Confidence

Six Sure-Fire Ways to Reduce Uncertainty

June 29, 2021

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.” —Jeremiah 29:11 AMP

Leaders know that decision-making always involves some level of uncertainty. You’ll never see the result of an option until it’s chosen, and the decision is converted into action. The more information, advice, and experience you have to decide, the higher your confidence level will be. You’ll be able to anticipate potential outcomes and assign probabilities. 

On the other hand, incomplete, inaccurate, and unreliable information, a lack of wise counsel, and inexperience will lower your confidence level. You’ll be unable to adequately assess potential outcomes, let alone foresee likelihoods.

Your role as a leader is to reduce uncertainty. How?

  1. Build knowledge: Learn as much as you can about each option. What are the required information and parameters you need to decide? The Bible says, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18:15 NIV). Do your best to validate the information’s completeness, accuracy, and reliability. At the same time, be at peace when you don’t know everything.
  2. Involve people: Seek advice from others. Listen to people who listen to God. The Bible says, “Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers” (Proverbs 24:6 NIV). Pursue different points of view, encourage debate, and listen carefully. 
  3. Determine predictability: Based on your knowledge and advice you’ve received, rank each option according to its positive outcome likelihood; 1 is a low positive outcome probability and 10 is a high positive outcome probability. The higher the probability, the lower the uncertainty. The lower the probability, the higher the uncertainty. You want to lean toward options that have the highest likelihood of success. 
  4. Understand and accept risk: I learned a long time ago from Dale Carnegie to ask myself, “What’s the worst that can possibly happen?”[1] Consider what you might lose. What’s at risk? If you understand and accept what’s at risk, you’ll reduce the anxiety that comes from uncertainty.
  5. Remember your values: Grounding a decision in your core values and guiding principles will help you navigate uncertainty. Without values, you’ll be tossed about and be at an even more significant disadvantage when faced with doubt.
  6. Remain flexible: Keep all of your options open to accommodate an uncertain future. You may need to course-correct and select another option as a contingency plan. 


The goal of improving decision quality is about reducing uncertainty and increasing the probability of positive results, not guaranteeing them. Let’s take this a step further. 

For the believer, you can reduce uncertainty to a large extent and make the best decision possible. You may make a terrific decision and not achieve your objective. Or, you may make a lousy decision and somehow achieve your goal. Uncertainty remains. Either way, there is one thing that is for sure: God is in control. You can trust him with the outcome.

Think about some Bible heroes who made decisions and weren’t so certain about the outcomes: 

  • Noah decided to follow God’s direction and build an ark but wasn’t exactly sure how everything would unfold.
  • Abraham faithfully followed God’s call and left his home, not knowing where he was going. 
  • At Jesus’ invitation, Peter courageously stepped out of the boat and walked on water, moving from certainty to uncertainty as he sank. 

In all three examples, each person decided in the face of uncertainty and trusted God with the outcome. 

  • Rain covered the earth, but Noah and his family were rescued in the Ark. 
  • Abraham settled down and his descendants became a mighty nation. 
  • When Peter began to doubt and sink, Jesus grabbed his hand and pulled him up.

Noah, Abraham, and Peter trusted God with the outcome. You can too! Why? God promises that he is for you, not against you (Romans 8:31). He has wonderful plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). And he works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). 

When faced with uncertainty, consider asking

  • How do you reduce uncertainty when deciding? 
  • Do you trust God with the outcomes? 
  • Do you believe he has a plan for your life and will help you make sound decisions?

Look to him when you’re faced with a decision and uncertain outcomes. Whether you experience a successful result or make a mistake, know that God is in control. Place your trust in him.

Do want to learn more? Visit http://www.prestonpoore.com

Cheers,

Pres


[1] Dale Carnegie, The Leader in You (Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd, 2020).

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Advice: Why Many Eyes See More Than One

February 2, 2021

“Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel, and watch them succeed.” —Proverbs 15:22 MSG

I was once under the gun to hire an associate to work with our business partners. I needed to recruit, interview, and fill the open position within two weeks or I wouldn’t be able to hire anyone for that position. And an empty role meant that the work and relationship management would fall on my plate.

Steve seemed like a great candidate. However, a couple of key leaders warned me: “Don’t hire him. He’s not a good fit. If you do, it will be a mistake.” And yet, a trusted peer highly recommended Steve: “He has the right experience and transferable skills. With a little coaching, he’ll be great.”

I moved swiftly and selfishly to hire Steve.

Fast-forward one year. 

While Steve was hired into a harsh work environment and we believed he could break through, he never gained traction with his assigned business partners or market. The business partners demanded more than Steve could deliver. When Steve stumbled, I had to compensate. 

Even though I had ten other team members and was accountable for eighteen markets, I spent 80 percent of my time with Steve and his specific territory. I didn’t want Steve to fail. I saw his success as my responsibility since I’d decided against others’ counsel. I wanted to prove that I could help Steve reach his potential. 

Over time, his key stakeholders rejected him because of a perceived lack of credibility. Steve was no longer invited to meetings or trade rides and lost his ability to influence or add value. I shared the business partners’ feedback with Steve along the way. Trying to support him, I continually spent time helping him solve problems and discuss his concerns. I always encouraged him. And I was genuine with him. We built a plan to improve his performance and connection with the business partner. But Steve didn’t follow through. He’d lost heart.

