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?

What Are You Doing?

So exactly how are you pursuing that dream or that goal?
You know, that thing you have always wanted to get to?
If you have ever listened to anyone about personal growth or success, they talk about getting your plans down on paper and setting the definitive plan for achieving your goals.

It’s Not Enough

But there is another step.  You have to actually act upon that.
And this is where the plans fall apart for many people.
Brian Tracy says that many of us live on Someday Isle.
You’ve probably heard many people refer to it.
Someday, I’ll quit this job I hate.
Someday, I’ll begin that project I always wanted to do.
Someday, I’ll spend more time with the family.
Someday, I’ll volunteer with a non-profit.
Do you know people guilty of this?  
Are you guilty of this?
I know that there are times when I am.  I become so focused on the routine of the day or the fire of the moment, that I lose focus on the things I want to do and they get pushed to the back burner.
It’s kind of like the castaways from the television program, Gilligan’s Island.  They got stranded there and set about making themselves comfortable and never really got off the island.  Until cancellation that is.  Yes, they tried some things but they were random and not sustained.  But they kept saying, “Someday, we’ll get off this island!
I can relate to Gilligan and the castaways many times in so many ways.


The problem is that someday never comes and that’s not where our true success comes from.  In fact, you are going to get your best results not by saying someday but through what you do on a day to day basis.  John Maxwell said you will never change your life until you change something that you do daily.  I like to think of it in terms of what you do on a day to day basis makes a difference in your life.
That’s what personal growth is all about.

Intentional Daily Growth

So what we are talking about is embarking on an intentional personal growth plan so that on a day to day basis you are working towards your goals.  Set aside time on a day to day basis to work towards the goals that you have.
It ain’t easy, but nothing worth having is easy.  But you know that.
If you focus on doing something on a day to day basis to move a little closer to your goals then incrementally it gets better.
Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the end result.  Be a 1%er.  Focus just on that 1% growth you can achieve today.  Choose what you will do beforehand; don’t just pick anything.
Remember the goal here is to grow towards your goals, not grow randomly.
Schedule a specific block on your calendar every day.  It doesn’t have to be long; start with just 15 minutes.  Protect that time ruthlessly and commit yourself to it and its going to make a difference in your life.  

Not just in the future, but today.

Ripping the Shirt Off of Fear

Brandi focused on win instead of fearIt’s July 10, 1999 and in Pasadena, California Team USA and China are battling for the Women’s World Cup Soccer Championship in the Rose Bowl.  This is the largest attended women’s sports event in history.  At the end of regulation play, the score is tied and it goes to overtime.  In overtime, Brandi Chastain intently lines up for a penalty kick.  She sets herself, runs up to the ball, and launches it into the upper right corner of the goal to score and in her now famous celebration pulls her shirt off in mid-field.  A win and championship for Team USA!

Tell me, what do you think was going through her mind?  Was Brandi thinking about how she was going to blow it?

Pointing to Success

The Babe had ignored his fearsGoing back further, in one of the greatest sports moments of all time, George Herman “Babe” Ruth of the New York Yankees steps up to home plate in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series.  The score is tied 5-5 and the Chicago Cubs players on the bench have been riding the Babe mercilessly.  As Ruth steps to the plate, he makes a gesture that many believe has him pointing to the center field wall after taking strike one from the pitcher, seemingly declaring his intention.   He did it again after strike two.  On the next pitch, the Babe mightily smacked the ball deep into center field and over the fence for a home run!  It is estimated the ball traveled 490 feet!  The Yankees went on to win the World Series in a four-game sweep.

Whether you believe the intent of the gesture or not, do you believe for one minute that Babe Ruth, who not only held the record for homeruns but also for strikeouts, focused on what would happen if he didn’t deliver?

The difference in success and failure is often a matter of how we handle our fears.  Dr. Heidi Halvorson, co-author of the book Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing The World For Success and Influencesays that handling that fear effectively is often a matter of mindset.   It’s all about where we focus our attention.  According to Dr. Halvorson, we have a choice of one of two mindsets when faced with accomplishing a goal or meeting a deadline or performing during a critical moment.  We can have a what she calls a Prevention Focus; where we concentrate on the negative aspects of the situation.  The concentration is on NOT messing up.  We do this in our daily lives and with others.  When a parent tells a child who wants to help set the table,

Okay, but this is our best dinnerware, don’t drop it!”  

With instructions like that, you might as well trip the kid yourself.  Or a manager tells an employee,

it is very important that you don’t blow this account.

Best example I can think of is the story Zig Ziglar tells of the 1982 football playoffs between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers.  With Dallas ahead and less than a minute left on the clock, Dallas implemented the Prevent Defense.  Joe Montana dropped back and threw a pass deep into the end zone that appeared to be sailing for out of bounds when Dwight Clark jumped up and made a fingertip catch for San Francisco to win the game.  Later, someone asked Cowboys owner Tex Schramm about what made the difference and he said,

“The Dallas Cowboys were determined NOT TO LOSE the game.  The 49ers were determined to WIN the game and that made the difference!”

So prevention focus centers on trying not to lose the game.

The opposite then is Promotion Focus.  In this mindset, you are focused on what you have to gain when you are successful.  “If I complete this project on time, our company will collect a big bonus from our customer.”  Promotion Focus centers on the win, always opting for growth, willing to take the risk to see the reward, and quick to take action.

Promotion Focus people tend to have better and more consistent results than Prevention Focus people.  You have a tendency toward one or the other but the good news is that it’s not born in you.  It is something that has been learned, placed into your brain by the attitudes of people to whom you bonded, other people influential in your life, and combined with past experiences.  So, if your tendency is towards the cautious, risk avoiding, and tentative nature of Prevention Focus, the good news is you can change.  It is a matter of changing your mindset.

