Is Your Business Thriving, or Struggling, During COVID-19?

Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend. I imagine there were fewer and smaller barbecue parties than in other years. I hope you were able to enjoy the holiday with your families.

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan and proponent of coaching in all forms. Anyone who tries to learn a skill without help is making it harder than it has to be. Kevin Ryan of Inc. magazine, tells us here about a company offering on-line sports coaching from Olympian athletes.

Omer Atesman built and sold a fast-growing solar company, then used the proceeds to start The Skills. He enlisted the help of his well-connected former colleague to engage top Olympic athletes. A great example of the value of good connections in business. Working through your network can make good things happen fast. Several big name players and many less-known athletes have signed on. Two, Maria Sharapova (tennis) and Larry Fitzgerald (NFL football), have taken equity stakes in the company. Both are also coaches and advisors.

Tennis great Maria Sharapova is a contributor, advisor, and equity owner in The Skills. As many coaches and observers have pointed out, sports is a microcosm of life and business. Maria discusses the value of the coaching to other pursuits in life.

The companies who do well in the COVID-19 era are those whose leaders think “out of the box”. Those who pivot to offering new and adjusted services and products. Often this means attractively offering something on-line that’s traditionally been delivered over-the-counter or in-person. The Skills is a good example.

We’re seeing here several aspects of the concept of working with your network to get things done. In some cases you pay for that help. In others, it’s a win-win transaction among friends and associates. So find the people who have the skills and/or connections to help you.

And enlist their help!

Do You Value, and Nurture, Your Friendships?

John Stevens

Friendships! Positive relationships! How much do these elements matter in business? In health? In happiness? I suppose many people might agree that they’re important for health, especially mental and emotional health. Probably most people would agree that they’re important factors in happiness. But in business?


According to Shasta Nelson, they’re just as vital for business as for other areas of life. Give a listen while she explains all this in an interview with Alex Sanfilippo. Scroll down on that page for related links and textual explanation of some of Shasta’s ideas.

My Birthday Party in 2017

Many entrepreneurs describe themselves as lonely. Shasta starts her discussion by defining loneliness. It’s recognition that more is possible in personal relationships than we’re currently experiencing. It’s often not a lack of social skills – just a matter of seeing other things as more important. We may be communicating with many people in business. However, we don’t have enough or strong enough ties with people we want to be more intimate with. Shasta says studies show 70% of our happiness comes from relationships.

She also reports that many medical people find loneliness to be the prime factor in many serious ailments. Proper sleep is the only factor which may be more important to overall health than how supported and how loved we feel.

Entrepreneurs may experience this more than some others. According to Shasta though, 61% of all Americans describe themselves as lonely, so entrepreneurs are not alone in their loneliness,

Alex relates a story about an acquaintance who died in his early 70s. Outwardly this guy appeared to be very successful – in business, in finances, etc. He told Alex during his later years that he realized his life lacked in friendships and close relationships. He was sure he’d have been happier and healthier with more close relationships. He regretted his inattention to those things.

A little aside: This all supports my belief that my tranquil life among friends in Argentina might well add 10+ years to my life-span.

Shasta defines “frientimicy” – the close relationships in our lives that are unrelated to romance. She says the lack of frientimicy is much more prevalent for men than for women. I agree. And…they need it just as much as women. Men are culturally discouraged from pursuing these relationships. Perhaps they’re also less inclined. If so, social cultures support that disinclination.

Shasta has polled 15,000+ people on how they rate the friendships in their lives. Average self-scores are about 6.

That’s too low! The three things she says are most important to meaningful relationships are:

  • Consistency
  • Positivity
  • Vulnerability

Look in these areas to see how you might improve your frientimicy. And remember to include your business life as well. Contrary to some people’s belief, you can be friends with those you work and do business with. Some of those friendships can have great depth. Well-run businesses recognize this and promote supportive relationships.

We need to have a mix of relationships where these factors are present in varying degrees. We need some frientimate relationships and some more distant ones. As in most things in life, variety is important.

Shasta explains these concepts in more depth and thoroughness than I can in this short message. I recommend you listen to her interview with Alex to get her full import. It’s about a half hour long and well worth your time.

