Getting to Know You…

For the past few years I have really been focusing on knowing your customer or you’ll have no customer. I am continually surprised how many companies say they want to know you but really do not.

I am fortunate to work with clients that do a wonderful job of knowing their customers and this courses through the entire organization. From knowing people by name and knowing all about their purchases, and this extends beyond retail, to knowing about them personally. This focus shows that you really care.

We take our vehicles to an auto maintenance shop, Frank Motors,  that “promises to know you better”. And they do. Cars today are complex. And then you have warranty and other safety recalls that manufacturers send out. Dealerships must do the recall work. And here is where they fall down on knowing me better – they don’t. Frank’s does know me better. They know my habits and how the vehicles are driven. This helps when they are troubleshooting. No one at a dealership has ever asked me anything other than if my address is still correct. This is so the manufacturer can send me addressed ad mail touting cheap oil changes. Guess who gets my money and endorsements?

A good friend has a credit card from a financial institution. Has had one for decades. My friend was courted to take advantage of a special offer to obtain a new financial instrument. And when they went to the bank to put in a cheque they were told that a hold would be placed for a couple of days because “they didn’t know my friend well yet”. Hmmm, all those fees and charges for all those years apparently don’t count for getting to know you.

On a current project, I am investigating certain health care organizations in the US for a client. In one case Summa Health created a “Standard of Behavior – acts of Excellence” that was created to support its mission of servant leadership. The examples in the booklet are stellar. The first page begins with “I will…” and this is something that each employee believes in and carries out on a daily basis. Everything in the standards is based on this concept.

The “acts” are four areas:

  • appearance and attitude
  • courtesy, concern and communication
  • teamwork
  • safety

And the necessary actions are described in each area. It is simple and powerful. And it describes the organization’s purpose and how everyone has an important part to play for the delivery of outstanding healthcare to its patients and their families and to each employee and colleague.

It is not financial – it is personal. While we have to keep a close eye on revenue and expenses those are only outcomes of the actions of our people.

And in every company the people have an opportunity to make a difference – for their customers and their colleagues. How are you as a leader taking action to improve the level and quality of your customer interactions?

And when people have a purpose then they will get to know you, the customer, because it is the right thing to do. Not just because someone told them to do it.

Be Frank’s or Summa…don’t be the cold and unnamed financial institution or dealership.

Competitive Greatness

We marvel at high end athletes, musicians and other public performers when they deliver a captivating performance.

From the recent Super Bowl, that was really super for fans of offense, to the Olympics that are currently underway in South Korea. From super wins to golden moments the advent of HD and 4K TV has allowed us to see every bead of sweat and furrowed brow, every photo finish and every dropped pass.

Sometimes we are treated to insights on what a particular athlete went through to get to the stage of competition. Other times we wonder at the financial and political impact of decisions that don’t let the best athletes in the world compete at the ultimate games. While I understand the business reasons for no NHL, and I can respect the owners that take a huge risk of a key player getting injured and becoming unavailable for the playoffs, and with all respect to the men representing their countries, no Sid vs. Ovi at the Olympics is just plain unfortunate.

What we don’t see is the really hard work that these female and male athletes have invested to get to this top echelon. We hear stories about the 6 AM training. We learn about access to facilities that are less than adequate in some cases. But do we really understand what it takes to achieve competitive greatness?

In our business life, whether corporate or not-for-profit, do we really prepare and eventually deliver our best performance every day at work? We are human so we slip from time to time. Or in some cases we know of chronic complainers that are a drain on everyone around them. For those people it is easier, I guess, to complain that it is to change or improve themselves.

Coach John Wooden, legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach constructed his Pyramid of Success over about 14 years. He was creating a pyramid that would lead you to personal success. Not necessarily winning. He rarely mentioned winning as he was a process and long term person. Long term for his players lives, not just for the 3 to 4 years he would have them at UCLA.  There are countless players who did not play much and yet count Coach as the greatest impact on their respective lives.

We all need a level of talent to have a chance to be at the top of our profession. But that is not the only factor. I have played with and coached people with considerable athletic talent that never made it to the highest levels of their sport.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

People with a drive to succeed understand what this means. It is not a win at all costs approach because that does not include two important elements of the Pyramid – patience and faith. You must act with poise and confidence – be true to yourself. When you look in the mirror are you ready to have a great day at work?

