Visualize your perfect week

matrix_screensaver-endless_corridors

This is a time management/personal success tip that I use.  Successful people have a habit of creating their own future.  They see their ideal future first, then consciously and unconsciously arrange actions to move them toward that ideal state.

So the tip here is to create your perfect week in advance.  Make a list and draw a mental picture of what your life would look like if you created massive results this week.  “See” those goals already accomplished and imagine how you will feel with them completed. Emotional energy is key in making that dream a reality.

Creating your perfect day, month, and year in advance is wise too but the week is a very practical time length.  We can look at a week’s plan and assess it whether it’s too big or too small.  (Its usually too small).  A week is long enough to get major things done but not too long to wait for the payoff.

Here’s one problem: we get distracted.  Sometimes whole days or even several days are preempted by interruptions.  But it’s less likely to have an entire week be consumed with distractions.  And even if it is, we can use small bits of time throughout the week to make progress on our major goals.  When we’re distracted, we can go right back to making headway if we have that vision in front of us.

Here’s another problem: we don’t even have an ideal future or we don’t know what it looks like.  Seeing the future takes some practice.  Translating our goals into a visible picture takes some mental effort and risk.  Many of us have developed a defense mechanism against dreaming too big.  It hurts when we don’t win, so why compete?  Develop the mental discipline to defeat this poor thinking.  Set some exciting goals!

So here is the key:  Write down at the beginning of your week, what would make this week ideal.  What events would transpire to create an ideal situation in every area of your business and personal life.  What difficult tasks must you do, what people do you need to collaborate with, and what would happen to make this week perfect in every way?  Think about that for a time then make an action plan to start the process.  Even working around the edges or creating preparations for your goals can create progress.

If you think about it, many of your greatest accomplishments were done this way.  You, or someone for you set some goals and created a vision around those goals.  Then you went to work to make that vision a reality.  This tip is about making all 52 weeks a project like that.  Try this out for several weeks and see if it works for you like it has for thousands of others.  And let me know how it has helped you.  Bob R

The numbers must work

accountant-numbers must workGreat ideas are great.  Beautiful plans are exciting. But the numbers must work to support those ideas and plans.

This is about business.  Obviously there are a few things that don’t need to be measured.  Everything else does.  Art does.  Van Gogh was a great painter but his numbers didn’t work and he died poor.  People do.  We don’t keep people who don’t measure up – at least not in the workplace.

Business must pass the test of the numbers every day and every year.  Sales quotas must be met, margins must be acceptable, costs must me controlled, and budgets need to be followed. This is an iron law of business.  It’s like gravity.  Everything must be measured by the numbers and the numbers must work.

I work with businesses, start-ups, company divisions, new projects, and expansions by some people and companies that have great ideas but the numbers don’t work.  If they don’t work, you must either make adjustments or abandon the idea.  You can’t go plunging full speed ahead on a project that is doomed to failure because it bleeds money.

Not everyone is tasked with watching the numbers.  Of course if you have your own small business it’s all you.  If you work for a larger organization you may not be directly in charge of a budget.  Even so, someone needs to make sure those numbers work at every level.  This is a leadership activity.  Leaders are concerned about making the numbers work – followers don’t think about such things. People are counting on you to make sure the numbers work.  Don’t let them down.  Do not neglect this important task.

So, here’s what to do:  Start counting.  Create systems to make the numbers work.  Measure the input, output, projections, everything.  Do your research.  Crunch all the numbers.  You have many ways to fail financially.  Find them before you start.  Be skeptical.  Find your break-even.  Become intimately aware of all the numbers that contribute to your project.

Many years ago at a former workplace, I was responsible for making sure the numbers worked.  I neglected this and put it off.  I didn’t give it my due diligence.  I failed because I ignored tell tale signs that only the numbers were trying to tell me.  I let people down and hurt myself as well.  Don’t make this mistake.  Do your homework.  Make sure the numbers work.  Bob R

“I believe in you”

my fair lady

“I believe in you” are magic words.  Use them with anyone you manage, anyone in your organization, and anyone in your family.  Believing in people is magic because you communicate trust, empowerment, faith, and approval when you speak those words.

It’s been said that most people wear an invisible sign on themselves that says “please make me feel important”.  One of the most common fears people experience is to feel insignificant, abandoned, and unimportant.  Telling them that you believe in them speaks to a very basic need in all of us.

Now, what if you don’t really believe in them?  Well, why not?  Have they disappointed you regularly by being undependable?  Do they have a reputation as not being trustworthy?  Or, do you just generally not trust people?

