Over the past two weeks, I’ve been busy producing material that you may find useful.
Two weeks ago, Postema Marketing Group sponsored a Webinar I presented called Making Client Referrals Easy. The entire program is now available on YouTube, just by CLICKING HERE.
This week, Sabrina-Marie Wilson released my interview on her acclaimed radio show “Abundant Success”, and it’s already getting lots of attention. It includes my personal story about leaving my “safe neighborhood” and overcoming my fears. You can listen to, or even download, the podcast on iTunes by CLICKING HERE.
In my coaching work this month, several of my clients have been talking about the stress of trying to balance their family lives with their work lives. In my articles, I write a great deal about FEAR, but I more rarely snag the opportunity to write about a related, but equally insidious monster: GUILT.
Years ago, I was helping a child psychologist who ran a busy private practice, made rounds at a local hospital daily, and made himself available to testify in all sorts of court cases. During one of our conversations, he mentioned that he himself had five kids.
“Five kids?” I gasped. It seemed to me that this must be a guilt-ridden man, whose excessive work with neglected children had to have fueled a certain degree of his own family’s neglect. “How can you possibly manage to give them the time you know they need with a schedule like yours?”
With true calm, the good doctor explained to me that the first appointments he put on his schedule each week were with his family—in blocks of two or three hours each. “I’d like to give them more,” he told me, “but I take comfort in the fact that I treat my appointments with them as being my most important.”
“I don’t allow interruptions—except for dire emergencies—of my family time, just like I don’t allow interruptions when I’m working with a patient. When I’m with them, I’m with them one hundred percent. I don’t feel guilty about not getting work done. When I’m working, I know they’re in my schedule, so I don’t feel guilty about not being with them.”
Like the doctor, most of my clients who struggle to balance family and work time are in practices for themselves. Unlike the doctor, most have somehow chosen to be their own worst possible bosses. These bosses could give them more time with their spouses and children…but they don’t.
In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber points out that most of us go into our businesses backwards. We don’t start by figuring out what kind of life we want—what Gerber calls our “Primary Aim“—so we are forced to accept whatever life our business or practice pushes us into.
You don’t have to work 70 hours a week to be a successful professional. Thirty-five hours—or even four—could get the same results, if you are focused. Fear and guilt can affect this focus. The fear often comes from being overwhelmed by the number of steps we see on the way to the success we picture—from forgetting to focus on just a few steps at a time. The guilt usually comes from not having clear boundaries set around our family and work time. Here are some ideas to keep things from getting muddled:
- Decide where you want your practice—and your personal affairs—to be in the next three years, and write each down in as much detail as you can.
- Just as the doctor did, create a Master Weekly Schedule that starts with your family time and time off. Leave open spaces for all of the things that might pop up during the week. Then, put blocks of time into the work portion for: a) the things you need to do on a regular basis, b) three important projects, and c) thinking and planning.
- Honor your family time as if it were a major professional commitment. Make “appointments” with your spouse and children. When you are on work time—barring emergencies—be on work time. But when you’re with family, be truly with them, so there is no guilt.
You can design your work and professional life around the personal life you want. If you want a sense of how balanced (or imbalanced) you may currently be, take a look at the “Wheel of Life” on my Free Resources page. Before you know it, you’ll be doing the things you need to do and feeling much better about where you are and how you’re spending your time.
If you’re already doing what you love and making separate time for those you love, keep that pesky guilt beast at bay, and just keep REACHING…
*Image courtesy of tech.co.
My fellow coach Amir Karkouti shared a story with some of his colleagues recently that I want to share with you now:
Some time ago, a team of scientists took a dog and put him in a cage where the floor had a very mild electric current running through it—just enough to make the dog a little uneasy.
As soon as the dog was put in and felt the current, he bolted out of the cage through the open door.
They returned the dog to the cage and this time shut the door. A week later, when they opened the door again, the dog had no interest in leaving. He had become accustomed to the discomforting cage.
