Do Your Best

“Do your best.” I’ve received that advice so many times and for so long that I can’t remember when I first heard it or who I heard it from.

It’s not bad advice as far as it goes, it just doesn’t go far enough. If I were to advise you to “do your best” I would also advise you to have someone in your life to tell you if you’ve really done your best.

That’s because most people, myself included, often tell themselves they have put forth their best effort when they haven’t. They make compromises, they make excuses, they even flat-out lie to themselves.

If anyone is going to consistently do their best then they need someone in their life to hold them accountable. They need someone in their life to warn them away from compromises, excuses and telling themselves they did their best when they really could have done more.

That person is most likely a mentor. It could be a close friend, a family member, a co-worker or maybe even someone you pay, like a certified coach perhaps. Whoever it is you must trust that this person has your best interests in mind. They must be confident enough to be truthful with you and you must be confident enough to listen to them.

Sometimes your best effort won’t be good enough to accomplish what you want. Do your best anyway and do it again next time and the time after that too.

You deserve your best effort and you must be honest with yourself to get it. It also helps if you have someone close by to verify your honesty. When you do your best you may not always win but you will always be a winner.

You may find this hard to believe but in my experience the ultimate outcome matters less over time. The sting of defeat lessens over time but the disappointment in yourself for giving less than your best effort can actually grow with time. Don’t do that to yourself, always do your best and if that’s not good enough for someone else then that’s their problem, not yours.

Enthusiasm is Contagious

The great Dale Carnegie said that “Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “horse sense” in today’s terms it would most closely be associated with “common sense.” Which of course isn’t actually all that common.

Dale Carnegie believed in the power of enthusiasm. He saw it in action during thousands of sessions of his Human Relations, Public Speaking, Sales and Leadership courses. I saw it in hundreds of those same courses. I see it all the time today as well.

People who are very enthusiastic about whatever it is they are doing simply do it better, in every way, than less enthusiastic people.

You, and every other human on the planet, can spot an enthusiastic person a mile away. You can also feel them, hear them, and maybe even be contaminated by them. You, and every other human on the planet can also spot an unenthusiastic person a mile away. And you most certainly can be contamination by them.

If you’re in a leadership position then it is vital to understand that you lead by example, whether you intend to or not. Your people are watching and they are watching to see if you do the same things you tell them to do. They are also watching to see if you do it enthusiastically.

Are you enthusiastically walking your talk. Merely going through the motions won’t get it done. As a leader you are the “model” for the actions you want from your people. But not only is it important “what” you do, it’s also very important “how” you do it.

You know that your more enthusiastic people are more productive and better team members. What you may not always realize is that they often model their enthusiasm level after yours.

Dale Carnegie also said to “act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.” There will be days when your enthusiasm level isn’t what it needs to be. On those days follow Mr. Carnegie’s wise advice and act enthusiastic. Sooner or later your natural enthusiasm will take over and your “acting” will be replaced by the real thing.

Your enthusiasm is contagious, make sure you have enough so that everyone who comes near you catches a bit of yours.

Surprise, You’re Fired!

Being fired from a job is one of the most traumatic events a person can experience in life. It’s right up there with the death of a loved one or divorce.

When a person is fired from their job the usual thought process says it’s the person’s own responsibility. That is frequently true, more or less.

I say more or less because often there is another person who shares some of the responsibility for the failure of that employee. That person is their boss.

Now if you’re a boss with the mindset of a manager you’re saying that it’s never your fault. You’re saying that you hired an adult and that they are responsible for their performance. They needed to “step up” and get the job done. You say they should have tried harder, worked longer, learned more or “figured it out.” I can’t disagree with any of that.

But if you’re a boss with the mindset of a leader before you say anything about your employee you’re saying YOU should have “stepped up” and led them more effectively. You’re saying YOU should have tried harder, worked longer, learned more about them or figured out what it would have taken to motivate them to perform at a higher level.

If you’re a boss with the mindset of a leader you understand that there are really only two possible reasons your employee failed to perform. You either hired a person with the wrong skill set for the job or you failed to provide them with the tools and motivation they needed to succeed.

Either way, if you have the audacity to label yourself a leader then YOU must accept at least part of the responsibility for the failure of your employee. If it gets to the point of termination then it’s a gigantic failure. The person who was terminated faces tremendous trauma in their life and you as a leader played a part in making that happen.

If the person you terminated was surprised by the termination then the trauma is greater still. If you’re surprised that they were surprised then your failure is even more than gigantic.

