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I love our people!

“Once you get to the point to where you see your people like I see the Citgo sign, you will know exactly what I am talking about.”

Okay, work with me here (all of you that are not from the greater Boston Area). There is something about that sign (and every city has its own landmark). When you see the Citgo sign, you know you are in one of the greatest cities in the world and right around the corner from the legendary Fenway Park. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy, brings back great memories, and is just simply awesome. Ever since I was a boy (my wife might argue that I still am one), this sign has been a back drop for the home runs over the Green Monster. Somehow that backdrop also brings good summertime memories, and for anyone who loves Boston in general, the sign has huge value.

Some of you may not be as fortunate as I am in regards to employees. My employees are probably some of the best people in the business. Both personally and professionally. They have a bounce in their step, have tremendous integrity, are hard-working, like their job, and generally are happy to be alive. Sometimes I wonder if this was orchestrated or if is just by chance that this caliber people are working side by side with me every day. Either way, I’ll take it.

I challenge all of you managers, supervisors, and executives alike. Get out of your office. Say hello to all of your people daily. Call them by name. Get to know them. Carry their burdens (to an extent) and share in their victories. Trust them. Train them. This will help you keep them. You might find this to be a secret weapon, as many employees don’t quit companies, they quit supervisors, managers, and executives.

Once you get to the point to where you see your people like I see the Citgo sign, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Are your people safe?

Probably the safest place for a child is in the womb. The temperature is perfect, there is no separation anxiety, and the child is automatically fed first when the mother eats.

If you are a leader in your career, civic group, church or synagogue, a little league coach, a yoga instructor, or any other type of leader from a vast list, are the people that you lead safe?

Is the temperature perfect? Meaning; are you aware of the climate of the room in regards to relationships? Are you consciously making sure your people feel welcomed? Are you aware of body language? Body language screams a statement. It either states; I am comfortable; I am uncomfortable; I feel left out; or I feel welcomed. It does not matter one bit what you think. Someone else’s perception is reality. Leaders scan the room. Leaders are inclusive. Leaders build others up. Leaders recognize everyone.

Is there separation anxiety in the group that you lead? Or are you are more concerned with how you feel, rather than how your flock feels? What is their body language screaming to you? Are their arms crossed? That usually means “I am blocking you out” or “I disagree with you.” Is there little to no eye contact? That can mean “I do not trust you” or “I feel poorly about something in this setting”. Either way, leaders recognize the concern and then go to work to fix it.

Does the child automatically feed when the leader does? This could be physically and emotionally/spiritually. Physically, do you go last when there is food being served? Do you ensure all of your team has eaten or had a drink before you help yourself? Emotional and spiritually, do you have your team in mind when teaching? Are you concerned for their well-being and growth or only how you feel about the message? Do you follow-up after hearing of a concern? Are you humble enough to create an environment of transparency, even if you do not like the feedback? More over, do you act to change the reality.

Leaders lead. Great leaders ensure their people are safe.

Are you locked out?

“There’s always next year.” These famous last words are uttered at the end of every calendar year. This is the last sliver of hope people have of making lasting changes to their life. I’ll do it later; I’ll start tomorrow; There’s always tomorrow. The problem with this mentality is, there is no such thing as tomorrow.

All we ever have is today and the hard lessons of yesterday (which at one point was a “today” and we let it slip by). Remember, when we get to tomorrow, it will actually be called today.

The journey of a hundred miles starts with the first step. Your future starts right now. If you are to be more successful than ever; if you are to be in better shape than you are right now; if you are to save more money than you did last year; if you are to have better relationships; if you are locked out of life and don’t know the passcode, there is good news. The passcode is “today”.

So, start today. Start now. Put all of your focus into today. Get started and don’t stop. Sure, there will be bumps in the road, detours, and the such. But, if you get started on a better you TODAY, you will come to realize that is all you ever have. If you decide to not act now, then you truly are locked out of your future. The unfortunate thing is, you know the passcode but refuse to type it in to your life.

Can You Smell Blood?

If you sell a product or a service, there has to be a certain level of survivability. Timid salespeople have skinny kids (and skinny pets, and skinny bank accounts). When a consumer has decided to “shop” and strolls through your world as you know it, you must strike while the iron is hot or there is a great chance you will never see them again.

In today’s electronic world, the consumer has already researched the item they are interested in to death. They have read reviews on the product, your location, and maybe even on you personally. When they show up to “look”, that is code language for “I am buying something very soon”. The consumer might say they need to think about it. What? They already spent hours online, already have an agreement with their significant other, and have already narrowed down exactly what they want and are ready to buy. The soft salesperson meekly says “ok, call me if you might, ever, someday, might think of buying my product”. The consumer stops at the next competitor and buys on the spot. Why? Because the next salesperson took the lead.

It is not unethical to lead people. It is not wrong to ask the consumer for their business. It is not against some moral code to strongly suggest, or consult them, or speak highly of your product, or to remind them how valuable their time is and that they probably don’t want to prolong their decision.

