Three Cups of Tea


The Balti Theory of Relationships

I’m a coffee drinker.  This is a story involving tea but that shouldn’t matter.

I’m not a fan of a lot of fancy coffees.  Just straight up brewed coffee from a pot or Keurig machine is all I need.  If I am going to splurge on something exotic, I go for a strong espresso or café americano, nothing too foamy or overly sweet.  I always drink my coffee black, mostly because I am lactose intolerant but since I discovered that, I have found I prefer the fuller taste that milk or cream can tend to dull.

I used to do a lot of business networking in coffee shops.  Until recently there was no better place to have an informal, meet and greet with a new or perspective client.  Of course, COVID19 has changed all of that.  Now all my meetings, regardless of purpose have gone virtual.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it saves a lot of time, no more driving across town, paying for coffee, looking for a table etc.  Even though I do miss the atmosphere of a good coffee shop and I feel for the entrepreneurs that run them I can’t say I’ve really missed a beat by moving my meetings online.

Regardless of where our networking occurs, one thing has not changed.  It’s still all about personal relationships.

I learned what I call The Balti Three Cups of Tea Theory of Relationships from educational activist Greg Mortenson.  He learned it while building schools in the mountains of Pakistan.

Mortenson’s story was first published in the 2006 book, “Three Cups of Tea”.  In a nutshell, back in 1993, while climbing K2 he got separated from his party, ended up injured and stranded in a remote, underserved region of Pakistan.  There he discovered a Balti village tribe where the children had to walk several miles, over treacherous mountain trails to the nearest school.  In winter, the trail would be impassible, leaving the children without access to basic education for several months at a time.

After spending weeks among the Balti people, recovering from his injuries, he promised to repay their hospitality and build them a school.  Over the next decade Mortenson would return to Northern Pakistan several times and oversee the construction of over 50 schools across the region.

Since the publication of Mortenson’s story, the details and results have been called into question.  It seems when one person sets out the change the world there are no shortage of others who want to tear him down, but that’s a different post.  The point of this post is how Mortenson learned to build relationships across a religious and cultural divide, not to mention a significant language barrier.

The Balti people do business over tea.  According to one of the village elders that Mortenson worked with, the first time you share tea with a Balti you are a stranger, the second time you are an honored guest, and the third time you are family.

I’ve been in business for nearly 30 years, the last 10 of which have been in my current capacity.  Before COVID I used to joke that I’ve met with clients and prospects in every coffee shop from here to Deep River, (about 200 kms away) and I have found the Balti theory to be remarkably accurate.  It takes an average of 3 meetings before enough trust has been built to get anything done.  I have also found that each meeting must be approached in its own unique way to maximize your effectiveness and move the relationship forward.  Poor execution at one meeting can seriously damage your chances of getting the to next one and ultimately to the sale.

Here are some of the things I have learned moving relationships forward.  While we can’t meet in coffee shops right now these tips and tricks for execution are still incredibly useful and tend to work just as well in a virtual environment.

The First Cup

“The first time you take tea with the Bakti you are a stranger.”

Likewise, the first time you meet with a prospective client.  It has been my experience that no real business ever gets done in the first meeting.  People don’t do business with strangers.  The purpose of the first meeting is for the prospective client to get to know you.  Start by asking a lot of open-ended questions about their business, their personal life, how they got started, and what their hopes and dreams and plans are.

By asking those questions and letting the prospect talk as much as they want you will gain a ton of information without being aggressive or sounding like a salesperson.  When they start to run out of steam ask a few follow up questions about what they have done to achieve their goals, who they have worked with in the past and most importantly, what their experience has been with individuals similar to you.

That last one is too often overlooked, and it is key in moving out of the stranger pool.  Everyone has a bias or preconceived notion about you and what you offer, even if they won’t admit it.  By asking point blank what their experience and impression has been with people like you, you immediately uncover what that bias is.  Once you know that you can tailor your offering to address their specific needs and concerns.

