Category: <span>Articles</span>

There Is an “I” in Team

No, you don’t need glasses and you’re not reading a typo. While “There’s No “I” in Team” is a popular catch phrase imprinted on posters, stationery, and awards, I don’t think that tells the whole truth. Without a doubt, the synergy of a team does bring extraordinary results. But if it weren’t for the commitment and talent of the individuals who work collectively as a team, outcomes would not be so stellar.

The “I” in team is not a selfish one. Military battles would not be won, buildings would not be constructed, products would not be created, sports teams would not bring home trophies were it not for the men and women whose values and skills complemented the others.

Knute Rockne said, “The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven.” In 1980, Coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003, followed this strategy when he put together a U.S. Olympic hockey team that beat the Soviets in Lake Placid. In the movie, Miracle, which told the 1980 Olympic team story, Brooks said, “I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right players.”

These coaches created a culture of team success by setting the bar extraordinarily high for each person to play his best for his position. And each of their players assumed total responsibility for his performance. It’s a combination of hiring right, clear performance standards, individual skill and personal accountability that creates winning teams.

Here are some thoughts on how your agency can enhance the “I” in team to achieve exceptional results.

Break down the silos. I speak with hundreds of agencies a year who have separate Personal Lines, Commercial Lines, and Benefits departments. Whether the business employs fifteen or fifty, I regularly hear frustration expressed in the form of “them” and “us.” A few reasons for this include one department not understanding what another department does, management decisions made uniformly without regard to different businesses, employees, or customer needs, or business decisions communicated inconsistently.

Here are four strategies to break down the silos:

1. Utilize a company Intranet program to post vacation dates, employee additions, accomplishments, agency news, educational offerings, scheduled guests, and so on. Give everyone equal access to company information to break down silos.
2. Schedule formal shadow training sessions for all employees. Shadow training is when an employee spends time with individuals in departments other than his or her own. First-hand observation of other departments, jobs, and customer interactions bring understanding and cooperation between different business operations.
3. Schedule monthly state-of-the-office meetings led by agency leaders. Review what’s new in each department including personnel, technology, carrier changes, etc. Even if some of these topics are on the Intranet, a live exchange and the ability to ask questions and be involved is crucial for “I” success.
4. Top agency leaders should interview employees individually to gain insight into their world and solicit ideas every year. Employee input leads to enhanced employee and customer satisfaction, productivity, and profit. Humanizing the leader/employee relationship strengthens both parties.

What will you do to break down the silos and develop stronger “I’s” on your team?

Trust. As an inexperienced commercial casualty underwriter, I resisted delegating work to others on my team. I believed I could do things faster myself, do a better job than a coworker, or didn’t trust the job would be done on time. My supervisor strongly encouraged me to delegate and put it to me this way. “Not letting others do the job we’ve hired them to do is an insult to them. Not delegating according to how the organization is built can be perceived as doubting others’ ability and intelligence and undermines their contribution to the organization. Every person is of value to the team and deserves trust and respect.”

Support the “I” in team by trusting others to do the job they’ve been hired to do.

Think from your customers’ point of view.

Here are two very different approaches to the “I” in team and how two agencies addressed customer needs and expectations.

Two independent agencies in a small town of 25,000 people were entering into a merger. The merged business was taking on a new name and moving to a new location to house both agency operations. The agency principals saw to it that press releases were done, letters were mailed to all customers, and effective print ads appeared in the local newspapers. Even with these good marketing efforts, the staff wondered whether the customers would read about the change and if so, how the change would be perceived. One of the Personal Account Managers suggested that she and her three counterparts call each of their 800 customers personally. They all agreed and within the first ninety days of the merger, all 3200 personal lines customers were contacted by phone. It was team effort of “I’s” that got their message out and set the standard for the proactive culture of this new agency venture.

For some agencies, developing the “I” in team may extend to partners outside the organization. Many insurance companies offer customer service centers to help agencies sell and service personal lines and small commercial business. Agencies who take advantage of this service include those who have difficulty hiring for those positions or whose business plans target larger revenue or specialty classes of business, yet they still need to provide these coverages to some customers.

In both situations, agencies developed “I” strategies to strengthen the team, their brand, and to raise the individual level of service to the customer. Ask your staff for suggestions to better serve your customers.

Offer career development opportunities and strategies.

