A Tap on the Glass

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 108 - The Path to Enlightenment

discby Michael Darling

So, I find myself with some extra time on my hands these days and while cleaning my office the other day - (an odd thing in itself) - I came across something even more arcane or unusual than the thought of me actually cleaning anything;

It was a DISC behavioral template that I worked through back in the early 90’s.

Yes, the 90’s. I told you that I wasn't prone to throwing things away. Deal with it. (deep breath) (…hmm maybe I better read this chart again…….)

The chart showed that I was heavy in the “dominance” and “influence” areas with pretty much zilch in the “conscientiousness” and “steadiness” realms. It was apparently a classic “Inspirational Pattern.” This is what it looked like (above…).

According to the DISC material:

  • My goal is to control my environment by “consciously attempting to modify the thoughts and actions of others.”  Uh –huh….
  • I’m adept at “identifying and manipulating other’s existing motives and directing the resulting behavior toward a predetermined end.”  Yup.
  • I influence others through charm and intimidation and become manipulative and quarrelsome under pressure.  Oh, really?

Well stop the presses and call a meeting! THERE’S a headline!

Tell me something I’m not already keenly aware of!  And you wonder why I write about control issues and control freaks so often?  I’m your resident expert here, that’s why.  (pounding on chest…)

So why bring up this unpleasant bit of history? Well, I’ll tell you.  No no…I’m HAPPY to.  REALLY!

It’s surprising how accurately that profile described the “me” of 15 years ago. And while there were some things I would have liked to change about my behavior at the time, the truth is that I didn’t change a thing.  Nope, not one.  For the most part that report was still accurate 15 MINUTES ago.

Don’t get me wrong; I have changed a lot since then. But what the DISC program revealed had nothing to do with it. I changed when my goals changed - for reasons we’ll get to in a minute - and I realized the behavior that had served me in the past was no longer effective.

That’s what this post is about: the difference between identifying your behavioral characteristics, which DISC and similar programs like Myers-Briggs are probably very good at, and actually doing something about it, i.e. modifying behavior, which is a whoooole different ball game, folks.

So what is the real value of behavioral profiles systems?

Not only was the DISC system dead-on, it also provided tips on how I can be more effective and my staff kind of understood why I behaved like a lunatic from time to time. That said, I think the real value in the exercise was that, for a day, my staff and I all got to be on the same level discovering what each of us was really all about. I remember it being fun and disarming.  Sure there were a few snickers and side-ways glances, but what the heck?

Personally, I think we achieved similar results from lunches and time together when the “walls come down” - getting to know each other in a different setting. That made it easier to face issues and crises together, as a team. We could look each other in the eye and know there’s a real live person with real emotions in there, beneath the bravado and confidence we project as part of our daily lives as executives.  Harder to do these days, but remember this was the 90’s.

So, even though the DISC system told me I could be a “belligerent” jerk (NOOOO…really?)  under certain conditions, was deeply afraid of “being too soft,” and would be more effective by showing some “genuine sensitivity” from time to time, nothing changed because I had a job to do and that was get results, not get all warm and fuzzy with my inner self.

Ok… so what does it really take to affect behavioral change?

In reality, it took a couple of pretty dramatic personal crises to get me to take a cold hard look in the mirror and decide that I wanted different things out of life. And to achieve them, I would need to spend some quality time actually getting to know my family and myself and enjoy life. I needed some balance.  To this day, it’s a struggle for me because it goes against my internal “grain” that is my personality, but I DO keep trying.

Somebody who used to work for Intel’s former CEO Andy Grove - a guy who was famously tightly wound - once told me that Grove became a much nicer and mellower guy after his run-in with prostate cancer.  That’s the sort of thing that motivates change.  I’m hoping I don’t have to learn that way.  I’ve got enough drama as it is.

You see, DISC profiles may be eerily accurate, but they’re still pretty superficial compared to everything you and I have going on under the hood.

That’s because the architecture of the human mind is complicated. It’s actually a lot like an onion.

Here’s what it looks like.

Onion

And just like an onion, you peel a layer, cry, peel another layer, and cry some more.

In other words, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you go a bit deeper and find out you didn’t know a damn thing.

The mind’s tricky like that.

You see, what it all really comes down to, the essence of how you and I behave on a daily basis, is a loop. It actually goes something like this:

Loop

You can follow the loop for years, even decades, thinking everything’s hunky-dory.  “WE” don’t like change, do we?  So we try very hard to keep that loop moving the same way.

Then, one day, something happens - a crisis, an epiphany - and you realize that the results of all your efforts weren’t what you expected.  You’re forced to alter your perceptions.

The proverbial “light bulb” comes on.  You realize that your path isn’t as well defined as you thought….there are forks in the road on your horizon and you have to make some decisions.

So you change your goals and, well, your behavior won’t change overnight and your path won’t always be clear, but it’s a start. 

May the sun be at your back as you travel the journey, and may your path always lead you to happier places.  I hope to see you there.

As for the reference to diapers and politicians, no real comment is necessary, is it?

Thanks for reading.

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 107 - It's Reasonable to be Unreasonable

by Michael Darling

TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR WORK-TAKE PRIDE IN YOURSELF (from the WTS Code of ethics)

Every word spoken to students, every action taken, reflects on YOUR image as much as it does the school. Your name is stamped on every student.

