Tuesday, January 24, 2017

We are our HABITS!

We are NOT the end result of the goals we set for ourselves! At least I do not want to be defined this way. Rather I believe we are the HABITS in our lives because they perfectly capture "what" we do and how we do this "what". For example are you a hiker if once every year you walk 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, with the goal of walking the entire trail in your lifetime? My answer would be yes, even if this is your only hiking activity for the year. Why? Because the work and preparation it requires to walk 200 miles requires a HABIT in your life that prepares you for this activity. So, while we may be recognized for having "hiked the AT", those who are hikers are going to be aware of the effort you put forth in preparation, as much as the completion of the act. In other words, those who KNOW the effort of your goal define you to themselves more by your HABITS of preparation than the achievement, because the HABIT enabled the achievement; and those in the "know" understand what it took for the achievement to be realized.

I walked the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim to Rim (r2r2r) last September with one of my brothers ( have two) and one of my sons (I have three). We did it for the "bucket list" achievement of being able to say (BRAG!!) that we'd done it. And we did do it, 46.3 miles, over 110,000 steps, 22,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, and over 12K calories burned in 22 hours. There are a few people that I know who are aware of the training routine we three hikers followed, so they have an appreciation of the effort it took for this achievement. That effort has established HABITs for me that I expect to last a life time. I eat better, I exercise regularly although not the same extent I did training for our r2r2r, I got to feel again the satisfaction of a long period of hard work paying off, and I spent some terrific time with family members creating a story that will last my lifetime and perhaps longer. (My father immortalized our trip in the family Christmas letter, including a picture of us a the South Rim). Most people will look at this trip as the singular activity of making the hike, I see it as the culmination of months of effort, achieved by having HABITs.

Like you I have professional achievements I want to realize, I have a host of others that are personal that I also want to complete, and I have hobbies that are wonderful diversions from work and life. I am able to enjoy all of them because I prioritize all of them. The HABITs I have help me with the structure I need - because they are also time bound. Getting something done within a certain period of time requires effort and focus. The HABIT of putting the important and essential on my calendar ensures that I block time in my "professional" day to work on that which enables success. But I also have HABITs that support my strategic and long term interests.

For example I have another hobby, model trains. I have a HO gauge layout at my office. I like running trains, but more than that I like building the layout. This hobby can be as simple or as complex as you desire (go to YouTube and search for Model Train Layouts...you'll see what I mean). Space is a great limiting factor for running model trains, my space is limited to 5 feet by 9 feet, but by layering and using the vertical space available to me ,as well as the horizontal, I have crafted a hobby space that enables me to experiment and craft with carpentry, electricity, arts and crafts (think diorama and you'll understand), and patience. Nothing teaches patience like running small plastic and metal cars on a hand built layout. I used to set time frame goals for finishing part of my layout, but I never get to them because somewhere in the process I wandered down an unexpected path of learning and spend time on a different aspect of the hobby. My point?? simply that this HABIT provides an escape that is not time bound because hobbies are lifetime activities and this HABIT is simply about taking take to have fun, not "finish".

My work life is very different because it is very much time bound. Months, Quarters, and Years all measure success and achievement. Revenue leads to Profit and this pays the bills, at the company and for my family. Work in Sales Leadership cannot be 100% It-Will-Happen-When-It-Happens, this will not keep the lights turned on. Sales Leadership requires HABITs that reinforce the time bound; it takes repetition and improvement - HABIT. So this is where it all comes together. I didn't make it across and back in our r2r2r by deciding three weeks before the trip to "get in shape". We worked for months practicing, getting stronger, trying new ideas, eating different foods, figuring out how to get more effort into an hour than we were able to put forth a few weeks earlier. Our HABITs enabled our success because they enabled the preparation and effort that lead to achievement. I hiked over 1,000 miles of training distance for that one day (I went up/down Stone Mountain 10 times one Saturday, back to back to back to ....). 

I know that if you do not have HABITs in your day then you do not have the structure in your approach to reach the achievements you desire for yourself, your team, or your company. Be known by those who understand for your HABITs, as they are ones who truly understand what your achievements really represent.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

We = Important to Me!

(Note: This was previously posted by me in another blog that is no longer active)

When "we" need to change we're in the act together. We means "us"..."you and I"..."together".  When you need one of your sales reps to make a change I've found that it helps to use the word "we". Remember, I'm a Cover Band so this is not original to me. I probably got this from marriage counseling or a guest speaker at a conference. So why use "we"? Actually there are several good reasons. 