The truth is that almost everyone disappoints us at some time.  Nobody is 100% dependable.  Believing in someone who is flawed is just believing in the future improved version of them.

In my coaching business, companies hire me to help people improve.  These people are being asked by the company to change for the better.  Which means they’re not 100%.  Even when they WANT to change, making improvements are typically slow and small.  Everyone involved; the client, me, the client’s manager all need to keep encouraging progress and keep believing.  This takes lots of patience and faith.

Frankly, some companies don’t have this kind of patience.  Some just terminate intolerable people and cast them aside.  Others just allow the person to keep working there but never encourage them to improve.  Some just ignore the problems.  You’ve probably worked for all of the above.  Don’t be like them.  Do better.

The things to keep in mind are these:

  1. You can’t change other people
  2. People can change themselves
  3. It’s NOT easy
  4. Believing in them often gives them the energy to make those positive changes.

Here’s an assignment for you: Pick out someone at work or in your family or club or church that is generally disrespected and thought less of.  Decide to look into their future and see that same person now prettier, smarter, kinder, and more giving than they are now.  Imagine that person much improved for about a week then tell them the magic words-“I believe in you”.  They might not believe you and get angry or they might appreciate it.  In any case, keep believing in them.

In the wonderful musical, “My Fair Lady”, a British gentlemen makes a bet that he can change a lowly uneducated, flower girl enough to be accepted as a well-born lady at a ball.  At the end of the show, she becomes a new person and the teacher gloats.  In reality, it would be the lowly girl who worked hardest to change and it would have taken longer.  But he did say several times “I believe in you”.

One last thought- Ask any successful person this question:  Did someone in your past believe in you at time when you didn’t believe in yourself?  Did somebody keep faith in you when you were much less mature than you are now?

My guess is they have.

Is Leadership optional?

churchill, lincoln, kingIf you are a parent, is leadership optional?  Of course not.  If you are a sales person, manager, or senior member at work, can you choose to not be a leader?  If you are a cub scout, a big sister, a bank teller, a rotary club member, a professional ball player or anything else, you really have no choice – you are a leader.  Somebody is watching you and basing their decisions about their work or their life on what they see you do.  That defines you as a leader.

Leadership is not optional.  You can only decide whether to be a good leader or a poor one.  If you are a good leader, you will inspire many people to become better and do good things by emulating your actions.  If you are a poor leader most people will scoff, deride, or ignore you but some unfortunate souls will follow your example.  Even pirates have followers.  If you are a lazy evil hermit, somebody will find out and choose that same path because of you.

The key idea here is that most of us discount the effect and reach of our leadership.  We think our actions and words don’t matter so we’re cavalier about them.  We shoot our mouths off, cut corners, and take selfish privileges.  We think they don’t matter – but they do.

This Allen Iverson clip, former nba player, tells us that he doesn’t understand the effect of his poor leadership.

You see, people are watching us.  We are leaders.  Hey Allen: have you learned that yet?

I put a picture of Churchill, Lincoln, and ML King on this post to represent good leaders.  What would we think if honest Abe stole a few reams of paper from the office?  What if Churchill didn’t keep his commitment and went home early – before the war was over?  How would we view Dr. King if he gained power only to become one of the oppressors that he preached against?  We’ve all seen our share of paper thieves, commitment breakers, and oppressors by former coworkers.  We know what we think of them.

But what about you? What actions are you taking that send an unintended message?  Are you keeping your commitments?  Are you putting in a day’s work for a day’s pay?  Are you playing for the team or just playing for yourself?  Are you treating people as a means to an end or the end of the means?

I, Bob Ramsey, am asking you to hold yourself to very high standards.  Be the highest integrity person that you can imagine.  Be the very best worker that you can be.  Keep your commitments.  Never lie or break your word.  Treat every other human being with the greatest of respect even when they don’t deserve it.  Even if everyone around you is doing the wrong thing – do the right thing.  No matter what the cost.  This is the first step in being a good leader.

Because in one sense, you are Churchill, you are Lincoln, you are King.  And the world is watching.  Are you going to practice?

Go AWAY!

thin mints

I saw this sign on a storefront while browsing an historic downtown shopping area. I thought how interesting that they were using this sign to sort out sales people from ones with crediblity (girl scouts) to sales people without credibility (everyone else). So, why do the girl scouts get a pass? What do they have that lets them in the door when everyone else gets the go away sign?

