I Don’t Agree, but I’m Listening!

With our world growing more polarized day by day, it is more important than ever to have healthy conversations with those we agree with and not avoid those that we disagree with. We need to polish our skills of having productive and meaningful conversations with other human beings, even if we don’t agree with them. This applies to conversations with friends, acquaintances, relatives, as well as coworkers and clients. Avoiding someone because you know that the conversation of politics, religion, or some other touchy subject may come up is stressful and unhealthy. What I am not suggesting here is that you go full steam ahead and pontificate your beliefs and opinions without respect for others. The lecture approach will not get you far in a conversational atmosphere. 

After 40 years of being a trainer, public speaker, and in positions where proper communication is the key to success, I have improved my conversation, speaking, and listening skills through learning from my mistakes and observing others. Here are a few observations and suggestions that may help you with your communication skill set as well.

When I observe groups in conversation, whether it’s a group that is all in agreement or an adversarial group, I see their stress levels and blood pressure rising. The group that is all in agreement on a subject matter, they are passionate and can work themselves into a frenzy agreeing with each other. On the other hand, group conversations where there are obvious divides and disagreeing sides can escalate quickly and get stressful as well. According to the 2017 Stress in America Survey, “27 percent of adults strongly or somewhat agree that the political climate has caused strain between themselves and their family members. It’s important to have healthy conversations, but also to be mindful of when the discussion escalates and becomes unproductive.” It’s very healthy to have beliefs and opinions based on those beliefs, even to the point of being passionate about them, yet it’s also OK to disagree with someone, but listen to them and engage in civil conversation.

When having conversations that may become adversarial, find areas where you agree. You may disagree with someone, but instead of strongly reacting, actively listen to the other person about what is important to them. For example, you might have different ideas about gun control, but underneath you share the same concern for keeping your kids safe and healthy. You may find that by discussing shared viewpoints, areas of disagreement will feel less intense, and your stress may decrease. 

Some suggestions that may seem obvious, yet sometimes are difficult to put into practice:

  • Don’t multitask during your conversations with your phone and other distractions. You can’t fully engage and listen if you are partially present. Show respect for the person or group that you are speaking with by giving them your full attention, both physical and mentally, to the conversation at hand. 
  • Use open-ended questions to get more engagement from those in the conversation. Starting questions with who, what, when, where, or how will help you gain more insight into what others are thinking and truly believe. 
  • Avoid the need to save your ego by supporting your position with made-up data or hearsay. It’s OK to say you don’t know if you don’t know and don’t try to one-up everyone. Listen and let people share their experiences without one-upping them at every turn.
  • Try not to keep repeating the same information or experience throughout the conversation. Say it once and let it ride as is. Otherwise, it sounds like your pontificating on the subject and not listening to the dialogue.
  • And maybe the toughest to learn and practice is listening, because talking and thinking of your next comment is easier than listening. Remind yourself that you are in these conversations to learn and not to preach. It is not your job to covert everyone to your way of thinking. Have passion, beliefs, and opinions and add listening to these characteristics.   

I love it when people speak with passion and conviction. At the same time, one needs to stay calm during these conversations and not assume bad intent on the part of others. This takes practice and patience, but it is very powerful. Assuming ill motives almost instantly cuts us off from truly understanding why someone does and believes as they do. We may forget they’re human as well, with a lifetime of experience that shaped their minds. Getting stuck on any first wave of anger will set the stage for never having the opportunity to move forward with a productive conversation. When we stay calm and assume good or neutral intent, we give our minds a much stronger framework for dialogue.

Finally, what I’m not eluding to is just to be passive and never have an opinion or belief that may ruffle a few feathers. One side effect of having strong beliefs is that we may assume that our position is, or should be, obvious and self-evident to others and that we shouldn’t have to defend our belief and opinion. If someone doesn’t get it, that’s their problem. If it were that simple, we would all see things the same way, wouldn’t we? This attitude can be unhealthy as well during a conversation because it may shut you down and make you appear uncaring and uninvolved.  

Go ahead, make the argument with the above suggestions in mind. Find areas where you agree, be open and kind, accept the fact that you may not change the other person’s mind, and know the appropriate time to end a conversation peacefully when it becomes heated without resolution.

You may not always agree, but you should always be listening!