I love attending live theater. Even with the best preparation by cast and crew, live productions always have an element of uncertainty as to how things will play out – not unlike our business world. But in the theater world, the old adage “the show must go on” is taken very seriously. Each role has appointed understudies to step in when necessary. Some understudies must learn two or three different roles in one production. For many understudies, it’s their training for and performance of larger roles that boost their confidence and careers to new heights. Even more important, it’s the commitment of these “I’s” to the team that makes certain customer expectations are met.

What roles are the members of your team preparing for? What skill development, designations, and customer knowledge should the “I’s” be learning and training for so the team will always be ready when the curtain goes up?

Team success depends on consistent top performance of individuals. Break down corporate silos, trust each other, keep the customer’s point of view in mind, and nurture individual careers to find your “I’s” in team.

How does your work attitude influence your family?

Every parent has a desire to raise his or her child to be responsible, kind, tolerant of others, and eventually self-sufficient. Working mothers and fathers invest both time and money in day care, education, and extra-curricular activities including sports, the arts, and scouting to build their child’s sense of discipline and strength of character. Yet one of the greatest influences on a child’s future and ability to earn a living is often overlooked – how parents conduct themselves at home with regard to their work.

I have a neighbor who has had four jobs in ten years. In each situation, the story is the same; bad job, bad boss, bad coworkers. Not so coincidentally, in the same period of time, her child has changed schools three times. Why? Bad school, bad teachers, bad students.

A job hopper who consistently blames others for unsatisfactory work situations is providing a role model to his or her children that when something is amiss, it’s someone else’s fault. Granted, some work situations are destructive and an employee needs to get out and move on. But children and adults need to learn how to navigate and work through routine life challenges including not-so-perfect environments, authority, and peers.

What message do you send to your family about work ethic and responsibilities? How do you talk about your boss and coworkers? What do you say about your work challenges? Here are some things to think about regarding your influence on your family’s view of work.

Does your work attire convey professionalism? It’s not surprising that the professional standards of work attire have deteriorated. Sports and leisure wear have become the norm in schools, churches, and restaurants. I firmly believe that a person’s choice of clothing in the office affects job performance. Businesses who have returned to traditional business attire agree with me. Do your children see a difference between weekend wear and work clothing? What’s appropriate office attire? Important client meeting attire? Dress-down day attire? Children are well served to witness and participate in the thought process of how parents choose to outfit themselves.

What work ethic do you convey? A long-time, very successful business friend of mine has two teenage daughters. In her household, Sundays are about getting ready for the week ahead. They plan and prepare their clothes, meals, activities and ride sharing, do homework, and check e-mails. Sunday evenings are low-key and they go to bed early. Both girls do well in school. My friend’s sixteen year-old daughter is working part-time at Target and her youngest works the lunch hour cafeteria shift at school. Why? Like most young teens they want their own money. But an even greater factor is that their parents have instilled a positive work ethic and have role modeled and equipped them with the skill set they need � planning, organizing, keeping agreements; to be productive and responsible workers. Do your household routines support a good work ethic?

Do you have a job or a career? What do your words and actions convey to your children about your long-term career plan? “They don’t pay me enough for this.” or “I’m going to take advantage of the learning and career advancement opportunities my employer offers.” Having taught for the National Alliance Society of CIC and James K. Ruble Graduate programs for over ten years, I’m continually impressed with the individual commitment and family support of program participants. Some families travel along, some show support by holding the fort at home allowing the student quiet time to stay and study at the hotel, and some pay their own tuition and travel costs because their employer does not financially endorse the program. Demonstrating a time commitment and mental resolve to further education and career advancement doesn’t just benefit the employee. It shows the family that getting what you want in life takes sacrifice and dedication.

What words do you use about work? Words, thoughts, and actions are all connected. If you find yourself continually talking about “problems” or “hate” certain things about what you do or people you work with, that negative energy is sent to those around you. My husband John continually reminds me of this. If I say “I hate cold weather,” John quietly says, “Hate is a very strong word.” He’s right. I don’t mean hate. Cold weather isn’t my favorite, it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient to me. But I don’t hate it. If I refer to something as a problem, John patiently asks what my challenge is. A problem is a burden, a challenge is an opportunity. Big difference. Changing language changes thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Pay attention to be sure what you say is what you mean. Avoid sending your family signals that don’t reflect your intention.

