Using Purpose To Double Your Results Without Spending a Dime

I had the privilege to speak yesterday on the topic of Leadership. After each talk, a discussion ensued about how to apply these leadership concepts to real world situations. The discussion is always my favorite part of giving a speech because I get to learn how these concepts will be put to use.

One of the groups I spoke to was part of a non-profit that recently went through budget cuts and has had to reduce services to their membership. This has caused some negativity from the members to be directed at the staff.  While the more senior staff felt they were able to effectively deal with these situations the more junior and part-time staff are becoming more and more disengaged and their work is suffering.

As we talked about this I recalled a study that showed by simply reminding people of the greater purpose of their work it can lead to a dramatic improvement in results. In this particular study, they looked at staff in a call center raising money for a university scholarship fund. They found that staff who were made aware of the difference that these scholarships made in people’s lives were twice as effective at raising funds than those who were not given this information.

Think about that. They did something that cost the organization nothing (collected success stories) and read those stories to their staff and doubled their results! 

We finished our discussion talking about ways to reconnect the part-time and junior staff to the mission of the facility by providing them stories from members whose lives had been changed by their work. Everyone wants to know what they do is making a difference. When hard times hit is when you need everyone at your organization to be at their best. This is when it is more important than ever to remind people of the importance of the work they are doing. Stay focused on where you are making a difference instead of all the “bad news” and you can make it through the tough times.

Happy Employees Need Less Oversight

Do you wonder at times how you keep your staff motivated and engaged? I remember when I was a newer manager I often wondered about that. As a sales manager, I had large quotas to meet this question often kept me up at night.

It seems that a Danish bank has cracked the code on employee engagement. They use a model called “self-directed leadership”. This is a leadership style where employees resolve 100% of their work decisions on their own. The bank operates under the assumption that everyone comes to work wanting to do their best. Instead of traditional management, where employees are told what to do they are provided coaching and guidance to make decisions on their own. The result is that this bank is recognized as one of the leaders in staff happiness and their customer service is so good that 80% of their business comes through referral.

If we treat people as who they can become, they will be inspired to rise to the level of our expectations. ~John C. Maxwell


7 Ways to Create a Customer Service Goldmine

Want to stand out from the crowd in your industry? Spend time thinking about how you take care of your customers.

One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising. ~Jim Rohn

How to be great at customer service

Care About Your Customers. 

There is no faking this one. You have to really care about the experience of your customers interacting with your company. As the old saying goes. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. One of the most powerful ways to show you care is to really listen to your customers.

Customer Service is Marketing

Customer service is not a cost center. It is can be directly tied to revenue if that is what you are looking for. viewing customer service as marketing means that any money invested into customer service should show a positive return on that investment. A 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. (Bain & Co)

Know What Your Customers Want and Need

Track your customer’s experiences as they interact with your company. surveys, focus groups, customer advisory boards and picking up the phone to talk to your customers are all good ways to find out what customers expect from you. Most small to medium sized business don’t have a system in place to get this type of feedback consistently.

Response Time is Not All That Matters

According to Gallup customers who experience speedy service are more engaged than those who did not. This is surpassed however by those who experienced “empathic” caring support. Often it is easier to measure response times than overall customer happiness. Don’t fall into the trap of only looking at the metrics that are easy to measure.

Opportunities in Fixing Mistakes

Even in the best of organizations mistakes happen. How you respond to mistakes can have a huge impact on your brand, company, and even profits. Every mistake offers a valuable learning opportunity to help make sure it doesn’t happen again. Each mistake is also always a way to demonstrate to the client how much you care and how important they are to you. How you take care of them even if the mistake is not completely your fault shows the client that you have their back and they will come back to you over and over again and tell their friends.

Service is a Byproduct of Culture

Companies who value employees will produce employees that value customers. Employees must feel valued, trusted, empowered and secure in order to put customers first. If not survival instincts will kick in and customers will feel it.

Don’t Look At What Your Competitors are Doing

Many companies base what they do on what others in their industry are doing. I have seen this with how pricing is set, how they market themselves, and how customer service is performed. The sad truth is that most companies do a poor job at customer service. Just deciding that customer service matters and executing on that will set you apart and improve your bottom line.


What is Real Leadership?

In 2003 Natalie Gilbert, an 8th grader was selected to sing the national anthem for the Portland – Dallas NBA playoff game in front of 20,000 fans. It was her dream come true until the unthinkable happened. Shortly into the song her mind went blank and she forgot the words. Alone, frightened,  and embarrassed she didn’t know what to do. Suddenly Maurice Cheeks appeared at her side, put his arm around her, and together they finished the song.