 

Steve Mores is the VP of Training and Sales at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Changing the Playing Field: Why We Need to Hire More Women, and How to Get Them

Payroll is a nasty mistress, and the dues are owed every Friday. An entrepreneur knows this all too well. And boy, don’t we need good help to run the service calls on our board, so we can earn revenue, so we can help those people like we wanted to do in the beginning? It may be time to change the playing field…

Early one evening, my husband and I loaded the wagon with some drinks, snacks, and our beautiful daughters and began the short walk around the block to the park. Our neighborhood park isn’t a playground; it’s simply a green space with trees…the kind that is sponsored and have a ‘donated by’ plaque underneath them and some picnic benches.
Our neighborhood park is perfect for snacks, drinks, and playing tag. However, on this day, it wasn’t a game of tag, it was an obstacle course race. Palmer, our four-year-old, is a runner. All she wants to do is run, so we set the course and aimed down the field, around the tree, and back to the start/finish line.

Naturally, for the first few races, my husband let Palmer win…I even let Palmer win. But then, my husband turned around and whispered to me, “This time, I’m going to win…I want to see how she responds to losing.” “Oh, shoot,” I thought to myself, “if I know my daughter, this is not going to end well.” The race began and quickly ended. Palmer boldly expressed her feelings and unenjoyment from losing…but her response, well, her response surprised us. Instead of sitting down and crying in a pool of self-pity, she proclaimed, “Again! I’m going to race again! But this time, you can’t race with me; I’m racing alone.”

She took off running.

She simply changed the playing field.

As you can imagine, she won that race, the race of running alone – but who’s to say she cheated? There was no rule book; a family evening in the park doesn’t mean you can’t be the only runner…she thought outside of the box, changed the playing field, and adjusted the course so she could guarantee the outcome. She wanted to win, so she changed the game, and she won.
Nationwide, there’s a hiring crisis within the trades, specifically contracting. It’s no surprise, we all know there are not enough skilled workers, technicians, and tradesmen…so if there is a hiring crisis, a natural progression would be to look beyond the current work pool and look outside of the norm, which is why attracting women is the obvious next step.

The diversity quotient proves a profit increase of 33% within a company by diversifying – new talent, new ideas, new skills…women are already in the workforce, but too often, they’re performing roles bordered by society; “Oh, that’s a women’s job,” or, “Oh, that’s a man’s job.”

The trades are an excellent place for women who like to work outside of an office. I recently got the chance to talk one-on-one with HVAC installer Melissa Yarb from Clearwater, Florida. At the Women in HVAC conference in Boston back in September, she won the hearts of the conference attendees with her quick wit and relatability as one of the technician panelists, and she has quickly become a celebrity within the group. She provided some great insight into the perks of working in a so-called “man’s world.”

She commented, “It’s not just air conditioning!” This field has helped her do things she never thought she’d be able to do. Thanks to her AC career, she has honed her overall handywoman skills. She can now change out her own hot water heater, she can do woodworking; she has a strong mechanical inclination. “When the AC busts at my own house, I don’t have to rely on anyone else to come and fix it! I love the personal benefits,” she remarked.

“This field is expensive! If you know how to do it yourself, think of the cost savings in your home alone!”

These are invaluable skills to know, especially when something goes wrong in the middle of the night when you’re all alone, or just simply when you don’t have it in your budget to pay someone else to do it.

Melissa and I also talked about how often people talk about the flexibility of the contractor’s world. Melissa commented that this field is not flexible in terms of what people usually mean when they say flexible – so let’s not paint the wrong picture. “The thing most appealing to me is that I don’t have to sit at a desk all day – I can go on rooftops, see beaches, go in a van every day…” There is flexibility in the workspace, but it isn’t necessarily flexible in terms of its hours. But it has the amazing benefit of meeting different people and seeing new spaces. Melissa loves the social aspect.

As we continued chatting, I asked Melissa what her top piece of advice would be to the women considering entering the trades. She wisely said, “Don’t tell yourself that you can’t do it – because you can – I do it every day – don’t tell yourself you can’t, because you can. Don’t worry about what naysayers say – do what you want to do – do what you enjoy!”

At the end of the day, we are all in it to help people and to utilize our hard-earned skills and craft (wo)manship.

But payroll is a nasty mistress, and the dues are owed every Friday. It’s time to change the playing field. Take a look at your messaging and give it a makeover – update it so it’s inviting and inclusive of women; the same goes for your company image. Make your company a place that appeals to women, from your branding to your overall business model. Make your company the only runner in the race.

