Listening is Free

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed but the world, yep, not only the US but the entire world seems divided right now. Never in my lifetime has the divide between different groups of people been wider.

Even in times of World Wars the divide was not as great as it is right now. Even during the World Wars people agreed on more things than they do today. Governments started those wars, not the people of the countries that were dragged into them.

But today is different. The universal language is one of hate. We throw the word hate around as if it almost has no real meaning. People claim to hate people who hate. “We” all hate all the hating going on these days.

We make slogans and signs about who and what matters. We talk about what must change and who must change. I’m struck by the number of people who “demand” immediate change yet refuse to look in the mirror to see if there is any change they could make personally.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying many things but one thing he said might be more applicable today than even the day he said it. When commenting on someone he was not particularly fond of he said, “I do not like that man. I need to get to know him better.”

Lincoln knew what too many people today seemingly have forgotten. That is that we human beings have far more in common than we give ourselves credit for. We can focus on the things that draw us together or we can focus on the things the push us apart. That’s a choice.

But that won’t happen until we do something else that seems to be a thing of the past.

That “thing” is called listening.

I mean real listening. Not reading someone’s social media posts. Not hearing some filtered version of what somebody thinks or what someone said someone said someone said. It’s a sad commentary on the world we live in but if you didn’t hear someone say it yourself then you might want to have some doubts about whether or not it was actually said.

Plus…don’t only listen to people who agree with you! Invite conversations with people who have vastly different views and life experiences than you. Do not think them wrong simply because their views are different than yours. Don’t talk to them, talk with them to determine where your views overlap. Build on that overlap!

I take great comfort from talking with people who share my views and beliefs. I like talking to my family and friends. But whatever growth I experience at this point in life comes from talking with people who frankly might not be my first choice to talk with.

You and I do not have to like the people who see the world differently than we do but we do need to understand how they view their life. We need to understand that if our life experiences were identical to theirs that our views would likely be identical too.

Most of all we need to get to know them better. The more we know about people the less chance there will be that we judge them. I want to say that again….the more you know about someone the less chance there is that you will judge them.

Listen more. Listen with your heart and your mind WIDE open. Listening is free but it just might be that it liberates you from hate. Listening is one of those things that while free it is also priceless!

Listening, really listening to different views could save you great pain. It could save your Country severe turmoil. Listening, truly truly listening to one another might even save the world.

What History Teaches

Whenever I hear of someone heading off to college who is planning to major in History my thoughts always go to “oh boy, taking on a ton of student loan debt for a low paying teaching job.”

I mean, what else do you do with a History Degree.

But then I start to think more and I am so grateful for anyone willing to teach History. It is history that teaches us everything we need to know to be successful.

In High School my least favorite class was Military History. (I attended a Military High School) I had a hard time figuring out why we were studying old battle plans and tactics from lost battles. I eventually came to understand that if we were ever required to lead a group of brave service members into battle the job wasn’t just to win the war. It was to bring the people we were charged with leading home alive.

As General George Patton frequently said, “it’s not the job of the American Solider to die for their country; the job of the American Solider is to make the other SOB die for theirs.”

Small pieces of historical knowledge can make a huge difference. It can prevent history from repeating itself. If Adolf Hitler had studied Napoleon’s battle plans from years earlier he likely would have not opened up a second front in Russia. If he had waited only a handful of months to attack it is very possible the outcome of World War 2 could have been different.

Companies are like countries when it comes to history. Those that are unwilling to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Emphasis on the doomed.

History can teach us what to do as well as what not to do. The problem is, if we don’t learn from history we tend to take the same shortcuts. Use the same level of thinking, say the same things, and do the identical stuff as the people who failed before us.

It’s fine to study successful companies. Following the practices of those who have succeeded before you makes perfect sense. But I also like to learn from companies that were highly successful right up until the time they weren’t.

I want to know what changed. I want to know what it was that caused them to go from great to good to downright bad.

It most often has to do with people. Mostly the people who run the company. History teaches us that the most common mistake they make is assuming that their future is an automatic extension of their past. Those organizations believe that because they are currently successful they will always be successful. They begin to take their success for granted. They begin to believe that their success is solely due to their efforts. They forget about all the people who have helped them along the way.

Successful companies and organizations do not fail the people leading them. The people leading them fail their companies and organizations.

History is full of examples of how organizations create sustainable success. It is also full of examples of what organizations did to kill their success.

Successful people learn from their mistakes, the most successful people, and organizations, learn from the mistakes of others. Those “lessons” are found in history. Are you willing to learn?

The Benefits of a Generous Spirit

Sir Winston Churchill said “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

No matter how much or how little you have, you have something that you can share with others. That something has the potential to change someone’s life for the better. IF you’re willing to share.

