Business Coaching: Factors That Influence Customer Intimacy

A Customer Intimacy StrategyAlthough companies manage their businesses along three leading strategies, they usually select one primary strategy to drive revenue and gross margin: (1) operational excellence (low cost manufacturing), (2) technology leadership, and (3) customer intimacy.  Many businesses do not have the resources to build the operational scale to beat their competition on price and gain market share.  Others do not have the patent protection, know-how, or trade secrets to drive on a technology leadership strategy, nor the high product demand as Honda did in 1988 as advertised in its TV commercial: The car that sells itself.  In most cases, businesses choose customer intimacy as their primary strategy to sell their products and services.

Unfortunately, the barriers to entry are typically low in those industries where the majority of companies are driving on a customer intimacy model.  This model can also be the most challenging strategy to execute well, because it involves one person saying “yes” to another based on several factors: prior buying habits, approvals, service quality, ease of doing business, and the personal attributes of the salesperson.  The success of the customer intimacy strategy can be unpredictable, because it involves a buyer and a seller, who may have different worldviews, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors that work together to influence their relationship.  Salespeople, who are fully aware of how they “show up,” have a leg up over their competitors because of their ability to make better decisions in how to influence the sales relationship.

Companies that drive on technology and manufacturing differentiators readily invest in research and capital.  What do companies invest in that drive on the customer intimacy model? How often are they investing in the employees who are routinely interacting with customers?  In my experience, few companies are investing in their sales and customer service teams outside of the technical knowledge of the product portfolio.

Each sales person brings a unique worldview, skills, competencies, knowledge, attitude, and behaviors that work together to leave a strong customer impression.  A professional coach can partner with a sales person or team to do a deep dive into each of these areas that affect customer intimacy and build an effective platform and sales presence by which to cultivate and deepen customer relations.  Ask me how!


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach and consultant with an extensive background in business development and leadership.  She coaches individuals as well as designs and facilitates specific workshops that address her clients’ business needs.  Reach out to her at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741 to further the conversation and determine how she can help.

Three Big Questions That Can Determine Your Future

Future NowPeople have a propensity to concentrate most of their thoughts and energy into either the past, present, or future, with their preferred time realm a result of a complicated set of personal circumstances and experiences.  Without having thought much about this concept and its implications, we tend to behave in ways that align with our preferred time perspective. The first BIG question we should ask ourselves: In what time dimension are the majority of my thoughts and conversations directed?

A disadvantage of focusing too much on the past is that it cannot be changed or rewritten.  The past is valuable and should be honored for the learnings it provides and how it shapes our current wisdom.  However, if not put in its proper perspective, the past can be like a thief who robs us of creating a future.  Our future is still unscripted, full of limitless possibilities, and may only lack a destination and path to get there.

Those who primarily focus their thoughts and decisions in the present tend to react to their immediate circumstances.  They may enjoy living in the present but be unsure of what tomorrow holds.  Thinking of and seriously planning for the future can feel both thrilling and unsettling with a heaviness of responsibility.  Because it seems so overwhelming, some shy away from this responsibility.  They fail to realize that their future will be created from both decision and indecision.  The second BIG question we should ask ourselves: What time realm am I committed to work in? 

As a coach, I encourage my clients to dream big about their future—get a vision—one that has color and builds excitement.  People need a clear vision, because the necessary ingredients of hard work and sacrifice to achieve that future do not come easy.  It is unlikely that anyone would deny pleasure in the present for an undefined greater reward in the future.  The third BIG question we should ask ourselves: What painful decision will I make today to have the reward of my dreamed tomorrow? 

Regardless of our faith, most people would agree that life is a finite gift which comes with no instructions and plenty of responsibility.  Whether we accept that responsibility or not, our decisions of today create our life of tomorrow. When we decide to focus more on our future, a coach can be a partner who helps us through that process.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

Why Employees Should Have Access to a Professional Coach!

