Differentiate or Die

"If you can differentiate a dead chicken, you can differentiate anything," said Frank Perdue.

Differentiation takes some thinking. Nothing comes easy except for not thinking.

Sure, the marketplace is tough. There are more competitors than ever before. Our products, services and ultimately the final solution proposed to the client, all look alike. Or do they?

Your products, services, and solutions only look alike if you do not know what the client wants and why they want it. And your solutions only look alike if you don't know how to align the advantages your "solution" to what the client wants and address the client's critical issues. Understanding why a client wants a particular solution is important to defining your solution and finding points of differentiation.

Looking back at your current clients and understanding why they bought from you and your firm is another critical and required step. You can also learn a lot by understand why your competition beat you. Looking back over your company's past wins and losses, and applying those insights against what this new client wants can give you something your new prospective client does not have: insight. This insight is valuable, but only if you can frame it in such a manner that your new prospective client not only understands intellectually, but also appreciates the value of your insight. Insight must have some significance to the person(s) to whom you are  talking to.

Frank Perdue understood this. And he understood this from a mass market appeal. If he could understand this, so too can you. Not because you are smarter than old Frank was, but because Frank had a much tougher product to differentiate to the average consumer who usually bought chicken "on sale" or bought the lowest price per pound. After all, what's the difference between two dead chickens? Now that's a hard question to answer.

Your product, services and solution has multiple points of differentiation. Frank had to stretch to find his. How could he possibly differentiate a dead chicken from another brand lying right next to his in the supermarket?

Still not feeling great about differentiation?

Maybe you ought to thank God you don't sell water.

Great Sales People Cannot Fix Declining Sales

The world of selling has changed since yesterday. A lot of the changes we see in the world today have come through technology--primarily how people interact and get their information. These technological changes have also brought about other changes. Frankly "brought about" is a polite term that masks the dramatic and sweeping changes we have seen in corporations and government that all of us are far too familiar with. These changes are "oh yeah, so what" things now because they are now "normal." Nevertheless these changes are critical to how we operate today.


One of the big changes brought about by technology is the broad and sweeping competitors that come from all over the globe. You may remember a time when your major competitors were companies from the US. Now competition comes from India, China, even the old Soviet block countries who would not even dream of competing in the western world of business as it was for them, against their philosophy.


Think about that for a minute. But don't stop thinking there, because what was once accomplished through face-to-face selling is now being accomplished through a website. Sales people used to fight for a customer's business on the basis of their product's features and functionalities and benefits versus your product's features and functionalities and benefits.

Today many of these same products or similar products all look the same--except for minor variations that are difficult to articulate. This is commoditization. Commoditization  makes price the ultimate distinguishing factor for so many decision-makers. If price is the ultimate deciding factor, what is the role of the sales organization?

Who needs a sales force to show the customer their product is cheaper? Who needs a sales force for that? The correct answer is you don't. This is one of the biggest mistakes managers and executives don't understand they are making when they want to boost sales.
The best sales person, cannot make a commodity not a commodity.

Looking for Lowest Price is in Our Blood

The idea of shopping for the lowest cost product is not new. What is new, however, is we forget to recognize is how deeply this has become ingrained in our culture. Just look at the hoards of people who wait for "black Friday" hoping to get a better deal, or the rise of eBay where people are hoping to win something at a lower price point because everyone is bidding to buy something at a lower price point. Something else we do not recognize readily, is how this mindset has impacted our  marketplace.

Commoditization has seeped into our strategic services and solutions. Product and service marketing people have become lazy and have not taken the time to figure out how to reposition their services and solutions to pull their products and services and their companies out of the quicksand.

The Search for a Quick Fix

The easiest and seemingly simplest solution to declining sales and revenues is to hire "good sales people to get us out of this mess." The thinking goes, these "good sales people" have a rolodex of names, contacts who are so loyal to these "good salespeople" that they just buy from them; and these sales people can hit the ground running.

This approach is a solution with it's foundation based in a hiring strategy. This hiring strategy is rooted in a very false premise, that people (future customers and clients) will buy anything from  sales people. Even bad products.  Or so that's theory anyway. By the way--it's a theory that has proven false over and over again. Actually it's an ignorant or even stupid premise. I could go into a lot of detail here why it is an ignorant premise but I won't--except if you think about this premise, it means that sales people have such a loyal fan base of customers that this fan base of customers will buy anything they sell.

This way of thinking is done by some very superior minds. Except they are superior minds in other aspects of the business. But not the client-facing aspect of the business.

A Dose of Reality--the Market's Reality

The thinking is too narrow and it is too incomplete. If you have a bad product (or service) a great sales person is going to have poor sales--period. The problem here is, great sales people before being recruited are smart enough to know to ask the recruiter, "What is the product and why isn't it selling?" The great sales people may ask the same question differently by asking, "What makes your product better than all the rest?"

Here's a chart for you to review and digest. See if this makes sense to you. If it does, and it should, it is a simplified version of what we are discussing.

You cannot talk your way out of this.  These are the facts. A great salesperson, even if you could persuade him or her to come over and join your firm, will not come to sell a less than good product or service. This factor, is one of the reasons these salespeople are truly great. Another factor that makes them great is they will not sell inferior products or services to their clients.

Here is the warning I am trying to make: don't make the mistake of not looking at your products as the culprit or at very least part of an overall solution strategy.

There is good news. At least I hope it is anyway. Very few firms sell only a product or service alone. There are other components that go into an overall solution. More on this in the next post.


The Mask of Authenticity

There's a lot of buzz right now about being authentic. So more and more people are putting on the mask of authenticity.

"I am being authentic," they silently scream. Some not so silently. Some people are just plain rude and ill-mannered. And these are professionals who make a lot of money by most people's standards.

What we need is less authenticity and more politeness, more decorum, more professionalism. If you need to be authentic do so, but please, don't mistake being authentic for rationalizing your ill-mannered behavior. And don't think being "authentic" will make you better if you aren't.

I remember a group of engineers sitting around a conference room table talking about how to win business. Even though none of them had been outside of the cement walls to even meet a client, let alone explain how the solution may meet the client's needs, they all had an opinion--strong opinions. The harder they voiced their opinions, the more it sounded like they had years of experience winning business.

One senior engineer said, "Just be yourself. That's all you need to be." As if that was the key to winning business and the final statement.

Not being an engineer and someone who spent a lifetime in front of clients, I couldn't take it any more. It was not my best showing when I said, "Yeah, like you were when you interviewed for this job and you wore a suit and tie and you practiced and rehearsed all the possible questions the interviewer would throw at you."

I am not sure they got my sarcasm. But they would have if they would have looked at the clothes they were wearing (they were dressed in clothes I wouldn't be seen cutting my grass in). That is they were not wearing the suits they interviewed in, when they were "just themselves."

I think this sums up what I am trying to say. One client said to me, "I want people to be themselves. Unless they are assholes. Then I want them to be someone else."

Be yourself if you are a Prince (or a Princess). But since most of us aren't, (I'm not that's for sure), we have to work at being charming, delightful, and professional. Maybe authenticity has more to do with the slogan of 12-step programs: fake it until you make it.


