Aliveatwork's Blog


Somebody Hold Me Accountable .. PLEASE!!!!

Most of us want to be successful …

Most of us want what we want …

Most of us want more …

And the truth be told … we want it to be easy!

Have you ever wished you could simply wave a magic wand and create your dream life?

What would you wish for … exotic cars, amazing houses, fabulous vacations, traveling the world …  of course you would give a portion to charity … right?

Whatever your dream is, you know that success doesn’t happen just because you read  “The Secret” or that it will simply knock on your  front door while you’re inside watching American Idol on the couch!

Well maybe some folks do … and most of us know that if we want to be successful we need a few things.

We need: 

  1. Clarity –  of our vision or goal – what we really want.
  2. A Plan – that is well defined, attainable, and measurable.
  3. Consistent Execution – over a long period of time.
  4. Accountability – that keeps us on track or helps us get back on track when we slip a little or a lot! 

Of course all four components are needed in order to be successful. But if I had to admit which of the four I find the most difficult to achieve … I would say Accountability. Why?

First, I think it is difficult to commit to being held accountable. It requires a willingness to be vulnerable, a surrendering of sorts … and surrendering or asking for help typically isn’t in my vocabulary.

Second, I think it is rare to find the right person or group of people who challenge you, question you, praise you, guide you, help you get back up on your feet when you fall down, and love you enough to tell you the truth … the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

We can all sit down and write out our goals … we do it all the time. We can create a plan, and start executing our plan. We can even hold ourselves accountable … for awhile.

However, I have found that without checking in with another person or group on a daily or weekly basis I easily start to slip off the path …

And when I slip off the path my actions become erratic and inconsistent …

And when I am inconsistent with my actions I am not following my plan so well …

And when I don’t follow the plan … I don’t achieve my goals or the level of success that I want … basically I miss the target.

Accountability is the glue that holds it all together. It is what gets you back on track, It’s the pat on the butt when you succeed and a kick in the a** when you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and play bigger!

So what about you … who’s holding you accountable?

Need a little help?

If you need a kick in the a** email me, call me, or respond to this blog, and I will help you find a system that can help you achieve more success than you ever thought was possible!

And you were waiting for … ?



What Does It Real-ly Take?

Last night I was traveling home from facilitating  an all day Leadership Workshop.

As I reflected back over the trip I thought: What a privilege!

I get to be a part of a process of helping group members push past their comfort zones to do the hard work of  becoming an authentic team.

Yes, I said the hard work of becoming an authentic team.

The word “team” has become an overused, greatly misunderstood word in Corporate America, in sports, and even within partnerships and marriages.

Nowadays, it seems like anytime we put 2 or more people in a room together to accomplish a task we call it a team … it’s not!

 Being an Authentic Team Requires:

  • Courage to speak your truth to each other regardless of how uncomfortable it might be.
  • Holding each other Accountable.
  • A deep seated Commitment to the process (goal, objective, etc).
  • Acknowledging the Strengths of each member (the sum is greater than its individual parts) and allowing each person to show up and contribute.
  • The willingness to put aside individual egos and agenda’s to Focus on the overall team agenda.

As I flew home that evening I realized that even though I am an individual entrepreneur, I have a team in place to support me. They hold me accountable to do all that I can to become an even better Speaker, Coach, and Consultant.

So that got me thinking …

  1. Do you have a team of people whom you trust to speak the truth to you in your business/personal life? Even when it’s hard?
  2. Do they hold you accountable?
  3. Do they acknowledge your strengths and call you to play bigger than where you might be comfortable playing?
  4. Are you committed to the process of becoming the best Salesperson, Parent, Partner, Leader, or Pastor that you can be?
  5. Do you let your pride, ego, or judgment  get in the way of taking in feedback or allowing yourself to be held accountable?

Someone once said it takes a village. Really?

My thoughts … if the people in the village aren’t an authentic team … it REALLY  doesn’t matter!

 So who’s REAL- ly on your team? 



A Nudge … Towards Greatness?

