Here in the US, we are celebrating Halloween today. Our children will be out and about this evening trick-or-treating and filling their bags will all kinds of sweets. It is rarely scary and always a lot of fun.
So allow me some latitude to ask: do you know what is frightening you in the workplace today? Let me offer up some scary realities that left unattended can bring on unproductive teams and can often lead to chaos. Leaders, be ware!
Lack of communication
No company-wide vision
“Do as I say, not as I do” coming from leadership
Failure to confront issues
Passive aggressive behaviors
Lack of investment in the team in mental, physical, and financial wellness, personal/leadership development, community outreach
I listed just a few here. So what is the remedy?
Ask yourself: “what am I blind to?” Then address those things.
Develop authenticity. You may need help with this. You cannot merely dictate real change. You need to model it.
Ask your team where they need help? Then act on what you learn.
Bring in a consultant to help you deal with really tough issues that have been ignored for too long.
Communicate. Be vulnerable while keeping the team moving in a positive, forward-moving growth mode. It can be done.
Address what is frightening you and your team/organization. Take the lead to recalibrate if necessary. Keep things real. Keep accountability at the forefront.
As a speaker, I work to understand and know my audience. What are their commonalities? What are there needs? What don’t they need/want to hear? If I am going to connect with an audience, it is important for me to focus my talk on the audience I’m working to engage with.
In terms of marketing, sales, and/or service, are you creating content and promotions that make sense to you (primarily) or on your customers and potential customers? When selling your product/service, are you focusing on what you have vs what they need? Are you answering the questions they are asking? When providing a service, do you and your teams assume your service is what the customer wants?
Yesterday, I stopped by the deli counter at my local Kroger grocery store. I wanted to pick up some Boar’s Head deli meat. I asked for a pound of Bourbon Smoked Ham (you’ve got to get this!). The lady behind the counter flatly said, “You don’t want that. If you don’t like bourbon, you’ll not like this. I don’t like bourbon. I don’t like this ham.” I replied, “You sold me. I’ll only take a half pound of it.”
“Anything else?” she asked after she reluctantly bagged the ham she just sliced. “I’ll take a pound of the teriyaki chicken breast.” “Oh, you don’t want that. It’s too salty.” I bought it anyway.
I walked away chuckling. While the lady did what I asked and executed her slicing duties with skill, her “sales” skills were horrible. I could have simply walked away and purchased nothing. But I’m a fan of Boar’s Head products, and I was not about to leave without it. I, the customer, had to overcome the “sales” person’s incompetence to get the product I wanted.
My point here is this: listen to your customers. Whether you are communicating with them face-to-face, phone-to-phone, Zoom-to-Zoom, email, etc., listen. And then present your services in a way that makes sense to your customer. Speak their language. Answer their questions (even the unasked ones). Provide feedback to learn more about them. If they reach out or want more, follow up and follow through.
Speak the language of your customers and potential customers. Be clear. If your message about your company, products, services doesn’t resonate with your customers and potential customers, you’ll end up spinning your wheels or simply be ignored. The best marketing, sales, and service efforts keep the end in mind – the needs and desires of your customers. If you do this, your company will be viewed as relevant and you will add value and create loyalty.
Sell the bourbon smoke ham and then cross-sell me the mesquite smoked turkey. Don’t tell me I won’t like it. I already do. Speak my language and make the sale. I’ll come back!
We’ve all seen this in sports. The team that everyone thought would be a “sure thing” and would come out on top is beaten by what seems to be a less talented team. The big tournament comes around and the first seed is shockingly out of the game early on and can’t recover.
The talent appears to be lop-sided towards the assumed winner. Their record shows this. Their fans “just know” that they will win. The coaches have prepared their teams and plays are in place. Yet the team that everyone thought was already beaten before the game begins ends up as victors.
How can this be?
If you follow sports at all, you’ll understand that so much of the game is won or lost by that 5″ space between the ears. Winning teams put in the practice and discipline. They execute their plays with precision.
