My pleasure!

Whose hungry? I travel a lot for speaking and training and no matter the hour at the airport, Chick-Fil-A has a line. Six restaurants surround the Chick-Fil-A in the Atlanta airport with a minimal line, but Chick-Fil-A will always be 15-25 people deep. The car line is usually full at our local one in Stuart, Florida, and people had meltdowns when they had to temporarily close for renovations last summer. So is the food that good there or is there something else? My money is on a little of both.

Kendra Cherry, author of ‘Everything Psychology’ writes that “there is some compelling evidence that shows consumers use emotions rather than information to evaluate brands. Emotions also create deeper and more visceral impressions that have impact on long-term memory.” I would also add that we allow companies we emotionally-associate with more grace than others. If they mess up, we can forgive and still return there later. In order for a company or brand to gain your emotional support that takes time and a lot of trust.

Readers can associate this post with any number of brands and even schools/organizations. If parents feel an emotional attachment to a school or district, they may be more willing to invest their time in volunteering, donations, and spreading positive messages about the school. However, schools and brands have to communicate to their audiences to gain this attachment. This starts with everything from the hiring process to the product to the culture of the establishment. Everyone has to buy-in to the mission and be willing participants in a positive culture. If people are spending their time and money at a place, they want to feel taken care of, heard, and catered to. We have so much choice now with retail, restaurants, and even schools (with charter and private schools appearing more) that brands need to be communicating more than ever to gain an emotional attachment.

You’ll see smiles, hear the words ‘my pleasure’ and be given $5 gift cards if your food is a tad bit late coming to your table at Chick-Fil-A. They have a mission to be good stewards to the community and are rewarded with unbelievable loyalty to their brand. A definite recipe for long-term success.

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The Square Peg and the Round Hole

No matter the industry, job, family or organization, it is almost a universal truth that there are difficult people to work with. My mentor, Jon Gordon, calls them ‘Energy Vampires’ and I’ve heard worse than that too! These are the people who seemingly have a dark cloud that follows them around and affects everyone around them. You see them coming and while you may have a polite…albeit short interaction…your nonverbal communication probably indicates you really didn’t want to be there. Remember, time sends a message too including lack of spending time.

So what do we do about these people? Will they ever fit in? If you’ve led a project, department, division, etc. you know getting people to work together is like putting a square peg into a round hole. Think about it- different cultures, genders, experience level, agendas, personalities all expected to work together in harmony.

I recently coached my 4-year-old son’s first soccer season, and it was an adventure! The goal was just to have fun and learn the fundamentals of the game. Still, there are moments where you try to get them to work in-sync together. At one point, I had one boy digging in the dirt, another running off for a snack, another starring blankly at the sky, and then two others running for the ball. Ever have an organization or situation feel like this? The best thing we could do is encourage the kids to participate, love on them, and give them opportunities with the ball. We literally placed the ball in front of one kid’s feet and said ‘Run!’- He made it about 5 feet before a hoard of children stole the ball. In the end, we all celebrated with our trophies and tried to provide the best experience.

While work and school situations don’t allow for participation medals, it does allow for creative thinking. Stop trying to jam that peg into the hole and perhaps look at it another way. Perhaps more one-on-one time with the difficult employee to gauge what’s really going on. Try to see what is causing the negativity and see if they can offer solutions. Give them a chance with encouragement and trying to show some grace and love before drastic actions are taken. Of course I am not a believer in endless chances but at least starting with a conversation and staying in contact with this person. It may drive them away or you may just win them over either way it is an opportunity to reach out to this person and attempt to cultivate their talent.

I did have some kids not return because they were just not into it, and a lot who surprised me that eventually got into the game. Maybe some of your difficult staff members have a surprise for you.

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The First Driver

30 cities in 1 summer. I was able to visit about 8 of those cities in the mid-west in the summer of 2007. Jon Gordon had just debuted his latest book ‘The Energy Bus’ and he had 21-year-old me to help organize his book tour. I was finally using my Public Relations skills from UF to attract press and attention to the events…even though in OKC and Omaha we had a combined 5 people! However, Austin and Des Moines made it worth it with well over 200 people combined.

I like to think of myself as one of the first ‘Energy Bus’ drivers now that the book has sold over 2 million copies world-wide. I’ve seen this book grow since it was a baby. Literally. Jon sent me a copy of the book as a Word document, and I read it in my tiny little apartment. Little did I know this book would have a huge impact on my life and every reader to come.

The book tour was special because I always knew I wanted to be a speaker. At 17-years-old I told friends and teachers in high school I wanted to speak….but just didn’t know how to get there. So to be driving around the country with an up-and-coming author, introducing him at each event, and planting seeds for a major book…I was in heaven and trying to soak up the experience. Jon and I grew close as he was obviously a great mentor to me…and still is.

