By Rick Mullen, Maintenance Sales News Associate Editor
When Liz Trotter, owner of American Maid Cleaning,
LLC, of Olympia, WA, and a frequent speaker at the annual ISSA Show North America events, was preparing for her November 2020 presentation titled “Don’t Just Survive in Tough Times — THRIVE,” the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet swept the nation.
“There was no thought of COVID-19 anywhere on the horizon. It is just a topic that has spoken to me for quite a long time,” she said, during her virtual presentation at the 2020 ISSA Show North America Virtual Experience in November.
The underlying theme of the presentation was to show how businesses can, not only be prepared to take on tough times, but also thrive.
“I really wanted people to feel a little bit more powerful during tough times, rather than feeling, ‘If I could just make it through, and hold on,’” Trotter said. “When COVID-19 hit, I started interviewing people who were working through all the COVID-19 challenges that we all have been dealing with. I found people really didn’t have to change that much, because, the people, the businesses, the companies that were thriving had some things very much in common — they all had a similar mindset.”
“Every problem is an opportunity. The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity.”
— Vinod Khosla
Khosla is a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and the founder of Khosla Ventures. In 2014, Forbes counted him among the 400 richest people in the United States.
“I have really loved this quote ever since I heard it,” Trotter said “Problems are opportunities. There aren’t opportunities without problems. For every opportunity, something happened — something made that opportunity necessary.
“I’m going to remember that there is some big opportunity coming along just for me, because I’m the one with the problem, and also the one who has the ability to see the opportunity.
“I also talked to people who have not been successful, who have not thrived and have decided it is time to give up the ghost.”
In her discussion about how to thrive in difficult times, Trotter discussed three basic topics: mindset, operations and relationships.
“The right mindset is one of the main things that we all find is necessary if we want to thrive in tough times,” Trotter said.
Trotter compared what she called a “growth mindset” versus a “fixed mindset.”
A Growth Mindset thinks:
■ Failure is an opportunity to grow;
■ I can learn to do anything I want;
■ Challenges me to grow;
■ My effort and attitude determines my abilities;
■ Feedback is constructive;
■ I am inspired by the success of others; and,
■ I like to try things.
In contrast, a Fixed Mindset says:
■ Failure is the limit of my abilities;
■ I’m either good at it or I’m not;
■ My abilities are unchanging;
■ I can either do it, or I can’t;
■ I don’t like to be challenged;
■ My potential is predetermined;
■ When I’m frustrated, I give up;
■ Feedback and criticism are personal; and,
■ I stick to what I know.
The term “growth mindset” was coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” Trotter said.
“First, failure is an opportunity to grow. If you have a growth mindset, that is what you think,” Trotter said. “(In contrast) the person with the fixed mindset, thinks, ‘OK, I guess that’s it. That’s as good as it gets for me … this is the best I have to give.’”
Trotter pointed out some other contrasting thought processes between the “growth mindset” and the “fixed mindset,” i.e., the growth mindset thinks, “I can do anything I want,” versus, “I’m either good at it or I’m not.”
“With the growth mindset, you are going to be thinking things like, ‘I love feedback. The more negative, the better.’ Why? — because all that (negative feedback) fuels opportunity. The growth mindset really loves challenges and feedback,” Trotter said. “People might resist it. They might say, ‘That’s not how I am. That’s not true.’
“But then they say, ‘So, that is how other people think I am. That is how other people see me — that is great information. Now, I have a chance to make a change.’
“What do you do if you are one of the people with a fixed mindset? Are you doomed? Are you thinking, ‘It’s not my fault. I can’t help it. It is just how I’m wired.’ Don’t worry. That’s just your fixed mindset talking, because the truth is anybody can have a growth mindset. It just might take a little bit of practice.
“Nobody is 100 percent wired for a growth mindset. Some people have practiced more and are wired more that way, but they still work at it. We all have to work at having a growth mindset.”
One of Dweck’s concepts is what she called “the bridge to yet.”
