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Let’s face it. Behind every business deal there are human beings charged with making the best decisions they can for the business.  And, it’s our common humanity that is the foundation of all business relationships. 

Why is this important? 

Conveying our humanity helps to further our connection—the sort of regular human connection that we all crave. Investing the time and effort in building relationships often helps others step outside their expected roles and may present new opportunities for learning about one another. 

So how does all this help win business? Surveys show that companies that provide an emotional connection with their customers or clients outperform the sales growth of their competitors. The human factor is a critical component in any leader’s toolkit for achieving superior and sustained results through teamwork.

How do we get there? 

Lead with gratitude and let it help establish your relationships.

The key to successfully landing a new client begins with being thankful for the opportunity to do business with them. By approaching each situation as a potential new friendship rather than a business transaction, you’re looking for opportunities to be helpful and find a common ground on which you can build a genuine relationship.

LISTENING to what people have to say is the very first step in showing someone you care. When you walk into a meeting, make it your first step to observe the room to get a feel for the place and the people—their expression, their posture, and what they say and don’t say. It is very important to set the tone of the meeting by putting others at ease.

SILENCE is a very important, and active, element of the exchange of observations and ideas in a meeting. This isn’t the kind of silence where you’re waiting for someone to finish talking so that you can finally express your point of view. This is silence as a mode of engagement—as active listening. Sometimes, all you have to do is wait and look people straight in the eyes. Through a lens of gratitude, they soon come to realize that you actually care about what they are saying. They know that they are being heard, and that in itself opens up all kinds of conversational possibilities.

By genuinely listening to a client’s needs and conveying your own humanity, it will not only change the dynamic in pitch meetings, it will help in your post-meeting follow up.

Making gratitude a core element of your business strategy is a winning recipe for boosting your connections and ultimately your sales. When approaching each potential client with gratitude, you may or may not win their business on that first encounter, but you will win their respect. They will remember the way you listened and responded to their needs.

Even when the fit is not quite right for that particular client, a connection has been built that will sooner or later lead to new business. Often this comes in the form of a referral to another potential client. Gratitude is a currency, and it comes full circle when a business referral comes in. There is no greater compliment for your business.

Why not make gratitude-based outward marketing a constant practice in your business and watch how it pays off in terms of client and customer loyalty? Contact us at MY BIG IDEA to learn more. 

Originally posted on Forbes.com

One of the most important communications between you and your business clients is a sincere expression of gratitude. It seems so obvious, yet in our transactional business world, a simple “thank you” is often overlooked.  

A failure to show your clients or customers that you appreciate them is a missed opportunity to further cement your business relationship with them and build customer loyalty.

Surveys show that 96 percent of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer a friend to the company. On top of this, a five-percent increase in customer retention can increase your company’s profitability by 75 percent.

Take a moment and reflect on these statistics. Then, ask yourself “what does gratitude have to do with customer service?”

The answer is everything. When your clients consistently receive top-level service from your business, you are building a loyal client base and their reasons for leaving are fewer. The best way to show your clients you appreciate their business is to give them what they expect, and then some, on-time, every time. In other words, gratitude is the key to retaining your existing clients, and your existing clients are generally a much easier sell than mining for new ones.

You can start expressing your gratitude by making commitments to your client that extend well past the current transaction. Keep the communication regular and solidify that long-term relationship. Consider engaging in team-building activities to create cohesiveness with all relevant members of your team and theirs. Or you might simply arrange meetings with your key client decision-makers on a face-to-face basis at regular (or spontaneous) intervals. When face-to-face is not an option, why not try the “virtual lunch” and share a relaxing meal over Zoom. You might be surprised how often random chat can lead to business opportunities.

Remember too, that your entire team are ambassadors for your brand. Every one of them must be encouraged to keep in touch, listen, and acknowledge the needs and issues of your current clients. How many times have you encountered a situation where you or a team member are too busy to make the time to respond, or don’t want to address a matter that’s clearly pressing for the person on the other side of the email? Making the effort to acknowledge the contact, respectfully following up, or being politely responsive even if you don’t have the answer are all behaviors influenced by gratitude.

