Leading With Integrity

So let’s get this out of the way right up front. If you’re not leading with integrity then you’re simply not leading.

You’re not leading because leading requires that someone is following you. A true follower will have some level of commitment to their leader. People can be forced to comply with someone in a leadership position but they cannot be forced to commit.

In fact, they cannot commit. It is not possible for one human being to truly commit to another human being that they do not trust. Integrity is the foundation upon which trust is built. Where there is no integrity there can be no trust.

Having integrity is a choice. It’s a choice to do what you said you would do, even if you no longer feel like doing it. You may have never thought of it like this but you have an “Integrity Bank.” Every time you do exactly what you committed to do you’ll receive a small deposit into that Credibility Bank. When you fail to honor a commitment, any commitment, you suffer a substantial withdrawal from your Credibility Bank.

That may not seem fair but that’s the way it works. You don’t need to have too many withdrawals to reach a zero balance in your bank. That means zero credibility and that means zero committed followers.

Authentic Leaders know that their most valuable “currency” is their credibility. They know that without it that can not have a positive influence on those they hope to lead. So they honor their commitments. They follow through. They keep their word. They don’t say yes when they need to say no.

Their people know that they can trust their leader. Their people know that their leader is committed to them so they can commit to their leader.

Every committed relationship is built on a foundation of integrity. It’s the single most important foundation in any relationship. What Authentic Leaders understand that many lesser leaders don’t is this one irrefutable fact….you either have integrity 100% of the time or you do not have integrity.

Integrity is a full-time gig. It’s not something you do at work. It’s not something you do at home. It’s not something you do with people who matter to you. It’s just something you do because it’s who you are. It’s part of your DNA.

Or it’s not. The great thing is that it’s a part of your DNA that you get to control. The only question is, will you choose to control it.

The Power of Attitude

When I was a young salesperson (yes, it was long ago) I made a cold call with my Sales Manager on a potential customer. The purpose of that call was to drop off some literature and get the name of the individual who made training decisions for the organization.

There were two pieces of literature I wanted to leave behind. As I reached into my folder to pull out the second one I saw the receptionist tossing my first piece into the waste basket. As I handed her the second piece I asked her what she just did with the first piece. She said “I speeded up the process.”

I said I didn’t understand. She then explained that if she gave the information to her boss he would just throw it away…so she was speeding up the process. I made some comment about her unprofessional behavior (which I shouldn’t have) and we left the building.

When we got back into the car I made a negative comment to my Sales Manager about the women who had thrown away our literature right in front of us. His reply surprised me.

He said “what woman?” “I don’t remember any woman, we have lots of calls to make, let’s keep going.”

Without saying anything else his point was made. He had made a choice, he wasn’t going to let anyone rob him of one his most precious assets, a positive attitude. He truly seemed to have put the whole thing out of his mind before we left the parking lot. He is likely to read this post and he won’t remember this at all but it’s just one of the many things Mark taught me. I on the other hand remember it very well and it happened almost 30 years ago.

And that’s one of the challenges I have long faced in my career, I allow too many things to have a negative impact on my attitude. And I hang onto them for too long. That’s bad but what’s worse is when I pass that attitude along to others.

There will always be “stuff” that gets us down. There will always be “things” that can negatively impact our attitude. But, and this but can make all the difference if you remember it…but it can only have a negative impact on our attitude if we allow it.

And that’s a choice.

On the days I remember that my attitude is my choice I always choose a positive attitude. On the days that I don’t remember to make the choice of a positive attitude other people and those “things” make the choice for me. It’s never the choice I would make.

I am willing to bet that many of you face that same struggle with the choice of a positive attitude. So here’s what I’m going to do…from this day forward there will be a reminder on my iPhone, it will be at 6:00am EVERY morning. That reminder will be one word…that word will be Choose. That will be my reminder to make my choice of a positive attitude.

I’d encourage you to do the same. The power of a positive attitude is so great that we can’t allow other people and “things” to choose a negative attitude for us.

When you control your attitude you control your life. If you don’t control your attitude then your life is out of control. That’s a fact we need to keep in mind if we want to be the ones to control our lives.

The Decision to Try

All self-made successful people have one thing in common. They made the decision to try. I hesitate to say “self-made” since I’m not sure I’ve ever met a truly successful person who wasn’t aware that they had lots of help on their journey to success.

But whether they realize they received some help along the way or not that doesn’t change the fact that their success began with a decision to try.

One of the factors that prevent many people from trying is they wait until the timing is right to begin. Some of them wait until the timing is perfect. Those folks are likely still waiting.

People who try know that the best time to begin is now. People who try know that the best place to start is from wherever they are. People who try are willing to fail…bigly, if that is what it takes to eventually succeed. People who try have a 100% greater chance at success than those who don’t.

It is just my opinion but it’s much better to try and risk failure than it is to never try at all. I’d be willing to bet a sizable amount that people who try have far fewer regrets than people who don’t….whether they succeed or not.

I know for certain that people who try will never be failures even if they never achieve the full measure of success they sought. I’m not at all sure that can be said for those who are not willing to even try.

If you’re willing to try then craft a plan that gives you the best chance to succeed. Then put the plan into action assuming it will succeed. When it doesn’t then craft another, better plan and put that one into action with the absolute certainty that this time it will work. When it doesn’t then craft another, even better plan and launch yourself into it head first with complete confidence that you cannot fail.

If you’re wondering how many times you should do that don’t. Just keep doing it until your final best plan actually works.

As long as you keep trying you cannot fail. When you finally achieve your full measure of success remember that your success wasn’t due to the final best plan, it wasn’t even due to all the better plans along the way. Your success was ultimately due to your decision to try in the first place.

So….what are you going to try today?

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.