One way to be sure that you’re living the life you want is to identify what your values are, and then to allow all of your actions and decisions to be based upon those values.
My friend Bruce, who died a few years ago, lived by five values that he shared joyfully with anyone who would listen to him. In 2006, while he was still with us, I honored—and embarrassed—him by printing them here in my newsletter.
This week, as I sometimes do, I was wandering through the Blog ARCHIVES (near the bottom of the right sidebar on my webpage), when I came across that very article. I recalled that although Bruce is gone, his message is worth repeating.
Bruce told people that he was constantly asking himself five questions, based on his values, every time he needed to make a decision or take some kind of action:
Am I being HONEST (with myself or someone else)?
Am I being FAIR (to myself or someone else)?
Am I being REASONABLE?
Am I giving (myself or someone else) GOOD DIRECTION?
Am I being FIRM (with myself or someone else)?
If the answer to all five of his questions was “yes”, then he knew that his decision was right and that he should take the action he’d considered.
Because the values behind these inquiries were personal, Bruce’s approach always seemed to work for him, whether he was considering an action that involved only him, or something that concerned a peer, a subordinate, or even his wife and kids.
My values happen to be very similar to Bruce’s, and like him, I always try to articulate them, remember them, and live by them in everything I plan or do.
What are your values? What questions do you ask yourself in order to determine whether you are doing the “right” thing?
Understanding your values and allowing them to guide your life and career will help you focus on achieving your goals. If you don’t have a clear understanding of your own values, I recommend trying out Bruce’s—or letting me help you figure yours out.
This is just another way I can remind you to keep REACHING…
“NINE referrals today,” Dan, a financial advisor in one of my workshop programs, wrote to me.
This doesn’t sound like a big deal to some people, until they put it in perspective. Up until that day, Dan was averaging four or five referrals per YEAR. The fact that he could receive his usual year’s worth in a single day had monumental significance for him. It would be career-changing and life-changing.
But the only thing that had actually changed was that Dan had found a more comfortable way to start referral conversations with his clients. He had long ago stopped having these types of conversations.
Back in the days when I was practicing law, no one taught me how to have a referral conversation. I even had a sense that such a dialogue was, somehow, a violation of the “ethics rules” on soliciting business. Like me in those days, most attorneys and other professionals that I work with today have simply never been encouraged to engage in a referral discussion.
Even in fields such as insurance, real estate, and financial services, where professionals are taught to ask for referrals, they’re usually instructed to focus their requests on their own need to grow their business. This leads to the feeling that asking for referrals makes them sound needy—and it does—so they do it for a while under the close watch of their supervisors and then quickly abandon the practice.
Still, studies of client engagement patterns across various fields confirm that the way people most want to meet new professionals is through an introduction from someone they already trust—through a friend or another professional.
Now let’s add these facts:
1. Even the most enthusiastic of our clients won’t generally be focused on helping friends who might also need our help, unless we draw their attention to it, and
2. When they do help a friend or family member by introducing him or her to a new professional, our clients generally feel great about having made that connection.
When these facts remain unclear, we’re left with professionals who won’t promote themselves and people who need their help who don’t know where to turn for it. It’s madness!
Here’s how to stop the madness:
1. At the beginning of meetings with your best clients, go over the agenda for that meeting, and include at the end of it some time to talk about the people they care about who might need your help (not about ‘people who can help you build your business’). Let them know you’re busy, but never too busy to help someone who is important to them.
2. Before you have the referral discussion, be certain you’re already doing everything you can for your current client. Ask how you’re doing: “Is there anything more I could be doing for you now, or in the future?” If there’s anything wrong here, fix it, and wait to have the referral talk on another visit.
3. Ask permission to brainstorm with your client about people who might need the same kind of help that you’re giving him or her. If there is someone specific you’d like to meet (his/her friend, family member, or colleague), start by asking about that person. Again, this isn’t about your need; it’s about you wanting to do one more good thing for your client by helping a peer or a loved one.
4. If he or she shares a name with you, don’t stop there—ask if there’s anyone else who needs your services. Later, go back and discuss the first person your client mentioned. How would your client and the person named be most comfortable broaching your introduction?
Let your clients be heroes in their own lives by allowing them to introduce the people they care about most to someone who can save the day: you. Soon, you’ll be sending me a note about your nine referrals.
