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The Essence of a Leader

leader

Everyone wants to be a leader…until that moment where they have to truly step up and lead. 

Because we often associate leadership with impressive titles, more pay, and additional job perks. 

Yet leadership isn’t made in corner offices or fancy boardrooms. Real leadership happens on the front lines. 

And what most leaders don’t understand about leading is that it isn’t telling people what to do; it’s showing them what to do. 

Which means that essentially a big part of leadership is simply this: “I’ll go first.”

Whatever I’m asking you to do I will do. 

Whatever needs to be done won’t be done by you; it will be done by us. 

And whatever sacrifices need to be made will be made by me first. 

I’ll be the first to risk. 

I’ll be the first to invest. 

I’ll be the first to do the work. 

I’ll be the first to create the model. 

I’ll be the first to invent the path where there is none. 

I’ll be the first to take the heat. 

I’ll be the first to make the difficult decisions. 

I’ll be the first to take the blame. 

I’ll be the first to learn. 

I’ll be the first to change. 

I’ll be the first to cut. 

I’ll be the first to meet that standard. 

I’ll be the first to break that belief barrier. 

“I’ll go first.”

That kind of leadership isn’t assigned; it’s assumed. 

That kind of leadership isn’t demanding; it’s inspiring. 

That kind of leadership isn’t bestowed; it’s activated. 

That is the part of leadership that can’t be taught in classrooms; it can only be revealed in battle. 

But if you’re willing to be that kind of person…

If you’re willing to step up…

If you’re willing to go where no one has gone before…

Then you don’t need a title. 

You don’t need an office. 

And you don’t need perks. 

You are already on your way to developing the essence of a great leader. 

Variable Time: 1 Idea That Can Cost You or Make You Millions

variable time

A key expense that we manage and consider regularly in business is “variable cost.”

That is, all of the financial costs that go up proportionately with each additional unit of production. Variable costs (often interchangeably referred to as Cost Of Goods Sold – COGS) are the ones “you can never get away from” because they always go up as your sales go up.

Business leaders work relentlessly to get COGS down – often through economies of scale at larger production quantities – because that is the best way to make addition margin in each additional sale.

What is frequently overlooked by business leaders, and is potentially becoming even more valuable than variable cost, is “Variable Time.”

Variable Time is the amount of additional time required to produce one additional unit.

Since we often pay people money in exchange for their time, any additional time that is added also has an additional cost.

Anything that costs you time, costs you money.

Anything that saves you time, saves you money.

So the question that results from considering Variable Time is: “What could we do to reduce the amount of additional time each new unit requires?”

That question typically receives much less attention, if any, from leaders because it isn’t a line item on their P&L (well it is in the form of paying people but it isn’t segmented into productive time and wasted time) and they don’t create a budget for it.

At the executive level, when you’re considering a new product line, a new service, or a new initiative it would be expected – often even required – to map out how much money you will have to invest.

But what almost never gets presented and thought through is how much time it will take people.

You scrutinize and work to control every cost, but do you equally scrutinize every use of every person’s time?

The next generation of cost savings will be more about saving time than saving money.

When you start to evaluate decisions factoring in “Variable Time” you eventually come to the place of asking: “How can we make additional money without adding ANY additional time?”

And that is a genius question to ask!

Because that is a way to create profitability for you at the highest margin of all: zero variable time!

You might think “well yes, that’d be great Rory, but what could you possibly do that would really make you more money without requiring additional Variable Time?”

Actually the answer is, “lots of things”.

Here are a few examples:

1. Raise your price – Inflation goes up. Costs of living go up and so your prices every once in awhile should go up. Same amount of time on your end but more profits.

2. Charge an activation fee – Chances are you are incurring very legitimate additional expenses of both time and money to setup new clients, so it can be very fair to charge an activation fee and can actually increase the service experience your new customers have because you have resources dedicated to staff it (It also can improve retention). It’s charging for work you’re already doing.

3. Create recurring contracts – Instead of selling it for just one use, one term, or one project, simply change your sales talk to say “this is an ongoing relationship and we work with clients for x# of cycles”. That creates predictable revenue and reduces the potential future selling time needed to create the same revenue dollar.

4. Go Digital – Depending on your industry or product, convert a physical offering that has to be mailed and shipped to instead being virtual. Or if that doesn’t work, just add an additional digital element to your physical offering and bundle them together at an increased cost.

5. Target a higher end clientele – It (theoretically) takes the same amount of time to sell to a wealthy customer as it does to a less financially able customer, but one will typically buy more and buy higher margin goods than the other.

6. Keep an existing client – It’s typically much more profitable to sell to or continue on with existing clients than with new clients. Yet, sometimes we’re so focused on new business that we don’t take care of our current business. Even if a new customer makes you the same amount of money as an existing one, it will always cost you more in variable time.

