Exposure of a Sales Professional

A few months back I ranted on about mobile phones and the lack of attention the sales staff were paying to the passing trade on their exhibition stand – you can read it here. However, I was not doing this to elevate me as having superior knowledge about sales and sales processes, no I was doing this to highlight the lack of attention we pay to real life when we get our heads stuck into our mobile devices. Moreover, it followed on from a previous blog where I offered some practical tips and advice on how to conduct ourselves more professionally in this situation, all in the vain hope that it would resonate with some of my peers.

In the last few weeks, I have seen an alarming increase in “sales bashing”, especially on LinkedIn. People with a vested interest, of course, exposing poor sales pitches for all the business world to jeer over and pass hurtful comment about. It feels like it has become a game of “Expose the Sales Professional” and one where they are clearly hoping to gain new clients for their own sales training businesses.

Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that ridiculing somebody because of a poorly written email is a surefire way to find yourself in the firing line at the first slip of your own keyboard. It is very easy to pick holes in other people’s work and though the examples exhibited were particularly poor, it does not mean that these people are worthy of such scathing criticism. For all we know they may have been given this list of sample emails to use by their manager and could face serious consequences if they’re not used to the letter. And I know, that this could open the door for more sales training but you get my point.

Personally, I’m not in the business of coaching sales but I am a coach and I know that it is my role to impart the techniques necessary for the people I’m coaching to be able to improve and turn those techniques into a skill. In the same way, I know that the sales trainers and influences I have the most respect for, do exactly the same. Quite often these industry leaders, offer a whole heap of training advice for free as a means of demonstrating how proficient they are in this field.

So here’s a little humble advice, from somebody who has been in all positions on the sales continuum. Whenever I purchase sales training, and I do so on a personal level quite regularly, I think hard about who I am prepared to invest my money in. That individual or company has to have an integrity about them that I can relate to, a strong character who does not feel the need to ridicule anyone because of their lack of knowledge or understanding and one who would not expose my weaknesses in the WorldWideWeb for all and sundry to scorn upon and make fun of.

Nobody is perfect, nobody was born a genius and nobody should be publically hung out to dry for not being either of those two things, especially by those very people who are supposed to be helping them to get better.

TGL

 

 

Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS)

Over the weekend I was privileged to be able to offer some of my time to helping others in a sport I adore. As some of you will be aware I am a qualified British Cycling level 2 coach and throughout the year I have the joy of sharing my passion with all kinds of people from all walks of life and in all age groups. I regularly feel like this is pure selfish indulgence as I can pretty much guarantee that I get just as much out of it as those do who I am honoured to coach. Nonetheless it is purely a voluntary position and therefore it does have to fit in around my other commitments and getting that balance right can sometimes be a challenge.

When Sunday morning arrived I wasn’t entirely rested as the night was a little shorter than usual due to a late night with my lovely wife and then an early wake-up call from my energetic little 3 year old son resulted in some very tired eyes. After a quick breakfast I embarked upon the trip over the Pennines to the the National Cycling Centre in Manchester to be greeted by a very friendly face and a VERY welcomed cup of coffee.

After a short introduction we were split up into 2 main groups and logically all the coaches were together in one group whilst the volunteers were in another. We, the coaches, were then taught the latest in coaching techniques to facilitate the further development of FMS.

So what is FMS? – For those of you who remember the youthful days of climbing hills and trees, jumping in and out of back gardens and kicking a ball around an empty field; you’ll be subconsciously more than familiar with FMS. It is, as the name suggests,  “Fundamental Movement Skills”. What is very sad about having to be taught how to teach these is the fact that we now have a second generation growing up in the western world who do not have them. As for the first generation it is already too late for them to ever reach their full sporting potential in a large majority of cases, but it ISN’T too late to reverse a significant portion of the damage already inflicted; if we all take ownership of what it is we’re failing to do right now.