If you want professional help of your own to master a system for obtaining new clients that works, contact me to talk about it. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
I’m not a big fan of the ‘elevator speech’, because it often leads to a cutesy, stilted, ‘salesy’ presentation of what we do. It’s confining, like the elevator it’s designed to be used in.
I’ve been helping professionals for years to understand the importance and liberation of what I call their ‘audio billboard’. If someone asks you, “What do you do?”, your answer should be powerful and compelling.
I use the phrase audio billboard, because I like my workshop attendees to imagine they’re cruising along the highway when they see, on a billboard up ahead, what they usually say in response to the question: “What do you do?”. Would they slow down to read their own broadcast, or would they cruise right past it without more than a glance? Most will tell me they would cruise right past what they usually say. That’s not powerful and compelling.
A week ago, my coach and colleague, Rich Litvin, expressed brilliantly in his own words what I’ve been helping my clients with in this area:
There are only 2 things I want to occur when someone says, “What do you do?”—
Either they say “WOW!”, or they get curious: “Really? How do you do that?
Most of the time, people are simply trying to label you or put you in a ‘box’. ”Oh, she’s a [Coach]. I know what that means…” And then the conversation is over. What if you could OPEN a conversation by sparking curiosity?
What if you never, ever, said you were a [Coach] again? DON’T be a [COACH] (there are far too many coaches out there)! Be YOU. There’s only ONE of you on the entire planet!
Rich continued with his own version of my workshop lesson:
What if you told a story? What if you talked about your IMPACT instead of ‘what’ you do: “Well, it’s kind of hard to describe what I do, but the other day I spent an hour talking to an athlete who was struggling to raise funds for her Olympic bid. The next day she called to say she’d raised $40,000 of corporate sponsorship.”
If you develop an audio billboard like this, will everyone like what YOU say? No. Will everyone, at least, say “WOW!”? No. But you are not looking for everyone to be your client. The purpose of crafting a clever answer to the question, “What do you do?”, is to have your ‘right people’ say “Tell me more…” That will open the discussion with real prospects.
Then you can say, “I can do better than that! Why don’t we get together over coffee and I’ll give you an actual experience of what I do…”
Use the “What Do YOU Do” Workbook on my website to craft the basic statement and then contact me for a session—on me—about developing a powerful, compelling audio billboard. After that, keep REACHING…
I spent a couple of hours last week with Reed, an attorney who had heard about my coaching practice and asked to meet with me to see if it was something that could benefit him.
As soon as we sat down together, I asked Reed what it would take to make our session amazing for him, and he told me he wasn’t sure. I asked him what he wanted to see happen over the next year in his life and career, and he began telling me all about his glorious past, his amazing children, and the woman he was seeing—focused on everything but the answer to my question.
He wanted my opinion about whether someone was telling him the truth, and even after I explained that I wouldn’t be able to know from his explanation, and that his question really had nothing to do with coaching, he kept circling back to it.
As our meeting wound down, I did not see any basis upon which to offer this attorney any kind of coaching program, although I was fairly certain that he wanted me to. I was honest with him about his lack of focus—even questioning him to see if some substance dependency or emotional problem might be in his way—neither of which would be issues for a coach to handle. Finally, I offered to speak with him again, but only if he completed the “homework” I assigned to him, which consisted of writing down the answers to these three questions:
1. What do you want?
2. Why don’t you have it already?
3. What are you willing to do to get it?
If there’s nothing you want that you don’t already have, congratulations! You are one of those lucky people who are at ease with their situations. If, like the rest of us, you’re not totally satisfied, but you can’t even clear your head well enough to think of what’s missing in your life, there are probably emotional or other problems you need to address. If, on the other hand, you’re like most people, no matter how successful you feel you are at the moment, there’s something you feel you want next, and you have some idea of what it is.
What you want next doesn’t necessarily have to be about generating more income or acquiring more possessions. I’ve worked with a flight attendant who wanted to be a dancer; I’ve coached a brilliant sales professional, wife, and mother whose familial needs were being overlooked. For some of my clients, what’s missing in their lives is more free time or better relationships. They might appear successful to others, but they may not feel that they are having enough success in certain areas. They might, for example, be exhausted from trying to please other people but somehow unable to stop volunteering. What is the unrest for you?
Once you know what it is, consider why you don’t have it already. Internal hurdles can often masquerade as external boundaries. It’s possible that some roadblock or obstacle in the outside world is holding you back, but it’s more likely that something inside—fear, guilt, a limiting belief, or a distorted view or yourself or others—has been hard for you to get past. Whether or not you’re sure of the source, you should have some idea of why you haven’t yet gotten where you feel you want to go.
