A Year Off For the Diff — 2017 Hiatus

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.  Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

–     Tony Robbins

So, here’s the deal.

In the almost 12 years I’ve been doing  some version of The Daily Difference, it’s been a wonderful augmentation to my career, my growth and my network.  It still is.

That said, with a “day job” that presents a set of challenges that long-time subscribers have heard me address over the years, I feel like I’m headed in to “syndication” of older episodes, if you will — and that’s not why you subscribe.

There’s one other thing:  Four years ago, I decided to write a book.  And, I’ve discovered that I can either write a pretty good blog and a decent book, or I can focus on writing a great book.

Now, there’s no need to unsubscribe!  From time-to-time, I might throw a missive out there, if only to keep in touch.  From time-to-time, a topic may captivate me and I’ll toss a post out there to see what y’all think.

But, for 2017, The Daily Difference is going to take a nap.  My day job and the book will be the benefactors, hopefully.  In fact, I’ll be redirecting some of the focus to an internal blog here at SHAZAM.  (It’s a great company, and we’re looking to add great sales and relationship management professionals — call me if you know someone we should be talking to!)

Thanks for years of loyalty, feedback and engagement.  Hope to see you back here from time-to-time, and perhaps again on January 1, 2018.

Two parting shots, a couple of my favorite lead-ins.

“Most things in life are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong.  Most things in life just are.”

–     Dr. Tom Graf

“If you keep doin’ what you’re doin’, you’ll get more of what you’ve got.”

–     Dick Heston (1933 – 2002) and still the greatest man I’ll ever know, and whom I miss more with each passing day

Here’s to meaningful change and an acceptance of what we can’t change…

Make it a great year…

 

 

Environment — And A Holiday Hiatus

“I blame myself for this more than anything because I hate it when people blame their environment.  Especially in a leadership position, you’re responsible for how you react to your environment and how you change your environment, and for being a positive force to change it for the better if you think something is toxic.”

–     Theo Epstein, General Manager of the World Champion Chicago Cubs, in this week’s “Sports Illustrated,” regarding his departure from Boston

Theo Epstein led two organizations to end the longest World Series droughts in baseball history, first with the moribund Boston Red Sox and then with the eternally frustrated Chicago Cubs.  He is widely regarded to be the top executive in professional sports right now.  He’s also described as exceptionally empathetic and tuned in to the people around him.

He’s clearly tuned in to himself, as well.

Blame is a suckers game — and holding ourselves accountable is the stuff of difference making.

Whether we’re leaders or workers, we’re responsible for how we react and respond to our environment, and if we’re workers working for good leaders, we ought to come together to change things for the better where we can.  Together.

As we approach the (Steve’s opinion) most significant birthday on the calendar every year, the Diff will take a hiatus until January 3rd.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and may all the Blessings of the season be on you and those you love.

 

Strengths

“I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon, but it involved a lot of coordination, and I do not have magic hands.”

–     Sue Desmond-Hellman, CEO of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“How can this team revolve around me if I never get the ball?”

–     My buddy, Geoff Hutton, during a time out in an intramural basketball game, circa 1982 (offered tongue-in-cheek to lighten the pressure)

Knowing what we’re best at doing is important.  Knowing what we’re not best at doing is, too.

Ms. Hellman was an excellent doctor, just not a surgeon.  “Hutch” was a great athlete, just not a great basketball player.

The more time we spend doing what we’re best at doing, the more rewarding our days, and the more success we’ll find…

After Further Review

“I was watching the Super Bowl with my 92-year-old grandfather.  One team scored a touchdown.  They showed the instant replay, and he thought they scored another one.  I was gonna correct him, but I figured the game he was watching in his mind was better than the one on TV.”

–    Steven Wright, one of my favorite comedians

I hate instant replay in sports.  Especially when I am at the game live.  Interminable!

I love instant replay in business.

How often do we “watch the tape” of our day, or of our last meeting or conversation?  How often do we capture the things we did that didn’t move the needle, and how often do we consider them in the context of the things that would have, had we only done them, instead?  How would our game plan change if we realized that 40% of our day’s plan would produce nothing?

