A great sense of humor makes great sense

We’ve all heard that “laughter is the best medicine.”  It makes people happy and links us together.  Humor and laughter strengthen our immune system, boost our energy by destroying boredom and keep stress at bay.

Humor is equally beneficial at work, as it increases creativity, enhances communications, builds morale and minimizes workplace conflicts and tension.  People who use humor are generally seen as more approachable.

Humor may also help your company stand out, even when managing and accepting failure.  Back a few years, JetBlue had a great opportunity to put out such a message to its employees in a way that embraced risk, admitted failure and kept a sense of humor.


According to a story in BusinessWeek titled “How failure breeds success,” JetBlue made a decision that seemed like it would have minimal impact on customer satisfaction.  But the company was about to find out otherwise.

Eric Brinker, JetBlue Airways Corp’s director of brand management and customer experience, decided to change the in-flight snack mix that it served passengers.  JetBlue had been trying to limit its in-flight snacks to reduce costs and to avoid complicating service on flights.  Brinker had also heard that some of JetBlue’s customers had been asking for healthier snacks on flights.

So Brinker and his team replaced the Doritos-based Munchie Mix that it served in flight.  Brinker thought the customers would welcome this move in response to their requests.

But something unexpected happened.  The junk-food junkies voiced their protest.

These guys wanted their Munchie Mix, says Brinker.  He started to get letters from customers saying things like the Munchie Mix was the only reason they flew with JetBlue in the first place.  Brinker realized he had been wrong and was going to have to reverse his previous decision.

So on a fun-loving note Brinker launched his own “Save the Munchie Mix” campaign.  “Some pinhead in marketing decided to get rid of the Munchie Mix!” he wrote.  He asked employees to write poems and stories about why the snack mix should stay.  He kept it fun.  He reacted intelligently in the face of failure.  It’s a lesson JetBlue employees aren’t likely to forget.

Humor can also help end arguments.  According to “Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes”, Orson Welles, the well-known film director, had a longstanding feud with production manager Jack Fier on the film, “The Lady from Shanghai.”  Welles had decided that a certain set in the movie needed repainting on a Saturday, in time for a shoot on the following Monday.  When Welles approached Fier about the matter, the director was told that getting the set painted in such short order was impossible.  Welles was determined, however, and over the weekend gathered a group of his friends who volunteered their painting services.  The group broke into the studio’s paint department and repainted the set themselves, leaving a huge sign that read:  “The only thing we have to fear is Fier himself.”

Monday brought a new set of issues, when the real set painters arrived and found that the work had been done by non-union labor.  They called a strike, and Fier was required to pay a large sum to each member to compensate for the work they lost.  In retribution, Fier deducted the money from Welles’ fee and had his own sign painted that read:  “All’s well that ends Welles.”

The two men, who had been bitter rivals, then called a truce and in time became good friends.

April is National Humor Month.  With that in mind, I think it would be a good idea to introduce a new category on formal performance reviews that says, “Can laugh at themselves.”  I’ve always found a sense of humor to be an important skill.  I am impressed by employees who can diffuse a difficult situation with a well-timed, respectful jest.  I cheer for people who can admit their failings with good humor.  I would be a gazillionaire if I could bottle the formula for helping people take themselves less seriously.

I subscribe to the words of one of America’s greatest wits, Mark Twain, “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”  May we all be abundantly blessed.


Mackay’s Moral:  A good sense of humor helps to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected and outlast the unbearable.

Take charge of your attitude

A mother was ready for a few minutes of relaxation after a long and demanding day.  However, her young daughter had other plans for her mother’s time.

“Read me a story, Mommy,” the little girl pleaded.  “Give Mommy a few minutes to relax.  Then I’ll be happy to read you a story,” the mother replied.

But the little girl was insistent that Mommy read to her now.  Hoping to buy a few precious minutes, the mother tore off the back page of the magazine she was reading.  It contained a full-page picture of the world.  She tore it into several pieces and told her daughter to put the picture back together, and then she would read her a story.

A short time later, the little girl announced the completion of her puzzle project.  To her astonishment, the mother found the world picture completely assembled.  When she asked her daughter how she managed to do it so quickly, the little girl explained that on the reverse side of the page was the picture of a little girl.  “You see, Mommy, when I got the little girl together, the whole world came together.”

HarveyAttitudeEach of us has the responsibility to put our world together. It starts by getting ourselves put together.  We can become better parents, friends, spouses, and employers.  The first step is adjusting our attitude.

Webster’s Dictionary defines attitude as a “mental position.”  Successful companies and employees take the position that change is positive and challenge is good.  They accept their environment and look for opportunities.

And opportunities are everywhere.  It just depends on your attitude.  Change can be difficult, or it can be exciting.  You get to decide, so make sure your attitude puts you in the winner’s circle.

Winners are positive and believe in themselves.  They are committed and don’t easily give up.  They take charge of their own attitude.  Don’t let it take charge of you.

There’s a terrific description of attitude in one of my all-time favorite books, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill and Dennis Kimbro:  “Our attitudes set the stage for what will occur in our lives – good attitude, good results; fair attitude, fair results; poor attitude, poor results.  Each of us shapes his own life; and the shapes of our lives will be and are determined by our attitude“Your mental attitude is a two-way gate on the pathway of life.  It can be swung one way toward success, or the other way toward failure.”

Success and happiness depend as much on your attitude as on your resources and advantages.  To develop the right mindset, keep these precepts front and center:

  • Control.  Ultimately the only control you have in life is over yourself:  your thoughts, actions, responses and behaviors.  Don’t obsess over what you can’t control.  Concentrate on what you can.
  • Positivity.  Stop yourself when you feel negative thoughts taking over.  Instead, ask what’s the best or worst that can happen.  Then plan your response accordingly. Surround yourself with positive people, and see how quickly your own attitude changes.
  • Results.  It’s easy to fall into routines and patterns that emphasize the process instead of the outcome.  Learn the rules, but apply them with an eye on what you want to achieve.
  • Gratitude.  You’ll stay positive if you remind yourself of what you already possess.  Spend some time every day thinking about your health, your family and friends, and the advantages you have, instead of focusing single-mindedly on what you lack
  • Example.  Realize that you are setting an example for those around you.  Attitudes are contagious, and you will be a welcome carrier of this condition!

The good news is that anyone – absolutely anyone – can improve their attitude.  As so often happens, we can draw the greatest inspiration for attitude adjustments from those who seem to have the greatest obstacles to overcome.

El Capitan is a granite wall in California’s Yosemite National Park that shoots 3,700 feet (two-thirds of a mile) straight into the air.  Mark Wellman is the only paraplegic in the world to have climbed El Capitan.  It takes good rock climbers four days.  It took Mark nine days.

When Mark reached the top, journalists asked him how he did it.

Mark’s reply was, “I never thought of it as two-thirds of a mile.  I thought of it as 7,000 six-inch climbs.”

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.

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.

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.


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.