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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.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

 

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.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

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.

http://MomentumSeminars.com

A Realtors Stock in Trade

Every other year, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) publishes its statistical findings from the year prior. One of those reports is the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. The publication reports buying and selling trends in real estate as well as other influencers affecting the market. One stat I find especially interesting every two years is how buyers actually found the home they bought.

In the latest edition, print media was dead last. That’s no surprise to anyone. The overall effectiveness of signs has wavered somewhat as well. But at the top of the list is the internet with half the total. Just below that, with 28% was the real estate agent. What the report does not take into account is how many of those online views are from a public version of a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or an agent’s website.

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I remember over a dozen years ago, those top two numbers were flipped! Back then, several real estate experts were concerned that the internet was going to be the end of their profession. Without a Realtor to help buyers locate a suitable home, the industry would just shrivel up. “After all, if they don’t need us to find a home, what do they NEED US for?”

Decades ago, the general public assumed the most important thing an agent did was help locate a home. Why the experts gave in to that way of thinking is beyond me. Unless you are in a very rural area, it’s not about helping clients FIND a home but rather to GET a home. Realtors do so much behind the scenes to make a family’s dream a reality. And there is the problem… it’s too much behind the scenes. We need to better inform our people of the actions we take to work for them.  Otherwise, they assume we did nothing, especially when they locate the house. No one considers a material defect or liability issue until they have one.

And now the industry is ringing its hands again anxious that an online retailer is going to get in the act. How will this change the industry dynamics? Even Zillow is worried about it! Relax… it’s not day trading, it’s real estate. Abraham Lincoln once stated; “A lawyer’s time and advice is his stock and trade.” The same is correct for real estate agents. A seasoned expert has been around the block a few times and knows how to guide her clients. Great attention to detail must be given for a house to close. The type of attention given by a local individual, not a website and customer service pods half way around the world.

I recall about fifteen years ago, there was a large retail chain looking to get into the realty business. The idea was to have kiosks set up in their stores where customers could browse listings of properties in the area. They would sit down with a store clerk and simply “put in the order.” There were even a few pilot programs to test the waters. In the end, the mega retailer dropped the project. It was just too much of a hassle.

A Little Encouragement Goes a Long Way

The need to feel unique starts in grade school or even earlier if we have siblings. With so many people in the world, we want to stand out and be noticed for our talents and ideas. That is not something that goes away when we graduate from high school, however.  It carries on to adulthood and in to business, where even if we do not work for praise. it is still nice to be recognized for the effort we put in.

A good manager will have the emotional intelligence to realize a paycheck doesn’t get people to go the extra mile. Even if our leaders miss the mark, any member of the team can increase morale by letting others know they are appreciated. This is where honest, positive reinforcement comes in to play. And many in the American workforce are starving for professional validation.

All human beings need to feel appreciated by others we respect. Simple, sincere words can be inspiring to those who may have no inspiration otherwise;

“I AM PROUD OF YOU!”

This phrase, when sincere, can touch someone at the core of who they are. However, in some work environments, it may be too familiar. A more professional comment may be;

“YOU DID A GREAT JOB!”

Of course, both mean pretty much the same thing. The idea is to recognize those teammates around us who may not get the much needed recognition they deserve or even crave.

The Leader of the Band

Every team has a leader, either officially or otherwise. We typically think of a leader as one who is out front like an officer leading his unit into war, a businessperson at the end of a meeting table or a conductor with an orchestra. Though not every influential person is out front, this is likely what we imagine and for good reason.  A team will take comfort seeing the one with control over our livelihoods at the head of the pack. Or else, we start to wonder where that person is and get paranoid with all sorts of frightful thoughts.

In college, I was required to take a music appreciation class. I reluctantly attended, after all, what were you going to teach me about AC/DC or Billy Idol I didn’t already know? To my surprise, I actually got a lot out of the class. Though I rarely listen to Classic Music these days, I did learn a rConductor.jpgespect for other genres. Perhaps the most was gained for an orchestra and all the tireless work that group goes through to make a concert seem effortless. One nagging question I had for years before the class was; what instrument does the conductor play? If the musicians know what they’re doing, why do they need that guy? AC/DC didn’t need a conductor.

I asked the professor to shed some light on the issue. He stated a conductor is also a composer and will many times put his own spin on a classic piece. Although he cannot play all the instruments, he knows HOW each should sound. If there is a problem, the conductor can devote time working with the musician to figuring out what is wrong. There are many such things that go on behind the scenes, but when it is “go time”, the orchestra and the audience expect to see him there.

In a lot of ways, that is how it is in business. The CEO may not have all the answers or be the smartest person in the room, but she is expected to lead nonetheless. Like a conductor who cannot play the tuba, a leader may not be someone who has come up through the ranks of the technicians (accountants, maintenance and IT people)  they lead. However, it is very important the leader demonstrate her abilities. Members of a team are always giong to ask; “How is my job easier or more difficult with her around?” It’s a fair question and one that all bosses must answer. Otherwise the team will suffer from trust issues.

If the president of an engineer firm has a civil engineering degree and spent the past couple of decades working on high profile projects, that president will easily gain the confidence of rest of the firm. Otherwise, management must go another route to win the trust of everyone. Years ago, medical centers were run by the smartest doctor on staff. Now, many hospital administrators in the 21st century do not come from medical backgrounds. So, they are expected to show expertise in being up to date with procedures, keeping the facility out of lawsuits, confirming people are properly trained, making the important decisions and sharing the overall vision of the hospital with its people. NOT performing open heart surgery.

I do know one hospital administrator who has her RN, but she also seems to display her managerial prowess as well. She’s very approachable and even takes lunch with patients. And that is the point. A leader MUST SHOW the team they are worthy of the leadership position. Where there is no trust in the leader, there is paranoia among the team. Position power is short lived and “because I told you so” just doesn’t cut it in today’s world.