How to Create a Winning Business Culture

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This is a guest post by Sandra Mills. Sandra specializes in covering management topics that are relevant in business and healthcare. She has managed both large and small projects on a number of occasions. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+.

When you’re trying to grow a successful business, attitude is often more important than specific skills and experience.  Someone who is eager to learn can easily be trained to meet your business’s needs, but someone who will only do the minimum to collect a paycheck will never help your business grow. Here are 6 ways to build a winning culture that will drive success.

 

1. Set clear goals

Employees who are eager to please can’t improve if they don’t know how you’d like them to improve. Broad statements such as, “Get better,” or, “Increase profits,” don’t provide a clear direction for them to follow.  A specific goal such as, “increase sales by 5%,” gives your employees a visible target to shoot for.  Once that goal is set, they’re more likely to know exactly what needs to be done to reach it.  Even if they don’t, they’ll at least know where to start to get there.

 

2. Make sure goals are reasonable

The goals you set can’t be too high or too low.  If they’re too low, they’ll be easily attainable and will create a culture of complacency instead of one of growth.  If they’re too high, employees might initially be motivated but then quickly realize they may never get there.  When that happens, morale will drop, productivity may return to or drop below previous levels, and future goals will likely be ignored.  Encourage employees to write down goals to stay focused. SMART goal planning (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant & Timely) can keep goals challenging but reasonable.  Encouraging goals to be written down will keep them measurable and in focus as well.

 

3. Don’t lose sight of the big picture

The best employees still need a strong leader in order to function well within a company. When you’re setting your goals, always think about where you want your company to be in five or ten years.  For example, sacrificing quality may increase profit margins now but may also lead to customers who leave and never want to come back.  Try to make all decisions from the top down.  Come up with a true vision for your company, the main ways to achieve it, and then set specific steps employees can take to get there.

 

4. Promote responsibility

Using Improvised Persuasion to Achieve Your Goals

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One of my beliefs is that everyone can benefit from understanding sales techniques.  I simplify it to say, “We are all in sales.”

Whether you actually are a sales professional or not, you will find that successful people understand sales techniques and use them in everyday life.

  • Need funding for a new business?
  • Growing your platform? 
  • Need to convince your kids to eat more veggies?

Steve Yastrow is the author of Ditch the Pitch, a new book that teaches sales people to tear up the sales script and really understand your customer.  Steve founded Yastrow and Company and helps organizations improve results through sales and marketing techniques.

We recently had a chance to catch up and talk about persuasion.

 

“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears: by listening.” -Dean Rusk

 

 

A New Approach to Persuasion

 

Sales VP’s all over the world will read the title of your book Ditch the Pitch and wonder:  “The pitch is how we sell others our ideas,” they will say, “It’s our main way of selling.”  You say that the pitch doesn’t work.  Why?

If a salesperson determines what he wants to say to a customer before he meets with that customer, the odds that this message will be the right message for this customer, at this time, are one in a million.  We can’t possibly know in advance, even with customers we’ve known for a long time, what their current mood, situation, attitudes and reactions to information will be.

Additionally, customers behave differently once they detect a pitch.  They get defensive. They resist sharing information.  They start thinking about the next meeting they need to go to.

Instead of the pitch, you have a new approach in persuasive communications.  What is it?Steve Yastrow Headshot

Improvisation.  I teach people to gain the confidence to tear up their sales pitch and create fresh, spontaneous, persuasive conversations that are interesting, relevant and meaningful to their customers.

As you have taught this model to sales leaders, have you had any pushback or concerns?  How do you help overcome the desire for a canned pitch since it is comfortable and familiar?

Often people tell me that they are not good improvisers and that they need a script to keep them on track.  The fact is, however, that these people are already awesome improvisers. Human beings were born to improvise.  We evolved to navigate an ever-changing, dynamic, unpredictable environment.  Consider this:  Have you ever had two 10-minute periods in your life that were exactly the same?  Of course not.  Without improvising, human beings wouldn’t have been able to use stone tools, track prey or cross Main Street.

And the most developed human improvisational skill is conversation.  Notice the social conversations you have; they are all created on the spot, in the moment, based on what happens in that particular interaction.  Ditch the Pitch helps people take their natural human talent for improvisation and bring it into their customer encounters.

 

“Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kinds of this world.” -Thomas Caryle

 

6 Habits to Persuade

 

Your book outlines six habits to persuade others.  Let’s just touch one as an example.  Habit #6 is, “Don’t Rush the Story.”  Would you highlight this one for us?

