Are You A Disrupter?

Note: This post is not an endorsement of any candidate, political party, or the actual election process. Please drop your guard and just read it for the point I’m attempting to make.

Employee gets punched through smart phone by angry client because of bad service, product, or bad behavior

Employee gets punched through smart phone by angry client because of bad service, product, or bad behavior

We are well into the political primary season and the candidate that is grabbing all of the headlines is the one we half-expected to anyway: Donald Trump.

What’s interesting is that in spite of attacking every sacred cow of politics, as of this date he is still leading in the Republican poles.   I just read an interesting post on by Mel Robbins that gives the reason. Trump is what is referred to as a disruptor. He has first gone after the written and unwritten rules of a political campaign and then twisted them around in his favor. If you attack him conventionally, he simply changes the game on you. If you try to attack him on his terms, you look woefully unprepared. His popularity among Americans who are weary of Washington politics-as-usual is pretty evident. Where before politicians played their games thinking Americans were entertained by it all (and having worked in the DC area I can tell that there are plenty of folks who are entertained by it – I prefer WWE for my entertainment thank you), they now see they are looking increasingly vulnerable.

Being a disrupter is different than being a contrarian. Contrarians take an opposite viewpoint sometimes for the sake of getting an audience. I sat through a presentation by a contrarian while facilitating a weeklong orientation week for newly minted Federal SES employees. I found him brash and biting, and his message of little substance.

Disrupters on the other hand, have a specific goal in mind: winning. In my case it’s getting more business. In Trump’s case, it’s becoming president. Regardless of your goal, if you can’t win conventionally, you have to change the game. Here are a couple of examples:

Our early revolutionary war fighters were homegrown militia. They couldn’t compete man-for-man with the British army so they drew the redcoats into the woods where they would have to fight on their terms. Red provides little camouflage in the woods, especially when you’re fighting against men who grew up in those woods.

Cab drivers, who for too long were able to take advantage of travelers inside of their filthy B.O.-masked-by-a-Christmas-Tree-air-freshener cabs are now threatened by the user-friendly organically-grown Uber phenomenon.

The danger of being a disrupter is that you are a threat to your own status quo. If you work for an organization, prepare to be isolated, criticized, and ostracized. Even if your motives are pure, and you want your organization to succeed, you might find yourself on the wrong end of a termination. But if you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner, this is the key to your success.

For years while living in the DC area, I tried to crack the Federal market to get training and development contracts, along with every other consultant and coach. Finally, I changed the game and targeted the private sector. I ended up with more work than any of my colleagues, and it was better paying work with less administrative hassles and overhead. I changed the game so that I could win and I did.

This week, think about what constitutes a win in your life and your career. If it’s really important to you, consider what you can do, legally and ethically, to change the game in your favor, so that you can finally win. Like him or hate him, it’s working for Donald Trump. It’s worked for me, and I know it can work for you.

Persistence is the Key to Your New Normal

Female hand cutting paper with words. Concept.

When my then 16-year-old daughter and I joined the Title Boxing Club in Clarksville, TN, Both of us were floundering along on a health and weight loss plan we started (along with the rest of the civilized world) on January 1. We had been working out at the Clarksville Athletic Club but found the elliptical machines boring and the weight room too crowded. We passed Title Boxing every time we drove into Clarksville and decided to do our first workout.

Boxing isn’t new to me. Most people don’t know I boxed while in the Navy stationed in Guam and even survived three rounds with the South Pacific Games light heavyweight Silver Medalist Tana Meafou back in 1993. Of course that was two titanium hips and several broken noses ago. Kickboxing is a completely different animal though. There are several kicks to master plus the frenetic pace of a Title Boxing 60 minute workout. I had a hard time staying balanced and my kicks were about ankle length. My high knees would probably not even resulted in a groin shot. By the end of the first session we were exhausted and my toes were smashed and bleeding. My shins were bruised and the tops of my feet were swollen. I didn’t think about quitting, but I was disappointed in my performance.