Now it’s your turn to talk.  Don’t forget, at this point you are still a stranger so don’t be aggressive or say anything that could make the prospect feel uncomfortable.  Repeat back some of the things they have said, affirm their goals and dreams, congratulate them for their accomplishments and acknowledge their concerns.  Then make it clear that you do business differently and that you have a unique approach that can make a significant impact on their goals.

After I have determined the prospect’s main goals and biases, I finish off with one last question that sets the stage for the next meeting.  “If I could show you a way to achieve x without y, would that be a conversation worth having?”  That answer is almost always yes, at that point it’s time to wrap it up and book the next meeting.

It’s important at this point not to pitch a product.  You are still a stranger, by piquing their interest you are on the verge of becoming a welcome guest the next time but you haven’t gained enough trust to ask for a sale.  That comes later.  Go away leaving them wanting more and looking forward to your next meeting.

The Second Cup

“The second time you share tea with a Balti you are an esteemed guest.”

If you did your job in the first meeting, the prospect will want to hear from you again.  When I arrive at the appointed time and place of this second meeting, I sometimes visualize a grand welcome like how you would expect a visiting dignitary or celebrity to be greeted.  I rarely get the literal red-carpet-treatment but it helps to build up my confidence and put me in the right frame of mind, remember, the prospect wants you here, you are an esteemed guest.

In the previous meeting you not only listened to their goals and dreams, you affirmed them.  And then you heard their concerns and gave them hope.  You’ve gone from stranger to welcome guest.  You aren’t yet family, but you potentially hold the keys to a better tomorrow and for that you will be honored.  The stakes are exponentially higher in the second meeting, now you must deliver value.

At the end of the last meeting we left the prospect wanting more by leaving the open question; “If I could show you a way to x without y, would that be a conversation worth having?”   But you haven’t gathered enough details about their unique situation yet so this time I like to bring a full proposal that answers a similar question but is based on a completely different client’s set of details.  I use this as an example to show the kind of work I do for people with similar concerns as the prospect.

By using a different set of details, I accomplish three things in a non-threatening manner:

  1. I show the prospect that they are not alone in their concerns, alleviating any doubts they may have that their issue is, or isn’t a big deal.
  2. I show deep expertise in the subject matter at hand.
  3. I show them that there is a solution.

After walking the prospect through the solution that I used with another client I can then ask for the exact details of their situation.  If I’ve done my job to this point, the prospect will almost always give me everything I need to build a proposal for them.

Once I’ve gathered all the personal details I need, I set a time to come back a third time with their unique proposal.

The Third Cup

“The third time you share tea with a Balti, you are family.”

If you’ve made it this far in the relationship you know a lot of personal details about the prospect, you’ve been invited in and are now family.  In fact, you probably have a more intimate knowledge of certain aspects of their life than some actual family members do.  The trust you have been given is sacred and the care with which you present your solutions must rival that of a doctor laying out a treatment plan or a priest counselling them through a major life event.

Forget about the red-carpet this time.  When I arrive at this meeting I like to visualize standing on holy ground and presenting the prospect with the tools to embark on a sacred journey.  Again, I am rarely treated like Gandalf or some other mystical guru, but the mental exercise helps set my mind on the monumental importance of what I am about to share.   I present the solution with a level of reverence and respect that shines through to the prospect and helps cement my position as the one who holds the key to unlocking their goals and dreams.

It might take a fourth meeting to fill out an application and collect a cheque but if I’ve done my job to this point, validated their goals and dreams, affirmed their concerns and presented appropriate solutions, the sale is all but assured.

 

I’ve presented this process as three neatly planned meetings.  The reality is that it there can often be several months of telephone, email, and other discussions between each of these meetings.  It takes time to build relationships but given enough time, Gandalf always wins.

 

Gentle Offence


Three Keys of Selling Post COVID19

We are now just over a month into the physically distanced world of COVID19.  Having been ordered by public health officials to stay at least 6 feet apart has fundamentally changed the way society operates.  Chances are, we are not going back to the old handshake and cocktail party ways of selling any time soon.

