Take This Sales Test

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Test The Team - Product Knowledge 
Ask your sales team to list all the products and services the company offers - most can’t or struggle to remember without prompting.  Next, run their sales figures on which products they sell the most of. No surprises for guessing that most reps fall into the 80/20 rule - 80% of their sales come predominantly from only 20% of the range offered. 

The surprise here for many reps is that their 20% is rarely the same as someone else’s 20%. There is overlap on the popular sellers but each rep has his/her favourite. Get your reps to share with the team why they sell what they sell. What pitch do they use? What features, advantages, benefits (FAB) roll off their tongue? What stories do they have? What has fueled their belief and passion of the product/service? (You want to unpack this because success fuels success.) 

Learn From The Best
Find the rep with the lowest sales of a particular product and get them to be the client with all the objections they have ever heard in relation to the product. Then have the top sales rep sell them this product while the rest of the team watches and learns. 

It is amazing how often you will hear “Oh wow, I did not know that!” “That is such a great story!” “Oh, I never thought about it like that”; etc. 

Knowledge Equipping Strategy
Challenge every team member to learn one new thing every day. Create a game where team members challenge each other with “Tell me something about our offering as a company that I do not know”. Knowledge builds on knowledge. Like pieces of a jigsaw they suddenly come together to reveal a true picture of what you a capable of offering a client. 

Make it a regular section in sales meetings to have team members share/demo/pitch a product to the rest of the team. Invite in suppliers to do the same - many will be delighted you asked and often have very comprehensive training. Video all these training sessions to build a knowledge library.

SOURCE: HOW PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE AFFECTS SALES
MIKE CLARK, APRIL 2017

Master the Monster - 5 Keys to Managing Email

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I am a huge fan of continuous improvement, and have significantly improved my life by applying the principles across all aspects of my life. One area, however, refused to be compliant. Actually, truth be told, it did not just lack compliance, it actually wielded a whip that had me sapped of energy every time I encountered it – which was daily. The monster?  My email inbox …..

Despite years (over a decade) of different techniques, approaches, methodologies I found myself drowning in an inbox that, on occasions, ran into the 1000’s.  I used to say to clients, “If I have not replied within 48hrs, please hit the fwd button and this will pop it to the top of my inbox and I will see you have fwd it and prioritised it.”  Besides admitting my inability to control my in-box all this did was increase the mail I received.

2018 was the year I drew a line in the sand. I saw a lovely quote in an article that said, “Email is other people's priorities for your day.” I laughed in despair. This year, with the help of Kiri, and the below 5 steps I have tamed the monster:

Empty your email – Do not use it as a to-do list. Only open mail you intend to deal with and then decide and act on it. End the day with an empty inbox!

Make folders. You can either have a full-on folder system or a simple one with: Processed, Awaiting response; Block Time work. Once an email is actioned – file it (rules can help with this)

Allocate time to check and clear – master your inbox, do not let it rule you. Use mailbox rules. Overcome your fear of missing out FOMO and unsubscribe from newsletters you do not read.

Involve your team to have block time to clear emails and ideally have an agreed company methodology e.g. Only put people who have to action in the “To” field and FYI in the “CC”. If appropriate, have a PA to help you stay on top of your mail.

Learn what works for you and work it! If you often have to take action on emails use a tool called followupthen  

Be radical and take action. This is not a monster that will tamed with half hearted effort – all or nothing.

Best of luck – here’s to your success!


Facing Challenge Utilising the Power of Resilience

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Life throws the most incredible challenges at us over the course of our days.  Without resilience, people are swamped, thrown off course and overcome by these challenges.  As you look around the people in your team, you know their faces, and in good teams, you will know the person behind that face, with some of the challenges and difficulties that they encounter personally as well as at work.  How resilient are they? How resilient are you?

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Resiliency is the ability to bounce back in difficult circumstances, the flexibility to bend with constant challenge but not be broken by it.  The picture comes to mind of a massive storm, with driving rain and wild winds. In the storm, the oak which has stood tall for dozens of years has many branches snapped off, whereas the tall grasses growing alongside it remain intact and unharmed in the wake of the storm.  The difference? The oak could not bend its branches, whereas the grasses could flex and be laid almost flat, yet bounce back upright as soon as the wind subsided. Resilience is the ability to keep on going and to bounce back, even after the toughest storm.

Resilience is characteristic of successful people - they seem to be able to use the challenges and setbacks that beset them as stepping stones to the next thing rather than allow themselves to be crushed by them.  What is it that enables them to do this, and how can we develop this characteristic in our own lives?

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A basic requirement to the development of resilience is challenge - reaching beyond your comfort zone to conquer things which you’ve not yet mastered.  Some of us have been thrown into challenging circumstances through no fault of our own - think of the dread challenges of cancer sufferers enduring treatment in the hope of conquering the disease; of longsuffering parents managing the pain of a critically ill child in the hope that their suffering be alleviated.  Others have unwittingly created our own predicaments - taking a position in a business where we end up having to work closely with someone of opposing personality; buying a vehicle which turns out to be a lemon and have continuous mechanical problems. Still others create difficult circumstances deliberately - yes deliberately.  Signing up to an exercise/health programme which will enable them to lose weight and become healthier and more able; taking a business to the next level by setting a goal for the team to increase the turnover significantly over the next five years.

One of the keys to resilience is our ability to see the problems as something to be worked through to a greater goal on the other side, as opposed to something which is happening that we have no control over and which will bring us no positive outcome.  Another key is our capacity to share our responses honestly with supportive people who have our backs, and can give us courage and perspective to work through the situation we are in. A third key is found in the mindset that no matter what, you will gain from this experience. This tenacious determination to find some good out of any loss, and be focused on that good rather than be consumed by the bad, is a key factor of resilience. You’ll find a fourth key to resilience in flexibility and adaptability - the ability to shift focus, develop new skills and use the resources available to you to keep on going.

