Did I Hear You Correctly?

NPH Hear

My formative years were spent in two states: New York and New Jersey, both of which are known for their straight talk, mind your business, but keep it business attitudes, so admittedly, the fact that I was STARING at two people while they were deep in conversation is an absolute “no ma’am”!  Yes, I was staring as they conversed.  I, who have judged staring as a southern trait–believe me, here in the south it’s seen as showing interest not being nosy–picked up the dirty little habit for 15 whole minutes (give or take 3 seconds).

What’s interesting about me staring?  Not so much the part about me being a Northerner and finding it rude but the fact that I didn’t understand a word that was being said.  The two people were speaking another language…sign language.  Their hands moved as swiftly as hummingbirds and the conversation was obviously fluid.

I wasn’t eavesdropping in the traditional sense because I couldn’t translate but I was absolutely engrossed in the way that they listened to one another: There was no digital interruption.  While one “spoke” the other “listened”.  Now, I don’t need a hearing impairment to say that I know one thing for sure…they are people with one difference, they can’t hear.  They aren’t saints so I’m sure arguments occur and I just happened to be watching a normal engagement  expressed the way two hearing people would–calm words and shared dialogue.  The noticeable behavior was that they actually were hearing the others words.  They were being present for the message.  Not being able to hear physically, enhanced their listening sense!

This is the greatest disadvantage that we often have in business.  Our mouths get in the way of our ability to listen.  The other person is speaking and we are waiting to speak instead of listening:  When she stops, I’m going to say “blah, blah, blah”…yep, we’re prepping our retort, response, or statement.  Even when having polite discourse, people are rarely listening.

Why my big focus on listening?  First of all, it’s an important SKILL.  It requires developing.  Listening for the purpose of doing business (selling), accomplishing a task or understanding others is a skill that takes time and effort.  The reason that most people stop listening, I believe, is that they didn’t hear anything that interested or impacted to them and so they stop waiting for it.  They ask a question and the answer isn’t heading where they want it to, so they begin prepping their next question or a different way to get the answer they want.  What I’ve found is that usually there is another question that can be asked based on what you HEAR, if you are just patient enough to listen.

Another reason that I’m focused on listening is because of the simple message that it conveys to others, when you don’t.  You don’t have to roll your eyes and yawn to convey disinterest, as a matter of fact, it’s rarely signs this overt that people pick up on.  It’s often the lack of response to what was actually said.  For example, I’ve had the unfortunate position of being required to speak to someone who isn’t a cognizant listener.   This is how our conversations typically went:

Bob (name changed to protect the ignorant):  So, Steph, how are things in your universe?

Me:  Well, great actually, I made contact with XYZ company and things…

Bob:  (interrupting) I had an interesting experience with XYZ years ago (begins long-winded story that brings little impact and less value to the original question).

I hated conversations with Bob because often it was like verbal jousting and left me feeling rude while he was oblivious or consciously ignoring his own behavior AND because I couldn’t willfully avoid them.  There’s nothing worse than being forced to engage with a disinterested person–well, there are some things but doesn’t it sound selfish?  Maybe so, or maybe it’s the musings of an experienced professional with a personal history of being a good listener.

Why do I sell well?  I’d like to think it’s because people just like me.  They do, but that’s a result of being a great listener.  Paying attention to what someone says and demonstrating it via good feedback or related responses is a building block to relationship development.  A client that says, “I’m busy” will feel heard if you say “I know how busy things get, when is a better time to call you back: as opposed to “Yeah, I’ve had a busy day myself”.  You may even ask the client/your boss if there is anything you can take off their plate, although you know there may not be.  The simple sign of concern, demonstrating that you heard is sometimes enough.  When I’ve done this the payoff has been greater.  In the world of risk/reward there is NO RISK TO LISTENING but the reward is immense.

Listening to hear always pays off.  Put your active listening skills to use and see how much more developed your professional and personal conversations become!

Let’s Dissect This: Smiling, Happy People Pt. 1

  Ever been involved in a meeting that makes you want to get up and leave the room?  I got that feeling when I heard these words:

‘Never hire people who left a company because they were unhappy, they will just be unhappy working for you.  It may be eight or nine months down the road, but they will be unhappy’.

Really?  Never?  I’ve heard the statement that “no opinion is wrong”?  Well, the person who first said that statement is probably the one who also determined that every player gets a trophy because “there are no losers”.  My belief?  Somebody has to lose (I just don’t want it to be me) and there aren’t just wrong opinions, there are stupid opinions.  The opinion above is a generalization about something that is way too complex to be generalized.  It’s hard for me to sit still in the face of individuals who make these kinds of remarks and believe them!  I guess I should give credit to anyone that is so confident in their understanding of the world but I have a hard time quietly dealing with narrow perspectives, so let’s dissect it a little…shall we?