Do you set boundaries between work and home? In today’s highly connected cell phone, text messaging, and e-mail world, families are able to stay in touch as often as they want. That can pose a problem if left unchecked. We do have personal lives while working, but employees and families must recognize and control appropriate boundaries. A child should call his parent at work to check in, ask permission, or share a significant moment. Conversations should be brief. Other family members may have a need to confirm plans or be in contact on an ongoing situation. Other than that, extensive interruptions by family members that disrupt the employee’s workday is not fair to the employer, coworkers, or customers.

In defense of their position, employees who take personal calls at work complain, “What can I do?” Here’s what to do. Say, “Don’t call me to chat at work. It’s not fair to my employer, my coworkers, or my customers.” Send a clear message to your family that supports your work ethic and responsibilities on the job.

As Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers said, “It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny.” Leave a lasting legacy to your family by demonstrating positive attitudes and actions about your work life.

Emily Huling, CIC, CMC helps the insurance industry create top-performing sales and customer service organizations. She is the author of Selling from the Inside and Kick Your “But.” For information on her programs and products call 888-309-8802 or visit

Develop a Meaningful Culture

By Emily Huling, CIC, CMC

Take a minute and consider your office environment. Whether you’ve worked three years, ten years, or more than twenty, count how many workplace changes have taken place over that time. Technology advancements are too varied and numerous to mention. In addition, we now have four generations working together; each has differing attitudes, ideas, and business routines. The locations where we work have expanded. Most employees check work-related e-mail from home or work in any number of remote locations. Our knowledge has become specialized, generalized, or somewhere in between. With so much variation in who we are, where we work, and how we work, businesses are constantly challenged on how to create and maintain a consistent corporate culture that each person understands, embraces and — most important — practices. Here are some ideas that will help businesses get associates on the same page.

Create a company mantra. Forget the long, complex mission statement. Instead, think of words that capture the essence of your business and how you want others to perceive you. Here are a few examples of mantras created by my clients. We have ESP; Excellence Service Professionalism. Reflect the IMAGE; Initiative, Motivation, Accountability Generate Excellence. Make MAGIC; My Actions Generate Incredible Customer Service. Take PRIDE; Professionalism, Respect, Initiative Drive Excellence. Have small groups of employees brainstorm ideas of who you are and what you represent. In no time, you;ll have several mantras from which to choose.

Adhere to best practices of performance. Flexibility and individuality are treasured by today’s workers. But don’t let personal preferences interfere with demonstrating high standards of professionalism in your company. No matter what a job entails, where it’s being executed, or by what experience level employee, specific standards should be uniform throughout an organization. Examples of these practices include changing your outgoing voice mail message daily and dating it, using a complete e-mail signature on all out-of-office correspondence, professional appearance norms, and keeping your desk and work area organized and clutter free.

These tipping points; the little things that make the big difference; are the fundamentals that solidify and strengthen your corporate culture. Whether you call these ideals your constitution, principles, or best practices, all associates should be held accountable for carrying them out.

Focus on your customers. Don’t become consumed with what you can’t do or what your competition does. Your existing customers have chosen to do business with you. Use them as a resource to tell you what you’re doing right and advise you on what you can improve, add, or change. Survey customers in person, use written surveys or employ the help of a consultant to facilitate focus groups. Information from your own customers is the most meaningful you’ll find.

Let employees be your advertising. Can all of your associates explain what you do and why in sixty seconds? Do all of your employees have business cards and company logo apparel? When employees are trusted with promoting their company, accountability grows. Proud employees are the best public relations you can have.

Constantly recruit top-notch people. Good people attract good people. All associates should be on the watch to find candidates who are potential matches for your culture, standards, and work environment. Having a waiting list of those who want to work for your company is a great position to be in.

Partner only with firms that mirror your culture. We become who we spend time with; for good or bad. Customers, carriers, vendors, and your centers of influence should have the same integrity, professionalism and service standards that you do. Asking your employees to adhere to high standards and then compromising those expectations with your partners will undermine the culture you’ve created. Do business with those who reflect your values.

People want to work for a great company. It’s management’s responsibility to build and sustain a meaningful culture where individuals can be their best. When that happens, both the business and the people will grow and prosper. Isn’t that what business is all about?

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355

Family Business Avoid the Pitfalls

Your daughter announces that she, her husband John, and two children are moving back to your hometown to be closer to the family. “By the way, Mom,” she asks, “do you think Dad will give John a job at his insurance agency?” How can you say no?

