Build a Culture of Success Through Kindness

_GettyImages-853185816.jpgStephen Cannon became president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz in 2012. Though he was convinced about the quality of his cars, he recognized the success of his brand was rooted in the kindness of his people.

Cannon understood that the company, the true essence of Mercedes-Benz, was embodied by the people who sold and serviced the cars, including how generously they behaved.

“Every encounter with the brand must be as extraordinary as the machine itself,” Cannon said.

Cannon believed almost every touchpoint of the brand involved a personal encounter with a human being in a dealership. Representatives could act in ways that were memorable and honoring, or repetitive and dismissive. This was a grand vision, but how could Cannon impart a culture of connection and compassion to 23,000 employees at dealerships nationwide?

“There is no scientific process, no algorithm, to inspire a salesperson or a service person to do something extraordinary,” Cannon said. “The only way you get there is to educate people, excite them, incite them. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to do something arises. This is not about following instructions. It’s about taking a leap of faith.”

Kindness is Contagious

In this leap of faith, Cannon challenged dealers and employees to perpetuate a grassroots movement that scattered kindness like a contagion.

This included spontaneous acts of generosity, like a dealer who noticed a buyer’s birthday on his closing documents and included a personalized cake when the customer came for the car. Or for a woman who panicked over a flat tire on the way to her son’s graduation. When mechanics could not locate a replacement tire for her model, the service manager jacked up the showroom model, removed one of its tires, and sent this mom on her way in a flash.

“We have so many stories like this,” Cannon says. “They’re about people going out of their way because they care enough to do something special.”

Beyond encouraging “extra mile” efforts, companies can build a culture of kindness in three areas:

Giving Back to the Community

Businesses that sponsor volunteer days enjoy team building, civic pride, and a more personal investment in their neighbors.

Today a growing number of companies participate in a one-for-one model: for every product sold, they give one matching item (or dollar amount) to a person in need. Or for every hour an employee volunteers, a matching dollar donation can be given as well. For example, Microsoft employees serving as Boy Scout leaders can simultaneously “bank” corporate dollars into scout scholarship accounts for those in need.

Offer Employee Autonomy

If you want generous employees, healthy working conditions are essential.

Younger people especially enjoy working for companies that allow flex scheduling, remote working options, or some ability to shape their physical environment. When employees feel empowered, they generate better results. When you convey a sense of trust in your employees, they’ll perform beyond expectations.

Build Personal Ownership

It is more natural for employees to show kindness if they are motivated by pride in what they do.

When Mercedes-Benz realized that nearly 70 percent of its front-line employees had never driven a car out of the dealership, the company put 800 new cars in the field, offering 48 hours of fun to each staff member. People drove their daughters for sweet 16 parties, chaperoned grandma on her 90th birthday, and snapped selfies to chronicle the adventure.

“The reactions were out of this world,” said general manager Harry Hynekamp said. “Sure, people got to know the cars very well. But the biggest piece was the pride piece.”

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Use Great Body Language to Speak with Success

Communication conceptRamona Smith, a 31-year-old Houston teacher, has faced many challenges, including coaxing her son through cancer and struggling through a divorce.

But Smith believes life is about more than what knocks you down, it’s about the lifelines people offer to help you back up.

One of Smith’s lifelines was the mentorship she found in Toastmasters, a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership. In her 2018 speech, “Still Standing,” Smith posed as a fighter on stage and talked about surviving round after round with life but bouncing back again. Her accomplishments include dropping out of college four times (before graduating at the top of her class) and, most recently, being crowned the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking in Chicago.

Smith outlasted 30,000 other competitors over six months of competition before being named the champion in August. Her success comes not only from her will to fight but from one speaking technique that helped her connect:

“If my hands are open to the audience, and my fists are not closed, and my arms are not too tight toward my body, it just makes the audience feel more connected, like I’m really open,” Smith said. “I’m vulnerable, and I want to give you all of me. And it makes me look relaxed and comfortable.”

Dananjaya Hettiarchchi, a human-resources specialist who won the Toastmasters competition in 2014, broke down the effectiveness of this technique:

“If you really concentrate, when you look at the inside of your palm, your eye relaxes,” Hettiarchchi said. “And a lot of great speakers, they open their palms towards the audience, showing more openness. And that allows the audience to connect with the speaker better, as opposed to showing the back of your hand.”