Recently I attended the National Speakers Association (NSA) Annual Conference in Anaheim, California. For those of you who don’t know NSA is an organization made up of some of the world’s best professional speakers.

Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Les Brown, Dr. Norman Vincent Peal, and Og Mandino are just a few of its legendary members.

As I sat listening to some of the current greats in the business, I found myself in a state of awe and fascination. Not necessarily because of the words they spoke, but more so by the delivery of those words … precise, accurate, perfectly timed, perfectly pitched, and eloquently spoken.  I saw myself as a student sitting at the feet of the masters, watching their magic unfold.

During a breakout session, one of the speakers from the main stage asked his audience why we chose his particular session. One of the audience members replied, it’s because you seemed relaxed, easy going, non-rehearsed, and not as polished as some of the other speakers while you delivered your message on the main stage.

The speaker replied, it has taken me 30 years to perfect my speaking, I have spent a lot of money on speaking coaches, mentors, theatre coaches, and worked extremely hard to be able to present that way, so please don’t think that it was easy or unintentional.

And that had me thinking:

Am I working as hard as I need to in order to be great … in my business?

A mentor and friend of mine by the name of Nido Qubein once said, “We are so busy being good that we don’t take the time to become great!”

3 Questions:

  1. Are you continually learning and studying how to be a great leader, sales professional, or whatever your chosen profession might be?
  2. Have you become comfortable being … good enough but not great?
  3. What action do you need to take in order to take your business or your life to a level of greatness?

Inside each and every one of us is the seed of greatness. Sometimes it just needs a little nudge in order to break through the surface and begin the journey upward towards its destiny … consider this a nudge!



Giving Away Your Power … It’s In The Bag!

Over the years I have had my fair share of “memorable” experiences especially when it comes to traveling and airline security.  Being dark complected and having a shaved head, I have on more than one occasion found myself  in the “randomly” selected security line with my new best friends, Raj, Cheng, and Chakor.

Most recently, while traveling over the 4th of July holiday weekend,  I had the opportunity to experience the infamous (let’s make a 95 year old cancer patient remove her diaper – aggressively pat down a 6 year old girl – but let a Nigerian National with an expired i.d. and a expired stranger’s boarding pass through security) workings of the TSA.

While going through the security line this time, I put my liquids in the same one quart bag with a zipper that I have used to travel over 100,000 miles without a hitch with security … until this weekend. This time the TSA agent behind the x-ray stopped me and stated that it was not a one quart zipped lock bag and that I was not allowed to proceed.

I replied that it is a one quart bag and has an actual zipper. She then called her supervisor over who explained to me that it is not a zip-lock bag it is a bag with a zip-per and to “put him out.” As I was escorted “out” I tried to explain myself to the extremely polite female TSA agent who said “Don’t give me any sh*t, if you don’t like it talk to my supervisor.”

I worked my way to the airport information desk and asked for a one quart zip-lock bag and headed back through security. This time I was directed to go through the full body scanner. To say I was upset would be an understatement …  I was seething with anger as a rush of resentful ideas and actions began flooding my brain.

It took a good 5 minutes for me to come to my senses and realize what I was doing …

I was unconsciously giving away my power. What power? The power to decide if I was going to be happy or angry or If I was going to be joyful or resentful.  As if being resentful would change the TSA Supervisor or impact HIM in anyway.

Someone once said that holding onto resentment was like taking a poisonous pill and waiting for the other guy to die!”  I was not willing to die or allow someone else who might have simply been having a bad day to ruin mine!

5 Questions To Ask Yourself:

  1. Who controls your feelings?
  2. Do you allow others to determine your level of happiness, joy, or peace?
  3. Do external factors control your internal sense of worth or value?
  4. Do you take the actions of others as a personal assault against you?
  5. Are you free from resentments or do you relive old scenes or injustices over and over again in your mind?
3 Things To Remember:
  1. We are the only species on the planet that has complete control over what we  think and yet so many of us believe that it is the external events or things that happen in our lives that determines our level of success or happiness.
  2. Nothing … absolutely nothing anybody does is about you. It’s about them  so don’t waste your time or energy trying to rationalize their behavior by asking “How they could do this to me  or why did this happen to me or yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah!”
  3. No one absolutely … no one can take your power away from you unless you give it to them … and why on earth would you ever give your power away to a complete stranger or anyone else for that matter?
Oh yes … and one last thing to remember … in Cleveland … a bag with a zip-per that locks … is not a zip-lock bag!


