Archive for October, 2010


Monkey Read, Monkey Do

“You’ll be the same person in five years as you are today except for two things…the people you meet and the books you read.” Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

I never get sick of hearing this quote and I’ve probably heard it more than anyone on the planet except for my older siblings. This was drilled into my head at an early age by my father, Charlie Jones. Televisions were locked away in the deepest, darkest recesses of the attic in an effort to promote reading and writing book reports during our teen years.

Reading was always a required part of my professional life. I had to read books and pass tests in order to meet promotion opportunities in the military. I had to read Air Force Instructions and Regulations so I understood the rules covering personnel as well as equipment and operations. I read many contractual documents and technical manuals as well to help me achieve success in other fields.

But while I was busy feeding my brain, was I really nourishing my mind? I was certainly meeting plenty of people who were constantly impacting me, but were the books I was reading doing the same thing?
We hear so much about reinventing ourselves. The workings of the mind are very simple: trash in, trash out. I’ve spent the last year reading, editing and publishing material that has turned me into a completely different mindset. Because of my previous careers, many would say I’m book smart as well as street smart. I would agree with that. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have changed in a positive manner.

Book smarts are facts that come and go. Street smarts are the events that come and go. But the wisdom gained by spending time feeding your mind lasts a lifetime.


When In Doubt, Take the Next Step

I was recently at a conference where my guest made an interesting comment in response to my input about all the unknowns in running a business. He said, “It’s much easier to change direction when you are in motion.” I agree. I may not know where the horizon is, but I am moving towards a direction and making adjustments as I go. This reminds me of Patton’s quote, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”

Motion is your friend, stagnation is your enemy. In the military they referred to the fog and friction of war. This meant that no matter how well your plans were laid out, there were always going to be changes throughout the execution that you would have to adapt to. When I was in the corporate world they called it analysis paralysis referring to someone so freaked out about gathering and interpreting the variables they could not come to a decision. And if you can’t make a decision, why gather facts or formulate battle plans?  It’s like putting on the surgical scrubs, but refusing to pick up the scalpel to make the first incision.

Forward motion is always the preferred method because you can make adjustments midstream. This action is impossible to achieve when you’ve dropped anchor. I can’t make adjustments if I am stagnant, still, frozen like a deer in the headlights.  So get out there and go with the flow, even if you’re not exactly sure of the final destination. If all signs point towards yes, then go. Henry C. Link said it another way: “While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”

Taking the next step to get out of the fog may just bring you into the sunlight.


Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me A Match!

I’ve recently been swimming in seminars and webinars on sales. Thank goodness! After drinking from the fountain of servant and transformational leadership for the last few years, it’s good to get back into a tactical state. I recently read a book called Ask Without Fear, by Marc Pitman. It is a bestselling book on fundraising but each of the principles in it transfers so effectively into sales, I would recommend it to every sales person in the world. After all, isn’t the biggest sell of all asking folks to part with their money? Whether it’s a donation for a greater good, or an exchange of currency to acquire a tangible product or service, the key steps are all the same.

All potential buyers, or donors for that matter, are not equal. Just because you have 2 million names in your database or 5,000 fans on Facebook, does not mean that any of these will translate into actual purchasers. There is so much research that has to go into the proverbial “qualifying your leads”. I’d rather have an email list of 1,000 names that routinely bought from me than a list of 100,000 names  where I’d be lucky if 1,000 even opened the email before deleting.

Just because I push out the greatest eBlast with the most amazing links to videos or send out the most gorgeous lumpy mailer showcasing some of my products does not mean that anyone will turn into a purchaser either. My favorite line from Ask Without Fear is “You can’t milk a cow with a letter.” In other words, bulk correspondence of any kind will fall flat without the follow up of personal engagement. So spend your advertising and marketing dollars carefully. And always remember, no one sells it like you, and there’s no short cut for that.

All of this made me think fondly to my days of selling books door to door. In the beginning, I would focus my attention on the biggest houses because I figured they had the most money to buy my two-volume encyclopedia set for $60. Unfortunately, my young sales instincts were dead wrong! When I wised up, I decided to focus on families that saw the value in education but couldn’t afford an expensive set of encyclopedias.  Cha’ching! And many times, I’d just call on two families a day and sell them both. We’d spend so much time chatting, snacking, relating, or just getting acquainted that it turned out to be much more than just a sale. And my close rate was pretty darn high.

Would an email have made that sale? What if I had sent a sample chapter of the book or a nice letter to their home? I doubt any of these alone would have gotten my foot in the door. The soundest way to help your potential customer connect to something valuable (i.e., to buy) comes from the folks who know their business best: the owner and the employees. Personal contact centered on listening to them and showing them how you’ve got something that can intersect in a most tremendous way beats any list or letter any day.


When Turkeys Fly…..

We hear a lot about flightless animals that try to go airborne. When pigs fly, when monkeys fly, there are even some more colorful derivatives of this metaphor which symbolize the likelihood of something happening as nil, zero, zilch, the big goose egg. This despite the fact that Ben Franklin thought the turkey actually a more respectable bird than the eagle.

I was recently at a conference in Lancaster, PA where author and friend Mark Sanborn said, “In a tornado, even turkeys can fly.” Now I have nothing against turkeys but in the leadership world they are often used as a metaphor for folks that are slow, incompetent, or lacking in other favorable workplace qualities. They are often contrasted with the eagle which is majestic, driven, and courageous enough to fly solo above the masses to reach new heights.

I first took this statement to mean that in complete chaos or the blustering business world, even a poor leader, or a turkey, can be lifted up. But we all know that’s not really directed flight, that‘s just getting buffeted around like a plane in turbulence. And that’s not following a flight path, a vector, or a goal; that’s going where the winds of change push you.

 I’ve worked for a few turkeys in my life. When the going got tough, they started whipping around in the events that were perplexing them. Because they lacked the ability to rise about the thrash, it was almost instinctual for them to dive into the vortex and be buffeted around. To them, that was leadership. I’m active, I’m in motion; therefore, I’m leading.

But then I thought about the time when I had to lead some turkeys. I had to get them off the ground and into motion. I had to create some type of vortex in their lives in order to get them to move. While some thought me cruel and wished to God I would leave them static, that’s not the leader’s job in developing people to meet mission requirements.

I realize that not every turkey will morph into an eagle. But every turkey is capable of spreading their wings and doing something better than all the other birds in their flock. This makes them feel valued as an individual and contributes to the overall efficiency of the team.  Like the eagles, we have to move our wings to soar like them. And yes, this includes the turkeys.

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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October 2010

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