The Secret to Getting Great Critiques on Your Presentation

Lavatory sinks

This is where your presentation gets REAL critiques. Prepare for this audience and the rest is a breeze!

When I’m in town, I like to attend my local Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapter meetings.  These are a great place to network and you can certainly learn from the topics that are presented.

At the end of each session, there is a little card on the table that you fill out with feedback for the speaker and the event.  Most people scribble a few notes and check the boxes and then head out the door.  I’m sure the cards are useful, but what really matters is what people say about your presentation in the bathroom shortly after.

I’m always amazed at the critiques speakers get when audience members are in the safety of the bathroom.  I hear criticism of the topic, the slides, the speakers themselves, etc.  People feel a bit more candid I guess when in this unique, sacred place.

Now you can fear this phenomenon if you’re a speaker or you can simply use it as a tool to better prepare for your next presentation.  Here are some of my suggestions:

Your Topic:  If you’re going to present, be sure to present on a topic that’s timely and relevant.  Of course you need to know your audience for this one.  Find out their experience level.  Inquire about some of the “pain” they experience.  Then deliver solutions with a “how to” theme.  Make sure they leave with tangible takeaways.  Avoid subjects that are dated (Generations in the Workplace), stereotypical and divisive (Generations in the Workplace), fads (Generations in the Workplace), or that have been beat-to-death in numerous other presentations (Generations in the Workplace) – You see a theme here don’t you?

Your Command of the Subject:  Make sure you present on a topic where you are either a recognized authority or at least a strong, proven subject matter expert.  If you can’t intelligently answer hard questions at the end of the presentation (and this is common criticism in post-presentation bathroom critiques) then find another topic to present on.

Your Visuals:  Be different and ditch PowerPoint® or minimize the amount of slides you need.  Use relevant videos and debrief them clearly.  If possible, use a flip chart and talk while writing down your points.  Even consider tools like Prezi for a different visual approach.  AND, have a backup plan if you can’t get Internet, sound for videos, or a correct connection from your laptop to the data projector.  Just so you know, I’ve never had a person complain that I didn’t have a PowerPoint® presentation.

Your Style:  Have someone evaluate your style before you present.  Pay attention to the amount of times you use fillers such as “um” and “ok.”  Don’t start off every statement with “So” (“So today we’re going to talk about how to deal with generations in the workplace.” “So you know all those Millennials want a trophy for just showing up.”  “So you know you should always tell Gen Z how their job relates to a clean environment and workplace harmony”).  Unless of course you’re pitching a product on Shark Tank.  Then you look weird if you don’t start off every statement with “so”.

Your Appearance:  In my experience, women don’t have issues here but men do.  Guys, spend some money and get a suit that actually fits you.  Shine up your shoes.  Brush the dandruff off your shoulders if you wear a dark jacket.  Take a long look in the mirror before leaving the house.  If you look there and see Andy Rooney staring back, take a beard trimmer and shear those eyebrows.  Start with the highest setting and work your way down.  Don’t ask me how I know this.  Look up your nose and trim out all of those nose hairs.  Then look at your ears.  Same thing here.  You want people to talk about your amazing presentation, not your lack of style and personal grooming.

I know this is a lot to think about but it’s the little details that make your presentation a success.  Plan out the presentation and prepare for those inevitable bathroom critiques.  They happen whether you like it or not but preparation before will certainly give them something positive to talk about, while they’re hopefully washing their hands.

The Not-So-Secret Formula for Success

Business Success Concept - MotivationIt seems like everyone wants to know the secret to success.  Is it skill?  Work ethic?  Tenacity?  Mindfulness?

Actually, it’s none of the above.  If you’re asking me, it’s TRUST.  Are you WHO you say you are and will you DO what you say you will, and will you do it WHEN you say you will?  The formula looks like this:

Reliability + Consistency = Trust

Reliability means I can depend on you:

  • You show up when you say you will.
  • You perform the way you tell me you will.
  • You perform to a high level and exceed my high expectations.

Consistency means you are predictably dependable:

  • You’ll be on time.
  • You’ll Always be on time.
  • You’ll perform to the same standards of excellence each time.

When you do these consistently, I won’t worry anymore.  In other words, I TRUST you.

It seems simple but it’s not.  When you get let down enough times, you lose trust and begin to get skeptical.

