Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Lessons I have learned along the way #6 – Knowing when to stop!

The following is the sixth a ten part series of “Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way…”

Knowing when to stop 

While I lead a non-profit Chamber of Commerce today, my first occupation after graduating from Winthrop University was serving as a marketing representative for Harper Brothers, an office furniture and supply company in Rock Hill (SC).  Sales isn’t really a subject you can learn from a text-book.  It really derives from natural and learned abilities, experience, knowledge of your product, customer needs and expectations and competitor information as well as good advice or coaching from a mentor or professional coach.

One of the first golden rules I learned from sales was that most people have a tendency to try to pack too much information into their delivery.  We tell them how to build a watch instead of just what time it is.  Sometimes the best sales approach are the simplest ones.    Public speaking is another area where people get caught up in their message and say way too much when they already have their point made.  When I was a teenager, I was terrified of getting up in class and giving reports at Northwestern High.  Eventually though, I overcame that fear through practice and experience.  In 1992, I addressed a convention with a 35 minute speech to 3,500 delegates.  That would not have been possible without practice and preparation.

Charlie Madsen and I meet before my final speech to the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.

I learned to craft talks on a subject and rehearse it over and over until I had the delivery just right.  Then one day, one of my mentors from the Junior Chamber (Jaycees), Charlie Madsen, gave me some simple advice.  “Bill, when you give one of your motivational talks, look around the room.  If you see them eating out of your hand, you know you got them hooked, finish it.  Don’t go into another story or make another point no matter how good you think it is.”

Charlie reminded me of the young politician on his first campaign speech.  He booked a big auditorium hoping for a great crowd, but he found only one man sitting alone  in a chair.  He waited and waited but no one else showed up.  Finally he looked at the lone guy and he said,  “Hey, you think I should get started?”  The man looked at the politician and said, “Sir, I’m just a farmer and all I know are cows.  But if I take a load of hay out and only one cow shows up, I’m still gonna’ feed it.”

So the politician reared back and gave him his best.  He talked on and on for an hour, then two as the farmer shifted back and forth in his seat.  Finally when the politician  wrapped up with his big delivery, he asked the old farmer just how he did.

Once again, the farmer pondered and then said, “Sir, I’m just an old farmer.  All I know are cows.  Of course, I do know that if I took my whole load of hay down to the pasture and only one cow showed up, I wouldn’t dump the whole load on him.”

Charlie winked at me as he made his point.  Your talks, speeches, and sales presentations are defined as much by your audience as your product.  I learned to tailor talks to groups using the people in the room.  Reading expressions to see whether my points had been made or needed to be expanded upon.

The bottom line know your product, know your competitor, most importantly know your audience, and finally know when to stop.

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Put me in Coach

USC Coach Steve Spurrier with Bill Russell

The word “coach” means different things to different people.  To the athlete, it is the person who pushes them to perform at their very best.  The coach motivates and inspires the athlete to operate at peak performance, often in the framework of a team, but on occasion, in an individual effort.  These special advisors are no different than the business coach who works with individuals to discover untapped talents, to achieve goals and objectives, once thought unobtainable without their counsel. 

People at the top of their game, the best in their profession, still need a coach.  Some might be surprised that the greatest golfer in our lifetime, Tiger Woods, still has a coach that pushes him to be the very best. No one reaches the top on their own – often you need a successful network and perhaps many different mentors and coaches for you to be the very best you can be.

Bill Walton

Recently, I was in Washington, D.C. attending a legislative conference with the U.S. Chamber and meeting with our federal delegation.  Past Lake Norman Chamber Chairman John Hettwer and I saw a poster that indicated that former NBA player Bill Walton was speaking on Technology and Innovation, and we decided to attend.  Walton met John and I at the door and the event organizer took note of the name tag I was wearing when he said, “It’s not every day we have Bill Walton and Bill Russell in the same room.”  I’ve become accustomed to the kidding I get bearing that famous name.  I often retort back, “I’m sure the former Boston Celtic ‘Bill Russell’ gets his fair share of being mixed up with the nationally renowned chamber executive.”  Well, perhaps not, but if the NBA Russell is a legend, I’m at least a legend in my own mind.

Walton had some great advice that he shared with us that afternoon. Much of it was lessons taught by his mentor and UCLA Bruin coach, the legendary John Wooden. Walton reminded each of us, “It’s the skill, timing and position not the size and strength that counts.”  He also shared, “it’s not how high you jump – but when” and perhaps one of his better gems “never mistake activity for achievement.”  

Coach Ray Parlier with incoming S.C. State Jaycee President Bill Russell

As I listened to the words of Bill Walton, I could not help but think of the mentors that have served me so well over my career.  I am fortunate to have had a business coach, a political coach, and a spiritual coach.  However, one that perhaps made the most impact on the field I have chosen is Coach Ray Parlier.  Ray was the Athletic Director of Furman University and a Past State President of the South Carolina Jaycees.  Parlier was a former football trainer that rose through the ranks to become a driving force in Furman’s national championship run in the late 1980’s.

“Coach” would have me placing little sticky notes on the refrigerator and the bedroom and bathroom mirrors with goals he expected us to obtain – and obtain them we did.  Those reminders, which I once thought unobtainable, became my focus.  Ray was my first coach who pushed me past self-imposed barriers to reach my potential.  Perhaps his greatest advice in leading a non-profit, whether a chamber of commerce or a civic organization, was simply to “love your people.”  Before you can lead them, you have to show them that you care.

Political Advisor Charlie Madsen

My life has been full of mentors – Charlie, Chip, Ray, Joni, Dad and the list goes on and on. I can think of no greater reward for anyone than having made a difference in someone else’s life… helping them chip away the stone to unveil the beautiful statue within. Bill Walton closed that afternoon with a line that Wooden impressed on the young men that he led to their countless national championships, “Make each day your masterpiece.”  The Lake Norman region is our canvas, painted each day by the countless numbers who call this community home. Painted not by a single artist but all those whose dreams are bigger than their visions, and their actions – which are louder than their words.

October 13, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , , , | Leave a comment