You don’t need to be John Cusack holding a boombox outside of someone’s window to get their attention. That’s going big. That’s what most people are aiming for today.
More followers. Louder noise. Bigger…. everything. They believe that the best way to win sales or lead effectively is to go BIGGER in everything.
The truth is, our biggest leadership influences are found in the smallest things that we do.
Our inboxes are overwhelmed every single day with sales pitches, coworkers’ requests, and spam. The last thing that stands out to us is another email from someone wanting our attention or to thank us.
But a handwritten card delivered in the mail? That gets attention because:
- It stands out where an email would get lost in the clutter
- It signifies someone sat down and took the time to craft a note to you (a rarity in today’s age of go-go-go rush)
- It better conveys the gratitude in a thank you. An email is ok. A text message is so-so. A phone call is good. A handwritten card? Great.
And it’s just a little thing to sit down and write a thank you card, but so few do it that by doing so you’ll stand out.
There is great power in doing the little things to stand out. Take for instance:
In sales, little things that can change your success rate include…
- Taking the time to actually research the prospect before copy/paste & sending another template outreach.
- Adding value before asking for a sale
- Following up offline to get a prospect’s attention (like the thank-you card)
In leadership, little things that can increase your influence include…
- Investing time each week to better get to know a team member’s life outside of the office. Want your team to perform better at work? Make time to connect with their heart first so you can get to their head.
- Taking fifteen minutes to hop on a quick Zoom with a mentee & help them in a way you wish someone had for you twenty years ago.
- Creating a piece of content (blog, podcast, video) each week to share your thoughts on recent industry news or how your team has handled a specific situation. (You might think the Internet is overcrowded with this type of content, but it’s not. There are a ton of consumers, yet still not many creators)
In life, little things that can improve your overall experience here on earth, like…
- Once a month picking up the person behind you in line’s coffee just because, and encourage them to pay it forward.
- Working out 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be much, but moving your body every single day will improve everything – your consistency, your health, & your mindset.
- Picking up the phone every week and actually calling a friend to check in on them. Texting is overrated. Sometimes, people just need to hear your voice.
All are small, little personal touches that most people believe they’re too busy to take time to make today. Yet, it’s the small personal touch that best stands out among the clutter.
Business and leadership are both at their core about trust & relationships – and the best way to build both are one-on-one. To increase how BIG your influence grows this year, focus on how much smaller you can act each day to bridge the gap to those you’re wanting to serve or lead.
Is that someone using your favorite coffee mug again?
Is that someone in a sour mood, all of the time, and seems to just drain the life out of the office?
Is that someone sitting right next to you every single day?
I’ve been there with a coworker too. You get an almost knot in the pit-in-your-stomach, please God don’t interact with me today, feeling every morning as they walk in. You dread having to deal with *that* coworker because no matter how excited you are going into a day, they seem to drain the ever-living-soul from you.
How is an aspiring leader supposed to deal with *that* negative coworker?
Most of us can relate to being forced to deal with a less-than-stellar teammate. From little league sports to our first corporate job, the chances are high that we’ve had to work closely with someone we don’t necessarily like. Anytime you take a group of people with diverse personalities, agendas, and backgrounds, throw them together on one unit, and you’ll have an adjustment period.
Did anyone else get stuck doing all of the work for your class project like I did?
School projects. Youth/High School sports. Corporate teams. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team where everyone loved being around everyone else.
And guess what? That’s ok. You don’t have to like everyone – but it’s your responsibility as a leader to help them.
It’s never ideal to have friction with a coworker, yet it happens every day in offices and locker rooms. People are thrown into a situation and despite needing to work together, will still butt heads. And we both know this one fact: some people simply love being negative.
All of the time.
It’s as if they embrace being miserable. I don’t understand it, and I’m sure if you’re reading this, you don’t either. However, it’s on us to still work with them – even if they’re a pain in the butt.
Leaders are the ones who can successfully navigate these tricky people and still excel beyond the immediate situation because they know how to do this:
We 100% control…
- Our attitude
- Our effort
- Our actions
- Our focus
…every day. We each face situations and individuals outside of our control, but only we dictate these four things in our lives. Unfortunately, most people seem to forget that they 100% control these things.
