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A Flux in Time; Dealing with Change

It has been said the only true constant is change, but what exactly is it? Most important, how do we deal with it? According to Google Dictionary, it is “The act or instance of making or becoming different”. My personal definition is that of “a flux in time.” I like my own description because it reminds me that all change, good or bad, it temporary. It’s a bend in our existence, a hiccup in history. The effects of the Coronavirus has given most of us more change than we have had to confront in recent years.

No matter how you define it, all major change is going to be an upheaval to someone’s life. Even what we consider to be good change will more than likely have a negative effect to someone, somewhere. What it boils down to, is a loss of certainty.

A few years ago, I taught an adult Sunday School class and I noticed a recurring theme with many of the lessons. Whether it was about attitudes, a particular sin, or our relationships with one another, the moral was that to truly see God’s Grace, we would need to let go of our own sense of control. That’s when it struck me that we as humans are actually OUT of control more times in our lives than we are in it. Clock and hammer

As a self-confessed “control freak”, that is not an easy thing for me to do. But the universe is much larger than I. Look at how many times a day, decisions have already been made for us. The alarm clock tells us when to wake up. Society or our spouse tell us we should practice personal hygiene each morning. Traffic lights tell us when we may or may not proceed through an intersection. Our boss tells us what we will do that day and when to leave work. Our children tell us how we will spend our evening. Then, we do it all over again, because we have to. More decisions are made for us than we make ourselves and it has always been that way.

Control is an illusion. But we hold onto that illusion because it gives us a sense of security. We like to know what to expect. The world is a much scarier place if we do not know where our next paycheck was coming from, how we would put food on the table, or whether our children will receive an education. Yet, this is exactly what millions of Americans are dealing with now. Once the pandemic subsides, much of what we once knew in the country will have changed. But to what degree? We will have to wait and see.

Business futurist Alvin Toffler stated in the 70’s; “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Many may have to find a new job or learn a new skill if the old employer is no longer there. Some having little in-pocket cash have turned to a barter system or trading with neighbors for necessities. Online or “distance” learning is now the new normal. Change has come at us fast. The one thing we still have is how we decide to deal with that change.

Broken_clockMuch has been mentioned about the psychological and emotional health of those who are “sheltered in place” right now. Over the years, I have noticed those who are happiest and most successful in business are those who are able to adapt to the changing times. Fortunately, this rarely involves changing our core principle, but it does mean making a shift in our perspective. Perhaps we all know someone who still believes the internet is just a fad. In fact, it’s the only way in which most schools, institutions and many businesses are functioning at all right now.

There are a few things we can do to help us deal with change and protect the six inches between our ears. I have compiled a list of half a dozen things that will help us transition during and after this current health care crisis.

1) Flexibility; When I was a young pup in the Army, I had a difficult time of dealing with change, especially when the work for one plan had already been done. Sergeant Finnel, my squad leader once told me “Above all, remain flexible”. I’m not sure why he said it that way, but it is something that I always remember him saying. I’m not perfect, but I do strive to be flexible in the face of adversity.

2) Manage Your Expectations; A lot of discussion had been had as to how long we must hunker down in our homes or exercise precaution when we venture out. Physicians and politicians are not always of the same mind as to how long this will last. It’s probably best to set any hard dates in our minds in order to avoid upset later.

3) Show Appreciation; This may be something we do almost begrudgingly, but it is necessary none the less. At the risk of sounding cavalier, keep things in perspective. There are other countries who are having a much more difficult time with the Coronavirus than us.

4) Limit Your News Intake; How much news did you watch a month or two ago? Was it just half an hour a day? Try to return to that level now. I remember after 9/11 it was reported people not anywhere near the attacks suffered from depression simply because they watched the hour-by-hour reports on TV.

5) Establish Daily Routines; Sleeping in until almost Noon when we normally wake at 6 a.m. is not a good practice. We all know how it feels to return to work just after just a week of vacation. If you are not able to work from home, clean. Organize, paint or take up a hobby for a certain amount of hours a day. Gain back a certain amount of that sense of security by keeping a schedule for yourself.

6) Draw on the Support of Others; If you or a family member begins to feel despondent, be certain to have a conversation with loved ones and express yourself or ask for what you feel you need. Also, be there for others, even online. Someone may be having a tougher time of it than you, though they don’t show it. Check on your neighbors, even if you don’t know them that well. A pleasant conversation with you across the fence could be the best part of someone’s day.

