The Animal Nature of Nurture

One of the benefits of living in Central Florida is all the attractions around here.  One of the attractions, of course, is Sea World.  Sherry and I love to watch the animal trainers work with the animals at Sea World. It’s really interesting how they can do so well with it.  There seems to be a very special relationship with the animal and many a trainer will tell you exactly that.
Recently I discovered how they are able to work with them so effectively.  When an animal trainer is going to work extensively with an animal, it is critical during a developmental time that the trainer spend one-on-one time with the animal.
  • They will feed the animal
  • They make physical contact
  • They talk to the animal and encourage it.

This nurturing, one-on-one time allows the animal and the trainer to build reciprocal trust.  The reciprocal trust and the nurturing that allow the trainer and animal to be able to work together effectively and safely.

The Human Nature of Nurture

As humans, we aren’t any different.  We need nurturing ourselves.
  • We are all desperate for people to recognize that we are significant
  • We want them to recognize that we have an impact.
  • We want them to encourage us
  • We want them to guide us.

We all need that.

Giving Nurture

The flip side is that we all have the ability to nurture other people, it doesn’t come out naturally.  It has to be intentional and it has to be developed over time.
Why would I want to bother to do that in a business environment or as a leader?
When we are able to nurture people, we are able to connect with people.  When we can connect with people, we can build our influence with them.  When you can build our influence, then you can help them get the most out of themselves.  That’s what we want to able to do as a leader or businessperson: get the most out of others.
[snaptweet]”People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”[/snaptweet]
John Maxwell

Here’s some things you can do to build those nurturing relationships:

  1. COMMIT TO PEOPLE – you have to be committed to their development.  It doesn’t mean you are an enabler, it doesn’t mean that you take over their lives; it simply means that you provide the circumstances and that you are committed to helping them help themselves if they are willing to take the steps to go in the right direction.
  2. BELIEVE IN PEOPLE – If you don’t believe that they can become better or that they can achieve greater things, then you are not going to be able to get anything out of them because that belief will show through.  Whether you believe they are worthless or believe they are worthwhile, it will show through in everything you do.
  3. GIVE WITH NO CONDITIONS – Pour yourself into them and do it without setting any conditions.  A lot of people thing that giving is a reciprocal thing; I do something for you and you do something for me.  No conditions here.  Go in and pour yourself into them simply because you want to see them get the best out of themselves.  You will benefit in the long-run but you can’t go into it with the expectation of a tradeoff because there isn’t necessarily going to be one.

Potatoes and People

Here’s a cool exercise you can use with your team or your company.  I learned this with leader training we use for Boy Scouts.
  1. You are going to buy a bag of potatoes (or gather rocks) and call your team or company together.
  2. Hand each of them a potato (make a very solemn occasion of it.  adds to the fun!)
  3. Send everyone off by themselves for a couple of minutes and tell them to examine their potato and notice all of its unique characteristics.
  4. When they gather back, you are going to ask each of them to introduce their potato to rest of the group.  They can have a lot of fun with this – make up names and give it personality – and that’s all part of it.
  5. After everyone has introduced their potato to the group, collect all the potatoes back in a bag and them randomly redistribute them.  Then challenge everyone to find their unique potato.
It will be a lot of fun, but they will also learn something about Diversity and Inclusion.

Using Both Diversity and Inclusion

We hear a lot about Diversity and Inclusion these days but they don’t naturally go together in most organizations.
Diversity is all about recognizing and celebrating the differences in each of us.  No two potatoes are exactly alike; they have different shapes, different sizes, different textures and skin colors, and even the placement of the eyes.
Inclusion means I can two or more potatoes together and even though each is a different size and shape and color; when I put them together they make a tasty meal.  With inclusion in the workplace, we take the differences in each of us; the different skills sets and strengths, different backgrounds and attitudes, and we learn how we combine them together to be most productive for the team or the organization.
Many organizations practice diversity (mostly as a public relations mandate) but don’t practice inclusion.  That’s a waste.  It’s a waste of human resources, financial resources, and time.
Why spend the money hiring and training someone you aren’t going to make an integral part of the whole?
When we practice both diversity AND inclusion, then we have produced a team that is productive, effective, and profitable.

