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Take control of your hot buttons June 29, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Handling hot buttons, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg  Want to maintain control in a heated discussion? The Big Dogz know how to do that.  Most of us encounter those times in meetings, phone calls or one on one discussion where we go off on tangents defending ourselves or an issue that is vital to us. Frequently these diversions cause us to lose effectiveness or to even look unprofessional. Why does this happen? Well, probably someone has pushed one of our buttons. This phrase is commonly used to describe a situation where we are thrown off track and lose our ability to influence. People are thinking “There he goes again, on that soapbox.”

Here is a technique the Big Dogz use to keep themselves from getting on that soapbox, and to keep themselves focused on the topic at hand.

  1. Be aware of your “button pushed” behavior. For some people there are definite physical indicators. We can feel our heart beating harder and faster. Our ears get red. We begin emphatic gesturing to emphasis points that do not need emphasis.  Get a friend to help you create this awareness. This step is the single most important step in taking control of your buttons. You cannot do anything about your buttons unless you know your behaviors when they are pushed.
  2.  When you engage in “button pushed” behavior, that is, either you or a colleague have discovered you are engaged in this behavior, stop, take a breath and think about what just happened. What did this person say or do that made me go into “button pushed” behavior? You can be sure the other person knows what your buttons are. They just pushed one because you were winning the discussion and they were unwilling to change. If they can divert your thinking, they can at least walk away with a “no decision.” You have just moved from the offensive to the defensive!
  3.  As soon as possible, focus back on the original discussion. You can say something like “That is an interesting point, let’s consider it later.” It is an effective technique to take a deep breath or if possible a short break. Of course, you will want to let the other person know that you know they tried to push one of your buttons! “As you know, that issue is very important to me, but in the context of this discussion does not move us forward in getting to a solution. I would be interested in exploring that issue after we have settled this discussion.”
  4. You now have complete awareness of this issue that causes you to engage in “button pushed” behavior. This awareness means you can take control! Try to spend some time analyzing why this issue is so important to you and can you really do anything about it. If the issue is some past wrong committed, let it go so you can move on. If the issue is a moral or ethical one, think deeply about how you can make the issue right. What is your plan to address the issue? If you do not let it go or work on fixing it, the issue will continue to haunt you as a button.
  5. If you are not able to eliminate this button, at least you can be aware that it is a button and those around you will also be aware of it. Even the most well meaning of us will push a person’s button from time to time. Expect that people will use this knowledge, not because they are evil and dedicated to your demise, but because they are human. When this button is pushed, take control — remain calm, acknowledge the importance of the issue to you, separate the issue from the current discussion and move back into being effective. If you really need to vent or talk about this button, schedule another meeting or discussion around the issue.


The Big Dogz take control of their issues. You can not expect to uncover every button you have; but you can identify the really big ones and develop a strategy for handling situations where your buttons are pushed,


In the next thirty days, start observing your own behavior to identify your specific “button pushed” behavior. Then put in place the rest of this process to be on your way to being more effective.










Custom coaching June 19, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Uncategorized.
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p5130012.jpg Tired of not getting the results you want when coaching? The Big Dogz know that you can only optimize coaching results when you customize your coaching choice. The customization point is the individual’s ability to do a particular task and their willingness to do that particular task. Let’s look at four customization points and the optimum coaching choice that will yield the results you are looking to achieve.


  1. Eager novice — this is an employee who is new at a specific task and is excited or motivated to perform this task. This person needs specific instructions and close control. If we do not provide the instruction and control the employee will become frustrated by having to learn everything by themselves. By providing direction and control, we insure that we build the relationship and achieve the result we expect.


  1. Reluctant novice — this is an employee who has some ability with this specific task, but might not be so confident in that ability. This person needs encouragement and an overview of how to accomplish the task. As a coach, we need to address any fears or concerns they may have and express our confidence in them to accomplish the task. We allow the employee greater leeway when it comes to control. Although we still set up frequent checkpoints, we are not as rigorous as with the Eager novice. By providing some direction and control along with strong encouragement we positively impact the relationship and achieve the results we are seeking.