7. Monetize your waste – Many companies, like manufacturers, produce waste that often can be converted fairly easily into dollars. Someone out there is likely building something or doing something with a raw material that is an unnecessary output of your core offering.

8. Get paid for results – Again, depending on your business model, it might work to be paid for your results instead of your time. Ask for a percentage of the success you help create instead of just being paid an hourly rate. Same amount of time but potentially a lot more money if it makes sense to structure things that way.  

9. Outsource – Hire other people to do things for you that can happen at a lower hourly rate than you can earn if you focus on certain higher income producing activities. A good example of this is bringing in someone to train your team for you (like we do at Southwestern Consulting) to do things like grow revenues. Even if you’re a small company, you can do things like Arnie Malham (link to my podcast interview with him) and pay your people to read books. Books are one of the fastest, cheapest, and best ways to train your people and it costs you zero time.

All of these items are examples of ways to potentially add profitability to your company without adding much or any additional time.

It’s not these examples that really matter though. It’s the consideration of “Variable Time.”

It’s your thinking that matters.

Because when the leaders thinking advances, it advances everyone.

7 Communication Tips That Make Great Leaders

 communication

A great leader is a great communicator. 

Yet communication, especially in the sense of public oratory, is in many ways a lost art form among today’s leaders. 

It’s rare that we have a leader that delivers the kind of speech that touches our spirit and inspires us to be better. 

Too often, leaders ride the credence of their position rather than the articulation of their passion when communicating to their teams. 

Here’s 7 practical things leaders can do in their public presentations that will make them more effective with their followers:

1. Tell stories – Your slides are boring. Your numbers are numbing. So instead, tell stories about specific team members or specific customers where things are being done right. That will keep us engaged and listening. 

2. Be Vulnerable – We barely know you. We barely see you. And then you stand on stage in your stodgy suits and tell us facts. What we’d rather hear about is some of your own blunders, some of your own fears, and some of your transparent mistakes. Humanize yourself by connecting with us through “real” feelings you have. 

3. Build Leaders – The fastest way to make us love you is when you celebrate and lift up the other people in our organization that we all respect and love. It helps us trust you when you recognize the people who look after us and when you show that you know who the people are that do the work around here. If you’re really savvy, you’ll build up your leaders in front of us which will make them feel like a million bucks and bond us all together as a team and reinforce our conviction in leadership as a whole. 

4. Show Appreciation – We know you get pressure by the board, our investors or whoever it is that you answer to about hitting our numbers and we expect that some of that pressure will roll down to us. But what would really make us feel awesome – and want to work harder for you – is if you simply said “thank you.” If you can just find some way to let us know that you notice how hard we are all working and that you appreciate the sacrifices we do make, that will go a long way. 

5. Reinforce Principles – Yes we know that if we were good employees we would all have our core values and principles memorized word for word, but hey we forget and let’s be honest we’d rather spend our free brain capacity playing fantasy football and hanging out with our families. So if there is a principle you want to empower us to operate the company by, please talk about it and give examples of how we could execute it. Or better yet, in your explanation of certain decisions or changes that are being made, connect the justification for why back to our core principles. That helps us understand that you really do take them seriously and that we all should too. 

6. Promote Vision – Most of all we need you to remind us why we are all here. Talk to us about what you believe. Tell us how what we do is important and how our individual roles all add up to something greater and more important. And tell us where we are going as a team. We want to be excited about what is ahead and we want to be in on the big picture. 

7. Compel Greatness – Finally, charge us up with a challenge. Send us off on a high. Invite us to accomplish something great. We want to be a part of something big. Show us how we can be. Let us know what you see, what you believe in and what is coming in the future. 

We’re here because we still see the value in what we all do. Be the leader we want to believe in. The better you are at communicating, the easier it is for us to get behind all that you’re talking about. 

Believe in us and we will believe in you. 

All You Need to Know About Leadership

leadership

The idea of leadership can be intimidating.

But leadership is simple.

To lead is to care.

Leadership is learning to elevate the needs of others to be equal to or above your own.

Leadership then is not a title.

Leadership is not a position.

Leadership is not a crown.

Leadership instead, is a condition of your heart.

It’s a heart that wants to look after others.

It’s a heart that seeks to protect others.

It’s a heart that desires to provide for others.

Leadership is difficult.

But it’s not the act of leading that is that difficult.

It’s the change of focus that’s difficult.

It’s the increase in selflessness that’s challenging.

It’s the worrying less about yourself and more about others that takes intention.

But like many things that are difficult, it comes with a great reward.

It ends up being the person who makes the sacrifice that gets the gift.

The gift of seeing someone else succeed.

The gift of watching someone else grow.

The gift of experiencing something that is bigger than yourself.

That is leadership.

That is human.

That is wonderful.

