Monday Mornings with Madison

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Life Skills

Look for Problems in 2018 – Pt 2

We look up to people who face challenges. We admire those who go through darkness and still come out smiling. We respect those who are face adversity but are still capable of compassion. We revere those who rise above their problems and even thrive. Those problems are what made them stronger and wiser. Problems are not only what inspire us, but also what makes us inspiring. To identify a problem and tackle it, with a head held high, speaks to grit and growth. A life without problems is empty. There would be no growth.
It is normal to wish for a problem-free existence. No one wants to deal with challenges, especially those that are depleting and destructive at work. We think life would be better without trials and problems. But that is just not true. While it is both easy and natural to hate problems and troubles, such challenges are just misunderstood. Problems and troubles force us to be creative, determined and courageous. Problems force us to be strong and influence who we become. Struggles are stepping stones to innovations and lead to the creation of better things and better people. In fact, that is what life is… a series of trials that must be faced and problems that must be solved. If we look at problems this way, they cease being burdens that we don’t want to deal with and become exciting opportunities. By embracing problems as gifts, business becomes a lot less taxing and a lot more exciting. And we if find the best way to tackle problems, then we become really effective and efficient. Isn’t that really the ultimate goal for 2018? Here are the steps to becoming a skilled problem-solver for the year ahead. Continue reading

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Look for Problems in 2018 – Pt 1

From the earliest age, we are taught to avoid trouble. Our parents teach us to sidestep difficulties and dodge danger. As we grow up, we learn in school to circumvent trials and elude strife. The savviest entrepreneurs are experts at evading challenges and finding the easiest and fastest ways to get things done. Let’s face it, we all try to avoid problems like the plague. And when faced with a problem, most people will wring their hands and lament in frustration. Problems are just hindrances that obstruct our path and keep us from getting where we’re going. Or are they?
Here’s the thing about problems. Because problems irritate, they eventually push us toward efforts to solve the problem. Thanks to our creative, sentient brains, humans are prone to search for solutions. The goal of solving an existing problem is the same for all types of challenges even if the solutions come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and levels of complexity. When faced with a problem, people have used problem-solving strategies to create something new or innovate an existing idea in order to tackle these challenges. In this way, problems have led to inventions that have changed the world. Thus, problems are the pesky matches that spark creativity and spur innovation. In which case, shouldn’t every company be looking for problems within the business? And shouldn’t every aspiring entrepreneur be searching for problems that are just begging for a solution? That’s right, to change the world, we all need to be looking for problems. Continue reading

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Helping Underperforming but Unwitting Employees Improve Skills

A study of high-tech firms found that 32-42% of their software engineers rated their skills as being in the top 5% of their companies. This is mathematically impossible. A study at the University of Nebraska found that 68% of the faculty rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability, and over 90% rated themselves as above average, which is another mathematical impossibility. A study of medical technicians found that they consistently overestimate their knowledge of real-world lab procedures. This problem is not restricted to just employees. Studies also found this phenomenon in college students. Students in the bottom quartile of a number of tests on grammar, logic and humor grossly overestimated their ability. Those who tested in the bottom 10% for grammar actually thought they were in the top 33%. That’s a huge gap between perception and reality. And given that a study of over 30,000 employees found that fewer than half said they didn’t know if they were doing a good job while most managers believed their own performance was above par, then this phenomenon seems to also apply to those in management and leadership whose job it is to assess and communicate employee performance.
According to countless studies, many people have an inflated sense of their own skills and abilities. A large percentage of people are less skilled than they need to be in their work while their own perception of their skills is significantly higher than their actual skills. It is a common phenomenon. And, for employers, it is also a significant problem. Not only do most companies have many employees whose skills are subpar and thus aren’t doing their jobs well, but these marginally-skilled employees have no idea that they aren’t performing well. In fact, they usually think that their work quality is above average. This problem is not only widespread, but it is one that seriously hurts productivity and service delivery. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. But what is an employer to do when an employee’s opinion of his skills and performance don’t align with what is needed and expected for the job? Is there a way to help underperforming but unwitting employees improve their skills? Continue reading

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Overcoming Most People’s Biggest Fear: Speaking in Public, Part 2

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Fear is the great conqueror. Fear is a paralyzing and malevolent force that lies, cheats and steals. Fear of speaking in public – which is one of the most common but also one of the most undermining fears to have — whispers lies in the mind of a person, robbing him (or her) of the ability to share ideas, influence decisions, connect with others and lead groups. By keeping a person silent, fear of public speaking steals away achievements, promotions, and raises. Fear of speaking in public cheats a person from reaching his fullest potential and making his greatest contributions to the world. It not only robs him of success, it also robs others of his voice and wisdom. Fear of speaking in public is a prison of a person’s own making.