Good coach

Many organizations struggle with how to integrate, align, and achieve the full potential from their employees. For many employers, this struggle has intensified with multiple generational cohorts (Baby Boomers, Gen-Xer’s, and Millennials) in the workforce, who have different identities, motivations, and preferences in how to work, lead, and be led.  The challenge is how can the contributions of all employees and leaders be acknowledged, appreciated, and rewarded.  Education around generational differences helps to create respect and harmony which ultimately builds a solid foundation for organizational success.  Leadership development and coaching then help employees become more sensitive to workplace diversity while promoting deeper and more productive engagement. These intentional initiatives result in higher levels of performance.

As the Millennial workforce population continues to increase, the influence of their general expectations continues to be felt by employers and managers.  As a generational identity, Millennials typically value leaders who listen, push them to achieve more, take the time to develop a professional relationship, and provide feedback.  In contrast, over the past two decades, technology developments and pushes for productivity have forced managers to take on more administrative activities at the expense of mentoring and coaching their direct reports.

A professional coach can help his/her organization leverage cohort diversity. Leadership is not a position but a way of being and behaving, and a coach can help managers, teams and individuals become aware of the generational dynamics and how to leverage these differences. Development and leadership coaching should not be for select senior leaders but a resource available to all professional employees.  When an employee improves, the company wins.  When employees are coached, they typically feel better about their working environment, become more engaged in supporting the team, and have a higher probability of achieving their goals.  A professional coach delivers an investment grade ROI by partnering with organizations to develop a workforce that delivers higher levels of performance.


HE21118Davis_07-medAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

 

Communication Intelligence: How Would You Rate Your Listening Skills?

listening 3The media is flooded with research and articles on Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Emotional Intelligence/Quotient (EI/EQ), and their role in personal life success.  On the contrary, few studies have mentioned the importance of Communication Quotient/Intelligence (CQ/I).  Whereas IQ measures mental capacity to learn and EQ the use of emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, CI reflects the ability to communicate effectively.  Communication intelligence is a complex concept encompassing both effective speaking and listening skills.

In American culture, extroversion is valued more than introversion and speaking is emphasized over listening.  For those who may not have thought about this concept, I would ask, “When was the last time you were complimented for being a good listener?”  Perhaps the only time you can recall was as a child, when your parent thanked you for listening and doing what you were asked after behavior to the contrary.  More likely than not, you have complimented colleagues and friends on a giving a powerful speech or presentation and leading a great discussion.  Have you complimented a peer for listening well?  Whether the environment is school, work, or home, there are few rewards for listening well and in contrast typically punishments or negative repercussions.

Listening TableNot only are people not rewarded for good listening, they are generally not highly skilled at it.  Why? I would propose, because effective listening is rarely taught.  Burley-Allen (1995) compared four communication modes with their percentage of time used and formal years of training.  Although the majority of communication (40%) is spent in listening mode, the American education system spends a fraction of the time teaching effective listening skills. Instead, most of our learning is modeled by our parents in early childhood and reflected in our reward and punishment patterns.  Our communication intelligence is built on the socialization process started in our families.

Listening is a skill that everyone can improve upon.  You first need to understand where you are on the listening effectiveness continuum.  Step one is gaining self-knowledge: being aware of your listening abilities and evaluating their effectiveness.  We can all benefit by reflecting on our predispositions and assumptions brought into our conversations and what filters we use to interpret messages.  Burley-Allen (1995) describes filters such as memories, values, strong beliefs, expectations, attitudes, past experiences, prejudices, assumptions, and feelings.

We should all be conscious of our filters and how they are affecting our ability to listen well.  Partnering with a coach can help you develop a plan to improve your listening abilities and communication effectiveness.  The reward?  Building listening capacity and skill proficiency increases personal success in relationships and leadership influence.

Reference

Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The Forgotten Skill. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

 

What are Interviewers Looking for in a Candidate?

