Make Peace With Your Decisions

“There is no more miserable person than the one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.” William James

Life is a series of seemingly unimportant decisions, many of them small, inconsequential and quickly made. We put little thought into most of them and many of them truly have little impact on our lives.

Or do they?

When we add up the small decisions of our life it turns out that cumulatively they make a real difference in our life. And we make many of them without regard to the long-term effects they will have on us.

So much of the “luck” attributed to successful people comes from sound, long-term decision making. Bob Hope, the great American comedian always told people that he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He also was always quick to add “of course, I steered myself there.” 

He steered himself there with great decisions. He had what I like to call “judgcernment,” that rare combination of great judgment and equally great discernment. He knew his decisions mattered…always.

If you want a better life I’d suggest you make better decisions. It really does come down to that simply fact. Consider the implications of your daily choices; the people you associate with, the words you use, the clothes you wear and many other decisions. 

I’m not here to say what the right decisions are, I just want you to know that almost every choice has an impact on you life.

Goals are essential for solid decision making; without knowing what you want out of life it will be nearly impossible to get it. Your goals, just like your decisions don’t need to be set in stone. Your core values must be rock solid but you can adjust your goals and change your decisions to match as often as you like.

Only a fool never changes their mind. Circumstances change and so does a healthy mind.

Many decisions lead to change and whether we realize it or not there is loss associated with almost all change, even good change. Most people fear or dislike change and the bigger the change, or the bigger the decision the bigger the fear. Fear stalls more decision making than any other single thing.

Ben Franklin was a legendary decision maker. He often shared his method for making big decisions with those who asked for his advice. He said that “all reasons pro and con are not present to the mind at the same time….”

Then he would share this method: 

My way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one Pro and over the other Con. Then during three or four days’ consideration, I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives, that at different times occur to me, for or against the measure. When I have thus got them altogether in one view, I endeavor to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro, I strike out five; and thus proceeding, I find where the balance lies; and if after a day or two of further consideration, nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly.” –Benjamin Franklin

It’s a simple method but it works. The next time you are struggling with a big decision I’d suggest you try Ben’s idea.

You will have a great decision and you’ll have peace of mind to go along with it.

How to Build Real Business Relationships 

In many businesses, customers often become more than customers. They become friends…not necessarily the kind you would invite to non-business gatherings, but people you truly care about and who care about you.

You may think you are in the business of selling, providing customer service, the legal profession, the restaurant business or whatever, but you are not. Even if your products are sold or purchased only to other businesses, the business doesn’t make the buying decision. A person does. Whatever business you’re in you’re also in the people business.  Learning to make people feel important and cared about will help you make both the initial sale and long-term sales over the course of time.

No matter what your business, every customer should receive your best care during the sales process and after. During the initial sale, get them talking and take good notes. Enter the information into your customer database. 

A Minneapolis business legend, Harvey Mackay, has a long list of details he requires his salespeople to gather about customers over a certain time period. This includes not just information required to do business, but a few personal details such as birthdays, whether or not they’re married, children’s names, and whether or not they have pets. That information is used to make contacts and to start conversations with customers after the initial sale.

People like to do business with people who are like them, who demonstrate that they care about them beyond making the sale and who keep them in mind when something new that might be of interest to them arises. That type of treatment shows them that you know they are important. They come to rely on businesses and salespeople they know they can trust to have their needs and interests at heart.

Here is the real trick to building real, long lasting relationships – there is no trick. You must truly have the other person’s interests at heart. If you do not, he or she will eventually figure that out and you will quickly become just another product peddler or company that they will try to avoid.

Only when you truly care about people will those people truly care about doing business with you.

How to Change Your Life

You have many choices to make each day. What you eat. Who you spend your time with. What you wear. What time you go to bed. Where you work. What route you drive to work. What kind of car you drive that route in. The list is truly endless. 

Some people will dispute even the items on that very short list above. They will say “I have no choice but to work where I do, there are no others jobs available.” They will complain that they “have so much to do” that their bedtime is NOT their choice, they are often up later than they want to be.

Most of the examples that people would use to dispute even my short list above are just excuses. They are the excuses that people make in order to avoid taking charge of their life. 

I am constantly amazed at how easily people surrender the right to make choices that have a profound impact on their lives. They simply fail to realize that when they give up their right to choose they give up the opportunity to choose their life.

All of the choices that people give up, none is more devastating than giving up the choice of their attitude. Everyday people let other people and events determine whether they are in a “good mood” or not. Where folks, that “mood” as you call it looks a lot like an attitude to the people around you.

You’re kidding only yourself when you say you have a great attitude but you’re just moody. There is very little difference between the two.

