“Look at the Scoreboard!”

The "Dirtiest Player in the Academy League - 1981"

The “Dirtiest Player in the Academy League – 1981”

From 1980 – 1982, I was known as one of the dirtiest players on my high school football team, and probably in the Academy League as well. I’m not sure why I experienced rage every time I strapped on a helmet but as an offensive lineman, it certainly helped. It wasn’t enough to just protect my quarterback or open a hole for the running back, I wanted my opponent to suffer. My idol at the time was the NFL’s Dirtiest Player Conrad Dobler, who played for the New Orleans Saints. Dobler, also an offensive lineman had a reputation for all manner of dirty play, probably because he was naturally an intense guy and he played on a losing team. I could relate.

My senior year started ignominiously. I was thrown out of our first game after attempting to twist a guy’s head off like a bottle cap after our running back fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. From then we actually started winning games. After three or so in a row, we played The Buckley School, a prep school in Sherman Oaks, CA (where Michael Jackson’s daughter would attend some 30 years later). Buckley had beaten us the previous three years. We started well but soon fell behind. I was more concerned with physically tormenting the defensive tackle opposing me. After 3 quarters of play, we were behind but he was fading. Body shots to the solar plexus, leg whips on his knees, and the occasional elbow to the chin took their toll. As the game neared the end, I looked down at him and taunted him. He looked up and simply said, “look at the scoreboard.”

I never forgot that. We went on to lose most of the rest of our games. After high school I never played football again and that angry teenager is now an old bald man with two hip replacements and a bad back. But every now and then he makes an appearance in traffic jams or at security lines at the airport.

The lesson from the Buckley game is still true today though. Look at the scoreboard.

All of us have tough times in our careers, jobs, or businesses. Sometimes we are pummeled at every turn and get discouraged. The more we focus on that opponent in front of us, the less empowered we feel.

But have you looked at the scoreboard recently?

I felt beat up at the Florida SHRM conference when I was upstaged at my book signing by Dan Rather, but when I looked at the scoreboard, I realized I was winning the overall game in my business.

When I see a LinkedIn connection bragging that “I’m honored to be the keynote speaker today at the National Sock Drawer Arranging Conference,” I sometimes get jealous, but then I just look at the scoreboard.

When you get discouraged, are looking at the problem or the scoreboard?

Every day we need to focus on getting “points” such as a problem solved, a colleague helped, a customer served, or a client created. These little wins accumulate and build up our overall “score.” When you run your score up high enough, an obstacle seems less important when we simply look up and see the scoreboard.

This week, take some time to tally up your scores up to today. Post them someplace visually where you can seem them. Work to add to the score each day. It’s your job to run up the score.

And if you haven’t scored recently, make it a priority to put some points on the board

“I Never Thought It Would Happen to Me…”

depositphotos_3849942_m-2015Even though the economy seems to have healed after the Great Recession of 2008, it’s still a common occurrence when people reach out to me for advice after getting laid off.

There are two reasons why a person loses their job:

  1. The company goes out of business.
  2. The person stops adding value (or takes value away by performing poorly)

To prevent yourself from being unprepared for that possible bad day, I’d like to suggest the following steps to better plan for that day.

  1. Perform! You have full control over this one.  Each day, come to work with the mindset of doing your job the best that you can and when you’re done, look for something else to do.  Play until the whistle!
  1. Keep Your Eye on the Industry. Companies rarely fold without warning.  Spend some time each day reading the news and watching business reports.  If you see what your company produces is fading from popularity, start making plans to change industries or companies.
  1. Keep Your Skills Sharp. You may not like the new technology or don’t feel like learning it, but sooner or later that technology will become the standard.  If you aren’t willing to develop yourself and adapt, you may find yourself on the wrong end of a pink slip.
  1. Keep Your Resume Updated. Keep it current with the latest trends in resumes.  I often hear that a person is writing their first resume in 10 years, and that resume shows it!  Trends change in the HR world.  Be sure you’re changing your resume and approach too.
  1. Build and Nurture Your Network. It’s always better to work your contacts when you don’t need them so you’ll feel less obligated and guilty when you DO need them.  Start growing that network today!

If you follow these steps, you’ll never be blindsided with that pink slip.  Hopefully you’ll have seen it coming from a distance and proactively transitioned to a new role.  Take ownership of your career development and you won’t be the victim when a company seeks to reduce its headcount.

The Problem Is…

Angry and tired schoolgirl studyingLast week I attended a party with a group of people in the consulting field.  They all work in a very competitive industry and gaining new clients is a struggle.  As I worked the room, talking with many of them, I noticed a very common response when I asked them how business was going.

“It’s tough.  The problem is…”

And then they proceeded to tell me a list of reasons why they weren’t successful.  I noticed that none of them offered up steps they were taking to overcome the challenges.