First, if only they (your Rep) needs to make a change, as in "You need to improve your...." then there is something broken on only one side of the Sales Leader/Sales Rep equation for success. Your people need to know you're committed to their success, they won't follow you otherwise. So put yourself on their side, let them know how their success is key to your success. I learned from Michael Hyatt to set a goal for myself of each of my reps making their year end bonus. Their success enables my success.

Now of course there are changes which are entirely on them, truly a  "you need to change", but I think most conversations which will discuss a change that begin with the word "you" are going to be quickly followed by the words "are fired". Because whatever it was the "you" did is unrecoverable. However, if it is a performance or growth related issue and you're beginning to work with your rep on a change, then a Sales Leader has to put themselves in the resolution equation.

Change requests when made with empathy have a greater impact and a higher probability of success. Using "we" lets your Rep know that you the Sales Leader are going to work alongside them. Naturally your side of the work could ultimately be firing them if they don't make the change, but in most cases the "we" for a Sales Leader is the plan for improvement. The LEADERSHIP part of our title. Most struggling reps don't want to be in that position and are trying as best they can to improve, if not and they've given up, your conversation is going to start with the word "you". A rep who has quit on the job is poison to the rest of the team and needs to be gone immediately.

So when you're working with your Reps try thinking and speaking in terms of "we" - such as...."We need to work on improving your..." or "We need to change how ..." If it's a "We" then I'm in the investment  - so it has to be important to me as well. Words without actions are useless when leading type A Sales Reps. So whatever your "we", make sure it's important to "ME". Your reps will smell through BS and the latest motivational line before you get it out of your mouth, if they don't....fire them because they can't read their clients intentions. If your people cannot tell when you're being sincere they need to find another career.

Good Luck and remember....Nothing happens until something gets sold!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Asking Questions in the right places

Right now my country (United States) is in the midst of a transition of responsibility from a Democrat President to a Republican. I specifically use the word responsibility because I do not want to use the word power. I do not believe our Government has power over us, they may feel they do, but as long as I have a passport and means, then I am a willing participant in this democracy and can choose to leave - so they do not have power over me. Anyway, back to my point today, the US is in the midst of a transition and the "news" outlets are reporting to us that the outgoing guy's approval rating is increasing and the incoming guy's approval rating is sinking. These polls have been appearing regularly in the news for the last couple of weeks and whenever they do I have wondered to myself how they can be correct given what we know about the outcome of the election (Electoral College results), the popular vote totals, and how polls are conducted.

It occurs to me that this current polling environment is very similar to gathering information from an organization - your answers are going to vary greatly depending upon who you ask and where they are located. I'll explain...

The incoming guy lost to popular vote in the last election for several million votes. News stories have identified an interesting fact, if you exclude California from the voting then the incoming guy WINS the popular vote. The premise here is that California with its huge population, and being a Democratic leaning state (which is why the new guy choose to not campaign there), its sheer size and number of voters had a significant statistical impact on the percentages that make up the Popular Vote count. We are NOT going to discuss the merits of the Electoral College as this point, this is not a civics blog. However I can draw a comparison between California's population, polling, and finding answers. If you exclude the most populous and "left-leaning-never-voting-Republican" state from your poll, you end up with a truer picture of the past election. California is an outlier, statistically manipulating the results, influencing data with marginal impact on the outcome and true situation. This is not a shot at California - beautiful state and everyone should go visit. If you live there, please enjoy the scenery every chance you get.

My theory is this - polls in our current state of political division need to be weighted in the samples based on the election results. Specifically, don't over-poll in California (for example) if you want to get a true gauge on how the entire country feels about the new guy. While I am not saying this is what's being done, I am saying this is a bad idea and maybe these polls are not adequately weighting the sample sizes to include the "deplorables" who chose to vote for the new guy, rather than the old guy's successor. Fact checking and data gathering inside an organization as you seek to identify the true priorities and understand the aims of a company's Business Objectives ALSO requires a diverse sample size. This is true UNLESS there is a single decision maker and he or she has directly told you "I will make this decisions and will buy what I want". But we know that smart business managers are evenly distributing blame and responsibility by putting together teams to evaluate vendors, so it is highly likely you will not find too many Pattons during your sales calls.