FMS then! The ability to perform simple tasks such as jumping, skipping, kicking, hopping turning, twisting, balancing, catching, rolling…. the list goes on. It is brutally alarming that we’ve already got one generation arriving into their adult life who are missing these basic skills and a second generation already in the making with the same deficit. Why?? well the simple answer is us! We are to blame really. We’ve allowed our children to not become bored, we’ve wrapped them up in cotton wool and we’ve created a society where protectionism prevails over common sense. We give them electronic entertainment devices to feed their need for everything to happen right here and now and they rarely go outside, especially if its raining, to enjoy simple playtime with their peers.

It has therefore become my job, and coaches like me, to help children find their FMS so that when their raw talent does shine through, and they are picked to progress into the elite training environments of our sport, that they do have a chance to attain their full potential because they’re no longer lacking the Fundamentals.

Applying this same logic to the world of business I wonder how long it will be before we realise that we’ve also got a “fundamental management skills” deficit and that this selfsame protectionism (or as I like to call it the “passing the book” attitude) has resulted in a wave of talent coming through who no longer know how to take ownership. They’ve never been allowed to fail as somebody has always found an excuse for them, “Oh the resources weren’t available sorry they couldn’t deliver on time” or “Ah yes the power went down so they didn’t have access to the internet” or “Actually they did deliver 2 out of 4 so I think that’s good enough don’t you?” Consequently they have now been attuned into finding the blame elsewhere rather than looking at themselves first, and all this from a very early age.

I really don’t want this to be viewed as a “When I were a lad” post, because it isn’t. I’m actually taking ownership of this outcome. I want everyone who reads this to think about their own situation, as a parent, as a business owner or as an employee and ask yourself a simple question. How does what I do make a difference?, and more importantly, what is the difference that it makes? Once you’ve rekindled yourself with this then apply a few basic foundation building skills of your own so that our younger generation can grow up and gain a full and extensive experience of real life, with all it’s beauty and hardship that comes with it. Encourage them to take ownership of their own outcomes and give them the confidence that they can tell you when they’ve messed up without the fear of you blowing your top and then covering up for them. Together we can help realign the next generation of talent with reality, because the world they are going to be living in will be far more demanding than the one we’re all living in right now. It is our duty to ensure that they have the Fundamental Skills of Life to prosper in it.

Feel free to let me know how and what you’ve done.

TGL

2016 round-up

Synopsis:

In order to do a round up you have to reflect on the year gone by and in order to do that you have to record things as they happen or indeed shortly after they happened during the year. As I was particularly poor at this on here during early 2016 I’ve had to resort to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more importantly my personal hand written diary (which I incidentally didn’t write up last night)

The first half of 2016 was totally intense. A very busy work scheduled coupled with my Level 2 British Cycling Coaching course, my shoulder operation and the building of my new office all demanded an extraordinary amount of time and resource, so consequently something had to give. It was my passion that took the hit. In 2015 I managed to total just under 6,500 miles on my various bicycles and this dropped to a little over 1,500 this year. I have increased my my running from 80 to 150 year on year, but that too has been mainly in the latter half of 2016.

With targets readjusted to accommodate for all of this I’m happy to say that by the end of the year I’ve achieved 8 out of the 10 ambitious goals. More importantly I have learned some extremely valuable lessons in yearly planning so this next year should see me achieve even more but with less impact on my personal passions.

So here’s the top 3 lessons I’ve learned this year.

  1. Do not try to do a year’s work in the first 6 months.
  2. Always take time-out to reevaluate your position.
  3. Use at least 2 mentors.

Lesson 1

At the end of 2015 I completed my business plan for 2016. I listened to Michael Hyatt and decided that 2016 was going to be my “Best year ever”. To all intents and purposes it really was one of, if not the, best year I’ve had in this industry and I almost certainly had the best final quarter I’ve ever had. So what went right and what went wrong.

Well first up I completed my top 10 goals of 2016 as instructed. I defined them, applied deadlines to them, committed them to writing, shared them and added milestones to keep the checks and balances in place in terms of progress. What I didn’t do was spread these out in the right proportions over the year.

