Seniors On Combines?

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farm equipment

I volunteered at the senior center last night for a bit.  I noticed there’s an old piece of farm equipment in the field behind the building.  Made me think about an experience regarding seniors some time ago.

A few years back I had a trainer in NJ who’d been in my organization for less than a year.  I finally had a chance to ask her about her background when I got down there to visit.    She shared she was from the south (Arkansas) and before she got into training she used to do photography.  She would travel all around the south taking pictures of seniors she said.   She’d pull them right off the combines, haul em’ into barns and take their pictures. She even added she brought clean clothes to dress them in sometimes.   I thought to myself…. why would anyone pull old people off dangerous farm equipment and dress them up to get their pictures?  I asked her nervously..  ” Did you put them all in a book or something?”  she said “Yes for sure they all went in the book that was the point”.

I almost asked if she had her photography book nearby but was a little unnerved so I nodded my head and changed the subject.  She was a great trainer from what everyone said but I admit I was a little worried after that about what she would do if she had older folks in her class. 

About a 6 months later I remembered her story and told my wife with all the disgust and concern I could muster reflecting on the way she treated the elderly.  My wife listened, pause and said “You are a moron, she was taking pictures of High School Seniors for their Senior Pictures!  And she had to haul em’ off the combine I bet because that’s what kids do in the South after school.”

Oh.  I felt silly.  ( still do actually).

But the point is ( other than to make you laugh to start your day perhaps – I sure did thinking about it again) is that for at least 6 months of my life – because I misheard or misunderstood something,  I thought this woman trainer was something maybe akin to the Buffalo Bill character in Silence of the Lambs.  For 6 months (and maybe for the rest of my life unless I’m careful)  – it made me think oddly about photographers – especially if they are from the south.  It made me think and worry about the elderly on farms and how vulnerable they are. 

Misunderstandings are usually small.  Sometimes they are big.  And sometimes they are way bigger than the one in which my poor trainer who forever when I see her,  I’ll think of her dragging old people through corn stalks and pig troughs to snap their photo like some Life Magazine photog.

But misunderstandings can also be powerfully damaging as you can tell.  It seems to me we need to watch using the phrase “It was just a misunderstanding”  — that “just” has got to go.   Take it from me, dig a little deeper.  If you are honest and in places you don’t talk about at parties- there are those things you learn in a meeting, or in book, or in a deep conversation with a loved one that blow your mind.  You realize you misunderstood.  You misunderstood for maybe months or even years.  You realize you misunderstood something that might be a lot less funny than me and my trainer in New Jersey.

I’m heading back to the senior center Sunday to help out a bit more; it’s a luncheon.  Heard they’ll be taking pictures for the paper.  Here’s to hoping that machine in the field doesn’t start up.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Stumped

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stumped

Stumped

Nobel Prize winning Psychologist Daniel Kahneman said  “The remarkable thing about your mental life is that you are rarely ever stumped.” 

How interesting.  This little quote has roiled around in my head for a month.  Can’t shake it.

Think about how true it is.   Heck, I’m gonna do this or I’m gonna do that.  Or goshdarnit, I’m going to do nothing!  Bottom line is most of the time,  I know what I’m gonna do.   And most of the time we make judgements and decisions in a flash and rarely are stumped or stuck in a quandary.

I read Kahneman’s quote in the Heath Brothers latest book called “Decisive” ( big thumbs up from me). The book has some compelling methods to help us all make better decisions of course ( if we ever allow ourselves to be stumped) but that’s for a later blog or two.

Lets just chat a bit about the stumped thing.  Stumped is what I think we should be more of.  Here’s why:

  •  When was the last time you talked to a prospect, did some great discovery, built credibility and commonality, talked pain points and said, ” You know, you’ve given me some things to think about and I’m not sure exactly what the best thing to do is, let me get back to you in a couple of days.”  Answer? Never.  You’re in sales, you’re never stumped and you and I both know it. 
  • When was the last time you launched a project to tackle a problem and didn’t  pretty much have the answer already embalzoned in your brain about what you think is the right solution?  Way less than you think.  You’re not stumped.  No Never.  Not you. You can, like nobody else, see the future clearly.
  •  When was the last time you didn’t judge, label or categorize someone you just met because you were so comfortable with “waiting and seeing” what this person was really about?  Not often enough.  You’re never stumped when it comes to giving an opinion on the new person even if you just give that opinion to yourself.

