The Enigma of Self-Improvement

Boy I would be rich if I had a penny every time I heard someone say “Sure I would like to learn this or that, but I have no time, no money (filled in the excuse).” The desire for self-improvement for most is present and yet the failure to change one’s behavior is also just as present. Hence self-improvement remains truly an enigma because it is puzzling and inexplicable.

self-improvementI must give credit to my father for building a foundation of self-improvement.  Dad was a voracious reader.  He always had a pile of books sitting next to his chair. As a small child I would bring my little chair next to his and pretend I was reading. Eventually I learned to read. Sunday afternoons became for us a time to read and expand our knowledge. We shared both fiction and non-fiction books.  Those indeed were happy memories that I cherish even some almost 50 years later.

Two clients of mine have made tremendous strides with their desire to improve their health. Both have lost over 100 pounds and have engaged in a more active life style.  By embracing health living through diet and exercise, both have also experienced more health relative to their small businesses.

To change does require knowing what has to be changed and to be willing to be committed to that change. Maybe this is the reason for this enigma?

self-improvementChange is good, you go first” seems to be the mantra for many.

  • Yes, I want to lose weight!
  • Yes, I want to have a new (fill in the blank)!
  • Yes, I want my life to be better!

Change begins within each of us as a desire. Then we must align our internal beliefs to “make it so” as Captain Picard so often said.  If we are unsuccessful, in many instances, is the reasons behind the change are not emotionally strong enough to sustain us in our desire for that change.  Returning to the status quo is much easier than fighting it on a daily basis.

If you truly want to embrace self-improvement for whatever the reasons, then recognize though it may be simple, it is not necessarily easy. And make the commitment to embrace his change and not give up when the going gets tough.

By the way, the Results Tool  (TM) as a goal setting worksheet works to emotionalize the desire for successful goal achievement.  Emotionalizing the desire is missing in most goal setting worksheets and hence a significant reason why so many self-improvement goals never make it to fruition.



Share on Facebook

Closing the Gaps Is a Critical Leadership Trait

Before any organization can experience sustainable business growth, leadership must close the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals.  Unfortunately, many leaders look to solve one problem without understanding  that problem is a  potential symptom of misalignment.  Small Business Coaching Tip: Misalignment happens because of gaps.

leadership-traitOf course before leadership can close any gaps, they must know what and where those gaps exist.  This is why investing in an organizational assessment is critical to achieving tomorrow’s goals.  I have found this one assessment, D.I.AL.O.G.  (Diagnostic Data Indicating the ALignment of Organizational Goals) to be incredibly beneficial.  This now 20 year assessment has a proven track record and is aligned to current Baldrige criteria.

Why D.I.AL.O.G.?

Many organizational assessments are individually constructed to meet the needs of the client and to increase the revenues for the consulting firm or executive coach.  Mid-size to small businesses do not have the extra dollars required for such expensive assessments nor the time to construct such an assessment. D.I.AL.O.G. can deliver results in less than 10 days. Beyond being an online organizational assessment aligned to Baldrige, this particular assessment allows for some one on one personal interviews to ensure all performance gaps have been uncovered.


Why a Critical Leadership Trait?

Imagine going to a doctor for a headache and being told you need brain surgery right at that moment without the doctor engaging in any diagnostics. What would you do?  Most would leave and seek a second opinion.

If you are a leader in an organization, you must lead and your leadership will make or break any organization. Just like having the headache and seeking a second opinion, leaders realize identifying the reasons for less than stellar performance is critical.

Now Is the Time To Lead

leadershipGreat leadership is about taking action and identifying the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals. Ignoring the reality of today and thinking tomorrow will be better without taking the necessary actions is only living Einstein’s definition of insanity.

If you want to close the gaps, stop the misalignment, then lead by investing the time and yes dollars in determining where your organization is draining your limited resources of time, energy, money and emotions. You just may be surprised by the results. Call Leanne Hoagland-Smith, today, at 219.508.2859 to learn more and schedule your D.I.AL.O.G.before you waste any more of your resources,.