Make sure it looks good.


George Bernard Shaw once said "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Most of us think of the word unreasonable negatively; that type of person is hard to get along with or perhaps irrational. But I don't think that's what Shaw really had in mind. I think he was talking about another kind of unreasonable. Unreasonable people don't settle, aren't easily satisfied and generally choose a more challenging and difficult path.

Unreasonable people don't take the easy path. During wars, tank commanders have been known to take the same path as other tanks, sometimes by tanks "killed" in battle. Rather than serving as a warning, the failed tanks attract others. Why? The doomed tanks took the easy path and the others did the same. The lesson here is that the easy path is often mined.

The next time you're out for a professional stroll, rethink your steps. The easy path may get you to your intended destination but it might kill your enthusiasm and passion in the process. We are often too easily satisfied with our own performance, with others and our organizations. It isn't always because we're doing our best, but because we're "doing enough". Short of getting in trouble, we figure that getting by isn't a bad strategy. And, in the process, we become reasonable in complete contrast to what Shaw saw as unreasonable.

You know what we hate about aiming higher than we need to? It increases our chance for failure or disappointment.

Maybe, instead of trying to minimize our disappointments, we should accept them as the cost of being unreasonable?

It's hard to do. The rush and din of business and contemporary life often feels like we're isolated in a crowd. Getting rid of old ideas feels like we're losing or even destroying something. But Pablo Picasso once said that "Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." The most creative ideas you may come up with isn't an addition to an existing one, but a totally fresh concept.

The hardest part is giving up those ideas that have served us well in the past. Some are timeless principles that will serve us till the end of life, but others are like books we'll never ready. They weigh us down and take up space that could be better occupied. G.K Chesterton believed we need to go backward to go forward, that the old timeless truths were the foundation upon which to build.

I tend to agree, but am often challenged by how to frame new structures on old foundations. Sometimes we confuse the framing with the foundation.

Unreasonable people gravitate towards the remarkable. Shakespeare said we're all actors on the stage of life. True. But we have several stages; at work, at home, in our community. I admit to having an increasing interest in performance, in how well we perform our roles. If you don't perform well, you perish on whatever stage it is. You don't just disappear like vapor, but you disappear from that stage, that company, relationship, project or involvement.

Performance by itself doesn't make a person good, but a good person makes a performance. I want you to think about how remarkable (or not) your important performances are these days. Are you settling for getting by or aiming for getting great?

So, here's to being a little less "reasonable" and much more frequently unreasonable and hopefully, remarkable too.

Just remember words from a pioneer in self help movements, Orison Marden, who said " Deep within humans dwell those slumbering powers; powers that would astonish them; that they never dreamed of possessing; forces that would revolutionize their lives if aroused and put into action."

It has been wisely observed that you only live once, but if you do it right, that's enough.

Aspire higher. Get rid of some stuff. Contemplate on what you're truly accomplishing, not just how busy you are. Look up from the grindstone. Then choose one thing this week you'll make remarkable. Then, go for an encore.

On and UP

MD

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 106 - Leaving a Legacy

by Michael Darling
 
"If you're not getting what you want out of your life, you're not asking for it."

I sat munching on a sandwich as I read through my blogs the other night and this phrase, uttered by an (at the time) 80 year old public speaker named Allen Tate, who is a Realtor in North Carolina, struck a note…as these blogs are prone to do.  Allen Tate’s materials has been on the web for a long time. 

What a great example for most of any us out there battling the dragons every day!

Especially for anyone in the sales profession.  We can all learn from his example and it brought to mind several other wonderfully descriptive phrases that could act as moral compasses in our daily battles:

It's not over until you say so. Forget about that fat lady, she’s got her own problems and a lousy attitude about things anyway.  Who needs that?  You're in charge of your days, not anyone else.  Work 2 days a week or 7 days week. Your choice, but if you’re REALLY working you’re going to show up anybody else in the company with your efforts.  And, you know what? You’ll do it consistently. 

Passion and enthusiasm trump age. Allen discovered that secret many years ago. He says, "It's all about enthusiasm. Do what you love and love what you do." He's got the spark and zest of a 25-year -old...and it's contagious.

Age really is mind over matter. While he may not be in the best physical shape of his life, Allen Tate seems to be as sharp as ever and he refuses to second guess his ability to continue to contribute to his business, his family, and the community. Make no mistake, it's not Allen's monetary contributions that impress me - it's his work ethic, his business ethic, and his impactful message.  There’s a lot of 40 year olds I know that don’t have the energy level of this 80 year old.  Heck, I was getting tired just trying to keep up with his presentation!

Perseverance provokes prosperity. It boils down to some hard work, and an absolutely focused, unwavering pursuit of passion in your vocation. It takes guts and a lot of them. A willingness to take a risk, and an impenetrable belief system in what you do. But, you can do it IF you're willing to work your tail off. Allen was not an overnight success; he became a success as a result of years working both day and night.  The key is to be diligent, work hard but work smart,  and strive to be just a little bit better than your competition.   You don’t have to be the first, you just have to be smarter.  I’m frequently reminded  of that by a phrase : “It’s the 2nd mouse that gets the cheese.”

