Category Archives: Success

On Motivation and Action

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One of the challenges in business, especially in sales, is staying motivated. Most people would rather not work, much less work hard, and if the work is physical, then forget it! There are all kinds of reasons for this, but most of them simply boil down to a head game of some kind or another. Perhaps we’re afraid of rejection. Perhaps it’s a tendency to procrastinate – even, or especially, when the alternative is particularly unproductive.

It is said that 90% of failures in business are a failure to execute an otherwise effective plan. It doesn’t really matter what you’re selling or what environment you’re doing it in – be it retail, inside sales, outside sales, or even cold calling. The reality is that we are often our own worst enemy. Get out of your own way. The plan works; work the plan.

The Chinese philosopher Laozi is often quoted as saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” A more literal translation of what he said would read, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with placing one’s foot on the ground.” That is to say, “A journey of a thousand miles begins [by taking action!]”

Don’t let your head win. It’s mind over matter. You can do just about anything you set your mind to. It’s about not making excuses and taking action!

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When It All Hits the Fan: Dealing with Adversity in the Workplace

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We are all human and sooner or later, we are all bound to make a mistake. This is true for business as much as it is for life. Sometimes, these mistakes are small and inconsequential. At other times, they require some damage control and cleanup. And on the very rare occasion, true catastrophe strikes. Whether we’re trying to figure out how we missed our sales goals, why we didn’t deliver a project on time, or how to ease a client with legitimate pain-points, there are a five keys to getting through the shock of the mess or the temptation to place blame for the whole ordeal – neither of which are productive.

Acknowledge the Situation

The first key is to Acknowledge the Situation. In the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief, Acceptance is the final stage, following Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression. In business, we tend to first want to deny our own responsibility and blame someone else. But throwing our coworker under the bus doesn’t do anything to actually fix the problem and blaming an employee is a sure fire way to get egg on our own face. Instead, acknowledge the problem for what it is. Determine any break downs, failures, or root causes without needing to assign blame. Call a spade a spade and tell it like it is. It may not be pretty and it certainly won’t be easy, but people will appreciate the honesty.

Take Control

After Acknowledging the Situation, Take Control of it. Whether we are personally culpable or could have done anything to prevent the situation, we are in the unique position of being able to do something, right now. Determine what actions need to be taken to right the ship and set us back on the correct course.

Execute

It is said that 90% of failure is a failure to execute an otherwise effect plan. Only 10% is caused by an ineffective plan or no plan at all. After we Acknowledge the Situation and Take Control, we have to actually do something; we have to Execute the plan.

Learn from It

Once we have actually solved the problem, it is worth while to examine the root causes and adjust our systems to prevent similar failures and shortcomings in the future. Perhaps we need more frequent followup on the progress of a project or better communication with our supply lines to ensure materials and products are available. Whatever it is, learn for the situation and make sure that the same organizational weaknesses do not cause future problems.

Move On

Finally, Move On. There is no point in dwelling on failures or problems. If it was really bad, some day you’ll look back and laugh at the mess that was and how you fixed it. But dwelling on it wastes energy and resources and is simply not productive.

These simple steps allow us to effectively and efficiently address problems as they arise without engaging emotion, freeing up time and resources to pursue our objective and be productive.

For more reading on how to overcome adversity in the workplace, check out The Oz Principle, by Roger Conners.

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Believing Success is Possible

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Over the course of my career, I have led several teams to great accomplishments and the awards and recognition we received along the way are a bit of a badge of honor for me. Somewhere along the way, I learned an important lesson: people want to be on a winning team, but more importantly, they want to be on a team they believe can win. This has never been more clear to me than a project I was working on for a nonprofit organization several years ago.

Just ten days before we were supposed to launch a new project, we lost a significant pledge that put us short of our goal and left us with less than the minimum funding to make the project successful. Replacing $3,500 in pledges in just ten days was not optional; it was the difference between success and failure. For a small, fledgling nonprofit, this was a lot of money.

Desperate to replace those pledges, we went door to door and people literally laughed at us; they simply didn’t believe the money could be raised. I have no doubt that our own uncertainty was visible. It became obvious: this isn’t going to work; we have to find another way.

With just six days left, we launched a campaign to find 100 people willing to donate $35. Suddenly, our goal was not only possible, but plausible and our progress was measurable. People wanted to be a part of our project and many pledged two or three times.

I learned a valuable lesson over those ten days. People laughed because they didn’t want to be a part of failure and let’s be honest, I was pretty sure we were going to fail. Having a plan is only the first step, however. Sharing that vision and plan with our benefactors was the difference between success and failure. I have no doubt that so many people gave so many times because they believed the dream was possible and they wanted to make it happen. Most importantly, they wanted to be on the winning team.

As managers, we sometimes get caught up in simply demanding performance from our teams. We know the importance of our success; we know the goal; we know the plan. But if we don’t take the time to share these things with our team, they don’t share our vision; they don’t believe success is possible, and they are left laughing at us. On the other hand, if we share the vision, the dream, and the plan, they just might give us two or three times what we ask for.
-cv

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