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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Assigning Credit

We’re in a startup, which is frequently taking us where no man has gone before.

So I asked Jack, “How would you value Zack’s contribution?”

Jack said, “Well, it’s different.”

I said, “Actually, it’s exactly one third, as there are three of us working.” We are all doing very different tasks to get this beast launched. 

I was thinking about all the employees who try to make a career criticizing their coworkers, trading opinions for coffee. Ugly career.

There’s a new work ethic, where people are getting results. Cory Doctorow demonstrated the model in Makers. Small group, total contribution, getting together to increase velocity.

Jay Deragon at Social Flights said, “There is no point in criticizing or explaining social media. The only worthwhile choice is to go build something.”

What are you seeing?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sales and Courts

I watched a litigator is trying to sell by banging and haranguing on the prospect. After the prospect left (at a high rate of speed), the litigator asked for some tips on his sales technique.

In the law world, when a case finally gets to court, the two sides are essentially chained together and execute considerable mayhem on each other until a decision is reached. No one gets away early.

In the sales world, the prospect can leave at any time, and frequently does, so a key additional skill for making the sale is keeping the prospect voluntarily engaged until the deal is done.

Puts a new light on that car dealer losing your keys, don’t it?


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Celebrate!! Celebrate!! Dance to the Music!

When planning a project, do you include time to celebrate?

The completion?
Overcoming that thorny problem to get things moving again?
Figuring a way to still stay in budget?

At the Leadership Breakfast - Reston today, we discussed leadership and teams, and of course communications came up as a problem and solution to several performance issues...not an unusual finding.

A significant dissatisfying factor for team members is the feeling that they are not appreciated -
'busting butt and no one notices'. Team leaders are confident that they are communicating and offering positive input – speaking about meeting goals, project progress, and staying in budget for routine operations; acknowledging the 'hero' who pulls it out of the fire on the others.

What is often missing is a celebration at completion and at major junctures during the project. A strategic pizza goes a long way to say I appreciate you! Or skipping the 'first thing Monday' meeting as a reward for the contributions from the team is pretty hard to forget. The point is celebrating the successes is a strong way to communicate several things, including appreciation and closure.

Simple concept – add celebrations to your planning.

Best thing I got from this meeting: Checking the project off a completion list is not a celebration.

[title is from a Three Dog Night tune]

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Positive Benefits Of An Internal Meeting

There’s a bunch written about the waste of internal meetings. Sure they are often an absolute waste of time, but if the commentary is negative, we never improve.

I am currently in an asynchronous organization. It would be a deal-breaker to all work together, as we all have widely dispersed customer obligations. We all produce results.

The only reason we choose to work together is the history and promise that we can get much better results  together.

Most mornings I have a 40 minute phone call with one of my partners. It’s a 9 o’clock break after my first two hours.

During today’s meeting, I wrote down three blog post titles, came up with improvements to six websites (only four worked), defined the next steps to two start-up projects, and synced up for a group meeting this evening. I figure I got ten hours of worthwhile new tasks (and I work REALLY fast), that I am motivated to do, because they are all much better defined than before this conversation.

Near as I can tell, he only got two blog post titles, a streamlining of a major programming effort he is developing, and he knows for sure where the cocktails will be at the end of the day.

I am now thinking we should measure and track the immediate gains that are unlocked in an internal meeting, to start to define a baseline of what a good meeting is, learn the best way to design a meeting, and determine what meetings can be canceled for terminal stupidity.

“In the loop,” “team morale” and “management updates” shouldn’t be grounds for a meeting.

An hour is a terrible thing to waste.

Whaddya say?

Leadership or Management? Who Cares?

Recently I participated in a session about leadership experiences which drew from the rich experience of the people in the room, not merely a lecture by the person in front of the room.

The facilitator would set up a business situation and asked the audience of executives to share their experiences. I have found that listening to what others have faced and overcome is quite instructive and real.

A colleague sitting beside me grumbled at the conclusion of each topic - “that's not leadership – it's management.” In his eyes, none of the eight topics discussed that day passed muster as addressing leadership.

Although it was distracting to hear his continuing negative comments, I came to realize a couple of enlightening elements about leadership.

  • There is a very fine line separating a management action and a leadership action when trying to catalog the act. But this is like trying to determine how many angels can fit on the head of a pin – who knows and does it matter? Was the solution successful? Did it advance the organization toward the vision (goals); did it create results? If so, Great! Next time the situation comes up, let's consider using it again. Adding a name-tag to the action adds no value whatsoever.
  • My grumbling colleague spent much energy in slotting the activities, but took nothing useful away from the meeting. I heard about experiences and related results and took away many nuggets of useful information about better leadership practices. Two people, sitting side by side with vastly different outcomes.

