Category: Leadership


Outside-In® Chronicles: Three Things Grandmom Rose Taught Me About Leadership

May 6th, 2015

photo-2-223x300With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I wanted to revisit this blog about my Grandmom Rose and her significant influence on my leadership style.

My Grandmom Rose was an amazing person. When she was young, she absolutely loved to dance. When she was older, during a time when marrying those of another religion was uncommon, she left her Jewish faith to marry a man of a different one. And for decades, she fought for the underdog through volunteering for the rights and privileges of the blind here in Delaware. She lived to be well over 102—but her wisdom remains infinite. Although Rose died a few years ago, I think of her often. How could I not? Whenever I was sick as a child, Rose played 97 straight games of Candy Land with me. Imagine that. I think she let me win every time, too.

Today, I thought I would share a few thoughts on Rose’s lifestyle that I think translates pretty darn well into reminders for all of us in leadership positions.

1. Have a sense of mindfulness. This is a hard one. Are you centered and focused on the moment or the task at hand? Are you in the meeting you’re in? Or are you messaging others on your cell phone and trying to keep up with the rest of your day? Rose never knew technology and its advantages, but you always knew she was focused on you when you were sitting in front of her. As a leader, are you giving 100% to the team or person in front of you? Or do your distractions show? Does your lack of attention send the message that your time there is not important? Value the face time.

2. Ask valuable questions. If you’re in a sales, leadership, consulting, or frankly any role in life, there is nothing better than the ability to invest in others through asking questions. If you knew Rose she could ask some humdingers. They would just keep coming, too. They were good and stimulating questions. She genuinely cared about you and life—this showed through her investment in you. As a leader, how many times do you catch yourself talking, maybe dulling out general advice because it’s easier and feels good. Certainly easier than asking the style of questions that help people work through their own challenges and opportunities. Staff members want more than answers. They want skills they can use again and again. Does your leadership style involve a healthy sense of curiosity and frequently asking questions? Or are you too busy to lead and simply give out answers just to keep the day moving along?

3. Do one thing at a time. This sounds so…well, impossible in today’s world. Rose was really great about doing one thing at a time. I think she just wouldn’t understand why we think it is a good idea to multi-task to the point of exhaustion. Leaders get that adrenaline rush. Fight that fire. Answer that email. Text that message. All of these are signs of a normal, hectic day. However, before we know it the day is done. Did you accomplish your most important task? Did you finish what you started? It may seem old fashioned, but there is something to working on the hardest thing first and working on it until it is completed. It’s even more impressive if you do so without succumbing to the constant distractions of smart phones, tablets, and laptops!

When I was young, Rose took me to Gino’s for lunch every week for almost a year to collect that week’s plastic NFL football helmet. Each time she would laugh as I would eat one giant burger and then ask for a second one! Rose knew what was important in relationships. She knew what to bother with. If you see me turn off my phone, close my laptop, or shut the door to focus, know that in some small way, it’s my ode to Rose!

What Would Happen if We Stopped Taking Risks?

April 29th, 2015

Lets start with the obvious, avoiding taking any risk is actually a pretty serious risk all by itself! This requires us to avoid phone calls and interactions with customers and associates. We need to skip team meetings and duck out of the break room, too. The longer we stand still and stay status quo the more likely we are to fall a step behind or even lose altogether—all while our competitors and peers march forward.

The Outside-In® Companies believe in our value of taking risks. We definitely don’t steer around or away from it, but why does it matter for our employees to live this value? Who really cares anyway? In fact, why should any service company encourage risk taking?

ID-100309958First off, risk taking is really about decision making, the lack of perceived authority, task discretion, and reward for doing so. Employees that do not make decisions often do so because their company’s culture discourages it. This is cultivated through the management team and their practices. This is quite often an unexpected negative outcome of a company that lacks a cultural plan to encourage customer centric actions with those that have direct customer contact.

Employees that don’t make decisions have little or no choice but to get the answer for a customer from those that have the power or information. Usually, the power lies in controlling that information and it is intended to be a business control that simply hedges risk. However, in this case, it kills the customer! This can be because of a lack of training and knowledge or a matter of policy and the preferred hierarchical nature of the company.

Close your eyes and remember when this happened to you, a roommate, someone from your household, etc. Is there anything more frustrating than when you’re on the phone with that utility, or in line at the retail store, or airport and the service associate needs a manager? All you needed was to make a return, change a seat, or get your bill in the correct name. The worst part is that the supervisor does not do anything fancy—they just need a stupid code or a key to take care of your return or to move your flight.

A culture that values its customers empowers and encourages risks that take place in the act of serving a customer!

