Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eight Ways Life is More Like a Marathon Than A Sprint

We often hear the quote, "Life is a Marathon - Not a Sprint". I've thought a lot about this quote recently, and I'm not sure people realize how true it is. Here are Eight ways that living life is more analogous to the endurance model of a marathon than the speed model of a sprint.

1. During a sprint, it's all about speed - if you don't go as fast as you can, right out of the blocks, you are most likely finished - and will be lucky to place at all. While a marathon, and life, are all about pacing yourself, making sure you have something left when you hit the wall. You need to realize that no matter how good you feel right this second, the next step might bring another ache and pain, or take it away.

2. In a Sprint, there is no room for mistakes - you make one mistake, and you are out of the race. While a marathon, just as in life, you will make mistakes - unforeseen hiccups that will cause you to have to flex ever so slightly from you plan, but as long as you are still running, you are still in the race. It's only when you fall and refuse to get back up, that the race is over for you.

3. When you are standing at the Starting Block in a Sprint, you can see the finish line - but in a marathon and in life, the finish line is no where to be seen. We can visualize it, imagine it in our head, but we don't see it until we are very near the end, when there is little chance to change the course of who we have been.

4. In a Marathon, you have to love the process of running as much as desiring the finish line. But in a Sprint - it all happens so fast, you don't even have to really want it to compete and complete.

5. In a Sprint, it all comes down to muscle strength - and has little to do with strength of character. Where as in a marathon, muscle strength is important, but not nearly as important and will, determination, and drive. Life is the same - it's not the strongest and the smartest that find their way at the top of the heap - but instead its the ones that are truly committed to their dreams and have a passion for living that reach the goals.

6. Sprints are almost always run on a level man-made track with little difference from one event to the next. Conversely marathons vary greatly in terrain and elevation variation. No matter how much you think your life is going to be smooth sailing, there is always a storm on the horizon - don't fret over it, but plan for problems and be prepared to deal with them, as they come.

7. In a Sprint, all that matters is winning - it's all about results. However, running in a marathon is as much about the process of training and running as it is about where you finish. Life is no different. If you are living for the finish line, you will miss out on the day-to-day joys of life. Absolutely, you want to have goals and strive to reach them, but make sure you choose a path that you love, or you will most likely never get there.

8. A Sprint is a competition against others while a marathon is a competition against your own abilities. Life isn't about beating anyone else - it's about doing your best - and trying to do a little bit better each step of the way. Don't get caught up in "keeping up with the Joneses", you will rarely find happiness in that path.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Don't Need Me For The Answers

Since I started coaching a bit over two years ago, I have told my clients, I don't have your answers. In fact, I have told them (often much to their dismay) there is nothing that I can tell them that they can't find in a book at the library, on the web, or quite honestly, in their own mind. One of Seth Godin's recent blogs, "Your Nuts If You Believe Me" drives home the point once again.

You don't need a coach to provide you answers - if you read my blog from a couple days ago, "Why Do I Need A Coach" you learned that a coach does a whole lot to help you reach your goals, least of which is trying to run your business for you - or do the work / providing answers for you.

If you want that kind of help, then hire a consultant, get a business partner, or hire someone to come in and run things for you - but a coach is not what you want or need.

Many times, my clients will contact me and ask me what they should do in a certain situation - about sales or marketing, about a troubled employee, or about an issue with a customer, etc. They think that I have all the answers - or they think that they pay me to provide them all the answers. They want the magic solution that will fix all of their problems.

Do I have an answer for them? Sure, but I rarely share it, because providing answers is treating the symptoms. Giving them my answer might help right this second to treat the symptom, but will rarely solve the problem. They don't need my answer - they need to know how to find their own answer. They need to create a system / process that will fix the root problems in a business.

So, instead I steer them to their own solutions.

If it's a question about the direction they should go, I usually direct them to their own constitution - their mission, vision, commitments (the principles upon which their business is founded) and their goals. I ask them what they think they should do within the scope of those documents. And to their own surprise, nearly every time, they find the answer. If not, we work on finding it together.

If it's a question about best techniques or tools that should be used in a given situation, I help them find the tools that will work best for their unique situation. Sure, sometimes, I provide the tools - but more often I share ideas and techniques that they choose from to help them create a solution that works for them.

One thing I've learned from 20 years in the military and 9+ years of raising children, is that commitment to a process is much stronger and the value gained from that process is much greater when an individual is guided to a solution, choosing it on their own, rather than being told to do it or being given it by someone else.

The key is that a coach's or mentor's job isn't to be the solution to the problem, but to be the guide that helps you find the solution to your problem. Giving you the solution creates dependency, while helping you find the answers promotes independence.

So don't look at your coach, mentor, or even your leaders to open door to solutions for you. Instead look at them as individuals that hand you the keys to unlock the doors to the solutions that you choose yourself. It's not what a coach provides you specifically, but instead, it's what a coach does to help you learn how to help yourself.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reach For Your Goals And Celebrate The Process Every Day

I harp a lot on "Goal-Setting". I help my each of clients set goals so that they are defining their future, instead of letting it happen to them. However, it takes more than just goals to help you get through the everyday - it also requires creating a process to reach that goal that you LOVE - that inspires you to get up every day and live each day like it will be your last.

The truth is "results" don't just happen - like they are the product of some magical beans thrown into the garden. They don't show up on your doorstep or in your mailbox, just because you wished for them. And frankly, they rarely come if that's all you focus on. Sure you need to keep your goals in mind to keep "moving forward", but in order to live a life of happiness and truly create the world that you want, you have to celebrate the process, each and everyday. Because if you don't, you, most likely, will not have the fortitude to stick to it when things get tough.

And believe me, the one thing that I have found that you can count on is that things WILL get tough.

I don't care if you WANT to run a marathon with all the desire in the world more than anything else you've ever wanted in your life. If you don't celebrate the process of running daily, there is only a slim chance that you'll ever run in one. It's just too hard and takes WAY too much time and effort.

First you have to learn how to run 1 mile, then 2 miles, and eventually then 3 miles. But the numbers don't keep going up every day. Most trainers will have you run 3 miles for a couple weeks, adding in a 4th mile occasionally, as you build strength and stamina. Eventually, you find your way to 5 miles, 6 miles and even all the way to 10 miles.

Frankly, it's a slow and arduous process that you have to endure if you want to run a marathon. And you have to decide that running is something that you like and / or want to to do - nearly every day, or you aren't going to make it.

Life is no different. There are no short cuts - it's all about the day-to-day process. I don't care who you are. If you don't live in the moment, enjoying the process then the reward will never be enough to pull you there.

"Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."
John Lennon

In life, as in the marathon example I use, you can do the things that you don't like to do for a couple weeks - and maybe even a couple months. But if you can't find joy in every day life somehow - if you can't find a way to enjoy the process of living every day - then you will either live a life without joy (which, in my opinion, isn't living at all) or you will give up on the process. Either way, you won't be happy.

"Retirement" seems to be the panacea for many every-day Americans, around which they plan their whole life. They endure what they hate today, so they can save and live for "someday". It is the "ultimate goal in life" for people all over our country - because they don't believe they can enjoy the process. And they believe that they only thing they can do is live for the tomorrow.

But look around, there are no guarantees in the future. How many people were living the last 40 years, saving everything they had, to live for right now - only to arrive in the here and now with nothing left? And that's assuming that you even have your health when you get to that stage of your life and can even enjoy the fruits of your labor.

About a week ago, I wrote an article about Passion, "Being Great in Life is about Pursuing Your Passion", in the hopes of inspiring people to pursue what matters and excites them. Now, I'm suggesting the same thing, but with a slightly different spin.

Living your passion isn't just about being great, it's also about living the life that you were meant to live. Life is not something to be endured, struggled through or hated. It is a gift - like no other. Each second you have on this earth is a blessing that should be cherished.