You don't have to die to leave a legacy. Legacy is the culmination of your work, your impact, your message, and the feeling you create in others. Allen seems very much alive at age 80, and yet it’s clear his legacy is well-established. Every new accomplishment he has, every new meeting he does, every new project he works on simply adds to the memorable legacy Allen had already crafted. His words, his actions, his deeds, his philosophies, his contributions...will forever live within thousands he has inspired over the years.  Wouldn’t you want to have that legacy?

That's a lot for an hour presentation. I think I've begun to understand why Allen's top realtors and closest colleagues call him "Mr. Tate".

What's your legacy?

Allen taught me that it's never too soon to begin to think about how you can impact your world. You don't have to change THE world, but you might want to think about improving YOUR world. You might want to think about how you can inspire the people in your world to do the same.

I've been thinking hard since the other night. I've been thinking about my legacy. Not the one that I'll leave, perhaps, when I eventually die; but about the one that I can leave now after every interaction I share with others.

Thanks for reading…

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 105 - It's All About How You Do It.

by Michael Darling

Whether improving a skill or strategy in your sport of choice, or increasing impact on our own business lives through effective communication, we all seek to learn how to do things "the right way." Ask other champions if they would like to have people do things "the right way," and you will hear, "Yes, of course!" But when you ask: "Whose way is the right way?" You will be told, "Well, my way is the right way, of course."

Indeed, we live in a world culture that often says, "My way or the highway." Each of us has a "right way," which is a unique "Learning Style," as does your heroine, hero, and those around you. Yet, such differences in perceptual "style" often lead to conflict, fear, threat, and intimidation in learning new skills, strategies, and processes of improvement. We’ve all heard complaints, such as, "I told Jane 10 times, and she still doesn’t understand!" or "What do I have to do? Draw Billy a picture?" Well, the truth is that some people don’t get it by listening and others do require a word picture to process information.

And we get frustrated because THEY are different from US in how WE process information. These factors are often called "Learning Styles."

Answering a series of questions will help determine your learning preferences and will give you information that has been proven by worldwide research to make a significant difference in your personal gains when learning, or in work, and personal life. This technique helps you determine how best to deal with business associates and new potential students as well as family and friends.

For example, your spouse or "significant other" is most likely to be opposite you on at least four of 21 critical learning styles elements, identified by award-winning researchers Drs. Rita and Ken Dunn, which determine how you perceive the world and process information. And, if you have two children or more, you will find that they are opposite on many items that make up a personal "Learning Styles Map."

Consider a few other different "learning style strokes" for different folks:

1. Time of Day: Each of us has a period in the day that is best for us. Are you an early-morning person whose best time is before 10 o’clock? Or, are you one who prefers late morning, or early afternoon before three? Perhaps you prefer from between three and six. Then again, maybe you are an evening performer. Your best time of day is the time to reinforce your learning, work, and performance. Your worst time of day is when you weaken and break your determined efforts. So, each day, seek to perform and practice during your best time.

2. Social Preference: Do you like to work alone, in pairs, in small groups, or in teams when doing something new and difficult? Often when learning or improving, we "go it alone." If you are a solo person, then go ahead and carry out your pursuit of excellence in a self-directed way. But, if you like to work in pairs, you will most likely succeed only if you work with someone else. On the other hand, you might prefer to work, study, or practice in small groups or in teams. Your preference will often determine the level of the outcome.

3. Perceptual and Communication Preference: Do you speak rapidly with short breaths, indicating your thoughts in terms of seeing things. If so, you’re probably a visual learner, as opposed to auditory or tactile-kinesthetic. You know an auditory learner by the slower pace of talk, resonance of voice, and reference to how things sound. On the other hand (no pun intended), if you are slow paced in your talk and like to sense the things you think about, then you will talk in terms of feeling or grasping things.

The point here is that you should consider that most learning instructions are carried out simply as verbal statements and are rarely translated into communications preferences. When you learn new and difficult things, write down your vision, goals, and objectives. Maybe also draw a doodle or cartoon of it as well. Constantly repeat stories about your success. Translate into tactile-kinesthetic processes where you "feel" the result, perhaps by carrying a picture of your ideal self on a piece of paper in your wallet or purse.

4. Analytic or Global Preference: You might be "analytic," which means that you prefer at least three of the following: bright light, quiet, formal room design; doing one thing at a time; and no food or drink intake. If you are "analytic," you view the world in details, facts, specific directions, and rules of conduct. You almost always start at the beginning of a task and proceed routinely in a step-by-step fashion. In addition, you work best in bright light at a desk or table while sitting upright. You rarely eat or drink while working and prefer a quiet environment.

a) If you are "analytic" in your approach to learning, make sure that your plans for improvement, goals, and objectives are consistent with this "checklist" approach.

b) On the other hand, "global" means that you prefer at least three of the following: dim light, sound or music, informal room design; many projects at one time; and food or drinks while pursuing tasks. If this sounds more like you (Most would agree I fall in that category), then you want to get the big picture and translate it into what it means for you, why it is important.

