Getting Over Your Fear of Cold Calling Customers

A recent research study found that 48% of business-to-business salespeople are afraid of making cold calls. Sadly, salespeople who are afraid of making cold calls have trouble hitting their quotas, are more stressed, and are likely making less money than their counterparts who don’t share this phobia.

I don’t know who said it first — Henry Ford, Zig Ziglar, Peter Drucker, or former IBM chairman Thomas Watson Sr. — but the business wisdom embodied in these six simple words is inescapable: Nothing happens until someone sells something. And before anyone can sell anything, someone has to generate a sales lead. Although technology can help generate leads, most of us are still going to find ourselves picking up the phone to find prospects at some point in our sales career. Doing this typically requires some amount of cold calling.

In my work with thousands of sales professionals, I have found that there are two central fears around cold calling that inhibit effective and productive lead generation results. They are: 1) fear of sounding like a sales person; and 2) fear of failure.

Let’s deal with the first: Overcoming the fear of sounding like a salesperson is a simple matter of accepting that you actually are a sales professional. What else are you going to sound like? A mechanic? A programmer? Here’s a news flash: Mechanics sound like mechanics. Programmers sound like programmers. And salespeople sound like salespeople.

The key to getting comfortable with sounding like a sales professional is understanding that sales is an honorable profession. After all, we salespeople are talented problem solvers. We improve business performances and processes. We help consumers and businesses get the products and services they want and need. We keep our companies in business. Some salespeople provide medicine and equipment needed to save a life. Some provide the technology needed to improve business performance. Some provide the services we need to improve our quality of life at home and at work. So get comfortable with the fact that you’re going to sound like a salesperson because you are a sales professional. When you dial someone’s phone number or walk into their office, remember this: You are there to help them improve their lives and businesses. Be proud of that. Until you understand this simple concept, you’re going to be anxious and fearful about cold calling.

You are adding value. And when you make a cold call, it’s important to demonstrate your value upfront. For example, instead of calling a prospect and saying, “Hi, would you be interested in hearing about how my company can help your company?” start with something like this: “Hi, my company just funded a research paper outlining three ways to immediately improve profitability in your industry. I’d be happy to email you a copy if you’d like to share your email address with me?” Knowing that you are providing valuable information to your prospects can go a long way towards removing the fear and anxiety around cold calling.

Now let’s look at the fear of failure. Sometimes the fear of cold-calling comes from a limiting belief that we simply won’t be successful at it, which creates anxiety and leads to a destructive self-fulfilling prophecy. There’s even a medical term for this: Atychiphobia is an irrational and persistent fear of failing at something, and it’s been found to cause anxiety, panic, and feelings of powerlessness.

We often avoid cold-calling because of this fear of failure. Nevertheless, if you understand the physiological responses to fear in your brain and take a few simple steps to change it, cold-calling can become as routine as having your morning coffee.

According to health experts at the University of Washington, when you’re afraid, the blood in your body flows away from your brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for logical thinking. The more reptilian part of your brain — the amygdala — takes over, which helps you fight or flee, as the blood flows into large muscle groups. Unfortunately, while this physiological response prepares you to fight or run from your prospect, it also renders you unable to remember your own name. You are ready to fight — not think. The fear of failing at cold-calling thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the fear of failure causes the blood flow to diminish your cognitive ability, which in turns limits your ability to think and respond quickly, which in turn hurts your lead-generating results. The negative cycle is reinforced when a sales professional confirms the expectation by saying, “I hate cold-calling. I’m lousy at it!”

The key to getting better at cold-calling is to simply get more accustomed to it, so your body does not perceive fear. The more accustomed you are to cold-calling, the more confident you’ll be, which creates a more productive self-fulfilling prophecy. Granted, while confidence doesn’t always lead to success, it is often a prerequisite for it.

So how do you become more accustomed to cold calling if you’re afraid of it? Try role playing with coworkers; chances are they’re experiencing the same anxiety. You can also practice with friends or family. You don’t need to be perfect — we’re not looking for an Oscar-worthy performance. The primary reason I recommend ongoing role play is simply to remind the brain that there is nothing to be afraid of.

