April 30, 2007

A Powerful Principle

Filed under: Professional Development, Success, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 9:24 am


It is a powerful principle. It means that you say what you’ll do and then do what you say.

I’m constantly reminded of the importance of this simple idea.

A strategic partner doesn’t show up for a conference call, then doesn’t call to explain why. When I inquire by email I get no response. Quite unbelievable.

The flip-side is the person who is right on time for a meeting and prepared. Impressive.

A salesperson says they’ll send information and it arrives the next day. Nice.

A team member says they’ll get you the information and it is in your email inbox within the hour. Refreshing.

Don’t let your lips makes promises your life can’t keep.

Spring Cleaning

Filed under: Observations, Professional Development — Mark Sanborn @ 9:20 am

Remember that concept? It might be dated to my generation, but this time of year people typically stored their winter clothes, got out their summer stuff and got rid of whatever needed to be discarded.

I’m getting some new office furniture and had to dismantle my desk of nine years. That created the need to move a great deal of stuff, and a realization of just how much stuff I’ve accumulated was a bit disheartening. So I started rearranging, refiling and discarding, and this “spring cleaning” felt good.

There are different work styles and I’ve been told some people work better surrounded by clutter, but not me. I feel better and get more done the better organized I am. I’m glad the new furniture created the unexpected side effect of becoming better organized.

Would your workspace and you benefit from some spring cleaning?

April 25, 2007

Telling the Truth

Filed under: Leadership, Politics, Moral Leadership, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 12:01 pm

Leaders should not lie. That is obvious. Should they “spin”?

We live in the age of spin. We use the term lightly. Companies and politicians hire firms to create favorable spin and minimize negative spin.

In the old days it wasn’t called spin. It was called propaganda. Propaganda was what those evil communist officials told their citizens to help keep them in line.

I grew up believing that what my elected officials told me was true. I might have been a little naive, but by and large, I could count on highly placed leaders to tell the truth.

Today, what’s the difference between spin and propaganda? I’ve come to think the difference is in whom is telling it: if the “good guys” play fast and loose with the facts, it is spin. If the “bad guys” do it, it is propaganda.

It appears our leader lied about Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. Lynch testified as much in front of a House committee. She never wanted to be considered a hero, but evidently the government thought she needed to be one, so they spun her story.

Pat Tillman was already a hero when he volunteered to serve. Getting killed by friendly fire would have been a PR crisis, so people were told to lie about what happened. The truth came out anyhow. Pat Tillman is still a hero. Those who contrived a plan of deceit are zeros.

Do we stop believing our elected officials? In the sixties I was admonished to trust no one over thirty. Are our kids learning to trust no one in a position of authority?

What are we, leaders with or without titles, to do? Some ideas:

1.) Tell the truth. That is your choice. Stop taking spin lightly. If you don’t like it as much as I don’t like it, then don’t do it. I can’t make anybody else tell the truth, but I can choose to communicate spin-free myself.

2.) Be vigilant. Don’t discredit everything others say, but remain open to getting the information to confirm or deny the validity of their statements. Don’t accept everything at face value, especially spin-prone issues. The good guys and the bad guys are all using various forms of spin these days.

3.) If you’ve gone on record and since changed your mind or had new information presented, communicate your revised position. It generally increases credibility when a leader says “I used to think this, now I don’t and here’s why…”

4.) Hold elected officials accountable. We as citizens can’t always directly control what happens but we can certainly influence how it is handled. We need to let our leaders know that spin as it is currently practiced sucks, and we’re not going quietly into the night when we find out we’ve been lied to.

5.) Make truth telling a sacred value in your organization. Lead the way for honest, compassionate communication. If you really care for someone, you tell the truth, even when it isn’t easy. This is a difficult lesson of relationships and leadership.

April 24, 2007

An Insight from CoBank

Filed under: Influence, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 11:33 am

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking for the Denver associates of CoBank. CEO and President Bob Engel said, “When you make yourself better, you make those around you better.”

I agree. When we improve, we encourage others to improve and provide a positive example. By playing at a higher level, we challenge our teammates to play at a higher level. It is indirect influence and it benefits not only the individual who chooses to get better, but the people around him or her.

April 22, 2007


Filed under: Observations, Teamwork — Mark Sanborn @ 4:51 pm

My friend Tanner invited me to join him at the neighborhood beer brewing this afternoon.

A few guys on Tanner’s street get together at his neighbor Michael’s to homebrew and drink beer. Michael and his wife park their cars in the brewing area during the week, but when it is time to make beer, the brewing apparatus displace the vehicles.

Michael works for the EPA and is a chemist by training, an education that lends itself well to brewing beer. Over the course of several hours any number of people come and go, but there is a core group of guys who help in the brewing process.