  1. Reluctant master — this is an employee who has more ability with a particular task and may even have done it before under your excellent coaching. Their confidence of “going it alone” may be low, so our emphasis is on encouragement and motivation. Relative to the task instructions, we engage the employee as to how they would do it. If their approach would work, we let them use it. We ask if they would like suggestions and provide them if the response is affirmative. Using this approach, we enhance our relationship with the employee and make sure we get the result we want.


  1. Eager master — this is an employee who has mastered the task and is confident in their ability to perform the task. Our role as coach is to provide the time and resources to let them complete the task. They need no guidance or motivation. Their confidence is high and they understand the reason and importance of doing this task. We do not need to put elaborate controls in place since they will get the task done without support from us. We offer to provide support if they need it and may ask them to just let us know when the task is complete. Using this style of coaching with the eager master will result in a good relationship and the business result you asked for.


The Big Dogz know that to optimize results, we need to customize our coaching. You can achieve the same level of results by examining coaching situations and customizing according to the development level of the employee.



Finding Innovations for Your Business: Podcast 3 June 14, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Big Dogz Podcasts, Creativity, Innovation: Not Just for the Big Dogz.
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So…you understand just how innovation can help to differentiate your business from your competition. You also understand how the right innovations can lead to producing high value products or services that customers want and pay for. Now the question is, where are the sources of innovation? In this podcast, we explore a few obvious and not so obvious sources for the creative ideas you need to fuel innovation in your business. Not every great idea is a practical innovation, but you need to find the many in order to implement the few.

Listen in as Dave discusses his thoughts on resources for creating potential innovations.


Small Business Innovation: Podcast June 6, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Big Dogz Podcasts, Innovation: Not Just for the Big Dogz.
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Today I started a series on innovation and it’s implications on helping you grow & sustain a healthy business over the longrun in my The Big Dogz on Business” column in the Times Herald-Record (www.recordonline.com and go to the Business section).

This is the first in a series of podcasts designed to compliment the column series on innovation.  This series will cover types of innovation available to you, how to draw on the resources already at your disposal to create innovations in your business, and most importantly, how to bring those innovations to market and insure your customers and potential customers know about it.

Innovating in your business is critical, regardless of your size or the type of industry you’re in, and is here to stay.  Here’s how you can run with the big dogz and create a lasting and profitable business.

Have questions about innovation or have a success story of your own regarding innovation?  We’d like to hear about it and share it with the world!  Email me at: dirksmarketing@gmail.com


Diagnosing and fixing performance problems June 6, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Diagnosing performance problems, Fixing performance problems, Performance issues.
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p5130012.jpg Want to fix performance problems? The Big Dogz know how to diagnose and then fix performance problems.


Performance problems are caused by one of two major dimensions of human behavior — ability or willingness. Ability is knowing how something could be done; and willingness is the desire to do it. Willingness can be either a confidence issue or a motivation issue. Most managers attribute a performance problem with willingness or attitude. We tend to think this person has a bad attitude and does not want to do the job. Studies have shown that for the large majority of the time, performance problems are a matter of not being able to do the job. So what do the Big Dogz do when they encounter a performance problem?


First they check ability. You can do this by asking some of the following questions:

  1. What process are you using to get this done?
  2. What have you accomplished so far?
  3. What obstacles have you encountered? What are you doing about them?
  4. Who have you talked with concerning this task?
  5. What tools are you using?
  6. How long do you think this task might take?


Explore the person’s awareness of the task and how to get it done. Answers to these types of questions will give you insight into how much this person knows about this task. If there is a knowledge gap, figure out how to close the gap. Will you provide personal coaching? Pair them up with a subject matter expert? Give them a step by step set of instructions? I can hear some of the concerns some of you may be having. Shouldn’t they already know how to do what I ask them? Well, perhaps they should; I am not going to argue that point. The real issue is you have an employee not performing and it is costing you money. It is in your best interests to get this person up to speed and productive.