But, somehow something creeps into their thinking…
“We’re good enough…”
“That other team doesn’t have a chance…”
“We’re the shoe-in…”
And then the other team – that no one sees any hope of winning – comes out hungry. They out hustle the assumed champions. They see small mistakes that are being made and they take full advantage. And then the crowd starts to notice. “How can the score be this close!?” And then the crowd sees their champions falter. They witness the battle that is going on in the players’ minds. The underdogs are pulling away. The underdogs are winning. The underdogs are cutting down the nets as victors.
Here’s our reminder for today: As leaders, don’t assume the victory. Work for it. Keep the fires of passion burning in your team. Remind them of their mission. Cast your vision. Keep your team forging ahead. Execution of the mission is critical. Don’t assume anything. Work towards that win, every day, with every encounter, in every action, with every decision.
When your team wins, make sure they have left their A game on the court. Celebrate with them. Prepare them. Help them fine tune their skills. And then ramp up to do it again and again.
This past year and a half has been challenging, right? Ponder this fact:
“The number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed. From January to September 2020, 315,220 people took the anxiety screen, a 93 percent increase over the 2019 total number of anxiety screens. 534,784 people took the depression screen, a 62 percent increase over the 2019 total number of depression screens.” (https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america)
And then there’s this from the same source: “More people are reporting frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm than have ever been recorded in the MHA Screening program since its launch in 2014. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread rapidly in March 2020, over 178,000 people have reported frequent suicidal ideation. 37 percent of people reported having thoughts of suicide more than half or nearly every day in September 2020.”
Now I am no counselor nor will I pretend to be. If you need to seek an educated counselor, please do so. That can be a great investment in you if you are suffering from anxiety and depression. In my past, I have met with a counselor who did so much good for me. It is worth it.
In my experience, here are a few things that have helped me battle anxiety and depression. Again, I’m no counselor. I’m simply sharing my story in case it will help you.
Stay Connected with Positive People
I have found in my own life and from observations of others that when a person becomes stressed and depression starts to set in, withdrawal happens. Pulling away from people that support and love you – this is dangerous. I can lose perspective so quickly when I withdraw from others. I only end up playing “bad tapes” that can drive me deeper and deeper into depression.
Years ago, I had breakfast with a friend who was going through an ugly divorce. “I just don’t know what to do right now!” he told me that morning. “Doing what?” I asked. “I just want this all to go away and I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something right now.” I replied, “You are. You’re meeting with me. Don’t forget the friends you have. We are here to support you, to listen to you, to help in anyway we can. Stay connected.”
He did. And he was able to navigate those stormy relationship waters.
Pay Close Attention to What You are Saying to Yourself
Dr. Shad Helmstetter wrote one of my favorite books – What to Say When You Talk to Yourself. Self-talk – and we all do it – is very important when you and I are fighting anxiety and depression. I would highly recommend this book and practice what Dr. Shad teaches. Our tendency is to talk negativity into our lives. We replay so many “programs” we’ve grown up with. But there is hope! You can re-program your brain. You can.
Jon Acuff in his book Soundtracks approaches the same topic. He also talks about former programs, soundtracks, that we habitually play. To overcome negative thinking, Jon tells to create positive soundtracks that we say to ourselves often.
If you know you overthink and talk negatively to yourself, get these books. Fight for a healthier you.
Walk it Off
I’m not suggesting that exercise, even a 20 minute walk, will eradicate anxiety in your life instantly, but doing something as simple as taking a walk has huge benefits for our physical and mental health. Here’s what one article listed as benefits:
Protect Your Heart – in just a 20 minute walk everyday, you may reduce the risk of heart issues by 30%.
Slim Down – for many of us, weight gain is a point of anxiety. Consistent exercise can improve your health in so many ways. You already know this. Try walking for 20 minutes a day. Then slowly increase it. Clear your head. Breathe. Walk.
Keep Your Memory Sharp – in one study, people who walked regularly tested better on memory tests and the levels of the protein in the brain responsible for learning increased.