So as you set your goals and make plans for your future, recognize this. You might endure a little pain now and again, doing things that you know you must do, are afraid to do, or don't know how to do, BUT, if you don't find a way to make the process fun, to invoke your passion in the process, there is a finite limit to how long you can endure that pain. You will either quit it because it's too painful or you will sabotage your efforts, preventing any kind of happiness you were trying to achieve in the first place.

To achieve real success in life,
you must always be striving to reach your goals,
but celebrate the process!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Who are YOU up against and what are THEY saying in the marketplace?

Time to get down to brass tacks and put the “who” into it.

That WHO that I speak of is YOUR COMPETITION. It's time to figure out who you are competing with to gain the loyalty of both existing customers and future customers. It's time to list everyone that you are competing with and do your best to figure out what they are doing to steal your business away from you.

Look at it from the perspective of an athletic competition – say a football game. In order for you to win the game, a football team doesn't have to perform its best – it has to be better than the team that it is competing with. The coaches and players have to know what the rules of the game are, their own strengths and weaknesses, and as we will find out in this section, what the strengths and weaknesses are of their opponent(s). In football, the short term goal is scoring points and preventing the other team from scoring them. The long term is winning. In your case, the short term is gaining market share, getting customers to choose your product and / or services over the competition. In the long term, your goal – winning the loyalty of customers is not a matter of being the best you can be, you must understand what your customers are loyal to and do a better job of delivering on what your customer really wants than your competition.

The first step is to find the specific brands that are direct, often called “first level”, competitors to your product or service, in your geographic locality – your trading zone. Your trading zone is the geographic perimeter within which your customers mainly live (or if you have a new business, in which you expect them to live). Whether that is a radius around your business, a entire county or state, or a region of the entire globe (for an internet sales company) – you need to clearly understand your trading zone.

In many cases, these first level competitors offer a product or service that is interchangeable with yours in the eyes of the consumer (although of course you hope you hold the advantage with better quality, more convenient distribution, and other special features). For example, if you operate a local garden center, you may compete against the other garden centers within a 10-mile radius trading zone.

The next group of competitors, are “second level” competitors. These would be competitors who offer similar products in a different business category or who are more geographically remote. Using the example of the garden center, a discount chain that sells garden supplies and plants in season is also your competitor, as is a landscaping contractor who will provide and install the plants, and a mail-order house who sells garden tools and plants in seed or bulb form. None of these competitors provides exactly the same mix of products and services as you, but they may be picking off the most lucrative parts of your business.

The final group of competitors, or “third level” competitors are companies who compete for the "same-occasion" dollars. Inasmuch as gardening is a hobby, third-level competitors might be companies that provide other types of entertainment or hobby equipment; inasmuch as gardening is a type of home-improvement, competitors might be providers of other home-improvement supplies and services. Depending on your business, this could make you crazy thinking about it. For example, a gift shop, you not only are competing with other gift shops locally, and globally on the internet, but you are also competing for “gift” dollars, which literally are spent in nearly every retail outlet in the world. Bottom line is that you shouldn't as much go crazy thinking about third level competitors as much as you should understand the impact they have on your marketing and sales efforts.

Now is when the task becomes a bit more tedious – not difficult, just tedious. We have listed all of our competitors, focusing on our direct first level competition, next in the process is finding out about each of these companies. It's time to figure out how much business each of you competitors are actually doing, what their position is (even though they may not understand it themselves) and how well they are delivering on their promises to the customer. This is tedious, because you may or may not, at this stage, even have a good idea how well your company is doing, so to find out about your competition can be even more difficult. But do your best because you must know whether you are competing with world class competition or just a bunch of “mom & pop” start-up companies.

Describe all of the heavy hitters and answer the following questions:

  • What are their product's strengths and weaknesses?

  • What are their strengths and weaknesses as a company (financial strength, reputation, etc.)?

  • Are there weaknesses you can exploit?

  • What are the differences between your product features and theirs?

  • What were their sales for last year?

  • What is their pricing structure?

  • In what media vehicles do they promote their products?

  • What is their advertising message?

  • Where else do they promote their products?

  • What were their total advertising expenditures for last year?

  • What is their overall goal (profitability, market share, leadership)?

  • How are they trying to meet their goals (low prices, better quality, lower overhead)?

  • What were their responses to changes you made in your product pricing or promotions?

Information is often the key to a strong competitive advantage. If you've had difficulty digging up information about your competitors, try your suppliers. They can be good sources of information. Visit your competitors' locations, Web sites, exhibit booths; sample their products. You can also gather a wealth of media and advertising information about your competitors on the Internet through companies like “Competitive Media Reporting” and USAData, and InfoUSA.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Who Am I?

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all Wisdom.


Who are you? Do you really know?

Most of us, go through life telling others that they don't know us - that they don't understand us. But how well do we really even know ourselves?

Truth is, very few people really take the time to learn anything about who they are. Sure, they know what they look like in the mirror, where they live, what the do for a living, and some even think they know what makes them happy, but only a handful really stop to think and understand the inner workings of why they do what they do or what they want to do and be about.

I believe the experience you gain with age is as much about learning who WE are, as individuals, as it is learning and figuring out the world around us. Because the world around us is NOT an objective thing that we all see the same. It is a reflection of our life and values - we don't see it as it is, we see it as we are.

When we are young, we think we know everything. But as we grow and mature, we learn, not only did we not know everything, we really didn't KNOW anything. It's not just that life reveals itself to us as we age, as much as we figure out that we don't know it all. We begin to understand more of who we are in the world - and who we are inside.

Some are better than others at "finding themselves". But no one is perfect - and it's the journey to understanding ourselves that is important, not the answer itself.

Take some time, every day and dedicate it to learning about yourself. Here are some simple suggestions that are both easy to do and powerful in generating results:

  • Listen to the voices that you hear in your head - you'd be surprised how much insight they have on who you really are.
  • Meditate for 5 minutes a day - you don't have to be good at it, just do it.
  • Ask yourself the question "Who am I, really?" while your laying in bed, just before falling asleep.
  • Start a journal (it doesn't matter if you write 1 word or 1000 words a day) - and review it regularly.
  • Ask yourself the same questions you want to know of others. And don't avoid the answers.
These are just a couple ideas that will help you frame your thoughts around learning who you are. But don't be in a rush, you aren't going to learn everything there is to know overnight - its the process of learning that's important.

But when you do begin to really understand who you are, as Aristotle once said, you will be on the path to wisdom.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reduce Your Decision Cycle Time To Win Every Time

The truth be known, it's NOT the best idea that wins in the marketplace.

And it's NOT the best equipped Army that wins on the battlefield.

And it's definitely NOT the best athletes that win on the playing field.

But if that's the case, then who is the winner going to be in each of those situations?

Believe it or not, 99.9% of the time, the winner is the side that can make critical decisions and act on those decisions better and faster than their competition.

Sure, don't get me wrong, you want the best idea you can get, the best equipped Army that you can have, and certainly the best athletes that you can afford. But if you can make and act on decisions faster than your opponent, then you can overcome almost every shortfall - even if all your decisions aren't perfect.

Decision Cycle Time is the lapse time from when the "environment / playing field" begins to change to the moment you can have a new path implemented in your plan of action. Sometimes decision cycle times are weeks and months, other times they are seconds. But regardless of what the span is, as long as your cycle time is shorter (faster) than your opponents, you will win, because they will always be playing catch-up.

The key behind this concept is that you stay one step ahead of your competition - making your opponent ALWAYS react to your decisions, not the other way around. It's making them react to you, while you are always proactively defining the next step.

If your opponent's decision cycle time is 10 days, then you want yours to be 9 days. This means that just before he makes his decision, he has to start all over again - because you have redefined the battlefield, the marketplace or the playing field. And it means that he is always, 1 day behind you - always reacting to your decisions.

Likewise, if he shortens his to 8.5 days, then you need to figure how to shorten yours to 8, or you will always be chasing his last decision and not defining the environment in which you are competing. That might include more risk and / or more cost, but if you want to maintain the advantage of defining the battle ground environment yourself, then you must do it.