You care less about the steps, details, or procedures involved, but care more about the end in view. You often skip from one part to another, sometimes starting in the middle or the end and then go to the beginning of a learning exercise. You prefer stories, humor, and explanations. Make sure you reinforce values, meaning, and importance for you; otherwise, you will get lost in the goals, put yourself down, and quit your pursuit.

Having a "map" of your Learning Style and "self-knowledge" is critical to your plan and the steps for achieving your advantage, which reveals the differences that make a difference in performance, success, and achievement.

So, capture a fresh perspective: "Carpe Diem," or "Seize the Day." Capture all of life through the senses, work the heart, and challenge the mind. Each of us can embrace new challenges at this time for new beginnings.
In doing so we learn best and honor the dignity and integrity of other "different strokes for different folks." In the end, we all win.

Thanks for reading...

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 104 - Practice Kaizen

kaizenby Michael Darling

A strong organization is in the best position to protect your career in today's economic marketplace.

If it’s financially successful, your paycheck is more secure. If it keeps getting better and better in the way it does business, your future usually gets brighter.

But the organization can’t improve unless it’s people do, whether it’s in operational savy, sales ability, computer expertise or placement effectiveness.

Continuous improvement - the Japanese call it “KAIZEN “ - offers some of the best insurance for both your career and the organization. KAIZEN (pronounced ky-zen) is the relentless quest for a better way, for higher quality craftsmanship.

Think of it as the daily pursuit of perfection.

KAIZEN keeps you reaching, stretching to outdo yesterday. The continuous improvements may come bit by bit. But, enough of these small, incremental gains will eventually add up to a significant, valuable competitive advantage. Also, if every employee constantly keeps an eye out for improvements, major innovations are likely to occur. Higher levels sometimes lose perception of what’s going on in the “trenches” because they aren’t in them every day. Good companies realize that and encourage feedback from staff. The spirit of KAIZEN can trigger dramatic breakthroughs, whether it be redesigning a simple form or developing new company protocols.

Without KAIZEN, you and your employer WILL both gradually lose ground.

Eventually, you’ll both be “out of business” because the competition NEVER, EVER stands still. EVER.

Tom Peters put it this way: “Good quality is a stupid idea. The only thing that counts is your quality getting better at a more rapid rate than your principal competitors.

It’s real simple. If we’re not getting more, better, faster than THEY are getting more, better, faster, than we’re getting less better and more worse.

NOBODY can afford to rest on a reputation today. Circumstances change too quickly today. Competition gets tougher and more global all the time.

What we consider “good” today is seen as “average” by tomorrow.

Every single employee should assume personal responsibility for upgrading job performance. Your productivity, response time, quality, cost control, and customer service should all show steady gains. And your skills should be in a state of constant renewal.

Granted, this drive toward an ever-improving performance doesn’t guarantee job security, raises or promotions. It’s just not feasible in today’s business climate.

You still can be a victim of circumstances, even in strong, financially successful organizations.

But if you passionately practiced KAIZEN, you’ll have built your competency level. Your track record will help sell you and let you make your own good luck!

Thanks for reading!

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 103 - New Perspectives Possible Here...

by Michael Darling

The experts say that Love, Work and Play are the most important elements of a psychologically healthy life. 

All are equally important and I'll admit that I struggle with this balance every day. I honestly think I've forgotten how to play. 

I will admit that PLAY is a dead-last concern for most of us, myself included..if it's a concern at all.  Recent studies over the past 15 years proved increasing amounts of our energy are going into our work.  Americans are working harder and longer than ever before.  The typical adult's leisure time has shrunk from 26.6 to 16.6 hours a week.  In addition, the typical work week is 15% longer than it was 10 years ago.

Sadly, while we're working longer and harder, we don't seem to be getting more done or doing it better.  Tension and fatigue do not produce top performance in anyone.  Oddly, what the research is showing is that if we want to be more productive, we need not play more.  

If you don't think those who make time for fun really don't have anything too important to do, read on:

....a little sailboat slipped across a small lake near Princeton N.J.  Skillfully sailing it was a lone passenger and was a familiar sight to other boaters on the lake. Sometimes, the boat would swerve dangerously close to other boats and the skipper could be seen smiling with sheer delight.  And often, when the breeze died, the boat would come to a complete standstill and he would just sit in it and let it drift for hours.   Occasionally, the boat ran aground; her skipper too absorbed in his thoughts to notice.  His greatest delight was to be in his sailboat, playing with wind and water.  Even when he ran aground, he'd cheerfully wave off passing boaters who asked "Herr Professor Einstein, do you need help?"

Albert Einstein took time to have fun and clear his mind - perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century - by sailing often. 

Work AND Play, in balance, lead to top performances by geniuses and regular folk alike.   We knew this as kids...but many of us have forgotten, haven't we?

Thanks for reading...

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 102 - Seeing Beyond the Obvious

by Michael Darling

There is a little poem that reads, "Two men looked through prison bars. One saw mud; the other saw stars."

The moral: You can improve your ability to deal with change by focusing your attention on the future and by seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

We certainly hear a lot about change these days. A critical issue in dealing with change is the subject of control. Most of your stress and unhappiness comes as a result of feeling out of control in a particular area of your life. If you think about the times or places where you felt the very best about yourself, you will realize that you had a high degree of control in those places. One of the reasons why you like to get home after a trip is that, after you walk through your front door, you feel completely in control of your environment. You know where everything is. You don't have to answer to anyone. You can relax completely. You are back in control.

