Self Management

What are we so scared of?

THE DILEMMA WE PUT OURSELVES IN WHEN WE PERCEIVE THREAT INSTEAD OF POSSIBILITY

It was an important meeting. A meeting that would be the beginning of beautiful and important things. We would hatch fun and creative plans together. We would make an impact on the community. We would grow our businesses. The limits were endless.

We would talk all things of mutual benefit. Quoting big numbers, and breaking them down into practical milestones, and then into bite sized chunks we could then divvy up and assign to each other. Then, we would have further meetings, do work with each other, plan events, continue to build our relationship, and build a new world. A world of laughter. A world of success. A world of joy.

But alas, this is the meeting that never happened. It is the possibly that was shut down within minutes when the fear got in the way.

The fear of people stealing from us. The fear of people using us. The fear of being sold to. The fear of getting the raw deal. The fear of being inferior. The fear of failure. The fear of success.

Maybe it is all of these things, or maybe what has been proposed to us just isn’t interesting. It is not compelling. It is not useful, or of value.

This situation is such a tough one to crack. When working with other businesses (B2B), it astounds me how much push back there is to enthusiasm. When a small business, or a solopreneur approaches another business to do some simple cross-promotion, or to join in a partnership of some description, there seems to be a fear, or a scepticism that is stronger than any other force. But why? What is this fear? Where does it comes from?

The answer to this is probably quite complex. There are perhaps Ted Talks and Harvard Business Review articles proclaiming to tell us the core of this phenomenon. But of interest to me is the sheer volume of people that can’t see a good deal in front of them when they see it. The definition of strong business to me is strong community.

If I can help my next-door neighbour be a stronger business then that is good for me. If I can help my industry be stronger then that is good for me. Isn’t it?

The need to rid our instincts of fear is vital. The only way forward is to be brave. Be bold. Listen to offers. Be willing to be sold to. Be open to doing something new or different. Be ready to put a little extra effort in to try something new out.

This does not mean that the rules are off and a free-for-all is now the norm. No. All business decisions need to be analysed and every opportunity still needs to be deconstructed for fit and purpose. But, instead of rubbishing an idea, or an activity straight up, we need to propose ways we can do something. How about, we ask “how can this work?”

It is amazing where this sort of thinking can take us. It can even take us to a point where we realise that the person sitting opposite us cannot help us at this time, and we cannot help them. By exploring possibility and investigating the up-side, we can even say no, and shake hands with genuine pleasure and friendliness. Yes – it is possible!

We hear of luck in business a lot. We all need a little bit of luck along the way, right? This is countered by the argument that hard work and persistence brings more opportunity and therefore more luck. I feel that this sort of argument is bogged down by semantics. The core of it is that there are multiple opportunities which come to us every day. Opportunities to grow our business. Opportunities to answer our needs and help us smash through our obstacles.

The question is, will you let that fear drive your actions, or will you ask, “how can this work?”

I hope you do. It will most likely open many doors that were not there before. Just like magic. It’s exciting. Join the party.

What does sacking your boss look like?

There is a game I play in emotional intelligence workshops. It involves the group visualising the best boss they have ever had and then describing them. Then we do the same for the worst boss they have ever had. The results usually end with a lot of laughter and it can be quite therapeutic for all concerned. There is nothing better than visualising that boss that made your life hell and openly getting all of your angst out in a safe environment where anonymity is your closest best’est friend.

It is a wonderful way to understand the perceptions of a workforce and their needs from a given manager. As we discuss this in the workshop it becomes blatantly obvious that the technical ability of a boss is only a small factor of what makes a boss or manager great to work with.

Such discussions are valuable, not only because we gain insight into how we can be better managers, but also because it helps us understand what we want in a manager (i.e. Culture). A big part of this is to recognise that no one is perfect. We must acknowledge that even though our boss may drive us up the wall sometime, they still display many of the positive aspects of a good manager. It is easy to pick holes in someone that is usually doing a tough job in tough circumstances (ie. Managing in a difficult business culture and/or industry).

This aside, many of us have left a job before (or are desperately in the process of looking for a new one) because our boss is a proper “insert expletive”. I went through a period in my career where my boss did not appreciate my role, did not back me up, and gave me loose inconsistent direction. The whole experience was a horrible one. Then I started talking to others. I quickly realised that I was not the only one. This is a rampant disease that has spread across our modern working environments.

