Adding experience to life’s greatest teachers

This column is dedicated to all the wonderful and committed teachers in our communities. Before the pandemic began, they already had my deepest respect. So, a big shout out to each teacher in my life who helped me in some way along life’s journey — I appreciate you all so much.

Teachers have a special gift and calling. Yet, teachers are also grossly overworked and underpaid — and in many cases, overly criticized and underappreciated. All of this has become amplified over the past 19 months as our already stretched education system is caught in the collateral damage of the pandemic and other societal pressure points.

Masks, vaccinations, social distancing, hybrid learning, conflicting curriculums, forced curriculum change mandates, belief systems, gender designations and constrained budgets all coming to a boil of disruption at the same time. My admiration for the teaching community only increases as they continue to pour into their students while giving tirelessly of themselves.

By the way, I am including the entire teaching community. Educators at every level, coaches, mentors, trainers and corporate learning teams — each person who has a platform to develop their students, learners and those they coach must deal with the very same things that someone who is teaching in a classroom, teaching virtually or in some hybrid delivery model…

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Decaffeinate and de-escalate

On any given day I will usually have one or two cups of coffee in the morning. On those days where I have three or four, I feel a very palpable difference … I am wired. I also notice that I am a bit more anxious and a lot more impatient.

For me, I cannot drink coffee at night for this very reason. I would be up all night. We all respond differently to caffeine, some get wired like I do, and others can drink coffee all day without losing the ability to fall asleep at night.

As I look around at what is happening in our country and around the world, I feel like maybe, just maybe there are way too many over-caffeinated people out there. Violent crimes, verbal attacks, road rage, stadium brawls, random acts of violence and other assaults on humanity are occurring with greater frequency, and in some cases, an all-time high.

I am not a clinical expert, but anxiousness, fear, doubt and worry seem to be at an all-time high as well. It’s like we are going to our favorite coffee shop asking for a double shot of impatience with extra anxiety. Or we are making our own coffee at home, maybe the double espresso anger brew with some steamed “Hurray for me and the heck with you” creamer…

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The Elegant Solution is Thinking Before Speaking

There is a time and place for pithy remarks, sarcasm and even bad jokes. OK, well maybe there is never a good time for bad jokes, but pithy remarks and sarcasm, absolutely.

The world has been dealing us some very serious situations. There are many among us who deal with serious situations through humor. Whether we are trying to mask our own fears or concerns, and/or we are trying to lighten a mood for others around us, the smart play is to read the room first. Many a poorly timed great joke or spontaneous one-liner has been met with incredulity and awkward silence.

Many of us have found ourselves apologizing once we realized the impact that our comment or joke had on those around us. Having been that person who carelessly and thoughtlessly made a bad choice of words, and did so more than once, I know firsthand what it feels like to wish I could immediately take back what I had said.

Now I am not referring to political correctness where some of us get easily offended by the slightest offhanded remark or jab. I will reserve that for another column. What I am referring to here is having situational awareness and sensitivity to what is going on around us at any given moment…

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Rules and Roles in an Ever-Changing Game

If the game itself isn’t changing, the rules often do. Sometimes, any change to the rules could make the game harder to play and challenging to follow. We see penalties assessed and wonder why. Or we see very clear infractions, with no penalty called.

There are the games, and then there is gamesmanship, and the difference between the two will often determine the outcome. Some of us love games, many referring to ourselves as “Gamers.” And then there are those who prefer some other type of entertainment or activity, the “non-Gamers.”

There are some games where the rules have remained hard and fast since the game was invented. And then there are those other games being played where the rules change every so often. In the interest of creating a better experience, the rules change so that the game becomes faster, more exciting, or more challenging, all to generate greater interest. The rules of the game may also change as technology advances. When this happens the powers that be try and level the playing field by changing the rules.

Although many of us have learned to gamify our work and our activities so that we can stay interested, stretch ourselves, and perform at a higher level, not everyone looks at life as a game. And with everything that is happening in the world right now, it is easy to understand why…

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Achieving Success Starts with Defining Success

The children laughed at one another as each took a turn playing the game. With each passing turn, the children laughed harder, cheering on their friends. The game they were playing was “pin the tail on the donkey.” As each attempt found its way somewhere other than the donkey, the farther away the tail landed, the greater the laughter.

A blindfold makes it hard to hit a target that cannot be seen, especially after being spun around a few times before walking dizzily toward our destination. Although this is a game, with the players being blindfolded, there is still an intended target. It’s one thing to try and hit a target we cannot see, but something else altogether to hit a target we don’t have.