Qualifier: Unhappy people exist.  Employees are people.  Therefore there will be employees that are just unhappy people.  Most people aren’t unhappy by nature.  Call me an optimist but unhappy people are so easy to point out because they are the exception not the rule.  I say this because it explains my belief that if you work with unhappy people or morale is low there is usually a reason for this.  And no, the reason isn’t that they are just all Debbie Downer’s.  Going back to the qualifier, I’m sure that there are a few Sad Sally’s (I promise no more alliteration) but that would be minimal. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s move on.

I have objections to the idea that when someone is unhappy at Y Company and chooses to leave they will be unhappy with Z Company and eventually do the same.   Unfortunately, there are many corporate leaders and managers that have this frame of mind, especially during an employer’s market (when there are more people in the job market than available jobs).  A wealth of thoughts, some in the form of questions and others retorts, came to mind, none of which would be perceived as positive by someone living that reality so I’ll share them here:

Thought:  A “leader” who believes this statement can’t possibly have the ability to see the full needs of their employees.  When you decide that people are unhappy without good reason you’ve thrown away valuable opportunities.  The behaviors that encourage a dissatisfied employee to come to the table with their concerns or issues are the same ones that motivate a satisfied employee to share their successes.  Both are teachable moments.  A manager that conditions himself to believe that grumbles of disapproval are the sounds of the generally unappreciative, is making a foolish error.  When someone decides that people are whiners and would be whiners anywhere he is choosing, consciously or otherwise, to ignore the needs of his people–that’s dismissive.  It’s impossible to have anything other than a shallow relationship with a dismissive individual.  If I don’t trust that you have my best interest at heart, how can I trust your opinion on my career value to your company?

Thought:  Aren’t generals responsible for the morale of their troops?  You can substitute coaches/players in to this analogy and it all boils down to the same thing, the leader has great impact on the emotions, behaviors and perspective of those who must follow.  Not a great leader, but any leader.  Every General portrays an external belief that the war can be won, how else can you get the troops to pick up their guns and march?  He leads by example because he understands the sway that he has over his soldiers.  Additionally, when the battle is won he is lauded for his bravery and leadership, shouldn’t he be held accountable if the war is lost?  Bottom line, if your people are unhappy you bear some of the responsibility.

Thought:  This is a level of denial that could destroy or hinder a company.  Acceptance is the first action step in taking responsibility, denial has no place in that process.  Acknowledging and accepting issues at hand allows you to address and resolve.  That’s right….Acknowledge, Accept, Address and Resolve.

What do you get from denial?  Repetition of detrimental behaviors.  If being on time is important for a project oriented workplace, the employee that’s consistently late has to be addressed or the behavior will continue and the work will be impacted, right?  So, why not openly discuss employee concerns that are hindering internal success.   When someone feels undervalued or overlooked the best option is to speak about it.

Thought:  Holy Generation Gap, Batman!  Woe to the man who seeks the resume with one job!  You’ll be searching a long time.  The days of the gold watch and retirement are gone–employees know that, some employers want to ignore it.   Today’s corporate structures, financial economies and behaviors don’t provide as much access to the 25 year pin that many would welcome.  Sure, there are people who are proverbial “job hoppers” but they aren’t included in the masses that are seeking the best opportunity for their success and a place to call home.  Staying and working through the pain, year after year without a commitment to change is no longer the way of the world.  I believe that great employees have a sense of expectation based on their work and poor employees have a sense of entitlement.  Identify the two and take care of your people.

Thought: Says the Rich Man to the Poor Man.  No need to bring out the socialist banner and slap it on me, I’m just acknowledging that it’s very easy for the rich man to call the poor man ungrateful when he has full control of his destiny.  Employees that choose to look are often doing it because the environment isn’t theirs to change and they are aware that they can do better.  How ironic that we hold people accountable for their lack of wealth and positions in the world but call them unappreciative when they attempt to change it by seeking new opportunity!

The interesting thing is that I have heard this mindset expressed in other ways throughout my professional career in other ways, from people who have believed themselves to be visionary managers.  Statements like: “If you’re not happy, there’s the door”,  “This trains leaving the station and if you’re not on it, oh well”…lots of quipped, little expressions of power from small minded perspectives.  If you have said something like this or think this way, today would be a good day to reevaluate your standard of leadership.  Is it possible for those words to come from a good place?  Are they actually motivating? If this is your modus operandi, should you be managing?


Dear Journal: A Mad Sales Moment

llcoolcomebackSo I took a couple of weeks away from posting (not writing) to focus on my book endeavors as well as putting together a few One Woman Sales Tours and Seminars and I’m excited to return to my favorite opinion venue, Diary of a Mad Saleswoman.

