“One is the loneliest number,” a song way back once lamented. As we enter the first week of the first month of 2021 the number one abounds. As our fundamental quantity of existence we hear it a lot in life and business. “What’s your number 1 goal?” “If you could have one thing to make things better, what would it be?” “What’s the one thing that’s most important to you?” We use the primest prime number to distill things to their fundamental element, to clarify their essence. The same can be applied to your business, your life, your purpose.

I remember the most memorable networking description I ever heard came from a guy at a Fordham U. event. He used one word to describe himself, “I’m a man of faith.” Nuf said. A coach colleague I know recently posted a challenge to businesses to define what they do in one, clear sentence. Standard enough, provides clarity. The structure is basic, what is it that you do for the people who pay you. Good sentence makers, like good networkers can provide a concise, compound sentence that aptly describes what it is their company does. The better sentence descriptors will reveal value and/or intention or perhaps anticipated results. That’s all well and good, everyone should do it for their company or their job.

When I work with companies, particularly on leadership, I like to go a step deeper and challenge any owner and executives to define their company in just one word. You may remember Curly out on the range telling a City Slicker that you have to find your one thing that gives life meaning and work on that to be happy. Well without dropping down to do one-armed pushups (tribute to Jack Palance) I can say that it is always an interesting exercise to hear the one word people come up with to describe their company and the discussion or debate that follows.

I’ll pause a minute while you come up with yours.

One sentence is a good way to define what you do, one word is a good way to define who you are as a company or a person. It works equally well as an exercise in life. Our “faith” guy example has one that clearly defines who he is in business and in life. When those are conjoined your chances for success, with much less stress, are far greater. Try it with your employees or co-workers, or family members for that matter.

When more than one person from a company come up with their one word it can be hugely revealing based on variations in the room. Is there a common belief in who you are? It is a great leadership measurement. If there’s a difference how do you explain it? To give an over-simplified example let’s say two top executives do the exercise, one declares, “Value,” the other declares “Profit.” What are the chances you’ve got alignment in purpose and process when those two work together? Before you try to align goals, align purpose.

What’s your defining word? Please share it below in the comments. If you do the quick exercise in a staff meeting share what you learned. For my company the one comes down to “Enlighten.” As a trainer, consultant and business therapist I don’t get authority to change anything except the way people thing. Sure, that can translates to behaviors but my job comes down to trying to give a thought or guidance or best practice or insight on a subject and help them move to a place where new actions create positive results.

As a simple definition “Enlighten” means to give greater knowledge and understanding of a subject or situation. The reason I think it fits my business is that, for better or worse, more than once I have made a clear case for a way of thinking or actions to be taken for a specific result but they don’t always get followed–but that’s for another business therapy session! The point is I don’t define my company for what I wish it to be or for the best case, I have found it clarifying to know my purpose and let the rest take care of itself. Perhaps you’ve been enlightened after reading this…if so, I’ve accomplished my purpose…how about yours?

©2021 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help defining your purpose, or strategy or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow or contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter @TomFoxTrainer, or check out www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. My current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Communicating has changed, have your goals?

If there’s one thing that’s been learned, and for some the hard way, in 2020 it is that COMMUNICATION is fundamental to business success. As the way we have had to adapt to doing our communication has driven us to video on computers and phone calls to replace the face-to-face variety that was previously dominant, many people have learned new lessons about the skill and art of excellent communicating. Those lessons need to be adapted into goals for 2021.

Whether we will drift back to pre-pandemic workplace paradigms or if business management interactions are forever altered communication is always critical to success for many obvious, and some less, reasons. In assessing and training leadership we look at communication as what you are saying [doing], how information is delivered, when it is timed and how it is received. Our newly “zoomed” world certainly has some benefits. Not the least of it is flexibility, five o’clock deadlines have given way to overnight submissions and much of the “meeting culture” inefficiency has been upgraded with more necessary and direct communication. The downside includes losing valuable non-verbal input from in person conversation and often a more transactional approach to work with a sacrifice to strategic ruminations. Again, communication improvement can always be a goal, for 2021 there are some tweaks to consider as we continue in our redefined workplace realities.

New Goals Approach

Whatever your adaption and learning curves have been with a decentralized and virtual workforce there are both nuances and blatant processes to consider delivering, or weaving into other goals as part of an operational target. Here are the top three considerations:

1) Create a Virtual Water Cooler: Encourage teams to have social interactions in small groups. “Lunch With A Leader” is an example where a department or selected group is invited to a virtual water cooler where the conversation is more social and personal than business. People can suffer from the loss of socialization, especially if it is replaced by isolation. Having a non-critical 30 minute “bull” session online can replace some of the non-productive, yet important, aspects of office life. There’s return on investment when you deepen professional relationships, learn more about the challenges, struggles of your people. Make it complimentary not critical and you’ll be amazed at how much actionable business input you get when the agenda is the opposite.

2) Scrum Baby, Scrum: One of the elements of team productivity that comes to us primarily from the project and technical departments is the concept of a “Scrum.” The plan there would be for say, a web development team, to have a daily 15-minute stand-up meeting where you go around the circle and everyone gives an update on what they accomplished yesterday, what’s on the docket for today, what are user changes or needs, etc. (Plenty of info online about how to.) While many teams have weekly staff meetings or scheduled project updates having everyone in a team on a daily 15-minute Zoom or mixed meeting is a discipline that not only facilitates timely communication but also creates a structure that can keep focus from drifting as workers mix their personal and professional lives at home.

3) It’s More Than The Work: Every boss needs pay attention to team productivity. However, volume or quality of work accomplished is not always a direct indicator of success to come. It is possible that issues that are in the background today and not a problem can soon magnify and will need to be sorted as something more serious than if there was early intervention. Anyone with a staff, team, employee or even colleague should be scheduling regular web cam time that is formal but not a performance review. I call it the “Neck-up Checkup” where the main questions are more like, “What challenges are you facing working from home?” “How are you dealing with that?” “What have you learned about our company or yourself seeing it from a new perspective.” “What could our company do differently that would make an improvement to your work experience?” The actual questions matter less than communicating a sense of caring and an opportunity to listen.