- Bad attitude? Blame it on your negative coworker.
- Poor effort? Blame it on the fact you wish you had a different job.
- Complacent? Blame it on the idea that you “just don’t have the same motivation” as so-in-so
It’s easy to blame others for our bad attitude, effort, or lack of action. It’s easy to show up with anything less than our best when we don’t love our job or the people we work with. That’s easy.
But easy isn’t what makes us proud – or a great leader stand out. Blaming others for our controllables is simply creating an excuse to shift the responsibility off of us and onto others. But it’s not their fault, it’s ours.
That coworker may be toxic to work with, but they don’t control how hard you work. You do. It’s still 100% up to you if you:
- Choose to adopt their negative behavior or learn to ignore it.
- Engage in their game of misery, or encourage them (relentlessly some days) to change their perspective.
What your coworker chooses to do shouldn’t impact how you show up and what you do. However, if it continues to escalate, here are four things you can do to (directly) address the situation:
- Control your controllables. Despite their negativity, remove yourself from situations involving them (happy hours, water cooler talk, etc) and commit to yourself that you’ll maintain a positive attitude with your teammates. Focus on what you control.
- Have a direct conversation with the employee. You shouldn’t be rude or aggressive, but there are healthy reasons for having a candid conversation with your coworker about how their negative or toxic behavior is impacting you, your work, and the environment that you both share. Ask them if something is going in their personal life or why they might feel negative. In some instances, the individual is acting out because they don’t know how to process a situation outside of work.
- Discuss the situation with HR or your direct boss. If direct conversations fail, schedule a meeting with human resources or your manager to discuss your coworker’s behavior and how it’s negatively influencing the culture. Share steps you’ve taken to remedy the situation and some potential solutions you believe could help everyone involved. Make sure you’ve taken personal steps to talk with the coworker before immediately meeting with your superiors or HR so it’s apparent you’re interested in helping your team.
- (If all else fails) Look for a new opportunity elsewhere. There are some instances that a compromise or positive solution can’t be found due to the employee’s position, overarching situation, etc. In these cases, your best option may be to look for employment in a new organization. One thing to keep in mind when interviewing – make sure you interview your interviewer heavily about their culture and addressing toxic employees so you have a strong grasp of how they operate and what they do/don’t tolerate.
It doesn’t matter if we’re a high school athlete or a VP of sales for a nationwide organization, we will work with people who we don’t always “click” with. Most people use it as an excuse to shirk responsibility off of themselves.
Leaders should hold themselves to a higher standard. They control their controllables – their focus, effort, attitude, & actions – and don’t give that control to a toxic coworker.
It doesn’t matter how exhausted or hurt you are, we never ring the bell.
One of the most well-known parts to BUDS initiation is the infamous Hell Week. It’s a five-day training period designed to push potential Navy SEAL candidates beyond the point of exhaustion. Candidates will sleep four hours or less over the five-day period as instructors push them past their perceived limits. The completion rate varies between 20-30% per graduating class.
Any aspiring SEAL can quit Hell Week at any moment. The only way out is to walk over and ring the bell three times, signaling you’ve given up. The bell is a sign of defeat – that you weren’t mentally strong enough to endure. The few newly graduated SEALS who survived Hell Week had to commit to themselves that they would never ring the bell. In other words, they would never give up and be gritty enough to endure anything their instructors sent at them.
Among other characteristics, the Navy SEALS demand grit from their members and the ability to persevere through expected (and unexpected) tribulations in the pursuit of a future goal. It’s no wonder they’re one of the most successful organizations in our country. SEALS are put into the most dangerous of situations and expected to perform flawlessly under pressure, remain optimistic about their success, and work together as one unit for a common goal.
How could your company benefit from that same level of team performance?
While they may not perform to the level of our US Navy Seals, they can begin to build the necessary grit & mentality that would elevate their performance in relation to your organizational goals. Here are four ways you can encourage grit within your organization.
