In an unpublished essay, “Lessons Learned From the Masters”, written by a wise mentor of mine, Robert J. Brinson, he shared some valuable lesson learned over the years during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.”
“We look into mirrors but we only see the effects of our times on us—not our effects on others.” ~ Pearl Bailey
My family and I were moving with the crowd of fans toward the entrance gate of a minor league baseball game. From the distance I heard someone calling out my name. I stopped and waited for the young lady and her family to catch up with us. When I trained customer service representatives in a call center, she had been one of my students whom I had not seen in over five years. We were happy to see each other and re-connect. She thanked me for having such a positive influence on her confidence and career, grateful that I believed in her abilities even when she did not believe or see them herself. Thanking me for all the encouragement I had given her, she then explained how she had earned a promotion at work and had become a team leader. I will always hold dear to my heart her words, “If it weren’t for you, I would never have had the confidence to pursue the leadership position.”
I was truly blessed to learn how I had made a positive impact on my former student’s life. Often we never have the privilege to see the positive effects we have had on others. She gave me a precious gift that day by just telling me the impact my efforts created for her.
When was the last time you acknowledged or thanked someone for the positive impact they had on you and your development? Regardless of the significance, take time to let people know how they have inspired you. That thankfulness is one of the greatest gifts you can give to inspire them.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”– Confucius
The old saying, “you can’t win them all…you win some and you lose some” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your best foot forward giving your complete effort and being into what you are doing. You do. Always do your best. Whether you’re playing a simple mobile game like “Words with Friends” or a more complex game like “Scrabble,” you give everything your best effort with the desire to win. Even then there are times your opponent will finish with the most points and be declared the winner.
You may also experience disappointments when you are not the one selected for the new job, promotion, or you don’t get the order for the products or services your company offers. You may find yourself asking, “why not me?” Instead of dwelling on the loss, decide to get up and move forward. Take a few minutes to assess the situation, but move forward quickly.
I like to go through a process in my mind and examine the “why not” by asking myself three questions:
Is it just the tiles I was dealt? As in the game “Scrabble,” sometimes we have to say that it was just the “tiles” I was dealt. Nothing could have been done differently to have changed the outcome. I am not at fault here; this is just a fact of life. Better luck next time. Try again!
Was I at my best? We all have off days or times when we wish we would have handled something differently. Take some time to really think about what you learned and how you might apply those lessons learned to the next time you find yourself in the same or a similar situation. Think through it—What went well? What did not go well? What will I do differently or better the next time? Use the information you gather to change, tweak, or improve.
Could this have been a win someone else needed? Sometimes our “win” is just simply not meant to be; someone else needed to win. Your next opportunity is around the corner.
Get up. Stay your course. Do your best and your win will come!
I had the privilege of teaching and leading a group of twelve boys in 4th and 5th grade in the first semester of the school year. They go to a private Christian school and they have the option to select a club as an elective class held twice a month for 40 minutes. They can choose from a variety of clubs – Fitness, Robotics, Technology, Crafts, Profit, Drama, and Chorus. The boys and girls pick the club that interests them and they participate for a whole semester. It is a wonderful way to provide them with an alternate way to learn and apply what they are learning. The group leaders are parents or teachers that volunteer their time to share their passion and expertise.
The Profit Club gives me the opportunity to teach business skills to these young students. Each semester, we start with the basics. They transform their desks into a conference table and the classroom becomes a conference room. The ruler becomes a talking stick and they must have the ruler to speak and avoid two people talking at once. They learn to have an agenda or they do not have a meeting. Brainstorming becomes their favorite agenda item. Presenting their ideas back to the decision maker (school Principal) is a welcomed task. They know the objectives of the club before they select which one to join and we go over them at each meeting. The objective of the profit club is to:
Learn about Pricing
Pick a product or service
Help others – “Be a Prophet” – donate to missions
Of course, they learned a whole lot more and I think I learned as much as them or possibly more. This past semester consisted of 6 total 40 minute meetings and them running a school store that sold healthy snacks. They were open for 27 days for 20 minutes before school. They invested 5.4 hours of time and made a profit.
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.
Have you ever done something just because it was the right thing to do for your employees and then years later read about it in a book and have one of those “aha” moments? Well, I did. During my management career in the call center industry, the senior leadership group would get together and have an annual cookout for the employees. We were always very cautious of costs and sticking to our budget. We would price out having it catered and needless to say, we always ended up doing it ourselves. A trip to the local wholesale club store to fill our flatbed carts with food, drinks, condiments, paper products, etc. was the norm. Putting it all together and setting up a schedule where we each pull our shift of grilling, serving (fixing plates), and cleaning up. Exhausted before we even got started. It was all hands on deck and the management team did all the work in the midst of the hot humid SC summer. We always got great feedback from the employees of how nice it was but most importantly that it was very meaningful to them that we served them. For us to do all the work is what they really appreciated. So, my “aha” moment was in a book titled “Conflict Unraveled – Fixing Problems at Work and in Families” by Andra Medea. The author (page 76) talks about the power of food…..”No Catering……Having everyone out of their authority role eating together like kids in a family….Great for employee morale”! Aha, been there done that and now I really get it! It was the right thing to do but now I really understand why. Take the time to serve your employees.