A Possible Reason for Selfish Business Owners

In reviewing keywords within my website analytics, one of those terms was selfish business owners.  This had me recounting my time in corporate when many employees where I worked believed the owner was being selfish, that he cared only about himself. Of course these same employees failed to recognize they still had a job during the economic recession under then President Carter.  Many of their friends and family had been laid off during this time.


Credit: www.gratisography.com

What I realized right then and there perception is everything and people are shortsighted.  Let me explain.

Owning the company, my boss used the various legal tax laws to improve the his economic position and that of the company as any good small business owner would do. These actions included buying new cars approximately every 3 years. During this time of employee discontent which was actually employee disengagement, the boss purchased a new Cadillac.  When he drove it to the office, one would have thought by the behaviors of the employees he had committed a capital offense.

After a few days, the boss sensed something was wrong and called me, as Sales Manager and Purchasing Manager, into his office and closed the door.  As we know, closing the door is not usually a good sign.

He shared he felt a lot of negativity and was wondering what was happening. I replied the employees given the current economic situation (where they had not received a raise for over 2 years) the sight of a brand new Cadillac was perceived as insulting and he was perceived as another one of those selfish business owners.

Having a strong leadership talent of diplomacy, my boss contained his immediate negative, emotional response. Then he thought for a few minutes and asked me what did I think?

I told him it was none of my business what type of car he bought. His name was on the building. Also, I knew he worked long hours, longer than the employees to keep the place running.  From my perspective, the car did not make any difference, but I probably was the exception.

He then asked me what would I do?  Given I knew his wife drove a Chevy Caprice, I suggested switching cars with his wife. Even though the employees knew he had a Cadillac, they would not see it every day in the parking lot.

I remember him looking at me quite quizzically. I continued with “perception is reality. Seeing the less expensive Chevy Caprice suggested you are not above your employees and not perceived as one of those selfish business owners.”

My boss took my advice, somewhat hesitantly, and within several days of driving the Chevy to work, the employees became re-engaged. There were more smiles and joking going on with even cheerful “good mornings” to everyone.

I realize there does exist selfish small business owners. Yet from my experience, I believe much of that is because employees fail to see beyond the curtain and their reality is only what they can see.  This reality perception is also true for small business owners who are also blinded by their own reality.

The other lesson learned is having a forthright, emotionally intelligent dialogue is probably the best solution to find the root cause of any issue  such as unhappy and disengaged workers. To this day I still admire the executive leadership qualities including emotional intelligence that my boss displayed. He truly was a good role model and I learned many other lessons from him.

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The Breakfast Guest of Organizational Culture

Every morning businesses open and their leaders look to execute specific strategies based either upon their predetermined and strategic business growth goals or their Captain Wing It flight plan. They have their breakfast meetings with their other executive leaders and managers to plan this new day of business growth. Unfortunately, they fail to recognize the ever present guest of culture.

organizational-cultureThis silent, unseen guest as Peter Drucker quoted “eats strategy over breakfast.” And organizational culture continues to eat strategy during lunch, dinner and all the snacks in between. (Leadership Coaching Tip:  Strategy is thought, thinking and planning. Execution is the tactics, actions to implement the strategy.)

Probably the main reason business growth strategy fails is the organizational culture is ignored. The best example of this is within any merger and acquisition(M&A) where it is estimated 50% of all mergers fail.  One of the key reasons for this failure is the culture is not adequately assessed specific to the compatibility of the acquiring culture. (Leadership Coaching Tip: Culture is the sum total of all conscious and unconscious beliefs and behaviors.)

People (culture) are what make or break a company.

Those same people make or break strategy.

Just as cooks check to see if the temperature of the food is safe to eat, so should executive leaders check to see if their organizational culture is safe to execute strategy. One fairly simple exercise is to see if any of these culture issues are present through this  Culture-Strategy-Audit-ADVSYS. If so, then leadership will face culture barriers that will derail to sidetrack any strategic execution.

Executive leadership is ultimately responsible for organizational culture. 

They either lead culture or allow the culture to lead them.