As a pilot no place was this more evident than in a dogfight.

During Air Combat Maneuvers (ACM), when you are going head-to-head with an opponent, it is critical that you drive the fight, as we would say. That requires the ability to assess not only your own plane's position and capability at any given moment in time and space, but also your opponents. It requires you be able to rapidly evaluate who has an advantage in altitude, airspeed and position at any given time. And the person that can make that assessment quickest, come up with an attack strategy and implement it, before his opponent, will almost always win - even if his opponent has a superior airplane.

But it's not a one time thing - it's the ability to consistently make decisions faster and more effectively than your opponent that guarantees victory.

Is there the risk that you will make the wrong move, trying to rush it? Absolutely. That's why you have to make sure that you have systems in place to minimize that possibility. But if you wait too long, trying to get the "perfect solution", you may be given your opponent the time he needs to feel comfortable to redefine the battle . . . in his favor.

Every where you look, when there is competition involved, you will find that the winner is almost always the one who can make decisions faster and better than his opponent - regardless of the other variables in the mix.

Look around, watch your favorite sport, read about a famous battle, or observe a market - it's amazing how much decision cycle time plays into the outcome.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why Do I Need A Coach?

Last week, I wrote about questions you should ask a coach before hiring them, but what's more important is asking and looking at whether you even need one in the first place.

What is a coach?

A coach is someone who gets you to do what you

don't want to do,
don't know how to do,
or are just plain afraid to do,

so that you can BE who you want to BE.

So why do you need someone to do that for you? Why can't you do all that on your own?

I know for most of my life, I thought I didn't need one.

But the answer to the question "Why do I need a Coach" is as simple as it is obvious. You need a coach, because you are human - and your nature is to resist change, no matter how bad you may think you want it. Because in the face of rejection and failure (which is inevitable), nearly everyone of us will give-in to the "here and now" and / or will just give-up on our dreams. And, unfortunately, if you are like most of us, you like to avoid the things you don't want to do, are blind to the things that you don't know how to do, and all too often, don't have a support structure to encourage you to do the things that you are afraid of doing.

And that's only half of it. The other half of the statement above is about being who you want to be.

Sadly, most people don't even know what they want. In fact, less than 25% of the people that I know or have met, actually know who or what they want to BE. Sure they may have an inkling, but the truth is they usually only know they want more than they have RIGHT now - but don't know what the MORE is.

A coach, regardless of type (personal, life, executive, business, etc) will help you face your dreams, giving you the tools and encouragement to believe that you can create your life, and create what you have always dreamed it to be. Your coach will make you search for your passion, help you find your strengths, understand your weaknesses and help you understand that nearly anything is possible - given both the desire and commitment as well as the tools and path to reach it.

Your coach will:

- Through a Socratic Method, help you find your passion, your vision, and your dreams.
- Cheer you on in every thing you do. He will stand on the sideline of your life and make sure you feel the non-judgmental encouragement that you need and deserve for your efforts - regardless of the outcome.
- Be a trusted confidant and friend - someone who you know will listen to you and help you find the solutions to your questions - based on the principles that YOU (not the coach) value.
- Guide you through the learning process necessary for you to become who you want to be - sometimes being the teacher, while at other times steering you to where you need to go to find what you need.
- Keep you on track on the growth model of small day-to-day change that leads to a life changing experience.
- Hold you accountable to walk your talk - challenging you daily to begin "BEing" who you want to BE.
- Always be a source for objective analysis on your situation - giving you unbiased, unemotional feedback on what is happening to you - so that you can see the world less as you are, and more as it is.

So now you know "What A Coach Is" and "What A Coach Does".

So what, right?

What is in it for you, and why would I want to hire one? Frankly, it's not as easily defined as I wish, or as anyone else might tell you. The truth is the benefits of coaching are as unique as the individuals that are being coached. However there are some basic consistencies that nearly all individuals see as a result of being matched with the right coach:

- Greater clarity about and balance between life and career goals
- Ability to overcome the procrastination and avoidance issues
- Confidence to create the life you want
- More consistent behavior in stressful conditions
- Healthier lifestyle
- Stronger sense of self-awareness
- Greater sense of focus and an improved decision making ability
- Ability to better leverage personal strengths while managing weaknesses
- Improved time-management skills and ability to overcome an inherent desire to procrastinate.
- Over come a sense of isolation - always know that you have a supportive person and accountability partner.

If you are looking for any of these benefits and any other growth, then coaching might be something for you should look into. But don't expect the coach to do the work for you - just like in sports, your coach will help you, but the work is exclusively yours. Good Luck.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Being Great In Life Is About Pursuing Your Passion

What is "Passion"?

My favorite definition is "boundless enthusiasm".

My own passion is personal and professional growth and leadership. And for those of you that don't know me personally, believe me when I say that I live, breath, eat, and often sleep thinking about them - often at cost of other things in my life.

It was and still is my passion for these things that drove me to become a coach - to give up what most would call a great occupation, a good life, a secure job, making good money and in the name of trying to do what I knew I was called to do - to help others pursue their passion and make it a reality.

So, do you have a "passion" in your life? For your job? For anything that you do?

When you are gone, are people going to look at you and say, "He pursued his dreams" or "He gave the world his best and he lived a Great Life. He may not have created exactly what he wanted, but he had passion and he did every thing he could to make his dreams come true."

Or are they going to say, "He worked hard and had a good life."

'Good' is a product of doing what you are supposed to. But 'Great' is a when you harness your passion to create something special - something that no one else can do as well as you.

We are all good at something - many of us are good at many things. And most of us live very content lives being good at what we do. But I'm not here to be good - I wasn't given the most precious gift that anyone could receive - LIFE - just to live a good life. And neither were you.

We were put here to pursue perfection - and doing anything less, is, in my humble opinion, not appreciating the gift we were given.

One of the greatest gifts that I got in my Junior High years came from my Seventh Grade Social Studies Teacher, Mr Crismond. Believe it or not, it was a homework assignment to read a book - that at the time, I thought sounded very childish. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is a book that walks you through the life of a creature that decided to leave the ordinary to pursue perfection - TO BE GREAT. That book was Jonathon Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach.

If you haven't read it, your missing out.

If you have, I recommend reading it again. It's that powerful.

Jonathon was a seagull that dared to pursue something out of the ordinary - he dared to learn how to fly faster and higher than any other seagull had dared before. And it was his pursuit of these lofty goals - his vision - that is the story.

Are you living a good life? Is that all that you want? If you continue down the path that you are currently on, and you look back on your life, how are you going to feel? How do you want to feel? Are you going to be happy that your life was "good", but that maybe you could have been something more?

In the book, it's not the achievement of perfection that separated Jonathon from the rest of the seagulls - it was his desire to pursue it.

So, take some time out of your busy weekend - in between running the kids to sports games and sleep overs - and ask yourself, are you living a good life or are you chasing your passion and doing your best to live a Great Life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why and How to Write a Marketing Message

So often when devising a marketing plan and / or strategy, small business owners tend to first focus on their marketing methods, trying to decide if and how they should market / advertise. They bounce between traditional marketing and broadcast advertising, direct marketing, internet marketing, network marketing, and to the new kid on the block, social media marketing. What they fail to realize is that the marketing methods are the least of their worries.

Instead of focusing on HOW to get the word, they should be looking at WHAT their message is and WHO they want to receive it - their target audience.

The first question that you need to understand when pursuing your marketing objectives is WHO you want to market to. But honestly, that is a topic for another article. Today, I want to talk about WHAT target audience needs / wants and WHAT your message should be so they see you as the solution to their needs / wants.

Those solutions revolve around the answer to a single question:

Why should your perspective customer choose you and your company
over every other option they have available to them to solve their
current problem (that they may or may not even know they have)?