“If I (think), ‘I can’t do this,’ all I have to do is add ‘yet,’ and then find ‘the bridge to yet,’” Trotter said. “Adding that one word to anything you are thinking in your growth mindset can take you to a whole new place. It can take you to the future. It can take you to opportunity, because opportunity is in the future. Your opportunity doesn’t live in the past.
“For example, ‘People aren’t going to sign back up for service after they quit, yet. People don’t appreciate my service to that level, yet. The governor shut us down. The governor said we can’t operate in our state, yet.’”
Categories under business operations include: marketing/sales; team member management; customer relations; scheduling/dispatch; service delivery; equipment supply management; and financial management, Trotter said.
“Operations need to be better in crisis. When we have rough time and things are going bad, we need to rely on our operations,” Trotter said. “If we can’t rely on our operations, things are going to start falling apart. You just can’t afford to have your operations ‘soft’ or ‘spongy’ in any way.
“Your marketing and sales ought to be tight. How do you manage your team members? What are your customer relations? Do you communicate regularly? How do you communicate? How do you handle problems?
“How do you manage scheduling and dispatching? Who goes where and when? Service delivery — if you run a cleaning company, how is the cleaning going to be done?
“Training — does everybody know exactly what to do? Do we know all the important things about our industry?
“Equipment and supply management — we really saw this one when COVID-19 hit in April and May. There were a lot of people who couldn’t get the basics. In April, how many people said, ‘What am I going to do about disinfectant?
“Financial management — I don’t care what the problem is, and I don’t care how bad things are, if you’re not managing your finances in a good, strong way, it’s going to be really tough.
“There are four things you really want to make sure of when it comes to operations,” Trotter said. They are:
■ Systems in place and documented: Simple documented systems that are clear and accessible to all.
■ Tight operations: Eliminate waste — time, energy, effort; and make cuts where possible involving costs, spending, overhead.
■ Emergency processes: Define who, what, when for each operation.
“Determine what needs to be done, who does it, and when does it need to be done. If you can define those three things, then almost all emergency situations become easier.”
■ Financial considerations: Develop a safety net, alternative sources, and build relationships.
“Do you have a safety net if something happens? Do you have alternative sources of funding? Do you have money in savings?”
Trotter said of the three elements of thriving during hard times — mindset, operations and relationships — perhaps the most important is relationships.
“They are all important, but if I could only pick one, I would go with relationships, because sometimes you can borrow a mindset from somebody else if you have a good relationship,” Trotter said. “One of my good friends has an awesome mindset. If I found myself in a bad place and could not find my growth mindset, I could turn to my relationship with him for the growth mindset. Relationships are at the core of everything we do.
“When things are really tough, people behave differently. We are seeing this around the country. In my state (Washington), they just locked us down again. It is frustrating that there is no toilet paper, no water or no paper towels on the shelves again. People’s behavior is very much affected during tough times. So, we need to be able to manage relationships and behavior at the same time, because our behavior is different, too.”
Trotter said there is a tendency for people to think their behavior has not been impacted by tough times. For example, a person might think, toilet paper shortages, etc., are not his/her fault — “I didn’t hoard toilet paper or paper towels.”
“I challenge you. You had no behavioral changes? Are you sure? Double check yourselves. Did you change any of your relationships? Did any of the things you do change? Were you more scared? Did that fear come out in any way? I’m sure you will find you did change some of your behavior,” Trotter said. “How can you change other people’s behavior? Haven’t we been taught you can’t change other people’s behavior? But, here’s the thing, when we change our own behavior, everybody else’s behavior also changes.
“So, if we want a better mindset, then we start acting in a better way, and we start attracting people with better mindsets.”
As an example, Trotter told of a friend who is a professional dancer.
“When she is dancing with somebody and doing everything that they have practiced … it is so smooth. It is beautiful. They know exactly what to do,” Trotter said.
He friend said she has been dancing so long, she doesn’t think about the mechanics of the dance, but rather it is more about “feeling.”
