Leadership: How to bring people together

Free beer.

Seriously.

No need to make it all complicated; trust me, free beer will attract a crowd, even if it’s not top shelf.

Did you really expect me to have something profound to say? I do speak from experience however. I kiddingly say I’m the working homeless; showing up at every networking event where there is free drink and food. And I have been to some god-awful networking events, but as long as you feed me, you can have some of my time.

Are the young gay Nazi’s for Christ really a 501c3 organization? 

Did he just say that? I don’t think he’s that young…

What does this have to do with leadership?

Not much I suppose. However, if you are buying the beer and it comes down to a flip of the coin who you want to be in charge, I’m guessing the beer guy will pull a few more votes.

Can I let you in on a little secret?

I have 4 posts in draft just waiting for me to pull the trigger. The more they sit the less likely they will ever see the light of day. The other dilemma I face as that black dot I have become keeps getting smaller and smaller and smaller, it truly is to the point, who cares?

This is not a boo hoo, who will miss me when I am gone post. Everything I have achieved or not achieved in here I am happy to say I have earned every bit of it.

Obviously, this post was done on a whim primarily so I would have something to post this week. Thanks goodness for Carolyn (bless her little ol’ heart), she saved me from crickets last week. When, not if the day of zero arrives, it truly might be my tipping point.

You can fish with crickets, my daddy taught me that.

I hope you are having a lovely summer so far.

Now I know how Hootie must have felt

Hootie who? Hey, where did everybody go?

You know, Hootie and the Blowfish. And no, Darius Rucker was not Hootie even though he was the front man for the band.

There was a period of time, this band was the hottest thing around. What started out as essentially a garage band playing on college campuses blew up big time. How big?  Big as a blowfish

In interviews, they will tell you this was not their end-game and all the fame and fortune was somewhat surprising for them. They would have been perfectly content to keep playing smaller, more intimate venues while flying under the radar.

And then they were gone….

Did they run out of talent?

My guess would be no; maybe they just ran out of fresh ideas or desire once they hit the big time.

I know how they feel.

Back in the day when I was wildly popular and some considered me the next big thing, all I could see were clear, sunny skies on the horizon. It was incredible; there were some days I would have thousands er, uh hundreds several visitors a day and it was becoming a real challenge to maintain my lofty status because the bar had been set so high.

Where did they all go?

Well, I certainly didn’t become less talented; maybe I did get a little fat and lazy because the success came so easy to me….ok, ok maybe a lot fat and I have lazy down to a science.

But I still like to perform

Darius Rucker still goes out on the road and is perfectly content to perform for significantly smaller crowds, in fact he prefers it that way.

Of course, I would be content too if I hadn’t blown all my money I made in here the first time around.

There is a big difference doing something because you love it versus doing something because you have to and are desperate. And the smell of desperation is similar to stale BO, not a pleasant smell indeed and very noticeable.

But you didn’t pay your dues

What?

I was hangin’ and bangin’ with the best of them….ok, maybe not hanging with them but some actually knew me by name.

Well, that and $5 will get you a cafe latte at Starbucks. 

Let me ask you this question; do you like to read, listen to music? I certainly do, and think I am pretty good at both. It might not always be culturally correct material, but I can still do it with the best of them.

But just because I am really good at doing both does not mean I have the same level of talent on the production side. About the only instrument I could play would be a kazoo or a cow bell and even though I can write a blog post doesn’t necessarily mean I should, huh?

Did I say I was lazy?

I’m sorry if I disappointed you

I know you expected me to maintain my greatness, but I found it so hard to keep running with the big dogs. I was either going to have to start drinking much more heavily than I do now, quit my job, or start my own meth clinic like Walter White.

Therefore, that is the main reason I have decided to slide back into relatively obscurity; content to play the smaller venues and have the occasional patron come up and say “didn’t you used to be somebody?”

One thing I do know, if you set the bar low enough you will never be disappointed.

No wonder everybody left

Hopefully you know this is a tongue in cheek post, much ado about nothing.

The real genius behind this post was the fact my efforts last week looked like it might be my first where there was a real chance of not having a single comment.

