Monday, November 28, 2011

I Have To Give A Speech - Now What by Larry B. Gray

“I have to speak in front of how many people?” This statement will send chills through the toughest and smartest people. The fear of public speaking is real and we all face it at one time or another. Here are some simple tips to help you prepare and deliver your message.

Get Your Copy Today at:

How To Find A Job - by Larry B. Gray

Over the past several weeks I have been coaching a recent college graduate on how to find a job. It is amazing and frustrating to me at how unprepared most college graduates are when it comes to finding a job after graduation. But, when I think back I was totally unprepared for the realities of looking for a job when I graduated from school.

With the constant change in the way we exchange information and conduct business today it is hard to keep up with all the new tricks to finding jobs. From massive job sites such as Monster and other electronic job bulletin boards, to social media, the landscape of finding a job is constantly changing. Even with this, the simple basic rules still apply and must be adhered to.

Let’s discuss some of the basics to conducting a job search and landing that perfect job. Some of the information that will be covered will be:

- How to conduct a job search.

- How to write a resume.

- How to write a cover letter.

- How to handle the interview.

- How to follow-up

Get your copy today at

Monday, November 21, 2011

My First Two Booklets and Now the Wait

Last week I published my first two short booklets on in an e-book format. It is neat and nerve wracking waiting and wondering if anyone will actually read them.

They deal with a practical approach to issues we face in our business and personal lives. They are written based on my experiences of what works and what does not. They offer easy to follow, simple steps to help you obtain the results you want.

I Have to Give a Speech
( )

“I have to speak in front of how many people?” This statement will send chills through the toughest and smartest people. The fear of public speaking is real and we all face it at one time or another. Here are some simple tips to help you prepare and deliver your message.

How to Find a Job

( )

Over the past several weeks I have been coaching a recent college graduate on how to find a job. It is amazing and frustrating to me at how unprepared most college graduates are when it comes to finding a job after graduation. But, when I think back I was totally unprepared for the realities of looking for a job when I graduated from school.

With the constant change in the way we exchange information and conduct business today it is hard to keep up with all the new tricks to finding jobs. From massive job sites such as Monster and other electronic job bulletin boards, to social media, the landscape of finding a job is constantly changing. Even with this, the simple basic rules still apply and must be adhered to.

Let’s discuss some of the basics to conducting a job search and landing that perfect job. Some of the information that will be covered will be:

- How to conduct a job search.

- How to write a resume.

- How to write a cover letter.

- How to handle the interview.

- How to follow-up

Now I wait for all the glowing reviews and royalty checks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Listening, It Really Is A Nice Day

"Say, Pooh, why aren't you busy?" I said.

"Because it's a nice day," said Pooh.

"But you could be doing something Important," I said.

"I am," said Pooh.

"Oh? Doing what?"

"Listening,"he said.

"Listening to what?"

"To the birds. And that squirrel over there."

"What are they saying?" I asked.

"That it's a nice day," said Pooh.

"But you know that already," I said.

"Yes, but it's always good to hear that somebody else thinks so, too," he said.

From The Tao of Pooh

Are you too busy to enjoy life? Often I find myself so wrapped up in today's issues that I am not really aware of what is going on around me. That is the time that I need to step back, listen and look, or as the old saying goes "take time to smell the roses."

Each of us should never be to busy that we don't listen to what is going on around us.

It really is a nice day, so listen.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fresh Florida Citrus - It Is That Time of Year Again

It is that time of the year again, the start of another fresh citrus season in Florida. We started packing fresh oranges, navels and red grapefruit today for shipment to a supermarket near you. Look for the Fresh From Florida label.

I love this time of year when the harvest starts. For the next eight months we will enjoy the various varieties of fresh citrus. This will be my 39th season working in citrus and I look forward to it every year.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Class Email - Can You Spare A Dollar

One of the great outcomes of the computer age is email. It has done more to revolutionize communications than anything else since the invention of the telephone. This is especially true in the world of business.

It has resulted in instantly documented communications which has helped clarify and promote business activities. Email provides a quick response to business opportunities, helps reduce confusion and reduces mistakes in the execution of business plans.

With all its merits email still has problems and the biggest is people. The lack of etiquette in the use of email in the business arena is unbelievable. Here are just a few of my pet peeves about email misuse.

Email was originally designed as a means to convey short messages quickly and efficiently. This still is its primary purpose. The problem arises when people try to write an epistle when they send an email.

An email should be brief and covering just the facts, you should not have to search for the point of the message in a long flowing commentary. Use the subject line to clearly state the subject of the message. If you feel you need to give more information, do it in a document and add it as an attachment to the email while keeping the email as a summary note.

Even though it is a short message you still need to adhere to all writing protocols and be grammatically correct. Do not use email shorthand such as acronyms and company slang when writing emails. You should not assume your reader knows what the shorthand means. The purpose of the email is to accurately and clearly communicate information. This is especially true when sending emails outside of your company. Remember your email reflects not only on you but also your company.