While the dog stayed sitting there, with the electric current running through the floor, the scientists brought in another dog, and opened an adjacent cage with an electrified floor. As had originally happened with the first dog, as soon as the second dog felt the current, he jumped right out.
Here’s the fascinating part: Seeing the second dog bolt, the first one suddenly realized that he, too, could leave the dissatisfying space he was in and, after a few seconds, again ran through the open door.
Only after seeing the second dog escape did the first dog remember that he didn’t have to stay in that less-than-happy place.
Most professionals find themselves in a dissatisfying cage of their own: not earning enough money, being overwhelmed by work, being otherwise unhappy in their situation. But, like the first dog in the study, after awhile they become “comfortable” with being uncomfortable, and they make no big moves to change the current.
In my book, The High Diving Board, I refer to what most people call the “comfort zone” as the “safe neighborhood”. Staying where you are is not necessarily “comfortable”. Sometimes it’s downright UNcomfortable. But it is familiar. And because the unknown—stepping up your game, hiring a coach, etc.—might be more uncomfortable, you stay where you are.
With humans, even seeing someone escape from his or her cage doesn’t always inspire us to leave our own. That requires a decision—the decision to get out. Once you’ve made the decision, knowing what to do becomes much easier.
If you’re in a cage of your own making, or feel that you’ve ended up in someone else’s, don’t wait until you’re in so much pain that there’s no choice but to leave, or be there forever. Make the decision to do it now, and then find the help you need to run free.
Hey, even a DOG can do it. So if you’ve been stuck, pick a new direction, and just keep REACHING…
If you’re like most people, you found yourself juggling all of the things you had to do this past month, including social obligations and gifts galore, and you may have left someone very important off of your list by mistake…YOU! If you could have anything in 2014, what would it be? And why don’t you have it yet?
When we don’t have what we want, we tell ourselves stories about why we don’t. These stories usually involve our circumstances: Not enough time, not enough money, not enough education, the wrong kind of education, etc. Or, they involve the people in our lives: Friends who don’t understand us, spouses who are overbearing, children who are demanding, sick parents, etc., etc., etc.
I often upset my workshop attendees and clients by calling the people or circumstances we blame for holding us back exactly what they are—excuses. Not having money, time, or training may make getting what you want more difficult, but people whose circumstances are far worse than yours have overcome these obstacles by the sheer force of their commitment.
A simple “resolution” you can keep this month is to commit to giving yourself an hour’s worth of time to figure out what you want and what’s keeping you from having it. During that time, ask yourself these Five Questions as part of a “SWOT” Analysis:
1. If you and I were to meet three years from now, what is the absolute minimum that will have to have happened in order to allow you to say your life is terrific?
2. What strengths do you already have that you could leverage to get you there?
3. What weaknesses will you have to acknowledge?
4. What opportunities can you take advantage of that will help you along the way?
5. What are the hardships and obstacles you’ll need to overcome to get to that point?
If you do this analysis before the end of the month, you can make plans you will keep for the New Year. Make time for yourself, and you’ll be able to maintain your holiday spirit all year round, even as you work hard to keep REACHING…
A favorite hypothetical of mine:
Let’s imagine two professionals in the same field. We’ll call them Advisor A and Advisor B.
We’ll give them the same educational background, the same training, the same resources and connections, and even similar personalities and work ethic.
But when we put them out in the field, I can promise you that one—let’s say, Advisor A—will do better than the other—our unfortunate Advisor B.
If we made them practically identical in every aspect, the only factor that could account for the difference in their performances is that Advisor A would be taking more of the kind of action he needs to take than Advisor B is taking.
But if their work ethic were the same, how could their actions be any different?
The simplest explanation is that for each, the way his world is occurring to him will be different: the way he views his work, the way he views the people he interacts with, and, of course, the way he views himself.
Advisor A might see his work as being important to the people he works with—something they need in their lives.
He might see the world as a safe and friendly place where what he has to offer is welcome.
He might see clients and prospective clients as open and interested in doing what they need to do for their families. And he might see the people he works with as good people, who are there to support him.
Advisor B—the less successful advisor—might have a different view of his world:
Maybe it’s a difficult, unfriendly place, where you have to struggle to succeed.