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The variables in the future as vaccinations avail and travel seems less dangerous no doubt will see much of our human-to-human interactions return but whatever the working situation you can count on communication skills and efforts being a defining aspect of success. In order to make our year of living dangerously translate into some positives we can take many of the communications lessons brought on by the methodology that became a new normal and affix their improvement into our goals. No company has ever said our communication with our employees was too good! Things always change, this year it has been drastic, but subtle adaptations in our communications can make fundamental improvements into what we accomplish.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your COMMUNICATION strategy or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter @TomFoxTrainer, or www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. My current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Whatever happened to middle ground? Has our society totally devalued any stance moved away from their own absolute, especially if they stand on the fringe? Is Moderate Republican now an oxymoron? Is it possible for a Social Progressive to be economically Conservative without scorn? How did we get here and more frightening, is the noise we hear all around us driving leadership in business mirroring our political and social media worlds?

When I started teaching Negotiating classes more than 10 years ago I strongly proclaimed that a successful negotiation was one in which both parties felt like they got something they wanted and it was not necessary for either party to get all they wanted, the old “win-win.” Has the meaning of “win” changed today to where it’s a “fail” if you don’t get all that you want? Have we applied the principles we see in political argument to business tactics in operations or negotiations?

In an argument the goal is to present a point of view in order to influence the belief of another. By it’s nature “argument” is usually laden with emotion and the higher that element the less likely any influence will take hold no matter how sound of reason or logic. Have negotiation behaviors been absconded by an argument mindset? Is leadership today “my way or the highway”? Have we positioned faith and logic in diametric corners never to be re-positioned with reason?

When it comes to leadership it is unlikely that people in power got there with wishy-washy opinions. That is not to say they are argumentative by nature but they are far more likely to be influencers than peace makers. What virtue is revered and pursued by tomorrow’s leaders? Is there any satisfaction in meeting halfway, disagreeing and staying friends, or do we only concede enough to stay firmly on our opinion’s side of the line? What is the havoc we can find in the wake of all win-lose stakes?

While social media arguments are entrenched with hurtful, hateful and angry rhetoric so to has the sophistication of the protagonists polarized opinions. They realize that if you say something enough times then truth becomes hostage to repetition. We are brain-wired to want things to be the way we believe they should be and today we have vilified those who suggest opposite to our belief for what we want. This is discouraging in political and diplomatic discourse but it can be downright disastrous in professional life. For good or bad money often becomes the only mitigation.

If we want to sell a thousand widgets but we end up selling 500 we can claim a victory because we have something tangible to put in the bank. Is it possible that we could find an emotional equivalent to financial compensation. Could we take satisfaction in knowing we have allowed an opponent or opposing opinion to share the direction? When we send someone away who has to take an order with them do we get better results if they go with belief that they have had influence, that they matter, that they are not all wrong or all right?

Unusually for me this post is far more about questions than it is about suggestions or answers but I will conclude with a simple one. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth has emotional pain and pleasure but we all end up blind and toothless. Turning the other cheek may get both your cheeks slapped so while we know what losing looks like, do we understand the price we may pay to win? Maybe instead of offering Negotiating classes I should start an Art of Compromising class. I could offer it to our political leaders. Yeah, you’re right, no one would come.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your leadership strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights or more life and business musings contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

Tom Fox

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Shared misery is a unanimous theme for 2020. Whatever divides us in belief it’s indisputable that we have more newly discovered common reality than we’ve ever recognized before, even if we disagree on what, why or how to best go forward. Perhaps your business or life wasn’t hugely harmed, regardless, there’s a new world we’re experiencing and it can be challenging, taxing and depressing. The bad can be really bad, if not for us, someone we know or work with or care about, so while business is coming back, faster or slower, we all have plenty of work to try and bounce back and adjust to the new paradigms.

Some bounce is going to come to us with time, maybe not all, maybe more if we focus on the bounce. You might even fantasize a time machine to get back to where we were. Sci-fi be damned we will get there and soon enough want to bounce back beyond where we were. We can passively wait and hope or we can get after it and show determination to bounce back bigger! (That is without regard to whether you want Build Back Better or MAGA, after all that’s just political marketing for wanting mostly the same things when it comes to business and personal success.)

The path forward can still seem uncertain. Beyond what we can’t control, like the economy at large, there are no shortages of anchors weighing on our ships. There seems a near perfect storm of environmental catastrophes, pandemic behavior realignment, charged political discourse, social justice upheaval and a few other major downers that provide boatloads of excuses and reasons to suppress growth, enthusiasm and energy. In no way does that excuse leaders from providing the buoys to mark the path and a fast forwarding wake of success strategies to follow. Here are three fundamentals for a big bounce:

Key # 1 — BE POSITIVE

While there’s no place for Polyanna to take the podium, pretending the outside world isn’t a factor is likewise foolish. That doesn’t mean you can’t control the tone you set for how things will be in your world. The future starts from the present and drives, or floats forward, your choice. Positive messaging with an optimistic outlook and a focussed belief that what you aim for is possible with the right strategy, attitude and actions, whatever the challenges. Set the example and those who are acting, thinking, or believing differently will be forced to confront their perspective. If there’s dissent in your team, family or peers, find a way to do good together where the benefit for all is obvious. Most people want to be positive and having a convincing role model can set that course.