If You Think Keeping Clients Satisfied is Hard, Try Losing and Having to Replace One

Does it seem to you that companies are only paying lip service to customer satisfaction? Have you gone to the store and asked for help only to feel like you are being extremely bothersome?

A Culture of Poor Service, Low Expectations, or Have We Become Boiling Frogs?
When we call our service provider for cable TV or internet services, how long have all of us been put on hold to change a service, get someone to help us, question a charge, or set up an appointment for installation?

And why is it that I am saying "thank you" instead of the customer service rep saying "thank you"? Who teaches these customer service people, who seem to be more surly every day, to say, "No problem" to our "Thank you"? Why am I even saying "thank you" to them?  When did this start?

I think Chick-fil-A has it partially right when they wait on us, with, "My pleasure" in reply to our "Thank you" as we reach across the counter for our trays of food.

But even then, shouldn't their response be "No, no, no! Thank YOU!!"? With a big emphasis on the YOU.

Have we just become numb to bad service? Have we all just given up? Have we become the boiling frog in the pan of hot water that we don't even notice that the water is beginning to boil?

And, because we are numb, has our low expectations drifted into providing poor service to our clients too?

Are We Expressing Our Appreciation Very Well? At All?
Many of you don't provide commodity services, don't place chicken sandwiches on trays, and don't answer cable service problem phone calls. We provide strategic, big ticket items. Which makes this all the more important. When clients choose our firms to solve their big problems or achieve their big goals, shouldn't our management (or you!) make a big deal of reaching out to their organization's leadership to let them know how much we appreciate their business?

Didn't we all do this at one time? Why not now use this as an opportunity to differentiate yourself at the professional level by having this conversation to explain that we want to create such a great value-based relationship. Even more, that we look at this as an opportunity to develop a lifelong approach to keeping their business by keeping them satisfied. And even more--helping them establish value to their customers.

Shouldn't management be saying to clients who buy our services and solutions, "Look. You placed a great deal of confidence in us with your order. I want you to feel free to tell me how we are doing ANY TIME. Here is my business card--my cell phone number and my email address. Let me know what we need to do if you are ever even slightly unhappy. Call me day or night--weekend or holiday." Do people still do this? And really mean it?

I think too many people say after winning a piece of business, "God, (there are no atheists in this business) now we have to implement this." Or they think this, I have to get to back to my laptop and look at the 400 emails that I missed (that say nothing by the way).

I believe all clients could use better service. I believe all clients want better service. Who doesn't? And without the almost silent groan of being bothered.

Has the cable service call center industry with its poor service seeped into our business culture? Where is that. "I am so glad you called. Tell me how I/we can be better?" Or even the, "You bet. Let me see what we can do to help you" attitude we all once had when our clients asked us for help.

Perspective: A Matter of Looking Backward from the Future
For perspective try losing a client--lost revenue and margin (i.e. profit, jobs, yours and mine). And then remember the hoops you went through trying to steal a competitor's client to replace that business you lost.

I can tell you this much--if you think your client was hard to deal with, your competitor's clients are even harder to deal with.

My point is this in case I am being indirect: KEEP YOUR CLIENTS HAPPY. It is the little things that count. Both good and bad. Do you do little things for your clients? Do you let them know you did this little thing for them? It's the little things that add up to become big things.

What Do Clients Want? The Little Things Matter
What kind of little things do clients want? In my research (see the book Clientize, the study of exceptional professionals, below) I found that clients want someone who manages their account to understand their priorities, solve problems before being asked, take responsibility when problems occur, report ahead of time--issues and challenges and how you recommend they be addressed, ideas and opportunities--even if your firm does not provide the services.

Of course this only scratches the surface. But they want professionals who are observant, not oblivious.

Become Observant and Get Aligned With The People
Doing the little things is a matter of being observant. Look for ways to help. Straighten up the picture that is hanging off center. Read their earnings report to understand their challenges. Understand the clients pressures--from an organizational perspective and a personal perspective (stuff flows downhill).

Make working with you easy. How? Talk the client's language--if they speak ROI--you speak ROI. If the client speaks using words like: "I need a clear picture to see how this would work." You don't try to explain to them how it works. You draw a picture on the whiteboard so they can see a clear picture.

Don't say, "I understand how you feel. I feel we can get a firm grasp on the situation if we get hold of the data we can dig out of this."  If you are not sure what I am referring to here, then look at Clientize. Clientize helps you gain the perspective of the client--the specific individuals you are dealing with. Here's a hint: feel, firm grasp, hold, data, dig.

Why is this important? Because you want to speak the client's language to gain and provide quick understanding. If you don't you are going to make the client feel like you are walking up the down escalator at Macy's the say before Christmas.

Grab a Mirror and Check Your Attitude
More important, maybe you'll find that it isn't your clients that are difficult to deal with after all. Perhaps it is the image in the mirror and the attitude you reflect to your clients and the staff supporting your clients.

Clientize--Why Clients Buy From Exceptional Professionals
Want to win clients and keep them for life? Find out what exceptional professional do in the study of clients and how professionals make the difference in creating lifelong clients.

Buy the book on Amazon right now. Click this link to Clientize.

Clientize--"A Landmark Book" The Survey that Will Change How You Approach Clients

How To Win Clients--What Exceptional Professionals Do
"Clientize: Who Gets In, Stays In and Why is a landmark book, with thoughtful analysis, certain to become a widely referenced guide for illuminating the darkness surrounding clients selection behaviors. Murphy provides an extensive assessment, examining the mistakes wrought by self-centered professionals and his 7 Strategies to Win Lifelong Clients should serve as a 'gut-check' for conscientious professionals everywhere; reminding us of our vulnerabilities and forcing us to validate our strengths."— Patrick J. McKenna, seasoned management consultant, co-author of First Among Equals and acknowledged contributor to The Trusted Advisor.

The 400-page client survey and study that will change how you approach winning clients and how to keep them for life. The survey that reveals what exceptional professionals do--and how you can move from good to exceptional without tricks or manipulation, but by being genuine, observant, caring, and focused on the client's needs first and foremost.

This book is now available for Amazon Kindle users. You can get the book here for a limited time only for a deeply discounted price. Click Here for your Copy of Clientize--Who Gets In, Stays In, and Why


Be Genuine. Unless, of course, you are an jerk. Then be someone else.

We have all heard the admonition: "Be genuine." And we have heard, "Be who you are." But I am here to tell you that it's okay to be who you  are, unless you are a jerk. Then, be someone else, please.

We all know people who are genuine. And they are prima donnas. Some are defensive. And then there are the ones who are sociopaths.  These are the people we wish would be a little less genuine; and just for the record, be someone else. Please.

A client said to me a while ago, and I still believe it holds true today, it's easier to do business with someone you like than it isn't. In fact, clients (note this is plural) have told me in my interviews with them, they avoid doing any kind of business with people they don't like, if at all possible. They said they will take a technically inferior solution over having to deal with a jerk for the long haul.

Why is this?

Honesty--We Think We Are

The answer is: it's too hard to deal with some people. Certain people are so negative. And they justify their negative point of view with: "I'm just being honest." Let's face another fact: A little less honesty please.