You cannot control the attitude of everyone you come into contact with. You cannot always control the events that make up your day. What you can and must control is how you respond to them. THAT will determine your attitude. 

Here’s your choice, and it’s one you get to make everyday and multiple times everyday. Will your attitude be a thermostat that sets it’s own “temperature” or will it be a thermometer that simply reflects the temperature of those around it?

The most successful people understand this profound fact: No one and nothing can take your positive attitude away from you unless YOU let it happen. 

It’s your choice. 

The choice to maintain a positive attitude in the face of difficult people and difficult challenges will do more to improve the quality of your life than any other single thing you can do. 

Some days it will be a fight to maintain that attitude. Some days it may seem like a war. It’s a fight worth fighting for anyone who truly wants to control their life. Do You?

Especially for Sales Leaders!

Yep, that’s what it says.  For Sales Leaders!  If you’re not a leader or have no interest in becoming one, you may just want skip this post and go about doing whatever it is that followers do.  If you are a leader, or want to be, then read on.

First of all, notice that the title is not, it’s not for sales managers. In the often challenging business environment where we all work today, the last thing a company needs is more managers. While managers may have the capacity to require the compliance of their people, a leader has the ability to gain the commitment of theirs.  Today, perhaps more the ever before, a key element to success is commitment.

Let’s talk about leading a team of sales professionals for instance.   It is not an easy job; it takes skill, dedication and a strong desire to see others succeed. 

Skills! What we are talking about here are skills such as the ability to motivate others, to coach and transfer the knowledge that members of a sales organization need to thrive.  All leaders recognize the importance of developing their people and most say it is the critical part of their job.  They understand that their own success is completely dependent on the success of their team.  

Yet, many sales managers today attempt to accomplish this task from behind a desk, assuming that they “know what’s going on” because they used to be “out there.”  Funny thing is, “out there” is not the same as it used to be.  It may not look like it but our desks are miles wide and we cannot get a decent view of our marketplace from behind them.  If you’re the leader of a professional sales team today, and you’re not spending time in the field with your sales team on a very regular basis, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on in the market.  Here is a test for you:  how many times in the last year has a member of your team lost a good opportunity for business and your first question to him or her was, “What the hell happened?”  You’re the leader, you should know!  Think about it.

How about dedication?  Leaders today have the dedication to make certain that obstacles never become excuses.  Leaders don’t let little things get in their way; managers use things like paperwork and reports as excuses for not leading, for not doing the things they say are critical to their own success.  Dedicated leaders just plain think differently than mere managers; they know that theirs is an awesome responsibility; maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity, always doing the right thing even when it is unpopular and perhaps most important, setting and sharing their vision for a successful future for the sales team.  

Are you a leader who leads their team through challenges or are you a manager who uses excuses to explain shortcomings?  It’s a tough question but I think it is a healthy one to ask ourselves from time to time.  What do you think?

Having a strong desire to see others succeed is a common characteristic of leaders.  A desire so strong that a leader will develop plans to ensure that success is possible.  Success just doesn’t happen; it is indeed the result of good planning and ample market intelligence.  Ensuring success requires a leader to hold their sales team highly accountable, accountable not just to end results but to the actions required to achieve those results.   

Tools like call reports, an almost instantaneous understanding and knowledge of a salesperson’s closing percentage, weekly plans and goals are the hallmark of sales success.  Salespeople shun them while sales professionals embrace them.  Many managers see these tools as burdensome and time-consuming. 

Managers  speak of the trust within their organizations and say that reports can violate that trust, all the while not having enough information to really know.  Leaders see these tools as vital to a salesperson’s success and won’t attempt to lead even a day without them.  Leaders build trust with accountability, managers just hope for the best.

A leader makes decisions. A leader inspires people. A leader has a vision. A leader simplifies. A leader makes things happen.  A leader raises issues, debates them and resolves them. They aren’t afraid to go against today’s current because they know what they want to accomplish tomorrow.  Leaders don’t get stuck in the past, leaders are open to change! Leaders stimulate and relish change. Leaders aren’t frightened, paralyzed or threatened by it.  Leaders see change as opportunity.  Leaders inspire and energize others to commit to success. They capture minds. They instill a sense of ownership. They lead by example.

Here are a few more questions for you to ponder: Are you a leader?  Are you up to the challenge?  Are you willing to do what it takes to really lead instead of just manage?  If that means making some changes, will you do it?  The choice, is of course, yours to make; but before you do ask yourself one last question, would you rather work for a manager or a leader?  

I thought so!