One other comment on writing an email, check your spelling. Spelling errors and errors in grammar can be extremely frustrating to the reader. They also make you look bad and less intelligent to the reader. Plus, you don’t know who the email may be forwarded to.

One of my other big “peeves” with email involves the “Copy” button and the “Reply All” button. When you write and send messages think carefully about who you copy on the message. Ask yourself, “Do they really need to know this information?” The reason for this is simple courtesy and the fact that people get so many emails every day. Send your message to people who really need the information and not to everyone in the office.

The same guidelines should be used when replying to emails. You do not have to reply to every person who was on the original copy. As an example, the other day I received an email from my manager notifying me he was going to be on vacation next week. He copied all the appropriate people in the company. Within fifteen minutes I had twenty-five additional emails in my in-box wishing him a good trip. I really don’t need to know you are “kissing up to the boss”. Use the “reply” button, not the “reply all”.

If you are worried about whom to copy or reply to then use this simple guideline to help you decide; would I pay for a First Class Stamp to send this note to them? If they are not worth a First Class Stamp the odds are they do not need a copy.

These are just a couple of my pet peeves on emails and there are many more. They all come down to the use of basic common sense and business etiquette. Emails may be short, quick memos but the information they carry is important to your success and the success of the company. Take time and think about what you are emailing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Customer Service or Customer Bother

The other day my wife and I were shopping at a major department store in the local mall. I was trying to find a certain item so I decided to ask one of the sales staff where I could find it.

I walk up to two members of the sales staff who were talking to one another in the middle of the department. I stood there not wanting to be rude and interrupt their conversation thinking surely they would acknowledge me. After a few minutes of being ignored I said to them, “Excuse me, but could you tell me where the ‘such and such’ is?”

She responded with her back to me, “It’s over there, a couple of aisles over.” She did this with a flip of the hand in that direction and then went back to talking to her partner.

I told my wife, “Let’s go. If I am that much of a bother I don’t need anything from here.” We left and I may not go back to Macy’s, in our town again.

On the way home we stopped at our local Publix grocery store to pick up something for supper. Again I had to ask for help finding an item.

I asked the stock boy, who was down on his knees stocking the bottom shelf, where the item was. He immediately jumped up and said, “It is on Aisle 5, let me show you.” Even though I said I could find it he went with me and showed me exactly where the item was.

Did you catch what I just did in the above two paragraphs? I named the places of business where I was shopping. I named the store where I had the bad customer service experience and I named the store where I had the good customer service experience.

How many times have you heard someone say I going to buy a new car at Big Time Auto Emporium and heard someone else say, “I wouldn’t go there. My brother had a friend who heard they were rude to customers.”

That is what generates the most results from a customer service incident. It is not just one customer you lose but it could be all the potential customers they talk too.

When I worked in the consumer products industry we were told for every one customer complaint received, you lost one hundred other customers. These were either people who received poor service and did not complain or who heard about the other person’s problem and took their business somewhere else.

The same is true for good service. People will recommend companies and sales people who they get good service from to their friends and family.

If you have been in direct sales or service for any length of time you know a large part of your business comes from referrals. “Word of mouth” recommendations from friends and family are one of the leading sources of referrals.

Which type of customer service do you offer your clients?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deep Thoughts . . . Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

Don't you get tired of calling people and having them answer the telephone like you are the biggest bother in the world. Isn't this especially true when you are responding to an advertisement or a sign in a yard. If they did not want you to bother them why did they put their phone number on the sign? Heck, if that is the way they answer the phone do I really what to talk to them. I will just take my business somewhere else.

As a sales person have you ever wondered why your business is falling off? Yes, times are bad but is that the only reason you are getting less business than before? Or, is your shrinking business affecting your attitude and your attitude is carrying over into your conversations with potential clients.

Maybe, just maybe it is time for you to "smile when picking up the phone."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not Politically Correct

Last night I was reminded of an old high school Agriculture/shop teacher I had and of all the things I learned from him. He taught us everything from the common name for hand tools to "Robert's Rules of Order". All of which I still use almost everyday. I was also reminded of an old blog post I wrote and I would like to share it again.

Not Politically Correct

The other day I had to prepare a short talk to give at a meeting I had to attend. It wasn't that difficult as it was a subject I was very familiar with but you always wonder about the length and time.

Many moons ago when I was taking Agriculture 1 as a freshman at Aurora High School in Aurora NC we had a short chapter on public speaking. Our teacher, Finley Lewis, gave this simple rule which has stuck with me and guided me in every speech I have made:

"A speech should be like a woman's dress, long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep the interest."

Aurora High School 1960'ish

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Your Name Badge – A Public Service Announcement

Have you ever watched business people get out of their cars at their local grocery store and quickly remove their name badge? Or, have you gone to lunch with other sales people in your group and had them remove their badge before going into the restaurant? This never ceases to amaze me. Are they embarassed by who they are and what they do?