As stock markets around the world reeled, non-essential businesses closed and upwards of a million people lost their jobs in Canada alone (hopefully only temporarily), the entire world went on defence.  We were told to stay home as much as possible, only go out for essential items and stop the spread so that health care workers could have a fighting chance at containing the virus.  Government stepped in with billions of dollars in financial relief for laid off workers and shuttered businesses while essential businesses like grocery stores increased wages and went on a hiring binge to meet demand.

Now, one month in, the tide is slowly starting to turn.  The rate of new infections is slowing, although not yet decreasing.  More and more people are recovering and we’re starting to get the hang of this physical distancing thing.  But there is a dark side too.  Homo Sapiens is a social animal and with governments telling us to expect the reopening of the economy to be a long and drawn out process, people are getting restless.  We aren’t there yet, a pick-up game of basketball, a round of golf or just rollerblading with your family in an abandoned parking lot will still get you a $750 (plus tax) fine.  Opening a non-essential business could cost you $10,000 per day in fines and up to a year in jail.

But the economy will re-open and we have to be ready for a very different world when it does.

This past week, during our weekly virtual team meeting one of the top salespeople in our organization used the term “Gentle Offence” to describe the way in which we will have to pivot our sales approach as a result of this pandemic.  I don’t know if he coined the phrase or had heard it somewhere else, but I thought it was brilliant as it perfectly articulates he way I think sales needs to evolve in the new world.

The way I see it Gentle Offence is just the compassionate and emotionally intelligent approach that people are going to need to hear from salespeople as we all recover from the mentally draining, and emotionally traumatic events of this pandemic.

Gentle Offence consists of three key elements.

1 – Know Your Moment

Now is not the time for a hard sell.  I would argue that there was never a good time for a hard sell but that’s just me.  But this is definitely not the time.

One major car company has been really good at this so far, pivoting their advertising to focus on saying thank you to health care and essential service workers and not mentioning any of their vehicles at all.  Some fast food restaurants have done the same.  You do not want to be the brand that was tone deaf to the cultural moment and continued pitching your non-essential product while people suffer.  Marie Antoinette did that, and it didn’t end well for her, don’t be like Marie Antoinette.

It is enough right now to express gratitude and offer support but do not pitch products.  People have long memories when it comes to how you make them feel.  In a sense we are in a collective state of worry and mourning, be a source of comfort and compassion not additional pressure to consume and perform, people will remember that and reward you for it later.

2 – Let The Client Lead

A good psychotherapist never tells a patient what to think, rather they help the patient interpret their thoughts and adjust their behaviours for a more consistent outcome.  In the post COVID world salespeople are going to need to become a bit more like psychotherapists helping their clients interpret and express their needs and find ways to better fulfill them.  If that means guiding potential clients away from your product or service, so be it, you can’t be all things for all people.  The job of the salesperson is to fulfill a need, not manufacture one.

Advertising was invented to create dissatisfaction with the status quo and manufacture desire.  This has led society in an unhealthy pursuit of materialism and created a world of interpersonal comparison termed “keeping up with the Joneses”.  COVID19 has reminded us that the Joneses are just as vulnerable as the rest of us and what we want and what we need are two very different things.

Letting the client lead means helping the client flesh out their needs and desires and providing solutions to their problems.  It takes patience, kindness, compassion and deep knowledge of the issues and potential solutions.

3 – Bring Your ‘A’ Game

If the new world is going to be all about compassion, empathy and sensitivity then closing the deal is going to require a lot more knowledge of both product and application.  The salesperson is going to need to be better prepared than ever before, know more about their product and understand more about how it addresses the client’s specific need.  It’s no longer going to be enough to pitch a product by focusing on features and benefits, you are going to have to paint a picture of life after the purchase that jives with the picture the client painted for you previously.  And you are going to have to do it better than anyone else.

 

So, there you have it.  I believe playing Gentle Offence is going to be the new way of selling post COVID19 and in many sectors it has already started.  It’s about compassion, empathy, wisdom, and situational understanding.  How do you think sales will change in the new world?  Send me your interpretation in the comments below.

So… That Just Happened!


Resetting the World Post-COVID-19

Every few generations we have an epoch defining event.  Life was going along one way and then, seemingly overnight, suddenly we live in a very different world.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Pearl Harbour and 9/11.  These incidents have all split history and profoundly changed daily life from that point forward.