The Exceptional President Putin

Last week the President of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, spoke directly to the American people in an OpEd piece in the New York Times. 

The OpEd was in regards to the recent events in Syria. Some of what he said I could perhaps agree with. Some of what he said I wouldn’t. I’ve no interest in getting into the “politics” of his opinion. I wouldn’t comment at all except for a few words that he strung together which couldn’t be more wrong. 

President Putin said, and I quote: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

I must take exception to this statement. It is exceptionally misguided. It is exceptionally wrong!

President Putin was speaking specifically of American Exceptionalism but exceptionalism isn’t American; it is human. Every human is exceptional in their own way. Mr. President, even you are exceptional! 

I haven’t met a lot of Russians but every single one I have met has been an exceptional person. They each add value to the world in their own way, just like people from every country on earth. 

Nothing is more dangerous, more limiting, more morale killing then to allow someone to believe there is nothing special about them. Nothing sucks the enthusiasm from life faster than the thought that you’re not exceptional.

Every human knows something you don’t and that means that if you’re willing, there isn’t a person on earth you can’t learn something from. That’s exceptional in itself!

President Putin also said and again I quote: “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” 

This I agree with 100%. Where you go wrong Sir is in your thinking that “equal” somehow means the same, or unexceptional. We don’t all have to be identical to be equal or exceptional. 

I don’t agree with President Obama on many things but on this singular point of his speech he is absolutely correct, the American people are exceptional. Then again so are the Russian people and while we’re at it, so are the Syrian people. 

President Putin, let yourself go a bit and see your own exceptionalism and that of your people. Don’t limit the potential of the Russian people by telling them they’re somehow less than they indeed are. 

It’s really freeing to know just how special you are. If you believe that God indeed made you then ask yourself how could you be anything less than exceptional.

Are You a Role Model?

Well, are you? The short answer, especially if you’re a leader or even just someone in a leadership position, is yes.

Your people watch you. No one is born with an innate knowledge of what it takes to succeed so they must learn it. They learn some of it by listening, some by reading, but mostly they learn from watching. If you are their leader or the person who is above them in a leadership position then it’s you they are watching.

You are absolutely a role model. The only question is do you model behavior that leads to success or do you model behavior that leads to something else.  

You can tell your people what to do and they may do it. You can show them and they will likely do it, you can tell them and show them and if what you said matches what you do they will most certainly do it. 

Therein lies the problem for people who are leaders only because they occupy a leadership position. Their words often don’t match their actions. They have yet to learn that their people will do what they do long before they will do what they say. They are also surprised when they eventually learn just how closely they are watched by those who would follow them. 

Authentic leaders are careful to make certain that their actions match their words. They realize that is the surest way to build trust and credibility and that those two characteristics are vital for leadership. 

If your goal as a leader is to build other leaders then your words and actions must coincide.  

So, watch what you say and remember, someone else is watching what you do.

Authentic Leaders Don’t Expect to be Respected

Yes, you read that title correctly. I’ve never met an authentic leader who expected respect. Every authentic leader I’ve ever met knew from the start that any respect they received would have to be earned. 

There is no such thing as unearned respect. Your position or title doesn’t earn you respect; people may respect your position or title and they may respect the office you occupy but that doesn’t mean they respect you. 

That kind of personal respect must be earned and re-earned frequently. 

If you want respect then be respectful. Authentic leaders know that the best, and fastest, way to earn respect is to be respectful of others. When you talk down to people, when you put your needs before theirs, and when you “fudge” on the integrity issue you lose respect.

You can be powerful, you can be brilliant, and you can have the appearance of success, and you still won’t have the respect of those around you. 

Authentic leaders are humble leaders. The world renown Pastor at our church recently retired after over 30 years in the pulpit. He was replaced by a 30 something Pastor with no prior experience leading any size church much less a large congregation like ours. That’s pretty heady stuff, most of the members of his staff are considerably more experienced than him, yet he is the guy. Today I heard him introduce himself as one of the Pastors here at Bethlehem. 

He could have rightfully said Lead Pastor or Head Pastor but instead he said one of the Pastors. That’s humble! That earns respect. Sadly, that type of humble leadership is all too rare these days.

I’m going to doing something now that I wouldn’t normally do and something I don’t recommend, I’m going to make a very general broad statement. Here it is: if you’re constantly bragging about your power or your position or your brilliance I’d be willing to bet your people don’t have a lot of respect for you.

It’s like this; authentic leaders don’t need to boss because they lead. They don’t need to command respect because their people willingly give it. To be more precise, they don’t need to command respect because their people give it back. 

If you want to be respected then show some respect, and remember, you’re the leader, you go first!