As a sales professional have you prepared to the level you must as you get ready to meet with an important prospect?

As a nurse have you prepared to focus on your patients with an extra level of care and support?

As an auto-body technician are you ready to bring your best problem-solving approach as you fix that darn squeak that your customer has.

Do you eat well? Do you exercise your mind, body and spirit? Do you do a little extra for yourself each day to continue to move ahead in your profession? Do you take time to be grateful for everything in your life? Are you respectful of others and do you treat them well? Are you inquisitive and a great contributor and learner? Do you listen to the world around you?

High level athletes say yes to these questions to ensure when it is time to perform they can do it.

High level performers concentrate on what is in their control. They do not waste time thinking about what others are doing. They spend that time preparing themselves for the competition or performance.

Even if you are not a fan of The Tragically Hip I recommend watching “A long time running”. This is the final tour by The Hip and chronicles everything that Gord Downie had to do to prepare to perform after his brain surgery. It also shows how much this band worked together to ensure this was as good a tour as any other, emotions aside.

If you begin with industriousness and enthusiasm as your corner foundations you will be off to a great start. Have fun and perform at your best when your best is needed.

As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, with Polonius giving advice to his son Laertes:”…This above all: to thine own self be true…”

Make each day your masterpiece.

And you will be successful.

What you do in the dark will be exposed in the light

I walk my dog every morning around 6 to 7 AM. Rain or shine. Cold or colder…and when it is nice.

In my study of human behaviour I take particular notice of early morning driving habits.  And then apply my observations to what the person might be like for the rest of the day.

For context, this is us in the morning. In the winter I wear a bright orange toque. I am 6′ 2″ and not easy to miss. I wear a flashing red light when crossing any street. My dog is beside me on leash and under control. In the summer I will still wear the flashing light depending on the amount of sunlight and time of day and usually wear a bright lime green shirt.

With this mental image here are some of the most bizarre lousy driving examples Trappar and I have encountered where we almost didn’t make it back home.

  • It is odd that stop signs often cease to exist at this early hour. We always stop at a street crossing. We always wait for the driver to acknowledge us before we cross. People have stared right at us as they drive through the stop sign when it is clearly my turn to go.
  • Crosswalks are largely ignored as well. Same pattern. Only half of the cars will stop for us at a crosswalk. The others go right past – sometimes without turning their heads. I wonder if they are even awake at that time of day!
  • Sidestreets have optional stop signs before the sidewalk and well before the main artery. Vehicles roll through the stop sign, past the sidewalk and around the curve. What happened to stop at the stop sign and look left and right and then ease forward-looking left one more time? This morning it was a big pickup truck that literally sped up through the stop sign and around the corner while we had already started to cross!
  • One sneaky driver used a bus for cover and rolled through the intersection instead of stopping for us.
  • Last year drivers complained about a police service cash grab when cars were ticketed for not cleaning large amounts of snow off the car, including the windows. Too many vehicles in the early morning do not have their windshields properly scraped. This clearly accounts for them not seeing us. And the stupid tax they pay in terms of the fine
  • Instead of stopping when the car in front of you is easing through an intersection the second vehicle goes through as if it was attached. Waving my arms and whistling doesn’t even attract the second driver’s attention.

So what is my point.

First, none of these drivers would pass a retest.

More importantly, I believe that when you care only about yourself, a focus on your own ego, as evidenced by your driving habits, this is an extension of how you act with people during the day. Whether it is customers or employee colleagues, I suspect that these lousy drivers complain about too much because they have to be the center of the universe.

Sport coaches talk about what you do when no one else is around. Do you cheat on your workout? Do you skip the last set or rep? Do you jog instead of run? Do you cheat on your meal plan? All those factors can limit your performance. Hearing of players carousing during the lead up to championship games and then getting benched or kicked off the team is likely a precursor to the same behaviour in the rest of their life.

In business, let’s pick sales representatives as an example. I have seen too many that are looking for a manager to provide “the answer”, the proverbial silver bullet. Every successful sales trainer from Jeffrey Gitomer to Anthony Iannarino will talk about your need to prepare for every aspect of your sales process. What are you doing in your off work hours to get better. One hour per day as a personal investment that you put into action can result in tremendous gains and success.