Your wife bails you out when the bookkeeper suddenly resigns. Even with limited accounting knowledge, she easily uncovers billing errors, company statement mistakes, and posting inconsistencies. So when she volunteers to continue do that work in the evening for the agency, how can you say no?

You thought your dad was going to retire. The buyout is almost complete. He tells you he doesn’t know what he’ll do with himself if he doesn’t come into the office regularly. He offers to do the small tasks no one wants to do, take property pictures, go to the bank, handle the building maintenance odds and ends. How can you say no?

Truth is, you can say no, you just don’t want to. It’s family. Even though you know family members in the business can often cause trouble. So what can you do to avoid the pitfalls of employing family members?

Apply consistent employment practices. How do you dodge hiring a family member that is not well-suited to your business? Or if the person is already on board, how can you avoid performance issues? As with any new hire or valued employee, use tools such as a job description and personnel manual that clearly explain job expectations, office conduct, and accountabilities. Set up a job training schedule employing the assistance of coworkers and carriers. Utilize personality profiling and aptitude services to uncover issues that may affect job effectiveness. These resources are great management and employee development tools, family or not – and can help you handle uncomfortable situations by having an expert party or substantiation to defer to.

Clearly explain exact job duties. Even something as simple as taking pictures for insurance company underwriting requirements requires a procedure. What’s the expected turnaround time? What picture views are required by each company? Who’s responsible for downloading the pictures, attaching the picture to the client file, and letting the CSR or Producer know it’s done? When these details are not clearly outlined, frustration builds and productivity and attitudes are affected.

Everyone should follow established rules. Generally, family businesses are family friendly. Children are in the office when necessary; child care issues, doctor appointment coordination, and so on. Over time, the children of family members may take liberties that when left unchecked, become real problems. For example, family children in the office may not be a challenge when a young child sleeps or plays quietly bothering no one. A few years later, that same child is now tying up phone lines, downloading games from the Internet, and disrupting employees working in their offices. Workers may not feel comfortable addressing this situation with the owner and the situation compromises business professionalism.

Here’s another situation. An agency has a company policy that all visitors are to be announced and greeted in the reception area. Family members may think that rule doesn’t apply to them so their guests come and go. Employees may think it’s unfair to have a guideline in force that only applies to them, not family members.

Family members who take liberties with hours worked, office attire, personal phone calls, accounting guidelines and other business protocol not only lose credibility with coworkers, set a poor example that is modeled by non-family members. It’s critical that family members follow the same guidelines as every associate and be positive role models.

Recognize the perspective of non-family members. Right or wrong, non-family employees perceive and believe that family members share information with the owner. In many agencies, a family member handles the human resource function including payroll and benefits. Employees may find this person unapproachable, wondering if a conversation will be kept confidential or what impact certain private information will have on his or her job. Think twice about having family members handle personnel issues. If there is no other choice, recognize the situation employees are in.

Non-family members rarely advise the owner of jobs incorrectly done or the inappropriate behavior of family members. Owners often lament, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about that problem?” Easy answer; it’s your family and no one is talking (at least to the owner) about it.

Don’t allow employees to play one family member off another. “But I talked to your wife (or son, daughter, father) about …” is often used by employees to get what they want in a situation. All family members need to understand the limits and boundaries that exist in their job position. When a family member is approached about a matter that falls outside his or her responsibilities, refer the employee to the appropriate person.

While every family-owned agency situation is unique, they have one thing in common; at the end of the day, employees are not tied to the owners in any other way other than the business relationship. Family members are part of your lives forever. Recognizing, acknowledging and addressing the issues up front with all the parties involved will support an emotionally healthy and professional business environment.

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355

Get What You Want Out of Your Work Life

I wouldn’t wish a serious illness, death of a loved one, divorce, or the loss of a job on anyone. But those who have first-hand knowledge of these emotional upheavals know that these experiences cause us look inside ourselves to reassess our values and priorities. Do we have to wait for such an event to analyze what we want and how to get it? Of course not.

During coaching sessions with my clients, I hear recurring themes when I ask “What would you change to make your work life better?” Here is how I respond to those issues.

I want a boss who appreciates me. Your boss is only half the relationship. You are the other half and the only part over which you have control. We can’t change other people. Some bosses don’t praise. They feel the employment, pay, and benefits they offer show appreciation. So work on changing your expectations. In other words, expect no verbal praise. Do your job spectacularly. Demonstrate commitment and enthusiasm to your coworkers and clients. Improve your value to your boss and your company. Praise from your boss will come in the form he or she is comfortable with bonuses and raises. And you may even find a sincere pat on the back to accompany your success.