So here’s four ways to create your inclusive and productive team:

  1. CONNECT WITH YOUR TEAM MEMBERS – As a leader, it’s very important that you connect with each person and get to know them well enough to understand their goals and their dreams.  What they like to do and what they don’t like to do.  Where they see themselves fitting in to the whole.  A lot of times they may very well be right.
  2. IDENTIFY STRENGTHS – Start with an assessment.  There are lots of great ones out there, free and fee-based.  If you’re not sure, give me a call and I’ll help.  The important thing is you want to identify those strengths because that’s what we are looking to use.  You don’t want to worry about weaknesses except in terms of how we can compliment that.
  3. BUILD A STRENGTHS-BASED TEAM – Build your team based on the strengths of each person complimenting the weaknesses of other team members.
  4. FOSTER CONTINUOUS GROWTH – You want to build a mindset in your team for continuous growth and improvement of their strengths.  Continuous personal growth allows them to take the strengths that they have and making them stronger.  They will be more effective for the organization, they are going to be happier as a result, your teams are going to be more cohesive and more productive and you are going to see the results in your bottom-line.

Are You in a Zombie Workplace?

Okay, it’s a little dramatic but it also brings to light a growing trend in the business world today.
Crashing economies, cutbacks, layoffs, and uncertainty leads people to become less engaged in the workplace.
Last year, I wrote about a Forbes magazine article that quotes a Gallup survey stating that over 70% of U.S. workers are less engaged in the workplace.
If that doesn’t shock you, it should!  If you are a small business owner with employees, it should also scare you.

Your Business is in Danger

Engaged TeamAs a business owner, you are especially vulnerable to the consequences of dis-engaged employees.  Teams grow divisive; managers treat employees badly; employees treat each other and customers badly; office theft goes up; productivity goes down drastically.
These people come and they go, they do the 9 to 5, they grow through the motions and do the minimum work to get by, and are not fully engaged.
Everyone loses.
LEADERS are to blame.
Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership -John Maxwell

Six Rules of Engagement

If you are a leader in your environment, here’s some things you can do to fix that and help prevent the zombification of yourself or your employees.
  • KNOW YOUR SELF – Too many times, people don’t realize THEY are the problem.  You have probably worked for a leader who blames lazy employees, ethnic, racial, or generational cultures, bad economies, and a myriad of other reasons for why things aren’t going well.  If you are a leader and your people aren’t following, YOU are the problem.  Fix it.
  • GROW YOUR SELF – This is how you fix it.  You can’t change them, you cannot change things like the economy or anything else beyond your control.  What you can do is change YOU.  Learn to become more optimistic, learn to develop the characteristics that you are seeking in employees.  When I was a manager, I used to brag about how I made a point of hiring people better and smarter than me.  That was so wrong.  I couldn’t possibly do it.  You attract what you are, not what you wish.  If YOU grow, you’ll find yourself getting the kind of people you desire.
  • KNOW YOUR PEOPLE– Connect with them.  It’s through relationships that people build trust, respect, and more like they are a part of things when they feel connected with you.  When you can answer the three questions everyone asks in virtually ANY kind of relationship, then you can connect and influence them and they will become engaged.  The three questions you must answer are:
    • Do you CARE for ME?
    • Can you HELP ME?
    • Can I TRUST YOU?
  • FOCUS ON THE STRENGTHS – Yours and the people you work with.  Focus on how you can best use the strengths they have to compensate for your weaknesses and help accomplish the company’s goals.  That’s what a TEAM is all about.
  • REWARD THE BEHAVIORS YOU WANT – Not a lot of people do this.  They spend more time rewarding they don’t like, but you want to spend time rewarding the behaviors you desire.  Empower people, trust people, encourage people to accomplish the things you want them to do.
  • TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION – when necessary; which is not the same as impulsive action.  Don’t react impulsively, take the time to think about the appropriate response and then take the action now.  People will respect you more for taking considered, decisive  immediate action than if you hem and haw or you are impulsive.

