A Life-Long Learner by Jim Johnson

This is an excerpt from my workbook, The Path to Promotion.  (previously titled “Right On”). This section is from the “be the right person” chapter…

Think about your current job responsibilities.  Have you mastered them?  Does the quality of your work reveal this?  Too often individuals believe they should be promoted but yet they have not mastered their current responsibilities.  How shallow and blind!

You need to develop a life of learning to prepare for future opportunities.  It begins with where you are today.  If there are areas of your job that you are not completely proficient in (proficient not perfection), then make it a priority to learn what you need to learn.

Proficiency brings so many benefits to you.  You will gain confidence.  A can-do attitude is hard to ignore and is “infectious”.  Job mastery demonstrates your competence.  You can control to some degree what others think of you.  Competency is always a favorable attribute.  And proficiency provides job security.  In today’s economy, you definitely want to be thought of as indispensable as possible.

A life of learning does not only take place on the job.  Are you learning outside of your daily shift?  One of the best ways to develop a life of learning is to read.  Your local public library is full of current magazines, journals and books that can aid in your personal development.  Read about current trends that affect your company, your department, and your daily duties.  You will be preparing yourself with useful knowledge for future projects and even for future interviews.

Area colleges and universities offer courses and degrees designed with the working professional in mind.  Degrees can be earned through in-class and online offerings.

Bottom line:  always learn.  Grow.  Develop yourself.

Being the right person means that you are committed to learning more               about yourself, your job, and your company.

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Curiosity – Leaders Can Encourage It!

Last evening, I read a very good article in the Sept/Oct 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review.  The article, entitled “The Business Case for Curiosity” by Francesca Gino (Professor, Harvard), spelled out why curiosity is so important in our businesses and for our team members.

Prof. Gino defines curiosity as “the impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities“.  As much as I value curiosity, it was sobering to read “although leaders might say they treasure inquisitive minds, in fact most stifle curiosity fearing it will increase risk and inefficiency“.

Prof. Gino speaks of two barriers to curiosity:

  1. Leaders have the wrong mindset about exploration.  The fear here is this could lead to a “costly mess”, make the company harder to manage, and could possibly slow down operations.
  2. Leaders tend to seek efficiency to the detriment of exploration.  Prof. Gino uses Henry Ford’s drive to reduce production costs so much so that he was unable to be nimble enough to address General Motors surge in introducing a greater variety of automobiles for the public.

So how can a leader “bolster curiosity”?  Prof. Gino lists 5 ways:

  1. Hire for Curiosity
  2. The Leader should model inquisitiveness.
  3. Emphasize learning goals over or as much as performance goals.
  4. Let employees explore and broaden their interests.
  5. Have “why?” and “what if…?” and “how might we…?” days.

Harvard Business Review Sept cover

I am purposefully leaving out a lot of detail in this post. You should invest a small price to read this excellent article which can be found online here:  https://hbr.org/product/the-business-case-for-curiosity/R1805B-PDF-ENG

Or better yet, subscribe to HBR here: Harvard Business Review subscription information

Same Ol’, Same Ol’ by Jim Johnson

same old thinking and results.JPG

You’ve heard the definition of insanity, right?  “Doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results.”  Yet (if we are honest), we all are guilty of this from time to time.

Here we are in the middle of 2018.  Are you achieving the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year?  Is your team meeting and exceeding their KPI’s?  If not, perhaps it is because while your goals may have changed, your behaviors did not.

Why do we set new goals yet hold on to behaviors that we adopted years ago?  Probably because we are comfortable with what we know.  Also, many of us do not like to be pushed and a great many of us do not like change.

So if you want better results, what’s a leader to do?  Try this:

Shock test.  Sit down with your team leaders and ask them “if we had to produce drastically better results (i.e. 100% improvement) in the next 90 days:

  • How would we approach our work differently?
  • How would we feel about our work?
  • What would we hear ourselves saying to each other, our customers, ourselves?
  • How would our team’s focus need to change?

I actually ran this experiment last fall.  Some of my managers still use the lessons they learned today and are getting more done with more intentional focus.

Read.  Most of the ideas I get come from reading that I’ve done or am currently doing.  Not that a specific idea comes from an author, but reading opens my mind to new concepts – a new way of thinking.  When that happens, I’m in a mental environment where I can see new possibilities and try new things.  And by reading, I don’t just mean books.  Blogs, magazines, LinkedIn content.  Expose yourself to new ideas and you’ll find new ideas to adopt and apply to get better results.