Once the Big Dogz are confident that the person knows how to do the task, they check for willingness by asking questions like these:

  1. How do you feel about this assignment?
  2. How would you assess your skill level to complete this assignment?
  3. Is this assignment something that motivates you?
  4. How confident are you that you can complete this task?
  5. What benefit do you see for yourself in completing this task?
  6. What help do you need to get his done?


Probing for confidence or motivation issues will allow you to quickly solve the problem. Encourage those who have a low confidence level. Help them gain confidence by giving them constructive feedback on their progress. If the issue is a motivational one, then look at why you gave this task to this particular person. If you thought it was a task that would motivate them, explore further why this is a problem. It could be that you misread the motivation needs and gave them an assignment that was de-motivating. Sometimes, you need to be honest with an employee and let them know that they will do the task whether they like it or not. It has to be done and they are the one who will do it. I always encourage managers to use personal power rather than position power, but sometimes you need to do that.


The Big Dogz know that the first place to investigate a performance problem is ability, then to look at willingness. Take a closer look at some of your performance issues to see if ability is the root. The ability issue is easier to fix and has a long term benefit for both you and the employee.



Making Promotional Signage Work June 5, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Strategy/Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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The other day I’m driving to work and slow traffic had me passing by a series of promotional signs stuck into the side of the road. You know the signs…they are those small type of ‘election’ signs you frequently see around election time. I call them ‘roadside signage’. As I slowly pass the sign, I strain to read what it says. I can’t. And there’s enough copy in the sign to create a book chapter.

Here’s the challenge: someone spent probably a few hundred dollars on signs with the idea that they could cheaply promote their business to the thousands of cars that pass by that intersection every day. The only problem is that no one can read them. I have no clue what kind of business it is or even the name of it. I could see that it had a phone number at the bottom but again, I couldn’t read it. And who thought I would have the ability to write it down if I could see it?

What I’ve just noted above is not uncommon. Years of observations (marketers are always on the lookout for marketing collateral) have led me to believe that nearly 95% of small roadside signage is poorly thought out and executed. The other issue I have is that roadside signage is clearly mass-market oriented, with no targeting of customers whatsoever. You have absolutely no control on who sees your signage or not.

What attracts business owners to this medium is the idea that, for a few hundred bucks, you can place signage at highly traveled locations and everyone will see them. What they see is a blur to them. The truth is, only on the rare occasion will you get even a call from that kind of signage and usually when they can stop and get out of their car to write down the phone number.

This morning, after dropping the kids off at school, I pass a little fenced-in sports complex that some coach is building a sports coaching business on. He provides your tike with additional soccer, baseball, softball, teeball, etc. coaching to make them better athletes. He signs, although larger than the election sign, was handwritten with either crayon or marker. Oh, and almost impossible to read as you drive by.

So here’s a business owner who decided to go the cheap route and have one of his kids make his signage. Cute but highly ineffective for his business. It’s also a poor way to represent your business to those that may actually be able to read the sign.

So, here are a couple of summary points on roadside signage:

  • If you can find a more effective way to target your customer base, then do it and skip roadside signage. Just because its relatively cheap and gets you in front of lots of cars doesn’t mean the phone will ring. More than likely it will not make the phone ring or at least not often enough to justify the time and expense of creating them. For the sports coach, probably passing out special offer flyers to parents attending their kids baseball, soccer or other games would probably be much more effective. That’s a better way to target those who would be most interested in his services for their kids.
  • If you insist on doing roadside signage to promote your business make sure people can quickly read the info. Keep it to what your services or products your selling and a phone number. Less copy is much more effective. Why people feel they have to cram as much copy as they can onto a small space that speeding cars will not be able to see anyway, boggles my mind.
  • Whatever you think you saved by using roadside signage to get to the ‘people’, you lost when you do the math on how much actual business in brought into the door.  While there is the rare exception, generally roadside signage doesn’t deliver the results to justify the cost.

There are much more effective ways to market and promote your business than a roadside sign. Direct mail, public relations promotions, and alliances or partnerships with other businesses who already cater to the types of customers who buy your product or service are examples of this.