By focusing rigidly on the opinions and desires of those we agree with it can become apparent to you that your plan, solution, pricing, and smile are the thing for which your client has been vainly searching until your arrival and you are the solution to all their problems. But, if you keep your sample size restricted to those who already agree with you, the ones to whom you have easy access, or those who are not "challenging" then there is a great possibility that you are missing key contributors and likely do not have the true picture of the situation. As a professional it is important to understand that those who disagree with you or have a different approach or opinion are not wrong. They are making decisions based on the facts as THEY see and understand them to be. Is there information here for you? Very likely there is and it's possible that their insights can enable you to add value beyond where you currently see your solution.

"Sherlock Holmes is an addict who gets high by solving crimes" (I have lifted this quote from the recent BBC series, Season 4, Episode 3). Sales Professionals are addicts who get high by winning, and stay buzzed for quite a while by winning big and winning the unexpected. Poll where your opinions are not the same as the person you are polling and stay buzzed longer than you thought possible.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Preparation, planning, and gates

In the new year I have a couple of "new" projects, some are "assigned" to me because of my existing responsibilities and others are my interests - being consistent with content for this Blog is indeed one of these projects. Last year at this time I had a single new project that required months of preparation, steady improvement, and the anxiety of the last few days before completion. My work preparing was constantly evolving in its nature - some days it was long and some days it was short. The long days were long - hours long, and the short days were heavy days - with taxing activities that wear you out. I was preparing to walk the Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) from the South Rim to the North Rim and back (r2r2r)- in a single day (under 24 hours was our goal). I had a team (family members), and we worked together in preparing for the endurance and the logistics of the endeavor.

As I have begun 2017 and the "new" projects I want to accomplish this year, I have compared the effort for last year's singular big project to this year's endeavors, not for the enormity of the task but for how to allocate time, learn from my progress, adjust for time available, and enjoy the feeling of preparation becoming success. Already this year I have had to adjust my expectations of my timelines, just as I did last year in preparing for a 46 mile one day hike. Hiking the GCNP in a r2r2r manner includes 22-thousand feet of elevation change, over 100-thousand steps, more than 12-thousand calories burned during the day, beginning in darkness, and ending in darkness. As we planned for our hike we took all of these elements into consideration and trained for them. The three of us were in very different states of physical conditioning - mine being the worst, or least fit. My brother had recently completed an Iron Man triathlon and my son had completed his 10-week USMC OCS course at Quantico. I had been walking the dogs twice a day for several years.

I have trained and competed in distance races in the past, so I knew there was plenty of hard work ahead. I got a strength training plan from my son, he is finishing his Exercise Physiology degree and knows "a little" about conditioning and getting in shape. I also knew that if you want to prepare for a long walk, you had better get some miles on your feet. According to my Fitbit I walked over 1,000 miles in preparation for this 46-mile "hike" - including the day I went up-down Stone Mountain in Atlanta continuously for 10 trips. Stone Mountain is a 2 mile round trip hike up and back down the mountain, with 600' of elevation gain to the top, so 10-up downs is 20 miles with 6,000' of elevation gain (almost 1.2 miles) and 6,000' of elevation loss. I climbed stadium steps at my gym for hours, with a 30 pound sandbag on my shoulders. I climbed a stair climber on multiple occasions for 2 hours at a 15-degree incline going 3.4 mph - wearing a 20 pound sandbag. I walked 30 miles in a day - several times. I got blisters, I got hungry, I ate energy bars, fig newtons, jerky, fruit, peanut butter, snickers bars...I built a foundation of strength, endurance, and experience that I could leverage.

All of this leads up to my point, I learned in 2016 that if you want to achieve big goals you have to have a plan and work the plan. You will have frustrating days (rain), you will have days where you can't get done what your plan calls for (travel, sickness) - but in the end, if you are consistent in working your plan then the achievement of your goal is a foregone conclusion of success. All goals have gates and measures of success or lack thereof. When you reach your gates and measure your progress as success, then you are on track. If you reach your gate and measure your progress as "not" being the success you anticipated, do you quit? This depends, are you turning in a proposal the next day or are you learning a new skill?

Building endurance is a very different "exercise" than learning a new skill, or deciding if your team has the right solution, pricing, positioning, and so forth to compete for a sale. BUT...the gates you set for measuring your progress toward a goal AND the fact that you have gates are the key to your success. Sometimes success is NOT finishing - if two weeks before my GCNP hike I was not able to go up/down Stone Mountain 10-times without "much" challenge then I should know I am not ready for this challenge. I may have been stronger, fitter, and prepared for a 30-mile walk in the Georgia Mountains, but not for the endurance needed at GCNP. This is what I have figured out about my current projects. I cannot complete these projects sooner than I prepare to complete then. I cannot just dive in without a plan and expect success. I cannot finish sooner than I am ready!