Psychologists call this the difference between an "internal locus of control" and an "external locus of control." Your locus of control is where you feel the control is located for a particular part of your life. People with an external locus of control feel they are controlled by outside forces, their bills, their relationships, their childhood experiences, or their external environment. When a person has an external locus of control, he or she feels a high degree of stress. And with an external locus of control, a person is very tense and uneasy about change of any kind. Change represents a threat that may leave the individual worse off than before.

On the other hand, people with an internal locus of control possess a high level of self-determination. They feel that they are very much in charge of their life. They plan their work and work their plan. They accept a high level of responsibility, and they believe that everything happens for a reason and that they are the primary creative force in their life.

Since the only thing over which you have complete control is the content of your conscious mind, you begin to deal with change by taking full, complete control over the things you think. As Aldous Huxley said, "Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you." Since change is inevitable and continuous, it is how you think about what is happening to you that is most important in determining how change affects you — and whether you use it to your advantage or let it work to your disadvantage.

In his book Celebrations of Life, Rene Dubos wrote that we fear change more today than ever before, and for less reason. The reason we fear change is because we are afraid that we will be worse off as a result. No one fears change that implies improvement. For example, if you learned that you were going to have to change your lifestyle because you had just won the lottery, this is not the kind of change that you would avoid or anticipate with dread. It is change that implies unpleasant surprises that you fear and become anxious about, because it causes you to feel that you have lost a certain amount of control in that part of your life.

Your aim is to become a "change master," to embrace change, to welcome change, to ride the tides of change, and to move toward the improvements you desire.

Boat builders know that the deeper the keel of a sailing vessel, the more stable it will be in storms, squalls, and gusts of wind. The same holds true for you. The deeper your keel — or stabilizing factors in your life — the less likely it is that you will be blown over or off course when unexpected change occurs.

You can deepen your keel and increase your stability by setting big goals for yourself and making clear, written plans for their accomplishment. Goals enable you to control the direction of change. With goals, change becomes planned and deliberate, instead of random and haphazard. Goals assure that the changes that take place in your life are primarily self-determined and self-directed. With clear, specific goals, the changes that take place will tend to be positive and move you toward something that you want to achieve rather than blow you off course.

It’s inevitable that you’ll experience an almost continuous series of large and small disappointments and setbacks in your life. That is the nature of the game. They are unavoidable. Some things work out, and some things don't. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. In spite of your best efforts, unexpected and unpredictable events will derail your best-laid plans. This endless process of change and setbacks begins when you first enter the workforce, and it continues for the rest of your career. Problems and changes in your work are like the rain — they just happen. But if you set clear goals for your work, as well as for your family life and for your personal development, then no matter what happens, you can concentrate your thinking on your goals and take a long-term view of your current circumstances. You can, in effect, rise above the challenges of the moment and keep your eyes on the guiding stars of your life and your most cherished dreams.

With clear goals, you will become a multidimensional person rather than one-dimensional. A setback or disappointment in any one part of your work will be quickly offset by the fact that you are busy in other areas, and you simply won't allow yourself to invest too much emotional energy in one particular thing that doesn't work out to plan.

Now I'd like to share with you a four-step method of dealing with change:

The first step is simply to accept the change as a reality. Acceptance is the opposite of rejection or resistance. Acceptance keeps your mind calm and positive. As William James said, "The starting point in dealing with any difficulty is to be willing to have it so." The minute you accept that a change has occurred and that you can't cry over spilled milk, you become more capable of dealing with the change and turning it to your advantage.

One of the best ways to deal with the worry that is often generated by unexpected change is to sit down and answer, on paper, the question: "What exactly am I worrying about?"

In medicine, it’s said that accurate diagnosis is half the cure. When you sit down and define a worrisome situation clearly on paper, it suddenly becomes less stressful to you, and it will often resolve itself. In any case, when it is clearly defined, you have diagnosed it, and you now can do something about it.

The second step is to ask yourself, "What is the worst possible thing that can happen as a result of this change?" Much worry and stress comes from the refusal to face what might happen as a result of a difficult problem. When you clearly define the worst possible outcome and write it down next to the definition of the problem, chances are you will find that, whatever it is, you can handle it. Often, your worries will begin to evaporate after you have determined the worst that might happen as a result.

Now decide to accept the worst possible outcome should it occur. Mentally resolve that, even if the worst possible consequence ensues from this situation, it will not be the end of the world for you. You will accept it and carry on. The very act of accepting the worst possible outcome helps to eliminate the stress and anxiety associated with the situation.

The third step in dealing with change is adjusting your behaviors and actions to the new situation. Ask yourself, "What are all the things I can do to make sure that the worst does not occur?" Sometimes we call this "damage control." In the business of schools, this is an important part of decision making, and it is called the "mini-max regret solution." What can you do to minimize the maximum damage that can occur from an unexpected change or setback? As you begin thinking of all the things you can do, you are adjusting your mind to the new information and preparing to take steps to deal with the change effectively. Write these things down next to the result of step two.