I get lots of calls and email from people who want to meet with me to network, “pick my brain,” or just talk.  I don’t mind these but will absolutely drive me crazy are no-shows, particularly since I live in way out in the country and this means I travel at least an hour to the areas of Middle Tennessee where most people live.  What kills me?  No-shows.  It’s happened enough times that I’m skeptical.  When somebody does show, I’m almost surprised.  Of course learning the hard way, I have my assistant now call the day before to verify the appointment.  I just don’t trust folks as much anymore.

I’m a huge fan of National Car Rental.  As a frequent traveler, it makes me happy to just hit the lot, pick any car and go.  I won’t rent from anyone else, least of which the parent company of National, Enterprise.

But sometimes it’s unavoidable.

Enterprise has older, dirty cars and a rental system that requires you to wait in line, sign in, wait to be escorted to your car, walked around it to look for damage, and then allowed to leave.  It reminds me of being at the doctor’s office.  They are notoriously unreliable to be on time (for pickup) or for having your rental ready (much like the classic Seinfeld episode “we have your  reservation Mr. Seinfeld, unfortunately, we ran out of cars.”)  Well unfortunately they are also the contracted rental company from USAA, my insurance company.

A few months ago I was hit by another drive while in business in Tunica, MS.  I dropped my car at the body shop in Erin, TN and was supposed to have the Enterprise people meet me there with my rental car.  I had a bad feeling about it based on past experience but went ahead and trusted they’d be there.  Sure enough, they were a no-show.  I called the office and they told me it would be at least 2 hours.  Unacceptable. After some assertive leveraging from me, they were there in 45 minutes.  But since this already fed my negative perception, I vowed never to use them again.  Tweets to customer service yielded nothing but a canned reply (which I used previously resulting in no resolution) suggesting that this was standard practice.

The moral of the story?  Trust is key.  I trust National, not Enterprise.  I trust you once you make your appointment with me, but NEVER if you miss it.

So if you want to be successful in your business or your job, be trustworthy.  Remember:

Reliability + Consistency = Trust

 

The Secret to Effective Time Management

Time management is one of those areas that all of us struggle with.  I’ve been asked to teach time management seminars and I’ll always caveat my agreement that “you can’t manage time, just your ability to work within it.”

I recently worked with a team that struggled with competing priorities which lead them to be operating in a constant state of crisis.  While listening to them, my mind wandered back to some of the training I had while in the Navy many years ago.  My rating was Dental Technician.  In peacetime we served aboard ships and in clinics taking care of the dental needs of patients.  In wartime however, we were either sent operational on ships or augmented the medical teams with the Marine Corps units.  Our counterparts, the Hospital Corpsmen worked in this capacity full time which meant we had to bone up on casualty care treatment.  It was in this context that I learned about the important concept of triage.

In wartime, casualty sorting is key.  Basically, there are four categories of wounded, each of which demands a different level of priority.  Therefore, casualties are grouped into one of the four:

Expectant.  This means they are dead or beyond help.  No treatment is given.

Walking Wounded.  These patients are wounded but are not in a life-threatening state.  They can be used to assist in the battle aid station or sent back to the rear (hence the term “walking wounded.”)

Delayed.  These patients are in bad shape but not so critical that they need priority.  Most of time if they have IV fluids and some sort of monitoring, they can wait until treatment resources are available.

Immediate.  This is the worst condition.  These patients need treatment somewhere in the range of two minutes to two hours or they will die.  This is the highest priority.

This system is demonstrated on the following model:

Time Triage Model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what do that have to do with us and our ability to manage our ability to work within it?  It’s all about triage.  One key element must be identified first though – the Most Crucial Task (MCT).  The MCT is the highest value activity that must get done.  If we do it, we’ll accomplish much and add value.  If not, we’ll get set further behind.  It’s different for everyone, but let’s use the example of a financial advisor.

The MCT for a financial advisor is to call prospects.  The business grows only as new clients come in.  This is absolutely job #1.  Nothing else matters as much as this.

But of course in any day, other tasks seem to get in the way.  When they do, and they potential take away from the MCT, we use the triage method.

Here are some examples of tasks and how they should be triaged:

Immediate: 

Client has a death in the family and needs to activate life insurance, etc.  This requires immediate action.

Delayed:

Client needs to sign some really important paperwork to start insurance, investments, or their financial plan.  This is important, but not necessarily critical.  It should be scheduled soon though. (“scheduled” is the operative word here).