I realized that I couldn’t develop Steve as I’d thought. His skillset and motivational fit weren’t right for the role. I also realized I’d made a mistake. I’d listened to advice that validated my predetermined choice and immediately discounted differing opinions.

Why? Because I saw potential, or so I told myself. I’d heard what I’d wanted to hear and ignored the ultimately correct guidance provided by others. Acting out of arrogance, I believed that I could single-handedly develop Steve’s analytical, relationship-building, and leadership skills—and that proved not to be the case.

A change needed to happen for Steve’s benefit, for my team, for our business partners, for the company—and for me. Ultimately, Steve was placed on a performance improvement plan and eventually exited from the organization.

Looking back, here’s what I learned about advice:

Seek many opinions

This Latin phrase is right: vident oculi quam oculus—many eyes see more than one. When you face a difficult decision, consult multiple advisors. Seek the opinions of those with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and thinking styles. 

These counselors should have integrity and trustworthiness. They should listen well, think deeply, possess an optimistic outlook, be strategic, and be grounded in reality. When you receive advice, ask: Is this advice honest, actionable, and timely? 

John C. Maxwell says, “If you combine the thoughts you have and the thoughts that others have, you will come up with thoughts you’ve never had!”[i]

Be an unselective listener

Even though I sought wise counsel from others, I selectively listened to what they said. I sought validation, not guidance. I pieced together what I wanted to hear and rationalized my decision. 

Admittedly, I had my own agenda, I was stubborn, and I acted out of arrogance. The Bible says, “Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice” (Proverbs 12:15 MSG). If I’d listened early on, Steve and I wouldn’t have suffered through tough circumstances. When seeking counsel, objectively listen to others and don’t filter your thoughts with predetermined bias.

Pray always

I didn’t pray about my decision to hire Steve and moved without consulting God. It became a mess. But I did pray amid the mess and God was faithful. 

For believers, we need to lift everything in prayer, and it should become a lifestyle for us. The Bible says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17 ESV). Take every moment and opportunity to pray. Pursue God’s divine understanding, discernment, and wisdom. Make it a continual conversation with God and a way of life. If you do, God will guide you, your decisions, and your circumstances.

Consider 

  • Do you have trusted, integrous advisers who will provide diverse points of view? 
  • When you pursue their counsel, are you looking for guidance or validation? 
  • Are you willing to listen and suspend judgment? 
  • Will you pray about the advice you receive and the decision you will make?

[i] John C. Maxwell, Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work (Center Street, 2005).

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Why Training Isn’t Enough

December 1, 2020
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I remember entering the class disheartened; the worst salesperson in the Southeast – bottom of the totem pole. Not only was I disappointed by my sales results, but I’d also become depressed – underperformance, not meeting expectations. I’d lost confidence and was fearful of losing my job. Even my outward appearance reflected my low spirits. Then, I met Jason. He was the owner of the local Dale Carnegie franchise and sales course facilitator. I came to learn he was formally the top Dale Carnegie salesperson in the world, a former PGA tour member and local radio show host. I admired him and hung on every word he said. For some reason, he took an interest in me.

The class included 20 participants wanting to learn about the selling process. Everything Jason taught was eye-opening to me: How to open a sales call (e.g., “if there were a way to increase your sales by $X, you’d want to know about it wouldn’t you?”), how to ask probing questions, listening skills, the difference between features and benefits, providing a value proposition, how to smoke out and overcome objections and closing techniques, all with a human relations perspective.  

The course’s methodology was to teach a selling principle in the classroom, apply it on the job, return the next week, and share what happened. Jason coached the participants as we practiced the principles – many times, we failed – but that’s where the learning occurred. He encouraged us to get out of our comfort zones to where growth happens. And move out of my comfort zone I did – as time passed, I applied the principles, and they worked for me. My confidence started to grow. I began fearlessly opening sales calls – gaining a store owner’s undivided attention, listening for customer needs, demonstrating how Pro Plan would benefit their business, overcoming objections, and, most of all, closing sales. Additionally, Jason called me every few weeks during the course to see how I was doing – I appreciated his interest and mentorship. I’d tell him how I was applying the new selling principles; ask a few questions, and he’d provide some coaching.  

I blossomed as my selling skills improved.  I began experiencing positive results, and it showed. I had more pep in my step, and my outward appearance began to reflect how I felt on the inside. I even started attending class wearing a sport coat, dress slacks, and a button-down shirt. My new-found confidence was beaming. Jason noticed and publicly commented so. 

Over the 12-week course, class members participated in a “Sales Talk” competition where everyone took turns pitching their product or service and leveraged the new skills we’d learned. When it was my turn in the first round, I passionately demonstrated how I’d grown over the previous weeks and pitched Pro Plan using all the key selling principles and techniques. Surprisingly, my peers voted me into the finals. But Michael, a professional salesperson, future CEO, and community leader, was a formidable competitor. Are you kidding? Me versus Goliath? Winning was going to take all I had and then some.

To differentiate me and take home the trophy, I decided that the key to beating Michael would be showmanship – demonstrating Pro Plan’s real-life effect. No, I wasn’t going to ask everyone to taste a kibble. However, my idea did involve a dog. I was hesitant to execute the plan, but during my preparation, I remembered a quote in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It reads, “I cannot write a work commiserate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me,” meaning be yourself, be authentic. The quote inspired me with the confidence to become a first-rate Preston Poore and not a second rate someone else. To take a chance and differentiate me from the competition. 