Name badges are one of the best and least expensive means of self-branding and advertising available. Not only does it open the door for conversations and questions about your product and/or services, but it also serves to reinforce your name. For a few well spent dollars your name badge is publicly announcing who you are and what you do wherever you go.

From my experience, in the past, as an automotive sales person and my present involvement in the real estate industry I can honestly state that a name badge can and will generate contacts and business for you. On numerous occasions I have had people come up to me and say, “You’re a real estate agent. Can you answer a question for me?” This simple opening has directly led to real estate listings opportunities and potential buyers.

On another occasion, while having lunch at a local restaurant, a lady came up to me and said she noticed I worked at a local car dealership and she had a question to ask me. After answering the question I gave her my business card and asked her to come by and let me show her the model she liked. She showed up and I sold her the car.

Would this have happened if I was ashamed of my badge and removed it before I went into the restaurant. No, it was the badge that provided the opening for the entire business transaction. There is a saying in real estate among agents, “Don’t be a secret agent”. If you want other people’s business you have to let them know who you are and what you have to offer.

In order to succeed you have to go out and get the business. Self-promotion and advertising is one of the ways to do it. Your name badge is another tool which can make this happen.

To re-cap, here are a few facts about name badge use.

1. It will help a client remember your name and reinforce you as the expert.

2. It is a conversation starter.

3. It will bring you potential business and opportunities.

4. It is inexpensive advertising with a high return on your investment.

In order to maximize your success from wearing your name badge here are a few guidelines for name badge use.

1. Buy a quality badge. A cheap badge is just that, a cheap badge, and reflects on you.

2. Make sure it is easy to read.

  • a. Not too large that it is obnoxious or so small you can’t read it.

  • b. Not too congested with information. Just your company logo, your name and job title.

  • c. Your name should be the most prominent feature.

  • d. No fancy print or fonts. Clean, clear and concise.

3. If you shake hands with your right hand, wear your name badge on your right chest.

4. Make sure it is attached right side up and straight. Don’t laugh, it happens.

5. Use common sense when not to wear your badge.

6. Monogram clothing, shirts, jackets, sweater, and hats, are another way to get the effect in a more casual environment.

Your business is all about name recognition and branding. The more you get your name out in front of the public the more likely they are to think of you when a need arises in their lives for your services. Whether it is print advertisements, internet use, business cards or name badges, each serves to remind people who you are and what you have to offer.

Don’t keep your professional expertise a secret, flaunt it. Wear your name badge and let people know you are the expert in your profession and you’re there to help them. It works!

Make your public service announcement today by wearing your name badge.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Chillin Time

It is Friday afternoon and another busy week is winding down and leading into another busy weekend. So take a few minutes to unwind and get in some serious chilling.

Check out my little brothers music at the link below. After a few minutes of it you will be ready for Miller time or what ever your choice is.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Business Cards - Your Personal Billboard

Have you ever asked a sales person for a business card and had them say they were out? Or, have you had to wait while they rummaged through their wallet or purse and pulled out one that looked like he had been sitting on it for years? What does this say about the professionalism of that sales person or the lack there of? It is bad enough you had to ask for the card to begin with.

Whether you are a businessman, sales person, job seeker, you’re self-employed or work for a major corporation your business card is one of the best marketing tools you can have. It tells who you are and what you have to offer a potential client. It gives them all your contact information including your company name, your name, address, telephone number, fax number, mobile/cell phone number, email address and your websites. It advertises YOU.

Here are a few tips for maximizing the use of your business cards.

1. Don’t skimp on quality. A cheap, homemade card looks like a cheap, homemade card. Remember you are trying to present a professional image and you have to take every opportunity to convey that image. Even when you select the best premium card from a professional printer, this will be the least expensive advertising you can buy and it will give you the best return for your dollar spent.

2. Don’t put too much information on the card, otherwise it becomes cluttered. People will not read a cluttered card. Usually people will only give a quick glance at the card and determine if they will keep it or toss it.

3. Don’t print on both sides of the card. Leave the back blank. By doing this you have created a place for the potential client to make notes about you or a particular service you are offering. This can be a great tool for the client.

4. Always carry your business cards. You never know when the opportunity will arise for you to give someone a card. No card equals a lost opportunity.

5. Don’t be stingy, give them out liberally. Take every opportunity that you get to give cards to people. Hand them out any time it is appropriate. Leave them at places of business and restaurants. Send them with all of your mailings. I even heard of a person who got a real estate referral from a card he sent with a payment he mailed out. There are all kinds of opportunities to promote you.

6. If the circumstances are right give out more than one card to each person and ask for referrals.

7. Etiquette

a. When given a card – give a card.

b. When given a card – look at it and don’t just put it in your pocket.

c. Know when self-promotion is not appropriate.

d. Don’t be obnoxious or too pushy.

e. Look at the card you are giving out to ensure it is your card, it is clean and it has no writing on the back.

8. On all follow-up contacts and mailings send another card

You are promoting yourself and your business. Your card can speak volumes about who you are and what you have to offer. It serves as a reminder of your contact and meeting.