Change is inevitable, but we can help one another through it. This is a time of challenge and we decide how will face that challenge. Our attitude, at least, is still in our control.  No doubt, we will discover things about ourselves we never imagined. What do we want those discoveries to be when we look back at the flux in time?

Blaine Little is the founder and CEO of Momentum Seminars Training & Coaching, helping companies remain profitable by investing in their people. He is also a certified life and business coach. Learn more at http://MomentumSeminars.com 

 

The Carrot & the Stick

The following is an excerpt from my latest book, “The Individual Team: How Fairness Wrecked the Workplace” available now at Amazon.

PAIN VERSUS PLEASURE

Not everyone is motivated in the same way. Perhaps the most basic motivator is how individuals deal with potential consequences. Some respond more to the avoidance of pain rather than the pursuit of pleasure. Unfortunately, the majority of humans fit into the former category. People tend to be more reactionary than proactive. This is perhaps because humans feel comfortable at a certain level and take solace in being there. Why toil for “better” when you can relax and have “good enough”? Only a disruption in that comfort will force a change to be made. Does this mean the majority need to be threatened? No. Threaten one and you may be able to get more productivity out of him, at least in the short term. Threaten another, she may publicly push back or simply slash your tires in the parking lot. However, most people are smart and understand what natural consequences lay ahead for poor performance. We all know those who have been fired for not achieving minimum production, but I have never heard of someone being let go for not breaking the company sales record. Most tend to find a comfortable spot and stay here.

Painting a rosy picture of pay raises and promotions doesn’t work on everyone either. Not everyone else wants to be a manager someday. In fact, most do not. Talk to someone of going beyond mediocrity or “grabbing the brass ring” and they will stare at you in stone silence. Many workers just want to put their time in and leave at the end of the day. It’s as if to say; “The carousel doesn’t move any faster or slower if I grab the damn ring, so why try?” This type of worker is just fine being fine. They do not see the benefit of doing more than is required. Of course, there is nothing wrong with showing up to work and doing exactly that for which one is paid. But at the end of the day, it is the end of the day.

That’s not to say there are not other motivators outside of work, however. Some see work as just a way to pay the bills until their photography business gets off the ground. Or working to spend quality time with grandchildren on weekends may be all they think about. For these employees, security from the notion of a job well done motivates them to work toward their own external goals. A good manager will have an understanding of what those goals are.

So, how does a manager motivate someone who is simply there to pick up a paycheck? First, understand if they are doing what the job requires and not being detrimental to the rest of the shop, then they are doing their job. One should appreciate them for showing up on time and putting in a full day’s work. I have seen managers want

You are not going to change someone else’s priorities. Instead, play to them. At the company picnic, be sure to praise an employee for a recent accomplishment in front of the family. If someone is a budding photographer, ask if they can take the official company photos. These are ways of investing in your team while building a bridge between the two worlds. In turn, they will feel more invested and understand how important that bridge is to them.

Others are specifically looking for a company with advancement opportunities. A secure nine to five would be a complete dead end for these people. Keep in mind they will jump ship for a better opportunity in a heartbeat. If there are opportunities within, they can be instrumental to the company down the road but will have to be engaged with meaningful work in the meantime.

We all want stars on our team, but that comes with a price. If a star is brought onboard with the prospects of moving up the company ladder, she will need to be given a certain amount of responsibility and authority. People like to feel their own forward momentum. Long gone are the days where someone is willing to incubate for two or three years waiting for their predecessor to retire. We have all seen where promises did not pan out and the heir-apparent looks like a schmuck. I have never been a fan of making someone an heir-apparent to a future position anyway. Give them the “assistant” title and make them an heir-obvious.

If you have a beast on your sales force, just remember, you are going to have to feed that beast. Arbitrary caps because the company thinks a salesperson will “make too much money” will see them become someone else’s representative or worse, start their own company and be a competitor. Long team meetings, a toxic office and changing compensation plans are just a few of the things that will see those stars fizzle out.

All of this goes to that old metaphor of the carrot and the stick. How do you get a stubborn mule to move? For some, whacking them with a rod will get the mule up and pulling the cart. While another may only shift from the sitting position to lying in the road in protest of being beat. Whereas, a carrot waved in front of a mules nose will move the animal to the ends of the earth. No, people are not mules to be whacked or bribed, but the analogy does hold true; not everyone is motivated the same way. It is up to the manager to understand the individuals of his team and how to motivate them.

