Consistency touches every area of life, business

Spring training for Major League Baseball players is all about practicing the right concepts and covering all likely baseball scenarios.  Once the skills are honed, what you hear from most managers, coaches and players is that they need to see consistency.

Sure, players might have a great spring and make the big leagues, but if they don’t consistently perform, they will be sent back to the minor leagues on the next bus.

Said one frustrated baseball player, “One night we play like King Kong, the next night like Fay Wray.”

Homerun slugger Hank Aaron summed it up:  “Consistency is what counts; you have to be able to do things over and over again.”

Former New York Yankee Manager Joe Torre said:  “Whatever your job is, consistency is the hallmark.  It’s much more important than doing something spectacular just once.  Do your job consistently and you will be considered good.”

Torre was talking about much more than baseball.  Life, like baseball, is all about consistency.  Consistency might sound downright boring, but it’s a critical element of success.

“Variety may be the spice of life, but consistency pays the bills,” observes Doug Cooper, author of “Outside In.”

Being consistent applies to all areas – school, work and family.  If you are raising children, you know all about being consistent.

If you are running a restaurant, you are very familiar with the importance of consistency.  Every food item must be served the same way every time.  Customers expect it.

I occasionally go to McDonald’s, not because they have the best hamburger, but because I know exactly what I’m going to get.  I don’t like surprises.

It’s the same with any brand.  When your audience sees and hears a consistent message from your brand, it reinforces your unique selling proposition in their minds.  By knowing what they can expect from your brand, and hearing it multiple times, they will begin to assign a higher value and trust in your business – and it shows that you take your business seriously.

HarveyConsistencyAre you aware of the three Cs of customer service?

  1. Consistency
  2. Consistency
  3. Consistency

It means providing predictable, reliable results to the customer or client every time they do business with you.

Employees should expect the same consistency as customers.  Employees should always know what is expected of them and how they will be treated.

“Success is neither magical nor mysterious.  Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals,” said the late Jim Rohn, a friend and crony of mine.

Big goals require three things:  a plan, commitment to carry out that plan and consistency.  Getting started is hard enough, but consistently carrying out your plan is more difficult.  Even the best business plans will fail without a dedication to consistency.

How many people started out the new year with plans to work out more, get in better shape and lose some weight?  Without consistency those resolutions go down the drain in weeks.

Say you set a goal to run a marathon as I did years ago and completed 10 of them.  You must organize a consistent practice schedule and be consistent in your workouts, rain or shine.  Missing a workout is like telling a lie, and the next lies come easier and easier.

Remember Aesop’s Fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.  A hare insulted a tortoise on account of his slowness, and vainly boasted of her own great speed in running.

“Let us make a match,” replied the tortoise.  “I will run with you five miles … and the fox yonder shall be the umpire of the race.”

The hare agreed, and away they both started together.  But the hare, because of exceeding swiftness, outran the tortoise to such a degree that she made a jest of the matter.  Finding herself a little tired, she lay down on a tuft of ferns that grew by the way, and took a nap.  She reasoned that, if the tortoise went by, she would know it and could with ease catch up and pass the tortoise to win the race.

However, when the tortoise came crawling by with slow but continued motion, the hare overslept and did not wake up, allowing the tortoise to win the race.

Are you a tortoise or a hare?  Keep your eye on the prize, and consistency will get you there.

 

Mackay’s Moral:  If you are persistent, you will get it.  If you are consistent, you will keep it.

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Try brainstorming to remedy cloudy thinking

An electric utility in the northwestern U.S. had problems with ice building up on its power transmission lines during the winter.  The company had to send linesmen out to climb the pylons that held the lines to clear off the ice and snow.  It was difficult and dangerous work, especially as bears sometimes wandered close to the pylons as the linesmen were working.

One day a group of linesmen got together for a brainstorming session, hoping to find a better and safer way to clear away the ice.  One linesman mentioned that a bear had actually climbed a pylon after him once.  That led to a humorous suggestion of placing honey pots at the top of the pylons to attract the bears.  Then, as they tried to get to the honey, they would knock the snow and ice free.

Then an administrative assistant said, “But we’d need to use helicopters to place the pots at the top of the pylons, and the vibrations would frighten the bears and chase them away.”

Eureka!  The answer was right in front of them.  Soon afterward, the company began sending helicopters up into the air – without honey pots – and using the vibrations and wind created by their motors and rotors to knock the ice down.