And guess what? I didn’t freak out or rail against the social hierarchy for not including me on one of their lists or for never stopping by to visit.

Other than for my obvious brilliance I should expect no less considering how little effort I have tried to maintain any semblance of a social presence these days.

Maybe I’ll just stick to my reading and listening of music knowing I was destined to be a better consumer than a producer. Somebody’s got to buy this stuff, right?

Is this the one?

Let’s see if this gets less play than my last post; if it does, I will toast it, roast it, but certainly not boast it and just find somewhere else to be awesome for awhile.

Just remember, fame is fleeting so make sure you are well grounded to minimize the drama which allows you to just be your awesome self. I know I try to, hope you do too.

Ok, I’ll stop typing before you are tempted to grab a ballpoint pen and stick it in your ear…provided you got this far down the page.

I hope your summer is going well; mine is….see ya….

Is your cheese still being moved?

Is it ever, make it stop; this is an edited version of my original post from February 6, 2012; back when I used to be somebody…

If you are familiar with the bestselling book, ‘Who Moved My Cheese‘ you know it deals with change and how to deal with it in work and life. Sometimes too much change and turmoil makes me want to cut some cheese, that’s for sure. One thing I have come to expect, and that is don’t get too comfortable, whether it is life or business these days because change is just around the corner.

Most know my day job is commercial insurance sales; this is an old-school traditional job if there ever was one. The original model was you work extremely hard your first 3-5 years, ‘grow’ a book of business and put it on cruise control from there.

If you plan on that being your model today I would advise to not even bother because you might have a better chance of taking care of your career by picking a winning lottery number.

Change can be good

Change, because it has an element of the ‘unknown’ typically brings about a certain level of stress. And whereas too much stress might not be a good thing, it can actually work for you.

Although relaxation ought to be, um, relaxing, stress management has somehow become yet another pressing item on our to-do lists. We’re made to feel like failures if we can’t live in a state of balance. But some stress is good; great, even. The discomfort of stress is a sign that you are tackling life’s problems head-on. Stress also improves productivity and performance – at work, the gym – and your body will be stronger if you alternate periods of calm and heart-pounding excitement.

Some know of my trail bike riding exploits these days and you certainly have enough oh-shit, heart-pounding excitement moments just about every ride.

How it has worked for me

Some of you might also know I have been doing this ‘insurance gig’ for 30+ years……….all at the same place. Talk about a breeding ground for complacency. The good news is we have forward thinking management and try to be pro-active and relevant in a fast-paced information overload society. This means don’t get too comfortable in your chair, because you might have to move soon if they even let you keep your chair.

I certainly don’t want to be the ‘that’s the way we always did it‘ guy but try to set the example and lead the charge if I truly think it will benefit the corporation. We are an ESOP (employee owned – employee stock option plan) corporation so everybody’s performance impacts not only our success, but our ‘retirement’ account as well. If everybody has some skin in the game it’s a lot easier to hold everyone accountable.

Has all this change made me uncomfortable at times? Absolutely, but it has also kept it interesting, challenging and fresh. I feel my eagerness to learn and adapt also keeps me young at heart and always growing.

Other changes I see

There are quite a few of us in my community who entered the ‘social’ journey at about the same time. When we jumped on the hamster wheel we were led to believe more followers and more comments are how you succeed. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but you do have a tendency to ‘chase’ under that model; and it’s circular.

Just about everybody I know has varied from that model now they are deeper into their journey, and some have just given up. We are all smart enough to copy and emulate what we perceive as ‘success’ in here, but I feel we have come to the realization there really is no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’; it’s ultimately only ‘our way’.

Just like life, if you are going to be a survivor in here don’t get too comfortable in your seat. What is working for you today could be totally different in 30 days…or less; that is how fluid social is.

This is what keeps me going

Numero uno – it has to be fun; fun is a great motivator for me. I work plenty hard in my day job. In my ‘spare time‘ I’m a volunteer Guardian ad Litem and sit on several boards; all non-paying positions. Therefore, it’s important to find a fun factor in all, even if there is hard work involved.