Best Body Language for Effective Presentations

If a simple gesture can have such an impact, what other nonverbal communication can increase our impact? Check out these tips from some of the world’s most personable communicators to increase your own credibility.

DO:

  • Open your hands toward the audience to relax and connect.
  • Use facial expressions with purpose. Sometimes when we’re nervous our face freezes up. If you don’t have an expressive face, work with a mirror to see how your expressions reinforce your message. Give your entire talk silently (while forming each word) and let your face do the communicating!
  • Maintain intentional eye contact. Leaders who speak over people’s heads or get buried in their notes seem impersonal or insincere. When you speak, move from face to face, making eye contact with one person at a time to ensure your audience is engaged. When answering a question, use extended eye contact to convey sincerity.

DON’T:

  • Hide, clasp, or fidget with your hands. This implies you don’t believe what you’re saying, or shows meekness that fails to command attention. Instead, keep your arms forward in an open manner. Use your hands to explain your point through confident, concise movements.
  • Plan your gestures in advance. Physical expression in presentations should arise spontaneously. Though body language is important, planned movements will seem awkward or inauthentic. Instead, plan key moments where you might take a different position in the room or how you will use visual aids to keep communication transparent.
  • Roam aimlessly or exhibit poor posture. Body language communicates a lot about your character, so pacing can make you seem jumpy or slumped shoulders may convey discouragement and apathy. Instead, move with purpose in your presentations. Aim for a neutral position, sitting or standing tall like a string is connecting your head to the ceiling.

Remember, the most important visual you can show your audience is yourself! Sharpen non-verbal communication skills and reap the benefits of credibility and respect!

5 Ways to Find the Strength to Try One More Time

GettyImages-698056614.jpgHave you ever wondered what it takes to become an Olympic athlete, a NASA astronaut, or a leader in a major organization?

The one trait that all of these individuals likely possess is persistence: the ability to get back up, dust themselves off after a fall, and keep trying. No matter your talent, regardless of your genius and irrespective of your education, persistence is often the trait that sets people apart from their peers in terms of their level of success.

Succeeding at anything in life requires a great deal of effort over a period of time — very few people simply decide to be the best at their craft and are able to do it without a battle. How do these individuals find the strength to try one more time . . . repeatedly?

1. Be Prepared

Planning for success helps you think through all of the reasons why someone would disagree with your ideas, and also gives you the bulletproof mentality that you’re prepared for any question that comes your way. Think of all the reasons why something won’t be successful, and then consider arguments against that point. Become your own devil’s advocate, and it will be that much easier to find a positive response and an open door for your next request.

2. Be Adaptable

Being adaptable provides you with the mental agility to not hide in a corner when you’re kicked to the curb. As Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle Corporation states:

“When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for people telling you that you are nuts.”  

You have to be willing to adapt your thinking and your processes and find a way to create change while not straying from your core ideas. You can’t listen to every naysayer, but you can look for the nuggets of wisdom that they share and use that information to your advantage the next time you try to move forward.

3. Be Confident

You may be surprised that confidence is not the first attribute we consider, but the reality is, you need to have a plan in place that you can trust and support before confidence will help you through to success. Confidence in yourself, your family, and your ideas — as well as a burning passion to make a change in the world — are what can help you continue on even when it feels as though there’s no path forward.

4. Do the Work

Unfortunately, there are few things in life that can replace hard work. Whether that hard work is from an athlete completing the same moves repeatedly for months or even years or a business leader who is told “No” more times than they can count, the ability to simply buckle down and execute on your vision is critical to long-term success.

5. Inspire Others

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things you will ever do with your life is to inspire others to be their best. Take the time throughout your life to inspire others. When you realize how many people you have impacted and how many are watching your success, it’s a lot easier to find the strength to try again in difficult times.

Finally, in the words of Thomas Edison: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Shouldn’t you give it one more shot?

How to Turn Negativity into Inspiration

ThinkstockPhotos-663352750.jpgIt’s easy to look at successful business people and feel jealous of what they’ve accomplished. They make it look so easy that you wonder why you’re not having the same level of success in your life and career. However, what you may not see is the hundreds of times they’ve had their ideas shot down, been passed over for a promotion, and just generally rejected in their lives. No one is immune to the soul-crushing feeling of harsh criticisms, but how you react to these situations is what makes the difference. From taking a leap into the unknown to dealing with difficult situations, these stories of overcoming negative situations will inspire you to achieve more than you could possibly imagine.