As you practice, you’ll realize that nothing bad is actually going to happen, which will in turn ease your fears. To reduce your anxiety further, you can also try offering something of value rather than asking for something from your prospect. For example, “I am calling today to find the best way to send you a complimentary report on ways to increase productivity in your industry.” Offering something of value is often less stressful than asking for something.

Once you’ve role-played long enough that you’re no longer feeling butterflies, you’re ready to try a live-fire situation. Keep in mind that it will clearly be more difficult when it’s for real, but a few real attempts after role playing will settle you down and help get you into a very productive groove.

Cold calling is one of the most critical steps in sales and business success. If you want to become a top producer, there is simply no way around it. The key is to take pride in your work as a sales professional, knowing you are solving problems and adding value. Get comfortable with your value and your role, and you’ll be well on your way to consistent sales results.

Get your memo read

The unanticipated but important memo has a difficult road. It will likely be ignored.

The difficult parts:

A. No one is waiting to hear from you

B. You need to have the clarity to know who it’s for, what’s it for and precisely what you want them to do

C. You have to have the guts to leave out everything that isn’t part of (B)

Consider the memo below that was left outside my door at a hotel recently. The management distributed 1000 of them and perhaps ten people read it and took action.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. Pattern interrupt. When was the last time you listened to the seat belt announcement on an airplane? We ignore it because we’ve been trained to ignore it. When you show up in a place, at a time, with a format that we’ve been trained to ignore, we’ll ignore you.
  2. Write a story. You seek engagement. Talk about me. About you, about yesterday, today and tomorrow. If you earn the first sentence, you’ll need to sell me on reading the second sentence.
  3. Frame the story. Help me compare it to something. Create urgency. Make it about me, my status, my needs.
  4. Chunk the message. How many things are you trying to say? (Hint: two might be too many). Let me scan instead of study.
  5. Include a call to action. Right here, right now.

by Seth Godin

5 Little Words That Will Make You a Much Better Leader

Author Simon Sinek offers a dead simple mantra to instantly level up your leadership.

We all know great leaders excel at articulating their vision. What’s less often appreciated is that listening is an equally valuable leadership skill.

Why? First, because feeling truly heard is deeply empowering for a team. As Yale business professor Marissa Kind has explained, “when employees feel listened to, they are less likely to feel emotionally exhausted and less likely to quit their job. They are also more likely to trust — and like — their bosses, and feel committed to them.”

Second, because you need to actually hear and process information about the world to be able to set a sensible vision in the first place. Listening well makes you smarter.

So how do you get better at this essential but under sung skill? There are a million suggestions out there, but perhaps one of the most powerful is also the simplest. It comes from author Simon Sinek and consists of all of five little words.

“Be the last to speak.”

In the quick snippet of a talk below, Sinek offers a profound leadership lesson that’s dead easy to remember: be the last to speak.

“I see it in boardrooms every day of the week, even people who consider themselves to be good leaders, who may actually be decent leaders, will walk into the room and say, ‘Here’s the problem. Here’s what I think, but I’m interested in your opinion. Let’s go around the room.’ It’s too late,” he warns.

Instead, cultivate the skill to hold you tongue until everyone else has weighed in. Not only does this allow other participants to feel heard, but it gives you an obvious advantage: you get to hear everyone else’s brilliant ideas before you contribute your own. Of course, you’ll say smarter things compared to when you first walked in itching to put your ideas instantly out there.

The logic behind the idea is unassailable, but actually putting this wisdom into practice can be harder than it sounds, Sinek warns. We’re all dying to jump in and prove our brilliance or correct others’ errors, after all. But if you can manage to just keep your mouth shut, you’ll instantly level up your leadership.

Here’s Sinek’s complete advice if you want to check out the complete two-minute clip.

5 Pieces of Advice From John Bogle

John C. Bogle, is widely seen as having changed how ordinary people invest their money. His firm, the Vanguard Group of Investment Companies, which grew to have $4.9 trillion under management, was built on a belief that, over the long term, most investment managers cannot outperform the broad stock market averages.

