In an unpublished essay, “Lessons Learned From the Masters”, written by a wise mentor of mine, Robert J. Brinson, he shared some valuable lesson learned over the years during his professional career. One item of discussion was “The Three Be’s”: 1) Be on time, 2) Be prepared, and 3) Be present. I totally related to being on time and being prepared, since those two “B’s” are my own pet peeves. However, to be present is one I had to ponder, process and put into practice. Of course, most of the time I make a conscientious effort to change my behavior, I’ve had to learn a valuable lesson the hard way through my mistakes.
We live in a society that connects us in so many ways to so many people. Unwritten expectations include immediate gratification or receiving a response 24/7. So how can we focus on the present when we have way too many items on our plate to handle? We multi-task. Is that being present? We can trick ourselves into believing the present has our full attention, but nothing could be further from the truth. This reality hit me one day. While driving to an important meeting, I was thinking about all the tasks on my to-do list for that day. I was so totally distracted by my own thoughts that I suddenly realized I had driven straight through a red light. How in the world could my thoughts have drifted so far that I neglected to notice the light at the intersection was red and that I failed to stop the car? Fortunately, I was not involved in an accident. But let me tell you, it got my attention. I was so shaken up I had to pull over and process what had just happened. It was one of those “aha” moments, and I immediately knew what it meant to truly be present. I was so overwhelmed with all the demands on my plate that I was just going through the motions unaware of what I was doing. I changed that day. My thought process changed, and I began to eliminate bad habits that I had allowed. Not every fault has been completely eliminated, but I’m definitely more conscientious of being present to one task at a time, and I work very hard at making sure I am always present with people. People always take the number one priority.
“It doesn’t matter if you try and try and try again, and fail. It does matter if you try and fail, and fail to try again.” – Charles Kettering
The next time opportunity knocks at your door, open the door and see what happens. Or better yet, be the one to knock first. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own imagination of what might go wrong that we fail to leave our comfort zone and give that desire a try. Of course rejection is not fun, but neither is beating yourself up for not even trying. If you keep trying and do your best, eventually you will see positive results. When you accomplish that desire, your satisfaction will be worth all your effort.
In my sales and customer training classes, I always encourage the participants to at least ask for what they want. My philosophy is that “we have not because we ask not.” Think of asking for your desired result more as offering your skills instead of selling a product. Let the person in charge make the decision whether or not to accept your offer. Do not cheat someone out of the opportunity to benefit from your abilities.
The results of failing to try hit home for me at a class reunion. During a conversation with a classmate, he confessed that he had always wanted to ask me out on a date but did not ask because he thought I would say, “No.” Even after all those years, he still remembered not asking. I probably would have said, “Yes.” Asking and facing the potential of rejection is a risk; however, keep trying. In sales, the rule of thumb is that it takes nine “no’s” to get one “yes.” The more you practice asking while improving your skills, the better your odds become. Whether you are selling a product or offering your abilities as a service, you are seeking a positive response. Next time, take a risk and ask for what you want. Asking gets easier the more you practice. Remember, “we have not because we ask not.”
One of the services offered by my business is customer satisfaction surveys. I’ve worked with several clients to design, develop and implement surveys geared around questions that they are seeking the answer to in or in order to improve the business performance. I’ve designed surveys that are short and some that are very lengthy. No matter the length of the survey or the details of information gathered, there is one question that must be answered by the customer. All the information gathered is important and must be used to drive improvements. However, the most important question by far to ask your customer is “how likely are you to recommend (insert your company)”? The responses to this question should drive the initiatives of the company to improve upon the products and/or services being provided. When the responses to this question are anything other than highly likely, finding out “why not” is essential. The answers to why customers would not highly recommend your company provides an opportunity to improve upon the performance gap of the business. Acting upon and resolving the key issues identified by customers will drive the key initiatives to improve your business performance.
Professional development of others is something I really enjoy. As a leader, I always encourage and help my team to continually learn and grow in their education and experiences. Some companies today may be challenged with lack of budgeted training dollars for professional development. Even if challenged, there are ways you can invest in people. Some ideas that may work for you:
Lunch and Learn – Take an hour a week and meet in person with your team. Have everyone to bring their lunch and have those remote to dial in to a conference line. Use this time to discuss a chapter a week in a book that you are reading together. Or have someone to teach others about something they have learned at a conference or through a recent training session. When someone does have the privilege to attend outside training, make it an expectation that they do a teach-back to the group upon return. It will help them apply what they have learned as well as provide new information to the team.
Identify gaps in skills – Work with your team to identify skill gaps so you will have target development plans for the year. Meet with each team member once a month in a one-on-one session. Help keep them on track to accomplish their yearly goals for professional development. If you need help in identify the gap in skills, consider trying a proven assessment offered through my company.
Toastmasters International – A world leader in communication and leadership development. For $36 every six months, members can improve their speaking and leadership skills. Start by checking out a local meeting in your area as a guest. You can also start your own club at your company. Membership in Toastmasters is one of the greatest investments you can make in yourself.
A lot of great lessons learned shared by five exceptional Women Entrepreneurs. Some really good advice for both women and men. Strategy and communication are a big part of the advice, however, the one common theme I noticed that each entrepreneur shared was at least one comment each around around the topic of People. In summary:
Believe in people.
Bring out the best in your team.
Hire the best and take care of them.
Surround yourself with people who challenge your thinking.
Hire the right people partners – invdividuals you like and respect.