By the end of April, 1/3 way through the year, I was heading towards burnout. Something was going to have to give and I had to shift the finishing goalposts for 3 out of the 10 goals. I then had a portion of work to do to re-calibrate those goals and some difficult decisions to make in terms of where my priorities lie. By the time my summer vacation arrived in August it was well overdue, but the 2 weeks I took were the perfect tonic and the business focus I attained because of them was incredible.

I spent 2 weeks in September mopping up the final fallout from the first half of the year and then focused on finishing the job at hand in the final 1/4. – It worked, thankfully.

What I did wrong here was overstretch myself both physically and mentally in the first half of the year. I overestimated the amount of energy I needed to complete certain tasks, especially when they threw up unexpected curve balls. Ultimately I did complete them, but not within the timescales I’d allocated and also at a severe cost to my personal well-being. It also had an impact on the other goals I’d set, as these were not given the full attention required to complete them as I would have liked to have done, so this left me with an subdued feeling of completion as opposed to an elated one.

It is not a nice feeling to have achieved something but not feel like you want to, or can take the time to, celebrate the achievement.

Lesson 2

The first half of 2016 had me head down blowing out of my arse (cyclists amongst you will know what I mean) and all I saw was a huge road of tarmac required to travel along before the finishing line even came into sight. Not only did I not have time to breath, I didn’t have time to think either and therein was my single biggest mistake of the year. Having appointed 2 mentors at the beginning of the year, I had but one single evaluation meeting in the first half of the year and that was in February. It wasn’t until July when I finally “took the time, not found it” to have a 2nd meeting that I was made aware of what I was doing.

Powering forward all guns blazing was burning and I was heading for a fall. It was around this point that I became hugely aware that something was going to give and if I wasn’t careful it would be my health. Without your health you can’t do a thing so that really does have to take number one priority in my view. After taking stock of the situation a number of decisions were made to relieve the initial pressure, and then put in place a plan to recover so that the rest of the year didn’t suffer too much. Again it was abundantly clear that this year was going to suffer a little as a result, and it was my choice as to what part would actually suffer.

Health, Family, Career, Friends and Passion. and in that order. Fortunately my passion does have a health twist but it was my passion that had to go. I kept up a minimum level of fitness “Auf Sparflamme” (pilot light- just enough to keep ticking over) but I was quickly loosing the top end and consequently I was also gaining weight (although my wife did comment to say that I was now looking much healthier than I had been the previous two years). So I accepted it. My maximum weight threshold was increased, my minimum exercise levels reduced and I even changed the type of exercises I was doing so that the time constraints I had could still be used to maximum effect. I quit my 2 positions on the committee and concentrated solely my coaching. This freed up the time I needed to ensure the other elements of my life were being completed correctly.

It was this painful evaluation that saved my year, I had already achieved a massive amount in the first half of the year, but the detrimental effect of over-working was going to impact severely if I didn’t go through this process, and this segues perfectly into lesson 3.

Lesson 3

As mentioned a couple of times throughout this blog I appointed 2 mentors at the beginning of the year. These people were chosen to enable someone from the outside to review and reflect on my progress and offer guidance on fine tuning the processes being used in order to achieve my goals. What I didn’t expect to happen was, what did happen. In the early half of the year one of my mentors was quite ill and as this person was my main contact person. I found it difficult to impose on the other as they too had a number of things they needed to achieve in their life (yes remember your mentor has a life too) so I just carried on. This compounded my headlong charge to disaster as the communication requirements to nudge me back on track were lacking. Fortunately it wasn’t too late when my mentor finally did recover enough to school me. And I use that term very definitively. I needed educating in the 2 life lessons I’ve just described above.

Mentors tend not to tell you what to do but rather they offer alternative courses of action which can lead to the same outcome. The best mentors will even use questioning to enable you to come to that alternative course of action without having to even mention to you that what you’re doing is, in fact, not working very efficiently. This is precisely what I was enabled to do and I cannot thank my main mentor enough for this.