Did Maurice Cheeks display leadership that day? Certainly. In a full arena anyone could have went to her side but he was the one who did. He also displayed vulnerability. This was a tense and awkward situation and he put himself in the middle of it. As leaders we often think that it is all about us but it hardly ever is. It’s about using our ability to act in service of someone or something  else bigger than we are. That is how you inspire those who follow you and how real leadership is defined.

Watch the video and see if his actions don’t bring a smile to your face and inspire you too.

My Gratitude Experiment

At the beginning of the month I got a copy of Thank and Grow Rich by Pam Grout. Pam is one of my favorite authors and I was looking forward to her book. I love her light hearted writing style.

Because here’s the thing. When we don’t stop daily to inventory all the gazillion things going right in our lives, the crazy voices in our heads try to make us their bitch.

~Pam Grout, Thank and Grow Rich

I define gratitude as the act of feeling or expressing appreciation for something good in your life. The beautiful thing about it is that you can express gratitude to someone else or simply to God/The Universe for whatever good is in your life.

Starting a couple of weeks ago I began a simple practice to really anchor this practice into my life. Each morning after a short meditation session that I do where I do nothing except focus my mind on my breath for about 15 minutes I then spend the next 10 focused on what I am thankful for. I typically try to start out with something really basic that I tend to overlook. Examples include my ability to walk, trees, water. I then focus on all the great things happening in my life right now perhaps a fun interaction with one of my kids or a client. I also focus on the people who inspire me and whose work I love and respect. Then I give thanks for all those things that are coming into my life that I don’t even see yet but I focus on the feeling of having them in my life right now.

Here is what I have noticed. Fear and gratitude can’t coexist. I am happier. I am more lighthearted. I see more opportunities. I am also getting more opportunities. I notice that my days feel easier. This is hard to quantify but things don’t get my of my game like they used to.

An example of this. Yesterday I was going to give a live talk to a local Toastmasters group. I had never been to this group. I focused on being grateful on my way to the talk for the opportunity to share my message. I noticed that I was less stressed before the talk than I usually am. I was then better able to connect with the audience and this showed when I had several people tell me how valuable they found the talk afterwards.

Each day I have more of these experiences. I have also come to realize that the more you practice gratitude the more you have to be grateful about. What do you have to be grateful about in your life or business right now? Take a minute to acknowledge those things and you may begin to notice that you too have more to be thankful for than you knew.




The Power of Tiny Steps

Years ago I was a personal fitness trainer. I used to tell my clients that if they want to work out regularly start by committing to just walk through the door. They can give themselves permission to just do that. Make that the win. Or just come in and work out for 5 minutes. People would sometimes laugh and say that sounds like a waste of time what good will that do? What is the point?

Most all our behavior is a habit. Take a complex behavior like driving a car. Have you ever had the experience of driving somewhere and then completely forgetting how you got there? That was a habit at work. By just walking through the door of the gym you are starting a new habit. If you just do that enough times a new habit is formed. Once the habit is formed you no longer have to rely on willpower which is not enough to make lasting change.

I remember one of my teachers saying “The way to be successful is to be successful”. At the time I didn’t really get it.  I remember thinking, “how can anyone be successful if they are not already successful?” The secret I came to realize is in how you define success. The way we define success is always up to us. Since we get to choose what success means, we get to use it to our advantage. We can choose to define success as some huge accomplishment or you can define it as showing up to the gym day after day. The problem with only defining success as some big goal is that until you reach that goal you are “failing”.

If you want to be successful at anything start by setting the bar low. Really low. If you look around at anyone who has achieved great things you will notice a pattern. Almost all of them started out by doing something very modest, taking that first step and then taking the next again and again and again.

Those small steps add up. You might as well get started with it now. What’s the small step you will take that will make you successful today?

Stop Trying and Start Doing

If you want to set yourself up for failure just try a lot.

Trying to do something is one of the worst ways to go about getting something accomplished.

Let me explain. You either do something or you don’t. If I say I am going to try to grow my business by 20% this year I am subconsciously telling myself that it may not happen. Oh well, at least I tried. Contrast this with the statement, “I will grow my business by 20% this year.” This is more definite. It is a commitment. Our brains will interpret this as a command to get creative and figure out a way to make it happen. When we just “try” to do something we can’t access our innate resourcefulness.

To take this concept one step further, anytime you are going for an external result like growing your business by 20% or doing something brand new there is always a chance that you may not achieve your goal. This is just life. Things don’t always turn out the way we want. This can be scary to our self esteem. What if we fail? What if I don’t grow my business by 20% this year? What will people think of me? Using the word “try” is an attempt to protect our self esteem at the cost of giving up our creativity. We are declaring circumstance is more powerful than we are and this is just not true!

Nothing can stand in the way of perseverance and creativity. Things may not happen in the way we imagined or on our timeline but I know success is inevitable if we put in the work, use our creativity, and don’t stop.