1. Clearly Communicate Your Main Goals
Does everyone in the organization know your company’s main goal & their individual role’s goal? Knowing where you’re going, and in many cases, how long it will take you to get there helps someone maintain their grit to continue pursuing the goal. If your end goal is far off, how clearly are key checkpoints along the way communicated so team members know what they’re aiming for in the short term and will be able to realize it when they’ve arrived.
It’s nearly impossible to maintain your forward progress and positive attitude when you’re pursuing something that you have no idea how long it will take. Consider why marathons show mile markers throughout the race. Each point helps boost the confidence of runners while also keeping them focused on their pace/progress during the course. Establishing short-term checkpoints help reinforce motivation for the longer, big picture pursuits.
2. Use Language Optimistic About Future Growth
It’s imperative that we use language that is positive and encourages a growth mindset in order to build grit within our employees. According to Angela Duckworth, gritty people are hopeful and use matching language. They don’t just wait and wish for good things to happen to them, but instead are active in creating the results they want for their career/health/life.
Leaders within an organization can encourage grit within their team by using empowering language to support the development of future skills & goal achievement. Replace phrases “I can’t,” “I have to,” & “I don’t know” with positive phrases “I won’t,” “I’m going to,” and “I’ll discover how.” Reinforcing language that supports an employee’s effort, positive attitude, and ability to grow in their skillset and role gives them focal areas to develop, helping to reinforce their grit.
3. Identify Places Team Members Have Already Displayed Grit
One way to help your team identify grit as a skill they can continue to hone is to identify past examples where individually and collectively they’ve shown grit. For those who don’t believe themselves to be gritty, directly identifying how they positive responded to a challenge or difficulty can open their eyes to how they have some grit – and where they can develop more. Another idea would be to host an open discussion over lunch around a challenging situation your team worked through in order to show them collectively the grit of your organization to persevere through (and overcome) challenges
4. Ask Interviewees About Times They Struggled or Failed
It’s easy to look at our current team members and ask how to develop more grit, but one area often overlooked is during our recruiting and interview process of new employees. It’s important that you look for gritty traits as you add new team members to your culture so they help add to the overall atmosphere within your company’s walls.
Ask candidates about times were they struggled and how they overcame said struggles. Find out what passions they have outside of work and what they did to cultivate their skills in that area. Consider how an accomplished athlete or musician has invested countless into practicing their skills so they can perform on game day. That focus and long-term vision to practice relentlessly display the type of grit that leads to success for an employee in an organization
Grit doesn’t just happen. It’s intentionally built.
Gritty organizations don’t just happen. Cultures don’t just happen to persevere through challenging, stressful seasons. They intentionally survive them because of the work done prior to injecting grit into culture and employees. It’s not an instant change, but it can be done with an intentional focus on these four steps starting this week.
Football was always my first love and I’ll take the time to read any book that dives into the intricacies of the game. Former NFL general manager (and 3x Super Bowl champion) turned author Michael Lombardi takes us on a journey throughout his career to share what makes for a winning team at football highest levels.
Lombardi shares stories from Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers to Al Davis’ Oakland Raiders to today’s New England Patriots’ dynasty. Fans of football will love the behind-the-curtain look at how teams are assembled and what actually matters when building the next great team.
But more surprising than what it takes to build a winning football team is what stood out to me about what can be learned from this book to build a winning sales team for your organization. Not content to sit on this insight, I wanted to share with you the key lessons you can glean from Gridiron Genius to inject in your company’s culture and sales team.
1. You Need a Gameplan to Win
Future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belicheck is notorious for gameplanning everything – even off of the field. He has a schedule planned (down to the minute!) for each day throughout the football season and even its imminent off-season. Belicheck wants everyone on the team and in the organization to know where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be focused on every day of the year. This allows him the ability to know what the focus is, where anyone is off course (if at all), and what adjustments need to be made.
Similarly, it helps if a sales director has a strong gameplan for his/her team.
- What does our year look like? When do we typically close most deals and when are we most slow?
- What daily activities, if implemented consistently, will reap rewards?