InterviewingJob searchers are asking the question, “What are interviewers really looking for in job candidates?”  If you have not interviewed in years, you may be surprised that the rules and criteria of successful interviewing have changed.  This should not come as a surprise.  Just as the where, when, and how of our work has changed, so have what employers look for in potential candidates.

The work environment has been redesigned from private offices to cubicles and open floor plans.  Many people are working remotely and share a connection desk, when they decide to come into the office.  Pad and pencil have been replaced with a laptop and virtual connection.  The typical hiring methodology which started with a candidate applying and submitting a resume, followed by the employer interviewing the candidate for skills, likeability, and references, are indicative of the past.

Today, companies are not just looking for someone with the skills to do the job but for someone who is motivated and creative.  Employers want to hire people who will take ownership, do what is necessary, and get their hands dirty.  They are looking for employees who believe in what the company is trying to build.  Interviewers are looking for candidates who have passion, values, and goals, and that these values align with the company.  Companies also want to know the strengths of the individual and that these align with the position.

First and foremost, I encourage my clients to identify their core values, because these values should drive their work and life purpose.  Conflict and stress build, when people do not live out their core values in daily activities and decision-making.  Since many people have not identified their top core values, employers are doing job candidates a favor, when they focus their interviewing objectives on understanding and matching values.

What would be examples of core values?  Two of my highest ranked core values are authenticity and leadership.  If I am not able to work under these two values, I cannot drive and leverage my strengths to the best of my ability and for the benefit of my team and employer.  I thrive in low-hierarchy, empowerment, and accountability cultures and die in command and control cultures which stifle my creativity and innovation.  I also need the opportunity to express myself and share my opinions regardless of whether they are adopted and expect the same from my team.  I am comfortable joining the consensus, even if my opinion differs, as long as I have been genuinely heard.

What are your values? If you have not taken a values assessment, I encourage you to partner with a coach, who can help you identify the values that most resonate with you.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including leadership, life purpose/plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

What is Your Primary Love Language?

Couple under umbrella

Love is a verb, not a feeling

As a marriage coach and mentor, couples ask me what one book I would recommend that would help them have a strong and lasting marriage.  Without a doubt, my answer is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. From my perspective, this book is a must-read for any couple who is seriously dating, engaged, or even married.  People who are single and will begin dating or are dating can also greatly benefit by investing the time to understand the key principles that satisfy their needs and build love in connection.

The concept of the love languages is incredibly powerful in its simplicity.  What are these 5 love languages?  Chapman (2015) lists them as (1) quality time, (2) acts of service, (3) words of affirmation, (4) gifts, and (5) physical touch.  He proposes that everyone needs to receive a least a little of each language but that one has at least one or two primary languages.  When people do not receive the bulk of their love through their primary love languages, they will not feel truly loved or connected with their partner.

Without understanding the concept of these five love languages, people love others in the languages that predominately speak to them.  For example, if a man has the primary love languages of quality time and physical touch, he will feel love and connection by holding hands, hugging, and kissing while enjoying a festival without the distraction of phones and social media.  If his partner feels love primarily through gifts and acts of service, she will likely enjoy spending time with him but will feel more loved by receiving a bouquet of flowers while he offers to take out her trash before they head out on their date.

There is no better or worse love language, and none of the love languages have a gender bias. Communicating your primary languages and purposefully acting in ways that align with his or hers will grow and deepen the relationship. Love is not necessarily a feeling but a verb, the act of loving your partner in the ways that speak love to him or her. 

Some couples ask me whether you should partner with someone who has the same primary love languages.  The truth?  Plenty of people, who do not have the same primary love languages, have wildly successful marriages.  For those who overlap in their top languages, loving each other is easy as love is given and received in the same way.  Naturally effortless!  If your primary love languages are different, it will likely take more conscious thought, energy, and effort, but hopefully after practice, it becomes second nature.  I encourage you to buy the book, take the quiz at the end, tell your partner of your primary languages, and start loving your partner in their desired love languages.