How often do we replay a phone call, a conversation, a presentation — critically — so that we learn more quickly what we want to repeat and what we don’t?  How often do we have another “coach” in the replay session, and seek feedback on whether we got it right, wrong or somewhere in between?  How often do we take the time to get better, when it would be much easier to just stay the same?

Instant replay can be our friend.   Just not when we’re sitting in the stadium.

Why vs How

“He who has a “why” to live can bear with almost any “how.”

–    Friedrich Nietzsche

Substitute “work” for “live,” and the concept still applies.

In Dave and Wendy Ulrich’s book, The Why of Work; How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win, the issue of why we do what we do is probed.

Here are a couple major considerations, actually called out in the preface of the book:

1) Leaders are meaning makers, and

2) When leaders grasp the “why” of meaning, they then should seek the “how.”

For those of us who are tasked with leadership, these are compelling and serious calls to action, as well as calls to understanding. For those of us who report to leaders – and that’d be all of us, these are a call to force the issue. If your leader doesn’t understand the “why,” how can they possibly expect to get even close on the “how?”

If our work doesn’t have enough “why,” we’re going to have to find it – and we’re going to have to help others find it, because a life spent only in the “how,” isn’t what difference makers aspire to.

The Volume of Our Selling

“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”

–     Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), South African bishop and social rights activist

In Glengarry Glen Ross, we learn that we should “ABC.”  Always be closing.

Ahhh, if only it were that simple.

Long-time readers know that I believe that sales is, by definition, an argument, but not in the cultural context of how we hear the word argue.  Rather, sales is an argument inasmuch as if the other party already believed what we want them to believe, there we be nothing to sell.

Still, too much training time is spent on closing skills, negotiation skills and the “art of persuasion.”  Complicating matters is that all buying decisions are ultimately made emotionally, no matter how quickly or aggressively logic comes into the picture to rationalize whatever decision was made.

It really is less about the volume of our argument and more about the quality.  In other words, Desmond Tutu’s advice is solid.  The better our preparation, the better our foundation, the better our “argument;” and that will make the entire process flow more smoothly and more in our favor.

Reprised: While They’re Alive, While We’re Alive

“So, you live from day to day, and you dream about tomorrow
And the hours go by like minutes, and the shadows come to stay
So you take a little something to make them go away

And I could have done so many things, baby
If I could only stop my mind
From wonderin’ what I left behind
And from worrying ’bout this wasted time”

     –    Lyric from “Wasted Time” by Glenn Frey and Don Henley / Eagles

This reprised post from a little over a year ago is in honor of Lauren Smith, who went to be with the Lord on December 4th.  Lauren’s 10+ year fight with cancer ended today, and a hole miles wide is opened up in the world she leaves behind, even as the world she joins is made even more awesome by the angel who just joined the choir.  Lauren’s husband is a life-long friend of mine.  Whether you knew Lauren or not, you know someone who’s dealt with or is dealing with cancer’s awful curse.  The irony in the midst of the pain is that the grace and strength and wisdom and peace that Lauren, Clark and their two daughters have shown has Blessed us all.  We have a new understanding of what adversity is, and of what it is not.  And, we have a new reason to pick up the phone and tell someone we love that we do.

For Lauren Smith and her family… 

In a life compelled by music, Eagles was a band that has been a major piece of who I am, musically, philosophically and, to a certain degree, spiritually. Sure, they recorded almost every song in a key I could sing in, making my days as a cover-band front man at least bearable for the audiences. But they also wrote about, sang about and delved into topics, feelings and experiences that were — are — important to me.

Thank God I saw them live, because Glenn is gone, and thus so is Eagles. (It’s not “The” Eagles — and it always drove Glenn nuts when people added the “The.”)

David Bowie is gone, too. I never saw him perform live, but his music was also a strong influencer for my generation. BB King passed recently. Thankfully I saw him a half dozen times, because “the thrill is gone.”

We never know about tomorrow. Heck, we’re not even sure about later today. So we ought not to worry about wasted time, and instead stop wasting time. See the artists that move you, while they’re alive, while we’re alive. Have coffee with the people that inspire you, while they’re alive, while we’re alive. Call someone who will have their day changed for the better because you called — while they’re alive, while we’re alive.  Call someone you love.  And tell them you love them.  Then, show them every day that it’s true.