We all expect our efforts to be at least acknowledged, if not appreciated, in some form or another. It’s just good business, let alone a basic human social practice, to express appreciation for other people’s time and input. Being thankful is a sign of respect. Such a simple gesture, yet so many of us fail to follow up or acknowledge the good that others do for us. Be present and accountable in responding to contacts, following up with teammates, or acknowledging your partners in business. Returning calls, being prompt, or acknowledging an email, even if it’s just to say “I’m swamped but will get back to you in a couple of days” are all signs of respect. Unfortunately, respect is something in such short supply today.

Remember this: when you lead with gratitude, you put yourself in a position of being accountable to others. When you are accountable to others, the possibility that you will rationalize potentially bad behavior or blame someone else is reduced, because you personally need to step up and take responsibility. That accountability, and the respect and consistency that follow from it is what keeps your customers loyal.

Delivery of excellent customer service combined with expressions of gratitude for customer loyalty are powerful motivators for continuing your business relationships. From my experience, when you demonstrate gratitude to your clients, the likelihood of capturing their loyalty to your brand grows exponentially leading to repeat business and customers helping your business succeed.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of gratitude? Check out our blog, where we explore new topics regularly.

Originally posted on Forbes.com

Showing gratitude can increase your happiness and help you feel more secure in the relationship.

A quick glance into your own life may reveal some refreshing insight: you have relationships that are thriving.

Why should you be grateful for the healthy relationships you have?

Healthy relationships improve your life. 

Not only do relationships enrich your life through connections with other people, they can affect your health in a positive way. When you are involved in a healthy relationship, you are more likely to see an improvement in your physical health. In fact, studies show that people who have at least one positive relationship will live longer, have lower blood pressure, experience less pain and heal faster than those who don’t.

How can you show gratitude for the healthy relationships you have in your life?

Recognize the value of your relationship.

A healthy relationship takes work and commitment. When you have strong ties to another person, it takes work to maintain your relationship.

Show your gratitude to your partner or friend.

It can begin with something simple, a sincere ‘Thank you’ for an act of kindness or service they’ve done. But showing gratitude has a cascading effect that is far from simple. It starts a cycle of gratitude that helps to strengthen the relationship over time. When you feel appreciated, you are more likely to look for additional ways to show your partner you care. They in turn, feel loved and valued so will look for ways to show their appreciation. 

Don’t take the relationship for granted.

A quick look at social media will remind you how important quality, healthy relationships are. Don’t overlook the importance of acknowledging how much you value your relationship with your partner. Put your appreciation into words - both verbal and written - to communicate how grateful you are for the relationship.

Give the relationship priority.

Maintaining a healthy relationship takes work. If you value the relationship, make it clear in the way you carve out time. Check on the health of the relationship frequently by spending time with the other person. Maintain regular contact and place a high value on the time you give the relationship.

Do the unexpected.

Complacency is the enemy of gratefulness. When things become stale in a relationship, it may be because things have become boring. Even when things are going well, falling into a pattern can reduce feelings of gratitude because the good things have become expected. Show your appreciation for others by going outside the norm. 

Be grateful for the healthy relationships in your life. How are you going to show your gratitude today?

Interested in learning more about gratitude? Check out our blog, where we explore new topics regularly.

Economies are in a constant state of fluctuation. As the markets go up and down, business executives and managers start to worry about the impact the changes will have on their bottom line.

In anticipation of a downturn, many leaders begin to make cuts in the budget to prevent their own financial crisis.

One of the first areas on the budget cut list seems to be employee training. It makes sense, at first.

Why waste money on training when every penny is needed to keep the company afloat?

The reality, however, is that employee training should be one of the last items cut from the budget if a company wishes to successfully make it through the hard times and continue to grow once the economy goes on an upswing.