I want a boss who communicates with me. We have extra challenges today with so many employees working in offices separate from their bosses. In addition, everyone has a preferred method of communication. Some people work better talking things over. Others like to see the issues in writing, take time to think about them, then have the discussion or get back to the other person in writing. Talk with your manager about what form of communication works best for him or her. Also, set up planned meeting times to review and discuss several issues at once. By avoiding random and frequent interruptions, employees will most likely find their bosses more attentive and responsive.

I want work to be less stressful. People hate to hear me say this we create most of our own stress. Are you guilty of any of these personal stress triggers? Do you arrive at work exactly at starting time, allow no time to get settled, and have people waiting and phones ringing? Do you complain about issues you can’t control instead of adapting to them or responsibly working to change the situation? Do you allow your personal life to influence your attitude and performance at work? Do you judge others instead of accepting them for who they are? Is your work quality below standards causing errors and double work? Identify the circumstances that cause you tension and eliminate them.

I want a more challenging job. Here’s how I handled my own challenge on that issue fifteen years ago. I was in a marketing position with a major corporation. I felt I could do the job in my sleep (except for the driving part). Instead of becoming bored and stale, I asked the customers I was dealing with what else I could do for them. Several told me they could use some help developing professionalism and customer service in their businesses. On my own, I researched sources of information, education platforms, and my customers’ specific needs. Then I approached my boss and said, “Would you mind if I incorporate people development sessions in my regular customer visits?” My great boss said, “Go get ’em, tiger.” My territory sales shot up, I learned new skills, and my customers were getting more than they expected from me and my company.

Before you decide your job isn’t challenging enough, look into what more you can do for your customers or coworkers. Is there a new product or service to become expert in? Can you educate and train new employees? Can you conduct training sessions for your customers on how better to use what you sell to them? Seek out opportunities to personally grow — you never know where it will lead.

I want to earn more money. The 4:00 AM infomercials try to persuade us that we all can make a million without leaving home, if we own a computer, in only thirty hours a week. By 4:05 AM we should realize the only people making money on those promises are the folks selling the program. I may be old fashioned, but the only way to earn more money is with more education, improved skills, smart work habits, and the commitment and discipline to reach your goals. First, establish your financial goals. In what position can you earn that income level? What knowledge and skills qualify you for those responsibilities? How can you gain access to education? Search for information that will enable you to meet your income and career goals.

Don’t wait for a life-changing experience to get what you want out of your work life. Knowing that all change begins with you should clear the way for you to make great things happen in your life.

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355

Climb to Level Four Selling

For seven years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Steve as he advanced from a sales neophyte to a confident salesperson earning a handsome living. Just forty years old, Steve and his wife have a young family. A more comfortable lifestyle and his children’s education were making Steve rethink his sales success strategy. During our last conversation, Steve asked me, “Is there any way I can make more money and spend more time with my family?” Steve was delighted when I told him it was absolutely possible because he has already advanced through three of the four levels of sales competence. Here’s what I told Steve about where he’s been and what his next step should be.

Level one for the new salesperson is all about survival. Sales goals set by the sales manager loom as large, unreachable goals. If you’re new to the business as Steve was, he had to learn who his potential buyers were, what exactly they wanted, and how his products and services could fill those needs. A new salesperson needs to gain the respect of his sales support team to help him maneuver the internal processes. Because of so much personal uncertainty whether they’ll make it or not, level one individuals consider the competition as an evil force with which to do battle.

Steve clearly remembered those first two years. In fact, he even added that he lacked so much confidence that he actually was afraid of his prospects. Afraid to take their time, afraid he didn’t know the answer, and afraid he looked dumb.

Luckily after some success level two kicks in. The salesperson has gained knowledge, confidence, and respect. In this success stage, the salesperson solves problems for prospects so they become customers, remain loyal, and refer business. The salesperson continues to work on a sale-to-sale basis, but is able to effectively manage his time, prospecting efforts, and customers. Steve piped in and said that was all true, but he remembers that he still felt fearful of his customers’ like his fate was in their hands. I agreed this was absolutely true and many salespeople plateau in the stage forever.