Network.  Find local leaders (or online leaders) and connect with them.  Pick their brains on ways they are working to become better.  I know you will find great insight and inspiration from doing this.

Brainstorm.  Get your team leaders together and, as a group, brainstorm on how you can improve.  Push each other to think differently.  Years ago, I read about the marketing team that was responsible for increasing sales of Raid – the bug spray.  The team came together to figure out a way to jump start lagging sales results.

Raid

At one point, someone in the meeting asked, “what would we not do with Raid?”  The group sat silently for a bit until someone said, “We could make it smell better.”  Again, more silence.  Then they began to discuss why the insect-killing spray smelled badly.  Why couldn’t Raid smell better?  So they experimented and created a more fragrant bug spray.  And sales increased.  All because in a brainstorming session someone asked a different question.

Accountability.  Many times our teams are not meeting expectations because we have failed to hold them accountable for their performance.  Coaching sessions have lost their edge.  Metrics are not talked about.  The team begins to live to the lowest common denominator (i.e. no one should rock the boat).  Poor performance is glossed over.

It has been said that leaders should inspect what they expect.  And that should be done regularly.  It should be documented.  Wins should be celebrated.  Falling short must be addressed.  Accountability gets your team living in “real-ville” quickly and consistently.

Accountability says that competence matters.  Competence leads to confident team members.  All this leads to better customer engagement and improved results.

Same ol’ same ol’ does not work.  Be different.  Do differently.  Become better.

Connecting with Others by Jim Johnson

If you are in business, you want to better connect with your customers and/or potential customers.  When we truly connect with others, we have the door open to more opportunities, deeper relationships, and bottom-line sales.

So, how do we better connect with others?

I have developed and taught the following to my staff as well as to others in people-connecting industries (which is pretty much all of our industries).  My staff calls this the “Laffy-Taffy” approach to connection after a candy’s name.  You’ll see why:

Customer Brings

 

Our customers bring us many things.  Some are evident and we see/hear them.  Other things are “buried” and we have to explore and discover them.

How do get beneath the surface?  The next steps are critical…

 

 

Listen Ask Feel

 

 

We have to actively and intentionally Listen, Ask, and Feel.  Far too often we assume what our customers want.  We push our agenda and don’t listen well.  Our customers will share with us, but we need to truly listen to them, ask more questions, and empathize with them.  Do not skip over this step!  This is where the real connection begins!

 

 

Think Act Follow Up

Once you have spent the appropriate time in Listening, Asking, and Feeling, then (and only then) should you move to these next three steps.  Think – based upon what the customer just shared with you, think through the options.  Act – based on what you’ve just heard, take action.  Don’t push your agenda.  Act on THEIR agenda!  And always Follow-Up/Follow-Through.

 

Does this process take a long time to do?  Perhaps at the beginning, it might.  If you are not comfortable with it, it may take a bit of time.  But after practice, you will become far more confidently competent in your interactions.  Your customers will open up more.  They will share their appreciation of your efforts.  They’ll tell others about you. You’ll get results.

Make great connections with your customers.  Practice LAF TAF every chance you get.  It makes a difference!

The Process

 

Connect by Jim Johnson

It’s Monday.  Our favorite day of the week…?  As you start your day, I want to encourage you not to focus on Friday.  Or on issues you may be personally facing.  Or on plans you may have in the near future.

Make today about CONNECTIONS.

Many of you will interact with customers today.  CONNECT with them.  How?  As soon as your interaction begins (i.e. in-person, phone call, chat, email), THINK.  What is it that the customer needs from you right now?  You are smart enough to figure out what the customer is needing at the moment – attention, a sense of security, resolution of an issue, courtesy, understanding, reliability…

Then CONNECT with that member.  Satisfy that need they have.  In fact, ask them at the end of the interaction, “did I answer your issue to your satisfaction?”

Really LISTEN to the customer today.  RESPOND based on their needs.  Find ways to go beyond as you SERVE the customer today.

When we CONNECT with our customers in meaningful ways, we will:

  • Deepen relationships
  • Build satisfaction
  • Create great customer experiences

connection John Maxwell