Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday, May 17, 2010

Is Your Strength Also Your Weakness?

Karate masters teach students to use their opponents’ strength against them in combat. They know that often, a strength can also be a weakness.

Think about yourself.

What is your greatest strength? Then consider the following two questions:

How has your strength helped you achieve success?


  • Jane Manager climbed the corporate ladder because of her in-depth industry and company knowledge. Over time, she became an irreplacable company resource and to retain her, she was promoted.

  • Ted Manager achieved high levels of success through strong relationship building and interpersonal skills. He's a great listener, networker and question-asker. He also loves helping others and cares about people.

How has your strength hurt you or held you back?


  • Jane Manager's strength becomes a problem when she assumes she knows all of the answers and has the best ideas. No one can teach her anything, she thinks (been there, done that). She preaches and gives everyone advice, but rarely asks questions or engages people in dialogue. As a result, people avoid her and only use her knowledge when absolutely necessary. Her employees respect her expertise, but aren't motivated because they're lacking leadership.

  • Ted Manager's strength becomes an obstacle when, because he's so nice and empathetic, he has difficulty having tough conversations with employees. Employees like Ted personally, but they don't respect him as a manager. Bad behavior and mediocre performance goes unchecked in the department. As a result, morale suffers and performance lags.

Today's tip: Be aware of your greatest strength and how it may be holding you back in a current situation. Ease up a bit on using your strength in this situation -- and try using a more productive behavior that you're less comfortable with.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Managers Must Remember Feelings

"Man bites off fingertip of other man at Healthcare rally!"

"Man slaps stranger's crying toddler in WalMart!"

These are just two of today's news headlines. Is it me, or are there a lot of angry people out there these days? It's not surprising, given the economy, reality TV and lack of trust in corporate America (among other things).

However -- it did make me think that it's a good time to remind anyone who's a manager to remember that people have feelings. Emotions are running high these days. We're all busy, so it's easy to forget to be "nice", say thank you or just sit and listen to employees.

But it's more important than ever to make extra time.

The majority of employees aren't dangerous or violent. What managers should worry about is the impact of angry employees who suffer quietly and unproductively, who badmouth your company or who subtly sabotage your efforts. That's the biggest threat you face when you ignore feelings at work.

Now get out there and be nice. Or else! Grrrr..!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Careful What you Measure...You Just Might Get It

Did you read the article in the New York Times about the jailor who made a fortune by letting his prisoners go hungry? Apparently in Alabama, there was a law allowing sheriffs to pocket any money left over after they've paid for prisoners' meals. Over a few years, he'd pocketed almost a quarter million dollars.

Of course he gave them corn dogs, peanut butter and scraps. That's what he was incented to do.

It seems obvious, but there's a good lesson here for business. You get what you reward.

In our performance management practice we often see leaders incenting one desired behavior (like cutting costs or growing revenue), while inadvertantly encouraging a bad behavior at the same time.

Here's an example. A salesperson's performance goals are tied soley to revenue growth. Of course that's the key measure...but be careful what you wish for. Do you just want sales growth -- at any cost? What if the salesperson cuts "bad deals" to make monthly goals?

Lesson Learned:

Metrics and incentives are a form of communication. They tell people in your organization what is valued. You get what you incent, so choose carefully to avoid unintended results.

© 2009. Phyllis Roteman of The Loyalty Group, Inc. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why "Talking" is the Latest Management Trend

Corporate America has been hiding behind technology for the last five years. Why the biggest “new” trend of 2010 will be real human interaction.

Email. IM. Twitter. E-learning. CRM. 24-hour BlackBerry. Sales force automation. Online goals systems.

I propose a radical thought. How about actually talking?

Don’t get me wrong. I value technology. I’m glued to my Blackberry 24/7 like most other business people. I admit that it’s often a struggle to stop my compulsion to tap out an email (while doing other work and checking my BlackBerry) instead of picking up the phone.

However, in my consulting practice over the past five years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. People are burying their heads in the sand of technology – diving into email, spreadsheets and technology to avoid actually having conversations with live humans. It’s an example of how something created for good can become destructive (like prescription medication or pizza). Anything good taken in extreme doses can be lethal. Similarly, overused technology can kill good communication, collaboration and high performance in organizations.

Too Much Doing?

It’s not surprising that we’ve gotten to this state. Events over the past five years have created the perfect storm that has pushed people (employees, leaders, internal partners and customers) to retreat further into their computers and often hide from real human interaction.
Increasing economic pressure has thrown many organizations into “doing mode”, where individuals put their heads down like worker bees and just get things done (whether they’re high-value or not). There’s so much activity that there is little or no time left for thinking, planning – or actually talking to each other.

In this whirlwind of activity, it seems quicker and easier to simply fire off a quick email to a colleague when you’re having a conflict or exchanging viewpoints. After all, a real conversation might take time. And what if there are real, uncomfortable issues that come up? How much time will that take?

“Y” Talking to the New Workforce is Critical

In a letter to the editor of Harvard Business Review magazine (July-Aug 2009), Emily Sawyer-Kegerreis, MBA Director at Mississippi State University, observes: “Undermanagement is at an all-time high level of crisis in the workplace. This is becoming increasingly problematic as a new generation of workers demands constant feedback and mentoring.”

I couldn't agree more. Research shows that while the generation now entering the workforce is adept with technology, they crave direct human interaction. Teamwork, a sense of belonging, making a difference and regular feedback are top drivers for this generation. It’s true that some of these drivers can be addressed through technology – via online collaboration, regular email and company intranet sites – they’re not a replacement for talking “live” (in person, on the phone or via web conference).

My prediction is that organizations which hide behind technology and use it as a convenient replacement for conversations will suffer, in terms of eroded customer loyalty, employee engagement and ultimately bottom line results. Let's integrate live, direct communication with technology...a recipe for business success in the future.
© 2009. The Loyalty Group, Inc. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hope, Courtesy of The Florida Department of Corrections

I'm thinking of hope today. It seems that everyone is cautiously feeling it here in the States. New President. New potential.

Yesterday I received a check in the mail for $24.00. It's restitution from an inmate at the Florida Department of Corrections.

Let me rewind...

About eight years ago an electrical contractor in Florida abandoned a job on my home -- with about $4000 of my down payment. I filed a report, had him tracked down and prosecuted him. They tried to settle, but this guy was a career "scammer" with a record a mile long. I worried that the next person he'd scam would be a little old lady on a fixed income. I thought it would be better to put him behind bars.

The public defender warned me that if I pressed charges and the guy was put behind bars, I'd never see my $4000 again. On the streets, he argued, the man could earn a living and pay back his debt to me.

I wrote off the $4000 and pressed charges. So be it. I took it as a tough lesson on working with contractors.