The big day came, and Michael went first. He gave a passionate and convincing talk about construction and business development – his new pitch for multi-million-dollar buildings – real estate development. Smooth. Impressive. Surely, he would win. But that didn’t stop me from trying, rising to the challenge. I’d practiced my presentation and was ready to go.

I rose to present in my chalk striped gray suit, tie, and polished shoes. I conveyed confidence, filled the room with presence. In command of my presentation, I had a conversation with the audience, as if I was speaking directly to a potential store owner. After walking through my opening statement, asking questions, flushing out, and overcoming objections, it was time for the close.

I told the audience that there was no better way to believe what I was telling them, the health benefits of Pro Plan, that to show them a living example. To the audience’s surprise, my wife Carla appeared in the back of the room, holding our Dachshund, Sally. I introduced Carla and Sally. Sally’s tail wagged as she recognized me. Carla put Sally down, and Sally immediately ran across the room to me. The class cheered and roared with laughter, enjoying the pleasant surprise appearance. I picked Sally up and told the audience that the “proof is in the pudding.” Sally’s eaten Pro Plan for the last year. Her coat shined, her energy level was high, and she was healthier than when we fed her grocery store brand pet food. 

I addressed the audience, “Who wouldn’t want their pet to look and feel like Sally? All it takes is offering Pro Plan to your customers.” To close, I asked, “Would you like to place the large or medium-sized rack with your first 500 lb. order?” I said thank you, and the audience stood in rousing applause. I was overwhelmed. 

Then, time to vote. Jason handed out ballots and instructed the class to choose who they thought best demonstrated the sales principles. He asked them to consider passion and creativity in their decision. After a few quiet moments, Jason gathered the ballots, counted them, and announced, “You’ve selected Preston as our ‘Sales Talk Champion.’ Congratulations, Preston!” I proudly received a plaque that I still have to this day. 

The Dale Carnegie Sales course and my experience over those 12 weeks set my career on a new trajectory. I developed valuable skills I didn’t have before. I stepped out of my comfort zone to apply the principles I learned. Sometimes I failed, and other times I succeeded. I learned and grew through the process. So much so that I eventually became the number one Pro Plan representative in the Southeast, opening more new accounts and increasing sales more than my peers. I grew, and my company grew. All because someone believed in me, made way for me, coached me, developed me. I intentionally leaned into the process and greatly improved my results. I benefited personally and professionally. 

I learned training itself wasn’t enough. The secret sauce was in what I did with the training, the new skills I developed. I didn’t set them on a shelf and forget about them. If you’re on a development journey and want to realize your potential, I recommend employing three fundamental principles:

Apply, Apply, Apply – It’s been said that knowledge is power. Not so fast. I believe that the application of knowledge is power. You need to put what you learned into practice; turn thoughts and words into action. Bring things to life. There’s limited value in gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Knowledge must inform and shape our actions. But without effort, knowledge is dead. The fuel of development is application, nothing more, nothing less. To grow, you need to employ what you’ve learned, test it, try it. Don’t let ideas, principles, or concepts move into one ear and out the other. To make a real, substantial, material change, you must do. In doing, move out of your comfort zone to the edge where learning happens, where you gain experience. PT Barnum said, “No man or woman has a right to expect to succeed in life unless they understand their business, and nobody can understand their business thoroughly unless they learn it by personal application and experience.” I stepped out of my comfort zone, employed the principles, gained experience, and succeeded. If you apply what you learn, you will too.

Self-Reflect – Once you’ve applied the acquired knowledge, it’s time to reflect – think deeply about your experience. Why? Peter Drucker said, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” By looking back thoroughly at your actions. What worked well? What were your successes? How did you see your strengths come to life, and how will you build upon them? What didn’t go well? Did you fail? That’s ok. What did you learn? What problems did you encounter? What were the root causes? What adjustments do you need to make? What are limiting self-beliefs holding me back? I recommend keeping a journal to record your thoughts. Writing helps you know what you think. Ask yourself, did I succeed or fail today? Why? How did it make me feel? How can I improve? If you journal over time, you’ll be able to return to your reflections and see growth. 

Be Accountable – To achieve the results you desire, it’s good to have a coach, mentor, manager, peer, or friend to ask probing questions, give advice, and encourage you. Connect with someone you trust and share your plan with them. Be vulnerable with the person by sharing your ups and downs, where you are in your development journey. Similar to the above self-reflection questions, empower your accountability partner to ask questions like:

  • Wins: What’s going well? What are you most proud of? What did you learn? How will you replicate or build upon it?
  • Challenges: What’s not going well? Why? What did you learn? How will you course correct?
  • Goals: What do you want to accomplish moving forward? By when? How do you define success? Do you anticipate any challenges? How will you overcome them?
  • Support: How can I help you?

Training isn’t enough, but it’s the start of reaching your potential. If you apply what you learn, reflect, and are transparent with someone who will encourage you and hold you accountable, you will grow. You’ll transform the capacity, raw talents, and abilities you have into power, influence, and positive effect. Your potential will become potency. Because of your growth, you’ll grow everything around you – cultures, communities, companies, churches, schools, you name it. What are you waiting for?

