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By: Nicki Weiss and Mike Fox (April, 2010)

Following is an article written by my lovely and talented wife, Nicki, who has her own coaching and training firm called Saleswise.  Frankly, I'm honoured to plagiarize this great piece.  I couldn't have said it better myself.


I've been thinking lately about the factors that lead to success. These thoughts inevitably lead me back to Darcy McCain circa 1980. Darcy and I were waitresses at The Prancing Pony, a vegetarian restaurant in Victoria, B.C. We served the same number of tables. I always got the order in faster, the food out faster, and felt very pleased at how well I served my tables.

Darcy was a bit scattered. She was forever mixing up orders. Her tables could sit for too long without food. I often helped her get her orders out so the meals would still be hot.

Darcy always made double my tips. Every night I'd shake my head, wondering how she did it.

Darcy, in spite of being so-so at execution, excelled at warmth and joy. She really loved waitressing. She thrived on the combination of hard work, schmoozing, making everyone feel special, and having fun. She spent more time than I did at every table getting to know her customers.

Darcy focused on her attitude and approach. People came back to the restaurant to be served by Darcy. She was a "radiator" who spread warmth.

I focused on execution. I didn't love waitressing; for me it was just a job. I had a "git 'er done" approach. Sure, I smiled and chatted, but I didn't create the same warm energy Darcy did. I also resented customers who had me running to the kitchen every few minutes, and kitchen staff who were too slow. In hindsight I think I was a "drain" who subtlely took the appreciation and warmth out of interactions with my customers.

Darcy taught me that the most important element for success is attitude. Sure, execution is important: no one likes sloppy, late or ineffective work. But focusing strictly on what gets done is too limited. This approach can create interactions where people feel used, unappreciated, and undervalued. (My observation is most organizations overfocus on execution and underfocus on attitude.)

As salespeople and as leaders, we need to be "radiators" who create the environment and the conditions for success. If we make sure the soil in our garden is healthy, our plants will live. If we just water the plants, there's no guarantee they will thrive.

The same is true in business. Increased positivity will improve productivity...guaranteed. We need to pay attention to how we do our work, not just what we do. How do you gauge whether you are a radiator or a drain?

Here are a few questions to help you figure out your attitude:

Do you help others succeed? How?
How do you treat or talk about your competitors?
When you fail, as we all do sometimes, do you go into blaming mode or learn and move on?
What's it like to work for you or with you? Are you sure?
Are you helpful and generous with others only when your boss is looking?

Does your attitude need a makeover?
If your answers point you in the direction of a "drain" rather than a "radiator," below are some ideas to turn up your radiator quotient. Try one idea and see what happens.

  1. Ask for feedback. Ask your trusted circle of advisors (customers, colleagues, bosses, mentors, coaches) to be honest with you about your attitude. Do you need to adjust it and exactly how? Ask them for specific examples of how your approach works, and take notes.

  2. Create a 'to stop' or 'not-to-do' list. Performance reviews are based on what we've done, what numbers we've delivered, what increases we have posted against last year's results. Even the personal goals on a review are couched in terms of actions we've initiated. Nowhere can we note behaviours we have stopped. We get credit for being punctual, not for stopping our lateness. Get out your notepad and write down behaviors and attitudes you want to stop.

  3. Uncover your purpose, and frequently reconnect with it. Do you have a purpose written down that sums up how you want to act with others? Here's mine (oh, it feels squidgy to declare it publicly): "I am the other person in your kayak, helping us both move, stretch, persist, have fun, discover, laugh, have an adventure, and arrive safely - together - at a new destination."

    If you want to uncover and articulate your purpose, a good reference book is The Artist's Way at Work by Mark Bryan, Julia Cameron, and Catherine Allen. If, while waitressing,

    I had known about the power of a written purpose and delivered on it, maybe I would have enjoyed the work more, and made as many tips as Darcy. It definitely helps me create an environment for success today.

  4. Find an object that reflects your purpose, attitude and approach in action. For me, it's a picture of kayakers. I want that spirit to animate my work, and keeping the picture near my desk reminds me to reconnect. It helps me remember how I want to be with others. 
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