If there’s something you know you want and something else holding you back, the only remaining question is: What are you willing to do about it? Implicit in this question is a decision that you WILL do something new. Are you committed to making the changes you need to make in order to get what you want, or is this just one of those “want to”s that will never be a “choose to”?
If you are committed to having what you want and to getting past whatever has been interfering, how will you do it? This fourth question is my job to help you answer.
Reed wouldn’t have asked to talk with me if there wasn’t something he wanted, but he wasn’t able to articulate to me what it was, even after nearly two hours of in-depth conversation. If he really wants a change in his life, he’ll have to find a way to open up to someone. Once he’s clear about what he’s after, he can begin to examine what stands in his way. Only then, if he decides he’s willing to go after it, can a coach like me help him figure out how.
What are your answers to the three questions? If you at least have some sense of the first one, I can help you express the next two when you contact me. Just figure out what you’re reaching for and consider why you haven’t yet reached it, and then DECIDE to keep REACHING…
My father told me a story once about how he had owed a friend, Jim, $10,000 that he couldn’t yet repay.
My father had honestly intended to repay the loan on time, but the money Dad was waiting for from another deal was delayed, and now he found himself pacing the bedroom floor at 1:00 a.m. on the night before his payment to Jim was due.
“What am I going to tell Jim?” he kept asking himself.
That’s when he decided to pick up the phone and tell Jim that he wouldn’t be able to repay him the next day.
Then, as dad told it, he went to bed and slept peacefully…and Jim was up all night pacing his bedroom floor.
Maybe neither of us realized it then, but what my father did in that moment was transform from weak to powerful. The outcome was the same—he wasn’t going to be able to pay back his friend. But the weak way to handle his error would have been to hide: Don’t pick up the phone, don’t answer the phone, don’t return Jim’s calls.
A month ago, I spoke with Sal, a financial advisor in South Carolina who enthusiastically agreed to send me a check to start working with me on improving his business.
The check never came. I emailed Sal to determine whether there may have been some misunderstanding, but he never responded.
Sal made a mistake; he wasn’t ready to commit to getting the help I had offered him. But now, instead of communicating with me to let me know what had happened, he was just hiding.
The powerful way to handle a mistake with regard to an agreement you’ve made is to reach out to the other party and discuss it—even if you sense it will be a difficult conversation. It’s interesting that the most difficult way to handle something is usually, also, the most powerful way.
Hiding is the weakest way to handle a mistake you’ve made. If I had the opportunity to coach Sal, I’d start by asking him this question:
“Where else in your life does your ‘weak’ advisor show up?”
I must admit I’ve had my own weak moments, where I’ve hidden for awhile after making a mistake. Over the years, though, my wife Hannah has shown me that in the end, communicating always beats hiding. Even (or especially) in the worst of situations, communication will come across as the more powerful choice.
How about you? Are you hiding from talks you need to have—with prospects, clients, bosses, or loved ones? Is there a particular place in your life where you’re avoiding communication about a mistake or problem you feel you’ve caused?
Come from integrity—from a powerful place—and have the courage to initiate a difficult conversation. It will always beat hiding, and it will help you feel like a better professional and a better human being.
Talking about your shortcomings is never easy, but have the courage to contact me and I’ll help you through. In the meantime, make mistakes, communicate, and keep REACHING…
This Saturday, January 21st, I will be giving the keynote address at a conference in Pennington, New Jersey, devoted to people who are “in transition”—the new code name for “out of work” or “between jobs”.
The conference starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. and includes a choice of workshops to help people find work. It is taking place at the Princeton Community Church, 2300 Pennington Rd, Pennington, NJ and is open to the public first come, first serve…but it would be even better to register online beforehand at Eventbrite.com.
I’ll also be running the workshop devoted to helping people in transition decide whether they’re ready to go into their own businesses, and if so, how to get started.
One of the topics I’ll be discussing plays a large role in my book, BECOME A CLIENT MAGNET—it’s the idea of being the “Red Crayon”. This concept applies every bit as much to job-seekers as it does to business owners and employed professionals.
If you’re another white crayon in a box of white crayons, there’s no way for an employer to know why he or she should hire you over your competition—even if you’re the sharpest and brightest white crayon in the box.
If, instead, you are the RED crayon in the box, you’ll really make an impression.