Reference

Chapman, G. (2015). The five love languages: The secret to love that lasts. Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  She can be reached at sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com or 281.793.3741.

What is a Leader’s Job Description?

leadership helping othersWhat is the job description of a leader?  I believe the number one responsibility of a leader is to draw out leadership in others.  Who is more qualified to develop an emerging leader than another leader?  If a leader will not do it, who else will?  Although investing time in another leader may seem like adding more to a growing to-do list, leaders benefit and perform at their best when they coach and mentor emerging leaders.  True leaders not only make it a priority to spend the time with other leaders, but they create opportunities for emerging leaders to develop their competencies.  Foster and Auerbach (2015) pointed to research that showed that the most effective formula for developing leadership competencies was: (1) 70% on the job learning through shadowing others and stretch job assignments, (2) 20% from coaching and mentoring, and (3) formal training or education.

What does leadership look like?  If you ask a dozen people, you may get a dozen different answers, although I suspect you would get some common themes focused on character traits such as honesty, integrity, initiative, and intelligence, and perhaps skills such as being a good communicator and delegator.  People are usually attracted to leaders who have charisma and display extroversion.  The truth?  Leaders come in all shapes and more importantly styles.  Although the media portrays great leaders as espousing grand visions, the reality is that great leadership is reflected in many different faces.  Bill Hybels (2009) described many of the varied leadership styles that are required to continually innovate and grow an organization.  Each style plays a necessary role, and those organizations that appreciate and leverage these different leaders will flourish.

  1. Visionary: casts powerful visions with an undefeatable enthusiasm to turn visions into reality
  2. Directional: chooses the right path for an organization at it approaches critical intersections where decisions about direction are needed
  3. Strategic: breaks down an exciting vision into a series of defined, achievable steps and brings subgroups into alignment to realize the vision
  4. Managing: brings order out of chaos by establishing appropriate milestones to the destination and organizing people, processes, and resources to achieve a mission
  5. Motivational: keeps the team fired up and operating on all cylinders
  6. Shepherding: builds, nurtures, and supports a team which draws people together regardless of the cause
  7. Team-building: selects and develops the right team members based on their abilities, character, and chemistry and places them in the right positions for the right reasons to produce the right results
  8. Entrepreneurial: possesses many other leadership styles but optimally functions in start-up mode
  9. Re-engineering: like entrepreneurial leaders although functions best in turn-around environments or troubled situations
  10. Bridge-building: brings together a diverse group of people under a single leadership umbrella to stay focused on a single mission

Do you see yourself in any one of more of these leadership styles?  Does your organization value your leadership style?  Is your leadership style needed in your organization and aligned with your job responsibilities?  These are a few questions you should answer for yourself as you plan to grow in leadership capacity.  Regardless of where you lie on the leadership continuum, there are likely other emerging leaders behind you, who could benefit from your leadership knowledge and coaching.  Know your leadership style, and be the leader who invests in other leaders.

References

Foster, S., & Auerbach, J. (2015). Positive psychology in coaching: Applying science to executive and personal coaching. Pismo Beach, CA: Executive College Press.

Hybels, B. (2009). Courageous leadership: Field-tested strategy for the 360o leader. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  

 

Pulled in Many Directions? What Do You Tackle First?

WhatYouShouldFocusOn

By world standards, Americans lead busy lives? Why? Some believe unknowingly, yet with good intentions, we have jumped on the hamster wheel in pursuit of those things we thought would make us happy. How are we doing? By many accounts, not as well as we had hoped. How are we feeling? Most people would answer, “Stressed!” Some people may have achieved a few of their goals but feel exhausted. Others are still struggling to reach a destination but have run out of energy. Has the time come to re-evaluate what you should pursue and find the best path forward?