Honesty is often in the eyes of the beholder. Of course I am not talking about lying or cheating or stealing. I am talking about the honesty that is colored by our own lens of the world. We tend to judge other people's motives and ideals based on their color, religion, political party, and where they went to school.

Too Much of the Wrong Type of Judgment

And please don't tell me you don't judge others, because if I told you, "He went to Harvard," your immediate reaction would probably be one or more of these: He must be smart. He had money. He couldn't get into MIT.  (that last one is a joke so lighten up people)

Of course if you really truly don't have an opinion about this, then I am happy to see that the Dalai Lama has decided to read this post. Thank you Mr. Lama.

Be Nice

So let's stop kidding ourselves. Don't be genuine. Instead be nice, and be smart. But please be nice. No more backroom engineering how the world should revolve around me. No more subterranean thinking of how can I score a point and look good or make someone look stupid in the next meeting.

Be genuinely nice. Pass the credit to others. Be able to say, "That was Mary's idea. I liked it so much I am now using it like it's mine. But truly, it's Mary's."

In addition, be able to say, "I don't know" when you really don't know. Be certain and feel proud, that you truly don't freakin' know. Be certain of your  uncertainty; because in reality we really don't know how things will turn out; and there is too much to know about everything. So get with the "I don't know" program.

Of course, I am not saying become a doormat. Nice doesn't mean not looking out for yourself, but it does mean not looking out for yourself too much, especially when your pride comes into play.

Do, however, be certain of this certainty: clients will buy from people who are nice, considerate, smart, savvy, and who are competent. Remember, confidence before competence, is pretense. I read that somewhere. And since I am truly being honest, I am uncertain what it means. But I do get the gist of it.

We Are All Someone Else's Asshole

Last. a note of caution.  A successful financial advisor once told a group of us, "We are all someone's asshole." That left me thinking. I hope this give you a place to pause and think.

PS - an addition here: "Confidence before competence, is pretense," I believe came from Stephen Covey out of his Principle-Centered Leadership book. I have to look it up, because I did Google it, and I came up with nothing. If I find he didn't say it, maybe I can take credit for it. Nah. Someone else said this; I am not as smart as I think I am. I'm just being honest, because I did not go to Harvard (or MIT).


How To Increase Your Value in the Eyes of Your Prospective Clients

Here are a series of questions that you may want to know the answers to in order to differentiate you and your services and be a success with your clients:
  • How do professionals increase their value in the eyes of their clients? 
  • What is it that the best professionals do that allow them to grab the attention of prospective clients who are too busy to see anyone else?
  • Why do clients prefer to do business with one firm over all the others?
  • How do professionals turn onetime customers into lifelong clients?
These are questions I have been asking for years. I have been, in a word, obsessed. I have wanted to know the secret to why certain firms won a majority of clients business ever since I entered the workforce.

I am pleased to say, that I believe I have actually "discovered" the patterns of why clients choose one firm over all the others vying for their business.

I used to think clients bought products and solutions and services based on their advantages over competing products, solutions, and services. Then I thought it was advantages as well as costs.

Perhaps these aspects were reasons why clients bought at one time. But, as everything does with time, things change. Today clients are more sophisticated, have less time to just meet with vendors, and are walking the razor's edge because the people responsible for delivering client shareholder results, need ideas, solutions, and strategies to achieve their business objectives. And if you cannot help achieve their business objectives, you are noise.

Here is what clients want from you today--if you desire to become the best professional you can possibly be.

Enhancing Your Clients' Strategic Plans

The best professionals, the top people in their industry, have learned the value they bring is highest when it is aligned to their clients' strategic plans. This means your value comes from your ability to properly apply your services to the most critical aspects of your clients' strategic plans.
As a professional, you do not have to be a strategic planner for clients; it does mean that clients have to have strategic plans and do the strategic planning. Strategic plans are always the client's responsibility. The responsibility for strategic plans cannot be outsourced. Yes, strategic plans can be helped along with the likes of consulting firms like BCG, McKinsey, and Accenture. Accepting the plans and implementing them belongs to the responsibility of the client's stakeholders. Helping clients achieve their objectives is where you as a professional comes in.

Your Role and Responsibility as a Winning Professional

The best professionals understand their value comes in the execution of the strategy, and therefore this defines the professional's role and responsibility. The role and responsibility of the professional providing strategic services and solutions is to accelerate the objective of the client's strategic plan, ensure its success and the desired outcomes, and if possible, increase the overall measurable business results.

As a professional, you must understand the value you and your services bring to clients. You are able to reduce time, ensure the objectives are achieved and improved through your services. You apply your services to the client's business operations. In the end, to be of value, you, not your firm, not your colleagues, and certainly not your client, has to know how you and your services impact the following:
  1. Reduce the time horizon to achieve the client's strategic objectives,
  2. Ensure the objectives are achieved, and/or
  3. Increase or improve the value of the client's objectives.
If you cannot address one or several or all of the criteria, you are not thinking strategically or your services are a commodity.

Action Exercises

  1. Make a commitment to study your current clients' measurable business results that they have gained through the use of your services and solutions. Do this today. Tomorrow is too late.
  2. Every project you begin needs to start with a baseline of the client's current achievements and operations. This means how is the client currently performing? How many widgets are being produced? How much does each widget cost to produce? How long does it take to produce one widget? Ten widgets? How much executive time and attention is devoted to the production of widgets? Could the time and attention be devoted elsewhere, somewhere more valuable? (the answer is always yes) Baseline, baseline, baseline. Always baseline. So many consultants, professionals, and technicians never think to baseline because they are too busy and are impatient to get started. Don't be one of them.
  3. Be able to articulate your value in terms of the measurable business results (MBRs) using the criteria (one through three) above. Write the answers to these questions in as complex language as you desire. The point is do it--don't try to perfect your answers here or you will never get started. Perfection is your enemy at this point. Then, once your answers are written, rewrite and rewrite until you can boil all your technical jargon out of your statements to the point where your 16-year-old daughter or son can understand them (if you can get them to sit down long enough). Make your statements in plain English. Be able to say them articulately and clearly when writing and speaking.
  4. Put your value where your mouth is. Your value is so crystal clear and you are so assured of the value you can bring to your clients that you are more than willing to place these terms in a statement of work or contract. Don't believe you can deliver? Then you are not going to compete the way you can and should and you will be relegated as a commodity competing on price and margin reductions for the remainder of your career (which may not be that long).
  5. GO OUT and MEET as many prospective clients that have similar needs to the results you can deliver. Test your message--until you break through the noise and clutter that is preoccupying the client's mind and gain the client's attention through results rather than the superlatives all the other vendors are hawking--because now you stand out. You are different. You bring value and you have moved to the top of the heap, and you are in an entire different category of providers from the perspective of the client. You have moved to delivering value and achieving their strategic objectives, up from a vendor hawking features, feeds and speeds.

The Triple Filter Test - by Socrates

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met he great philosopher and said, "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"

"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before telling me anything, I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say. That's why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "Actually I just heard about it and..."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "You want to tell me something bad about him, but you're not certain it's true. You may still pass the test though, because there's one filter left: the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

Incentivizing Professionals to Sell the Value

In a recent article in HBR, Andris Zolters explains that many organizations are linking some part  of a professionals bonus structure to profitability.