A casual comment had solved the problem.  And that’s the beauty of brainstorming.

many small light bulbs equal big one

Brainstorming is defined as a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from an individual or all members of the group.

The term was popularized by Alex Faickney Osborn in the 1953 book, “Applied Imagination.”  Osborn claimed that brainstorming was more effective than individuals working alone in generating ideas.

Brainstorming can be a powerful process for sparking creativity and stocking your supply of ideas.  It is like a password to open minds.  Brainstorming began when Osborn, who was presumably searching for an idea, decided to ask a few of his colleagues for input.  He set out five core principles upon which all brainstorming is built to this day.

1. Gather together a group of people into a room with plenty of easels and whiteboards.

2. Capture all ideas that come to mind, even if they sound crazy – especially if they sound crazy.

3. The more ideas, the better.  Your initial goal is quantity, not quality.

4. Do not apply critical thinking.  There’s no such thing as a bad idea – the evaluation process comes later.

5. All ideas belong to the group, so people should be encouraged to build on each other’s ideas.

These rules are probably very familiar to you; however, chances are you are even more familiar with the reality of most brainstorming sessions.  They can easily devolve into meaningless time traps if at least some semblance of organization isn’t present.

 If you haven’t come up with any good ideas lately, you might want to try different approaches to getting the creative juices flowing.  These are some of my favorite brainstorming techniques:

  • Swap problems.   Sometimes, the longer and harder you look for a solution, the more elusive it becomes.  A fresh set of eyes can make a big difference.   Have people write down their most difficult problem, and drop them all in a hat.  Then have everyone pick a problem from the hat and try to solve it.  Encourage people from different areas to get together and learn something about each another’s problems and skills.  This activity can kick start ideas and approaches that go far beyond the usual thinking.
  • Form a dream team.  Collect a small group of people to meet once a week.  Emphasize that each person has been invited for a reason.  Include creative types as well as technical experts, and at least a couple of people who are unfamiliar with the problem.  Limit attendance so everyone gets a chance to contribute.  Their only job is to generate, share, and discuss ideas for innovation.
  • Keep an open mind.  Don’t set limits on what kinds of ideas are acceptable.  If you’re leading, be careful not to dominate the session.  Halfway through the session, vote on the ideas.  Throw out the bad ones and seek ways to improve the good ones.
  • Look for bad ideas.  Hold a “dump the ideas” meeting with colleagues.  One topic: “What should we stop doing so we have more time and energy for innovation?”  This may seem like a reverse approach, but it can be incredibly useful.   Eliminating the clutter makes room for fresh approaches.

 

Mackay’s Moral:  Great brainstorms should produce plenty of en-lightning!

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Use the Mackay Sales Scalpel to sharpen selling techniques

Everyone is in sales.  Why?  Because from the time we wake up until our heads hit the pillow at night, we are continually:  communicating, negotiating, persuading, influencing and selling ideas.

Do you want to nail the sale?  The tool I use is called the Mackay Sales Scalpel.  It’s my sure-fire way to sharpen and pinpoint every sales situation.

As I see it, expert selling demands five essentials:

  • Fire – the drive to strive.
  • Formulate – the art of planning.
  • Fascinate – the gift of sizzle.
  • Follow-up – the discipline to control.
  • Finalize – opening the door to maximum opportunity.

Let’s start with Fire.  You have to have fire.  You have to love the fight.  You have to know how to ignite it and to keep it lit.

When you love what you do, you will never have to work another day in your life.  In fact, the subtitle to one of my books reads:  “Do what you love.  Love what you do.  Deliver more than you promise.”  That’s the spirit of the salesperson’s creed.

When times are tough, it may not be your fault for being down.  But it is always your fault for not getting up.  You have to be a believer to be an achiever.  Only a fired-up, high-energy workplace ignites tomorrow’s ideas.  The job of sales management?  It’s to keep the fire roaring.

hoBut no amount of fire will take you anywhere without a plan.  People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.  That brings us to ingredient #2 of the Mackay Sales Scalpel:  Formulate.  You need to formulate a plan.

Central to your plan:  Figure out how you’ll demonstrate the product.  A salesperson tells, a good salesperson explains, and a great salesperson demonstrates.

Dawn Dishwashing liquid came up with a brilliant product demonstration.  Remember the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill of 2010?  Dawn went to work sprucing up oil-caked wild ducks and made them spanking clean using their product.  What could be more convincing?  Great salespeople are always on the lookout for potent proof of product effectiveness.  Dawn seized an unforgettable moment.