Danielle Putnam is the President of The New Flat Rate and Women in HVACR

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Your Body of Work

“You’re not just getting a couple hours of my time, you’re getting what it took me my entire life to cultivate into these hands and this heart.” 

If you’re in the skilled trades, you’ve no doubt heard a version of this statement. You might even have used it yourself to support your pricing. It might surprise you then to learn, Phil X, a studio musician, made this comment. Sooner or later, we are all called on to validate the value we deliver. While many address this situation from selling your value, I approach it today from the standpoint of building it.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw

 

Your Body of Work  

Pamela Slim, the author of Body of Work, defines it this way. A body of work is everything you create, contribute, affect, and impact. It’s the personal legacy you leave behind at the end of your life. This includes all the tangible and intangible things you’ve created. 

Stephen R. Covey often used the funeral service as a way to provoke thinking on a lifetime of building value or not building it. He’d ask his readers to imagine that they were in the back row of their funeral service. What did the speakers have to say about their life?

Pam’s book is about creating that desired life. Focusing on meaning, skill development, professional network development, craft, and mastery, Body of Work is a perfect life-map for those of all ages.

“The secret to high performance and satisfaction – at work, at school, and at home – is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.” – Dan Pink in his book Drive.

Pam uses this quote in her book and goes onto say that those who structure their careers around autonomy, mastery, and purpose, the main themes in Drive, will build a powerful body of work. Drive is perfect complementary reading to Body of Work. By the way, if you’ve ever thought, “How do I motivate my coworkers?”, you need to read Drive!

Based on eight primary tools, Body of Work helps us design and create a life of value.

 

The Wisdom of Others

When our ancestors were running free, loose, and wild on the Serengeti, they weren’t doing it in isolation but ran together in tribes. In developing our body of work, we need, and some of us crave, the wisdom of others to survive and thrive.  

Between books, magazines, the internet, and our industries, collecting and assimilating that knowledge can be a daunting endeavor. We’re going to explore one source of wisdom and then use its example to harvest more wisdom in the future.

 

Tribe of Mentors

Tribe of Mentors, written by Tim Ferriss, is a book profiling approximately 140 successful people. Tim reached a point where life questioned him. “How could I best reassess my life, my priorities, my view of the world, my place in the world, and my trajectory through the world?” 

He thought, “What if I assembled a tribe of mentors to help me out?” Hence the book, which is based on a set of 11 questions that Tim asked each participant. These questions are well thought out and designed to help facilitate a quality answer. 

For instance, instead of asking, “What’s your favorite book?”, which for someone like me, is a labor-intensive question, he asks, “What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why?” Or, ‘What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?”

The wisdom from Tim’s mentors only takes up a couple of pages, making Tribe of Mentors the perfect read for the busy professional.

 

What else can the author teach me?

Whenever I read a book, I always take a step back from the book’s content and try to absorb other lessons. In Tim’s case, it’s the book’s format. He doesn’t publish the answers to all 11 questions for each, just the most insightful ones. If you’re a business owner, consider developing two sets of questions to ask others who have traveled the road before you. One set contains only a couple of questions, those that can be asked in person. The other set can be asked via email or in an interview.

Use some of Tim’s questions and add a few of your own. File the knowledge you collect either by topic or person and use it to enhance your body of work.

You are the director of your own story. Be intentional! Work on building your tribe of mentors and developing a fruitful body of work.

 

Dave Rothacker
www.gotimesuccessgroup.com

 

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Mental Ownership

Research shows that mental imagery influences consumer experiences while creating the want to buy. Most of this research conducted by psychiatrists and marketing firms are focused on “imagery vividness”. They use powerful and clear images in marketing campaigns so customers envision themselves owning the advertised product. This is known as mental ownership. Although the consumer may not physically own the product yet, mental ownership strongly predicts attachment, which significantly increases intentions towards getting the mere-mentally owned product or service to an actual purchase. 

For example, phrases such as “Yes, I can see myself driving that car” indicates that mental imagery of ownership is present in the consumers’ mind. It shows that consumers use their imagination to decide on what to buy. Several studies show that the more vivid and strong mental imagery is, the more a positive attitude toward a product or service improves.

Although the HVAC and plumbing industries may not be as glamorous as a car purchase, we can still effectively use mental ownership to influence our customer’s buying decisions. This is not a slick persuasive sales technique, but sharing the benefits of being happily involved with our main products, accessories, and services with the homeowner.