The story then completely changed for me. I was reading a book about working for yourself, and the concept of “firing customers” came up. The concept is that if you currently service customers that do not align with your values (as an individual and/or business), then they can continue to buy from you, but you will not service them as a part of your customer service cycle. Fundamentally, you are telling them to start using another vendor without having a messy confrontational conversation. A good example of when to use this is when a customer is refusing to pay an old overdue bill. This customer is basically telling you that they do not value you, your product, or your time. I say “flip” them, get on with servicing people that do, and basically fire them!

So how can we do this with our boss? Well, it’s simple – we quit. Usually we mentally check out three, six, or even twelve months ahead of our departure from the business while we’re hunting for a new opportunity. This may not be a big revelation to many, but the key point here is that in quitting you are basically firing your boss. Think about it. It is very rare that you leave a really good supportive boss. The only reasons for this tend to include personal reasons or moving to a new location. But here is the kicker. How many people have quit under your management?

You may have had someone leave you because they could earn more somewhere else, or because the “growth potential” was bigger somewhere else. But, deep down there is another truth. Was it really about their unhappiness in their role? A role which you had a big impact on. Was their daily experience within the workplace somehow a negative one which you were unable to make into a positive one?

Que the excuses. It wasn’t my fault. It was the senior management’s fault. It was a tough time in the business. The market had a down turn. No one was happy.

Guess what; good bosses deal with this sort of stuff. The difference is that they can manage themselves and their teams through it with skillful precision to ensure no one quits. To ensure that their people do not fire them.

That’s right. For a boss to be fired is the exact same thing as someone quitting their position. This is what firing your boss looks like. If you have had many people fire you, then it is a signal to start changing your management approach. Gain insight from peers that have kept their teams together. Source training which can be beneficial for your people management. Maybe start by analysing your self-management abilities. It is also critical that you understand where and how your boss or partner is helping or hindering you in regard to this. Replacing staff is one of the biggest strains on a business. It is disruptive to service levels, it is the biggest HR cost a business can take on, and it is certainly no fun.

The other side of the coin is being the boss that rarely gets fired. This is a very satisfying position to be in, especially as it is quite rare and extremely difficult to achieve. Working towards this goal is such a great undertaking with a great deal of satisfaction associated with it. There is a lot of pride and happiness that comes with being called “a great boss”.

The Pen and Paper Trick

I just downloaded Brin. It’s a new app and I have no idea what it really does yet. It wants to talk to me, and provide me with a whole host of info. Everyday there is a host of new apps to explore and discover. Another accounting software, platforms that integrate with a whole lot of others, or the category of super popularity – productivity apps! As soon as you get to grips with Snapchat, Instagram pulls out a competitive platform, and the dance is never ending.

Innovation in technology is everywhere around us, and it is moving forward at an expediential rate. It is exciting, a little scary, and sometimes exhausting.

When I speak of innovation with people, the tech version is what people immediately think of for the above reasons. However, innovation to me comes in the form of a good chat, or even just a piece of paper and a pen. Allow me to explain.

My interpretation of innovation is to do things in a new way. A way which we haven’t thought of doing before or have implemented previously. The most confronting aspect of my work is that a majority of people go about their business the way they always have because that is how it has always been done. It can often be very restricting for an entity’s ability to grow or work itself out of a tight spot.

Before I get on my high-horse about this it is important to point out that there are good reasons why a lack of innovation takes place:

Short Term’ism – an everyday battle. Trying to achieve today’s target often means that overall values and long term goals need to be comprised. It is a fact of life and a part of the human condition. This is the easiest of traps to fall into for all of us.

Time – innovation requires an investment in time. To think creatively to build a strategy ready for communication and implementation will use time. Who has spare time? None of us, or at least we don’t if we do not see the value in creative thinking and prioritise this as a necessary task.

Cost – almost 100% of the time implementing new ways of working will take an investment of cash. New materials, equipment, people… etc. This is all that leaders can see when faced with the prospect of change.

Risk – all of the above all have a level of risk. Put them all together and add the fact that your new innovative plans will never come with guarantees. Now you have every excuse to remain where you are and keep doing things the way you always have.

The bad news about using all of these reasons (or excuses) to not start getting innovative is that it is extremely rare (I cannot overstate this) that your competitors, and ones that do not even exist yet will take your business away from you. This may not happen now, or in the next year, but it will happen. It has been proven on many occasions that businesses rely on good timing in regard to the market as the most critical factor for their success. Take seven minutes to watch the insightful Ted Talk by Bill Gross on Start Up Success. Bill uses examples in the sharing economy such as Airbnb & Uber to illustrate his findings. These business models simply did not work five or ten years previously. People tried and failed. The technology was not right, but most importantly the market did not relate to it with the result being that no one brought the concept. The lesson – move with the times, listen to the consumer market with detailed attention, and constantly innovate.