The Wright brothers in their development of flight; Helen Keller learning to communicate with the world from a blind, deaf and dumb state; Kate Sheppard’s campaign to allow voting rights to New Zealand women, the two Steves (Steve Wozniack and Steve Jobs) creating Apple from their garage-based beginnings, Oprah Winfrey born into poverty to a teenage single mother - these are famous examples of men and women who display the characteristic of resilience.  

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We all face challenge - how can you work with what is within you and around you to transform this challenge into the stepping stone that takes you forward to a better place?  How can you shift focus to see the potential for good, and use that to armour yourself as you move through the difficulties? Are you working to develop deep relationships which respect, accept and encourage growth, so that when you - or they - are faced with the hard stuff, there are people who will stick together and support through it.  Do you deliberately allow manageable challenging circumstances to develop resilience in yourself - maybe by learning a new skill, or stepping into a new area of service?

Having a mindset which welcomes challenge comes more easily to some of us than others - and yet this mindset is often deliberately developed and key in the ultimate achievement of our goals.  If you are in a steady and comfortable period of your life, take what resilience you have and make it more - it will serve you in good stead. If you are in a particularly challenging period, focus more on the goals which sustain you rather than the problems which trip you up, while still seeking solutions to those problems. I don’t say this making light of the incredible difficulty that many people are enduring, but with huge respect and desire to make the path a little less steep and to give courage to continue taking the next step.  If there is any way which we can support or direct you to help, please do get in touch.

Here’s to your success.

SPRING CLEANING

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Select what you want to keep (and what you want to clear out)
Prioritise where you need to focus first
Rationalise what you need to keep and why
Inspect the systems and processes you are using to stay organised
No! You probably shouldn't keep it if you haven't used it in the last year
Get clearing quickly

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Clean up after you’ve done the clearing
Leave each area the way you want it to be before moving on to the next area
Educate the team on how to keep the area crisp and uncluttered
Allow for setbacks and act quickly to put things back on track
New layouts and systems should be clearly communicated
Initiate a daily check to help develop new habits and keep things organised
Nominate champions to care for areas
Give regular affirmations and celebrate success

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What Skills Do You Need?

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What is your greatest point of difference as a company?

Whenever I ask this question, inevitably I get a similar answer - the one thing people cannot copy. It’s not your product, or your systems, or your processes - it is your people and the culture that they create which enables them to be the best and deliver the highest quality of work. It is this characteristic that makes organizations stand out.

Are you getting the most out of your team?

Do you have a culture where people feel enabled and empowered to give the very best?

Do you invest in your team members and help them to increase their skills so that they are able to give even more?  When I ask this question with business owners and managers, one of the responses I often get, is that they are not sure who to develop and in what areas.  How do you select which team members you will invest in and develop and how do you ensure can you get a return on the investment in your people?

Firstly, whoever you choose must actually want to develop.  Some people are very happy just the way they are, doing what are they are doing and don't actually want any more responsibility or to do anything other than what they are currently doing.  This is, of course, their choice.

Secondly, it can really help to have a succession plan in place so that you know what skills you need to meet the growth plans that you have outlined in your business plan. Any business plan needs to have a people development section - it's who people bring the skills and the time which we need to grow internal capacity.

Thirdly, it can really can help your succession plan to create a skills gap analysis.  This is simply done by dividing your business into its relevant departments and then breaking down each task within each department and indicating which people are able to do that task unsupervised. Also, which people are able to train others to do

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that task and which people are able to do the task under supervision. One of the benefits of this exercise is that it can often show big gaps in skillsets within your organisation and your over-reliance on certain individuals in certain places.

Fourthly, it is incredibly motivating for your team to have a personal development plan created for each person. I strongly recommend that your PD plan includes both future goals for work and for home, as this shows people that you care about them as a whole person - they are not just what they can do for you in a work environment.

My final recommendation comes from years of working in this industry and it's simply this. Make sure training methodologies encourage people to cascade train after every training session. You can find out more about cascade training on our website: www.thinkright.co.nz/cascadetraining/  We find when people come to training with a sense of expectation, they pay more attention and they are actively looking for takeaway action points they can share with the team. This shared team approach helps people to take more action.

If you need any help in working out how to best develop your team to ensure you are maximising their engagement and enjoyment at work as well as their ability to produce well, please do get in touch.


How To Get What You Want

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A number of years ago, after listening to an inspirational message, Mike developed the daily practice of writing out his top ten crazy ridiculous dreams in life for the day.  At a period of life which most people would find incredibly challenging, he chose to focus on what he wanted to build - a solid family, a home and business, and a way to help people make their lives better are the broad areas that are covered in the lists he made.

The incredible thing about this small and consistent action, is that most of the things he wrote on his list were really a total dream - with not a shred of possibility.  Each day they were written without consulting the previous day, so they vary a little. And yet five years on, almost every single one is a reality.

Looking at life from an attitude of what you have and what you want to build, as opposed to what is hindering you and what you don’t have, changes everything.  This building attitude means that you look at things differently. Because you are always looking for what is good and positive about your circumstances, and where it will lead you, you have a more abundant mindset.  This focus on the positive and building means that you get to enjoy life.

An attitude of gratitude is developed by making the deliberate choice to focus on on what you have and what you want more of. There's a lovely poem which says:

Thank heaven for dirty dishes, they have a tale to tell.  
While other folks go hungry, we're eating very well.

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An attitude of gratitude means looking at every single thing and realising there are two ways to see it - positive and building, or negative and tearing down.  You get to choose what you will focus on. Be grateful for a needing petrol in the car because it means you have a car and access to petrol.  In business - be grateful for your tax bill because it means you made a profit. Be grateful for a customer who complains because they're talking to you rather than the competition and giving you the opportunity to improve. Be grateful for the number of calls that you've got to make because it means that there's an abundance of opportunity. Be grateful for all the skills you need to learn because it means that there are new ways to improve and serve customers.

If there’s something which is particularly niggling and pulling you down, sit down and write down all the things which are bothering you about it.  Having done that, deliberately shift your mindset and see how many things you can find which are positive and building from it. What is it teaching you?  How can you look at it differently? What positive options can you see? Are you learning perseverance, resilience, communication skills, creativity, management?  These are skills only learned through challenge.