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How True Leaders Turn Conflict into Collaboration


Credit: www.gratisography.com

Leaders recognize conflict exists because human beings are unique and not everyone thinks the same way, believes the same things or has the exact same experiences. True leaders are able to turn conflict into collaboration through these three words:

  1. Clarity
  2. Coaching
  3. Consideration


The first step is securing clarity around what is causing the conflict.  This initial step does require some executive coaching skills in that the leader brings the issue up in a considerate and non-threatening manner. Leadership Coaching Tip:  This step is missed by many because they think they know what is actually causing the conflict which in many cases a symptom and not the real problem. True leaders invest the time to ascertain the real real for conflict.


Credit: www.gratisography.com

For example, the true leader may ask about the situation and will avoid using the actual word conflict or disagreement because both imply some judgement.  He or she will ask the person who is experiencing the conflict or who is actually accelerating the conflict to explain the situation. Leadership Coaching Tip:  Conflict is a behavior fueled by several emotions. By finding clarity specific to the emotions driving the conflict helps to get identify the true source of the conflict.


True leaders recognize conflict in the majority of circumstances is connected to what people cannot control. Through  leadership coaching, they are able to return the discussion to what the person has control over, himself or herself.  If the “coachee” wants to influence the situation more to his or her benefit, this also can be explored through a guided questioning process. Leadership Coaching Tip:  This process allows the “coachee” to discover the answer. The leadership coach does not provide the answer; that is leadership consulting.


Credit: www.gratisography


All conversation is based upon the consideration (rules of respect). Any negative remarks or disingenuous remarks are quickly identified with agreement to focus on the issue and not the other person or persons. This again returns to what the person can control, only his or her own behavior.

During these conversations, true leaders continually apply emotional intelligence by the words they use, the questions they ask and the silence they provide. Leadership Coaching Tip: Silence is calming.

The End Result

From the clarity, the coaching and the consideration, the end result is collaborative agreement. There usually is a next step or steps that have been identified through this guided leadership communication. Conflict has now been identified and steps to resolve it are in place. The good news is this guided process is consistently executed the current conflict has a greater likelihood of not being repeated.

To truly execute this type of guided communication begins by understanding with utmost clarity your own talents as a true leader. This talent assessment may quickly and affordably begin that clarity process. Leadership Coaching Tip: Leaders who are in a fog have difficulty helping others who are also in a fog.

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How Too Much of a Good Thing May Break Your Sales

The sales world is changing. There is no doubt.  However, selling is still the same.  People (buyers) have wants or needs supported by a budget (hopefully) along with the ability to make a decision. Then there are the other people (sellers) who have solutions (products or services) to address those wants or needs within that budget.


Credit: www.gratisography.com

Today’s Buyers Have Changed

What has changed is today’s buyers are more educated. This education is largely because of the Internet and the vasts amounts of information available through online channels from publications to social media  to blogs.

Additionally, some salespeople are also better educated from solutions they offer to general business acumen as well as to the current customer’s business world.  Of course, there are still some who have failed to adequately educate (prepare) themselves and they are not as successful.

Too Much Eduction May Be Too Much of a Good Thing

All this education (experience and research) may be too much of a good thing. Buyers may think they know everything and this works in some cases against less than insightful salespeople.  Top performing salespeople recognize knowledgeable buyers and are prepared first too listen and then to offer their insight. Additionally, they are willing to challenge the wants and needs of the buyers if it makes better sense and the solution is far more sustainable.

Then there are the sellers who think they know everything and fail to hear what the buyers are actually saying. In their brains, they believe they have heard everything and this mindset keeps them from hearing the additional minute details that are potential barriers to their ability to increase sales.

Being Knowledgeable Is Smart; Being Too Knowledgeable Is Not Smart

Being knowledgeable is both essential and smart; however being too knowledgeable is not smart.  The “too” is usually connected to one’s ego and one’s own experience. What may happen is your sales tree of knowledge may have you sounding and acting like the all to be avoided “pushy” salesperson.