An Historic Meat & Three

Even if you’re new to Murfreesboro, it’s hard to imagine anyone wouldn’t discover the City Café. The century-old diner is a staple and historic landmark just off the Square. The food is good, but so is the company, there are always lively discussions and exchanges of ideas. That’s what attracted the Kellogg’s to the restaurant in the first place; the people.

When they first heard the business was for sale, they realized it was an opportunity to bring a dream to fruition.  Teresa Kellogg and a business partner bought the Café in 2014. In 2017, Teresa’s husband Rollin retired and bought out the previous partner. Now, it is truly a family business. Rollin added baking to his set of skills and Teresa runs the kitchen. The couple says it’s easy to be business partners when you are best friends.

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The restaurant first opened on February 10th, 1900. Though it has moved a couple of times, it has always been downtown and been a favorite gathering spot for local residents. It was founded by Dorsey Cantrell who also ran a dairy atop the original location. Though there have been a handful of different owners over the years, the menu has remained largely the same.

Though you can’t get a hamburger for a nickel anymore, you can great home cooking at a good price. The establishment has always provided a hearty breakfast or meat-and-three for lunch. However, that doesn’t stop the owners from changing up the menu every now and then. Rollin offers seasonal pastries and very soon, Teresa will be serving her red beans and rice.

They are open at 6am to go to 2pm every day but Sunday. Currently, dinner is not available though you may reserve the restaurant in the evening for special events. The dinner option is something the owners want to bring back but of course, that means more staff and food items. When asked of when that might happen, they responded we will have to wait and see, but it is something the Kellogg’s are actively working toward.

With MTSU and new businesses popping up, the majority of Murfreesboro residents were not born here. But a visit to the City Café is a great way to take in Middle Tennessee culture. There are old menus and an original sign that adorn the walls. The food is also a nod to antiquity as it is all made from scratch.

But the place isn’t just a throwback to the past. Each and every morning people meet their friends or wait to make new ones and strike up an engaging conversation. It is said if you want to know what is going on in town, this restaurant is the place to be. For years local politicians have held court and pundits have discussed current events. There is also the occasional prayer breakfast upstairs. As Teresa put it; “You may come here as a stranger but you will leave here as a friend.”

A challenge the current owners face is retention of staff, a common issue for all restaurateurs. Though, they have servers who have been with them for years and even employees who have been with the Café for over 30 years. It’s that type of loyalty that keeps good consistent customer service.

As for promoting the business, it was featured on Tennessee Crossroads a while back. Some people will bring friends and family in on Saturdays for live music. Rollin states “You have to utilize the tool s you can use and social media is a big thing.”  You can also check out the daily specials on their Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/citycafe.murfreesboro/

As I ask the owners my closing question; “What gives you momentum”, their response is the love for the restaurant. “It’s the love of what we do. History isn’t alive anywhere… Older people say they remember coming in here when they were in college and now their children come here”, Teresa said.

City Café truly is a Rutherford County institution. On February 10th, 2010, the Café will celebrate 120 years of continual business. That could very well be the longest-running restaurant in the entire state. Whether its breakfast, lunch or one day dinner, check out the City Café. While there, take in the ambiance, homemade food, and history.

Blaine Little is the founder and CEO of Momentum Seminars Training & Coaching, helping companies remain profitable by investing in their people. Learn more at www.MomentumSeminars.com

 

 

 

Those Who Cannot Learn from History…

A good friend of mine reminded me TODAY is when the Berlin Wall “came down”. For some reason, I thought December was when Gorbachev allowed German people on both sides, people, free access. Perhaps it was because people lamented how wonderful it was for families to be reunited in time for Christmas. What I do remember, quite vividly, was the political electricity in the air. “Could this actually be the end of Communism?” Of course, it was… at least for a while.