The answer to this question is your marketing message. And it should be:

Be clear and concise – Too often, people make their message so complicated and confusing that the customers don't even understand it. Don't make this mistake – use the KISS theory, Keep It Simple Stupid.

Be easy to promote, understand, and remember - Don't make your marketing message so overwhelming or complicated that it can't be readily communicated – by you, your staff, and your customers.

Be based on the needs of your customers – You can have the greatest product in your market, one that should be the most desirable product ever invented, but if your customers don't want or need it, or have a perceived need for it, they won't buy it. So it is important to know your client and know what needs are not being satisfied – or the ones they don't think are being satisfied.

Demonstrate clear understanding need of the client – not just superficially, but a deep understanding of the feelings associated with the needs.

Honestly represent your product - The more accurate and honest you are in your marketing, the more you will satisfy your customer's expectations. And the more your customer's expectations are met, the more likely they are to rave about your product – acting as cheerleaders for you and your company.

• Be focused to your target audience and be written as such - This may sound incredibly obvious, but speak in the language your customer understands. Many times, business owners and their staff become so enraptured with their own product lines, “living their product and
services” that they forget “joe-average customers” don't. Speak to your customers in such a way that they feel understood and appreciated – and they will respond.

Reinforce your company's image, or a larger brand image - Imaging isn't something a small company should be focused on, necessarily. But you need to make sure that everything you are doing is aligned – conveying a consistent image and / or brand.

When you pull this off - you will have created the foundation of a marketing strategy that will launch your business to the next level. However, if you try to skip this hard part (creating you message first) and jump straight to the method (the media to get the message out), as most small business owners do, you will most likely be very disappointed and disenfranchised with the entire marketing proces.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Your Life Is Defined By The Choices You Make Every Day

A death or severe illness in your family.

Getting let go from your job.

Your spouse cheating on you.

A devastating natural disaster hits - destroying your world.

Physical abuse from a loved one (or even a perfect stranger).

What do all these things have in common? They are devastating events that will shake the foundation of your life, often changing who you are - permanently.

Let's face it - bad things happen to every one. Whether it is one of these events or something else. And unfortunately, they usually come at the most inopportune time (or so it feels). But can you ever think of a "good" time to have your day / your life interrupted by bad news?

Truth is though, it's not the bad news that knocks you off kilter - it's how you respond that sends you for the loop - changes who you will become. But it doesn't have to be that way - you can either choose to allow this event to define who and what you are, or you can make it just another event in the course of who you are going to be.

It's said that our only real freedom exists in the moments between the stimulus and response. I believe that. Simply stated, it means that life is DEFINED by the choices we make with our lives - with our actions and our thoughts. And those aren't the always the big choices, but also the small ones that occur each and every day - between the instant that an event occurs (good or bad) and the time you respond.

No one can define that choice for us - except us!

There was a movie that Tom Cruise was in a few years back that typified this idea - the idea that life is a choice (that we choose our own destiny). That movie was Minority Report. The movie's underlying theme was Freedom to choose your own destiny - and whether or not it really existed.

In Minority Report (set in the future), the Police Force had a new tool at their disposal. They had "Precogs" that could predict violent crimes before they actually occurred. With this information, they were able to "see" when and where a murder was going to take place and act on the intelligence to stop the crime. They would arrive on the scene, just prior to the act of violence, and arrest the individual before the act actually took place.

The interesting part of the plot was the early supposition that the Hero, Chief John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, had about "choice". He believed, as most did in the movie, that people had no choice / will in their lives - that they acted as they did, because it was fated. But as the movie progressed, roles were reversed and the hero was placed in the position to choose his own destiny. He had to make a choice to either follow what the future predicted for him, or choose his own destiny.

Too often we fail to recognize this God-given freedom that is CHOICE. It's there every day, whether we realize it or not. Every thing you did and will do today is your choice - don't forget that. Yeah, bad things happen (you can count on that), but how you respond is ALWAYS your choice.

There are two simple things that you can do to keep you moving forward and keep you on track in spite of the events that occur around you:

1. Take your time in responding - especially when you see the criticality of the choice. Give yourself time - very few decisions need to be made right here and now. You always have time to think.
2. Review you Vision regularly - to keep your choices consistent and guiding you to the end you wish to create, review that end (your Personal Vision) at least daily if not more often. Treat it like your personal constitution, making sure that all the decisions (or at least most of them) are leading you to that place you wish to be - when it's all said and done.

Choose wisely!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Push Yourself A Little Bit Each Day To Become A Better Person

One of the biggest struggles in Naval Aviation is safety. And because flying small fighter aircraft off of aircraft carriers is dangerous by definition, the Navy and all of its leaders do everything they can to keep mishap rates down. But even with their best efforts, the mishap rates still averages between 1-2 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours.

But unlike the airlines, we have to train in all conditions, because you can't decide when the enemy is going to attack you. We have to be ready to fly anytime, day and night - in any kind of weather . And that is where it gets pretty scary. I've seen flight ops in winds as high as 60mph, rough seas when the ship was bouncing plus or minus 30 feet, and clouds so low, the first thing the pilot saw as the tower was it went behind him after he caught the wire.

Good or bad, I had the luxury of being both the Operations Officer (the advocate for flying every day, no matter what) and the Safety Officer (the advocate for never flying) - obviously at different times in my career.

As Safety Officer, I was responsible for preventing accidents. And the truth be known, the only sure way to avoid an aviation mishap is to NOT FLY. But to be honest with you I was not the best Safety Officer in many Senior Official's Eyes - they used to say I was entirely TOO "Operationally Focused". Not because there was ever an accident when I as on the job, I believe it was because I believed that sometimes you had to press the limits as much as you could, during controlled situations, so that when the situation became "uncontrolled", you were ready to handle it. Truth be known, I hardly ever advocated for flight ops to stop - however, I was savvy enough to know who was ready to handle which conditions and who wasn't. Sometimes that hurt some of the pilots egos, but it was never my job to coddle egos.

Then, as Operations Officer, I was always pushing the envelope - trying to fly in the toughest of conditions to get the other pilots ready for anything. Unfortunately, this very often meant sometimes pushing guys to the edge of their ability - so that they could become better and more adept to the possible conditions they may face in combat.

Did I push some guys too far sometimes? Maybe.

Did I ever get anyone hurt or even put them in any real jeopardy? Absolutely not.

Did they become better pilots for the experience? Definitely!

Looking back, I think it was a huge benefit that I was able to have both of these jobs during my tenure in the Navy - it gave me a perspective to see both sides of the fence - understand both sides of the argument.

Frankly though, when it comes right down to it, Pilots are meant to fly - just as you and I are meant to live. Yeah, they may have hiccups now and again - and they may even make a major mistake that costs an airplane or even a life every once in awhile (I have a half a dozen really good friends that have had to eject for one reason or another), but if you don't push things regularly, then you will never grow - you will never get better. YOU WILL NEVER REACH YOUR POTENTIAL!

Funny, the quote says, "what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger". No where is that more evident than in Naval Aviation. And now, as a Coach, I've found it to also be extremely relevant in everyday life. Much more than people realize.

We all have a Safety Officer and Operations Officer that live inside our heads - one telling us to push forward, the other telling us, it's too scary out there - your gonna get hurt. They both have good arguments, but remember, you were put on this earth to just be another warm body - you were given the gift of life to live. I'm not advocating pushing yourself to the extreme every day. But I am telling you that you should be looking for ways to test the edges of the envelope and do your best to live by a quote that is hanging on my refrigerator - a gift from a very dear friend of mine:

Do one thing everyday that scares you.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Living is an active participation sport. Push yourself to be a little better everyday, by finding that ONE thing, and just doing it - no matter the outcome.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

We See People As We Are - Not As They Are!

I find that very often people get angry at others for doing something that they knew they were going to do. They believe the other person is going to act differently than they have in the past - in spite of all the facts that stare them down. This not only takes the choice of happiness out of your own hands, but does so in a way that could have been completely prevented.