Walking Wounded:

Non-urgent calls and emails to return.  A walk-in client that wants to talk to someone about debt consolidation. These should be scheduled for later or delegated.

Expectant:

Rearrange the files, work on a spreadsheet, or other non-vital administrative tasks (which should be delegated to the admin assistant).

If the MCT is slated for a two-hour block of time, the rest of the day then can be used for scheduled appointments (some Delayed or possibly Walking Wounded tasks).

Sounds easy doesn’t it?

It’s not.  Often the MCT is one that’s not fun or in some cases, frightening or intimidating.  When this happens, it’s easy to let the Walking Wounded or Expectant tasks filter in because we feel like if we’re busy, we’re actually accomplishing something.  But don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.  The MCT is what needs to get done FIRST and FOREMOST!

All of us get the same 24 hours per day.  Those who make the most of them take ownership of them and don’t allow themselves to be managed by the tasks.  That’s the secret, and it’s no longer a secret.  Make your calendar your slave.  Don’t let it do the same to you.

Don’t Make Your Solution More Complicated Than the Problem

Complicated or simple.I recently spoke to a group of learning and development professionals on the topic of performance management.  I always start the talk off with my Top 10 list of the Biggest Mistakes Made by Companies in Performance Management Programs.  I start with #10 (a la David Letterman) and then get down to #1.  With this group I let the suspense build by making the #1 mistake a multiple choice quiz question.  Can you figure out the biggest mistake?

  1. Confusing the ROI of training with the value-add of performance management.
  2. Juxtaposing the syntax of Kirkpatrick’s Model with the Reuterbaga Model of Performance Excellence® Model for peak performance enhancement.
  3. Combining mindfulness with strategic learning and thinking.
  4. Looping change management complexities with the principles of learning management and knowledge transfer.
  5. I don’t know.

The answer is actually “I don’t know” (which leads to the real #1 problem which is making performance management a once-a-year event).  In fact, the other four choices are just a bunch of training mumbo jumbo I threw together.  Everyone fell for the bait though and thought since it was the BIGGEST mistake, you would need the BIGGEST and MOST COMPLICATED solution.

In my experience, sometimes a complicated solution makes a complicated problem even bigger.  How can we tackle a complex problem more effectively and efficiently?  Try the following steps:

  1. Clearly define the problem.  A problem is simply a condition where current reality doesn’t meet our expectation.
  2. Narrow the problem down to its root issue.  Think actual condition, not symptoms.
  3. Identify if it’s a people problem or a process problem.  Don’t get these two mixed up.  If you blame a problem on people but they can’t be successful because of a broken process, fix the process.
  4. For people problems, use my 3-Legged Stool of Great Performance® model to figure out if it’s a Skill (needs training), Will (needs motivation, or Focus (needs guiding or coaching).
  5. For process problems, start by mapping out the process the way it currently exists using a flowchart.  Be honest here.  Show it exactly like it is.  Then draw out the ideal.  Where the discrepencies are, begin your intervention…
  6. …Which should always be done in small steps that should be tested.  Don’t tweak everything at once.  Small step, test, next step, test etc.

Don’t be afraid to admit the problem is simple and needs a simple fix.  Big problems are simply a whole bunch of little problems joined together in a tangled mess, much like that big ball of Christmas lights you have to untangle every November.

Problem-solvers are respected, compensated well, and sought after.  Why not work this week to improve your problem-solving skills.  Think simple, not simplistic and you’ll be on your way to solving those big, complicated problems.

How Do You Feel About Puppy Breath?

Elvis

Elvis

I’m an animal lover.  Dogs and cats.  As a kid growing up I had both and now as an adult, not much has changed.  They are especially fun when they’re small, full of energy and very animated.  And with puppies, there’s that wonderful smell of puppy breath.

Now a lot of folks love puppy breath but plenty of others don’t like it.  When we added to our dog family this year with our goldendoodles Rusty and six months later Elvis, it brought all of that warm feeling back.

But then, one morning driving on some back roads, I saw a dead skunk on the road.  Then it hit me:  puppy breath smells exactly like a skunk.  It’s no wonder some folks don’t like puppy breath.  The associations are really strong.  It didn’t matter to me though.  I still associated it with young Rusty and Elvis.