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I was an Army Combat Engineer stationed at Fort Knox Kentucky at the time. Once a year, NATO conducted a countrywide exercise in Germany call REFORGER; Return Forces to Germany. Just after final formation, a call came across the barracks PA system asking for volunteers to serve as a representative group of my unit in Europe the following January. My entire squad hoofed it downstairs to the operations NCO to sign up. There was no way I was going to miss out on this!
Tear-Down-this-WallWe all made the list and shipped off for several weeks in Germany. Like I say, the feeling was electric. Though I never saw the actual Wall, the German people were so happy that they might one day get their country back. The Germans I met had nothing but gratitude and appreciation for us Americans. It appeared the “Cold War”, the stop to the spread of state ownership, was about to be over. As a soldier, I wondered if this would be the last of such a military exercise. Communism was defeated, Democracy reigns!
As I state in my workshop, Dealing with Different Generations in the Workplace, Millennials can be the most positive force in human existence… IF they remember the lessons of past generations. I am concerned given what I see on social and public media today. There are politicians promising “free this and free that”. Of course, nothing is free including freedom itself.
But when people with few accomplishments in their lives lash out against those who are successful, in a classic struggle between the haves and the have-nots, it sounds like a compelling argument. That is until you take a closer look at those who have more, simply

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because they or their family worked for it. The free enterprise system is the best form of meritocracy; you have something because you EARNED it.

Look at the pictures within this post. If Communism / Socialism was so great, so fair, so equitable, why were so many people desperate to escape it? Communism is nothing less than organized tyranny. Socialism attempts to do by legislation what Communism does at gunpoint; rob you of your freedom.

Speaking out against Socialism isn’t politically correct today, but then again, I was never PC. Next year, America has decisions to make concerning the direction of the country. Will voters make those decisions based on their feelings alone or will they learn the lessons of a generation ago. Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  

The Present Leader

How does one lead or manage? That has been the central thesis of hundreds of books for hundreds of years. From Sun Tzu to Niccolo Machiavelli to dozens of modern-day military generals, the question has been asked and perhaps there are equally as many answers. It’s not about emulating an exact model, but rather promoting those aspects within a manager’s own personality that will impart confidence on part of the follower.

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The fact so many books authored by military leaders should tell us something in and of itself. This begs the question of why we seem to think of military officers when we broach the subject of leadership. Unlike their military counterparts, captains of industry are not responsible for the individual lives of an organization. Indeed, that is a major difference, one for which a military officer can never make a mistake, right? Officers not only study victories, but they also study failures and outright blunders. This is as much to learn what to avoid as it is to understand how to deal with failure WHEN it occurs.

Some would say you must lead from the front. After all, as the cliché goes, “if no one is following you, you are not truly a leader”.  There is a lot of merit in that notion. A shepherd without sheep is just a bum walking through a field. Yet, there are so many high-ranking leaders who move a company from the top story of its office building. Historically, generals are atop hills looking down. What seems to be important is that top-tier leadership is seen by the rank and file, no matter where their office is located. It’s less about being out front than being present.

This goes to what Peter Drucker called “management by walking around”. This is a CEO literally moving about the facility, to the marketing department, operations, HR, upstairs, downstairs, even the basement mailroom. The point is less about glad-handing or even catching someone doing something wrong. This is an opportunity to see what the real problems are and not have to rely on a report, days, weeks or even months later. As Machiavelli wrote; if one is on the spot, disorders are seen as they spring up, and one can quickly remedy them…”. In other words, no prince can rule from a foreign land.

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Human beings expect to be led and if the current boss doesn’t fit the bill, the team will vacate the premises, either physically or mentally. Or even worse, they will follow an unofficial leader who may or may not have the same goals as the boss. Even when a manager is present, there will always be an unofficial leader where there are three or more in a group. It’s just human nature. The influence this person has within the team is dependant on what the manager allows and the corporate culture. The thirst for good leadership is so intent, people will even follow a bad one so long as he has a plan, any plan. Just look at the first half of the twentieth century in Europe.

Roosevelt and Churchill, however, took to the airwaves to calm the populous and were often seen in public.  This, even when FDR was in a wheelchair. Though he did not want to be viewed as crippled, he understood the importance of being considered as approachable. They also knew if they didn’t seem to be apparent and available, the public would turn to other sources for their information. Knowledge itself is not power, but carrying it can be.

So, the big question is; what type of manager are you? Do you build relations and communicate with your team, or hide out in the office doing “managerial stuff”? Are you actively leading your people or simply hoping everything works out? Contrary to popular belief, things typically do not have a way of working themselves out. It is better to be seen and available as a support than distant and aloof.