Courtesy of GapingVoidGallery.com
Another way to put this is…
Instead of worrying that marked differences in your approach, your resume, your appearance, or your experience may make you unacceptable in some way, use your unique combination of qualities as the flag you wave for those you want to work with:
“Sure, Mr. [Prospective Client or Employer], I’m not like all those other [professionals or applicants] and I know enough about you from having researched your firm and having asked you my questions to be confident that the very thing you need is someone with my particular [qualifications, job history, or skill-set], and here’s why…”
In the meantime, keep REACHING…
I consulted last week with a financial advisor I’ll call Alex, who had two concerns: (1) He was feeling “overwhelmed”, and (2) he was not happy that his income was “inconsistent”. 2012 would be a great year for him, he told me, if he could only solve these two problems.
I learned that Alex had about a hundred clients who were more than just “customers” to him. I also learned that the way Alex ran his business was that he would go through a slow period for a while, during which he would schedule to host a local educational workshop. He would then conduct the workshop and make immediate appointments with all of the attendees who were interested in speaking with him further. He’d have two weeks during which he was working every minute of the day and long into the night scheduling new clients, and then, he’d go back to his slow period. His income would balloon after the workshop, and two weeks later, it would all but disappear.
While there were a lot of ways Alex might have been able smooth out his inconsistent income—by setting up a reserve for when income was ballooning, by holding workshops more regularly, or by spreading out the appointments his workshops generated over a longer period of time—I was curious why he was doing outreach at all if, as he claimed, he was already advising a hundred clients. Why wasn’t he servicing those clients—helping them in every conceivable way? Why wasn’t he servicing them so well that they were excited and enthusiastic about sharing the opportunities he had brought to them with their friends and family members.
“I service them,” he responded defensively, but then he added:
“Well, maybe not enough. I know I should be doing annual reviews with some of them, and I haven’t been doing a good job of that.”
It was clear to me that Alex didn’t need to do more outreach to improve the consistency of his income. He needed to provide better service to his clients. Better service might or might not bring him more income from the same clients, but it would certainly earn him the right to be introduced to their friends and family members who could use his help.
I talked to Alex about the concept of Serve, Surprise, and Delight.
“Let’s make a list of your top ten favorite clients,” I coached him. “How can you serve them beyond what you’ve done for them so far—both in terms of services you provide and in terms of services they might need from others within your network of contacts?”
“I know what you’re trying to get me to do,” Alex responded. “I’ve tried just focusing on my existing clients in the past, and it just doesn’t work. It’s a waste of time. I need to do workshops to get ‘fresh meat’.”
It was obvious that there was nothing I could do for Alex. The most bizarre aspect of our discussion to me was that Alex wanted the income consistency so he could focus on the volunteer work he does helping people spiritually. He felt fulfilled serving people in that way, but didn’t want to do the same sort of service within his business.
The best way to grow most service businesses is to turn your existing clients and the people you know into referral partners. The best way to create referral partners is to serve your existing clients at such a high level that it makes them eager to tell everyone they care for stories about how brilliantly you’re serving them.
Alex knows how not to succeed in his business—by continuing to scramble, instead of to serve, surprise, and delight his current clients. He will undoubtedly continue to be overwhelmed and have inconsistent income until he understands this foundational fault and seeks out the help he needs to put the opposite into action.
If you understand the importance of creating referral partners and are ready for help in doing it, contact me today. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Happy New Year!
In preparing to write this week’s article, I decided to look at the blog entries I’ve written in Januaries past. It was easy to find them—on my website, I just typed “resolution” into the search window on the top right.
I found two different messages—the annually-recurring admonition to Stop Making Resolutions…and to set real goals instead; and my 2010 message: decide what you want and just begin doing things to get it.
This year, I want to start off with a slightly different message:
Figure out which of the resolutions on your list are want to goals and which are choose to goals. Then, let the want tos go and focus on the choose tos.
Here’s the difference: You may genuinely want to double your income, learn Italian, write a book, lose twenty pounds, find your “soul mate”, and/or sail around the world in a makeshift boat. But if you don’t choose to make them happen or to let them go, nothing will happen. And while all of your desires deserve consideration, giving them all equal consideration won’t help you succeed at any of them, as long as you remain inactive.
A choose to goal can be anything you want, but it’s also something more specific. It incorporates (or at least, considers) an Action Plan—a set of viable, small, doable steps that can get you to where you want to go.
