You Are What Your Record Says You Are

The National Football League just concluded the fifth week of its season. At this stage, there are usually a handful of surprises; winning teams that pundits didn’t think would be as successful, and losing teams thought to have been better. TV “experts” will list their own NFL power rankings of the best teams, which often contradict the actual standings. Players and coaches on underperforming teams will sometimes explain how the situation isn’t really as bad as the record indicates. 

NFL Hall of Famer and two time Super Bowl champion head coach Bill Parcells said “You are what your record says you are.” His point was that your record speaks for itself. Championships are won by points scored on the field, not by counting up the  the woulda-coulda-shouldas off the field.

Fellow speaker and author Al Walker told me “we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, the rest of the world judges us by our results.” Think about that. How many times do you have an idea about something you want to accomplish but never take the steps to follow it through to fruition? Perhaps you lacked the drive to tackle the process, didn’t know how or where to begin. The great Zig Zigler use to hand out business cards shaped in a circle with the letters TUIT printed on one side. He said it was for people who hadn’t completed a task because they hadn’t gotten around to it, or in this case a round TUIT, now they got one!

There are less than 12 months remaining in the year. How many of your 2022 goals were accomplished this year? What intentional behaviors are you capable of  making a commitment in order to achieve success? You are what your record says you are.

Posted 8 weeks ago

Maverick Success Overcoming Obstacles

Top Gun: Maverick surpassed $800 million in world-wide ticket sales this past week. For star Tom Cruise, it is the highest grossing movie in his illustrious career, spanning five decades and producing such hits as Mission Impossible, Jerry McGuire, and A Few Good Men. Even though Cruise tasted success at a young age, with hits like The Outsiders and Risky Business while still in his teens, he had to battle many obstacles growing up. 

I mentioned Tom Cruise’s beginning in my book Fully Inflated: Regain Your Bounce in Life, in the chapter discussing self-limiting beliefs. Cruise grew up in poverty, with a father who often beat him and his three sisters. He had difficulty meeting people, making friends, and adjusting. This can likely be attributed to his family being frequently on the move. By the time he graduated, Cruise would have attended 14 different schools.

This is just one example of an individual who faced adversity growing up and didn’t allow that to restrict what he was capable of achieving. One of the main reasons why some people succeed while others struggle is belief. You will constantly encounter both challenges and opportunities in life. Success requires you to believe in yourself. You will often come across doors that lead to success. You must have the courage to walk through them when they open, and the strength to push back when you feel they are closing on you. What tends to hold us back is not our actual ability to accomplish something, but our beliefs in those abilities.

I often talk about fear and faith in my presentations. While they are polar opposites, they have much in common. Fear and faith both have to do with future events that have yet to happen, and how you perceive the outcome of those events to occur. Fear is the negative outcome; you are afraid of heights because you are fearful you may fall. Faith is the positive income; you have faith that if you change jobs the new job will put you in a better situation than your current job. 

Success requires you to push back the gremlin of self-limiting beliefs and focus on what you can accomplish, rather than get stifled with fear of what will go wrong.  Faith is what allows you to enter the danger zone and come out the other side a better person for it. Cue Kenny Loggins, take the ride, you got this!

Posted 24 weeks ago

Keep Your Ship Afloat

A ship sinks, not because of the amount of water around it, but due to the amount of water it lets into it.

We have influencers all around us. Whether it is the people we engage with, the talking heads on cable news, or those who pop up on social media. Unfortunately, all are not positive. It seems over the last few years the outside influencers have become even more negative, beating us down, souring our mood, and leaving us feeling a little deflated. The key is to build an impermeable wall to block those influencers and keep them from getting inside.

In his bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey says we are “a result of our decisions, not conditions.” While there are influencers all around us, it is ultimately our decision on how we will allow them to impact us. Nothing can make you feel sad, mad, upset, frustrated, etc. unless you allow it. In Ireland, people don’t define themselves with a negative emotion. Instead of saying “I am sad” the Irish will say “sadness is upon me.” They do not become the emotion. Rather it is more like a rain coat they will shortly shake off and remove.

Keep the negative influencers outside, and don’t let them come in and cause your ship to start sinking. That’s the secret to keeping your ship afloat, and embarking on a great journey to achieving your personal best.

Posted 34 weeks ago

Including Part-Time Employees in Your Training Initiatives

Employees are your greatest asset. As an organizational leader, it is important to create training and developmental opportunities for all of your employees. While many companies I have worked with have training programs in place, there is one segment of staff that often gets overlooked - the part-time employee.

I worked with a company that was utilizing a lot of part-time employees. These employees were predominately college students whose work availability was limited. As a result, they did not receive the same level of training as their full-time counterparts. The company’s rationale was the employees were “only part-timers” and were scheduled nights and weekends when other staff wanted off. 