Girlfriday: Every Successful Person Needs an Assistant

Recently, I interviewed a good friend of mine, Takisha Bromell. Bromell always had a knack for organization. In 2017, she started helping real estate agents with their sales and listing contracts, having a background in real estate herself. Despite the encouragement of others, she still thought the biggest challenge lay in herself and the initial seed money, or rather the lack of it.  A friend once told her “Every successful person needs an assistant.” Not being exposed to the concept of an assistant for hire, she sought counsel from business professionals as well as family members who understood what made her tick. Now, she considers her work a labor of love.

 

Bromell says the best things she can provide other businesses is balance and purpose. She has several clients who operate from a shared workspace or otherwise away from the corporate office. These regional managers or high-level sales reps don’t have an onsite staff anyway, so it makes sense to use virtual assistants.

“How I help the business owner is to create balance in their lives so they can go home and rest assured things are going to get done. By helping them, I create that support system, that foundation so that they can go out and be great. They can do what it is God has called them to do.”

Read the entire Murfreesboro Pulse article here. https://boropulse.com/2019/07/girlfriday-every-successful-person-needs-an-assistant/

 

 

Favoritism in the Workplace

A common concern for well-meaning leaders is to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Let’s take a closer look at this. What exactly is favoritism? In its purest form, it is a preference of one person to the exclusion of all the others. In short, it’s a teacher’s pet. Only the leader need not be a teacher, it can be a boss or even a parent. As a foster parent, I have witnessed this latter relationship all too many times. Perhaps this is most apparent between just two siblings. Favoritism does nothing but spur feelings of resentment and a lack of will for much of the life of the disenfranchised.

Most of us would agree anyone who would show more love to one child over another is simply a bad parent. In fact, it’s not about love at all as true love is without strings attached. So why might a parent create such a dichotomy in the first place? In most situations I have observed, it appears to be due to the favorite sibling making life seemingly easier for the parent. Essentially it goes to the self-interest on part of the adult. As stated, it makes for bad parenting, but favoritism also goes for making a bad manager. A team may not be supervision’s children, though they do seek consideration, appreciation, and support just like children. Furthermore, employees deserve consideration, appreciation, and support.

In a large group, those of us who have experienced it first-hand will observe favoritism is generally more than one single person who has the approval of the leadership. In an organization, it’s a partiality toward those who are simply liked by the boss, while everyone else must suffer a bias to work harder, longer and without appreciation. In short, you are either in the club or you are out of the club. Merit, that is to say, appropriate recognition for a job well done doesn’t exist if you have been deemed unworthy for whatever political reason. Just like the slighted child, they will suffer feelings of resentment and a lack of will. This leads to low morale and a loss of production. A leader sets the overall tone of morale within a team and if that morale is low due to a lack of fairness, the boss has only him to blame.

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Millennials; Nature vs. Nurture

When I mention the Millennial Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers alike conjure thoughts of “Village of the Damned” or worse, twenty-something’s living in their parents bonus rooms. It’s a strong stereotype; the need for instant gratification, hover parents and texting across a table. I for one, would have been mortified had my parents contested a grade I made to my college professor or be given an award for no more effort than than standing (or sitting) in the right place. Those and $5 coffees are exactly the true stories we hear about the younger generation.

But is it a stereotype that is completely founded? In order to better understand them, we have to take a closer look at the other generations and how our culture has shifted over the past century. Or, is it even important for the rest of us to understand them at all?  Considering Millennials are moving up the food chain, more and more of them each year will be the ones who interview us for our next job if not the boss himself. They will be the leaders, politicians, administrators and those who make decisions for the rest of us once we are out of power. In short, we have to learn to play nice.

First, let’s address the glaring cliché of what a millennial is; someone late to work, rude, expectant, lazy and self-absorbed. However, we can apply that image to ANY generation when it is in its youth. Many times, young people just haven’t found what motivates them and so we hear stories of kids leeching off their parents. This could be due to the lack of experience, a good role-model or belief in themselves. We can all think back to our college days or when we started working and had high school friends still living with mom and dad, not having a direction for their lives. Eventually, many of these people got it together and finally took responsibility for their lives. Sadly, some did not, but that shouldn’t label an entire class of people. We must separate the age from the generation if we are to better understand them.