Maybe he sees himself as a “salesperson”, who “bothers” people.
Perhaps he sees clients and prospects as closed and deceitful, and he sees the people he works with as being there to make his life difficult.
When Advisor B feels he is not succeeding, he tries to imitate what Advisor A is doing, or he enrolls in yet another course to learn another way to do what he already knows how to do. He experiments with the latest and most advanced strategies and language nuances, and finds that none of it works for him.
Of course it doesn’t. All of his effort is like trying to take the apples off of someone else’s tree and tape them to his own, withering tree stump. It’s not the same, and it won’t yield any new, ripe fruit.
If you identify with Advisor B in this hypothetical, you should understand that it is a mistake to try to solve your work performance problems with more information. You already know enough to succeed. What you need is a transformation—an alteration in how your world is occurring for you. Your “inner game” needs fixing, not your “outer game”.
Strategies and language nuances may help a little, but until you view the world as a place where taking action is easy and fun, you will continue to struggle.
If you’re not taking enough action because you are uncomfortable or overwhelmed, don’t spend your time, energy, and money on another course to learn new ways of doing the same thing. Instead, get to work on your view of your world.
How different would your practice be if you believed that finding new prospects is easy? That people are grateful for the help you offer? That it’s OK to tell them what you believe, even if it might upset them? That you bring value to everyone you speak with?
Change your inner game and you automatically change your results—but only always.
I always believe in game-changers, so contact me if you’re in need of one. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
I had been limping around for three weeks with a pain across the top of my left foot that didn’t seem to be getting any better. I made it through five straight days on my feet for two workshops and an active vacation, but the pain did not subside. So, I finally decided to visit a local orthopedist.
It was good for me to go through this experience, because as often happens, it reminded me of why I do the work I do.
I called the doctor’s office and an unhappy-sounding scheduling assistant treated me as if I was a huge interruption to his day. He was abrupt, unsympathetic, and annoyed when it took me a couple of seconds to give him precisely the information he demanded. He advised me that the doctor I wanted wouldn’t be available in this century, and offered me some alternatives. And he became noticeably agitated when I wasn’t satisfied with the first available appointment. After all, who did I think I was? HE worked for a DOCTOR and was VERY busy. I was just one more bother in his bothersome day.
Actor Frank Morgan as “The Gatekeeper” in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
When I arrived at the office, the staff was annoyed that I didn’t notice the big hand-written sign at the window on the right that says “Sign In Here”, and that I thought it was okay to approach the busy person sitting behind the desk on the left instead. When I got back to the person on the right, she handled our entire transaction—from the clipboard to the insurance card and picture ID—without ever looking up to see my face.
Believe it or not, your staff may be treating people like this—and no matter how good you are at what you do, or how kind and considerate you might be, your clients are thinking, “I’m not coming here again.”
Maybe, as it was in the case of this doctor, there are so many people waiting to see you that you can afford not to know how your staff is behaving. But if you’re like most professionals, it matters to you that clients who have experienced something like this aren’t staying with you, and that they will tell others to stay away, as well.
If you want to grow your practice or business, you need to be certain that you’ve spelled out for your staff how to handle the phones and how to greet people, and you need to be sure that they’re following your system. This means listening in on a prospective client or patient call, and having someone report to you about how they are treated while they’re waiting for you. Don’t assume because you’re being treated well by your assistant that he or she is treating your clients in the same way.
It also means spelling out the basics for your team with a formalized procedure that includes, at least, all of the following points:
1. Identify the office and yourself. Everyone who answers a phone should use his or her name.
2. Be pleasant. No matter how frenetic your office might be, every caller deserves to feel that he or she is not an interruption in someone’s busy day.
3. Offer to help. The identification should be followed by “How may I help you?” or “How may I direct your call?” or—well—anything that’s genuinely helpful.
4. Don’t rush the caller. No matter how busy you are, clients want to ease their stress, not to confront yours.
5. Own the call. Until the caller is connected elsewhere, the person answering the phone is responsible for the caller’s experience.