Employees that are not encouraged to notice what their customers are actually saying and then do something about it are not serving the strategic purposes of the business. The front lines see and hear it all. How many times have you heard a clerk or phone representative say that they have told management about a customer opinion so many times but no one listens. Then their voice trails off and their interest and engagement level wanes day by day! If we listen to customers as employees they will tell you why they are angry about a program or policy change, what is never in the store, when service is slow, or when a product has been replaced that should not have been. We can always hear it as employees.

A culture that values risk taking creates an environment where employees have tools and formats to share what they hear and take action! This is customer centric and systematic cultural risk taking. What did you learn from our marketplace today? What did our customers challenge us with? What do they need and want from us? Ask employees for feedback often, give all employees a format to share, reward this flow of insights, then categorize it and teach what to do with it. Most likely your plan of improvement needs tweaking. Employees just need permission to open their eyes and be empowered to see what needs fixing. Empowerment and the confidence to stand up and share what might be the next product or service that enhances your company’s top line strategy are the keys to grow your business.

Risk taking is a cultural tool to encourage customer centric and entrepreneurial behaviors for all of your employees. You have a choice in your organization; you can either treat employees like leased resources, or you can act and create an environment that encourages entrepreneurial behaviors that enhance your customer’s experience with you.

Go sit and listen to your employees, have Outside-In® eyes and ears, and gather the information you need in order to decide how to encourage risk taking that improves the experience for your customer base. Or come visit our office and see it in action!

CBI Way: Tackling a Talent Community

March 25th, 2015

By Outside-In® Team Member Alex Patton

ID-100248481Identifying talent has become more of a prolonged process recently as candidates continue to have more options and opportunities. As of January, the national time to fill averaged just over 25 days, according to the DICE Vacancy Duration Measure. The CBI Way blog has been examining trends in sourcing with over 5 million job openings nationally. And, creating a talent community can be a great way to make identifying candidates more efficient and cut down on time to fill for future openings.

A talent community relies on engagement and inclusion of professionals, usually in a specific industry. Another method of social recruiting, talent communities can create a collection of candidates with a common interest to tap for future opportunities and help drive referrals. Two keys to building a great community are communication and great content to keep the community active and engaged.

Developing a personalized place where professionals can interact with different types of individuals, all holding the same interest is where the “community” aspect comes into play. Active talent, passive talent, hiring managers, and industry experts have a place to share content, discuss new trends, or even offer advice on best practices to land a new job. At first, you’ll be driving the content, but eventually, others will be asking questions, sharing trends, and helping to grow the community. Although you may not seek candidates currently, having that pool of engaged and interacting professionals can help reduce your time to fill.

Growing and promoting the talent community efficiently is imperative. The more the merrier. While it won’t happen quickly, as the community grows, so does the capability to identify the talent that is knowledgeable and most desirable.

What is a Pre-Mortem Exercise?

March 18th, 2015

Have you ever worked in an organization that pulls the whole team together to review how to launch a new product or open a new office? The idea here is to create a “no fear zone” where teams can discuss and share what went well, what did not go well, and what lessons can be applied to future projects. When completed properly, “pre-mortems” can be a great way to promote learning, improve team behaviors, and create greater efficiency.

Imagine this scenario, a CEO calls a meeting with key staff to discuss a failed product launch or a quarter that is 20% off plan. Why would this meeting be called today when the product launch is next week and the quarter doesn’t start for another three weeks? While reading The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday, I became very overwhelmed by the concept of reviewing what could go wrong before it can go wrong.

ID-100185794A pre-mortem exercise is when you openly talk about every single thing that could go wrong with a project before the process implementation and execution begins. The goal is not be dark or negative, but rather to create an environment that encourages learning and proactive discussion about the downsides of efforts and actions before minor stucks turn into problems. This is exactly why athletes workout and why actors have rehearsal—practice makes perfect! We can never have too many business dress rehearsals or scrimmages.

Each and every business can greatly benefit from understanding contingency planning. When this type of thinking becomes natural and organic, it preconditions your team’s actions to fix what breaks. In other words, if you discussed what could go wrong and one of those potential snags begins to unravel, it might get addressed before it becomes an issue simply because the team anticipated this minor crisis and is fully prepared to handle it with ease.

Try a pre-mortem exercise today—what do you have to lose? Only learning, team building, and efficiency.

Outside-In® Chronicles: Mother Knows Best – Parental Leadership (Dale Carnegie Style)

February 18th, 2015

What can we learn about leadership from watching a parent? Just about everything. Parenting and leading require the same concepts and principles—communication, setting expectations, establishing roles, and setting boundaries. Let’s not forget building relationships and knowing what is important to the other person. In Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, one decree involves baiting the appropriate hook to suit the fish. In other words, knowing your audience and what they want. This requires you to think and speak in terms of the other person’s interest—in the Outside-In® world, this means being Customer Centric.