“Jack Bogle made an impact on not only the entire investment industry, but more importantly, on the lives of countless individuals saving for their futures or their children’s futures,” Tim Buckley, Vanguard’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Here are some of Mr. Bogle’s investment tips:

“Wise investors won’t try to outsmart the market,” he says. “They’ll buy index funds for the long term, and they’ll diversify.”

Long-term investors must hold stocks even though the market is risky, because they are still likely to produce better returns than the alternatives, Mr. Bogle said in 2012.

Investors should weather any storms, he told The Wall Street Journal in 2016.

“If we’re going to have lower returns, well, the worst thing you can do is reach for more yield. You just have to save more.”

Money managers missed all the warning signs before the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. Bogle noted:

“How could so many highly skilled, highly paid securities analysts and researchers have failed to question the toxic-filled, leveraged balance sheets of Citigroup and other leading banks and investment banks?”

In 2017, he waved younger investors away from financial advisers and gave his approval to robo-advisers.

“Unless you need a financial adviser to help you get started in that routine, you probably don’t need a financial adviser at all,” he told CNBC.

Vanguard’s fund shareholders own it collectively, so there is no parent company or private owner to siphon profit, allowing the firm to keep costs down.

“In investing, you get what you don’t pay for. Costs matter. So intelligent investors will use low-cost index funds to build a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, and they will stay the course. And they won’t be foolish enough to think that they can consistently outsmart the market.”

Mr. Bogle became a harsh critic in his later years of the mutual fund industry and the high fees charged to investors for stock-picking expertise.

Invest in a diverse selection of stocks and bonds, trust in the arithmetic and stick to it — this was the essence of Mr. Bogle’s advice for Vanguard investors. “Impulse is your enemy,” was one of the mantras.

“Eliminate emotion from your investment program. Have rational expectations for future returns and avoid changing those expectations in response to the ephemeral noise coming from Wall Street.”

Mr. Bogle was the leading proponent of structuring an investment portfolio to mirror the performance of a market yardstick, like the S&P 500 stock index.

“The S&P 500 is a great proxy,” Mr. Bogle told The Wall Street Journal last year, adding that he hadn’t bought an individual stock in about 25 years.

Mr. Bogle also told CNBC that the United States market was a safer bet than other markets. “U.S. companies are innovative and entrepreneurial,” he said.


The United States, and many countries in the world, are about to experience the greatest transfer of generational influence, power and absolute number of people in history.

The Millennial and Digital Native/Gen Z generations, those born since 1981, will become the majority of the U.S. population in 2020. Each of these generations are now bigger than the Baby Boom generation.  This will trigger massive change for all businesses.

I use the name Digital Natives as it more clearly defines the generation than the moniker Generation Z [I have never understood this alphabet thing.  What happens next, another run through the alphabet starting with A?]  They are the first generation born into the digital age.  They were born into information overload, but to them it is simply reality.  Studies have shown that they have more synaptic activity going on in their brains than we do as a result.  The Digital Native generation is truly different in thinking, awareness and consciousness.  They will be the first fully formed generation of the 21st century.

Today we live in a country – and a world- that was largely shaped by the Great Generation [born prior to 1928], the Silent Generation [born 1929- 1946] and the Baby Boomer Generation [ 1946-1965].  Our mind set, social norms, workplace values and structures were put in place by these three generations. This is what Boomers and GenX [1966-1980] people in business consider “reality”.  That reality will be transformed in the next 10 years.

Here are several ways to think about this as you look into the future of your business:

-These two generations, particularly the Digital Natives, the first generation of the 21st century, do not value, trust, or even respect the institutions of their elders.  The don’t see the government working well, they don’t trust big financial institutions, they are the first generations to come of age with both war and less than a prosperous economy being all they know.

-These young generations are less materialist and more experiential than prior generations.  They would rather take an adventure trip with their friends than buy an expensive thing.

-They want meaning in their lives and want to feel they are both contributing and making a difference.  Sure, they want to make money, but they are not as materially focused as their parent’s generations.

-The Millennials and Digital Natives will soon be the potential majority of both your customers and your employees.

What all this means is that workplace and marketplace realities will change substantially by 2025.