What are some ways you have seen organizations engage their employees?

YOU Overboard

Is it possible to be too much you?  Is it possible to embrace your uniqueness – your weirdness – to such an extent to where your repel instead of attact?

Extreme Unique Personalities

unique look on Jesus in GodspellIn High School, I had a friend who was definitely unique and definitely embraced his weirdness.  His appearance even caught your attention.  He had brillo-like hair, similar to the actor who played Jesus in the movie Godspell.  When he got on a roll, his eyes had this wide-open, almost wild look to them.  He was funny and made a point to do crazy things.  Campaigning for class president in our senior year, he drove his moped into the gym and around the floor and then parked it next to the stage so he could take the podium for his campaign speech.  The audience loved it and he was overwhelmingly elected class president.

Too extreme?

Depends on your circumstance.

In an audience of high school seniors, it was perfect.   Not so popular with the basketball coach since he just drove a vehicle around on his freshly refinished hardwood basketball court.

Art Grindle and his unique way of selling carsIn the Central Florida area, there used to be car dealer named Art Grindle.  He would air commercials on local television showing some of the cars he had on sale, he would show a poster with the price of the car on it, get excited, and the scream “I’ll cut the price in half!” while he enthusiastically tore the poster down the middle.  Sometimes he would jump up on the car or car roof and do the same thing.  He made that mistake one time with a convertible.  You guessed it, fell right through the roof!  The driver bailed out and ran and Art just stood there sticking out of the roof and exclaimed “Look!  There’s a hole in the roof!  I’ll cut the price in half!

Too weird? 

Well, in used car circles some use the mantra of “anything that moves metal”.  Art was eventually elected to our state senate and served there for ten years.  In preparation for that, he toned down his on-air antics a bit.  Whether that helped him or hurt him is hard to say.

When Unique is Too Unique

I think you gauge whether your weirdness is too much based on several factors.

  • Your audience
  • Your purpose
  • The circumstance

I have seen many who choose to be unique or just plain weird and take it to the extreme.  They go for the polar opposite for no other reason than to stand out and be seen as weird or extreme.  This is self-serving; it typically has no other viable purpose than to attract attention.  When the focus is on you instead of on what you do and perhaps the different way in which you do it, then it’s not serving your purpose of making you stand out from the crowd; instead it makes you a pariah.

I am in no way suggesting manipulating people by forcing behavior.  Of course, I think going to the extreme just to go to the extreme is a little manipulative as well.

The idea here is to simply recognize how you ARE different and instead of hiding it celebrating it.  You still have to provide something of value to your client and you still have to perform when the time comes.

What do you think?  Is it possible to be too weird?  How do you know when you’ve gone too far?


Networking – Not Connecting

It is inevitable, whether you like to be in groups or not, that for a small business to succeed you or someone representing you are  involved with some networking groups.  These groups are typically formed with the primary purpose of introducing people and collecting contacts and therefore, in theory, generating leads.  There are lots of these groups around pretty much anywhere you are; literally hundreds of them.  BNI groups abound, groups like WOAMTEC that cater to a specific gender or genre, community service clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis have networking aspects to them, chambers of commerce sponsor groups, trade associations create them, and sometimes just someone with a mind for a target audience will create them.

I have belonged to several over time and visited many others.  They all have the their advantages and disadvantages and most are at least a little productive eventually.  The biggest issue I have with most of them is that the participants really don’t know what they are doing and it becomes more of a mingling than a networking.  The fatal flaw is that you aren’t connecting, you are simply meeting and greeting.  Some of the common mistakes I see are:

  • business card poker is NOT connectingPeople who show up and pass out their business cards like they are dealing poker.  Sometimes they include some type of greeting but usually it is just their brief pitch.  The assumption that I am going to do business with you or refer you to anyone else just because I have your business card is a fatal flaw.  That’s supporting your printer, not connecting.