Share on Facebook

Two Tales of Customer Service

Great customer service makes or breaks any business from the smallest mom and pop shop to the national franchise. These past weeks while on vacation I have experienced the best of customer service and the worst of it.

customer-serviceYesterday I shared the excuse of “We only have one server” was a poor customer loyalty strategy. Today I want to share what happened after we walked out of that national franchise restaurant known for its international pancakes.

Within 5 minutes my husband and I went to another national franchise restaurant known for building your own “grand slam” breakfasts.  Also I noticed this restaurant did have two servers and the manager was very visible even though the restaurant had the same number of customers enjoying breakfast compared to the restaurant we had just left.  The hostess, a little older than the one we just met at the previous restaurant, sat us immediately and within seconds the server appeared.  We had coffee and water along with our order taken within minutes.

Our breakfast was served almost immediately and the server continued to be attentive even though he suddenly was serving 8 new customers. The manager was also very engaged and stopped by our table to learn if everything was Okay.

Within one hour, my husband and I experienced the best and the worse of customer service times. Here is a recap of my customer service observations:

Observation Restaurant #1:Bad Customer Service Restaurant #2:Great Customer Service
Hostess Very Young under 20 Older between 25 and 35
Manager Not visible; disengaged Very visible; actively engaged
Servers Only one, never seen Two servers, both attentive
Business activity 6 customers 6 customers
Breakfast menu prices $10-$15 $7-$10
Coffee prices $2.50 cup $2.50 cup
Cleanliness of facility Good Good
Overall Atmosphere Low energy High energy

Restaurant #2 appeared to have appreciated that delivering an exceptional customer experience is truly a bottom up as well as top down business growth strategy.  From our experience it appears everyone has embraced the motto we read on the coffee cups:

“A good diner has open doors, open arms ad open hearts.”

Having eaten at two of these restaurants within the same city, I can also testify the consistency of great customer service was present at both.  And consistency of customer service is another essential tactic when it comes to building customer loyalty.


Share on Facebook

“We Only Have One Server” Fails as a Customer Loyalty Strategy

Most will agree that a customer loyalty strategy is essential especially among national chains.However my customer service experience today shows even the national restaurant chains fail to understand this business growth strategy must be present from the bottom up.

customer-loyalty-strategyToday while on holiday in San Diego, CA we went to a national franchise known for its international pancakes for breakfast and was seated by the very young hostess.  This particular restaurant was not busy, probably less than 6 customers.  My husband and I waited for almost 5 minutes and still did not receive coffee or water.

At my instance, I said we were leaving and we walked out.  I politely told the young hostess that we had waited long enough for  any customer service.  Her pitiful response was “We only have one server.” My immediate answer was “That is your problem, not mind.”  In the future I will not patronize this particular franchise.

I do not know the customer loyalty policy for this restaurant chain, but I am hard pressed not to believe the hostess could not have at least given us water and coffee.  Then to use the lamest excuse of “We have only one server” is beyond insulting.   Am I as the paying customer supposed to be understanding when I can walk out the door and go to at least three other restaurants within two to five minutes?

Possibly I should have asked for the manager, but I had not had my morning coffee. I did not want to engage in any additional conversation with a manager who was clueless as well.

This restaurant could have avoided losing this loyal customer by training all of its hostesses and hosts to help out when serving staff is limited.  Additionally, the manager should have been engaged as well and could have also pitched in to help the one server.  And maybe hiring the youngest person because she is the cheapest hire may not be the best customer loyalty strategy.

Remember, customers do not care if you have only one server or if you are very busy. Excellent customer service is a solid customer loyalty strategy and one that still appears in short supply.

Tomorrow I will share the second part of this story.

Share on Facebook

The Future of Sales Training Ignores the Reality of Today

This morning I just read another article about the future of sales training in which they quoted the publisher of Selling Power that by 2020:


  • “80% of all B2B transactions will be automated”
  • “11 million lost jobs in sales”

I always find these statistics interesting in that 97.7% of all businesses here in the US have under 20 employees and such predictions about the future of sales training are usually based upon the minority of businesses, 2,.3%, with over 20 employees. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Now I ask you, does this make sense?