As a real estate professional I recently received a telephone call from a person that said, “I was looking through my desk today and saw your card. I have this property I am thinking about selling and wondered if you would be interested in discussing it with me?” Out of the blue an old card I had mailed out last year brought an opportunity.

It is not always practical to carry your resume or brochures with you everywhere you go or all the time. A business card can be the next best thing.

It is time to put your advertising dollars to work and light up your billboard. Let’s hand out some cards.

Have you had any special success stories as a result of business cards? Let me know how the using business cards have helped your business.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Find Your Indispensable Employee and Fire Them

As managers we all have one. You know, that one special employee we go to whenever we want to be sure a job or task is done right. No matter how much potential the rest of our team has we always give the special jobs or best leads to our “go to guy.” Sooner or later this team member becomes indispensable to our operation and to our own leadership success.

When this happens to you there is only one thing to do. Find your indispensable employee and fire him. You may think this is harsh but if you want to be successful in leadership you have to learn how to lead without a “go to person”. Here are six reasons why you should. (A point of clarification, I am not talking about Leadership Development, but I am looking at one aspect of Team Dynamics.)

You Become Dependent

Once you start using someone as a “go to guy” you become dependent on that person to insure your own work is done. If you know that they will get the job done you don’t worry about learning how to accomplish the task yourself. Even worse you stop monitoring the work and don’t follow-up on the results.

If one of your employees is that good they will eventually grow tired of following in your shadow and move on to another job. At this point you are at a loss because you have not learned how to do the job yourself or developed the other members of your team to assist you.

Fail to Recognize the Talents of Your Team

Often by giving the more challenging task to the same person all the time you fail to recognize that there are other members of the team that can do the work. If you have done your job right you should have surrounded yourself with team members who are both qualified and trained to handle any task the team faces. It is a known fact that a lot of people will only rise to the level of expectation you have for them. In most work situation the majority of your team wants to be challenged in their job.

Fail to Develop / Train Other Team Members

Another negative result of depending on a “go to guy” is that you fail to train and develop your team. A key part of being in a leadership position is to offer training and guidance to all team members in order to help them achieve their maximum potential.

One of the most obvious problems with this failure is you will be left without a backup plan when your “go to guy” leaves your team, because eventually he will leave. It is your job to train all your team members so that any one of them could assume any task if another team member leaves.

Strife in the Team

Remember back when you were in school and the teacher had a favorite pupil. What did you think of that teacher and the “Teacher’s Pet”? The same thing can happen in your team if you have a favorite “go to guy.” How do you think the rest of the team feels about the “Boss’s Pet”?

The most common result of favoritism is low morale among the other team members. Unconsciously their work begins to suffer and the team’s productivity begins to drop. The results are that you as the leader of team look bad in your boss’s eyes.

It is also a possible outcome of having a “go to guy” that the other team member may sabotage the work and performance of the “Boss’s Pet.” Once again the result of this is that you, as the leader, look bad to your Boss.

Giving Away Too Much Authority

Another possible problem of you continuing to rely on your “go to guy” is a tendency to give them too much power. If you give away too much of your authority the “go to guy” may become the pseudo leader of the group. The other team members begin to look to him for instructions and answers to work issues. This could result in you not being aware of what is happening within your team.

This would not be problem if your goal is to develop a leader but if you are just relying on him to get the job done it could result in problems for you as the leader. The ultimate problem comes when your boss begins to go to the pseudo leader because he believes he is the one who knows what is going on in the team.

Back Stabbing

Finally, there is the possibility that your “go to guy” and / or the entire team my try to sabotage your work and standing with your boss. This is usually a result of their loss of respect for you as their leader because of the favoritism you show your “go to guy.”

Most often it is your “go to guy” that stabs you in the back. If he is as good as you think eventually he will ask himself, “Why do I need him?” The result of this is he will begin to take steps to insure your boss knows who is actually doing all the work.

If we are good leaders we are working hard to develop and train our entire team. Yes, there will be occasions when a team member shows a higher leadership aptitude than the others and we will focus more effort on their development. But, we cannot do this at the expense of the rest of the team. This is what leadership is about.

Developing a “go to guy” into an indispensable employee will lead to your ultimate failure as a leader. Having a strong, well trained team will help insure your success.

Isn’t it time for you to fire your indispensable employee?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Telephone Etiquette

Since the invention of the telephone it has served as an integral part of business. Today, with the advent of cell phones this is even more true than ever before. We are constantly on call and available twenty-four hours a day.

Deals are made and lost on the telephone. Job searches are conducted, interviewed and negotiated over the telephone. Real estate is bought and sold over the telephone. Millions of dollars are exchanged daily through transaction negotiated over the telephone. Often these opportunities are made or lost by the use of either simple telephone etiquette and/or courtesy.

Over the years I have seen a decline in basic telephone courtesy in all areas of use, especially in the business world. Here are a few tips to help improve your chances of a successful telephone deal.