Hey Mr Postman … Listen and See!

P.O'd at the P.O!

Monday of this week I sent an audio CD on managing your energy via the U.S. Post Office to one of my clients.  Tuesday, I found the same envelope that had I dropped off at the post office the previous day in my mail box with a stamp on it that read “Returned For 43 Cents Additional Postage.” This, on top of the $1.28 cents I had already paid.

Why? Because they couldn’t  bend the 9 1/2″ by 11 1/2″ padded envelope that was stuffed to the brim with one small  5″ by 5″ audio CD. And why would you need to bend it I thought to myself?

Well let’s just say at that particular moment in time, the envelope wasn’t the only thing that was a little bent!

Walking back to my office, I envisioned going down to the Post Office. And then I remembered my last visit. There I was standing in line behind 25 people watching multiple post office workers walking around or sorting mail while just one worker waited on customers.

When it was my turn to be waited on, I brought up the issue of poor service to the person behind the counter. What I heard next shocked me. She told me that Postmaster at this location does not allow more than one line open regardless of how many people are waiting. Then she added, “It’s only going to get worse!”

There must be a better way!

Once I was back in my office and  after a little research, I compressed the audio file from iTunes and uploaded it to a free service called You Send It. Next, I typed in the appropriate email addresses and hit the send button. Within 2 minutes I received a confirmation of delivery. I called the client to let him know that he had an email with an attachment waiting for him in his inbox.

It was then I realized that this process took less than 5 minutes and my client could learn how to start increasing his effectiveness while he was driving home … TODAY!

Meanwhile … back at the Post Office a Postmaster and her colleagues are on their way to extinction because they do not understand two basic business principles … take care of your customers and stay ahead of the competition. So that got me thinking …

3 Questions To Ask Yourself:

  1. Are you holding onto to people, processes, or policies, that prevent you from providing an extraordinary customer experience?
  2. Has technology left you and your business behind your competition … because you’ re afraid to embrace change or the unknown?
  3. Are your customers being inconvenienced because some of your employee’s have a personal agenda or a misaligned belief?
Everyday 1000’s of customers are deciding to stop doing business with a  particular company. The reasons are usually the same … poor service, poor product, or poor value. Are you giving your customers reasons to stay?
Remember: It’s much easier and far more cost effective to keep a customer than it is to find a new one!
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Here’s a few resources to help:

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Arrogance … The Death of a Leader!

You know one … you’ve worked for one … you are one?

God I hope not!!

How would you know?

10 Things Arrogant Leaders Arrogant Do:

  1. They put their needs before the needs of their people.
  2. They make irrational business decisions based on their emotions and how they feel.
  3. They take everything personal.
  4. They attempt to control everything and everyone.
  5. They believe that people are in their lives to serve them.
  6. They’re the first one to point the finger of blame and the last one to take ownership for their mistakes.
  7. Their actions are incongruent with their words.
  8. They slow the development and growth of others so that they get ahead and stay on top.
  9. They talk big and play small.
  10. They play small because deep down inside they are small.
The good news is that just like Extraordinary Leaders … they always, always, always …. reap what they sow!


The Power of One

The Power of One

“Sometimes the slightest things change the directions of our lives, the merest breath of a circumstance, a random moment that connects like a meteorite striking the earth. Lives have swiveled and changed direction on the strength of a chance remark.”  – Bryce Courtenay (Author of The Power of One)

Sometimes we get caught up in the more is better syndrome and that more will make us happier. And yet, it seems that there is something deep down inside of us that reminds us that less is more … but how much less?

Have we lost sight of the of the extraordinary Power of One?

Perhaps it is that one simple act of kindness we take that could transform our life or the life of another?