Where I did find partial agreement was the impact of:

  • Technology
  • Social Media


Technology – The Now Ever Present Tool

As the telephone, especially the pay phone, was to salesmen of the 20th century the best technology, today’s mobile technology with all the various apps will become common place. With respect to the future of sales training, the challenge will be three-fold:

  • The constant evolving of technology
  • Keeping up with the various changes (learning curve)
  • Knowing what technology the customer or client is using


Social Media – The New Bridge for Relationships

This article also talked about the future of sales training specific to social media especially LinkedIn being the new bridge for relationships.  Through various marketing actions such as LinkedIn profile viewing, posting in LinkedIn groups, responding to birthday announcements and sharing one’s blog’s links, sales people can expand their influence and presence. However, again this article and many similar articles ignored the reality of today.


The Disconnect Between the Present and the Future of Sales Training

No where in this article did the authors specifically talk about this one skill as part of any future sales training trend. That one skill is effective writing.

The majority of salespeople, again those employed by small businesses with under 20 employees, will need to hone their writing skills because as the authors of this article noted 60% of the buying decision is made online. Today’s B2B buyers are better educated than ever before. They are reading the blogs, the various online publications as part of their decision making process. Salespeople will be the authors of those blogs.


Writing Is Timeless Bridge

The written word is indeed powerful and can be emotionally compelling, From the Bible to the Declaration of Independence, words have given purpose to people in all walks of life. Now for those in B2B sales, writing will be the key competitive differentiator. Those who can write well will connect the present to the future.

If you wish to increase sales, then before you send your salesperson to salespersons to that next sales training session, maybe you may wish to consider sending them to creative writing class. Of course it would be of immense help if your small business had a strategic action plan that would enable your salespeople to integrate that critical information into their writing efforts.

Share on Facebook

The First Sales Objections Suggests What?

Sales objections happen every day from the smallest ones to the largest of the largest ones.  Depending upon the sales skills of the salesperson, these barriers not to buy may appear insurmountable.

sales-objectionsTravel back to the first sales objection in your  most recently “earned” sale. What was the essence of that barrier not to buy?

From my own experiences, there are five barriers:

  1. Me
  2. My company
  3. My solution
  4. My price
  5. My delivery

Yet upon further reflection, I have come to realize the first sales objections suggest my marketing was not effective.  Somewhere along the line either through existing marketing efforts or during that first conversation I had failed to put a lid on one or more of these sales objections.

Peter Drucker believed that well done marketing made selling effortless. I truly believe this is the case for the majority of B2B sales for 97.7% of all businesses here in the US. These B2B sales are not complex with multiple decision makers. Usually there is one decision maker and possibly a decision influencer.

What has happened is the minority of businesses those with over 100 employees continue to drive sales training because marketing is a separate department.  Small businesses with under 100 employees and those with under 20 employees do not have the dollars to justify separate marketing departments. So marketing is either outsourced or internally poorly handled.

By investing 12 minutes a day on intentional marketing actions, small businesses can learn to avoid many of these sales objections.  So instead of focusing on some sales training to overcome those buying barriers maybe it may make more sense to review your marketing plan within your overall strategic business action plan.

Don’t have 40 plus hours to invest in strategic planning? Triage Business Planning may help stop your current bleeding and can be completed in 15 hours or less.


Share on Facebook

Time for Your Own Self-Improvement Check-In

So did you hit all of your self-improvement goals?  What, you did not have any written down?

self-improvementWith information increasing at what seems like the speed of light, how can you not have your own self-improvement plan?  In reviewing my own personal development plan, I achieved most of my goals.