The current COVID-19 crisis will be remembered as another such event.

Here in Ontario last Thursday morning most of us got up and went about our business in the usual way.  Sure, we had heard about COVID-19 and how it was disrupting life in other parts of the world.  What had started in China and shut down production there had rattled financial markets around the world.  Italy had shut down everything, but the most essential services and we were starting to see similar action in New York City but very little had touched us here.

That changed on Wednesday, March 11 when the first couple of cases were reported here.  Within 24 hours, the provincial government had closed the elementary schools, secondary schools, and day care centers and ordered all nonessential employees to work from home.

Panic buying set in as people scrambled to purchase cleaning supplies and non-perishables.

“Social Distancing” and “Flattening the Curve” became the new buzz words as everyone was ordered to stay at least 6 feet apart.  Churches cancelled Sunday services, Restaurants, Fitness Clubs, Dentists and most non-essential businesses began to implement first, extreme cleaning protocols, then reduced hours but by early the next week only grocery stores, pharmacies, fast food takeout (no dining rooms) and big box household retailers remained open at all.

What started with a handful of reported case, in just ten days, has grown to over 200 cases and resulted in a near total lock down of all non-essential human activity.  Officials are telling us to get used to it, this could go on for several weeks or even months.

I’m not qualified to go into a discussion of why this is happening except to say that I understand that COVID-19 is a highly contagious illness, one that if left unchecked has the capacity to overwhelm the medical system.  I’ve seen the computer simulations; I know what an unchecked spread could look like and how the various social distancing and lock down protocols should prevent the worst-case scenarios.  I get it, so I am doing my part by working from home and going out as little as possible.

For me at least all of this is starting to beg the question, “what’s next?”.

The only thing I know for certain is that COVID-19 has split history, nothing will be quite the same again.  I have no idea what some of the broader implications of this may be, but I have a few suspicions and a few ideas about how to go about life once things return to “normal”.

In no particular order, here are my thoughts on the state of the world post-COVID-19.

1 – Small Businesses will be hurt the most

My friend owns a coffee shop up the street.  He’s closed.

Rents are still due on April 1 and with no revenue coming in I have no idea how businesses will be able to pay.  To date, the government has offered to help employees that are laid off and offered some tax relief, but I have seen nothing concrete that provides income assistance for the owners of these business.  I hope the government will step in with something that will prevent landlords from evicting businesses and extend the income programs to people who are self-employed.  But at the end of the day, most businesses will never get back the revenue that has been lost.  The big chain stores have deeper pockets and stand a better chance of coming back from this, many of the smaller shops may never reopen.

It’s not just retail business and restaurants that are suffering.  Personal service providers, dentists, physio therapists, contractors of all types, (plumbers, roofers etc.), anyone who works in person with customers is effectively closed.  Even my business, which relies primarily on face to face meetings with clients, many of whom are small business owners, has been significantly curtailed.

The world post-COVID-19 will see fewer small businesses and less service delivered in person.

2 – The Rise of Teleconferencing

Teleconferencing is not new.  The ability to put more than two people on the same telephone call has been around for at least 40 years.  In the past decade the technology has exploded on-line with video conferencing over the internet growing exponentially.  Last week as governments and businesses large and small began ordering people to work from home the stock price for video conferencing start-up Zoom Technologies shot up nearly 75% as tens of thousands, myself included, opened new accounts to stay connected with colleagues.  Google and Microsoft have their own versions which have also seen significant growth in just the last couple of weeks.

As people become more comfortable with this technology post-COVID-19 I suspect we may begin to see more and more companies offering permanent work from home solutions to their staff.  We are all taking a crash course in remote work and some companies may realize that this is a cost-effective alternative to the traditional office environment.  We may also start to see less long-distance corporate travel, why fly halfway around the world for a meeting when you can accomplish just as much from the comfort of your own home via video conference?

3 – Emergency Preparedness

I tend to do my weekly grocery shopping on Fridays.  Last week, when the first school closures where announced my wife tried to get me to go early but I refused, saying that there was no reason to panic.