Personally I have seen this turn into a disaster, but only because it was so complicated it looked like a punitive compensation plan rather than an incentive for good/strategic behavior. Professionals had a "what's the use" mentality shortly after the program was rolled out. They saluted the program after learning other who complained about it were placed in a penalty box for not "being part of the solution."

Incentives Should Be Tied to the Integrity of the Firm

Soon, however, the best professionals had their resumes out on the street, not so much because of the money, but because of the "integrity" or "lack of integrity" that was being messaged. The indirect message was: suck it up; but yes we are promoting an open dialogue, but  only when you agree with our opinions."

By the way, that firm had a disastrous year and subsequent year. The CEO was removed for poor performance and poor behavior in the corporate office, the firm's stock price dropped, and the firm was purchased by a much smaller firm. This was not necessarily a direct cause of the incentive program, but integrity was a direct link back to the thinking of executives.

Incentives Should Be Tied to the Strategy of the Firm

Zolter's points out that incentive plans should be linked to the strategy of the firm. In my words: Does the compensation program tie back to the strategy? Where are we going? What do we want? How do we incentivize performance in the direction of these questions?

As for profitability, there are some people who believe that sales and other professionals have little control over profitability. I do not agree with this statement. Ask any sales person who is out there selling, about their biggest challenges, and invariably price comes up. Ask them how they navigate price, and the reply will be, we need to beat the competition's price--so we discount.

Zolter's points out that some firms "pay a commission on the revenues salespeople generate or a bonus for achieving a territory sales quota. This proven 'pay for performance' approach motivates salespeople to work hard and drive sales results. But today, companies increasingly expect salespeople to deliver not just sales but profitable sales growth. Logically, it follows that a sales force can align salespeople’s effort with company profitability goals by linking incentives to profit, rather than sales metrics." (HBR Article: When Sales Incentives Should Be Based on Profit, Not Revenue)

Sell the Value of Your Services

I agree with this model and kicker for profits. Some professionals give away the farm to get a deal and therefore profits suffer. If you teach the professionals who are responsible for driving business how to sell the value of the services and products, you won't be reduced the most common denominator--price. 

Clients can't always determine what is best for them and their organization. Professionals have to "teach" and educate clients on the value their services and solutions bring. The value is all about translating solutions into measurable business results. The value is increased when the professionals then follow-through. Adding a kicker to profits in addition to teaching professionals how to sell the value is exactly what the best professionals and firms do. The net net: establish value with clients and reward professionals on their ability to establish that value.

The 25-Year Client Study of Why Clients Only Select Certain Providers As Partners

If you read the book Clientize, you will learn how to establish your value and be relevant with your clients. The book is available on Amazon. It is based on 25-years of asking clients the questions: How to do choose one provider over all the others?  And the second question: What is it about this firm that you only do business with them?  The answers with surprise you.

Sales Analytics and How Big Data Can Drive Toward the Wrong Conclusion

Andris Zolner published an interesting article on Harvard Business Review.  He talks about using big data for the sales force. First off. Zoltner is brilliant, his work is brilliant, his stuff is well, brilliant.

Big Data Is One Thing--Understanding What It Means Is Quite Another Thing

His article discusses the use of big data and how its analytics helped change the course of selling for companies in different business sectors.  One point he made though is that one company found the better sales people had their field level managers spending more time with them in the field. He said, that these were the best-performing sales managers who were spending more time with their best sales people in the field. The correlation from the data, was that the worse-performing sales managers were spending less time with their sales people in the field.

The change that this company was going to make according to the company's executives was that the worst sales managers should spend more time in the field with their sales people.

The University Professor and The "A" Student Who Didn't Attend Class

I remember a story of a university professor who told his 30 students that class was not mandatory, but that if they wanted an "A" they should attend class every day because he was going to cover material that was not in the book. He said, there will be no quizzes, no mid-terms, just one big final. But he said, if you come to class, you should do very well on the final.

Everyone sat up and took notice. The next class, all 30 students showed up. The next class, however, only 29 students showed up.

The professor thought this was just an aberration, but for the next class only 29 students showed up again. The professor saw the familiar faces from the last class and began to wonder who it was that wasn't showing up. So he asked his teaching assistant (TA) to determine who it was who didn't show up, just in case.

The following class--only 29 students. The TA determined it was John Smith who was skipping classes. Well this went on until the last day of the class--the day of the finals.  All 30 students showed up. The professor saw the unfamiliar face and knew it had to be this John Smith fellow.

When John Smith came up to the front of the class to turn in his final--the professor just shook his head. He said, "You must be John Smith." The professor looked at the name on the test, saw that it was John Smith, and said, "I will save you time in having to wait. I will grade your test right now right here." And with that the professor started marking his test against the answers.

The professor went "Hmmmm....." and then went on some more. Obviously the professor was startled. He said, "This is impossible. You scored a 98 out of 100, and you didn't come to any of my classes."

The student replied, "Well on the first day of class, I thought I knew the subject, but I became confused. I could have made a 100 if I didn't come to that class."

The best don't need the help of those who are in positions of authority who don't know what they are doing. Bad sales managers do not want to be encouraged to go out in the filed to help their best sales people. You want to encourage bad sales managers to stay home and spend time with their families.

Six Objectives When Negotiating Contracts

In working with clients, contracts are necessary. Instead of looking at contracts from a negative light, you can look at them from a different perspective, a perspective of clarification and success for both parties.

The successful professional should always employ basic strategies when negotiating a contract with clients in order to achieve six major objectives:
  1. avoidance of misunderstanding and clarification, 
  2. maintenance of working independence and freedom to perform the work,
  3. assurance of work and not giving away your expertise free of charge,
  4. assurance of payment since you are not a bank,
  5. avoidance of liability since you are human and do make honest errors as well as there are some things that are just beyond your control, and
  6. prevention of litigation.
The purpose and meaning of the word “strategy” as it is used here is not to mislead the client or to be devious with him. Instead, a strategy is about how to assure both parties that these six goals, which are in your mutual interest, will be reached.

When working with clients, the biggest problem comes about from "soft" things, usually misunderstanding, missed expectations, and a differing of opinions. Your ability to define as much as you possibly can without approaching this from a blame-game perspective, the better off you will be. It’s always best to get everything you can on the table regarding your understanding, the client’s understanding, the objectives of the project, your approach to the project versus how the client wants you to approach the project, and making sure that the opinions of all parties involved have been voiced and addressed, is important but difficult to always achieve


The dictionary defines commitment as a decisive choice that involves a definite course of action. In life commitment is a proactive approach in which you promise a result and then conform your actions to that result. The commitment is a promise to yourself.

The promise creates a discrepancy in your mind. This discrepancy acts as a source of friction—a catalyst—because once you are committed, your mind sees the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. The mind wants to close the gap between now, where you are and the future state, where you want to be.