State you will grow your business by 20% this year or whatever your goal is. At least state it to yourself. Write it down. Once you have done this then focus on the things that will make that goal a reality that you can control. This allows you to eliminate trying. It also shows your brain you are serious and it will help you find a way to make it happen. That is what our brains do!

Make a commitment to stop trying and DO the things you can control every day and the results will take care of themselves.

The Samurai’s Antidote for Stress

The Japanese samurai warriors before going into battle used to remind themselves about the inevitability of loss. They were said to die before going into battle. Once they had mentally died and accepted death as a very real possibility it freed them from trying to control the outcome of their battle. It also helped them transcend and eliminate their fear.

Today we all have stressful situations in our everyday lives. It could be standing up to give a presentation, going to a networking event, an interview or having a difficult conversation. What is it that makes these situations stressful? If you look closely you will see it is not the situation itself that causes stress. It is our concern over the outcome and our attempts to control the situation.

In practice letting go of the outcome means you prepare for the task ahead of you as much as possible. Then when your preparation is over, acknowledge that you have prepared as much as you can and that things may still not turn out as you desire. This is accepting the very real possibility of failure. This is different than negative thinking. Negative thinking is usually habitual and repetitive in nature. Acknowledging the possibility of failure brings you face to face with reality so you can better deal with what is in front of you.

When you die before going into battle as the Samurai did it ends your need for constant manipulation and control of outside circumstances. The struggle ends. Our whole approach to the situation changes. We are just in the moment handling whatever arises. Not stressed. Not anxious. Just moving through the situation spinning, dancing, succeeding and failing.


Feeling Stuck? Try The Abundance Approach

I just finished reading Making the Impossible Possible and discovered that the title was not just hype. It was the story about the cleanup of one of the most dangerous places in North America, The Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant.

The cleanup project was accomplished 60 YEARS ahead of schedule and for 1/6th the cost. How did it happen? That is the subject of the book and the conclusion is that these results happened because those involved with the project took an “abundance approach” to change.

Essentially the abundance approach is a way of approaching any situation and looking for the best possible outcome for that situation and focusing your attention on that. Usually this means focusing on how this situation can be used to help ALL those involved not just the person who solves the problem

It is such a simple concept.

Now that I am aware of it I can think of so many examples of the abundance approach being used to create extraordinary results.

Here are some off the top of my head:

Wayne Dyer used to say that if you are feeling down and depressed go out and find someone in need and help them. You can’t be depressed when you are helping someone else. There is plenty of science to back this up. Helping others is what the abundance approach is all about.

In the book Conscious Capitalism, Raj Sisodia showed how companies that focus on having a net positive effect (abundance approach) in the world vs those that are simply focused on making money for shareholders outperform the market 15 to 1 with higher revenues and profitability

I just heard a story today about a psychologist who noticed when he was focused on the rate of growth of his business that the quality of the work that he did with his clients went down and he also ended up with less business. When he instead decided to focus simply on using his skills to help his clients his business not only did better but his clients benefited more.

Finally there is this story about the founder of Chobani Yogurt, Hamdi Ulukaya who just gave away 10% of his $5 billion dollar company to employees through a employee ownership program. This was not simply an act of generosity but companies that are employee owned tend to outperform the competition.

So try the abundance approach yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed and overworked take a minute and notice what you are focusing on. More than likely it will be on how much you have to do and what you want to accomplish.

Try changing your focus and ask yourself how you can use these activities to help someone else. You could also ask, “What is great about this?”. This is a great question because it gets your brain focused on the best in the situation. If you truly look for the good in the situation you will be surprised about the abundance you already have.


Permission To Suck and Getting Started

The right time to start something is always right now. Even if you know you are not ready you can start getting ready right now. You may suck at whatever it is you start doing. We all suck at first. Today is for getting started. Do it now. The time will pass weather you start today or do nothing.

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first. It’s the way we learn. We have to be willing to risk looking stupid. We have to be willing to risk others thinking poorly of us. This is the price we have to pay.

It’s OK to suck at first. The outcome of our actions are never in our control anyway. Even when you put in the time and the practice and feel you are “ready” for the challenge it does not guarantee the results you are looking for. The only guarantee in life is that there is no guarantee of anything.  So do it anyway even if you suck.

Take 100% responsibility. For everything that you do and everything that happens to you. This is not a contradiction of my point above. We need to be able to live with the fact that a single outcome is never completely within our control but we can control our perspective on the that outcome. If we ACT AS IF the outcome is in our control while being OK with the fact that it is not we gain a tremendous amount of leverage. This is what moves us out of blame, excuses and victim-hood and instead helps us recognize we always have the power to make things different no matter how they look.

So it is time to get started. Even if you don’t feel ready. You have my permission to suck at whatever you do at first. Just keep going.