. This is how many people get lost in their circumstance as opposed to remaining true to themselves…being authentic. No place is this more visible than in business or in the world of celebrity. As people acquire more power, money, and material things, they risk becoming out of balance between their circumstance and their “self”. To remain in check ask these two questions periodically: what is the most important thing in my life, and are the things I am doing aligned with what I’m saying is the most important thing?

By operating from a truly authentic place, you will be able to develop long-lasting relationships. You will develop a reputation as being someone who is trustworthy, loyal, and committed to doing the right thing. Before long you will sought after for your insights, ideas, and relationships.

Great Mentors. The Difference Maker.

partner

In my previous blog, 5 Important Differences Between a Coach and a Mentor, I provided clear differentiation between these two advisers. Both play a valuable role in your development but go about it in entirely different ways. Understanding your current circumstances and having semi-clear objectives – goals – is critical in knowing which, a coach or mentor, would provide the greatest value.

While most coaches tend to have very specific areas of expertise, mentors are completely opposite. Mentors bring a broad set of skills, perspectives, insights and opinions to your developmental party. If you are fortunate enough to have a real mentor in your life consider yourself blessed…and lucky…for they’re not all that common. Remember, you select a coach, a mentor selects you. Great mentors can come from a variety of areas in your life. A relative, a friend, co-worker, boss, or business associate can all be potential mentors. What are the ingredients that make a great mentor?

  1. Deep life experiences. These experiences do not need to be in the area of your specific profession. The mentor has been in and around many different situations that have provided them with incredible insight and perspective.
  2. Demonstrates a personal interest in you. The mentor takes a proactive role in wanting to help you by providing valuable feedback, and guidance. Often times they proactively reach out to check in with you rather than waiting for your call.
  3. Excited and passionate about your development. The mentor never makes you feel like you’re on the clock. Instead they make you feel like they exist specifically to help you. Their energy and authenticity is tangible and easily recognized.
  4. Honest in a positive and constructive way. The mentor provides hard-hitting, honest feedback and observations, but does so in a way that doesn’t put you on the defense, or belittles you.
  5. Teacher, Coach, Counselor, Motivator all rolled into one. The mentor has a natural ability to weave in and out of these roles effortlessly with a near “cloak of invisibility” as they do so. Their deep understanding of you allows them to take the role most effective for the situation at hand, with the genuine intent to aid in your development, while never lecturing or criticizing.
  6. Trust. The single most important ingredient for any great mentoring relationship is trust. A strong, trusting relationship with a mentor creates the bond that is necessary for free-flowing, honest, personal, and sometimes difficult feedback without the fear of embarrassment or intimidation.

Great mentors do all these things and more. Having the benefit of a mentor gives you the ability to make better decisions, broadens your perspectives, and often times provides the clarity you need to move forward. These unique and wonderful people grace us with their active presence in our lives, teach us in ways others can’t, and provide us with the strength we need during life’s most crucial moments. Great mentors are in fact the difference makers in a life full of success and personal fulfillment.

5 Important Differences Between a Coach and a Mentor

Helping-Mentor

Throughout your career, you will encounter moments that will present great challenges and/or opportunities.  Knowing what to do at those specific times depends on several things including experience, attitude, skills and capabilities, and the strength of your personal support network.    As you grow personally and professionally, the complexity of these circumstances increases and may create anxiety as you determine your next steps.  And while this is perfectly normal from a developmental standpoint, having a coach or a mentor by your side can make a huge difference in the quality of outcomes.  Understanding the difference between the two is the first step to making the right selection.

