According to the Urban Dictionary, "stay up" originates in the graffiti subculture. The phrase refers to the hope that one's tag, throw up, piece, or burner will "stay up" and not be buffed. Of course, in the song of the same title, Kanye may have been alluding to something else.
How cool would it be if life cruised along with no problems, no upsets, no drama? The reality is that these things happen. I haven't run across anyone immune to personal problems ranging from relationships to kids to the new person in the office or even your health. Every seasoned, emotionally-stable recruiter is susceptible to slumping in times like these.
Given that a bad attitude will affect production, and that poor production solves no problems, what steps should be taken to maintain production even during traumatic circumstances? As we in sales know, attitude is everything. Below are a few steps which have worked for me.
1) Focus on the future by living in the now
In a goal driven profession, it's easy to become idealistic rather than living in the now. Believe me, no one is more guilty of having their head in the clouds than I am. Living in the "now" is certainly an area of my life that demands more attention and I'm very conscious of it. I've had to realize that if part or all of my funk is due to a slow market, it's okay! Historically, our industry has always followed a pattern of strong growth followed by short severe busts. We have had no less than ten post-War II Recessions and another will occur. Yet after every recession, our industry has come back stronger and it will again. Regardless of the market, personal slumps will happen as well. There are clear solutions to this that I'll cover below. As Eckhart Tolle said in The Power of Now, "If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place."
2) Plan as if your life and everyone important to you depends on it
A depressed attitude leads to fewer business calls. Fewer calls will lead to less production and a more despondent attitude. It is a circle that has sunk many recruiters I've worked with over the years. The only answer is to keep “hitting the numbers” and that begins with a thoroughly filled-out daily plan.
Under the stress of depression, the tendency is to drift through the day. Maybe grab an extra cup of coffee, a “short” conversation with a friendly face, checking out Facebook or a pointless call to take up time. Before you know it, half the day is gone. A daily plan completed the night before is a significant part of the answer.
3) When good things happen to bad thoughts
It is frequently said that a good attitude is a must to making a good call. In fact, it may have been rammed down your throats by sales managers or trainers. In new people, this may be true because of their lack of skill. After all, lacking basic sales skills, what else do they have? I don't believe this is usually the case with an experienced recruiter. A well-trained recruiter has developed reflexes and patterns over many years. Moreover, your pride will force you to do a good job when you're on the phone. The problem usually is not doing well on the phone; it is getting on the phone to begin with!
This is where good things can happen to bad thoughts. Essentially this involves agreeing with your expectations of crappy results. Go ahead and tell yourself that it will be a bad, boring and non-productive day. But…just so you don’t feel guilty... have all the negative attitude you wish…and then push the stupid buttons on the phone! It's this very statement I have taped to my forehead from time to time.
Only a well thought-out daily plan will allow me to do this, to mindlessly get through my day. But the reality is that by call ten or twelve, I'm not only getting results, but sound damn good on the phone! And that will improve your day enormously too. Good things can happen to you too…from negative or bad thoughts!
4) Eating the elephant one bite at a time
The concept of breaking things down to individual bite-sized portions is a well-established methodology. Maybe you can’t run a mile…but you can run around the block. How about doing it again? Can you do that? Sure you can. Pretty soon you’ve knocked off a mile. For a former smoker, hiring a personal trainer and working out at 5AM six days a week wasn't necessarily the easiest thing for me to do. Sometimes I settled for driving to the gym and sitting in the parking lot. That was easy…and it almost always led to a good training session, even when he didn’t feel I could get myself moving. Once there, it is another easy step to just walk in the door.
Same with you. Are you depressed? OK. But just get up, take a shower, have breakfast. Is business bad? Fine. Just drive to work. Do you expect poor results? No problem. That’s the way it goes. But when you get there, just push the stupid buttons on the phone. Will it be a bad day tomorrow? Probably. But put together a daily plan tonight before you go home. By breaking things down to small steps and accomplishing those one by one, you’ll find discipline almost by accident.
5) Rules of success
Many people think that success is simply a matter of hard work and, perhaps, education. Nope. There are plenty who utilize both and do not succeed. I love Malcom Gladwells' Outliers on this very subject. I quote: "The biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work. There's an awful lot more that goes into it than we admit." Gladwell explains later his theory on the 10,000 hour rule, which implies that "greatness requires enormous time. This explains why The Beatles were the best rock group and Bill Gates is a billionaire. From 1960 to 1964, The Beatles played live 1,200 times and racked up more than 10,0000 hours of playing time! Bill Gates had written 10,000 hours worth of code by the time he was dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft!
The reality is that there really are specific rules and a specific roadmap to success, and the formula can work for you. There is no better time to study and learn that formula than when you are in an emotional funk. For these not familiar with these logical concepts, we are not speaking of what Zig Ziglar has referred to as “Positive Thinking Snake-Oil Salesmen”. I don't need anymore Positive Mental Attitude vitamins if I'm stuck, they don't settle well on an empty stomach or false enthusiasm. Rather, those who have studied the hard principles of success could enhance your life on a permanent basis.
6) Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs
The reality is that emotional downturns can become habits. The market is slow; worried, you take on a new search and it is the wrong search. Because it is the wrong search, nothing results from it. Now you're even more frustrated, leading to even more mistakes and lost time. This is a vicious circle that has to be broken, and one way to do it is the use of signs and posters in your office. It is one thing to improve your attitude and motivation, but if a habit of depression exists, on-going reminders will be needed to correct the problem. Hard-hitting signs, not warm and fuzzy cliches. These less than gentle reminders must be accomplishment-oriented. If you have a favorite quote you get your support staff laminate it. For example, over my computer, a laminated sheet bearing the words “Keep Moving Forward" from one of my son's favorite movies, "Meet the Robinsons" is posted. The movie and phrase have a strong emotional component for me, leading to my next point.
