Don’t Fall Into the Activity Trap

Why Activity DOESN'T Equal Accomplishment

Here's where the action happens!

Here’s where the action happens!

One of the biggest events here in my hometown of Vanleer, TN is the monthly Leatherwood Mud Bog.  Starting in March and going through November, rednecks from near and far bring their souped up monster trucks complete with huge mud tires to drag race through the mud.  Some of the guys who renovated our kitchen are avid racers.  They spend thousands of dollars each year to modify and maintain their mud machines…all in the hopes of winning a $250.00 prize.

Now to someone like me, it seems like a big waste of money.  Yes, it’s fun and I’m sure they do it for more than the prize money, but to invest thousands to win hundreds doesn’t add up. This is no different than plugging quarters into the Claw Machine at Buffalo Wild Wings.  Spending 20.00 to win a 1.00 stuffed penguin.

You may not be into mud dragging but I’m sure you (just like me) often spend time and resources on the sorts of things that don’t really have a good value-add.  We do these with the best of intentions, but in reality they are simply time-fillers that prevent us from doing the things we really NEED to be doing.

If you’re a small business owner or a solopreneur, the most important thing for you is to get clients, to prospect.  It’s uncomfortable and most of us don’t do it very well, yet in order to succeed, you need people to buy your product or contract for your services.  Here are some mud bog-worthy activities we get sucked up in:

  • Writing a blog when you should be making a call.
  • Building a spreadsheet to track prospects when you should be contacting them.
  • Booking travel when you should be traveling to see prospects.
  • Rearranging your desk when you should have a list of contacts on your desk that you’re calling.

The key is to NOT confuse activity with accomplishment.

In my case, it made more sense to hire an admin assistant to handle the minutiae of the business so I could make it out to visit clients.  She works my CRM for me and helps me set up meetings.  The greatest value I bring is the delivery of services and the prospecting for those clients.  We’re not mud-bogging anymore; we’re making real progress.

All of us fall victim to the activity vs. accomplishment mindset.  Even if you work for someone else, you probably put off uncomfortable value-added tasks in order to do small tasks that keep you busy but add little.

This week, think about what key tasks you need to perform to be successful.  Save your mud bog tasks for the weekend. Your professional success may depend on this!

Work or Get Fired

The alternative to employee engagement attempts

An alternative to employee engagement strategies...

An alternative to employee engagement strategies…

In my travels, I often come across organizations and managers who go out of their way to recognize and reward employees so as to build a culture of what’s referred to as “engagement.”  The premise of engagement is that if a worker feels connected deeply to their job, manager, or company, they’ll do their best work.

In the quest to gain engagement, companies and managers often resort to creative rewards in order to inspire great performance.  I’ve worked with companies who go so far as to have meditation rooms, game rooms, free coke machines (the carbonated version), and a casual, fun environment.  I have no issue with any of this.

The challenge with viewing workers and the workplace through this lens though is that it makes little provision for poor performers.  Engagement strategies work so long as workers are skilled, motivated to perform, and have clear guidance on priorities.  Poor performers are the outliers and because they are, often there is no strategy to deal with them.

Let me suggest one:  Work or get fired.

I know this sounds calloused and is certainly out of step with some of my O.D. colleagues, coaches, and consultants who believe people are always salvageable.  Let me suggest that if a person shows no will go get better, learn new skills, implement new procedures, obey standard policies, then they should be gone.  Rapidly.  Here’s how:

  1. Know your company’s progressive discipline process.  Be clear on what steps need to be taken to attempt to rehab or terminate.
  2. Determine why the person isn’t performing.  If it’s a skill problem, have you taken the time to train them?  If it’s a focus problem, have you attempted to give feedback and coaching?  If yes to all, then you have a WILL problem and that’s handled with discipline.
  3. Have you followed every step in the progressive discipline process and documented each step?  Do your evaluation comments match the person’s actual performance?  If they were on trial, charged with violating company policy or not performing, would there be enough evidence to convict them?
  4. If you’ve spent the time to perform each step, particularly Step 2, then you can be assured the firing is probably warranted, legal, and appropriate.

I know it sounds harsh to think about employees this way, but if you own, run, or manage a business, you know a poor performer is costing you money.  Do yourself, your other employees, and the individual a favor and get rid of them.  Employees who make the effort to perform are the ones who deserve the perks of attempted engagement anyway. It may just work for them.  If they do perform well for you, they deserve it.