Maybe it is that one idea that’s been percolating in your brain. Yes, the one you have pushed down many times before, but it keeps percolating to the forefront of your mind. What if that … was the one thing that could change your business or the world? How would you ever know … unless you took action?

I am learning that truth, real truth, lies in simplicity and that the more I over think, the more I complicate things, the further I move away from the truth.

The truth is that you already know the power of one on a deep level and yet … you haven’t taken the time to implement, reflect, or sit with it!

So what if you did?

What is the one thing you could say, the one thing you would do AND when would you do it!!!!



Change … an About F.A.C.E.

Life and it’s circumstances continuously offers us opportunities to change. Change might means that we need let go of the past and move forward. It could mean that we need a  new perspective on an old problem, a new idea, or simply the willingness to change by trying something different. Regardless of the change that may need to take place in our lives, the fact is that each of us deals with change in a different manner.

The good news is that we have choices in how we F.A.C.E change. We can:

  1. Fear it –  We can run, we can hide, we can pretend like it’s not happening and that we don’t have to change.
  2. Accept it – We can agree that it’s there and that maybe, possibly, someday, we might have to adapt … or not.
  3. Challenge it – We can confront it, fight it, and try to convince ourselves and everybody else around us why it     doesn’t apply to us or why we don’t need to change.
  4. Embrace it – We can wrap our arms around it and look for the gifts that this new opportunity might bring us.
So which do you choose most frequently? Do you find yourself clinging to the past, hoping that nothing will change? Or do you lean so far into the change that you can’t go back?
A few questions …
  1. What would you do if you could not fail?
  2. What if you believed that you were so powerful that you could change your life TODAY!
  3. What if you made a decision to not just F.A.C.E. change but actually embraced it?
Now wouldn’t that be something!


I Was Sick … But I’ve Been Keured!!

I’m Sick!

Approximately 14 months ago I had a routine physical. It’s now over a year later and I am still trying to get the insurance company (Aetna) the lab (Sonora Quest) and the doctors office to cover the cost of the blood work on a routine physical examination which is included in my plan.

Over the course of the year on multiple conference calls about improper coding and who’s to blame between the 3 of them, I have on numerous times heard the following statements:

  1. “I’m so sorry Mr. Contrera, I promise I will get this handled”
  2. “I promise to call you back”
  3. “We value you as a customer!”

The most recent conversation went something like this: “Mr Contrera has anyone ever told you that your plan has a $200 limit for a physical examination and that includes the Doctors visit, consultation, and any blood work associated with your visit?”

My response, “So let me see if I understand you, I’ve payed you over $6000.00 in premiums, I go to the doctor once a year for a physical, and it’s not covered because you limit the cost to a paltry $200 which barely covers the cost of walking in his office? AND it took you 14 months to come up with that brilliant answer? Well to be honest … that’s makes me sick!”

The Problem:

  1. The issue is still not resolved.
  2. No one has ever called me back when they said they would, I’ve always had to call them back to follow up.
  3. I will never do business with the doctor, the insurance company, or Sonora Quest Laboratories again!

I’ve Been Keured!!

Over a year ago I bought a Keurig coffee maker which just recently stopped working. When I called on March 17th and was asked when I purchased my machine I told them the truth, March 10 th of last year (It carries a 1 year limited warranty). Bottom line: I was beyond the warranty period.

To my surprise Amy the young lady on the phone turned me over to Frank the technical expert who walked me through a process and then said, “Well Mr Contrera looks like we’ll have to replace the machine,  let’s get you taken care of!”

Today is March 23rd I have a brand new Keurig coffeemaker sitting on my counter … it showed up yesterday, within 5 days of my conversation with customer service. It carries a brand new 1 year warranty.

The Lesson:

  1. Buying a new Keurig coffee machine over a year ago … $154.00.
  2. Enjoying a freshly brewed cup of chocolate raspberry coffee on my brand new Keurig coffeemaker this morning …. $0.00!
  3. Having a customer for life … priceless!!

Why is it that some companies “get it” and some companies don’t? You and your company make decisions everyday that communicate to your customers whether you value them or you don’t.