Associations are common and important to identify.  All of us are impacted by people, places, and events.  Our senses keep a permanent reminder and it brings it back, sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a negative way.  I hear certain songs and they bring back good and bad memories.  I smell a particular type of floor cleaner and it brings me back to the bad old days of Dental Technician “A” school when I was in the Navy.  I’ll hear smooth jazz songs and they remind me of a particularly boring job I had while living in the Washington DC area (I listened to a jazz station on my way to work…in awful traffic!)

The key though is to distance ourselves from the negative triggers and associations and compartmentalize them.  If we don’t, we risk never moving past them.  To help you process this, I recommend the following steps:

  1. Identify the trigger.  Is it a song, smell, or sound?
  2. Identify the feeling it elicits.  Anger?  Frustration?  Sadness?
  3. Now look at the trigger from a different perspective.  Reframe it with your CURRENT state rather than the PAST state that cemented the mindset.
  4. Make a commitment to move forward!

I don’t expect you to love puppy breath but just for a moment, think about how a playful puppy can put a smile on the sourest face.  Focus on that and not on a dead skunk and you’ll maybe develop a new appreciation for it.  If you aren’t feeling that, then do the personal inventory and follow those four steps.  I’m working on it and I hope you will too!

5 Ways to Implement a Change Without Screwing Everything Up in the Process

change aheadOne of the most common calls we get at our company sounds something like this:

We are looking for some training on how to deal with change. Right now our company is undergoing some massive changes and we can’t seem to get the employees onboard with them. Do you provide any workshops that will teach our people to embrace this change?

Now since training only fixes issues with skills, the client assumes it’s a skill problem. It’s not though. Dealing with change as a skill is a reactive approach that can’t be taught once the emotions of the change have set in. Trust me on this. I have done WAY too many of these workshops when I worked with a large training vendor years ago. The best change adaptation tools won’t help if everyone’s attitude sucks. Most of these sessions turned into “bitch sessions” and attendees left worse off for the experience. The key to having a positive reaction to change is to implement it the right way in the first place.

Why is this so?

Any time you introduce a change to your organization, you shift the status quo. It doesn’t matter if the change is an improvement. Rocking the boat freaks people out.

Knowing this will happen regardless (and it’s doesn’t matter if the change is driven from the top either) means you’ll have to spend a huge amount of time planning and anticipating all reactions before you settle on your change initiative.

Based on my experiences with companies that have done it the right and wrong ways, I’d like to offer up five strategies to help your next change effort go over a whole lot better.

Here we go!

1. Communicate Well

In any change effort, communication is key. By being open and up front with people, you’ll be able to fill in gaps of knowledge with real, legitimate information. Here are some suggestions:

Good Marketing

Be sure any communication puts information in a positive light. Be very clear about the upcoming changes. Don’t hold back on any small details. Acknowledge the pain, but work to reframe it in a favorable light. (“doing these burpees is going to hurt like hell but imagine how good you’ll look in that Speedo this summer!”)

Allow People an Opportunity to Vent (productively)

We often expect people to handle difficult news professionally, but human nature dictates otherwise. Allow people an opportunity to vent their questions and frustrations.  This should be a facilitated event, with professionals keeping the discussion on track. “Bitch sessions” don’t work and often exacerbate the problem. Use good active listening skills and help manage yours, and the emotions of the people around you.

Discuss Rumors

The Grapevine is a tricky issue. 75% of what’s carried on it is usually true, which makes it credible enough to be believed as fact. When you hear rumors, be sure to address them with facts whenever possible. Ignoring rumors gives them credibility.

Be Sensitive

Empathy (as opposed to sympathy) is a helpful behavior for managers and supervisors. Don’t blow off your employees’ fears. Look at the situation through their eyes. Empathy means you listen intently and offer suggestions and help.

Be Optimistic

Optimism is an attitude. We have to choose our attitudes. You can’t expect employees to handle change well if you’re giving off negative vibes. Fix your own attitude before you try to fix those of your employees.

Don’t Ignore Your Employees’ Fears and Questions

Again, be willing to dialog with employees. Ask probing questions. Get their feedback. Establish an environment where they feel comfortable coming to you with their uncertainties.

2. Use Good Policies and Procedures

In any large change effort, you’ll need to lock in some really good policies and procedures to leave your supervisors and employees equipped for success.

Clearly Communicate the Program

This builds on Point #1. Let people know as much information as you have to give them. Don’t allow the Grapevine to do your job for you. Refer them to websites and information sessions as much as you can.