Those “surprise” firings most often happen because a reality gap exists between what the boss wants and what the employee has convinced themselves they are delivering. That’s a reality gap and that gap can only be filled through coaching.

And here’s the thing, bosses with a managerial mindset seldom coach, they tell. Bosses with a leadership mindset seldom tell, they coach and they frequently coach by showing. Bosses with a leadership mindset have no need or time to boss, they are focused on leading. They are focused on developing those they lead. They celebrate the success of their people and share in the pain of any failure they may have.

They help create that success and avoid the pain with near constant communication. Most often that communication comes in the form of providing a model of successful behavior but sometimes they even use words.

Employees who are led instead of bossed are never in doubt as to what is expected of them. They are rarely fired but when they are they are never surprised.

Do your people know exactly what is expected of them? If not then you may be a boss but you’re most likely not a leader.

 

What Else Could Go Right?

I recommend to writers that they NOT begin a post or an article with a disclaimer. This is going to be another example of a post where I do not follow my own advice because this is a post that is going to, has to, begin with a disclaimer.

Because this is a post about maintaining a positive attitude. That’s something I struggle with. I know it’s importance but I too often allow my choice of a positive attitude to be overwhelmed by the circumstances I find myself in. That’s not good for me and it’s not good for the people around me.

I want to offer that disclaimer as a way of not appearing as a total fraud to those who know me best. The fact that I can’t always maintain control over my attitude is no reason not to try. The same goes for you. So here we go!

You’ve probably heard or said yourself, “what else could go wrong.” It’s most often said in a very dejected tone of voice when problems just continue to pile up. It sometimes seems as if everything that could could go wrong already has. That’s when we start looking for things that are wrong.

That makes it very difficult to choose a positive attitude. Yes, your attitude is your choice and no one and nothing can rob you of that choice. But here’s the thing, to maintain a positive attitude you MUST make that choice. If you don’t consciously make the choice of a positive attitude then the choice of a negative attitude will be made for you by whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

We do not subconsciously choose a positive attitude. That choice must be made consciously and it must be made frequently. Failure to make that choice leads to a negative attitude, whether you realize it or not.

Researchers say the average person has 40,000 thoughts a day. I don’t know how they can figure that out but here’s what really concerns me. They also say that of those 40,000 thoughts over 80% of them are negative. That’s a whole lot of negativity going on in our heads and it won’t be overcome without intentionally fighting to overcome it.

So how about this. How about when “things” start going bad instead of asking “what else could go wrong?” we start asking, “what else could go right?”

How about we start looking for the good. The good in a particular situation or the good in a particularly difficult person. No matter the circumstances something good is never that far away. You only have to make yourself look!

Now if that sounds all Pollyanna to some of you especially negative people reading this then I have a message for you.

You can easily find something wrong with very little effort. If you want to find something right it can take a little more effort but something right is there. And this much I can promise you from my personal experience… on the days you successfully choose a positive attitude everything and everyone around you seems, looks, acts and is in fact, better.

Every aspect of your life is affected by your attitude. Either you control it or it will control you. That’s a scary thought for some people but it’s a fact and it’s also a fact that the choice is yours.

 

Making a Living

Are you a person who makes their living selling or are you a professional salesperson? They are not the same thing, they are not even close.

People who make a living by selling try to make the best of whatever selling circumstances they find themselves in. When business is slow or the market is soft they tend to slow down as well. They accept their fate.

Professional salespeople create their circumstances. When business is slow or the market is soft they work harder to produce excellent results. They do not accept their fate, they create it.

Many people in sales who read this will say it’s BS because many people in sales may make their living at it but they are far from professional. I remember a conversation with a salesperson several years ago where he was lamenting how slow business was. He told me that he could sit on his boat all day and the phone would barely ring. He said all he could do was hope for a turnaround.

He made his living selling, a pretty good living at that, but he was not a professional salesperson.

If he was a professional salesperson his boat would have been docked until HE turned his business around. He would have been making calls, not waiting for calls. He would have been creating opportunities for his customers to buy. He would have been taking advantage of all the salespeople who make their living selling. He woukd have proactively been calling on their customers while they were waiting for their customers to call.

I very recently heard with my own ears a sales manager and the sales manager’s boss tell their sales team “not to worry about the numbers.” They said “if the market isn’t there it isn’t there” and “no one will hold that against you.”