The gap acts as a catalyst that propels you, motivates you, to bring that vision of your future state in alignment with your reality.  The gap is filled with a series of actions and efforts, which you create and establish, and lead you forward toward your objective.
Commitment is about focusing your energy on your daily efforts in order in order to be continuously striving for the attainment of that objective, and not drifting off course, back to what was once “normal” and “routine.” You are now steering your ship, through your efforts. Your efforts are those actions you have decided to take, that are in front you, and by taking these actions, you avoid drifting back to what was “comfortable” and “habitual.”

Commitment is about deciding. Your decision is your selection, your choice, and then committing to the effort in front of you. Commitment is not simply about psyching yourself up with daily doses of affirmations and positive thinking and working even harder. Commitment is about a willingness to review what you have been doing, what is not working, looking at where you want to go, and understanding that these two things, self-defeating actions coupled with no direction, are not what you want in your life any longer.
It means understanding the ramifications of just “going along,” like the tide, habitual, mindless, wasted energy, is no longer for you. You have committed to take a different course, a course of action aimed at something you prefer to become, and then by being that vision in your day-to-day activities.

You can start by establishing a clear foundation for your objective by asking yourself and answering the following questions:
  • Where do I want to be in five years? Ten years? (It can be about money earned, position, books written, clients, weight, college degrees, or even a way of acting)
  • When do I want to be there? (time, date, and a series of mini-objectives)
  • What are the actions and efforts I am going to have to take? And which ones can I breakdown to smaller activities and incorporate into my daily and even hourly routine?
  • What are the limiting beliefs and habits that I need to give up? (What things did my mother or father or others plant in my head that are based in falsehoods, which are holding me back? What things have others planted that I accepted are true that are not based in reality?)
  • In numbers—How much do you need to accomplish your objective? (Can you convert your objectives into something you can count/measure?)
  • In numbers—How much do you need to accomplish daily in order to achieve your vision?
  • What things do you need to pay attention to that will derail your efforts (other people telling you that you can’t or yourself—old habitual negative voices telling you that you can’t)?
  • What things do you need to pay attention to that will strengthen your resolve?
  • What new picture can you form in your mind of what success looks like that you can clearly establish and carry around with you from this day forward and every day in your present moment?
  • What new feeling can you form in your body, which resonates your resolve and commitment, knowing you are now the new person committed to this new vision you have for yourself?
  • What is the new pleasant, encouraging voice inside your head whispering to you about your resolve and commitment?
Take action. Write out your answers to the questions above on paper. Learn to commitment and recommit to your vision on a daily, if not hourly basis, and to take daily and hourly actions and efforts that are in alignment with your future vision.

Feel the tension, the discomfort of where you are now and where you want to be, and act in a manner in alignment with your future positive state. How would the person I want to be act and behave and think? Then act, behave, and think in that same manner. Act and be at that new higher level today, now.

The gap between where you are and where you want to be doesn’t have to extraordinary, but it does have to be a stretch. It has to create enough creative tension inside your mind and body to propel you to want to close the gap. The creative tension helps you focus on the actions, the efforts you have to take. Remember, climbing Mount Everest is accomplished by starting with small efforts even before you land in Tibet. And even then, each step you take, is a step closer to the summit. It’s the effort, the steps, which allow you to attain your ultimate vision.

Without the efforts and seemingly mundane actions, that causes negative stress instead of creative tension. The important thing is to take action. Do something every day toward your vision. Commitment to taking the action, making action, do the one thing. Tomorrow make it two things. And the tomorrow after, commit to doing three. But every day, take at least one action. Focus your mind on the effort of doing that one thing and not focus your energies on the vision. The vision is the guide—the beacon. Your actions, the focus on the effort of those actions is where your resolve needs to be.

Hold your vision in front of you, look glance up at the peak of your Mount Everest every so often to make sure you are on track, but focus on each step you take and foot placement you make.
Your vision needs to be a source of inspiration, not punishment. Your daily actions and effort should be something achievable and not grueling or gruesome. It helps to write out your commitments daily and write out the actions you need to take before you start your day.

Watch and see if this little routine of writing by hand, onto a piece of paper, doesn’t provide a source of inspiration and result in a source of positive energy for you.

A Lesson from Tom Watson, Jr (former CEO of IBM)

Lessons from History
There are lessons in history. You all know that already, so I won't plow into quotes and metaphors to convince you of this. So, if we know this, why is it so hard to learn these lessons and incorporate them into our business practices?

The answer is, at least to me, we are looking for easy solutions or some of us are looking for the next best idea. And then there are some others who believe that if the idea or strategy is more complex, then it's gotta be better.

The Question Most People Get Wrong
Let's start with a simple question. What is the purpose of a business?

Many people answer, "To make a profit."

I don't think this is the correct answer. It is the correct answer to many analysts on Wall Street.  However, the truly great analysts will tell you that for the short-term this answer may be true, but the long-term? No way. These analyst look at the long-term. They want to see long recurring revenue streams and good margins.

I like Drucker's answer to this question. Drucker said, "The purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer." I think this is the right answer, in spite of what some executives think about profits and orders and meeting quarterly pressures.

Keeping a Customer--The 25-Year Study: Clientize
The keeping part of "keeping of a customer" is the main theme behind a study I have been conducting for the past twenty-five years. This work has culminated in the book titled "Clientize."

My study started with the simple question to executives, "What is it about this firm (the one you have chosen to be your long-term partner) that you chose them over all the others?" I found clients' buy from certain providers and vendors because of the professionals handling their account and the concern they had for their clients' business and professional interests.

Winning Professionals: Winners Buy From Winners
First rate businesses buy from first rate winning professionals. Winning professionals are those who are looking out for the client's interests. How the professionals demonstrate that they are looking out for their clients is what clients revealed to me in my face-to-face discussions. I took a lot of notes and taught these ideas to other professionals who worked with me. This study and the clients answers are captured in the book Clientize. You can get it from Amazon or through the link on my website which is over the left of this post--just click on the book.

Here is what Thomas Watson, Jr., the former CEO of IBM said about what IBM does, "We make computers. But we sell improved profits that our computers can make for our customers."

In the day, sales people used "features and benefits" type sales techniques. It went like this, "We have a faster processor (feature), which allows you to get your work done in a shorter amount of time (benefit)." And so this is how almost all of IBM's competitors sold. It was easy to point out that IBM's products were inferior in terms of feature based technology to prospective customers. And yet, IBM dominated the industry. In the hallowed halls of corporate boardrooms and government agencies, the message that everyone heard in their heads was, "Nobody ever got fired from buying IBM." And so they did.

Winning Professionals Focus on the Client's Interests
Why was this? Why did executives buy from IBM? Why did IBM dominate the computer industry? Because IBM got it right. IBM focused on the customer and their needs. The customers' needs were and oh-by-the-way, still are, profits. IBM sales people didn't focus on their own profits, they focused on the customers profits. IBM got it right years ago, while the other smaller players, focused on the speeds, and the latest technology, IBM focused on what mattered to their customers--and the safe bet became "buy IBM."

Focus on your customers needs--not yours--and you will turn customers into longtime clients. And maybe, you will be as successful as IBM.

