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OLD enough to know better yet YOUNG enough to do it again



"A diplomat is a man who remembers a woman's birthday but never remembers her age."
~Robert Frost
 
I thought I could be under the radar on my 53rd Birthday but such was not the case.  Yes, I’m an April baby and born at the most important time in Christianity – Easter.  Talk about pressure!  Yet, it is important for me to reflect upon any wisdom gathered along my way to release the negative to allow me to make way for new goals, new horizons.  Allow me to share my poignant lessons I’ve learned thus far:

1)      Age is just a number:  Far too many age before their time or act inappropriately for our age.  My mother, Marie, is the greatest inspiration in this lesson.  When my father passed away 3 years ago, she set about to do the things she always wanted to do.  Namely, to dance.  She took private lessons before joining a singles club that wasn’t about finding a partner, but doing things that one loved.  She took golf lessons so that she would be able to golf.  She swims practically daily and is more active than most women half her age.   She is very humble because she didn’t get beyond Grade 8 because she was required to help out on the homestead farm in Saskatchewan, but she is the most well read, well informed person I know.  She looks her best at all times.  I’ve never seen her in sweats hanging out at the house all day on the couch.  She is always ready to be called out, play a game of bridge or welcome friends for coffee.

 
 

2)      Love your family:  They say that “if you treated your friends like you do your family, you wouldn’t have any friends”.   I appreciate that my siblings, two brothers, Greg and Cary, and my sister, Diana, were always each other’s best friends.  We had to rely on each other while we moved around the world as our father, Norman, was with the Canadian Armed Forces.  I love now how my daughters, Chantal and Kelsey, are each other’s best friends.  I often tell them how lucky they are to have each other and should always be there for each other.  My stepdaughter, Desiree has become a lovely lady, who became a better person after being infolded into the family dynamics when her father, Rob, and I married 7.5 years ago.  She chose us.  It was her decision to join our family at 15 and started calling Kyle, Chantal and Kelsey her brother and sisters, soon after we started dating and our first obligatory children introduction via a Bowling night.  She hid out in her room for the first day, while the others sat on the couch whispering at how they could get her to come out and join them, slipping notes under her door.  She is always the first to come to family gatherings, set the table, and never take family for granted.

 


3)      Love deeply:  Allow your partner, friends, family to love others more deeply:  When Rob and I were first dating, long before we got married, I was frustrated by how he put his daughter first.  It was my sister, Diana, who wisely told me that a man who would put his daughter first, before a relationship was a keeper.  She was right.  We gave Desiree a family and home, steered on back on course, and now I have the rest of our lives to enjoy that beautiful quality.  He is a cool pal for my son, Kyle to look up to and relate to, joke with about opposing hockey teams, football competitions, and gaming together.  An example to Kyle on what a good and strong man represents.  Kyle has also learned that his true value does not depending upon a life partner, as much as it is to have those to love for a lifetime.  When you love deeply, you learn profoundly.

 
 

4)      Dance often:  I was 17 in 1978 when Abba’s ground breaking song “Dancing Queen” was popular and it is my swan song.  Don’t worry if anyone is watching because if you love dancing, the music will pour your soul and make you feel good no matter how bad you feel.  When the kids were little, with or without their cousins, Friday night was the night that they did their dance performances.  They’d rehearse and then come in with astoundingly great choreographed performances.  The girls walked in the door today, and I was doing my hair, not completely dressed and Kelsey was “oh brother Mother” and I tried my best Shakira impression which could never do her justice, but the fun and laughter was the most rewarding part.

 


5)      Embrace failure:  If you never fail, you will never understand completely how rewarding success can be.  Dig deep to reflect on what you have learned, what you could have done better, WILL do better the next time and then RELEASE it into the wind.  The greatest leaders and inspirations failed greatly or graciously … it was how they recovered, is what makes them icons and idols (i.e.  Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Terry Fox)

 

 

6)      Appreciate friends:  I am very fortunate to have a group of friends that I’ve known for years – Kathy, whom we started college together, stood up for each other for our first marriages, held each up when they failed, empathized through life’s challenges, and held us accountable to remember life’s joys.  Friends are the ones you have that you can be vulnerable with, show your weaknesses to and love you despite it all.  They champion your success and encourage you when you face failure.  They rejoice in your stages in life, circling around family, love first and career, title, accomplishments less.  We both started out the same, both have experienced tremendous success, and have faltered unwillingly, yet relied on each other often.  It is by reason of having those to share with, has Celebrate Success not been given its own bullet.  That is because without acknowledging those relationships that could have failed either during success or failure, there is no difference, they stand by you no matter what.

