Did You Really MEAN to Say That?

Words matter. Your words matter. Tone of voice, and tone of text and tweet matters too. How you say something is just as important as the something you say.

The greater the influence you have the more your words weigh. The greater the influence you have the longer your words linger in the minds they are spoken, or written to.

The old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is invalid these days. Actually I’m not sure it ever was valid but it’s clearly not now. And now, more than at any time in history it’s easy for people to throw words out to millions of people at a time.

That’s a lot of influence! With that influence comes responsibility.

I’m going to sound naive to some of you but I believe that the vast vast majority of people do not say things on social media with the intent to hurt others. Yet they somehow seem to forget that there are real live human beings impacted by the things they say and write. Some of those things do indeed hurt people.

I believe there is no such thing as a neutral human interaction. Every single time you interact with another human being, no matter how that interaction takes place, you leave that person feeling either better or worse about themselves and their situation. It’s always one or the other, it’s never neutral.

It may be an almost imperceptible change but it adds up. Leaving a person feeling a tiny bit worse about themselves or their situation time after time adds up. So does leaving them feeling better time after time.

Consider that BEFORE the next time you say or write something uncivil. Consider that BEFORE you say something hurtful that you wouldn’t want said or written to someone who matters to you. That person you’re saying it to may not matter to you but they most certainly matter.

Their views and opinions may seem completely wacky to you. But if you lived their life and were shaped by the same experiences that they were, you would think much the same as they do.

Their views do not make them a less valuable human being than anyone else. We seem to be forgetting that lately and we need to start remembering it before it is forgotten forever.

Here’s a good rule of thumb…don’t say mean things. If it would be mean if it was said to you then it’s going to be mean when you say it, or text it, or tweet it, to someone else. Figure out a way to say the same thing in a way that you wouldn’t consider mean or insulting (be honest) and say it that way. If you can’t figure that out then say nothing.

It’s a pretty simple rule but it can make a profound difference in the impact you have on the people you communicate with. You have the choice of being a positive influence or a negative one.

Which choice will you make?

Are You Helping Your Customers?

I have long believed…and taught, that the best way to succeed in sales is by helping your customers achieve their goals and objectives. My mind is pretty well made up on this point and I can’t imagine what anyone could say to change it.

But many have tried. Some of those who have tried tell me that sales is about separating a prospect from their money as quickly and efficiently as possible. That is most definitely NOT what professional selling is about.

Others have told me that sales is about making a lot of money. That is not true either even though making a lot of money is one of the two primary reasons many people go into sales. The fact is, making a lot of money is what happens when you help a lot of people achieve their goals and objectives.

Sales is ALL about helping customers. I suppose I should add a qualifier to that…PROFESSIONAL SALES is all about helping customers. Product peddlers pride themselves on being able to “unload” any product on anyone and they will use any trick to do it. They will do most anything for a buck. They give professional salespeople a bad name.

Professional salespeople have only one trick up their sleeve and it’s really no trick at all. It’s called asking effective questions. So effective that sometimes it helps a customer understand that there is a solution to a problem that they didn’t know existed.

If those professional salespeople discover that their product or service does not help a prospect they won’t attempt to turn that prospect into a customer by selling them something they won’t benefit from.

If you’re wondering how close you are to helping your customers ask yourself a question first. That question is this: what are the goals and objectives of my top ten prospects or current customers?

I start with the top ten because if you don’t know those then it’s most unlikely you will know others.

If you can’t answer that question it’s likely because you’ve never directly asked your prospects what their goals and objectives are. If that’s the case you have the ability to correct that situation immediately…just ask.

Your prospects and customers may not have an immediate answer for you. It’s a question that may catch them off guard. That’s because so few salespeople straight up ask. You can actually change the perception of a prospect by asking, and that change will most definitely be in the right direction.

So, are you helping your customers? You’ll find it very difficult to help anyone achieve their goals if you don’t even know what they are. So find out. Just ask, it’s the only trick you’ll ever need.

Should You Wear a Mask?

Okay, let me point out that I know better than to write about this topic. About half of the people who read it will agree and the other 80% will think the whole mask thing is ridiculous. (Yes, I can add)

Social Media and Blogging “experts” have told me to stick the topics I’m known for. Those would be sales and leadership but heck, I haven’t had a good beat down over a blog post in a while so let’s go for it.

We should get this out of the way right up front. Yes, I wear a mask when I’m in a public area and I can’t stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Actually, I wear a mask pretty much all the time in public because very few people carry a tape measure with them. These are the same people who struggle with what 6 feet looks like. So to be safe I wear a mask….not for me, but for them. To keep them safe from me in case I have the virus and I’m asymptomatic.

That’s the whole point of wearing a mask…to keep other people safe.

I understand most of the reasons for NOT wearing a mask. One person told me the whole COVID thing is a hoax. No one, not one single person has died from the virus because the virus doesn’t exist. I pointed out that “they” indeed seem to be burying people. I was informed that the government is actually paying those people to stay in hiding so their loved ones will think they are dead. I was shocked!

