Trade obligations for possibilities — that’s energizing!

Unless you are self-actualized (the best “you” ever possible), you can’t let up on the gas. If you disengage, you’ll coast downhill. But it’s hard to feel energized every single bleary-eyed morning, knowing that you’re facing another arduous mountain of meetings, looming project deadlines, and service demands. Your higher self wants to become more adaptable and valuable to the marketplace, but your in-the-moment self knows that it takes a lot of striving, which takes a lot of effort and saps energy. And in all that striving, it’s easy to lose sight of a few elementary principles that could help you refuel.

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) and Steven R. Covey (1932-2012) were pioneers in business intelligence, able to define for their followers what it takes to be successful in business. Their writings are as important to us today as when they first (literally) penned their thoughts, because people are people are people, still motivated and haunted by the same triggers. Likewise, success in business relies on the same skill sets that can reenergize your own effectiveness — and personal satisfaction and growth.

Here’s a quick checklist of three principles that require conscious effort upfront but offer a great return on investment:

Adopt an empathetic mindset: Dale Carnegie believed success is due 15% to professional knowledge and 85% to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.” It isn’t all about you or your work product, in other words — it’s about how you and your products make others feel about themselves.

Applying empathy to external customers will motivate you to learn what delights and worries them. The answers to those questions will direct you in how to make your brand (both personal and professional) most relevant to them. Stop spending money (or energy) trying to explain your value to clients; instead, focus on understanding your target audience. Relevance breeds loyalty.

Compassionate (servant) leadership as an ideal leads to better relationships with both internal and external customers, which leads to higher retention rates and fewer job stressors for all involved. If you are a manager, do a quick role reversal and consider your employees to be your internal customers (rather than you as their customer). How do you motivate and delight employees or co-workers? Are you a solutions provider or their daily challenge?  

Put people above technology: I’m not suggesting valuing employment over efficiency — I’ve done away with the need for an expensive human administrative assistant by instead learning how to better use Quickbase, Doodle, Quickbooks, and Basecamp, so I understand the value and efficiency of today’s software apps. However, if I don’t train my associates on Basecamp — if I simply tell them to “use it” to communicate with me, without a session where I pull it up on a monitor and show them how each application will help them do what they do better, then my “expectation” is devalued to a “suggestion” in their world. And chances are good that they will back-burner that suggestion.

People need to understand an app’s relevancy to their work, not yours. Show how it can be used effectively and how it simplifies (rather than complicates) their workday. Software ideally removes redundancies rather than adds to business complexity. The number one reason people fail to use technology or to become an “adapter” is that they have never been given a one-on-one demonstration of how it can or should work for them. (Your renewed empathetic mindset will quickly help you resolve that challenge!)



Consider the workplace a laboratory and measure, measure, measure: Mastery means you have accomplished the highest achievement level possible, or you’ve reached a lofty knowledge base. When one “masters” a belt in karate, for example, the public can see, by the color of the cloth around a waist, the person’s designated skill level. How is that decided? What the public doesn’t see is that the teacher has measured performance over time within a series of skill sets.

How can you “master” a day? You measure the things that are accomplished that are important to company or personal goals. Measure the bits and parts that, over time, collectively make up the whole. You’ll quickly discover that simply through the art of holding yourself accountable daily, you (and your team) will progress much faster. Also, one bad experience won’t loom in your mind so far above three other matrixes that improved — three successes you might overlook without measuring!

Putting all of this together

Imagine you are a sales manager and one of your salespeople is struggling to keep his or her job because of a closing rate that is less than stellar. How would you coach this person using empathy, training, and measuring?

First, imagine you are the salesperson, confronted with the challenge of performing as well as others on the team who seem to be “born salespeople.” Is this person performing poorly because he or she (1) lacks training, (2) is disengaged, or (3) has personal problems that are spilling over to the workplace? If you don’t know the answer, ask what the reason is for his or her poor performance. Empathy isn’t about assuming; it’s about knowing.

If it is a training issue, show him or her how to put technology to better use to send clients ticklers to maintain relationships over time. Show how to break down the job into measurable steps, thereby removing the mystifying “sales personality” from the equation. The top 20% of any sales team makes more phone calls than the bottom 20%; they have more “touches” with a client during the year, schedule more face-to-face meetings, and make more follow-up calls after a product or service is delivered. Are they nicer, more outgoing? How can you train for that? Well, they actually SMILE more often than the bottom tier. And — big wakeup here — they talk less than 20% of the time during a sales meeting and listen to the client 80%+ of the meeting time because they have learned to ask questions to build that empathy cushion with the client.

Even that talking/listening metric can be measured and trained for! Success is definable in steps or behaviors, and the important ones are measurable. Once a sales manager conveys that message to the bottom 20% of performers, he or she can rightly hold all struggling salespeople accountable to construct a strategy to push their performance upward. Without the manager’s knowledge of the hurdles, training, or support, the salesperson is in a no-win situation.

Review your options, given your own situations at home and in the workplace, to be more empathetic, to put people above processes, and to measure success (in definable steps) toward goals. Then imagine what it would be like to wake up tomorrow to the promise of possibilities rather than the oppression of obligations. Now that’s energizing!

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