Everyone reading this interview is knowledgeable and expert about what they sell.  Inevitably, this expertise helps us quickly diagnose customer situations and develop solutions.  The problem is that we will always devise these solutions before our customers are ready to hear them, and if we tell them to our customers too soon we will overwhelm them.  The idea is to be patient and bring information into your persuasive conversation at a pace your customer can accept.

Look and Feel Better Once and For All

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Have you struggled to lose weight or stay fit?

Do you dream about being locked overnight in a delicatessen?

How do you sustain success?

What can you learn about goal setting when trying to stay in shape?

 

Finally In Shape

 

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ken Blanchard, one of my favorite authors and speakers about his recent personal transformation, losing weight and getting in shape.  Ken is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world.  He is the cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of the Ken Blanchard Companies. He is also the author or coauthor of fifty books that have sold more than 20 million copies, including the iconic The One Minute Manager®.

Ken recently wrote about his weight loss in a new book, Fit At Last.

 

“People who produce good results feel good about themselves.” –Ken Blanchard

 

An Early Relationship With Food

 

fit_at_last_covWhen you were young, you describe your life as fairly centered around food.  What impact did that relationship with food have on you?

Controlling my weight has always been a battle.  My mother, like many other mothers, nurtured her family with food.  If we were happy, we ate; if we were sad, we ate; if we were worried, we ate. When you grow up that way, it becomes second nature—that’s where “comfort food” got its name.  I used to have dreams of being locked overnight inside our local Jewish delicatessen.  I can smell a piece of cheesecake a mile away!  And at times I’ve been my own worst enemy—I believed that if I worked hard during the day, I could eat anything I wanted at night.  My wife Margie used to call that a “lousy belief.”

 

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” -Ken Blanchard

 

Everyone who has struggled with weight has experienced the ups and downs.  You’ve lost weight before.  What happened?

Many times when I would have some success at getting fit, there would be a point where I would get complacent—then I’d forget about my original commitment, get distracted, and shift to other priorities.

 

“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re commited to something, you accept no excuses – only results.” –Ken Blanchard

 

Sustainable Goal Setting

 

What makes a goal sustainable?

A goal is sustainable when you have a few people in your life who help you stay committed to your commitment—they hold you accountable, praise your progress, and redirect your efforts when you get off course. In my experience, most goals are hard to sustain without a support system.

 

“A goal is sustainable when you have people who help you stay committed.” -Ken Blanchard

 

What role does individual personality or behavior style have on personal fitness?

Failure Is Not Defeat

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This is a guest post by Tom Panaggio,
 Author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur’s Unexpected Edge. Tom is an entrepreneur who spends his time advising companies, speaking and spending time on the racetrack.

Vince Lombardi never admitted to failure. He always said that he never lost a game, he just ran out of time. To Lombardi, failure was not fatal; it did not mean that hope was lost. He simply refocused his team and made the necessary game strategy alterations. In his mind, he never lost or failed because he always made the necessary changes going forward.

There is a difference between failure and defeat. Failure is temporary, but defeat is permanent. I’d love to see the statistics for how many entrepreneurs mistook a failure as defeat and gave up. For anyone who accepts defeat, there is no hope, only regret.

 

Failure is temporary, but defeat is permanent. -Tom Panaggio

 

Today, I am an amateur race car driver. That obsession began in 1983 after I attended a sports car race at Daytona International Speedway. My background was in traditional athletics, and I knew nothing about racing or how to even begin to get involved. All I knew was that I wanted to do it. After conducting some research, I found that I needed to go to two accredited racing schools to qualify for a license, with the caveat that school number two must be a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) sanctioned school. If I didn’t pass this second school, there would be no racing for me.

9781938416446The first school I attended, Skip Barber Racing School, supplied everything needed, including a real race car and all the safety equipment. The second SCCA school supplied only the racetrack and instructors; I needed to provide my own race car. By luck, I knew someone who owned a race car and was retired from driving. He was gracious enough to let me borrow his car if I paid to get it track ready. That turned out to be a mistake on his part.

I failed at the second racing school. Twice. In consecutive weekends, I failed due to mistakes. (Okay, I crashed both times.) The second failure caused the untimely death of the borrowed race car in a spectacular crash at over a hundred miles an hour. I can still see the track workers leaping from their protective bunker moments before I plowed into it.

Everyone told me to quit, to give up. They said that I didn’t have what it takes to be a race car driver. Even I had doubts, but my desire to race had not lessened. In fact, everyone else’s doubts made me want to prove that I could do it. I was determined, and I wouldn’t let failure defeat me.

Reaching Your Peak Performance

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“Does your performance reflect your potential?” is a question posed by Scott Addis in the introduction of his new book.  It’s a question I have often asked of myself and of others over the years. Reaching your potential, hitting peak performance, and achieving your best self are different ways to talk about the subject of personal success.  I recently had the opportunity to talk with Scott about his thoughts on maximizing performance.