Relative to the workplace, complete equality of the sexes will be expected, more vacation time might be more important that a raise, flexibility of dress code, work hours and what purpose or social good your company stands for will be of importance.

In the marketplace, the sharing economy, the more collective social aspect of these young generations, the complete comfort and reliance on technology, the desire to have access to things rather than owning them will alter the economy.

Look at your children or grandchildren, recognize how different they are than you.  Then prepare for a changing economy and ways of doing business that reflect those differences.

Current Millennial Leaders

 I have had conversations with numerous Millennial CEOs – yes, there are already a lot of them- and they voice common thoughts:

-They feel they need to alter or buck the management theories and practices of the Boomers and GenXers. They question current processes and practices.

-They express impatience with the slow pace of business and are always trying to find ways to get their companies to move faster and to be able to change course quickly if needed.  Flexibility and speed are two words I have heard Millennial CEOs say a lot.

-They consider themselves to be a bridge generation between the prior generations and the Digital Natives born since the late 1990s. They see how different this 21st century generation is from them.  I have heard several 30 and under CEOs tell me that they feel their responsibility is to be the bridge from past/current ways of doing business to the future ways business will be done by the Digital Natives.

-They are deeply into technology.  They view it not as tools, but the core of any business.

-They are not at all afraid to fail.  This makes them almost supremely confident.

-They want to make an impact.  Yes, they want to make money, but making a difference, changing the way people think, altering how people work and aligning work with values or the common good are topics they often express


This unprecedented generational shift is already underway.  By 2025 it will be clearly seen and felt in the United States in most business sectors.  The new generational attitudes, sensibilities and outlook on life will affect American  culture and society before they transform the business sector.

We will be living in the new world of Millennials and Digital Natives in a few years.  Be open to it as they are leading us into the developing reality of the 21st century.

Oh, one last fact: only 20% of Millennials have ever had a Big Mac. Change is coming!

773 Million Passwords Exposed – Were You Exposed?

Today Troy Hunt announced that a collection of 773 million usernames and passwords were released. This release of passwords, dubbed Collection #1, contains usernames and passwords that have shown up on the dark web over the past two or three years. Think of Collection #1 as being a value pack of bundled old password lists.

If you want to find out if your passwords were released, visit his site called If you elect to enter your email address, this will tell you if it is in the collection and give you more details.

What do you do if you are on the list? Reset your passwords. Use a password manager that will remember your passwords for you to make your life easier when you use a different password at each website from now on.

Now is a great time to enable two-step verification. A basic form of two-step verification is when you enter a username and password, and you receive a text message code to type in. Enable two-step verification on PayPal, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Facebook and every other web service you use. On each website, look for Settings > Security. You may need to dig down, but more reputable sites now support two-step verification, but you must enable the feature.

Some bad news is that, about a week ago, a tool called Modlishka shows how to break two-step verification so it isn’t that secure, but two-step verification is still more secure than a simple username password combination. If it allows, have a website use some other method than texting you a password. Using an app on your phone or calling you via a voice call are options that are often more secure than the text message. Microsoft, Google, and a service called Duo offer these options and more. Having a hardware key is even better unless your laptop users leave the key stored in the laptop case, and their password written on the bottom of the laptop.

Posted by Mike Foster

9 guidelines for recruitment strategies in 2019

No one would argue that sales and marketing are strategic business functions. They get strong executive support and the big budgets because they feature data-driven decision-making, market segmentation, powerful branding, and customer focus. Recruiting, on the other hand, has long been known as “just sales with a crummy budget,” as HR thought-leader John Sullivan puts it. That perception is rapidly changing as recruitment strategies become a priority.

Recruitment as a sales process has defined by Dr. Sullivan’s work:

Strategic recruiting is an approach to wining the best talent based on
three components: employer branding, recruitment-directed marketing,
and skilled selling. Combined, these components create effective
responses to dynamic market conditions in support of an organization’s
strategic objectives.

Transitioning to a more strategic role and adopting a sales and marketing focus is a sea change for most corporate recruiters and their company leaders. Again, we turn to Dr. Sullivan who, in 2008, was way ahead of his time in defining the future of HR as he developed “20 Principles of Strategic Recruiting,” which he has recently updated.