Credibility is something all salespeople need to make progress in a sale.  There are several ways to gain credibility and everyone’s favorite is…a referral!  We love referrals because we’re already believed before we even get there!  In a way, girl scouts are getting a referral.  The above business believes in girls scouts because of some girl scout in their past.  Some salespeople manage referrals so well, they never need to prospect.  For the rest of us though, prospecting is a part of life.  How do you gain credibility quickly when the “go away” sign is spoken or shown to you?  This is a key skill that every salesperson and business person needs to attain.

In our sales training, we help sales people develop credibility quickly by demonstrating.  Not demonstrating their product, but demonstrating things like their competence.  If you are the absolute expert in some area someone has an interest in, your expertise just might open that door for you.  The world’s expert is very competent and that means something to a prospective buyer.  Almost nobody wants to even give 3 seconds to a salesperson without personal and professional competence.

Your appearance makes a lot of difference in this regard.  Think about going to a doctor who was dressed in a car mechanic’s uniform.  Or maybe you need to visit a funeral director and they’re dressed in a clown outfit.  We know that those clothing choices make no difference in their real capability in doing their job.  But we can all see how that would hurt their credibility.  So, dress and groom yourself like the most successful person in your field.  Give your prospects’ first 3 seconds every reason to believe in you.

Another way to demonstrate competence is to state it.  I once was about to catch a flight in a very small commercial airline with very old and small airplanes over a mountain range in very bad weather.  Before we left the gate, the very young captain (can you get the idea here that I was wishing I wasn’t on that flight?) came into the cabin and announced that he had flown this same airplane dozens of times over these same mountains in weather just as bad as this.  And before this, he had landed navy jets on an aircraft carrier in pitching seas at night hundreds of times.  That made me feel better about my prospective “purchase”.  Wouldn’t it help you?

I think salespeople forget that they need to build credibility.  If you know your product is good, and you know you are good, and the last customer knew you were good, sometimes you assume that the next prospect will know that too.  Well, you have to build credibility every time.  Just like the above sign says, you aren’t trusted yet so don’t assume you are.  And if you demonstrate credibility well, we just might trust you like we do the girl scouts. Instead of  being shown the door.

Never Stop Learning

einstein

Stay young, be more successful, appear more intelligent, BE more intelligent, earn respect from others, solve problems more quickly, get promoted, have more influence, make more money, sleep better, raise your self-esteem, and more; all by becoming a continuous learner.  Don’t be like the 90% of people who graduate and then never open a book again.  Be like Einstein who never stopped learning.  This is key to your success.  Read books!  Create learning goals!  Set big goals that require you to gain knowledge you don’t have right now.  Readers are leaders.

I know 2 very ambitious business people.  One believes in continuous learning and one does not.  They both are successful but the continuous learner can converse on a wider range of subjects, can make connections between those subjects, is very creative, finds answers where there seem to be none, and can converse with many people in other departments.  The other person is very smart and very good in their field but only there.  Now which do you think has the brightest future?  Which one would you follow?  It’s obvious, isn’t it?

The challenge is that a learning habit requires discipline.  I have a goal right now to read 12 books in 12 months.  No teacher, no parent, nobody is going to make me do that.  Only me.  I will succeed or fail on my own.  If I don’t read those books, I’ll be just like 90% of my competition.  Nobody will scold me.  If I read them, I’ll be in the top 10%.  Nobody will praise me.  I have to make myself read all year.  But would you rather hire someone who had the foresight, ambition, and discipline to read the books or the one who didn’t?

The best way to start is to set a goal to just keep getting smarter.  Just like when you were in school.  It didn’t take that much effort to go from 9th grade to 10th grade.  Remember meeting with your counselor as you entered the new grade?  Picking out classes that matched your goals for graduation and your field?  Then picking up the course material and digging into it.  You might have needed some help along the way but most of it was up to you.  It’s a similar process now. And step by step you’ll keep gaining knowledge.  When you look back in 6 or 12 months you’ll be amazed at your progress.  If you need some suggestions on what to read or what to study, email me.  I’ll be glad to make some suggestions.

And if you do this, I guarantee results.  Learning keeps your mind sharp as you age by creating a more flexible brain.  You create more neural pathways.  You become a magnet for success because people notice your improvement and want to work with you.  And of course your self-esteem will rise because you will admire your accomplishments – because you will have bigger ones and they will happen more often.  Sleep better, more money, greater leadership…let’s just end here with a guarantee by me and a quote by JFK who said “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.  Now isn’t that something worth working for?