I don't know about you, but this sounds insane to me.

More times than not, people are exactly who they tell us they are - who they behave as. Literally, they act and talk in a way that is consistent with who they are and how they think. But, unfortunately, we tend to ignore who people are, and only see them as we think they are (or even worse, the way we want them to be).

In fact, we, as humans, DON'T tend to see people the way THEY are - we tend to see them the way WE are. That may sound crazy, but the truth is, our filters (personal biases) are so strong that we only see what we want to see. It is where the term, "love is blind" comes from.

No matter how someone acts, good or bad, their behaviors are explained, justified, or even blamed because of pre-established opinions we have of them or people like them (based on any number of prejudged characteristics we find in them). If you have had great experiences with "Brown-Eyed" people in the past, we tend to give all "Brown-Eyed" people those attributes. If we met someone of a different culture and found them to be lazy or unwilling to work, then we tend to see all people from that culture with that bias.

It's not right - and we know it's not right, but it is how our subconscious mind works. It does it's best to categorize things and people as much as possible to make it easier to remember and organize.

Truth is, this isn't a bad thing, it simply is - a truth of who we are and how we see those around us.

Unfortunately, there is no magic answer to this problem - giving you clairvoyent awareness of objective reality. It is something that you will have to deal with forever. But there is a solution - a path to easing the impact of these biases. The solution simply requires your awareness of it's existence - the awareness of your personal biases (both for and against certain people).

Once you know that people act, talk and behave who they are, every minute of every day, then you can start to listen more objectively - giving them credit for the good things they do and facing the reality of the things that aren't so good.

Ask questions - of both yourself and of others. Try to find objectivity by finding as many opinions as possible. The more subjective opinions you get, the more the average tends to point to objectivity. Learn all you can about people from them, others opinions of them and yes, even your own biases.

And finally, remember this - you can't change who people are and how people act, that is their choice and their choice alone. However, you can change the YOU respond to how they act. This is the only REAL power you ever have. And finally by realizing YOUR power to choose, you minimize the impact others have over you and your life.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Six Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Coach

Industry experts estimate the number of business / personal / life / executive coaches to be in excess of 30,000 and growing daily. So how do you know that the Coach you have found (or more likely has found you) is the right one for you and your needs? How do you know if they are what they say they are? And how do you know if they will in fact be able to help you?

Unfortunately, in spite of the efforts of a couple organizations trying to "police" the industry, there is no single entity that governs the coaching industry and controls any form of certification process. So in many ways, the process is up to you.

To help you navigate through the fog, here are 6 questions to ask a perspective coach before you make any hiring decisions. It's important to note that there are no right answers to any of these questions. It is through the process of asking that you will gain invaluable insight into the person you will be building a very deep, trusting relationship with.

1. How do you coach / What is your coaching process? There are as many coaching processes and systems as there are search results for the word "Coach" in Google (150,000,000 last time I checked). Regardless of their process though, every coach should be able to walk you through what they will do, how they will do it and what you should expect to see as results.

Funny thing is that no matter who many methods of coaching there are, at their core, they all come down to the same things. All coaches provide the following services at some form or another:

- Cheerleader
- Confidant / Trusted Agent
- Coach / Mentor
- Teacher
- Accountability Partner
- Objective Observer
- Therapist (at the lowest levels)

Listen for these words and make sure your perspective client touches some, most or even all of them.

Additionally, Coaches will meet with their clients at different intervals - ranging from as often as daily to as infrequently as quarterly. These intervals should be flexible (to meet YOUR needs, not theirs). However, if their system provides for embedded flexibility in other ways, they may be somewhat strict on how often they want to meet with you.

Truth is though, you know yourself better than anyone else. You know your habits and your limitations. Don't set yourself up for failure, by signing up for daily / weekly sessions when you know you won't commit to doing the work. And don't sign up for monthly / quarterly sessions if you know you are a procrastinator that needs more daily / weekly accountability. Find someone that will stretch you, but it HAS to be in a way that you will actually enjoy (at some level) - or you won't do it.

2. Why did you decide to become a coach? One of the most telling questions you can ask anyone, is "why they have chosen to do what they do". Not only does it give you insight behind their motivations, but when it comes to coaching, it is extremely important - because of the level of passion and commitment you will need - when you struggle with your own passion and commitment.

Obviously, there is no perfect answer to this question, but the answer will perfectly give you insight as to whether you can work with them.

3. What is your training / experience with regard to coaching me to reach my goals? What are your core areas of expertise? Every coach is going to try to solve problems based on their own personal experience and training. Obviously the more tools they have in their toolbox, the more likely there will be one that is perfect for every situation you might encounter. However, no one is an expert in all areas - with all tools. So if they tell you they are, they probably aren't very good with any of them.

Bottomline, it is important that your coach be able to communicate what they are best at and how that is going to help you reach your goals. But it is equally important for you to recognize when a coach's experience and training are not a match for you - regardless of their past successes. Listen to what they say . . . and what they don't - both provide insight into their practice.

4. Do you have a list of past clients / referrals that I can contact? Both ones that have worked reached their goals and ones that haven't? Past performance is no indication of future success, however, it is an indicator. Get a list of clients that your perspective coach has worked with - both clients that reached their goals / dreams and those that didn't.

Contact at least one of each of the two categories - past successes and failures. Each will provide fantastic insights into the coach and how he will work with you. Ask them what worked for them as well as what didn't work. Ask them what they struggled with and how the coach helped them overcome their difficulties.

Finally, ask your soon to be coach, which client from their past is most like you. Ask if any one them match you at all. Truth is, it may be rare, but talking to this person will give you some great insight into what you will go through.

5. Do you use a coach yourself? Although not a necessity, having a coach or some form mentor / accountability partner is definitely a plus in everyone's life - including your coach. He will be asking you to do things that are going to be very tough for you to do - stretching you and helping you grow in ways that you have never experienced before.

Knowing that he is going through the same process both lends credibility to his requests, as well as gives him a uniquely qualified appreciation for what you are experiencing at each stage of the coaching process.

6. What is your billing process / contract length? Do you offer a trial period so that we can learn about each other - learn whether or not we are a match? Truth is, you aren't going to know if you are a good match after one meeting. I recommend 3-4 meetings before making any level of commitment to the process.

It comes down to the simple fact that, "You don't know what you don't know." Give yourself some time to think through what you want and whether or not this person is going to be able to help you reach your goals.

As far as billing is concerned, there are numerous ways that coaches bill for their services. Some bill hourly, some on retainer, while others bill based on the results they produce. Some require long term contracts, while others go session to session. Regardless of their methods, make sure it is a match for you - that you are comfortable with the process and you can commit to the contract.

The only warning I will make, is that coaching is not a short term fix. If you are unwilling to commit (at some level) to at least 3-6 months, don't waste your time.

If you have any other questions about the coach you are thinking about hiring, please feel free to contact me at or for the most non-biased support available, contact SCORE at

Friday, April 17, 2009

Value Comes From What You Will Do, Not What Have Done!

In my first Fleet Squadron, VFA-192, the World Famous Golden Dragons, back in 1992 (not to date myself too bad), I had an instructor and friend, "Otter" McNease, who always used to say, "Don't get cocky, your only as good as your next (carrier) landing."

Back then, I used to laugh at him. But that was because I really didn't get it.

In youth, you are SO worried about building a reputation, that you forget that you need to create your future. What Otter was trying to tell me was that your value to the world doesn't come from what you've done, but what you can and will do in the future.

Unfortunately, many people spend their entire lives and never learn this very powerful lesson. The world around us is changing - we must look forward if we want to provide value in it.

That's not to say that your past - your reputation - does provide some indication of what you can do in the future, but like they say on all the Investment Ads, "Past performance is no guarantee for future returns."

