Tough Times Require Tougher People

Strong personal-development programs are critical for sustaining HOPE and PRODUCTIVITY.

One day in mid-March, your teams were planning a spring full of customer events, national convention trips and new retail sales. The next day, they were replacing in-person appointments with web conference calls, canceling flights and maybe seeing their order pipelines start to dwindle. The COVID-19 closures and stay-at-home orders hit quickly and hard. A few months in, things have started to open up, but this new groove is still rough and likely will be that way for a while.

You might have a clearer picture now than you did in early spring of what the rest of your business year holds, but there may still be a lot of ambiguity, which can breed fear and worry among your team members. As a business leader, you can’t make uncertainty disappear. You can create an environment that helps employees and distributors stay engaged and feel more positive about the future.

Implementing a personal development program is an effective way to help team members cope with and see beyond this crisis. Personal development is about becoming emotionally intelligent—it’s about learning skills for self-discovery, relationship building, conflict management and goal setting, all of which increase resilience and optimism.

Now, more than ever, people need tools to maintain their mental and emotional health. Willis Towers Watson, a Virginia-based business consulting firm, surveyed 200 employers and found that 64 percent expect their employees to be feeling higher-thannormal levels of stress and anxiety over the next three to six months—60 percent expect to take steps to help employees remain resilient.

This month, we’re talking to you about how you can be among the leaders who are taking those steps, who are paying attention to what their people need beyond just the technology to work from home. Give them opportunities and resources to build habits and adopt attitudes that will help them—and your company— thrive during and after this challenging time in our lives.

Their Growth is Your Growth

“I could list a million reasons why direct selling companies should be focusing on the development of their field members, not just now but always,” says SUCCESS magazine Editor-in- Chief Josh Ellis. “If your people aren’t growing, your company probably isn’t, either,” That’s because personal development is a “multiplier” of the eleven Core Principles of successful, sustainable direct selling—it exponentially enhances the effectiveness of everything from your brand to your recruiting efforts to your tool systems.

“Personal success drives the company’s success,” says Angela Loehr Chrysler, President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Team National. “When our representatives and our staff have greater personal confidence and a positive mindset, they are better equipped to provide good service.” Mentally and emotionally fit people also are better able to handle stressful situations, says Ryan Gagon, Vice President of Human Resources for Sandy, Utah-based 4Life Research. “As we continue to push ourselves to learn new skills and tools to deal with life’s challenges, we will be better prepared when tough times strike.”

Personal-development programs also reinforce your commitment to and belief in your employees, which is critical for retention. “Employees who feel supported in their roles are much more likely to become high performers in the workplace, be better influencers for positive company culture and stay with the company longer,” says Ross Terry, Vice President of Business Development and Training at 4Life.

Fear’s No. 1 Foe

Aside from being afraid of the virus itself, many of us are feeling a deeper fear—a fear of the unknowns this virus has caused, and it’s taking its toll. But experts remind us that we don’t have to let that fear take over.

“This sudden and then prolonged exposure will leave a mark,” says Kindra Hall, SUCCESS magazine’s Chief Storytelling Officer. “Healing will need to happen in order for hope to be restored. Personal development can help rebuild what we’ve lost from the inside out so that we can come back stronger, both as corporations and field individuals.”

Leadership expert and SUCCESS magazine Leadership Editor John Addison has advice for controlling the amount of fear that we let in. “Are you spending all day staring at the news, feeling like the world’s going to hell in a handbasket? Be careful what you’re allowing into your brain,” he writes. “Focus on what you’re inputting. Look at all the things coming your way and ask yourself, ‘Is this doing anything for me or making my life better?’ If the answer is no, then … don’t let it into your brain.”

Addison also addresses mindset in this video about staying calm and hopeful during this pandemic. “Fear is natural, but courage is critical,” he says. “Turn your fear into fuel. … Try to find an answer to keep moving forward.”

Virtual Learning Gathering Steam

You may not be able to bring people together in the same rooms and auditoriums for the motivational and educational experiences you had planned for the rest of the year, but you have an opportunity to expand your use of  learning tools.

“If your people aren’t growing, your company probably isn’t, either.”
—Josh Ellis, SUCCESS Magazine Editor-in-Chief

Prior to COVID-19, many direct selling companies were already offering tech-based personal development programs. But once we started staying home, the internet became our primary gathering place: Microsoft Teams alone hosted a record 2.7 billion meeting minutes on March 31, a 200 percent increase from just two weeks prior. Facebook reported that by the end of March, time spent in group video calls had increased more than 1,000 percent.