I told Steve that he’s in his stride and that’s level three. He’s earning a good living and has become a strategic thinker in terms of his sales strategy. Steve has carved out an industry niche and is well known in that arena. He invests time and money to network, attends and participates in trade shows, gives referrals to get referrals, and has moved from merely problem solving to improving customers’ businesses without trying to sell them anything. That’s a very high level of sales competence that only the most successful attain. Steve added that he now considers his customers and colleagues his friends. He even said that his number one competitor has become a friend as well. All of that makes his business life very enjoyable. “So what’s next?” Steve asked.

You said you want to have more free time and earn more money. You’ve worked hard and have loyal customers, a strong network, and thorough knowledge. You’re ready for the highest level of selling which is respectful confidence. Here are three strategies to operate at that level. First, go through your accounts and give smaller revenue or stand-alone accounts to a less experienced salesperson. Handle the transition professionally so it’s a win-win for your coworker and customer. Second, direct your efforts to larger income-producing business. Target top businesses that meet your elevated new business criteria. Position yourself as the sought-after expert you are and you will open new doors. Last but not least, don’t give a proposal to a customer without having conceptually agreed to do business together. Set a close ratio goal of 100%. Walk away, but stay in touch, if you can’t formalize the relationship. Keep the door open for when the prospect decides to move forward. Stay visible. People buy in their time, not yours.

Steve is ready, willing and able to go to level four status. It’s been a long, hard climb, and he knows that the view from the top will be great.

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355

Performance Evaluations, How NOT to Hate Them

My stand-out memory of a formal performance appraisal ” I was the reviewee, not the reviewer ” was as a young, inexperienced production underwriter at Aetna Life and Casualty. I’d been promoted from a casualty desk underwriter to a field marketing and underwriting position. Up until this time, my reviews had gone well. As an underwriting trainee, Aetna offered a very structured education program. Expectations were clear and feedback was frequent. Monitoring and measuring employee progress was done according to schedule. We trainees knew where we stood at all times.

This new job was different. It had more freedom to prioritize and plan work, schedule agency visits, and make independent decisions. After six months in my new job, I had my first review. It went like this.

Boss: “So, Emily, how do you think you’re doing?”
Me: “Great!”
Boss: “Well, you’re not.”
I burst into tears.

I don’t remember much else about that meeting. But I do remember having a career-changing aha moment. I learned two things. First, I learned how not to conduct a performance review if I were ever a manager. Second, I learned I’d better find out what I was supposed to be doing and do it well or risk losing my job. (It took me a few more years to learn there is no crying in business.)

I’m not alone in experiencing an unpleasant employee review. Every week I hear complaints about performance reviews from both managers and employees. Many bosses say they don’t have the time and feel uncomfortable addressing performance issues. Employees often feel the reviews are a waste of time and one-sided with managers talking at them instead of engaging in meaningful discussion.

Both sides must overcome their dislike of this process and get better at it. One-on-one employee-manager meetings are necessary. Employers should use this practice to evaluate skills, measure performance, and set development plans. Employees want to know how they are doing and appreciate meaningful feedback.
Following are a few key strategies to help both managers and employees give and get value from the performance review process.


1. Realize how important these meetings are and how much stress they can cause employees. Avoid canceling or postponing scheduled reviews. Putting off a review insults the employee.
2. To help in scheduling reviews, plan that all reviews be done for the entire organization during a one week period. No one is overlooked and if there is a message to communicate universally, it’s conveyed consistently. I recommend reviews be done twice a year.
3. Have both the manager and employee complete the review form. The meeting should focus on discussing how each views the employee’s work.
4. Know what you want to accomplish in the meeting.
5. Do not use the meeting to discuss compensation, benefits, or promotions. Cover those in a separate meeting.
6. Direct comments to the work, not the person. Use the job description as the basis for review. Keep an ongoing file on pertinent issues such as knowledge, teamwork, decision-making, customer service, quality of work, managing work load, etc. Have your facts and stick to the facts.
7. Discuss development opportunities available to the employee. Create personal and professional growth plans.
8. Maintain privacy of all employees. Do not discuss others’ performance with employees. Conduct the review in a neutral setting such as a conference room where there will be no interruptions.
9. Spend as much time listening as talking.
10. Ask the employee to summarize what’s been said.