The problem with this approach is the company is now servicing their customers with underdeveloped employees, without the product knowledge, customer service, and problem-solving skills possessed by full-time employees. Part-time employees mean individuals are working part time hours; not providing part-time performance for the hours they do work. Your customers deserve to be serviced by an employee fully equipped with the skills and knowledge to meet their needs. Disgruntled customers leave, regardless of whether their experience was with a full or part-time employee.

The employees benefit from training as well. It is difficult to truly feel part of the team when you are not afforded the same opportunities as the rest of the team. Some employees accept a part-time position to get their foot in the door at a company. Without proper training, these employees will be at a disadvantage for promotional opportunities. 

Here are a few ways to make training available to part-time employees: 

  • Promote training opportunities for all employees; encourage managers to be flexible and allow employees to attend.
  • Schedule training on different days. At my previous credit union, we would schedule the same class multiple times, on a different day each time. This would increase the opportunity.
  • Ask employees if they can change their schedule to attend training. Just because an employee is always scheduled off on a particular day does not mean they are unavailable to work.
  • Take advantage of the summer months when college students are out of school.
  • Embrace recorded webinars and other eLearning opportunities which allow employees to participate on their schedule.
Posted 185 weeks ago

Inspire, Convince, and Persuade

Leadership expert John Maxwell says “leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” I have spent the past two years traveling throughout the country facilitating leadership workshops.  One of the biggest challenges facing managers is how to make their employees to perform up to their expectations. In my experience, I have found managers cannot make employees do anything. While some employees are self-motivated to give their best performance at work, others require more. Effective leaders must be able to inspire, convince, and persuade employees to provide their best effort at work.  

To persuade is to show employees the benefits of their actions. This could be incentives or career growth, or could be a benefit to the company, teammates, customers, or vendors. To convince is to show employees the negative effect. This could effect them personally; such as a disciplinary action, demotion, or loss of income, or an effect to a larger group.

Inspiring employees is to be the type of manager to which they want to provide their best effort. Inspiring employees is all about trust and caring. In order to effectively inspire employees, they must be able to answer ‘yes’ to three questions about you:

  1. Can I trust you?
  2. Do you care about me as a person?
  3. Do we share the same values?

Leaders can demonstrate they are a person who can be trusted by ensuring everything they say and do increases their credibility. Simple steps such as communicating honestly and openly, following through on promises, and being accessible go along way in creating trust. Taking time to understand your employees’ needs and what they care about most shows you care about them as a person. Actions and behaviors, in good times and bad, demonstrate values.

Being able to convince, persuade, and inspire individuals is the key to influence. Performing all three effectively will result in higher performance from your employees.

Posted 188 weeks ago

Success Tips from Batman

Last week marked the 80th birthday of a pop culture legend - Batman. Over the past eight decades since he first appeared in a DC Comic, Batman has appeared in comics, television, movies, toys, games, apparel and more.

Batman also serves as an important role model in the workplace. I initially surmised he could be a role model for everything you needed to know at work as a chapter in my first book, Promotions Are Not Served At The Deli Counter. In the eleven years since that book was published, I presented my Batman principles countless times at conferences, seminars, and workshops. In celebration of his recent eightieth birthday, here is everything you need to know:

It Starts with Hard Work
Unlike most superheroes, Batman possess no special powers. He did’t arrive from a different planet, survive a freak accident or experiment, or was bit by a bug. His success was dependent upon intellect, reasoning, use of technology, and dedication.

Your success is the result of the work you put in as well. Individuals who possess a desire to improve, a willingness to change, and aptitude to learn something new each and every day are the ones who ultimately experience success.

You Cannot Survive with Only One Tool
One of Batman’s most recognizable accessories is his bat utility belt. The belt contains multiple tools, each serving a purpose. Batman relies on the different tools in his belt to overcome obstacles and achieve his goals. 

Employees must possess different tools to succeed in the workplace as well. Employee tools can be grouped into three main categories: characteristics such as integrity, friendliness, and engaging; skills such as effective communication, time management, and delegation, and life-long learning which includes previous experience, and education.

Determine Your Goal; Create Your Path
The legend of Batman began when a young Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents killed during a mugging. He dedicated the rest of his life to fighting crime and helping others.

While we tend to judge ourselves by or intentions, everyone else judges us by our results. We are surrounded by goals. Some are task-based such as completing a report. Others are performance-based such as increasing revenue. Individuals also have goals which are career-based such as achieving a promotion. Regardless of the type, you cannot achieve your goal without creating a plan for success and taking action. 

