Good Habits

Six Lessons from Alan Mulally, CEO of the Year

Posted on July 19, 2011. Filed under: Good Habits, Management Concepts |

Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company is Chief Executive’s CEO of the Year. Congratulations Mr. Mulally!  Having navigated a pretty steathy turnaround of the company during the recession – without any TARP bailouts, mind you – he is now poised to grow the company in the better times we hope to see in the future. As I was reading Chief Executive’s article on Mr. Mulally, I came across six lessons that I think everyone in business can learn from him, regardless of your role in your company. Following are the six lessons, with my take on them.

Display courage in the face of adversity –  Each person has challenges in their jobs. Meeting those challenges with courage exemplifies not only the type of person you are, but your outlook and perspective, which become important factors in not only overcoming the challenges, but in overall career success. No one gets too excited about pessimism, but most people will choose to work with (or advance) someone who faces adversity directly and optimistically.

Focus is everything – Understand your priorities and get rid of anything that’s diluting those priorities. Focus your ideas, time, talent, and energy to those things that significantly matter in your business. You’ll see results faster.

Simplify – Messages can become too complex. Information overload does not make decisions easier; stating the bottom-line value does. Work to  make your message, your vision, your mission simple. The more you simplify, the bigger impact you’ll have.

Use the Outsider Advantage – When you’re deep into a project or business, you can lose sight of the forest for the trees. Ask an outsider to come in and provide a different perspective. That perspective might change what you’re doing, or it might validate your direction; regardless, it will definitely add value and dimension to your view and help you see things you may not have seen before.

Reward transparency and collaboration – Why are people so often afraid to say what’s really going on with the business or with their project? Being transparent demonstrates integrity; asking for help (or giving it) through collaboration spurs new ideas and a positive environment for teamwork. Let’s stop being scared to admit less-than-stellar situations and start seeking solutions.

Stay inventive during tough times – While most companies hunker down in the tough times, those savvy enough to take that opportunity to reinvent their products or businesses not only typically find better ways to do things, but also stay top of mind with their clients. Studies have shown over and over again that those companies that stay in front of clients during the tough times are more successful – more quickly – when the economy improves.

Though written for CEOs, you can apply these ideas to any position in any company. But don’t stop there, think about how these six lessons can be applied to your life – I think they work perfectly!

Here’s to better business and richer lives. Thanks Mr. Mulally!





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Sportsmanship – An Amazing Video

Posted on April 7, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Good Habits |

I received this link from a friend of mine and had to pass it on. In a world too often filled with competition, back-stabbing, and bickering, we sometimes get a glimpse of true heart and character…and in situations that catch us by surprise. I hope this story inspires you as much as it did me. Take a peek.

Game Winning Homerun Turns Tragic – Inspiring Display of Sportsmanship

Have a superb day and let your best heart and character shine!



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Create Memories Through Experience

Posted on March 30, 2011. Filed under: Customer Experience, Good Habits, Practical Branding | Tags: |

Think back to one of your most vivid memories – perhaps it’s a perfect powder ski day…perhaps a special birthday…perhaps something else. If I asked you to describe the memory, I bet you could pull out the most amazing details to describe it.

Here’s one from me. It was about at least seven years ago…and it was a ski day. It was snowing hard, really hard. The sky wasn’t blue or gray – it was white. I love skiing on really sunny days and extremely snowy days – terrible conditions really challenge me and I get psyched! The snow was pelting my face, the powder was about 10” deep – right at the top of my ski boot – and it was difficult to see very far. It was silent…my skis made no noise at all as they cut through the white stuff. And I was focused. It takes some decent concentration to ski in that much powder, but I remember thinking, “Oh well, if I fall, at least it won’t hurt!” I even have a picture ingrained in my mind of the view (or lack thereof) coming down the mountain, a racecourse on my right, unable to see much farther than 20 feet ahead, and on this is overlaid the thrilling feeling of the challenge.

Do you have a memory like that – a memory about which you can pull up clear details, no matter how long ago it occurred? Most likely, that memory is associated with an experience.  That’s because experiences trigger brain memory and emotions.  And, important in business, experiences, memory, and emotions influence opinions, and opinions often define brands in our world today.

Think about those brands that really stand out for you. Is it because of the product delivered or is it because of the experience that surrounds that product…the way it makes you feel? Nordstrom, Starbucks, Ritz Carlton, Disney are all nationally recognized as providers of stellar customer experiences. But that level of experience can happen in an everyday world as well. For me, they are provided by my dentist, by one of the checkers at my local grocery store, and by my Apple store.  Those everyday brands are defined more for me by the experience I receive than by the service or product I buy. I’m not discounting function – it has its place – but the experience is what I remember.

When you think about it, the union of what your customers see, what they hear, what they touch, and how they interact with you defines their customer experience.  And that experience triggers memory and emotion, which then serve to define your brand in your customers’ minds.  In this way, emotion and experience play important roles in defining your brand in the marketplace today. Are you focusing on what your customers see, hear, and touch, and how they interact with you? Think about your memories and pay attention to the type of details you vividly recall.