Credit: www.gratisography.com

How to Overcome Too Much Knowledge

What I have learned is to compartmentalize my knowledge.  I quietly listen and take notes to what the buyer is telling me. Throughout this active listening process I am attempting to:

  • Clarify what is being said
  • Legitimize what has been said
  • Listen for Emotions
  • Seek Agreement on what has been said before proceeding
  • Retain what I have heard (notes help me and then I process those notes into an Executive Summary)

When a seller has a CLEAR understanding of what has been communicated, then it is time to bring his or her knowledge forward. During this communication process I have learned that active listening is far more valuable than asking open ended questions or closed ended ones. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  When engaged in telephone conferences only, having the sales leads ask me  “Are you still here?” has been an indicator I am actively listening as well as the sales leads are not used to someone being quiet.


Credit: www.gratisography.com

Lesson Learned

In sales as in life, there are truly no hard, fast rules. The lines become blurred and in many cases faded like the worn pavement lines.  What is present are guidelines, suggestions and opportunities to recognize each situation though similar in nature is still unique because people and their wants and needs are unique even if the solution is more generic than customized.

The question remains for only you to answer:

How can you maximize your knowledge through active listening while minimizing your spoken word?

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Sales Leadership Temperament of Assertive Part 28

Have you ever met one of those “pushy” salespeople?  Did you ever wonder why they were this way?  Part of the explanation could be these individuals had this sales leadership internal temperament of assertive. To have this temperament of  assertive suggest the following biases:

sales-leadershipWhen people are “pushy” in sales, they have a strong belief in how they “should do things” and this behavior translates into being “quite assertive.” This strong belief is connected to their own self image. If things are not done a certain way, this creates negative feedback to them specific to their self image and consequently increases their negative self-esteem. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Additionally, there is more at stake than simply ‘doing it my way’.  For you compliance to the rules you set for “how” things are to be done is directly tied to your self-esteem.  Overall results become secondary to how closely you followed the guidelines.”  (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

The negative self-esteem bias coupled with not doing things the “correct” way even if the end result is achieved creates “failure” in the mind of these individuals.  There is “lack of value” or an under valuation of who these individuals are. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

What happens is those with this sales leadership temperament of assertive give themselves “self worth” through how well they adhere to the rules they created and now feel guide their actions and their lives.  For these individuals, the focus is far more on how they do what they do, more than what they do. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

People with this sales leadership temperament of assertive due to their negative self esteem usually have some uncertainty and also fear change. This anxiety toward change may not work best for anyone in sales where there is a high degree of constant change.

So do you know your talents, your decision making style and your biases? If not, this talent assessment can deliver those answers quickly and affordably. The question to ask yourself is:

“If you do not know yourself with crystal clarity, what opportunities are you missing?”

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How Marketing Etiquette Increases Two-Way Engagement

Marketing is the ability to attract attention and build relationships. Now with the various social media channels there is a return to marketing etiquette that even has influenced traditional marketing.

marketing-etiquetteFor example, social media is not just broadcasting one’s message (one way engagement), but becoming engaged (two-way engagement).  This engagement in many times can be as simple as:

  • Thank you for a new Twitter follower
  • Short LinkedIn message when accepting a LinkedIn invitation
  • Liking a social media post
  • Sharing a social media post
  • Creating or having discussions through the various channels
  • Commenting on articles posted websites (micro-blogging)

What potential ideal customers or centers of influence do not want is a constant stream of self-promotion or one way engagement. This one-way behavior is considered subconsciously (indirectly) to consciously (directly) at the best poor business etiquette or at the worse self-absorbed , all about me, individualistic behavior.

marketing-etiquetteMarketing etiquette is not new.  In cold calling, one behavior is to ask if the person has time to talk such as “Is this a good time?” What is new is the expectation by more people for respect through return engagement. By being responsive (engaged) to the social media marketing actions of others demonstrates you are not just about you, but about other people.

Handwritten thank you cards are another simple demonstration of marketing etiquette. Sure you can send an email thank you.Yet, what do you believe is remembered more, one email among hundreds or a personal or a handwritten note among a few pieces of mail?

