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Welcome to the second in a 3-part series on TRUST. In part 1, we talked about EARNING trust. Now, let’s discuss CULTIVATING it once it’s earned.

You’ve earned another person’s trust. CONGRATULATIONS! But now it’s important to build upon or CULTIVATE that trust so it isn’t lost.

How is trust cultivated? Here are 3 ways:

Don’t rush into anything – just because someone has granted you their trust doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re ready to start asking for things. Take it slow. Take it easy. How?

Continue with open dialogue and more detailed Q & A – this is the “getting to know you” phase. Now that you’ve earned someone’s trust, chances are pretty good that they’ll be willing to share more details about their goals and desired outcomes with you. Pay attention! You don’t want to miss anything. Listen intently and make sure that the other person knows you’re listening by using both verbal and nonverbal cues (body language.) Lean in, keep eye contact, and repeat what they’ve said. Think of this as Listening 101 because that’s what it is.

Give more than you take – find opportunities to do something for the other person before you ask for anything from them. If you’re cultivating trust with a business owner, ask him or her about their ideal customer and if possible, refer someone you know. Build a network of referral sources. Pay for that first lunch meeting, take them to play golf, bring them to a networking meeting as your guest and introduce them to people with whom they might want to do business. Be a connector. Show good faith and good will.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for Part 3 in this series on Trust: Keeping It.

What are your thoughts on TRUST? Share them by commenting. Let’s get a discussion going!


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Trust (Part 1 of 3 — earning it)!

1207_4865580Welcome to the first in a 3-part series on TRUST. Let’s talk about EARNING it.

By far, this is the step in the process that takes the longest. It takes hard work and considerable effort. Trusting others and being trustworthy yourself are so very important to operate a business successfully. After all, if you can’t trust the people with whom you work or if people don’t trust you, nothing else will ever fall into place, will it?

How is trust earned? Here are 3 ways:

Open dialogue – Being able to have open, honest discussions is paramount. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not in the espionage business so there is no need to keep secrets. Strengthen your ability to start meaningful conversations. Talk about things that are relevant to the tasks at hand. Share insights, goals, objectives, worries, and challenges. Become very good at having this kind of discussion.

Get thoroughly interested in other people – without becoming nosey. It is important that you endeavor to understand other points of view. If you want to build trusting relationships with others, you must become interested in what is important to them. What do their jobs entail? How do their responsibilities compliment and interact with your own? Dale Carnegie tells us to get to know other people. His book, How To Win Friends & Influence People, has been on the bestseller list for decades. I think he was onto something important. What do you think?

Be grateful– if you have been able to earn someone’s trust, embrace an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful that someone thinks highly enough of you to trust your opinions and viewpoints. Operate as if that trust can be shattered in an instant if you don’t work hard to cultivate it (more on this in parts 2 & 3 of this series.) Show other people that you are truly thankful for the trust they’ve put in you.

Be sure to check back early next week for Part 2 in this series on Trust: Cultivating It.

What are your thoughts on TRUST? Share them by commenting. Let’s get a discussion going!

The 3 most effective ways to coach employees

coachingRecently, I was sitting at the bar at an Applebee’s in Flowood, Miss., having dinner by myself (as I often do while traveling for business.)   It wasn’t very busy at the restaurant – it was me and another business traveler at the bar and there were a few people dining at tables and booths. The restaurant phone started to ring. And it continued to ring. And ring. And ring. I was getting annoyed – one of my biggest pet peeves is an unanswered phone at a place of business. Finally, the caller either hung up or someone answered – I couldn’t tell. As I sat there digging into my Thai Shrimp Salad (fabulous, by the way,) a gentleman who I assumed to be the Manager began to speak softly to the young lady who was tending bar. Since it was so quiet in the place, I heard the entire conversation. It went something like this:

Manager: “Is there any reason that you didn’t answer the phone just now?”

Bartender: “My job is to tend bar. Not to answer the phone.”

Manager: “Actually, we’re a team here and your job is to do whatever is necessary. Plus there are people sitting here at the bar, customers who most likely noticed that the phone was ringing while you were watching the TV. Don’t you think that sends a bad signal?”