Below, I highlight and add to some of his most critical insights and guidelines. Use them as a foundation for designing or enhancing your own recruitment strategies and processes in to 2019 and beyond.

9 guidelines for recruitment strategies

1. Well-defined strategy

Develop a well-defined and communicated recruiting strategy based on a clear understanding of your organization’s values and vision for the future. Include your brand messages, target candidates, primary sources, and most effective marketing and closing tactics. This helps ensure closer alignment between candidates and your corporate culture.

2. Strong employment brand

The external image you present has the highest impact and longest-term effect of anything you do related to recruiting. You should make it easy for potential candidates to read, hear, or see why they should consider working for you. Candidates are a key audience you need to market your message to regularly. Pay attention to what your message and value-proposition are, how you communicate them, and what specific segment of the talent market you are trying to attract. It’s only the organizations with a poor image that suffer a talent shortage. Build a positive, compelling image and you’re likely to have a surplus of top talent eager to work for you.

3. Prioritized Jobs and Targets

Strategic recruiting processes maximize the use of resources by identifying and focusing on the positions with the highest business impact. This usually means revenue-producing and revenue-impacting jobs, and roles in high margin and rapid-growth business units. Your recruitment processes should also target high-impact individuals like top performers, innovators, influencers, and game-changers.

4. Effective sourcing

Strategic sourcing is the most critical element after employment branding. If your sourcing doesn’t attract top performers, you can’t make a quality hire. The most effective source is employee referrals. Make sure you develop a referral program with a reward that motivates employees to refer good people. Recruiting at professional events is also an excellent way to find top talent. Whatever your means of sourcing, make sure it’s appropriate for the particular position. You should use various sourcing tactics depending on the individual, locale and other factors, targeting both “non-lookers” who may be happily employed at competitors or elsewhere as well as candidates who are actively looking. Effective sourcing saves time and money on candidate screening and the high cost of weak hires.

5. Talent pipeline / Recruiting culture

Like every good sales person, build a continuous “talent pipeline” of applicants you might want to hire in the future. Build your pipeline with impressive people you meet or hear about in a “pre-need” approach that includes workforce planning, employer branding, and continuous sourcing. Your pipeline should be part of a companywide “recruiting culture,” where every employee is an active talent scout, spreading your employment brand and identifying possible future candidates as they interact in the community. The very best candidates are in demand. When every employee contributes to your pipeline, you gain a competitive edge in getting to the right people quickly.

6. Speedy decisions

It’s worth emphasizing that candidates in high demand have many choices. When the right people decide to change jobs you need to be ready to hire them, even if you don’t have quite the right role defined. Build flexibility into your hiring decision process so that you can hire on their decision timetable, not yours.

7. Data-driven decisions  

Making decisions based on objective data rather than on emotion, intuition, or “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” practices helps eliminate biases and produce more consistent, high-quality hires and outcomes. Similar benefits result when you put metrics and rewards on key aspects of recruiting. When managers are measured, recognized, and rewarded for their contributions, and results are converted to the manager’s revenue and profit, recruiting dramatically improves—and processes are meticulously followed. Using metrics/assessments also sends a clear message about the importance of recruiting and its business impact on revenue goals and cost reductions. Marketing made the switch to a data model, recruitment must too.

8. Technology-based processes

The best recruitment processes, in all of their aspects, are based heavily on technology and the internet. Technology can improve screening, increase decision-making speed, cut costs, and enable global hiring. It gives you the ability to do market research to identify the particulars of your recruiting segments and targets and then customize marketing and communication based on the data. Technology also gives you the capability to offer candidates remote work options, giving you a distinct competitive advantage, especially with younger generations who prize that kind of flexibility.

9. Candidate-centric focus

The primary reason candidates reject job offers is because of the way they were treated during the hiring process. Hiring managers and recruiters need to be laser-focused on creating a positive end-to-end experience for diverse candidates. A significant part of recruiting is “selling” candidates on why they should apply for and accept a position with you; another part is building trusted relationships. Throughout, communication should be clear and frequent; processes smooth and easy; and interactions personal and respectful. Treat every candidate as you would your best prospect or customer or, better, how you’d want to be treated yourself. After the hiring decision is made, make certain that the positive experience continues with a thoughtful onboarding process that ensures your new employee feels welcome, important, confident, and ready to make a meaningful and near immediate contribution to your productivity.