When you are having trouble managing a person or situation, make it a point to always speak
to the positive in the situation.  Separating the problem from the people is a valuable skill.

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A few years back, we were dealing with a young man whose response to challenging situations was to sulk and get resentful.  This brought a tense atmosphere and made it difficult to work. We worked with him to develop the skill of negotiation - this meant that we were attacking the problem, not the person.  When the sulky attitude and lack of feedback was observed, we would invite him to share what he was perceiving as negative about the situation, and what other options he saw. As we consistently worked on building positive response, he grew in character and today is a real asset in his ability both to manage his workload and aspirations, and in the way that he affects the people who are working around him.

Mike has another mantra which is not uncommon in his conversation - he will always win, because if he wins (insert the game, the sale, the discussion) then he wins, and if he does not win, he learns.  Either way, he wins.

Look for the positive, grow your mindset, and here’s to your success!



Do You Care?

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Humans are designed with an innate ability to connect with other people. We are social creatures and we form our strongest bonds with those people whom we trust and who we know care about us. This element of care permeates all relationships including the ones we form in business.

I use the acronym CARE a lot and below is one of the expansions of the concept of CARE:

Connect on common ground. Before launching into an instruction or sales pitch “see” the person! Find something in common – be it weather, an event, sports results, hobbies, schooling, adventures, travel, kids – find a point of connecting. When I know that you see me as a person not a position or ‘just a number’ then I will be more responsive.

Ask questions to ensure understanding & answer questions to reassure and educate staff and clients. Genuine questions show you are interested in “me” – your team member, your client, your supplier. When my opinion is sought and my input is truly heard and acknowledged, I am far more likely to participate. It also helps when you take the time to ensure I understand by answering my questions and educating me as necessary (without making me feel stupid!)

Recommend actions once you understand the situation. Sometimes “care” is best shown by just listening. Sometimes people only want to be heard and sometimes they want to be helped. Discern the difference. If you are not sure, “Request” permission to put forward an idea, thought or observation.

Engage with people through to the end. Whether you have 1 minute, 1 hour or 1 day ensure you give the person you are talking with your focused attention. Giving someone your time but not your focused attention can often signal that they are not important and that you do not care.  When we focus on the person it honours them and shows that we value them.

Care takes focused time. Not necessarily much time. This is especially true when we do it right.

Who needs to know you care today?

Emotional Intelligence

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What even is emotional intelligence?  It sounds like the kind of thing my dad would have walked over the other side of the pub to avoid a discussion on, along with politics and religion.  It’s not the kind of thing a blokey bloke or your ordinary get-on-with-the-job working woman really give a lot of time to. As a topic which Mike often covers in training, I asked him some questions about emotional intelligence to share with you.

What is emotional intelligence?
Humans are social beings. Our interactions with people are very important to us. The measure of someone's intelligence, commonly referred to as IQ, is commonly known.  IQ is your ability to cognitively process situations you find yourself in, particularly involving people. However people don’t think and act purely from a mental processing perspective.  We add other factors such as feelings, filters, upbringing, culture, and beliefs, to name a few.

When you can see and understand yourself in light of these factors, you develop an awareness of self. Self awareness allows us to understand our feelings in the context of our whole-of-life experience, rather than just the present moment.  Understanding feelings means we can begin to regulate them. This enables us to proactively motivate ourselves and to see other people with empathy, developing social skills.

This collection of self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills is what we call emotional intelligence.  When you see the “whole person” as a collection of the above inside the current situation where you are meeting them, it allows you to understanding that the emotions they are expressing are not necessarily directed at you, and that you are not responsible for their actions and reactions.

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Why is Emotional Intelligence important?
People like people who like them, who are like them and who like what they like. Our ability to connect with people and to SEE them as a person (rather than just a role, position, personality type or whatever other filter our emotional experience has created), it determines our ability to get along with people.  People who have a high emotional intelligence are able to connect faster, build stronger relationships and optimise the output of people and teams that have to work together.

How does Emotional Intelligence affect people and teams in the workplace?
When teams have a low emotional intelligence, people tend to take comments personally, they have a higher conflict between different personality types, there is a tendency to ‘walk on eggshells’, there are culture clashes and much time, effort and energy is wasted in merely managing the people aspect of the business.

Teams with high emotional intelligence accept people more easily. People understand that they are not responsible for other people’s actions and reactions. There is generally greater harmony and understanding between team members allowing for increased cooperation and output.

How do you get better at Emotional Intelligence?
Self observation and self awareness leads to self improvement. Feelings are just messages to your brain. Feelings are not facts. When you pause to think about why you might be feeling something, it allows you to manage these feelings. When you can manage your feelings, you are then able to use the emotional energy in more productive ways.

An Example
When people are wanting public speaking training to stop the butterflies, Mike often shares this story.  Imagine you are 7 years old in class and your teachers asks a question.You stick up your hand enthusiastically and she picks you to answer. You answer the question and your answer is so wrong, the class melts in laughter. Even the teacher can't hide a smile which makes the class laugh even more - so much so a kid falls off his chair in laughter - creating more laughter. You wish the ground would open up and swallow you and you promise yourself you will never, ever speak in public again. 10 years go by and you get through school. Another 10 years and you get married and settle down. Another 10 years go by and at a family gathering you are asked to say a few words… you freeze in terror as the 7 year old in your brain screams at you “NOOOOOOO.

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They will laugh at you.”  Pausing and realising where the feeling is coming from, allows you to speak truth to yourself. “I am not 7. This is not junior school. They are not going to laugh at you.” It often takes time and repetition of the truth to bring emotional response into alignment with your current awareness, but as will all things, persistence pays off.  Knowing this allows you to develop the emotional energy to get the butterflies to fly in formation.

If you have any questions, please get in touch!