Set Up a Support System

If you’re implementing a new program or system, have the program representative take an active role in giving out communication. Set up a portal on your website to link employees to information,  training, and send out regular email containing program updates. Equip your managers and supervisors. They have to carry the torch for this program.

Encourage Managers to Have Open Conversations

MACK Worldwide’s Interactive Supervisory Skills courses teach the techniques to have these productive conversations using the principles of active listening and negotiation. Contact us if you are interested in providing this course for your managers and supervisors.

3. Effective Performance Management

Performance management is a critical element of a change effort.  Employees are required to show value-added in meeting the company’s goals and mission. Performance management is a constant process that requires a hands-on approach.

Set Clear Expectations

You can’t expect a marksman to hit a target he can’t see. The same applies to employee performance. Your job is to set clear goals and objectives for your employees at the beginning of the cycle and continue to check with them throughout the year. Don’t be vague – your employees need clear communication on your expectations for them.

Link People to the Mission

Do your employees know what your agency or company exists for? If not, educate them! Show them what you’re all about and how their job ties directly into the company’s success. All employees should be evaluated based on their contribution to the mission. Be sure they know what the contribution looks like!

Clearly Communicate Throughout the Year

Traditional performance management gives the goal at the beginning of the cycle and then rewards/punishes a year later. There’s no way to do a course correction in performance if the employee doesn’t know they’ve gone off course. Set regular intervals to check in with your employees and talk about their performance.

Dialog in Person

Don’t give important feedback (good or bad) through email. Let people know up front, in real time. Recognizing good performance verbally encourages more good performance. Addressing poor performance verbally (and professionally) when it happens is much better than waiting until the employee forgets about it.

4. Good and Effective Training

Training is often seen as a panacea for changes, but good training helps facilitate a process through difficult stages. Here are two approaches we recommend change efforts:

Relational/Communication

These courses should come first. They equip managers and supervisors to have productive conversations with employees and give them initial help in addressing performance issues.

Technical

These courses include anything that builds the skills needed in the new change. Be sure to equip employees before expecting them to successfully implement your change.

5. Management Skill Building

Well-prepared and equipped managers and supervisors will ensure your efforts will succeed. Part of this is training and the other part is attitudinal. Here are some suggestions:

Measure Success as What You Do Through and For Your People

This is the leadership component to management. Management in a large part refers to processes and functions but the key element is developing people. Do what you can to build and grow the most important resource you have, your people.

Keep Learning!

You’ll never learn all there is to know when it comes to dealing with people. People skills are hard to come by and even harder to master. Commit to studying one hour per day on managing and leading people. You spend this much time on technical skills, why not devote it to your people skills?

Conclusion

Managing change is difficult. It’s more difficult when it deals with people and in the way people are paid and evaluated. Keep these five principles as you implement these and other changes in your organization.

If you’d like us to sit down with you and help you think through your upcoming change initiative, just give us a call at (931) 221-2988 and let’s set up some time to chat!

The Old Lady in the Freezer

panic buttonBack between 2005 and 2009 I taught quite a few military-to-civilian transition classes up at Fort Meade in Maryland.  Since the traffic was horrendous, I’d leave my house really early and arrive on base at 6:30 AM.  Class didn’t start until 8 so I had some time to kill.  Most mornings I would drive to the Class 6 Shoppette (a gas station that sold groceries and alcohol) to get my Red Bull and a 5-Hour Energy shot.

One morning I was in the Shoppette and heard a woman’s muffled screams coming from the back of the store.  I went back there and saw an old lady in the beer cooler.  She was pounding on the door trying to get out.  I grabbed the handle and opened the door.  She hugged me and said I saved her life.

Then she asked me, “How did you manage to get in here?”

I told her I just pulled the handle.  She told me that she was desperately pulling the handle from the inside.  I guess she didn’t realize she had to push it.  The harder she pulled, the more stuck she became.  Then she panicked and when she did, she thought she was trapped.

I never forgot about that old lady in the freezer.  Some of us are a lot like her.  When trouble comes, we panic and when we do, we do some dumb things.

Today I got an unsolicited email from a gentleman wanting work as a proposal manager:

Good afternoon,
I am available immediately, and have a lot to contribute to your organization.
I have extensive experience in government proposal development.
Recently came off a four month effort, rested a bit, and I’m available immediately.
Also, recently responded to 8(a)Stars, Sources Sought, and IDIQ submissions.
I’m looking for full time or contract work – rates TBD.
My resume is attached for your consideration and phone review.
The pleasure of a reply is appreciated.  Call or write.
Thank you.