Following the meeting, my business partner asked me – 'what was the best thing you got from this meeting?'

After a moment's thought, I summed it up as follows: leadership can be learned, but it can't be taught.

Do you find that thin line between what's leadership and what's management important? How so?

Monday, June 20, 2011


I was working with a business owner who wants to step back from his business. He has learned that means getting sales help, since in its absence, he has learned that sales is the most important thing he does.

I showed him the Sales Model, and he understood it immediately.

I spend over 80% of my time in the left hand column. Somehow there is always plenty of time for making the sale and following up, and he appreciated that being in the model meant they were more likely to be executed.

He was most amazed that there was no reporting loop. “That’s where I get most of my aggravation and aggravate the the people around me.”

I explained that at his level, reporting has little to do with selling and setting up a successful reporting structure would take more work than it could ever justify.

As I heard last week, telling the truth isn’t integrity. Telling the truth is table stakes to get in the game.

“Hey Doc, it hurts when I do that!” Doc replies, “Then don’t do that!”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Customer Service?

The best customer service is not to have any incidents with your products or services requiring customer service.

When needed, however, customer service is about solving a problem or answering a concern – promptly and completely. Here's two approaches.

My smartphone has numerous apps and it gets a notice when apps are updated. Recently when clicking on an app update button, I got a message that it was not available from the app store (even though they sent the update notice). I sent an email to get help and got a prompt 'personal' response from Justin – an automated help desk response to gather more information.

When I sent back the information, Justin came back asking for more. Took 4 times and I got a link for the app update – but it did not work. I deleted the app – too much work for too little results.

At Zappo Shoes, the staff answers the emails, immediately dispatches replacement shoes if there's a problem, and openly solicit & display compliments or complaints - they learn from both. Growth in sales and customer satisfaction hits the top of the charts. It's easy and almost fun to get help here.

As more business is done remotely, it may be easy to rely on automation to handle routine or simple problems, but the high cost of this approach is losing contact with the customer. One of the most effective ways of knowing about your customers' experience is to use your product or service – the next best is to hear where they have problems or concerns.

Always wise to keep in mind that the customer is not a problem or a distraction. Perhaps doubly true if you don't see them face-to-face.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Objectives and Outcomes

Frank Strickland gave a talk at CTMH this week that defined, clarified, and corrected one of the most common destructive organizational behaviors.

Picture this: You’re in a development meeting, or a sales meeting, or a deployment meeting, and a ranking member, often from outside the team, starts grinding for some unknowable information.

“When will you complete the module?”

“How many sales will you have by the end of the month?”

“How many people will be on the floor?”

There is an easy first answer...whatever the plan says. Where the meeting breaks apart is when the suit wants other proof, different proof. We spend an extra 70 minutes of a planned hour rotating in a tight circle.

Worse, if you figure every group meeting is an expensive opportunity to improve group performance, we’ve just lost that opportunity. A Sales Lab Status Meeting is designed to make everyone better at their job, every time, so a hijacked meeting puts the group back a least.

As Frank explains it, the suits want to spend the time constructing a satisfying (for them) prediction of an outcome, the troops need to focus on completing their objectives.

There’s a common lack of validity in any prediction, so after the first prediction, there isn’t much value gained in the subsequent ones. It’s like chopping an onion in smaller pieces to get more onion.

Under pressure, management often finds out they don’t like their plan, but the last week of the month isn’t the time to stop and fix that.

Here’s Frank’s revelation: The outcome is achieved by executing the objectives. You don’t manage to the outcome. You manage to the objectives that gets you the outcome. Think of the guy who threw his back out steering his bowling ball as it went down the alley. Wrong model.

Outcomes are produced from achieving objectives.

If the suits want increase earnings per share, the troops better commence delighting their customers.

If the suits want more sales, the troops better commence their 20 meetings a month and two blog posts a week.

If the suits want deeper deployment, the troops better concentrate on better planning and improved safety.

Most of the hallucination about outcomes wastes the precious time available to improve achieving objectives. It’s the suits’ lack of confidence rising to the top.

Concentrate on achieving objectives.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Create Your Own Hell

I have a friend who has spent the last ten years putting together a substantial project. He got everything assembled and then ran into our new government, specifically a crew on ROAD status (Retired On Active Duty). Two years to complete a 90 day far.

For everyone except government, time is money, so when my friend ran short, he had to bring in partners. It hurt, but it had to be done.

From the start, his new partners made sure to tell him he was the junior interest, and obviously not too swift since he had to work with them. Not pleasant, but he was focused on completion.

Last week his ugly partners learned he is also on a project several orders of magnitude larger, working with someone they really wanted to meet. Unfortunately, they were already well known, so it was a non-starter.