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So how did they get to where they are now? We first have to look at perhaps the best model of a “tough” society, the World War II Generation. Some call them the “silent generation”, Tom Brokaw called them the greatest generation and I tend to agree with him. These are people raised in the Depression and sent off to another continent to defeat the evils of Fascism and Imperialism. It fell to largely farm kids to fight the elite and defend Democracy. No doubt, their youth was vastly different from the experience of the average college student or young person today. When they returned home, they were grateful for a job and steady paycheck. So appreciative in fact, many worked forty years with the same company. Leaving one job for anther without just cause was viewed as a sort of betrayal. Being on the bottom rung of the company ladder, however, meant they could take pride in doing a good day’s work and putting food on the table for their families.

The Baby Boomers, however, wanted more than what their parents had. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s a natural progression. The bottom rung wouldn’t do for Boomers. At this time there was an explosion of college enrollment. Future employees wanted to be better equipped for their careers and ready for new, higher positions within the organization. As organization would typically promote from within, most of this generation would stay with a company for several decades.

Fast forward about twenty years, and Generation X came on the scene. They learned from the previous generation that loyalty to a company will not always be reciprocated. The good news was there were several other corporate ladders to climb within the same industry. If the young, upwardly mobile professionals wanted to get ahead, it meant they would have to make the leap every few years. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s a natural progression. This perhaps meant moving to another region of the country which led to a more integrated America.

That brings us to the young people of today we see in the workplace or who are perhaps still in college. The rungs of a Millennial corporate ladder look more like the slats of a of a roller coaster than anything upwardly mobile. They may work one place only for a few months and leave for a competitor that offers an industry certification with hands-on experience. A couple years later, intellectual tools in hand, move to an organization in a completely different field only to find everyone there is a “clone” of the company president. So, they join the Peace Corps or similar organization for a year in order to “give back to mankind”.  Then, still in their mid-twenties, they start work at their fourth corporation which is nothing at all like any of the previous jobs. They like it here and over time are promoted into management. Then a move is made to the original company because new leadership has changed the corporate culture there and it’s thought to be more rewarding work, even though it’s a pay cut. For most of us, it would be a wild ride! Again, there is nothing wrong with that, it’s a natural progression.

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Through the ages, Beatniks, Hippies and Yuppies got strange looks when it came to their clothes, hairstyle and mannerisms as typecasts for their era. Now, it’s the Hipsters turn! They seem to always be on their Smartphone to keep informed about current affairs, friends they have never met and the latest gadgets. Millennials are not any smarter than the other generations, though. Nor are any of us any smarter than mankind several millennia ago. What makes them stand out, is the technology at their disposal. That technology is everywhere, though most of us never have use for the majority of it. When I was in my twenties, I would approach my boss with a new idea only to have him tell me, “We tried that before and it doesn’t work”. NOW, a low-level employee may have an idea and created an app that will MAKE it work! For this point alone, we need not be dismissive of young people’s enthusiasm and ideas. Just because we couldn’t figure it out, doesn’t mean they can’t.

So, how do we keep Millennials in the organization? Well, just like any other generation, they seek satisfaction in their careers, though the focus of that satisfaction may be different. It will be NATURAL for them to set their sights on other opportunities elsewhere. For that, companies may need to NURTURE these growing corporate members in order to keep them around. Understand, I did not say coddle them. However, they do need to grow. This doesn’t necessarily mean UP. Millennials seek new tools such as accreditation and certifications or membership to an industry association. They also want to fully understand WHERE the company is going and how they fit into the overall plan. For this, leadership (that means the C- Suite, not middle management) will have to do a better job of telling their subordinates what the plans are for the immediate and long-range future. They also want to know the organization of which they are a part has a sense of community. If a charity event is corporately sponsored, Millennials will more than often volunteer their own time to help. So give them opportunities to really make a difference. For them, being part of a diverse crew where they regularly interact with others from different backgrounds is paramount.

Oddly, this sounds a lot like… teamwork. They want to be involved, so let them be. Add them to project management teams, ask their opinion of prototype products and new services. Let them know the specifics of their contribution to the business and you will keep them around longer and get more effort out of them. They will feel good (which is what they want) about coming to work. I still don’t know what an “emotional safe space” is, though.

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Jeff Mullins, the real thing

Recently, I had the good fortune to sit down with prominent business owner and one of my best friends, Jeff Mullins. Jeff is the proprietor of J. Mullins Jewelry and Gifts at 352 W. Northfield Blvd. here, in Murfreesboro. The reason for the interview was a long-time curiosity of what it takes to create a successful business. In this and subsequent Business Momentum articles for the Murfreesboro Pulse, I will look at how to start and maintain a business, as well as advice to take and pitfalls to avoid. The segments will feature new or re-branded businesses in the area.