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From Complications to God-Confidence

November 3, 2020
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When our daughter, Caroline, was born and severe health complications quickly ensued, Carla and I were driven to our knees, crying out to God for healing. Amid fear and fright, we sought his peace. When we felt less than confident that the story we’d imagined for ourselves as new parents wasn’t going to play out the way we’d thought, we sought God’s confidence.

Here’s Carla’s story. For the squeamish, it does get detailed.

March 1, 1994, was an incredible day. My due date had come and gone, and now Preston and I were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new baby girl, Caroline. Caroline arrived at 7:29 a.m. on Tuesday, March 1. We were overjoyed and felt so blessed to welcome a new, healthy baby girl into our family.

Later that afternoon, as is typical after most deliveries, the nurses came into my hospital room to check on me, take vital signs, etc. After removing my catheter, they noticed something wrong: there was urine leaking onto my bed. Several nurses came in to look, doctors were called in, and shortly after that, I was wheeled over to urology specialists’ offices. During the delivery process, we found out that my bladder and vaginal wall had been torn, therefore forming a hole through both, which had caused urine to flow directly from my bladder through my vaginal wall and leak onto the bed (or anything else).

At first, neither my doctor nor the specialists knew what to do. Once the specialists had discussed the matter, my OB-GYN (who had delivered Caroline) came in to explain these findings to us. He admitted that he didn’t know how this had happened, and, although he had delivered thousands of babies, he had never seen this before. He was concerned, and he offered to pray with us.  

The next day, we took Caroline home, but it wasn’t the homecoming I had envisioned beforehand. I went home with a catheter and wore adult continence garments for the next six weeks while we met with specialists to develop a plan that would hopefully lead to healing. During the weeks that led up to the surgery, my OB doctor would call to check on us and let us know that he and others he knew were praying for us. Many surgeons are egotistical and don’t acknowledge their humanness. This doctor was different. He was bold in his faith and humble in his approach, and, because of this, I was learning more about Christ.

There was a lot of uncertainty going into the surgery. Ahead of time, we had agreed to various approaches based on what they could find once I was on the surgical table. One method was somewhat invasive and another one much less so, but I wouldn’t know which method they would implement until I awoke from anesthesia. During the weeks leading up to surgery, our only option was to pray for a medical plan of action that would be successful, for skilled minds and skilled hands for the physicians, for encouragement, and for adequate care during this time for our new baby girl. We asked family, friends, neighbors, and everyone around us for prayer.

Finally, the morning of surgery came, and it was time for my family to leave my side and allow the staff to take me back. As I was being wheeled down to the pre-op room, I heard someone call my name. It was my physician; he had come to walk me into surgery. (He was not a part of the urology surgical team). He held my hand and prayed over me. 

I’m happy to say that the report was good when I came out of the anesthesia later that day. The team had been able to make the repairs in the least invasive way, and, thankfully, the outcome looked very hopeful!

I cared for a newborn baby for several months following the surgery while wearing multiple urinary medical devices. Needless to say, I stayed home quite a bit. It wasn’t an easy time, but it was a season when God was allowing me some time alone with him to talk things out. I did a lot of praying. 

At times, I remember wrestling with my feelings and thinking, Am I going to trust that God is good and that his plan for me is good, even if my body doesn’t function properly and I must wear these urinary devices for the rest of my life?  Am I going to trust him no matter the outcome?  

God was patient with me, and he allowed me to talk about these things out with him.  Ultimately, after spending much time in his Word, much time in prayer, and listening to godly counsel, I began to accept the fact that, no matter the outcome, God loves me and cares for me. He will always be there for me. He is my maker and my helper.

Several months went by before I could attempt going to the restroom on my own.  I’ll never forget the day I was allowed to try. Right away, I knew I was healed. God is good, not because he chose to heal me—he certainly didn’t have to do that—but because he is a good father. That’s his character. His plans are for good, even though we may not like them at the time. 

Looking back, I’m very thankful he took me on that little journey years ago. I learned to trust him, and he hasn’t failed me yet.

To add to Carla’s story, I remember sitting in the waiting room with her parents and my grandparents during surgery. We were hopeful that the procedure would be successful, but we were prepared for the worst. I’ll never forget the post-surgery debrief with the surgeon. It was as if he couldn’t believe how simple the surgery was and how well it had gone versus how he initially thought the situation would be resolved. It was a miracle. We were absolutely delighted and thankful. We all jumped for joy and thanked God for his incredible mercy. The surgery was successful, and Carla’s health was restored.

Carla and I will always look back at this milestone and be thankful for God’s answer to our prayers. We didn’t have anywhere else to turn but to God, to place our hope and confidence in him for a positive outcome. Despite daunting circumstances and an undesired prognosis, we prayed to God because we trusted him. When I saw God move and do what seemed impossible, it both reaffirmed and further established my confidence in God.

What does God-confidence look like? It’s when you move from elevating God over self. The Bible says, “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence” (1 Corinthians 10:12 – The Message). 

How does one cultivate God-confidence?

  • Seek his empowerment. 
  • Request God’s wisdom to navigate unchartered territory, make decisions, and solve problems. 
  • Seek his strength and protection to face opposition or challenging circumstances. 
  • Trust he’ll provide and ensure an outcome that works for the good. 
  • When success comes, give credit to God and be thankful.
  • If success doesn’t come, don’t let your God-confidence be shaken but let it grow through adversity. 