Develop a Network to Help Win Your Battles
While Batman may have been the marquee name, he relied on his vast network to be successful. Robin helped him battle the criminals. Commissioner Gordon alerted him of situations which required his attention. Lucious Fox was responsible for inventing the equipment he used, and Alfred help him stay organized.

Being successful at work requires a network of people as well. The network should be diverse people whose strengths compliment your weaknesses, and offer different thoughts, opinions, and ideas than you. Leadership expert John Maxwell says you should surround yourself with “people who think differently than you do, as long as they share the same values as you.” 

Stay Fresh and Embrace Change
Batman has experienced different incarnations over the past eighty years. It was important for the character to evolve over the years to stay relevant and have continued success. The campy Adam West version that was a hit on television in the 1960s would likely not be taken seriously today.

As an employee, it is important to embrace change in your workplace. Employees who are stuck doing things the same old way are bound to be left behind by others who have innovated to be more efficient, profitable, and successful.  

Be Dependable
When crime was occurring, Batman was there. Commissioner Gordon knew whenever he displayed the Bat-signal, he could depend on Batman to come through to save the day.

People are depending on you as well. As an employee, you always want to keep commitments and do what you say you are going to do. Actions speak louder than words. Not performing to the expectations of the company, your manager, or your own by the promises you make will destroy credibility. Just like the movies, when credibility is compromised, nobody wants to return to see the sequel.

Posted 192 weeks ago

Providing Effective Feedback

One of the most stressful part of a manager’s responsibilities is providing feedback to employees who are underperforming or doing something incorrectly. Some managers use the sandwich approach to offer feedback: tell them the negative, sandwiched between something nice. In my experience, the problem with the sandwich approach is sometimes the meat of the feedback gets lost between the niceties. It is like trying to find a slice of meat in a Subway sandwich among the bread, lettuce, tomatoes, and other toppings. 

Feedback should be direct. Feedback is only negative if delivered in a negative way. During my coaching workshops, I educate managers on being able to provide direct, positive feedback which addresses the issue and works to improve behavior by ensuring it contains the following five elements.

Feedback is Current - when you delay feedback, employees may not realize the impact of their actions. The old adage is no news is good news, and if nobody said I was doing anything wrong, I must be doing it right. Other employees are likely to believe the behavior is acceptable and may follow suit as well. Also, the longer you delay feedback, the more likely the details of employee behavior is forgotten by you and/or the employee. 

Feedback is Focused on Specific Behaviors - employee behaviors are observable, measurable, and factual. Feedback should be delivered using “I” statements: I saw, I heard, I reviewed. This lets your employee know you are aware of what they have done, or failed to do; coming from your perspective of the situation. 

Sometimes managers address vague situations such as attendance or attitude. Focusing on the specific employee behavior allows the manager to detail what has specifically occurred. Instead of telling the employee he or she has been “frequently late” specifically inform them “I have documented you being late ten minutes or more, six times in the last month.”

Feedback is Not Personal, Judgmental, or Accusatorial - feedback should not be a personal attack on the individual. Dr. Stephen Covey teaches to seek first to understand, then to be understood. After detailing to the employee what I have observed, I then ask them “why?” This allows me to understand the employee’s perspective. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will agree with the employee; it helps you develop a plan to correct the behavior. 

Feedback is based on behaviors which Can be Changed - asking why also determines how easily the behavior can be changed. Maybe the employee’s lateness has to do with child care issues, and the employee is taking his/her child to school or daycare as soon as it opens. Perhaps you can work with them on adjusting their schedule. 

I spent 22 seasons as a high school wrestling referee. I worked a tournament with another official who lost his middle finger in a work accident. The correct signal for awarding a takedown was to raise both your index and middle finger simultaneously, awarding two points for the score. This official signaled with his index finger and pinky. Regardless of the feedback, there was no way he could change behavior to signal the way other officials did.

Feedback is Focused on How the Employee Can Improve Next Time - one of the reasons leaders get so anxious about providing feedback is because they struggle with how to tell employees they are doing something wrong. Feedback should be less about what is wrong, and more about how to make it better next time. You cannot coach an employee on what not to do without providing instruction on what is expected. Explaining the reason why a task is required to be performed a certain way will increase employee buy-in, and be more likely to change behavior.

Effective Feedback in Action

Assume you are the manager providing feedback to a teller who has experienced a few cash differences. After observing behavior, you notice she is only counting her cash once, and does not use the computer’s calculator. The feedback dialogue may sound something like this:

Manager: “I observed when you count cash,  you count it from your drawer once and hand it straight to the member. I was curious why you do it this way?”

Teller: “Oh, I just find it makes the transaction go quicker that way.”

