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Archive for the tag “performance”

A Lesson on Performance From a Little League Right Fielder

I have written many sports analogies over the years, especially ones dealing with coaching kids.  You will never convince me that there are not valuable life-long lessons from these experiences.

Baseball season is once again upon us so a few days ago, I drove past my old “field of dreams” Little League ballpark to reminisce. Staring out into the outfield I was reminded of a powerful lesson I learned on how to gain consistent maximum performance from a seven year old playing a most unpopular position.

First, let’s be real. When it comes to seven year olds, getting much focus other than the end of the game cookie at any position is pretty difficult, even more so for those delegated to the outfield.  During the early years, very few balls make it out of the infield, BUT those playing in the infield are involved  because they get to field, throw and catch the ball so naturally it is easier for them stay engaged.

Outfielders however have a different view of the game.  Many of them see the game through clumps of dirt or rocks or even a bug or two.  They quite often dance to their own tune and on occasion, some just head into the dugout during the middle of an inning.  The reason as stated above is simple, not much happening for them.

As a result of this reality, many times kids in the outfield decide this is not fun and soon determine they don’t want to play anymore.  They don’t get excited about the games and they especially don’t like going to practice. Which brings me to the first lesson learned…if a player on your team is not having fun, whose fault is that?  If you said the coach, you are correct!!!

One particular game on a very hot July Saturday afternoon, our machine-pitch team’s right fielder was having one of those days as described above.  Nothing was happening in right field and he spent a lot of his time getting his uniform dirty playing in the dirt.  After a few “Will, get up buddy, here we go” pleas from me, he gave in and got in ready position again. Thankfully our time in the field ended quickly that inning and we came off the field and got ready to bat.

The kids who were about to step up to home plate dashed off the field and quickly put their hitting gloves on and grabbed their high dollar bats.  Will however, was down the list in the lineup and when coupled with a very hot, boring inning of zero activity, he slumped and slowly headed to the dugout.

As Will approached me, I had a defining moment with him that I will never forget.  I saw the disappointment in his eyes and I took it personally. (Not to get of track here, but how about you?  When you see your fellow co-worker or team mate hurting, does it bother you…Do you even notice!!!!)

Okay back to the story. I put my hand on his shoulder and I dropped down to one knee and looked him right in the eye.  “Will” I said, “I have never told you this but on draft night before the season started and we were picking the players we wanted to be on our team, your name came up and I could not wait to pick you to be our right fielder. I could not think of anyone I would want more than you, so when your name was called I said…The Aztecs choose Will, and I am so glad you are on our team…give me five!”

Both Will and my world changed.  His countenance changed immediately!  His eyes lit up and a huge smile covered his face.  He gave me a BIG high five and ran into the dugout.  I have to admit, this brought a tear to my eye…it does to this day!

The following game, as the players and their parents were arriving for pre-game warmup, Will was the first one there.  His dad came up to me and said’ “Coach, I don’t know what you said to Will but he could not wait to get here. “He’s been looking forward to this game all week!”

I’m going to get off track again… BOOM! That’s what everything we do should be about. I can’t tell you how that made me feel.  As a coach as a human, to me, that’s our purpose! Okay, now the conclusion.

I thanked Will’s father for his comments and headed to the dugout.  Will was the first to meet me. “Right field today coach?” “You’re the best right fielder I know buddy”, I said and off he went.

From that day on, Will’s outlook and performance changed. He was more attentive in the field, he liked coming to practice.  Why?  Did he start seeing more activity in right field?  Did he move up in the batting lineup? No.

Here is the lesson.  Just like Will, we will perform at our best when we are recognized and valued for what we do. We just want to!  I believe at the moment I told Will how proud I was that he was on our team, he could have moved a mountain!

I coached youth sports for years and we never had the strongest, fastest most talented athletes yet we won more championships than anyone else during our time.  My study if filled with championship memories.

The reason for this success is clear…kids WANTED to be on our team and they WANTED to play their best for us!  Why?  Because we never let a time go by that we did not tell every player how valuable they were to us.  We would always say that the most important hitter on the team was the one at the plate. We did not let batting order be a distraction.  Every at bat was equally valuable! We believed that effort and attitude would always trump mere talent alone.  I still believe that today!

I think the lesson here is clear.  It is for me.  I to this day, do everything in my power to sincerely acknowledge a colleague, co-worker or client and express my appreciation for their influence and impact on the success of my livelihood.  I do the same for my family and friends too.