Many salespeople in our industry already do this through a sales system that they have been taught to use or learned on their own. Yet, most technicians aren’t comfortable with a “sales process” and don’t want to sell in the first place. So, I would like to address mental ownership as it applies to a service or maintenance call, and those salespeople that may not use this imagery can learn from this as well.    

Let’s look at three criteria that need to be met for mental ownership to occur and to be an influencer.  

Customers Must Feel

First, for a homeowner to be able to develop a sense of mental ownership, they must feel or experience an image that is presented by the technician on a call. Just passing out literature or a line card of products and services does not help create images of mental ownership. People develop a sense of mental ownership if they visually see a problem or feel a need, and the price for the solution meets the value presented.

Create the Need

Painting the picture with visuals such as meter readings, showing the dirt in the system or worn part, using videos, pictures, water test, etc. creates powerful mental images of a problem or a need for an accessory product. Talking to the homeowner about issues with their equipment and relating it to everyday imagery such as overpaying the utility company and family allergies will create mental ownership. Mental images are then able to come to one’s mind spontaneously or naturally since in most cases, their family’s health and budget are easy to imagine. Mental ownership considerations and consequences impact everyday life and differentiating between what they don’t have and should have is a routine thought process in consumers’ minds.

Cause and Effect

Powerful visuals and explanations of the cause and effect of maintenance and service issues must be able to influence how consumers feel and behave toward your product or solution. Mental ownership significantly influences how consumers feel about and behave toward an owned object. You create a want and need with proper communication during a call. 

 

When your technicians are on service and maintenance calls, there initially is no actual ownership by the homeowner of any piece of new equipment, surge protector, water treatment, IAQ products, etc. because the need has yet to be discovered. Once evidence of a challenge in the system is discovered, or the age may suggest replacement vs. repairing of the equipment, then mental ownership helps the homeowner want to buy. But that picture has to be painted by the technician. There may be a great need for some or all of these products, and creating mental ownership within the homeowner’s mind will lead to getting them happily involved with the products that we offer. 

Mental ownership is defined as a sense of ownership for a factually not owned product. The phrase ‘a sense of ownership’ denotes that mental ownership is more than merely imagining a situation of possession. It requires a shift in the person’s reference point. A homeowner’s initial reference point when the call begins is that the technician is going to fix the problem or perform the required maintenance. They do not typically think of accessories or replacing the system. With that said, a technician can’t just begin the call with, “Hi, would you like to buy a UV light for $1,200?” because there has been no shift in the homeowner’s reference point to create mental ownership of an IAQ concern.    

Research shows that vivid mental imagery about an object leads to mental ownership, which, in turn, leads to the typical consequences of actual ownership. Meaning if communicated correctly by the technician, the homeowner will shift their point of reference from, “just fix it”, to “I can see myself owning that new piece of equipment and experiencing those advantages.”

I can see the wheels spinning in most of your heads now. “Well, that all sounds plausible, but it also sounds like you’re asking my technicians to sell, and they don’t like to sell!” While that may be true, when we survey technicians across the country and ask, “By a show of hands, how many of you became a technician to sell things?” Overwhelming, no hands are raised. Then when asked, “Why did you become a technician?” The overwhelming answer is, “To fix things and service the customer.” When a technician understands mental ownership, they find that it revolves around fixing, servicing, and doing what is in the best interest of the homeowner. And they see evidence of these “fixes” every day, yet they may not know how and when to communicate these concerns and solutions during the call. 

We have a saying in our company concerning sales: “Sales is the transfer of your belief to someone else, and the reward is money.” That assumes that the technician “believes” in the product and services that they represent. Then has the passion and ability to “transfer” this belief to the homeowner by showing visual evidence of an equipment concern. Through routine and thorough evaluations of an HVAC or plumbing system, technicians discover worn parts, dirty systems, chlorine in the water, hard water, and other conditions. These affect the performance of the plumbing and HVAC systems, and may even create health concerns. So, showing the homeowner these discoveries and professionally explaining the consequences of doing nothing creates a vivid image in the homeowner’s mind (mental ownership) that in many cases will result in actual sales. This creates ownership of a product that is a beneficial permanent fix!

When conducting technician “How and When” IAQ communication training, my team and I explain that the “fix it” mentally comes with the responsibility to fix the current issue at hand. Also, the responsibility to prevent it from happening in the future. Future homeowner concerns include controlling utility overpayments and possible health concerns aggravated by indoor air and water contaminants. All of which can be handled with regularly scheduled maintenance, proper service, and the advantages of accessory products. 