I actually intended to take another week off but I had a breakthrough and an occurrence (because my life is way too dramatic for me to just have a simple moment).  The breakthrough was that I finally penned the intro of my first sales tome after agonizing for months over how I would define the book and who it was meant for.   Okay, so I’m not writing the next Crime and Punishment but dammit, I like the word tome and I’m sticking with it.  Besides, it’s going to be quite insightful, causing book to be too ordinary a noun.

Anyway, after months of writing, I could never succinctly say who the book was meant for or why I was writing it.  Sound crazy?  Well, it felt the same way.  I had a ton of great messages compiled and I knew what the gist of the book was, I just didn’t know HOW to say WHO it was written for.  Whether you get that or not, isn’t the real point.  The point is I got the intro written and I’m ready for the next phase in the adventure!

Secondly, I had a meeting which created the perfect moment for me to come back to Diary of A Mad Saleswoman confidently.  Maybe, confidently is the wrong word since that never seems top be my issue, however, one loaded (perhaps unintended) statement during a meeting created the perfect opportunity for me to sail back into the lives of my readers as though I had never been missing.  If you didn’t miss me, you must have the most exciting life ever because I’m easy to miss and if you did miss me…I’M BACK AND KISSES TO YOU!

People who know me personally or whom I’ve had the chance to speak with directly, would tell you that I like to deal in truths.  I have the ability to deliver the message softly or slap you in the face with it, but ultimately, I feel that truth is a necessity to functioning successfully in the business world so that’s where I live.  Unfortunately, there are instances in which spoken honesty would be the death knoll but writing allows me to ring that bell joyfully.  The moment that brings me back to blogging full force is a bell-ringer for me and I hope you’ll venture back later today to get the message.

Anyway, thanks for reading and I’m looking forward to some feedback on the post.

Dissection of An Excuse!


“On my way in I had a coughing episode and made myself sick, so I turned around and came back home.  My voice is gone and I feel like a mess.
I am working on the follow up from [specific project], so I have plenty to work on. I will be accessible by email throughout the day as well.”

This is the introduction to our new column, “Excuses Excuses”.  The above proves that you don’t have to work in a “creative environment” to find creative people.  Let’s break this one down just a bit:

1)  Coughing episode….unless this episode is a byproduct of a terminal lung disease or accompanied by some internal hazardous bio fluid it just doesn’t sound rational.  The kind of coughing that requires a day off is usually preceded by illness.  How do I know, you ask?  WebMD people!  I do my research! (http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/tc/coughs-topic-overview).  So the question is: “how does coughing actually make one sick enough to stay home?”….let alone…

2) Turn around and go back home:  Yep!  This episode of coughing (which can happen from drinking your morning Starbucks too quickly or “swallowing down the wrong pipe”–no scientific proof that the latter can occur), has resulted in someone, who apparently felt well enough to come to work when they first woke up, reversing their course.   Let’s see the order of this….wake, yawn, stretch, shower, dress, do hair and makeup, step into the warm sunshine, begin morning commute, cough (episodically), and return home…seems like the right thing to do.

3) My voice is gone:  The absence of a voice is huge when you’re a salesperson although many of us have muddled through.  I don’t post things that I haven’t vetted so I have it on good confidence that this is a technical person–hence a voice being important but not a job changer.  But let’s relate point #3 to point #1.  “My voice is gone.”  This says: I had a voice BUT my coughing episode erased it within the space of a car ride.

So, the party didn’t wake up with a particularly sore throat (the excuse itself makes me think this person would have divulged that to further bolster their rationale for going home, i.e….’I woke up with a sore throat and then had a coughing episode on the way in”) but coughing created one.  This isn’t out of the realm of possibility particularly if you are TRYING to and follow the 5 ways to lose your voice: http://www.mademan.com/mm/5-ways-lose-your-voice.html.  So, we can justify the loss of voice as a created condition.

4) I FEEL like a mess:  AHA!  Here’s the gist of the situation…YOU NEEDED A MENTAL HEALTH DAY!  Well, hell, why didn’t you just say this?  Even scions of leadership understand the need to step away from corporate madness for a moment.  As a matter of fact the better you feel the better you perform and the good “bosses” know this!  On another note, sometimes you feel like what you are….this isn’t a mean statement just an observation.  Could it be that your issue is psychosomatic and not physical?  Sooner or later the powers that be get the sense that these “feelings” aren’t real and will question everything!

5) blah blah “accessible by email throughout the day”.  Everyone and I do mean everyone knows that this portion of the excuse is gratuitous.  This person isn’t really expecting anyone to reach out and for the most part people won’t!  I’m not saying all of the time but there’s a pretty significant chance that this part of the statement is a way to assuage some guilt.

That’s my feeling about excuses.  Do I ever make them?  Of course!  Human beings make excuses. Excuses are a perceived necessity!  Let’s just hope that when excuses are made they’re better than this one.  To pay homage to this lamest of excuses, the MSW team is looking for the worst or most creative excuses you’ve heard or used!