Monday Mornings with Madison

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Personal-Professional Well-Being

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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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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The Many Facets of Leadership

Imagine that a company or business is like a boat and the boat has a destination… the port of profitability and growth. On the left side of the boat are the Marketing oars. On the right side of the boat are its Sales oars. If only the left oars are rowing, the boat will go around in circles, clockwise. And if only the right oars are rowing, the boat will go in counter-clockwise circles. Even if both sets of oars are rowing, but not in tandem, the boat will not move in the intended direction very swiftly. But if both sets of oars row in tandem, the boat will move forward. If guided by someone who knows the destination, it will move toward that spot. And the faster and more efficiently they row in tandem, the more swiftly it will get to its destination. The process of getting all the oars to row in tandem, efficiently and effectively, to a particular designation is management. Getting there faster than the competition is good management. And leadership is the wind in the sails of the vessel, which can help propel it even farther and faster. If the leadership is strong and steady, the work of the sales and marketing teams is made easier, and everything glides forward quickly.

Great leaders make the difference between an average performance and an extraordinary one. Today’s leaders do many things, including coaching, mentoring, counseling and, of course, managing. Employees today expect people in leadership roles to be willing to roll their sleeves up and keep managing and facilitating. In practical terms, what does good management look like today? It is more than just someone telling someone else what to do. Continue reading

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The Many Facets of Leadership

Much has been studied, researched, written and taught about leadership. There are even entire doctoral programs in leadership at prestigious universities. That’s because, arguably, good leadership allows companies to succeed when they might have otherwise failed. And great leadership pushes companies to rise above an ocean of mediocre ones. That is why the most successful investors — think George Soros and Warren Buffet, who achieved annual excess returns 15% over the S&P for over 30+ years — spend an inordinate amount of time every day studying not only a company’s financials but also the skills and track records of the leadership at those companies. Companies with the most innovative products can still fail to thrive without well-developed leadership. To state the obvious, leadership really matters.

Also, great leadership skills are not just essential for Presidents and C-Suite executives. Great leadership is invaluable for those directing divisions, departments, teams and projects. That’s because leaders are responsible for managing finite resources as well as planning and executing direction and action. In particular, one of the most important responsibilities of a leader is to help employees develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. That is called coaching and it is a key facet of leadership. So exactly what is coaching and what makes a great coach? And is there a difference between coaching and other things leaders commonly do such as managing, mentoring, teaching and counseling? Continue reading

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How to Spot and Hire A Players for Key Positions

When organizations hire employees for key positions, they want superstars. They want rainmakers and movers-and-shakers. Basically, they want A Players. They certainly don’t set out to hire 10% A Players, 80% B Players and 10% C Players. But that’s what most companies have. Still, it is fair to say that no recruiter ever hired someone knowing he would be a C Player, nor could he have known with certainty who was an A Player and who was a B Player. If only 10% of the employees at most companies are A Players, then clearly HR departments are hiring lots of B and C Players. That implies that it must be hard (or should we say nearly impossible) to distinguish between A, B and C Players.
The truth is that it is a challenge to distinguish between A, B and C Players. But when hiring for key positions, spotting A Players is essential. Certainly, companies more capable of spotting and hiring A Players for key positions will likely grow and thrive. A Players are the ones most likely to deliver creativity and innovation. They are the ones most likely to drive productivity, growth, and sales. They produce results. By the same token, it is reasonable to conclude that companies that have trouble identifying, hiring and keeping A Players will likely be less successful. So how does a manager spot and hire the A-list for his roster when they are not only hard to spot, but also when every other company is vying for the same top talent? Continue reading

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A-Players vs. B-Players: Understanding the Value of Each Type of Employee

Employees are the most valuable resource of any company. From Apple to DeBeers to Walmart, employees are the ones who lead, manage, create, innovate, implement, interact and engage with others on behalf of the company. Only in the smallest companies do the owners perform the majority of the work. In most other companies, employees do most of the work that generates profit. For that reason, recruiting and hiring individuals with the skills and qualities to fit specific openings is the hardest thing any company does… even in the most successful organizations. And it doesn’t matter if the position is an entry-level receptionist, a seasoned salesperson, a highly-technical professional position, or C-Suite executive. Each opening has an ideal set of skills and qualities that would be the best fit for that job at that company. But the more remarkable the skills and qualities needed in an employee, the harder it is to find the right person to fill that job.
Given the importance of employees, one would think that companies should seek to only hire the most talented and successful candidates for every opening. They are often referred to as A-Players. But in reality, it is neither practical nor necessary for every employee at a company to be an A-Player. The truth is that not every opening at every company requires an A-Player and most of the time B-Players are a better fit for the majority of openings. What’s the difference between an A-Player and a B-Player (and what’s a C-Player)? When is it essential to hire A-Players? And how does one tell the difference between the A, B and C-Players when they apply for a job? Continue reading

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How to Become an Industry Insider or Influencer

In general, an “insider” is a member of any group that is limited in number and generally restricted in access. The person – by virtue of being a member of this group – has access to secret, privileged, hidden or otherwise obscure or complex information or knowledge. The insider is a member of the “gang” and hence knows things outsiders don’t, including insider jargon.
The term “Industry Insider” has various meanings. For example, in the world of securities trading, the term “Industry Insider” is generally used to describe someone who works for a publicly-traded company, or trusted advisor to that company, and possesses key information (often non-public information) about that company. They know things because they are on the “inside.” That information, if shared and/or used to influence stock trades, is illegal. The Securities and Exchange Commission considers that a form of illegal insider trading.
However, with the rise of social media, the term Industry Insider has taken on a totally different meaning. In our complicated and information-rich world, the concept of insider knowledge has grown in importance as a source of direct and useful guidance. Today, being an Industry Insider is considered a badge of honor, earning that person considerable respect and influence. So how does one become an Industry Insider, and isn’t this just a new way of saying expert or guru? Continue reading

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When Teamwork Breaks Down

It was recently reported that Usain Bolt – dubbed the world’s fastest runner – was stripped of one of his nine Gold medals. Unlike other occasions when athletes have lost a medal or award, in this case Bolt himself did nothing wrong. He was not guilty of cheating or unsportsmanlike conduct. Rather, Bolt lost the Olympic gold medal because his teammate, Nesta Carter, tested positive for a banned stimulant found during a re-analysis of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Carter and Bolt were teammates on the winning 4×100-meter team, which set a world record of 37.10 seconds. Carter ran the opening leg, and Bolt took the baton third in the race. But doping by even one member of the team disqualified the entire team – four athletes – from the competition.
Besides being heartbreaking for the three innocent athletes, this case is indicative of the importance and vulnerability of teamwork. And it is instructive about what happens when teamwork breaks down. In truth, while people tend to think that teams are the democratic—and the efficient—way to get things done, research shows that most of the time team members don’t even agree on what the team is supposed to be doing or what is most important. Getting agreement is the leader’s job, and he must be willing to take great personal and professional risks to set the team’s direction. And if the leader isn’t disciplined about managing who is on the team and how it is set up, the odds are slim that a team will do a good job. This is certainly true in Olympic sports and – although perhaps less glamorous — it is also true in business. So what do we know about teams, why they break down and what can be done to ensure they don’t? Continue reading

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