Answering a Call

Have you ever called someone and the first words they answered with were, “Who’s this?” Or, have you had someone call you and before you could say anything, they asked, “Who’s this?” How did you feel when this happened? Did you want to continue with the call?

There are two basic rules to answering the telephone.

1. Identify yourself.

2. Identify what company you are with (If this is a company phone).

If you are at work, in an office, this is very easy to remember. Most companies have a standard script they want you to follow when answering the telephone. If not, you need to develop your own script.

The problem usually occurs when you are answering a cell phone. Most people forget that if this is a business phone you should treat it as such and identify yourself and your company name. If you are self-employed your cell phone is your business lifeline and should be treated like any other professional office telephone.

Placing a Call

If you are placing a call the same two rules apply. After the other party has answered the telephone and identified themselves you should acknowledge them and then immediately identify yourself with your full name and your company (if you are making a company call). Don’t assume the other party will recognize your voice and don’t make them ask you who you are.

Leaving a Message on an Answering Machine

If you have to leave a message on an answering machine it is important to speak slowly, clearly and concisely. With the poor reception that often occurs with cell phones this can be a critical factor in whether your message is received or not.

Identify who the message is for at the beginning of the message. Then identify who you are, full name, the company you represent, if applicable, and your telephone number. Leave a simple message which covers the subject of the call but don’t embellish and ramble, as this may make the message confusing. At the end of your message repeat your name, company and your telephone number.

The Most Important Telephone Tip of All

The most important tip of telephone etiquette is to SMILE when you talk on the telephone. Yes, smile because it transmits through the telephone lines and airwaves to the other party. A simple smile will be reflected in your voice and your attitude while talking.

Your attitude can make or break a deal while talking on the telephone. If you are courteous and polite you will get more results. Often in the business world in order to get to the right decision makers you have to get past the gatekeepers, which are the receptionist, the assistants and the secretaries. By simply being polite and courteous you have a better chance of reaching the people you need to talk to in order to make a deal happen.

Today’s business environment revolves around telephones and especially cell phones. In our fast-pace world decisions are no longer just made in the Boardroom. They are made on the go, while on vacation, when at home, and anywhere else where you find yourself with a cell phone.

Courtesy and telephone etiquette are more important than ever before in helping insure you receive your portion of today’s business successes. Be polite and courteous whenever you are using a telephone.

Most importantly, remember to smile when talking on the telephone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Three F’s of Leadership

There comes a point in every relationship, organization, business, and related activity when leaders must lead. The various teams have done their designing. The committees have reviewed it. Management has approved it. Now, it is time for leaders to take control and execute it. This is true whether we are talking about building a rocket ship or selling a house; once plans are made they have to be executed.

Leaders are the people that make it happen. They execute the plans and insure the goals are met. Whether they are leaders of a large group of fellow associates or they are an individual performance leader, such as sales leader, they set the pace and standards of the job to be done.

Leaders accomplish this through other people. A team leader will guide and direct his team insuring all the members maintain their focus on achieving the desired results. A sales leader will work with all parties of a transaction to insure they stay focused on making the transaction. The primary function of leadership in any situation involves working with and through other people to achieve the results of the goal.

Working with and through other people can be challenging but that is why you are the leader. As a leader it is important to learn and apply the three F’s of leadership in all their work relationships and interactions with other people. A leader should treat everyone with respect by being:

1. Fair

2. Firm

3. Frank


Your reputation is one of the most important assets you have. How people perceive you will determine how willing they are to work with you. As a team leader a positive reputation will make your associates put out the extra effort needed to accomplish any goal. As a sales leader your reputation will bring business and clients to you.

Being fair is simply treating all people the same. If people know they can trust you they will want to work with you. Be honest with all parties and work for a win-win solution to any problems that arise.

Make time for all your associates and business partners. This will go a long way to helping you achieve the reputation of being fair. Showing favoritism in any business relationship can have strong negative consequences.

Even in businesses where professional and corporate guidelines/rules appear to restrict your relationship with one party or the other in a business transaction you can still be fair in your actions. Be honest. If you cannot do something tell the party you cannot. By following the guidelines to the letter you are maintaining your fairness in the business relationship. Simply applying the rules equally to all parties with fairness and honesty helps you achieve your goals.


In the old days when you said a leader was firm you meant he ruled with an iron fist. There are still times when a leader has to be strict but being firm means more than this. It means being a decisive leader, one who can make a decision and follow through with it.

When being firm you need to stick to your principles and company policies/rules in all your business relationships. Don’t be indecisive when it comes to doing what is right or wrong. Let your principles and policies guide you in your decisions and how you implement actions.

When you make a decision stick with it, don’t be wishy-washy about it. You are not a “yes person” but you are the leader and at times it is your job to make the hard choices that are necessary to accomplish the goal.

Being firm also means when your decision or plans need to be changed you change them. But, you base the need to change on the facts needed to reach your goal. A good leader knows when and how to be flexible and adaptable.