Boy was I wrong?!

Within hours the grocery stores had been overrun, toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, canned goods, pasta and countless other food staples where suddenly the hottest commodities on the market.  By the time I went out on my regular schedule many of those items were simply sold out.

Experts have been telling us for years to always keep a supply of certain things on hand.  Non-perishable foods, batteries, bottled water and a bit of cash, to start.  Financial advisors like me also encourage people to maintain an emergency fund, anywhere from $1000 for essentials up to a savings account containing enough money to cover 6 months of expenses.

Nobody does it.

What this crisis has taught us is that you never know when, or how an emergency might unfold.  Post-COVID-19, financial advisors like me and other experts should redouble our efforts to get the word out and help people prepare for the next disaster, however and whenever it may come.  Will anybody listen?  I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.

4 – Your Health Matters

When COVID-19 first started its rapid spread around the world health officials were saying that most people wouldn’t get it, and for those that did it would just be a bad flu.  The only people who needed to worry were the elderly and the immunocompromised.  What we know now is that age has less to do with it, the real determining factor is your underlying health.

I’m not qualified to go into a detailed discussion of health, fitness and immunity.  What I do know is that the three are both interrelated and mutually exclusive, it is possible to be both fit and unhealthy for instance.  Nutrition science is the new cutting edge of medical research.  I know you can’t kill a virus by changing your diet, but you can fortify yourself against attack and make your body stronger and better at fighting off all kinds of infections and other illnesses.   Cutting out processed foods, balancing your microbiome (the millions of micro-organisms that live in your gut) and eating the right balance of macro nutrients, (fats, carbs and protein) for your particular lifestyle can go a long way to boosting your immune system and making you better at fighting off illness.

Post-COVID-19 the medical profession needs to do a better job of educating people about healthy foods and supplements and the food production industry needs to stop feeding us poison that damages our overall health and compromises our immune system.  Again, will anybody listen?  Some how I doubt it.

 

 

We are standing an apex of history, how we pivot from here will determine the course of the rest of our lives.  The world has changed, adaptation is going to be hard, but we don’t have a choice anymore.  As Mohammed Ali once said:

Don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.

See you on the other side.

The People Behind The Numbers


Keeping Customers Front and Centre in All You Do

It’s happened to all of us.

You call your bank, internet service provider, electric company or any number of companies you do business with.  You have a simple request, maybe something a bit out of the ordinary but nothing that should require executive level approval.  Maybe you have a question about your bill or would like to make a minor change to your account settings.

You are greeted by a pre-recorded message, press one for English, two for French, three of Spanish, four for Pig Latin.  Please enter your account number, if you are calling about X,Y or Z press 1,2 or 3, etc.  This can go on for several minutes.  Eventually you get placed in a queue to speak with a representative.

The Muzak starts.

5-10-15-20 minutes pass.  Finally, when you start to think that if you hear one more saxophone rendition of Van Halen’s “Jump” you will literally vomit, someone picks up the phone.

There ensues a game of 20 questions, most of which you have already entered in the automated system; name, address, account number, dog’s name, what you ate for breakfast last Tuesday.  Then the operative question; “How can I help you today?”

You make your request.  There is a pause.  You think you hear some clicking noises as the representative types away and points their mouse at things.  Another pause.  “I’m sorry Mr. So and So (pronounced wrong, even though you’ve told them your name at least three times) it appears as though I’m not authorized to make that change today.”

Confused you make your request again, “But I just need you to…”  “Yes, I understand but for that I need to transfer you to another department, please hold.”

More Muzak.

That damn saxophone again!  You begin to feel queasy and hang up.

Sound familiar?

At various points throughout my adult life I have been on both sides of that call.  To be fair, call center workers are among the lowest wage, least appreciated and powerless employees at any organization.  This is a shame as they tend also to be the only people who interact directly with customers.  They are the literal face, or voice, of the company and yet they have no power.  If the company could replace all their call center people with automated systems they would, that’s what the “press 1 for X” labyrinth that precedes the call is all about.  It’s there to weed out the simplest requests and save their expensive people for the hard stuff, that they usually aren’t authorized to do anyway, so they take notes and kick your request up the chain to a higher paid representative for a decision.