Recruiting will not be considered strategic until it adopts a sales and marketing approach. Just like sales and marketing, recruiting must outsell the competition. Use the guidelines above as a foundation for developing your recruiting strategy. Then take a seat at the table where you’ll be a vital partner in creating success.

By Kathleen Quinn Votaw



So many people out there don’t have techniques in place to manage their time.

I get messages from people all the time complaining that they “don’t have time” to build the type of business they want to build. They don’t have time to grow their personal brand, put out content, flip stuff on eBay, or follow the other advice I talk about.

The truth is, you have a LOT more time than you think.

You’ve got 24 hours a day.

Let’s say you work a 9 to 5. Cool. That’s 8 hours a day.

And let’s say you commute an hour there and an hour back. Cool. That’s 10 hours total.

Want to spend time with your family? Awesome, you can spend 2 hours with them when you get home.

Need 7 hours of sleep a night? Great.

You’ve still got 5 hours a day left.

What I’m curious about is, what are you doing with those 5 hours?

The reality for many of you is, you’re spending that time watching House of Cards, hanging out with friends, or “relaxing” because you’re tired after spending time at your 9 to 5 during the day.

In this article, I share some tips and techniques I use to squeeze every drop out of the limited time I have — and how you can do the same.


People might be surprised by this: Even though I run a $200 million agency, I’m an obnoxious procrastinator.

But I also get a lot done.

I stay in constant “audit mode.” I’m always leveling up what’s most important and prioritizing it in real time. I’m adjusting to the reality of my life in the moment I’m living it.

So, if something was super important yesterday, I can decide that it’s less important predicated on what comes into my inbox today. I’m completely obsessed with the thing that I deem most important in that moment. But “priorities” might get pushed back.

As long as I’m executing on something every single day, I know I’m moving the needle. I don’t get crippled by the amount of things I “need” to do, or the number of priorities I have.

Something might go from 2nd most important to 9th most important to 10th most important, and might not be addressed for an entire year. And that’s okay — as long as I’m constantly doing.


When it comes to dealing with problems in business, I’m not crippled by what I “don’t know.”

This is important. So many people struggle because they don’t have the perfect knowledge around every fire they have at work or in their personal life. They feel like they need to have the perfect plan to address every single thing that goes wrong.

But me? I’m just constantly doing.

If I’m in the process of addressing one fire and another more important one pops up, I’ll address that one. If fire #4 gets out of hand, I’ll switch my focus to that one.

I just recognize that my game is in perpetuity. I’m playing for the long term, which means I’ll have to keep dealing with fires one after another for years. So I need to be constantly adjusting, without overthinking whether I’m making the “perfect” moves or not.


The reason I’m able to maintain motivation without losing energy is because I love it.

I love doing the AskGaryVee show. I love flying all over the country for meetings. I love pitching clients and getting rejected. I love selling stuff.

It’s why I still go to dollar stores and garage sales to flip products on eBay even though it’s a horrible use of my time as a CEO “on paper.”

People who love the process are the happiest. I see this come in all different shapes and sizes — from the hedge fund guy or gal who genuinely loves the accumulation of  wealth, to people who love the stability of working 9 to 5 and being part of two softball teams.

I love the process of the work. I talk about buying the New York Jets, but when I clarify it, I want the process of trying to buy the Jets — I don’t care about whether or not I actually end up buying them.

All the extra hours I put into Wine Library or VaynerMedia don’t feel like “work” to me because I’m not doing it to accumulate more stuff, I’m doing it because I love it.


Nobody you know ever made it without putting in the work.

‘You might know someone who’s rich because their grandfather gave them money. But you don’t know anyone who “made it” on their own based on luck.

Sure, there are people like Lil’ Yachty who can make a hit song out of nowhere, but that rarely happens. You can win the lottery too. The truth is, most of those people who see on Instagram who made a million in a few months have been working on their craft for years up to that point.