Personal Development Plan

My own personal development plan includes the following:

Mental Development

  • Books to read = 2 a month/non-fiction and 2 a month fiction = achieved
  • Publications to read= 2 a week = achieved
  • Conferences (continuing education) = 2 per year = Only attended one; second one was cancelled due to receiving a local award and a family wedding
  • Workshops/seminars (continuing education) = 1 per month includes on-line – achieved

Physical Development

  • Eating healthier = achieved
  • 5 – 30 minute walks per week – 50% achieved
  • 10,000 steps per day – 75% achieved

Ethics & Beliefs

  • Attend church weekly – achieved
  • Attend mid-week service at least 50% of the weeks – achieved
  • Maintain financial commitment to church through tithing – achieved
  • Join another community civic organization – achieved by joining Rotary International, Valparaiso club


  • Continue to expand credibility and influence – achieved, recognized as small business journalist along with blog receiving international recognition
  • Continue to market Career & College Success Boot Camp -achieved
  • Continue with 2 mastermind/mentoring groups – achieved
  • Develop at least one new solution – achieved; actually developed 2 new solutions

self-improvementRight now I am completing one of my family goals in seeing our first grandchild.  This involved being away from my office for almost 3 weeks.  And seeing her one month old face has been worth the additional efforts to be near her.

Additionally I have personal financial goals and social goals. At the end of each year, I plan a new self-improvement action plan along with my business action plan. By taking these actions, I have greater clarity and my behaviors are for more intentional.

If you want the next year to be better than the current one, then sit down and commit your WAY SMART goals to writing.  You just made be surprised by your results this time next year.

If you need a goal driven self-improvement plan, then you may find this one page personal development action plan of interest.

Share on Facebook

Want a Fail-Safe Small Business? Then Start with Fail-Safe Leadership

With the fairly consistent  and high small business failure rate, maybe it is time to begin embracing what the authors of Fail-Safe Leadership discussed in their book. Their premise was not only simplistic, but ahead of its time as more and more noted business experts and organizational consultants are returning to the leadership as being the lynchpin for sustainable small business growth.

fail-safe-leadershipYes having a great niche idea for your small business is essential.  Knowing your business has enough cash flow to survive six to 12 months is also critical. However without fail-safe leadership, sustainable business growth will continue to allude you.

Fail-Safe Leadership Temperature Check

In the beginning of the book, the authors do a quick temperature check and ask if your organization is facing some these issues among others:

  • Lack of personal accountability?
  • Unacceptable results?
  • Can’t do attitudes?

This checklist is a great way to start constructing a positive and high performance culture from day one.  Each issue can be re-framed into a proactive question such as:

  • How do I develop personal accountability at all levels of my small business?
  • How do I ensure acceptable results for all employees including myself?
  • How do I encourage can do attitudes within my small business?

Note:  If your small business is well established and yet you are facing these issues, then you may wish to consider a more detailed organizational assessment such as D.I.AL.O.G. This proven assessment is nearly 20 years old and is based on Baldrige criteria.

Misalignment Is a Real Barrier

fail-safe-leadershipAnother key point in this great, truly ahead of its time book is the concept of alignment. Fail-safe leadership is all about creating alignment and avoiding misalignment.  The authors tell a simple story about how a CEO wants to increase sales and then how his C-Suite executives all take different actions to achieved the goal. This is a classic case of organizational misalignment through poor leadership communication.

The 5 Star Model Works with Fail-Safe Leadership

By aligning people, systems and strategy from the very beginning works to avoid later organizational misalignment between strategy, structure, processes/systems, rewards and people. Jay Galbraith and his team developed the 5 Star Model for Organizational Development and this model works very well with Fail-Safe Leadership as the executive leadership is responsible for not only strategy, people and systems, but also rewards and structure.

fail-safe-leadershipHaving a Fail-Safe Leadership is fairly simple.  The barrier becomes beginning with the right elements in place and that starts with leadership.  So grab a copy of Fail-Safe Leadership and work through each chapter.  And to start that process, please download this Leadership-Audit that will support you to better understand you are not a bad leader but your small business may have leadership challenges.

Share on Facebook

Thought Leaders Lead Themselves First Through Words

Today in checking my marketing statistics, I glanced at some past reviews of my book, Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits. Noted international sales trainer, Ashraf Chaudhry, left a positive review and wrote this:  “Our WORDS are our WORLD.”  What I realized is his comment really is about “Our WORDS as  THOUGHT LEADERS are our WORLD!”


The power of words is becoming more and more important and critical for thought leaders.  This power starts within each business leader in what he or she thinks.  Henry Ford realized the power of words when he said:

“Whether you think you can or you think you cannot, either way you are right.”

