The Importance of Getting 'Pumped Up' Every Day
Getting Yourself "Pumped-Up" Every Day
After my first six or seven years working in the white-collar world, I was promoted to my first managerial/supervisory job. It was a fairly small, focused role, leading technology research in a part of the IT department. I had a small team, maybe five people reporting to me. The staff on the team was fantastic, mostly higher-potential employees, and we had a great time together while doing some very good work.
I did not learn too much about being a leader in that role, since I did not get any specific managerial or leadership training, so I bumbled about making all the normal mistakes that new managers do.
After this role, I took on five more roles, three of those being a manager of a much larger team and much larger function within the business. In each of those roles, I learned a lot, but not nearly as much as the next role where I was promoted to lead a major division of the company. In this role, I truly was engaged with the customer because the role entailed traveling globally to visit a myriad of customers, in all parts of the world.
Since I had never been in a sales role for the company before, I definitely made many rookie mistakes, but I found that by far, this was the most exciting role that I had in the organization. For the first time in my career, I was spending a lot of time getting to know customers, understanding their problems, hearing first-hand how our company was performing for them, and hearing about our competitors, as well. I found this new part of the business absolutely captivating, and more importantly, I found out quickly that the weight of what customers said to me was much more important inside the company than anything said by an employee without customer contact. As a result, in company meetings, when I could talk about specific issues that our customers were having, everyone listened intently, seeming to hang on every word. It was so refreshing to have other employees listening to me in a much different way than ever before.
I also developed a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for those sales employees that were in the field every day, calling on customers, spending significant hours each week working on customer issues, trying to generate new sales, and solving problems. But they also were responsible for keeping management apprised with what was going on in the field. I saw many examples of sales professionals working so hard for customers that their families took a back seat all too often. Many customers also get into situations where they enjoy being entertained by their sales rep, attending a sporting event, or attending a company training event, etc. Those sales reps normally have to stay up as late as the customer wants to, and a few customers take advantage of the situation to have a few drinks after dinner or a late snack, not realizing that their sales rep has to get up early the next day and start all over again. I had the luxury in most cases to exit some of those later evening discussions with customers, since I usually had evening teleconferences or preparation I had to do for the next day. But the sales professional, in most cases, prioritizes that customer over everything else. They do an outstanding job in the great majority of cases, sometimes at the expense of other parts of their lives.
I overheard my manager saying one day to a group of sales employees, “When a customer asks me how I am doing, I always reply the same way on Mondays, the same way on Tuesdays, the same way on Wednesdays, etc.” What in the world did he mean? “I am ‘magnificent’ on Mondays, ‘terrific’ on Tuesdays, ‘wonderful’ on Wednesdays, ‘terrific’ again on Thursdays, and ‘fantastic’ on Fridays.”
This seemed like something of little value to me, until someone asked why he always used those words. “Well, for one, I don’t have to think much; I just ask myself what day of the week it is, and my answer is easy to remember. Second, it reminds me that the customer doesn’t really want to know if you are feeling like crap or that you have a cold or that you did not sleep well; they were just asking to be polite. And who wants to have a business discussion with someone who is a downer?”
Hmm, this was interesting, but I was still not convinced this was all that important. So, in joint sales calls, I watched my manager in interactions with customers. He actually did use the ‘marvelous, terrific, wonderful’ words as he said he did. But what was most amazing is that he always, and I mean always, acted like he just had the greatest prior day or evening or the greatest breakfast or the greatest meeting and just always seemed on top of the world.
I later asked him if he didn’t worry that customers might think that he was not being genuine in always having a great energy and positivity about him. “Well, you have to remember, any individual customer might see me once or twice in a year max, so they likely won’t remember what I said anyway when they ask me how I am doing. But who wants to hang out with, or talk to, someone with low energy or someone who is not feeling well or someone who had a bad day the day before? Nobody! Plus, being positive and energetic seems to carry over to the customer also. They perk up and seem to enjoy the discussions a lot more. Plus, when you put it in perspective, you should say you are on top of the world because, think about it, you are in a great leadership role, you work for a great company, you have a great family, you are healthy, you have wonderful friends, and you have the opportunity to talk to a very good customer. Who would not be terrific when you think about it like that?”
He was absolutely right, and I wish I could bottle that speech for everyone in the working world. We all tend to get mired in day-to-day problems, and we all have a tendency to focus upon the negative things versus the positive things in our lives. The key is having perspective to see the bigger picture. And having a positive style when talking to others is such an asset for everyone in every job. That lesson sank in pretty quickly, and I quickly got into the habit of preparing myself every day as if that day was my own Super Bowl, regardless of if I was going to spend time with customers that day or not. I realized that I would never get to repeat the day ahead of me, and that all I could control was my attitude and energy in the day ahead. Clearly, some days turn out to be much better or worse than others, but I found that by starting each day being ‘pumped up’ and ready to go mentally, that it helped to keep my energy up throughout the day. I also reminded myself that I was getting a good paycheck (plus benefits such as health care) and that I needed to do my very best every day, not just some days or most days.
Of all lessons I learned, I think this one made the most difference for me in my career, and it is so simple! Yet, I am guessing that too few white-collar workers have ever heard that lesson or had someone talk to them about it.
But don’t you get tired of always being ‘on’ when you are doing your job? Well, I have to admit, at the end of the day, sometimes I was very tired and did not feel like talking anymore when I went home. But then, I realized that if I just ‘shut down’ once I walked out of the office, my family and my wife would only see me at my worst, tired and not talking.
That of course is not fair, so I would use the twenty-minute drive home to decompress, clear my head, so that when I arrived home, I was as ‘pumped up’ as possible for my family and the evening ahead. Clearly, the older I became, the more important this was to me as I realized that attitude just means everything, or least, it means a great deal!