I realised how important having a mentor was almost 7 months into 2016 and I can now tell you all, that you need a minimum of 2 because if your mentor does fall ill their skill and wisdom will need to be complimented by somebody else who is also in a position to enable you to think differently.

Conclusion

2016 was, personally, a very good year. I have learnt a lot about myself, and more importantly about others and the power and influence they have on how you conduct yourself. I have learnt that surrounding yourself with like-minded people only reinforces the behavioural traits you already have, and if these traits are stopping you from progressing, well guess what? You’ll continue with the status quo. Me, I’m not happy with the status quo, yes I have a great deal to be grateful for, and yes I am very happy doing what I do (in fact I love my job) but in order to improve you need to think differently and you need to be surrounded by positive influences, be that people of experiences. So for 2017 I have once again planned out my year, once again I have ambitious goals and once again I have appointed mentors; but this year I have also put changes in place to adjust my environment so that I can truly make 2017 – “The best year ever”

Life is a journey on two wheels

In November 2015 I signed up to become a British Cycling level 2 coach.  Easy, I thought, I know a lot about cycling, I’m a CTC ride leader, Club Road Ride secretary, Club kit Secretary and I used to be an active Level 2 windsurfing instructor; therefore the transfer of skills should make this a breeze to complete.

My application was reviewed by British Cycling and a short while afterwards I received confirmation that I had been selected and approved to partake in the training and that a welcome pack explaining the requirements would be forthcoming.

It arrived!!

Oh dear, what had I done? The breeze had suddenly developed into a force 9 gale! The sheer volume of administration, learning, practical assessments and mentoring was quite something.  I’ve never been one for giving up before trying, but the thought did cross my mind as I knew this would have a significant impact on other areas of my life.  Family time, cycling, weekends, evening, building projects… everything was now going to have to take a back seat and the sooner I could complete the course the better.  I was later informed that I had a full 12 months to complete the administration and practical delivery of my assignments but at the time I was under the impression that I had just 3 months after the first assessment weekend.  And that was another thing! What did they mean, assessment weekend?  I thought I’d been accepted!

Now with a certain level of trepidation I awaited the weekend of the 6th of February, where I was going to spend the whole weekend being assessed on my ability to cycle, coach and be coached.

In between time there was a small matter of a First Aid refresher course.

The weekend came and I grabbed Ludwig out of the garage and stuffed his panniers full of books, warm clothing, food and drink for the cycle over the hills to Elland for my first assessment day. I was the first one there- an Army thing!  You’re late if you’re not there 10 minutes before you should be and I was certainly not going to be late for my first day so with a full half hour of contingency thrown in I arrived 45 minutes before the official start time despite having to ride through sleet and snow on the hills.

One by one my fellow course attendees trundled in until 15 of us stood outside a classroom whilst 3 BC mentors/ coaches were setting up the training schedule, it felt like a throwback to the corporate training days of the 90s with a good mix of 80s secondary school education thrown in.

The dreaded “death by PowerPoint” presentation was ready to roll and our assessors / mentors opened up the show.  As “rain stopped play” for the morning session PowerPoint did certainly do its best to live up to its reputation, but we survived and it was the content that kept us alive, it was actually very informative.  Mid to late morning the clouds lifted a little and we were ushered outdoors to do some practical assessments.  The day continued in very much the same vein and by the close of the day we’d managed to complete all the pre-requisite elements despite the weather, and the dreaded PowerPoint.

The ride home was a beast. Extra books, but less food and drink meant that I had just as much weight to ride back home with as I’d rode there with and the beastly West Yorkshire hills combined with the, now very familiar, wind and rain certainly made it a tough one.  An evening of studying and session plan writing ensued before an exhausted wannabe coach collapsed into his bed.

Day two and lady luck shone down from the skies, actually it was something called sunshine but only for a few fleeting moments.  Panniers packed and eager to deliver my so called “ambitious” session plan I cycled off.  Whatever processed me to coach hill climbing on a flat tennis court I will never know, but that’s what I did.  Weather once again dictated the running order of the day but so did the alphabet and having a surname beginning with L I was going to end up doing one of two things. First in the second group or last in the first… I was last in the first.