How to Communicate with Confidence

Get L.O.C.K.'ed in!

Get L.O.C.K.'ed in!

Get L.O.C.K.’ed in!

Like all skills, communication can be taught.  What can’t be taught though is the confidence it takes to communicate fearlessly and effectively.  That said, a few key thoughts can help you build better rapport with others and over time, this rapport can give you the confidence you need to get your message across.   To help with that, I suggest you get L.O.C.K.’ed in!

L: LOSE Your Selfishness:  In a perfect world (which we don’t live in by the way), others would respect us so much that they’d shift their communication style to match ours in order to make us comfortable.  Since we can’t expect that, it’s our job to figure out how they prefer to be communicated with and meet them on their terms.  If they’re analytical, we have to make our communication flow with data and numbers if we want to convince them.  If they’re more assertive, we need to allow them space to get their message out.  If we choose to be selfless here, we’ll build better rapport and find we get better results.

O: OBSERVE the Signs Others Give You: When I teach workshops, I try to pay attention to the body language of the group.  I can see when I’m losing them to boredom, hunger, or apathy.  It’s totally natural.  If I choose to ignore this, I’ll shut off their ability to learn and probably build some resentment against me.  Nobody ever said “awe we have to finish 30 minutes early?”

C:  CONNECT On Their Terms: We already covered this one.  Quit being selfish, discover how others want to be communicated with, and communicate with them that way.

K:  KEEP This Up Until It Becomes Natural: Data on the exact length of time this varies on this, but just know it takes time to make something new into a habit.  If you’re prone to jump in and finish others’ sentences for them, drone on and on about your upcoming vacation, or feel the need to jump in and say “oh I know EXACTLY how you feel about that, I actually ……..”  just know you won’t change overnight.  Make a commitment to shift your communication habits and just work on it.

All of us have ideas that would revolutionize the workplace, make life more comfortable, or make a million dollars.  If we can’t learn to communicate them with confidence, they’ll never succeed.  This week think about how you can L.O.C.K. in better to relate to others and build better rapport.  You’ll approach life with your head a lot higher and situations with more assertiveness.

 

How to Develop Your Personal Brand

Build your brand and let more of it show to the world!

Build your brand and let more of it show to the world!

A brand represents reputation and the impression you make. Products use branding to set themselves apart from those of competitors.  Some brands are instantly recognizable by their logo – think Coca Cola and Starbucks. Others stand out based on reputation and appeal, both good (Mercedes Benz, Harley Davidson) and bad (Earl Scheib auto painting, the DMV).

Individuals have brands too.  Some are given them based on performance (she’s a go-getter or he’s a butt kisser).  Others though can be created.  If you want to have a successful personal brand, you need to create it.  Here are some steps you can use to build it.  They are analogous to an iceberg.  What is above the waterline is your brand, what’s below it is what builds the brand.  Your confidence is what causes the iceberg, or your brand, to be visible to others.  We’ll start at the lowest level and work our way up to the surface.

Values:  These are the tenets you hold onto the tightest.  They represent your core standards that you operate from.  Examples could be integrity, timeliness, honesty, etc.  They develop over time and rarely change.

Beliefs:  These are fed by the values and can be positive or negative (“people are inherently lazy” or “people want to do a good job”).  The develop from upbringing and experiences and shape how we operate.

Experiences:  Experiences, primarily large, life-changing ones have a profound effect on our brand.  My experience nearly taking a swing at my boss in the Navy shaped my brand as an organizational repair specialist, focusing on management development.

Power:  The base that I push others to do what I want.

Influence:  My ability to draw others towards me in order to get what I want.

Added up, these comprise my brand.  The key of course is to define it and get comfortable communicating it in word and deed.  This begins with reducing it one statement:

“I’m Mack Munro and I’m an organizational repair expert that helps companies fix both unique and chronic problems with managers, employees, processes, and strategies.”

…and then of course living it out.

All of us are branded.  Would you rather get somebody else’s brand on you without having control of how you’re branded or proactively create it?  I’d suggest the latter.  Hopefully these steps help!

2016_HR_Banner_Web_readyHey I know Orlando is hot and humid in August, but I’ll be in the AC so if you’re around, come out.  The SHRM is the best place to be if you’re an HR professional.  MACK Worldwide will have a booth too so stop by and say “hello.”