Jon was sick for a lot of our drive together, but he always mustered the strength to speak at our events. I liked watching him perform confirming I was supposed to do this. I try to channel that young hunger from that 21-year-old kid when I can to remind myself to stay humble, hungry, and driven. It’s important to take people under your wings and pay it forward. I may have been one of the first ‘Drivers of the Bus’ but there are now millions world-wide who have taken the wheel for the ride of their lives.

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I'm Not Perfect

Who is? Communication has been a part of my life since high school where I always found human interaction to be quite interesting. It wasn’t until my time in college where I was able to explore communication in the academic sense and take nearly every class UF had to offer on the subject. I’ve never been the type to hide my personality or even my interests so people always knew that I liked studying communication.

Unfortunately, it was also used against me. In arguments with friends, family, or significant others, it nearly always got thrown back in my face. ‘You’re supposed to be Mr. Communication!’ That was always one of my favorites. I’m not perfect though and neither are you. Much of communication is a learned skill that we develop over time. Just because I teach it doesn’t mean I have mastered it in my personal life. I strive daily to work on holding my tongue and framing comments a certain way. I work on talking to my kids better and their own speaking style and manners. Just because you like something or are good at something doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at it.

The question should be- where is the effort? Are you striving to improve that area? Are you resting on your laurels? OK with where you are? The word intentional comes to mind. Being intentional with your actions to improve or simply build on what you are good at. So if someone calls you out or recognizes you for a certain area it’s ok to be glad you have a niche in something but realize expectations may be high in that area. Perfection shouldn’t be a goal but consistent and intentional time devoted to that area goes a long way.

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What's Your Close?

I heard a great story from my pastor a few weeks back when he was first starting to preach. There was an older man who attended the church and had a ton of experience in sales, marketing, finance, real estate…you name it. Most importantly, he was a great communicator. My pastor pulled him aside after one of his sermons and asked the older man to let him know honestly if he hits his close or not with future sermons.

True to his word, after every Sunday sermon, the man would walk past, shake my pastor’s hand and say ‘You hit it great today’ or ‘Missed it by 5 minutes’ or ‘Undersold it’. He gave great feedback that helped my pastor become a better speaker.

What was it that George Costanza said on Seinfeld? “Showmanship….always go out on a high note.” Comedians do this better than anyone because they know if they have the audience rolling in laughter, they will feel good and remember that feeling and hopefully who the comedian is. Speakers need to have that same attitude when it comes to a presentation. Never underestimate the value of the close. Too often in my public speaking classes, students give a brilliant speech and then realize they only have 10 seconds to wrap it up. They rush their ending and it downgrades the entire speech. It’s like the rug gets ripped out from where we are standing.

When practicing and planning for a presentation, leave plenty of time for the close. This is your opportunity to connect one last time with the audience. Give them an emotional tone they will never forget, involve the crowd in an activity, have them verbally respond, stand, or deliver your lines with gusto and energy that will pierce them. If you hit it right, you’ll know it…the audience will know it…and your message will have legs well past that moment.

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Creating a Culture of Learning

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Creating a Culture of Learning

You walk into Keystone Elementary in Ohio and you would think you are actually on the real Energy Bus if there was such a thing. Energy Bus posters hung everywhere, yellow school busses on the walls, positive fueling stations in various corners, and positive notes and quotes everywhere you look. The teachers and staff speak the Energy Bus language to their students and parents as well as each other which results in a palpable energy to the school. 
 
Keystone’s goal for using the Energy Bus for Schools training program is to sustain their already positive culture. A huge misconception exists that when training is used by a company or school, it is for punitive reasons. The fact is that much of the training we do is for schools and companies who, from a culture & morale standpoint, are doing well. These clients aim to create a culture of learning inside their walls.
 
Research suggests that a positive culture has leaders and employees who foster caring and respectful behaviors and help others to manage social relationships that are ongoing and long-term. Training can focus on a number of these issues especially creating ongoing and sustainable behaviors. The key is to go beyond the training. Our trainers have a desire to facilitate positive ideas that can help schools and companies continue to grow. Much of the work is completed after our trainers have left as it is up to the managers and employees to take the principles, learn to embrace them and then implement and infuse them in their culture. 
 
Look no further than the managers and leaders of Aramark at Clemson University. They just completed a full-day training on The Positive Leader & The Positive Communicator. By the end of the day, each could recall a number of strategies and ideas they want to specifically bring to their employees. Through active conversation & engaging activities, they moved through the material with willing hearts & minds eager to create a culture of learning across all their employees.
 
Training is for all types of companies and schools. Even when things seem like they are going well, that might be the best time to invest in training. This is an opportunity to show employees the value of creating a positive & sustainable culture for years to come.

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