There is a good trick I use to install innovation and creativity into a person and their business. It requires paper. Preferably, A1 or A2 size. A pen, or preferably some coloured markers (however some napkins and a pen at a bar works well too). Then identify a particular problem that needs to be solved. Make it as specific as you possibly can and write it down. You can do this by yourself or with a small group. Either works well depending on the topic.

Step 1 – Brainstorm two or three solutions. At this point stop.

Step 2 – Take one clean sheet of paper and write/draw a picture or mind map of that idea and explore it as much as you can. Think of every which way it would work and how the idea could be activated until it has been developed as much as you can.

Step 3 – repeat for your other initial ideas.

Step 4 – by this point you have probably opened up a few other ideas in areas that you never would have thought of. Take a moment to explore them if you have the energy or time. If not, schedule yourself a time to re-convene and bang out the process again.

Step 5­ – Sleep on it. Allowing your mind space and time so that your sub-conscious can work on the ideas by itself. This is hugely beneficial as the analytical conscious mind finds many reasons/excuses (as stated above) to rule out great ideas. Sleep, exercise, playing games/sport, gardening, or general procrastinating can be useful for this step. Yes, procrastinating can be productive!

Step 6 – Conviction. You need to muster up the guts, the balls, the courage to go for it. This is easier if you grab a piece of paper and pen and write out the process of implementation. I use a quote that works well for me “writing is doing”. Getting thoughts out on paper makes it real and ensures good ideas don’t just bounce around in our brain resulting in never turning into actions.

I have used this method with many clients. In my previous roles with corporate businesses, and with franchisee’s. I use it often myself when I have a specific challenge to deal with, and it is extremely helpful when creating new marketing campaigns and sales strategies. I call it a trick because the process makes seemingly complex and paralysing situations simple and easier to find solutions for.

Maybe I will use it right now to solve my app problem starting with how to use this new app Brin, and figure out how it can be of use for me and my business.

Squashing the Chatterbox

What is the most energy sapping aspect to your life? For those parents out there, being a parent is probably at the top of the list. For those that manage staff it may be the constant strains of their team. Maybe it is your customers, or suppliers, or a physical thing like long-distance driving, presenting, or just long working hours. These are all common answers, however there is one underlying factor that leaves us exhausted on a daily basis. The common drain I talk about below stops us from performing efficiently and has a big impact on our ability to rest and recuperate as well.

I am referring to the mind. We’ve all got one, and the constant “chatter box” inside of our minds that seemingly never switches off can be destructive to our energy levels. I am certainly no clinical psychologist, but I have always had a rampant chatter box that stops me from actively listening, stops me from mentally being in the moment, and definitely stops me from getting quality sleep. All of this can be quite destructive, especially over a long period of time. Some of us with an overactive mind will need to manage this throughout our entire lives. And, on top of guarding our energy levels, I am a big believer that in order to manager others well we must first be able to manage our selves well first.

It is not all doom and gloom – trust me, there is a big hit of positivity to come by the end of this article. If someone with a chronic case of “chatter box syndrome” (like myself) can find ways to overcome this and restore balance, then there is hope for many out there. A useful first step is to acknowledge that this is a factor, and that time and resources need to be put into correcting this. The second step is to get active – in every which way. That is to start listening to people that have good strategies in their lives to keep their mind in a quiet calm state. The third is to find what works for you. This may take some trial and error, but just going through this process of discovery can bring benefits – knowing you are actively sourcing the best solutions for yourself will already give you one less thing to worry about.

Common tools for shutting down the chatter box include:

  • regular exercise (a little goes a long way),
  • meditation (this is next step for me – I’ll let you know how I go),
  • recognising your triggers for anger, frustration, anxiety and halting your reaction before it takes over,
  • REGULAR deep slow breathing throughout the day,
  • nature – even a walk once a week, or eating lunch in the park can be beneficial,
  • hanging out with friends, or being around people can help you find connection and gives an opportunity for you to get all of those thoughts out of your mind,
  • support groups/networks, to be around people with similar challenges can make you feel less isolated as well as gaining insight into real world solutions that work for others
  • Professional Development Coaches – provides guidance, validation, and accountability so your chatter box can take a break on the big challenges in your business

I am sure there are many more (please share in the comments), but initiating any of these into your routines will start to make a positive impact and lift energy levels. There will be other benefits that tends to come with your ability to self-manage your thoughts and emotions, which in turn makes for a happier smoother daily experience for you and those around you. Clearer thinking, better decision making, increased problem-solving capability, and an overall increased capacity in terms of performance. Most importantly energy levels will go through the roof. Add in a clean diet and a high consumption of water and your energy levels will sky rocket. Easy affordable and a potential game changer for some. This is also a huge step to being a better leader in your work and personal life. I told you there was a big hit of positivity! Start today and let us know what works for you.