So stay alert.  Keep your eyes open and the next time you see someone who feels like a Little League right fielder, hand them their glove, look them in the eye and tell them how proud you are to know them and be on their team! It will impact your both exponentially.

“It’s About Time” Part 1

Let me start by saying I know you are busy. I don’t know anyone who isn’t and it is very clear that things are not going to change. I recently experienced the high school graduation of my youngest son and he joined my oldest son at the same university which is about 450 miles away from home. This event made me and my wife official “empty nesters” and I thought, NOW things will start to slow down…wrong! There is college to prepare for, forms to fill out, move ins, move outs, travel, adjustments, books, bedding, dorms, apartment leases and oh yeah…the boys have things to do too!!

Okay, so maybe that was a little bit of overkill, but I am sure you will agree, you have never been more busy and there never seems to be enough time in the day…so what can we do to make the most of the 24 hours each of us have been given every day? Good question.

There have been many conversations on the topic of time and time management. In fact, it has been the topic of many a song. The band Chicago asked the question “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Jim Croce wanted to put “Time in a Bottle” but perhaps you can relate best with Freddy Fender and his song “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”. If you are like me, you have probably expressed these same sentiments at one point or another.

Two Facts About Time

To start, I want to share two facts I know specifically about time. First, time plays no favorites.
We are each given the same amount of time. No matter who we are or what we do, each of us are given 24 hours a day, no more and no less. It is what we do with time that matters.

Secondly, time rewards the diligent and punishes the slacker. Do you know someone who just seems to have everything organized and in place and are very successful? How is it that these individuals seem to have it all together? After all, they run on the same 24 hours as the rest of us, right? The key is they are diligent, persistent if you will. While it is not an easy task, I have found that in my personal experience, when I am focused on what needs to be done and have a plan in place and stick to it, I can get much more done and even have time to spare.

On the contrary, I have also been guilty of slacking. I remember very well one particular year I decided to forego my annual business planning session for the upcoming year. What I normally did in early November, I put off or actually completely avoided. I figured I would do it later because at the moment, the ski slopes were calling my name. As a result I walked into January of the following year without a clear direction. To make a long story short, because of my slacking attitude, what normally happened in January of years past, began in April and I found myself playing “catch up” the entire year. Needless to say, it was my worst production year ever.

Find vs. Make and Reward vs. Risk

I have the opportunity to sit in the chair of a great philosopher and learn many things. His name is Sonny and he cuts my hair. One day while scissors were blazing, he made the statement “We need to make a way to find more time.” He was hoping for some magic pill or potion that would do this for he believed that if you make more time, you could make more money.
I was intrigued by these two words find and make and it became clear to me that in terms of time, these words have very different meanings.

Make means to create. To me this means I will create a spot in my day to ensure the task gets done. For example, I will make time to play golf. I will make time to spend with my family. On a business note, I will make time to invoice customers and clients. Make means it is easy for me to do because the task is something I look forward to and I see a reward when the task is done.

Find means discover or uncover. I know it is there but I must put forth the effort to get it done. For example; if I am sick, I will find time to go to the doctor. I will find time to fill out my tax return and on a business note, I will find time to pay my bills. Find means the task must get done, BUT it is not something I look forward to yet I also know that there are consequences or risks if I don’t get the task done.

The point is that it is human nature to look forward to the things or tasks we love to do or see a reward in accomplishing. It is equally revealing that we will avoid or even despise doing the tasks we don’t enjoy but understand there are risks or punishments if we do not complete the task.

The first key to making (remember the word) best use of our time is to first look at our attitude towards it and the tasks involved. You will be surprised how a positive attitude puts a “make time” spin on the task while a negative approach puts a “find time” on everything.

Here is an idea. Take a look at the tasks you do on a daily basis. As you think about these, determine the benefit or reward you will see by getting the task done or by completing it early. This mentality will put a charge in your step and I believe will make your day far more productive.

Okay, now you might be saying, “Tim, that is great and I’m with you on this, but how do you do this? Do you have any tips for making it happen?” I’m glad you asked because in my next blog I will describe four modes of time management operation. I will give you the symptoms of each and the remedies. Finally, I will give you a tool that you can take a specific task and “test” it through a grid to determine how to best and most efficiently handle any routine task or emergency.

See you soon in “It’s About Time” Part 2.