How different would your life look if you moved from self-confidence to God-confidence? How would your home life change? How would your organization, community, or school grow? How would your world transform?

If you sincerely trust him, God will do wonderful things in you and through you. As you make a positive difference in the world, you will be in marvelous fellowship with the One who made you. You will be engaged in his enterprises, risking your life for him and his kingdom. Focusing on God and not self will make your confidence soar, and you’ll be energized to do and achieve more than you imagined possible.

If you found this article helpful, please subscribe to my blog https://prestonpoore.com/blog/ where I explore faith, leadership, communication and human relations skills that will help you become the best version of yourself.

Thanks for reading. Cheers!

Pres

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Ignite Your Potential in Two Easy Steps

August 29, 2020

“Composer Gian Carlo Menotti forcefully stated, ‘Hell begins on that day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts we wasted, of all that we might have done that we did not do. Unrealized potential is a tragic waste.’”[1]

Reaching your potential is a choice. You choose to pursue fulfilling your potential by engaging in personal and professional development, or you can choose not to – what a waste. Early on, I decided to develop my potential and not throw it away. My road moving from potential to potency began when I made a huge career change from banking to sales. Here’s my story.

With his piercing blue eyes, Chris stared at me for a moment, and then said with an exasperated tone, “I’m not interested. You’re wasting your time and mine. As a matter of fact, you don’t need to come back, ever again.” His words penetrated my soul and wounded my pride. He was right; I was wasting his time. I’d frequently visited his store to make a case on why he needed to carry the new product line I represented. I thought enthusiasm and persistence would eventually pay off, and Chris would become a new customer. But I couldn’t close the deal. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t closing any deals.

You see, I was hired by Ralston Purina to launch a new premium pet food named, Pro Plan – competition for market leaders Science Diet and Iams. A friend referred me to the hiring manager, Tom, who oversaw forming the Southeast sales team. After our interview and lack of candidates in the Alabama / Mississippi market, Tom decided to give me a chance even though I had absolutely no selling experience. When Tom called to offer the job to me, he made it clear that he was “hiring potential” and that we’d see how it would go. Not a resounding vote of confidence, but I decided to accept the role anyway. Why? I wanted to make a career change, and the offer was too good to turn down. It included a 30% pay raise, massive bonus, substantial benefits, and a company car – a sweet deal for someone without the needed experience.

Before I started the role, Tom called and said he was sending some brochures to learn about the Pro Plan product line and a list of pet and feed store accounts in my new territory. Since Tom was standing up a new sales team and couldn’t spend much time with me, he suggested that I read a few books on selling, pick my favorite principles, and apply them. He also told me that enthusiasm and persistence would win over any customer. Lastly, he said it was time to hit the road and begin selling Pro Plan. . . Call him if I had any questions.

Using the account list, I mapped out my route and hit the road. I started with the larger cities like Birmingham and Jackson calling on local pet and feed store owners. Then, I visited rural markets. If you’ve never driven in the rural Southeast, there are long stretches of two-lane roads with only farmland and cows in sight. This was when I gained my affection for country music because it was typically the only music my radio would pick up.

I went from town to town, pet store to pet store, feed store to feed store. I discovered that a few accounts had already picked up Pro Plan, but the vast majority hadn’t. Why? Because of Purina’s dominant grocery channel market share,many store owners considered Purina the competition, even the enemy. Purina’s flagship brand was Dog Chow. The company invested a lot of money in marketing and advertising the brand, drive customers into grocery stores, and convert customers into buyers. When customers purchased their pet food in a grocery store, they were less likely to visit and buy from a pet or feed store. To many pet and feed store owners, the idea of carrying a Ralston product just wasn’t palatable.

After my initial two-month swing across Alabama and Mississippi, I attended a Pro Plan sales meeting at Purina’s St. Louis headquarters. The marketing team introduced a Pro Plan line extension called “Turkey and Barley.” Part of the product knowledge was a kibble tasting; yes, a kibble tasting. I’ll never forget the moment. Teams gathered at designated tables to review the packaging, ingredients, and product differentiation. Then the moment of truth. My manager, Tom, asked his new team, “You wouldn’t feed something to your dog that you couldn’t feed yourself, would you?” We all looked at each other with a sense of disbelief. I shrugged my shoulders and thought “when in Rome” . . . I began chewing, and the kibble sucked the moisture out of my mouth, bone dry. Immediately, I chased the kibble with a tall drink of water. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I thought. Thankfully, I managed to hide my angst, not embarrass myself, and comply with the culture. 

I soon returned to my market and began calling on store owners again. Most of my focus was on new business development. Cold calling, opening new accounts, developing relationships. But I soon discovered that my efforts weren’t paying off. I had great conversations with store owners, but I hadn’t closed any deals. Reports from the company showed that I was in last place – opened accounts, volume % change. I was hired for my potential, but as Bear Bryant used to say, “potential just means you aren’t worth a sh** yet.” To reach my potential and to not let down the hiring manager who took a risk on me, I decided I needed some type of sales training. But I didn’t know where to start.

