I’d Rather Be The Lioness (The Lion V. Gazelle Redux)

The anecdote of the Lion and Gazelle has been published (http://bit.ly/1hV6plmnd) enough throughout my career that as I transitioned so has my perspective of its value. I began to feel that it would be ill applied if I merged it, as is, into my sales life. If you currently work in the maze of cubicles and are seeking to advance as a sales professional, there are several areas that I recommend using the technique of the Lioness rather than the Lion:

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1) Prospecting: The Lioness is the primary hunter of each pride. She wakes early to identify prey, patrol the perimeter and ultimately provide a meal for all, including the lion that is rarely known to proactively hunt. Becoming a sales leader requires active hunting, recognizing that the opportunities to take part in spoils that you have not won are limited. There is the belief that working harder not smarter but breaking a sweat is a necessity, particularly in the beginning.

2) Territory/Competitor Awareness: A lion’s mane is used to dissuade potential predators or enemies from engaging by adding size to his appearance, I relate it to the established salesperson that has come to rely on the power of inbound calls and relationships to generate revenue, maintain the reputation of his sales prowess, and intimidate his competitors (internally and externally).  A professional life with little challenge can lead to a sense of complacency and an imaginary comfort zone.  Conversely, the lioness is often tested by competitors.  While she is a part of the same family as the King of The Jungle, she is not immediately given the grace of perceived power and therefore must always be alert to any potential threat to her territory. Without a mane as an initial repellant she must command respect based on the work and effort that she puts in continuously.

3) Peer Relationships: A Lioness can seamlessly assimilate into a new pride while the lion is often thought of as “rogue” or threatening when he is forced to strike out alone. You can be the lioness with the proven and quantifiable skill set that is easily marketed to a new company when it’s necessary to move forward, if you’ve done the right things. A solid reputation based on skill and finesse combined with the art of ingratiation will compel your new pride to embrace you, push your development and increase your potential for competitive balance.

4) Practice Management: She is naturally territorial of her young and has learned to enlist others in the nurturing of her cubs only when it is necessary or they have reached an age that she is sure they will continue to thrive. Your prospects and clients are your cubs. If you behave like the lioness you will keep a close and protective eye on them until they have reached a level of maturity (revenue, consistency, rapport) that requires less hand feeding and occasional steering.  When you have to turn them over or receive assistance with them it will only be from a colleague or manager that is as fiercely protective of their own business and who understands the need to maintain your den. A lioness knows that leaving her young (clients/prospects) too soon could lead to their demise. Behave like the lion–killing young (potential or growing business) or forcing relationships within the pride (colleagues or even the industry)–and you could find yourself in the crosshairs.

While there is strategic value to being the visible and beautifully coiffed Lion there is both tactical and strategic advantage to being the lioness that has perfected the craft of eating well and feeding others.  The nature of a workplace environment doesn’t tolerate the behaviors of lions well.  Work ethic, commitment, and strength are more likely to propel you than the simple demonstration of dominance, perhaps a testament to the longevity of the lioness in the wild in comparison to her male counterpart.

 

As a consultative sales partner and brand developer for businesses and individuals, Stephanie Bryant is noted for 100 closed referrals in 30 days, demonstrated talent for taking companies beyond lead generation to overall success through cold prospecting, identification and coaching of trainable sales talent and strategic business development. @madsaleswoman

Identifying The Silly Rabbit….Waking Up From My Blogging Stupor

So, I took a mini sabbatical from blogging because of the balance I needed to strike in my professional life.  I’m a working entrepreneur. I build someones brand while pursuing my career mission of sales consulting, training, seminars and book writing.  So far, so good.  When people ask me how I get it all in, I have one simple reply:  “I don’t sleep.”  I’m not a part of the Cullen clan and I don’t use a caffeine IV drip although my Yelp check-ins at Starbucks would allude to something different, I just choose to make sleep optional until I’m in a position that allows me the comfort of rest.

All of that being disclosed, I decided to rise from blogger sleep mode thanks to a recent experience.  Nothing will spark the writing juices like a “nasty gram”, which I received from someone, assuming that I intentionally spelled their name wrong.  This was silly to me for so many reasons.  First, those of you who have read my blog know that I believe that a name is important for some pretty in-depth reasons.  Secondly, the misspelling was unintentional and more specifically an error (yes, I make occasional mistakes) committed because I was rushing and not paying attention.  Third, because it was smoke and mirrors allowing this person to “get back at me” (funny but sad), for addressing previous bad behavior.