So, stop resting on your laurels. You may have been great yesterday, and good today, but if you are NOT "actively trying" to be better tomorrow, then you are most likely not going to be. And if you aren't trying to be better tomorrow, why should I believe that you have any more value to me.

Last night, there was a race between Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and CNN (@CNNbrk) each trying to be the first to a Million followers on Twitter. Ashton Kutcher won, but that doesn't matter. Truth is, neither up to this point warrants that kind of glorification - they haven't provided the secret to life or answered the all important question, "Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone?" But they created a fanfare and it has paid off for both of them.

Problem is, if they can't deliver on their promise - the implied promise of adding value to their follower's lives - then it won't do any good. And their followership will fall off. Remember, it has little to do with what they have said, and everything to do with what they are going to say.

Remember this little life lesson, the next time you start to believe your Headlines. It's not what you did yesterday, but what you can do tomorrow that provides real value in today's world.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Four Steps To Hiring The Right Employees!

"No business can grow faster than it can find, hire, train and keep quality employees." Even though business growth is all about generating sales, the real success in keeping customers coming back is the ability to provide a consistent product - time after time. And no matter how good your marketing team is, if you don't have the right staff delivering your product to your customers, you will never grow at the rate you desire.

Real success in business depends on two things: great systems to provide consistency and motivated good employees to run those systems.

Below are four steps to help you increase the likelihood of hiring the best employees that both match the job description as well as be motivated and committed to your vision.

1. Create a Job Description / Positional Contract - Before you go out and hire someone - know what you want and what they are going to do. This should include, but is not limited to, a list of roles and goals for the position, how you are going measure success, and how they are going to be compensated.

Writing a job description is a difficult task. And it is the most often over looked step in the process. However it is also one of the most important. Take some time and commit to doing this step properly. The ground work you do in this step alone can be the difference between long term success and / or failure of you r new hire.

2. Generate a list of perspective candidate employees - Make this list as big as possible by advertising every way you can: Newspapers, Craigslist, job sites, etc. Also, don't be afraid of other non-traditional perspective employee gathering options including: asking your suppliers, your distributors, your employees, colleagues, and even trade associations. Get the word out every way you can. The key here is to make sure you give yourself as many options as you get to choose from. And in today's market, that should be easy.

3. Conduct a Three Stage Interview Process:

- First Interview - One of the biggest problems with employees is commitment. In order to gain commitment right from the onset of the process, make the beginning step in your "interview process" all about allowing them to choose you first. This means starting with a group interview / presentation.

Schedule all of your perspective employees to come in at one time (or if the group is too big for one session, schedule multiple sessions). This presentation is all about the company and the job being offered.

Truth is, this is much less an interview than presentation. It is where the perspective employee learns about the business and decides whether or not they feel they are match for your company. Not only do you tell them about the job, but also about the company - explaining the culture, your mission, vision, and commitments. Invite the applicant to ask the questions - promoting the idea that this is where they decide if they want to be part of your business

At the end of this presentation, give all the applicants an opportunity to schedule their second interview - if and only if, they feel that they are a match for you business.

- Second Interview - The second interview is a complete role reversal. Where as the first interview was the chance for them to learn about you, the second is where you learn about them.

This is your traditional interview where you conduct your question / answer interview finding out what you need to know about them, in order to hire them. It is where you ask everything that you want to know about them, their background and their future desires.

It is not however, where they get to ask any questions back - that stage is past. They should have already made a choice in their mind whether or not they are interested in joining and committing to your business.

*** It is at the end of the second interview that you should conduct your reference / background checks, validate applicant's information, and even conduct personality checks as you might see fit. This gives you an opportunity eliminate the bad hires / non-motivated applicants before you invest in this often quite costly stage of hiring.

- Third Interview - The third interview is all about the hire. Where you ask any final / follow-up questions. It is in this "interview that the compensation negotiations take place as well as the formal job offer is made.

4. Train, Indoctrinate, Train, Orient and Train Some More. Now that you have the best employee(s) for the job, it's no time to let down your guard. Now that you have hired your perfect match, it's time to orient your new employee into the culture properly.

You should have a process that walks the new employee not only through the training they need to do the job, but they also need to become acclimated as effectively as possible to the business culure itself.

Bottom line, there is no easy answer. And no hiring system can / will eliminate the chance of making a mistake. But with a system, you will reduce the likelihood of making a mistake that you may regret for weeks or months to come.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Do It Anyway!

*** Warning: Bold Truth Spoken in this Blog ***
Not for the faint of heart

Ever have one of those days, when you don't feel up for doing the right thing or just don't want to do what you know you have to do - or need to do - to accomplish your goals?

Do it anyway!

Whether you want to believe it or not, you have chosen your way into the situation you are in today, and if you don't want to be there - stop feeling sorry for yourself and do what you need to do - regardless of how you feel.

Behave your way out of the rut!

Very often, I talk to people who are having a bad day, bad week, and sometimes a bad year. They are stuck in a rut and can't see their way out. And, in spite of a deep understanding of what they need to do, they don't do it. That's right, time and time again, they can't get themselves to do what they know they should do - what they know is going to make a difference in their lives, because it's either too hard or because they feel it's below them at this stage of their life. Literally, they think something magical is going to happen that will lift them out of their rut and set them back on the right course.

Well, here's a little realism - it ain't gonna happen. If you want to get out of the rut - if you want to stop getting the same results you've always gotten - then you have to behave your way out.

It's not about doing just anything - do what you know you should be doing!

Don't get me wrong - I'm not telling you to do things you don't want to do just for the sake of doing them. No, I'm not saying that at all. Instead what I am telling you is that you need to figure out what you want, first. And then do the things that will make it happen and behave the way you need to behave. Even . . . if you don't "feel" like doing it. It really is that simple.

Get over your feelings and do it anyway.

You will feel good about it afterward - when you are out of the rut and light years closer to your goal.

So, if you don't feel that you should have to work a little longer day, do some extra research, cut your expenses, eat healthier, or make a phone call or two, that doesn't really matter. If you know it's going to make a difference - Do It Anyway!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

With Employees, Reward The Behavior You Want

Whether your business is large or small, if you have employees, you probably struggle with productivity. A recent blog on Small Business CEO called "Offering New Employees Incentive Pay Instead of Large Salaries" brings up the ever important topic, How do you compensate your employees so that they work for you, are committed to you and are motivated to do the work that is important to the success of your business?

Believe it or not, the answer is simple. But with most simple answers, the implementation is the gotcha. The answer is to reward the behavior and results you want from your employees.

It doesn't matter at what level of your business your employees are, their compensation should be directly tied to the results and / or behavior you want. From the Janitor to the CEO - everyone should be rewarded based on production - not just effort. And definitely not for just showing up every day.

Sure, if you want someone to just occupy a chair (answer phone calls / man a desk) for a certain number of hours per day, and don't care what they do when they are there, then pay them an hourly wage or even a salary. But if you want them to actually do things that are important to the success of your business then reward them for what you want done - not for showing up.

Don't kid yourself though, this is a very scary concept for both you, as the business owner, and your employees. And it requires a lot of work. For you, as the employer / manager, you will need to take the time to figure out what you want and how to measure it, as well as how to compensate it. And for your employees, they most likely have never been held accountable for their work like this before and will be initially resistant to the idea.

Truth is, almost all employees would much rather continue to get paid just for showing up and doing what you tell them to do, than have their pay be dependent on the level or quality of their work. But that's what you are doing now - and if you are like most business owners / managers, it's not working for you.

I know in the current economic and social climate, with words like this, I might be calling for a lynch mob. But to be honest with you - when you build accountability into your compensation system and reward the behaviors that you desire in an employee two things happen:

1. You increase the production of your employees while often decreasing the need for excessive management oversight
2. You share with your employees the fruits of their labor. Literally you build a band of Entrepreneurial-Minded employees.

