Follow the Leader

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Bill Gove was a legend as a salesman at 3M. He used to tell this story in his motivational talks to the troops.

“I was just starting out in sales when my boss called me in and said, ‘Bill, I want you to go to New Orleans and see our fieldman, Harry. You’ve never met anyone like him. He’s about 60 pounds overweight, his clothes look like a bulletin board of whatever he ate for lunch, he garbles his words, and he writes his orders on the back of a napkin.’

“So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll go down there. What do you want me to do? Buy him a copy of Dress for Success? Put him on a diet? Fire him?’

“ ‘Hell, no. Find out what this guy is eating and make sure he gets all he wants. He’s our biggest producer. And while you’re down there, you’d better get some for yourself.’ “

That story always worked. Maybe because it was so close to the Abe Lincoln version: “But Mr. President, Grant drinks!” “Find out what his brand is and send him a case. I need him. He fights.”

Could a curmudgeon like Harry or a boozer like Grant be successful today? Of course. You see it all the time in sports. The basketball player who averages 20 points a game is on a longer leash than the backup guard. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, but it’s the way of the world in a world where results often matter more than how you get them.

Bill Gove and I used to tell young salespeople, “If you can sell, don’t worry about the paperwork. We’ll get someone to take care of it.” All kinds of people can fill out forms… few can really sell.

These days, with everything so techie, there’s less tolerance for the klutz, even a mad demon of a salesperson klutz, because a screwup on-line can cost the company zillions. Harry’s mustard-stained napkins might not pass muster, no matter how big the order.

Earl is the opposite of Harry. The word that fits him is “bearing.” He walks around like he’s on his way to chair a board meeting. Earl’s paperwork is perfect, his desk is neat. He’s on time for every sales meeting, and without having to be begged, he automatically takes a seat in the front row. Earl would be the perfect salesperson except for one thing: He couldn’t give away envelopes to Publishers Clearing House. Customers just don’t warm up to him.

Most salespeople fit somewhere in between Harry and Earl, not daring to be as nonconformist as Harry, but able to avoid setting people’s teeth on edge, a la Earl.

Smart companies have come to realize that salespeople need to be rid of duties that have nothing to do with sales. They know that the most productive time salespeople have is the time they spend with their customers, not with their fellow employees. They—and their salespeople—are externally focused. Totally.

Dumb companies remain enmeshed in structure, processes, and politics. They tend to be internally focused on the company culture, the company rule book, the company dress code, and the company haircut. They have meetings to see if they should have meetings.

Company committees? Internal planning projects? There’s Earl in the front row again, his hand raised, volunteering for the job. Earl knows his future isn’t in sales; it’s in getting into the bureaucracy. When the Earls of the world get promoted as their reward for doing the grunt work that successful sales people hate, guess what happens? The regimen of regular sales meetings, new forms to fill out, and mandatory attendance take a big leap skyward.

Will Harry’s production go up when Earl gets through with him? Of course not, but Harry might make less noise when he eats.

Many of you reading this may work for Earls. Don’t toss in the towel. Just keep your own priorities straight. Try not to let Earl waste too much of your time, and just keep shaking and baking.


Mackay’s Moral:

If you’re going to be different, you’d better produce. Most managers hate mavericks, but all managers love results.


* Excerpted from Pushing the Envelope: All The Way To The Top

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Loyalty in Little Things Is Huge

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Fostering employee loyalty is the first step to creating customer loyalty. Most businesses depend on loyal customers for their bread and butter, and occasionally for their gravy as well. We all have customers who will buy from us even when they can get a lower price somewhere else, or quicker turnaround, or better service.

But change all those “ors” into “ands” and your customers will start to question your loyalty to them. The same holds true for employees. You can’t keep them guessing how they will be treated and expect them to give their best to you.

I couldn’t agree more with Frederick Reichheld, author of Loyalty Rules!, who believes that loyalty is the fuel that drives financial success. Based on extensive research into companies from online start-ups to established institutions such as Harley-Davidson, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Cisco, Dell, Intuit and more, Reichheld reveals six bedrock principles of loyalty upon which leaders build enduring enterprises.