The you here is me ( and yes, likely you too). 

I’ve pitched an idea or a solution well before I knew what I should really do – I should have been stumped.   I’ve launched a project ( just this week as a matter of fact) tackling a problem that I am brazen enough to think I already know the answer to, until my LEAN mentor smacked me upside the head and said “You need to be stumped in the beginning for this thing to work.”  I’ve judged someone in just 20 minutes of conversation and another in probably 30 seconds – and did it not long ago either – both are awful things to do.  Not fair and frankly, stupid.   Stumped is what I needed to be there and always. 

Not being stumped can get us into trouble; that’s the message here.  Conversely,  being stumped can do some great things like impress the hell out of a customer and get them the best help possible.  Being stumped can get your problem solved better because you didn’t presume you knew the damn answer.   And being stumped is certainly the best way to treat people you meet all the time and to get the most and the best out of that relationship.

Stumped ain’t bad.  Stumped is good.  So all you people out there with the answers ( and that means you too McCarthy) quit talking to me, I gotta work these things out like I don’t have any idea. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Important Sells

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dream

Important Sells

  • Isn’t a meal more important when it is perceived to be a means towards losing weight or is it when it is consumed because you are hungry?

 

  •  Isn’t a car more important when you plan on passing it on to your teenage kid or is it when you just need to get from A to B?

 

  • Isn’t a business card more important when it helps you rebrand yourself or your business or is it when you just need to leave something behind so they can reach you?

 

  • Isn’t a website more important when you need to stop the competition from stealing your customers or is it when everyone keeps saying you should have one?

 

It’s always the former, not that latter.

If you sell meals, cars, business cards, websites or anything else for that matter, you’ll sell more of them when you get at how those products can help a person achieve something bigger.  When that happens, those products and you become more important.

Get at it.  Most people and businesses are not shallow.  There’s some dream, some pursuit they are after.  Tie your products and services to that dream or a goal and your stuff becomes more important.

Important sells. 

 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

 

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Useless Vs. Priceless Phrases

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Useless Vs. Priceless Phrases

I have three Priceless Phrases that can make your life easier (and/or more successful) if you chose to use them immediately.

But before I get to those, let me share some favorite Useless Phrases so the distinction between the two types of phrases becomes very clear to you.

3 Useless Phrases 

  • I’m a big fan of shouting “Lords of Light!” when surprised.  ( Silly phrase – Just darn odd too)
  • Being of Irish Boston heritage I will say a whole lot of (when angry)    “ _______, Mary and Joseph!” (I left it blank because I swear my Mom still can hear me and she would not be happy).
  • If you are a faithful blog reader you know that lately I’m partial to randomly saying That’s not a real puppy. That’s too small to be a real puppy”.    I use this phrase (stolen from a TV commercial) when I see people obsessed with social media.  

None of these phrases really do anything for me.  Nor certainly, will they do anything for you.

But now these next phrases – Have at em’ – They will set you free!

3 Priceless Phrases 

“OK, let’s talk a bit more and see what we can do”.  Is part of your job helping people?  My guess is yes.  Is part of your job getting requests or demands from colleagues or customers?  Then this phrase is for you.  Nobody likes to hear “no” right off the bat (and few of us like to say it).  This phrase takes requests or demands and gets you both a little time (critical for discovery) and focuses on what “can” be done vs.  what can’t.  Tension is therefore reduced and work can begin.  Make it your own – “talk” can become “meet”, “we” can become “I”.  You get it.

“Who besides yourself…”  So easy, but nobody says it.  Talking with customer, colleague or service provider no matter – this phrase gets you way more than you think.  Want to talk to the decision maker?  Presume the person you are talking to has some kind of influence and ask “Who besides yourself has a say in investing here?” Otherwise you risk disconnect or diversion.   Protect the pride and ego of the people you talk to- it helps you.

