DEA Meeting : Guest Speaker Terry Sumerlin

Michael Bosco, SafeHaven Pest Control, introduced guest speaker Terry Sumerlin.  Michael first met Terry in Galveston at the Texas Pest Control Association Annual Conference – which he added, was a huge party and killer time! [insert laughter] Would you like to connect more quickly and effectively with others?  Would you like to know some simple, yet powerful connectors that we can use today to increase our positive influences and build even more effective teams?

For 25 years he has addressed this topic in presentations from St. Paul to St. Thomas and from British Isles to the island of Guam.  He is the author of five leadership books, including Leadership: It Takes More than a Great Haircut! For ten years he served as a monthly leadership columnist for the San Antonio Business Journal.  Two of Terry’s favorite things are ice cream and reading.  For him, reading is a disease.  He claims that his preferred way of expiring would be with a good book in one hand and a bowl of Blue Bell in the other.  But his very favorite thing in life is helping others through his speaking and writing.  He is here to help us become even better connectors with his topic Powerful Common-Sense Connectors.

Terry Sumerlin greeted everyone and declared he was SO excited to be with us that he could thread a sewing machine while it was running!  He then asked for a show of hands, “how many of you are or are not so excited to be here this morning you can hardly stand it?”  The entire room raised their hands! Terry started with a research study from the book Hire for Attitude by Mark Murphy, in which they studied 20,000 new hires over a 3-year time period.  Of those 20,000 new hires – 47% had left the job after 18 months.  And of the 47% of new hires that had failed, only 11% of those failed due to lack of technical skills.  Does that startle you?  Maybe or maybe not.  You may have experienced that kind of thing in the workplace.  It gives rise to the reasonable approach of Southwest Airlines philosophy of “hire for attitude, train for skill.”  Attitude makes all the difference.  How does attitude reference to the study above?  They knew the new hires failed by how they interacted with other people. Attitude is reflected in people skills and in how well we connect or how poorly we connect with other individuals.

This morning we are going to look at two things this morning that are so important in terms of connecting with others.  The first is Respect and the second is Communication.  That probably doesn’t surprise everyone!

Let’s start with Respect.  Respect is something that is cultivated, developed, and learned.  Children are not necessarily concerned about respect.  Generally, adults are more aware and in tune, we hope, in the respect area.  Growing up in San Antonio, Terry believed, like many other children; that if he went into his backyard, dug a hole, and continued digging deep enough and long enough, he would eventually reach…. China!  Everyone knows that, right!  As children, we also grew up with the myth that the whole world revolves around us.  The world of a child is very, very small and limited, but they believe they are at the center of it.  Over time, parents hope they will outgrow such childish notions – but some people don’t.  There are adults out there, that when science finally discovers what is at the center of the universe, are going to be very disappointed to find out they aren’t in it!  So, respect cannot be assumed, it must be developed; we must learn to care about other people.  Terry asks, “how can we, from the first meeting, show respect to others?”

Four ways to show Respect when meeting others:

  • Greeting: give a person positive words at initial contact. When asked, “how are you doing today?”, respond with “I’m great and I hope you are too! Thank you for asking!”.
  • Handshake and a Smile: this is the one accepted way of physically touching a stranger. That is a rare privilege that people grant us when meeting them for the first time.  Don’t use the dead fish, crushing walnuts, rocket, or the prolonged handshake.  It is simple, but powerful and a great connector.  Reach for their hand and SMILE. When you smile, a connection begins.
  • Name Memory: you can’t forget a name you didn’t know. Ask them again, if needed.  I’ve never met anyone who was offended to repeat their name.  Just make sure to get it, get it, get it!
  • Compliments and Encouragement: If we compliment someone, we encourage them; and that encouragement builds a bridge for them to remember you. Chick-Fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy, said, “How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? That person is breathing.”  Everyone needs encouragement.  Terry also tells the story of a little boy who didn’t speak one word for the first ten years of his life.  They took him to all sorts of doctors, therapists, psychologists, and specialists of every kind – but he still didn’t say a word.  Then one morning, he came down to breakfast.  He sat down, looked around and slammed his fist on the table and said, “the toast is burned!”  His parents looked in disbelief.  After their excitement, they asked him “why haven’t you spoken until now?” to which he replied, “well everything has been alright up until now.”  Is that how it is at your workplace or home?  In your social connections?  Do we wait until something is wrong before saying anything or do you encourage and compliment along the way?

The greatest compliment is when someone wants to be around you, connects with you and is your friend.  So, if you think you don’t receive compliments, think again!

Now let’s look at Communication.  One of the biggest mistaken notions on communication is that communication is just words.  Everything that we say or do, intentionally or unintentionally, sends a positive or negative message to others.  Everything.  We communicate in various ways such as, our tone of voice, words, and body language.  How many of us have heard the childhood saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Terry says, “that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” Words can hurt, but they can also change someone’s life in a positive way.  And in the electronic age we are in – we are surrounded by words.  It’s not what we say, but what the other person heard us say.  That is where tact comes in.  Terry explains his 3-way test for tactfulness.

  • would I want to the same thing said to me?
  • knowing the person that I’m talking to – how is that person likely to perceive what I am saying?
  • If in doubt, don’t say it!

In conclusion, when incorporating respect and communication skills – do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, by all the means you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can!

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