One thing is constant…change is coming!

As of today, I am unemployed.  Long and short of it, I chose “Happiness.”  Now, I won’t go into details, as I have nothing but love for my organization and the people in it.  It was an amazing journey, but today it ends.  I turn the page.  I begin a new chapter.

While I can make the choice I made, many cannot.  Many of my colleagues and friends are faced with a challenge that they didn’t have last week, or even yesterday, for that matter.  It seems only fitting that I write about “change” and how best to survive and thrive when change is swirling.

Early in my career, I would find myself dwelling on what “may be.”  Whether I heard a rumor, or I saw somebody whispering (and thought they might be talking about me), I would allow that potential of something bad, to enter my mind.  I was occupying my mind with things that truly didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter, because it hadn’t happened.  It didn’t matter, because it was not real.

We know that change is a way of life these days and come in a multitude of ways.  Your company has changes in ownership, leadership, vision, direction, deployment, compensation plans, etc.  They are an every month (or potentially every week) occurrence.  If we are to thrive, we must accept this fact and keep moving forward.  Here are a few things that help me:

  1. Choose Happiness – Happiness is a choice.  Nobody can make you feel a certain way, without your consent.  I wake up, each morning, thankful that God has granted me and my family another day.  A lot of people aren’t given that chance.  I wake up thankful that my family is healthy.  Many people are fighting for their lives.  I wake up knowing that we have a warm home.  How many people wish they had a warm home?  I wake up grateful that we live in a peaceful community.  Do people in other countries feel this same way?  I live my life being grateful.  If my only issue is dealing with changes at work, or even losing my job, there is so much more to be grateful about.  Focus on what truly matters.  Jobs are important, but family, safety, health, comfort and life, is what it’s all about.  It took me a lot of years to get to this point.  The sooner you get there, the better off you’re going to be.  Find the good in every situation.  It’s there, sometimes you just have to dig deep to find it
  2. Be Here Now!  Live in this moment and stop thinking about what may or may not lie ahead.  You have been granted this moment and this moment alone.  Look around.  Listen.  Feel.  Deep breaths are really a great thing…try it.  Meditate.  Stop and take it all in.  Stop wishing away this moment, because there is no replacement for it.  Cherish it
  3. There are storms before rainbows – Sometimes you need to hunker down, ride it out and muscle through.  In the end, it will be worth it
  4. Head Held High – Confidence is an amazing thing.  Sit up/stand up straight and you will feel more confident.  You control your destiny, when you approach it with confidence.  Be proud of who you are, what you do and what you have accomplished.  If you are displaced from an organization, you walk out with a smile and your head held high.  Life is good.  There are a lot worse things than losing your job

I wanted to close with sharing the “7 Cardinal Rules for Life.”  I have it taped in front of me at my desk.  Do the same.  It will do you good to reflect daily.  Choose Happiness 🙂

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Where did loyalty go?

I come from a blue collar upbringing.  I grew up on the south side of Chicago.  My Father worked for the Chicago Board of Education, as an Engineer in a Chicago Public School.  He was responsible for keeping the school warm, well maintained and in tip-top shape.  He was the best at his trade and took pride in his work.  He never cut corners and never took a sick day, in over 35 years of work.  I learned about commitment, responsibility and work ethic from my Father.  Through 30 years of work, I have never taken a sick day and never will.  It’s a point of pride at this point, as silly as that may sound to some.  My Mother was a surgical nurse and was committed to her profession.  I learned compassion, empathy and sensitivity from my Mother.  Between both parents, my core beliefs were built based on observation and admiration.

My parent were both very loyal to their employers.  They were passionate about their trade and the organization which they represented and wouldn’t dream of going elsewhere.  They both retired, having worked for only one employer.  Those were the days, when there was commitment both ways.  Boy, have times changed.  Today, we live in a different world.  A time where we are focused on the here and now and more focused on “what’s in it for me,” versus being driven by the goals of the organization.  As each new generation develops it’s unique personality, we slip further and further away from “we” and more closely to “me.”  Put simply, it is the reality today and will only amplify over time.

So, how do we build loyalty in this new world?  How do we get back to a time where people are proud of where they work and pass on inbound calls from recruiters?  In one word…Leadership.  Studies show that people leave companies due to their relationship (or lack thereof) with their direct supervisor.  I believe that the front-line manager sits at the most prominent position of influence.  They deal with the daily (and often personal) challenges of their people, while having things thrust upon them, by their supervisors.  The front-line manager is the key to the health and progress of an organization.  The front-line manager is the key to reducing churn and building loyalty.  The front-line manager is often overlooked and taken for granted, when they must be prioritized and held in the highest regard.

I believe that life is about connections.  Our best salespeople and best sales leaders, have a way of connecting with those they serve.  Their focus is on uncovering the needs of their people and committing themselves to ensuring that they meet the needs of those individuals.  I have always embraced the principle that it is “all about the people.”  If sales leaders focus on their people and serve them well, their employees will, in turn, reciprocate with passion and loyalty.  Effective leadership lies in a leader’s ability to understand who they serve and serve them with full commitment.  It means connecting, empathizing, finding common ground, emphasizing the individual’s “fit” and responsibility to the organization, selling the vision, eliminating “us” versus “them” thinking, holding people accountable to their goals, challenging reps to rise above, challenging employees to stretch and having leaders internalizing their rep’s goals as their own.  When a leader does this, they create loyalty and those recruiter calls fall on deaf ears.  We must all understand and commit to those who we serve.  We must make their goals, our goals.  We must be passionate about our people.  We must lead from the front.

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Here we go…

Over the past 20 years, I have committed myself to writing a couple of books.  Having spent nearly 30 years in sales and sales leadership, it only seemed fitting that I write about what I know best…sales leadership.  In advance of writing books, I wanted to start by testing my wares in the blogging world.

Having spent my entire adult life in sales, as you might imagine, I am not shy about expressing my thoughts and opinion.  On TV and in commercials, we consistently see salespeople depicted as fast-talking, slippery and dressed in bad plaid jackets.  While that may be the case in some instances (especially the bad plaid jacket :)), overall, true sales professionals are caring, thoughtful, great listeners and passionate about solving client’s challenges.

Sales has provided an amazing life for my family.  I am thankful that Charlie Lombardo (God rest his soul) approached me, out on a baseball diamond, some 29 years ago and asked me if I wanted to go into sales.  I graduated from Northern Illinois University, with a degree in Business Management and no idea what I was going to do.  I had visions of being a hotel manager, with lots of glitz and glamour, only to find out that the path was littered with cleaning rooms, working the front desk, working graveyard shifts and dealing with angry customers…all at a very marginal income level.  I have immense respect for those who work in the service industry, but I realized that while I wanted to serve, it was not to be in the hotel industry.  Thanks to Mr. Lombardo, he opened a door for me.

I began my career in inside sales and was fortunate to be surrounded by great leaders and mentors, namely Bob Metz, Dan Frieling and Peter Szalkowski.  I owe much to these men, as they taught me about commitment, respect, carrying myself as a professional and focused me squarely on carving my path.  Nearly 30 years later, I often think about these 3 and am thankful that I was placed in their care.

30 years have flown by.  I’ve been married for 26 to my amazing wife Diane and we have 2 grown Daughters, Alyssa and Carly.  Life has been good to us and I owe it to venturing down the path of sales.  I am proud of my profession and I am grateful that I have been surrounded by amazing leaders, peers and employees.  I have made life-long friends.

In the coming blogs, I will share my thoughts on “all things leadership.”  Having spent 25+ years leading sales professionals, I have picked up a thing or two, which I’d like to share.  I hope you enjoy the ride with me.Image