Manager: “I understand that reasoning. The policy says to count it three times, once using the calculator. We train that way because it greatly reduces mistakes. I recommend doing that from now on. Can we agree on that going forward?”

In the example above, the feedback provided was direct and nonjudgmental. The manager understood the employee’s point of view, agreeing that her way was quicker. You informed her of the correct procedure and why it was important to adhere to it. You also asked the question at the end to confirm buy-in. Providing effective feedback in the manner described above will take the stress out of the process, and help improve employee performance.

Posted 202 weeks ago

How Focus Affects Your Goals

December is the month when many people assess their goals over the past twelve months in addition to creating new ones for the upcoming year. The key to achieving your goals is to focus on your actions and behaviors, and not get distracted with what others are doing. 

John Wooden was arguably the most successful college basketball coach of all time. As head coach at UCLA, his teams won an incredible ten NCAA championships over a twelve-year period, including seven in a row from 1967-1973.

One of the most amazing facets of Wooden’s coaching was how little emphasis he gave to scouting his opponents. While most teams employed an advance team of scouts to watch upcoming teams, discover their weaknesses and generate a report on how to take advantage of them, Wooden considered it little more than an afterthought. Wooden’s philosophy was to spend the time, energy, and resources improving his team.  His goal wasn’t to play to beat the other team, it was for his team to play at their best. Then, it didn’t mater what the other team was doing, his team would be unbeatable on their own.

Being preoccupied with what others are doing can distract us from our goals. There is a great picture from the 2016 Olympics of the 200-meter butterfly finals between Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos. Four years earlier, le Clos defeated Phelps in a close race for the Olympic gold medal. Leading up to the 2016 Games, le Clos frequently mentioned Phelps in interviews, and seemed more focused on Phelps than he was the gold medal. In the picture, you see both athletes swimming; Phelps is focused on the finish line, while le Clos has his head turned focusing on Phelps. It’s no surprise who won the race that year.

There can be a lot learned from the long-term success of John Wooden, and the failure of Chad le Clos.  Do you spend your energy and effort focusing on how you can make yourself better, or do you waste those resources worrying about what others are doing?  When you take your eyes off the finish line, you lose sight of your goal. 

As we approach a new year and new goals, focus more on the areas within your control. You cannot control what others think, say, and do. Instead of focusing on what others are doing and the things out of your control, invest your energy on the things in which you can make a direct impact. This will increase your productivity and help achieve your goals. 

Posted 209 weeks ago

Giving Praise

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for everything we appreciate, both personally and professionally.

 We interact with people on a regular basis. For many of us, our personal and professional success is contingent upon being able to collaborate with, influence, and inspire other to reach our collective goals. Since other people are vital to achieving our goals, it is important to take the time to appreciate the effort and production of our team. Leadership expert John Maxwell teaches one of the most important thing a leader can do is to add value to others. When we communicate with other people, we have the option to either help to raise them up or beat them down.

Take a moment to offer sincere thanks and praise to those who make a positive impact on our lives. Many times we don’t offer the sincere, powerful praise to others that they truly deserve. Some people don’t realize the powerful impact their actions and behaviors have on others. Offering proper praise is a great tool to validate behaviors and add value to others.

Below is a four-step process to offer sincere praise to others. I’ve used this technique many times and the responses are amazing.

  1. Use the individual’s name. This shows the praise is personal by directing it to the individual.
  2. Describe the specific behavior. Tell the person how you observed their actions
  3. Tell them the positive impact. Some people don’t realize how much their behaviors had a positive impact on others.
  4. Ask them to do it again.
Posted 211 weeks ago

Trick or Treat - Employee Development

I was recently talking with a Human Resources manager for a company with about 150 employees. She said their company didn’t have a structured training or onboarding program for their employees.

Now that’s scary.

Developing your employees is the most important thing you can do for them, your clients, and organization. Your employees should be your organization’s greatest asset. Consider your house. For most individuals, their house is their greatest asset. Do you take time to care for the house, clean it, and cut the lawn? Do you fix handle maintenance issues when they come up, or better yet, do you perform routine maintenance to avoid bigger problems? Do you wait for a leak to think about tending to the roof, or do you inspect it and care for it on a regular basis?  

For most of you, your employees are the face of your organization. The way they engage with your customers, members, and clients will determine the success of your company. Some managers worry about investing the time, energy, and resources on employees who may end up leaving their company. To me, they should be worried about not investing in employees, and having them stay!

This Halloween, employee development offers the ultimate trick or treat for your organization. Poor employee development will trick you into thinking your employees will perform as expected and improve on their own. Dedication to employee development will treat your employees to the resources they need to reach their fullest potential, and treat your organization to reaching your goals and continued success.

Posted 214 weeks ago