Glenn Frey. David Bowie. BB King. Dad. Mom.  And now the wife of a dear friend. The list is long, and growing. That’s part of being 55. But wasting time worrying, missing and wondering “woulda, coulda, shoulda” doesn’t have to be. Now, I gotta go buy some Cowboy Mouth tickets, make a few phone calls and buy a round of coffee. While they’re alive. While I’m alive.

Gettin’ Naked

“Vulnerability.  It is one of the most undervalued and misunderstood of all human qualities.”

–     The first sentence in the introduction to Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty

If Seth Godin makes us better (and he does) Patrick Lencioni makes us great.  If we listen.  If we learn.

This book, the best of Lencioni’s “fables” (in my opinion) strikes at the core of most companies’ greatest business challenge; establishing and maintaining client loyalty in an “everything is a commodity” world.

Reality check:  a) everything’s not a commodity and b) that makes understanding the point of Getting Naked even more important.

The three debilitating fears that Lencioni addresses in Getting Naked are:

  1. The fear of losing the business.
  2. The fear of being embarrassed.
  3. The fear of feeling inferior.

Suffering from these fears means that we’re more image conscious that outcome focused.  It means we’re less comfortable in our own skin that we are in a charade constructed of “corporate speak.”  It means that we’re pretending to be something that we’re not, or we’re striving to be something we’re not.

“Getting Naked” has nothing to do with being clothed or unclothed.  It’s all about being real.  Being vulnerable.

It’s about a series of simple, yet compelling principles that completely change the conversation and thus change the game in most B2B relationships.

It’s an exceptional book.  If you don’t see it in your stocking this year, grab a copy — and prepare for a difference to be made in you, your clients and everyone around you.

Punting? Here’s An Idea…We Don’t Need No Steenking Punting!

“I don’t believe in punting, and can’t see ever doing it again.”

–       Kevin Kelley, Head Football Coach @ Little Rock’s Pulaski Academy

Unorthodox?  You bet.  Unconventional?  Absolutely.  Effective?  Apparently.

Kelley’s team has won the Arkansas 5A State Championship five times since 2003, including 2011, 2014 and 2015.  He hasn’t punted since 2007.  Ever.  He on-side kicks on every kickoff.  Every time.  His teams do not attempt to return punts.  Ever.

Kelley cites statistics on field position, the likelihood of fumbling and increased offensive opportunity to support his position.  It has worked for him.  College teams have considered Kelley — a true data wonk that applies what the data tell him — but they simply can’t get their head around his ideas.  Like the banking profession we serve, college athletic directors think in terms of downside.  “What if we don’t punt and the other team scores?”  Well, what if you do, and the other teams scores?  You just sacrificed 25% of your opportunity to score / advance the ball and just ceded to conventional wisdom — and you’re still down 7!

Cited in the “Scorecard” section of a 2010 Sports Illustrated, Kelley says, “If your offense knows it has four (chances) instead of three, it totally changes the game.  It’s like someone once said ‘Punting is what you do on fourth down’ and everyone did it without asking why.”

The banking profession that we serve isn’t known for this kind of risk taking.  Bankers have been taught to always punts on fourth down.  And, financial services firms are being badgered by the government and the markets to consider punting on third down, maybe even second.  What if we helped them see the way to keep their “offense” on the field 25 – 33% more of the time?  What if we showed them why playing offense might make them champions, too?  Our job is to bring ideas that make it safe for them to try new things in a challenging market place and in a challenging time.  Maybe Kevin Kelley has an idea that can help us just like it has helped the Pulaski Academy Bruins create a football dynasty on very different terms.

Create more opportunities.  Don’t punt when things get tough.  Don’t fall for easy traps.  Totally change the game.

Worth a try, isn’t it?  I bet it makes a difference…

 

Never Enough Time

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”  

–     Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662), French mathematician, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher

Dad always used to say, “It takes more time to do it over than it ever would to do it right!”  Yet we’re so prone to subscribe to the theory that we never have enough time.

If our focus is on how much we get done, we’ll never have enough time.  If our focus is on what we get done, suddenly time is in greater abundance.

Busy-ness is not our friend.  Productivity is.  And when we take the time to “make our letters longer,” they become a better read.