I’m not sure what the end goal of the government would be for doing that. I do know the end goal of wearing a mask is to keep other people safe.

I also understand that the government can’t tell me I have to wear a mask. When they attempt to do so it infringes on my freedom. Few things are more important to me than my freedoms. Especially the freedom to needlessly and carelessly infect other people with a potentially deadly virus. Many brave men and women have died so I can have to freedom to not give a damn about anyone else.

But thanks to those same brave men and women I’m also free to attempt to keep other people safe, which is the whole point of wearing a mask.

The one thing I don’t understand is the idea of being too cool to wear a mask. I’ve never been that cool so it’s very hard for me to comprehend that concept. I’m surmising that when you’re too cool to wear a mask that you assume other people are cool with you infecting them with a potentially deadly virus. I kinda get that…I mean if I was to get infected I’m sure I’d feel better on my deathbed knowing that at least I’m dying for a good cause…. helping a really cool person continue to look cooler than me.

But I also can’t help but think that if the person was all that cool they would want to help keep other people safe, which is the whole point of wearing a mask.

So when I’m out in public and I see people not wearing a mask I can only assume a few things.

One, they are a massive conspiracy buff. Not only have they correctly identified this pandemic thing as a complete hoax they also know where Elvis is currently living.

Two, they have a very confused view of the definition of “freedom.” That confused view is causing them to do things that sadly, very sadly, some of them will deeply regret one day. Once Grandma is gone all the freedom in the world ain’t bringing her back…but hey, sacrifices must be made.

Three, they really are way cooler than me. My being near them or them seeing my face uncovered could adversely affect their coolness.

In that case it’s really really good that I’m wearing a mask, after all, the whole point of wearing a mask is to keep other people safe…even very cool people.

The Power of Questions

Many people have the belief that leaders give orders. They think leaders tell people what to do and how to do it. Sadly, that is true for far too many people in leadership positions.

Authentic Leaders however give few orders. They don’t bark out directions at people telling them exactly what to do. What Authentic Leaders actually do is ask questions. They ask questions to help their people grow. They ask questions to help their people learn. They ask questions to challenge their people’s thinking. More importantly, they ask questions to teach their people to challenge their own thinking.

They ask questions to help their people become and stay engaged. They ask questions to help their people feel like they are part of the team. And they ask questions to learn from their people.

Asking questions to help someone see how their thinking might be flawed is far more effective than telling someone they are wrong. Asking someone how they came to a particular conclusion is far more people valuing then telling them they don’t know what they are talking about.

Asking for input before making a big decision helps people be more supportive of the decision even if it wasn’t the decision they would have made.

Asking people for their ideas before dumping a change on them helps them feel as if they matter. It frequently makes the change more beneficial for everyone.

Authentic Leaders ask questions and they know the better the question the better the answer. The more questions they ask the more engaged their people become. Authentic Leaders know they can never stop learning. They also know they can’t learn anything by telling, they can only learn when asking.

Asking questions is a far more powerful way to lead then telling. But to real key to asking effective questions is listening well.

Authentic Leaders listen. They linger on the words of the person speaking until they are certain of what was said AND what was meant. They listen with the intent to understand instead of listening only to respond. They listen with focus and without distractions.

Glancing at your cell phone to make certain you’re not missing anything important guarantees you’ll miss something important from the person you’re speaking with. And you’ll make them feel anything but important. Your cell phone doesn’t help you listen more effectively and you’re only fooling yourself if you think it does.

Ask questions and listen. Listen to the exclusion of any other noise. You will learn far more than you think you will. You might even learn that your team is far more effective than you thought they were.

No One “Needs” to be Micromanaged

I put a tweet out a couple of weeks ago that said something about the dangers of micromanaging. Almost immediately I received a response that said some people “needed” to be micromanaged. They were incapable of thinking or doing anything on their own. Some people they said wanted to be micromanaged so they didn’t have to think for themselves. They said thinking was too tiring for some people.

No. No. No. That’s wrong on every count.

There are 2 reasons why someone micromanages their people.

Sometimes they have so much passion for their business or organization that they want to be involved in everything. It’s still not good but I can cut those micromanagers a little slack because at least their intentions are good if not their methods.

The second reason is really multiple reasons in one. They don’t trust their people. They have knowingly or unknowingly put people into positions where they can’t succeed. They have convinced themselves that their people can’t think for themselves. They are know-it-alls. They think their people are lazy. They don’t like their people, or perhaps they don’t like people in general.

To sum all that up…they are exceptionally poor leaders.

You do not grow people by micromanaging them. If you are not growing your people you’ll find it very difficult to grow your business.

As someone in a leadership position your number one responsibility is growing and developing your people. You don’t do that by micromanaging them. You can’t even do it by managing them. If fact, most every “people problem” you think you have is likely a direct result of trying to manage them rather than lead them.