Ambitious but it worked, well done! And I’m happy to say that you’ve passed your assessment weekend all that you have to do now is……..
Oh boy the list grew even bigger!

The ride home was a weird one I really wanted to get home and see the kids, but I didn’t want to have to reveal to the wife how much extra work I needed to do between now and the end of April.  Add in tradeshows, my mum’s investiture (MBE) a sales summit in Spain she was going to have her hands full with the kids and she was already at the point of overflowing without me throwing any more water into the cup.  I left it that night as she’d just had a massively tough weekend with the kids!  What I also did was leave it a little longer and tried as much as I could to complete the admin in the short moments I had at lunchtime or on a Thursday evening.  Did I mention my trips over to the shoulder specialist in Wrightington – Wigan ?? Oh well sorry they needed to be thrown in there too.

My wall planner appeared to have contracted measles, multi-coloured dots everywhere and barely a moment to breathe in-between any of them.  6 sessions minimum I was meant to deliver as part of my ongoing assessment and what I didn’t expect was the sheer joy I got from watching the ones I was given the honour to coach improve.  In fact it became that infectious that I took on extra sessions and began coaching the tiddlers too.  More by accident than anything else because my little angel Daisy wanted to learn how to ride a bike like daddy (why on earth she’d want to learn how to keep falling off at high speeds whilst off-road and downhill I have still yet to understand) but coach her I did and along with that came a second wave of coaching euphoria.  Within a very short space of time I was hooked!  I’d now got the right balance of coaching the adults track sessions on a Friday evening followed by the Sunday morning tiddler sessions where it is all about smiles, killing cones and Haribos.

Before I knew it, day 3 had arrived and it was the final assessed performance upon which my future as a coach was going to hang.  Of all the days preceding this, the DBS, the child welfare assessment, the first aid, the 2 day assessment … the list goes on and on, this was the one which I personally had the most anxiety towards.  In some ways it felt like it was my last shot “the gunfight at the OK Corral” and if I got it wrong everything else would have been all a waste of time.  My plan was a decent one, I’d even delivered it as part of one my 6 sessions, but nonetheless I was a little nervous.  No Ludwig this time, but the Carbon Trek made an appearance and was chauffeured to his stage in my trusty old Volvo.  Again my military timing ensured I was there in good time but not first on scene this time.  My confidence grew by the minute as I spoke with some of the others who talked of unexpected mishaps during their session deliver, none delivery of sessions, no session plan written for the day and the wry smile; akin to the that of starting a race on a damp rainy early summer morning after a winter of wet outdoor training rides, whilst others around you told tales of heated garages, turbo trainers and chocolate puddings, drifted onto my face.  Those without training plans were given a break and the opportunity to write them up before we went outside and in the meantime, I went out and carried out my risk assessment whilst visually setting up and going over my session plan.

Finally I was on! The others had all done really well and it was now my turn.  I delivered it to the best of my ability and was therefore happy no matter what the outcome, I couldn’t actually have done any more.  Fortunately it was enough, in fact my mentor even said that he was going to plagiarise part of it and include it in one of his own sessions later on in this season.

So I’d done it.  The only thing left to do was clean up the admin and submit the entire coursework to my mentor electronically.  I was given a verbal, “you’re good to go” and had to follow up with BC in a few weeks to see where things stood.

Finally today I’ve received my certificate, dated the 24th May 2016.  A roller-coaster of events and 6 months of hard work.  All this has kick-started my journey as a cycling coach, and I can’t thank those who helped me get here enough.  There is one person though who deserves the most thanks of all and that is my wife Karin. Without her tireless work with our two young, challenging, but beautiful children I would not have been able to even start the course, never mind complete it.  She has sacrificed more than I have on this journey and I can’t say that it hasn’t been without tears or a few choice words, but stood by me she has and I am eternally grateful to her for this.  The enrichment coaching has since brought to my life is overwhelming and if I could share just a fraction of this with her I’d be more than happy to do it all again.