Statistics are at the heart of formulating your plan, starting with where you get the bulk of your business.  Can you identify the top 20 percent of your customers?  Most sales people are familiar with the 80/20 rule:  80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers.  Well, this trend is headed strongly for 90/10.   That gives you a great idea of how to prioritize your time.

The third essential of the Mackay Sales Scalpel is Fascinate.  Advertising pioneer David Ogilvy said no one ever sold anyone anything by boring them to death.  There’s not a lot of difference between showmanship and salesmanship.  Mostly, you have to be likable, pleasant and listen well.  In our cold and unfriendly world, it can be fascinating to meet up with a genuine, honest and attentive person.  I have never known anyone to buy from someone they don’t like.

Want to fascinate people?  Start by smiling and listening.  Oh yes, there’s one other thing to keep in mind, but you probably know that already:  The sweetest sound in the English language is the sound of your name on someone else’s lips.

That brings us to the fourth element of the Mackay Sales Scalpel:  Follow-through.

Why is follow-through so important?  Selling is easy, but only if you work hard at it.  You have to do the details – relentlessly.

Few things drive repeat sales more than expert customer service.  No customer service, and pretty soon, no business.

In customer service, nothing counts like honoring commitments and meeting deadlines.  In sales, you have to nail the exact practices beforehand with manufacturing, IT, distribution, finance and other pertinent departments.

The key is to latch onto your customers and hold them fast.  Don’t just meet their needs.  Anticipate them.  Don’t wait for them to tell you there’s a problem.  Go out and ask them if there is a problem.

Now we come to Finalize—the fifth and final edge of the Mackay Sales Scalpel.  It’s all about closing.

The close is only the very last stage of the process.  You’ll never close effectively without mastering the whole process of negotiating first.  Find ways for both sides to legitimately win.  At any close, the super salesperson is already thinking about the service needed to support the deal or the referrals that a satisfied customer is bound to deliver.

 

Mackay’s Moral:  The sale begins when the customer says yes.

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Practice, practice, practice – perfectly

Everyone thinks practice makes perfect.  That’s wrong.

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said you have to add one word – “Perfect practice makes perfect.”

I heard a man complaining that he had ten years of experience at work but never got promoted.  Here’s the real question.  Did he have ten years of experience?  Or did he just have one year of experience repeated ten times?

Practicing only works if you correct – not repeat – your mistakes.

If you’re putting in a lot of work but not getting the results you want, you may be working hard doing what will never help you.  It’s never about how long or hard you work.  It’s always about the results you produce.

Just watch a bunch of ants carrying grains of sand.  At first their efforts look hopeless, but each time another ant piles on another grain of sand, the pile gets a little bit bigger.  Before you know it, all those tiny grains of sand have created a massive anthill.

Practice the right things today to get the results you want tomorrow.

  Harveypractice

That’s what practicing any skill can do for you.  The key is persistence, consistency and correctness.  And this advice is true across disciplines.

Persistence means you practice regularly no matter what.  Even if you don’t feel like practicing, do it anyway.  Once you break your routine, it’s harder to get back at it again.

In my case, it was learning a language.  Mandarin Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn.  But by studying for 20-30 minutes every day for three months, I was able to get up in front of a Chinese audience of 3,000 and address them in Mandarin for the first five minutes of my speech.

Consistency means practicing at the same intensity.  NBA great Larry Bird used to spend hours alone on the basketball court, practicing his shots.  Each time he practiced, he imagined that the game was on the line and he had to make the shot or his team would lose.  That’s the intensity you need for your practice.

Lithuanian-American violinist Jascha Heifitz said, “If I miss one day of practice, I notice it.  If I miss two days of practice, the critics notice it.  If I miss three days of practice, the public notices it.”

Novelist Sinclair Lewis didn’t mince words.  Once, he was giving a lecture at Columbia University on the subject of writing.  “How many here are really serious about being writers?” he asked the audience.  Almost everyone in the audience raised their hand.

“Then why in hell aren’t you all home writing?” challenged Lewis, and ended the lecture.

Don’t practice or train as if it doesn’t matter.  Training isn’t always a life-or-death matter, but one story from a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor illustrates how important thorough training can be.

In 1941, Robert Kronberger was a 24-year-old petty officer serving aboard the USS West Virginia, stationed at Pearl Harbor.  When the Japanese bombers commenced their surprise attack, Kronberger was in charge of the boiler room on the West Virginia’s port side.

