Friday, September 4, 2015

Players and Doers

Players learn the commands for the video game and run up the score.

Doers learn how to do something to get results.

Players value image – being in the right place, knowing the right people, being included in the right projects.

Doers value completion – collaboration moving the project forward, process improvement to gain efficiency, acquiring new project-applicable skills, completing the task or project.

Players are viewed by coworkers as poseurs – accomplished at the unimportant, yet highly visible.

Doers are viewed by coworkers and management as 'THE go to' person – makes it happen, gets it done, achieve results AND looks for the next project.

I'd take a team of Doers over a company of Players every time. Why? When the philosopher, Larry the Cable Guy, said it best: Git R done – he was talking about the Doer!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Word Inflation

A while back, I collaborated on a project to produce a document suitable for public dissemination.

I noticed that when collaborators sent back edits and improvements to the draft's author, each received a comment like: 'Awesome Changes!', or 'This will really make our document Awesome!', or 'The new formatting is Totally Awesome!'.

In reality, the changes did make the document incrementally better, but this exchange made me think about the non-communication that has developed from the over use of laudatory remarks for non-laudatory work.

This feedback to the originator is analogous to giving a trophy to everyone on the team, regardless of their contribution or skill level – it's a cheap 'feelgood' for showing up but does nothing to help the player (collaborator) improve their output. If a slap-dash revision is greeted with the same accolade as a masterwork improvement, what does the collaborator learn about their contribution?

Valid feedback is a precious gift from the giver because it shares an engaged point of view. The remark 'thanks, that clarified the point' provides value, as does 'thanks for the edit, but I did not see much improvement over the original wording'. How does Awesome convey either message? Any message?

I certainly hope you feel this post was Awesome, and will comment appropriately.

All Around the Town - Sales Lab Presentations

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Company Picnic

Ah...the company picnic. Fond memories of fried chicken, hard dry burgers, 15 varieties of potato salad, a dish with melted marshmallows on top, a mystery casserole, and some wrinkled burned hotdogs.

And lots of employees with their families.

Sometimes leaders are reluctant to attend this traditional summer event (also the holiday party close to the end of the year). Other leaders look forward to these events to move the organization forward.

Why the different perspective? The benefit of attending these events may not be immediately obvious – it wasn't to me.

First thing on Monday morning after the company picnic, my boss found me and asked why I wasn't at the picnic. Had other plans, I answered. The boss said – do you realize the employees want to see you in this informal setting, and they missed the chance since you did not attend. WHAM – had never thought about the picnic from that perspective, and it completely changed my outlook on the importance of company events.

Employees come to a company picnic or holiday party because: it's a chance to socialize with coworkers and the bosses; it's an opportunity to 'see and be seen'; it's a free (or admission is bringing dish to contribute) event, and it's fun.

Leaders who look forward to the picnic are eager to mingle informally with the folks, to meet employees' families, and to see the workers in a non-work environment to gain a more complete impression of who they are. And it can be fun.

Keep in mind, while the leader may be coming to the event to see the employees in a different setting, the employees are coming to observe the boss in a non-work setting as well. They are seeing a different side of the leader – adding greater depth and richness to their view of this person who is leading 'their' organization.

Sometimes a leader should eat a hotdog with the troops to develop a stronger bond between her and the staff – and between the staff and her. A few hours of mingling in this informal setting can make a significant difference in building a stronger organziation.

Which is more compelling:
  • the memory of a leader with a half-eaten chicken leg talking about when he played pick-up basketball as a kid and worked tables to get through college – or –
  • some guy standing up in front of the company meeting talking about hard times, saying 'Trust me'.
    Who would you rather follow?

...And avoid that mystery casserole!

Entertaining experience - Sales Lab Video Channel

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Your Leadership Tribe

Everyone has a tribe – family and friends, other people with whom you have a relationship. This tribe is primarily involved with you in social, support, and general activities. People you've invited (or inherited) to participate in your life.