Key # 2 — BLOCK OUT THE NOISE

With the turmoil and upheaval that surrounds us all today it is natural to find it carried into the office or the Zoom meeting. It would be a mistake to stifle or disregard people with sincere feelings and a desire for action, in whatever direction, but the leader needs to keep the focus on the priorities of the business and find common purpose there. Remember that while you have your beliefs that may be hard or softly felt, whether it is politics, social justice or pandemic adaptations, people on both sides will have strongly held beliefs that they are right and may be frustrated or angry with the opposing view. It is not a leader’s job to set what beliefs are right or wrong, merely acknowledge the freedom, the liberty to believe and show respect for all opinions while being sure they don’t interfere or conflict with the company mission. A company must have a set of common beliefs and purpose to move forward so emphasize that and let the inside noise overtake the outside noise during pay time.

Key # 3 — EMPHASIZE THE FUNDIES

Look in any Hall of Fame of any type and you will see the occupants’ most common traits are exceptional fundamentals. Whether a trail blazer or one who marches proudly with, or for, the crowd it is paramount to bouncing back that you re-emphasize fundamental success traits. Revisit goals, they may need an adjustment or deliberation but don’t concede a stretch target. Align the attitude of your staff so that teamwork can flourish. Talk to people, hear them, recognize new personal and professional challenges but reward performance and examples of overcoming obstacles. Declare the vision, provide the tools, set the example, recognize and reward accomplishment, rinse and repeat. 

“Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!”

Let’s avoid obsessing over the mess of a year it’s been, hell, it may get worse before it gets better! Believe that you can control much of your professional circumstances if you set your mind to it. Bring the effort and the enthusiasm and you may well find the joy that is supposed to accompany success. That’s the mission…should you choose to accept it.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights or more life and business musings contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Despite the utility offered by the headline let’s not pretend that something as deeply seeded as systemic racism, which is often recognized only by its victims, is a simple matter. It is not, and that is because it follows many of the same ills and cures of any cultural problem. Ignoring racism because it may be unintended or even unconscious or believing it is solved with some diversity hiring is to suggest similarly to when I was a kid hearing racism clichés. “Some of my best friends are black,” was the mocked semi-measure and to suggest, “Some of our best employees are minorities,” is likewise missing the point. What is that point? The systems that have fostered racism have been self-sustaining and being well-meaning is as likely to cure this ill as much as washing your hands ends disease, it doesn’t.

Like any problem, illness or affliction there is no cure without several steps. These steps include: 1) Interest in honestly and openly evaluating the situation. 2) Admitting when there is a problem. 3) Just because there may not be a major problem does not mean there is no problem or benefit to improve. 4) A genuine desire to improve the situation based on facts and actions. 5) A plan and a commitment for that plan to be supported from the highest level in words and actions. 6) Measuring to see that not only is the issue improving but that core business functions, whatever they may be, likewise improve.

If there is no benefit to the change then why would any company or leader undertake it? Sure boardroom or social pressure or moral righteousness is a perfectly fine reason to rid your company, and yourself, of racism. Especially if you are to discover that perhaps you have contributed to it however unintentionally (minority or majority!). I discovered this reality some years back when I took a leadership role in dealing with industry and company environmental impact and sustainability. I could get top executives to recognize the values in going green from public relations to clean conscious but the reality was that unless the effort was considerate of the other green, money, it had little chance of becoming a systemic new reality. In that case you get the self-justifying attitude, “Well, we’d like to but it’s just too expensive to do right now.” So let’s not pretend that conquering something as complex as systemic family, corporate or company racism is going to end out of the moral goodness of the majority willing to empower the minority.

Time and cultural evolution however do produce positive change but that is no quick fix. Still, it does serve us to observe our own evolution. Examining the role of women in the American workplace has been a revolution, primarily born of necessity and of undeniable contribution. From a woman’s place being believed to be exclusively in the home early in the last century to an indispensable Rosie the Riveter in war time to the Mad Men era of gender dominated roles to the Feminist Revolution to lower and mid-level equality to today’s consciousness about the lack of women CEO’s and senior leaders and pay equality progress. In a relatively short time women in the workplace went from limited gender based role players to competing for seats, or the top seat, at the (formerly) big boy’s table.

Cultural change was accelerated when women became equally educated and households became either led by women or requiring of dual incomes to achieve household financial ambitions. In many cases women of color have been included with this progression because circumstances overlap and group inclusion can have many qualifiers. Is there a current necessity to end systemic racism in work-life equal to the dual income paradigm? If so, it is due to the social activism and changing social consciousness about what is right. Still, I will suggest that an economic imperative is what will create change above the snail’s pace we’ve seen to date.

So recognizing there is a “problem” is the start and finding a way to agree that changing the problem will create benefit for all will be the key acceleration catalyst. As the generations turn over in business some systematic influences will progress. Just as a male worker’s attitude about women in the workplace changed dramatically across a few decades so too can the meaning of diversity become one of economic advantage in addition to social and moral obligation. Let’s understand how these generations evolved.

OUR PAST CREATES OUR PRESENT BUT NOT OUR FUTURE

Sure, my own perspective is that of a 50-something white guy who climbed corporate ranks and then started a business. While my own experiences from childhood to worker to leader evolved, like everyone, I have a past that established what I saw, how I thought, and the influences of peers and outsiders alike. As a boy growing up on Long Island I lived in a majority white, middle class, suburban neighborhood. Thanks to the oddity of school zoning while I lived in Nassau County, I went to school in Suffolk County. The big difference was minority population. Growing up in the 1970s social unrest feature race issues in many forms. While I had relatively liberal parents they had grown up in Scotland where they were victimized for being Catholic instead of the majority Protestant. I found it unfathomable that one group of Scottish kids could victimize another group that looked and sounded like them merely because they belonged to a different church. That lesson was immediate that people do not need much to create differentiation and groupings and it has been human nature to do so.