Be open the suggestion, ideas, guidance and advice. A good leader does not make decisions in a vacuum but in the end a good leader makes the decision.


A good leader is an honest leader. His very principles demand truthfulness and honesty. He shares all the facts that he can with his team and/or clients to help them accomplish the goal.

When working in a team environment a good leader deals with all situations with truthfulness whether with the team or an individual. If praise is justified he gives it honestly and freely. If correction is needed he handles it with the same frankness, dealing with facts.

An individual leader such as a sales leader is frank with his associates and clients. He gives them all the facts, both good and bad, so they can make the best decision for their goals.

By following the three “F’s” of leadership a good leader will find the interaction with fellow associates and clients easier and more rewarding. Developing a reputation of being fair, firm and frank in your business relationships will help move you from being a good leader to being a great leader.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Art of Smiling

This past weekend I spent one day where dreams come to life, at The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This is supposed to be one of the happiest places on earth yet I noticed something strange, a lot of people were not smiling. They could not leave the stress of their everyday world outside the park.

I am sure you have noticed the change that is taking place in our society where civility and courtesy are becoming a rare commodity. When was the last time someone stopped and held open a door for you? When was the last time a store clerk smiled and did not look at you as if you were a distraction? In our fast paced world, we no longer take the time for basic politeness. We are only worried about getting what we need.

Now back to my trip to Disney World. The management of Walt Disney World has done an excellent job of training their employees, cast members, on basic public relations. Over and over I witness a simple smile and greeting from a clerk in one of the shops melt the stress from a guest’s (what they call a customer) face. By walking up and asking if they could help or just saying, “Have a great day” and smiling as the guest left an attraction changed the whole experience that day.

The more I saw this occur and the reaction it caused the more I was reminded of the important role simple courtesy plays in business and interpersonal relationships. In today’s business environment of high stress and fast paced action it is easy to lose sight of basic courtesy. We can’t afford to take the time to hold a door, give a smile, or exchange greetings. Or, can we?

A smile, a polite greeting or a simple acknowledgement that you exist can change the whole mood of a business situation. Whether you are putting together a business deal, negotiating a real estate contract, or having a simple meeting with fellow associates common courtesy will play a positive role in the outcome.

Here are a few examples.

- When you are frustrated, smile. A simple smile can change your entire outlook and help clear your thoughts.

- A smile during negotiations can make you feel and look confident especially during tense times.

- If someone is pushing you or trying to take advantage of you, smile. It can help put you back in charge and disarm them.

- If someone is being rude or obnoxious to you, smile. It can help ease the situation and soften them.

- When a sales clerk treats you like a distraction, smile and offer a greeting.

- If a co-worker is having a bad day, smile and wish them a happy day.

- When you have to counsel with an employee, smile and it will help them become more receptive to your suggestions.

I know it is hard to do and sometimes requires a lot of work but, being courteous and smiling takes a lot less effort and energy than being grumpy and argumentative. Not only that, when you smile it is easier to do things with enthusiasm and enthusiastic people are usually the ones that get ahead in life. It is true, smiling increases your face value.

I once had a mentor who always told me, “No matter what they put you doing, even shoveling s--t, smile while you are doing it. You will be noticed.” The truth is it works and people do remember you as being the person who smiles or the person who is always courteous and helpful. This is one way to win points with your boss and customers.

Being courteous and smiling brings returns in all areas of your life and business. It eases tensions and allows you to enjoy the moment. By reducing tensions you can arrive at better decisions and outcomes. It can help you maintain control of an otherwise bad situation. People like being around and doing business with courteous people.

Like the old saying goes, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”

What are some of your experiences with the power of smiling and courtesy?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CYA - The Basic Rule of Leadership

While attending Florida Southern College I took a night class entitled “Industrial Psychology.” The teacher was a retired Vice President of Human Resources for a major international heavy equipment manufacturer. The very first day of class he walked into the room, went up to the blackboard and wrote in large letters “CYA”. He then told us if we did not learn anything else in his class we would learn what CYA meant.

He went on to explain that in the real world of business this is one of the most important and basic rules to success and survival. Whether you find yourself in a positive or negative position, using CYA gives you an advantage over your competition. In all areas of business you needed to CYA or Cover Your Ass.

Every class after that he would write CYA on the board and leave it up for the entire period. Then he would teach the fundamentals of industrial psychology while weaving in his own personal experiences. Throughout the class he would refer to the board and ask, "How can you apply CYA to this situation?"

When broken down CYA involves two processes.

1. Documentation

2. Follow-up


Documentation is simply “put it in writing.” Whether it involves communication or an event, write down what was said and/or what happened. Too often not remembering exactly what happened or what was said results in a totally different outcome than what you expected.

In a conversation what was heard by one party may not be what was said by the other. Often the conversation is held in a noisy or busy area with lots of distractions. Other times the conversation is held while one or both parties are in a hurry and there is no true communication occurring.