Referring to a previous post, I spent three months in an environment where my name was incorrectly labeled as “Stacy” on my phone display, which had been programmed before my start date.  It took me a significant period of time and several instances of actually being called Stacy, as well as incidents that made me question my value before I addressed it in the form of a blog post.  Had someone misspelled my actual name wrong on an internal note, I may have noticed it but would have assumed it was an unintentional error that didn’t need to be addressed.

I didn’t have to dig far into my mental Rolodex to understand the situation.  I have ZERO internal rapport with the person whose name I misspelled and her usual demeanor is pretty harsh so it wouldn’t be hard for her to believe the worst of other people–particularly one that she doesn’t like for some created reason.  The lesson in all of this for me: 1) You will judge people based on your own behavior so it’s smart to be introspective and 2) Petty workplace behavior is limiting.

If you think you are a conduit for negative work culture, Ask yourself a few questions so that you can determine IF or WHAT you need to change:

1) Do I give people a reason to have a poor perception of who I am professionally and personally?

2) Have I ever and am I currently referenced as someone who has a bad attitude?

3) Do I make excuses for my behavior or justifying my behavior?

4)  Is there a known “time of day” that I am most approachable? (i.e., you have to know when to approach Mary, she’s definitely not a morning person”)

5) Am I the source for gossip?  Do I routinely engage in negative conversation about my colleagues?  Could I be used as the face of the company to welcome new peers?

6) Have I been confronted by someone regarding my behavior or about something that I have directed toward them?  How did I react?

7) Do I have different work policies and practices depending on who I am supporting? Is my internal customer support as high as my external, lower, or the same?

8) Have I ever been embarrassed about my behavior but refused to apologize? Do I refuse to acknowledge my poor judgment?

9) Have I had poor interaction with more than one person with my behavior being questionable?

10) Do I ever think about being better? (Yes, would be a good thing.  No, is usually a sign of disillusionment).

While the title includes the cliché of “silly rabbit” and you know the ending, the correct term for someone carrying out personal vendettas by using a small amount of workplace power is “playing reindeer games”.  Remember that reindeer live on a harness and dirty behavior will provide the same limited movement in your career.  This is a lesson that we could ALL learn from.

With Women Like This…Who Needs Men-emies? Pt 1.

working mom

I gave up on women’s magazines along the lines of Cosmo and Glamour right around the time that I was sufficiently confident I didn’t need advice on how to please a man.  While it’s entertaining and I’m a lover of fashion and a bit of gossip, I didn’t have enough time to allocate to fluff so I began weeding out my magazine consumption. Who survived the cut?  Marie Claire.

Marie Claire was like having a GNO with the best girlfriend.   You know the one…smart, interested in you, informative, fashionable and mature.  She was Ms. with shaved legs and a smoothed out feminist vibe.  I like to think of her as the girl you’d marry if you were a boy, liked girls, or she wasn’t imaginary.   It always seemed like we agreed with one another; she would say something and I’d smile or nod my head in agreement while congratulating myself on choosing my friends so wisely.   But even your best friends can disappoint you.  Enter the July edition of Marie Claire and article by Ayana Byrd, The Single Girl’s Second Shift.

According to the article, single women are suffering workplace discrimination at the hands of their married counterparts, including: 1) Carrying an unfair burden, batting “clean up” for the married-with-kids co-workers. 2) Being perceived as people who “don’t have lives. (Making people think that) No life means no need for balance.” 3) Having work shifted to them because “she’s single, she has time to do this.”

In a lengthy article, the author discusses this major issue “simmering below the surface”.  With a plethora of feeling based surveys of single workers and a book written by Bella DePaulo, a PH.D., who is cited as America’s foremost authority on the single experience and who happens to be the author of numerous “marriage bad, single good” articles, she opines about the impact of married people on singles in the workplace.

DePaulo has coined the term “singalism”, which doesn’t need much of a breakdown for definition:  racISM, chauvanISM, sexISM, you get the point.  Basically, singles feel that they are being forced to carry the lion’s share of the work hours and work load to accommodate the busy lives of working women—while she avoids the direct hit that she would take by verbalizing gender, it’s obvious that the impact she is reviewing is the one caused by women on other women.  You can just see her target on female parents in particular—you know the ones that are using their kids as crutches as they limp out of the door at 5 pm.