The Use of Superlatives and Hyperbole

In my business I am wrestling with the use of superlatives. My friend Merriam-Webster defines a superlative as "of, relating to, or constituting the degree of grammatical comparison that denotes an extreme or unsurpassed level or extent."

I define superlatives better than Merriam. I define a superlative as lazy thinking that makes the person use words that makes the person sound arrogant and abrasive.

Here is one I run into a lot: we are "uniquely positioned."  I am a little concerned that we sound like a contortionist or worse: a sexual acrobat. I am not sure a client wants to do business with an organization that is "uniquely positioned to provide the best services to meet the needs of XYZ-client organization."

Here is another: "we are best-in-class." Are we at the Westminister Dog Kennel Show?

Think twice when you write hyperbolic superlatives. And at the end of thinking twice, realize you are not selling your services, yourself or your firm. Find the real reason the client should use you.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 14: Stop Using Your Speaker Phone

Office Etiquette Rule Number 14: Stop Using Your Speaker Phone
Why is it that so many people at work are using their speakerphones when talking to other people? It seems like the phenomenon has become a rage, except the rage should have been over twenty years ago when people received desk phones with speakers built in. And to call the speakerphone a phenomenon is ridiculous as the speakerphone seems to be a little archaic.

So why is it people can't pick up the handset (that's what it's called you know) and place the phone against their ear? I think I know why . . .

Texting While Driving Become Texting While Working when in the Office
We are obsessed with doing two or three things at once. Are we bored with what others are saying? Or is it we can't stand the idea of sitting still while someone else is talking?

Do you think I am wrong about texting while working? Then the next time you have a conference call in a room full of people who have gathered together for the camaraderie, look around and see how many people have their iPhone or Android out and looking at emails, texts, and just surfing eBay. You may want to check yourself first, oh by the way.

Who's the Client?
Certainly you are having a call with someone important, or else why take the call? This person or group of people could be (and probably are to some extent) your customer. These so-called "customers" are the people you support. These are the people that allow you to keep your smartphone device and not go into debt.  In other words, these are the people who support your and your family's existence. 

Your attention or lack there of, or boredom is not of importance to anyone. It does show a lack of courtesy by not paying attention to the call. And it certainly embarrassing to everyone when you are called out for a question and you were not paying attention. Even in spite of your attempt to hide the fact by mumbling something after searching your brain for the smallest crumb of information of what the question was. 

Pay Attention or Pay Dearly
It's a scientific fact that we cannot do two things at the same time. And some of us barely can do one thing at a time. You lack of attention and your bragging about it doesn't really make sense. But because we have been trained and conditioned to display false bravado (hey look at me, I am working until 7PM tonight, skipped lunch, and I had eight conference calls today) is probably a chief culprit. 

Out minds can only think one-thing-at-a-time. Because our minds process information faster than people can talk, we become trained to do something else. We say "got it" in our minds, but we can't digest the context of the conversation. So we may not miss the words, but we miss the meaning and symbolism that the words don't always express.

Never get on a call and never go down the hallway without a pen and notebook. Note that I did not say paper. I said notebook. Write the date at the top of page, the topic of the conversation, who is attending, write out the agenda, and write out questions or points you want to make regarding the agenda. Do this before the meeting! BUT, if you have to, that is you are unprepared, you should at least do this at the start of the meeting.

In that notebook, take notes, when you are talking to someone on the phone. Catch the nuances. Write down a question in the margin to be asked later if the person doesn't address it. Jot down bullets around the causes, the effects, who was impacted, when it occurred and when it will be addressed. But don't type your conversation as the client or the other person is talking. People hear the click click click of the keyboard.

What writing does, it forces you to pay attention, to think. When you write, you are focusing your mind to stay focused on the conversation. The notes become a forcing mechanism to listen and capture the key ideas, messages, and actions. From here, this little exercise, you become a better attention payer. 

Office Etiquette Rule Number 13: Avoid Go No Where People (Like the plague)

Office Etiquette Rule Number 13: Avoid Go No Where People (Like the plague) 

I have heard very smart people, people who have Masters and PhDs, who were very negative and distrustful and looked for ways to screw others. These people at one point worked in areas that were involved in helping others who were indigent. I guess these people saw a lot of things and became very distrusting of mankind (don't tell me womankind or people kind--it doesn't work as a word here).

One senior-level woman said to me after a meeting with another person she didn't like, "We learned how paranoid she is. You should use that against her." I looked at her with as much unemotion as I possibly could, because I was floored that anyone actually thought that way. Now that must suck to live life like that, because it means you are thinking that others have found something out about you and you are constantly on guard.

Now, I am not all daisies and buttercups. But I do think positive things. I believe I am this way most the time. I expect the best from others. Maybe they disappoint me, but my rationalization for thinking this way is that if I am negative and expect the worst from people, I am setting myself up for failure and most importantly, having an attitude and a way of seeing the world that contributes to promoting a miserable life.

Let's get into office etiquette. I believe what is missing in many environments is a code of conduct. Office etiquette rules and guidelines can serve as a backdrop to a code of office conduct. Office etiquette rules are things your mother never probably taught you, but if she could, these are rules she would have used and taught you if she had worked in such an office.

In the end, the organization becomes goes from myopic to me-opic.  And eventually implodes.

You have to be on the lookout for organizations like this. And if there isn't any leadership, get the hell out of Dodge. And be in a hurry. Tomorrow isn't soon enough. Why?  Because you soon pick up the traits of others--usually the bad others. And these are traits you don't ever want to pick up.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 12: Don't Ever Gossip, Ever

Etiquette Rule Number 12: Don't Ever Gossip, Ever

Don't hang around the water cooler and listen for "Did you hear what John did?" It's negativity in the form curiosity and taking pleasure at someone else's demise or mistakes.

If you are in an organization or a boss that is not tolerant of mistakes (tolerant means: what did we learn, how can we avoid repeating the past, how do we use this to attain our objective), you are in a very weak organization, headed by weak managers. Note, I said managers, not leaders.

Leaders know the breakthroughs come about by trying new things and failing--temporarily at least. Then dusting yourself off, getting back on your feet, and going one more round.

When people are talking about someone else, stop the conversation if you can, turn it to something else, or just walk away. Complaining about the new expense report system is just not going to help you in your attainment of your day-to-day objectives.

Gossip is a disguise of negativity and condemnation of a person. It leads to judgment, distancing yourself from others, and becoming intolerable.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 11: Inspire Don't Perspire

Etiquette Rule Number 11: Inspire Don't Perspire

Okay, the truth is I was inspired by the commercial for deodorant that was aired on TV for a while: "Never let them see you sweat."

Work hard for sure. Being inspired means to me that work isn't really work. So when it comes to working hard, people don't understand that I love my work. I see work as part of me. I love what I do and I am passionate about it. Now in truth, I have to be a little careful about that passion, because I can see myself in the work, that is, I take what I do personally, where others don't see me in the work I do. Also, others don't see themselves in their work. Work is work to them. I think that's misfortunate for them. What a waste of eight hours a day. But to each their work is not a passion for them, hopefully for them, there is something else. And rooting for a football team may be fun, but it is not the person. There is no correlation between how loud you yell at the TV and how well the quarterback throws the football. I'm sure I have people going "Huh?"