I’m sure they didn’t realize it but what they were telling their sales team was to be unprofessional. They were giving them an out and I’m sad to say that when you give someone who merely makes their living selling an out, they will take it.

The sales team resigned themselves to a bad year and they are now collectively waiting for the business to return.

Salespeople who wait never win. Period.

If you’re a sales leader then you need to find the balance between supporting your people and keeping enough accountability in place to help them be professional about their efforts. Salespeople who are held accountable for their efforts are more likely to succeed. We know that’s true because people who are accountable for their efforts are more likely to succeed and the last time I checked salespeople are people.

 

Whether or not you’re truly a professional or just making a living at what you do is a good question to ask yourself from time to time regardless of your field of work. Do you want to be okay at what you do or do you want to be recognized as one of the best. The choice as always is up to you.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

I’m a big believer in free speech. It may not seem as free as it used to in the United States but in fact nothing has changed. The First Amendment guarantees free speech, it always has and always will. But that’s about the government. The government isn’t supposed to infringe on your right to say whatever you want.

But your employer, your friends and your family are a completely different story. While no one can stop you from thinking whatever you want they can certainly penalize you for saying it. Friends for example “penalize” you by not being a friend anymore.

Companies terminate people all the time for saying things that are not in line with company policy or culture.

Get over it, it’s always been that way it just seems to get more exposure than it used to.

But here’s the thing, just because you think you have the right to say something doesn’t mean you should say it.

There’s a well known guy who lives in a big White House, government subsidized at that, and he has one of the toughest jobs in the world. Maybe the toughest. Yet he insists on making it even harder than it already is by saying pretty much whatever he wants. Which is entirely his right.

You have that right too. So do I.

Sometimes I say some pretty stupid stuff but not nearly as much stupid stuff as I think. You see not only do I have the right to say whatever I want, I also have the right not to. I have the right to remain silent.

So do you.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I knew I would have been better off NOT saying something about a nano second after I said it. That by the way is often easier said than done.

But I’ve gotten better at it. I’ve also got a long way to go. I’m willing to bet a lot of people reading this post are just like me.

So what if together, we paused for a moment before we say anything and ask ourselves if what we are about to say adds anything of value to anyone. Ask ourselves if what we are about to say improves on our circumstances or the circumstances of the person we’re about to say it to.

On the days I do that successfully I say a whole lot less. I and the people around me are often a whole lot better off because of it. I’m going to work at having more days where I say less so that the things I do say will matter more.

Will you join me?

Are You Listening to Naysayers?

There is a story about a successful Hot Dog vendor in New York City. He had a couple of Hot Dog stands and was successful enough to send his son to college. He continued to grow his  business as his son was earning his business degree.

As his son progressed in school he urged his father to be cautious with his business expansion.  By the time his son had graduated the business had grown to 10 Hot Dog Stands spread around New York City. The business and profits were continuing to grow.

The father was shocked when his son told him that he had made a big mistake growing the business so fast. His son recommended that he downsize the business immediately. Considering his son’s newly minted business degree he decided to follow his advice. He quickly closed two of his stands and laid off several employees. Sure enough, as his son had predicted his revenue began to drop and the father was convinced his son knew what he was talking about.

So the father doubled his efforts and closed even more Hot Dog Stands. As his son had predicted the downward spiral continued.

Eventually the father was back to his original Hot Dog Stands and business stabilized. The father was so grateful to his son for “saving” his business that he couldn’t thank him enough. He commented that he didn’t know where he would be if his son hadn’t returned from college when he did.

You could say both father and son made many mistakes in this story but I’d say the biggest mistake was made by the father. His mistake was that he listened to a naysayer. A well meaning naysayer I’m sure but a naysayer all the same.

The father was literally almost talked out of business.

You will have naysayers show up in your life from time to time. Some will be well intentioned as the son was in this story but others will only be looking to bring you down. Down to their level most likely.

It’s natural to hear what they are saying but listening to their words is a choice. You must choose carefully. If you decide their words have merit then act on them. If you decide they do not then ignore them. Just because something was said, even if it was said by someone who may care about you, doesn’t make it so.

You must judge their motives for saying whatever they say. You must weigh what they think against what you know. You must believe in yourself even when those close to you may not. You must listen with your heart but be sure your head has some say in the matter as well.

There will always be naysayers around when it comes to your success and I wouldn’t waste a minute trying to tell them they are wrong. I’d suggest you invest all of your energy in showing them.