Bartender: “I have no idea. I’ll answer it next time.”

Manager: “OK. Remember – teamwork. And you’re not the only one to whom I’ll be speaking about this.”

Bartender: “OK. Sorry.”

Manager: “It’s cool.”

I smiled. I couldn’t help it. This Manager saw a “coachable moment” and took advantage of it. Sure, he could have spoken to the Bartender in a more private setting. But I doubt he knew that one of the people sitting at the bar was a customer service trainer and might eavesdrop a bit. Personally, I think he handled the situation marvelously. He didn’t raise his voice. He asked for the employee’s input. He reminded her about the concept of teamwork and that ‘it’s not my job’ is never an acceptable response. And he was able to get a resolution from the employee that it won’t happen again.

Here are 3 ways to effectively coach your employees:

Recognize “coachable moments” and address them immediately: It might be necessary sometimes to wait a few minutes, especially if the employee is still dealing with your customer; however, if you have a “coachable moment,” try to seize it right away! Don’t wait. Address the situation as soon as it is possible after it occurs. If you wait too long, the specific circumstances will get lost to memory. Call the employee aside and review the moment. Ask for feedback and input. Get a resolution. And remember that “coachable moments” don’t have to be negative. You can create one for a positive situation as well as a way to encourage employees to keep doing great work.

Look for the good FIRST: Start your coaching sessions with the positives. Find and review the good in what the employees are doing. Then tackle the areas for improvement. Always ask for the employees’ input. But make sure they understand that they’re being held accountable for their work. End the coaching session with resolutions about future performance.

Encourage your employees to start/keep a Journal: This is a great way to include the employees in keeping written records of important matters. When they make those all-important resolutions at the end of your coaching sessions, make sure those go into the journal. Ask the employees to jot down any questions, concerns, or suggestions they have in the journal. Review the contents of the employee journals during every coaching session.

Seize “coachable moments,” follow the good-improve-resolution SYSTEM for coaching, and make use of journals. What other suggestions do you have?

Share them by commenting. Let’s get a discussion going!

Leaders: Create experiences instead of products

302_2853504Disney’s “Magic,” Southwest Airlines’ “Company Spirit,” and Zappos’ “WOW Philosophy.” These and other great organizations don’t necessarily focus on the products they sell. They know that if they are able to provide a memorable and extraordinary experience, the products will sell themselves. Sure, they have product development teams. But any products that are developed must enhance the experience that the companies are providing to consumers. If this isn’t demonstrated, the products simply aren’t rolled out.

Here are 3 ways that your organization can concentrate on providing experiences:

Be crystal clear on your value proposition.  Yes, we’re talking about this….again.Why? Because it’s important. Simple as that. Lofty talk won’t get you very far.  Consumers need to understand the value of a product before they will use that product.  A memorable experience can help communicate that value. Put a greater focus on the entire experience of doing business with your organization rather than pushing product. Believe it or not, consumers really care about value and brand. They need specifics.  They need clarity.  They need reasons. They need you to answer the W.I.I.F.M. question, “what’s in it for me?”  Give them what they need.

Have a thorough understanding of your target market.  Think about this – if you are a student in a classroom, you want the teachers/professors to have a thorough understanding of the subject matter, right?  You want them to have certain skills, abilities, and credentials.  Most of all, you want them to relate to you in some way.  Consumers need to believe that the companies with whom they do business understand what they are experiencing, know about their surroundings and circumstances, can relate to their challenges and share their successes.  If your organization has not done research studies related to demographics, consumer behavior, household financials, and employment on its service area, target market, or community – it will be more difficult to relate to the consumers in those markets.  How can you possibly create a memorable experience without knowing what makes your target market happy?

Position your organization as a “solutions-provider.”  Consumers with problems are looking for one thing: someone or something to solve their problems by providing a viable solution.  Economics 101 tells us that people buy product to fulfill an immediate or perceived need. By their very nature, these needs are fleeting. The consumer may or may not come back to you when another need arises. However, if you are diligent in not only providing product but you also create an atmosphere that exudes your organization’s commitment to service, solutions, and experience, the likelihood that consumers will continue to do business with you increases exponentially. There are a lot of people looking for solutions right now.  If your brand reflects that your organization can provide those solutions, people will take notice.  If all you do is talk about your products, your message will get lost in the shuffle.