The last straw happened at The Pet Stop in Vestavia, AL. The owner’s name was Chris. His store was in a neighborhood near my house, making it easy for me to visit regularly. Chris was a big Science Diet and Iams supporter. As I got to know Chris over time, I discovered that he was fervently resentful toward Purina because its marketing drew traffic and potential sales away from his store. During every visit, I showed him the informative brochures and explained Pro Plan’s latest marketing campaign. But I couldn’t gain his commitment. He shared his gripes – no space, no money, happy with competitors, not wanting to support “the competition.” One day Chris told me, “I’m not interested. You’re wasting your time and mine. As a matter of fact, you don’t need to come back, ever again.” 

After a series of similar events, I approached my hiring manager, told him I didn’t think I was cut out for the role, and he probably made a mistake in hiring me. He probed with a few questions and seemed empathetic. He asked me to walk him through my “selling” approach. Right away, he concluded that I didn’t follow a process – for example, no opening statements, probing for needs, handling objections, or closing techniques. He wasn’t sure what to do because Purina didn’t offer a formal sales training program because they typically hired experienced sales representatives. But he had an idea. . . What if I took an external sales training course? He charged me with finding some options, and once we picked the best one, he’d find the funds to pay for it.

I did the research and found a course from a well-known company named Dale Carnegie Training. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Dale Carnegie is best known for writing “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and his namesake training organization offered a human relations-oriented sales training course. But the fee and time commitment seemed outrageous . . . $1,000 for a 12-week course that met one night a week for 3 hours, loads of homework, and on the job application. It would take a significant commitment to complete the course, but I was willing to do anything to improve my selling skills and shake my ranking as the worst sales rep on Tom’s team.

Faced with the options of success or failure, winning or losing, continuing or quitting, I knew I needed to change. I decided that the only way to succeed, win, and continue was to develop. I wanted to close the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. If you’re going to ignite your potential but don’t know where to start, I recommend the following two steps: 

Define Your Gap – When I began engaging potential customers about Pro Plan, I quickly realized that I couldn’t sell. How? I didn’t produce results. My natural abilities, enthusiasm, and persistence, while necessary, weren’t enough. I knew I needed to learn a new skill. If I did, I was confident that I’d succeed. If not, I was sure that I’d be looking for a new role. Failure wasn’t an option. I had a young family, depending on me, friends who referred me, and a manager who took a chance on me. I’d let them all down—the desire to succeed burned within me. I had a sense of urgency to close my gap.

Do you feel a burning to become better than you are right now? Where you are in now terms of character, skill, and habits typically won’t get you where you want to go. You need to grow, change, enlarge. But how do you define your gap? Here’s a simple exercise:

  • Pick up to 8 skills that you need to develop in your current role to be successful.
  • For each skill, rate yourself from 1 to 10, with 1 being no skill at all and 10 being skill mastery.
  • Out of the 8 self-rated skills, choose the top 3 skills you need to improve. I recommend picking a combination of skill deficits and proficiencies. Why? People typically focus on the negative or what they lack. They forget they have unique talents, skills, and abilities. I encourage you to identify what you do well and build upon it. If you invest time to shore up your weaknesses and amplify your strengths, you will be able to add more value to those around you.
  • Out of the three skills you chose, what’s your number one gap? How do you move from where you are now to where you want to be? In terms of my selling skills, I rated myself as a 1, essentially deficient. I set a goal to become a 7 within the next year. Realistically, I knew I wouldn’t immediately become a master salesperson, and it would take time to close the gap. But I was confident that if I grew my selling skill, I’d be on the path to success. I’d do more than just survive; I’d thrive. How about you. Ask yourself what your role, career, or life would look like if you closed your number one gap. What will be the benefit to you and those around you? On the flip side, what if you don’t close the gap? What will happen then? What is it worth to you? Once you discover what it will mean if you improve or don’t improve, the “why?” you’ll find the motivation to change.
  • Lastly, ask someone you trust to rate your skills. It’s beneficial to have an outside perspective on where you can improve. Their feedback will be a gift.

Be Deliberate – What’s the difference between growth and stagnation? You. You need to be intentional, take the initiative, own it. You can’t be casual about your personal and professional development. Growth doesn’t happen by itself. You won’t develop accidentally. You must carefully think about what you want to do and how you will close your gaps. Set goals and put a plan in place. Avoid excuses like, “I’m too busy” or “I not willing to commit.” Charles Schwab said, “When a man or woman puts a limit on what they will do, they limit what they can do.” Make the time and be willing to pay the price. Do everything in your power to secure the support, funding, and time you need to develop the skill. Let nothing get in the way. I took the initiative after identifying my selling gap. I approached Tom, my manager, with my need, and gained his support. He secured the Dale Carnegie Sales Course $1,000 fee and allowed me to adjust my schedule to attend the training. Once enrolled, I wholeheartedly committed to attend the classes, do the homework, apply the principles, and share my learnings every week for three months.

If you define your development gap, deliberately commit, and act, you will grow. You’ll be on the road to transforming the capacity, raw talents, and abilities you have into power, influence, and positive effect. What are you waiting for?


[1] Excerpt From: John C. Maxwell & Jim Dornan. “Becoming a Person of Influence.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/becoming-a-person-of-influence/id607555354

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8 Ways to Unlock Your Potential

August 22, 2020

Link to the audio version can be found below . . .

Imagine a world where Luke Skywalker didn’t become a Jedi Knight, fight galactic battles, destroy the Death Star, and defeat the Evil Empire. Instead, he retreated to his home planet, Tatooine, became a scavenger, and sold pre-owned hovercrafts across the galaxy. The movie would be called “Car Wars.”