Taking it to a higher level, Seth Godin wrote about tribes, seeing them as the confluence of the leader (you), an idea (your vision), and a mission of creating change and achieving results (you and your followers). Whether it is:
  • marketing a new product or service – or changing how existing products and services are sold, like the progressive sale of eBooks;
  • spearheading a health mission like identifying trans fats, labeling their presence in foods, educating consumers, and virtually eliminating the presence in consumer foods; or
  • eliminating steps in a process because they no longer serve a purpose – akin to cutting 3-inches off the ham before baking it – because your old oven was too small.

What about your leadership tribe?

It has some traits of your personal tribe – it provides support and offers the insight of experience. It is forward-focused like Seth's tribe but differs – you are not exclusively the lead dog in your leadership tribe.

Your leadership tribe consists of people you know, others you respect, and still others who are a significant influence on your outlook and thoughts – a super peer group in a sense.

More about the three components of your tribe:
  • people you know; you have a relationship; you value their insight and input; they participate in your projects and you participate in theirs,
  • people you respect, but may not know personally; you read their writings and listen to their talks; you follow them over time; they provide ideas, points of view, thought stimulation – for me this includes folks like: Seth Godin, Fred Wilson, Chris Anderson, Harvey Mackay,
  • people who are an influence on you; by what they did; from their ideas and shared wisdom; because they changed the world; they achieved results; they tell the truth, have high standards, and stand by their principles – for me this includes: Peter Drucker, Jacques Cousteau, Ronald Reagan.

With your leadership tribe sometimes you are the leader of others and other times you are a follower of another's leadership. Your tribe is a foundation – tapping their experience and listening to their perspective to broaden what you bring to the project. Your tribe is resource – physical, mental, and emotional participation in your project. Your tribe is a training ground – you learn by doing under the leadership of people you value and respect, and by reading their account of other situations.

As with other peer relationships, you will have the role of a leader, a follower, a driver, a participant, and an advisor at any point in time – even simultaneously for different projects. You may appear alone to observers at times...doing all the work by yourself – in reality, your leadership tribe cloaks you with significant depth and strength to deliver on commitments and goals.

A team focuses on a goal – win the game, complete a project – while a tribe is a more organic structure – on an operational level when working on a project, certainly it is focused on the goal, but when that has been attained the tribe continues to serve its members with new insights, thoughts, sharing, mentoring, validation, and other continuing benefits. Members of the tribe with direct relationships receive inputs and provide outputs from the others.

Who do you have in your leadership tribe?

Sales Lab Posts – 400+ chapters of insight

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Write It Down! – Multiply the Value

The planning session was a success – plenty of energy, ideas flowed freely, all captured on the flip chart, everyone added to the conversation. At the end, the notes were reviewed, consolidated, prioritized, summarized as bullets on a new flip chart – which were typed up and distributed – a record of the session.

During implementation, the bullets are interpreted differently among the doers – people not at the planning session don't know the context and the session participants have different views of what the distilled items mean.

Like reading an email quickly written and sent – gremlins must have changed it – this isn't what I thought I said.

Business leaders need to get it out of their head and on to paper – was a point Randy Taussig, Core Leadership, made during his presentation of “Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit” at the July meeting of the YPLG. Writing it down is a beginning.

I carry a notebook (paper, not computer) and usually write extensive notes during a meeting or event – things of interest and significance at the moment. My notes serve to remind me of the discussion and aid recall of relevant information.

Often I'll write up my notes as a 'one-pager' to share with Dick and others, or to document a new concept or technology application. Writing up the notes is a learning experience in itself.

Reading and distilling the notes, I recall more detail about what was said and have a chance to think more deeply about it.

Focusing on content, instead of capturing what's said, offers an opportunity to validate and assess the information. – does it fit with current knowledge, does further research reflect, contradict, or not address the new information.

Distilling the notes eliminates distractions and improves clarity and depth by concentrating on significant elements of the presentation or event. I also find this 'head work' leads to greater scrutiny of the critical thinking behind these elements – often leading to an additional level of understanding.

My notes are not unlike the typed bullets from the meeting or the unfocused email – perhaps adequate but not illuminating. However, the process of writing up the notes helps to dig deeper and know the topic better, as well as creating a useful document to share with others. The writer learns more and a good document helps others to understand the significant elements from the meeting or event – well worth the effort.