I never expected to see a dime of restitution. Since that time, I've moved twice --- clear across the country in fact. I've married and had a son.

Then, in yesterday's mail, came an envelope from The Florida Department of Corrections. And there it was, $24.00 in restitution made payable to me. I couldn't believe it. I showed my husband and we laughed. He said to me, "That's the way our justice system is supposed to work, when it's at it's best."

So thank you, Florida prison system, for restoring a bit of hope. For following through on your commitments. For pleasantly surprising me with your follow-through.

There's a business lesson here too. Little things, like following up, make a big difference.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Post-script to "Sales Blunders" Post

Since posting my last blog entry, someone close to me emailed, wondering why I -- a successful sales consultant who's trying to market her business -- would publish such basic sales mistakes for the world (and prospective clients) to see. What about my reputation?

First, I'm honest enough to admit that I've made some pretty stupid mistakes along the way. Every expert and professional has. Anyone who claims they haven't is lying, arrogant or lacking self-awareness. Remember Michael Jordan's baseball career? Al Gore saying that he created the internet (or something like that)? Oprah flaunting her weight loss to her fans, then later admitting that she'd had liposuction? Famous people cursing when they thought the microphone was off? Oops!

Second, if you can't laugh at and move on from your mistakes, you'll either beat yourself up over them (NOT productive) or you'll never learn from them.

That said -- I don't make a lot of mistakes. But when I do, I remember them and don't make them again. Phyllis

Stupid Sales Blunders

Note to self: Don't do that again.

Falling on your face is a great educator.

In that vein, I'm going to confess two of the most embarrassing things I've said and done in my 20+ year sales career. Funny how they're little things -- that make a big impact.

Want to Chat?
The first year I started my business, I did a lot of "warm calling". I'd research companies I wanted to target, then make the call. I'd get up and start calling at 7 am, hoping to catch decision makers at their desks.

One woman I'd been trying to reach for months was the Director of Training for a major auto dealership on the east coast. One early morning, to my surprise, she answered her own phone. Caught off guard, I introduced myself and said, "I was hoping we could chat about your business and see if there might be a fit with what we offer." Flatly, the woman replied, "I don't have time to chat."

Note to self:
Most of the time, you only get one shot at an opportunity. Don't blow it by winging it. Always be ready and focused, even at 7 am.

Relaying Two Much on Spill Check
You know where this is going, right?
Big proposal. Fortune 100 prospect. Big typo.

Yes, we misspelled the client company's name throughout the proposal.

I don't want to give the company name, but let's say that it includes a word that's commonly misspelled -- like principal and principle. Alas, the client wasn't very forgiving and (surprise!) we didn't get the business.

Note to self:
Details can win or lose business. We put a lot of work into that proposal - and it was good. Don't ever let something like a (big) spelling error kill you.

If you think you've got me beat with a really silly sales blunder, please share!

Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Avoid "Flavor of the Month" Change

  • Do employees sigh and roll their eyes when they hear about a new change happening at your company?

  • Do veterans wait out or resist change because they know it'll fade away - like a hundred other programs they've seen come and go?

  • Are you facing the rollout of a major change, but afraid that it'll be perceived as another "flavor of the month" company initiative?

If your organization has a legacy of shifting from one major change to the next, without much to show for it, expect resistance to anything touted as "new" by senior leadership.

There's a limit to how many times an employee can rally 'round a new initiative, shift gears, serve on change committees, get excited and raise their hopes...only to see the "important initiative" fizzle and disappear without much explanation. After a while, it's understandable why people become cynical.

So what's a leader to do? If you've inherited a "flavor of the month" culture where cynicism for anything new abounds, what do you do? How do you implement change when a large part of your organization is just waiting for it to fail and go away?

While there is no magic formula for implementing change successfully, there are some basics that almost every successful change initiative covers. The challenge is just doing them. I have found that most organizations fail in executing these basics of change management.

Below is a checklist of basic elements that make change stick. It's not comprehensive, so feel free to post your own change tips. If you do these things consistently - before, during and after change - you can earn organizational trust and turn even the most cynical employees into committed supporters of change.


There's a saying: Tell them what you're going to say. Say it. Then tell them what you just said.

Don't be afraid to over-communicate in times of change. Ask questions, talk, exchange ideas, give updates, share success stories and seek feedback. You may feel like you're repeating yourself, but repetition is how people learn, remember and believe. Think about religious services. People go week after week repeating the same prayers, but they're still comforting. Repetition breeds familiarity and trust. Familiarity and trust is just what most people need to stay focused and motivated during the uncertainty and chaos that accompanies change.

Prepare the "story" and paint the picture

It's human nature to want to feel involved. Employees want to know the big picture - the rationale behind the change, the vision and specifically where they fit in. Ask yourself: Can all leaders in our organization - in a consistent way - tell their employees the "story" behind the change, the rationale, and how they'll be affected? Remember that employees talk. If leaders tell different stories about the change initiative, employees will lose trust - and the rumor mill will take over.

Ask open-ended questions and listen

Most leaders tend to ask closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions ask people to answer with a yes or no response - or make a choice between options you present. Why? They're easy to ask, quick and safer than asking open-ended questions. (If I ask an open-ended question, what if I hear things I don't want to hear?!!) In a follow-up blog, I'll provide a "cheat sheet" of powerful open-ended questions leaders can ask during times of change.

Set clear expectations
Make sure your "story" includes your best, realistic estimate of how long the change initiative will take (most major change takes years). Obama did a good job of conveying this through his campaign. He tempered his uplifting vision of hope with a dose of realism. It's not going to be easy. It may feel worse before it gets better. We're going to require you to get involved.

Celebrate successes and milestones

This is easy to forget. In the chaos of change, leaders often lose site of the big picture and how far they've come. For morale, it's critical to pause and celebrate even the smallest successes on the way to change. This celebration reminds people that progress is being made. Remember, change happens slowly (three steps forward, two steps back). It's important to celebrate the three forward steps.

Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

TRUST Me...Not

As soon as someone says "trust me", I don't.

Maybe I'm cynical. But isn't the Bernard Madoff case just one more example of how a "guru" or expert pulls the wool over intelligent, well educated people's eyes with little more than a promise of guaranteed results and entry into an exclusive club of people who "get it"?

Have you, like I, seen this in business? Someone with a thick PowerPoint deck, mounds of data and models that no one understands, complex explanations of simple things or a beefy resume casts a spell on those around him or her. Those who challenge the experts' promises and think they sound fishy are either denied access to the club - or accused of not understanding. I read that some Madoff supporters, when challenged about his too-good-to-be-true returns, said about Madoff, "he's just smarter than you and me" (or something to that effect).

