Your Reputation Precedes You

I try not to prejudge people. I do my best not to listen to gossip about people and I really, really try not to form an opinion about someone based on somebody else’s experience with the person. 

I absolutely hate it when someone else forms an opinion about me based on something they “heard” from somebody else. They have never met me but they think they know me. I’d be willing to bet that you don’t like that either. 

Yet it happens every day. It happens because like it or not, your reputation precedes you. 

Everything you do, everything you say, every commitment you keep and every one you don’t, they all count. They all matter! They all build up or tear down your reputation. 

That might not be fair, it might not be right, but that’s the way it is. That’s good news for some people and terrible news for others.

You have a credibility bank, it’s an incredibly valuable asset yet many people seldom even think about checking their bank statement. Every time you do what you say you will you make a small deposit into your credibility bank. Every time you fail to keep a commitment you make a very large withdrawal from your bank. That might not be fair either but that too is just how it goes.

When you gossip about people you’re actually making a withdrawal from your credibility bank. The surprising thing is that your hurting your reputation with the very person you’re gossiping with. Always keep this interesting fact in mind: the person you’re gossiping with today will likely be gossiping about you tomorrow. 

When your reputation includes being a gossip then your credibility bank takes a big hit. 

Sometimes we hate saying no so much that we say yes to doing something that we know darn well we either won’t or can’t do. That hurts your credibility. You can have no finer reputation than that of a person whose word is known as gold. When you say you’re going to do something then do it or say no right up front. A courageous no will beat a meek and insincere yes every time.

You can’t control whether or not people talk about you behind your back. You also can’t control what they say so don’t waste a lot of time worrying about it. Instead work to build a strong reputation and know that your efforts will result in a credibility bank loaded with positive examples of you being a person known as a trusted resource who can be counted on no matter what! 

That’s the kind of reputation that you want to precede you! 


Did You Ask?

Salespeople get what they ask for! If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that I would probably be writing this from a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. That salespeople get what they ask for isn’t always true but it’s true far more often than it is not. 

Salespeople who consistently ask for the order will nearly double or even triple their closing percentages. Just by asking for the order!

Early in my sales career I discovered that an incredibly high percentage of sales calls ended without the sales person ever really asking for the  order. One day upon returning to the office from a sales call my sales manager asked me “if I asked?” I answered “did I ask what?” He said, “did you ask for the order?” 

My answer was of course I did, I always did. So he asks me how I asked, what words did I actually use to ask for the order. When I hesitated a bit he knew he had me. When I said I asked the customer “what do you think?” he just smiled and said that next time I should really ask. 

I learned through the years that questions like “what do you think” and “how does it sound” are not order asking questions. They are flimsy substitutes that salespeople use when they don’t have the confidence required to ask a real order asking question. 

A real order asking question is one that requires a yes or no answer. They are closed-ended questions that leave no doubt as to the intentions of the prospect, they will either be doing business with you or not. 

Good salespeople always ask for the order. Great salespeople know when to ask. 

Great salespeople earn the right to ask for the order by working with their prospect to determine how and IF their product or service will actually help the customer. They ask a ton of focused questions that help their prospect see the fit between the product and their situation. 

When the salesperson has helped the customer see the benefits of their product and how it will help them, then they have earned the right to ask for the order and ask is what they do. 

They ask by saying something like “may I have your business?” They ask directly. They wait for a yes or no before they say anything else. They get the order.

Even if you’re only a good salesperson and aren’t sure what questions to ask, even if you’re not 100% knowledgeable about your product or service, always asking for the order will increase your sales. 

If you don’t believe me then prove me wrong by asking, it’s the only way you’ll ever know for sure. 

Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

Like many Americans I watched the first Republican Presidential Debate. Also like many Americans I watched it to see what kind of outlandish things Donald Trump would say.

He did not disappoint. 

Whatever you think of Donald Trump you have to give him this…. he knows how to get the attention of people. In a particularly testy exchange with one of the moderators Mr. Trump stated that “frankly, he didn’t have time for political correctness. He said that our (the American people) concern with never offending anyone is limiting our progress, or something to that effect.

On that singular point he may be right!

I have long said that if you’re speaking to a large enough group of people that virtually anything you say can and will offend somebody. I now have proof.

First let me acknowledge that I have indeed said some stuff in front of groups that I wish I could take back. I suppose I should also acknowledge that I have also said some clearly politically incorrect things simply because they were funny. If people were offended I just figured they needed to get over themselves because it wasn’t meant to offend, it was meant to be funny.

Which brings me to a recent presentation. I told I joke that could not, that could absolutely NOT offend anyone. 

I told a joke about the rancher who came out one morning to discover that someone had cut the tails off of all his cattle. He knew immediately that he would have to wholesale the cattle because there was no way to retail them. 