For Pete’s sake; ask for the sale. Your kids and spouse, or pet/hobbies/charitable organizations you support/vacation DEPENDS ON IT. Remember the consumer walked into your house and inquired. You did not go on a door knocking crusade. A shark can smell the blood in the water, can you?

You Can’t See?

In the colder regions of the country, the windshield gets frosted over during the night. In the morning, it should not be a surprise when you can’t see out of the windshield, but for many it is. A typical morning starts by rushing out, starting the car and realizing there is not enough time to defrost the windshield. We have all been guilty from time to time using the washer fluid (not so successfully), or simply driving away despite not being able to see clearly. The real answer is preparation. This would include waking up a bit early and starting the car a few minutes before it is time to leave. In doing so, the windshield would be clear as day when we were ready to leave.

To be successful in any arena, preparation is one key component. Some people rely on luck, winging it, or simply hoping for the best. None of which associate with success. The 5 p’s seem applicable; Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Going into a new year, let’s plan ahead. Let’s prepare for what lies ahead.

In business (and in personal finance) there are many components that need attention to have a successful recipe. One of which is planning for growth and another is planning for cost cutting measures. I once heard someone say “good habits are formed in bad times and bad habits are formed in good times”. In order to navigate the volatile market conditions and the unpredictable business growth within that volatile market, one must begin to plan for a market slow down by being responsible with expenses. If a slowdown happens, the good times will be over. By intentionally preparing now, one will be forming good habits as it relates to expense control. They will be ahead of the curve by being proactive and will be able to see clearly when others cannot.

Time For a Change!

Our family has a tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree on Thanksgiving weekend. This year was no exception. After roaming the field and finding that ‘perfect’ tree, it came time for me to cut it down. My teenage children certainly did not want to get ‘dirty’ and possible get a grass or mud mark on their pants, never mind sap. As I was using the hand saw, it was getting stuck in the trunk making it nearly impossible to saw. I asked one of my kids to press on the tree, hoping it would open the trunk enough to keep the saw moving. SUCCESS, as the tree is now in our house. I obviously had to change my approach or I would still be lying on my back with the saw stuck in the trunk.

We have sales people who have not sold what they would like to have sold by this point in the month. If what they have been doing up to this point is not producing the kind of results they desire, how long will they continue to do what is not working until they finally realize that something needs to change in order to produce the results they want? Sounds like a tongue-twister.

No matter the industry you are in, the circumstances you find yourself involved with, the odds placed against you, or more, you must change your approach if you want different results. If not, you will get more of what you have been getting. So, if your relationships are not what you’d like, change your approach. If you are not selling like you should or could, change your approach. If you are unhappy in an area of your life, change your approach. Too often we feel others are the problem, when really it is in us that is time for a change.

A Simple Acknowledgement

I find it interesting when dealing with adults, especially adults in any form of professional capacity. When we were kids, our Moms would butt in to a situation and say “what do you say?” when they wanted us to say thank you for something. This would also be a code phrase when they wanted us to say excuse me, I’m sorry, or some other form of basic courtesy to another human being. Simply said, they were teaching us to acknowledge a situation.

When someone stops to let us cross the street, we wave and smile in acknowledgement for their yielding. When we walk into a place of business and someone employed there motions to us that they will be with us momentarily, we nod our head or say thank you in acknowledgement. When someone sends us a text or an email with some sort of information or direction, we respond in some fashion to acknowledge the message. When someone asks if we are ready, or if we are OK, we might give a thumbs up as an acknowledgement as well.

I can only come up with 3 reasons why someone wouldn’t acknowledge another person. First, it is plausible that they feel superior and find no need to express the common courtesy to someone they feel is socially beneath them. Second, they are intimidated with the message or the person, so they feel avoiding it is the best possible solution, which we all know never ends well. Or third, their Mom never taught them the importance of a simple acknowledgement.

When Sparks Fly!

So, from time to time, in business, sparks fly among the employees. If people are disrespectful, racist, sexist, demoralizing, condescending, etc., I will immediately have a real problem with it. But on the other hand, if the cause for the concern is a good dose of passion, and the other negative factors I mentioned are not part of the equation, I see it as good.

When the store is staffed full of passionate people, sparks are bound to fly from time to time. Usually people are passionate because they care. That is certainly better than dead fish that don’t care. When an employee wants to give his or her customer a great experience, they are passionate. When an employee wants to be sure the transaction is legal and ethical, they are passionate. When an employee is good at what they do, they are passionate. And , when an employee thinks another employee does not care, they can become extremely passionate.

I personally have an amazing team that truly cares for the guest and for the business simultaneously. They care that they themselves are treated fairly, and at the same time the guest is treated as royalty. They often feel respect for their fellow coworkers and think of many of them as their own family. This fact also makes each of them proud to be a part of an amazing team.

When we surround ourselves with passionate employees, the sparks are bound to happen. However, it is up to the management team and myself to ensure a fire does not break out from the sparks. So, let them fly, but be willing to air the concern in private and be quick to restore all relationships quickly.