 


7)      Recognize loyalty:  We have people who float in and out of our lives.  There are people who gravitate towards you when you are on your high and head for the hills when you are down.  The best you can surround yourself with are those who recognize qualities that you may sometimes not be in the mindset to be aware of.  They stay in touch and are just as important today, as they were you first met.  They associate with only those that champion goodness and aspire greatness.

 

 

8)      Be spiritual:  Never fear recrimination for having faith, no matter how it is shaped.  Spirituality is your relationship with a more powerful being, whether it is God, Jesus, Budha or Mohammed.  It will hold you up when you feel life has let you down, give you spirit to fight back and be a better human being, help others.  It is not a financial reward or through financial giving, it is by being.

 


9)      Love life:  Find ways to enjoy each day.  Some days, you really have to dig deep to do that.  Go outside, experience nature, through the Frisbee for your dog who will love you faithfully, enjoy beauty in other’s talented expression through writing, art, creativity or photography.  Avoid those that bring you down.  Misery loves company, but it is something you distance yourself from and chose not to participate in. Laugh often, laugh so hard you cry.

 

10)   Know your health:  understand your body, it’s needs.  If you are restless, exercise.  Eat vegetables and fruit and not the quick fix of junk food, candy.  Give permission to enjoy chocolate, if that is your vice.  Don’t deprive yourself of food for nourishment and wellbeing, but monitor the toxins you are allowing into your body and make up for that in other ways.

 

 

11)   Be kind:  Steer clear of expressing anger, hurting others.  You should give more than you get.  It will be a major contributor to your overall wellbeing.  You will find peace in knowing you have given when you felt you had less to give.  Look beyond the poverty and filth to see the glimmer of hope in eyes full of sorrow.  Smile and don’t turn your head or avoid their eyes.  Allow your shared humanity to bond you.

 

12)   Avoid ego and pride:  Don’t beat yourself up, avoid doing things that you have to work hard at to being better, and don’t allow ego and pride prevent you from being humble, admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness and say thank you more often than and whenever the opportunity presents itself as a gift.

 

 

13)   Take risks:  No matter what disappointments, frustrations, losses, or hurt you’ve experienced, you will only heal if you stretch beyond what you think you are capable of.  Be willing to look less than perfect, acknowledge where you have a need to learn, appreciate when you’ve accomplished your best by yourself and most importantly, share it with others.  There is no great person that has ever lived who went it alone.  Be inspired by greatness.  Read about people who overcome great odds, ignore the misbelievers, pay special attention to the geeks or freaks who will teach you wisdom.  Know the difference between whom you can trust and who will bring you down to their level.  Dare to follow in love despite the fear of hurt you face.


Thank you for sharing my birthday with me.  Allow me to celebrate that 13 points are lucky numbers to have to learn about life from.  We shall avoid the belief that 53 is old, when we see such wisdom and so many in front of us that we're lucky to learn from.  Let us to continue to recognize all the wonderful things this world has to offer us.  ~JM


"Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing.  It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator."

~ Confucious


The NEED for FEED .... back

"The herd seek out the great, not for their sake but their influence; and the great welcome them out of vanity or need."

~Napoleon Bonaparte
 
 
Feedback is a phenomena that has reached new heights with the emergence and advance of social media.   Information travels incredibly fast and many find themselves trapped unaware or fall victim to negative feedback.  Often  complaints disguised as "feedback" are negative and the object/subject are often unprepared and the immediate reaction is to go into defensive mode when they are startled into awareness.  It is my observation that 9 out of 10 times it is negative feedback that gets an immediate reaction - the worse the feedback, the quicker the response.

Feedback is a critical element on improvement.  Unfortunately, most organizations don't plan on how to respond to feedback.  It is far too often in reactive mode and far less in proactive mode.  I have written about Social Media feedback already but this time how it applies in business.

 
 
 

There is a time and place for everything.  Feedback is a crucial to any one person, team or organizations success.  In fact, feedback is encouraged in many situations:
 
 
  • Personnel reviews
  • Customer reviews
  • Feedback forms
  • Review panels
  • Interactive communications
 
Obviously, there are three types of feedback:
 
  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Constructive

  1. Positive feedback is pleasant, complimentary, and makes a person or organization proud of something, feel good about themselves. 
  2. Negative feedback is rarely welcome, usually takes the recipient off guard, and the target tends to  immediately go on the defensive
  3. Constructive feedback is when the intent is encouraged for improvement, aid learning and enhance development.  