Many people believe mentors and coaches are the same…interchangeable terms.  But they’re not.  Mentors are quite different from coaches.  The key differences between the two are listed below:

  1. You select a coach, a mentor selects you.  As such, mentor relationships tend to last for years, if not a lifetime.  By the mentor selecting you, he or she is demonstrating their personal commitment and genuine desire to help with your personal development.
  2. Coaches focus on improving specific performance, usually on the job, while a mentor focuses on your overall development with a much greater focus on you, the person.
  3. Coaches interact through a formal structure, usually the same day and time each week – office hours.  The session follows a certain flow or formula for the review and update on the items discussed in your last meeting.  A mentor interacts as needed.  They’re “on-call” and happy to be so.  Less formal in nature, free-flowing, and very personal.
  4. Coaches tend to be “career-point-in-time” resources.  Meaning, few coaches can provide value in all stages of someones career.  A great high school football coach does not automatically equate to a great NFL coach simply because he understands the game of football.  As the stakes grow higher in your career, you will need to find a coach whose skills are equally equipped for the circumstances you are encountering.  The coach you had when you were 35, and in your first senior manager role, most likely will not be as effective for you when you are 45 in an executive role.  In contrast, a mentor is always focused on the “broad YOU”, gathering deep and intimate knowledge of the real you, thereby allowing them to provide valuable insights and guidance in nearly any circumstance.
  5. Finally, and perhaps the biggest difference between a coach and mentor is how they are paid.  Coaches, at least professional coaches, charge a fee for their service.  These fees range anywhere from a few hundred dollars per session into the thousands depending upon the circumstances, and length and frequency of the engagement.  A mentor has no fee.  They’ve taken you under their wing.  They have a personal connection with you and are committed to your development and success.

It’s important to understand that while different, there is a need to have both a coach and mentor in your life.  Both play very different, yet important roles in your personal and professional development.  Having a general understanding of your circumstance, time frame, and objectives will help guide your decision on selecting the right coach or mentor.  I will visit specific benefits of coaches and mentors in upcoming blogs.

3 ways working out can improve your career results

We all know being physically fit improves your overall health, helps to lose weight if that’s a goal, improves heart health and overall cardiovascular activity.  But there’s another element to being physically fit that transcends the health benefits and provides another incentive for us to hit the gym, streets, basements, or where ever you can engage in physical activity.

Over the years doctors and scientists have studied the effects of physical fitness and the impact it has on your professional results.  You heard right.  Being fit can actually improve your performance on the  job.  Whether you’re a sales rep, surgeon, statistician, seamstress, or scientist, being in shape will drive better results in nearly everything you do.

In Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity, the Mayo Clinic sites 7 benefits or reasons to exercise.  Benefits #3 and #4, detail how exercise improves your “mood” and gives you “energy”.  Clearly those are two critical elements in successful selling.  Who wants to talk to someone in a bad mood, let alone buy from them.  What about the sales rep who comes in like Eeyore?  What a downer.  Of course you don’t want to walk in bouncing off the rooftop, but clearly you need to have a little giddyup in your step.  A good mood mixed with energy throws off a very positive vibe which translates into confidence and demonstrates strong self-esteem.

Finally, Benefit #5 discusses how regular physical activity promotes healthy sleep patterns.  Sleep is an essential part of restoring the brain and keeping it functioning properly.  The Franklin Institute study, Renew:  Sleep and Stress, cites many benefits to “normal” sleep patterns including your ability to learn accompanied by improved memory.  Again, two things every sales professional can benefit from.  On the flip side, lack of sleep, according to the study, results in increased risk of diabetes, Alzheimer, stroke, and depression.

Of course exercise takes commitment and discipline.  As a life-long student of fitness I hit the gym 6 days a week for 60 -90 minutes.  I do something different each day to keep it interesting.  I mix single work-outs with class settings like SPINNING.  Exercise for me has given me the ability to hold my focus for long periods of time during the day in critical business situations.

So if you’ve found your sales results to be flat, think about adding exercise to your day.  If you’re already exercising daily try something different.  There are so many different options available today it’s unbelievable.  Whether it’s Yoga, Pilates, Crossfit, or a simple walk around the block, take action and drive your performance to the next level.  It’s all you.