These are just some of the basic rules.
Nearly an hour later, when I finally got to see the orthopedist, I found him to be extremely competent, and a genuinely nice human being. He advised me that I had fractured a bone, but I wasn’t willing to face his staff for the follow-up appointment. I ended up taking my foot elsewhere.
Referrals come from clients who tell stories about the “magical” service they are receiving. If you’re not certain that you and your staff are making magic in your practice—right out of the gate—you can always contact me. In the meantime, keep REACHING…
Every week, I try to provide you with a message of value—either to keep you motivated, or to help you hone your skills to get more clients—or for whatever else you want in your life. Today’s message has an almost Shakespearian relevance:
“To Do” or “NOT to Do”…That is the Question!
During my workshops, when I ask participants to describe their biggest challenge, “Time Management” is often ahead of getting or keeping clients. But since we can’t really manage time—only our activities—thinking in this way can get us stuck in an approach-avoidance tango—with ourselves. So, this week, I want to see if I can shift your perspective.
If you have created a traditional “To Do” list that is now 31 pages long and leaving you feeling overwhelmed, throw it out! Or, at least, put it away in your drawer for a moment.
Before you do, however, pull from it the Six Things you believe are the most important and put them on a sheet of paper that you can keep on top of your desk (perhaps, pin it right next to that Memo to Self: Learn to Let Go!).
Prioritize those six things—and only those six things—from most important to least important, and only then, begin working on Number One, taking it as far as it can go. Tomorrow, maybe move on to Number Two…and so on.
In the early 1900s, the industrialist Charles Schwab paid consultant Ivy Lee $25,000 for this one idea. At first, Schwab did not believe that ignoring his huge list and focusing on just six things could possibly work. After a month, however, he was excited to find he had finished more projects in those four weeks than he had in any previous month. Try this strategy for just one month, and see for yourself.
While you’re at it, make another list of things “Not to Do”. As my colleague David Ward describes:
“You have unlimited choices. But you don’t have unlimited time…As you choose what to do, you also choose what not to do. The word “decide” means to “kill the other option”…If you want to accomplish great things, you must focus on great things and let go of things that are merely good. Give up good to go for great.”
A “Not to Do” List might look something like this:
1. Check my smart phone.
2. Turn on my email client.
3. Go on Facebook.
4. Reorganize my files.
5. Be hard on myself.
Remember: this is only for now. Set the hours between which you choose to abide by your “Not to Do” List. Then, schedule in the time slots when you’re allowed to break the rules, and put this “Not” list back in your drawer for the evening. Suddenly you’ll feel like you’re Managing Time. Your story about your own ineffectiveness will change.
You’ll be thrilled with how much less you Procrastinate when it’s one of the six items on your new “Not to Do” list.
If you need help simplifying what To Do and Not to Do, contact me. In the meantime, do what you can to keep REACHING…
You know the feeling: You gave the presentation of your life! You were “on fire”. Every question was met with a dazzling, intelligent, emotional, cogent, coherent answer. Every idea that you could share with your clients or prospective clients found its way into your head and flowed bountifully into your words. But…
As you’re driving home, you’re not so sure. They seemed to love the first feature you spoke about, but there was something about their comparison of your second feature to the competitor’s that might have indicated a preference for the competitor’s services…
And then, there were those few awkward seconds when your attempt at humor went right over their heads…
And those few moments when you remember feeling you were a bit “salesy” or sounded a little too desperate.
And a piece of food from lunch was stuck in your teeth!…and your tie was on, but it was sticking out from under your shirt collar…and the stain you failed to notice until now…
Growing your network, giving presentations, interviewing for clients—or for work—definitely has its ups and downs. When the adrenaline rush starts to dissipate, the self-doubts to which we are all susceptible come flooding in. We begin to analyze everything we’ve done, finding fault with enough things to replace all the confidence we had a few moments before with an empty, aching feeling that we’ve somehow botched the whole endeavor.