To help avoid misunderstanding take notes during the conversation or as soon as possible after the conversation write down what was said. I have always carried a little note pad in my pocket to jot down memory notes to be used later to help retain or recap the conversation. Often when I get a few minutes I will send a note by email to the other party summarizing the conversation. This will also serve a record that we had the conversation.

At times I have kept a business journal or log of my daily activities. This is a great tool for keeping notes on the day’s events and important communications. Several months later if you have to review an event you will be glad you have this information documented.

Another good habit to get into is to save all correspondences in a file. You never know when you may need it. This is one of the great things about email. It is a written record and easy to save.


One of the phrases I hate to hear from one of my managers is, “I assumed ….” I was taught very early in my business career the old adage that when you assume, you make an “ass-u-me” and I get very upset when it happens to me. This can easily be avoided by simply learning to follow-up on events you are involved with.

If you make an assignment don’t assume it will be done, follow-up.

If you have assignments don’t assume you have done it correctly, follow-up.

If you are involved in communication with another person don’t assume there is an understanding of what was said, follow-up.

If you do anything, take the time to follow-up to insure it is done correctly. This extra step in your work process can eliminate a lot of wasted steps in the future.

If you write it, proofread it, another form of follow-up. Years ago I asked my assistant to type a letter to the Vice President of Operations of the company I worked for telling him of the production record that was broken the previous night by our second shift team. She typed it up and brought in for me to sign and I did.

Several days later I got a call from the VP asking if I had read the letter I had signed before I sent it. I learned a big lesson on follow-up that day. I pulled out my copy of the letter and read where she wrote, “The second shift set a new production standard for the operations.” The problem was she had left the “f” out of shift. Needless to say I now read what I sign.

It may sound like you are being paranoid by keeping all of these notes and constantly checking up on people, but it is not. It is a valuable tool to help make you a better leader and manager. It will help you evaluate your past performance and help you make plans for future improvements. By applying CYA in all areas of your work you will reap the benefits.

So, everyday “Cover Your Ass.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Rattlesnake and the Rabbit - A Lesson in Life and Problem Solving

On the weekends that my 4 year old grandson stays with us it seems like I have a shadow attached to me. Every time I stop he is saying something like, "Papa, let's work in the yard" or "Papa, let's go to the store" or "Papa, let's do this or that." Then it is off we go on another adventure.

This weekend it hit me that he is a lot like I was when I was his age. From as early as I can remember, until I discovered girls, I loved being with my granddaddy. I was lucky that I got to spend a lot of time with him, having fun, learning and gaining wisdom from him. I especially remember riding around in his truck and talking.

Granddaddy was a very quiet man, like all of us Gray men, and did not talk much except when it was just him and I riding in the truck. He was always telling me something about the farm, the old days when he was a young man, nature and wildlife, and about life in general. It was always like show and tell story time when we were in the truck or working on the farm.

There was one event we shared together that stuck in my mind and I still smile and marvel at the wisdom of his explanation. I was around 8 years old and we were riding in his truck on what we called the Swamp Road going to the field we were working at. This was an old sandy dirt road which was typical of most roads in the area.

I was daydreaming as we rode along not really paying attention to anything when Granddaddy suddenly slammed on the brakes and came to a stop in the middle of the road. He then turned off the engine and just sat there. I looked at him questionably and he pointed at the road as he told me to be quiet and watch.

About twenty feet in front of the truck sat a huge rabbit with the biggest rattlesnake I have ever seen coiled loosely around it. The snake was coiled up in a strike position and they were staring at each other, eye to eye. Neither one was moving, not even a twitch.

I asked Granddaddy what they were doing, even though I knew that rabbit would soon be snake food. Granddaddy looked at me and said, "Watch, the rabbit is charming the snake."

I chuckled and replied, "Don't you mean the snake is charming the rabbit."

"Just watch," was all he replied.

We stayed there for what seemed like an eternity watching the drama of life and death play out before us. Even though I knew it was the way of life in nature I could not help but feel sorry for the poor rabbit. It was at this point I learned a valuable life lesson.

After waiting and watching the snake and the rabbit locked in a death stare, neither moving a muscle, the unbelievable happened. In the blink of an eye the rabbit leaped to its freedom and the snake was still sitting in its strike position staring at an empty place.

I remember the shock I felt as I asked Granddaddy what had just happened and him laughing at me and saying, "I told you the rabbit just charmed the snake." He then proceeded to explain several life lessons to be learned from this.

The first lesson he taught me about the rattlesnake and the rabbit is never judge a book by its cover. It is very easy to judge your opponent or a problem as being overwhelming. Even though they form the backbone of our rating system, first impressions are not always the best.

The second lesson is running away from problems will not solve them. The rabbit had tried to run but in the end had found it was trapped and unable to run from its problem. It was at this point the rabbit realized it had to deal with its problem face to face in order to solve it. No longer could he ignore the issue, run from it or dance around the issue at hand.