School age years certainly become foundational to attitudes fought or adopted through life and their evolution is what will define an adult. Consider how we treat the “N” word. As opposed to confronting the meanings and terror behind the labeling we have diametrically rationalized that white people mustn’t say it but there is cultural allowance for black rappers and black friends granted an acceptable context. I was uncomfortable as a kid when I hear it used inside my large group of white neighborhood friends. I grew up with songs like, “Fight, fight, a N*** and a white, if the white don’t win, we all jump in.” I’m sure I gave it more of a chuckle than a scolding to the friend who said it. The racist rants were generally instigated by kids who heard it or saw it in their home but even the more liberal kids didn’t object despite not participating. Those realities in the day were dictated by what scared them, and me. And I’m sure that is part of what has kept attitudes alive today. Segmentation followed, whites viewing minorities as “good ones” who go to school and “bad ones” living in poverty and crime who perpetuate the stereotype and the fears.

That background reality doesn’t excuse anything except to contrast that my 8-year-old son today (who is half Filipino) would never even hear such language or perspectives much less find it acceptable or humorous. That is in part social evolution, part economic and geographic, but mostly parental influence. So as the generations of Americans that are becoming more diverse, more educated and more accepting of a non-homogeneous culture age into power there are definite shifts. Those holding onto power may still have the say but as successful workers are no longer one size, sex, color, orientation we are already more open to rewarding those contributions with money and power than we have ever been before. But the change has been a slow evolution and it is time to accelerate it.

In my own career I had a boss who was well liked and respected but he shared he preferred to promote men (black or white) with families and a mortgage over women who might leave to have a family. I even encountered a CFO who subtly but systematically, if not coincidentally had me focus on job eliminating disproportionately black and Jewish, and older managers that he suggested under-performed though he viewed it from a distance. I never had direct evidence he was racist (or ageist) but I did come to believe he had a very clear preference for who and what kind of who he believed was the most valuable. Coincidence isn’t always by accident.

THE BIG MISTAKE

Diversity programs are part of the solution but they are often part of the problem. If their efforts are to make sure there is token representation it is just as likely to create greater problems as the same ideology and mentality that created the lack of diversity will, perhaps unconsciously, perpetuate it and be rationalized to keep it acceptable to the decision makers. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how conditions have come to be, how they evolve over time and used my own reflections on how my leadership attitudes evolved before getting to the fix. This is because, as stated at the beginning, this is not a simple issue to fix and because if leaders, and those being led, do not have an honest evaluation of themselves and their culture a “fix” or improvement is not a likely outcome.

THE FORMULA

  1. Assess the Leadership mindset regarding race and company equality. If there is no belief there is a problem there is not likely to be a significant solution.
  2. Identify how diversity can create additional revenue, reduce costs, improve worker efficiency or otherwise become an economic advantage to motivate change.
  3. Any changes in hiring practice, staff diversity, professional acceleration, or otherwise changing company makeup must be supported with new and stated attitudes and cultural support that rationalizes the changes to normalcy rather than favoritism or unjustified perceived reverse racism. Training is an essential element.
  4. Find ways to measure the positive impacts of diversity whether that it with new staff, existing staff or company attitudes about what is valued. Put dollar signs to it.
  5. Consider the perspective and needs of (any) minority brought into a situation with expectations to excel. Providing an opportunity and saying, “go get ’em” is not a successful support strategy. Training goes both to the new and old employees.

Is it possible we will one day get to a workplace where racial, sex and orientation diversity is a desired state, the optimum state, the most profitable configuration and the actualization of “All men (and women) are created equal,” as our reality? Possible yes, but now is a time to take action and see how far the needle can be moved. Sure it’s socially in vogue but that’s only because it’s been far too long ignored and the tipping point has been passed. There are many needles in this haystack but if we could find a few of the ones that are systemic in our culture, our company and ourselves and make a commitment to identify, change and constantly improve… Well, wouldn’t that make a hell of a difference?!

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights or more life and business musings contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Pandemic Lessons: Top 10 Over-Valued & Under-Appreciated

Your experience is your own. During the current pandemic that may be at worst, horrifying, at best, enlightening. While my own experience has run the emotional gamut I am fortunate not to be too close to actual tragedy and therefore comfortable with my branded version of sarcasm tinted with some actual lessons. As they say in investing commercials, your results my vary…herewith my Top 10 Overvalued and Underappreciated life lessons and experience, in no particular order:

Top 10 Overvalued

  1. SPORTS — Sure it will be nice to have them back and what’s better than feeling part of winning but our national obsession was perhaps misplaced and the resulting economics were obscene when viewed next to what really matters. I haven’t missed sports radio and “watching a game” was probably more routine than desire.
  2. MARKETING MESSAGING — We pay the messaging gurus big bucks but have you noticed every brand is giving the same message. Talk about your copycats, it seems every commercial is a variation of the same tone or message. Sure the great ones are great but the mediocre has been shown for what it is, uninspired.
  3. HOUSE CLEANERS — This could easily be on the other list but given my penchant for “cleaning up before the cleaning people arrive” and while the sense of accomplishment after basic cleaning may be less satisfying than if someone did it for you I don’t miss it much, just like growing up, chores are good for the soul, I hear.
  4. AIRLINE TRAVEL — Since 9-11 the hassle and expense of getting somewhere by air has been steadily decreasing versus the joy of arrival, not planning to fly much hasn’t felt like a loss.
  5. SOCIAL MEDIA — So maybe it’s been useful in keeping contact with people and seeing a few joys, a few tears, but it’s also been a magnifier of Trump lovers and haters doing their thing, only more of it with more time on their hands.
  6. FAMILY GATHERINGS — Did we really need so many holidays to see family? Sure it’s wonderful to see them, in moderation, maybe this forced spacing is a lesson.
  7. OVER-SCHEDULED KIDS — Like working 60+ hour workweeks in the ’80s the over-scheduled kid had become a perverse suburban parent status symbol. Getting your kid here for this travel team and there this activity, recital, party…like in my childhood my son is now overjoyed to go out and shoot hoops or ride his bike.
  8. GYMS — I haven’t been able to find 10 lbs. dumbbells in 2 months. Seems we can do things at home after all so did we really need 8 kinds of aerobic machines, classes and lifting gimmicks…not to mention shared locker rooms, steam and showers?
  9. WAITING IN LINE — Whether it was traffic, shopping with crowds, movie lines, you name it who needs it? Not to mention if you are currently lined up for a Covid-19 test or god forbid, a food pantry, there’s nothing good about any of them.
  10. THE NEWS — It’s important to stay aware of what’s important but too much of a medium value thing is a bad thing…especially when it’s always bad news!