My client Marie wanted to get back into singing. She had had some success with it in the past and was confident she possessed worthy talent. She had all the tools to make a “resolution”—but she lacked commitment—the “choose to” factor. My conversation with her went something like this:
Marie: This year, I’d like to get back into performing. I really miss singing! I always think about it…
Me: That’s great, Marie! I’d love to help you figure out how to do it. What might be a good way to start?
Marie: Oh. Well, I hadn’t really thought about that. I guess I can’t just go out and start singing. I’d have to start taking lessons again.
Me: Good. That sounds like the right idea. Then what?
Marie: I dunno, I don’t know if I have any time really, with the kids, and with my promotion pending…I mean, family time is really important to me. I don’t wanna be out of the house nights.
Me: Well, if you’d like, we can work on making time that doesn’t pull you away from quality time with your family. Do you think you’re working too hard?
Marie: Eh, I pretty much make my own hours at the office. And my husband and I have been working hard for our trip to Cabo…We’re so looking forward to that!
Me: Well, it sounds like you’ve been disciplined about saving up for your vacation. What would it take to invest in rekindling singing, as a career, or even just as a hobby?
Marie: Probably a lot of work.
Whether it’s a dream-date, a dream-job, or a dream-bod, when we face our fantasies as realities, we tend to realize one thing: nothing comes to those who just wait, want, or wish. Goals require work, and choosing to do the necessary work requires getting past fears, excuses, and external hurdles.
In Marie’s case, any of these could be holding her back from the thing she wants—but what seems more likely is that Marie secretly knows she has other priorities, and she’s just “never going to get around to it”.
Marie could choose to hold on to the belief that returning to performance is a goal of hers, or, this year, she could choose to let it go, and focus on all the other wonderful things she has chosen to have in her life.
Go ahead—make a list of all your goals; then, take a closer look. Consider, for each one, for just a few minutes, what it would take to get there, and imagine yourself doing the work. If you don’t think you’ll choose to take action on an item any time soon, make a change this year, and choose to cross that goal off your current list.
Then, focus on the goals you can immediately begin to visualize working toward, and start putting them into play.
If you need help to get going down whatever path you’re choosing (and we all do), reach out and contact me, and all year and beyond, keep REACHING…
I hope you are getting the most you can out of this “season of miracles”. There’s always room for something more than you expected.
I usually don’t post an article of any kind in the last week of December, but I was so astonished by how quickly my five 90-minute-coaching gifts were snatched up, that…
I broke down and gave away a sixth session to one of the people who contacted me just a bit too late, and then…
I decided that I could afford to offer two more sessions to my readers, just in case someone who really wanted the help missed the boat, for whatever reason, last week.
But—no kidding around—I can’t give any more than two more away! As it is, my earliest openings for the sessions are now the third week in January. If you want to discuss creating an incredible 2012, contact me immediately and tell me you’re accepting my offer of a free 90-minute coaching-session on the goals and challenges ahead of you.
I am all about encouraging you to take powerful action, and deadlines are a part of this reality. My offer will close once two more of you reply—or by the end of the day tomorrow—because I want to spend the rest of my New Year’s days recharging my batteries.
Get ready to make your own miracles, and keep REACHING…
First, let me wish all of you who are a part of my e-letter family and any regular readers of my blog “Happy Holidays”, and a New Year filled with health, joy, and success.
Trying to get a meaningful message out to everyone each week might be considered, by some, to be tedious work, but there’s great pleasure in it for me, especially when I receive your emails and blog posts in response to my articles.
I’ve been racking my brain (it doesn’t take much) to come up with something more than an article to give as a gift this season, and I decided that I’d like to offer five of you something that could change your lives—the opportunity to spend 90 minutes with me on the phone for coaching on the biggest goals or challenges you will take on in 2012.
Let me be clear as to what this gift is, and what it is not:
~It is my way of thanking you for continuing to read my e-letter and blog, as I continue to share my insights on professional sales and personal motivation each week.
~It is the most powerful gift I can think of to express this thanks.
~It is not offered in the hope that I will turn you into a new one-on-one coaching client. In January, I will have only two openings, and I’m very particular about who will be a good fit for each one of these slots.
I will give my gift in January to the first five people (who have not worked with me already) who contact me to say, “Thank you, I accept!”
I do hope the rest of you experience coaching with someone at some point this year. The right coach can improve your worldview—not just your business. For a great year ahead, keep REACHING…
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