1. Come prepared. If you’ve been asked to complete the review form, do so. If not required, you should still come with your self-review of how you believe you’ve performed in key areas.
2. Anticipate possible problems and be prepared to respond in a professional and positive manner.
3. Avoid whining or complaining. If you have an issue to address, have the facts and your recommendation to resolve the problem.
4. Know your strengths and how they are or can be an asset to the organization.
5. Ask your boss what you can do to support her in her job. What can you do to better the company? Can you spearhead writing the procedures manual? Train the new employee that’s been hired?
6. Know what you want to accomplish in the meeting.

When executed properly by both manager and employee, performance reviews help both individuals and organizations grow. What do you need to do to make reviews a successful part of your business experience?

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355

Are You a Go-Getter?

You’ve read your share of business books if you’re like most professionals with advancing careers. Great business books educate, inspire, and generate discussion among peers. Some of the most popular and best-selling business books are written as parables. Easy to read and relate to, the author tells a story to illustrate lessons to be learned. Og Mandino’s 1968 classic, The Greatest Salesman in the World, was the first book of this genre that I remember reading. One Minute Manager, Who Moved My Cheese?, and Fish! are all parables and continue to be best-selling business books.
It wasn’t until I discovered a book called The Go-Getter, squirreled away in the library of a cruise ship, did I learn that this book is considered the all-time classic of business story telling. Written in 1921 by Peter B. Kyne, this book tells of Cappy Ricks, of Ricks Logging and Lumbering Company. (Other stories about Cappy Ricks were serialized in the Saturday Evening Post and Cosmopolitan magazine.) In The Go-Getter, Bill Peck is a disabled war veteran who served in the same squadron as Cappy. Bill persuades Cappy, the founder of the company, to hire him and prove himself by accomplishing a sales assignment found impossible by others. When Peck exceeds his quota and Cappy sees Bill’s potential, Cappy gives him a near-impossible task to prove his abilities before promoting him to an even bigger assignment. The test is to buy a specific blue vase. Unknown to Bill the test is rigged with inaccurate, changing information and false facts. Time lines are unrealistic and people are inaccessible and uncooperative. (Sounds like a typical sales situation, doesn’t it?) Bill Peck succeeds in the blue vase challenge without ever letting his confidence, commitment, or enthusiasm falter. Even after learning that this was a contrived assignment rigged with obstacles, Bill appreciated his boss’s trust in him to use his creativity, problem-solving skills, and authority.

How would you react if this kind of test were used on you? Would you still persist if obstacle after obstacle seemed insurmountable? If you had been given a task to get a job done no matter what, would you go back to your boss and question the necessity of it? Would you use advanced problem-solving skills to find other solutions to get the job done? Would you risk some of your own finances, uncertain as to whether the expense would be reimbursed?

Bill Peck demonstrated the traits of a true go-getter. First, he used personal past connections to get hired. But he did so only when he knew he had the skills, abilities, and knowledge to do the job. Then he earned the respect of his associates by exceeding job expectations. He was rewarded with an even tougher assignment where others had failed. Throughout everything, Bill exhibited loyalty, endurance, passion, and personal responsibility to achieve his goals.

Eighty-four years after Peter B. Kyne wrote The Go-Getter, Bill Peck’s personal slogan “it shall be done” still holds true as the watchword of successful people.

Are you a go-getter?

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355

Letting Go of Your Past Can Transform Your Future

While attending a convention of fellow speakers and consultants, I reconnected with a colleague whom I hadn’t seen in two years. Sandy ran up to me and said, “Emily, will you have time to catch up with me? I want to share the incredible changes in my life and business.” Wow! With an intriguing greeting like that, I figured no time like the present. We sat down with cups of coffee.

First, a little background. Sandy is a talented technology expert who fearlessly speaks to large non-technology audiences on complicated topics ‘ and actually gets them to understand computers and programs. She’s equally as effective doing one-on-one coaching with clients. In my early business years, Sandy spent hours getting me up and running with ACT! the contact management system designed to help users stay connected with prospects and clients. Ironically, even with her proficiency Sandy didn’t use ACT! to the extent her clients did. One day I asked her why. “I hate prospecting,” she said. “I hate putting myself out there to be rejected.”

In spite of that, Sandy’s business grew through word-of-mouth and referrals. She continued to resist what she considered “shameless self-promotion.” No matter how hard I worked to convince her that when you’re good and have something valuable to offer, people want to know about you and what you do. Nothing would change her mind. Given that history, I couldn’t imagine what Sandy was going to share with me.

Sandy told me that two years ago she attended her twenty-fifth high school reunion. It’s the first reunion she ever attended. High school was not a great time in her life. She felt like an outcast and didn’t have any solid friendships. Then an amazing thing happened at the reunion.