Probably more today than ever before the words of President Theodore Roosevelt resonate loudly throughout the social media and traditional market place:

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Social media allows you to demonstrate you care simply through positive marketing etiquette. And remember a simple thank you, a smile in your voice is sometimes all that is needed to differentiate you from everyone else.


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Forward Thinking Leadership Is Inspiring

The recent reports from Workforce 2020 as well as SAP and Oxford Economics come as no surprise to anyone watching leadership development. What this research tells anyone engaged in talent management, which is for the most part most people, is forward thinking leadership is inspiring and simultaneously lacking.

forward-thnking-leadershipKnowing technology will continuously change the labor force is not new. This change was reported 20 years ago by some forward thinking leaders.

Also what has not changed is reactive  human nature. We know this because  leadership in the super majority of companies still has not addressed critical issues regarding talent management including skill development, compensation and general working conditions such as “remote” working.  For some anti-forward thinking leadership, they believe training is still a cost and not an investment.

Where there appears to be some forward thinking leadership is in the smaller companies. Technology along with excessive government compliance has created more of a merchant economy as experienced before the industrial revolution. This is evidenced by over 70% of all US businesses being sole-proprietors and add those with under 20 employees, this percentage jumps to over 97%.  Having employees is very expensive and outsourcing to smaller firms improves profitability and allows those larger and even smaller companies to focus on what they do well.

These proactive leaders are inspiring to their stakeholders from their employees, their clients, their vendors and their community. Having an entrepreneurial mindset coupled with experience and a “yes I can” attitude, they are developing, creating and executing solutions that in years gone by would have only been done by the “big guys” in business.

Here in Northwest Indiana, I have personally witnessed some of these inspiring forward thinking leaders such as:


Credit: Gratisography.com

Each of these individuals looked at what was happening within their industry and decided to change the status quo and still work to keep those changes coming. Standing still is not within their DNA make-up. Their commitment to improving their businesses while still improving the quality of life for their communities is as Ford has said “Job #1.”

Forward thinking leadership is inspiring and it takes courage, commitment and adherence to clarity of purpose to continue walking that path to sitting in the front instead of the back of the room. The question is are you ready to walk a similar path and inspire those around you?

This quick read, Fail-Safe Leadership, will have you take the first few steps to becoming more forward thinking and inspiring  in your leadership.


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Work Life Integration vs Balance, There Is a Difference

With so many businesses being directed by sole proprietors (78.2% by US Census Bureau) , there is a lot of work life tension happening 24/7.  Week nights to weekends are jammed with those daily business activities that do not require immediate attention within the 9 to 5 weekday routine.

work-life-integrationWhat I am noticing is there is becoming a distinct difference between work life integration and work life balance.  Balance suggests that everything is weighted equally. Yet for me my mental development, learning more, reading more, in many instances is much more about my professional life than personal life and is part of my marketing, sales and innovation aspects of my business.

Years ago I constructed two sets of wheels, one for my personal life and another for my professional life. Then in developing some tools for clients, I developed separate wheels for executive leadership, management, team leadership or supervision, leadership, sales, customer loyalty, innovation,  marketing and small business.


For me, I no longer have just two wheels, but rather I have numerous wheels working together, integrated. These wheels remind me of the gears (wheels) found in the old fashioned, hand wound clocks. When one is working harder than another, the clock moves faster and the opposite happens when one wheel is moving slower than the other.

5-Star-ModelThis work life integration goes beyond balance because sometimes due to the demands of work life being out of balance intentionally happens. Yes imbalance impacts productivity. Yet, if the work life integration is still in alignment with strategy, structure, processes,rewards and people, the negative impact is considerably lessened. (5 Star Model)

And there is the other element present of alignment.  All wheels require alignment along with the balance and integration. Alignment returns me to my personal growth action plan as well as my small business action plans.

For today’s small business owner and sales professional understanding work life integration along with balance and alignment can make the difference between happiness and sadness.

These one page business action plans may help you gain greater clarity.