This relates loosely to the article I wrote a couple of weeks ago on the subject of “play” in addition to, and part of, work. I’ve posted other articles on related subjects on my blog page. Search for relationships – you’ll find several.

Your Employees are Your “Front Line”!

John Stevens

Simon Sinek opens this TED talk with a story about meeting Noah, a coffee bar tender at his hotel. We’ll call this hotel A. He enjoyed a lively conversation with this guy so much he left a 100% tip. Noah told Simon how much he loved his job and looked forward to coming to work.

Why does Noah love his job?

He says that all day long managers ask him, “How are you doing? Can I help you in any way?” Not only Noah’s manager – any manager! Noah feels cared for. He feels that his employer “has his back”.

Noah Preparing Coffee

Noah also reported that he did similar work at hotel B. There, the managers were often critical – catching people making mistakes. I’ll let you guess how much Noah liked that job! Also importantly, do you think Sinek would have enjoyed a conversation with Noah at the other hotel? He said that there, he kept his head down – tried to stay “under the radar”. His only interest in working there was to collect his paycheck.

The managers at hotel A are leaders. The managers at hotel B are just managers, not leaders. Leaders are responsible for the well-being of those in their charge. Employees who feel like Noah does at hotel A will do the best job they know how to do. If they want help to understand how to do it better, they’re comfortable asking. And the help is there.

This is how business is done right! Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers. Any company emulating hotel B is missing a huge opportunity.

Sinek believes many obsolete business attitudes were born in the booming 1980s and 90s. That may be. I would suggest that true leadership has been pretty scarce throughout the history of employment. It matters not whether times are good, bad, or indifferent.

Managers like those at hotel B believe they’re “in charge”. Sinek suggests they should be responsible for those “in their charge” This clear distinction needs to be conveyed throughout any organization. It must be understood from top to bottom. The difference in attitudes between the two hotels surely reflects senior management style. If the senior managers at hotel A were harsh and critical, the floor managers would act like those at hotel B.

What’s needed here is empathy, which builds trust. Sinek contends, and I agree with him, that it’s in short supply all through society.

The concept we’re discussing here goes a bit deeper into leadership concepts than I did here, a few weeks ago.

Is There Play in Your Work?

John Stevens

Natural “player” that I am, my eye was drawn to a TED talk on the subject of play. How vital it is to a sane and balanced life. How to make it happen. How human play correlates with and can interact with animal play. Fascinating, at least to me! I hope you find it similarly engaging. The video is a little over 20 minutes long. For those short on time, I’ve noted the time on some passages that relate to parts of the talk I discuss. Of course it all “hangs together” better if you listen to the whole thing.

The speaker, Dr. Stuart Brown, is a lifelong student and practicing doctor of psychiatry and clinical research. He founded the National Institute for Play to further this fascinating study.

The big bear is ‘dancing” with his meal

In this talk Brown starts with a photo of a big polar bear intent on his next meal. When the bear encounters a husky in play mode, he engages playfully with her. Of course the little dog would have been a tasty meal for the bear. Her playful demeanor distracted the bear from his hunger.

Children, of course, unless they’re in pretty grim circumstances, are inclined to and usually encouraged to play. As adults, we become more concerned with doing things, we forget to play. To our detriment!

Doing something because it’s fun, or feels good, is beneficial to the human and, it seems, the animal spirit. Play should be focused on fun and enjoyment, even when it’s producing something useful. Ever notice that some golfers get so obsessed with improving their score that they aren’t fun to play with? Of course striving for improvement is natural and positive. When it becomes work, though, it’s not play.

Brown goes on to describe many kinds of play – e.g. social, object, spectator play. He talks about the brain science that supports the concept of the value of play. Of course, as he also mentions, play should not be at the expense of others.

Rats, often studied as a proxy for human instinctive behavior, can die as the result of not playing. Brown relates a study (at 11:30 in the video) which demonstrates that.

He points out that the basis of human trust is established through play signals. He defines neoteny, a word unfamiliar to most of us. It’s the retention of immature tendencies into adulthood, and it can be beneficial.

