The 4 Common Behaviors of a Losing Team

I was smiling because another losing season was finally over!

I was smiling because another losing season was finally over!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been on losing teams.  My high school football team had 4 losing seasons.  My company in Navy boot camp was last in the division.  I’ve worked at companies that were financially struggling.  While my business is doing well, I often have to work with losing teams in the business world.

You can learn a lot from being a loser.  If you don’t, then there’s a good chance you’ll continue to lose.  Since none of us can really afford to lose, maybe we can take some lessons from losing teams and do our best not to repeat them.

In my experience, losing teams share these common traits:

  1. They Expect to Lose. It doesn’t start out this way.  Each season begins with hope.  But, with one loss, disappointment sets in.  Then after another a sense of apathy.  Finally, after a few more, losing becomes an expectation.

My high school football team lost every first game of the season to the same school, Pacific Christian.  They were a tough, but not an unbeatable school.  Then we had several non-league games against some really hard teams.  By the time we got to our league schedule, we expected losses.  Unfortunately, league games essentially cleaned the slate since making the playoffs meant we only had to win league games.  It rarely happened and most of us just phoned it in waiting for the season to mercifully end.

When you begin expecting to lose, you’ll never have enough motivation to try to pull out a win.

Solution?  Make winning an expectation.  Don’t get disappointed by a loss, get infuriated.  Harness that energy to get a win next time.

  1. There is a Sense of Arrogance after a (Rare) Win. After losing, a win is amazing!  Be careful though.  If you don’t know how you got the win, you won’t know how to repeat it.  Arrogance will replace preparation and you’ll lose again.

Back to high school football.  In my senior year, we bounced back from our annual loss to Pacific Christian with wins in the next 2 games.  We then played The Buckley School (a prestigious prep school in Sherman Oaks, CA where Michael Jackson’s daughter would eventually attend) and came within one holding penalty of beating them.  That set us up for a big win against Grace Christian school and then a school that traveled down from the Central Valley to play us.  We ended up beating them too.  Then it was time for league.  Our first opponent was Heritage Christian, a school that was smaller than ours and almost a sure win.  On that Saturday night we had the JV team dress out which meant our sideline looked even larger and more intimidating.  Somehow we managed to lose that game.  The next week was a loss against a much tougher Capo Valley Christian followed up by the last league game (which was my last game ever) against Liberty Christian which we lost 22-0.  None of us could believe it.

Fast forward just 18 months.  I was in Navy basic training in San Diego.  Our recruit company was a failure in every way, from academics to military drill.  Finally we had our sports competition against the other companies in our division.  We expected to do well here since many of our shipmates were athletic, and some pretty big.  As we assembled our tug-o-war team, the anchor, a huge kid named Terry Whisenhunt commented that we should warm up by chaining up to a building and pulling it around the compound.  We ended up losing EVERY athletic event that day.  Which brought about behavior #1 above.

When you become arrogant, you don’t work on a winning formula to sustain wins.

Solution?  Treat every win like a loss and dissect what happened.  Repeat what works and ditch what doesn’t.

  1. There is Discord Among the Team’s Leaders. Losing tends to bring out tension and conflict between team leaders.  By allowing this to be seen, you’re sending a really bad signal to your desperate team.

Shortly after our disappointing sports competition, one of our company commanders, Senior Chief Crabtree made drill a priority (his Navy rating was Musician so he know quite a bit about this stuff) and he worked us hard.  He wasn’t a screamer like our other company commander, Chief David was so we all performed well for him.  We actually started getting our act together.

Then one day Chief David addressed the entire company while Senior Chief Crabtree was gone.  (Try to hear this in a hard Filipino accent):

“I know you mutta*&%$s love Senior Chief but I’ve been a company commander much longer.  He doesn’t know what he’s doing.  Listen to me. Don’t listen to him anymore. We’ll gonna straighten you mutta*&^&%$s out!”

Now with the company divided, we continue to score low in every evolution until boot camp mercifully ended 5 weeks later.

Losing is the BEST time for the team leaders to come together.  Blaming each other simply reinforces failure on top of the current level of failure.

Solution?  You win together.  You lose together.  At least the leaders need to be united.  If not, then things will continue to get worse.

  1. The Team’s Leaders Attempt Desperate Measures to Turn Things Around. Losing makes people desperate.  Desperation makes people do dumb things that simply compound the pain of losing.

With my junior year football team hopelessly mired in a losing season, the coaches became desperate.  The instructed us to run onto the field at the start of the game and they would throw a football onto mid field.  We were, as a team, instructed to treat it like a fumble drill and all dogpile on top of each other to get it.  Of course most of us were nursing injuries (losing at football is often a physical problem too) so this stunt resulted in a couple of players not being able to play that night.   Two weeks later, our coach had one of his mentors, Coach DeWoody, a legend in small school tackle football in California, talk to us at halftime against Liberty Christian.  His rant did nothing to inspire us.  It was more like mass confusion in the middle of game where we were physically and strategically outmatched.  As we headed back onto the field, I overhead Coach DeWoody tell our coach that we had already given up.  He was correct.

Losing can only be fixed by figuring out the reason why and improving on it.  By identifying the contributors to losing, only then can we turn it around.  This is analysis, not pep talks.  Desperation never works.

Solution?  When you lose, become rational, not emotional.  Emotion may produce short term energy but until the systems are correct, the losing will continue.

None of us want to be on a losing team.  We may not be able to change it if we’re on one now but if you are leading or will lead a team, be sure NOT to fall into these 4 behavior patterns.

How to (Credibly) Sell Something

That being the case, I’ve found that people who aren’t trained sales or marketing professionals prefer to do everything BUT address pain points.  None clearer than the billboard I saw in Clarksville, TN this week.

Now if you look at it, you’ll probably have several questions:

  • Who is Mr. Murples?
  • If he’s the baboon with the big glasses, what does he know about buying a car?
  • If he does know about buying cars, how do we know that their prices are the lowest?
  • Why is Mr. Murples so huge when the car that has the low price on it is dwarfed?

Does this billboard do anything to convince anyone they should buy at this dealership?

Now I have nothing against this dealership or Nissans for that matter. I even like baboons (but I’m not a fan of bow ties, on humans or baboons). I do have something against spending hard-earned cash on crappy advertising.

And because I do, I’d like to offer up some suggestions for the next time you’re trying to sell something (or yourself) to someone.

  1. Identify Your Potential Audience. Who are they? What do they like? How do they think? In the case of a car buyer, think about what demographic might be interested in a Nissan. Everyone loves buying at the lowest price. Do Nissan buyers like baboons with bow ties and glasses?
  2. Identify their “Pain.” In the case of car buyers, low price is certainly important but what about a buyer-friendly experience where there is no haggling over the price? We want to attract the right people to the lot. Not sure what you’d attract with a bow tie-wearing baboon.
  3. Figure Out the Best Way to Reach Them. Billboards might be great when marketing to people on the road. That may be where your buyers are. Possibly having a baboon on the billboard gets attention in a sea of other car dealer, law firms, and insurance agencies who seem to dominate the billboard methodology. But does this really work? Which leads to…
  4. Measure Your Results. I’m not sure how one would track who comes in based on seeing Mr. Murples. If the dealership actually polls potential buyers, they’d be wise to count just how many were drawn in by the ad. If Mr. Murples is driving up sales, keep him around. If not, move on and maybe try NOT using animals.

These lessons work in sales and in interviewing for jobs. Take some time this week to reexamine your sales and marketing strategy. Mr. Munro thinks it’s a great idea. You’ll have to ask Mr. Murples his opinion.

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