Be inspirational in all you say and do. If you have to sound like a walking encyclopedia of Knute Rockne quotes so be it. Better to be positive than negative. Best to be competent and positive. Worse is positive and incompetent--sort of like an inspired idiot. You don't want that. And of course, you won't last long if you are negative and an idiot.

If you have to--choose to inspire others rather than make them perspire. People want to be inspired as opposed to being made to perspire.

I can remember a great boss--an inspiring boss--who was getting a lot of pressure from his boss who was not really a nice person. My boss had just finished a call with his uninspiring boss who was applying pressure about a certain contract. My boss's boss was using the perspiring method. He was applying perspiration rather than inspiration.

My boss picked up the perspiration method and began applying it to me. He began pounding on his desk, saying this to me about the client and the unwillingness of them to sign: "We need to get that contract done. We need them to act with a sense of urgency. But we must not let them see we are in a panic."

I knew this wasn't my boss talking. He was possessed by his boss's perspiration approach. I backed out of his office and still remember to this day, coming back in later, telling him what he said and that he was pounding his desk. He couldn't believe it--probably still doesn't.  But when I told him we both laughed. I later went to see the client and got the contract--but not that day--I didn't push them to sign or finalize the contract. That would have been using a perspiring method.

When I got the contract my boss bought an airline ticket for me to carry the contract and hand deliver it to his boss.  My boss wanted me to say a few choice things to his boss and I was prepared to do so, but that was't necessary. My boss's boss was relieved I was there (with the contract) and was as nice as he could be. I then saw his phone light up like a Christmas tree and his assistant walked in. She said, to my boss's boss that his boss (that's my boss's, boss, boss) was screaming "Where is that contract, I saw Murphy walk in here and he had better have that contract."

When I was face to face with my boss's boss and I heard how his boss was screaming, I mentally made a note--there is a lot of pressure in being perspirational, and I vowed to never apply perspiration tactics if I could help it.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 10: Learn Leadership Skills

Etiquette Rule Number 10: Learn Leadership Skills

No matter what your position--look, sound, and act like a leader. Leadership skills makes you relevant. Learn team building, learn motivation, learn how to sound like a leader and be a leader. This doesn't mean you have to be in charge, look in charge, and take testosterone shots. Far from it. In fact, contrary to what many may think, leadership can often be the opposite. It means working together, collaborating, as colleagues, to attain the objective.

Managing and leading are not the same. They are vastly different. Leadership is about how you work with people and being competent in your craft.

What can you do to learn leadership is something I get asked. Study the great books on leadership. When I mean study--go get them from the library or Amazon. Don't just read them--take out a notebook and copy the key passages and points down. Read and reread the words you copied down until you get the core principles. Study books on great leaders. Learn what they had to do to overcome their obstacles. Become a person of distinction.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 9: Set High Expectations

Etiquette Rule Number 9: Set High Expectations

People don't want to be unrecognized. Everyone wants to be appreciated. I get it--some people want praise, some people want gifts, and people want to make a good living. But these things should not come at the expense of someone else. This is a form of robbery.

People, good workers, want the bar set high. I was talking to a Union official a while ago. He said, "Do you know what people want more than money?" Now this through me off. I thought Unions were all about higher wages--money. He said, "They want respect for their work." He said this was more important than the money. I thought about it and I agree.

Everyone wants to feel good about what they do. It's a part of them. When you set high expectations you are sending a message. The message is you expect the people can perform at a higher level than what they are doing now. Do something well, is performance. It's a competency. The competent are respected.

Set high expectations and watch the respect for one another flourish. Respect and expectations are a cousins. If you want respect, act with respect--be respectful and respecting.  Expect respect. If you don't think you are getting it--stop and see what you are doing or not doing to get that respect. Start with yourself first.

The worst kind of expectations is not to respect others but then expect respect in return.

Pay hommage to others' hard work--recognize them. And expect the best of others. This is a form of respect.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 8: Learn How to Say Something in Twelve Words

Etiquette Rule Number 8: Learn How to Say Something in 12 Words (or Less)

Conference calls are killing people. Yet people complain they are not informed. Then they complain they have too much information.

I am not sure what to think on this--except this: Learn how to say something and shut up.

Know that when speaking not placing a period at the end of the sentence is far more gruesome than people than the written run-on sentence. Speak up, but then shut up. As much as you want to explain something, in hopes that everyone gets it, or in an attempt to demonstrate that you are the smartest person in the room, is a fools errand.

Learn to say in two sentences what it takes to say in ten. Even if someone asks you to explain something say it in two sentences. Make the sentences spot on. Make every word count. Assume the other person gets it.

And please, don't use fillers like "um" and "ah." Make your statement and assume everyone is at least as smart as you. And then shut the heck up.

Be brilliant. This means that you do, however, have to think through what you want to say, or risk sounding like you are disorganized.

Start with the punchline first. The answer is X. It's supported by Y. Don't say, "And 20 of us agree. We used ABC theory and XYZ methodology." Not yet anyway. Have those in your hip pocket. If you don't have one (a hip pocket) buy one. Wear a suit jacket--that's where you'll find one.

Today, you'll be rewarded for saying less than you know. The corollary is also true: you will be punished for saying more than what you know.

I had a boss who said this about speaking and presenting: Be Bright. Be brief. And be gone.  

Office Etiquette Rule Number 7: Become Excellent at Your Craft

Etiquette Rule Number 7: Become Excellent at Your Craft

When you are good at what you do, you don't have to play games. You don't have toot your own horn. But you do know how to market yourself. And marketing is different than self-promotion. Self-promotion is self-absorption. People recoil from others who talk about how great they are, and it especially sounds silly if the competence doesn't match the self-promotion.

Unlike self-promotion, marketing requires genius and creativity. It means giving yourself away to help others, rather than trying to help yourself. But first be great at what you do.

When you are good at what you do, the only extra ingredient is how to communicate. The ability to say something in one sentence without droning on before you place a period, is genius. I have learned saying something in 12 words or less is a lot more powerful than being able to give a speech to an audience of one or two people or when on a conference call.

When you are competent, you become confident. You don't have to put on the "airs." You don't have to act better than anyone else. You don't have to be smarter than anyone else. You just are. Being good makes you--one of my favorite words--relevant.

Be a rock star. Become so good at your job that people turn their heads and wonder--how does she do that? I like Lincoln's quote: Whatever you are be a good one. 

Your office needs you. But only if you are a good one.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 6: Don't Fight, and Don't Be Defensive

Etiquette Rule Number 6: Don't Fight, and Don't Be Defensive

Don't retaliate if someone is aggressive with you. When you retaliate oftentimes you are reacting out of the past. There is a saying, "If it's hysterical, it's historical."

When you retaliate, you are often taking offense to something that you perceived as a slight. This perception is tied to your past--whether it was the mistreatment by a previous employer or colleague or from a family member when you were a child or someone you looked up to as a child.

Really--do we bring the past to work? Do we still bring in those feelings of the past when we were a child? Yes. We do bring our past to work. And sometimes, maybe oftentimes, we bring what we didn't get as a child to work hoping to get it twenty and thirty years later.

