Sometimes you just know. We have all experienced a time when we connected with someone immediately, like a spark of electricity. You can just feel it.
The first time I met Chris Taylor and heard him speak of his vision for Actionable, I knew I wanted to be part of that vision.
I can’t quite pinpoint one thing in particular—something about the combination of him just being a real dude, his love for learning and business books, his energy, and his sincere desire to change the training and development industry in a big way, drew me in.
It was like that line in the movie Jerry Maguire—he had me at “hello” (but in the business sense, no need to worry Amy). I was all in.
As a speaker and corporate trainer I’ve often asked myself the question, “how can I make the lessons I teach stick?” Clients told me how much they enjoyed my presentations, so much so that they frequently brought me back, but I was not seeing a noticeable change in their results. This really frustrated me. I was grateful that they enjoyed listening to me, but you could go to a concert or see a comedian if you wanted to enjoy listening to someone. I wanted to deliver a great experience that led to lasting and measurable change. Chris and the Actionable vision spoke directly to that.
From the time of my first training as an Actionable Consultant Partner, to numerous one-day Connect sessions, and two Actionable Partner Summits—the feeling was always the same. I love the group, the vision, the business, the team, and always left feeling inspired, energized, and ready to rock it with amazing results. I couldn’t wait to dive in and share this amazing “new toy” with everyone. How could they say no to such a fantastic way of learning?
For consultants and coaches like me, who are known for being great at the things I already do for my clients, adding in a new component can be challenging. I knew that I wanted to add new depth to my work, scale my client impact, and continue my development as a business owner—but adding something new to a model that clients already love is difficult. I often heard my clients ask, “why change something that’s working?” I strongly believed that this new approach would work even better and get them measurable results, but I had trouble painting that picture for clients.
And then, I struggled. No, let me rephrase that, I fell flat on my face. It didn’t seem to matter what I tried, in my mind I was a huge failure. I started asking myself questions like:
“Why can’t I get this?” “What’s wrong with me?” “Why can’t I sell this?” “Am I the only one who can’t get it?”
I felt like I was letting Chris and the team down, I was so frustrated with my lack of results. I was constantly worried that Chris would want to end our partnership agreement, because I felt like such a disappointment.
In the past few months, with a lot of introspection and hard work, I’m starting to get to where I want to be. Here are a few of the things that have helped me in my journey:
The Power of Being Honest With Myself
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I needed to become a student of my own lessons. In the corporate groups I lead, the very first thing we address is being honest and vulnerable. We can’t address what we don’t admit to. Although the groups have been very successful for my clients, I was spending too much time in coaching/teaching mode and not investing time in being a student of my own lessons.
I was extremely frustrated with the lack of results I was getting with Actionable. I felt like an imposter. I could talk about other’s success, and coach my clients to achieve great things with their teams—but my own goals and aspirations weren’t being met.
I needed to take a step back and address some hard questions:
- What is the vision I have for my life in the next 3 years?
- Why did I join the Actionable community in the first place?
- What type of clients do I want to work with in the future?
- Will Actionable help support my future vision?
- What do I need to change to get the results I want?
At the most recent Actionable Partner Summit, the incredible Michael Bungay Stanier led us through a compressed version of the Immunity to Change exercise. This process helped me immensely. If you haven’t done it, I highly suggest you do—and if you’ve had the experience, I recommend doing it again—it’s that good. There is nowhere to hide in this process. The metaphor of having one foot on the gas while having one foot on the brake really hit home with me.
The big take away was I needed to change. I needed to make sure that my vision for the future was in my calendar every day. I needed to start saying no to behaviors that no longer supported my vision for my business. I needed to question my assumptions about what is possible. And I needed to focus on where my ideal clients wanted to go, and include Actionable as part of their journey.
Saying YES and…
After leaving Actionable events, I was always excited and couldn’t wait to share my enthusiasm with my clients. Kind of like the school kid who got an A and couldn’t wait to get home and tell their parents.
So I would arrange lunch dates with clients, host small events, and tell them all about this sexy tool called Actionable, that would help them create lasting behavior change in their business.
