Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is " Success " Like A Trip To Mars?

Success is the topic we often talk about and something that we all aspire for. The interesting thing about success is, it has a different meaning for all. For some, the path to success is crystal clear but for many it's like a trip to mars! Even though we don't see many who are successful, the most encouraging reality about success is that it is attainable by all, irrespective of who we are, what we are or where we are! The question is what can drive us to success ? Well before i get in to that, let me share an interesting story with you on success.

The story is about a famous guru and his two disciples. Once their education was complete, and they were ready to leave, the guru called one of them and asked, " Now that your education is complete and it is time for you to leave and find your own place in the world, what plans do you have for your future? " The disciple said, " When I go into the world I will look for success and prosperity. "

With a smile, the guru gave him a bag full of gold coins, blessed him, and allowed him to leave. Now the guru called the second disciple and put the same question to him. He replied, " I will go into the world and achieve success and be prosperous. " The guru gave him one silver coin, blessed him, and let him go.

There was a pedestrian resting a few yards away. After both the disciples had left he went up to the guru and asked him why he gave a bag full of gold coins to the man who was going to look for success and prosperity for himself, while he gave only one silver coin to the man who wanted to achieve success on his own.

The guru smiled and replied, " the man who is going to look for success and prosperity is unlikely to find it as he will be dependent on external forces for his accomplishments. He will need this bag of gold; it will not last long with him. The second man, he said, " is set to achieve success on his own, he will get it. He will also be at peace with himself. He does not need gold from me; he will earn enough for himself. I gave him one silver coin which is what he need for his bus journey to his destination" .

The story tells us that, success is achieving one's chosen goals. Success requires its share of hard work, dedication and perseverance. To be successful we just have to know the rules and apply them in our life. Now let's talk about the golden rules of success which are the universal rules of attaining meaningful success. Let me share with you the following simple rules for success which is easy to understand and follow. We just have to assimilate these rules with determination and let them do wonders for us.

1) Find our passion : If our motivation is to fulfill another person's expectations of us, or simply to make money, chances are that we won't be a great success. Pick our passion- or let it pick us - but don't let others pick it for us! Let's not conflate the pursuit of success with the pursuit of wealth. Success transcends dollars and cents.

2) Set our goals : Now that we know what we want to do, it's time to set our goals. Passion alone won't guarantee success. Just don't look for consensus about how detailed our goals must be, it's all about getting started and find a medium that works for us. Remember- Goals are dreams with deadlines!

3) Cultivate character : What motivated us to choose our goal? What inspires us to succeed at it? What pushes us to keep trying? Our answers to these questions comprise our character; they define our interests, values, strengths, and means of support. The stronger our character, the more stable our success.

4) Be determined : Determination is ambition fueled by will. Do we have that to achieve our goals? If we do, we'll use everything at our disposal to succeed. Realize that if we really want to succeed at something, we'll make the time for it, take the risk for it, and do our best to ease any doubts about it.

5) Work hard : No matter how passionate we are about our work, it may test our stamina and resolve. We need to determine what sacrifices we're willing to make to be successful. Hard work requires uncommon discipline. Ask ourselves if we're willing to do it, and to what extent. But take a step back if we begin to feel that our hard work ceases to be meaningful.

6) Lead others : Success isn't always an individual achievement. In fact, it often isn't. Our success may depend upon countless others, especially the people who support us in our day-to-day work. Good leadership skills are always key to success. Knowing how to lead others and sharing our vision will help us to reach our goals. If we inspire the people working for us, they will be more inclined to be accountable for the work they do for us.

7) Take risks : No risk, no reward. It's no shock that the most successful people seem to be those who take significant risks. They jeopardize their personal comfort. They challenge the status quo. They put their money and time at stake. Taking risk is a creative act and we need to dare to approach a situation in unconventional ways.

8) Get feedback : Just when things start going well and our ego starts to swell, there's another force you'll reckon with: feedback. It comes in many forms, including criticism, advice, and hard numbers. It will ground us, keep our ego in check, and help us refine our goals and make improvements. Don't let criticism eliminate our drive. At the same time, don't let our fear of criticism prevent us from seeking feedback.

9) Survive setbacks : Midway in our pursuit to success, something may happen and we may think that we had been deluding ourselves about a happy ending. Every successful person has experienced failure. It's just part of taking risks. Surviving setbacks means stepping back to see the whole of a situation. This gives us perspective, which in turn gives us control.

10) Stay successful : Is success like a mountain; once we peak we can only go downhill? We need to make our success a series of peaks. The most important factor for this is to keep growing by acquiring new skills and dreaming up new ideas. Like Lily Tomlin said, " The road to success is always under construction. " Remember success breeds success. Use our momentum to stay always successful - with a little luck, effort, determination, support, good habits, hard work, and character.

Achieving success is our right and we can realize it with ease provided we go about it in the right way. There are no reason why we cannot conquer the heights of our aspirations. There always is, and will be, room at the top; we just have to know our ways. Let's start to realize our full potential. To be successful, we don't need a bag full of gold - all we need is a silver coin to reach our destination. Whether our destination is moon on mars nothing can stop us to be successful.