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.”

Lewis Carroll

When pursuing personal growth or professional development goals, I have found that whatever it is that we are trying to achieve can be found in one of these four categories: increase, improve, expand, and/or reduce.

It is also helpful to make a distinction between increase and improve. As an example, a business looking to define success and align key performance goals may identify the need to increase revenue while at the same time improving their margins. Individuals I have worked out with may look to increase strength while improving stamina. And when we separate the two words, increase and improve, we are defining very clear goals and targets for each.

Some of us look to expand our capabilities in an area of our life or business. We may want to expand our knowledge or skill. Some of us may look to expand our thinking to gain a better understanding of the people in our lives and events happening around the world. We can look for opportunities to open more stores or locations, expanding our market share, or expand our offerings and customer base…

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Recognition Begins with Appreciation

The business operates seven days a week in the summer months. Some days are busier than others, with customers waiting in line. Most wait patiently while others, well … not so much.

Inventories can run low and sometimes be out of stock. The point-of-sale system is usually working properly, but sometimes it needs a little troubleshooting. Not to mention the cleaning, maintenance and routine chores that must be tended to daily that are required to keep the business running properly and ensuring amazing customer service.

Observing this team of overachievers, I was super impressed. They worked well together, smiled while they worked, took a genuine interest in their customers and created a wow experience for everyone they served. Many times, I saw them go above and beyond in the way of customer care. They worked in harmony to get the job done. It was a sense of teamwork rarely displayed in even the best of corporate environments.

As in any business, shifts need to be changed and covered; illnesses happen, family vacations are planned and unexpected events can disrupt even the tightest schedules. The team came up with a system to make sure that all shifts would be covered, and although it came close a few times, they never found themselves short-staffed…

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Unexpected Advice: Shrug it Off

A friend of mine has spent most of his life in a gym. He has gone from body building to power lifting and then back to body building. He is now in maintenance mode like many his age.

But even now, his shoulders are still very broad and sculpted. When I asked him what he has done over all these years to get that kind of definition and maintain it, he shared this, “I shrug it off.”

At first, I looked at him a bit puzzled. When I asked him to share more about, shrugging it off, and what that meant, I found his answer and philosophy interesting and worth sharing.

Since we were talking about shoulders and working out, I had assumed he meant that he did an exercise known as shoulder shrugs. This is an exercise where we pick up a barbell or dumbbells and raise our shoulders using only our shoulder muscles and not our arms. The move is basically exactly how it is stated, we shrug our shoulders.

He shared that he has always done a lot of shoulder shrugs over the years, and he was very committed to working through several exercises that developed his neck, shoulders and back.

But then he shared something that he believed was necessary to provide his muscles the room to grow and become more defined, and that was equally, if not more important, than working out. He created the “space” in his body by removing the tension and stress that was holding him back. He shrugged them off…

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A Healthy Self Image: The Best Sales Training You Can Give or Get

If there was a better and faster way to achieve sales results, you would want to know about it, wouldn’t you?  

So, you’ve invested more money in sales training recently and still only see marginal improvement, or maybe even no discernable changes whatsoever. New sales hires come through the onboarding program, but somehow the majority wash out or turnover within the first six months. This has always been a very dangerous and expensive game to play. 

There has to be a better way.  

Within the past 18 months, your strategy might have been to refocus the training initiatives around remote or virtual selling. As outside sellers became inside sellers, the transition should have been easy enough. I mean really, all we had to do was give them some quick lessons on how to engage, and follow the sales process during a virtual sales call, not unlike what they did when they were visiting customers and meeting new prospects in person. Simple stuff, right?  

There must be a more productive approach. 

Well, if our new hire onboarding program isn’t accelerating sales success, and our approach to retraining our existing sales force the nuances of selling virtually hasn’t yielded the results we are looking for yet, surely the answer can be found in technology. Let’s evaluate our tech stack, invest in the newest, latest, and greatest apps and tools that will help us transform maybe even automate the way we sell while taking some pressure of the sales organization.   

There has to be an app for this. 

Not sure if this idea will work for you or your team, but if you will give this blog just a little bit longer of a read, this may just be something that you can tap into to achieve the results you have been striving for. Even if you are already exceeding your numbers, you may want to consider the following recommendation to ensure future success as well. 

If there was a better and faster way to achieve sales results, you would want to know about it, wouldn’t you? The answer is yes, I’ll help you with the tough ones.  