What if Daniel-son never found the courage to stand up to his bullies, ignored Miyagi, and eventually got waxed off? The movie would be renamed “The Coward Kid.” 

Or, Coaches Boone and Yost couldn’t overcome their prejudices, the high school football team remained dysfunctional, and finished last in their conference? The movie would be entitled “NO ONE Remembers the Titans.”

But these aren’t the stories we know. Young Luke was mentored by Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda learned how to use his lightsaber, connect with the Force, and helped overcome the Evil Empire in Star Wars. Daniel-son was mentored by Miyagi, learned to confront his fears, and defeated the bullies in the Karate Kid. An everyone Remembers the Titans because the team prevailed over prejudice, practiced hard, and won the state football championship. 

What’s one of the common threads among the stories? The characters weren’t heroes when they started, but they all had had untapped potential. What is potential? It’s someone or something that demonstrates the capacity, raw talent, and qualities to become successful or useful in the future. To realize their potential, convert it to potency, they underwent a shaping, molding, transformation. Put another way, they all went under a process of development before realizing their potential. When potential is developed, it becomes potent – someone with high power, influence, and effect.

How would you like to be a hero in your story, personally or professionally? Would you like to grow stronger, have a more significant influence on your world, and make a positive impact? I bet you do. All you need to do is develop your potential. If you do, you’ll become potent. But here’s the bad news. Not everyone will listen to what I have to say about reaching their potential. It takes hard work. Yet only 25% of you will actively pursue becoming the person you were created to be. Why? You know the typical reasons: not enough time, other priorities, no resources or support. Let me ask you some questions. What if you embarked on a development journey? What if you reached your potential? What would it look like? What would it mean to you, personally and professionally? How would you and those around you benefit? What if you don’t? “Composer Gian Carlo Menotti forcefully stated, ‘Hell begins on that day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts we wasted, of all that we might have done that we did not do. Unrealized potential is a tragic waste.’”[1]

Reaching your potential is a choice. You choose to pursue fulfilling your potential by engaging in personal and professional development, or you can choose not to – waste it or unlock it.

8 Ways to Unlock Your Potential

Do you wonder why you haven’t accomplished more with your life? Do you feel that you have great potential locked up inside of you? Most adults feel this way. No one ever truly reaches their potential, but it’s discouraging that so many of us never even scratch the surface of our potential. Are you ready to find out what you can do?

Find out what you’re really capable of accomplishing:

  1. Be bold. This is the number one tip for unleashing your potential in the world. Your limited achievements are likely since you’re timid. If you were out there doing your best each day, you’d be too busy piling up successes to read an article like this. Stop caring about the opinions of others and show the world what you’ve got.
  2. Have bold goals. To live up to your potential, you need goals. Goals provide a direction for your energy and effort. Effective goals are motivating, which is great if you’re going to set bold goals! Avoid overwhelming yourself. Goals should be audacious but not overwhelming. 
  3. Combine your strengths and interests. Do you really care about maximizing your chess-playing potential if you don’t enjoy playing chess? You’ll have the most potential in the areas where you show natural strength and have a high level of interest. What are you good at that you also enjoy?
  4. Get expert assistance. Some of the leading experts in the world still have a coach or mentor. The right mentor can help you to reach your potential faster than you can do it alone. Spend the time necessary to find a good mentor. It’s like putting your progress on the fast track.
  5. Make progress each day. A small amount of growth, accumulated over time, can result in fantastic progress. Avoid overwhelming yourself by setting a schedule or goals that you can’t maintain. But, be sure to make some progress every day. The amount of progress you can make in a year would be staggering.
  6. Develop habits that help you accomplish your goals. Keeping with the same theme of making progress each day, your habits are those things you do each day—an effective set of practices all but guarantees success. Examine your goals and determine the habits that would make success likely. The hardest job you have is creating habits. Once the right practices are in place, there’s little else to worry about. Create an effective routine and stick with it.
  7. Determine your obstacles. There’s always something in the way. It might be a lack of time, money, or other resources. Maybe you have a spouse that demands a lot of your time. Perhaps you live in the wrong place. After all, it’s not easy to maximize your surfing skills in Kansas. Create a plan for dealing with your obstacles. What can you do to overcome them, or at least minimize them? What do you need? What do you need to stop doing? How can you alter your life to make success more likely?
  8. Expect success. If you expect failure, you’re bound to fail. Why not give yourself the benefit of the doubt and expect good things? If you have solid goals, good habits, and a smidge of discipline, there’s no reason to doubt yourself.

Making a few decisions, acting boldly, and finding a mentor are just a few of the things you can do to unlock your potential. Make the choice to realize your potential. Don’t waste it. Make today the day you start living at your highest level. Become potent – grow more robust, have a more significant influence on your world, and make a positive impact. What are you waiting for?

*** 

In my blog, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world. Visit: https://prestonpoore.com/blog/

Thanks, and take care,

Preston Poore


[1] Excerpt From: John C. Maxwell & Jim Dornan. “Becoming a Person of Influence.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/becoming-a-person-of-influence/id607555354

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Becoming a God-Confident Leader

January 26, 2019

 

A couple of years ago, I enrolled in a Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, CO. Since the conference was held in May, I decided to commute back and forth to the YMCA from my parent’s home in Fort Collins. My typical route to Estes Park was closed due to flooding and road construction. The detour to Estes Park was through Hwy 36, a winding and scenic 90-minute drive.  