3 Myths About Sales Reps

One of the activities I’ve watched Mike carry out in sale training is a word correlation game.  He gets everybody to get their pens ready and to be ready to write down the first word that comes to their mind about a particular topic which he is about to share.  It can be a good word, a bad word - it can even be a swearword if it needs to be, just write the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the topic. Here it is…

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Common answers include pushy, sleazy, carshark, liar, talking, suit and tie.  This is a sad reflection of one of the most vital roles in all of business. Sales reps have a really bad rap because they are correlated to carsharks and door to door salesmen and the reality is that this is a myth.  Here are three top myths about salespeople - and their mythbusters.

Myth #1.  To be a good salesperson you have to be able to talk a lot.

Truth.  The most important part of sales is your ability to listen and serve.  Although salespeople are often talkative people, it is more because they like people and are interested in them than because it is key in the role.  The greatest salespeople know how to get the customer talking, and sharing the things which are relevant to the products and services they provide. All this requires is a genuine interest in people and desire to help them meet their needs - aka a great set of questions!

Myth #2.  Salespeople are sleazy and tell lies so they can get your money.

Truth.  Good salespeople are in their role because of a genuine desire to make a difference to people with the product and/or service they happen to be selling.  They know how it can change lives, add value, and serve you, the customer. They’ve seen the effect it’s had on dozens, hundreds and even thousands of other people, and they want to share that goodness with people who need it.

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Myth #3.  Salespeople spend most of their days drinking coffee and talking.

Truth.  Although many salespeople drink coffee, it’s not essential for survival in a sales role.  (Some sales reps might disagree with me on this point!) The coffee is a tool which helps find a point of connection with the client - sharing a coffee, the weather and current relevant news shows that you have points of connection and genuinely care about the person you are meeting with rather than just wanting to sell them something.  A good conversation has a number of elements which include genuine interest, points of connection and sharing information which the other person may not know and may be useful for them.

Sales starts in your head.  Your mindset determines who you bring to a meeting.  Do you see yourself as someone who is useful, helpful and willing and able to make a difference?  If you related to any of the myths up above, we encourage you to take a moment and think what other myths you really need to bust to help you have a positive mindset about the sales role.  If we can help in any of this space, give us a call. Here’s to your success!

What is Most Important Right now?

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What is most important right now?

“Time, if I only had time” is a wonderful line from the classic John Rowles hit. The older one gets the more depth and meaning this line has. Time really is such a rare and precious limited resource.

Do you tend to spend or invest your time?
How do you make the most of your daily allocation of 86,400 seconds?

How do you choose where you focus and what you pay attention to?

When training ‘time management’ to people, these are some of the the common questions that get discussed and asked. These have been asked and answered in various ways over the decades - from Eisenhower/Covey “Urgent/Important” quadrant to Rory Vaden’s “significance funnel”.    

At the heart of all these techniques lies two core questions.

“Where do you add the most value?” and then, knowing this, “What do you need to do right now?”

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Here is a simple calculation for you:

Total number of hours you work a week - focused hours spent working in the area where you add the greatest value = effectiveness ratio

I often find that when people do this the figure is far from desirable. It is amazing how easily time is frittered away. Other people's priorities for our time (often disguised in email), procrastination, interruptions and task switching steal our time. Mix into this the effects of Parkinson Law where work expands to fill the time available and it is easy to see why many people struggle to spend even half of their available time focused on the one area where they add the most value.

The much touted example of Perpetual Guardian illustrates this well. Upon observing the time wasted each day the offer was made to staff to work 4 days and receive 5 days pay if they could maintain output. Not only did they maintain output - they increased it!

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This is not really surprising. When you know you are due to take leave, how much more focused and productive do you get? Here’s a challenge - take the next 3 Fridays off and watch what you do to maintain effectiveness at work. Some of this will be harder work but, for the most part, it will come down to being a lot more focused on what is needed and making decisions quicker. There will also be less space given to distractions. 3 weeks is a habit forming length of time with the reward of 3 long weekends to help galvanise you to action.

Is it time you treated yourself?

Here's to your success!

3 Steps to Moving Forward

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The emails are building up in the background as I open our accounting programme to deal with the receipts that need reconciling.  My phone buzzes and I’m reminded that I need to send out that confirmation form to the client. As I pick up my phone to stop the distraction, I realise that I haven’t booked the travel requirements for the other client who is doing a similar course to the one I just got the notification about.  Distractions abound on every side, from within and without, and compete for my attention as I seek to do the next thing.

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How do you prioritise?

The first step in prioritising requires is knowing all that there is to do (or pretending it needs to be done).  When the world is whirling round in a haze of activity, demands and ever increasing noise, I find one of the most useful things I can do, is get the world out of my head so that I can focus on getting at least one thing done completely.  The trusty notebook by my desk is a scribble of yesterday’s organisation, and I turn to a new page, and begin to put down all the things that are fighting for space in my thinking and attention. I even put down the background noises - home and family stuff such as buy dogfood, or take a child to the dentist.

The second step is to look at all the things - some are important, some urgent, others can be stalled, delayed, even not done.  One thing - just one - is more important than all the others. I love Fridays, because my one thing on Friday is getting Learning BITES out to our people.  What is your number one thing? Put a big red square around it. Turn the page and begin a new list and write that at the top. The way you do it is less important than the action of choosing what is most important.  Once done, look again at the jumbled mess of things that were in your head, and choose what is the next most important thing. Continue this process until you have 3-5 most important things. I find this step enables me to have real focus on the first things, as it reminds me that I have prioritised other things, not just taken one and left all the rest.

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The third step is to set your list aside, and work on the most important thing.  Just that one thing. No distractions, no interruptions, work on it. A note here - it can be really helpful to make sure your “things in my head list” is broken down.  In the back of my head presently are the two twenty-first birthday celebrations coming up for our kids. I can write down Arrange 21st, but this is so big I’m scared to tackle it.  If I write down smaller steps such as Create a guest list, book a venue, decide on catering… these are more manageable.  In a work situation, Open emails and scan for important replies required is much more specific and manageable than Check emails. Keeping your focus on completing the one thing enables you to move forward.  