Not ready? No problem.

There are many tough aspects to Sales and the act of selling within your business. We can become demotivated due to a lack of progress, continual rejection, and a confusion of how much time and resource should go into sales activities. This can be magnified when you are managing a team of people where Sales is a considerable part of their function within the business. So, how are we expected to keep pushing forward with a positive mindset and a high-energy approach!?! Listening to experts talk about a positive mindset can be the type of talk that sends a business owner over the edge and into bouts of depression, denial, or manic stress.

In my experience building a framework for your sales process is the foundation that all goodness springs from in terms of revenue growth. Having a solid professional approach to your sales cycles will keep you on track and help you keep your actions efficient. But, what about effectiveness? Being effective is the number one target, and in terms of sales our scoreboard is revenue, or number of new clients, or deals completed. So how do we maintain our focus and keep pushing forward when the results are not materialising?

For me, my first experience of manic stress in relation to sales was when I was a Sales Rep for the first time. I felt like I had no idea how I was going to get a meeting, or where I was going to target, or even what I was actually selling at times! No one wanted to see me, take my calls, or listen to the value I could offer. It was a frustrating time, and since I had no experience to draw on, all I could do was take advice from colleagues around me and press on. It was tough. I became mentally and emotionally exhausted, and if it wasn’t for some good support and a few lucky breaks, I don’t think I would have lasted six months.

In the ten or so years since then, I built up my sales capability to the point where I have led sales teams, and now educate in the area. It is amazing to write this article and look back at what the act of sales used to mean to me compared to how I approach it now. There are several ways a sales process can be set up to build a sustainable flow of revenue. However, there is one key mentality which has helped me to push forward with optimism and gain results for my businesses and my clients.

Never register a No

There are many things I have been called in my life (insert joke here…) But, seriously, one thing keeps on popping up, and usually it comes from my prospect partners and prospect clients. Persistent. I love this, as they always mean it in a complimentary way and do not associate my persistence with any form of annoyance or irritability. It is a term of endearment as they are thankful for my persistence. Otherwise we would have never been able to connect and understand how we may be able to help each other. The importance of persistence is beautifully articulated in the book titled Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. Here we understand how persistence plays a huge role in determining one’s ability to succeed in any activity we undertake.

Beyond persistence a key learning I developed was that when we are selling a, we tend to refer to our work in black-and-white terms. Did you get the sale? Yes/No. Did you get a meeting? Yes/No. Are they interested? Yes/No. Was it a good call? Yes/No.

Unfortunately, we end up with many more No’s than Yes’s, and this links to the feeling of failure and dejection. My heart sinks thinking about this feeling, and that people are experiencing this daily. The answer for me was to change my perspective. To turn the tables on the whole scenario and to take back control of the scenario.

I started to see that there was a big spectrum between “yes” and “no”. There was more to the situation, and to the relationship building process. No matter how abrasive or abrupt a prospect may be acting, I didn’t automatically write the contact off. I didn’t see it as a flat-out NO. I started to think in terms of “Not Ready”. Please allow me to explain.

The more experience I gained in business the more I begun to understand the importance of timing. It is often the case where the solution you are providing (i.e. the product you are selling) is being offered at the wrong time for a client rather than it being the wrong solution. The contemporary consumer (B2C or B2B) is time poor, usually mentally stressed in some way, and has little patience for information that is not relevant for them now. So, if this consumer is being approached at the wrong time, then it is safe to assume that the approach will be backhanded swiftly and brutally. At this point, I do not accept a “no thank you” response. I do my best to investigate what is happening in the person’s business or life, and ask as many questions as I can without prying or agitating. I also tend to slip in a comment along the lines of “not now? Great, when would be better”. If this is not appropriate, then maybe it is a matter of saying “Great, I’ll drop you a line in six months or so”. By doing this I am keeping the dialogue alive and continuous. There is no “no”, there is only “not ready”.

I have chased contacts for years to finally gain a meeting. This however, is not the truth. I am not chasing anyone, I am simply connecting, re-connecting, and keeping the dialogue alive. Sometimes prospects end up selling to me, or becoming friends, or end up being a valuable part of my network. I know this sounds a little insane, but trust me – when you are doing this with over one hundred prospects all at the same time you start to see results. Not only are you going to get lucky with a few people when your timing is perfect, but you are also building relationships that will give you sales opportunities well into the future.