Gone are the days when a smooth talker can just wing it and win. Customers have always been discerning and now they have more tools to kick your unprepared hiney out of their office faster. Assuming you got into the office in the first place.

There is an easy answer to this topic and it begins with you and your self-discipline. You wouldn’t run a stop sign when you were teaching your daughter to drive. Why is it OK to do it now? If you do it now and your children see it, apparently you have now determined what is acceptable adherence to the rules of the road. It would be a shame to have an accident make you realize the error in your ways.

We use familiarity to allow us to get away with things like getting a co-worker to cover for you when you take an extra long lunch or break. If there is a legitimate reason why don’t you ask your supervisor? If you were a respected and respectable person consistently in the office I daresay that you would be approved for the longer lunch.

Focussing on these small things like early morning driver safety may seem insignificant. It sets the right mood of awareness and self-respect and respect for others. It may save your life going forward when you make the right changes.

And it will certainly make sure I can get Trappar home for breakfast.


TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More

What a cool acronym. People have made a lot of money trying to teach teamwork to businesses. Often the person doing the training has never been part of a team.


Exactly! How can you talk about teamwork if you have never played on or been part of a team? I do not believe you can.

The dynamics of teams have been studied in a business setting as they have been adapted from sports. This can be flawed thinking because different sports models have different team concepts. Football is very structured, basketball is more fluid. Baseball is very structured, hockey and soccer are more fluid.

The common element is that each team member in every sport has a role. Truly great teams can only achieve ongoing success when each team member knows their role, executes to the best of their ability (because they have prepared physically and mentally) and don’t care who gets the credit as long as the team reaches their objective which is typically a win.

John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach from UCLA created the Pyramid of Success. It took him 14 years to finalize the model. He identified key building blocks necessary to allow you to be successful. And his definition is “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable”. The building block of team spirit was the last one that he changed. The change was in one word. He replaced willingness with eagerness in the concept of team spirit meaning “eagerness to lose oneself in the group for the good of the group”. How willing are you to do this?

Because HR has developed performance reviews that are focused on individual performance there is rarely a measure of true team spirit or teamwork that is effectively measured, recognized and rewarded.

Large sums of money are often the reward to talented sports figures that have achieved individual statistical success. Many of these great athletes were horrible team players. They believed that they were the team and that no success would be possible without them. Long term their individual accomplishments were exceptional and so very often they never won championships. I believe it was because they did not buy into the true nature of the team.

In business you often have a key person that believes they are the sole reason for any success. If the person doesn’t correct this they can be in trouble. Elon Musk is having a lot of problems these days. Steve Jobs was known to be a tough person to work with.

I am not denying their overall brilliance. I am saying that the team was responsible for making the company successful. If you do not buy into the principles and values, and if your role has no purpose, then you cannot have long-term success.

I have heard of the success of the lone wolf in sales. In the wild, a lone wolf has been ostracized from the pack and may be too old or weak to hold up their role within the pack. I have never met a successful lone wolf in sales. Every one that claims to be has had the support of the rest of the organization to deliver and make good on what the sales person sold. The sales person might not have truly understood how important everyone in the company really is to allow them to make the sale.

I have seen companies that talked team but had no real concept of what that meant. Sure there is sharing across departments. I think those are typically committees and not really teams. There is not a shared purpose and corresponding commitment to get things done. This is often why change initiatives fail to gain traction – competing purposes and everyone looking out for themselves and not geared towards the best outcome for the organization.

I have played and coached two sports at the provincial and national level. I have seen good coaches and horrible coaches. And the results are as you would expect.

I have been fortunate to be part of several amazing companies, and work with some stellar clients, and the common thread is a humbleness that the goal is more important than any one person. These successes are a direct result of everyone taking pride in their own work and the commitment to succeed that existed in every situation.

One of my proudest moments was the launch of TVtropolis. This was a complete rebrand of another TV network in a very short period of time. It achieved a 67% increase in revenue in its first year (from $18M to $30 M). This was a result of every aspect of the marketing, programming and sales chain working together. Sure we argued and debated. But we were always locked in on the target. And we made it happen. TEAM.

How are your teams set up for success? Do you have the right structure? Are you the right coach? You might want to speak with someone about improving your team’s performance. I know a guy.