Problem Finding

still life fruit wine

We are all aware on how important the skill of problem solving is.  But there is a related skill that is even more important.  This is the skill of problem finding.  Finding, analyzing, and understanding problems is the key to more success in your career.

This was studied in a classic case of fourth year art students at the University of Chicago in 1964.  Researchers observed 27 art students who were given several still life objects and asked to create a drawing from them.  As the researchers looked on, they noticed that the students went about their task in two different ways.  Some chose their subjects quickly and got on with the task of creating an art piece.  A few of them, however, approached the assignment differently.  They took more time in studying the objects and how to arrange them.  They took more time in producing the art as well.  This clear distinction in style was describes by the researchers like this:  The first group was trying to SOLVE a problem and the second was trying to FIND a problem.  The first group tried to solve the problem: “Can you create a drawing?” while the second tried to find the problem: “What would a good drawing look like?”

Then an art show was held to display the works from this study and art critics, who were not aware of the experiment, judged each work for creativity, originality, and content.  Amazingly, the “problem finders'” works were judged significantly better than the “problem solvers'”.  This points to the value of problem finding.

Six years later these two groups were surveyed again.  About half the group had quit the art field completely and found other work in other fields.  The second group however was working and succeeding as artists.  The researchers were surprised to note that it was the problem solvers who had quit and the problem finders who had succeeded.

Sixteen years later (in 1980) another survey was taken and the problem-finders were  still “significantly more successful” than their peers.  The implication is clear.  In the words of the words of the researchers “the quality of the problem that is found is a forerunner of the quality of the solution that is attained… It is in fact the discovery and creation of problems rather than any superior knowledge, technical skill, or craftsmanship that often sets the creative person apart from others in his field.”

Wow!  This is clear evidence that we need to be excellent at problem finding in order to create better solutions and more success in our business careers.  In sales, operations, managing people, creating new initiatives, working in teams,  manufacturing, etc. let’s develop the mental discipline needed dwell on the problem long enough.  Without a doubt, the ability to FIND the true problem is what makes the greatest difference.  Do this and you will be able to develop creative, collaborative solutions for your customers and your team.

Ask vs Tell

Ask vs Tell

The Social Style model is over 40 years old and is used by thousands of organizations to impact human relationships for the better. Social Style describes people on the assertive continuum from Ask to Tell.  Ask assertive people are slower to decide, ask more questions (because they are questioning every situation), are less aggressive, and more process oriented.  Tell assertive people make decision more quickly, make more statements (because they are more sure of themselves), are more forceful and more results oriented.  Tell assertive people interrupt.  Ask assertive people almost never interrupt; to them it’s rude.

This Model is used in dozens of cultures on the planet.  I am a North American Tell assertive.  One of my tell assertive tendencies is to assume my way is the best way in almost every situation.  It isn’t always the best way of course but that assumption gets me in trouble.  First of all, I’m delusional when I assume I’m right and make mistakes I shouldn’t make.  Secondly, being so sure of myself irritates others.  It appears arrogant.  Thirdly, I can influence Ask assertive people to shut down and disengage by my Tell assertiveness.  That creates barriers in my relationship with them in the near and long term.

So, I use this particular aspect of Social Style in many circumstances.  In sales situations, I try to ask lots of questions and invite the prospect to collaborate with me.  I try to focus on not having a selfish focus.  When managing and coaching others, I focus on being a better listener even when I need to deliver an important message.  Listening and collaborating are desirable skills for all of us but we Tell assertive people need extra concentration here.

Of course, Ask assertive people need almost the opposite advice.  They are naturally good listeners and collaborators.  Their real need is to focus on being bold and forceful with their ideas and opinions.  They need to stand up, look people in the eye, talk with power, volume, and conviction, and expect people to accept their words.

I’ve seen this model help in personal relationships as well as business relationships.   I’m also convinced that many conflicts between cultures and even nations could benefit from understanding each other using the Social Style Model.  I know my own marriage has benefited when I realize when my wife makes a suggestion to me it’s really a request.  And when she realizes when I’m being “bossy”, I’m just trying to be efficient, not overbearing.  There are really no relationships that cannot benefit from learning more about Social Style.

But this is really a business blog.  My goal is to help businesses be their best.  I want them to be able to focus on their mission and vision to help society solve its problems as efficiently as possible.  I train companies how to use Social Style in the workplace and coach business leaders using the matrices within the model.  Check out TRACOM’s site at http://www.tracomcorp.com/

 

When the cat’s away…

Grumpy Cat

Do the mice play when the cat’s away from the workplace?  Do employees today need constant supervision?  I’ll admit this: in most workplaces I have been in, tension subsided when the boss was not present and tension increased when the boss was present.  But did that tension create more productivity?