This is a good cautionary reminder to all of us in business - and particularly those who hire experts or buy training solutions. When an "expert" offers you a training program that promises "500% returns", a quick fix to your team's motivational problems, or a performance management software solution that will fix your workforce issues - run away. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Trust but verify...

Anyone willing to admit being swept off of their feet by a guru or expert who promised results, but couldn't deliver? Please share. It's happened to the best of us.
Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Can People be "Toxic"?

Several months ago I blogged about "toxic people". The concept of people being toxic is not a new one. Books with titles "Emotional Vampires", "Toxic People" and "Nasty People" show the popularity of the topic and people's hunger for strategies for dealing with these people.

These people.

Since writing my earlier blogs, I've shifted my thinking a bit. I'm currently working on a webinar for Stanford University on this topic - and I like that someone suggested changing the title from "Toxic People" to "Toxic Behaviors".

Initially I accomodated, recognizing that a University must be politically correct. However, the more I've played with the concepts, the more I've grown to prefer the term "toxic behaviors".

Labeling people as emotional vampires or toxic people can be, in itself, unhealthy. Can people really be toxic? Or is it their emotionally draining, negative behavior that's toxic?

If you must work or live with someone who's behavior is "toxic", you've got to figure out a strategy for getting along with them. If you write someone off as being bad or toxic, there's not much you can do. The problem becomes out of your control. It's those people who are the problem.

You can address people's bad behavior. By asking yourself, "How can I cope with this person's toxic behavior, so it doesn't affect me negatively?" - you give yourself some control over the situation. You're not powerless.

A key strategy for working or living with toxic behavior, I have found, is trying to empathize with the person whose behavior is negative. I doubt that people are born with toxic behavior. I've never seen a toxic infant. People become critical, negative and nasty for a reason. Empathizing - recognizing that the person isn't bad, but their behavior is - may help you stay cool and protect you from taking their behavior personally.

What do you think?

Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

"Involuntarily Suspended" (Am I Laid Off?)

Here's a perplexing story someone just shared with me...

After nearly three decades as a technical manager at a large corporation, a guy has become newly retired...but involuntarily.

According to my source, here's how it went down...

The manager's company was bought out by a competitor. A boss from the new parent company called this guy in to tell him he'd been "involuntarily suspended".

The guy asked if that meant he was fired or laid off.

The boss said no...just "just involuntarily suspended". (Welcome to The Memorandum. Speak Ptydepe anyone?)

Apparently, the guy is still trying to figure out what that means, what he's entitled to and what he should tell people when they ask, "Why'd you leave (nameless) company?"

Is it possible that this company's intention was to keep "the downsized" in the gray about their status, perhaps to soften the blow or confuse the fact that people were being laid off? Or did they intend to communicate clearly and sensitively, but fumbled? What do you think?

I Googled "involuntary suspension" and none of the connotations sounded good. I read about involuntary suspensions of insurance policies, contracts...and involuntary suspension of employees or students for bad behavior. But this guy's boss said he wasn't being fired or laid off.

I had a friend who was a pilot in the 90s who was given a furlough (involuntary leave). But this
blog post by a pilot describes that when the airlines were in trouble, they furloughed their most junior employees, to be fair.

Back to the thirty-year vet who was involuntarily suspended from his corporate job.

If he isn't a poor performer, he isn't getting fired or laid off, if he's not being furloughed because of lack of seniority...what is it? Is this a potential discrimination law suit? And how many people is this guy going to tell about his bad experience with a company he's given 30 years to?

A good, simple lesson for all companies and business people:
  • Say what you mean if you don't have anything to hide.
  • Communicate clearly. Fuzzy messages leave much to interpretation. People are likely to imagine the worst.
  • Don't burn bridges, with good employees, job candidates or anyone else if you can help it. (Who knows...this guy might have a talented niece or nephew that this company may want to recruit someday. Good luck.)

    Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Riverboarding on the Zambezi River...and Change

I know...white water rafting analogies (like sports analogies) are a bit overused in leadership and teamwork training. But I've got my own new twist and it's a personal example: river-boarding (body surfing) down the Class 2 to 4 rapids of the Zambezi River in Africa.

This is something I did during a pre-midlife crisis in my early 30s. Picture this...ten of us in wetsuits with crash helmets and flippers, on our bellies fighting the rapids on little body boards strapped to our wrists. (I have no idea why I did this.)

At one turn, we were warned about sunbathing crocodiles watching us from the rocks above the water. At another turn, we were warned to "keep to the left" because of dangerous sharp rocks and an undertow to the right. Did I mention that I'm an awful swimmer?

It was a great learning experience. I was attempting something that others had done before (I knew it was humanly possible). Yet I was terrified, lacking the proper skill, and unsure of what was in store. I was with a group of strangers and being led by guides I'd just met...but was trusting with my life.

Sound familiar? Isn't this how many employees and managers feel during times of change?

Here's an example. A client of ours acquired several former competitors in a short period of time. As you can imagine, this was a huge shake-up for the sales organization. Territories were restructured, salesforces were combined and the organization was flattened. Some managers went back into sales - and some managers found themselves leading groups of strangers who used to be their competitors. The acquisitions added product lines, giving the new company a bigger industry footprint and more opportunities. But it significantly changed the sales process, from a simple sale of a few products to a much more strategic, complex sale of integrated solutions.

Suddenly, leaders and salespeople who'd been successful in the "old" environment found themselves on unfamiliar ground. Many skills that were rewarded and made them successful in the past were less relevant. Potential obstacles lurked like crocodiles around each corner as the organization struggled through the transition stage of change. Everyone plowed ahead, as we did on the rapids, while worrying about what might be around the corner or if success would ever come.

My next blog posting will deal with the practical elements of managing change, based on a great
article I just read from Knowledge.Wharton on why business strategies fail. Not surprisingly, the reason is often poor execution. It was this article that got me thinking about my riverboarding trip and the importance of balancing strategy and execution during turbulent times.

Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Friday, March 28, 2008

How to Be Recession Resistant: Five Strategies

Earlier I posted on the idea that nothing is "recession proof", as much as popular media and many "experts" want to peddle their recession-proofing wares to us.

Reality check....the best we can do is build up our resistance to recession and the other ups and downs of business. This blog is the first in a series of articles with pointers on how to be recession resistant, as an employee, manager, salesperson or business.

Below are five strategies for surviving during tough times and always landing on your feet. I'll cover each in more detail in follow-up posts.

1. Pull Your Head out of the Sand

Stay alert for predictable surprises. Harvard Professor Max Bazerman says that "Predictable surprises happen when leaders had all the data and insight they needed to recognize the potential, even the inevitability, of major problems, but failed to respond with effective preventative action."