“Tell me more about that…”  Fantastic for a networking event, or easing the challenge of going to party with people you may not have ever met or simply doing some good discovery with a client.  We all love to talk about ourselves or what we do.  This phrase fuels that making you also perceived to be “such a great listener!” No harm in saying “Tell me more about that” a dozen times in an hour at a convention, conference or party.  Bonus:  You can make this phrase more effectively open up your clients, new friends or potential customers by narrowing the focus (vs. the broad word “more”).  Ask “Tell me the best part about that”.  It allows for often a faster focus point for the responder and better, it keeps that person focused on the positive – all good when they think back on talking with you.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

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Embrace First

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Embrace First

The best business advice I ever got was about 10 years ago.

She hauled me off into a side room and said “At least embrace the culture first, even for just a few minutes, before you go ahead and change it”.

Seems timely these days.

A lot of us have new responsibilities. Some even have a new job. A whole bunch of us have new customers we are calling on. And even if you don’t have any of these, it’s a new year and most of us have something or someone we are charged up to go about and change.

But here’s what you gotta know.

You have to take those “few minutes” first to embrace, to learn, to build some trust, to analyze what levers you can really leverage. Those few minutes can be literally a few minutes, but more likely it’s longer than that. It can be an hour, three days, a week, two weeks or even a couple of months. And that’s the problem some times; – we have so little patience once we’ve decided that change is needed.

But remember that that culture or department or team or customer you are trying to go change already exists. It’s a real thing. It’s not like you are starting from nothing. It likely has some people, processes or strategies that do work or are wicked smart or have already brought the effort forward from someplace that was much worse.

Ignoring that is stupid. It’s not about going slow. It’s about going smart.

So take the “few minutes” to embrace it, them or the group. Get close. Listen. Don’t’ talk. Take a few steps to the right or left and embrace again. Get close. Listen. Don’t talk. Rinse and Repeat.

And when you think those “few minutes” are up and you’ve listened enough, force yourself to add a few more.

Change is big and change is good but change works far better when you start with an embrace.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark

An Heartfelt Letter From Your Headset

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Dear Sweetie,

It’s about to get real busy again, so I wanted to write you this letter now.  

You and I don’t talk as much as we used to (at least not to each other).  Maybe it’s because I get up into your hair sometimes and am literally in your face all day, but our love feels like it’s waning.

I’ve been noticing some things and just need to get them off my padding before we settle in for our next push together to grow our business.  We’ve had great run together so far this year baby and I want it to continue.

I feel like I am in one ear and not the other.  And I’m not liking this trend.   A lot of the time I’m just hugging your right ear while the rest of me that should be on your left ear,  is dangling in your split ends.    I guess you do that so you can hear better the conversations of your friends or the Twitter feed or whatever.   But I like hugging you baby.   All of you.   Put me back on both of your ears and I think you’ll do better at your job too.   I can help you focus.

I’ve noticed your wandering eye.   Resist the One Eared ones dear.  Those headsets are trouble.  Oh sure, they dance around looking all sleek and sporty with that single ear “come hither” look.  I’ve seen some too that prance around without cords going brazenly wireless but they are bad news.  Don’t dump me for one of those honey, that just sends the wrong message all around.  You have got to listen and listen real good when talking with folks on the phone; that’s how we’re going to grow the business.  I’ve seen you staring at those One Eared ones though.  And while you can look; you cannot touch. 

You don’t show me a good time so much anymore.   My microphone has hit the monitors at least six times this year and you must remember the two times I got caught in the keyboard your head was so smashed up against the displays.   There used to be a time when talking to folks that you’d spin us around and look out the window or at the plants nearby.  Good times.    Seems you always had better and smarter conversations too when you weren’t obsessing with what’s on that darn desktop.   I want those days back love muffin, I really do.

You don’t smile at me as much lately.  When we first met you smiled and laughed a lot.   Sure, the job is hard but I miss your smile schnookems.  Smile on purpose and keep it fresh.  Heck, I’ve got hair gel, food crumbs and who knows what else encrusted on me ( which reminds me I could use a good cleaning) but everyday I try and make my sounds as fresh and clear as a daisy for you.    You have great smile and a great laugh and it may be the 50th person we’ve talked to today and we’re both tired, but heck,  being happy and positive is why I fell for you in the first place.

I don’t mean to sound all negative.  I don’t.   I feel so connected to you sweetie.  We are a great team.  Let’s buckle in.   The closer we get the stronger we’ll be.  Let’s work hard on keeping the magic alive.

With all my love,

Headset

Till next time,

Grow The Business.

Mark