Today they were making an ESB. They had an IPA and Heffe on tap, and some bottles of the last batch of ESB they made. The beer they make is really good. I can personally attest to that.

Whether or not you drink beer, it is a great gathering. I met lots of people, including a guy who does business with my brother.

Many of my neighbors were out working on their yards today. That certainly makes for nice yards but doesn’t necessarily create community. I kind of wish the people on my street reallocated some of the time we spend on spiffing up our yards to make beer or roast a pig (something else they do on Tanner’s street) or something else to bring people together.

Community seems increasingly rare these days. Anything that creates community–whether it is making beer or roasting a pig–is a good thing.

Improved Outcomes

Filed under: Leadership, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 4:41 pm

This weekend I spoke for Panasonic Toughbook in Sarasota, Florida. The comaraderie of the sales team and other attendees at the meeting was inspiring.

When I check into the Hyatt, I asked if my room was quiet. The front desk person told me it was right across from the elevators. I asked if she could find me a different room.

“Sir, since you’re only in the hotel for one night, I want you to have a great stay. I’ve upgraded you to a room on our highest floor with a view of the marina.”

It was a great room, and I appreciated her for giving it to me.

In You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader I say that “little l” leaders are those who increase ROI: relationships, outcomes and improvements. The woman at the front desk could have provided me good service just by giving me the room type I requested, but by doing a little bit more and letting me know, she improved my stay and positively influenced my perception of the Sarasota Hyatt.

That’s what “little l” leadership is all about.

April 19, 2007

What Do You Do When You Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything?

Filed under: Observations, Success, Motivation — Mark Sanborn @ 2:50 pm

That’s a question I’ve dealt with for the last couple of weeks as I’ve slowly recovered from some nasty virus. My energy level has been non-existent and my enthusiasm flat-lined. At times I’ve felt so rotten from coughing and having my head throb that even sleeping was unpleasant.

You’ve been there; we’ve all been there. So what do you do?

You do what needs to be done. You choose the appropriate behavior in spite of the way you feel. Motivation isn’t entirely about how you feel about what you do. Successful people don’t let their feelings, physical or psychological, control their behavior. This is one of the great lessons of life. As the cliche goes: you do what you’ve got to do. What is often missing is this line: even when you don’t feel like it.

Years ago I heard a professional defined as someone who does his or her best, even when he or she doesn’t feel like it. It is a definition that has withstood the test of time.

When you’re sick, you might need to go to the doctor, even though you don’t feel like it because of the inconvenience. Maybe you need to take a nap and get some rest, even when there are other things you’d rather be doing. Rationally we know the quicker we get healthy, the better. Why do we often postpone doing what will help us restore health?

You might feel like complete crud, but choose to do the conference call because you said you would. You might need to explain why your voice sounds like it is coming from a bucket of tar, and then move forward. The kids still need to get dropped off at school, and the garbage still needs to be put out. So you do it.

If you’re like me, you also fight the urge to feel sorry for yourself. People get sick, and many get sicker than you or I do. One way to keep things in perspective is to change the focus from “Why do I feel rotten?” to “I’m sure glad I don’t feel this way often.”

One of the few things worse than being slowed down by feeling miserable or being miserable is letting those things unduly interrupt our lives. We can’t control the interruptions, but we can often minimize them if we choose to do so.

How? By doing what needs to be done, even when you just don’t feel like it.

April 17, 2007

God Bless Virginia Tech

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 11:32 am

My associates and I send our prayers and support across the miles to the victims and their families, the students and faculty at Virginia Tech and the community of Blacksburg. Words can’t adequately express the pain and grief they are experiencing or even how it has affected the rest of us, and so we simply join our nation in saying we love you and care for you.


This morning I received an email from the school my children attend. It expressed concern over the tragic events yesterday at Virginia Tech and acknowledged the concerns parents were no doubt facing about the safety of their kids at school. It reassured parents that there was no reason to think that yesterday was more than an isolated incident, reviewed the precautions already in place at the school and provided helpful hints parents could use to keep their kids safe. It was very timely, professional and reassuring.

I don’t know how many school sent an email or communication that the one I received, but I hope many did. This kind of communication and reassurance strengths the confidence parents have in the schools and builds bridges for improved relationship.

The shooting yesterday was a tragedy of catastrophic proportion but the principle applies at every level: when those you serve are concerned or anxious, you can be of better service by acknowledging that and communicating genuine reassurance.

Increase Your Understanding

Filed under: Leadership, Professional Development — Mark Sanborn @ 10:29 am

My good friend Eric Chester is an expert in issues of generational differences, especially in managing employees of Generation Y, or, as he refers to the age group, Gen Why.

He’s now blogging and his insights are excellent. I recommend checking out his thinking at www.GenerationWhy.com/blog

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