Start by imagining a change you wish to make or project you wish to start.  List all the possible positive outcomes from successfully making that change or completing the project.  Don’t downplay it, but also don’t go overboard.  In most cases, you aren’t going to be a guest on The Ellen Degeneres Show because you completed a proposal package ahead of schedule for a client.  But you will likely make a favorable impression on the client, which can lead to award of the project and potential future projects.

  • You may get referrals to other clients and generate a significant increase in business income and grow your business.
  • You may be able to hire staff and afford to take vacations.
  • You can build your reputation within the industry.
  • Your self-esteem goes up.

Imagine every possible positive outcome of making the change and WRITE IT DOWN!  Then, every time you start feeling fearful, bring out the list and read it to yourself over and over again until you feel more in control.

Determine for yourself to Play to Win instead of Playing Not to Lose.

Action Plan

  1. Take Dr. Halvorson’s FOCUS Diagnostic assessment to see whether you have a Prevention Focus or a Promotion Focus.  Warning: be prepared to list about 12 attributes you would like to possess.
  2. Think about one big thing you want to accomplish; it can be a current project or a dream, particularly if you have been feeling a lot of fear over it.  Write down all the possible positive outcomes of accomplishing it and post it prominently.  Set a start date.

The Business of Being Unique

unique rabbitThere is an old kid’s joke:

Q:  How do you catch an unique rabbit?

A:  Unique up on him!

Silly, but perhaps it has some value for us.  For small businesses, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs, there is a big emphasis on finding your niche – the market that is almost exclusively yours.  The principle behind it is that if you try to market to everyone or try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to anyone.  In the highly competitive marketplace today, especially with the explosion of entrepreneurs, it becomes important to target what you do to a specific group of people.  That group becomes your tribe or niche that can be yours and you can dominate that market much more effectively IF you know how to talk to them so that your message resonates with them and presents a sense of urgency.

What I see happen a lot with small businesses is aptly described by Marketing Coach Robert Middleton as trying to run their small business as if it was a big business.  Trying to compete with the marketing and organization.  It can’t be done.  You don’t have their budget or their resources.

The Unique Solution

be unique - stand outSo stop trying to be a big business.  Instead take advantage of what you have as a small business.  Part of what you have is the unique culture of your organization.  Whether you are a solopreneur or have 50 employees, there are things that are unique about you and your organization.  Maybe even a little bit weird.  Instead of trying to hide that, celebrate it.  Emphasize it!  Go out of your way to point it out to your customers and friends.  Integrate it into everything you write and say about your business.  There are distinct advantages to doing this:

  • You stand out from the crowd.  In the competitive marketplace, you can’t afford to fit in or be one grape in the bunch.  You need to be the lone banana.
  • You become more appealing to your niche.  They don’t want cookie-cutter, they want someone with character who will be as devoted to them so they can become devoted to you.  They want special!
  • You will connect better with people, customers and friends alike.  There is a whole generation out there that values authenticity.  The more you and your organization embrace who you really are, the more people will relate to you and trust you.

So how do you catch a unique market?  

Unique up on it! 

Action Plan

  • What is it about you or your company that is unique?  What makes you a little weird?
  • In what ways is that appealing to your target market?  What are some possible dangers?
  • How can you leverage that to connect better with your clients?
  • How can you integrate it into every communication with people inside and outside your company?

Big Dreams At a Conference

Dreams through juiceplusI am spending some time this week at the JuicePlus Leadership Conference.  As a distributor for JuicePlus and Tower Gardens, Sherry and I are able to attend the conference, especially since it is here in Orlando.  Our family has benefitted greatly from both and we enjoy sharing that with others.

A couple of things that really caught my attention about the conference so far:

1.  There are over 5,000 distributors here.  There are couples and individuals, women mostly but quite a few men, young and old.  Apparently the desire to eat and be healthy and share that with others isn’t really limited by demographics.

2.  Very reputable medical professionals like Dr. David Katz and Dr. William Sears spoke and endorsed JuicePlus and the Tower Garden enthusiastically.

Even more of what caught my attention is the people themselves.  As I mentioned before, the people attending here spread across age ranges, cultural ranges, gender, body structure, and level of passion.  But what they share in common is a desire to share healthy alternatives to the way we eat and, for a great many of them, how they fulfill their dreams.

See, some of the people here run this as a little supplemental income side business, but many are running this as their main source of income.  Either because they were laid off and could not find work or because they always wanted to run their own business.

From a leadership (and good business management) standpoint, Jay Martin, the CEO of The JuicePlus Company (formerly NSA) and his team have gone out of their way to make it very easy to make this a business.

  • no overhead
  • very little management required
  • flexibility in what you offer and when you offer it.

If someone had dreams of their own business but worried about capital, stocking product, or handling process, this is ideal because it takes those roadblocks away.  It gives hope to their dreams.

Dreams Leaving the Corporate World

laid off workers have dreams dashedMore and more, people are seeing that placing their dreams in the corporate world just isn’t the same promise it might have been before; or perhaps it never was and people are seeing that now.  College graduates are finding it harder and harder to get a job and it may not have the income they need.

The older workforce is being laid off by short-sighted executives who value savings in human capital expense more than productivity.  As the 50 and over crowd gets laid off, they also find getting new work to be challenging at best and darn near impossible at worst.
So these people turn to entrepreneurial dreams in companies like The JuicePlus Company.

As Meridith Martin, the Director of Marketing Operations for the company said in her speech today,

“More of you are saying, I don’t need the latest version of What Color is My Parachute!  I know what color my parachute is; it is Red, Green, and Purple!”

(Red, Green, and Purple by the way are the colors of the JuicePlus bottles.)

It seems dreams have entered the new millennia.