 

(As usual, Jeff has me laughing)

If starting a business or wishing to purchase a new accessory, Mullins is a good source.  He has a long-standing history of success. Labs can create fake diamonds in a matter of years rather than centuries, but they are not the real thing. Department store counters and online websites will come and go, but Jeff Mullins has stood the test of time. He’s the real thing! To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.

The “OPEN” Open House

People in sales are taught early on to build a big list of possible leads. After all, there is no customer or client who was not at first a prospect. So, we want to identify those people as soon as possible. Not everyone we encounter will be realistic, creditworthy, or even seriously looking for what we have to offer. Why waste their time, why waste ours? We collect names, numbers, email addresses, zodiacal signs, whatever it takes to pour all those prospects into the “funnel” so one true customer will shake out of the bottom.

For those of us in real estate, the open house is the ideal place to begin that sifting process. If there is a house for sale, what better way to get potential buyers interested in the property than to simply invite them inside. We greet them at the front porch before they even knock on the door, put the biggest smile on our faces possible, and bring them in so we can all get to know each other a little better. We shake hands to introduce ourselves, and never let go of their hand until they give us their name. Then, we attempt to find out where they currently live, and ask if they need to move in a hurry. We study their attire, and glance at their car to assess financial ability. Once we finally leave the foyer, we are sure to give them the “grand tour”, so when we point to a toilet, they will know they are in the bathroom. All along, we probe for even more information on them, their family, and lifestyle. If this model fits your approach to an open house; congratulations, you’re a stalker!

Stalkers love to gather information, and keep current records. However, a good stalker will reveal just enough information themselves to keep their new victim under their thumb. The really adept ones will take control of the situation, so no one can get away without being on the hook for something. Perhaps the name of a friend or family member they could stalk as well. Oh, our timeshare counterparts love this one! But, is this an effective approach, or are we just wasting our energy on someone who we teach to resent us?

My decade-and-a-half experience in real estate, and hundreds of open houses within that time, have led me to some pointers to help create a more efficient open house experience which is a lot less energy draining than most. In the process, the sales professional will come across a lot less… creepy.

DO leave the front door open in the Spring and Summer months. After all it is an “open” house. This is more inviting, and suggests prospective buyers eventually get to leave.

DON’T be ready to ponce on them in a moments notice. In fact, let them find YOU. A sheepish “hello?” from you down the hall signals they are not going to be placed on the defensive.

DO introduce yourself as an industry professional. Hand them your business card, and let them know you are there to answer any questions they may have. If you are not the listing agent for that property, EXPLAIN to them you would work for the buyer, and could even show them several other properties.

DON’T lead them through the house. They know a bedroom when they encounter one. Once introductions are made, tell them you are available to them, and WALK AWAY. They will be perplexed, confused and befuddled that you don’t want to know their blood type. They will then seek you out for details.

DO ask broad, open-ended questions “What are YOU looking for in a home”, versus “What do you like about THIS home”? This will let them know you are on their side, and help create a dialogue.

DON’T hand them the open house flyer until they leave. You want them to ask you the questions about square footage, acreage, schools, etc. The intent here really is not to “control” the situation, simply to show the lookers you don’t bite, and are happy to help them however you can. This also sparks conversation, which could lead to a professional relationship once trust is established. At this point, give them ALL of the public information the MLS will allow.

Some additional ideas to solicit contact information;

– Ask them to fill out a very brief survey about the house. Include a heading for all their pertinent info.

– Offer a prize drawing to be conducted at your office once a month, or for the week if you pool with other Realtors. The information they give here tends to be more accurate since they want to be notified should they win.

– Actually schedule an appointment in your office, where you will take time to better understand their buying needs.

By allowing the prospect to take the lead, you assure them that you are NOT a stalker. They will also feel positive and empowered by the process. Along the way, they should feel better about you if not our industry as a whole. No, not every prospect will convert to a client, but you will have saved yourself a lot disappointment not wondering if you could have been more in control of the situation.

Having said all this, you do need a few tricks up your sleeve for safely sake. Your Broker should know where you are, and there should be a red flag code word, should you feel compelled to call a friend, or into the office. Unfortunately, Realtor safety concerns are paramount in today’s world, but that is another discussion. In the meantime, consult your Broker’s office policies concerning open house safety.

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