Now I know this industry well and I also know the clients they seek.  They have valid complaints.  What they don’t seem to realize is that if you have a challenge and choose not to work at overcoming it, then the problem is…YOU!

I work with lots of different companies and usually my number one job is to help them solve problems.  I’ve learned that when you have a problem, the key to solving it involves defining the REAL problem (sometimes referred to as the root cause) and then looking at it systematically to solve it completely.  The tool I use is the Force Field Analysis.   If today YOU are wrestling with a problem, why not consider using it?  Here is what it looks like:

force_field_analysis2

 

 

 

 

 

Now use following steps:

  1. Figure out what success is and what happens when you get it.  Put this in the column labeled Driving Forces.  List out what life would be like if you achieved your goal, signed that client, or acquired that piece of business.  Be sure to list not only the tangibles (dollars and numbers) but also the feelings and emotions you’d get too.
  2. Identify what’s holding you back.  Put this in the column labeled Restraining Forces.  Write down everything that’s preventing you or holding you back from achieving success.  Put in actual and assumed constraints.
  3. Identify your top 3 restraining forces.  Rank order them from least to most.  You want to identify the biggest barrier.
  4. Break down your top 3 restraining forces into processes and identify areas where things break down.

Get busy fixing those areas!

Here’s an example:

I have a great product or service that would benefit people.  If they used it, they would:

Driving Forces

  • Be happy and successful
  • I would make lots of money
  • My influence would increase
  • I would get more clients
  • They would be happy and successful
  • I would be happy

Restraining Forces

  • The benefits of my product is hard to communicate
  • My target audience is hard to reach
  • My ideal client is hard to identify
  • My ideal clients have lots of choices

Key Restraining Force

  • My ideal clients have lots of choices

Solutions

  • Focus on how to differentiate why my product and service is different and better for them.

The alternative to all this is to lament the fact that business is slow right now.

And to tell everyone that “The problem is…”

Because unless you choose to identify the REAL problem and take deliberate, active steps to overcome it, then the REAL problem is YOU!

This week, take some time to reframe the problems you’re facing and take some steps to move from victim to winner.

How to Deliver a Winning Pitch

Interpreter ServicesYour syntax was convoluted.

It was November, 1980 and our new high school Bible III teacher, Dr. Bahnsen had just finished delivering a scathing analysis of the first essays we had written in his class, ending with the above critique.  What promised to be a fun Junior year at Newport Christian High School went quickly south as our former teacher, an affable guy named Mr. Smyth was fired and replaced by this taskmaster with a PhD in ethics from USC.  Bahnsen was brought in to up the ante in academic rigor and he delivered.  I had him for two classes and barely passed.

And yet I still had no idea what a syntax was nor what it meant to be convoluted.  Bahnsen had lots of knowledge but just couldn’t express it in a way that this 17-year-old could understand.  The message was lost in translation.

I recently watched an episode of Shark Tank where these two crazy smart scientists invented a really neat technology that they pitched to the investors.  The valuation of the company was at $40 million which extraordinarily high for the show.  The inventors tried unsuccessfully to communicate in their language (science) to the Sharks (who speak money) about why this product would change the world and would be worth the valuation (the language of regular people like me.)   They did not get an investment.  Even after multiple prompts from the Sharks, they couldn’t explain the product in any other language than science.

All of us have a mother tongue.  Mine is English.  We also have a conversational preference.  Some speak science.  Others data.  I speak story, simple story.  If we want to convince others of something, we need to use their language.  Since much of our success in business depends on others “buying in,” it’s important to follow some important steps to getting our point across.

  1. Figure out what you want to communicate.  This is key.  What are you pitching?  Is it a new idea, product, service, or concept?  Is it tangible or theoretical?  Is it brand new or a variation of the old?
  2. Figure out who you need to communicate the idea to.  Who is the decision-maker?  Who are they influenced by?
  3. Figure out what you want from that audience.  Support?  Buy-in?  Money?  Resources?
  4. Figure out the language of that audience.  Do they speak science or emotion?  Money or relationship?  Pragmatism or enthusiasm?
  5. Develop your pitch to encompass all the above information using the medium they prefer.

In a perfect world, everyone would speak and understand as we do.  They don’t.  Dr. Bahnsen probably realized this as our graduating class commenced in 1982 nearly half the size it was at the beginning of our Junior year, with none of us, as far as I could tell, any better at resolving ethical dilemmas or biblical truth than we were before he taught us.  The entrepreneurs on that episode of Shark Tank are probably working extra hard now to really quantify their idea in greater scientific detail to convince other investors.  It’s not going to work.  Unless they find some really rich, PhD-carrying investors.

Our ability to speak the language of others is the only way we can influence.  This week, take some time to re-think who you need to influence and look at better ways to communicate.  It’s the only way you’ll get your important points across, even if you do manage to unconvolute your syntax…