Fast forward to now though and things have improved. I’m able to keep up with the pace and I think my technique is even better. I still can’t kick the bag with the same chain-jangling thump that trainers Kelvin and King do, but I’m getting there. I noticed this morning the fronts of my lower legs seem to be developing a thick layer of muscle (I think) and kicks no longer feel like bumping your leg into the coffee table. Maybe this is getting me close to my new normal.

Anything new, whether it’s a job, title, promotion, life change, etc. starts with an initial level of excitement followed by deep discouragement and pain. It’s the basis of my Hone Zone Model that I use in all of my workshops. The key to pushing past that Zone 3 experience is having someone to push you and summoning up all of your strength and endurance. Getting through that rough stage builds up confidence, endurance, strength, and in my case, calloused shins and feet. Your new normal is a product of perseverance.

If you’re starting something new right now, just know that you’ll soon get overwhelmed and discouraged. It’s normal and natural. If you push past it, you’ll grow. If you do, you’ll be the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time, people quit. Be sure to visualize the goal you want to achieve and surround yourself with people who have been where you are now and are now where you want to be.

I’m still excited about kickboxing. I look forward to rattling the chains on the heavy bag. I’m excited to do mountain climbers and not have my fat bouncing around. I can’t wait to have my size 38 pants fit loose again.

What are you wanting to do this year that puts you out of your comfort level? Why not get a plan together this week to start that journey? Your new normal awaits!

The Power and Benefits of Authentic Behavior

Poor RatingWhen Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away of a heart attack,  his passing has set off a big debate on naming a replacement.

I’m not going to get into the politics of this issue, but one thing that was interesting as tributes to the conservative Scalia were paid was the way he forged a lasting and deep friendship with liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On the surface, it would appear that these two wouldn’t have two civil words to say to each other but they built an enduring relationship that transcended their jobs as justices. Each had a persona and role to play, but they also had an authentic place they could retreat to and just be their natural and normal selves. It was here that the relationship was formed.

When we move into a political season,  debates grow more contentious on both sides. I have a very small Facebook presence for only family and close friends and I always see the posting and meme arrows flying (it was for this reason and a few others that I bailed on Facebook in 2012) and the tension growing. It’s not long before you’ll experience the tension. Rather than take the bait and get yourself involved (and possibly unfriended), why not consider the following:

  1. Never discuss or post on religion, politics, or social opinions. Yeah I know you have freedom of speech and all that, but if you do this, you’re subtly inviting conflict. Why do you need this in your life? And it won’t make you a bad Christian, Muslim, Jew, liberal, conservative, or whatever if you simply keep your opinions to yourself. There are better places than social media to opine and proselytize.
  1. Identify your authentic self. The real you. The one who has no overt opinions that need to be pushed at all times. Base your friendships and relationships on this. Once you establish the deeper connection, you may (if you HAVE to) be able to discuss hot topics. This again was the basis of Scalia and Ginsburg’s relationship.
  1. Consider some housecleaning in your relationships. If you have folks who, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to have a healthy connection to, why not sever ties to them? You’ll be happier and I’m sure they will too.

Life is too short and too busy and too hectic to be bogged down with extra baggage. Why not consider a different approach? It doesn’t mean that you outwardly change your work persona. Antonin Scalia certainly didn’t. It does mean that you just have an authentic place your can be your TRUE self it.

I’m going to try it this week. Maybe you can join me.


Why You Should Think Like a Politician (but not act like one)

Think outside the box conceptI dislike politics and politicians.

It all started when we moved to Washington DC back in 2000. Seeing how lobbying and fundraising worked made me feel like I did when I first discovered professional wrestling wasn’t real – shock, followed by disappointment, followed by anger, and then by apathy.

I saw it for what it was: backdoor deals, politicians getting greased to support legislation, and of course the mud-slinging campaigning to earn those jobs in the first place.