He attached his resume to this email.

Now of course he has no idea about what I do so how would he know he has anything to contribute to my organization?  When I read it, I thought of the old lady in the freezer.  Desperation makes you do dumb things, like shotgun a resume to as many email addresses as you can find.

And yet we’ve all been in the same predicament, haven’t we?  Stressed, facing a deadline, needing resources and having lots at stake.  How can we prevent ourselves from looking desperate and also solve our problem?  Here are some suggestions.

  1. Take a deep breath.  Yeah I know this is somewhat of a cliché, but taking a deep breath causes oxygen to flow to our brain.  Your solutions will start in your brain so don’t starve it!  Take a deep breath (or several) and focus on the solution.
  2. Take charge of your self talk.  Start speaking rational language rather than emotional language to yourself.  When you do that, move on to steps 3 and 4.
  3. What is worst case scenario?  It may seem like a stress-increaser but if you at least own what could happen, you know where your solutions need to focus.
  4. What is the most likely scenario?  This is where your thinking brain has to override the emotional one.  Emotions will push you towards worst case scenario but the rational side of you should look at the most likely scenario.  Often this is far better than you can imagine, but you won’t know that if you’re pulling the handle in the freezer rather than pushing it.
  5. Find yourself a support team.  Facing an ominous scenario alone is like finding yourself in a bar fight against four other people.  You need backup!  At least find someone you can call to bounce ideas off.  They might be able to give you a suggestion or point you to a resource.
  6. Take one positive first step towards solution.  Don’t worry about the huge problem.  Focus on just one small step.  It will give you confidence and move you closer to the bigger problem. “One step, one punch, one round at a time.” (Rocky Balboa to Adonis Creed).
  7. Finally, remember Satchel Page’s famous words “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”  Or pulling on the handle.  Or shotgunning your resume to everyone with a pulse and an email address.

None of us are going to be exempt from a crisis but how we handling it well gives us confidence for the next one and gains us a huge amount of respect from the people around us.  Take a deep breath and think about that this week…

 

 

It’s Time to Broaden Your Knowledge

Man reading red bookProfessional development is critical if we want to grow into highly-valued consultants, employees, and athletes.  It’s not a one-time deal either.  We need to constantly seek out new knowledge and capability if we want to remain useful and viable.

My business requires me to know a lot about management, process improvement, leadership development, and team cohesiveness.  I learned most of this on the job, built on the foundation of my graduate studies in organizational leadership at Chapman University, with quite a bit from constant reading.  I can humbly say that I’m pretty good at my trade and craft.

But that’s not enough.  Certainly not enough to differentiate me from any of my competitors.

About two years ago I realized that I sucked at sales and marketing.  I was afraid to sell, had no idea how to properly promote my products and services, and was operating on the backs of a few steady clients and some cheap-ass contract work.  Reading more books on leadership, management, and strategy was useless.  What I needed to do was SELL!

That was the shift that really made last year a year of significant growth.  I read every book I could find on marketing, sales, and promotion.  I developed a new sales strategy, implemented a CRM system, partnered with my admin staff to help me run it, and got comfortable asking for the sale.  Broadening my knowledge was the key.  I’m sure some of my competitors get frustrated when they can’t seem to land any new clients but then decide to read more books on leadership development.  Find the area you’re weak in and shore it up!  Maximizing your strengths only applies when you do that StrengthsFinder 2.0 stuff.

But what about you?  Have you maxed out on your current level of knowledge?  It’s possible.  Even some wise king in ancient days said something to the effect of “What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.”  If your craft is coaching, quit reading coaching books and start reading sales books.  If your trade is woodwork shift your strategy to getting more clients rather than trying to outsmart your competitors with old tactics.

And one caveat.  While there is nothing new under the sun, don’t abandon staying current in your field.  It’s all about professional balance.

If you’re serious about career development, success, job security, and winning, be sure to make professional development a priority.

Why You Need a Reality Check

reality check signOver the past year I’ve been a member of Title Boxing in Clarksville, TN.  It’s been great.  I’ve lost a bunch of weight, made new friends, and improved my confidence.  Just last month, a couple of the trainers told me I was one of the three hardest punchers in the club.  Not bad considering I’m the oldest of the three!