Criminal behavior has been a part of Brown’s research. He relates that many violent criminals have been found to have lived lives devoid of play. Kevin Caroll wrote a book (described at 15:10 in the video) about coming from a dreary childhood. He discovered that watching others play boosted his spirits. Following up on that, he made a productive life out of a situation that otherwise would have led to no good.

At 17:30 in the video, Brown recommends we all examine our lives. He suggests recalling something as far back as we can remember that’s big-time playful. Replaying such an experience can help you relate to your “fun side”. Among other things it will improve your creativity.

At 18:40 we begin hearing about an experiment with students playing with play. Among other things they explore how to make meetings more interesting. He suggests that all activity can be infused with play. Then there’s no need to stop working to play. Enjoy whatever you do. Have fun with it!

Writing these letters does that for me. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them! This writing is a highlight of my week.

A few months ago I wrote about the value of taking a break after a period of intense work. Today’s discussion of intentional play takes this conversation to another level. Taking a break is important. Perhaps with Brown’s advice we can incorporate fun with work, and with rest.

“Who Will You be – in a Month, or a Year?”

Ben Hardy, a coach, author, and mentor I’m working with, defines your “future self”. Want to be:

  • A better coach?
  • A better author, maybe even a best-selling author? (Ben is.)
  • A better mom or dad, husband or wife?
  • Someone you’re newly considering being?

That better or different “whatever” is your “future self”. It could even be a pilot, even if you’ve never set foot in an airplane. Your future self can be entirely different from who you are today.

Here’s a great example:

Friends from Canada have been here in Argentina since the travel restrictions began. He and his wife have had opportunities (expensive and difficult) to go back to Canada. They both work in financial services. They’ve managed to be quite effective in their businesses, and are staying, at least until travel becomes easier.

As an aside, this is yet another story of finding this perhaps the best place in the world during the pandemic. In a previous issue I mentioned this compilation of comments from “LECers”. Several wrote about their quarantine experience here.

My friend told me yesterday that his life has completely changed. He said if anyone had told him a year ago that he’d be playing golf and motorcycling in the mountains.he’d have thought they were smoking something funny. Those activities are among the things he’s learned to enjoy here. He says he and his wife are different people than when they came here. Having known them quite well for several years, I would agree.

Ben, my aforementioned mentor, is a huge believer in journaling – evening and morning. He says this will help you become your future self faster than anything else. Here’s a 15-minute article explaining that.

Why did I put evening before morning? Today started with last night’s planning. If you’re planning today when you’re already in it, you’re reacting, not planning.

With Ben’s guidance, I’ve become an avid journaler. I’d tried it before and given it up several times. Ben has shown me how to make it work.

Here’s Ben’s take on how to journal effectively and why it works so well

Instinct? Facts? What’s the Best Business Guide?

Many years ago (more than I care to admit) I started out as a young entrepreneur.

My business offered aviation charter and training services. After a couple of years I’d reached the point of hiring a salesman. Jack (not his real name) was quite effective in promoting our business.

Up to the time of this episode, we’d mostly been carrying freight. We were dabbling in the passenger side of the business and wanted to do more. We needed a more attractive airplane than we had at that time. Since we couldn’t afford new, we researched what was available for what price in used airplanes.

We settled on a particular type of airplane we wanted. Jack started promoting that airplane to prospects. After a few weeks, we found an example of the type we wanted at a good price.

Investigation revealed some flaws with the airplane. I decided its good price would leave us room to correct the problems we found, and we bought it.

Wrong!

That decision turned out to be the most expensive mistake I’d make. It was likely the biggest factor in the ultimate failure of our business. I won’t bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say my intuition, as well as some hard facts, told us to leave it alone. Jack’s success in promoting the aircraft pressured me to override all that. We bought an airplane we never should have owned.

Joe Scarlett was CEO of Tractor Supply Company for many years. He relates that he made some decisions that facts fully supported. Despite his intuition saying “Don’t do it.”, he did. He wished later he’d paid more attention to “that small voice”. Joe recommends we always listen to our “gut”.

We gather experience throughout our lives. In considering a particular decision we gather facts for a few days, weeks, or months. Sometimes our experience tells us the facts are leading us to the wrong decision. Likely the subconscious memories in our experience are guiding us well.