The final part of this four-step method for dealing with change is to improve on the existing situation. Often, a change signals that your plans are incomplete or that you might be heading in the wrong direction. Serious changes, which create real problems, are often signals that you are on the wrong track. There is an old saying, "Crisis is change trying to take place." You will often find that the change is a healthy and positive step toward achieving your goals.

I’m an avid reader, on a multitude of subjects…and I recently read about W. Clement Stone, the billionaire and founder of Combined Insurance Company. Stone was famous for his attitude of being an "inverse paranoid." He was convinced that everything that happened to him was part of a conspiracy to help him to be more successful. Whenever something unexpected occurred, he immediately said, "That's good!" and then looked into the situation to find out exactly what was good about it.

If you look into any change, you will always find something good and beneficial for you. Look for the valuable lessons contained within every setback. What is the hidden advantage that you can turn to your benefit? Is this change a signal that, if properly responded to, will save you from a much bigger change or problem in the future? Since your mind can hold only one thought at a time, if you force yourself to look for the positive aspect of any change, you'll keep your mind clear, and you'll keep your attitude optimistic and confident.

Victor Frankl said that the last great freedom of man is the freedom to choose his attitude under any given set of circumstances. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.

A mark of a successful person is what has been called "tolerance for ambiguity." This simply means that you have the capacity to deal effectively with a rapidly changing situation. The more successful you become — the greater your income and responsibilities, the higher your status and position — the faster the rate of change that will be around you. At every stage, it will be your ability to function with calmness, clarity, and quiet assurance that will mark you as the kind of person who is going places in life.

In the final analysis, your ability to perform effectively in a world of ongoing change is the true measure of how well developed a person you are. As you continue to do this, you will experience a wonderful feeling of self-control and self-determination that your whole life will be bright and positive — and so will your results.

Thanks for reading...

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 101 - Be Thankful for the Gifts You Already Have

by Michael Darling

It was a cool, rainy pre-Christmas Saturday morning during a California December, back in the mid 90’s.

I recall that particular morning as especially hectic. We had planned a party that evening for my staff  and I didn't know what to expect from that! Most were people I hadn't worked with for more than a few months.  Money was a little tight that year, but I’d decided to get a little something nice for them.  Gifts for them, when we were struggling that year to buy for our own kids seemed excessive, but I felt it was something I wanted to do.  I left for the mall early that morning, to pick up the gifts that I had special ordered. 

Arriving at the mall, (and to my dismay), I discovered mayhem.  The lot was packed with cars on this last Saturday before Xmas.  I had to park out at the end of the long parking lot just to get a spot. 

Rushed, impatient, irritated; those that know me avoid me when I'm like this…and I was in RARE form that morning.  I think that’s why I was alone.  My wife knew better.  My kids knew better.  Everyone knew better.

I made the long walk to the Mall front door, trying to ignore the milling masses of people around the front doors, which I noticed included a van sporting one of those retractable platforms for getting wheelchairs in and out.  A person was being lifted up as I rushed by.  I made only a cursory glance in their direction as I continued to weave around everyone, moving with a purpose, I finally got through the crowd and made it to the front door and swung it wide, now even more impatient.

I didn't have time for this!

As I entered, I came face to face with a group of disabled people sitting in the main lobby, obviously waiting to be picked up by the van out front.  Young and old alike were in the group, obviously brought here by the service. 

I hardly took notice of them. 

It’s not that I didn’t care, I was just focused on the task at hand.

But, directly in my path was a wheel chair bound, middle aged woman.  Her body was twisted and contorted to the point where it was actually uncomfortable for me to look at her, but as I tried to maneuver past her, our eyes met, and her face lit up with the most angelic smile I'd ever seen in my life…

She tried valiantly to raise her hand and wave to me, but it was apparent that it was a monumental and painful effort for her to do so. 

I don't remember if I even returned the favor as I hurried past her to get to the store, but the smile on that woman’s face would not leave my mind.

Inside the store, I stood in line along with all the other "shopping soldiers" until I got my packages. 

But, all the while, the light of that smile kept haunting me.

In my rush to "get things done”, with my worries about money, family, my job, and all the rest of the excuses I had self – fabricated that holiday season… I was struck with the realization that they all paled in comparison to the struggles that woman obviously carried on her shoulders each and every hour of every day. 

How dare I even assume my life is a challenge, when I didn't have to deal with any measure of what she must endure everyday just to survive?   The “weight” of her life must have been tremendous! 

Yet, she met the eyes of a complete stranger that day with a smile that lit up her face, and by that light, a little window to my soul.

I hurried as fast as the masses would let me. 

Coming out of the store, I was driven to return to her.  I wanted to go back to her and look in those eyes again.  I wanted to feel that light on my face and look at the smile.

I wanted to say thank you.  I didn't realize how much I NEEDED to say that to her!

I wanted to thank her for opening up that dark spot in my heart, if but for a moment.

I wanted to let her know that I HAD "seen" her...and that I wasn't as cold as I'd probably seemed to be.

But, when I rushed back to the front door, the van had left, taking her and the other chair bound souls, moving on to wherever they were meant to be...and I was left with a lonely, empty spot on the floor where she had sat. 