  1. Play to win/win. Never profit at the expense of partners.
  2. Be picky. Membership must be a privilege.
  3. Keep it simple. Reduce complexity for speed and flexibility.
  4. Reward the right results. Worthy partners deserve worthy goals.
  5. Listen hard and talk straight. Insist on honest, two-way communication and learning.
  6. Preach what you practice. Explain your principles, then live by them.

Could it be simpler?

John Akers, former chairman of IBM, puts loyalty in this context: “We’ve all heard shortsighted businessmen attribute a quote of Vince Lombardi: ‘Winning is not the most important thing; it’s the only thing.’ Well, that’s a good quote for firing up a team, but as an overarching philosophy it’s just baloney. I much prefer another Lombardi quote. He expected his players, he once said, to have three kinds of loyalty: to God, to their families and to the Green Bay Packers, in that order.”


Mackay’s Moral: Employees should be encouraged to ask questions, but they should never have to question your loyalty.


* Excerpted from  The Mackay MBA Of Selling in the Real World

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Messages To Help You Improve Your Attitude

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Are you in a slump? Need a boost? I want to take the opportunity to share a few messages that might help you improve your attitude. They are straight out of my latest book, The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World. 

Hope they help!

Want even more helpful advice? Go here:

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Putt For Survival

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Like a million other people, Major James Nesmeth dreamed of improving his golf game from his usual score in the 90s. Circumstances forced him to quit the game completely for seven years–never teed it up, never swung a club. And yet, the next time he played he shot an incredible 74!

Nesmeth did think about the game during those seven years…In fact, that’s probably what saved his life. You see, Nesmeth spent those years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. confined in a cage that measured approximately four and a half feet high by five feet long.

For most of his imprisonment, he saw no one, spoke to no one and could barely move. At first, he spent most of his time praying for his release. But as the weeks dragged on, he realized he would lose his sanity or even his life if he didn’t keep his mind active. He learned to visualize.

Want to change reality big-time? Learn to fantasize.

Nesmeth decided to play golf. He pictured his favorite golf course and played 18 holes every day. He dreamed every detail, from his clothes to his golf clubs to all the sights and smells of the course. He imagined different weather conditions, different cup placements, different seasons. He held the club and experimented with different grips. He saw his swing improve. He watched the ball sail down the fairway, and he rejoiced as he sank every putt.

Nesmeth took his time, every day, to “play” a full round. Four hours a day, seven days a week, for seven years. All this time, his physical condition was deteriorating, as you could see in the horrifying pictures taken of the POWs as they were freed. But this guy kept his mind in tip-top shape. And the first time he played after his release, he shaved 20 strokes off his game–all because of the power of visualization.

Visualization allows you to see your ideal tomorrow. It doesn’t do the planning and it doesn’t anticipate the obstacles. It gives you a real idea of what is possible, if only you want it badly enough. The journey may not be simple, but it’s worth every mile if you remember where you started and have a clear destination in mind.

Mackay’s Moral: Vision is not so much what you think as how you think. If you can visualize it, you can make it happen. 


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Be Yourself

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At a Woodrow Wilson Foundation dinner in 2006, I was invited to be the emcee. Here’s what I said to kick off the occasion:

“I asked my wife, Carol Ann, what kind of words might suit the occasion. ‘Whatever you do,” she said,

  • ‘Don’t try to sound intellectual,
  • Don’t try to be sophisticated…or charming.
  • Just be yourself!’”

The roar of the crowd confirms how worldly wise Carol Ann’s advice was. Being yourself is hardly as easy as it sounds. For salespeople, sounding phony is a career kiss of death. Learn who your real self is and let it shine in the best possible light.


There are two myths about being yourself that deserve to be vaporized:

1. I can like everyone, if I set my mind to it. No, you can’t. And not everyone you meet will like you either. For every person you meet who says, “There are no strangers here, only friends we haven’t met,” there’s another who says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” There will be people who just never warm up to you, and there will be people you won’t want to get to know no matter how pleasant or charming they seem. The wise salesperson knows the difference between being friendly and polite to everyone versus sensing when there is real chemistry.