Good customer service costs money.  First and foremost, it requires training and a level of trust and empowerment at the call center level that few companies are willing to give.  Instead they put in policies and procedures that take decision making power away from people and service the lowest common denominator.  Try to go outside the lines and you get shut down.

But when dealing with the public there is no common denominator.  Every customer is unique, and every situation requires good judgement and finesse. Training staff for these things isn’t easy but it is worth it.

People are not account numbers.  They are a complicated set of needs, emotions, histories, plans and goals.  Treat people as such and you engender good vibes, loyalty and respect that will pay dividends for years.  Shunt them into endless queues and sort them into ever smaller boxes of set parameters and watch them run for the nearest exit.

Next time you get caught in call center hell remember two things.  First, if you get a person at all, they probably can’t help you, just let them take their notes and have them push your request up the chain.  Second, remember that as much as you want to be treated like a real person, so do they, don’t be a dick about it.

Thanks in Advance


I’ll be honest.  I hate that phrase.

Most of the time when someone says to me, “Thanks in Advance” it feels as though they are making assumptions about my completion of a task or compliance with a request without waiting for me to agree in the first place.

More than once I’ve been tempted to respond with:

“Bite Me! – Thanks in Advance.”

I am happy to say that my cooler head usually prevails, and I am much more charitable with my responses.  I recognize that offering gratitude when making a request is a good idea, please just don’t use the phrase “Thanks in Advance”.

When you go to restaurant, or work with any kind of customer service agent do you give a tip?  Of course you do!  But did you know that originally the tip was given at the start of the interaction, not the end?

The origins of the word “tip” is an acronym that stands for “To Insure Performance” and it was often broken into two parts.  “Here’s $5, there’s another $10 in it for you when we’re finished if you do a good job.”

That kind of proactive gratitude can change the interaction between parties profoundly.  But it is far more than just dropping a few dollars and saying thanks in advance.  Gratitude is not something that can be done cheaply or sporadically, it needs to become part of our constant attitude.

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude (I hate that phase too, not because it’s wrong it just sounds cheesy), starts with saying thank you but when it becomes a part of who we are it leads to level of graciousness, that people will remember forever.  And people want to do things for other people when they feel like they are appreciated.

So make gratitude a part of your daily life.  Be thankful for everything.

Rather than saying “thanks in advance”.  Drop little thank you bombs into the conversation every chance you get.  Start a meeting with “hey, thanks for meeting with me.”  When you make a request for something say; “thanks for considering this, or thanks for taking the time to review my proposal.”  As the relationship moves forward don’t forget to say thank you at every completed stage.

Don’t be afraid to say thank you in public either.  Giving a seminar?  Thank the organizer for inviting you right from the stage.   Sign a big contract?  Thank your client on twitter or facebook, just be careful not to reveal anything that might be considered confidential.

I thanked a client on twitter once and they retweeted it to all of their followers.   It was a great way to increase my own exposure and generate even more leads.  So I thanked them for that too!

People love to be thanked and being gracious always pays dividends.

Thanks to Darren Hardy (@darrenhardy) for giving me the idea of this post.

Thank you for reading it.

Who do you want to thank today?  Tell me in the comments below or forward this post directly to them, I will be super grateful if you do, and I’ll make sure you know it…

 

The Day I Realize, I’m Dumb!


We left off last time talking about the 5 Whys process for turning failure into success.  As we get close to the end of the year I’ve started using the 5 Whys to analyze my past successes and failures and make plans for 2018.

I’ve come to an uncomfortable conclusion.

When I look at some of my biggest failures from this past year.  The lost deals, the solid prospects that the just didn’t convert, the opportunities that withered on the vine and the clients that just outright left, the answer to the 5th why is a variation of the same thing.

“I was dumb!”

That sounds trite, but it’s accurate.

More to the point, I was Emotionally Unintelligent.