Sandy said she went out of curiosity, with no expectations of having a good time. She just needed to go. Well, she had a life-changing experience. Instead of finding classmates unfriendly the way she remembered them, they were warm and interested in her life today. As with most reunions, conversations turn to reminiscing about the past. It turns out that what Sandy remembered, and has been holding onto for twenty-five years, was entirely different from what her classmates remembered. Where she viewed herself as an unpopular outcast, she learned many people were actually in awe of her mind and skills. They thought she was stand-offish and not friendly.

Sandy put it to me this way. “I’ve been living my life afraid to reach out to people who might reject me. It was just so painful back then. That’s why I’ve never marketed myself or my business. What a shock it is to realize I read it all wrong. I’ve been worried about what others think my whole life. Since that reunion, I’ve given myself permission to be myself. If people don’t want to associate with me, so be it. But I know I have something to offer.”

Sandy went on to tell me that she’s started a Women’s Business Organization chapter in her city and joined a networking leads club. Her goal in both is to share her knowledge and connect people. With those altruistic objectives, I told her she’s sure to have even greater personal and business success.

When Sandy and I wrapped up our conversation, she was ten feet off the ground. Her parting words were, “Don’t I look lighter without all that baggage?” Indeed she did.

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355

What are customers really buying?

I was presenting my program “Before you Sell Sell Sell, Market Market Market” to an audience eager to learn about personal and corporate branding, value propositions, and how to create customer loyalty. In an exercise to make the point about the importance of branding, I list big company names and ask the audience for thoughts on what the brand represents. For example, I say Disney and someone says Mickey Mouse or family fun; FedEx generates reliable overnight delivery; Nike easily gets “Just do it;” Volvo means safety and Lexus prompts luxury. Then I said Starbucks. What an array of passionate, across-the-board responses! Answers varied from “Great coffee, pastries, and caf’ food” to “A great place to hang out and meet friends” to “A very expensive cup of coffee” to “High-end gifts for customers” to “Convenience – there’s a Starbucks on every corner and in almost every airport and major office building” to “My Starbucks is like Cheers.”

While the other big corporate names mentioned generated matter-of-fact comments, the Starbucks brand generated powerful emotions and comments as to the experience of using the brand. In other words, Starbucks is not just selling coffee they are selling an experience.

Company founder and chairman Howard Shultz plans to keep the experience alive. Not only does Starbucks have a growing number of high-speed wireless Internet cafes, many stores will soon be in the music business as well, giving customers access to individual online music as part of the Starbucks’ experience. You can get a cup of coffee anywhere, but where can you add to your experience with music, Internet access, buying specialty items, or simply hanging out with friends?

Selling an experience is not a new concept. McDonald’s built the hamburger empire not on the taste of their hamburger, but the child-focused appeal of Happy Meals, playgrounds, and Ronald McDonald. Car manufacturer Saturn launched its entry into the auto market by appealing to the buyer who didn’t want cliche car salesman sales techniques used on them when purchasing a car.

What does offering a positive experience do for a business? Plenty.

It raises the price point. It’s widely known that people buy on emotion and then justify the purchase with their own reasons. A decade ago who would have thought that people would spend three or five dollars for a cup of coffee? Yet because of Starbucks, millions of people are doing it all the time all over the world.

It keeps people coming back. When buyers have a good experience, they want to duplicate it. Starbucks strong market share is built on satisfied, repeat customers.

People tell their friends. Good experiences are meant to be shared. Word of mouth sells more products than anything else.

Here are some simple examples of some positive occurrences in my consumer world. My dentist’s office has current, unusual magazines making the waiting time enjoyable. And sometimes, the wait is not long enough to read the magazines! The quick oil change garage I patronize is very clean, has fresh coffee, and the nicest people working there. The grocery store I frequent most has helpful, knowledgeable, and accommodating staff. In all cases my overall experience is great and I leave feeling valued and appreciated.

Now step back and look at your business. What do your customers experience? Do they feel welcome? Do you offer the highest value for the money they are spending? Do all your employees personalize their customer contact? Do you offer an experience unique when compared to your competitors?

Provide your customers an experience that is consistently positive and your business will thrive.

Emily Huling Selling Strategies, Inc. P.O. Box 200 Terrell, NC 28682
Phone: 888-309-8802 Fax: 888-309-7355