TOP 10 UNDERAPPRECIATED

  1. TEACHERS/SCHOOLS — There’s nothing like home schooling 3rd grade math to make your college degree seem meaningless. Not to mention you’re supposed to support your kid’s self image, yadda, yadda…not to mention the 7-hour break from kids parents were getting 5 days a week? God bless every teacher.
  2. BULK SUPPLIES — If you’ve been poking holes through shabby single ply TP or awaiting Lysol resupply like a gold rush you will probably become a bulk purchaser on non-perishables. Note to Architects: bigger closets please.
  3. COMFY CLOTHES — When you had to put on that dress shirt for the Zoom meeting did you wonder how the hell you did all those years in suits or pretty shoes that became tolerable only when the blood supply to nerve endings was finally cut?
  4. HOME COOKING — It is tragic what is happening to the incredible amount of restaurant/catering workers and businesses but, maybe it’s just me, when you’re a damn fine cook and know what you like better than any chef, well, there’s no place like home (kitchens).
  5. NEXT INVOICE/PAYCHECK — Everyone knew you were supposed to have 3 months cash in reserve to live on but how many people did? Not to mention when you can’t send out an invoice for your service there’s no checks in the mail, and that just sucks!
  6. HOME INTERNET QUALITY — I can’t see an ad for Verizon without wanting to scream at them how bad my Internet is. It was long problematic but now with everyone at home it is horrid. Do I really have to buy a 1 Gb upgrade just to be able to stay on my Zoom meeting without regular pauses, lapses and getting bounced?!
  7. HAIRCUTS — As a former haircutter for extra money or family savings back in the day I’ve gone back in service and self-cutting in my mirror where I pretend I can see the back of my head. Thank god for hair gel, and have you seen some of those heads in online meetings and grocery stores? Yikes!
  8. READING — The TV has become an all too frequent and constant fixation and now more than ever. As a former magazine guy who’s watched that decline for decades now it’s been a joy to rediscover the value of books…and even some online stuff.
  9. COMFY COUCHES — Where are you spending most of your time? ‘Nuf said?
  10. FAMILY — While perhaps not lamenting the extended family gathering obligations one realizes when your top priority is keeping the ones you love most safe there is nothing that should be appreciated more than their security, well-being and the love that is given and received.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights or more life and business musings contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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It would certainly be lovely if we could all anticipate that from our past functional, work-a-day selves toiling in drab predictability we entered our Corona-cocoons and, in short time, emerged an enlightened, vibrant and colorful soul ready to fly in a dazzling display of new awareness and instinct led actions. Yeah, it’d be nice. Unfortunately, poetic hoping doesn’t count much when it comes to professional strategy for business, or life, but that’s not to deny that things have changed and we don’t know all that means. Things continue to change. You have changed.

Perhaps your cocoon has been bent on survival so whatever is next may be a welcome relief but for most of us “non-essential” types the changes in the world have been as much observed than lived. Whether you’ve been busy protecting workers, crying at a dwindling bottom line or fighting on the first response line there’s no denying that professional, and personal life, has changed and will change. Strategically you can get ahead of that if you open your perspective beyond the revised conditions in which you work and live.

Going back to work with modified conditions will certainly be an adaptive response but not likely to be all that life or vision altering. Finding productivity from six feet apart and not having too many people spending too much time in group meetings can pretty easily be absorbed into our workflows considering how much time we’ve had to adapt to it in life all around us. The real metamorphosis, or changes, that will have the greatest impact are likely ones that are newly developed or sharpened and may not yet be conscious or fully comprehended. Taking a scan of how things have to be and combining it with how things could be is the real mother of innovation. You can’t create a change without having a change of some kind within. The question is, what is that change?

Here’s a quick inventory to scan as to some of the mechanical and some of the metaphysical that will combine to map your path for at least the near future:

Manufacturing & Supply Chain

Perhaps you have learned something by how your goods needed now and in the future have been available. What have your vendor relationships yielded? Have you taken care of others and are able to receive that in return? Have you focused so much on “just in time” or “inventory management” or other hyper-efficiencies that you’ve been exposed in crisis time. I can recall in my corporate days getting heat from a CFO who took issue with my strategy of not getting every dime of savings in order to preserve more than one supplier in critical manufacturing. More than once in my career was I able to get a “favor” in a challenging time from a supplier I had done right by. Being boastfully lean can show a few more dollars in short term results but despite a ten year run of good times it is those who had diversity and mutual benefit in their pipelines who will likely come back the strongest, or didn’t sink the deepest, in recent hardships.

Staff & Attitudes

No matter how many people we employ, the range of what they do as well as where they do it and the infrastructure that supports them will obviously be part of revised strategies going forward. What you may not anticipate is how the recent crisis may have changed attitudes, efforts or even skills of employees. It’s not only the relationship you had, who was let go, who will be brought back but also what are their goals and fears now, how do they view their jobs, their security and how did they evaluate leadership during the pandemic.