My irritation with the article may not be for the reasons that you think.  I’ve worked with women at all stages of motherhood and I am one.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been an office professional as long as I’ve been a mother, having chosen to get married at 18 and have children by 21 (no, I’m not Amish or a member of the Duggar family).  While I’ve had school plays, cheerleading competitions, and sick children in the mix, I’ve also had to fight to prove that I appreciate and value my career, just as much as the single girl—now I see that the justification is necessary to women as much as men.  I knew that I would have to manage my career closely in order to progress.  When I was going through a divorce, I kept it out of the office out of concern that someone would assume that I would use it as a crutch.  That’s right I managed an entire divorce with children transitioning from middle to high school without forcing a single working woman to shoulder the burden of my disintegrating marriage.    All of this while working in the cut throat world of sales where you’re only as good as your current numbers, so taking time off could be the death knell when a new territory or opportunity to lead arose.

I can also look beyond myself to a Corporate Sales Manager that works far longer hours and more Saturdays than her single subordinates or male counterpart in the business as she balances being the parent of three young children.  She has done what I would recommend any professional do if they are seeking personal and professional fulfillment:  Adjust where necessary.  Some days may require a heavier workload than others and others may necessitate the peace of mind afforded from quality personal time.  She isn’t striving for perfection or looking for someone to share her responsibilities, instead she has the maturity and focus to identify what it takes to get the job done.  Does she find it easy?  I can’t speak for her but understanding the duality of the role of working mom and successful employee, I would say “no”, but unlike the single people noted in the article, she doesn’t have the expectation of ease and comfort in all situations.

To avoid sounding contrary for the sake of, I’ll give in to certain things:  Working mothers take time off for things that single women can’t/don’t use as an excuse, working mothers will often adjust their hours or ask for that time so that they can take care of parental responsibilities—often carrying the burden more than working fathers.  And, full disclosure, I’ve worked with women that have children and taken days off when school is closed and I’ve given the “get a sitter” eye roll because it had become excessive or seemed like something they should be prepared for, so yes, GUILTY! I’ve also worked with women who have taken time off for personal ailments (cramps, etc) while I’ve had to save those sick days in case of kid emergency so I’ve dragged myself in through the flu!  I’ve also worked with singles that miss work because of mismanaged late nights out or worse, have come in with ‘walk of shame’ stench.  You know the look:  haphazard pony, ballet flats because their balance is still off, and the outfit that is more casual than professional because they didn’t have enough planning time between the club, rolling out of someone’s bed, rushing home to change and making it to the office.  My point:  slackers comes in all forms.  Ms. Byrd assumes that the slackers impacting singles would be married, I say don’t make the argument about the people you can’t identify with and rather than giving you a platform to whine, I’ve included tips to help:

Suggestions for dealing with true slackers in the workplace:

1) Focus on the things that will make you rise to the top and you will have less time to reflect on what’s being done around you

2) Toot your own horn.  It’s okay to engage in well timed, smartly phrased self-promotion, which doesn’t include pointing fingers.

3) Refrain from negativity.  Going to HR or your supervisor to continuously point out what others are not doing will eventually make you the target.

4) Understand that it’s not your job to understand.  There may be things happening with a co-worker, in the office or out, that may not be within your rights to know.  If it doesn’t involve you directly, keep it moving and stop trying to figure out why they “aren’t in on time, leave early or don’t seem to pulling their weight.”

5) Be insightful enough comprehend your motivation for complaining about a colleague.  If there isn’t a direct, unavoidable impact to your position, it may not require addressing.  Also, if it feels like “complaining”, it probably is.

6)  Spend more time managing your career and emotions with the perspective that you’re in control of both of those things.  If your mission is to be promoted and to grow in the workplace, any time spent pointing fingers is counterproductive to that cause.  When there is work to be done there are few successful leaders that care more about who’s accomplishing it than that it’s being accomplished, when they see you willing to dive in, it does more for you than anyone else.  Don’t let your emotions get  in the way of that perspective.

7)  Seek and create your version of balance.  There were instances of women feeling like they weren’t able to enjoy their personal  lives because they were working too frequently.  If you’re working too often this is less about the other person and more about you.  I always believe that anything we WANT to do, we DO.  Schedule your work out sessions, networking events, and regular happy hours and build them into your calendar.  It’s very likely that your boss has pastimes that they enjoy and will respect that you have found an outlet of your own.  Also, finding an opportunity to do more than work creates a better employee, many surveys have cited that employees with successful downtime are more productive during the workday.