At the very least, we should carefully review the facts before we go where they lead us. This is a great example of where consultation with others can be invaluable. Others’ experience, view of the facts, and sense of urgency in moving ahead, will differ from yours. Listen and consider!

Here’s an article I wrote last year quoting Jessica Stillman. She’s OK with intuition…sometimes!

About to make a decision with a significant impact on your success? Best to consider the ideas these articles offer. I hope you find them valuable.

Want to Make Your “Star” a Leader? Caution!

In business, it’s a common observation. Good leaders may have little experience with the work their team is producing. A good drilling manager may or may not have been the best driller. A good sales manager may or may not have sold so well. And, of course, the reverse is often true. The best “do-ers” may not make the best leaders.

Here’s an interesting article from Six Disciplines, a coaching company I’ve connected with recently. It focuses on the common mistakes such newly installed leaders may make. My focus is always on the positive side of issues. I’ll explain a little of what can be done to avoid these mistakes.

First, generally, it’s often the case that these people show up brilliantly producing something. They’re very good at managing tasks and things. They may be good salespeople, so they work well with prospects, customers and clients. They likely have little or no experience leading others to do what they’re good at. Leading people effectively is very different from managing things and tasks. These people are good at leading themselves, managing their time and tasks to produce what they’re expert at.

We manage things – time, tasks and resources. We lead people!

The four issues identified in this article which may need more attention than these new leaders give them are:

  • Under-performance – Here, a team-member is doing less than his or her share of work, Often he or she develops a pattern of lack of engagement. Expert coaching and counseling are likely necessary. Addressing the issue promptly and directly, before it becomes a morale issue for others, is important.
  • Over-performance – A “rock star” may begin to develop his or her own “empire” within the organization. Everyone must be an integral part of the whole team. If someone is standing apart, he or she must be brought back “into the fold”. Again this takes expert coaching.
  • Passive-aggressive behavior – This is one of many forms of non-cooperation. It too must be addressed with good leadership skills. If this continues, it will destroy trust among the team members. That’s a serious morale and performance issue.
  • Conflict avoidance – Some people tend to “go along to get along”. They can become non-functional or low-functioning team members. Letting others “run over them” or control their behavior compromises their individuality. Good team members are self-confident individuals who cooperate in a team effort. Again, strong leadership skills are called for to help such people join in, in a healthy way.

So…is the high performer on your team a good leadership candidate? Some are. Some aren’t. Perhaps some education/training is in order. The skills a leader needs are completely different from those that made this person a high-performing “do-er”.

Performance Reviews? Nah!

Who likes performance reviews?

I’d venture to say performance review time is stressful for pretty much everyone, reviewer and reviewee alike. Since it’s been generally accepted that these reviews are key to performance measurement and improvement, we’ve done them. Most of the time we haven’t thought a lot about alternatives.

Here’s a lady with a different idea. Ditch performance reviews and conduct monthly “check-ins”. In these check-ins she and her managers ask 3 questions. I’ll let Jessica Rovello, co-founder of Arkadium, explain what those questions are in this 64-second video.

They’re pretty effective questions, and Jessica reports that performance improves as a result of asking them.

After all, performance measurement should improve performance – right? I’m pretty sure morale improves as well, and that’s always a good thing.

Arkadium is a privately held company, so no financial results are available. Reviewing their website, I see that Jessica and her husband are very dedicated to their team. The company appears to be flourishing and continuing to attract rave reviews. Their methods seem to be bearing fruit.

Enjoy Jessica’s quick look at Arkadium’s alternative to performance reviews.

You Become What You Think About!

Your Potential is in Your Hands…and in Your Mind!

So often I encounter someone’s opinion that they are the way they are permanently. That’s a pretty prevalent idea among people.

  • I’m not good at math
  • I can’t work with technologyhold you back
  • I’m not good at selling
  • Networking with other people scares me.

These are all examples of “mindsets” that people think are fixed.

Changing these ingrained ideas is simple. However it’s not easy.

For me the toughest one to change has been, “I’m not a good salesman”. Gradually, with training and education, I’m learning to be a better salesman. Not expert by any means yet, but improving. Having held this self-image all my life, changing it is one of the hardest things I’ve undertaken.