The Great Business Experience…The Exchange Act 2

In our opening scene, we introduced the engagement to the Great Business Experience. We discussed how this was an extremely important part of the decision making process. It is a time of evaluation based upon performance. It is also a time for you to proactively seek opportunities to become involved with your customers; to give them the opportunity to freely talk about what matters to them…remember no task to small no question to irrelevant? As the scene ended we demonstrated the great value of a successful engagement in that once established you gain a COMMITMENT! Now things change, because no matter what else is out there or what other opportunities appear, they become dim compared to working with you. This is a great beginning… but it is only the beginning (Scene fades to black)

We are in a great place, things are looking good. We have someone who believes in our business or our product. We have set the stage for a great exchange. The exchange in the Great Business Experience is two fold, that’s right two fold.(Suspense builds) Lets define the exchange. It is the moment in the experience when action occurs that transfers from one party to another. It is the GIVE and TAKE to the process. The first exchange should be quite clear. It is the transfer of a product or service for a given solution. Here you GIVE your customer, excellent service and a product (or service) that meets a need or provides a solution. The customer TAKES the solution and their life is improved because they encountered you. This last statement is underlined for a reason…to be revealed later.

The other fold (remember the two-fold) of the exchange is that the customer has GIVEN you their business and if you TAKE care of it, will last a lifetime. You should really consider what is happening here. You have someone who said “YES” to you! They have chosen you above all others for their great business experience! (applause!) This is a great moment. You have begun a new relationship that can last a lifetime. This is like being back in grade school and it is time to choose teams for dodge ball…remember? Think of this moment as you being selected first by the person you hoped would choose you and staying on that team for the rest of your dodge ball life…get it! (crowds gasps in awe!)

The exchange for you is a lifetime customer and your life is improved because you encountered them! Does this line look familiar? The key to you as a provider is very simple. You have been GIVEN an opportunity to develop an experience that you should never TAKE for granted (give and take). In today’s world of fierce competition, it is mandatory you treasure every customer and client that thinks enough of you to say YES!

By now you should be “fired up” and ready to move forward. I know in my sales experience there is no greater feeling than closing the deal…gaining new business. But more importantly is the fact that you have given your customer a great feeling of satisfaction. They have chosen you and you have made a positive difference in their life. Now to complete this great business experience we must draw it to a successful conclusion. One that leaves your customers wanting more! It is the critical time to reinforce and validate your customer’s decision. Just like the engagement process, now is the time to reassure the commitment. We never want our customers and clients to experience “buyers remorse” (“How do we do that”, the crowd asks?) I’m glad you asked! This great opportunity presents itself before your customers walk out the door!

We are now ready to discuss the final event to the great business experience; the successful EXIT. This moment sets the stage for your customers’ highly anticipated return…Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion of “The Great Business Experience” (Scene fades to black amidst great crowd expectations!)

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The Great Business Experience-The Engagement Act 1

Welcome to our performance entitled “The Great Business Experience. The Engagement, The Exchange and The Exit.” This performance is filled with a star- studded cast featuring the talents of you and your potential and existing business relationships. This great event is brought to you by your company…your business. This exciting 3 Act presentation focuses on 3 key areas that will develop, implement and insure a great business experience for you, your customer and your company. So without further ado…we give you “The Great Business Experience: The Engagement, The Exchange and The Exit” (Fade to black)

Act 1: The Engagement :The Opening Scene

This is your first impression. A great business experience begins like a courtship. A common interest or perceived match or solution is identified that allows your path and a potential relationship’s path to cross. A bonding begins. This “path-crossing” is created from a variety of resources…a need for your product or service you provide, a relationship you developed, a personal introduction from others or from a great reputation, or perhaps a chance of fate. Regardless of how it happened, it happened and you have granted a tremendous opportunity.This brings me to a question. Do you view every potential customer as an opportunity? Are you appreciative of every existing customer? You should. Standing in front of you or talking with you over the phone is the very reason you are provided the chance to do what you do. Customers are not just another arrow in your quiver, they are a priceless commodity and should be treated as such. Now on with the show.

I want to look at the engagement in two distinct views. The first is from the “courtship” view. Think about the engagement as putting your best foot forward first! Remember how it was when you were dating? I do. I remember the first date with my wife. I wanted to make certain I looked as good as I could. I paid attention to every detail. From my hair to my clothes, I wanted her to see me at my very best right away…to make a lasting first impression! My engagement went much further than physical appearance, it also encompassed the way I acted, the way I spoke and the way I wanted to make sure this person, perhaps my future wife, knew I wanted to learn all about her. What she liked, where she was from, what she wanted out of life and so much more. You see the engagement period was a time of decision making for both of us…but it becomes so much more. I’ll explain later. The engagement takes work. It can be easy after a while to assume the deal is done and begin to take things for granted. Only when that decision is challenged do we begin to pay attention to detail again. My challenge for all of us is to stay focused and never lose site of what this valuable process is about and how it provides life long rewards. (Next scene please…Action!!)