But the dirt isn’t glamorous, so people don’t show it off.

You didn’t see Beyonce singing and dancing at 4 years old — you only see her on stage now. You didn’t see NFL coaches working as ball boys since they were 6 or 7 years old and dedicating their whole lives to the game — you only see them now.

The only “hack” I have for you is to love what you do. Because if you love it, it’ll get much easier for you to put in the work needed to win.


Not only am I working 18 hours a day, but I’m working fast as hell in those 18 hours.

I think this part confuses a lot of people.

I talk a lot about not watching House of Cards and working harder. But there’s another variable:

Go faster in the hours that you’re working.

On a daily basis I’m scrutinizing my days, right down to the second while I try to fit in as much stuff as I can into those hours. We fight for minutes and seconds around my office. There’s not a moment that I spend messing around.

I’m fast in the micro, while being patient in the macro.

I really believe that 95% – 98% of people reading this have it reversed. They’re not squeezing every minute out of every day. They take an hour and a half lunch. They check Facebook and Instagram for 2 hours.

Most people worry about their years, while wasting their days.


One of my big strengths is balancing being accountable with not judging myself.

I think everything is my fault. Everything that’s wrong in my company is 100% on me. There are hundreds of issues that I deal with everyday that I can’t blame anybody else for.

If an employee messes up, I hired that person. I created that process. Everything runs through me.

But at the same time, I’m numb to judgement — even my own judgement of myself. I know I’m doing the best I can.

Judging yourself is a huge vulnerability because everyone else is already doing it for you. And if you’re not in that place, you’ve got no shot.

Everybody else sucks at stuff too.

Allow for Pushback

When You Want Your Team to Disagree

We’ve all been there: a project manager or supervisor asks you to do something you disagree with for some reason. Perhaps the assignment in question takes up too much time or maybe the proposed strategy doesn’t work with the overall mission. In any scenario where employee and supervisor are in disagreement, the situation is ripe for office drama.

As an employee, this can cause a lot of anxiety. No one likes having to step out of their comfort zone to challenge someone who is in a position of power. When your livelihood depends on your paycheck, sometimes it’s easier to just sit back and go with the flow even when you vehemently disagree with something, for good reasons.

The other side of the desk

For the supervisor, these types of disagreements present a whole different set of obstacles and opportunities. Being a leader means being being confident in your ability to make decisions for your entire team. But this responsibility does not mean that every choice you make is perfect.

In fact, if you are a good leader with hiring authority, you will have assembled a team where each individual was carefully selected based on their own unique skill set. Since each person has something different to bring to the table, it would be foolish for a supervisor to refuse to acknowledge the opinions of their employees.

After all, even if you are at the head of a ship or department, you cannot possibly know everything. It is for that very reason that leaders have staffed their teams with able workers.

How can leaders allow for pushback?

It is absolutely important that employees respect their supervisors. Yet fostering a collaborative environment where everyone has a voice doesn’t have to mean losing respect. As with most things in life, there is a right and a wrong way to go about it.

There is a major difference between constructive criticism and disrespect. If, for example, an employee responds to a disagreement by simply shouting, “you’re wrong,” this obviously does not help create a an environment of respect.

If instead, disagreements and concerns are met with substantial evidence as to why this plan may not work, then any leader would be wise to consider what is being said. An employee may say, “I really appreciate your ideas, but I do have some data that possibly contradicts with the goals of this project.” This is much easier to work with.

As a leader, paying attention to how concerns are worded will help you gauge how to respond. A hostile employee may be carrying baggage from elsewhere into your meeting, meaning you may have to read between the lines of what is being said in order to get to the bottom of their concerns.

But employees who come prepared and armed with helpful data should absolutely be taken seriously and listened to by superiors. In fact, you may be surprised at how much insight they are able to offer.

What pushback makes possible

No one likes being met with resistance, but sometimes it is necessary both for the leader’s professional growth, as well as the employee’s.

Think of it this way: You hired each person for a reason. Allowing them to voice respectful dissent shows that you trust your own hiring decision. If you let your employee voice their concerns, it helps to foster an environment where passive agreement is discouraged.