The third lesson is to never give up. Even when all the odds are against you, you need to keep trying to overcome. The rabbit was obviously trapped in a no-win situation completely surrounded by its enemy, the snake. It did not let fear overcome its desire for life so it turned to the last resort effort of rearing up on its hind legs and staring its enemy in the eye, daring it to blink. If it had shown any fear it would have been killed.

Another lesson to learn is neither the strength of the snake nor the speed of the rabbit determined the outcome. Sometimes it takes finesse to solve an issue. In life we are taught that strength and money can solve most issues. When you get out into the real world you soon learn you have to use your intelligence and experience to overcome most situations.

The last point that Granddaddy made was, when the prize is at hand and you have your enemy where you want them, strike! Don't sit back, waiting and mocking your opponent. How many times has a great victory been lost in history because the perceived victor hesitated and let its victim get away? Do not celebrate until the final whistle is blown.

After he finished explaining all this to me Granddaddy looked me in the eye and said, "The story is not over yet, come with me." We then got out of the truck and he grabbed a shovel from the back and we killed that huge snake.

He then told me, "Never leave a live rattlesnake (problem) if you have the means to kill it." With that he began to teach me about rattlesnakes, their fangs, and their rattles, but that's another story for another time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Choosing To Be A Winner

As I set here trying to think of something to write about today I am drawn to a plaque I have had on my office wall for the past 20'ish years. I have used this poem as my motivator for all of these years and shared it often. There was even a period of time when I typed it out, enlarged the print, and then posted it on my refrigerator so my boys could see it every morning before they left for school.

Whoever wrote it sum up a lot about business and life. As I have gone through my life and business career I have found that the largest determining factor of my success in life was my attitude about it. I choose whether I am going to win at a task or whether I will lose. I choose if I want to be happy or I want to be miserable.

As you read through the poem decide how you want to live your life.

Winner vs. Loser

The Winner - is always part of the answer;

The Loser - is always part of the problem;

The Winner - always has a program;

The Loser - always has an excuse;

The Winner - says "Let me do it for you;"

The Loser - says "That's not my job;"

The Winner - sees an answer for every problem;

The Loser - sees a problem for every answer;

The Winner - sees a green near every sand trap;

The Loser - sees two or three sand traps near every green;

The Winner - says "It may be difficult but it's possible;"

The Loser - says "It may be possible but it's too difficult."


Let’ start today and be a Winner

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Economy and The Garbage Truck

On the way to work this morning I was listening to two people on the radio go on and on about the economy and unemployment. Their contention was as soon as the economy starts to grow again companies will begin to rehire employees and unemployment will drop. I was just starting to agree with what they were saying when I noticed the garbage truck in front of me.

It was at that point I begin to realize that the garbage truck epitomizes the economy and the state of modern business. I am not talking about our economy being in the trash nor am I saying that business is going to the landfill. That is an argument that has more political overtones to it than I care to debate. For this discussion let’s focus on the garbage truck.

Do you remember your typical garbage truck picking up trash in your residential neighborhood several years ago? In our community it involved a large garbage truck, one driver and two people riding on the back. The two on the back would jump off and empty the trashcans into the back of the truck. One or ten trashcans it did not matter, they got the job done.

Then the economy went through a small downturn and the garbage companies had to make changes to economize and stay profitable. To do this they restructured their organization and downsized which resulted in one of the two trash handlers on the back of the truck going through an economic layoff. To make this new corporate structure succeed they sent notices to all their customers limiting the number of trashcans that could be placed curbside on trash day to two cans.

As the economy continued to stumble and the garbage companies struggled to make a profit for their investors they had to look at other cost cutting measures. The next major change came with the customers receiving notice that the garbage pickup days were being reduced from 2 days per week down to one day per week but the limit of 2 trashcans per pickup remained.

Then the economy collapsed and the garbage company had to take drastic cost cutting steps to continue operation. They supplied each of their customers with a special standardized garbage can which could be picked up by a special automated garbage truck. Now the only person needed on the truck was the driver. The result was the last of the trash handlers being unemployed.

Now as the economy starts its slow change from a failing economy to one that is beginning to show signs of growth do you think the garbage company is going to rehire the trash handlers they laid off? When the garbage company begins showing strong profits will they increase the days of pickup? They have learned to operate more efficiently, doing the same amount of work using less resources and cost.

This same scenario has played itself out throughout the economy and business. Companies and businesses have had to restructure and redesign their organization and operations in order to survive in the harsh economic times of the past several years. Many, by making hard choices, have not only survived but grown during this time period. They have learned to accomplish the same amount of work and an acceptable level of service utilizing less cost, less resources and less waste (no pun intended).

As the economy begins to grow the vast majority of these companies will not replace the people who were downsized. Their job functions have been automated, absorbed by others in the company or eliminated as non-essential.

Yes there will be new jobs created and some laid-off employees being reinstated as the economy grows and demand exceeds supply. This will happened based on the new improved operating plans and staffing structures.

Efficiency, automation and cost savings are great and some of us will reap the benefits of them. But, as we go forward don’t forget about that trash handler who use to work on the back of the garbage truck.