I spent several hours this weekend trying to figure out how to create directories and files on my Mac using Python. I know I will need this programming competency to finish one of my 2017 projects. I have found several tutorials on YouTube to teach me Python, I have a 30-year old degree in Computer Science, I should be able to dive right in and figure this out...the same way that my 50+ year of walking upright prepared me for a r2r2r at GCNP. This is what I learned - just because I know where I want to be, does not mean I can get there with short-cuts, without putting in the work to learn, prepare, and practice. I'm going back to the tutorials for the rest of January to establish a foundation upon which I can build. I am going to practice, make mistakes, have "ah-hah" moments, and enjoy the process of learning and preparing.

It is as much the journey as the destination - and the preparation along the way will make the outcome all the better.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Learning - continuing to seek, explore, improve

Learning is fantastic, I love to learn new things. I love that learning can occur with all the senses simultaneously or independently of one another. I love being able to learn in silence, I love being able to learn when it's thunderously loud. I love learning from reading, seeing, listening, touching, tasting, experiencing, immersion, sometimes even from lecture.

As Leaders we need to continue to learn by "sharpening the saw" or "investing in ourselves"...but what are the best and right approaches? How do we know what is beneficial to us and what is simply interesting? I feel compelled to argue that both are very relevant as one is specifically "sharpening" our saw and the other is an "investment" in potential and future.

Learning something new provides so many benefits to us on an emotional and cognitive level. Learning new work skills and ideas will improve our work and careers, with the possibility of seeing significant improvement. Standing out for improving likely leads to new opportunities both within and outside of your current organization. Sometimes climbing the ladder is luck and genetics, but most often it is driven by past success. Learning something new outside of our "work" environment provides added stimulation because of the opportunities for distraction from work. Developing new skills or interests provides us with energy and enthusiasm that carries over into our work life and persona. Who wouldn't rather work with and for someone who has interesting stories, hobbies, or talents?

This year I am learning the Python programming language because I want to create my own AI - simply for the goal of having a self contained Siri/Alexa/OKGoogle to do my bidding...plus I want to understand how they work. I listened to a Curious Minds podcast yesterday on Autonomous driving cars and the technology which has lead to their significant improvements over the past few years. Machine Learning is a key component of the "self driving" evolution and this story discussed a team whose machine learned something they didn't ask it to learn. It (the software program) DID NOT become self aware, as I understand the story, but it did learn to recognize faces in an environment which did not require or request that it do so.

In other words, software "learned" and it did so by pushing itself beyond its "defined" boundaries as established by its programmers. Daily we should strive for the same thing as the benefits are likely to be full of surprises and positive consequences.  Elon Musk and others have urged us to be wary of AI's because we do not fully understand what path they may choose to follow if "turned loose". Humans have no such risk from the side affects of knowledge. There is only upside for us as individuals, communities, and a people (species).

My boss wraps up our weekly meeting with the phrase, Go Forth and Be Brilliant - as of today this has new meaning for me.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Consistency to improve, reduce, add, trust, and so on.....

Consistency in the support bridge for Habit. It's equally arguable that you cannot have one without the other, but if you ask yourself with you rather be "consistent" or have a "habit" I'm guessing we'd rather be the former, than have the latter.

There are many ways to describe the slow, methodical approach to having more, less, better, and so forth. My favorite quote to illustrate the point is this, "How do you eat an elephant?"...... Easy, one bite at a time.

There are just as many ways to describe the process for consistent improvement; Incrementalism, 1% daily, good to great, and so on. We all know this is the true way to learning and improvement, just think back to your Elementary School education. The basic math and reading we all began with lead us to being strong readers, authors, accountants, coders, CPA's, and so forth. At that stage in our lives our minds were not ready for the big words, we were just getting a grasp of letters and spelling. We knew words because we used them, but what we didn't know was how use those words. We could count on our fingers, but we didn't know our 3's, 4's, 6's, or 9's.

It was necessary to get an strong handle on the basics before branching out into the more complex, the same is true with consistency that will lead to improvement, reduction, addition, more, or whatever may be your goals.

This year I want to write an AI for my own use - not because I have a Jarvis fetish, but because I like to understand how things work, always have. If I am interested in something I have a native desire to understand how it performs, why it does what it does. So for me, because I feel that AI's and self driving vehicles will be the norm for all of us in the next 5 years I want to understand the benefits of turning my persona over to Amazon or Google...think about this...if you're interacting daily with an AI that is controlled by a Super Corporation aren't you just filling in the holes for them?