2. Live with Healthy Fear

Paralyzing fear is bad. Fear that propels you to take action is healthy!

3. Don't Assume You're Still Valuable

What made you successful in good times may not be what matters in bad times. Question what is really important to your business and your bosses when recession looms...and find ways to fill that need.

4. Keep Your Pipeline Full

If you only network and ask for referrals when times are bad (and you're looking for opportunities)'s probably too late.

5. Become Your Own PR Person

Whether you know it or not, we're all in the public relations business. Be your own advocate and build your brand year-round.

Tune in for more postings describing how to execute each of these survival strategies.

Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Drop Price, Drop Credibility! A post-script...


Since my last post (about how our postage meter vendor dropped our price when we threatened to cancel)...the saga continues.

Our initial rate was $20.00/month.
My assistant called to cancel and was offered $12.95/month.
She said she'd call them back, and checked with me. I said no thanks.
I posted my blog (rant).

Needless to say, when my assistant called them back to reject the $12.95/month, they offered her $7.95/month!

Do you think if we hold out long enough they'll pay us to keep the meter?

Drop Price, Drop Credibility!

We have a postage meter in our small office. We ordered it from the vendor when we were doing bulk mailings a few years ago. Since then, our snail mail usage has trickled off, so we decided to run the meter down to zero, then send it back. Why pay $20.00 a month for a small convenience that we really don't need?

Today my assistant, Jenn, contacted the company to ask how to send the meter back. She tells me that they offered to lower our monthly fee to $12.95 if we keep the meter. that I want to cancel, they can drop their monthly rate by $7.00?

Basically, that translates into $7.00 a month too much that I've been paying for almost two years. Rather than jump at the reduced rate, I'm a little ticked off. Granted, $7.00 a month is nothing. It's the principle. I feel like I've been ripped off, paying $20.00 per month for a service that is only worth $12.95.

And they've lost credibility with me. If they can arbitrarily give us the service for $12.95 a month, how do I know someone else isn't getting exactly the same thing for $9.00 a month?!!!

Lesson for all businesses: Don't drop rates without justifying the price reduction. It erodes your credibility, makes you look desperate and devalues what you're selling.

Friday, March 21, 2008

No Such Thing as Recession-Proof

"I've got a risk-proof way to make a million dollars!"

"This plan to invade Iraq is fool-proof!"

"This new firewall is 100% hacker-proof!"

I'm always leary when I hear that anything is "proofed". The phrase implies that there's a 100% guaranteed way to prevent something from happening. I can't think of anything in life, or business especially, that's foolproof or completely without risk.

This morning at the gym I was watching CNN and saw an advertised segment on "Recession Proofing your Job." Jumping on the "Big R" scare, other media outlets and and business consultants have written articles claiming to have the secret to recession-proofing your business, finances or job.

Any business or employee who is fool-hardy enough to think that they're immuned from the impact of recession is tempting fate. It's like saying that driving the speed limit, being cautious, wearing your seatbelt and having airbags makes you accident-proof. It doesn't. What it does do is give you some control over your fate by protecting yourself.

In my next blog post, I'll give tips for how to become more valuable to your employer, so you are recession-resistant. This means that even if your job is downsized, outsourced or cut back during a recession, you'll be able to bounce back quickly.

Recession resistance means doing things that make you valuable - in any job, in any economy.

Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I Don't WANNA Be Coached! (What to do when employees don't want coaching.)

You know who they are. They’re the employees who squirm when you mention having a coaching discussion with them. They’re always “busy” when you want to talk about their development or give them some feedback. And when you do get a coaching meeting scheduled, they placate you by nodding their heads compliantly – or sit silently – anything to get the meeting over with.

They're reluctant coachees.

I asked some of my colleagues who are professional executive coaches what they do with someone who doesn't seem to want coaching. Not surprisingly, they all said that they don't coach unwilling participants. You can't coach someone who doesn't want to be helped.

I agree with that. But if you're a manager or in an internal (corporate) coaching role, it may not be that easy. You can't simply "turn down" coaching gigs when coaching is part of your job. So what do you do, as a manager or internal coach, when faced with people who resist your help?

It's not like you don't have any options. You can always avoid them, focusing your attention on those employees who really want your help. Or you can just fire them.

Before writing these people off as just "difficult", however, try to diagnose why they resist your help. Once you understand what's behind the resistance, you'll be better equipped to address it. If nothing else, you may find that you're just dealing with a difficult, stubborn person who refuses help and needs to seek other employment. At least you'll know.

Here are five common reasons that people resist coaching.

1. The Veteran Aura

This works two ways. Seasoned employees may be afraid to let it be known that they need coaching. After all, they've been around. Other employees probably ask them for advice. They view coaching as something that's for newbies, not them.

Managers often fuel this perception by leaving veterans alone. "They don't need my help," they think. Or they wonder, "What value can I add? The veteran's been here longer than me!"

The downside to this cycle is two-fold. One, veterans without coaching may plateau and never reach their full potential. We all get stale and form bad habits over the years. By leaving veterans alone, you're not doing them a favor. In fact, you're depriving them of the opportunity to learn and be challenged - and holding your company back from reaching its growth potential.

The other downside is that veterans who aren't coached may feel ignored, which can lead to poor morale or even turnover. An ignored employee is ripe pickings for a recruiter working for the competition. Most veterans won't say that they feel ignored or isolated, because they don't want to sound needy. But everyone likes to be recognized. Providing good coaching shows that you care and are interested in what the veteran is doing.

2. Been Burned in the Past

When you hire people or inherit a team, everyone brings their old baggage. If people on your team had poor managers in the past (who led through intimidation or used coaching as an excuse to criticize), don't expect them to welcome your coaching with open arms. They've got trust issues - and being coached requires a lot of trust.

It's a lot like personal relationships. Once bitten, twice shy. If you marry and divorce an overbearing spouse who is a control-freak, you're likely to be turned off by future dating prospects with strong personalities. It's a natural human response to being burned.

You can find out if "been burned in the past" is an issue by simply talking to your team members. Ask, "Tell me a little about how your last manager coached you and gave feedback," "What did or didn't you like about how that coaching relationship went?" Or, "I want this coaching relationship to be effective. How do you like to be coached?" This type of dialogue can clear the air about any bad past experiences with coaching, and give you a fresh start by establishing new expectations for your coaching relationship.

3. They Don't Know How to Participate

It may sound odd, but some people just don't know how to receive coaching. These may be the people that sit silently during coaching discussions, nodding their heads occasionally (like bobbleheads) and contributing little. It may be that they don't know what they're supposed to do in a coaching discussion. Or they may think that coaching means that you tell them what to do.