The other view of the engagement I want to address focuses on the interaction process. A successful engagement with your potential and existing customers is the ability to provide an atmosphere where they can be themselves. As stated earlier, with the example of dating my future wife, it is a time to find out what potential and exiting business relationships like, where they are from, and what they want. A successful engagement provides and promotes an environment that lets those you serve know with confidence, no task is too difficult, and no question is too silly or irrelevant. This interaction process states proactively that you welcome the opportunity to listen and learn! If I know you want to know then there is NO reason we wont successfully move forward. One of the greatest measures of customer worth is your personal attention to engaging or interacting with them every time they do business with you! (Scene fades to black)

The engagement makes or breaks relationships. Many times if the engagement fails the relationship fails never to be revived again. This is why this process is so very important. As I stated earlier, the engagement is a serious time of evaluation and decision making…but remember I said it was much more…are you ready for the more? Here it is. (pause for dramatic effect…) When the engagement is validated something GREAT happens; you get a commitment! Now everything changes. The commitment says no matter what else is out there, no matter the other opportunities I may encounter; no matter if you make a mistake, I AM COMMITTED! I have seen the value that you and your company can bring to me and I am yours. Doing business with you feels right! No greater compliment could ever be given. (Scene ends to great applause)

The engagement is the beginning. It is the first great impression. It is the excitement in developing the relationship. It is the “feels right” atmosphere and attitude the customer believes when working with you! Now here is a valuable point to remember, the engagement is just the beginning. There is so much more to a great business experience. In Act 2 of our performance you will see how The Exchange-“the giving and the taking” validates and proves unconditionally the decision and commitment made in the engagement…stay tuned! (House lights up)

As Your January Goes…So Goes Your Year

I will never forget the first time I heard these words. It was several years ago and I remember them as if they were just spoken. Personally, I have never heard more powerful and accurate words than these seven. I have witnessed and experienced both the benefit and the consequences of being prepared and unprepared for the all important month that happens at the first of every year.

If you are in business for yourself or if you are part of an organization, imagine if you will a giant Etch-a-Sketch (for those not familiar with this devise, it is a toy developed sometime in the 60’s that allowed you to draw and create incredible images in straight line patterns. I loved making stairs!). Back to the point, imagine a giant Etch-a-Sketch that has the picture or the story of your last year. Some parts of the picture are just as you planned and some parts did not turn out exactly as you had planned, nonetheless, there it is, your last year’s production or performance.

Now imagine taking the Etch-a-Sketch and giving it a good shake and suddenly all that was once there is now gone, nothing left of what was, only the tiny dot of promise ready to be utilized again to draw the story of what will be the picture of your new year. Are you ready? Do you know what you want your picture to look like? Do you have what you need to make it happen?

The more prepared you are to begin your next rendering, the more likely your picture (year) will turn out like you want it to. The key is to be ready when it’s time to begin-Thus the importance of your commitment to that first month January.

I have seen many individuals begin to prepare for their year when the year begins. This is poor planning. I knew an individual once who set out to devise his game plan in January only to find himself implementing it in March. Before he knew it, his year did not start until April and he found himself behind the entire year unable to catch up! The key to a great year is to hit the ground running in January. How do you do this? Good question. Here are a few tips.

1) Plan your next year at least in the final quarter of the previous year. Schedule time to review what has gone well, what needs to be adjusted and how to move forward.

2) Have clear goals and objectives. Know what you want and how you will get there. Have an accountability process to keep you focused.

3) Have something waiting for you when you begin. There is no greater feeling than having activity, appointments or opportunities waiting for you when January rolls around. Prospect for these opportunities throughout your previous year!

Some of you may not measure your performance in January. I understand. But I hope you see the point here in that you cannot perform at your highest level if you find yourself struggling to make up for lost time! Stay ahead of the game…stay ahead of the competition!

While your January may seem like you are “starting over” you can impact your start by the way you prepare. Giving yourself a great “boost” to explode in January will create momentum that can carry you throughout your year…because as January goes, so goes your year.

So to all of you reading this article, January IS here! We have many exciting things already in place and if the rest of the year looks anything like our January, we going to have to find a bigger Etch-A-Sketch.

Best wishes for a very successful 2010. Train Up!

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