- What does each employee’s schedule look like – how are they prioritizing their activities and time throughout a day?
It’s not micromanaging – it’s having a solid gameplan, teaching that gameplan to each team member so they’re set up for success, and then simply executing on that plan. You can have a plan and prepare to succeed – you can lack a plan and prepare to fail.
2. Command Your Message
The better you communicate your message, the easier your team can buy into it. A team that understands the goal, the gameplan, and the culture is a team that can commit to it. Any confusion on what a player’s expectations or role is can lead to mismanaged plays or mistakes. If a coach fails to clearly and cleanly communicate to his/her team, then their overall chances of success dwindle.
Lombardi describes the differences between two legendary coaches in Bill Parcells and Bill Belicheck. Parcells used simple metaphors to drive home short, quick messages to his players. Belicheck, on the other hand, prefers to use video and bluntness to show his players what happens when they fail to follow the plan. Both coaches are Hall of Famers – but both use different communication styles to clearly articulate the message in a way their players can quickly absorb it.
If you can’t clearly communicate what you’re selling, why it matters, and what a customer’s world would like with/without it, then you’re losing out on key (if not all) sales opportunities.
Even more important is the fact that research continues to prove that stories – not facts – are remembered more often. It’s vital in sales to paint a story picture for customers instead of just vomiting statistics on them. A successful salesperson will command their message and clearly communicate their story in a way that the customer quickly understands it – just like a football coach teaching a gameplan to his team.
3. Simplify Your Execution
The less you think, the faster you play. In sports, the more a player is thinking about what they have to do, the slower that player can react and play their position. Once a player fully understands their role and action on each play, the faster they can play because their movements become second nature reaction – instead of something they have to think through before moving. Hesitation – even 1 second – in a game like football can be the difference between a tackle for a loss and a touchdown. When a player can play loose and simply react by memory, the better they can play.
We can easily overcomplicate our sales process. We can jam jargon and sales scripts down our employee’s throats instead of teaching them a simple process and playbook they can follow. Key examples of simplifying execution would be:
- Focusing on the 3 most important activities to do each day instead of a long to-do list
- Training sales conversations & scripts so sales team members are able to say in a casual conversation way instead of robotic or scripted
- Teaching the key, revenue-driving activities so employees are able to focus on the few things that matter – instead of being distracted by the majority of things that don’t.
4. Work Ethic is Key
Quarterback evaluation is one of the most difficult scouting jobs in football. One trait that continues to stand out in determining a player’s long-term potential for success is that player’s work ethic. Lombardi highlights seven traits he looks for in every quarterback prospect to increase his chances of drafting a winning player, with work ethic being high on the list.
You can train a lot of skills in a new hire, but one that’s difficult (and for many hires, impossible) is ambition and work ethic. You can teach sales scripts, you can build confidence by repetition and training, but it’s hard to train work ethic. It should be one of the biggest keys when looking at new hires for your organization – because most everything else is trainable.
5. Your Best Sales Person Still Has to Be Accountable
The best person on your football team still has to be as accountable to the culture and team rules as the practice squad player in order to build a thriving culture and winning team. Your star can’t cut corners, quit on plays, or skip meetings.
The same applies to our corporate offices.
In many offices, it’s easy to escape a culture of accountability when you’re the best salesperson. You can play by a different set of rules on commitment and consequences because you bring in revenue – but in a winning organization, everyone (from top of the org chart on down) are held to the same standard. I shared earlier this year here what you need in order to create a culture of accountability in your organization but know that to elevate your game, everyone needs to be on the same page and committed to the same culture.
Even your best player.
I highly recommend Lombardi’s book if you’re a fan of football or active coaching a sport, as it lays out key insights into building a winning team, and more importantly, off-field lessons you can use in building your organization to excel.
Grab your copy of Gridiron Genius here.
Is it even worth investing the time to train a new hire who is going to ultimately leave?
I know from experience how frustrating it can be to invest time into training someone who leaves you. However, the alternative is always worse and you can use the opportunity to build your own career in these 3 ways.