Leap Anyway

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“..Every fear hides a wish”–David Mamet

Most people are aware of the risk in any situation. There are lucrative careers built around identifying and assessing risks, inherent or otherwise. The experts in the field tout successes at helping companies and individuals answer the question, “should we?”, then navigating them toward the calculated risk that has the least potential for loss. Few people are paid to move despite the risk.

When processing risk, I consciously follow the trail of the super producer. In the sales world there are often discussions about finding “A” players and the idea that most teams are built with one (or two) A’s and a supporting cast of B’s and C’s. Hiring managers are often resigned to the idea that super producers are industry minorities, and they are right. The typical super producer is risk aware but not risk-averse, highly focused on the positive outcome while mentally (even unintentionally) minimizing risk–a human anomaly that most people are not born with but could train themselves toward.

When I was invited to begin a corporate sales career, I was not afraid of selling, I was afraid of the repercussions of not selling but my dream of financial freedom, success, and building my brand as a trainer, speaker, and coach outweighed the natural aversion that most people experience when you discuss sales as a career. I had wishes that far outweighed any fear. That is where I stand today, as my career evolves and even as my personal and professional passions change with age and experience, I look for the wish behind every fear and I seek the “Do” behind every “Doubt”.

If you aren’t a natural super producer, how do you focus on the wish beyond the fear? (You can change wish to goal, dream, desire, or expectation), here are a few suggestions:

1) UNDERSTAND your fears. Most people have fears, go ahead and list them. “What are you afraid of?” I’ve done this exercise during coaching sessions and noted that most people can’t come up with as many as you would think. It often boils down to one major thing: failure. It’s okay to acknowledge that you have them and what they are, it’s not okay to make decisions according to them.

2) Immediately ADDRESS your feeling of loss and intentionally REPOSITION your thoughts on the representation of gain. Fear feeds off the potential of losing. Loss rarely evokes vivid images, it instead creates emotions that cloud the mind while gain will drive the imagination to reflect a kaleidoscope of outcomes: a new car, a new home, kids attending college happily, the vacation you’ve been wanting to take, or perhaps a career move. Spare yourself the emotional upheaval, visualize yourself winning!

3) Dream BIG! I know, I know, it’s cliché, most people will tell you to dream big because it seems like the right thing to do. Dream big because it’s the only way to combat risk aversion and accomplish big things. Big dreams require monumental effort that will often drive the willingness to take big risks. The super producer doesn’t think about hitting their monthly quota, they think about the reward of blowing it out of the water and they put in the effort to do it. How can we push ourselves to dream big? I created the “Least. Greater. Greatest.” planner. I list a wish and then visualize and write the lessor, the greater and the greatest outcomes, for example:

The wish: Travel.

Least: A weekend shopping trip to New York City with boutique style accommodations in Brooklyn or a weeklong Seattle foodie tour while booked into a Puget Sound Airbnb.

Greater: Two weeks of writing, meditation, relaxation and fun with the locals on the Eastern Caribbean island of Bequia.

Greatest: A trip to Singapore with my best girlfriends, luxury accommodations, private dinner by world renown chefs, and Universal Studios—yes, they have Universal Studios in Singapore!

Not only is this an emotionally engaging way to build your vision, the positive visualization will naturally replace fear driven inhibition.

4) Don’t HESITATE, DO SomethingHesitation (n) the action of pausing or hesitating before saying or doing something. There you have it, hesitation is the action that drives inaction. Have you ever envisioned winning the award for being “most inactive” or “least likely to move forward”? I hope not because there is no reward for being mired down by risk aversion.

How do we leap over the hurdle of hesitation? Go to your fear list, pick one, and detail what you would have accomplished if that fear didn’t exist, honesty is an important part of the process. For instance, I would have moved into a tiny house in Seattle and focused on becoming a published author for a year if I wasn’t fearful of leaving the predictable stability of corporate life.  As you can see, I’m specific. List what you would have done and the contributing fear (the hesitation point). Use visual elements if possible. When you are ready to behave like a super producer, you won’t want to run or hide from the most important truth–the truth you tell yourself.  After you’ve gone through this process, you will be ready to do the work. Remember, we said big dreams require a MASSIVE effort.

5) When you begin to feel fear think of the super producers that you know and REMIND YOURSELF, “if they can, surely I can too”. A healthy ego can override the fear of risk. Most professionals reject the idea that someone else is better than they are–even when the numbers prove it. In this case, the ball is in your court, advantage: confidence.

The work of a super producer is never done but the reward is never ending! Here’s to the results of pursuing the wishes behind your fears.