Some time ago I wrote about the Masada Game Theory, treating each transaction as if there would never be another, screw, bilk, and gouge your way to any small, temporary advantage.

What if we played as if the best was yet to come?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Speak Your Vision

Leaders are visionaries. They paint a picture of the way things will be.

How to go from vision to reality.

Share the vision often.

As President of NCI, my staff suggested that we communicate the vision more. Before hearing this, I felt that I had been speaking about the vision all the time – maybe even too often.

I talked more about the vision – in person, in writing, and through senior staff, managers, and supervisors. The outcome – NCI moved toward the vision faster. More sharing is strategically better to inform and stimulate creativity, innovation, and progress toward results.

Be concise and specific about the goal.

Just over 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy shared with Congress the vision of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade (i.e., the 1960's). The vision was realized by Apollo 11 in July 1969 as Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man & giant leap for mankind.”

Kennedy was very clear on the what and when of the vision.

Be vivid.

Use vivid terms to create an image for the listener – keep it 'visual'; avoid painting a map showing the path to the vision – a map can stifle creativity and innovation.

Declare victory.

Celebrate victory when achieving the vision or when reaching a crossroads which calls for new or updated vision. Give closure to your supporters – in a novel, when the writer skips to new scene without completing the current one, it is disappointing to the reader and often confusing as well.

Take it seriously.

A vision needs to be challenging but possible – if it's difficult that's OK. Imagine the outcome if Kennedy had chosen time travel as the target for the '60s.

Once committed, ride it out – don't let the flame die from inattention or the press of other business.

A leader who communicates a powerful vision can move an organization to achieve great results. Almost like predicting the future.

Please share your experience with the effect of a strong vision by the leader.

Come to the Capital Technology Management Hub, June 14th, for Sales Lab Rainmaker #6: ‘Networking - Are You Being Served?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Burn The Boats – We aren’t going back!

Business is driven by customers. Customers are changing what they want as new options become available.

With all the talk of value buying, I’ve never seen anything beat low price.

My ophthalmologist was telling me that his son was enrolled in a very prestigious and expensive acting school. For a successful ophthalmologist, that is a bit confusing

I allowed that was probably a good career strategy as demand for the professions of the last 50 years is shrinking as more of the work is being done by computers. That is certainly true of ophthalmology, although it is still not the length of the wand, but the magic of the magician that creates extraordinary healing. Better wands make exceptional results possible.

Kevin Kelly wrote an insightful post, Better than Free,that starts “the internet is a vast copying machine...” and proceeds to say that in the internet age, we need to provide value that is better than the copy. How to do that is the current transformation of the economy.

I saw a graph the other day that manufacturing is a decreasing part of the global economy. And the global economy is growing. Go figure.

The skills of the last 30 years need to be matched with the needs of the next decade. We can’t do what we were doing. Fewer and fewer customers will care.

Your thoughts?

Come to the Capital Technology Management Hub, June 14th, for Sales Lab Rainmaker #6: ‘Networking - Are You Being Served?
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Monday, June 6, 2011

Networking is NOT Just Talking About the Weather

When you attend events to meet new people, what's your goal?

After your Who, What, Who, What intro (name, title, organization, what you do) and they have done the same, what's next?

You are both going through a ritual to identify common ground – looking for something in which you share an interest.

One topic you share in common is the other person's business – find out what keeps them up at night.

Then you can see how to be of help – your services or products, a trusted referral, similar personal experience and results, or staying alert for a solution to the problem.

Going to an event without thinking of what you want to get out of it, you may come away with several opinions about the weather.

With a goal, you may come away with a sale, or at least the beginning of a new relationship.

Which is a better ROI for your time?

Your thoughts?

Come to the Capital Technology Management Hub, June 14th, for Sales Lab Rainmaker #6: ‘Networking - Are You Being Served?’ 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Starting Relationship

Most good sales don’t start with a presentation. They start with relationship.

That could be, “Joe sent me,” or something more, better.

In her video for Creative Mornings, The Top 10 Things I wish I Knew When I Graduated College, Debbie Millman, mentions the relationship creation power of the phrase, “I don’t know.” The other person gets a chance to explain, to show off, to do a good turn, to exercise their competence.

The downside is not knowing is situational. Something had to happen previously. But when you give someone a teaching opportunity you are usually starting relationship.

Many of our tribe are concentrating on responding to requests, answering the mail. Good to get all of that, but hardly a full-time occupation.

My favorite way to start relationship is to introduce a new concept, a new opportunity, new entertainment. Second favorite is to participate while someone else introduces a new concept, a new opportunity, new entertainment.

What are your favorites?

Come to the Capital Technology Management Hub, June 14th, for Sales Lab Rainmaker #6: ‘Networking - Are You Being Served?’