Leadership

Without politicizing leadership, and I strongly advise against doing that as a zealot in business public (you’d be surprised who thinks or aligns in a way you wouldn’t predict). Yet leadership examples have been all around us. Witness the differences in country’s strategies and how they differed between male and female leadership. What communication worked and backfired in terms of projecting hope, predicting future events, responding to new information, adapting to the changing needs of others and how you interact with those you may influence but do not directly lead. Where and how did cooperation produce positive results, where did it fail? Adapting these lessons to your leadership can be transformative.

The Mirror on the Wall

Many circumstances and planning will be back on the move soon by necessity. In our favor is a broad shared experience in common but still we will have experienced the crisis differently. Some may not have changed at all, others may have found a new emotional rawness from the empathy of profound hardships, sacrifice, grace or giving. More devastating may be the impact of loss or illness, changes in relationship dynamics or an evolution of life priorities. All of that can only be honestly be told when you look with open eyes in the mirror. I don’t mean because you probably need a haircut, a shave or a coloring, I mean when you look behind your eyes do you recognize and acknowledge how have you changed?

It is essential to success to take an honest internal inventory. Maybe you find tears more easily welling at what was once nonchalantly observed. Perhaps you’ve become hardened or angered in search of someone or something to blame. Could be your perspective about money, family, love, industry or work itself has been altered. Is it permanent? Is it for the better? As one of my least favorite over-spoken cliches properly suggests, “It is what it is.” Your choice, your duty to your better self is to first look inward and reconcile who you are and who you have become with what you want and what is important. If you have a clear vision of that then you will find mapping your recovery strategy will have more clarity, more meaning and likely a more certain direction and goal.

The cocoon has sustained or stained you, or both. Now it is time to emerge but unlike the beauty of a butterfly that transformed with no effort or consideration you will have to use your brain, your heart and your soul to look inward then outward. Then fly to new heights in bold displays with a new appreciation for what matters most to you and a new opportunity to succeed. Won’t that feel good!

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with your strategy or BUSINESS THERAPY insights contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts, or on LinkedIn. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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No, I don’t want to be morbid or bum out my followers looking for sage business council. Hey, my favorite webcast these days is John Krasinski’s Some Good News so I agree we have to keep our spirits buoyed but a grim reality that is, and will be, surrounds us. That is death, it is part of the story and part of life yet when it is so ever-present it gives us reason to consider it’s facets. That preparation, for all its presentations, may well be the difference between tragedy and disaster. Though unwelcome it is wise to deal with it before it’s upon you.

Death in the Spring of 2020 has several considerations. While there’s enough tears shed today in living stress and apprehension (as the spouse of a NYC hospital nurse I live that daily) there’s also a time for sobering looks at the worst subject of all, people are dying in abundance. That means a well-adjusted mind can consider what can be done in anticipation. While always hoping for the least possible impact is good, have you heard the “prepare for the worst” cliche enough to drive you to action?

The impacts to consider are first, your own mortality. While most people with even modest means are aware of life insurance and health insurance as bedrock responsibility only about a quarter of our working population has a valid last will. It does correlate higher to age and wealth and the idea that with much to lose comes much responsibility to disperse and manage. Regardless of what you own and how your state manages estates there are likely things of both monetary and sentimental value that if addressed in advance can present piece of mind should illness arise. Simple things like a list of contacts, papers and passwords that can be document and kept in a “Just In Case” envelope where it is known to be can be of great impact, god forbid.

Similarly, less than 20% of the adult population has documented end of life wishes. That could play out with resuscitation, remains handling or other issues but why it is so crucial around Covid 19 is so many pass away while intubated and unable to communicate or have family bedside. Going through the exercise when healthy is not just preparation for uncertainty but it connects you to what is important to you as you live your life, hopefully for a very long time.

Your own mortality is surely your responsibility and, like it or not, it’s never an if only a when, today’s plague has simply brought that into focus. The more likely dealings with ultimate loss however, are going to present as loss of friends, family, co-workers, colleagues and if not direct relationship what are the odds you’ll escape a second degree of separation?

Work at home is removing much of the communication stream from business the chances are something near past normal will eventually return. What will tragically transpire in the interim? Like commanders in war battles a human inventory of what has happened will be required. With memorials and farewell services missing, postponed or virtual there will be a new paradigm in dealing with grief. Have you thought about that?

The truth is that even if death does not directly touch you we have to acknowledge that in many cases the threat of death, the news of death and fear of death will have a psychological impact for many. Hopefully it will be a peaked temporary condition but lasting impact to some degree is more likely. I was walking across 5th Avenue on my way to my office on September 11th only to look downtown in befuddled horror as smoke filled the downtown horizon. Those events played out in a compressed sequence, a quick stab compared to today’s thousand cuts. Yet it was when I went with a colleague and friend to try and donate blood late that afternoon that something hit me. The lines were around the block with the best intentions of gracious souls when a hospital worker came out and said their blood bank was full and they weren’t expecting to need it. There would be no mass injured only dead and living. I remember thinking I knew things would now never be the same, and they weren’t.

On the tomorrow when we awake from this world horror we will all surely know the same to again be true. What we knew will be forever changed and thus so are we. Death will be a part of that reality, perhaps we will celebrate if we curtail the ghastly predictions, hopefully we will. Still, for many there will be no escaping the final plight regardless the mitigation. If it is your destiny I hope you have, or will now, prepare as best you can. That means minimizing your risks, taking care of your physical and mental self but also (legally) documenting your final wishes. It also means that as we reconnect we will have to assess the battlefield damage. The counted losses may turn out to be easier to deal with than the PTS that may lie in wait.