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You climb a mountain one step at a time.  These small steps take a little time at the beginning of a day, but save me a lot more in wasted and distracted time throughout the day.  They also enable me to be a lot more productive. What will you prioritise today?

Here's to your success!

Make It Easy

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Rush hour in Palmerston North is more like rush minute.  The swell of people going to work and parents taking kids to school slows one down by a few minutes, and even when brought to a crawl, the crawl usually lasts for less than a block.  Driving about Palmerston North is easy - no more that twenty minutes to anything you need to attend. It’s one of the reasons we live here - it makes our lifestyle easy.

 

What do you do which makes life easy for your customers?  In a world which is increasingly busy, time poor and pressured, those businesses who make life easier for their customers are the ones which draw more attention.  Businesses such as Frog Parking, which allows you to use your phone to pay for your parking, and stops that endless search for spare cash, or the unexpected holdup which means you don’t get back to your vehicle in the time allotted, have honed in on a need and created a product which makes life easier.


Do you look for the little things that make it easy for your clients to use you?  Products that are easy to find and buy on your website. (Ever been to a website, found exactly what you’re looking for and then not been able to find a way to purchase it?) Clear and readable information on pricing, content, capacity, process.  Most people know what they’re looking for and making a decision to buy is easier if they have all the information at their fingertips

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Clarity in price, delivery times and consistency in service. I cannot count the number of times our family would have called into McDonalds on a roadtrip because we know what we will get in terms of service and food, and in a full and busy life, it’s an easy decision.

Do you talk to your customers?  And listen carefully to their words? You cannot replace a few minutes of genuine face to face conversation for knowing your customers, their pain points and their sweet spots.  

Consistent and carefully constructed conversations with your people, with genuine interest in their lives will enable you to create way to make life easier for them and you.  Shopping for a ring for our daughter’s 21st, the variety of service between the dozens of jewellers we visited was huge. From those who scarcely noticed you’d entered their shop, to those whose careful questions helped them understand our needs and provide us with viable options to choose from.  Careful attention to conversations, looking for patterns and pain points, means you will have solid knowledge to provide the help your clients are looking for.

 

Is your buying process clean, clutter free and clearly communicated?  Processes are a work in progress and a gentle tweak, shift in perspective or lift in efficiency can make a tremendous difference.  The couple of extra minutes spent ensuring your processes are well taught and used can save you huge costs mopping up mistakes and caring for disappointed customers.

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Step back from working in the business and have a good look at what’s going on.  What could you work on to make it easier for your customers, or for your team?  It’s those little things you implement that make a big difference in the lives of your people.  

 

Here’s to your success!

 

Perspective Pays Dividends

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Attention to detail, big picture, small actions.  How many times have you seen words spoken, and been awed at how they’ve empowered?  Or similarly how they’ve caused havoc and hurt? Are your staff trained to manage words, tone, intention?  Do they see people in and around your business premises as a delight to encounter, or a nuisance who get in the way of their tasks?

I pulled into the carpark to drop my daughter to her dance lesson, thinking how grateful I was there was somewhere to park.  The shop to which the parking area belonged would be a good place to browse while I waited for the lesson to be over and see if I could find some new cushions for the chairs we had bought from them earlier this year.  My girl ran ahead, and I parked carefully between two other vehicles, seeing a man leaning over the railing of the shop behind. I got out of the car, and headed first to make sure our offspring was in safe space. I had not even locked the car when the man’s voice drew my attention. “Are you here for dance lessons? Can you park somewhere else? Can you ask the other parents to park somewhere else too.  It’s quite rude using our carpark.”

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His words were not wrong.  People can be so cheeky, and get away with as much as you let them.  It was the tone, and the mostly empty carpark that drew my negative attention. Feeling like a naughty child, I shifted my car to the empty park on the street outside the shop, and pondered my response.  I’m not buying my cushions in that shop.  I’m not buying anything in that shop ever again!   Childish?  Maybe, and I have the good fortune to be surrounded with positive people on a daily basis, so it was a fairly shortlived response, as I considered that the shop owners pay rates for and have ownership of the carpark and they can do whatever they like with who parks there or not.  

What struck me next was the short-term perspective of what difference this business ambassador could have made to my day, and in attracting me - and other customers - to use his facility, rather than turning me away. What other words that could have been used?  Would you like to have a look around the store while your daughter is dancing?  Were you planning to come in today?  I looked bad, but I had good intentions, and there was no effort to explore them.  

Then I looked at the opportunities that this business had to market to a whole people group. On the blank ugly wall, could they have advertising of the latest huge mirrors, which dancing girls would just love to have in their bedroom for practice?  Were they marketing to the needs of potential customers whose children might need furniture for their bedroom? Had they considered a people group who would be a ready audience to their marketing messages week in and week out by allowing their use of the carpark?  Even a notice tacked on the wall politely inviting dance parents to use the street carparks rather than the customers, would have been kind.

When Mike and I got married, we decided we would take our ten children on honeymoon to Samoa with us.  After several attempts to get a travel agent to help us with finding something which would work for the large group and multiple needs, we found a wonderful travel firm in Christchurch.  Nothing was too difficult for them. Their effort created a family memory and a bonding place which is a foundation everyone still remembers fondly and speak of years later. It was a challenging situation for the travel people to manage - but they made us feel valued all the way.

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As a result, when we travel, we use them.  And seven of our ten children are now adults, and any time they need travel, we recommend they use Steve.  Two of them have already used them in going on overseas trips, we used them again when bringing out family from UK. The Christchurch based business wouldn’t have made much profit on that initial transaction with us, but the loyalty and repeat business which they get is multiplied. We refer them constantly and speak highly of them at every given opportunity.

What is your business doing that is spreading the flavour of your team to the public around you?  What spills out of your team when a bit of pressure comes on? How can the actions you take be tweaked or honed to make a positive difference to all the people your staff encounter, and to create a lasting impression which makes people travel further, spend more and come back time and time again to you?  Take the big picture into perspective as you’re dealing with the day to day tasks, and you will reap the benefits.