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Check Out My Contributions to Femme & Fortune

If you are looking for more mad advice and Gotivation, please check out my recent contribution to Femme & Fortune magazine:  One Degree, Two Lattes Later:  http://femmeandfortune.com/one-degree-two-lattes-later/

My goal is to get the message of personal motivation and career success out to a variety of demographics that are working to develop their professional profiles.  Femme and Fortune is labeled as the “Kick Ass Magazine for the Modern Woman”.  If you’re not a woman but still like good advice, don’t be afraid to click the link above!  My latest article here at the Mad Saleswoman will be posted today (find out what’s been going on as I celebrate the First Anniversary of leaving my last job!)

 

 

Who Needs Men-emies (Part II)

Part I of this post reflects on the Marie Claire article suggesting that single women in the workplace are impacted negatively, professionally and ultimately personally, by married/married with children colleagues.

Taveras believes that “businesses are increasingly sensitive to helping parents manage their time”.  This statement is laughable and goes unsupported with fact or examples.  I wouldn’t have to go far to find many working mothers who would strongly disagree, myself included!  In our capitalist society, land of the stimulus package, her belief that companies are seeking to help parents manage their time better confirms her skewed perspective based on personal feelings rather than fact.  Companies love money and they employ people to bring it to them.  That is all.  The larger the company the less likely they would be seeking time management options to assist your parenting capabilities.  It’s much more likely that they would have a corporate mandate that you learn to manage your time well and they only time they care about is the time that impacts your JOB.

She quotes different women who feel slighted by working parents and uses anecdotes to support her beliefs while attempting to make them seem scientific.  Anecdotes aren’t hard to come by on this side:  I recall working on a side project in the office while attempting to accomplish sales goals directly related to my position.  When I detailed why I had chosen to lower the priority of this project because I had “ a lot of work on my plate” that was actually more relevant to my hired position (goals that could actually lead to the evaluation of my success or not), the male superior suggested that the end of the school year and two hours that I had left early was the actual reason that I prioritized the projects.  Never mind my closure of two sales contracts during that same period of time or my after hours commitment—including responding to 4 am emails to prove that I’m always able to work.  This type of anecdotal perception of the working mother and it’s impact is well supported by years of scientific data.

Her arguments about working parents also confirm a suspicion that I’ve had regarding the corporate mindset: To some, becoming a parent means that your professional ambition was sucked out during the birthing process.  Nothing could be further from the truth! There are many of us who are concerned about our ability to further our careers and ascend the corporate ladder.  Having children or getting married may refocus your priorities but it rarely changes core ambition.  Actually, my desire to be successful increased upon the birth of my children.  I knew that I would never be a full-time stay at home so I focused on making my career a value add for my family, which meant harder work and yes, sometimes, longer hours.

Corporations follow the “skin in the game” mentality too closely to allow a mere woman to change their mantra for the sake of her breastfeeding hours or youth basketball games.  It’s much too easy for them to justify promoting a man (yes ladies, we are the least of each other’s worries), so we have to make the argument tough.  To Ms. Byrd, I say, “please email me a list of the companies that have moved wiping dirty baby bottoms ahead of cleaning up on the bottom line,  while still offering the opportunity to be promoted”, it’s just not happening!  If in-house day care is the ‘assist’ that companies are offering, I’ll tell you that it’s another method to encourage longer working hours (yes, the powers that be even thought that through).

The article would have been better focused on teaching women how to develop work/life balance without feeling the threat of job loss…it’s possible and should be expected!  As a matter of fact, rather than suggesting that women who leave at 5 pm to be responsible parents (who may also be working from home as I did many nights when my children were young) are slackers, she should suggest that they pair up with a more experienced employee who has figured out how to address balance in a productive way.  I guarantee you can find a female executive that has nurtured corporate revenues and a household family budget successfully, although not without a few growing pains—and you will have to be willing to forgo the easy path that this article seems to believe working mothers have.

In her effort to promote her argument, Byrd misses another demographic: the single, working mother.  As the sole provider in a household or primary caregiver, you have the irony of needing to accomplish everything but not being able to risk your job. Therefore, the nose to the grindstone mentality may take over.  There have been plenty of cheer practices that I’ve walked into late or last-minute calls for a ride that I’ve arranged on my daughters behalf without expecting a childless/unmarried employee to pick up my slack!

We want to be seen as equals in the workplace, yet Ms. Byrd, supports the “look at Sally” mentality. Pointing fingers and shifting blame.  Instead of focusing on what you believe someone isn’t doing perhaps time would be better spent focusing on what you CAN do.  There is significant power in demonstrating balance.  While working mothers may be perceived to be spending less time in the office, I can see many great lessons of those same women putting in more “concentrated” hours throughout the day to accomplish everything necessary should they need to leave on time.  Because those of us who value career and family recognize the need to burn the candle on both ends, we may spend more time with our heads down and engaged in work while the single person may be able to take lunch every day without fail or spend a little time building interpersonal relationships at work that could turn out to be very helpful to career growth, I don’t hold a grudge based on that but in a section of the article a woman complains about moving up the career ladder because she fears never having a family.  I’m less saddened by the fact that she’s choosing to work long hours and more concerned that she feels she has to choose.  Bob in the corner office is doing both!

