Archive: June 2010

Remote Control Leadership

June 22nd, 2010

Did you ever try to sit and watch TV with your significant other? It requires a little patience and love. Most couples do not have the same interest in programming (or for how to enjoy watching seven channels simultaneously). I can watch the same movie over and over again if it is real favorite, and can start watching at whatever point in the movie I get there. Lets just say – that this does not work for my wife Kim!

The other day I found myself in the midst of a leadership meeting with a leader at CBI Group and I blurted out, “Be careful about being a remote control leader”. We were discussing goal setting, thinking through priorities and working on communication and messaging. Remote control leadership is when a leaders actions do not support their words and vice versa. It is when we flit and flutter all over the place, changing the priorities and agenda so frequently that it begins not to make sense to your staff.

We know we need to be nimble and flexible with our business. We want to be more customer centered and to look for our next product – one good idea becomes your future. Yet, to our employees, the process of holding on to where our company is going is riddled with side trips that make it hard to stick with and remember. So to avoid this, I created my Top 5 Failures in Remote Control Leadership. I hope it helps you and your thinking.

1. Leading by Reading. How many times have you gone on vacation or attended a seminar and announced at your next staff meeting that you were going to implement what you learned? ALL of us have done this. In fact, this first one is an easy stereotype of most leaders, both beginner and experienced!

2. Top 5 Priorities – Not Enough. I learned long ago that a company functions better when employees agree on priorities and know where to focus. For many years we have focused clearly on five per quarter. The logic is simple. Twenty people focused on five things is more productive than twenty people focused on their own lists of priorities. My learn? Opportunity knocks. A customer ask you to do something new. Someone wants you to buy their business. Key talent comes your way. How do you balance being entrepreneurial and opportunistic with being pragmatic and judicious with your limited resources?

3. Funding Too Many Ideas. I started my business with a willingness to back any good employee idea. I felt that for every 10, one or two might hit it big time. I am not talking about a change of coffee flavor in the break room. I am talking game changes – new services or new markets. I learned that you must vet these ideas and prioritize. Put a time line to them.

4. The Power of NOT Saying NO. For too many years I did not want to discourage my culture. I confused a culture of innovation and creativity with the balancing act of decent business planning and strategy. Remember, it is okay to say “not right now”. Or to ask how something fits into your short term and long term plans. You can always change plans if it makes sense.

5. Not Keeping Messages Simple. I read once that a leader defined their job as repeating simple messages all day long. I took the other route. Talked too much about too much. I have learned that really powerful visions are simple ones. They create emotional appeal because they can be felt and seen. They are repeated often and that repetition is key to helping employees internalize them and act upon them.

Traditional business thinking vs Outside-In…What do you think?

June 11th, 2010

Thanks for the feedback, glad to hear you liked my speech at the New Castle County Chamber. As one favorite alumni said to me, I hear it was “from the heart”. Classic Chris; classic Outside-In. This is the ultimate compliment. I hope that everything I do is somehow different from what others do. This is why I care so deeply about Outside-In thinking versus traditional thinking.

Why not contrast every day business situations and compare our thinking to “normal business thinking”. Keep in mind I do not expect you to fully convert, rather consider it learning and good fodder when you are looking for ideas, innovation or that that little extra in your business.

1. Only senior employees can make important business decisions. Why not involve everyone? Autonomy and involvement breed innovation and engagement.

2. Companies should stick to a niche market or specialize to maximize profits and market share. An Outside-In company is driven by the customer. Markets can come and go depending on customer tastes and preferences. The key to success is the relationship to the customer.

3. Big business interest is in shareholder creation only. This may be true in many businesses, but what happened to the customer or employee point of view? In an Outside-In company, we try to balance the needs and wants of all constituents – employees, suppliers, customers and shareholders. This is a long term perspective versus quarter to quarter thinking.

The common themes that make sense to me all revolve around the customer. For small business I know this seems obvious. Trust me, it all depends on how you learned to run your business. Few get it from a coach who has been there before. There is so much to learn about running a business and its many facets that is not uncommon to forget completely about those that pay the bills and your salaries. That frustrating, challenging, elusive entity – THE CUSTOMER.

Drop me a line if your business could be more customer centered or if it needs “Outside-In glasses“.

Why “selling from the heart” is so hard to implement

June 2nd, 2010

I think it’s a fair statement to make, every business needs more customers. I take calls all of the time from organizations that want more sales; they need higher revenues. The answer to the problem requires all of us to rethink what we have learned from our experiences.

All of us (unless we are sales people) hate the stereotypes of sales. When we are in the office and someone says, “Sales representative from ABC Company on the phone for you…” You and I both know we do not want to take the call. Why? We are going to be sold to. We all are taught early on NOT to be sold to. Your shoes could be falling off your feet and a sales person could call offering the shoes you need and I bet most of us would not buy. Most sales people are never let in and never told the real problem their product could solve. If they are let in and lose the sale, they are never told why.

This can be attributed to a simple fact. Selling and the cold call have become abused. The words “consultative” and “solutions” have been overused to the point where they mean very little. Today the right trend involves creating followers — social media is leading the way. We all need portals or hubs where potential and current customers can find information that adds value to their world and enhances what you do for them. Knowledge is, and always will be, the key to differentiation in your pursuit of a new customer.

Let’s revisit the cold call. Should it be dead? I am not so sure. I think it needs to evolve and we need to change the mindset that selling is okay. Most of the time the perception, even for the seller, is that it is not okay. There does not have to be a negative connotation. You have to start somewhere in your relationship with your prospect. We can send a letter; we can come see you. We want your business and we know we have to earn it.

Why not treat your prospects like customers? Imagine if your process and your information was more customer driven and actually offered value. The real key? Changing the sales steps to be focused on relationships. Have a great story to tell and be a good company that is of value — obvious but hard to do. Next? Change the selling steps and put the emphasis on building relationships. Focus on earning the right to discuss your customers challenges. Change does not come easy; take small steps in the right direction.

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