As seven torpedoes ripped through three of the ship’s boiler rooms, the lights went out and water began pouring in. The bulkhead seemed to be collapsing around Kronberger and his men.  But no one panicked.  “I just did what I was trained to do,” he recalled many years later.  “When the lights went out, you did the same things you did when the lights were on.  You secured your firearms and your space, got the people that you were responsible for out, and tried to keep the ship from sinking.”

His ship lost more than 100 men that day, including the captain.  But during the crisis, Kronberger said, everyone was too busy to think about being scared.

In the days after the attack, when the fear crept in, his training continued to serve him.  “When you’d start to look for people, you’d feel a lot of sickness in your body.  You’d wonder where your best friend was – but it didn’t stop you from doing the job that you were trained to do.”

Maybe you’ll never be shot at while your ship is sinking beneath you, but knowing what to do, practicing it until it’s second nature, will keep you safe no matter what happens.

 

Mackay’s Moral:  The difference between ineffective and effective practice means the difference between mediocrity and mastery.

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Foster respect to improve results

One of my favorite old comedians, the late Rodney Dangerfield, was famous for his line, “I get no respect.”  Then he would usually add a line like, “I remember when I was a kid and played hide-and- seek.  The other kids wouldn’t even look for me.”

If you want those who work with you to respect you more, try this simple tactic.  Ask their opinions, and really listen to what they have to say.  When done well, this is a powerful workplace practice that produces tremendously positive outcomes.  Then take action from what you learn.  Employees will feel validated, and you will become someone who employees will flock to.

Example:  Jack, a manager, is talking to Judy, an employee who works for him.  He asks her what she thinks of a new company policy.  Judy answers with a thoughtful opinion.  But as she is telling Jack what she thinks, Jack sees his boss walk by.  Jack wants to ask his boss something important, and his mind focuses on that instead of on what Judy is saying.

Judy sees that Jack is no longer making eye contact or listening to her – even though he solicited her opinion.  She stops mid-sentence.  Jack is so lost in thinking about his question to his boss that he doesn’t even notice that Judy has stopped talking for a few seconds.

Embarrassed that he has been caught being inattentive, Jack tries to cover up the fact that he wasn’t listening.  Judy politely skims over the incident and says she needs to get back to work.  Later, Jack overhears Judy telling a co-worker about the incident.  “What a jerk,” she says.  “He asked me for my opinion like he cared.  And I was dumb enough to think he did.”

Jack flinched at her words.  He knew he appeared not to care even though he wanted to hear her ideas.  He realized that he had damaged his relationship with an employee.  He knew that he had to make an effort to be a better listener in the future, and vowed to repair the damage over time.  He also knew that he had learned one of the most valuable lessons a manager can learn:  That listening to what his employees have to say is a priority and should be treated as one.

Of course, when I think about respect Aretha Franklin immediately comes to mind.  Her blockbuster hit “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” is timeless.  As the lyrics advise, find out what respect means to employees.

respect

Half of all American employees think they’re not treated with respect by their employers or managers, according to www.discoverysurveys.com.  When this happens, employees tend to lose respect for their bosses and don’t trust them.  They also become resentful, less motivated and no longer committed to their employers.

To minimize this problem, treating people with respect has to begin at the top of an organization.  If senior managers treat each other and their subordinates with respect, this sets the stage for respect among all employees.

Employee suggestions should be acted upon, rather than just ignored or ridiculed.  Simply asking for input will gain some employee respect, but acting upon good suggestions is an imperative.  Employees must also be given credit for the idea.

Allowing for scheduling flexibility gives employees the idea that their employers respect them enough to let them get their work done according to their own schedule.  Letting them come in late or leave early on occasion is a strong way of showing respect and trust.

Making employees aware of the financial condition of the company and the reasons for various decisions also lets them know the company trusts them.  If cost-cutting is necessary, solicit ideas from them.  Inviting their input demonstrates respect for their opinions.  An added bonus is that the people in the trenches have a unique and valuable perspective.

Investing in employee training and career development is an investment in the employees themselves.  They will respect the company that provides it.

Providing immediate and positive feedback should be used at all times, not just the annual office party where it typically seems forced.  If your employees do good work, commend or compliment them to encourage their behavior and gain their respect.

As you work to reach your goals, remember that others also have goals and are also working hard.  Respect people for what they are and for what they stand for – even if you don’t agree.

 

Mackay’s Moral:  Be respectful or be regretful.

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