It’s also been said that the truth can set one free. The truth is that people who fear speaking in public are not alone. College surveys indicate that 80-90% of all students suffer from stage fright at the beginning of any course that involves public speaking. Just knowing they aren’t alone in feeling afraid to speak to groups helps. It is also true that a certain amount of stage fright can be useful. It pumps adrenaline into the body. A manageable amount of that adrenaline and stimulation helps the mind think faster, speak more fluently and communicate with greater intensity that normal. Here’s another truth. Most professional speakers – even the very best ones — never completely lose all of their stage fright. Most professional speakers usually have a small amount of stage fright before they start and for the first minute or two, and then they get past it and use that adrenaline to deliver a great presentation. So it’s good to be a little afraid. But here’s the most important truth of all about public speaking. The main reason most people fear public speaking is simply because they are unaccustomed to speaking in public. It’s normal to feel unsure and uneasy when learning anything new. Riding a bike. Being interviewed for a job. Driving a car. Public speaking is no different and no more difficult. It just takes practice. Knowing these truths should make it a bit easier to conquer the fear of public speaking. But the very best way overcome this fear is to properly prepare. Continue reading

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Getting Back in High Gear after a Vacation

Everyone needs a vacation every so often. According to countless studies, people need time to disconnect from work and allow time for “play.” For some, play might mean just relaxing at home, reading a book and doing some gardening. For others, play may constitute high-adrenaline sports such as snowboarding, skydiving or bungee jumping. For the vast majority, play is all about changing scenery and exploring a new place and all that entails. Culture; architecture; cuisine; language; history; the arts. Whether it’s an adventurous vacation or a calm staycation, the one thing all vacations have in common – if done right — is a complete disconnect from daily grind of work. It’s a mental break… as in breaking away from the day-to-day routine. Even people who love what they do for a living and thoroughly enjoy their jobs need an occasional vacation.
But, from a global perspective, Americans are among the worst at taking vacation time. They are notorious for not taking all (or sometimes even any) of their vacation time each year and for often working during vacations. Americans vacation less than workers from most other industrialized nations of the world. Consequently, by the time Americans do take a vacation, it is often desperately needed and long overdue. The tough part is that once a person finally gets relaxed enough to be really enjoying their time off, it’s time to return to work. At that point, it is hard to shift back into high gear after letting go of it all. Some find it hard to bring their A Game after a week or two break. But there are ways to shift back into high gear quickly and easily after returning from holiday. Here are some tips to make the transition smoother. Continue reading

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Overcoming the “Bad Day” Blues

Everyone has had a “bad day” at one point or another. Certainly everyone in business – and especially in sales – has had bad days… periods when nothing seems to go right. And every business owner has most likely endured his or her share of bad times. An important piece of equipment breaks. A big account switches to a competitor. The computer network goes down during a peak time. A deal falls apart. It happens. In fact, bad days can even stretch out into weeks or months or longer. 2009 was a downright bad year for builders, investors, bankers, lenders and financiers. Many could not take the stress and left the real estate and financial sectors in search of greener pastures. Those “bad day” blues can be devastating… even killing careers. But they needn’t be so damaging.
Those who have overcome the “bad day” blues have learned a few things. They don’t let a bad day stop them from reaching their goals. They know that there are bad days… and understand that those days can be tough… and even leave scars. But they know not to be ashamed of the battle scars obtained in the scrappy world of business. They understand that those scars means they were stronger than whatever tried to take them down. So how does a person develop the resilience and fortitude to deal with a “bad day?” How do you overcome the “bad day” blues? Continue reading

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Turning Storytelling into Sales