Driving home, that smile haunted me. I talked to my wife about it later, and maybe I even let a tear well up just a little bit…

So, coming to work this morning, many days and years later, in the face of new challenges, her smile appeared in memory again.

I realized that life, whatever it may bring today, has blessed me with health, love and the chance to do anything I want.

I was given a gift, those many seasons ago.  It felt good to remember it. 

Oh, and I still look for her every time I walk through that shopping mall door…still ready to say thank you for a wonderful gift.

Merry Christmas to your family from ours.  May you all realize how many gifts you have, on Christmas and throughout the year..

In this season, we speak of angels. 

Many of us don't believe in them, having never had the chance to really see one. 

I have…

I do…

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 100 - Going Back to the Beginning

by Michael Darling

I got the surprise of my life a few years back, when the man that taught me sales gave me a call. We often talk about "making a difference" in peoples lives. Well, this is the guy that did it for me. I was reminded of that call recently when one of our former reps, that still looks for my “A Tap on the Glass” at the CVTA website (www.cvta.org) asked why I never write about sales philosophy, since that’s one of my focused backgrounds.

The answer is that sales philosophy and training takes in many, many, many different styles… and mine is just one of them. The idea that one is better than another is just silly. In sales, what works for one may not work for another. A competent salesperson in your organization would be one that is constantly asking questions, constantly trying new techniques and who has an understanding that the need to be flexible and open to change as the market demands it is critical. Teaching sales philosophy means trying to put a very big subject in a small box and while I’m sure my philosophy has value to some, there are many others out there that would take issue with it and I have no desire or inclination to get in an argument with anyone. THAT’S why I don’t talk about salesmanship in these writings.

However… just this once:

Let me tell you a little about the man that called me that day.

I met Ron Frieze in 1970 when I worked at my first radio station in Idaho. Ron was a true Master Salesman. One of the best there has ever been in my humble opinion....and if you don't believe me... just ask him, he'll be glad to tell you!

Ron took me under his wing and taught me the basics of commercial advertising sales when I was a know-it-all teenager and the concepts that he instilled are still the bedrock of all that I've developed in sales and consulting over the past 40 years. If it hadn't been for Ron igniting that spark in me, I'd probably be working at a Plywood Mill in my home town still. Sadly, Ron's health deteriorated and at the time of his call, his time was short. His loss was felt by uncountable salespeople he's trained through the years. Most certainly by me.

The concept of developing a consecutive and consistent sales process, individualized discipline, passion for what you do and focus for what you're trying to achieve in life whether personal or professional, is what Ron taught me.

He showed how to build relationships with your clients so that your customer thought that you were the best thing since sliced bread no matter what you sold them. Servicing your clients was critical to success in Ron’s mind. He believe in that above all else. Work for your clients and make sure they know you’re working for them and they’ll work for you.

His favorite line was "If you take the gold from their teeth, that's stealing...but if you take the gold from their teeth and they THANK YOU for doing it...THAT'S SALES!"

I cannot count how many times in my career I've been reminded of that phrase and the philosophy behind it.

After Ron and I caught up with each other that day, he naturally slipped into his "Jedi Master" persona as expected and started asking questions, testing me about sales philosophy and how the winds have changed over the years. But within all that we talked about, Ron also reinforced in me some of the concepts that were as true 40+ years ago as they are now:

There's no such thing as a natural born salesman, (although I think Mr. Frieze came close to it). He was probably selling toys to the other kids for a profit before he was walking...but it does take some TALENT. And the selection of talent is as difficult as it is to cultivate. Talent isn't something that can be taught, but there are components that you use in relationship to that talent that make it all come together.

There is a VERY old formula in sales training that goes like this;

TALENT x (Relationship + Readiness + Response) = P3

(where P3 stands for Peak Personal Performance)

Talent must be sustained over a long period of time to be effective. To do that you have to have a strong base culture to draw from.

Great talent needs a good RELATIONSHIP with management in order to create good sales performance. Feedback, reinforcement and adjustment is a constant need in sales delivery. Salespeople need a different perspective to what they do every day because sometimes you're too close to the sale to see changes that are happening! Training, skill development & growth must be a singular focus for salespeople with base talent so that they are always in READINESS for opportunities. You have to have a voracious appetite to learn new things and increase your knowledge of your product. You need to be the EXPERT...more importantly, you have to WANT to be. The ability to take your training and skills applied with natural talent allows you to provide the right RESPONSE to your prospects and make the sale.

You need to remember that it's not the product and/or your presentation that sells, it's the experience a customer goes through that brings to life your STORY around the customer's motivations and needs. People love to buy, but they hate to be sold. The ability to tell a story helps establish a sense of trust in your customer. If you don't have a great story to tell, you'd better come up with one! Too often, customers come in to a business and are bombarded with facts and sales pitch before they can even sit down and explain what they're there for in the first place! Ron Frieze always likened the process to the Golden Rule:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..

Think about how YOU would want to be treated if you walked into your office for the first time. What would YOU expect? How would YOU want to be regarded? If you place yourself in the customer's seat from time to time and pay attention to how you're being treated, it puts a whole new perspective on how you SHOULD be treating your customers. Remember, it's the EXPERIENCE a customer has that makes the difference.