In order to implement these ideas, there are two things that you must do:

1. Figure out WHAT you want to reward.
2. Decide HOW to reward it.

So first we start with "WHAT" to reward. And that means writing Job Descriptions - Roles, Responsibilities and Goals for every position in your business. And yes, I know nobody wants to do this - as it is one of the most difficult things you will ever do as a manager / business owner. But, in spite of the hard work involved, I've got some good news for you, when you are done writing the job description with the help of your employees (as much as possible), you will literally be amazed at what happens. The work that you say you want to get done, will get done. And most likely they will be happier and more committed than you have ever seen them before.

Truth is, in the absence of a job description or your direction, employees will begin to do what they think they need to do. This isn't a bad thing, but it's rarely exactly what you want done. So don't leave things to chance - figure out what you want done, what you want them to do, and make it happen.

Second, in the process, is HOW you are going to compensate for accomplishing what the job description says for the your employees to do.

Traditional pay is usually built around one of three models: hourly, salary, or commission. None of these pay systems are bad, per se. However, you are getting what you pay for.

- In the case of hourly wages, you get hours. Production requires continuous management.
- In the case of salaried employees, you are paying someone to be there when you need them and to do a job, but whether they do it well or not, they still get paid. Again production requires continuous management - or a very well laid out plan.
- In the case of commission, you get results - but only exactly where you define them. But what you don't get is any form of allegiance to the business - because the employees are pretty much working for themselves.

I believe the answer is the blend of the compensation methods - a compensation system where the employee gets a base salary (I recommend 50% of target average income), including some form of benefits, plus some form of "results-based compensation" that is attached to their goals. And as they begin to produce what is required of them, they earn more and more - often with no limits, except their own ingenuity and hard work.

With this form of compensation, you are doing three things. First, you are demonstrating a level of commitment from the company to the employee by giving them a salary that they can count on (even though they won't be able to live on it). Second you are giving them incentive to do the work that you want done, minimizing the "oversight" of constant management - literally the compensation has built in accountability. And finally if they decide to produce more than is expected of them, they have the ability to take home an even higher salary, as they benefit with you in the profits of their labor.

So, if you are tired of struggling with idea of either being a micro-manager or not getting the productivity that you want and / or need, then think about doing something a bit different - think about rewarding the behavior and results that you want from your employees.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Technology Doesn't Fix Communication Problems

In spite of what most "techies" will tell you and try to sell you, technology doesn't fix communication problems, it only makes communication easier. Bad communication whether it's face to face or via some form of technology is and always will be "bad communication".

Whether it's email, IM, Texting, telephone, teleconference, video teleconference, or any of the social networking tools, it's not the system you use, it's the way you communicate that makes the difference.

As a good friend of mine, JaWar (@JaWar) is constantly emphasizing to me and all of his friends, its all about engagement. And engagement requires trust - trust that the people you are talking to will honor your words and not humiliate you or embarrass you.

Engagement is defined as the act of being engaged
or emotionally involved / committed.

Engagement is an "action" verb - not a passive one. It requires your interaction with those you which to communicate with - not sitting back and just monitoring.

If you lecture to me or talk at me, and don't acknowledge or respond to my replies - you are not engaging - and therefor not really communicating. It doesn't matter if this is on Twitter, through IMs, emails, or even face to face, it's all the same.

Or if you just sit back and read, absorbing everything going on, but not adding to the conversation - again, you are not engaging. And still, you are not really communicating.

If you want to build relationships, I don't care where you want to build them, engage with those who engage with you. Join in the fray - get out of your comfort zone - take a chance and reach out to people that are out there. Give yourself to the process of communication - two way. Sure you can use all the tools available to you, but don't expect the tools to do the work - that's up to you.

Join in the fray - get out of your comfort zone - take a chance and reach out to people that are out there.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seven Steps To Making Your Goals A Reality

Why do some succeed at reaching their goals and others don't? This is a question that has plagued the less fortunate for centuries.

After watching some succeed and others fail for most of my life, including more than 20 years in the Navy and now nearly 3 years as a Business Coach, I've put together some simple steps to help you reach your goals - Seven to be Exact!

1. Set SMART goals and write them down.
Be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Timely. “Working out more” is not a good resolution. Nor are “lose 20 lbs”, “spend more time with my kids” or even “make my wife happy” - as much as she will tell you that it's the best one there is.

What are you going to do to work out more? How are you going to measure it? By when do you want to lose 20 lbs? How much time do you want to spend with you kids? How often?

As important as it is to set goals, they need to be goals that you can measure, you can reach and ones that have a time line – a call to action.

Instead of “working out more” you might set the goal to create a habit of exercising at least 30 minutes every day by April. Or instead of “losing 20 lbs”, you might set the goal of changing your daily eating habits to only eat 2000 calories per day on the average while burning 2500 calories by March 1st.

Will these goals result in what you are trying to do? Absolutely. But more importantly, they call you to action right now and give you something realistic every day that you can shoot for to get to where you want to be.

And once you set your goals, never waiver! It's too easy to compromise and it costs too much. Once you gone done the path of compromise, you might as well start all over.

2. Be brutally honest with yourself. There are two things that you need to keep in your mind at all times – first is your goal or vision (step one). The other is the truth about “what is” – an honest assessment of the current situation.

For many, this can be the hardest thing – not because they don't look at current reality – but because they don't see it truthfully, and because they don't take responsibility for their participation in it.

You see, what drives you to reach your goals is the tension (stress) created from the gap between your current situation and your goals. The bigger the gap, the more stress on you, the harder you try to shrink that gap. But if you aren't truthful about the current situation, then you lessen the tension and stress that is the driving force for you to take action. And you reduce the likelihood to do what is necessary to reach your goals.

Tell me if you have ever heard this voice inside your head before, “I've done really well this week. I worked out a couple of times – not as much as I had planned, but better than I used to do. Eating one more spoonful of pasta isn't going to break me. I'll just make it up tomorrow.” To be brutally honest, I've heard it many times. And it was usually the beginning of the end of my commitment. It's not that I was intentionally lying to myself, but I certainly wasn't facing reality.

And I certainly didn't make up for it the next day.

3. Create a game plan that includes small measurable steps that you can take every day. Most resolutions are life-changing – and life changing habits don't happen overnight for most of us. They start as small changes to your daily lifestyle, that create huge changes over time.

So, the best thing you can do is to start small – something you can do every day and don't expect miracles from yourself. It can't be so grand that you burn yourself out the very first week, but keeps you moving forward. The key is building momentum. And even if all you can manage is a small improvement, if you do it every day, it will make a huge change in your life. Take that extra small thing you do every day and then multiply it by 365 days a year. You may be surprised at the results.

Carrying the “work out” goal forward. Don't try to start working out every day from the very beginning. You are setting yourself up for failure and you know you will quit in no time. Instead, throttle back your exuberance the first week. Plan to work out twice a week. But on the days that you aren't working out, give yourself five additional minutes when you go to work in the morning. Park the car in the furthest parking spot available and commit to walking into the office, then walk up the stairs instead of using the elevator. It doesn't sound like much, but if you do something everyday you are teaching yourself commitment that will carry forward in the weeks and months ahead.

4. Figure out why you haven't done so well in accomplishing your goals in the past
and plan a way to avoid those same mistakes. Most people think they learn from their mistakes – but few actually do. If they did, they would all eat better, work-out regularly, have no relationship problems and probably make a whole lot more money. So, how good are you at honestly and objectively assessing your past mistakes?

You don't have to be great, you just have to be honest with yourself. And believe it or not, it always comes back to one thing – You.

Look at what you wanted last time and try to see exactly when you stopped taking responsibility for making it happen.

Life will get in the way of your goals – ALWAYS! There will be one or more reasons everyday not to do what you committed to do – those reasons are very real. But it is your choice to overcome them or allow them to become excuses. Expect everything to go wrong in the process. And commit yourself to do whatever it takes to continue anyway.

The best way to overcome this is to list the potential life problems you have had in the past and figure out a way to empower yourself to overcome them. By facing the problems that could arise, you will be armed to preempt them as the come up.