Employee Training is Essential

The Association for Talent Development discovered that companies with a comprehensive employee training program had over 200% higher income per employee than those without.

Those numbers are significant when an employer relates “statistical data” to what is happening in their corporation. What manager would refuse an increase in sales of over 200%?

The idea of investing in an effective training program is often overlooked as a cost-saving measure. But rather than cutting training, employers who want to thrive during an economic downturn should increase their employee development programs.

Empowering employees through professional development can help prepare your company to accommodate rapid growth when the economy improves and instills a sense of loyalty in employees who recognize that management was investing in their success.

Employee training also ensures that each employee within the organization is equipped with the skills and tools they need to contribute to the company's success. 

Use the opportunity to cross train employees in new skills. Enhance their productivity with goal setting and time management programs. Offer management training programs to help management improve their skills at leading.

Many managers rely on the economic downturns to help retain employees. Who would leave a good job during a recession, after all? It’s true. Employees are less likely to seek alternative employment when the economy is shaky.

Unfortunately, this temporary reprieve from voluntary employee departures will disappear as soon as the economy starts to grow. In fact, the number of voluntary departures often skyrockets once the economy recovers as a result of what happened during the downturn.

Employees who survived downsizings may grow resentful at their increased workload and decreased salary. Pay-cuts can demoralize employees who view higher paid executives with distrust. Fear and anxiety as a result of management’s lack of communication with employees may cause employees to jump ship for what they deem is a more secure job.

Employee Training Improves Engagement

The truth is, most employees indicate that one of the main reasons they leave a job is conflict with management. A strained relationship, a lack of support and dismal communication all contribute to employees wanting to look elsewhere for work.

The counterpart to a bad relationship with management, however, is that a strong relationship between the employee and management can compel an employee to stay. During times of stress, a strong sense of trust and respect will assist employees in feeling secure in their job.

Want your employees to trust you? Demonstrate your trust in them by offering them training to improve their skills. Further, an employee who has a clear sense of their importance to the company and a strong connection to management will have increased levels of engagement.

An employee who is engaged and committed to their employer will not be phased by economic swings, either up or down.

What training programs can you implement during lean times in preparation for an economic upturn?

Learn more about employee training at MY BIG IDEA, or book a one-on-one meeting with us to find the right program for your organization. 

Imagine, for a moment, that you have been drafted to a sports team. You show up on the first day, excited (maybe a bit nervous), ready to jump in and join the team.

You arrive and someone gives you a tour: cafeteria, snack machines, equipment room, and introduces you to several of the key players you’ll be interacting with. You get your uniform, a key to the building and you settle in.

The next few days may be filled with meetings as you acclimate to the new team, but then it’s game time. You start playing in the games, but sometimes you’re not sure what play is being used. Once in a while, the coach calls for a new play that no one seems to understand. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you wonder if there’s a bigger picture, or if everyone on the team is even playing the same game.

The coach is busy, the other players are busy and there never seems to be time to learn the plays. At the end of the season, the coach throws a big party to celebrate the year’s accomplishments, and a new season begins. You’re happy to be part of the team, but you’re left wondering if you really have a vital part in the process.

There’s not much chance of success from a sports team that doesn’t practice. Even the most junior level programs have weekly practice sessions. College and professional teams have intensive camps with multiple daily practices scheduled, and they regularly train on plays and strategies.

In the workplace, however, employees are often given minimal training and expected to perform at a high level of success. Developing a systematic training program is fundamental for the organization that wants to see unparalleled success and performance.

What Does a Systematic Training Program Look Like?

A training program designed for success includes a few key elements.

Kick Off

Similar to the training camp starting events that signify the beginning of a sports season, begin your training program season with a kickoff event that highlights the theme of the training, informs employees about the scope of what will be covered and helps to generate excitement about the training program. 

Include upper levels of management to demonstrate to the team that the training is important and has the support of the top level of employees.