Courtesy of DeviantArt.com
It’s The “But” Monster at work. In my book, The High Diving Board, I talk about this creature whose original purpose was to prevent you from roaming out into the streets, or beyond the borders of your “safe neighborhood“. As you grew and expanded that “neighborhood”, however, The “But” Monster learned to hide better, but grew with you. Now, when he pops up out of nowhere, he’s huge, and he’s angry that you got past him in the first place to make that important call or presentation.
So, he welcomes you back home to him with the doubts that should have kept you from venturing out in the first place. He tells you, “Yes, you wanted to fly, BUT…you’re really out of your league here.” Or, “Sure it was a good presentation, BUT…you don’t really know that much and your competition is probably much better, anyway.” Or, “It was a good presentation, BUT…they were probably stuck staring at that food in your teeth.”
“Why don’t you just stay here where it’s safe?” he urges. And he could be speaking powerfully enough to keep you wallowing in that self-doubt, and causing you to avoid the next venture altogether.
BUT…don’t let The But Monster beat you!!! Here are some ideas that might help:
a) You can’t stop the negative feelings from arising, so let them. Your lifelong gatekeeper is strong, immortal, and immutable. The one thing you can do is let him rattle on, but recognize that the doubts he raises are a natural reaction to your choice to go beyond your safe neighborhood. If you’ve accepted the concept that it’s okay to be afraid in the pursuit of your goals, then accept this corollary: You can’t stop the self-doubts, but you can decide not to let them slow you down.
b) It doesn’t matter, anyway. No deal, no presentation, and no single event should matter so much that actually “blowing it” could possibly destroy your life or career. Get over your doubts about this one by jumping right into the next one. Hey—if nothing else, you’ll have a new disaster to worry about!
c) Let go of your outcomes. Set your goals, do the things you need to do to reach those goals, and then stop worrying about how an individual situation works out. For every call or presentation you actually mess up, there will be another you get right.
If you need help changing your attitude toward the bumps in the road to your success, and toward your very own incidental “But” Monster, contact me. Or hone this outlook and other skills by joining me for my Mastering Client Referrals Workshop on Saturday, October 19th.
In the meantime, keep REACHING…
COME TO PRINCETON IN OCTOBER
AND BECOME A REFERRAL MASTER
If you’re a financial or insurance professional, join me on Saturday, October 19th for an all-day
Mastering Client Referrals Workshop.
Boost your year-end sales and start 2014 on a roll. For details, take a look at
Register by Friday to take advantage of the Early Registration Discount. Or call me at (609) 454-3810 and we’ll talk about whether this program makes sense for you.
Most people don’t really understand what courage is. When I ask them to define it in my workshops on Overcoming Fear, the answer I often get is “the absence of fear”.
But this answer isn’t accurate. While there are a few seemingly fearless fighters, most military personnel will admit, when you ask them, that they were afraid much of the time they were in the field.
Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s action in the face of fear. These brave people risk—and sometimes sacrifice—their lives, but not without fear. They do what has to be done, despite the fear.
Wherever I go, I find professionals and entrepreneurs struggling to grow their businesses or advance their careers. These are people with all of the technical skills they need to be successful, but they’re still, somehow, not getting what they want.
Other times, more simply:
(3) they haven’t yet decided to make the change.
If you feel like your practice ought to be growing, but you’re just stuck, start by recognizing that one, both, or all three of these factors might be at play. If fear is one of them, understand that it’s okay to be afraid when it comes to stepping into sales and marketing and other “dangerous battlefields“. Admit that you are afraid. But don’t respond by backing away.
Ultimately, the fear itself can’t hold us back from having what we want and need in our businesses or lives—how we view fear and our learned response to fear are the real threats. We feel the “fear factor”—the butterflies in our stomachs, the rapid pounding in our chests—and the little voice in our heads warns us: “It’s not okay, back away.” And we obey.
When we were children, this response probably saved our lives many times. We’d feel those feelings when we came too close to a hot stove or stepped into the street. But as adults, if we so much as think of picking up the phone to make that prospecting call, or attending a networking event, or making a presentation—our “back away” response keeps us from doing what we need to do.
