Sunday, August 15, 2010

You Don't Know Schmitt

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending 3 days on Smith Lake with a very special group of friends.  The circuitous county roads that led us to our lake house gave us a great glimpse at life in the area.  There was  everything from multi-million dollar lake-front homes to single-wide trailers; well-manicured lawns & boat docks to comfortably small country abodes. Most of the roads we drove on were neither lined nor labeled properly.  The important thing is that we all eventually arrived at our weekend respite excited for the adventures that lay ahead.

My hope and optimism going into the long weekend was captured in one place alone: The Future Home of Schmitt's Goat Farm.    You don't know this man named Schmitt, but here's what we do know.  Schmitt is impressive.  He's got a dream.  He knows where he's going in life.  And he wants you to know too.  Schmitt is living his dream out loud;  all of the capital letters on his sign tell me so.

Schmitt is a purposeful man.   He is both careful and determined. He chooses his words with great reflection. The period after every word on his sign tells me he has thought about this goat farm long and hard.  Schmitt chose to stake his claim in Arley, Alabama, and anyone else even thinking about a goat farm within a 100-mile radius had better reconsider. 

But even with careful inspection, we still don't know Schmitt.  There's quotations around "Goat Farm."  Are we really talking goats, or are you up to something else, Mr. Schmitt?  Are you a sarcastic man?  What is it that you want us to infer from this supposed "Goat Farm" you've begun?  Maybe its some kind of inside joke.

The humor therein makes me think of all of the inside jokes found among a tight circle of friends.  If you weren't there, then its tough to infer what really happened from a humorous remark. Maybe that sly reference you overheard meant something else altogether.  If you have to ask, you probably don't want to know. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you don't know Schmitt.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Go-Giver's Law of Receptivity: The Final Law in the Go-Giver Series

"The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving."

Wrapped into the final Go-Giver Law is an assurance that the effort put into giving will-and should- translate into an opportunity to receive.  It is OK to receive benefit from others since that receiving is the result of another's effort to be giving.   After all, we're all in this together on some level, aren't we?

Receptivity requires both diligence and faith that others will come through for you.  Sometimes that faith is affirmed, and sometimes its not.  In my role in outside sales, I've been stood up a fair number of times by prospects.  In fact it even happened this week.  Sure, there was a minor annoyance that my time wasn't being used effectively.  I just had to remind myself that scheduling conflicts and forgotten appointments happen. 

For me, The Law of Receptivity is about maintaining a positive attitude and marching into the next meeting open to a new opportunity;  not stewing over the last missed meeting.  This week, The Law of Receptivity paid off.  There's a spark in the air when you have a great meeting with a new contact and ideas start flowing freely.  The energy is almost palpable, and an hour passes in what seems like minutes.

On Friday I met with a wonderful woman from a university and the partnership opportunities for our organizations were spot on.   We both left the meeting super-charged with optimism and excitement for our upcoming work together.    But that meeting went well because I cast off the disappointment of earlier days and came to the table with an open mind, ready to receive.

Yes, I'll reschedule that missed appointment.  I'm sure it will work out just fine.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Go-Giver's Law of Authenticity: Part 4 of a 5-Part Book Review

“The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.”

Have you ever been around someone with a strong accent? Maybe a “U-per,” a Londoner, or even a Southerner? Of course you have. Now here comes the question of Authenticity: Did you start to pick up their accent after you talked to them for a while? Did you parrot their pronunciation of particular phrases? We've all done it just a little bit.  I’m guilty as charged. When I moved to the South six years ago, I found myself going on lots of sales calls outside the metro city limits. Sometimes the people I talked to spoke so slowly that I wanted to complete their sentences for them!  For some reason, I felt myself trying to drawl, trying to speak a little slower, and trying to throw in a “y’all” for good measure. 

It didn’t work. It was a feigned attempt at acceptance.  Not only was I asked, “So, are you from around here?,” I was also caught somewhere between trying to fit in and trying to get my message across effectively. I wasn’t authentic. And I was naïve to think that I had to use certain colloquial words and phrases to be heard.

As it turns out, I performed much better when I let the “You Guys” flow freely. Not only were people more genuinely interested in me, and who I was, they also wanted to know where I was from and what brought me into town. That kind of exchange was the beginning of a real relationship. So the Go-Giver Law of Authenticity goes: It’s always easy to spot a fake. Your audience appreciates the real and truthful so much more. Whether you’re from Buffalo, Britain, Birmingham or the Bahamas, let your freak flag fly and annunciate with pride.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Go-Giver Law of Influence: Installment #3 in a 5-Part Book Review

“Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.”

Have you ever really thought about what makes someone influential? Admittedly, I have had an antiquated definition of “influence.” Let me start at the beginning. Growing up, I was never the cool kid. I was, and still am, a people-watcher; happier to observe than to take center stage. As a kid, I mentally filed the other kids into groups: the popular girls with too much lip gloss, the jocks who loved to tease, the alternative kids with sullen attitudes, and the geeks with Dilbert comics taped to their calculators. I didn’t realize it then, but I organized the playground into a kiddie caste system! If I looked closer, there was probably a popularity barometer that measured the social pressure at every grade school dance.