There are many logical reasons to give. It has been proven that giving can lower your blood pressure. It reduces the stress in your life. You will experience less anxiety and giving helps keep depression at bay. It also increases self-esteem.

But here is the best reason to make a difference in the life of someone else…because you can.

Some of you reading this are saying to yourself I’d give if only I had something to give. But as I said before, you absolutely have something to give. You only need to broaden your perspective about what you have that is valuable.

During this particular time in history there are many people experiencing profound loneliness. They would love for someone to talk with. If you have a willing ear and a mouth that works then that someone could be you.

I’ll bet there is an organization in your community that is matching up willing “givers” with people who could use a bit of conversation to brighten their day. If you Google it you can find that organization. 5 or 10 minutes a day to do a little good, maybe a lot of good, maybe even save a life.

That’s just one of a million ways you can give back this very day!

Still some of you are saying I’d do that if only I had the time. As anyone who has ever heard me do a Webinar on “Using Your Time Effectively” time is just an excuse for people too busy…or lazy, to make a real excuse.

You have plenty of time to do everything that is a priority in your life. And this is a bit off topic but if you have more than a small handful of priorities in your life then you probably don’t have any real priorities.

You might be thinking I can’t “spend” time giving back because I have kids, work, homeschooling, plus tons of stuff. So DON’T SPEND time on anyone, instead “INVEST TIME” with everyone in your life.

That change of mindset will improve every relationship in your life.

The benefits of giving far outweigh whatever perceived “costs” there may be. You don’t need money to give, you don’t need some special gift or skill to give. You don’t need more time in the day to give.

You just need a willing heart and a desire to help.

Giving to others is one of the nicest things you can do….for yourself. I think you deserve it, don’t you agree?

How Important is Control to a Leader?

Many people in Leadership positions believe leading is about control. Especially controlling the people they are supposed to be leading. People in leadership positions who don’t actually lead are really struggling with this great corporate experiment happening around the world that is called “Working from Home.”

Because they don’t actually lead they have little influence over the actions and attitudes of the people they are supposed to be leading. They have so few leadership skills that rather than attempt to earn the commitment of their people they seek to force their compliance.

But compliance requires control and that’s much harder to come by in a work from home environment. That’s why “leaders in title” only have so many issues with their people not being in the office and directly under their thumb. They can’t wait for a return to “normal.”

But they will have to wait because working from home is the new normal. The pretend leaders who hope to order their people back into the office have one of two choices. The first is to grow into an Authentic Leader and actually lead. The second is to join the growing heap of failed “leaders in title” only who couldn’t let go of the need to control every aspect of their employees workday.

People will eventually return to the office, in some form. Likely they will spend at least as much time working from home as working in an office environment. There will never be a time when rush hours look like the rush hours of “the before times.” There will never again be a time when large companies pile a few hundred employees into a large conference room simply because they can. Things will never again be exactly as they were.

This work from home experiment has been going on long enough that real data exists regarding productivity concerns. Most people are either as productive or more productive than when working in the office. In many cases where productivity has suffered it has suffered due to the “leader in title.” They attempt to reach through the phone or computer to control their people as if they were still in the office.

The people who are actually led while working from home seem to do just fine.

There was a time when “work-life balance” was the goal. That goal is gone. The new goal is “work-life integration” where employees have choices about when they get their work done. “Work-life integration” means the employees can run an errand in the middle of the day. It means they don’t have to make up some cockamamie excuse about why they didn’t immediately answer the phone.

“Work-life balance” is full of controls. “Work-life integration” focuses on positive outcomes. It eliminates the need for many of the tradition controls.

Here’s the deal…Authentic Leaders already know they control far fewer things than they thought they would before they became leaders. They have also learned they don’t have to control anyone to earn their commitment.

Control is unnecessary for an Authentic Leader. They have influence into the attitude, activities, and outcomes of each member of their organization. If you’re in a leadership position and your struggling with the “work from home” thing then it’s very possible that you’re trying to control things…and people beyond your control.

Stop trying to control people and start building relationships with them. It’s those relationships, built on trust, that will allow you to influence your people to productivity heights that control freaks can only dream of.

Better Voices

Most people won’t actually admit to hearing voices in their head. They think if people find out they will be sent immediately to see a psychiatrist…or worse. People think that way because one of the voices in their head tells them to think that way.

Everybody hears voices in their head. Sometimes it’s the voice of fear. Sometimes it’s the voice of reason. Sometimes it’s the voice of self-doubt. Sometimes it’s the voice of belief and confidence.

Some of the voices are stronger than others. For too many people the voices they hear most often are the voices of fear and self-doubt. For successful people the voices they hear most often are the voices of self-belief and confidence.