Here’s to your success!

Tackling Overwhelm

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Getting knocked down in life is a given.  Getting up and moving forward is a choice. - Zig Ziglar

I’ll get that to you in the next couple of days, you tell the customer asking for a quote for the third time that day, your brain secretly whirling at the sheer volume of work that must be ploughed through to get to that number of quotes in your pipeline.  You’ve put the phone down when it rings again, and you see the number of your top client, and know exactly what it is that they will want of you – and you push back a desire to ignore the call as you reach to answer it.

Overwhelm is a very real condition in the business world.  As with all conditions, prevention is easier than cure, but the world we live in doesn’t usually throw its curveballs in regular, anticipated and manageably spaced intervals.  Quite often, they come half a dozen at a time and you’re scrabbling to keep your head above water.  Here are some practical things you can do to tackle overwhelm.

·        Collate. List out all the things you have to do.  Every single one of them.  Even the unimportant important ones.  Get them out of your head and onto a piece of paper, or tablet or however you best do your recording. 

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·        Break it up.  Anything huge on the list, break down into single tasks.  For example, reach my sales goal, happens only one sale at a time, one call or visit.  If the task can be broken down, break it down into manageable pieces.  Book x amount of appointments.  Make the call. 

·        Delegate. Look at your list.  What can you delegate? What can you combine?  What can you cross off or shift to another list because it’s not really an issue at that moment?

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·        Prioritise.  From the tasks that remain, what are the 5 most important things that must be done, in order of most important down to next most important.

·        Process.  Create, refine, and practice a process which completes the task.  Wherever possible, automate, increase efficiency.   

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·        Collaborate.  Talk to the person you report to about your workload and how you can bring it into manageable state.  Get feedback on the roadblocks they see, share your forward plan and invite them to encourage and keep you accountable.

·        Focus.  Get the number one thing done.  Completely, until it’s finished.  Celebrate your success with a moment of satisfaction (I love crossing off the list!)

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·        Move on. Check your list to make sure the priorities are still the same and change if need be.  Get started on the next thing.

 

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The very process of removing the most important thing on the list by completing it creates an energy to move to the next task.  It’s the sheer volume of “stuff to be done” that creates overwhelm and causes us to become frozen in a whirl of mismanagement.  The momentum of achieving the important and moving on to the next task will help you shift from overwhelm into overcoming.  Don’t stay stuck.  Find a way forward.

Here’s to your success!

Managing As A Working Parent

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“You’re like a mother duck with all your little ducklings trailing along behind.”  The observation was shared uninvited as I worked through the monthly shop, five helpers scurrying to various places for needed items, a small child seated in the trolley and another growing in my swollen belly.

Nowadays, the supermarket shop is vastly different – although many of our ducklings have flown the coop, there are still a few to grow, and dovetailing this with a managing a thriving business has its challenging days.  “How do you manage?” is still a question I field between creating videos for our business, organising client bookings and travel logistics, and mothering four school children while maintaining relationship with six adult offspring scattered near and far across New Zealand.

It's a journey. From managing our schoolwork as children, to managing our personal lives as we head into adulthood, to managing working 40 hours a week while managing our personal lives, we are set up in life to increase our skills and ability at managing, on a fairly constant basis. Here are my top three tips for management.

 #1 Prioritise. Management comes with an implication – you have to prioritise.  You have to know what’s important and what is urgent and what is distraction.  I remember a time when I would repeg the washing my mother-in-law hung, so it fitted my way of how it should be done.  Now I am grateful when the washing is hung and only repeg if the person who thought that item of clothing would dry pegged into a bunched up heap like that, is not around to retrain how to do it so it dries effectively and quickly, efficiently using line space which is occasionally at a premium.

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#2 Vision. Knowing what you’re working to achieve and getting there are not the same thing.  Directing, keeping account, training and delegation are necessary for survival, but more than that, they are necessary to achieve the goal. There are too many things to be done to get them all done yourself.  A good manager knows how to delegate, and how to maximise the potential of their team.  This comes bundled with a necessity to know your people – their strengths and weaknesses, their roles and responsibilities, and to help them to own their “cog in the clock”, to contribute to the team as a whole, and to grow personally.

#3 Keep people accountable. Listening to Mike discuss deeply with a potential client, and promise to have a proposal to them in the next couple of days, I found it necessary to point out the list of things that he had jotted down to do before the weekend and remind him that while he’s pretty incredible, he only has a finite amount of time.  It was logistically impossible to do everything and he needed to refocus on giving realistic timelines to clients.  Ensuring that you can have real, building and aligning conversations with your team creates an environment of trust which means both the team and the business thrive.

As you hit your workplace today, whether it’s simply your own role you’re managing (I know – that may not be simple); managing people in a team;  or managing a home/work balance – keep focused on the big picture while working through the details, daily routines, and tasks that need to be done.  Get the big and important things done first, and enjoy the journey.

Here’s to your success!

Looking for the Edge

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Quote “What do you own in your customers mind?”

If I was to interview a random selection of your ideal target market and ask them who they thought of as a provider for your service or product, how often would your name be mentioned?

If I was to interview all your clients and ask them what word or phrase comes to mind when they think of your business/product/service what word /phrase would you want them to say?

Can you define the edge you have in the marketplace and/or in your customers mind?

These are some of the questions I am grappling with at the moment. In the process we settled on wanting our word to be “Mindset” and a phrase to be “Business Mindset Training”. That helped but …

                        What does mindset mean to you?

                        What does us ‘owning’ that word or phrase do for a client?

                        How do you get enough of an edge to stand out?

The concept of having an “edge” really resonated and I thought I would share my developing thoughts on why it is so important to have an EDGE and how to find yours

Being at the “cutting edge” denotes innovation, being the vanguard, being where it matters, when it matters. Being able to offer clients an edge gives them an advantage. It could be practical, psychological, a point of difference (POD) that means their clients choose them.