What are your thoughts? Share them by commenting! Let’s get a discussion going!

Leaders: Here are the top 4 digital trends for 2016

digital-worldThe world has gone digital. People can either choose to accept this fact or to try their best ignore it. But numbers don’t lie: over 2 billion smartphones already activated, 1.2 billion + Facebook users, 500 + million Tweeters, Linked In is exploding, and we are seeing large increases in digital marketing budgets. The verdict is that many organizations recognize the power of digital outreach. Research continues to show drastic increases in the number of people who prefer to do business in the digital realm. In order to be effective, leaders must embrace this new landscape and leverage both its reach and potential to remain viable.

Here are 4 trends will be the hottest in 2016:

Content – If you don’t understand how important fresh, relevant, and informative content is, you haven’t been paying attention. Great content must be rendered in a consistent manner. Consumers love content that will help make their lives easier and better. The sales will come if outstanding content comes first.

Data –Marketers must be more systematic and targeted when reaching out to consumers.   Their responsibilities include adding to the bottom line of their organizations. Leaders must ensure that they have hired people with the proper skill sets to get the job done. If the people responsible for digital outreach aren’t trained, you must train them. Or you have to reach out and hire people with the requisite knowledge and experience. It’s as simple as that. There are no shortcuts.

Your outreach discussions must move from ‘let’s design a postcard’ to ‘what is our target market, what do they want, and what is the best way to provide what they want to them using the data that we have?’

Sharing – search engines like Google are constantly creating new algorithms to reward businesses with better SEO (Search Engine Optimization) when their content is shared using social media. Encourage your followers, friends, etc. to share the content that you are providing. The “share” button is great but perhaps you want to take it up a notch – run contests based on the sharing of your content, track the number of shares and design outreach programs to create more awareness and momentum. Leaders – take the first step and make sure that you are sharing your organization’s content – share it massively! Be proud of your content and let people know about it!

Mobile Marketing – the tools are out there but marketing via mobile channels is still not being used to its full potential. Over 2 billion smartphones, people! All of your content must be accessible by mobile devices. If it’s not – you will lose opportunities. Are you using your credit union’s mobile applications to push out relevant content and information? If not, leaders need to start a discussion on this very topic right now.

What are you doing to leverage the marketplace’s affinity for all things digital? I look forward to your comments!

Top 5 offensive things from 2015

offensiveFirst, this is not a political post! OK, now that’s out of the way.

It seems we live in a world where everyone is offended by something. Unfortunately, some people are offended by many things, way too many things. I get offended too, although most of what offends me is restricted to the world of business. So, here are the Top 5 business/professional “things” that offended in 2015:

Blame: Many people who fail or fall short continue to blame others. This offends me. I have a ton of respect for people who work hard, put in the effort, and still fall short. That’s admirable. What I cannot condone is people that shift blame for their own shortcomings on either outside circumstances (ones they can control) or third parties. Don’t play the blame game. It’s beneath you.

Sitting on one’s hands:  This is just purely exhausting. Leaders are supposed tomake decisions. Some decisions are easily made while others require more deliberation and discussion. In the end though, a leader’s career and reputation are built on the decisions he or she ultimately makes. If you’re thinking about a change in process or policy, offering a new product or service, hiring a vendor to assist in making your organization better then by all means, go ahead and perform the vetting and due diligence. But then for goodness’ sake, put on the big pants and decide to do or not to do. The world is moving entirely too fast for 6 month periods of “thinking about it.” The best leaders make decisions. They do so carefully. They also do so quickly.

Not learning anything new:  The worst! Is there anything more annoying than dealing with someone (could be a colleague or friend alike) who refuses to learn anything new? Despite ridiculous amounts of research proving otherwise, we all know people who think they already know everything. Insanity. Again, the world is changing. Therefore, it benefits us to open our minds to other points of view and suggestions. Never stop learning.Read more. Read more things that matter. Watch a documentary. Get thinking. Being obtuse offends others.