That said, one of the best things you can do is to THINK like a politician.

If you’ve ever wondered why a politician can’t answer a question with a straight up answer, it’s because they know full well that their response has consequences, intended and unintended. They realize every word has to be thought out carefully. It’s why they have a hard time answering a question on the spot – they have to think through their words carefully.

Maybe that’s good advice for the rest of us. If you’ve ever said something that came back to bite you, you’ve learned this the hard way. There are a couple of things to consider:

  1. Take a deep breath first. If you write or speak from emotion, there’s a good chance you’ll say something that can cause trouble for you.
  2. Imagine how what you want to say impacts groups beyond just yours. If you tell your sales team to dismiss a particular customer because of their difficulty, imagine what happens when that customer hears about it?
  3. Imagine how what you say will look if the entire world hears it (not that big of a stretch considering the reach of social media).
  4. Imagine how what you say now might look if for some reason you have to change your mind or approach later.

Politicians fear being seen as flip-floppers probably more than anything else. It’s why they seem non-committal when asked a question. Rather than wait to be put on the spot, why not think through all of this before saying something. Run your ideas or answers by a trusted group of colleagues who will be honest with you. Rehearse and you’ll come across as decisive, trustworthy, and confident – the exact opposite of a politician.

You won’t always have the time to be this prepared, but keeping the mindset of strategic thinking will keep you out of trouble and build your credibility.

Book Review: The Complete Experience by Kayla Barrett and Tony Bodoh

I read this book because Kayla is a colleague and friend.  What I didn’t know is that her and her co-authorTony Bodo have done such extensive work in analyzing online reviews.  They make some key points such as beginning with what you want reviews to say about your company and then putting in processes and systems in place to actually deliver to that end.  They also make the case that engaged employees who have actually tried the services can be more effective at getting customers to respond to the upsell.

Grade:  A

If your company depends on favorable online reviews, you need to read this book!

Book Review: Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly

I’m not a fan of Bill O’Reilly so I read this book with some trepidation.  My daughter was assigned it in her contemporary lit class and couldn’t stop talking about it.  It was actually a really good book.  O’Reilly made it flow like a novel, rather than a historical piece.

It tells the story of the Kennedy presidency in great detail, shedding light into what we’ve been taught and what may have actually happened.  Since I was born after his presidency and assassination, it filled in a lot of gaps I didn’t know.

Grade:  B+

I would have given it a higher grade but since I read this for entertainment, I don’t see a real value for my professional development.

Beware of the Creep

We are one month into the New Year and for many folks; their well-intended resolutions (we’ve decided to call them goals) are already on the path to failure.

The scary part is that they have no idea.  For now everything seems right on track.  The diet is going well.  They’ve made it to the gym regularly.  They’re taking proactive steps.  What they haven’t been tracking is the “creep.”

“Creep” is a word used in the consulting field when the original scope of the project is slowly and subtly increased.  It happens benignly enough but before it’s too late to change course, the new changes are locked in.

Many years ago when I was stationed in Australia with my former spouse, we were part of a weight loss club known as TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly).  All week long we’d diet and exercise and then at the weekly TOPS meeting we’d weigh in.  The person who lost the most weight won a prize but just seeing the progress each week was encouraging.  We decided that after weigh-in night, we’d allow ourselves to go out and eat whatever we wanted.  Typically it was a large pizza at the base club.  The next day, we’d be back on our diet.   After a couple of months, the “cheat night” extended to breakfast the next morning, then lunch, then dinner the next night.  Before we knew it, we started gaining weight each week.  Eventually, we quit TOPS.

The danger of the “creep” is that it starts so innocently and changes our thinking from “no way” to “it’s ok, just this once.”  From “scope creep” in a project to “brass creep” at the Pentagon, no one and no thing is immune to it.

This week, take another look at your goal and look for potential opportunities to “creep.”  Make yourself aware so you can avoid those situations.  Don’t let your progress for this year get sidetracked from the beginning!