Obligations or possibilities? Refuel & re-energize!
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Unless you are self-actualized (the best “you” possible), you can’t let up on the gas. If you disengage, you’ll coast downhill. But it’s hard to feel energized every single bleary-eyed morning, facing looming sales projections and customer service demands. Your higher self wants to become more adaptable and valuable to the marketplace, but your in-the-moment self knows that it takes a lot of striving, which takes a lot of effort and saps energy. And in all that striving, it’s easy to lose sight of the a few elementary principals that could help you (and your staff) refuel.
Here’s a quick checklist of three principals that require conscious effort upfront, but offer a great return on investment:
Adopt an empathetic mindset.
Dale Carnegie believed success is due 15% to professional knowledge and 85% to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.” It isn’t all about you or your work product, it’s about how you and your products make others feel about themselves.
Applying empathy to external customers will motivate you to learn what delights and worries them. The answers to those questions will direct you in how to make your brand (both personal and professional) most relevant to them. Stop spending money (or energy) trying to explain your value to capture client interest; instead, focus on understanding your target audience. Relevance breeds loyalty.
Compassionate (servant) leadership as an ideal leads to better relationships with both internal and external customers, which leads to higher retention rates and less job stressors. Manager: do a quick role reversal. Now your employees are your internal customers (rather than you being their customer). How do you motivate and delight employees or coworkers? Are you a solutions provider or their daily challenge?
Put people above technology.
I’m not suggesting valuing employment over efficiency. I did away with an expensive administrative assistant by instead learning how to better use business software myself, so I understand the value of technology. However, if I didn't train my associates on Basecamp – if I simple told them to use it to communicate with me, without a session where I pulled it up on a monitor screen and showed them how each application would help them do what they do better, then my “expectation” would have been devalued to a “suggestion” in their world. And chances were good that they would have back-burnered that suggestion.
People need to understand an app’s relevancy to their work, not yours. Show how it can be used effectively, and how it (eventually) simplifies their workday. Software should remove redundancies rather than add to business complexity. The number one reason people fail to use technology or to become an “adapter” is because they have never been given a one-on-one demonstration of how it can or should work for them. (Your renewed empathetic mindset will quickly help you resolve that challenge!)
The workplace as laboratory: measure, measure, measure.
Mastery means you have accomplished the highest achievement level or knowledge base. When one “masters” a belt in karate, for example, the public can see, by the color of the cloth around a waist, the personals designated skill level. How is that decided? What the public doesn’t see is that the teacher has measured performance over time within a set series of skill sets.
How can you “master” a day? You measure what is accomplished that is important to company or personal goals. Measure the bits and parts which, over time, collectively comprise the whole. You’ll quickly discover that simply by the art of holding yourself accountable daily, you (and your team) will progress much faster. Also, one bad experience won’t loom in your mind so far above three other matrixes that improved – three successes you might overlook without measuring!
Putting all of this together
Imagine you are a sales manager of a salespeople struggling to keep their job because their closing rate is down. How would you coach them using empathy, training and measuring?
First, imagine you are the salesperson, expected to perform as well as their “born salespeople” colleagues. Is he or she performing poorly because they (1) lack training; (2) are disengaged; or (3) have personal problems spilling over to the workplace? If you don’t know the answer, ask them what they attribute their poor performance to. Empathy isn’t about assuming; it’s about knowing.
If it is a training issue, show them how to put technology to better use to send clients ticklers to maintain relationships over time. Show them how to break down the job into measurable steps. Subtract the mystifying “sales personality” out of the equation. The top 20% of any sales team make more phone calls than the bottom 20%; they have more “touches” with a client during the year, they schedule more face-to-face meetings; they made more follow-up calls after a product or service is delivered. Are they nicer, more outgoing? Yes. They actually SMILE more often than the bottom tier. And – big wakeup here — they talk less than 20% of the time during a sales meeting and listen to the client 80%+ of the meeting time because they have learned to ask questions to build that empathy cushion with the client.
Even that talking/listening matric can be measured and trained to!
Success is definable in steps or behaviors, and the important ones are measurable. Once a sales manager conveys that message to the bottom 20% performers, the can rightly hold all struggling salespeople accountable to construct a strategy to push their performance upwards. Without the manager’s knowledge of the hurdles, training or support, the salesperson is in a no-win situation.
Review your empathetic skills, people above processes, and measure success (in definable steps) toward goals. Then imagine what it would be like to wake up tomorrow to the promise of possibilities rather than the oppression of obligations. Now that’s energizing!