The jury is still out for me if I have the motivation to take any of this social stuff any further than I already have. Not that I made any lists in the first place, but I don’t expect to make many in the future as well unless somebody is doing a ‘whatever happened to‘ list.

What about you?

Has traditional blogging run it’s course? Do you feel there are greater opportunities to be successful with a social platform now or has the newness worn off and most are on the other side of the curve right now?

Is the continual moving of cheese the new norm, or will we ever get back to being able to take a deep breath and actually enjoy the fruits of our labor before running off to the next big thing?

At the end of the day, what is important to you?

‘Invisible’ in 2013 – outside looking in

The big revelation

Online social has survived without me; albeit barely I assume, but last time I looked it seems to still be here. Amazingly however, when I pulled the plug there was no hangover, no withdrawals; I certainly missed the banter and repertoire, but  didn’t miss the hamster wheel. Also, no one was clamoring for the next great piece of fiction I had threatened to write either…imagine that…

Secondly, it was way too easy to revert back to my extremely busy and ultra-exciting life I had before online social. If you don’t believe me, just check my Facebook posts…edge of the seat kinda stuff, huh?

Thirdly (is that a word Josh?), business-wise I am better off right now than I was at this point last year; but not by as much as I expected. I thought the distraction of social could have been holding me back; apparently, I have to now come up with a different excuse.

Please forgive me

I thought being frivolous and doing a blog for the fun of it was sustainable. It might be for some and probably could still be for me as long as I’m willing to set the bar so low anything is acceptable. If somebody had been paying me for my time then maybe a different story, but then again I guess that is what everybody is trying to figure out so welcome to the club pal.

If I tricked you into signing up or hanging out, I hope you felt enriched in some way by our acquaintance while you were here; I know I sure enjoyed having you around.

But what can I say, these times are a changin‘…..

The landscape has changed

I still see some of my original friends slugging it out, but quite a few have dropped back like me. Is it because the economy is better and people have gone back to traditional jobs or was it too much of an effort in futility?

Also, I don’t know if the new wave that is now jumping in are flocking to the blogs like my group of peeps used to but my guess is the numbers appear to be down. That’s just a Billy assumption however, no statistical data or Google research to back up that statement. I guess if I’m not around then that must mean nobody else is either…:).

What I did learn

You can pretty much go as high as you want and felt like even I was able to crack the code a little bit and rub elbows with some of the elite goober smoochers in here at one time.

Just like most jobs, you have the two-percenters who have figured it out and are very successful by all outward appearances. Then you have the majority that do well enough to hang around but never quite getting to the quit the day job status. We all want to be at the top of the rung, but the reality is at this point pretty much what you see is what you are going to get. Therefore, you better start buying lottery tickets ’cause this is as good as it’s going to get…just kidding; anybody who is in here is still willing to still learn and try to make something of this in some form or fashion. Congrats to those who are still making the effort.

Oh, and by the way it will also require getting out of your comfort zone…and some elbow grease if you want sustainable success.

For most, getting out of your comfort zone is akin to public speaking. Did you know the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death for most people? I just fear missing my next meal…

What I really learned

In the beginning…it was new, fresh and exciting. Even though we were all different ages, there was a certain neutrality because of the relative anonymity of social and it felt we were all somewhat the same age. Even a creepy old guy like myself felt like I belonged and could act as silly as I wanted.

Now that I’ve been away it’s making me feel my years and question if this is really a younger person’s game after all. It’s much easier to be a spectator at this point than an actual participant. Where is that Easy button anyway?

It looks like the social platforms are here to stay so I’m thankful I at least took the time to master social 101 I suppose. It is still a tremendous networking opportunity and you can even do it sitting around your living room in your skivvies while turning your fingers orange by eating Cheetos; how cool is that?

I coulda been a contendah….

Yep, suppose I coulda, huh; couldn’t we all?

Blowin’, goin’, and growin’…if anything it feels more like a holding pattern now and doesn’t feel like I’ve lost any ground. How about you, do you feel you are much farther along than you were at this time last year? What’s your one big thing for 2014?

Who’s going to make the cut?

There is no win-win in sales….

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At least not in my world; and there is no crying in baseball so you can take that to the bank.