My AI won't run in the cloud, I am going to run it locally on my own server...but I am way off track here, back to getting a strong handle on the basics. I cannot create my AI until I learn Python, a programming language. I know PL's, I have a BS in Computer Science that required me to learn COBOL, Pascal, Fortran, and Unix. I wrote programs in Basic for our family Radio Shack back in the 1980's...all of this means I am brilliantly ill equipped for today's Object Oriented PL world. However, what I do have is the core understanding of how PL's use Logic statements for making decisions. All of this means I have slowly and methodically learn Python via the Web and YouTube.

Even this entry is an incremental, 1%, good to great activity. Writing 1,000 words a day or for one hour is another of my personal goals for 2017. The incremental benefits for myself are the objective, being a more consistent writer with better use of words and phrasing. These post are part of that effort, they help me with critical thinking and provide a consistent practice in not ending sentences with a preposition.

I won't finish my goal in a day, my writing goals per se, because they have bigger picture implications for me...I have these great notes on an idea for a book. So here I sit on Jan 2 of '17 with TWO great plans for the year that are personal in nature and those which are professional in nature - and BOTH of them will require consistent use, improvement, expansion, new ideas, retrenching, and dedication. Being a successful Sales Professional requires all of these HABITS as well. So as I write this, the word "habit" is the logical choice for describing the activities (building blocks) that lead to being consistent.

If your habit is to go to the gym 5 days per week and work hard every time, using different muscle groups, elevating your heart rate, and resting when needed, you are going to see improvement in your attitude, diet, sleep, endurance, mental acuity, and brilliant ideas. But if you go to the gym 5 days per week and don't require more of yourself than the last workout (recovery days excluded) then it's much less likely you will see improvement.

Know your habits, understand how they impact your performance, find ways to bring habits into your life that enable you to sustain the consistency you need to achieve your goals. Remember they (habits and goals) and engrained and achieved in small incremental, 1%, good to great steps.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Over the holidays I began the list of things I want to accomplish in 2017. I also spent time thinking about "how" to use the tools and hacks that are available so I can FINISH what I propose to achieve. I am frequently motivated for brief periods of time by the inspirational words or others, only to get sidetracked by life and the shiny pebbles that capture my attention. This "Season" the shiny pebble is Artificial Intelligence (AI). So.....here I sit on 1/1/17 with inspiration for the new year, projects underway that I "feel compelled" to complete and new interests all pulling for my most FINITE of resource besides money, time!

I have considered putting my interests into two piles, diversions and accomplishments. Diversions being the things that create space and time for recharge and replenishment and Accomplishments being the results left behind that help define my impact on the world. Here's what I have so far.

Diversions                                      Accomplishments
Exercise                                         Create an AI
Model Trains                                  Continue to grow my business
Writing                                           Write the book (subject omitted for privacy)

All of my Diversions are the things I like to do and put up on my wall to look at, i.e. pictures, trains, pictures from my hikes, and so forth. All of my Accomplishments are the Sticky and Professional objectives I have for myself. For example, I want to continue to grow and expand my business, all the while hoping to write the killer "What I learned" book that will earn me enough to no longer need to grow my business so I can focus full time on my Diversions!

On top of all these interests and desires is LIFE....house, dogs, cat, kids, weather, marriage, friends, and so forth. Clearly tempo and pace are necessary, as is a plan for time management accompanied by  prioritization. I want to stop watching TV, streaming, and binging on junk.

Maybe the best resolution for 2017 is to only watch live TV events such as the news, debates (oh, right, not for another four years), and sports. This is why I committed to myself that I would write 1,000 words a day or for one hour....good ideas come from thinking an writing. I don't need to give up television (very impractical given the Super Bowl is a few weeks away), but I can give up certain channels and services (sorry Netflix, Hulu, Xfinity, and Amazon).  Ok - just thought of an exception - the treadmill - maybe Netflix only on the treadmill.

To create an AI I have to learn Python, to grow my business I need to review, monitor, teach, and review, to write the book I have to start (pages and pages of notes and idea exist, but I have to begin writing).

Structure to the day and evening is required - I hope the weather, dogs, cat, and the marriage will be accommodating.

good luck in 2017!

What I told my Sales Team today - My Cousin Revitalized Central Park in NYC

My mother is an unintentional revisionist historian, which means she typically gets the gist of a story correct, but sometimes flips around ...