Success is our right, Work for it and Get it!

Reference : 'Success' by J.Pincott / Rules of Success by Mridula Agarwal

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Want To Be A Stupendous Speaker? Speak Like Obama!

Imagine you are scheduled to say a few words in public in the very near future. You are probably nervous. Maybe you are even panicking. Possibly you are starting to think of how to skip this speech. Relax. You are one among millions who gets butterflies in stomach when asked to say few words in public. We do admire several people who possess this wonderful skill - public speaking and one of my favorites off late is the American President Barack Obama.

With his excellent public speaking skills President Obama connects with millions of people. It may be a good idea to consider learning from him on how to influence our audiences. No doubt Obama is a master in inspiring his audience’s, which is the number one goal of any public speaker.

He captured world's attention on 10th February 2008 through his famous speech announcing his candidature for the President ship given on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Illinois. The whole world watched his historic victory speech on 4th November 2008 when he became the 44th President-Elect. Obama's speeches remind us the power of words but we know we may not be able to speak like him. Rather we may not even want to speak like Obama. But may be we can learn from the way Obama speaks in order to influence and inspire our audiences.

In an age of accelerating change and increasing uncertainty, people are looking for clear direction, and we need to provide it. Whether we are shaping a new vision, spearheading an initiative into an untried market, speaking to the media, addressing a social function or simply conducting a business meeting, effective public speaking is frequently the margin of difference between success and failure.

I have read several surveys which indicate that most people are not listening to the words being spoken at business meetings. The listeners minds are wandering because the speakers have not made their talk interesting and relevant for the audiences. No doubt there are lot of great "natural" speakers but I believe great speakers aren't always born - they can also be trained. If we work to develop our skills, we can become much better at speaking. Once we have the right perspective, know a few tricks of speaking, and have found a good line or two, things will seems a log less challenging.

Let me share with you some simple tips which can help us to be an effective speaker.

1. Define the audience : To create interest among our audience, we must give them a good reason to listen to us. Their time is valuable, and that means that from our audience's viewpoint, our speech has to answer a simple question: " What's in it for me? "

2. Develop the speech : To make a great speech, we need to start by building a great outline that includes timing along with the what's, why's, and how’s of the speech. Keep in mind the audience and objectives of the speech while preparing it.

3. Practice, practice, practice : Having a solid outline for the speech is absolutely necessary, but the next critical step is rehearsal. It helps in anticipating and avoiding troubles before they happen. We can also join Toastmasters, volunteer to speak at local events and practice at work. The more we speak, the better we will be.

4. Nervous to natural : Be ourselves. An audience will know if we are trying to be someone we are not. Relax - our best self is our real self. Our audience is almost nervous as we are. Involve them as soon as possible to calm everyone's nerves.

5. Breath : Before we open our mouth, take a deep breath and look at the audience. Connect with their eyes, take in their energy and begin.

6. The first three minutes : The first three minutes of the speech is crucial since our audience's attention is naturally high. We have only one chance to make a first impression and we need to grab the audience attention, build rapport, and ensure that they will buy-in immediately to what we are saying.

7. Keep it simple : Have few main points and use numerous real-life examples for each one. Our audiences are keen to learn something new and they are not waiting to test our knowledge.

8. Make all movements purposeful : Moving just to move or out of nervousness is annoying for the audience. There is no need to move all the time. Try standing planted from time to time.

9. Slow down : People often speak too fast when they are nervous. Slow down. Take something to the podium with us that will serve as our reminder to slow down. Obama is a master in this and remember how effective it is.

10. Bring a visual : Place something on the podium that makes us smile. It could be a picture of our family, a silly toy or a rock from the ocean. It might sound silly, but it really works!

11. Close it right : A fine closing will make our audience feel good about what they've learned. Try to inspire them to act and leave them with something by which to remember us and our key message. Make sure to end our speech with a bang!

12. Take feedback : Have someone in the business of speaking to monitor our performance as a speaker. Ask for two or three ways to improve. Then implement their suggestions.

I am sure If we follow the above simple tips we can become a more effective speaker. But the road to true success in any endeavor is the will to continually improve. The first step is a commitment to continuous improvement. Audience evaluations are also useful tool for improving our performance and gauging how effective our speech has been. But when we do this, it is important to avoid the temptation to take reviews personally and defend ourselves. Remember, we can even learn from a crank if we are willing to listen!

Obama is a master at grabbing and keeping his audience’s attention. We may not be able to talk like Obama, but we can always be ourselves and be - A stupendous speaker who can inspire any audience.

Ready for the next speech?


Friday, May 8, 2009

Who Pays Our Salary ?

Have you tried asking any one employed or in business, who pays your salary ? Well, you are likely to get answers like - " my company, my boss, my accounts department, my finance department...it goes on and on. But how many will realize that, it is the " Customer " who pays our Salary! Profits for Entrepreneurs, Salary for Employees, Wages for Workers... the basic survival of an organization itself is at the mercy of customers.

In a period were terminologies like Globalization, Open Economy, CRM etc. was alien to people, Mahathma Gandhi had the wisdom to say, " A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider to our business, he is a part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so ".