So what do you need to develop an edge?

Excel at something. Where do you really shine? What is your one repeating compliment that people talk about when they leave reviews online, give testimonials, refer people to you?  Find this strength and examine it, explore how to do it more, expand it and get so excited about it that you and your team exhibit it in every word and action. This is the start of excelling at something. A great example is Google. I remember when I ‘discovered’ it in early 2000’s. It was amazingly fast and unbiased. It was instant conversion for me!

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Dominate one area. Just because you can do several things, does not mean you should advertise that. Where is the gap in the marketplace that you are best set up to claim? Where do you see the need, what are you hearing your clients searching for, asking after and wondering about? This is not always obvious because clients rarely ask for what you offer directly - they normally talk in pain points and wishes. Divide the market, delineate the playing field, define the gap, decide where you want to be, dig in and dogmatically work it.  Successful online companies have done well to dominate one area - Facebook, LinkedIn, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, Snapchat and countless others have identified a niche, laid claim to it and dominated.

Give it your all. If you are going to claim a space, you need to be wholehearted about it. There is no safe ground - you have to dive in. Be clear. Plan well. Go all out.  Guiding goals give guts to pursue the glory.  Greatness favours the bold and prepared. Stepping out to claim one area means that you have to say “no” to the inevitable distractions. Be clear on what you want to achieve = the Goal. Be honest with where you are at right now = starting point. The difference = the Gap. Plot the milestones you need to achieve along the ‘gap’. You have to go into the breach in order to claim it. Be clear, plan well, go confidently and give it your all.

Are You a Master or Slave to Your Systems? 5 Tyrants of fire NOW!

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Are you master or slave to your systems? 5 Tyrants to fire NOW!

“A CRM is only as good as the internal discipline of the team” - Mike Clark

Your systems should work for you, making life easier and enabling you to be more effective and efficient.

Are you a slave to your inbox?

Does your manager have to hound you to capture all details into your CRM?

Do you trust the data in your systems?

Many companies waste hours per day due to poor systems. In the work that I do, the reasons for this are remarkably similar. The 5 biggest tyrants that unduly demand time and attention are:

Double entry of data into different systems due to a lack of system integration

System integration is so easy with modern technology. Double entry of any information has the duel danger of misentry creating mistakes as well as taking twice as long.

This is not always easy to spot initially. Once identified, the proliferation of this often shocks business owners. A great starting point is paper records that are filled in by one person and then captured into your system by someone else. Even as a small business we have seen significant possibilities to save huge amounts of time and increase the accuracy and speed of communication by using platforms such as Google sheets to get customers to fill forms. Rather than sending a PDF that has to be printed, filled in by hand and sent back, downloaded, hand writing deciphered and captured into our system, we can send a link that is filled in and submitted into our system - easier, quicker and more accurate all round.

If your accounts package is not integrated, start looking here - double entry will abound.

How much time do you waste answering the customer question “Where is my product?”  Integrate track and trace into your dispatch notes. Got longer projects where you need to keep the customer updated? Create a customer portal so they can see look up and see where their job is in your system.

Lack of a clear filing system, structure and agreed procedure

How many minutes do you use looking for files on your computer? Are you always confident the copy you have is the latest updated version? Is your company system so complicated that you just keep all your records on your computer so at least you know where to find them when you want them? How often do you and other team members ask where something is - be this paperwork or tools?

Often the sheer perceived enormity of sorting a filing system is so daunting, it keeps being put off. The more this is done the worse it gets. A quick calculation of time spent looking for things + time spent redoing work due to wrong form being used + time spent fixing mistakes created by poor paperwork + time spent complaining about the problem x the number of team members = the real cost and often the incentive and motivation to put something in place.

Tip from Einstein “Make it as simple as possible and not simpler”

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 Lack of training and understanding of what the systems can do for the business

Having the greatest of anything is meaningless if the operator is incapable of using it. Think of a Formula 1 racing car in the hands of someone who can only knows how drive an automatic …

People want to work. People want to be productive. So much so they often find ‘work-arounds’ when they don’t know how to do something. A simple illustration can be found in programmes like MS Word and Excel - Mail merge is a series of clicks or the painful inputting of a lot of names, Excel formulas and pivot tables are a few clicks or hours of inputting and manipulating data.

What is your CRM, ERP, Accounts package capable of? Are you and your team using the full breadth of capabilities or playing on the top of the iceberg?

If a training session could improve every persons usage by 10% what would that be worth to your business?

Poor discipline of the team

A system is only as good as the use of it. Poor discipline accounts for more than just time lost through not capturing information and using the system. The real cost is found in the animosity created between people and departments. Marketing vs sales, sales vs production, production vs admin - it is the formula for creating silos, battle-lines and war zones.

It is not necessarily acrimonious. It can just be, as my kids used to say “irristrating” - Irritating and frustrating. I have tended towards this. An eye opening moment came for me when we kept time sheets for 2 weeks to see where our time went. I noticed that Kiri had recorded over 45 minutes generating a single invoice and when we looked into this it was all because I did not take the 3- 5 minutes needed to update the fields with training programme details. Kiri then had to scroll through all my emails back and forth with this client, looking for the information.

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Do you have a great CRM that resembles more of a desert landscape that an abundant forest rich with information and opportunities? This could be a simple lack of discipline. It might also be lack clear expectations. As above, it might be a lack of training and/or understanding why it is important.

The wrong tools being used

This can come in many forms - accounts package being used as CRM, laptop being used where a phone app would be better, office and workshop equipment that does not work properly. How long have you put up with something that you know you should really fix?

Got a window/programme opening on your laptop that you don’t use and you keep meaning to sort it? A stapler in the office that keeps sticking? A trolley in the factory that needs new wheels? These small niggles seem so inconsequential that we often put up with them for far longer than we should. If you have ever had the experience of fixing a niggle and then wondering why you didnt do it ‘ages ago’, you can relate to the small amounts of time and energy these can steal.