Keep the card in your pocket, I don’t want it.

  • Shooting for quantity of contacts over quality.  I have seen people come in, make a point of talking to every single person in the room briefly, collect cards, and rush out confident that they have done their job.  Like the example of passing out the cards above, you have done nothing to further your cause other than collect some additional names you will probably add to your list to spam until they get sick of it.  Again, not connecting.
  • The assumption that you are going to do business with anyone in the room.  Yes, on a VERY RARE occasion that may happen, but it’s not the purpose of your being there.  Think about it:  did you go to the meeting to buy from anyone there?  What makes you think they did?  The purpose of networking is not to do business.  We’ll talk about that purpose (connecting) further down in the post.
  • Relying on your “elevator speech” as the entire moment of contact with anyone in the room.  I am not a big fan of elevator speeches for this very reason.  In case you don’t know what an elevator speech is, it works off the theory that if you were in an elevator with someone you really wanted to contact you basically have 30 seconds to impress so you need to present a clear, concise summary of who you are and what you do.  It works off the assumption that if someone in the elevator or at a networking group asks you what you do they really want to know.  Chances are they don’t; they really want to tell you what they do.

Connecting – Not Networking

I have spent time going around to networking groups and pointing out these fatal flaws and proposing that they do something different.  If you tire of this merry-go-round that gets nowhere, why not try connecting instead of networking.  Connecting is all about building REAL relationships with people, not just acquaintances or business card collections. You make friends, not contacts.  And that’s what networking is really all about.  You don’t have to go anywhere new, you can still attend the same events, but your intentions, purpose, and approach are different.  The only thing that will change is you.

The idea is that you want to spend more time being interested than interesting.  At the heart of it, people want to know that you find them fascinating.  They don’t want to know that you have a new, revolutionary product or service; they want to know that you can help them, that you care about them, and that they can trust you.  Take this approach and in just a short time I believe it will amaze you at how things change for the better.  Better authentic relationships with people, leading to better referrals and increase in closings.  Just changing this mindset makes a world of difference.  As Dale Carnegie said,

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Be one of the first to arrive and the last to leave to maximize your contact time.  Budget your time so that you aren’t rushed.  Being hurried shows up in your attitude, your speech, and your body language.  No one thinks you care for them when you are in a hurry and you aren’t really connecting if you are in a hurry.
  • Set your goal before you walk in the door to focus on 2-3 quality contacts.  If you meet more, and your certainly will, then great.  But focus on actually initiating a relationship with 2-3 people where you are really connecting with them.
  • Ditch the elevator speech.  Marketing Guru Seth Godin says no one buys anything in a elevator.  Give short, concise answers to inquiries about you and quickly turn it around to ask questions about them.  You want them to talk the majority of the time you spend with them.  People who let other people talk about themselves are regarded by them as the best conversationalist in the world.
  • When you do talk, share more personal information than business information.  Real connecting with people happens on common ground and that is always personal.  You may find you went to the same school, at both natives to the area, have kids, etc.

Commonality makes connections.

  • Here’s the biggie: instead of looking for what you are going to get from each relationship, look for what you can give.  What can you do for them, especially if unrelated to your business.  Can you connect them with someone who can solve a problem you don’t address?  Perhaps they need a good medical specialist or are looking for a new church or a good place that serves authentic viking food.  How can you add value to them.  Ironically, when you do that you will eventually receive value in return.  It is really true, what goes around comes around.

Action Plan

  1. Think about your next meeting.  Pick two or three people you will focus on building a relationship with this week.
  2. In your conversation with them, find one thing you can do for them THIS WEEK and then DO IT.