2. People who lie to each other are more likely to agree.  If only that were true. You can pick up many business magazines and find stories about how two friends went into business together and wound up mortal enemies. Good friends will either learn to discuss only those things they agree about or else just agree to disagree when they have differences.   U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch and the late Ted Kennedy were good friends, but you never heard either one praising the other’s political beliefs during Senate debates.

As Raymond Hull, Laurence J. Peter’s collaborator in The Peter Principle, put it:
“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.”

The doorway to being yourself is liking yourself. It is hard to have confidence in a salesperson who doesn’t like herself or himself.

Mackay’s Moral: Oscar Wilde had it right: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

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Take Your Work Seriously, Don’t Take Yourself Seriously

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“Dilbert,” which is carried in 1,100 newspapers, has helped us laugh at the crazy dynamics of the workplace. Now if we could only start laughing at ourselves.

The late and much beloved chief executive of Coca-Cola, Roberto Goizueta, had the ability. He could distance himself from a situation, and by standing back and observing things objectively, he could see the irony. Humor is a critical business weapon.

We’ve all worked for the humorless. There are the bosses whom I call “Rocky” who take on the whole world through earnestness. And we’re in big trouble if we don’t seem equally serious. We can’t joke that sales plunged one percent or that a supplier might not meet a deadline. In such offices you can cut the tension with a knife. And usually results aren’t what they could be.

No matter who’s the boss, we can still get a few laughs at our own expense–and be able to work better. A colleague of mine is a genius at this. If his plane is late and his blood pressure is rising, he distances himself. He often thinks to himself: “How will this ‘nightmare’ seem to me a year from now…a brief scene in this saga we call “life.” Another colleague, when stressed out, tries to imagine how he would explain his “predicament” to his six-year-old. Pretty quickly the concerns of the day start to sound ridiculous. He calls that “baby-proofing’ his consciousness.

There’s no excuse for total, self-aborted seriousness. It’s boring. It pushes others away from you. And it requires a whole lot of energy to assume such a world view. Oh, of course, there are times for seriousness. But we all know when they are. If the company can’t seem to achieve a turnaround there will be plenty of people focused solely on the bottom line. No chuckles there. When someone else has a problem, it’s showing respect to treat their situation seriously. In addition, as we enter a company or grow into a new job, we can leave the levity to others. At my company there are few managers-in-training who are a barrel of laughs. Learning the ropes is definitely serious business.

On formal performance appraisals, it might be a good idea if we introduced the category “Can laugh at themselves.” In an organization where a little self-deprecation is encouraged, people are more likely to take risks and therefore make mistakes. In the current global marketplace, where there are a few precedents anymore, plenty of errors of judgement are going to be made.

Mackay’s Moral: Lighten up.

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4th-Quarter Game Changers

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Are life’s record smashing performances reserved for those sprightly early decades? Not for seasoned vets who know how to strew the seasoning.

  • Colonel Harland Sanders began franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 65, using $105 of his first Social Security check.
  • TV journalism maven Barbara Walters was 68 in 1997 when she cocreated The View and sold ABC on the idea. She and Joy Behar (now 68) are the only cohosts still with the show since its inception, which was lauded as “wildly different” from the get-go for its creative slant.
  • Management guru Peter Drucker wrote more than half of the 39 books to his credit when he was past the age of 65. And he was churning out riveting, fresh ideas into his 90s.
  • Angela Lansbury, 85 in 2011, wowed Broadway crowds two years earlier as the clairvoyant Madame Arcati in a revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Therewith Dame Angela carted off her fifth Tony in an illustrious career.
  • Roy Neuberger–investor, art collector and philanthropist–made an old-fashioned killing off the 1987 market crash. He was 107 when he died on Christmas Eve in 2010. In his autobiography, So Far, So Good: The First 94 Years, Neuberger wrote: “I am not as good a walker as I used to be. When I was 80, I could walk very long distances…Three times a week [at age 94] I work out with a personal trainer…In 45 minutes I do 42 exercises…It costs $45, so it’s a dollar a minute–well worth it.”

Each embraced the make-it-happen mind-set of the never sidelined former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Formidable “Little Nell,” as her pals knew her, served on the National Advisory Committee to the Peace Corps in her 70s and even pitched Good Luck margarine on TV, donating the proceeds to charity. “I could not, at any age,” she summed up her life, “be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside and simply look on.”