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Active Listening Goes Beyond Silence

“You could hear a pin drop.” Ah, silence, the time in between two or more people speaking.  Yet, that absence of sound does not mean active listening is taking place.


Credit: Gratisography

Usually what that silence means is someone is thinking about how to respond while the other person is still talking.  To actively listen requires the ability to hear what the other person is saying and then process those comments within the decision making process such as “Should I respond?”; “What should I say?”; “Could I wait to hear more?”.

Silence is for some is an uncomfortable state. People have an internal bias that their silence may have them condoning another’s remarks or if they do not speak up, people may view them as not listening to worse yet not understanding.

Mark Twain among others is quoted as “If the good Lord wanted us to speak more than to listen, he would have given us two mouths instead of two ears.”

Listening is natural. Active listening is a learned and developed skill for everyone especially small business leaders and those particularly engaged in sales. (Small Business Coaching Tip:  Everyone is engaged in sales. It’s just some get paid to actually do it.)

Years ago I developed this acronym, CLEAR,  to help me improve my own communication skills so I would be more proactive in my listening instead of reactive.

C = CLARITY – Listen for clarity to separate the tangible from the intangibles and the knowns from the unknowns.

L = LEGITIMIZE – Listen to legitimize the real issues; not the perceived symptoms posing as problems.

E = EMOTION – Listen for emotions. Here is where the verbal words and the non-verbal gestures along with the syntax (speed, pitch, volume and emphasis) are important.

A = AGREEMENT – Listen for agreement to find common ground from which to build ongoing trust.

R = RETENTION – Listen for retention because what you may be hearing has not been heard by others.

Active listening goes beyond silence and is all about truly hearing and remembering what the other person has just said. Possibly consider rethinking the “Silence is golden” proverb to “Silence is green” because for many in small business your silence may give you considerable more dollars.

If you like the CLEAR small business coaching tip, you may find some other ideas for your small business in my book, Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, the Keys to Unlocking Sales Success.


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Marshmallow Leadership Anyone?

Being a former educator I was well versed in learning motivation through a variety of research studies. One of my favorites was the marshmallow study by Walter Mischel. My understanding of psychology and observations of human behavior always had me questioning this study as a solid way to understand internal delayed gratification and its connection to cognitive retention.

leadershipThis week I came across an article that actually dispelled this particular marshmallow myth of self gratification. The author made logical sense about the fallacy of this study and why I never totally bought into Mischel’s results.

So what does marshmallows have to do with leadership?  If we understand the myth, we can better understand how some leaders engage in behaviors that are motivated by other influences and not necessarily internally driven.   Additionally their own personal experiences are another factor that the original marshmallow study did not include.

The author, Alfie Kohn, also makes a salient point about education in his first paragraph and this applies to business as well. We can fix the system to better meet the needs of the participants or fix the participants. Much of today’s leadership is about fixing people through quick fixes based upon this or that research or latest and greatest book.

When we look at the system or the desired results, then we have the opportunity to grow people to meet those results instead of attempting to fix people through some competency based leadership approach.  Isolating people by treating them as the problem outside of the system is rather ridiculous.

The other point about Marshmallow leadership is, as the authors point out, delayed gratification or action is not always the best behavior. Sometimes immediate action is required.

In the book Brain Rules, one of the key point is people, children to adults, process and retain information differently because their brains are different. Maybe we when begin to focus on more on how we develop better leaders and less looking to fix average leaders we may actually discover some exceptional leaders.

Fail-Safe Leadership is not about marshmallows, but how to successfully develop a sustainable process that integrate the business system into leadership development. This may be your first step to avoid being a marshmallow leader.



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Sales Gravy Interviews Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Leanne Hoagland-Smith
cited by Get Base CRM as one of the top 50 Sales Pros to follow on Twitter.

Sherpa in its 2014 Executive Coaching Survey cited Worldwide Coaching Magazine as one of the Top 3 publications for executive coaches. Leanne Hoagland-Smith has been a contributing author since its inception in Jan. 2013.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith included among the Top 25 Sales Influencers by Open View Sales Lab.

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In sales silence is green. Credit www.sxc.hu
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