I usually write about topics related to my beloved contact center and BPO industry, but today, I would like to take a slight detour and get personal. Over the past three months, I have had great conversations with some terrific people, from senior executives to frontline managers, clients, vendors, partners, friends and even people I just met.
Everyone seems to be looking for clarity and answers about the unprecedented events impacting our industry and our lives. And sure, I love sharing my insights and views to help my peers, but lately, I find myself offering more counsel and comfort than ever before. Given what we do here at CustomerServ, I kid sometimes that we are often called upon not just for outsourcing help and thought leadership, but also to be sort of a “business therapist.”
I do not mind the moniker, especially right now. Even if there are reasons to be hopeful for better days ahead, I think we are all experiencing symptoms of PTSD that will remain with us for a while. People are still nervous, and you can feel the weight of their anxiety. And there are more questions than any of us have answers for, professionally and personally. We have been hit hard and fast by events which have caused seismic changes in our lives. And change is often accompanied by stress and uneasiness.
I will spare you the clichés about “these uncertain times” — one of the most popularized and overused one-liners you hear daily. What is certain is how “we” — as business leaders and people — keep things in perspective. We all play many different roles at work and at home. We have all had remarkably similar conversations with our loved ones and peers. The fact is that difficult times have befallen many generations before ours. But they persevered and so shall we.
I hope these very personal perspectives are helpful to you. They have been helpful to me for years…
There is always a reason to be hopeful about something.
If you are alive, then you are fortunate. And if your basic necessities are met, then you are truly blessed. No matter how tough life is, or was for some of us, there is always someone in the world who is impoverished and in much worse shape than you and me. There are many terminally ill patients who would give anything for more time. There are millions, maybe billions, of human beings who would give anything to live your life. So, for those of us clamoring for “better” or “more” or “different,” we often forget how good we have it right now — tough times and all.
Find your inner energy source.
Growing up underprivileged and in a single-parent household in NYC, I could have given up hope many times, but I did not. Struggle did not hold me back. Instead, it gave me much-needed mettle to face uncertainty. I could have succumbed to the seemingly impossible obstacles in front of me and relegated myself to underachieving, or worst, casting blame. Thankfully, I chose a different path because there was a positive powerful force that propelled me forward — an energy that I cannot describe eloquently but it emanates from within. The energy is rooted in belief, hope, desire, aspiration and, yes, fear. We all have this energy within us — find it and harness it.
Believe in the greater good.
The power of goodness is all around you. No matter how challenging life was for me growing up, I felt a powerful vibe from the collective goodness of people — even from complete strangers. I believe that people are inherently good, not bad. No matter what our differences and similarities are, I am hopeful that most of us mean well and want to contribute to the greater good. It is all a matter of your perspective. Believe in the power of collective goodness — it is there if you let it in.
You are not alone.
I had the privilege of leading several peer-to-peer webinars and meetings recently. There were many common business issues and best practices shared, but what I found most interesting is that almost everyone commented, “I am glad that I’m not alone…” No, you are not. Putting our common business challenges aside, the weight of your personal concerns is shared and felt by others, and that should offer some comfort knowing that it’s not just you.
Before we are clients and vendors and business partners to one another, we are human beings first. I think we often overlook the importance of a human connection, which should supersede our professional interactions. I think that many of us would prefer to work with people that we like and admire. Personally, I do not mind admitting this myself. If we endeavor to find that human-to-human connection first, then perhaps we can do better business together.
Motivation is all around you.
I have been inspired throughout my life by so many things. It fires me up with joy when I am around “real” and honest people from whom I can learn. I have been motivated by those who have endured and overcome hardships only to rise and set an example for the rest of us to follow. It is not difficult for us to find motivation around us. Look harder and befriend people who have endured challenges and overcome them. When I meet someone who shares their personal and professional journey, which led them to achieve whatever their individual goals were, it is cathartic for me. These stories fuel my motivation even on days when I feel demotivated.
Some tough love for salespeople.
Over the past three months, I have been bombarded by sales pitches, 99% of which are totally irrelevant, which tells me the salesperson is playing a numbers game. Selling and generating revenue are especially challenging but now is not the time to be overly aggressive and opportunistic.
I am guilty, as are many of you, for not responding to every LinkedIn message and every phone call and email pitching us something. Sometimes, I feel bad because I want to be helpful. But it is physically impossible to be responsive to everyone who contacts you, and especially to those offering us something that we have zero interest in.
I appeal to all who are in sales to put some work into your efforts instead of carpet-bombing people on LinkedIn. Put some effort into researching whether your prospect is viable. Stop the practice of misrepresenting your outreach as “networking,” because you email a sales pitch within minutes after your invite is accepted. Why should anyone accept a call with you if they do not know you? What have you done to “earn” that phone meeting? Let us be smarter about this — especially in “these difficult times,” to quote the most overused phrase of the year so far.
Fear is underrated — welcome it.
I have a counterintuitive view when it comes to dealing with fear. I do not fight it. I do not wish it away. Instead, I welcome it. Fear elevates your level of awareness and it can motivate you. Early on, I decided to convert my fears into energy and I still do this today. And then I channel this energy into successful outcomes.
As an entrepreneur, I have had many a sleepless night, especially in the early days of taking the risk to go to work for myself. It can be a lonely and scary place but that is all part of the ride. The ability to traverse your fears makes you stronger. You may or may never overcome your fears, but if you confront them head-on, you might get the upper hand eventually.
Fear and uncertainty are interwoven, whether you are an entrepreneur or other type of professional. Fear keeps you on your toes. And no matter what highs or lows you experience, never panic — even in the toughest of times. Irrationality is panic’s best friend.
The past is underrated — rely on your instincts.
Each of us is the culmination of our individual and very personal experiences throughout life. Everything you have experienced prior to today is a treasure trove of invaluable data. Too often, we ignore what we have learned. And we do not see our past experiences with enough clarity. We often do not recall the valuable lessons that life has taught us. Our instincts come from our past experiences, positive and negative. I trust my intuition more than anything. Over time, through success and failure, you can develop reliable intuition. Your instinctual radar can be more valuable than your best business ideas.
Thank you for listening.
I wish to end by saying thank you to many dear friends, mentors and peers who allowed me to earn their trust, friendship and support. We cannot evolve if we do not allow ourselves to learn from others, especially when we are faced with difficult times.
Keep your chin up, folks — we are in this together.