That’s it. That’s the whole joke. It’s like third grade humor. It’s just dumb, the fact that it’s so bad a joke is what makes it funny. People groan about the joke and then share it the first chance they get. (Yes, you’re going to share it too, you just can’t help it) 

The group I was speaking with was not especially large, maybe 100-120 people. There was just no way that dumb joke could offend anyone…. Except it did.

At the end of the presentation I was approached by an individual who actually had tears in their eyes. They were very emotional in telling me that animal cruelty was nothing to joke about. They couldn’t believe how insensitive I was to animal lovers in the group. They told me that even though they were the only one complaining there were many others in the group who were equally offended. (Nope, I wasn’t at a PETA convention) They told me that cows have feelings too. 

I may now try to find a way to insert that joke into every presentation that I do. I just want to see if there is another person on this planet who is offended by the joke. (being offended because the joke is so bad doesn’t count) 

I agree 100% that we should show respect in all of our interactions with people. There is nothing wrong about being sensitive to the views and opinions of other people…. but that’s a two-way street. 

Maybe EVERYONE needs to lighten up a bit. Maybe we have “over-corrected” with all the politically correct stuff. Maybe, just maybe, something can be funny… just because it is.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to stop sacrificing the truth in the name of political correctness. 

This much is certain, no matter what anyone says to me it can only offend me if I let it. I don’t need protection from the politically correct police. If I’m tempted to be offended by something someone said I just need to consider the source and the context and then I can CHOOSE to ignore it. 

I’m wondering if we can apply some common sense here but I suppose I’m going to get ripped because this whole post is politically incorrect. 

Immediate Leadership Success

New leaders often feel pressure to succeed immediately. Whether they are simply in a new position or truly a new leader they feel the need to “do something.” Their boss may have expectations of immediate improvement in one area or another. “People” are watching to see what changes the new leader will make. Everyone expects “progress.”

Being a new leader or a leader in a new position isn’t easy.

That’s why I never expect a leader to succeed immediately. Besides, I’m not as interested in a quick change as I am in lasting change. Leadership success, lasting leadership success,  requires time. It cannot be accomplished quickly.

Here’s why.

New leaders have a title and a position. Neither make a person a leader. That title and position buys them some time to earn the permission of their people to lead. It gives them a relatively small window of opportunity to show their team that they care about them as people.  

New leaders have to act quickly to demonstrate their understanding that they must earn any respect they are given. New leaders who turn into good leaders know that trust must also be earned and that without it, they simply cannot actually lead.

That’s why it is critical that a new leader’s words match their actions. The fact is, people are watching. They are watching to determine what makes this new leader “different” from the last one. “People” make up their minds pretty quickly. If the new leader appears to believe their position or title will make people follow them then their “leadership brand” becomes that of a “position leader” and they could spend years trying to separate themselves from that brand.    

People do not commit to “position leaders” they merely comply with their demands. Position leaders may have some small successes but their leadership is so limited that they will not, let me repeat, they will not have long-term success.

Compliant team members are not engaged team members. Only committed team members will fully engage and support the leadership. A non committed, unengaged employee will cost an organization far more than the most expensive committed, engaged employee.

Position leaders create unengaged team members. That’s just how it is.

If you’re a leader who creates more leaders don’t expect immediate success from your developing leaders. Leadership development cannot be forced, it must be allowed to grow. 

Leaders who grow more leaders understand that lack of immediate success is not failure, it’s simply part of the process. 

Immediate success is good, long-term success is better, much much better.

Feedback is Required

Are you a leader who struggles to provide your people with feedback? Providing feedback can be a challenge for many reasons. Some leaders think that feedback means having a conversation after a negative event and since they don’t like confrontation they just remain silent. 

Some leaders believe feedback is provided once a year during the dreaded annual review process. Some just believe that somehow, their people magically “know” how they are doing. 

But here’s the deal…. you’re actually providing feedback all the time! 

Each time you speak or listen to one of your people, in your tone of voice, in the words you use, in the silences which you allow, you provide feedback. You demonstrate how far you trust, how much you respect, how much you like or even dislike the person in front of you. 

You cannot not give feedback. If you’re not aware that everything you say and do provides some type of feedback then you’re probably leading (or not) by accident instead of providing your people with purposeful leadership.

That’s a problem.

Intentional, purposeful, specific, timely and meaningful feedback is a powerful motivator. Well timed feedback can put your people on the path to success or help keep them there on challenging days.

By the way, I get that you’re paying people to do a job but also saying thank you for doing that job does not make you a weak leader. A thoughtful “thank you” or “well done” can go a long way towards continued employee engagement.

If you want your people to improve then you must know that feedback is the fuel that fires improvement. Authentic Servant Leaders know that feedback is not just criticizing, it is insightful coaching designed to constructively deal with under-performance. It also will help push high-performing team members to an even higher level.  