Most of us learn to be our very best only after years of hard-tested effort. Mark Twin nailed it when he said: “The first half of my life I went to school, the second half of my life I got an education.”

No one can beat an experienced and determined mind, able and willing to apply new lessons.

Mackay’s Moral: It’s no accident they’re called your golden years. 

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Courage–What Sets You Apart From The Crowd

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In his final broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News a few years ago Dan Rather paid homage to people around the world who daily struggle with danger, sickness, death, disease, poverty and other challenges. Rather concluded his broadcast with the same memorable ending he used 24 years earlier when he took over from Walter Cronkite. He often used to end his broadcasts this way–he’d look at the camera and say one word: “Courage.”

That sign-off intrigued me. Courage is regarded as a major human virtue. Courage is bravery, valor, standing up to danger, guts and nerve all rolled into one. I’m not a soldier, a policeman, a doctor or a relief worker. I’m a businessman. What does courage have to do with running a business?

Plenty. I admit that most folks’ daily lives are not filled with such dramatic challenges. We all face situations that require us to reach down deep within ourselves to do what is right and brave and occasionally difficult. Courage can involve making decisions that are unpopular or time-consuming or even expensive.

It’s easy to be ordinary. Courage is what sets you apart from the crowd…especially when the crowd checks out. 

In one of my all-time favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion is looking for, of course, courage. When he finally meets the Wizard, he has some questions (and answers):

What makes a King out of a slave? Courage

What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? Courage.

What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage.

What makes the Sphinx the Seventh Wonder? Courage.

What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage.

What makes the Hottentot so hot? Courage.

What puts the ape in apre-ricot? Courage.

Whatta they got that I ain’t got? Courage.

And you know what comes next: The Wizard awards the Cowardly Lion the Medal of Courage so he would always be brave. That’s something we could all use.

Mackay’s Moral: Courage is ordinary people doing extraordinary things. 
Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter for more tips on business, sales, leadership, networking, negotiating and life.

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Never Look A Gift Mule In The Mouth

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The real pros know how to motivate themselves before they start having bad days. They look at work differently, not just not just as a means of making a living, but as a significant part of a quality life. Their particular mix of attitude, responsibility, cooperation and accomplishment make them a valuable commodity in any organization.

Joan is a busy realtor with an active family who also manages to organize a sizable silent auction for her church and spends time helping at her kids’ school as well. Joan’s willingness to get the job done, no matter what the job happens to be, has earned her the respect and awe of everyone who has ever worked with her. Does she have boundless energy? No. She’s not even a morning person. Her secret? “I have exactly 24 hours to make life better than it was yesterday,” she says. Joan would probably laugh if I told her she was a mule.

The quiet asset of determination can be as awesome as it is invisible.

Mules, by the way, like their jobs and perform well as a result. If they find themselves getting in a rut, they stubbornly haul themselves out. That quiet determination is a huge asset in business. The ability to get over the bumps is frequently the difference between success and Chapter 11.
Mules are often hard to miss because of their size and stature–especially the strain known as Mammoth Jack. That’s why their contributions are routinely taken for granted. One thinks of the 6-foot-3 Detroit Red Wings center Johan Franzén. Dubbed “The Mule” by his teammates, Franzén can also catch fire. He has, for example, surpassed super-star Gordie Howe’s number of game-winning goals in a month, a remarkable five.

Rationality may be another enviable mule trait. “My favorite animal is the mule. He has more horse sense than a horse. He knows when to stop eating–and he knows when to stop working,” President Harry S. Truman once remarked. Being a Democrat, Truman’s bias for the son-of-a-donkey mule comes as no surprise.

The mules–steady, willing, get-the-job-done employees–are worth their weight in gold. Don’t confuse the reliable, day-in, day-out dependability with a lack of creativity. It’s usually the mules, the folks who are there, who find the creative solutions to everyday problems. They know how things work. Mules know what Woody Allen meant when he said, “80 percent of life is showing up.”

Mackay’s Moral: Being a mule beats being an ass any day.


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