You want to be remembered? Try making memories through experience.


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Stop We-ing So Much!

Posted on March 22, 2011. Filed under: Differentiated Messaging, Good Habits |

No, this is not a blog about drinking too much soda! It’s about a different kind of we-ing. This blog is about the habit “we” all have of using the word “we” incessantly in marketing materials.

Take a look at your sales proposals, your marketing materials, your presentations.  How many sentences start with the words “We,” “Our,” or the name of your company?  I’d be willing to bet more than 50% of them, perhaps maybe even nearly 90%. And that’s a symptom…a symptom of being egocentric in your customer messaging.

The default of most companies is to talk about “our history, our product offering, our people, our technology, our solutions, our [fill in the blank].” We do this, we do that, we have something unique. Here’s the problem with that…your customers don’t really care what you have, they care about what you can do for them, how you can fix their problems, how you can solve their challenges.

Try rephrasing your language to focus on your customers. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You can’t simply replace the word “we” with “you.” Rather, you really have to change your mindset. You have to get into your customers’ shoes and understand what they need and want. Your have to realize that your solutions are a means to an end for them. Once you get your brain around these things, you’re off to a good start, but you can’t stop there. Use words your customers use, develop a rapport with them, write to them as if you’re talking to them.

I’ll write more about this in my next blog…until then, take a look at your customer-facing materials. Are you we-ing too much?



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Spring Cleaning Your Business – 10 Things to Do

Posted on March 18, 2011. Filed under: Good Habits, Management Concepts | Tags: , |

I’m getting Spring Fever. The temperature in Denver was 70 degrees Wednesday and that did it – I’m ready for spring!  In fact, I might even do some spring cleaning this weekend…you know, take a good look at the closets, the cabinets, determine what I need and what I don’t, perhaps even file our 2010 bills (no, I haven’t gotten to that yet).

All this thought of spring cleaning reminds me that I should take a good look not just at my house, but also at my office and my business.  Is it time for your business spring cleaning too?  There’s no time like the present…here are some things to review:

  1. Look at your business plan. Perhaps you haven’t dug it out for a few months, maybe even several years. Are you hitting your targets? If not, why?  If so, what are your next milestones? Create next steps.
  2. Look at your sales projections. If you haven’t made them for 2011, get busy. If you have, how are you doing against them?  Do you need to step up the pace, keep going, set the projections higher?
  3. Look at your offering, whether product or service. Is it a relevant offering in today’s market? How does your competition stack up against you and vice versa? Do you need to add or lose any products or services?
  4. Find your offering’s sweet spot. Build a differentiated message around that sweet spot to be used in your sales and marketing materials.
  5. Systematize at least one WOW factor in your customer experience. Make it happen every time it should.
  6. Talk to your customers. Ask them how you’re doing via survey, focus groups, or just asking them when you see them.
  7. Thank each of your favorite customers with a phone call, hand-written note, or personal token of appreciation.  No form letters or cards, please.
  8. Thank your employees and your colleagues. Without these people, you probably wouldn’t be where you are today.
  9. Take a class or continuing education course in something you need to learn about your business. We all have room to learn!
  10. Get your company involved in the community. Enough said.

These ten things will take some time, just like spring cleaning your house, but they will pay back both professionally and personally.  Shake that winter dust off and welcome spring!



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How Do You “Spring Forward?”

Posted on March 14, 2011. Filed under: Good Habits |

Did you jump out of bed yesterday morning?  How about today?  That “spring forward” thing can really bite you right where it really hurts, can’t it?

But as I was pondering getting out of bed this morning while it was still pitch black outside, it struck me that “springing forward” is what we should be doing all the time in our business, every day, in every initiative, with every prospect or customer.  When I think of “springing forward” in my role, here’s what it looks like:

  • Looking forward to Monday and truly being excited about going to work
    • If you aren’t excited about what you do, do something else or find a different place to apply your talent and expertise.  We all spend way too much time working to not enjoy what we do.
  • Viewing things that come up as opportunities instead of problems
    • My daily mantra is, “I will embrace the day and everything it offers.”  Some days I have to say it many, many times, but it really helps me approach everything as an opportunity.
  • Always searching for how I can improve what I deliver
    • At the end of each project, I think about how I can improve the next one…and then I apply that. There’s nothing like experience to highlight where you’ve got it – and where you have opportunity (see above not on opportunities vs. problems!)
  • Delivering WOW MomentsTM and Small SignificantsTM for my prospects, clients, and colleagues
    • Homemade cookies are kind of my signature “thing.” I love to bake and cookies bring smiles. And while they are my “thing,” I also look for clues that help me identify times when a Small Significant would make a big impact…perhaps a word of encouragement, a hug, a cup of their favorite coffee…a small action on my part that will make a big impact.
  • Learning, learning, learning
    • Reading, attending a great webinar or conference, talking to people that know much more than me…I learn every chance I have.
  • Challenging myself and trying new things
    • I have a friend who, every year, did something of which she was terrified just to prove to herself she could do it. Now that’s springing forward!)
  • Helping others forward their cause, be it their business, their career, their passion
    • I’m passionate about finding a cure for multiple sclerosis because my mom has it. Over the past 8 years, I’ve raised over $80,000 for the cause.  I didn’t do it alone – many people were there with me, sponsoring me, encouraging me, and helping me. I do the same for others, whether their passion is in their professional arenas or personal lives.
  • And because it’s difficult to be healthy at work if I’m not healthy and home, taking care of my family, my friends, and myself
    • I wish I could say I work out every day, but that would be a tale. But I do try to take care of myself physically, mentally, and spiritually, so that I can be at the top of my game in all the things I do.