What someone hears in their head will determine their level of success. Do you allow the loudmouthed fear to overrule your voice of reason? Do you allow the voice of self-doubt to out shout your voice of confidence.

There are people in your life that you know better than to pay attention to. There are people in your life who you trust and listen to. You seek out their advice while ignoring the nattering naysayers of negativity.

Those voices of fear and self-doubt are nothing more than nattering naysayers of negativity. They are to be ignored just like the people you know better than to allow into your life.

Successful people have the voices of fear and self-doubt in their heads like everyone else. But they drown them out with their “better voices” of confidence, self-belief, and reason. When fear and doubt start their yapping successful people cut them off immediately with self-affirmation and confidence.

I think the key is paying attention to that voice in your head. It’s always there and if you aren’t careful it can influence your actions whether you realize it or not. So pay attention to those voices, when you realize it’s an unhealthy voice then either out shout it or overpower it with something better.

You have to admit to the voices before you can take control over them….but maybe you don’t have to admit them to other people. 🙂

One Small Step

Sometimes success begins by taking a mighty leap of faith. Sometimes, but not very often. Most often, success begins with one small step.

As small a step as it often is, many people just can’t make themselves take it. They might see success somewhere on the path they want to take but it appears to be a long way off. Between where they are standing and the success they seek are obstacles called risk, failure, effort, problems, lack of financing and other various unknowns.

Those obstacles cause many people to wait. To wait for the obstacles to magically disappear. To wait for someone or something to remove the obstacles for them. These people have a desire for success but their desire is small when compared to what they have told themselves are huge obstacles.

But here’s a funny thing about obstacles on the path to success…the closer you get to them the smaller they turn out to be.

But sadly, many people will not get to experience that because they never take that one small step that starts them down the path to success.

The journey of your success will always begin with the small step of taking a risk. Whether in business, in personal relationships, or in life, all success most often starts with that small step made with a hefty desire to be more. To be better. To make a difference. To leave behind a legacy that’s not soon forgotten.

Despite what you may have heard or hoped, success in NOT available to everyone who wants it. It is only available to those who are willing to work to achieve it. That work includes overcoming any and all obstacles. That work includes maintaining a “can do” attitude, even when you’re surrounded by a pack of “can’t do” people. That work includes making an effort every day, not only on the days you feel like it.

That work includes taking one small step on the path towards success. Sometimes that’s the hardest work of all. The question isn’t whether you want success, the real question is whether you’ll work hard enough to achieve it.

Well, will you?

Creating Permanent Success

As a very young salesperson I had some early success. I had no idea why but I enjoyed what I was doing and as far as I knew, I was selling.

I had an engineering degree and fell into sales completely by accident. That by the way is how a great many salespeople enter the profession of selling. Not too long into my sales career some of the Corporate big shots came to town and scheduled rides with our sales team. I was less than pleased when I discovered that on 3 consecutive days I’d have one of the big shots with me.

I assumed it wouldn’t take someone as smart as these guys claimed to be to figure out that despite my early success I really had no idea what I was doing. I apparently figured wrong.

In their report they said I was the best salesperson they had ever worked with. One of them made a comment that I could sell ice to an Eskimo. So my Sales Manager starting asking me questions about what I did when the big shots were with me.

I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary stuff I did every day and I had no clue as to why they said what they said about me. Then some smart guy asked me exactly what I would do to sell ice to an Eskimo.

I thought for a minute and then it began to dawn on me why I might be having some of that early success.

My answer was I wouldn’t sell ice to an Eskimo in the first place because they didn’t need any.

To this day that philosophy is what has helped separate me from common salespeople. I get the financial aspects of selling crap to people that they don’t need. But selling something to someone who doesn’t need it is not a sustainable strategy for success in sales.

Manipulating someone for your benefit at the cost of their wellbeing, be it financial or otherwise is not a sustainable strategy for success in life.

When I finally figured out what was helping me succeed in sales I became more intentional about building relationships, trust and friendships. That required that I find out exactly how my product could help people. It required that I know enough about a particular customer to know precisely how my product could help them.

That caused me to walk away from a good many potential sales and while I lost a few sales I never lost a customer. Helping your customers, being honest with them at all times, having the courage to occasionally disagree with them and always keeping their best interests in mind are the keys to long-term, sustainable sales success.

If anyone tells you otherwise they do not have your best interests in mind.

“Selling by helping” is the sales philosophy I’ve taught for a long time. I started doing training for two reasons, one was to help more people have better buying experiences with the salespeople they dealt with. The other was to help more salespeople have long-term success and make lots of money doing it.

The selling professional can be very rewarding, “selling by helping” increases those rewards ten-fold. It is also the certain path to permanent sales success.