Being prepared to get back to normal best and fastest means having been prepared to deal with the impact of what has become far from normal. It is not to be dwelled upon or a cause for depression but is there to be considered. The hardest part of the human experience is loss. How we minimize our loss on others and how we will help others survive their loss whether in business or in personal circles we can’t leave unspoken what is critical to comprehend and plan for. It’s my hope whomever reads this will be spared the turmoil but acknowledging obstacles is the first step to overcoming them. Be safe, be well.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with BUSINESS THERAPY insights contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, on LinkedIn or at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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There are no such things as “wrong” feelings. In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, stress, worry, anxiety, loneliness, loss of income, personal safety, family health…you’d be crazy if you didn’t get at least a little down! There can be a great difference between what is a natural, forgive the expression–normal, response to such crisis and a lingering feeling of hopelessness, worry or sadness. Is there a cure?

There are no such things as “wrong” feelings. In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, stress, worry, anxiety, loneliness, loss of income, personal safety, family health…you’d be crazy if you didn’t get at least a little down! There can be a great difference between what is a natural, forgive the expression–normal, response to such crisis and a lingering feeling of hopelessness, worry or sadness. Is there a cure?

Depression can be every bit as painful and damaging as a virus and it can be a part of life even in the good times. It is a legitimate medical condition as well as an emotional state and this article is no substitute for treatment for a serious condition, that is a job for medical professionals not a Business Therapist. Still, there are strategies that can be extremely useful to minimize the negatives and if you are feeling any of those emotions perhaps one of the strategies here can be helpful so that depression is a short stop at most and not a new place to stay.

First, for workers, many have seen their economic reality change literally overnight. Regular paychecks, commissions and employment itself may have been delayed or ended and nothing causes stress for individuals and families any worse than money and that stress unattended easily morphs to depression, sometimes seriously. It is understandable because the stakes are high and there is no magic pill Some try taking one, getting high or drunk is an avoidance strategy but what often starts as a seemingly understandable response, a healthy “WTF” night to blow off steam, may quickly become a dependency and obviously that will create new problems while the underlying depression still lurks. A clear mind is the best hope for a happy body.

For executives and business owners company survival, built dreams and a way of life can be at stake. The smart battle actions suggest adapting sales and revenue strategy to the new, albeit temporary [hopefully] market conditions [see my last article]. On the “what you can control” side protecting liquidity and doing all you can to manage costs of course makes sense but that likely means tough choices. Many business owners and leaders are not only worrying about the impact on their business and livelihood but can be dealing with the reality that what they have to do to survive often dramatically impacts employees, vendors and even customers who have had a financial dependency. That stress can thus be two-fold, the effect on you and the impact on others you may feel responsible for even when you know there was little choice.

For everyone, personal and family health is now a universal concern. No amount of wealth insulates you from a virus and short of becoming a literal hermit we can’t control all the risks. Many are staring those risks head on in far more dire circumstances, Personally my spouse is on the front line as a nurse in a prominent NYC hospital. Our kiss hello and her hug of our son won’t happen until she’s showered upon arrival and even then it’s modified in loving caution. Chances are, however, if you are dealing with an actual sickness for you or a loved one your emotion is less likely to be about depression so that’s a different article!

KEYS TO BATTLE CORONA DEPRESSION

HOPE – You don’t have to be Pollyanna to feel that things will get better. Hopelessness can be a depression trigger so you will serve yourself well by having a VISION OF HOPE. False hope can, of course, be damaging but finding reasonable ways to be optimistic projects it will only be a matter of time before the circumstances improve. Worrying about something in advance never really softens the blow and “I told you so,” is a hollow victory unless it is pointed toward a better tomorrow, or next month, or next year but close enough so it can be seen. Projecting hope and realizing it is a double joy.

EMBRACE SACRIFICE – Few of us have lived our lives in isolated minimalism so real sacrifice may feel new. When was the last time you watched your toilet paper supply so closely?! On the other hand, most of us have lived through past wishes and abrupt realities and somewhere in our journey made sacrifices in order to achieve. The sacrifice you are making today should be seen as the stuff of tomorrow’s silver lining. Prove to yourself you can be tougher than you thought and know that the path to survival with sacrifice makes you appreciate the success to come. Consider it an investment in your future happiness.

GIVE – Nothing gets you out of your own misery better than finding ways you can help others. That may be a $5 donation to something that has meaning to you, maybe it means being willing to volunteer for the front lines though that’s clearly not for everyone. Giving of yourself can simply mean going through your contacts and reaching out to the people that have meaning in your life and share. While misery may love company giving a few minutes of your time to spread well wishes, check in, listen, empathize, and share hope gets you outside what may self-obsessing. If you are going for groceries does your neighbor need a few things? Got extra supples to share? Kindness doesn’t have to be at a big cost but it does have a big reward.

LIMIT EXPOSURE – I’m not talking about Social Distancing I’m talking about News Distancing. In crisis time there is no end to the repetition of disturbing news and facts. While we are seeing developments often hour by hour, exposing yourself to an endless stream of bad news can wear down the cheeriest of souls.

POSITIVE COMMUNITY – Social Media can be a place to vent but more often than not you will find things to make you want to scream in far greater abundance than positive emotions but those screams rarely change anything. Of course connecting with your personal and professional network via social media can be a happy strategy but edit yourself. Don’t feel the need to dwell on correcting opinions or joining the blame games. Skip through those posts that want to engage you in rage or hopelessness and look for humor and happiness being spread, and spread it yourself. You can become what you present.

UNDERSTAND EMOTION – So you want to cry, go ahead. It’s perfectly normal today that a puppy video that yesterday gave you a smile today makes you ball like a baby. Depression can be a dominating emotion but if you allow yourself to experience the variety of human emotions that can create balance and a much healthier feeling. So go ahead with your cry but balance it with an “I love you” or a deserving “thank you” and experience your humanity full of emotions without undue lingering in any.

BE PRODUCTIVE – Most of us become creatures of routine and our habits become embedded in our day. Your in box, messages and meetings may be drastically altered and you can find yourself wishing there was more despite a previous life of complaining how much there was. Of course physical exercise is always key to good health, mental and physical, but pay as much attention to a new challenge. Fit that challenge into your altered routine. Maybe you’ll come back ripped with a six pack or speaking a new language. There’s no points for logging couch time or how many bags of chips get scarfed.