If you expect your team members to participate in their coaching discussions, you should set that expectation. Don't assume that your "picture" of coaching is the same as the employee's picture. You can set clear expectations by:
Letting them know, before the discussion, why you want to talk and the agenda for the coaching conversation.
  • Explaining clearly what you expect of them during the discussion. ("I expect that this will be a two-way dialogue where we can tackle this problem together.")
  • Being clear about how to prepare for the coaching meeting. ("I'd like to to bring your financial analysis and projections for the next three months, and any supporting data you'd like me to see, so we can go through it together.")
  • Asking them what they'd like to get from the coaching discussion

4. Personal Issues (Out of your control.)

Sometimes, people just don't want to be helped and you can't do anything about it. This should be your last conclusion, after you've explored tested other theories and tried various approaches. And as my executive coaching friends point out, you can't coach someone who just doesn't want it.

5. Look in the Mirror (It may be you!)

It isn't easy to think about, but sometimes the problem is us (I include myself in this, even though I think I'm a pretty good coach). Coaching isn't easy. It takes a consultative mindset, patience, emotional intelligence - and a whole lot of skill and practice. You may need a coaching tune-up or some pointers, like the ones offered in TLG's thinktwice Coaching Cards. Remember, you're a role model for the people you coach. When you start with yourself - and show that you're able to work on your coaching skills - you're sending the message that "everyone needs coaching...even the coach!"

Copyright 2008. Phyllis Roteman. The Loyalty Group. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Is Your "Inner Child" Sabotaging Your Sales Career?

As my loyal readers can see, lately I have both babies and selling on my mind. Who knew the two would converge so well into blog topics?

Last week I posted about the personal traits that top salespeople share with babies, including curiosity, openness and flexibility.

In this post, I look at the not-so-cute side of being a sales baby. This post covers a baby-like trait that will stunt your sales growth and prevent you from reaching your potential - impulsiveness.

Take a Quiz: Are You an Impulsive Salesperson?

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes that "...perhaps there is no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse." He cites as an example the famous "marshmallow test", in which psychologist Walter Mischel at Stanford studied impulse control in four-year-olds. If you aren't familiar with the study, here's a quick summary from

"Mischel put marshmallows in front of a room full of 4-year-olds. He told them they could have one marshmallow now, but if they could wait several minutes, they could have two. Some children eagerly grabbed a marshmallow and ate it. Others waited, some having to cover their eyes in order not to see the tempting treat and one child even licked the table around the marshmallow. Mischel followed the group and found that, 14 years later, the "grabbers" suffered low self-esteem and were viewed by others as stubborn, prone to envy and easily frustrated. The "waiters" were better copers, more socially competent and self-assertive, trustworthy, dependable and more academically successful."

Ask yourself, are you a "grabber" as a professional salesperson? Granted, there are times to jump when opportunity knocks. You can't be successful in sales if you can't aggressively pounce at the right time. The key phrase here is at the right time. Impulsive ("grabbing") sales behavior will sabotage your sales career if you have trouble controlling the impulse to pounce.

Take this quiz and see whether your inner child's impulsivity and lack of patience may be sabotaging your sales results.

  • Do you feel compelled to swoop in for the close the moment you hear a customer need?

  • When you hear a customer objection, do you quickly try to squash it with a comeback, argument or product benefit?

  • Do you try to "pitch" your products and services when you see an opening, because you might not get another chance?

  • Are you impatient while other people are talking? Can you hardly wait to say what you want to say - or interrupt often?

  • Do you easily drop price or make concessions to close a sale, rather than take the time to build value and sell the higher price?

  • Can you walk away from "bad business" - or do you find yourself saying "yes" to everything?

  • Have you received feedback that you talk too much?

  • Do you have difficulty allowing silence on a sales call? Do you jump in to break the uncomfortable silence?

There is good news, even if you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions. You may not be able to control the feeling of impulsiveness. However, most behavioral psychologists agree that you can control whether or not you act on those impulses. As with making any major behavioral change, the first step is to be aware of your current behavior. Pay attention to situations in which you feel yourself wanting to interrupt a customer, toss a sales pitch without understanding a need, or shut down a customer objection with an argument. Catching yourself in the act of impulsiveness is the first step toward learning patience and good sales timing. It's also a big step toward accelerating your sales success!

© 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group, Inc. Sherman Oaks, CA.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Are you a Sales Baby? (Maybe That's Good!)

Do you want to become a better salesperson? Go to the training seminars, read motivational books...then spend a little time with a baby.

Below are four baby characteristics that all great salespeople share. If you're in sales, see how you measure up against the baby.


Babies look at everything with fresh eyes. Unlike most adults, they don't make assumptions or think they know it all. They're fascinated by the world around them and how things work.

Why it matters in sales: Curious salespeople ask good questions - and as a result, uncover information that other less curious salespeople miss. For example, a curious salesperson who hears a customer problem, such as, "Our online sales are down" will naturally ask, "Why are they down?" The less curious salesperson won't bother to ask why. He hears a problem and immediately jumps in with a sales pitch. ("I've got a great product that'll help you increase your online sales!"). The less curious salesperson appears pushy and the customer backs off.


Babies are non-judgmental. They lack the cynicism of jaded adults who, based on bad experience, often take a negative outlook on life.

Why it matters in sales: Cynicism and negativity are sales killers. That's why so often new salespeople, fresh out of new hire training, start out like gang-busters. They're enthusiastic, excited about their new job, and (like babies) haven't yet been tainted by negativity. They're eager to apply what they've learned in training are excited to make money. They have a winning sales attitude...until some crusty sales manager or veteran salesrep pulls that newbie aside and says, "Forget what you learned in sales training. This is the real world. Let me tell you how things really work." Over time, the new rep gets infected with cynicism and adopts a jaded outlook. Negative attitudes like, "Customers are cheap" or "My quota is too high" become excuses that kill sales performance.


Most babies can stick their feet in their mouths. How many adults can do that?

Why it matters in sales: OK, to be a great salesperson, you don't need physical flexibility (although being able to stand on your head or shove your fist in your mouth may come in handy when entertaining clients). Personal flexibility, however, is always critical in a consultative sales process. When your sales approach isn't working, can you bend and adapt? We've all gone into a sales call prepared with our proposal, questions or presentation...only to have the rug pulled out from under us by a change in client agenda. ("We're sorry...did we forget to tell you that the decision maker isn't able to join us today? And that we only have five minutes instead of an hour?" And that our specs have completely changed since we last talked?") Great salespeople are flexible enough to go with the flow and bend like a baby.


When babies fall down, they get right back up. They don't quit when they fail. If they did, none of us would ever walk - we'd be forever on our bellies.