Today, when our economy is going through turbulent times, I guess its time for us to go back to the basics. Go back to doing those things that gave us success in the start-up days of our business. Strive to build strong relationships with customers and make them buy our products and services. But sometimes, we tend to get carried away with technology and forget basic principles of customer service and understanding of what customers really need which is indeed vital to a company’s success.

You buy a product or service, in two days its faulty, you call the aggressive Sales guy who convinced you to buy it. He gives you a recorded message, " please call our customer care number xxxxx " ! He will not even take the pain to ask what the complaint is. Sounds familiar ? We can't blame them, they are programmed like that by the companies.

We fail to realize that, our employees can be our ambassadors or our assassins. They need to consistently display behavior that can satisfy customers and even exceed their expectations at all times. Everything that our people say and do has an effect on whether our company will be able compete and win during this tough economy. I know it is easy to talk about the importance of customer service and make employees accountable for that etc., but how do we practice it ?

Well, let me take you to the world of Zappos, the company which re-defined the word, customer service! Founded in 1999, Zappos.com is the biggest online Shoe store, with over $1 billion in sales. They have grown from zero to $1 billion in just 9.5 years! They have got over 7.5 million customers and interestingly, on any given day, 75% of sales come from repeat customers, and those repeat customers spend much more than the first time buyers! The majority of sales happens through word of mouth.

Zappos offers customers a huge selection- more than four million pairs of shoes (and other items such as handbags, apparel etc.). What makes them unique is, they offers free delivery and free returns and if you don't like the shoes, you box them up and send them back to Zappos for no charge. They promises free, four-day delivery. Sounds good ? But most of the time they deliver it next-day, a surprise that leaves a lasting impression on customers: "You said four days, but I got them the next morning !"

Zappos are experts in handling telephone service- a black hole and nightmare for most companies. Zappos smart and entertaining call-center employees are free to do whatever it takes to make you happy. They work with no scripts, no time limits on calls, no robotic behavior, and plenty of legendary stories about Zappos and its customers you can read on the net. Zappos goes out of their way to make it easy for customers to do business with them like 24/7 1-800 toll free number, 365- days return policy etc.

Hundreds of touching customer experience stories about Zappos are available on the net and the most popular of it is from a blogger, Ms.Zaz Lammar. She ordered 7 pairs of shoes from Zappos for her mother who was sick. Once the goods arrived, out of 7 only 2 pairs fit. The rest were waiting to be returned. But unfortunately her mom got hospitalized and she being away, the shoes were never sent back. There’s a time limit on the return of shoes which is 15 days. When you do a return to Zappos, they pay the shipping, but you have to get the shoes to Courier company by yourself.

Sadly, Ms.Zaz lost her mother and once she got back home, she got an e-mail from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn't received them. She replied that her mom had died but will send the shoes as soon as she could. They e-mailed her back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes.

Here is what happened after that in her own words - " Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I'm a sucker for kindness, and if that isn't one of the nicest things I've ever had happen to me, I don't know what is. So…IF YOU BUY SHOES ONLINE, GET THEM FROM ZAPPOS."

But here's what makes Zappos even more interesting. As we know, the toughest job is answering phones and talking to customers to solve their complaints. When Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company's strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. During this period, People get paid their full salary.

Once the training is over, Zappos do something unique which they call as "The Offer." The company, after taking the pain to recruit and train, says to its newest employees: "If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you've worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus." Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit! Surprised? Well they have a reason. They believe, if you're willing to take the company up on "The Offer", you obviously don't have the sense of commitment they are looking for.

Zappos today employs more than 1500 people. They know how important it is for every employee to feel like they have a stake in the culture. As a result, they have defined a set of core values that act as a formalized definition of company culture. Their core values weren't formed by a few people from senior management that sat around in a room at a company off site. Instead, they invited every employee at Zappos to participate in the process, and here are the core values that help to keep them focused on the right things:

1) Deliver "WOW" Through Service
2) Embrace and Drive Change
3) Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4) Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5) Pursue Growth and Learning
6) Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7) Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8) Do More With Less
9) Be Passionate and Determined
10) Be Humble

Zappos is interested only in employing people who truly care about their customers. If you ask Tony Hsieh the Zappos CEO or any Zappos employee for that matter - to describe the company, they would tell you that, " Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes "! At Zappos, Customer care is not a department but a culture!

The success story of Zappos clearly tells us that, creating a great customer experience is about getting back to basics - simple human kindness. It also tells us, if we want our employees to treat our customers like stars, then we need to give our employees a little red-carpet treatment of their own.

Its time for us to realize that,our business wouldn't exist without the customers, and all it takes to win them over is thoughtfulness. We need to get that through our head and if we can win them over, they will will be our best advocates. Like Ms.Zaz, they'll tell everyone about their good experience, and our business will grow.

I think, if ever there was a time to engage and reach out to our customers, it’s now. When we do that, it will come through loud and clear that we do care about them. When they are ready to order, it will be from our company and not from our competitors. And once they order, we get paid - Yes Customer pays our salary !

Ready to serve our Pay Master ? Then lets go Zappos way!