The ability to provide intentional feedback is a skill. As with any skill it can be developed through practice; it is best developed through practice with a coach or mentor. 

As a leader it’s likely you often say that your people are your greatest asset. Providing feedback is an excellent way to show that your people are your greatest asset. It gives an Authentic Servant Leader the opportunity to show that they really care about their people.

Here’s a sad leadership reality, too many people in leadership positions are just too lazy to really lead. I call them lazy leaders. Lazy leaders don’t provide their people with feedback because they see it as work. Too much work. They don’t care enough about their people to invest themselves in their people’s development. Feedback is not work, it’s just leading. 

If you’re calling yourself a leader then providing a constant stream of feedback to your people is a must. Don’t wait for the next annual review, don’t even wait for tomorrow, provide feedback to a member of your team today.

Good Enough Seldom Is

One of the greatest obstacles to success in life is the acceptance of “good enough.”

Once you allow “good enough,” also known as mediocrity, into your life or business you will most certainly have aspects of your life or business that are mediocre. You may believe or you may have been told that “good enough” is just fine but it is not fine. Are you really okay with a life partner who is “good enough?” “Good enough” becomes a terrible habit that holds you back from the life that you deserve. “Settling” for less than you know you’re capable of is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s aftertaste is even worse. It’s nearly impossible to get rid of the taste of mediocrity and the sad thing is, it can’t get into your life unless you allow it. 

If you want success, however it is that you define success, then don’t allow mediocrity into your life. 

That little sentence there, the one just above this one in italics, that sentence is 1000 times easier to write than it is to accomplish. Moving past “good enough” on the road to success is hard. It’s tiring. It’s complicated. It’s expensive, both in terms of commitment and sometimes financial expense. Most of all, it can be lonely.

It can be lonely because despite the fact that nearly everyone claims to want success few are actually willing to do want it takes to achieve it. The “extra mile” is the part of the road to success that never sees a traffic jam. 

The hardest part of that extra mile is the very first step. But what a great step it is. When you take that first step you have instant separation from all the people gathered at the “good enough” camp. With the crowd thinned out you can see just how bright your future really is.

The secret to advancing to the extra mile is a well thought out set of goals. To achieve your full potential you will need goals in several areas of your life. You’ll need financial goals, career goals, family goals, health goals, self-development goals and perhaps spiritual goals.

You need goals in several areas of your life because however you define success for your life you will almost certainly want some balance in your life. I’ve known many accomplished business people who had horrible family lives… in their heart of hearts they would not call themselves successful. Goals truly provide you with the opportunity to succeed in multiple areas of your life all at once.

If you do a Google search you’ll find many programs that can help you set and achieve your goals but be prepared to invest some serious time on this process. Setting meaningful goals requires a good understanding of your core values, those principles in your life that truly matter. 

Once you’ve identified what’s important in your life you’ll know where to set your goals. Once you’ve identified what’s important to you you’ll also have a much better chance of achieving those goals. 

The vast majority of goal setting fails because people don’t first identity their core values. Don’t make this common mistake, when your goals matter to you personally your much more likely to take that first step on the extra mile. 

Mediocrity is a choice, it’s a choice you most certainly do not want to make….so don’t! 


The Look of Leadership

They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. The same could be said of a leader.

Many leaders, maybe even most, look and act like a leader. (Or at least they look and act the way a majority of people think a leader should look and act) They carry themselves a certain way, speak with conviction and they are good communicators who can effectively present to large groups. 

Many leaders, maybe even most, look and act like a leader…. but not all!

I hear way too often that “they don’t look like a leader” or “they don’t speak well in front of groups” or “they are too quiet” or they don’t dress “right” to lead. 

That is way too simplistic. 

It is beyond foolish to judge someone’s leadership ability by how they look or sound. Leadership is about influence pure and simple. If someone can influence others then they can lead others. Leaders come in all shape and sizes, they come in all ages and they come from all backgrounds. 

The only way to actually judge a person’s leadership ability is to look at the people they lead. Simply put, the most successful leaders have the most successful followers. The most successful leaders are the ones who create more successful leaders. 

While a good speaker may influence someone for a time a good leader can influence someone for a lifetime. I’d much rather follow a true leader who leads without looking like a leader than follow a person who merely looks like a leader. 

The reality is there is no “leadership look,” there are only leadership actions. 

Impeccable integrity, consistently sound judgement, a truly caring heart, a desire to see others succeed, matching their words with their actions, excellent relationship skills, the ability to feed egos beyond their own, providing consistent recognition and feedback are just some of the skills, attitudes and actions that help someone lead. 

Look for those things and when you see them, then you’ll be seeing “the look” of a leader!