Stirring Generations of Moviegoers

George Lucas tried to sell his Star Wars script with studios for nearly five years before he finally received his first chance. It’s almost unimaginable that without one 20th Century Fox executive who believed in his vision, generations of children and adults alike would have never been introduced to that vast galaxy that lives far, far away. Today, this franchise is worth over $30 billion and continues to expand. His thoughts about always pushing forward through rejection and failure? “You use the information that you’ve gotten, which is experience . . . Failure is another word for experience.”

Apprentice Yourself in Failure

Henry Ford’s story tells how he spent his life working on every conceivable type of device, but it wasn’t until he tried his hand at creating a horseless carriage that he truly began — to fail. He started multiple companies with various partners, each time attempting to find the secret sauce that would allow him to produce his automobile efficiently and cost-effectively. Throughout his journey, he faced setbacks and people who didn’t believe that he could be successful. Finally, he found the ideal financial backer who allowed him to realize his true vision of an inexpensive yet reliable vehicle that could be mass-produced. By never giving up, he not only made Ford a household name but also created innovative production methods that jump-started the American economy.

Demoted, Fired . . . President of the United States

There are few Cinderella stories more inspirational than that of Abraham Lincoln. From his birth in a one-room log cabin to a sketchy education, Abraham Lincoln went on to become one of the most influential leaders in American history. Not only was he demoted during his stint in the Army, not only did he work through several failed businesses, but he also suffered defeat through multiple elections before rising to the country’s highest position. Abraham Lincoln’s inspiring story shows that failure is truly never an option.

The Right Job for Enough Money

Not everyone equates becoming rich and famous with being successful. In fact, Professor Jeffrey Sachs feels that the key to inspiration is finding the right job for enough money. Being inspired, and inspiring others, often comes towards the middle or end of a long career that can include negativity, stress, poor bosses, and apathetic co-workers. While it’s practically impossible to know upfront whether a particular job will become what inspires you, the only way to reach that higher plane is through overcoming negativity. Work-life balance and true happiness come through the inspiration to excel wherever life finds you.

Life is difficult, and few people will hand you an opportunity on a silver platter. Turning negativity into inspiration may be one of the toughest things that you will ever do, but the payoff is everything! Take a moment each day to inspire and uplift others. You never know when your kind words could encourage someone to keep pushing towards their dreams.

You Shouldn’t Fear Your Competitors. You Should Learn From Them.

ThinkstockPhotos-504013680.jpgAs is true in most industries, there are days where it probably seems like every time you turn around you’ve got some new competitor to deal with. Your market space was already a tight one – now you’ve got to worry just as much about the companies that are vying for the same market as you do about the market itself.

For as frustrating as this can be, however, it also represents a fantastic opportunity that is just waiting to be taken advantage of if you really know what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t actually fear your competitors at all. You should see them as a source of education and inspiration.

The Canary in the Coal Mine

One of the biggest reasons why you should try to learn from your competitors instead of fear them has to do with the fact that you’re trying to accomplish the same goal. You just have two completely different approaches about how to best do that. You’re still operating in the same industry, and you’re still trying to reach the same basic audience. From a marketing perspective alone, this is much more exciting than you probably realize.

Remember that success in marketing comes down to knowing as much about your audience as possible to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. When your closest competitor launches a particularly successful marketing campaign, sit back and ask yourself “why?” Dive deep into exactly what they did and how they did it. What language choices did they make? What print avenues did they explore? What part of their timing played a roll in their success? Did they do anything particularly noteworthy in terms of font or other design selection?

The same is true when your competitor’s campaigns fail, too. Why did your competitor’s campaign fail to strike a chord with your audience? What mistake did they make? What incorrect information were they working from? How can you avoid this problem yourself?

From a certain point of view, it’s almost like you get to naturally A/B test every campaign that you run without spending additional money because you’ve always got someone trying to hit targets that are very similar to yours. Pay attention to what they’re doing and see what works and what doesn’t. Then, figure out how to adapt this information to your own efforts. Rest assured, they’re probably looking at you in the same way.