Much of the training I’m doing is with Eric Lofholm, regarded by many as one of the top sales trainers in the world.. Eric also started his career as a poor salesman, Early in his career he met Dr. Donald Moine, whom he regards as the best sales trainer in the world. Dr. Moine considers Eric his all-time best student. Quite a symbiotic relationship!

With that introduction, I offer you a replay of a webinar that these two guys did together in May. Of course it talks about effective ideas in selling. More important though is the ideas they discuss about changing mindset. Mindset is the greatest factor in the success you achieve in sales, in math, in customer service etc.

This webinar is a little over an hour long. That’s much longer than most of the material I link to in these messages. I’ll repeat that I’m convinced that mindset is the most important factor in your success. With that mindset, this is arguably one of the most valuable time investments you can make in yourself..

One of the things I appreciate most about Eric is his prolific offering of material at no cost. Unlike many people who offer free content, there’s real meat in Eric’s free programs. His daily 15-minute motivational call is a prime example. From that page you can access many of his other programs. I urge you to check it out. The mindset webinar I mentioned before was attached to one of the replays of these daily calls. Replays of the daily calls are available here.

Some key takeaways from the mindset webinar:

  • You must be aware of what your mindset is in an area where you want to improve.
  • To change a mindset, change some routine around it. We develop patterns, which become habits, which direct us to act in certain ways on autopilot. When you change one thing in your routine, it makes you think in new ways. We resist change, even when it’s beneficial.
  • Your mindset determines the quality of the work you do and how much money you’ll make. Also the quality and quantity of your relationships.
  • Your mindset can spur you on to greater success, or it can hold you back. Which is it doing for you?
  • You can re-create a success by remembering it in exquisite vivid detail – what you were wearing, what you ate, people’s reactions to you. This is a great technique for learning to repeat that success.
  • Changing one single, simple mindset can change your whole world. Don’t try to change everything. Pick something you consider a high priority and work on that single change. Eric offers many suggestions for areas of sales you may want to decide to change.

Once more, just to be sure you get the full import of all this:

Change Your Mindset – Change Your Life!

Disclosure: If your click on any of these links leads to your partnering with Eric on something you pay him for, I’ll receive an affiliate commission. He offers great value in his many free resources. Of course, he’d love to work with you as a coach as well.


If you find Eric’s work helpful you may want to join his affiliate program.

Think, and Grow Rich!

Eric Lofholm
According to Napoleon Hill, he met Andrew Carnegie in 1908. Hill relates that he went to work for Carnegie, who gave him an unusual assignment.


He was to research and report on the work of the most prominent business men of the time. The idea, of course, was to create a guide for doing business successfully. While he claimed to have interviewed many of them, many historians find no evidence of such meetings.
Napoleon Hill Quote

There’s a great deal of controversy around Hill’s claims of accomplishments and interviews. This Wikipedia account outlines many of his achievements…and some of his clouded history.

Despite all the controversy, it seems undisputed that Napoleon Hill wrote the books he’s widely credited with. His two most famous works are The Law of Success (1928) and Think and Grow Rich (1937). These books outline useful principles for success in business. As we’ve discussed before, many business ideas are good guides in personal life as well.

The premise of virtually all Hill’s work is that, with the proper mental focus, success is pretty much guaranteed.

Here’s an invitation. For well over a year I’ve been listening to a daily 15-minute motivational call by sales coach Eric Lofholm. Throughout July Eric is talking each day about one of Napoleon Hill’s principles. All this great advice is available at no charge here.

Eric has been doing this call for several years, and has committed to continuing it throughout his career. His stated intention is to continue his career until his 76th birthday in 2046. Here are instructions on how to join the call. If you miss any of the calls, including the Napoleon Hill discussion, this link will get you the recordings.

Disclosure: If your click on any of these links leads to your doing a paid program with Eric, I’ll receive an affiliate commission. He offers great value in his many free resources. Of course, he’d love to work with you as a coach as well.
Napoleon Hill’s advice provides great guidance to your business success. I hope you’ll give Eric a listen as he describes Hill’s work.