This got me thinking.  Maybe I could start participating in the Friday night sparring at the SSF club where some of the trainers at Title train actual fighters.  If I do ok, maybe, just maybe I could actually take a real fight.  I know I’m in my 50s, but hell Bernard Hopkins fought for a title in his 50s.  Why not?  I started thinking about what song to use for my ring walk music.  Probably Feel Invincible by Skillet or A Warrior’s Call by Volbeat.  It seemed like a great idea.

All this was running through my mind as I chained up a dead oak tree to the back of my Honda Rancher ATV.  I needed to pull it out of the ground to prevent a nearby tree from falling onto my driveway under its weight.  As I gunned the engine, the front end of the ATV popped straight up, throwing me off like a bull-riding cowboy.  For a split second, the ATV teetered in the air right over me.  Mercifully, it dropped back down onto its four wheels instead of landing on top of me.  My arms were skinned up and my ribs and thighs bruised.  I had a hard time standing back up.  I was sore for days. Reality had set in.  This 50+ year old overweight bald man with two hip replacements had no business getting into a boxing ring.

All of us have a tendency to see things in optimistic, glorified eyes.  We all have dreams and aspirations, goals and visions.  We often overlook reality in hopes that all of our dreams can happen.  Here are some of the ones I hear:

  • A retiring military officer tells his friends that he’s going to work a couple of years and then RETIRE retire at age 45.
  • Someone decides to start a business, financed by credit cards and a cashed-in 401K because it’s a sure thing.
  • A person decides to marry someone who has a drug and gambling problem because they know that “love conquers all.”
  • A middle-aged man thinks it’s a great idea to start fighting at the local boxing club.

It’s healthy to a point.  It’s unhealthy when reality finds us.  Maybe it’s a good idea to find some reality checks.

  • That military officer hasn’t factored in how much of his retirement pay is taxed and how those tax-free allowances have gone away. And oh, by the way he doesn’t have any real skills to offer an employer except things he’s been told like “leadership, multi-tasking, calm-under-pressure” etc.  Not to mention he hasn’t put a dime away in savings and has no life insurance.
  • That business idea is great. Unfortunately, the entrepreneur hasn’t done a market survey to see if it’s even viable in that area and has no clue how to market it.  Which means there is no way to bring in enough money to break even.
  • That love-struck person hasn’t taken the time to speak to counselors to get the full scoop on how powerful and expensive some addictions can be. Love won’t be enough.
  • That old guy can barely move after falling off an ATV. What makes him think he could absorb the punches of a man 30 years younger than him.

Reality checks that we induce prevent the more painful reality checks that life brings us.  Rather than go into something blindly, maybe it makes sense to put ourselves through a reality check.

It’s not negative or pessimistic.  It’s just a smart thing to do.

 

 

 

 

“Thank God for Rain”

Rain drops on windowThe other day I was driving to Nashville cursing the rain that was coming down.  My old truck doesn’t have a wiper delay and the rain was just heavy enough to require me to manually hit the switch about every 10 seconds.  As I rounded a corner, a large panel truck drove past me.  On the front of his truck was a sign that said “Thank God for Rain.”  I called him a moron under my breath until I saw that he installed and repaired rain gutters.  Then the sign made sense.

Every time we watch Shark Tank and see the innovative ideas people come up with, we probably wished we were that creative.  But if you think about it, most great ideas come when we look at our annoyances and figure out a way to fix them.  Think about it:

  • Somebody cursed the rain until they figured out that rain gutters fail during heavy rain and realized gutter repair could make some money for them.
  • Someone probably got sick and tired of stepping in dog crap so they came up with the idea of dog waste pickup as a service and ended up franchising it.
  • A creative person got tired of sitting in traffic and put the notion of driverless cars into production.  Some reports say that by 2025 most cars on the road will be self-driving.  This guy will be rich.

There are two ways to look at inconveniences.  Either we get frustrated and complain or we get creative and come up with a way to leverage and profit from them.  If you’re an entrepreneur, you already do this, but if you work for someone else, you can take this mindset into your workplace and add value by look at new ways to benefit from solving problems and eliminating wasted time.  You may not come up with a billion dollar idea but you’ll let your boss know that you’re an employee worth keeping.

This week, take a look around and find that opportunity to turn inconvenience into opportunity.

What will you be thankful for that you used to curse?