Helpful feedback is when you give (or receive) encouragement and ideas on how to make changes to improve performance, enhance results.   

The least helpful feedback you can give someone (or receive yourself)  is vague encouragement ("You're on the right track, keep at it, 'Good start! Keep at it!")  Mind you, blistering criticism on the other hand causes the mighty to be shaken especially when caught unawares ('I hated it' You suck!') 

The most misleading feedback  is none  at all!  It evades the subject or communicates to the prospective recipient that there is nothing wrong.  Why you may want to reconsider sidestepping feedback:

  • It gives a false send of security
  • No news is good news is not always true
  • We've been raised to "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all"
  • We think it is poor manners to give feedback when not asked for
  • We are not correcting a behaviour that is disruptive or unproductive



 
FEEDBACK (noun)

1)   Information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.
2)   The modification or control of a process or system by its results or effects, e.g., in a behavioral response.

Synonyms:

Response, reaction, comments, criticism, reception, review

i.e. “we welcome feedback”
 

Every ONE and every ORGANIZATION improves with feedback.  You can call it whatever you'd like:

  • Reviews
  • Comments
  • Opinions
  • Advice
  • Pointers
  • Research



There is a very effective method to feedback that I learned while at my Toastmasters International professional group.   In fact, we would evaluate and give feedback based on our feedback, fancy that! 

The basic rule was use a sandwich:
  • Say something positive that will make the person receptive
  • Give the feedback
  • Say something positive again

The best managers, leaders or organizations are masters in the art of feedback.  We're so pleased at the intro and closing, we don't take the feedback quite as if it is a personal attack. 

A very wise elderly lady I know perfected it.  She starts out with something along this line "this is just some friendly advice that you may want to consider" (ears and mind opens) .. you may want to consider diversifying your savings strategy (I'm not hearing I don't have a strategy, or I have a poor strategy or I have bad habits) ... you may want to consider paying off your mortgage or buying an investment property (or whatever the case may be).  By doing this myself,  I have learned from own mistakes ... (she's not perfect either) I discovered that you shouldn't spend all your hard earned money on .. insert this or that  .... You may find a better idea of solving this as I know you're an avid reader and researcher ... much better with your computer skills than I am (awwww, I'm warmed up now) to know how important saving money is. 

She isn't accusing me of being a wasteful spender or criticizing me for not preparing for retirement.  She's enveloping her own wisdom and experience in a way that is framed in such a way I will pay attention, want to consider adopting it and will certainly feel good about it.

Another example would be like:  "Jeannette, your enthusiasm and energy really inspires me to pay attention to what you have to say.  Sometimes it is difficult to catch all the great substance by the style in your delivery.  I often feel like you think I'm not getting it or paying attention.  It comes across as though you are telling me without asking my opinion.  If you would slow down a tad, I can write notes or ask questions to absorb all your great ideas."

Surprisingly, this is a lot harder to do than it sounds.  We can fall into the trap of sugar coating it too much that our main point can be lost.  When done in conversation, effectively using eye contact and pausing between points allows the listener to absorb what is being said.

The next time, you are in a situation where you have to artfully provide feedback, think about this approach.  Once you are in the habit of doing so, your ideas or feedback may take you much farther than you dreamed it would.

You can avoid a lot of heartache, heat and resistance try to follow these hints:
  • AVOID attacking the person or making them feel as though they are being attacked 
  • AVOID using sarcasm which is a passive aggressive way of being nasty
  • AVOID underscoring a past mistake to make emphasis (they will feel like they can never do anything right and put them on the defensive immediately
  • AVOID communicating in a tone or speed that communicates anger (everyone knows a hissing cat is angry merely by the sound of it)
  • NEVER give feedback in front of others, regardless of your seniority.  You will look bad and weak ... never mind HR (human resources) could end up at your door instead!  Take the person aside and address the situation privately.
  • WATCH your body language (don't point a finger, shake your head as a no when you are wanting to convey a yes)
  • SMILE when you are opening with the positive statement, be serious when you are framing the main constructive point, and then look directly after you've finished the final positive framework
  • AVOID being too concise or brief: giving feedback is not something that should be done in haste
  • PLAN your feedback:  write down, rehearse or play over in your mind, visualize how you are going to deliver your sandwich.
  • AVOID joining the positive with the meat by using "but", "however"
  • SCHEDULE the time and disallow interruptions of any kind.  Respectfully reschedule if you know there is a pressing matter that may require interruptions. 
  • GOING to a company cafeteria or coffee shop does create a personalized receptive environment.
  • TURN OFF all communications devices as they fall under interruption and distractions.
  • END with a plan:  how are you going to mutually review that improvement has been made?  How are either going to track, monitor changes?
  • FOLLOW UP:  With something in writing to recap what was discussed and decided will be used to measure improvement; the recipient can do this rather than waiting for the communicating to demonstrate that they embrace it and are prepared to heed the advice.
  • FOLLOW UP:  Schedule a review in a week, month, or three months where both parties can collaborate, exchange thoughts on where, if, when improvements have been made.  If at a later date, you or your company decide that the feedback fell on deaf ears and the effort was not rewarded and you want to let the person go, you will be thankful that you have documented your efforts to help the person, when, how often, what steps were involved.