You are saying, It is okay not to agree with everything. That is a good thing because friction during the collaborative process forces more creative thinking and better end results. A team full of “yes men” accomplishes very little that is also new. A team of “let’s think this through” men will bring new ideas to the table.

Take a beat

Disagreements do not have to result in office gossip and they most certainly do not have to result in a sit-down with human resources. More often than not, those things represent a failure to truly communicate.

So when you find yourself in disagreement with someone you work with, especially one of your employees, maybe take a beat. In that time, think of the best way to allow for pushback in the spirit of collaboration. If you can turn this into an opportunity to boost mutual respect, there’s no telling how much you can accomplish together.

by Brittany Hunter

What Superpower Successful Entrepreneurs Have in Common

3 Practices to Cultivate Your Empathy Advantage

It’s no secret that entrepreneurship is a difficult path, with many pitfalls along the way. According to Merriam-Webster, the very definition of an entrepreneur is someone who “assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

There’s no magic solution that’s going to remove that risk or guarantee your business will succeed. When you set out to build a new business, you do so with the knowledge that many who have gone before you have failed.

That said, there is one skill you can cultivate that will significantly increase your chance of success: effective empathy.

Unlocking your empathy advantage

It’s easy to brush past empathy as another “soft skill” that’s nice to have, all things considered. But in the modern world of business, effective empathy is a skill that can make or break your ability to succeed.

At its core, empathy is the ability to see life from another person’s perspective, to “put yourself in another person’s shoes,” as the saying goes. In business, effective empathy allows you to get inside the mind of your target audience, and identify problems (from their perspective) that you can help solve.

Contrast this with the approach many entrepreneurs take: scratching their own itch by solving their own problems and selling the solution. Sometimes, this works—but only because enough people with the same problem are seeking a solution. Maybe you’ll luck out, but it’ a risky bet.

Ángel Cabrera, President of George Mason University, put it this way in a report from Forbes, “At its very heart, a business is the beauty of bringing together people and things to make the community better off—these are the businesses we admire. Empathy is the one tool that makes it all happen.”

Here are three practices I’d recommend for cultivating your empathy advantage:

1. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

This comes directly from Stephen Covey’s classic bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. When this approach becomes your priority, every interaction with a potential customer becomes “How can we help you?” instead of “Here’s how we can help.”

That subtle difference completely shifts the conversation, making your potential customers feel valued. This approach keeps you on track to create products or services that meet real needs your audience shares.

If you only adopt one of these practices, choose this one. Setting your own ambitions aside to truly understand another person is a required first step to cultivate empathy.

2. Use data to understand others

Conversations with customers are crucial. But as your business grows, they become increasingly difficult to scale. That’s where data comes in, which provides a high-level perspective on your audience’s needs.

This data could be in the form of purchase trends, campaign success, or digital tracking data from a tool like Google Analytics. Inside Platform University, we also recommend audience surveys as a great way to get a pulse on your audience from time-to-time.

Whatever the source, it’s best to inform your empathy rather than relying solely on “gut feelings” or “hunches” you haven’t backed up with audience research first.

3. Test your assumptions, repeatedly

By its very nature, every new business is filled with assumptions. It’s impossible to avoid that. The key is to identify your assumptions and test them, before betting the farm on a “sure bet” that might surely fail.

In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries identifies two core “Leap of Faith” assumptions which every business makes. The first is the “Value Hypothesis,” which assumes your product delivers value to the customer in some way. The second is the “Growth Hypothesis,” which assumes new customers will find the product, and that the business model can scale.

For your business to succeed, your assumptions about both value and growth need to be accurate. That’s why you should identify the assumptions you’re making, and find creative ways to test these with your audience or target audience.

The ability to empathize effectively is one of the surest indicators of whether or not an entrepreneur will create a lasting business, regardless of the industry or niche.

Regrettably, it’s also one of the most likely skills to be overlooked, denigrated as an innate skill you either have or you don’t. The truth is, anyone can cultivate empathy with an intentional approach.

Use this to your advantage, and place empathy at the core of your business. With that superpower in place, you’ll drastically increase your chance of success.