You’re All in this Together

An even more important reason why you shouldn’t fear your competitors is also a simple one: you’re truly all in this together. Think about it like this: the audience that you’re trying to serve and the audience that your closest competitors are trying to serve are one in the same. You’ve both pledged to make the lives of these people better through your products and services. Make no mistake, this is a terrific situation to be in for everyone involved.

For starters, competition is healthy. Every time your closest competitor hits a home run with a new product launch or marketing campaign, it shouldn’t make you depressed – it should make you want to wake up tomorrow morning and try that much harder.

Your audience will absolutely benefit from this healthy sense of competition and that is an incredibly important position to be in for all of you.

The Way I See It

kirkHere is an oldie, but a goodie, that is a great reminder of the importance of your attitude.

A jolly, well-liked man ran a third generation family business with several loyal staff. Customers often assumed he was so cheerful because he ran a successful business, but it was the other way around. He followed a family tradition of wearing a badge on his shirt that said, “Business is Great!” They went through tough times like any other business, but he continued to proudly wear his badge. Many people asked what was so great about his business, which led to conversations about the pleasures of meeting new people, the joy of a positive working environment, and the reward of learning something new every day. No matter what attitude a person had before they visited his business, they always felt better after listening to the man’s infectious enthusiasm and positive outlook on life.

Here’s the way I see it: Winston Churchill once said it best, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” If you’d like ideas for some creative labels to inspire conversations with your customers, give us a call today!

Repeat Success is No Small Achievement

ThinkstockPhotos-503000012.jpgArnel Pineda never imagined that he would be fronting the world-famous rock band, Journey, when he began singing American rock songs with his friends’ band as a teenager.

For years his exceptional singing talent had been good enough to belt out songs with club bands doing parties, special events, contests, weddings, and regular appearances around the Philippines, Pineda’s home country. However, one evening Pineda was filmed doing his performance with a particular Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” The performance, as well as Pineda’s accuracy in singing the song so similar to how the original version was sung by the first Journey frontman, Steve Perry, shocked people. It also shocked the guitarist and an original member of Journey, Neil Schon, when he watched the YouTube video as well. One would think that the fairytale story ended at this point as Pineda rocketed to fame as Journey’s replacement singer. However, that’s not quite how things went.

Upping Your Game

Yes, Pineda could sing, no argument. And he did a darn good version of Journey as a bar band singer. However, the band made it clear to Pineda that if he were to be considered a serious contender for the real band, he would have to up his game. That meant singing all the original Journey songs to perfection.

It’s easy for the typical person to think this challenge might be doable. That’s because no one sees what Pineda had to go through to match every tone and every inflection that Steve Perry had done to make Journey’s songs famous in the first place. Unlike Perry, who could craft a new song with any version of voice he liked, Pineda had to duplicate the original to every single detail. It was a grueling process with Schon and company catching every mistake and pushing Pineda to reach the zenith of his ability. There were plenty of times Pineda wanted to quit as well, questioning his own talent. Fortunately, the Filipino singer realized his full potential and succeeded.

Success Can Be Hard to Repeat

This story is a classic case showing how hard it is to achieve success a second time once a standard or great performance has been achieved in the first place. In business, a one-time success is just that, a fortunate blip. When a business team can repeat the performance and do even better consistently, that’s a huge achievement. It proves that the success was not just good luck or a brief opportunity when things just fell into place.

Repeat success is the primary goal every business team strives to achieve. And it is extremely hard. Conditions change, markets fluctuate, customers move to new interests, team members leave and get replaced. All of these factors and more change the mix in how successful a team can be. To overcome these changes and repeat the success is really the higher level of performance that pays big with rewards when it can be achieved.

Not Just for Entertainment

Think Pineda’s story is just something that happens in the entertainment world? Look at Apple after Steve Jobs passed away. The Apple team lost a core resource in Jobs and still had to find a way to keep Apple growing and succeeding even more than what Jobs had achieved with the company. CEO Tim Cook and company did exactly that, but it was a huge challenge to fill Jobs’ shoes year after year since his passing. In many ways, Cook had to perform just as hard a Pineda to repeat a success and make it better. So the next time you see a repeat success story, don’t dismiss it so quickly. It’s frequently much harder to succeed a second time versus the first.