In every instance of failure that I analyzed I came to the same conclusion.  I one way or another I was out of sync with my client or prospect and failed to recognize what truly mattered to them.  I made the sales process all about product and forgot about the client’s underlying emotional needs.  And what’s worse, as the prospect pulled away I made their failure to move forward all about me and my failure to communicate the benefits of the product.  As deals started to spin away from me I doubled down on a strategy that wasn’t working and further alienated the prospect.

Emotional Intelligence has been defined by Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of the best selling “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” as,

your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships.

The chart to the right is a typical four quadrant diagram that is popular with psychologists in analyzing behavior.  In this diagram we see the four core skills of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management aligned with perception; what I see and reaction; what I do.  These skills are further aligned with personal and social competency.

In my failures I tend to be severely lacking in the perception side of the diagram, I don’t see how people are reacting to what I am doing and therefore am unable to adjust my behavior in a way that makes people comfortable moving forward in relationship with me.  If I were to place myself as a dot on the diagram I would be in the top right corner, very strong in Self-Management, I work hard and am disciplined.  I’m very task oriented, my mantra could be that the best kind of To-Do List is a Done List.  But I am extremely lacking in Social Awareness.   In my desire to get things done I tend to push people aside.

My greatest failure of 2017 was with a fast-growing company that I had the opportunity to work with on setting up a Group Benefits program.  I am met with the prospect and immediately hit it off with one of the co-owners.  We were having a great time, talking about business, telling jokes and swapping stories about our past business successes and failures.

Everything was going great.

Then my prospect took me into his partner’s office to say hello.  His partner was in another meeting, but we interrupted because we thought what we had was more important.  To be fair – I didn’t interrupt the meeting, my prospect did and that’s not what I believe caused the problem.

I was introduced around the room as “The Group Benefits Guy”, and while there were other people in the room I immediately forgot their names and laser focused my attention on the business partner.  Looking back at it now I realize that in that moment I went from the fun-loving Group Benefits Guy who was going to help this company move it’s HR process to the next level to that jerky salesman who only cares about people who are in a position of power.  It took a few more weeks but I truly believe that the opportunity was lost in that moment.

A few weeks later the prospect told me that they were pretty much ready to go with the Group Benefits plan, all we had to do was confirm with the partner.  I never heard from the company again.  My follow up messages went unanswered and within a few more months I found out that they had signed up with a competitor.

In doing my 5 Why’s analysis of that failure I concluded that at the critical moment, when I needed to show that I was in tune with the culture of the organization and took their people’s best interests seriously, I failed.  I was emotionally dumb.  To this day I still don’t remember the names of the other people in the room.  For a time, I even forgot the partner’s name and just referred to him in an email as “your partner”.

Why am telling you all this?

Studies have shown that people of average intelligence out-perform those with higher intelligence nearly 70% of the time.  The difference isn’t in classic measures of intelligence.  It’s in how we interact with each other.  Top performers have a higher emotional intelligence and can align their Personal Competencies with their Social Competencies and their perception with their actions.  The closer to the center of that four quadrant diagram you can hang out, the more successful you will be.

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  I prefer to make course corrections as I become aware of a need and this one is huge.  If I were to make a New Year’s Resolution for 2018 it would be this – To become more Emotionally Intelligent, get better at truly seeing people and working to aligning my actions with their needs.

VLOG: Episode 6, The Heart of An Entrepreneur


Driving in to the office the other day I started thinking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and how much mad respect I have for entrepreneurs and what they do.  Here’s the video I recorded about it.

Once again sorry about the audio, I need to both speak up and get a better microphone  I think.  And for some reason I thought sitting in front of a window on a sunny day would be a good idea, won’t make that mistake again, I promise.

I’ll get these technical issues figured about eventually, bear with me okay…  For now enjoy the video.

Putting Insomnia To Bed


Not getting enough sleep? Here are eight strategies that can help.

As the saying goes; “You snooze, you lose.” But when you don’t get enough sleep, nobody wins. When we’re tired, we tend not to exercise or eat right either. We also get more irritable, stressed out and are more likely to get sick. And we don’t work as well when we’re tired. By some accounts, sleep deprivation costs Canadian businesses more than $15 billion a year in lost productivity.

So how do you get the rest you need? Try these strategies to help you get a better night’s sleep.