Let’s talk about supervision levels, tension levels, and the “ownership” of tasks by employees.

Supervision levels.  New people need lots of supervision.  Long time employees need much less.  This was in the Blanchard SLII model and has been demonstrated worldwide for decades.  This means that it is almost impossible to “micromanage” the new employees.  They NEED to be micromanaged.  This model also states that micromanaging experienced people is extremely destructive.  They become less productive when given too much supervision.  So the level of supervision that people need varies by their developmental level.  This is a critical skill of managers.  You will create disrespect among your people if you over or under supervise them.  So when you’re not present the disrespecting mice will…you know.

Tension levels.  Proper tension is like Goldilocks.  Not too much, not too little.  Just right.  What does too little tension look like? It looks like a party!  No agenda, no goals, no activity.  Think about your classes at school when the teacher didn’t show up.  On the other hand, too much tension can really be felt like a heavy hand in the air.  People almost shut down because their fear is so great of somebody who is present or their judgement.  So the wise manager must not only know the developmental level of their employees but also manage the tension correctly.  Create reasonable expectation of results but also allow a smaller amount of levity and fun.  That will also create respect for the boss.  Then when the cat’s away, no tension release is really necessary.

Finally, we all want employees to “own” their jobs.  This seems to be the best possible wish of managers.  If employees acted like business owners, they would automatically make better decisions.  They also won’t act much different if they’re closely supervised, as when they are barely supervised.  Probably the best way to instill this ownership mentality is to preach the mission.  If people buy the mission they aren’t working for money only.  And they may not be working for you – they’re working for something bigger. So sell them on the mission.  This is a critical function of leaders.  This means you better buy the mission yourself first.  Only a very few will buy the mission when the leader only gives it lip service.

So, do employees need to be closely supervised.  Maybe early on.  Make it your goal, however, to create a culture where people work and act just as maturely whether the boss is there or not.

The Power of Gifts

American Flag Earl Fay

Earl Fay gave me this American Flag back in 2007. It flew over Baghdad during the first Gulf War when Earl was a crew chief on a US attack aircraft. I guess they do things like that in the military; put US flags in the cockpit with the pilot when he goes into combat. Well, it was a real prize when he handed it to me. I had just done some training for Earl’s Sales team and he was expressing his gratitude for the training.  The money I earned was nice but his gift of this flag was really special.  Earl has told me several times to fly this flag but I prefer to keep it on my bookshelf in my office.  I don’t want to fly it outside where the elements will erode it.  I want to save it.  It’s one of my favorite keepsakes.

And what do you think my opinion of Earl is?  He is practically a hero of mine – he IS a hero!  He gave me something of himself.  Didn’t Emerson say: “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts.  The only true gift is a portion of thyself”.   Earl is a very patriotic American and I’m more patriotic just having his flag here.  If Earl Fay were to call me up and ask for a big favor, what do you think I would do?  I would rearrange everything, pay almost any price to help him.  If Earl was selling something, do you think I would buy it?  You bet I would.  Even if the price was a little higher or it was more inconvenient.  I feel very indebted to Earl in a very good way.  I want to repay his great favor.  That is the power of gifts.

Gifts that include “a portion of thyself” are the best kind.  This is true of  business gifts and personal gifts but I really want to focus on business gift giving.  Business gifts are …good for business.  They help create and maintain strong relationships.  They open doors for you with prospects.  They communicate good will.

But only if the gift is genuine.  Some gifts are bribes.  That is insulting.  Imagine a husband giving his wife a gift as a bribe.  That’s not going to work.  Other gifts are “quid pro quo” which is very much like a bribe but more prearranged.  The giver knows without a doubt that his gift is expected as part of the deal.  These arrangements are not good gifts.  Avoid them.

When thinking about gift giving, think about what you have in common with the other person.  The best ideas are things of very low monetary value but great personal value.  Earl’s flag probably has about a $10 value on Craigslist even though I wouldn’t part with it for thousands.  Sometimes company policies prevent gift giving specifically to eliminate quid pro quo and bribes.  But they don’t usually prevent the kind of gifts Emerson was referring to.

So, become a good gift giver.  Enrich your personal and professional life with gifts.  Strengthen your bond with people and make their lives better.  And be prepared to receive more than you give.