So even though I don’t like to get when it’s still dark outside, I do look forward to getting to my day, to springing forward to see what lies ahead!

How do you “spring forward” every day?  Share your ideas!


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The Trouble with “Just”

Posted on March 10, 2011. Filed under: Good Habits, Management Concepts |

Have you ever thought about the word “just?” We certainly use it a lot. “It’ll be just a second.” Have you got just a minute?” “It’s just $9.99!”

Yes, we use it a lot, but in working with prospects and customers, “just’ is a troublesome word.

Take how you view yourself.  Are you “just” a son or daughter? “Just” a friend? “Just” a colleague?  Absolutely not! No one introduces you as “just” someone.  You’re a son or daughter, a friend, a colleague. But how often do you find yourself thinking or saying, “I’m just a salesperson” or “I’m just a marketing manager” or “I’m just a worker bee,” whatever your role is. The problem with “just” is that it discounts you and your role and that is damaging to your wellbeing. It undermines your confidence and lessens you in your own mind. And when you believe you’re a loser, you give off loser vibes…it comes across in your actions and your voice, and others start to believe it too, especially if they don’t know you.

Let’s move on to your words and actions. Would you ever say, “I’m just burning down the house. No big deal…just burning it down. So call me when you can.” I’m thinking not. But many people are quite happy to say, “I’m just checking on that decision to move forward with the contract.” Or “I’m just calling to set an appointment.” Here again, the word “just” discounts everything you say after it. If you’re just calling to set an appointment, it must not be that important, right? If you’re “just” checking in to see if a decision has been made on that $1 million life insurance policy, you’re probably in no hurry to have a decision. At least that’s what it sounds like on the receiving end.

Try taking the adverb “just” out of your vocabulary. Then see what happens. It won’t be easy at first…we’ve all discounted our own selves and our actions far too long to make the switch easily. But listen to how bold it sounds when you take that one word out.

“I’m a salesperson.” “I’m a marketing manager.” “I’m a trash collector.” It doesn’t matter the role, hear how much more confident that sounds?  I once had a client who had hired me to create a corporate mission and vision for his company. I asked him, out of left field, what his personal vision was for his company. His reply, “I want this company to be a blessing to everyone with whom we work.”  Wow – that’s pretty profound and it made quite an impact on me! But how much different would it have sounded if he had said, “I just want this company to be a blessing for everyone with whom we work.” Hear the difference? The first exudes confidence and conviction; the second is kind of like a wallflower…nice, but ho hum. A huge difference by removing the dreaded “just” word.

The same goes for your prospect and customer interactions. “I’m calling to set an appointment.” Or “I’m calling to see if you’ve made a decision on that life insurance policy we discussed last week.” Now you’ve warranted some attention! A direct statement indicates you’re not messing around, you’ve taken the bull by the horns and you’re leading the process, whatever process that it.  And the funny thing is, people respond.

Get “just” out of your vocabulary and see the reaction you get!



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It’s All In Your Mind

Posted on February 25, 2011. Filed under: Good Habits, Management Concepts |

“Come on now, it’s all in your mind!” It’s a pretty common saying and it’s often said to bring us back to reality. But how powerful is your mind? 

The right mindset is critical for success in brand and customer experience. And that becomes even more important when sales are difficult, when customers are difficult, and when you’re so desperate to hang onto clients you’ll do almost anything to keep them.

Boy, it’s easy to see yourself as a victim in the atmosphere we’ve all lived through over the past two years. But that can be dangerous…it can become a downward spiral that reaches bottom only when you do. And the funny thing is, no one can get you out of it but you…because it’s all in your mind. What do you do?

Adopt a affirmation.

Tomorrow, instead of being a victim, take charge. Write or find a daily affirmation that builds you up and makes you responsible for how you view the day (and by the way, that view should be positive). Say it every morning and then throughout the day when you need to (because we all need to every now and then). Once you have that down, expand that affirmation to bolster your confidence, spur your action, and strengthen your commitment – in essence, whatever it takes to make the affirmation fit you perfectly. Keep saying it. Keep saying it. Keep saying it.

In 30 days, you’ll have created a new habit, a habit that will absolutely positively impact your success. Keep saying it and watch what happens! It’s amazing what your mind can do.


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