8) Don’t assume that the “powers that be” are blind to workplace happenings.   This isn’t a school project that requires working in teams at home while the teacher is unaware of who is pulling the weight.  If you are working in tandem and producing the lion’s share of the work, believe that it won’t go unrewarded or unnoticed. Corporations and it’s managers are proprietary about money and rarely want to pay people for the work that they aren’t doing.  Outside of the less rare but often discussed cases of nepotism and workplace favoritism, leaders typically promote those that are comfortable diving in.  If you feel that your work is unrewarded, refer to #2.

9) Learn to say “no”.  Leaders respect professionals that can be decisive.  The “no” sentiment doesn’t have to be conveyed in a cutting manner, it can be creatively and respectfully delivered.

10) Referencing #9, Be courageous.  If you absolutely believe that you have a reason for declining the work, you shouldn’t have a problem delivering the news, just remember that nothing is done without risk!

Notice that points 1-10 reflect on the most important thing that you can do as a professional:  focus on what you can do without making it about someone else.

Dissection of An Excuse!

excuses_Nike

“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!

As Good A Chance…

feeling-luckyThere are so many ways that I want to end a business meeting and “we have AS GOOD A CHANCE as anybody” doesn’t fall into any of those ways.  I make my living in a cold prospecting, hard targeting, get the meeting and push for the close kind of world.  It isn’t easy.  I have no complaints about being a saleswoman, those of you who have read my other posts know that I love the art of selling, but when you quantify the amount of time it can take to move a cold prospect to a purposeful meeting, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.

Chance for me loses its value become of its interchangeable relationship with luck and I can’t afford to stake my career on the traditional premise of being lucky.  Thesaurus.com lists antonyms of chance as: designed, foreseeable, planned, and understood; this short list is the basis of Sales 101!  Outside of the inherent traits, most salespeople learn from the beginning to plan, to design your path to success (your approach), to understand as much as possible about your client, target or industry and to forecast the potential outcomes so that you aren’t blindsided with too many unknowns.  If you do all of those things, you won’t get left with a “hope” to get the business.

An owner of a firm that I once worked for didn’t like to hear a sales tale or prognostication based on “hope”.  He would emphatically state that “hope are prayers unanswered”.  It may seem harsh or even a bit cynical but when do you really want to rely on a stroke of good luck?  If someone you loved had a pending surgery would you want the prognosis from the surgeon to include “well, if we’re lucky” or “we’ve got as good a chance?”  I don’t!  I want to hear honesty but I’d like his assessment to be done on the faith in his skill, previous outcomes from practice (planning) and the commitment that he’s going to make to achieve the desired outcome.

Unfortunately the expectation of luck is not a phenomenon.  Lately, there has been an influx of tweets and statuses based on the virtue of luck.  I find these quotes to be irresponsible when just sent to the masses!  Most of the quotes that I’ve seen referencing luck ascribe it to working so hard that you position yourself for the opportunity; this is something that we have a responsibility to emphasize in our professional lives and personally yet there are many people who miss the true message behind the words.  Luck is not a motivator nor is it an incentive, as a matter of fact if you have to rely on luck to get what you want you stop believing in the opportunity to be successful.  Imagine being in an interview and having a benefit conversation that included, “if you’re lucky you may get a raise”.  I’m sure that employer would experience more rejected offers than signed acceptance letters and the acceptance would be from the candidates of last resort, not the rock star.

By the same token, when you work for someone in a sales capacity or otherwise, they didn’t hire you for your ability to get lucky off of a gamble! The best employers want workers that can translate hard work to smart work.  Who wants to hire the blind squirrel, happening upon a nut just enough to keep from starving through the winter when you could have the strategic hunter that goes out every day foraging for a better chance of eating well through the winter?  Aesop’s fable of the grasshopper and the ant is the equivocation of the person “hoping to get lucky” and the other “creating their path”.  The belief in chance only gave the grasshopper false expectations of his outcomes while the ant’s actions offered assurance.  Who doesn’t like a sure thing?

For those who put in the legwork, luck will rear its elusive little head from time to time and it will be that much more gratifying because you’ll know that you actually generated it–you will have an appreciation for the moment while the ones who rely on luck will have short-lived gratification as they wait for the next bout to circle around.

My favorite quote regarding chance, circumstance or luck just happens to come from the CEO of Starbucks (go figure):

I believe life is a series of near misses. A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see And pursuing that vision.–Howard Schultz