Today’s environment is very worthy of a little depression, of course. When
you look in the mirror don’t get further down because you find yourself down.
True, you may have to work a little harder to be happy these days and none of
this changes the core realities we are all dealing with but there is no reward
for living in worry, expecting the worse, feeling depressed about yourself or
the world condition. Remember your first breakup? Maybe you cried and
it seemed like the end of the world at the time. Somehow you heard that time
would heal and though you probably found little comfort in that idea at the
time you’ve since experienced it so remember the lesson.

Throughout human evolution there’s been horror and happiness and rarely
is it fairly disseminated. No one can promise you your situation will have a
great outcome or even that it will be fair as serious consequences of a global
pandemic play out. What I can promise you is that those who will later thrive
are more likely the ones who didn’t let the bad overwhelm their hope, their
emotions, their positivity. So spread a little sunshine, the world’s gotten
dark enough.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with CRISIS MANAGEMENT or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, on LinkedIn or at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Timing is everything it is said and whomever said it wasn’t kidding. Most of the time if I’m coaching a client through a “crisis time” they need to overcome a sales obstacles that’s usually linked to their staff, their management or a set of circumstances that may be common but is extraordinary to them. Today, we have a bizarre commonality in that we have a world in crisis that is drastically altering how, when, where and why we do business. But you want to eat, you have to sell, and so it goes for the great majority of businesses.

Feel free to disregard this if you sell sanitizing supplies, hospital gowns/masks, ventilators or toilet paper. You have other problems but demand isn’t one of them. Demand isn’t a problem for many other businesses who are suffering disruptions in supply chain. If you market goods made in China it may be months more before the spigots will open. For the majority of businesses the paradigm is less a crisis of supply and demand and more so one of sheer uncertainty with a healthy mix of fear.

Since bouncing back, but first surviving, is our inevitable goals we know that competition will still be fierce. That competition may be in finding customers to sell to but surely now is when you will sow the fruits of the relationships you have built. You can’t deposit good will in the bank though so what strategies can you employ to adapt to the crisis environment all around.

After twenty-five years in corporate life I was ready to answer for my own executive leadership and start a small-business. Long was it a dream and the timing seemed perfect as the publishing industry was imploding around me. That was twelve years ago and, being born lucky, I had just set up shop in September of 2008. It was mere weeks after my new business cards arrived that Lehman Brothers collapsed and the financial crisis sprouted into bloom. I quickly realized that selling “corporate skills” to HR Directors was an express lane to bankruptcy.

I quickly altered my path and bought a sales training franchise because it seemed to make sense that if there was anything to invest in when times were toughest it was sales, selling skills, and learning how to help companies stay above water and position themselves for the inevitable rebound in business cycles. Who knew how far we’d sink first or how long it would take to bounce back so how to sell in crisis time was an immediate and indeterminate need. Sound familiar?

A lot of what we trained on selling in a “tough” market provides great lessons for some best practices to adopt right now, here are my top 10 keys to crisis time selling:

  1. EMBRACE UNCERTAINTY AS A SHARED EXPERIENCE – Everyone has the same questions today and no one has a lock on the answers. “What do you expect?” Is a question that you should work from and don’t fear not knowing.
  2. LISTEN HARDER THAN EVER – Your prospect or client will tell you how and when they can buy so hear all their concerns and provide contingencies as you can.
  3. EMPATHY, NOT SYMPATHY, CREATES MUTUAL BONDS – You’ve got problems, your client/prospect has problems so let the shared experience bring you together to a place of trust that is the basis for a good sales relationship
  4. LOOK TO OFFSET OR SHARE RISKS IN TERMS, TIMING OR WHERE IT MATTERS – Perhaps extended payments or delayed payments will make a difference. Discover how you can make it easier to buy and roll out that idea.
  5. VISUALIZE A COMMON BELIEF IN THE FUTURE – For some it will be patriotism, confidence in America, if you can project brighter times and get agreement you can use optimism, selling through pessimism is extra hard.
  6. QUESTION WITH COMPASSION – This is the time when the better salespeople rely on their training not to be fake but to be genuine. Using Reversing technique helps boil things to the core.
  7. UNDERSTAND PAIN, FEAR OR OPPORTUNITY – One of those will be a predominant emotion and each has a path for a selling professional to travel.
  8. FIND OUT HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR CLIENT TODAY IN EXCHANGE FOR BUSINESS TOMORROW – The idea is that if I can help you today can I count on you tomorrow…creating obligation may not hit this months number but you need to be in this for the long game.
  9. EMPHASIZE SALES BEHAVIORS – It is easy for apathy and hopelessness to overwhelm today. The reality is that whatever used to take you 10 tries to get 1 result probably now takes 20 so the most important thing is to increase, not decrease activity. Checking in on all current clients, letting prospects know you are still working and there for them and making sure working from home does not mean doing less, it needs to facilitate doing more to get near the same results.
  10. CREATE OR EXPLOIT A CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY – If this is part of your current selling environment you are ahead of the game. If it’s not then what could be a better time to pull together, to follow through on commitments and to be realistic about how hard you’ll have to run just to stay in place. Whether by carrot or stick or by common need appeal share commitments, celebrate success and focus on selling efforts rather than selling results.

Putting the effort into planning and executing sales behaviors now means you can have faith that results will follow. Instant gratification, big wins and great months may not manifest for some time but when the gates are again open it will be those who did the most work when they were shut who will reap the greatest rewards. That’s a lesson from history and while these waters are uncharted the cycles of business are as inevitable as sunrise…right after this eclipse.

©2020 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help with SALES TRAINING or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights contact or follow @TomFoxTrainer, on LinkedIn or at www.myeurekasolutions.com/thoughts. Our current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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Tom Fox