“Her partner does the same thing,” Trotter said. “He responds to her and she responds to him — they respond perfectly to each other. However, if one of them fumbles and makes a mistake, the other one keeps going, while the one who fumbled catches up.”
If she is the one who stumbled and doesn’t catch up, her partner will eventually start doing what she is doing, Trotter said.
“It doesn’t feel comfortable to just keep going. If in five seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds or 30 seconds, she is not changing, he will be confused and his mindset will change to, ‘Somehow I missed the memo. I guess we’re doing this other dance now.’
“He will do that, even when he knows he shouldn’t, even when he doesn’t want to. We don’t know how to keep doing the same things when the other person isn’t doing his/her part.
“The ‘dance’ is what we have all done and what we have all practiced. When things are tough, people don’t act like they normally do. They don’t know how to act the way they have always acted
“For example, I don’t know where to get toilet paper because there isn’t any in my city because the governor locked us down again. Now, I am going to have to change my behavior. Maybe before I would run down to a store and grab toilet paper, but that’s not what is happening now.
“My dance has been disrupted. I don’t know how to get toilet paper anymore. It is going to take me longer to get it, but I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to have to change something about me. And, when I change me, other people around me are also going to change.
“So, how much control do you have over someone else’s behavior. A lot. All you have to do is change what you are doing, and the people around you will also change.
“This is important because we are talking about how to have better, tighter, stronger relationships during tough times, when people are often not at their best.”
In contrast, Trotter said, hard times often bring out the best in some people. She gave the example involving her company’s cleaning channel. Many clients, across the country, have asked their cleaners not to come to their homes during the pandemic. However, many of those customers continued to pay the cleaners at the normal rate.
“How many of your customers just sent you money. Just sent you a $100 check and said, ‘Don’t come clean. Here’s some money.’ Were you expecting that? I was not expecting that. People are amazing,” Trotter said. “In some ways, we become better because of the opportunity to be our best selves.”
To further illustrate how a person can get the best out of whatever situation he/she is in, Trotter divided certain behaviors into two categories, “Be Better to Get Better,” and “Don’t MAKE better.”
In a slide, the “Don’t MAKE better” behaviors were illustrated in a box. When she referenced those behaviors, she called it being “in the box.”
Be Better to Get Better
■ Be open-minded;
■ Be curious;
■ Be accepting;
■ Be reassuring;
■ Be empathetic; and,
■ Be self-reflective.
Don’t MAKE Better (in the box)
■ Preach/teach; and,
■ Show wrong.
“When we are under stress and/or not feeling our greatest, we find ourselves in the ‘don’t make better’ box,” Trotter said. “We find ourselves judging, defending our situation, trying to convince people we are right, directing people, ordering them around — preaching and teaching.
“‘Teaching’ sounds kind of nice, but, and I’m one of these people, sometimes we can get really preachy in the guise of teaching. So, we call it teaching, but it is really preaching. We try to show other people how they are wrong, why they’re wrong, what’s wrong with what they are saying.”
Trotter said when people find themselves being manipulated, bossed around, judged, etc., by those whose thinking is “in the box,” they can change the behavior of those doing the manipulating by beginning to practice elements in the “Be Better to Get Better” category, thus changing the “dance.”
As she said earlier, “All you have to do is change what you are doing and the people around you will also change.
“All you have to do is be different than you are right now,” Trotter said. “Whatever your conflict, whenever you are dealing with people who are inside the box, you want to get them out of the box. To do that, we must get better.
“When you help yourself to be better, you will feel better. A lot of people are resistant because they think, ‘I don’t want to be the one to change. Other people are the ones doing something wrong. I’m not the one. I’m doing everything right.’ Here’s the deal, if you are willing to be better first, you will instantly — and I am not exaggerating — feel better.”
The hardest part is making the decision to get out of the “box.” People can decide the dance they want to pursue, such as, “I’m getting out of the box,” Trotter said.
Trotter’s entire video presentation can be viewed by those who have an
All-Access Pass for the 2020 ISSA Show North America Virtual Experience until March 31, 2021.