BE TACTFUL In other words, instead of coming straight out and saying "our meetings are too long".  You may have a valid point but you don't want to stick your neck in a noose by appearing as though you are criticizing a manager, who you owe respect to.  Think of a way that you could say it to a manager in such a way that it will be taken as valuable, helpful as the person may be unaware.    If you think meetings are too long, think about why you think they're too long?  Is it because you need to get home to get your kids to their soccer game? Far, far too often someone within group dynamics takes on the role of being the spokesperson, thinking that they should speak on behalf of the group in a tone of bravado that they mistakenly think the team appreciates their confidence and ability to speak up.  More often they are misguided and their team mates are horrified by the thought that the manager or leader thinks that they support such outspokenness. 


I had a leader who asked that we do our best to provide a solution prior to just spewing out a problem.  It was wise.  Wouldn't this sound better:  "There is a lot of great information that is covered during our meetings.  At times, they go longer than scheduled.  Perhaps we can have them over lunch and kill two birds with one stone or have an Agenda posted/sent out beforehand so that we can all stay on topic and on task."  That works rather well when the team all gets on board and collaborates on a solution that everyone can agree and compromise on to fix the problem.  i.e.  If you come up with the idea of lunch, everyone agrees to brown bag it, take turns to pick up the sandwiches or make arrangements to order in pizza.

Surprisingly, this is a lot harder to do than it sounds.  We can fall into the trap of sugar coating it too much that our main point can be lost.  When done in conversation, effectively using eye contact and pausing between points to encourage the listener to absorb what is being said.  You may have noticed, I like to use the word "perhaps" because I have found it softens the messages and conveys that it is just a suggestion.  How I do it, where I do, how I follow up conveys the seriousness or willingness to mentor/help with changes suggested.

The next time, you are in a situation where you have to provide feedback, think about these pointers.  If you sense or experience resistance, it may not mean that your ideas or feedback are unnecessary.  It just may mean that you need to deliver them a little differently.  Once you are in the habit of sandwiching your feedback, your ideas or delivery may take you much farther than you dreamed they would!

Let me know if you have tried any of these tips and if they worked. 

 

 
 
"There is no better than adversity.  Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve performance the next time."
~Malcolm X
 
 


RFPs are simple as your ABCs

"Freedom lies in being bold."

~Robert Frost



Oops, I did it again:  I fell into the nightmare of acronyms.  http://optioneerjm.blogspot.ca/2014/03/b2b-smb-b2c-abc-acronym-nightmares-or.html .  When we become conscious of a pitfall, we become aware of the bad habit and take steps to avoid it.  I continue to discover that they're as much a part of business lingo as it is to breath.  However, for the sake of folks entering the business, entrepreneurial or sales arena, I will continue to strive to be remarkable, and avoid them. 

Firstly, I will disassemble what an RFP means:  Request for Proposal -- A request for proposal is a process in business whereby a buyer or purchaser (typically from a company and more often from a major Enterprise corporation) is looking for a vendor who can enter into a contract or agreement for a period of time (1 year, 2 years, with an option to renew) to be their supplier of choice.  In many fields or industries, it is called a "tender"


Typically, the procurement (purchasing) department has received a request to put out an RFP from their executive, operations or internal group with a group of Vendors that they have determined that said vendors have the capabilities to meet their criteria of, for example:

  • Geographical location:  Locally, regionally, nationally or globally
  • Size:  Has the means to meet their needs (based on equipment, process, service, personnel)
  • Capacity:  Based on equipment, process, service, or personnel, they have: they have the bandwidth, equipment, personnel that meets the volume of business being requested to meet
  • Capability:  Usually falls under Technology:  i.e.  The right technology could mean software, process, equipment available, training
  • Extras:  What do you have to offer that may be perceived as "Extra"?  It could also mean the additional support that is required to meet the contract SLAs:  (i.e.  in printing, marketing or website design it could be graphic designers), software, services, distribution channels that would be "nice to have" to meet the contractual obligations.
There I went again!  See, how difficult it is to eliminate acronyms, jargon or business speak from our vocabulary?  SLAs translate to "Service Level Agreements".  SLAs are predetermined by the organization issuing the RFP, the minimum they consider acceptable to be considered a supplier of choice, such as:
  • Timelines/turnaround
  • Service team response time based on the time difference between an incoming problem or troubleshooting call and the vendor's capabilities  (i.e.  within 2 hours, same day, within 24 hours, next day, etc.)
  • SLAs are often the area in the contract that addresses:  if you win our RFP or contract for business -- how are you going to measure, ensure that we're satisfied
  • Your team should examine internally what SLAs you are able to meet, excel or struggle with so that you have identified same
You see, I don't want you to end up with your first RFP and then be a) scrambling to figure out what to do, or b) have questions that you've never examined before even though they are issues or problems that have surfaced c) miss the submission deadline! (YES:  There is usually a deadline that disqualifies many a disorganized teams who don't make the dateline stamp) More often than not, sales organizations are the organizations that are set up as "in it to win it" mentality.  Not only are they completely conversant in embracing and understanding RFPs, they are set up to be successful:

  • They are in tune with what their best customers and potential customers want from them
  • They have testimonials, case studies or white papers that exemplify where, how or when they have been successful;
  • They have the right level of sales professionals who are equipped, educated or knowledgeable on how to approach or be considered for RFPs.
  • They have the support available to the sales team to collaborate, review, address what has been asked for on the RFP (see previous Blog on "Fix your organizations dysfunction")
  • They have tools readily at hand to be able to track, measure, monitor, or proactively respond to RFPs (i.e.  CRMs:  Customer Relationship Management software to key in pertinent details).
  • They have more tools available to respond to RFPs:  i.e.  letterhead, color printers, proposal covers or templates that are on hand to create, print, issue the RFPs
  • They have a team of experts that contribute on various sections of the RFP.
  • They have partnerships or third party vendors lined up to take pieces of the RFP that the organization themselves don't have the infrastructure to handle (this often falls within distribution or "time to market" requirements)


 
 
I've just shared a sampling of the items for consideration that should be foremost in an entrepreneur or organizations mind, if they think they should, must, or want to be on the RFP track.

Large sales organizations like Xerox, HP, SAP or mid-size companies already have on hand the sales support in place to respond to RFPs because they have designed, recruited or trained their sales professionals on their unique "Value Proposition". These successful teams have huddled, examined and debriefed on failures many many times. 

The "Value Proposition" is different than a mission statement that is formed very early on in the infancy of the organization.  I see this area should be tabled for another blog to avoid tangling up the ABCs of RFPs. 


For homework or as a team assignment:  take the bullets out provided above and put them on a flip board, piece of paper (a napkin won't give you enough room) and gather your team of resources to answer these bullets.  Schedule a meeting time, go into the boardroom (or coffee area) and huddle.  Turn off cell phones, computer alerts, and disallow interruptions for that scheduled hour or two.  It may take a few times but don't worry, this is a great habit.

You have this assignment because you don't want to start hiring sales professionals if you don't have the infrastructure in place to go after RFPs.  I am approached and had discussions with numerous entrepreneurs and business startups that want to hire a salesperson and even have a fistful of money to pay that person, but are jumping too far ahead.  You are setting up that person, your organization, to fail without considering the direction you are going in.  I'm sure everyone wants to be an overnight success, however, that isn't realistic or practical.  There are steps to growing.  How fast you do, is dependent on how you manage growth.  Managing growth should normally address the questions your basic customers may ask long before you're ready to go after the big guys.

I look forward to writing about the next step of RFIs and explain  (ha! acronym for "Request for Information") a portion that may surface while your team is starting to think about tackling RFPs ... but only after you have sorted and completed your homework.  I would hope that you haven't hired a sales rep or team to punt out the door expecting them to perform miracles before then.  I look forward to writing about it in my Blog!

Take the time to comment or communicate your thoughts on what I wrote, your organizations obstacles, whether you agree or disagree, or have additional tools or points to help others.  After all, the websphere is where we can all gather to help each other move beyond average to remarkable!  For consideration, you can read my Blog "Stop before you jump ....)

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

~ Benjamin Franklin