As with so many of the above points, it requires moving from knowing about the problem to deciding to fix it. What will you tackle today?

Here’s to your success

Finish It

Title: Finish It

Quote: Winning relies on the ability to execute to completion ~ Mike Clark

Are you watching the Football World Cup?

Are you supporting a team?

Do you watch with waves of emotions as the ball flies back and forth over the 90 minutes?

With football world cup fever gripping nations, it seems a fitting sport to use as a classic illustration around one of the most important time optimisation strategies - Finish what you start. There is a simple reason why strikers get the most attention in football, and the highest salaries - it is the finish that counts. In a game of football, all the fancy footwork and ball skills amount to little less than entertainment if the ball does not cross the goal line.

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The same truth can be applied to the 24 hours you are blessed with every day.

Starting projects can be fun and exciting. New things stimulate our senses and allow our creative juices to flow, giving plenty of wonderful dopamine ‘hits’ to the brain. The process often involves lots of people, and ideas proliferate like pollen in summer time. However as time drags on, the shine diminishes and other enticing wonders beckon to our adventurous and curious hearts and minds. It is not just projects. The same can apply to routine tasks.

Ever started working on something and got it 97% complete when you look at your to-do list and think, “Well I know I can finish that and that other job really needs to be started…” Before you know it you are pushing through on the new task and get it to the 80% mark when another job demands you attention. That job gets to the 72% mark before you go back to the second task and move it from 80% done to 93% done.

The next job seems to magically arrive in front of you - you work flat tack and get this to 87% mark before your boss dumps a new project on you. Full steam ahead and maximum focus as you charge to do as much as you can before the weekend arrives. Friday 5 o’clock arrives and you are 92% done on this project.

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You stop and review the week. It has been crazy busy - manically busy would be a better description. You have poured heart body and soul into your work. What do you have to show for it? NOTHING! Nothing is finished.

Can you relate to this trap?

Psychologically this is a recipe for stress burnout. There is all the work and no reward. No sigh of relief at a job finished, no whoop of joy and triumph, no high fives, no dopamine hit. The “cure” lies in one of the oldest Time management stories. When Charles Schwab asked Ivy Lee to help him his recommendation was simply this: “Pick the most important thing that you know you have to do and work on this until you are finished or, at the very least, you have done as much as you are able to do. Then review your to-do list and pick the next most important thing and work on that until you are finished.”

Finish what you start is reflected in the OHIO method: “Only Handle It Once”, it is even epitomised in the the very words that sums up the strategy: FOCUS - “Follow One Course Until Successful”.

What could you do with focusing on today? Give it a try - “ Pick your most important task and work on it until you are finished, or, at the very least, you have done as much as you are able to do.”

Here’s to your success!

Strategies To Increase Sales Through Leadership

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Market leadership starts with knowing which market you want to lead. ~ Mike Clark

Is your sales team clear on your strategy?

Is each team member focused?

Do you lead your market niche?

When analysing successful companies, there are many lessons to be learnt. Countless articles are written on leadership styles, culture, vision, values and marketing prowess. Many of these are difficult to duplicate in small to medium businesses. We simply do not have the resources of manpower, budget, market share, brand power, etc. Yet each of these ‘giants’ started small.

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A lesson we can take from their growth story, and continued success, can be summed up in a single word: “Focus” Successful companies get clear on:
Who they are best set up to serve
What they offer
Why people want it & what people are really buying (remember people do not buy what you sell - they buy what it does for them)

Clarity bring focus. One of the best tools to help focus marketing and sales efforts is The Awnsoff Matrix. 

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Use the above matrix to decide which strategy will best suit your growth plans and then aim to be the best at what you do in that space. Owning a space requires clarity on what you say “yes” to and saying “no” to a lot of options.

Where will your your company excel? What strategy is best for your team to use with your client base? Would you be best trialling a few options/strategies and seeing which is the most successful?

Chart your path. Travel the course. Check in on progress – Review. Improve. Become the best at what you do for the people you are best set up to serve.

Do You Have Self Mastery?

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Lead yourself first, then look to lead others.  - Mike Clark

If you were an animal what would you be? Why did you choose that? What animal would you pick for the people you work the closest with? Thinking about that, how would the harmony be in the menagerie that would then be created? As humans we are all so different in many ways. Shaped by our families, upbringing, culture, beliefs, experiences, birth order and so much more. There are countless leadership articles on how to be a better leader, the 8 key traits, the 7 fundamentals, the 12 laws, etc. Working with so many leaders across a huge range of businesses I have found that the most effective leaders have one key factor in common - they have mastered themselves. So what does self mastery actually look like?

  • Settled in who they are. Accept themselves and work to their strengths and surround themselves with people who can counter their weaknesses.
  • Empathetic in nature. Their self awareness allows them to put themselves in others' situations and see things from a different perspective.
  • Like themselves. This is different from arrogance and pride. It is self acceptance that is at peace with oneself. “The man in the mirror” is their friend.
  • Freedom from other people's opinions or judgments. While input from others is welcomed, it does not dictate how they view themselves.
  • Mindset that is growth orientated. Challenges are accepted and seen as opportunities to grow and improve.
  • Action orientated. Self mastery increases willpower enabling leaders to achieve more because they master their emotions rather than being dictated to by them.
  • Set habits that help them. We are the sum of our routines and rituals and with this knowledge great leaders develop habits that serve them well.
  • Take time for what is important in their life. This includes taking time to discover what is important. Clarity allows focus. We make time for what we value.
  • Encouraging in the way they speak to and about themselves. The realisation of the power of words means leaders effectively encourage themselves and the people they work and rub shoulders with. 
  • Respect is an essential element. Respect for oneself which is reflected every aspect of how they conduct themselves, overflowing to those around them.
  • Yearning to live in the present moment, while living to be all that they can be. Leaders decide who they want to be, live this way every moment of every day and that is who they become.

Lead yourself to the life you truly want and as you do so you will be amazed to see you have followers. Step out, and become a master of yourself.

Here's to your success!

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