 Putting profit before people:  Regular readers of this blog know how passionate I am about professional development and putting an organization’s employees first. If you are taking care of your people, providing them with the necessary resources to get the job done, serving your patrons well, and ensuring that morale is high – KUDOS to you!! Stay the course. If you’re hiring the best and brightest and finding ways to keep them in your employ, all the better!  If you’re not – that is, if you’re constantly cutting corners, exploiting your employees, taking advantage of their time and talent – well, you’re committing offensive actions. Please cease and desist immediately and remember if you don’t, your best employees will be the ones to leave.

And finally,

It’s offensive that so many people are so offended: Whether it’s a coffee cup (oh, Starbucks,) Darth Vader’s costume color (yes, this actually was discussed on a talk show yesterday,) Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Halloween and their ugly witches, etc. etc. etc. the list goes on and on and on and on and on – how about if we all care about things that can and will change people’s lives for the better? Can we try that in 2016?

I think if people have the time to fight these superficial battles, then what’s going on in their lives must be pretty darn good. You don’t have to worry about being homeless or running out of money to pay your bills. You have the blessings associated with the Holidays (whichever holiday you celebrate.) You’ve never known what it’s like to be on the brink of starvation. You own a business that continues to do remarkably well. You have the best employees on the planet. You trust everyone you work with. Your company doesn’t tolerate blame, your boss makes decisions, you are encouraged to be a lifelong learner because it benefits you and your organization, and you work in the spirit of collaboration. If you have these things, be grateful. Show appreciation.

Stop being so offended by every damn thing and smile more.

What are your thoughts? Comment below and let’s get a discussion going!

5 items for your 2016 wish list


It’s nearly the new year! Keep these five suggestions in mind as 2016 approaches.

It’s that time of year – time to review the past year and plan for the next. You’ve probably hit some or most of your goals this year. You may have fallen short on others. That’s OK! But now you have some decisions to make. Here are 5 items that you should add to your Wish List for 2016:

Pay close attention to what wasn’t completed. Ask yourself why you fell short. Was it a lack of effort? Did you simply run out of time? Were the goals unrealistic to begin with? Or perhaps the task simply wasn’t important enough to attract your full attention. The most important thing you can do to increase the likelihood of reaching your goals for 2016 is to eliminate any activity that does not move the needle forward. If you didn’t accomplish something in 2015, that in and of itself, does not mean you should simply transfer it to your 2016 To-Do list. Focus on moving that needle. Cut out anything that won’t.

Make time for personal and professional development. Read more. Schedule 45 minutes each day to scan blogs, read business books, review useful social media posts, engage the authors and other readers by commenting on stories and articles. This is an appointment that you CANNOT miss or reschedule. Stay faithful to it. If that means starting your day a little earlier or ending a little later, so be it. Put it on your calendar. Just do it.

Commit to being EXCELLENT. It’s safe to say that there are a lot of professionals who want to be excellent at what they do. Who wouldn’t? But if history has taught us anything, it’s that a select few actually become excellent. Why is this? There are a few things that excellent professionals have/do that others don’t. And that’s not to say that those who don’t lack the ability to acquire the same skills or are unable do the same things. On the contrary! They can. You can. You just have to commit.

 Keep a small notebook with you at all times. This is something I started doing myself this past year. Go out and spend the dollar or so it will cost you to get a notebook that will fit in your pocket. Pull that notebook out whenever you see something you like, hear a good idea, think of something innovative, or just to keep track of your activities. Sure, you could just pull out your cell phone and do all of that. But if you’re like me, you might rely too heavily on all things electronic and mobile and things can get lost pretty easily. When I have to actually pull out the old-fashioned notebook every day to take a look at it, I am forced to remember the things that I thought were important enough to jot down. By the way, the outline for this blog post you’re reading right now is from an entry in that notebook dated September 20, 2015. I’m not sure if I would have remembered it or even seen it again if I had just sent myself an e-mail.

Do something charitable. Get involved with a cause that is near and dear to you. Maybe it’s volunteering for a couple hours each month at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Perhaps it’s serving on an event committee at your place of worship. Or maybe it’s as simple as setting up an auto-deduction to your favorite charity. We often get distracted by the hustle and bustle and forget to take time to do things that will not only help others but will also strengthen our own character and well-being. Being charitable accomplishes both.