Great storytelling – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace– is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. Storytelling has been important to every people in history. It is a cornerstone of human existence, enabling people to communicate and connect. It’s been a primary tool used in government, religion, education, and – of course — business. The world’s most persuasive, compelling, and successful communicators were all great storytellers. Socrates was a great storyteller. Ben Franklin was even better. Walt Disney was masterful.
Thanks to the Internet, mass media and social media, storytelling has become a quintessential part of sales and marketing strategies. So how does a company take good information and turn it into a great story? For stories to be impactful, they need to be easily recalled and they need to motivate people. They must have emotional resonance and relevancy — most of which comes out in the details. A good story holds the audience captive. It stretches the limits of the imagination and allows listeners to marvel or wonder at something. It touches them and leaves them vulnerable. That’s why stories are such an amazing communications tool. Here’s how to turn a product or service into a great story that enhances the bottom line.
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11 Things Salespeople Should Do but Often Don’t

Ask any salesperson and they will tell you that selling is hard work. In fact, anyone who has ever had a job in sales will likely admit that it’s the hardest work they’ve ever done. If a salesperson gets a yes immediately, they haven’t really sold anything as much as taken an order. Selling starts the moment a prospect says no. Selling is what happens when a salesperson turns a No into a Yes. And yet, most salespeople make common mistakes throughout the sales process that keep them from making a sale.
There are a myriad of things that sales people should do… could do… would do… but don’t for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes salespeople are taught wrong. They are told to do things a certain way even though those techniques, approaches and strategies haven’t worked for half a century. Sometimes salespeople are taught the right things to do and they just don’t do them, either because they don’t believe the sales program is effective or they think their way is better. But a lot of the time, salespeople aren’t taught at all how to “sell.” So they emulate the worst examples of salesmanship, which just makes the job of sales even harder than it already is. The following are things a salesperson should do to make the sale.
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The Video Revolution – Part 3

When we think of the work that salespeople do, we generally think of one-on-one selling. For anything that is not a commodity, a salesperson will speak face-to-face to another person and “pitch” a product or service. The ‘traveling salesman’ is the quintessential image of sales. But, obviously, that kind of selling is limiting. It is limited by how much time and how much distance a salesperson can cover. Even in dense cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, a salesperson can only make so many sales calls in one day. And in cities or metropolitan areas that are more diffused, such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Triangle Park or Miami, traveling from place to place for sales meetings can consume huge swaths of each day.

Because of that, sales teams have always looked for ways to compress the sales cycle and use technology to assist in the sales process. Call centers. Robo-calling. CRM systems. Email. Text messages. And now, video is emerging as a useful sales tool as well. When done right, videos can speak directly to prospective clients and guide them through the sales funnel. But some still wonder if video can really be effective in the sales process. And there are many questions surrounding how to construct sales videos. Should a video sales pitch focus on a product / service features or should it focus instead on the benefits / solution? Can a sales video or series of sales videos help move the sales process more quickly toward the close? And can a sales video actually close a deal? If sales videos are effective, can a company just create sales videos and not have salespeople? Here are what the experts think.
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The Video Revolution – Part 2

Two of the biggest challenges that regional and national companies face are training new hires and then keeping all staff up-to-date on company changes such as new software programs, updated policies, and evolving procedures. Just getting corporate office staff trained and keeping them current is enough of a challenge. Training takes time and consumes resources. A lot of information is thrust at employees at one time. Meanwhile, productivity drops or stops during training. Customer service suffers and employees are tasked with keeping up with the workload while making time for training. If doing that for corporate staff is hard, then training regional or national employees is even more difficult, especially when some or all of those employees are working remotely from small regional offices, executive offices or home offices. This is particularly difficult in the U.S. due to the country’s vast geographical size. Bringing a cadre of regional or national staff together to one location for training incurs a lot of hard costs and generates a lot of down time not just for training but also for travel.
The challenge for training new hires is even greater. Managers need to share a great deal of information with new employees in a very short amount of time. New hires often report that it is like drinking from a fire hose. This is not the ideal way to retain new information or make a new hire feel comfortable and confident. Bringing all new employees to one central location for in-person training is also hard and expensive. New hire training often can make or break an employee’s effectiveness for years to come.
To tackle both issues, companies are discovering the value of training videos. Video facilitates training and ensures that training is effective. Live Webcasting and dynamic on-demand training modules that employees can watch and process at their own pace help increase retention. And video-based training can be done without travel—at employees’ exec suites, home offices, or even a nearby Starbucks. This minimizes disruption and costs. Here are tips and best practices on how to use video for training.
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