And that kind of leadership is always worth it.

How Do You Write Jokes?

jokes

If you’re a business leader or a professional speaker you don’t necessarily need to learn how to write jokes, but it will help you if you can learn to be funny. 

Someone recently asked me, “Rory how do you write jokes?”

My response was “don’t try to write jokes; instead write stories.” 

For most people it’s much easier to write about something that really happened to them that makes them or other people laugh as they think back on it. And there is automatically an extra added element of humor when it’s based on a true story. 

Start with writing out the story first in as much detail as you remember. Then as you go back through and edit the story, look for natural opportunities to use these humor techniques:

Exaggerate the character features – Developing your characters is always one of the best ways to improve your stories. So let us know more about who the people are that were in the story and anytime you exaggerate their characteristics it’s usually funny. 

Instead of saying “she was an older woman” say “she was probably 67…thousand years old. Seriously, she was in the Yoda stage of life.”

Embellish the circumstances – Think of interesting ways to express the circumstances. 

Instead of saying “the family was poor” say “there was no way this family was going to have the money…there was a better chance of an Amish family pulling up in a Hummer.” 

Be self-deprecating – People love to laugh at a speakers own ineptness so don’t be afraid to highlight it. 

Instead of saying “I don’t know anything about changing air filters” say “I went to Home Depot and asked the lady for an air filter and she said ‘what size’ and I said ‘they come in different sizes?!'”

Connect the old with the new – Since all stories are from the past it makes us laugh when you introduce an element of the future that everyone knows wasn’t there. 

Instead of saying “Jesus went to Galilee” say “So Jesus pulled up Google Maps and said we must go to Galilee!”

Humanize inanimate objects – Anytime you treat things as living that aren’t really living it is often funny. 

My friend Craig Valentine has a cute story where he says “I needed help so I picked up a book. I remember I looked at the book and then the book looked at me!” The book then proceeds to give him advice as if it were a real person. 

Get inside their heads – We connect with other people by being able to relate with what they’re thinking and experiencing. So tell us what the characters were thinking in the crazy moments. But say something different than what everyone might expect. 

For instance let’s pretend you’re telling a story about a bicycle accident you once had during one of your first jobs. As the bike is falling over tell us what you were thinking. Except what we would expect to hear is “this is going to hurt” so instead say “wow this is really going to enhance my resume!”

Remember you’re not a stand up comedian so no one expects you to be. Which actually very much works in your favor because people won’t be expecting you to be funny in a business environment – and that makes it easier to pull off. So instead of starting with trying to write jokes, just tell stories. 

When speaking you don’t want to “lie” and just outright make things up because that’s dishonest. But you also don’t want to just tell what happened in plain detail because that’s boring. Both are a disservice to your audience. 

Instead, use what is commonly referred to as a “license to embellish.” Which simply means to highlight and play up the most salient features of the story. 

This will give your stories more life, more color, and more laughs.  

P.S. For more on the psychology of why we laugh and how to become a funnier person check out my book “How to be funny to make more money.

Servant Selling Salesperson Oath

servant selling salesperson oath

 My intuition tells me that for salespeople to survive in the future, more and more the market is not just going to prefer – but demand that they become servant sellers.

Perhaps we should all just go ahead and formally declare that we are one by taking an oath such as this.

What do you think? Anything you would add? Leave a comment below.

I am a Servant Salesperson
I never take advantage of people
I am a Servant Salesperson
I do not sell people things they don’t need
I am a Servant Salesperson
I never lie to or mislead customers
I am a Servant Salesperson
I am not timid about the value of what I provide but I do not pressure people
I am a Servant Salesperson
I trust that sooner or later I always get paid for how hard I work
I am a Servant Salesperson
I help people make decisions about what is best for them
I am a Servant Salesperson
I always over deliver
I am a Servant Salesperson
My sale isn’t complete until my offering has created actual improved results for my client
I am a Servant Salesperson
I work harder than everyone else
I am a Servant Salesperson
I teach people to overcome their fears
I am a Servant Salesperson
I am an expert in my field
I am a Servant Salesperson
I don’t allow people the useless indulgence of procrastination
I am a Servant Salesperson
I am bold, decisive, energetic and enthusiastic
I am a Servant Salesperson
I generate an abundance of leads and referrals
I am a Servant Salesperson
I always do the right thing and not the easy thing
I am a Servant Salesperson
I maintain and build long term relationships with my clients
I am a Servant Salesperson
I always offer fair and consistent pricing
I am a Servant Salesperson
I only sell products I am absolutely convicted on
I am a Servant Salesperson
I do not get nervous because my heart is always on service
I am a Servant Salesperson
I am honest
I am trustworthy
I am hardworking
I am powerful
I am unique
I am rare
I care
I serve
I believe in people
I believe in myself
I am a Servant Salesperson