You can do BOTH just be aware that sometimes the balance will be imperfect!  Melissa Mayer took time to focus on her career growth, plenty of time!  I don’t get the feeling that she perceived her life as wasting away while she worked long hours as an early Google employee.  There’s no irony that she reached what is obviously a career pinnacle as the Yahoo! CEO before deciding to be a mother.  She also wasn’t married during this period time, I’m sure by choice.  She has proven that you can have it all, maybe not everything at once but this may be the mantra for many working mothers.  Ironically, she has also been lambasted by women for her short period of maternity leave, while I read very few articles with men questioning her work ethic or qualities as a parent.

Most of us won’t reach the heights of CEO of a publicly traded conglomerate but I’m sure that many corporate women have prioritized career over family and then family over career while still being successful wives, mothers and employees.  You see how that works, you can have them both with varying priorities.  You can even flip flop your priorities day-to-day or hour to hour.  During work day, I am not focused on my two teenagers, I’m putting in a valiant effort as a conscientious employee.  When the bell tolls, I put on my mother hat and swap priorities.  There may be days when I don’t swap hats at 5pm and I hang around longer but I know when it’s necessary for me professionally.  Additionally, there are days when I have parenting responsibilities that I manage during my day, because I have to.

Ultimately, creating one more issue in the office between women, one more level of cattiness, detracts from the chasm of disparity between the sexes in the workplace.  Less pay, less promotions, less opportunity, and greater expectation to choose between family and career, outweigh the few extra hours that you perceive are being stolen from your single life due to someone else’s work choices.  Our resources as a group can’t afford to be filtered down by one more girl fight!  As a matter of fact, this particular fight has a high potential for returning to your doorstep:  the woman you complain about is actually the woman you’re complaining you aren’t right now but want to be.   If you are a single woman with a mission to be married one day, remember that you will be in the workplace as a wife and mother soon, unless you plan on embracing the single life indefinitely–no problem.  Why embrace and promote this false notion that working women are an office handicap when the fight that you are promoting will eventually become your own.

Last statement in this lengthy but necessary article:  My balance is not the catalyst for your imbalance so I suggest that if you fall into the category that Ms. Byrd is championing, you  find a way to demonstrate the ability to manage your life, career and time.  The article does nothing for the perception of women as whiny in the workplace but does, I assume unintentionally, aid the negative perspective that women in general have to deal with and combat.  Less time working against each other and more time supporting the greater good could mean less Lily Ledbetter based fights in the future.

The Voldemort of Syllables

The “umm” count with more than half the day left!

I pride myself on being able to work through distractions, the garden variety water cooler talk doesn’t usually impact me unless I’m choosing to interact, however, I’m living with a distraction of Voldemort like proportions.  One word.  I visualize it swirling around us all, its black cloak pulling us into an abyss of empty minds, stealing all ability to communicate a cohesive thought, numbing our tongues and causing our intended target to bill us as useless…UM.  That’s it.  One syllable so profound in its firmly earned its place in every version of the English language dictionary.

Call me picky but I would rather be left out of any conversation that incorporates “um” as a transition.  No single utterance communicates “I’m unsure” more than “um”, and who wants information from the person who doesn’t know?

For some people these two letters are consistent interjections, rote turn of phrase or syllables.  I’d like to attribute its frequent usage to the fact that generations are turning to text and type for their communication more often than direct conversations but how would I explain experience professionals love for it?  Does the usage ever make sense?

While I don’t think we will ever get rid of the pesky creature, I offer a few brief words of advice for reducing its verbal appearances:

1.  The pause:  Old school and proven!  If you’re not sure of where you’re going with your statements, take a minute….okay, maybe not a minute but a breath.  The pause doesn’t have to be noticeable but you’d be amazed at what halting at an opportune moment will do to your vocabulary.  I don’t know the exact science behind a pause but I know the effect.  Your mind will become a thesaurus the minute you breathe.  My little biology class recollection does tell me that when you’re breathing red blood cells are moving and rbc’s carry oxygen to the brain–could it be that a concerted breathe improves your ability to process a thought?  Who knows! Just try it.

2.  Prepared Statements:    The easiest communication to prepare for is voicemail.  While it’s a tough way to “sell”, it will often be the first hurdle you face.  Rate of return for voicemail can be less than 15%, factor in a precisely relayed message but I would wager that these numbers drop dramatically for an “umm” laden, drone fest–you could quickly be introduced to the delete key without even knowing.  Prepare several versions of a voicemail to avoid being too repetitive and get comfortable.  Read them enough to be fluid through the delivery and you’ll save yourself a wasted call and embarrassment.