Want to know how my December started? 

I got fired.

Seriously.

Not from my job, but from a customer. A ten-year customer no less.

Out of the blue; I had been positioning myself to pick up another line of coverage we don’t currently write for them and next thing I know I’m getting a call telling me I’ve been fired, they gave my policy to someone else.

Say what?

Don’t you know who I am? 

What happened?

My customer was one of four defendants in a 6-year old suit finally coming to mediation. Their customer, the lead claimant and who they have a 30-year relationship with, essentially strong-armed them trying to get them to agree to a settlement; or they would fire them.

The problem?

My customer was not at fault and their insurance company I placed them with was more than generous to even offer a settlement to help preserve the relationship my insured had with their customer. But it wasn’t enough.

You can be right, and you can be dead right.

I feel our insurance company did more than they were legally obligated to do. And if we go to court this will be proven out. However, if we go to trial, regardless of the outcome, my customer is being told by their customer they will never work for this company again.

Ouch.

I know all the parties on both sides of this opportunity so on the surface, just find a way to make it work, huh Dorman?

What did you do wrong?

In my eyes, nothing. All the right players were in place and this claim was being handled not only well, but better than expected.

But not in the eyes of my customer. He thought I should have done more.

He fired me.

Ho, ho, ho; Merry Christmas

The good news when we get fired like this mid-term, we actually have a 10-day grace period to get them to change their mind.

Fortunately there was a cooling off period and through several phone calls and being able to tell the rest of the story; on the 10th day we were back in.

Do you really have the stomach for this?

That was only one story; January 1 is our biggest renewal date and December is our busiest month leading up to this date. I had two other top-10 accounts potentially going bye-bye as well.

Ho, ho, ho; Merry Christmas.

The good news is, not only did I retain both but actually grew them as well. Essentially, I will be getting a raise on each.

However, the reality is in my world, in order for me to write a new account, somebody has to get fired. While I might be savoring the thrill of victory; somebody else is crying in their beer because they just got fired.

Been there, done that on both sides; I know the feelings quite well.

So there is no win-win; I either write the account or I don’t. If I don’t, it’s like being complimented on a nice putt that doesn’t go in. I’ve had enough practice in my time, coming close but no cigar does me no good.

The moral of the story?

Whereas there was a particular time in this month of December there was a good chance I was going to be getting kicked squarely between the legs; I didn’t get too high or too low and just did the best we could, which ended up being good enough…this time.

I’m in this business because I truly like helping people. For those who see me as just a salesman, shame on me for not telling my story and aligning myself with like-minded customers.

Sales can look very easy on the outside looking in but let me assure you it’s not for the faint at heart; especially when your income each and every month is 100% commission. I have no guaranteed salary…..ever.

I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else; except maybe being a sportswriter and/or having a sports radio talk show. But that’s another story…..

How well do you sell yourself? What is your brand? If someone asks your friends what you do; what will their response be?

If people don’t know exactly what you do; why would they utilize your services or refer you to others?

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I will close with this; just remember what happens when you assume anything. Something about a donkey’s butt and you and me; and it usually doesn’t end well.

The end.

Seriously.

I believe he just fell off a cliff…

Where did he go? He was just standing right here…..

Here today, gone tomorrow

A funny thing happened on the way to the store; somebody got lost and decided to stop in the neighborhood tavern to grab directions and a drink. When his eyes finally adjusted to his surroundings he could see there were a few people like him in there, but it was a totally different crowd from where he came.

The beer was cold, the people were friendly, but different.

But inviting.

He felt comfortable and had the strong sense that things might never be the same again.

He could still see all his friends outside, but that beer sure tasted good. He was content to tell the barkeep, “I’ll have another.”

Social etiquette

I will be the first one to preach that if you want any type of community you had better be willing to give a lot more than you expect to get. This means visiting and sharing with others…..consistently.

I’m at the crossroads. My little hiatus from blogging has shown me a few areas I should have been paying more attention to. The fog of social and community development had literally turned my mind to mush and pulled me pretty far down in the weeds so as to cause neglect in these areas.

What does this mean?

That looks like Billy, only smaller; what happened to him?