How could they not be excited and ready to sign up? These were clients that I already had a positive relationship with, I felt like I was effectively communicating my enthusiasm—it seemed like a no brainer. And yet again, I would leave frustrated with few results.
What I didn’t do was ask questions and listen. We all want to be around people that listen, we have a need to be heard.
I started connecting one on one and asking questions:
- What is your number one business goal this year?
- What one thing would you love to achieve this quarter for you and your team?
- How to do see me helping you accomplish these goals?
The responses from all of my clients were similar. “We want more of what we know you for—speaking, training, and coaching.”
They wanted to keep doing the same things I’d done for them in the past. Worst of all, with my Actionable pitch, they had a feeling I was trying to hand them off to some online program.
Now I say YES to what they are already buying AND, how can we make this better? Many of my programs now start with the keynote (that’s what they know me for, and what they want) that is followed up with a customized series of Actionable Conversations. And now with the ability to attach the Actionable Commitment Engine to what they already know (my keynote) they get to experience Actionable and get to know the tool before we begin the follow-up work.
YES, they can have their cake AND eat it too.
Learning to Say No
Just as important as saying “yes, and…” has been learning when to say no. Part of the struggle I was having to take my business in the direction I wanted, was due to the fact that I was reacting to the needs of my existing client base, without thinking much about who my ideal client is, or seeking those people out.
When I realized that I was going to have to shift my tactics to attract my ideal clients, I started by making a list of qualities to define my ideal working relationship—both in terms of what a great fit looks like, and what a bad fit would look like.
We are likely a Great Fit If You:
- Are always learning from a variety of different sources outside of your industry
- Have an entrepreneurial mindset and act like an owner
- Invest time in creating a vision that is greater than your past
- Believe learning should be collaborative, measurable, habit forming and fun. It should have personal relevance and something that simultaneously makes us better, our teams better, and provides organizational insight into strengths and interests of the organization’s future leaders.
- Value people trying new things, and sometimes “failing,” more than people who always play it safe
- Believe in long term meaningful relationships that get measurable results
- Believe in taking action
We Are Probably Not a Good Fit If:
- You think innovative thinking is posting quotes/memes on social media.
- Your company takes a long time making decisions
- Most people on your team have worked there for more than 15 years in the same role
- Your company culture expects you to answer calls and emails in the evenings and weekends
- Your answer to overcoming an obstacle is getting the same people in the room that created it
- You believe working harder and longer is the key success
- You answer the question “How are you doing” with “BUSY”
- If you believe that “professional development” is a once a year event with no follow up
- You have many people that are card carrying members of the “CYA” Club
The easy part is making up a list like this—the hard part is being committed to it when real money and opportunities are on the line.
A client that I have had for a number of years recently went through some major changes. They lost of number of key people in the organization, had a “new” vision from the “top” on how to operate their business and much more. In short, they were going to be doing business much differently moving forward. When two of the people that stayed on board asked to meet, I gladly accepted. They shared numerous challenges that they were facing and asked for my input. When I shared that I was only interested in developing long term relationships and showed a real commitment to getting results, they listened. No more “one night stand” presentations that simply do not get lasting results. I followed up the next day with a simple plan to move them into action, which included a keynote and a customized storyline to address their goals.
They came back and wanted the “one night stand/supply teacher thing.” I said no and ended the relationship. Let me be crystal clear about this: it’s HARD to say no to money. It’s challenging to say NO to the wrong opportunities. But if I want to paint the future vision of what I want, it’s part of the process.
The middle part always sucks. But if I’m going to go through a part that sucks, I would rather have it move me closer to where I want to go, and not where I have already been.
As for the update, I am currently in the process of negotiating packages for three new clients, two of them have the “Yes and” package, which includes my keynote, actionable storyline, coaching and more. It totally is connected to my future vision of helping clients get better results, and less trading time for money for me.
And magically, two new clients who are a great fit for me have recently showed up in my pipeline.
The journey continues, and for the first time in a long time it feels great.