Although the vast majority of technicians do not think of themselves as being in sales, they collect money every day in exchange for replacement parts and services. That is sales! So, we use S.A.L.E.S. as an acronym to make a point to technicians about sales vs. service. Within the word SALES service resides:

Service All Legitimate Expectations Sincerely. Meaning that part of their job description is to Service (what they were hired to do) All (not some or only those that they feel are important) Legitimate (honestly and ethically) Expectations (what is expected from the company and the homeowner for proper diagnoses and suggestions) Sincerely (with passion and the belief that what they are doing and suggesting is in the best interest of the homeowner.

 

Steve Mores is the Vice President of Training and Sales at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!

Yes, Your Next Hire Should Be A Woman

By Vicki LaPlant

How exciting is it to write an article on why hiring a woman should be a part of your thinking with that next hire? I, like many people (not just women but men as well), stumbled into this industry. Having taught high school English for four years, I didn’t even know an industry such as ours existed. And if I had any conscious recognition of it, my assumption would have been that it was for engineers or people who wanted to work on the air conditioner or heater. (My Texas upbringing is showing.)

The point being is that 30 years ago upon my entry into HVACR, we were an invisible industry and today we still remain so to most young people – men or women. So for career opportunities, the industry is not on the radar. And this is in spite of the fact that Monster.com states that an HVAC mechanic is one of the top 10 highest paying two-year degree opportunities.

So the first answer to the question of why women should enter this industry is opportunity and money. With the shortage of skilled application and mechanical engineers, technicians and plumbers, our industry will continue to require more people for the foreseeable future and it is an industry recognized to pay well. So the opportunities for women are abundant.

Next, this industry needs women. What we bring is an ability to listen, to translate technical language into consumer language, to recognize needs and provide solutions. When I entered the industry, I didn’t know the difference between a heater, a standard furnace, a condenser, an evaporator coil and an air conditioner. Yet, I was hired to write and edit training materials. I didn’t know the technical jargon, but I did know how to communicate and how to explain technical information in a way that students learning the industry could grasp. This is a skill that many women have based on our willingness to ask questions and or for clarification when we don’t understand. I never encountered anyone who wasn’t willing to help me learn the technical aspects of the industry.

This industry also needs motivators. This is another role women do well. We long ago learned how to motivate siblings, our children, spouses, and employees to reach for more, to accomplish things they didn’t always know they were capable of.  In one of my first major career promotions, I had to create a department that had never existed in the company before.  I had to create goals, hire people to accomplish these goals, and motivate them when we were all tired and somewhat despondent. Women do these activities in their everyday lives so why not apply these same skills in an industry that desperately needs them?

Focus and priorities are often missing elements in many businesses. HVACR businesses have a tendency to run in one direction for a while and then an opportunity – sometimes good, but often not – cause the company to change course and move in another direction without a lot of analysis or forethought on whether the company and the skill sets of the employees are ready for the new course of action.

Yes, change is often necessary, but once again, I think women bring clarity of purpose and focus on priorities as part of our skill sets. We have had a great deal of practice organizing and staying focused on what needs to be accomplished today, this week, and this month both at work and at home. Many times in my career in the industry, I have been tempted or even on occasion altered my focus, only eventually to realize that my skill sets and my personal satisfaction required me to be in the role of educating and helping others realize their potential in their jobs or their businesses. I think women bring that ability to the companies that they work for or the companies that they own.

Some of the most successful women I know own HVACR businesses. They bring their skills of organization, prioritization, motivation, and genuine care and concern for employees and customers to their businesses. No wonder women owners are so successful.

One of the new buzz words in the world of business is gamification. So many young people have grown up playing games on their computers and internet that the concept has carried over into the business world. The younger generation wants to like where she or he works. They want to have fun at work. And who better than a woman to understand how much more effective and efficient people are if work seems like fun? (If you question this logic, just watch the next time a Mom gets toys cleaned up with a timed race.) I always understood the importance of making work fun. At one point, in my career, I had a department of 80 people and once a quarter, we organized a “fun day.” One time, we went bowling at two in the afternoon. Another time, we had a road rally with clues. Work for all of us can sometimes be drudgery so from time to time, do something fun and let women help you with that.

Yes, I stumbled into this industry, but don’t let my mistake become yours. Instead, seek out this industry if you are a woman or if you are looking for an employee, make sure you are including women in that search.

 

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!