7) Emotional motivators
Posters and quotes apply mainly to the intellect. However, emotions, if brought into your day intelligently, can alos be a huge benefit. Your best bet is not pictures of a spouse, kids, or even your dog, but rather someone who is no longer with you. The purpose of these emotional jolts is just that—to give you an unaccustomed kick in the pants, and remind you to pick up the phone in the face of emotional turmoil.
My son's pitching coach passed away recently from a heart attack at the age of 45 years old. He left behind a 5 year old son. What makes matters worse is that he was found slumped over in his chair through the window. You can bet I have a picture of Fletch displayed prominently in my office. I also remember a recruiter who kept a picture of his ex-wife in a drawer. When he felt himself taking his foot off the gas pedal, he pulls it out, sneers, and starts hitting the buttons on his phone—with passion!
What is the #1 enemy of production when under emotional stress? Less activity. What is the trap leading to less activity? The fact that it sneaks up on you. Fewer and fewer calls with more and more “recovery time” between calls leads to poor results…leading to more emotional stress. Now there’s a downward spiral for you! So what’s the answer? Measurement! As former President Bush said regarding annual testing of children in school, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it!” Feel free to insert your snicker here...
The same applies to working a desk in an emotional or economic downturn. Keeping track of and analyzing your metrics/numbers is critical to success in our industry. However, with your results declining, the tendency is simply to make fewer and fewer calls. This cannot be allowed to happen. Without a daily quantitative summary of the number of calls made, and more importantly, calls returned, there in simply no measurable way of maintaining call volume.
So what sort of scorecard is needed? First of all, keeping track of the calls out, i.e. the number of times you push the buttons on the phone, is pointless. What counts is not button-pushing, but solid business conversations. How many business conversations? Minimally, 20 per day. Short 1-minute calls or messages left do not count. And there should be at least 10 presentations of either your services or a specific candidate to new prospective clients. Anything less than 50% call backs demands immediate attention.
It may be necessary to plan and make 60 calls per day to get in your 20 substantive conversations. Accumulatively, when combined with improving skills, this number will yield the results needed to break through your slump. Just keep track of your substantive business conversations, by means of “hash marks” on your daily plan. But don’t quit doing this. Otherwise, your activity will spiral down while you remain in a slump. After all, “If you can’t measure it…you can’t improve it!”
Down times, regardless of the reason, mean frustration and irritation. Perhaps the market has you down. Or perhaps it is a relationship, family illness, loss of a pet. Anything that generates anger is counter-productive to doing well in business. The best way is get rid of that anger is to find a socially-acceptable outlet for it. That means exercise, or what I now refer to as strength training. It is well-known that better-conditioned people handle stress more effectively. Shawn Phillips has written a book called Strength for Life. He has captured an integral approach to strength training, where "energy is the real currency of life...an abundance of energy. When' you're living with strength you have a resource of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy...the capacity to make an impacty". Check it out!
10) Keep Moving Forward
If your slow work pace comes from non-business circumstances, you’ll find the above points to be highly beneficial. But if your problems are due to market conditions, there is one additional critical element to improve your attitude. Get better! Improve your selling skills! The same thing over and over, the same ideas, the same techniques, will lead to no improvement. It’s boring. It generates no hope. And sitting around just waiting for the market to turn isn’t exactly conducive to better results.
How long since you’ve read a book on industry-specific selling? On classical selling? On time management? Do you listen to forward-moving CD's or MP3's on the way to work? Does your firm have any videos or DVDs? Have you watched them recently? A few of my new favorites are the aforementioned Outliers, Strength for Life, The Power of Now, Marcus Buckinghams' First, Break All the Rules and The Truth About You. Improvement, learning, forward movement gives you a great sense of destiny, of zeal, drive, confidence. You are taking control by using your mind. If you are in a funk, get better. Get renewed!
So where are we, in terms of keeping your attitude “up” in down times? First of all, realize that a sense of depression is normal under some circumstances. A temporary slump, a poor market or personal problems makes it unreasonable to be cheerful at all times. This does not have to result in a slow work pace. While you may not sparkle with joy throughout the day, you can still remain productive.
You don’t, however, have to just sit around and wait. Even in an emotionally disturbed state ( for whatever reason), you can still get decent production. You will just have to be a little “mechanical” about it. But that’s OK. Plan. Plan. Plan at the end of the day. Even if you don’t want to, take one step at a time. Just do your planning before you go home. Don’t worry about production. Just plan.
The next morning, hit the phones early and don’t worry about your attitude. Just push the stupid buttons on the phone. Don’t even worry about results. Push the stupid buttons on the phone!
Along the way, gain some knowledge. Learn. This is an ideal time to do it. When the market comes back, you won’t have time to improve. You’ll be too busy with business. So use this time to read some good selling and personal development books. Don’t just read. Underline. Re-read. Implement. Watch videos. Role-play. Distract yourself by learning, and you will improve attitude, skills, and income. Nothing lasts forever. That includes both business and personal problems. This too shall pass—faster than you think. And when it does, you’ll be well-positioned to take full advantage of the romping, stomping, roaring bull market that most certainly lies ahead!
It's like Kanye said: "Stay Up...this a contact sport".