 

Date: August 29, 2016
Time: 10:30 A.M.
Event: How to Implement a Successful Performance Management Initiative - HR Florida State Conference
Topic: How to Implement a Successful Performance Management Initiative
Sponsor: HR Florida
Venue: Hilton Bonnet Creek - Orlando, FL
Location: Orlando, FL
Public: Public

10 Steps to Take Before a Tough Customer Call

Ever wish you could do this to a customer?

Ever wish you could do this to a customer?

This company would be better off without Customers”

But sometimes is feels that way doesn’t it?

If you’ve ever had to take that tough customer call, you were probably torn between telling them to get lost and possibly handing them everything they wanted.  It’s a hard choice but gets easier if you handle the interaction with care.  I have 10 Steps that should help you get your thoughts in order and calm your emotions down enough to do a better job of it.

The List:

  • Step #1: Identify Your Emotion – Are you angry, nervous, or anxious? These are emotions. Identify where you are before even getting started.
  • Step #2: Identify Your Self-Talk – What’s going through your mind? How are you telling yourself this will go? Are you going to be open-minded?
  • Step #3: Identify Your Physical Response – Look at yourself in a mirror. If you look stressed or angry, it will come out over the phone. Look for signs of tension and take some deep breaths.
  • Step #4: Empty Your Mind – Don’t assume you know how the person will react. If you do, you may bring about the negative respond you’re expecting.
  • Step #5: Attend to the Other Person – When you speak to them, make the conversation all about them. Listen, let them vent.
  • Step #6: Ask Open-End Questions – When gathering information, avoid anything that’s a definitive Yes or No. Use this step to get as much information as you can.
  • Step #7: Listen actively. Focus. Turn away from your computer screen and close your eyes if you have to. Make sure you attention is on every word they say.
  • Step #8: Don’t Assume, But Read Between the Lines – Listen for emotion in some of their raw statements. You can ask more open-end questions to clarify.
  • Step #9: Summarize Their Points – If you’re taking notes, read back the list of WANTS and NEEDS. Ask them if you’ve captured all of their thoughts. Finally,
  • Step #10: Ask Permission to Respond – This officially signals when you can address their complaint. You should have enough data by now. This is them ceding control to you.

Customer relations are tough and like any relationship, require work to make them succeed.  By handling a tough call gently, but firmly, you can increase your chances of improving the relationship.

How to Say Yes

Go ahead, say it! I dare you!

Go ahead, say it! I dare you!

Last week we learned why it’s so important to say no. Today, we need to figure out how to say yes. I’ve been wrestling with this a bit as I’m helping a company develop a customer service initiative.

I know this sounds simple, but it’s really not. Anyone can say yes when you actually have the power and ability to do so. But what happens when you can’t say yes?

Nothing annoys me more than going someplace and not being able to get what I need. Case in point, places like the DMV, Enterprise Rental Cars, United Airlines, and maybe from people like the guy at the County Clerk’s office who tells you you’re missing some obscure document that he needs to title your car. What doesn’t help is when I hear:

“I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do for you.”

Here’s a newsflash: NOBODY CARES WHAT YOU CAN’T DO FOR THEM! THEY WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR THEM!

I’ll accept no if I know you’ve actually tried to help. I think most customers would. If you have to tell a person no, then try it this way:

“Hmmm, I’m not sure we can do that, but let me tell you what we CAN do for you.”

Now granted, there may not actually be anything you can do, but this is where you might want to think a little creatively. Give a customer the choice of yes. Present three alternative options and have them choose. They might not get the answer they want, but they sure a heck will be happier if they have some other options.

No is one of the most definitive words in the dictionary. It shuts off communication and interaction. Yes opens doors and builds rapport. Both are healthy and unhealthy depending on the issue and it’s up to us to decide when and how to use them.

This week, figure out how to say yes when the policy says no, only of course if you can do so legally, ethically, and effectively. It may be the first step to better relationships, both personally and professionally.

 

 

It’s the LEAST Wonderful Time of the Year!

ppcoverWe’re in that awkward stage of sports (in my opinion of course).  I’m not a hockey fan and absolutely detest basketball.  Baseball is boring and slow.  The hockey season is slowly winding down.  Basketball will soon begin its endless playoff season, and Opening Day is of the MLB is coming soon.  I’m longing for the dog days of summer and the start of the NFL season!

It’s fairly quiet right now in the NFL.  The free agency rush is basically over.   We’re all patiently waiting for the NFL Draft and for diehard fans like me, it’s a fury of mock drafts and player analysis.  NFL scouts are busy evaluating draftees and owners and General Managers are bluffing as to what they’ll do with their draft picks.  It’s the calm before the storm of the Draft, OTAs, and training camp.