Years ago I realized the power of words when I created this activity for business leadership communication based upon my own realization.  I told the participants I was going to show a word on the overhead (yes it was a long time ago) and for them to capture in their mind’s eye a picture of the word along with the emotions associated with that word.  When everyone understood the activity, I showed this word:




Then I asked participant to describe his or her picture along with the emotions.  I posted all responses on a several flip charts.  The responses ranged from:

  • Little to big dogs
  • Black to red fur
  • Poodles to Siberians
  • Love to fear emotions

After boarding all responses, I asked the following question:

“Since one word generates such a plethora of descriptions and intense emotions, how do you as thought leaders communicate efficiently and effectively when using more than one word?”

The discussion that followed was interesting in that these business leaders suddenly realized why they had communication challenges and gaps.  Words are indeed powerful because people heard words and think in pictures. Even more important those pictures are laced with a wide variety of emotions because human beings are first emotional creatures.

Now with new knowledge such as from NLP to emotional intelligence along with ongoing cognitive brain research, thought leaders have new tools to improve the words they think and use. When those in any leadership role realize the change begins within themselves first, they will begin to overcome their communication challenges and in the process begin to generate sustainable results.


Share on Facebook

Before You Sign that Sales Training Contract, Read the Brain, Butt Clause

Right now, sales managers to small business owners are finalizing  sales training budgets for the next year.  As they review each proposed sales training contract,  they probably failed to read the Brain, Butt Clause. Of course we cannot blame them because this Brain, Butt Clause is written in invisible ink.  This important sales training contract clause is one of the main reasons why most sales training or any training does not stick.

sales-training-contractIn case you are curious the Brain, Butt Clause reads as follows:

Important: The brain only absorbs what the butt will endure.  We (the Sales Training Company, the Sales Coach or Consultant) take no responsibility (guarantee no sustainable results) for learning outcomes that last for longer than 60 to 120 minutes.  Longer sessions  and those without any learning reinforcement are 100% at the risk of the client.

Now my guess is this invisible clause written in BOLD RED INK is present within over 90% of all extended learning events including one to two day programs.   And my second guess is even reputable sales training companies know extended learning sessions without any reinforcement are the proverbial “drinking from the fire hydrant.” A lot of rushing water that drains just as quickly. Yet small business owners and those in sales management continue to be offered these unsustainable sales training engagements.

Information overload does nothing except frustrate learners.  The participants may appear to be very jazzed after the sales training session, but forget any long term retention.  Remember 80-90% of all thoughts are subconscious.  As these participants were sitting listening to the sales trainers go on and on, their brains were thinking about what was happening at the office, phone calls to be returned; emails to be answered;  what was happening at home and let us not forget having a sore butt.

Any sales training contract should include deliverables and a clause that spells out without any reinforcement the learning outcomes would not be sustainable. This is a case where buyers beware and remember this learning axiom:

“The brain only absorbs what the butt will endure.”

Share on Facebook
RSS Subscribe!
What’s Happening

Best Sales Blogger Award for 2014 Third place awarded to Leanne Hoagland-Smith.

NWI SBDC awarded Small Business Journalist of 2014 to Leanne Hoagland-Smith. Awards.

Pat Helmers interviews Leanne Hoagland-Smith about the 3 Pointed Sales Hat to help small business professionals who hate to sell.

Free Sales Profile
Get this free sales skills
Coaching Tip
In sales silence is green. Credit
Weekly Small Biz Column
Sign up to receive weekly business column devoted to small businesses and busy sales professionals Leanne's business column.
Be the Red Jacket
Seeking an easy and practical book on marketing, selling and sales? Read the reviews at Amazon and then order your hard copy or eBook.
Sustainability Expert
The Institute for Sustainability
Ezine Expert
Blogroll – Leadership, OD
Contact Coach Lee

Leanne Hoagland-Smith
219.759.5601 Main Office CDT
219.508.2859 Mobile CDT

Office located near Chicago, IL Main Website

Sales Corner

Tracking by The Sales Corner
Blog Rankings
Business Blogs - Blog Rankings
Blog Top Sites
RSS Search
Blog Log