Why it matters in sales: Most salespeople stop calling a prospect after three attempts or follow-up calls. (I've followed up with prospects for years before doing any business.) The really great salespeople bounce back quickly and don't use obstacles as excuses for giving up. Ask yourself, Do you give up quickly when you fall? Do you make excuses why you can't be successful? Do you blame outside forces - bad clients, bad products, your company, the weather, your internal partners - for your lack of success? Like a baby, when you bump into a wall, dust yourself up and keep going.

In my next blog post, we'll look at the baby-like traits that all salespeople should avoid. All whiners and those who work with them in sales should read this!

© 2007. The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rude Efficiency Loses Customers

I've been on the road this week. My customer service experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly - are the inspiration for this blog. Read on for my story and a reminder of some basic customer service lessons for any business competing for customers.

The Good...

Last Saturday, my husband and I flew from LAX to Chicago on United Airlines with our 10-month-old son. It was a 6 AM flight and we woke up at 3 AM. Surprisingly, everything went smoothly.

The airport shuttle driver at Park Air Express was wide awake, friendly and helpful. We pulled into the parking garage and struggled to figure out the most convenient place to park - with about six bags, a stroller and a baby. Seeing us looking around, the lot attendant approached our car with a smile and asked if we needed help. He helped us into the shuttle, smiled and talked to our son as we loaded our bags, and got us to the airport right away. It was actually pleasant.

The Bad...

At the airport, we expected the usual long line at United's check-in, but we were happy to see about 30 self-service kiosks open. Better yet, a United employee with a portable microphone was directing traffic.

"What a great idea!" I said when I saw how quickly the line was moving. (One of my pet peeves is seeing open check-in kiosks at a busy airport and a long line of oblivious passengers waiting. I've often taken matters into my own hands and directed people to the open stations myself, since the airlines never seemed to care or notice.) I was so excited to see an airline being innovative and efficient (so early in the morning yet), I told my husband that I wanted to write a positive feedback letter to United.

My love affair with the airline was short lived.

We quickly realized why the line was moving so quickly. The United employee on the microphone was barking orders like a drill sergeant - albeit efficiently - to the harried passengers. No one dared disobey. Here are a few examples of what she blared over the microphone, for the whole room to hear:
  • When someone in line didn't jump when she told them to move, she quipped, "HELLO?!" in an annoyed tone.

  • When another person wasnt moving fast enough, she demanded, "Did you HEAR me?!!

  • Another poor victim of Miss Biting Tongue was confused about which direction to go for the open kiosk. That passenger received a swift: "I said right! Go to the RIGHT!"

  • To top it off, she kept referring to the long line of waiting passengers as "people". As in, "Keep it moving, people!"

I'd like to say that was the worst of our LAX experience. But it went downhill from there.

The Ugly...

As anyone who travels with a baby, a laptop and carry-ons knows, checking through airport security can be a daunting task filled with obstacles. Think - take baby out of stroller, remove laptop from rolling case and padded sleeve, fold up clunky baby stroller, place stroller on conveyor belt (with baby in your arms), put laptop in its own bin, take shoes off and put them in a bin (again with baby in tow) get the picture. I'm not making excuses or complaining, just painting the picture of me at airport security at 5:00 am on a Saturday. (Did I mention the long line of people watching impatiently as my husband and I struggled?)

Here comes the "ugly":

  • As we approached the security gate, the agent yelled at the waiting line, "This is a metal detector. It detects METAL!" He wasn't being funny. His tone and expression were saying, "You passengers are idiots and I'm smarter than you."

  • We were carrying a sippy cup with water for our baby. The TSA website says that you're allowed to bring supplies for your baby through security - and anyone with a baby knows you have to keep little ones hydrated. When we got to the front of the line, however, the agent told my husband that the sippy cup wasn't allowed. Rather than argue or hold up the line, my husband offered to drink the little bit of water in the sippy. The agent said, "No - you're not allowed to drink it." (Huh?) My husband had to leave the line to empty the sippy cup into a water fountain (holding up the line of course).

  • In all of the commotion, I accidentally took out my driver's license instead of my boarding passes to show the TSA agent. The boarding passes for my son and I were in my purse, which had just gone through the x-ray scanner. I felt embarassed - especially since I've often impatiently glared at fellow passengers who've held up security lines because they've forgotten boarding passes. I pleaded to the TSA agent, "I'm so sorry, I left my boarding passes in my purse." Without even looking at me, he barked to the rest of the line, "BOARDING PASSES PEOPLE! We need your BOARDING PASSES!" I felt like a little kid being scolded.

  • I got my boarding passes and thought I was home free. My baby and I walked through the security gate. But alas, the humiliation didn't end there. I didn't realize that our stroller had gotten stuck on the conveyor belt and hadn't gone through the scanning machine. The TSA agent scolded me: "Ma'am, go back. It's not my job to push your items through the machine." I took the walk of shame back through the x-ray machine, baby in tow, and pushed the stroller back on the conveyor belt. The woman behind be, in a sympathetic voice, whispered, "I'm sorry. I told the agent I was happy to do that for you. They wouldn't let me." (I'm sure she was whispering so she wouldn't be heard and hung by the TSA for treason.)

It was obvious that the TSA agent wanted to make me an example. "See this woman and her shame. Don't be like her and hold up the line! If you don't want to be publicly humiliated in front of a crowd of fellow passengers...follow my rules!"

Now I admit, I wasn't at my best in that security line. I fly several weeks a year for business, so I'm not a novice traveler. I know what to do at a security line. I was a bit frazzled, but certainly the TSA agent's behavior didn't make the line go any quicker - and didn't help me be more efficient.

The Lessons...

If you're a business that relies on customers (who doesn't?), there are some basic but powerful customer service lessons in this tale.

  • If you're a service provider, scolding or being sarcastic with frustrating customers may make you feel better - but at what cost? It doesn't make customers move faster or respond the way you want them to. It just makes difficult situations worse.

  • I don't have a choice of whether or not to deal with the TSA when I fly. I can't take my business elsewhere just because an agent is obnoxious. But I do have a choice of which airport to use (we have two others within driving distance from my office). And I certainly have a choice of which airline to fly. I'll think twice about LAX and United in the future.

  • Efficiency, safety and courtesy aren't mutually exclusive. Customers do want efficiency and safety, when it comes to traveling, eating in a restaurant, buying business equipment or upgrading their company's software. But we also want courteous, respectful service. Businesses that can do it all are the ones that will keep customers in the long run.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Praise to the "Me" Generation

"I can't deny the fact that you like like me!"

These words, delivered with elation by Sally Field when she won a Best Actress Oscar for Places in the Heart, reveal the depth of a performer's need for recognition.