We build better businesses when we build better people. We build better sales organizations by building better salespeople. So instead of taking an extremely bright college graduate and destroying what otherwise would have been a bright and stellar sales career by introducing them to a sales process that won’t make much sense immediately, make the investment in the person first to make sure they are prepared for adversity, rejection, objections, change, and pressure of working towards quota attainment. Instead of trying to teach even your most seasoned and successful salespeople how to sell remotely or virtually, try equipping them mentally and emotionally with ways to handle the changing sales landscape.  

They have the relationships. They know the products, services, and solutions better than anyone. But a change has happened, being tech-savvy and data-driven are now vital to sales success. If this is new to them, shoving it down their throat is not the answer. And I am not talking about coddling them either. What I am recommending is finding the best personal and professional development program that you can that will prepare the new hire, the seasoned professional, and everyone in between work in the most productive mindset possible.  

This is your game changer that the competition will miss as they continue cycling through sales process training first.  

Now you may be thinking that no one ever did this for you. No, you had to learn the hard way. You cold-called your way through your early career and have the bloody noses, worn out soles on your shoes, and the bumps and bruises that came with going through the sales school of hard knocks. If you could do it, today’s salespeople can and should do it too.  

“What got you here won’t get you there.” 

Marshall Goldsmith

If a performance development change is needed in your sales organization, you can try researching sales training providers, or maybe call one of them that you had worked with in the past to deliver some sales process training. Or, you could take the time to write a  lengthy RFP, invite training providers to participate, assemble a committee to review the responses, invite three or four companies to present their content and facilitators, short list that down to two companies, invite your team back together to select the winner, negotiate and execute the agreement, and then after several months have passed, and the team that needed the most training has turned over again, you can deliver a program that is no longer relevant, if it was ever even really relevant at all.  

Or… you could choose the best sales development program that is not really classified as a “sales training” program at all. You could choose to work with a partner to implement a program that has the potential to develop everyone in your organization, and I mean everyone from leadership on down the line. It should be a program that focuses on the people, the most important asset within your company. The content should focus on: 

  • Building a Healthy Self Image 
  • Developing and Maintaining a Positive Attitude 
  • How to Build Winning Relationships at Home and at Work 
  • Goal Setting and Achievement (Perhaps you can call this Quota Setting and Achievement) 
  • Creating an Atmosphere and Culture of Hope 

Hope? Did he just say hope? Hope is not a strategy. You almost had me, right up until that last bullet point. I mean hope, really?  

Yes, hope, I said it for real. Every single person in your organization has hope for something, good family relations, friends, a good social life, to earn a solid income, to be reasonably prosperous, a healthy and happy retirement, happy and healthy children and grandchildren, to go on vacation, to become debt free, etc., you get the point. And yes, everything here requires a strategy too, but when hope is born, potential becomes limitless, dreams can become realities, and sales quotas are crushed.  

“Hope is the foundational quality of all change, and encouragement is the fuel which keeps hope alive.” 

– Zig Ziglar

Hope fuels passion, passion drives purpose, purpose ignites performance, and inspired performance leads to results. We all have hope, and we all want results. It’s really that simple. If you want to build a better team, a better business, a better school, a better community, a better home, work on building the people and watch as the results you achieve are far greater than you have ever imagined possible.  

Anyone Else But Me

You will make a lousy anybody else, but you will be the best ‘you’ in existence.”

Zig Ziglar

Many of us daydream or fantasize about being someone else. Did you ever look at someone else’s life and wish that you could have their physique, home, money, car or job? I think at some point in life, maybe we have all entertained thoughts about being someone different or having something that we did not already own.

Some of us may have only had a fleeting moment of daydreaming or fantasizing about this. Others of us may spend way too much time coveting what others have. A few of us may even become consumed with an imaginary life lived as someone else. We drift away, wanting to be anyone else but ourselves, or trade what we have for what other people have.

When I was a kid, we vacationed at the Jersey Shore. It was typically in a very small bungalow with lots of other family members and friends popping in and out during the week. It was cramped, usually just one bathroom, and people sleeping on every bed, couch, cot and surface area of the tiny house. I look back on those weeks with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins and remember them as some of the best vacations of my life. But at the time, I also remember wishing I could be going on the vacations that my friends were going on. Even if they came to the same area, they were staying at a much bigger home or nice hotel.

Did I mention that they had air conditioning in those nicer homes and hotel rooms? Yes, not only did I want to be my friends, but I wanted their air conditioning too. I think “Thou shalt not covet your friend’s air conditioning” may even be a commandment. Still, looking back on it today, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world…

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