If it’s social, then I’m all in

As I prepare for 2013, we have some really great things happening at Lanier Upshaw; things are definitely on the upswing and there is a renewed energy and enthusiasm I want to be a part of.

Some of it is social and social platform related and I will have a big role in how this develops.

I know where I came from and have made some really great friends in here. I didn’t want to fall off the cliff and just go dark, but how viable is a personal blog if I can’t commit to doing my part and visiting others?

I certainly like to write, but how selfish is it it if becomes one-way communication only? We all know if you are a beginner and this is your MO you will never grow a community.

Who turned out the lights?

I’m not thrilled about the prospect of going dark, but I’m less thrilled about talking to myself in an empty room.

I’m certainly not going away but as I go through my next social evolution, you are more apt to see me around Lanier Upshaw or LinkedIn.

I don’t want you to think I’m cheating on you or I have become too big for my britches and don’t need you anymore; it’s just part of the inevitable change that is bound to occur for all of us eventually.

So, it’s not goodbye…

It’s just goodnight for now and if you see me, please say ‘hi,’ I promise I will make eye contact.

Best of luck to you and your journey; just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

That.is.all.

Pardon my dust, brain under construction

Clarity, perspective, the ah-ha moment; call it what you will, but unplugging for a week did not produce the direction and vision I anticipated. There have been a few times when life and work got in the way, but for the most part I have been running on this hamster wheel since March of 2011.

Even though I was officially unplugged for the past week, I still had my iPhone so it wasn’t like I couldn’t see all the activity. And Sunday when I finally got back to my computer to clean up and catch up it brought up the age old question, “does any of this really matter?”

As I sat contemplating what to write for my Monday post, I had several topics I could have easily touched on especially coming off a guy’s golf outing, but I had nothing; no desire to even post or jump back in the game for now.

How sustainable is your success?

As you scratch and claw your way to something you can reasonably call success, how sustainable is it really? If you took a 30-day moratorium, would there be anything left when you came back? If you are a solopreneur, probably not much, unfortunately.

At least in my day job I have a highly qualified team of people that have only one job to do while they work for me and that is to make Billy look good. I say this jokingly, but to keep it real simple, if they are making me look good then everything is working like it is supposed to.

I don’t have that kind of street cred with my social platform and as I see alliances and partnerships being formed, I have to ask, “is it still just a time suck or is it leading to sustainable success?” In other words, who is going to pay me for my time?

I also like to poke fun at myself for never making any lists, but I have made plenty and most recently my dear friend Adrienne Smith was kind enough to put me on her My Blogging Friends Rock list. And I do rock in case you were wondering; hey, it was a legitimate recognition, she wasn’t just giving me a mercy nod…:).

But what does that really mean? What if you are (or are not) the featured #FollowFriday? That and $3 will get you a Venti Redeye at Starbucks. Does this kind of recognition catapult you to the next level or is it just a feel good moment?

And my friend Adam does have a Starbucks story btw…..

I’m not very social anymore

As I try to evaluate my purpose and direction I have come to realize the extent of my socialness is in the blogs. My non-social friends think I tweet a lot and should know about every current event regardless of where it is occurring because surely someone tweeted about it.

I don’t know Jack Squat……….

99% of my tweets are coming from Triberr or when I promote someone else’s post; is that really being social? Is that being effective promoting others?

Does that make me king of the hill or is it still just a house of cards?

20 months into this thing, nobody still cares if I go to Starbucks so don’t look for me to tweet about it.

What does it mean then?

It means my posting schedule could change and instead of being Steady Eddie, it could be more along the lines of when the mood strikes. This applies to my commenting as well; I really want to spend time with all my friends, but I’m looking for a hall pass as it will be on as a time permits basis as well.

I want to start interacting again with my tweets; this means I will be more selective on how I promote posts and will be looking for ways to encourage feedback or acknowledgement. It is still ok to have two-way communication through tweets, right?

A new platform. I’m on LinkedIn pretty much in name only. However, I do know it is the most robust business platform so I will be devoting more time here to find ways to use it more effectively. Out of all the platforms, LinkedIn probably is the best fit for my business efforts in social. Also, now that my son is on board at Lanier Upshaw, I think LinkedIn will be a worthwhile social platform for him to become familiar with.