How you treat your customers determines whether you find yourself continuously replacing the ones that you’ve lost (as a result of delivering poor products or providing lousy service) or actually growing your loyal customer base and your sales revenue.

How Do Treat Your Customers?

  1. Do you make it difficult to resolve problems your customers have with your products or your service?
  2. Do you misrepresent the truth or hide it in the small print or in a fast talking words of the announcer at the end of a commercial?
  3. Are you flexible with your policies living by the spirit of the law rather than the law?
  4. Are the people who interact with your customers the most (customer service, inside salespeople, accounting, etc.) trained and knowledgeable or do they make promises that they don’t keep and give answers simply to get the customer off the phone?
  5. Do you have customers for life or customers for the moment?

Remember: It costs 5 times more to find a new customer than it is does to keep an old one!

One last thing: Did I tell you that my Keurig coffee machine makes the best coffee I’ve ever brewed at home … I highly recommend that you buy one … it is well worth the investment!



How Do You Respond To Your Constituents (Customers)?

Elected officials like Sales Professionals some times forget who their customer’s are  …

Recently I received an email from my favorite Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio asking for support on a local bill that would force the local Phoenix government to be more efficient in spending our tax dollars. He requested that we email, phone, or fax, our local representatives asking for their support of the bill.

What follows are 5 responses I received from 3 different representatives. 3 of them never even bothered to respond.

Which one is most typical of the way you respond to your constituents?

Response #1 – Telling Your Customer They Don’t Matter – Judy Burges (the complete response):

“You can quit writing as I am told that the bill will be assigned to my committee today and we will hear it next week.   Judy Burges”

My reply to Judy Burges:

Dear Judy,

Thank you for taking the time to respond, I understand that you are very busy AND I would’ve preferred a response that said something like, “Thank you for taking the time to write about this very important bill ….” Instead of one that started by saying “You can quit writing …”

Regards,

Joe Contrera

Response #2 – The Auto Respond Brush Off  – Just another way of telling your customer they don’t matter – Judy Burgess:

Thank you for e-mailing the City of Phoenix Mayor/Council office. Because of a public records request, your e-mail also will be reviewed by the Arizona Republic. If your e-mail contains information that you believe is confidential and should not be released, please immediately call 602-262-7029 for assistance. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Response #3 – The Delegated Appear To Be Sincere Missing Punctuation Response – Councilman Anonymous:

Joe,

The councilman appreciates your sending this

My reply to councilman anonymous’ assistant:

Stephanie thanks for the reply … which Councilman is replying?

Regards,

Joe Contrera

Response #4 – The Auto Respond Brushoff – Councilman Anonymous:

Thank you for e-mailing the City of Phoenix Mayor/Council office. Because of a public records request, your e-mail also will be reviewed by the Arizona Republic. If your e-mail contains information that you believe is confidential and should not be released, please immediately call 602-262-7029 for assistance. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Response #5 – The You Matter Thanks For Writing Response – Steve Montenegro

Thank you for your input on this bill; I support it and I will continue to support it as it works it’s way through the Legislature.  Thanks for your input.

Here to Serve,

Steve Montenegro
Speaker Pro-Tempore
Arizona House of Representatives
Legislative District 12

My response to Steve Montenegro:

Steve thanks so much for your response, it is appreciated! Keep up the good work!

Joe Contrera

SO WHAT DOES POLITICS HAVE TO DO WITH SELLING? … EVERYTHING!

Everyday your customers have an opportunity to vote on whether or not they want to do business with you.

That’s why every email, every detail, every sales call, every interaction, that you or anyone in your company has with your customers needs to insure the customer has an extraordinary experience. You have to continuously give them a reason to vote for you and your company.

REMEMBER: Customers can have short term memory loss when it comes all the good things that you do for them. However they have memories like elephants when it when it comes to the bad experiences they may have had with you or your company.

You have to give them as many reasons as possible to vote for you again and again and again … besides you’ve worked to hard to get into their office!

One last thing …  So which representatives do you think I will choose to do business within the next election?