The good news is that if we learned this response, we can unlearn it and replace it with something better:
“It’s okay to be afraid, but if this is my goal, then I have to do it.”
If you can get past the fear on your own, do it. If you can’t, decide to hire someone who can help you, or contact me to take a step in the right direction and back onto the playing field. No matter what you choose to do, if you have a mission, keep REACHING…
(1) The ability to ask provocative questions
(2) The ability to listen with total focus on your client
(3) The ability to relate compelling stories and metaphors
In this article, I’ll discuss the second of these skills:
“Honey, you wont believe this! I got to work fifteen minutes late this morning and when I looked out the window there was a flying saucer with two little green men in it. They waved and flew off into space…”
Hannah would then probably ask:
“Why were you late? You left on time.”
We tend to listen to one another, surf the Internet, and watch television—all at the same time. When we do, the “listening” part of this multitasking ends up being pretty passive.
Some of my clients and friends have taken courses on active listening. They’ve been told:
“When you’re speaking with a client, stop everything else, put your papers aside, turn away from your computer, make eye contact with the client, concentrate on the words he/she is speaking, and don’t interrupt!”
All of these tips are truly important, but they can’t prevent us from the problem of being “Waiting To Talk” listeners. Even when we stop all activity and elect to listen actively, our minds often cannot help but race through responses to whatever it is that our client or prospect is saying. Because those wheels in our heads are turning, we may miss the most important component of communication—the emotions behind our clients’ words.
Listening with total focus on your clients requires all of the skills you need for active listening, but adds the requirement that you let go of the need to ready a response. Listen to their words, listen for the emotions behind their words, and observe their body language. Step outside of yourself, and pay attention without standing at attention, ready to pounce in and solve problems. Take in what your clients are saying, but also, absorb what they aren’t saying.
Professionals who are totally focused on their clients and prospects are always more likely to win—or keep—the loyal advocates who give them business. But cultivating this level of focus takes practice. Contact me if you think you want some help in becoming the best listener you can possibly be.
Next week, I’ll shift focus to the third skill you’ll need to build your client base: the ability to relate to your clients through powerful words and compelling stories. In the meantime, stay active, let go, and keep REACHING…
Bill is a financial services representative in the Southwest U.S. who told me that one of the greatest challenges for him was his fear of reaching out to the already “successful” people in his community who he thought he could help.
“I have a list of these people I never call,” he told me. “The thought of reaching out to them gets my stomach churning, and I just can’t bring myself to do it.”
Bill’s list of these special prospects had at least 50 names on it. He called it his “Whale List”.
“What’s the actual challenge in contacting them?” I asked him. “Why is that you have no trouble contacting other people, but you’re paralyzed when it comes to contacting the whales?”
Bill thought for a moment and then nearly gasped at his own answer.
“They might think I’m a fool to believe that I could help them.”
“Bill, do YOU believe you can help them?” I asked.
“Well…yes, I think I might be able to!”
“So, all you’re really saying is that they might say NO to you,” I pressed on. “And if you think about it, how is that any different from when anyone else says NO to you?”
Again, there was a silence, and then Bill replied. “Well, I guess it really isn’t any different.”
“So, if you weren’t afraid to pick up the phone and ask them if they’d like to work with you,” I asked, “what would you do differently than you do with anyone else you call?”
“Nothing different at all,” he quickly conceded.
“Could you commit, then, to just one Whale Call a day?” I asked, and Bill agreed that he would.
After a week, I could tell we had created some magic. Bill had already made five Whale Contacts, and while three of them had politely told him they had no interest in speaking with him about their situations, two of them made appointments with him. None of the Whales were rude to him or refused to take his call.
A few weeks have gone by now, and Bill is still too intimidated by these local “movers and shakers” to make more than one Whale Call per day—but he has also successfully converted one of the whales into a promising new client.
If there are people on your list who you’re terrified to contact, challenge yourself to call just one a day—or even one each week. Prepare and rehearse what you’re going to say, and then make that single attempt to connect. It could change the entire course of your practice.