Finally, I plan on taking more of an ownership interest in the Lanier Upshaw blog. There is plenty to write about and hopefully I can de-mystify some of the unknowns consumers have to deal with in the world of insurance, other than just buying a policy.

Drum roll please…

That’s it; that’s my epiphany ’cause that’s all I got. You wanted direction; well, you got mine for now.

It could change next week.

Stay tuned on Thursday as I will have Erin Feldman dropping by; I tried to give her my blog but she wouldn’t take it. However, her post will be very timely indeed. She knows how to Write Right.

This blogging gig is hard work

Ah, the ebb and flow of social; it’s interesting to see who is still around visiting, who’s around but on a different mission, or just flat-out couldn’t keep the pace.

For those no longer around but ultra-focused on taking it to the next level but no longer have time to be social, or at least social in all the wrong places, best of luck to you and I’m glad we had the opportunity to meet.

You got in social for a reason and hopefully it is still a platform you can use to help fuel your success.

I just read about this on another blog

Me too and it was someone who I spent a lot of my early days with. However, it was obvious to me since I was a few rungs below them in the perceived social hierarchy, I would not be enough of a stepping stone to advance them.

Let’s just say we both sought greener pastures.

Life in the big city.

And that’s fine; that’s their model, and they are on a mission.

I hope they make it big and hope it’s sustainable.

Sincerely.

Who is left?

I don’t need to name names, they are here on a pretty consistent basis. I know how fluid social is so anybody that has been around more than a year is a pretty big deal.

I did have a surprise though.

Jayme Soulati who I’ve known since my early days posted a repeat of her post of 8/8/11 at Spin Sucks this weekend. The cool thing was, I had commented on her original post.

I might be doing the same ol’ thing, but at least I’m still around, right?

It can’t last forever

Nothing lasts forever.

I have a few long-timers in my community I can tell are on the way out. They won’t need to say goodbye, but they keep getting smaller and smaller on the horizon.

And it’s kind of sad because you do become friends with your community. However, we all know life, other endeavors, lack of interest, or no perceived value will contribute to the exodus.

Life in my town.

This is what happens when you just show up

Even though I haven’t changed much from my early days, you certainly can’t say I haven’t been consistent.

Whereas some might think I should have grown a lot more than I have, at least I’ve been true to my mission so far.

But that has probably been to my detriment as it seems sometimes the glue is just not sticky enough to keep the community close.

The big hairy experiment

So much of a coincidence it is actually kind of scary. I wanted to reference one of my earlier posts to make my point and take a wild guess what day I posted The Big Hairy Experiment; yep, also 8/8/11.

Gives you goose bumps, huh? Must be Halloween……..:). Ok, maybe not that big of a deal but still uncanny.

What is your point this time? 

I thought my Monday post this week was somewhat witty, catchy and reverent. I also thought it was one of my better written posts, but that is only my opinion.

Monday traffic was pretty healthy; however, Tuesday looked like Saturday or Sunday traffic for some reason. And even the comments were way down.  I don’t rely too much on measurement, but is that a sign; a harbinger of things to come?

I never put too much stock in one post, but I just have a feeling it’s getting harder and harder for some to make an appearance.

The last thing I want is for people to just show up out of some sense of social obligation.

And if it’s time, it’s time and I certainly wish you well.

Was that your point?

Really?

My point is, my son’s first day at Lanier Upshaw is today; Wednesday 10/17/12.

Because he was family he probably had to jump through twice as many hoops as anybody else would. He did extremely well and I’m very proud of him.

I want to observe how his first week goes.

Next week, I’m playing in a 4-day golf tournament with 15 of my buddies from FLA, IA, WI, MI & OH. It’s 8 on 8 Ryder Cup Style format and I won’t be on social.

Therefore, this post might be my last social act until November. This is my big hairy experiment and based on every thing I touched on in this missive; the timing is probably right.

I’m sure my absence will not leave a gaping hole in the blogosphere, but have fun while I’m gone.

That.is.all.