5. Find an accountability partner who will be more committed to your goal than you will. When you enlist someone else to commit to helping you reach your goal or live within your resolution – everyday – you’ll feel accountable to that person. That accountability to someone else, having to report daily progress, will drive you in ways that you haven't felt before.

That person shouldn't be your spouse, or another close loved one whose help may turn into nagging, because of the personal nature of your relationship. Because there will be days when you need their support to be brutal and forthright. Even in the best relationships, this can cause tension that doesn't need to be there. Take a lesson from the mistakes of hundreds, if not thousands before you, and enroll someone whom you trust, but don't have an exceptionally close relationship with.

Your accountability partner should expect a daily report. And you should feel obliged to give it. That person should be able to call you to action, when you are at your lowest motivational point, and cheer you on when you are on top of your game. Marshall Goldsmith, an Executive Coach who has helped hundreds of Senior Executives in Fortune 500 companies, talks about a friend of his that he calls every night. No matter where he is in the world on business, his friend listens to what he got done that day, how well it went and what he intends to do the next day. And he does the same for his friend.

6. Don’t make excuses, except in truly rare circumstances. As I said before, in the real world, life gets in the way. Life is the reason we are where we are today – have the health and wealth we have today. Life is the reason we give ourselves for not sticking with our commitments. But remember,

If you want different results than those you have always gotten,
then you have to do something that you've NEVER done before.

There will be days that you won’t be able to meet your daily goal – whether its walking for 30 minutes, eating less than 2000 calories or spending at least 30 minutes of alone time with your kids. There will be exceptional situations, but the key is to make sure they really are exceptional.
Don’t make excuses for reneging on your resolution or goals. There are no excuses, only facts. And the fact is that you keep your resolution, because it’s part of who you are.

7. Have a reward picked out for reaching your goal – even for small steps along the way. One of the biggest reasons people fail to change the way they do things is that they fail to “reward” themselves for actually accomplishing new things or creating a new behavior.

As complicated as our personality make-up can be, we are really very simple creatures in many respects. When it comes to learning new behaviors, we like to be rewarded when we do good!
Most people set goals like “Lose 15 lbs by June so that I don't feel like a fat slob when I go on vacation.” This type of reward, avoidance of the negative outcome, is rarely successful. In fact, it often creates the undesirable state, because it is what your mind focuses on.

Instead, change your goals to be “Lose 15 lbs by June so that I look hot in my new bathing suit – that I'm gonna buy for myself, when, and only when I reach my goal. Price is no issue - the sky's the limit.”

Think about it, how do you respond better to your wife or to your boss – praise every time you do something good or yelling every time you do something wrong? Which makes you want to do the right thing more next time? Doing things for yourself is no different.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Marketing Is Everyone's Job

One very important thing to remember is that, in reality, EVERY ONE IN YOUR COMPANY IS MARKETING.

That's right, the marketing department crosses the boundaries of your entire company. Every employee in your company needs to be aware of the marketing message, visions, and goals of the company, and should reflect that message in everything they do that is related to the product or service you provide, the promise you make and the customers you serve. Because whether they understand the message or not, they are being judged by it.

And therefore judging your business!

Are Your Employees Sending The Right Message?

Every contact with customers and potential customers your employees make, whether it's through advertising, personal contact, or other means, should carry a consistent message about your company and product. Whether it is your the delivery driver that hands the product to your customer, the office receptionist that answers the phone, or even the manufacturing line person that adds one part to the product you make, they all need to understand your Marketing Position - what you are trying to convey to your target audience. In effect, every employee is a sales person, every employee is a customer service representative and every employee is a marketer. And consistency in marketing is critical.

And from the minute your business becomes more than one person deep, consistency becomes a challenge. And the truth is, whether you like it or not, if your customers get mixed messages about what your business is, then they will have a distorted picture - they will be confused - and will most likely choose not to use you anymore.

Any bad, or even adverse, experience a customer has with your company (or its representatives) can affect future sales from that customer, as well as the people they tell about the experience. This bad experience can be anything from a rude receptionist or poor packaging of a product to someone seeing an employee brandishing your company logo acting unprofessional.

Finally, there are so many variables that effect whether a potential customer becomes a customer or a current customer remains loyal. And it is your "Marketing Department's" job to insure that consistency in that message - no matter how it gets out. And it is the Marketing Director (whomever that may be) that is accountable for the total successful image of the company and / or product.

Get Your Message Out To Your Whole Staff

So ask yourself, how well does your staff know what your Marketing Message is? How well do they buy-in to what you are trying to create? The answers to these questions is critical to long term success in any industry - in any economic condition, but even more so in today's highly competitive environment. Because each and every one of them is making a difference in helping delivering that message - whether you want them to or not.

This week, set some time aside to talk to your staff and help them understand how much of an impact they have on your business - not just by what they do, but how they act and how well they understand the message of the company.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Expectation Management 101

One of the quickest way to lose a customer (or a friend for that matter) is to fail to meet their expectations. The customer calls you, finds you on the web (either through an organic search or pay per click), or walks in your store and you might get the sale this time. However, if you fail to meet their expectations in the product itself or in your customer service, they will not be back - ever.

If you're lucky, this customer will tell you why they are / were disappointed - they will tell you that you failed to meet their expectations. The ball will be in your court - you can choose to fix the problem or not (that's a whole different problem).

Unfortunately, disclosing dissatisfaction is rarely the case (especially with new customers) - at least not to the business owner or his staff. Most of the time that unfulfilled customer is going to tell everyone they know (and even some people they don't know) how disappointed they were with you and your business. And in spite of great efforts on your part, these dissatisfied customers will recommend to their friends, family and co-workers to stay clear of you and your establishment.

The cost of lost potential business from poorly managed expectations can be enormous.

However, the truth is, most small business owners don't fail to meet their customers expectations because they don't care. They don't meet expectations because the have no idea what their customers even expect.

There are two easy ways to manage customers' expectations. You can either tell them what to expect or you can ask them what they expect.

1. The best form of Expectation Management is to tell the customer what to expect - Make a Promise / Guarantee and do it boldly. As simple as this option is, most business owners are deathly afraid of making promises or guaranteeing anything. They are scared, because they know they won't be able to deliver. They know that their "in-place"systems aren't strong enough to deliver on the promise and their staff isn't good enough (on a consistent basis) to cover for the absence of properly implemented systems.

So if you want to make sure that your clients know what to expect - tell them. And tell them every chance you get. But don't make promises you can't keep!!! Instead make ones you can.

Start small. Start with what you know you can do right now, every time. And then work to improve your promise every chance you get.

2. Find out what they want - Conduct a Survey. The second, and considerably less desirable option, with regard to customer expectation management, is to simply ask. The reason this option is less desirable is that you aren't necessarily managing expectations as much as you are reacting to them.

Not surprisingly, most small business owners would rather chase the apparent needs of a few customers than define their own path forward. That's not to say you shouldn't ask - and get a feel for what the customer is looking for - but it can be a very dangerous slope to go down if this is ALL do.

In any case, when it comes to customers expectation surveys, you are going to get a lot of feedback. Some will be good! And some will be fodder. The trick is figuring out which is which.

Believe it or not, not all your customers are worth listening to. In fact, the only ones that can truly give you insight into where you focus your attention are your cheerleaders - the ones that believe in you and your business. These are the loyal clients that not only come to you regularly, but recommend you to their friend and family.

It's not that the others don't provide great feedback, it's just that their feedback might take you down a rabbit hole.

So you need to ask yourself. . .

What do my customers expect? Do I really know?

Have I told them what they should expect? Should I tell them?

What should I be 'putting out' to my perspective clients that will separate me from my competition?

What do I want my clients to expect and how do I manage those expectations?

Just remember. The the answers to all of these questions and the ability to manage the expectations of your customers is within your power. They are your choice. You just need to take control and manage your customer expectations in a proactive way.