In the work world, it seems we have our own brand of love-starved performers: the "me" generation.

A podcast last week on NPR discussed how the 20-somethings now flooding our workplaces are fueled by constant praise. Experts cited in the story theorize that this trait was instilled by this generation's parents - whose parenting style was more focused on building self-esteem than on objective self-appraisal. Kids that grew up in the late 80s and 90s often played in sports leagues where there were no losers (everyone got trophies), strong discipline was frowned upon, and kids got praise for everything including getting up for school or getting dressed (things they're supposed to do anyway).

We All Like Praise, But How Much?

When these praise-hungry kids grew up and entered the workforce, their expectations of authority figures were high. As a result, managers have had to look for reasons to lavish recognition on younger employees who need regular pats on the back to stay engaged. ("Congrats on meeting that deadline." "Thank you for showing up for work on time." "You're really smart.")

Some may argue that every worker likes positive feedback. True. The questions are: "How much?" "How often?" and "For what?"

Research into "Generation Me" shows that overall, this younger group of workers typically needs more positive stroking, more often, for more types of behaviors to stay motivated.

The Implication for Managers

The impact on managers' jobs can be significant. If you manage people today, you've got to go out of your way to look for positives to praise, even if you're busy or under pressure.

Managers: challenge your own principles. Below are attitudes that won't work anymore for managers who lead younger workers:

  • "I had to work hard without much praise. Younger employees need to suck it up and work hard too, like I did."

  • "I don't have time to babysit and pat people on the back for every little thing they do. I'm too busy for that."
  • "I feel phoney giving out praise for little things. I don't give a lot of thanks, but when I do, I mean it."

  • "They should feel lucky that they have a good job, benefits and decent pay! That should be enough to keep them motivated!"
While there's validity to all of these beliefs, they just may not work today. Managers who cling to these principles may quickly find themselves losing young employees to managers who dole out a daily dose of praise.

© 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why "Time Outs" are Important in Business

A fellow blogger, Bud Bilanich, has been writing a series of posts comparing the game of rugby to the game of business. One of the "leadership lessons" Bud says he learned from playing rugby was that you must "Kill the Ball".

Like Bud, I was a rugby player (albeit for a very brief time in college, in an all-woman league). A rugby ball, for those who don't know, is like a big football. It's harder to handle than an American football, I think, because of its larger size. And like an American football, it bounces funny, making it difficult to pick up when it's loose on the ground.

Here's what Bud says in his

"Coaches always tell their players to “kill the ball” when it is bouncing around the open field. You kill the ball by falling on it, gathering it to yourself, and then standing up with it...When you kill the ball you benefit your side because you secure it and allow your teammates to align themselves to begin an offensive possession. Possession and field position are very important in rugby."

Think of the bouncing rugby ball as a work crisis. Haven't we all seen this situation? The ball is loose and everyone on the team is desperately trying to get it under control. So people start kicking the ball (flyhacking as ruggers call it), trying to pick it up and run with it...but in the frenzy no one is "killing the ball" (actually stopping the crisis and regrouping). It can become a comedy of errors.

A few years ago I witnessed a perfect example of what can happen when no one takes the initiative to "kill the ball" in a business crisis. (Follow the bouncing ball and see how a small problem spirals out of control.)

  • It's a busy work day (lots of deadlines, etc.). Out of the blue, the department's email goes on the fritz. No one in the department can access their email.

  • Panic ensues.

  • Bob calls the IT department. They're busy working on other urgent problems and say, "We'll get to you as soon as we can."

  • Bob gripes to Amelia for 25 minutes about how unresponsive the IT department is. They recount all of the problems they've had with IT over the past several months.

  • Mary runs around the building trying to track down computers in other departments that the team can use until email is fixed.

  • Because she's in a panic, Mary's got a short temper. She gets into an argument with Jake in accounting because he won't let someone use his workstation during lunch. She spends 20 minutes arguing with him.

  • While Mary is out looking for computers and arguing with Jake, three customers have called. They had to leave voice mails because there was no one at Mary's desk to get the phone. (One of the clients had an urgent problem and was threatening to cancel an order.)

  • Meanwhile Tania decides to try to fix the problem herself by playing with the computers. She gets into the operating system and begins fooling with computer settings. She accidentally locks herself out of her computer and can't get back in.

  • Marty decides to let his customers know that he's not going to be able to meet their deadline because the computers are out. He goes home, because he can't get anything done at the office.

  • The IT technician arrives one hour later. He quickly discovers that earlier in the day, while everyone was running around trying to meet their deadlines, someone accidentally tripped on a cord and unplugged the department's email server. When he plugs it back in, email is up and running. Simple problem, quick fix.

Why didn't anyone think to check the plug? As Bud might say, no one killed the ball.

No one stood up and yelled "STOP THE INSANITY" (as Susan Powter used to say) to regain control. That quick time out might have given the team time to think, "What are the possible causes of our email going down?" and "What are some simple things we can do?"

So what can we learn from this?

In our office, we created what we called a "two-minute rule", with the help of a consultant, Amy Siu, President of Simply Organized Solutions. When we hit a business crisis, we took a two-minute time-out to regroup. It was our time to take a deep breath, calm down and strategize. Anyone was allowed to call time out when they started to see insanity ensuing in a crisis.

I can't even count the number of times we called time out...and how many mistakes we prevented. Try it.

© 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 28, 2007

So You Want to Hire a Guru?

In the old roadrunner cartoons, Wile E. Coyote had a business card. It said:

Wile E. Coyote, Genius

Now I can't say that I've been handed a business card with a "Genius" title on it. But I have come across a lot of self-proclaimed "Gurus" lately.

I'm a member of the professional networking site, LinkedIn . Just for fun, I ran a search of my network (contacts and my contacts' contacts) to see how many people call themselves gurus. I found 53. Outside of my network, there were hundreds more.

Gurus galore.

There were your run-of-the-mill gurus. Marketing gurus. Sales gurus.

And there were some highly specialized gurus. I found a "70s music guru", lots of "recruitment gurus" and a "dp api guru" who worked for a major software company.

It seems that many companies want to hire gurus as consultants, usually with a heavy price motivate the troops or work some kind of magic in the organization. Gurus are often seen as a quick fix. They are expected to fly in like bees, speak at a conference or talk to an executive team, pollinate their people with magic dust, then jettison out.

So what makes someone a guru? Here's a definition from

"An advisor or teacher. The term, which comes from Hinduism, refers to a spiritual teacher. 'Gu' means darkness, and 'ru' means light; thus a guru turns ignorance into enlightenment.

In the west, the term has been interpreted quite often as simply an expert in a field, whether that person helps you learn or understand anything or not."