Improve Your Mood – a study by Cal State University found that the more steps you take during the day, the better your mood. Endorphins are released and you will feel happier.
Sleep Better – who doesn’t want this?! Harvard conducted a study that revealed that those who moderately walk every other day feel asleep 50% faster.
Your life and my life have good memories we can recall. Do it. Remember something funny from you past and laugh about it again. Remember something that really touched you and feel those feelings.
Years ago, one of my teams did something for me that still moves me today. They (unknown to me) surveyed everyone on the teams that I led asking them what they think about when they think of me. They then presented me with the following. This is how they saw me:
I look at this often. I remember. I become grateful that I had the privilege of leading this team. They made me laugh, think, and they helped make me better.
Don’t let our current world-wide issues drag you down. You can do very practical things to improve your mental health. As I wrote earlier, practicing these ideas is an investment in YOU. You are worth it. You truly are.
Those that know me know that I enjoy connecting with others whether it is over coffee, a meal, or a chance meeting. I’ve been blessed to have had some quality networking meetings the past few weeks. In reflecting back on the people and these meetings, I’ve learned a few things:
People are generous with their time. That is so true of my community. I know the other person is sharing valuable time with me, so I invest some time before meeting preparing. I write out questions that I have for this person so I can get to know them better and learn about their journey thus far. I want to honor their time commitment with me by making the most of our time.
People have struggles just as I do. I have heard stories of jobs not going well and stories of heartache when someone has been fired. Listening and empathizing is a way to connect and encourage others. And they can do this for you, too.
People are passionate. I love seeing and hearing how the other person has found their niche and are running hard in that direction. I love hearing how they are impacting their world. I love hearing what they have learned along the way.
People share resources. I have learned that there can be a fair exchange of ideas and further connections that will benefit us both. I have heard about new books to explore, places to visit, and people to meet.
If you have yet to try something like this, give it a try. Who can you reach out to?
A senior manager at your workplace
An admired community leader
A business owner in your city
When you land the appointment and have the meeting, end by asking if they could connect you to someone who you can continue this networking time with. I don’t believe I’ve ever had anyone refuse to do this.
Give this a try and see what you’ll learn from networking. Meet someone new. Learn something new.
Earlier this morning, I was listening to John Lee Dumas’s podcast, Entrepreneurs on Fire. Do you know this one?
JLD offers up a new podcast EVERY SINGLE DAY where he interviews entrepreneurs around the world. And he’s been doing this for years!
The episode I listened to this morning featured Jeffrey Madoff. According to the podcast bio on Jeffrey, his “careers span fashion design, film production, teaching, author, and playwright. His book, Creative Careers, was an Amazon bestseller.”
This is a great conversation to listen to if you are in the business of attracting customers, retaining customers, and/or bringing ideas and innovation to market. What follows are some questions I heard on the podcast that I am asking myself as well as asking you as we grow our businesses.
When it comes to ideas that we are working with…
Are our customers (and potential customers) in love with your idea?
How can you “test” your idea with customers before a grand rollout?
How is the love you feel for your idea stuck in the vacuum of limited perspective exposure?
How can we innovate and bring ideas to the market that will make an impact? Here are some things that came up in this podcast:
Be sure your ideas are serving the interests of your customer/potential customer. Are you trying to sell your service/product from the perspective of your customer? Are you speaking their language during the promotion of your innovative idea?
Understand the customer’s needs/wants. Here is a point that Jeffrey made: how are we making ourselves necessary to our customers? You may sell them on an initial, gateway idea that gets them in your door. But how are you retaining this customer? How are you adding value beyond this initial offering? How are you making your company necessary so the customer is not tempted to look elsewhere for similar services?
Constantly build relationship bridges to your customer. Following up and following through with your customers will build loyalty. We all know that people buy from people they know and like. Building relationships goes far beyond the sale. This is the place where you truly understand what your customer wants and needs and then delivering on that. This is the place where your ideas can be tweaked to better serve your customers. This is the place where you can build a cadence of partnership, trust, and relevancy.