Micromanaging someone is like managing them on steroids. You hurt them, you hurt yourself and you hurt your organization.

No one needs to be micromanaged. No one wants to be micromanaged. No one benefits from being micromanaged.

Those are the facts. If you choose to dispute them you may hold a leadership position but I’m sorry to say that it’s almost certain that you are not a leader.

Calm Seas

I’ve never met a sailor who didn’t prefer sailing on calm seas. Who can blame them, it’s just easier. Everyone likes easy.

But here’s the thing, almost all of us are paid to navigate choppy seas. If you’re in sales this is especially true. Sales by my definition is changing someone’s attitude from neutral or even negative about your product, to a positive attitude. Positive enough to buy your product or service.

Those “seas” of changing someone’s attitude can be very very choppy.

If you’re in any type of customer service role you almost never experience calm seas. Customers seldom call or show up at your counter to tell you everything is perfect. It’s just the opposite, almost 100% of the customers you deal with are unhappy and it’s your job to turn that unhappiness into sheer delight. Sometimes the seas you navigate aren’t only choppy, they are downright hurricane like.

Almost every job and position have challenges. Thank goodness for that. If they were easy, if there were no headwinds, if there were never any problems, a whole lotta people would be out of work.

If customers were convinced your products were always the best and provided the best value then your company wouldn’t need any salespeople. If nothing ever broke then service people would be a thing of the past. If every customer was delighted every single time the role of customer service person would be history.

If there were no problems in business then a whole bunch of businesses would need a lot less people. You would never see the term “problem solver” on a résumé again.

All that being the case I find it amazing how many salespeople dislike having to convince people to buy their products. Service people can get bitter over constantly having to fix things that break. I’ve heard many people in customer service roles say how much easier their jobs would be if the customers would all just go away.

You and everyone else are not paid to sail your organization’s ship on calm seas. You are paid to navigate the rough spots. Your role likely exists in one way or another to solve or overcome problems. The very problems you may complain about from time to time, or maybe even more often than that.

When you stop and think of it like that it doesn’t make much since to complain…does it? So don’t complain! Be thankful for the challenges your job provides you because it’s those challenges that provide your income.

No job is perfect. No job is always easy. Every job has its challenges and that might be the best news you’ll hear all week.

How to Make People Trust You

If you were to take the title of this post literally it would be my shortest post ever. That’s because you cannot MAKE someone, anyone, trust you. That’s not within your control.

But what is within your control is making yourself trustworthy. You have control over doing things that people will feel makes you a safe bet in the trust area. You also have control, complete control, over not doing things that would cause people to lose trust in you.

If you want to be seen as trustworthy then you must honor your commitments. You must do what you say you will do and you must do it when you said you would. Every time you fail in this area you cast doubt on the next commitment you make. It doesn’t take long before your commitments are worthless. Remember that…it doesn’t take long.

Be honest. Obviously not lying requires you to tell the truth. Being honest is more than not lying. Being honest requires that you tell the entire truth. Hiding details that matter is lying. Very often being completely honest is very difficult. If you have a dictionary handy check out the definition of difficult. Then look up the definition of impossible. You’ll see that “difficult” is not the same as impossible. So be honest if you want to be trustworthy.

Be timely. Said another way, show up when you said you would. Always! Punctuality matters and calling ahead from your cell phone to say “you’re running late” is a poor substitute to honoring another person’s time by being on time yourself. If people can’t trust you with something as basic as being on time they will doubt everything else about you as well. They really will.

Only tell your secrets. Most people love it when someone tells them a secret. They love it so much that they can’t wait to tell the secret to someone else. Don’t be a quidnunc. If someone trusts you enough to share their secret with you then keep it a secret. There probably isn’t a faster way to destroy the trust of someone than to share something they told you in confidence.

Remember, the people you gossip with today are the same people who will gossip about you tomorrow. A quidnunc is a person who loves to gossip. Are you one of those? Nobody likes to admit to gossiping but most everybody gossips. Want to destroy trust? Gossip. It’s like a nuclear bomb to trust.

Admit when you’re wrong. It’s almost funny when someone who is clearly wrong refuses to admit it. Almost funny. If you don’t have the confidence in yourself required to admit you’re wrong then how can anyone else have confidence in you? Dale Carnegie said, “when you’re wrong admit it quickly and emphatically.” Admitting to a mistake or admitting to being wrong about something you said is a trust builder. People won’t have to double check you because they know you’re double checking yourself.

Trust is the basis for all successful relationships. But even the strongest trust is fragile. It needs constant attention and effort. You can’t make someone trust you but you can make it easy for them not to.

The good news is you can also make it easier for them to see you as someone they should trust. It takes effort, it takes time, it takes consistency, and it takes intentionality.

You have what it takes to be trustworthy. The question is, will you do what it takes?