In our frustration of not getting what we should have gotten as a child, and then not getting it from our boss or colleagues, we become frustrated, even angry.  At times this manifests itself when we lash out. When we lash out, by saying something harsh or sarcastically, our reaction is something that seems very out of place to others.

When this happens, you are over compensating for what you feel you deserve and didn't get. Your retaliation is usually seen by others as over-the-top. You are labeled as insecure, immature, and defensive.

If you let all the baggage go--that is--you drop the past, and you don't react to what you perceive as slights by others--you are seen as cool, objective and mature. This is what you are aiming for--that steady Eddie--someone who can be counted on all the time, through tough times and easy times.

If the other person does take a swing at you, instead of taking it on the chin or throwing up you guard to block the punch, you move to the left, or what I refer to as "turning sideways," the punch just goes by you. You moved out of its way. You moved out of the poisonous orbit of the venomous assault. What happens then is a phenomenon that is difficult to describe. The other person is left standing there without anyone to engage with. The other person looks like an idiot. Don't take that award away from them by retaliating. There's a Murphy's Law that says, "Argue with a moron and the person passing on the street can't tell who the moron is."

Office Etiquette Rule Number 5: Don't Promote Yourself

Etiquette Rule Number 5: Don't Promote Yourself.

Draw people in. Attraction is much more powerful than self-promotion. Attraction seems harder and seems to take longer. But this is not the case. Allow people to see how good you are.

When you toot your own horn, people don't want you to play it in their band or their party. Promoting yourself has been the bane of several successful books. People have become masters at subtly promoting themselves. Watch out for those moments when you think you are subtly promoting how great you are. People see these attempts as foolish behavior.

They come in long emails explaining how you discovered the Earth is round or how you have done a closer examination of Newton's Theory of Gravity and it's a game changer.

It's also when you wait to hear what everyone else is saying in a meeting, and you know you have a trump card that makes everyone else look like dolts.

Be good at what you do. Become competent first before you even try to blow a horn. At least learn how to play the horn. And when you feel compelled to tell everyone how great you are, stop and look to see why you feel compelled to do this. Do you feel you are missing or lacking something? This is often the case whenever we look outside ourselves for praise and glory and the commendation of others.

Don't be "one of those people" who is always looking for ways to promote themselves and make themselves look good in the eyes of others.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 4: Watch What You Say and How You Say It

Office Etiquette Rule Number 4: Watch What You Say and How You Say It

Don't say you are going to do something and not do it. Don't be a lazy and yes, when you mean no. And certainly don't be a passive aggressive type person who says yes only to look agreeable and then not do it.

The English language is a walking minefield at times. The words sometimes don't match the tone. The words don't match the volume. Tone and volume matter. Watch what you say--don't promise something you can't deliver on.

Equally important don't be a rager and sound pissed off and combative because you think that's what people need to hear from you.

Instead be thoughtful with what you say. I think the less said the better--but only when you are there to make a point. Here's what Winston Churchill said, when he gave a commencement address to a group of graduates from his prestigious alma mater , "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never give in." Well, the truth is that speech is a falsehood. Churchill never gave that short of an address to his school. He gave a longer address. But apparently people wish he would have given the shorter speech as it is the stuff of how legends are made.

Here's the lesson from the Churchill speech he never made. People want to short memorable quote. Add too many words behind the quote, and the people forget the quote and more importantly the point. Let people think that you are thoughtful, not thoughtless. Act like a person who thinks, think like a person of action.

Say things in a positive, upbeat manner. No matter how much your boss complains about others, don't chime in. Don't go along with the negative crowd. Let people see you as someone who never drones on and never complains. And please, whatever you do, don't suck you by sounding like a sycophant, to anyone, except your spouse. Save the "how great you" are for your spouse.

If you complain once, that's once too often. After a while, the boss thinks you are a complainer, a whiner, a gossip. And soon the boss avoids you. That's not a position you want to be in.

In a meeting, make one point, one statement, in as few words as possible. You want people to want to hear more. You don't want people to wish you would shut the heck up.

Here's another important point: people don't always remember what you say, more often they remember how you said it. Said another way, how you said something conjured up some feeling and it made them feel either good or bad. In some cases people will say you said such and such, when you are going when did I say that? No way I said that! But you did--maybe not in the exact words--but to them you did.

Let me be clear as I close out this point: I am not saying sounding good is more important than substance. But competence comes in many forms. Speaking is a core competency to master. No one will know how good you are if you cannot speak clearly, professionally, and persuasively.

The shortest complete sentences are: "Yes" and "No." Use them, but be prepared when asked for further explanation by making a very short statement as to what was behind the yes and no. "The research I did says all cars that green have twice as many accidents in May." Then shut up.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 3: Pay Attention

Etiquette Rule Number 3: Pay Attention

Do yourself a favor. When you sit with someone pay attention. Start by lifting your smartphone up out of your pocket. Place it on the table and make a point of turning it off. When you do this you are saying to the other person, "You are important. I am here to listen and what you have to say is important."

If you have a laptop on your desk, close your laptop if someone comes to your office to talk. Listen. Listen. Listen

If the listening gets hard, grab and pen and paper and take notes. But pay attention. You might miss something swimming under the surface that can bite you. People say things that you really might not catch their meaning of and thereby get yourself hurt and sometimes eaten.

There are exceptions of course. If you really don't have time, ask the person if this can wait. If it can. Say great. Find a time when the two of you can get together, and then follow through, unless the other person says later, the problem took care of itself.

In most cases, problems take care of themselves. People aren't as emotional about something a day or two later.

If you take the call or the meeting, then you are there. So be there. Don't multi-process. Don't do emails or reports while listening. People who are on the phone can hear you typing. I know you think you can get away with that little sneak peek of that email coming through. But it's not true. You can't. No one can do two things at the same time that requires thought. Yes, you can pat your head and rub your tummy. But thinking is a one-at-a-time event. No two ways about it. Your brain can only process one-thing-at-a-time.  So be wherever you are.

Pay attention or you will be paying for this in reputation or missed expectations later. Or worse, you may be eaten.

Office Etiquette Rule Number 2: A Business is Like a Small Town

Etiquette Rule Number 2: A Business is like a Small Town

When you are driving in a small country town, a lot of times people will wave. This is not like some of the big towns. If anyone lifts their hand off their steering wheel, the last thing you'll get is a wave.

Why do people wave in small towns? Well, I believe they are being neighborly. This mean friendly. They figure they will run into you at church, the local supermarket, or their parents know your parents, or you all know each other by some friendship or distant cousin.

People don't cut each other off in small towns, curse, and wave the magic finger in anger when driving. Nor do they try to get in the shortest line at the grocery store or fight over a parking space, or beep the horn when the person in front of them is trying to decide to go left or right. Why? No one wants to be ostracized in small town USA.

Treat everyone in your office as if you are in a small town, whether you are in Mobile Alabama, or New York City, or in Livonia Georgia.  When you are genuinely nice and courteous to others in the office, word gets around:  He is a gentlemen. She is a lady. Civility is nice. Professionalism is critical.  And word gets around--especially when you are not nice.


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