The Sales Model – So that's how to do it!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Final Frontier

We are embarking on the greatest business revolution in 4 generations. It affects our whole economy.

The biggest change in ownership since WWII is starting now and will continue through the next 15 years. More than one half of small and medium business in the American economy are owned and managed by Boomers, and will have a forced change of ownership.

Who are they? Many current business owners have their personal fortunes, the scorecard of their careers, tied up in their businesses. They must find a way to get the money out of the business or assure its continuing viability, or have an unsuccessful retirement.

Do you know business owners in this situation – can’t figure how to get their money out? What do they need? Owners are looking for credible solutions.

We find that the keys to past success are usually the owner’s point-of-view and the culture of the company. We have found that outside solutions seldom work, they aren’t credible to the people doing the work, and they often have never worked elsewhere.

How do you begin creating a solution to a new problem? You should probably start with a common definition of what you have and what you want. Just defining those two often shows available solutions that were previously ignored.

We worked with owners of a technology distributor who wanted to sell the assets of the organization, had a figure from a recent audit, and hoped for a quick sale around that figure. We talked with them about what are the assets? In addition to office equipment and inventory – what else -  entity and name, customer records, sales process, industry knowledge? 

Asked what they wanted, the owners said quick sale at top dollar. Which is primary – speed or price?

As our conversation expanded, the owners defined what they were selling (the complete entity, but retaining another separate corporation), had identified potential buyers (their knowledge of the industry could be useful to the buyer for transition), and that a couple of years was OK to get a better price.

Just getting the conversations and revelations took 90 days.

For a nonprofit teetering on the knife-edge of solvency, the conversation lead to determining a merger was a desirable choice strengthen the organization and keep the mission programs operating, then find partners, complete the combination of the two entities. The entire process took almost 3-years.

A contractor got 100% of their revenue from government contracts when we began the conversation about getting money out for the owners. What do you have, what do you want? The results over an 8-year period was to increase government revenue threefold, reduce government contracts to less than 30% of total billing, and to sell the organization for several multiples of its initial value.

A successful future begins with a conversation.

Rules of the road? Click: Selling Out 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Words And Actions Make Leaders Great

Greatness is a perception by others. What makes a leader great is more than achieving the mission, goal, or results – greatness is also about how he or she got us there. It's a complex set of factors not adequately described by a couple of words – but we can get in the general vicinity with these three traits:
  • saying what you will do
  • doing what you say
  • inspiring others to do their very best to achieve goals/results.

George Washington is admired as a great, if somewhat reluctant, leader. These two stories from the closing days of the Revolutionary War highlight his ability to inspire followers and achieve seemingly impossible results.

The momentum of the war was shifting in favor of the Colonial Army under General Washington's command and he wanted to press this growing advantage by crossing the Delaware River again to mount an unexpected attack on the British and the Hessians. Unfortunately, there was a huge problem – most of the troops had fulfilled their commitment to serve and were preparing to return home.

The troops had turned down an offer to pay them for continuing another 6-weeks, then the General visited the bivouac areas of the various units to speak with the men. His message was that there would never be another point in their lifetime that they could make such an important contribution to the freedom of their country as they could in the upcoming battle, AND that he would be honored to fight beside them to win the victory. The troops committed to joining him.

What money could not accomplish, a humble personal appeal to do for the greater good won their hearts and shortly, won the war.

After winning the Battle of Yorktown, General Washington and his senior commanders received a message that British General Cornwallis wanted to surrender. When the Cornwallis party arrived to present his sword in surrender, they attempted to present it to Washington – he refused to accept the sword and pointed to his second in command, General Benjamin Lincoln to receive the sword. By this simple action, Washington made clear that he did not see Cornwallis as an equal, and, more importantly, General Lincoln receiving the sword of surrender removed any doubts that Lincoln had Washington's support and confidence (Lincoln had lost a major battle to Cornwallis earlier in the war).

Great leaders are aware of the effect of their words, actions, and messages – direct and indirect – on their followers and others, and make good use of opportunities as they present themselves to reinforce the importance of the mission and goals as well as value subordinates bring to achieving the results.

See the New World – A View from the Big Chair