Even as an adult, my shy childhood experiences have caused me, at times, to confuse the definition of popularity and influence. After reading The Go-Giver, I took an inventory of the professionals around me whom I consider “influential.” As it turns out, their influence was connected to what they do rather than who they are. They’re not trying to see what they can “get” from everyone around them; they’re focused on how much they can “give” to their network.

Stated another way, influence is popularity with purpose. Influential people know how to make things happen. And making something positive happen for you is the measure on their personal barometer for success. Can you make something happen for someone else? Who will you influence today?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Go-Giver's Law of Compensation: The 2nd Installment of a 5-Part Book Review

“Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.”

Its interesting how the Go-Giver Laws of Stratospheric Success build on each Other. The first law of value determines how much potential energy you’ve got wrapped up inside. And that potential energy is related to passion for what you do as much as consistency in how you do it.

In The Go-Giver, the main character meets a young woman who grew frustrated in her teaching career. While she had developed methods that really drove home new lessons to children, she was a little discouraged that she could only touch 20 or 25 children at a time. She started a company that developed and sold games based on her methods. Now, rather than helping just one small group of kids each year, she was able to impact learning in classrooms across the country. She put a system- and consistency- behind her ideas and was able to grow.

On a related note, this reminds me of advice that a manager once gave me. We were discussing why some people make more money than others; its all related to attitude and consistency.

Here’s how his example went:

If you want to make $24,000 a year, you can sleep in, head to work late, leave early, and never really be bothered by any critical thought.

If you want to make $40,000 a year, you’re probably getting up at the same time each day; you’re getting into work on time, working a little past five, and keeping your eye out for advantages on the job.

If you want to make $60,000 a year, you’re probably up at 5:30am or 6am thinking about what you want to accomplish for the day; you’re working past five, and thinking about your job some on the weekend.

If you want to make $[insert your target figure here], you’re putting in serious effort.

While that talk was very money-oriented, it did make me think about what path I was on, and where I wanted to be. Those magic numbers can be whatever amount you want them to be, but the fact remains: the more consistently and passionately you approach your work, the closer you’ll get to stratospheric success.

Income in the form of monetary compensation is just one form of success. I bet you can think of a lot of others.

As a sidenote, when I first started this book, I found the word “Stratospheric” to be a little cliché…a trite phrase in another business book targeted at the lost middle-managers desperately seeking inspiration in their tired careers. But “Stratospheric” turned out to be more than just hyperbole. Throughout the story, I was rooting for the main character to elevate his thinking…to get out of his own way…to forgo the easy, temporary fix in favor of a stronger, long-term values system. “Stratospheric” is really about elevating your thinking and your attitude. Its about leaving complacency and “just good enough” behind.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Go-Giver's Law of Value

“Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”

Ok, this is a tough one right off the bat. It seems like the latest buzz in sales is to “control your client’s expectations.” If you control expectations, you can almost always over-deliver, right? Whoa. That’s a dangerous idea if it falls into the wrong hands.

If McDonalds lets you expect cold McNuggets, does that make serving rubbery re-heated ones OK?

For the people who “just get by,” this strategy is like telling them its OK to set the bar low and to deliver average performance. This Go-Giver law is really about giving, giving, giving…for the sheer pleasure of delivering a product or service that you’re passionate about.

When I first started selling Radio, I gave every client- large or small- [ok, they were all really small] white-glove service. I sold an un-rated oldies station that everyone else on the sales team seemingly ignored. But, I went at it with rookie-like enthusiasm. It just made sense to me. Yes, it was a small station. But, every single listener fit into a closely defined affluent, educated Baby-Boomer demographic with gobs of disposable income. I felt like I was helping my clients shoot fish in a barrel, whereas the bigger stations were casting nets in endless seas. I took pride in acting like a marketing director for each and every client—making everything completely turnkey for them.

Hand-written thank you notes- check. Personalized memos, talking points & FAQ’s for guest appearances- done. Multiple commercial drafts to choose from- every time. I did it because I didn’t know any better.

Yes, it took a lot of time and energy. But, over 6 years later, I count over 20 different reps in our office alone who started and subsequently quit every few months. Just showing up to do the job isn’t enough no matter where you are.

Every time you choose to give more than what’s expected, you’re not losing out or spending too much energy. You’re making a deposit in your own goodwill account. And that account has endless potential returns.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Go-Giver

Whoever decided to write business books in the form of prose is a genius. Maybe it started with the rodents in Who Moved my Cheese?. Or maybe it was “Herbie” in Goldratt’s “The Goal.” (The theory of constraints wrapped up in a story about a fat kid hiking with his Boy Scout troop…now that’s a real page turner.)

Modern business books aren’t being dumbed down. They’re more digestible than ever. We’re in a fast-paced, 140-character, multi-tasking society, and you’d better be able to teach me something and entertain me at the same time. Which brings me to my latest read: The Go-Giver.

The Go-Giver’s 128-page story is about a struggling salesman who learns that the path to success is giving. Throughout the story, he’s mentored by a business Sherpa whose amazing net worth is eclipsed only by his easy-going demeanor. Think Bill Gates meets Frank Sinatra meets Gandhi. The Go-Giver’s gift comes in the form of “Five Laws of Stratospheric Success.” Each and every one of these laws struck a personal chord with me. So, Gentle Reader, stay tuned, and for the next 5 days, I’ll give you a Law of Stratospheric Success and glimpse into my experience with that law.