1 – Create a bed-time ritual

Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even on the weekend. Establishing a pattern of calming bedtime activities like taking a bath, reading, meditation or writing in your journal can help to train you mind and body that it’s time to settle down.

2- Put away your smartphone

Blue light from your phone (or tablet) suppresses the production of melatonin. That is why people who spend a lot of time looking at a screen before bed have more trouble nodding off. If you like to read e-books, try a reader that isn’t back-lit or use a screen cover that minimizes blue light.

3 – Take the pressure off

Poor sleep is our number-one response to stress. It’s also a bit of a double-edged sword as not getting enough shut-eye actually increases stress. So how do you break the cycle? Find ways to recharge and calm down throughout the day. Go for a walk, practice mindfulness exercises, or yoga. Small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference.

4 – Cool it

A cool room can help you too relax as well. Our body temperature naturally drops as we fall asleep, an environment that’s too warm may actually inhibit drifting off. Ideal bedroom temperatures range from 19 to 22 C.

5 – Lose the light

Too much ambient light can suppress melatonin production while darkness triggers it. The darker your bedroom the better so if you live in a brightly light city or near a large industrial installation installing blackout curtains and removing electronics with light-up displays can help.

6 – Move more

People who exercise regularly tend to sleep better. Working out three or four times a week can make a real difference. Don’t hit the gym too close to bedtime though, or the adrenalin from your workout could end up keeping you awake. Morning workouts are best but try to give yourself at least 2 hours for your body to return to normal before trying to go to sleep.

7 – Eat to sleep

Certain foods can help you nod off at night too. Vitamin B6 is important for making melatonin. B6-rich foods like fish, bananas, chickpeas, nuts and lentils can help. Drinking tart cherry juice, right before bed has been proven to alleviate insomnia in some cases.

 

8 – Avoid alcohol

We all know that cutting back on caffeine can reduce wakefulness. But most forms of alcohol inhibit sleep too.   This one is a bit counter intuitive until you think about it.  A glass of wine may help you drift off, but as the relaxing effects of the alcohol wear off the fermented sugars take over and you’re suddenly wide awake again.

Still can’t sleep?

Try not to stress about it. Insomnia can happen to almost everyone. If you’re tired all the time, talk to your doctor, maybe you have sleep apnea or another underlying cause.

Sweet dreams….

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

 

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You’re doing it wrong!


Living Life and Growing Your Business on Your Terms

Have you ever received unsolicited advice?

You know the kind I’m talking about. One of your “friends” takes it upon themselves to tell you how you’re screwing up your life. And if you would just make one or two “minor” changes you would be so much better off.

This advice is usually sincere. Your friends are probably genuinely worried about you. When they look at your life they likely see the struggles you go through, how hard you work for seemingly little return, the heartache, the sleepless nights, you name it. Your friends see all the stress and they are genuinely worried about you.

If you’d just give up on your dream and take a job with a steady paycheque. Or maybe just slow it down a bit and relegate your business aspirations to weekends and evenings, maybe you’d be better off. You’d have more money, less stress and live longer.

Or so they think.

But make no mistake it’s never really about you.

It’s about how they feel when they are around you. Maybe they feel sorry for you – but that’s not about you, it’s about them. Maybe they feel guilty for their own success in the face of your seeming failure – but that’s not about you either, it’s still all about them. And maybe they feel envy and jealousy because they see the huge potential for your success and wish they had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. But you guessed it, that’s not about you either.

The fact is, no one can give you advice on what you need to do to be successful. Sure there are some general principles but they are ultimately the same whether you work for a boss or not. At the end of the day nobody knows better than you what it will take for you to be successful. Nobody knows your business better than you. Nobody works harder than you. Nobody cares more than you.

So stop listening to everyone else. That’s what you’re doing wrong.

Entrepreneurship is lonely. And for the most part the pay sucks. Work your ass off for 5, maybe 10 years or even more and maybe, just maybe you’ll become so successful you’ll forget about the years of struggle that led up it.

Maybe not.

You have to be prepared to live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.

That’s my best unsolicited advice.  Take it or leave it.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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