3.  Don’t think and speak:  There are few masters of extemporaneous speaking, even Presidents are known to use Teleprompters, so don’t feel pressured to speak “off the cuff” unless it’s what you do well.  This can apply to any telephone situation.  If you’re dialing with the anticipation of getting your prospect on the phone, write out the framework of the expected conversation as well as questions that you would like to ask.  It won’t be 100% within your control–dialogue not a soliloquy is the aim when prospecting–but it will assure you that don’t walk away with unanswered questions and prevent you from sounding uninformed.

4.  Relax: I’m well aware that being a social butterfly isn’t an inherent trait for everyone; however, relaxing before you dial or present isn’t a bad idea.  Rookie salespeople often go into cold calling situations with the expectation of hearing “no” which creates tension and elevated fear (sometimes even dial resistance).  This is the perfect scenario for second guessing yourself and getting a case of the ‘ummsies’.  My best suggestion “let go of what you THINK will happen and work for what you WANT to happen!”

5. Slow Down:  High level sales are rarely a one and done situation.  As a matter of fact, the best deals are usually created in layers.  Understanding this will help you prioritize what you NEED to say during each call.  Without prioritization you verbally throw up on your target (sorry for the visual) and your thoughts will crowd one another.  Why rush through when you know that you are creating relationships for the long haul.  The suggestion to slow down can also be applied to any salesperson trying to fit every sales quote or cliché that they’ve ever heard into a conversation.  Words trip over one another, become meaningless and when you begin running out of things to say the “nasty little syllable” creeps in.  Slow down, insert verbal punctuation (stops for periods, pauses for commas, etc.), and enjoy the craft of selling.

6. Listen To Yourself–This one’s simple:  When you pay attention to how frequently you say a word you will say it less.

7. Talk Less:  If you ran out of things to say, you should have probably stopped speaking!  The easiest way to create something to say is to hold an actual conversation.  Say the necessary, ask questions wait for a response, reply if necessary, and repeat!

8. Eliminate other filler:  Words including like, so, yeah, and uh huh create comfort and a passageway to using um.  Those words rarely fit well into a professional conversation so just like, avoid them, uh huh!

9. Let go of your comfort zone and the need to be perfect.  I’ve heard “I sound stupid” many times from new salespeople.  The interesting thing about this is, usually the recipient of the message, is less educated about what you do than you are.  They don’t know exactly how you fit and therefore aren’t judging the message.  Their goal is to decipher whether or not any of this is worth their while and if you insert your uncomfortable verbiage in the mix they may make this decision too quickly for their own good, least of all yours.

1o. Educate yourself.  When you know more about your client you’re more comfortable interacting with them.  The same can be said, and should be an unspoken rule, when applied to your product and it’s features/benefits.

While the personal world is being relegated to the deep cover of abbreviated text language, there aren’t many business relationships conducted 100% electronically, make “strong verbal communications” more than a bullet on your resume!

(Please “like” if you have positive feedback or comments!)

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All Work No Federal Holi-Play

As many employees are enjoying Martin Luther King, Jr. Day from their comfort of their homes I will be sitting in the cubicled walls of my work environment and it makes me recall the way I viewed this holiday as an elementary age child.  I asked my grandmother if I could stay home that Monday because it was Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday and I’ll never recall the quick response that ended the conversation: “he fought so that we all could have the opportunity to go to work and school not to give you a day off”.  That settled it.  One single sentence from Grandma nipped the whole idea of a day at home catching up on the Young and the Restless (yep, I was a fan even back then). 

 Years later, I have worked in environments that follow the federal calendar and those that seem to follow no calendar whatsoever -nothing like working on New Years Eve in a outbound sales environment- and I value the words that my grandmother said.  She had never worked outside of the home but she had obviously grown up at a time where she saw the impact of not being allowed to engage in a career of your choosing or pursuing that career but having no opportunity to practice.  She understood the value of earning an honest wage for your family without daily impediment or worries.

 Those words stood out so significantly to me that I have never used MLK day as a vacation day.  When it has been given to me as a federal holiday I’ve used it to participate in a service project or attend a local educational event with my children.  On the chance that it hasn’t been offered to me as an official holiday I’ve gone to work with the appreciation for all of the people that paved the way and put in the hard and often dangerous work of protesting, sit-ins, and simply standing for what they believe.  I remind myself that the sacrifice of my ancestors and those of other races that believed in equality is more than enough reason for me to ALWAYS strive to be number one and put my best foot forward.

 So, regardless of the color of your skin, many of us are experiencing success today that required the sacrifice and hard work of others yesterday.  With this in mind I enjoy the unimpeded opportunity to take care of my family, relish the comfort that I am afforded and work hard as a gesture of gratitude to my predecessors.

Happy MLK Day.