Earning Trust – Part One

Trust is essential for leadership. Whether you’re attempting to lead people who work for you, or across from you or even above you in your organization you must have their trust in order to lead them.

You earn, or not, the level of trust other people place in you. There are some people who have a default mindset that says to trust everyone until they show themselves to be untrustworthy. But most people are more skeptical and don’t trust someone until they have proven themselves trustworthy.

The contradiction there is that the best way to know whether someone is trustworthy is to trust them.

The trust you need to lead, or even to build a strong relationship requires time to build, sometimes a very long time. But you can lose that trust very quickly and you can lose it in several ways. You can lose it by not following through on your commitments. You can lose it by lying. You can lose it by sharing information that was given to you in confidence.

I’m good with those first two…not always so good with that last one. I can’t honestly recall ever sharing something told to me when I was specifically asked not to. When I’ve been told that something was being shared with me in confidence I’ve closely held that information.

It’s when I wasn’t specifically told that something was being shared in confidence that I’ve gotten myself in trouble. I would love to say that’s okay because I wasn’t told not to tell anyone else but it’s not okay. Unless you’re a complete idiot you know, or you should know, what’s appropriate to share and what’s not. You shouldn’t have to be told. Neither should I.

Failing to protect information shared with you in confidence, whether implied or stated, is one of the fastest ways to lose trust. Even if you only tell one other person you’ve broken the trust of the person who originally shared that information with you. If the person you told tells other people then you’re responsible for all those people knowing too. It’s a pretty big screw up.

Benjamin Franklin said “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” You might want to keep that quote in mind if you’re ever tempted to share something that was told to you in confidence.

The good news is that trust can be rebuilt. It isn’t easy but if you’re interested it is possible. In my next post I’ll share several steps you can take to build trust and rebuild trust if you’ve lost it. There won’t be any secrets there, if fact I’ll bet you’ve heard them all before…the question is, are you doing them?

The Power of Focus

Somebody a lot smarter than me once said “the man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” I don’t recall who said it but it’s absolutely true.

But there is a way that guy can catch both rabbits. He just has to chase them one at a time.

That’s focus.

If you can’t say no to many things then you’ll find it impossible to say yes to focus. In most areas of your life what you choose not to do will determine what you are able to do. If you’re trying to do too much you fall victim to what is known as task saturation. If you fall into that trap you end up accomplishing far less than the person focused on one thing at a time.

That’s the big illusion that multi-taskers present to themselves. They believe they can do many things well and that they can do them all at once. But every bit of research shows without a doubt that they are fooling themselves.

One person doing eight things one at a time will do them better and faster than one person trying to do all eight of them at once. That’s the power of focus.

Some people would tell you they can’t focus. That’s not exactly right. What they can’t do is decide. They can’t decide on their priorities. They are like a kid in a candy store…they want it all and they want it right now.

That “kid in the candy store” mentality causes them to accomplish things right at the deadline. They get them done in the nick of time because suddenly they didn’t have to decide what to do next, a deadline made the decision for them. The problem is, things done at the deadline are seldom done as well as those things done with time to spare.

The most successful people possess laser like focus. They invest a bit of time, well actually some serious time, in determining their priorities and then they go after them to the exclusion of all distractions.

Warren Buffett has laser focus and he has a dependable process to keep it that he shares with people who struggle with their own focus.

He’ll ask them to invest some time to write out their top 25 goals. These can be life goals, 10 year goals or goals for the coming month or year. Once they have that list he asks them to review it and select their top 5.

So now they have two lists, let’s call them list one and list two. Buffett asks what the person intends to do with list two. Most say that they will work on them as time permits because while they are not as important as list one they are still important.

That’s when Buffett gives them life altering advice. He tells them list two is actually their “avoid at all cost” list. He says that list should get zero attention until list one is 100% complete. That’s what focus looks like in practice.

I can tell you from personal experience that focusing is easy when compared to developing the lists. If you want success with your own list one you must be willing to sacrifice everything on list two.

Most people are able to do that but are unwilling to do that. Those 20 things on list two prevent them from achieving any of the things on list one. In their case, ALL the rabbits got away.

Some would say if you’re focusing on more than one thing you don’t really have focus. I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt and say so long as you’re focusing on one at a time you can maybe have five or six things on your radar.

Any more than that and you might as well be Elmer J. Fudd.

Real Decisions Require Action

Making decisions can be a challenge. Making real decisions is even more challenging. A real decision is one that brings about action. Real action.

Real action causes something to change. It may not change much for you but whatever change is caused by your actions sends a ripple effect to those around you. Hopefully you understand that. It means that your decisions and the actions that result from them don’t only affect you, they affect the people around you as well. Your actions can have a big impact on those closest to you.

If you understand that then you should know the reverse is also true. You will be affected by the decisions and actions of the people around you. The closer those people are to you the bigger the impact.

That’s why it’s so important that your decisions lead to action. It’s not really a decision if nothing different happens because of it. Without action nothing different will happen. For those of you who believe it’s sometimes best to not make a decision you should know that a decision to not decide IS a decision. It’s a decision to allow the decisions and actions of others to control and shape your life.

You can make a decision to “stand pat” or “sit tight” or whatever you want to call it but unless virtually ever other person in the world also does nothing then something is going to change for you.

The change may be small and it may take some time for you to realize the change happened but it will happen. The only question is do you want change to happen to you or because of you? Do you want to control the change in your life or are you willing to allow the change to control you?

You can decide whatever you want but if the decision isn’t followed up by some sort of action then you might as well not have decided at all.

You may be only one decision away from an entirely different life. You may be only one decision away from being able to maintain the life you have. Whichever is the case both require that your decisions include an action step.

The decisions that affect your life are being made ever day. You must decide if you want input into the effects of those decisions or you’re willing to let someone else choose your path.

Happiness requires some control over your life. That control can only come from deciding what you want and then taking action to make it happen. As we head into 2020 I don’t think I’m going to wish anyone a Happy New Year. I think I’ll wish people an Active New Year!

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.

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?