Figuring out a player’s potential in the NFL based on their college performance isn’t easy.  It’s about comparing the systems they played in, their stats, and of course their character.  You could end up with a late round treasure (like Tom Brady) or a first round bust (like Ryan Leaf).

It’s not different in the corporate world is it?  You have an open position and then try to evaluate candidates based on their resume (past performance), interview (ability to engage), and maybe their references (what others say about them).  It’s a tough job and more often than not, companies fail to hire good candidates.

I’ve done quite a bit of work in this area and have tried to formulize the process.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at how to identify, evaluate, and hire talent.  Even if you’re not in the hiring process or HR world, pay attention as it’s great information that will enable you to perform better in the interview process and be more successful at work.

Lesson#1:  Evaluate Performance (Skill)

The cornerstone of this process and a foundation of what I teach is the 3-Legged Stool of Great Performance™ model.  It’s based on the principle that great performance is the sum of Skill (I know what I’m doing), Will (I actually want to do it), and Focus (I know what behaviors are expected of me).

Skill is something we all need to develop and build.  Like a football player, there are some skills that come naturally (strength or speed) and others that must be developed (quick thinking and intuitiveness).  In the corporate world, skills are the first areas looked at in hiring.  They’re usually evident on resumes.  What do you know and what do you need to learn?  Training is the remedy for skill problems.  Training builds the necessary skills.  If you’re fortunate enough to work in a company that offers training, don’t be a dummy and avoid the classes!  In many of my client companies, attendees would rather be anywhere else but in the sessions.  I don’t take it personally.  Most folks are busy, however taking a day or two to build new skills is a good thing.

This week, think about where you are skill-wise.  Are you in a field that has lots of changes?  Certifications to continually pass?  New tools and techniques? If so, get busy educating yourself.  Skill is a huge success factor.  It’s up to you to make sure yours are up to speed.

speakingIf you’re an HR professional and are tasked with developing a training initiative, you need to hear this presentation.  This will be held at the Charleston, WV chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Program Topic:  “How To Implement a Successful Strategic Training Initiative”  

If you are looking to bring a strategic edge to your organization, training, and development is a key component.  This presentation will show the importance of balancing performance management, strategic goals and initiatives, wants and needs of employes and managers, and tight budgets while working to implement a culture of learing.

HR progessionals from Entry to Senior level who are looking for help in demonstrating the strategic value of the HR function ot senior leadership should plan to attend.

*This program has been approved for recertification credits.

Location:  Habitat for Humanity’s Education Community Center, 815 Court Street, Charleston WV (on the corner of Court St. and Piedmont Rd. diagonally across from Greens Feed and Seed.)

Free parking: The Community Center has a private parking lot directly across from the Center’s entrance on Court Street (enter the lot from Piedmont Road). Do Not Park on the Habitat lot or next to the building. 

Registration Fee:  $15 Members, $20 Non-Members

Resource Management (SHRM) monthly meeting on April 12, 2016.

 

Date: April 13, 2016
Time: 11:00 - 1:15
Event: How to Implement a Successful Strategic Training Initiative - April 13, 2016
Topic: How to Implement a Successful Strategic Training Initiative
Sponsor: Charleston, WV SHRM
Venue: Habitat for Humanity’s Education Community Center
Location: 815 Court Street
Charleston WV 25323
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

CM-JS-SurvivalGuide-3DHey folks, I hope you’ll join me on Monday, May 9, 2016.  The topic I’ll present may be the MOST important one you need to hear if you’re between jobs.

No need to sign up, just SHOW up!  Bring something to write with.

I hope to see you there!

Doors open at 6:30 pm.
Meeting time: 7:00-8:30 pm
Meeting Location: 309 Franklin Rd., Brentwood, TN  (Haney Hall, just inside the lobby entrance at the back of the church)

Date: May 9, 2016
Time: 7:00 - 8:30 PM
Event: The Number One Biggest Mistake Job Seekers Make (and how to avoid it) - May 9, 2016
Topic: The Number One Biggest Mistake Job Seekers Make (and how to avoid it)
Sponsor: Brentwood United Methodist Church
615.656.3535
Venue: Brentwood United Methodist Church
615.656.3535
Location: 309 Franklin Rd.
Brentwood, TN 37027
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.