May is a beautiful time of year in Colorado. But sometimes the weather can be very unpredictable. That’s when I met Valarie – Winter Storm Valarie that is…On May 18, 2017, Estes Park and the surrounding area received over 30 inches of snow. To get a feel for the road conditions, view the following videl: https://youtu.be/28L1CAQqZ8M?t=5

The snowstorm limited my attendance at the writer’s conference. I was very frustrated by the circumstances I’d encountered and here’s what I recorded in my journal:

Bummed…I came to Colorado to attend a Christian Writers Conference with the goal of connecting with publishers and agents and learning how to market my book, “The Discipled Leader.”  I attended the first day but missed the rest of the confrence.  You see, I made some bad decisions and circumstances beyond my control prevented me from going.  I planned to commute back and forth to Mom and Dad’s house during the conference. The weather forecast predicted heavy snowfall in Estes Park beginning Wednesday night.  I thought that I could commute on Wednesday and then travel back up to Estes Park on Thursday morning, stay at the YMCA through Friday night and come back on Saturday.

It was snowing hard when I woke up Thursday morning.  The night before, I dreamed about my journey up Hwy 36 into Estes Park and the snow storm.  I stressed out during my dream and felt like I heard “don’t go.”  But I did.  I felt confident that I was going to make it up the pass because the road would be plowed and sanded.  Heck, I grew up in Colorado and knew I could handle the conditions. Or so I thought. . .

Things began to deteriorate as I drove up the canyon. Rounding a bend, I saw a line of cars and police lights on top of the mountain in front of me.  It was snowing hard, and the road was becoming more treacherous.  I stopped a van that’d turned around and was coming back down the mountain.  The driver told me that the police closed the road and weren’t letting anyone through. After experiencing the conditions and hearing what the driver said, I had no choice, I had to turn around and go back home before the storm worsened.

Timing – one other circumstance…When I drove home Wednesday night, the low-pressure tire sensor came on.  Dad and I took it to a local dealership to have them check it first thing Thursday morning. The mechanic filled the tire with air but wouldn’t fix the leak because we didn’t have an appointment.  So, I went to another tire place. The good news is that they took me right away. The helpful mechanic found a nail in the tire, plugged the hole and finished in 15 minutes.  And, I guess because of the troubled look on my face, they didn’t charge me.  But my tire escapade delayed my morning departure.

So, I left later than I planned.  Had I left 30 to 45 minutes earlier, I may have made it to Estes Park, but I didn’t. Because of the Winter Storm Valarie, I wrote the conference lead to tell her that I wasn’t going to be able to make the rest of the conference and requested a refund.  The whole thing was a missed opportunity.

I don’t know why this happened.  I don’t understand.  Maybe I never will.  I’m very frustrated with God…I’m trying to “love him and develop people,” to disciple others.  But I seem to be thwarted, resisted at every turn.  It seems that all paths are going nowhere and all of the opportunities are drying up.  Staying with Dad through Sunday morning and heading home.

Maybe you hear the frustration in my voice. At the time, I couldn’t understand why the circumstances turned out the way they appeared. But here’s the rest of the story…

Because of the snow storm and my returning to my parent’s house, I was able to invest the rest of the weekend with my Dad. My Mom was traveling, and Dad was at home alone for a few weeks. We hung out together and talked about life. Toward the end of the weekend, I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with Dad. He later gave his life to the Lord, but that’s a whole different story.

Lastly, my enrollment in the writer’s conference afforded me the opportunity for paid agent or publisher 1:1s and was the main reason I enrolled in the conference. The goal of meeting with the agents and publishers was to pitch my book and receive feedback hoping all along that an agent would sign me. You can imagine the disappointment of not getting the chance to network with agents and publishers when you’ve been working on a manuscript for seven years. 

But God was good. After the conference, I contacted some of the agents and told them my circumstances. Several of them agreed to meet with me over the phone. One of the agents I spoke with encouraged me to keep writing with the help of an editor. A year and lots of hard work later, I signed a contract with Credo Communications literary agency to represent my book to publishers.

I didn’t see it, but God was working out my circumstances even though I couldn’t see it at the time. If I’d attended all of the conference, I’d missed the opportunity to invest time with my Dad and share the Gospel with him. And, God made a way to sign with an agent even though it appeared my efforts were fruitless.

Three verses come to mind:

#1 – “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NIV) – God governs our world and engineers all circumstances. I had a plan, and in the midst of what seemed like a fruitless of string events, God worked things out. 

#2 – “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:28 MSG) – For the Christian, the events in our lives are worked into good. We may not see it right away or ever. In the midst of my circumstances, I couldn’t see what good could come from striking out. But what I saw as striking out turned into an opportunity for something more significant.

#3 – “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track” (Proverbs 3:5-6) – Trusting God and that’s he’s got your back will make a big difference in how you see events in your life unfold.

What about you? What happens when you encounter circumstances that don’t work out the way you planned? Do you trust that God engineers all circumstances and works every detail into something good? Friend, I encourage you to trust God with all of your plans, and if you do, you’ll become a God-confident leader. 

 

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Preston Poore

I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.

As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.

Let me help you reach your potential.

I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.

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