So let's say your company is looking to hire a guru - a high-powered consultant, speaker or advisor. How do you know you're really getting a guru (someone who can turn ignorance into enlightenment)...and not some self-proclaimed genius who decided to quit corporate life and hang out a "guru" shingle?

Here are some tips for hiring a guru for your business:

  • Beware of people who call themselves gurus. As my husband says, "Any self-respecting guru would be embarassed about being called a guru." (Can you imagine great people like Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein or Vince Lombardi calling themselves gurus?)

  • Peel back the layers. When you think you've found your guru, ask lots of questions to make sure there's substance beneath the surface. Many consultants and "experts" talk a good game (like salespeople), but lack the smarts or common sense to deliver results. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions to make sure you've found the right person.

  • Set realistic expectations. If you're expecting to hire a guru to work miracles in your organization, you're setting yourself up for disappointment (and wasted money). Be clear about why you want to bring in a guru. Is it to motivate the troops for a day? Do you want behavior or cultural change in your organization? Or do you just want a smart person to come in and talk tough to your leadership team? Before engaging your guru, ask yourself, "Is this really what we need...and will it really solve our problems?" Or are we just looking for a quick fix?
© 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Tale of Buyer's Remorse

Scene 1:

Our living room, the night before a sales appointment.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were in the market for new windows for our home. My husband got a referral for a window contractor and scheduled an appointment in our home at dinner time the next day. My husband told me:

- He was just getting an estimate.
- He expected the job to cost around $20,000.
- We really needed to get it done soon.

Fast forward to the end of this story...

We signed a contract for almost $30,000 that night...then cancelled the whole contract the next morning. What happened? It's a good lesson for salespeople on buyer's remorse - and what happens when you take shortcuts to close a sale quickly. Read on for the rest of the story...

Scene 2: The Set Up
Walking through the house, while Mom (me) is distracted

My husband greets the friendly salesman at the door. I'm distracted with our baby (and trying to finish some work email), so I suggest that the guys (my husband and the salesman) walk around the house and discuss the job.

I hear bits and pieces of their conversation. It sounds low-key and friendly. Occasionally my husband asks my opinion and I try my best to jump in (but my hands are literally full). He asks, "What kind of door would you prefer here?" "Should we replace the bedroom windows while we're at it?" The job was growing...but what the heck, we were just getting an estimate. Let's see what it'll cost, I thought.

Scene 3: The "Divide and Conquer" Tactic
The husband and wife try to talk in the kitchen...

When the house walk is done, my husband and the salesman sit at the dining room table to go over numbers. It comes out to over $30,000, more than $10,000 more than we'd anticipated spending. My husband and I try to talk in private in our kitchen, but the salesman can hear us. I ask my husband quietly, "Did you plan on spending that kind of money?" "I thought we were just getting an estimate." "Are you ready to sign now?" "Why don't we wait and think about this, or cut some stuff out. We don't really need all of this, do we?"

Sensing that his sale was in jeapordy, the salesman interrupted our private conversation and told my husband that "he needed to show him something in the other room." Separating the husband and the wife. One of the oldest tricks in the book!

Scene 4: The "Sign Today or Else" Threat
Back at the dining room table...

When my husband returns with the salesman, he tries to close us again by telling us what a great deal he's giving us. He says we're getting "free installation, which has a several hundred dollar value." He tells us it's because he's the company's sales trainer...and we're a referral (implying he's doing us a personal favor).

I say, "We'd like to think about it overnight. How about if we let you know tomorrow or on the weekend?"

The salesman says, "That's fine, but it'll cost you more. It's the end of our quarter tomorrow and we need to get this order in. And if I don't sign you today, I'll have to send a real commissioned salesman out tomorrow...and we'll have to tack on a commission. If you buy today, you're getting the job commission-free."

Scene 5: We Sign...But with an Escape

Haggling at the dining room table, while baby cries.

I ask if we can change our minds, if we sign today. The salesman says of course...and shows us the cancellation clause in the contract. We have three days to change our order or cancel.

So we sign, knowing that we're probably going to change the order anyway. (I know...dumb move. In hindsight, it's very clear that we should have just thrown him out the door. I don't know why we didn't.)

Scene 6: We Get Mad and Cancel
Later that evening, in the bedroom...

After dinner we're getting ready for bed and decide to put the issue to rest. We talk about what happened. As my husband and I recount the scenario, we get mad. And madder. Until we're so ticked off at the guy's sales tactics that we decide to cancel the whole job...even though the company was recommended highly and we really needed windows. We figured we could get them somewhere else. And we'd rather spend more to work with someone we trust and respect.

My husband and I felt good about our decision. More important, our relationship was in tact. And I took away a few lessons...

  • Salespeople: Don't shortcut a sale. You might make a "deal," but it won't be a good one.

  • Customers: If the sale doesn't feel right, trust your instinct. If you feel pushed, you probably are.

  • Sales Organizations: Be careful about the messages you convey to your salesforce. If you pressure salespeople to close everything by the end of the quarter, you're likely to get "bad sales." They'll cost you in the long run. Reward good, solid sales that stick.

© 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Toxic Employee...Another Perspective

Yesterday I wrote a post about Toxic People. My premise was that some people are just miserable and spread negativity to everyone who comes in contact with them. Keith Harrell calls this, "toxic negativity."

Interestingly, today's CareerBuilder online newsletter has an
article about the hidden costs of keeping a "bad" employee. Here's a taste:

"A bad employee can be like cancer within a company. Strong negativism, a poor attitude, backbiting, and incompetence can spread quickly within any organization. Co-workers of a bad employee notice the issues and
typically try to fight off catching the negative traits. However, such traits are contagious and can severely hurt or even kill a company. A bad employee will eventually affect your employees, customers, and product/service's quality."
This is exactly what I meant in my earlier post about toxic (cancerous) people.

What I like about the CareerBuilder post is takes a different perspective on the cause of toxic people's negativity. It points out that negativity can be caused by the workplace - specifically, a bad fit with the job. Can a perfectly happy, good person become toxic in a bad work environment, or in a job that isn't right for them? Absolutely.

Think about waking up every morning for work, with your stomach turning, knowing you've got to spend the next eight or nine hours in a place you hate. Perhaps you have an hour commute each way...two hours to stew in traffic and think about work that you despise. Or perhaps you're in the wrong job all together. You're in over your head, and you know it. Your performance isn't good, your boss knows it and so do your coworkers. You struggle to get through every work day. Could this make a normally happy person toxic and negative? You bet.

So maybe we should have empathy for negative people. Maybe they're not "bad" people after all. The trick (particulary in the workplace) is...empathize without letting them drag you and others down.

© 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.