Confident people risk security to achieve higher levels of growth and independence. -Scott Addis

 

Scott Addis is the President and CEO of The Addis Group and Beyond Insurance, and author of SUMMIT: Reach Your Peak And Elevate Your Customers’ Experience. Beyond Insurance is a coaching and consulting company whose purpose is to transform the process that insurance agents, brokers and carriers use when working with clients. Scott is recognized as an industry leader having been awarded the Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award as well as “25 Most Innovative Agents in America”.

SUMMIT is divided into four elevations.  What are the four elevations?  Why is the book organized this way?

When it came to putting the material into a book, I thought it seemed natural to organize and edit the writings into a sequence that reflected a progression from individual skill development to business relationships to the customer experience.  Summit is therefore divided into the following four elevations:

 

Elevation I: Preparing for the Climb (Developing Your Personal Readiness)

Elevation II:  Setting up Base Camp (Preparing to Present Yourself to Others)

Elevation III:  On to the Summit (Focusing on the Customer Experience)

Elevation IV:  The Final Ascent (Discovering Your Inner Strengths)

In Elevation I, you emphasize the importance of paying attention to four performance indicators and developing them as the reader progresses.  One of these performance indicators is natural strength.  Why is it crucial to focus on honing natural strengths rather than improving weaknesses?

Every person who has ever lived has natural strengths (also known as Unique Abilities) though most people are not conscious of them.  Because of this lack of awareness, these people have not experienced the infinite rewards that come from being able to harness and develop their natural talents and pursue their passions wholeheartedly.  The more you are able to recognize your natural strengths and shape your life around them, the more freedom, success and happiness you will experience.  Your Unique Abilities (i.e., Natural Strengths) have four characteristics:

  1. A superior ability that other people notice and value
  2. Love doing it and want to do it as much as possible
  3. Energizing for you and others around you
  4. You keep getting better, never running out of possibilities for further improvement

Most individuals are not able to identify their natural strengths, let alone concentrate on them, because they are trapped by childhood training.  We learn at a young age that the secret to success in life is working on our weaknesses.  Unfortunately, it is the focus on weaknesses that results in a sense of deficiency, failure and guilt.  As a result, our lives are filled with frustration, wasted potential and missed opportunities.  Letting go of these “lack of abilities” to focus on the things you love is a key to maximizing your performance.

 

Innovation is the lifeblood of the peak performer. -Scott Addis

 

In Elevation III, you discuss the customer experience.  What is the customer experience?  Why are the first impressions so significant in building customer relationships?

The Customer Experience Journey is the sum of all experiences that the customer has with you and your firm, the actions and results that make the customer feel important, understood, heard and respected.  Each customer interaction molds and shapes the Journey.

A first impression is the mark you make in the first moments of interacting with someone.  This impression has a strong effect on one’s intellect, feelings, or conscience.

It is interesting to note that the brain is immensely perceptive and takes into account every minor detail of another’s facial features.  The sight and sound around us are picked up by sense organs and the signals are passed to the brain.  These signals are then compared to the memories of past experiences.  The interpretations of these signals play a key role in forming the first impression.Addis_jacket.indd

In your book, you write:  “Work-life balance remains my biggest challenge in my quest to reach the peak.”  How do you define work-life balance?  Why is it difficult to achieve equilibrium between the two?

The term “work/life balance” first appeared in the 1970’s.  The expression means having equilibrium among all the priorities in your life.  It is interesting to note that this state of balance differs from person to person.  However, if there is little or no balance over an extended period of time, the vast majority of people experience stress and, eventually, burnout.

Today’s intense, competitive business climate has created corporate cultures that demand more and more from professionals.  To get ahead, 60 to 70 hour work weeks appear to be the new standard.

Goal setting is also very important on the climb.  Why is mental imagery, or visualization, a key component of successful goal setting?

Visualization allows you to see yourself at some point in the future, while goals offer a road map to reach these visions.  There is nothing more rewarding than having visions, setting goals, launching into action and persisting until you reach your destination.  The key to goal setting is your ability to turn this vision into reality.

Mental imagery is essential to goal setting.  Your ability to see yourself at the point of goal actualization is a key component to successful goal setting.  Goal setting breaks down unless you have great clarity about your vision.

“The last few steps of the climb will be the toughest, yet the most rewarding. They will require mental toughness, commitment, drive, self-discipline, positive attitude, and positive self-image.  It is when you make your final ascent that you will discover your inner strengths.” –F Scott Addis

Why is a positive first impression so important?  What are some tips you can offer our listeners or readers on creating a positive first impression?