What are your thoughts? Comment below and let’s get a discussion going!

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10 ways to motivate, energize and inspire your teams

motivationHow about if we just dive right in? Here are 10 ways to motivate, energize, and inspire your team:

Don’t tell them. SHOW them. Employees (the great ones, at least) want to know  the work they’re doing is making an impact. Show them results, numbers, and provide feedback that clearly communicates how valuable their efforts are.

Be kind. Nobody wants to work for an autocrat. Remember that your team members are human. Seek to understand their motivations. Never assume. When in doubt, ask.

Be crystal clear regarding goals and expectations. This can’t be overstated. If they’re not clear on what they’re supposed to be doing, to what kind of standard can you realistically hold them?

Hold them accountable. The best employees want this. They don’t mind having to report on their efforts and answering for their time. But be careful to not make your reporting requirements so cumbersome that the team spends most of its time writing summaries instead of actually being productive.

Ask for their opinions. Don’t just make it a formality. People see right through that nonsense. Show that you truly care about what they have to say. Find some way, any way, to implement a few of the tactics they suggest.

Coach. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and take time to provide useful guidance to your team members. Be patient. Capitalize on each individual’s strengths. Remember that your team members are not you, they never were, and they never will be. Build people up. Increase their confidence. Praise progress.

Defend them. Always have your team’s back. Don’t throw them under the bus to save your own behind. You must accept responsibility for the choices you make as leaders. That includes the directives you give to your team members and even if those directives end up being mistakes. Own it. You’re the leader.

Have fewer meetings. Billions of dollars in missed productivity is the result of useless meetings. Don’t meet for the sake of meeting. Have something new to discuss. If you can gather the information you need via e-mail, you don’t need a meeting. If you can’t find enough items for a real agenda, you don’t need a meeting. If you don’t need a meeting, don’t have a meeting.

Show humility. Yes, you’re in charge. But take that responsibility and turn it into something worthy of the respect that you seek. Never underestimate the power of humility.

Smile more. Simple enough.

What are your thoughts? Are there other tactics that you use or have used to help motivate team members? Comment below and let’s get a discussion going!


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6 ways to hold your employees accountable

“A body of people holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” – Thomas Paine

In working with my clients, one of the biggest challenges they mention is being consistent with holding employees accountable for their work. The best employees want to be held accountable for what they are doing – they don’t mind it in the least. But they also want other people to be held to the same standard of accountability. When leaders “let things slide” for certain people (for whatever reason,) it begins to negatively affect morale, productivity, and profitability. If it’s not addressed promptly, the outcome could be disastrous. Holding people accountable is NOT micromanaging. It should not be conducted as a fear tactic. However, it is important for the well-being and success of the organization.

Here are 6 things you MUST do to create a culture of accountability:

Be crystal clear about your expectations. Ensure that you are communicating goals and tasks effectively. Make sure that your employees are crystal clear as to what is expected of them. If clarity exists on all sides, it is easier to hold people accountable. How can you possibly hold someone accountable for something that isn’t clearly explained?

Be realistic and fair. Make sure that the goals you’re setting can actually be achieved. Don’t set arbitrary expectations. Be specific. Set deadlines. Expect them to be met. Be flexible when necessary.

Be consistent. Hold every employee accountable for his or her productivity, or lack thereof. Not everyone’s standards are going to be the same. Nor should they. Every job is different and you cannot hold an employee who is new to the team or organization to the same standards as someone who is more experienced. Allow for a learning curve.

Gather all the facts. Before you start disciplining someone, make sure you have all of the relevant facts. Leaders and managers should avoid an “egg on face” scenario. One way to do that is to know what you’re talking about. If you don’t, you won’t be effective when enforcing accountability standards.


Make firm decisions. Make decisions quickly. Stick to them. Assume responsibility for whatever disciplinary action that you take when dealing with a non-productive or lazy employee. Doing so will hopefully improve the individual employee’s performance but will also send a message to the rest of the team that you’re serious about accountability.

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