Frankly, some people expend a lot of energy worrying and trying to influence other people and events, yet never realized they had little ability to influence these areas from the start. These same people are depleted of the energy to focus on those things that bring them fulfillment and which they can affect the outcome. Instead, everything becomes a priority. When people feel pulled in too many directions, typically very little gets accomplished. Frustration and stress can lead to poor health, attitude, and in some cases poor relationships.

One of the first steps towards more successful living is to get clarity on priorities.  Priorities are usually reflected in those things we feel most stressed about when they are not meeting our expectations. When I have clients, who feel overwhelmed with too much on their life plate and not knowing where to start, I suggest the following initial step:

  • Brainstorm and write a list of all those things you are feeling stressed about and why? [Note: Sometimes self-reflection on the “why” aspect may diminish the stress as you put it in perspective.]
  • Categorize each stressor on whether it is a high or low stress in your life. [Note: Use the full scale; force-rank the list if necessary; not everything can be labeled as high.]
  • Reflect and categorize each stressor as high or low in your ability to influence its change.

Review the list and identify those items that are both a high stressor and where you have a high degree of influence to change.  Those are the stressors or priorities you should focus your time and energy in order to achieve greater peace and satisfaction.  This approach can be useful in all areas of life. When you have set your priorities, a coach can help you develop an actionable plan to change your stressors to “successors.”


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.  

 

Coaching: Turning Potential Energy into Kinetic Energy

Best VersionMany people ask me what I do as a leadership and life coach since the occupation of coaching has typically only been associated with sports, voice, and acting professions.  At its core, coaching is about setting a vision for some area of your life such as career, business, finances, and marriage and then determining what actionable steps you will take to achieve defined goals that will move you toward that vision.  A coach is your partner, who helps you navigate through that process with assessments, constructive dialogue, input, and feedback, as well as holding you accountable to your commitments.

A coach will help you uncover your core values, your strengths/weaknesses, and challenge you in how to use those strengths to get want you want.   Coaches will help you develop the best version of yourself.  They can help you cast vision, build teams, set goals, solve problems, and lead others.  People “get stuck” or just need a “brush up” for a variety of reasons, and a coach can help convert your potential energy (resting) into kinetic energy (moving), so you can thrive and move forward.

Since coaching is about forward progress, I believe everyone can benefit from coaching.  Just a sampling of issues that people seek coaching for include:

  • Learn how to communicate more effectively to have more constructive conversations and less conflict
  • Build stronger team and peer relationships to increase work productivity and effectiveness
  • Lead with greater influence to bring out the best in yourself and others
  • Gain greater self-control and see how people respond more positively
  • Find the career path/job that provides greater satisfaction and fulfillment
  • Strengthen your marriage or dating relationship for increased longevity
  • Parent more effectively to build stronger relationships and create greater harmony
  • Develop a financial plan that achieves your long-term goals
  • Learn to prioritize and work towards the things that really matter

If you find yourself questioning or wondering whether you could benefit from coaching in these or other areas of your life, let’s talk.  I invite you to a free 30-minute consultation, where we can discuss what you would like to achieve and whether coaching would be of value.  If interested or even if you want to learn more about coaching, you can reach me at 281.793.3741 or sandra.s.dillon@hotmail.com.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, career, finances, leadership, communication, and premarital/marriage.  

Have You Taken A Conversation Pause Today?

Extroverts have a tendency to interrupt people with their own ideas, opinions, and suggestions, before others have had the chance to finish speaking their thoughts. Extroverts honor the conversation and build stronger relationships, when they give others the space to fully express their message. When people feel they have been fully heard, they are more inclined to respectfully listen in return. Challenge yourself today to be more conscientious of how often you want to or do interrupt others, before they have finished expressing themselves.  As an extrovert, I find it is harder than I thought!



Conversation pause


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in business development, leadership, and ministry which provides her with the experience, relational skills, and proven processes to move individuals, couples, and leaders to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, business, finances, and premarital/marriage.