Assuming you have the talent, then all sales people need a Consistent Sales Process: A process that becomes your "bedrock"...your "foundation" to build on. It should rarely vary from customer to customer so that you CAN be consistent in your efforts and so you know what you're supposed to be doing all the time. Scripts, formula's, sales materials...they're all part of that process to keep you on track. Nothing is worse than floundering in front of a client because they threw you a curve you weren't expecting. From there, it takes an Individualized Discipline to maintain it. You must have an absolute obsession for focusing on your customer, one at a time, with a PASSION for wanting to build that relationship.

If you do that, whether they buy or not, they'll be customers for life! If they don't buy themselves, they'll tell friends and referral business is ALWAYS gold.

It's all about the story and the experience, isn't it? It's all about how a salesperson and all the people in the school present themselves, because in this business EVERYBODY serves. EVERYBODY sells. EVERYBODY. Whether you're in Admissions, Student Services or Instruction or Management, you have to ask questions, LISTEN to answers and quantify results if you're doing your job properly.

Ron Frieze, like all veteran salespeople I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, discovered that sales talent is not just one thing...but a utilization of a host of things and knowing which one to use. You have 3-5 minutes to establish a "relationship" with our customers. Salespeople need to have the TALENT to make an impact in 3-5 golden minutes that's going to make you different from everyone else. In its most basic philosophy, Sales is the talent of helping people say YES, who would not do so otherwise.

There is an art and a science to doing sales. It’s not something that you can just sit down at a desk and do. It’s not something that “comes naturally” to anyone, even Ron Frieze. It takes focus and a willingness to learn how to do it right, as well as a desire to keep learning and practicing your art. It takes hard work, but the rewards are well worth it. Sure, a “talent” for this critical trade, which moves small businesses as well as global economies, is good to have, but without Consistency, Discipline and Passion in what you do and what you believe...no amount of talent you may possess will help you achieve your goals.

Ok..so much for sales….except for one wish: I wish you all have the chance to have a "Ron Frieze" in your lives.

Thanks for reading…

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A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 99 - Let's Focus Now

by Michael Darling

Welcome back…

We were taking some key points from a book by Robert K. Cooper..and discussing “direction, not motion.”

Well, that takes an incredible amount of FOCUS, but not time .

Look at this way this way:

If you’re in an open well-illuminated room, you see details and find your way around the room easily. And, if there’s a steel door at the other end of the room, you see how to get there, the type of door handle and even how to open it.

But consider this… what if that big steel door is locked?

Well then, it doesn’t really matter how long time-wise the light is on in the room, you’re not getting through the door without a key. But, what if you could focus all the light in the room into a super-small beam of light — a laser? You could take that focused light and cut your way right through the door.

A little bit of sci-fi there, but I hope you get the point. It’s the power of FOCUS.

So, it’s confession time: I tend to spend a lot of time in front of the computer and in my office. Just being there makes my brain think I’m working, even if that’s not really the case. I spend a lot of time in the office “working,” often. But I’m truly not as focused as I could be. Sometimes I check email too often … or do important but not urgent tasks … instead of bearing down and focusing on the project that’s due next. That’s my ADD kicking in and I’ve talked before in these columns about the 20 minute program that works effectively for me, when I let it.

Everybody has their own way of doing it. We all know how to focus. Work in 30-minute intervals … no email … turn off social media … let the dishes sit … etc. The real trick, is simply deciding to actually focus.

Looking through Cooper’s book, here’s the kicker…

According to Dr. Cooper, to be effective, you must learn how to focus “in advance and [emphasis mine] as it unexpectedly appears.” What I think that means is that before you ever walk into your office or open your laptop, decide which project you will focus on … and for how long.

And, when unexpected things pop up, you must learn how to decide quickly whether or not to focus on the new situation or continue your work. That choice relates to the first point the book brought up, the direction you want to go.

For instance, if I am working on my annual reports and a school calls and needs something, do I stop my work and jump? For me, the answer may be a no or it may be a yes depending on the nature of the request , but mostly it would be a no. In fact, if I’m in my 20 minute cycle, my door is usually closed and staff knows me well enough to leave me alone. That way, the temptation is avoided to jump to a new project.

This is only possible because I decided in advance what was a priority and what deserved my focus at the moment. I am the only one who gets to decide who gets my focus. Period. Sound idealistic? Sound impossible? That’s for you to decide.

So What?! (ahh..there it is again…)

Here’s something practical you can do to increase focus. It’s something I’ve done for years. Try it this week to see if it helps you, too …

At the end of your work time, sit down and take five minutes to write out a list of five to six things you need to get done the next day. Not next week or next month. The next DAY.

Then, prioritize them. And, I mean actually write down the order in which they need to be done to get you moving in the direction you want to go. By doing this the night before, you give your subconscious brain a chance to start working on the list while you sleep.

And, it will be much easier to focus because you’ve already decided what needs to be done and in what order. Now, it’s just a matter of checking off the list.

Get Out of Your Own Way by Dr. Robert Cooper. His book outlines issues on Capacity, Energy and Impact…all with great lessons on how to live YOUR life better…

I recommend it heartily..

 

Thanks for reading…