Hall recently polled her personal audience and found that 55 percent of those who responded had invested in some sort of online course to grow themselves during the stay-at-home orders. And she expects this trend to continue. “One thing that isn’t going anywhere after the pandemic is virtual learning,” she says. “Not only will people be more used to digital learning, they will come to expect it.”

Companies throughout our industry are embracing virtual personal development events. At SeneGence, the summer calendar is packed with online training events, like “Motivational Monday” Facebook Live calls and even social gatherings. “The learning we are experiencing about the connection and reach virtual events can have and how they can positively impact business has been invaluable,” says Karen Goodman, SeneGence Executive Vice President of Sales.

USANA CEO Kevin Guest started a virtual reading club. He posts excerpts from books and articles and encourages the leadership team, employees and distributors to read and apply the lessons to their business practices and to themselves. USANA Vice President of Sales Lori Truman notes that a couple of books, including The Reality Slap by Russ Harris, have been particularly helpful during this time because of their focus on how breathing exercises can minimize anxiety. “If you use these techniques, you will find that you will be calmer; you will be providing your body more oxygen; and your brain will function more clearly,” Truman says. “As we are all reading the same articles and books, it allows us to speak the same language as we move forward in achieving our goals,” she adds.

Personal Development: A Business Imperative

When people are distracted by worries over income level and job security, a personal-improvement program may seem like a luxury. Yet, your organization’s ability to weather this storm depends heavily on employees being committed to becoming the best personal and professional versions of themselves.

So be as transparent as possible about your company’s challenges and opportunities. “You don’t need an MBA or an economics degree right now to understand the precarious spot many companies find themselves in,” Ellis says. “Employees and field members are going to want to hear how things are going, and they deserve the full picture.”

Authenticity builds trust and loyalty. Your teams will see that you respect them enough to tell them the truth, and they will work harder for you—in the field and on themselves— because they’ll want to be a reason for your success.

As your people do the hard work you’re asking them to do, acknowledge their accomplishments. “Lean on cultural elements like recognition or just basic cheerleading and encouragement,” Ellis says. “Impromptu shout-outs and ‘Job well-done!’ emails will carry a lot of weight right now.”

Hall echoes Ellis: “Open, authentic communication will help ease some of the nerves that come with so much unknown.” She adds that leaders also should be talking about previous setbacks and how the company overcame them. “These stories will instill trust and hopefulness as the audiences, both field and corporate, more fully understand that this is a storm we can survive,” Hall says.

“Personal development can help rebuild what we’ve lost from the inside out so that we can come back stronger, both as corporations and field individuals.”
— Kindra Hall, SUCCESS Magazine Chief Storytelling Officer

Choose One’s Own Way

This pandemic is a stark reminder that we can’t control what happens to us. We can control only how we react to what happens to us. “The one true thing in this difficult time will be a person’s ability to become and stay self-disciplined,” Goodman says. “It could be very easy to slip into complacency, laziness, fear and depression. A focus on personal development is the key to separating those who give in from those who won’t give up.”

Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote extensively about human beings’ innate ability to reframe their perspective: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” DSN

Building a Personal Development Library

You don’t have to create your personal development program from scratch—curate one using the wealth of proven content that already exists. “No one is inventing personal development secrets in 2020,” says SUCCESS magazine Editor-in-Chief Josh Ellis. Here are some resources for building a personal development curriculum:

  • Ellis recommends BLOG POSTS AND BOOKS by author Ryan Holiday, who writes about the power of stoicism. “We are searching for leaders who can look this crisis in the face and react with pragmatism, not emotion,” he says.
  • Other great FOLLOWS include Rachel Hollis, Tom Bilyeu, Gabrielle Bernstein, Brendon Burchard, Rachel Cruze, Prince EA, Tim Ferriss, Maria Forleo, Lewis Howes, Trent Shelton, Jay Shetty and Gary Vaynerchuk.
  • Last fall, before we even knew we’d need the boost, Direct Selling News and SUCCESS magazine compiled a list  of 25 BOOKS that provide insights on maximizing potential, overcoming fears and recognizing the pivotal moments that can have the greatest impact on your life.
  • The SUCCESS PARTNERSNOW APP can keep a constant stream of personal development content flowing to your employees and distributors.
  • SUCCESS magazine offers a variety of social media, video, audio and print content to help your teams develop and polish their soft skills.