Training Sessions

Regularly scheduled training (ideally held weekly) can enhance the success rate of the program. Introduce the employees to goal setting and offer instruction in how to utilize the process as part of their training regimen.

Scheduled Evaluations

While your company may not compete in “games,” the world of business is essentially a competition. Whether you consider it a win based on sales, number of satisfied customers or customer retention rates, use the goal setting process to track the training. 

Hold regular group and individual evaluations to determine how the entire company is utilizing the training.

Celebrations

Annual parties, quarterly luncheons, end of year dinners are all essential to a successful systematic training program. Make a big deal of the wins and cheer on the members of the team as they continue to work toward their goals.

Don’t leave your company’s success to chance. Implement a systematic training program that can move your employees to the next level of productivity. Not sure where to begin? The goal-setting experts at My Big Idea® can help you establish the right type of program for your company.

Book a discovery call with us today

During this season of thanks, we should all sit back and reflect on what, and more importantly, for whom, we are grateful. 

According to psychologist Daniel J. Levitin:

“Gratitude is an important and often overlooked emotion and state of mind. Gratitude causes us to focus on what’s good about our lives rather than what’s bad, shifting our outlook toward the positive.” And, those “who practice gratitude simply feel happier.”

So, when you sit around the dining room table this holiday season, take a good look at the family and friends around you. Was the last Thanksgiving dinner the last interaction with them you can remember? Have you tried to engage in any meaningful conversation? How have the last few years impacted their lives? Are the same old family tensions pervading the conversation?  

The holiday season is a reminder for all of us to appreciate one another.

It’s a time to demonstrate our support and commitment to our family, friends, colleagues, and communities. 

By expressing gratitude and demonstrating empathy at work, we build a happier, healthier team. Put a lens of gratitude over everything you say, see and hear, and encourage others to do the same.

At the family table as well as in the office meeting room, you can be instrumental in easing tension and moving the conversation forward by sharing a grateful attitude with others.  Observe and listen before speaking. You may very well find yourself rethinking what you have to say. When interacting with others from a place of understanding and appreciation for their point of view, the conversation is naturally more enriching for all concerned. Gratitude motivates, and when others feel they have been treated with consideration, they tend to be more compassionate and willing to share.

Make gratitude part of your personal brand and lead with it.

When you are genuine, and lead by example, you build relationships based on trust and loyalty. This is key to building a team that will drive your business forward. Just like at the family holiday table, you need to be open and honest and ask others to share information about themselves, their experiences, needs, and wants. That’s when you get a glimpse into the personal drivers of others, connecting on a human level and setting a foundation on which you can start to build stronger relationships.

Every one of us got to where we are in life with the help of others along the way, but rarely do we slow down and take the time to thank those people for the small and not-so-small ways they improve our lives. Connections in our personal and professional lives have all impacted our life’s journey, and such alliances will not only help us achieve our goals but also energize us and create considerable goodwill.

Showing gratitude doesn’t always mean graciously accepting the opinions of others when you are certain something is wrong. Sometimes, you need to ruffle a few feathers to get others to listen.  A well-intentioned lively conversation could very well lead to the kind of disruption that is the catalyst needed for change. Sometimes we just need to dig in and express our opinion regardless of the potential reaction. Before doing so however, make sure you have truly listened to your family, friends, employees, customers, and others. Without actively listening, you will find it difficult to anticipate their reactions and expectations.

Making gratitude a habit means incorporating it into your day-to-day practice and that takes personal commitment. Think about what you can do and for whom you can do it every day. Gratefulness is an attitude. We need to express it and exchange it. In my experience, gratitude is the currency that builds trust and loyalty in our personal and professional relationships.  

Especially in difficult times, we can and should embrace and feel gratitude for what we do have—especially our relationships. After all, in times of crisis, it’s our relationships that keep us going. Our collective prioritization of gratitude for what we have, especially our relationships, is something we all need to celebrate.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of gratitude? Check out our blog, where we explore new topics regularly.

Originally posted on Forbes.com.

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