1871_001-2A great example of baiting the right hook involves my experiences as a young boy on any typical Saturday morning involving chores. The morning began with the Dale Carnegie approach from my mother, “Chris, remember today is chore day and if you still want to go to your friend’s house you have to clean up your room!” The answer was always, “Sure, Mom.” She would march off to scrub a wall, sweep, vacuum, or do the mounds of laundry that her active family always produced. Me? Well, I would go to the opposite side of the house; constantly moving and dodging parental contact. And then childhood pastimes would get the best of me—Saturday morning cartoons, eating, frankly staring at the ceiling, or even doing homework would be better than chores.

Then the second and even third requests would come, “Chris, why have you NOT started to clean up? You’re not going anywhere today and you’re really close to losing out on the whole weekend.” No longer was Dale Carnegie present in our household. It was “do it or else” time. Which never, ever worked. The more you push and tell me what to do, the less I will listen. (Did I mention I am an entrepreneur?) Try to make it my idea. Ask me. Explain the value of accomplishing the task. Even bribe me to do it. Don’t tell me what to do.

I find leaders start this way in work situations. We start by giving one a gentle push to complete a nagging, maybe slightly-behind project that is more important to us than the ones of whom we are asking. Then we check in and we get more directive, “I want that done by Monday. Are we in agreement?” And we end with the threat, “You know that your vacation day is in jeopardy and you are falling well off of plan. Performance reviews are right around the corner you know…”

water-24420_640So what does the inventive and creative Mom do when progress is behind? She takes the hill like a true Leadership General. She heads for the trash bag under the sink. Nothing moves people (or children) faster than the reach for the trash bag. Not following? Mom would grab the bag and head to our room or wherever our stuff happened to be piled that day. And she would say, “Anything I pick up you will not get back, it’s going to Goodwill.” And then I would come running, perhaps with tears streaming, “NO!” Sometimes it took action, not words to move the task or project to completion!

PS – Don’t try this on teenagers. They are prone to mumble, “Good now I don’t have to do it.” Or, “I have too much stuff anyway.” Any verbal warfare they can think of that gets to you!

Everyone is a Leader—How Do You Lead?

December 31st, 2014

Everyone is a Leader is the hardest Outside-In® value to live and the most important value for us to get right! Culture is our secret sauce and our choke point. Our culture is “free.” Anyone can see it, read about it, experience it, and copy it. Then why is it so hard to mimic? Ego, success, habits, what exists, to name just a few. Giving everyone a chance to be a leader when there are so few good ones? Well, that just might be the point after all. Would you rather have one, or two, or many? I think getting all to embrace and understand the essence of leadership gives us a real marketplace advantage.

ID-100260051Imagine an organization and the advantage it could possess if its workforce dedicated itself to learning about leadership? Would growth be more manageable as key openings were easier to fill? Especially if you can fill these roles from within?

Living a value and being a great leader are obviously different. For our companies we want and expect:

  • All to have a say, especially in customer matters
  • All to learn how to make effective decisions
  • All to learn how to develop leadership capabilities
  • All to practice leadership skills

Leadership Mastery is a 10,000 hour pursuit. Thats 3 hours a day for a really long time—over ten years! Living the value of Everyone is a Leader frankly takes just as much organizational energy. But like I said if we do it well it is a free advantage that is extremely difficult to copy!

Outside-In® Chronicles: 10 Ways to Avoid Being an Average Salesperson

November 12th, 2014

Over and over again I meet average salespeople with average results that sell middle of the road products and services. Everyone from the company, including senior leaders/founders, sales leaders, and salespeople, all want and need more results. Salespeople want to hit the quota, make big commissions, and earn bonuses. The company typically has a strategy that involves growing—whether it be into new territories, industries, or segments. Lots and lots of work is done on setting goals and targets, and in fact, this work is continuous and never ending.

So why are so many salespeople off plan right now? I will tell you what I have learned. Most of this is not original, rather I am an “aggregator” sharing a combination of ideas and experiences to address this epidemic of sorts.

10. Don’t sit next to an average salesperson. Sales is lonely. Salespeople flock together for support and companionship. The problem is that they learn from each other—good and bad habits. When they are uncertain about something they ask one another instead of those that can actually help.

9. Avoid calling on the same people over and over again. Salespeople like to talk to people those who are nice to them, those who will take their call, and those who will meet with them. In a world of disruption this is comforting. However, they are not the real buyers. The person you might want to talk to is a change maker and they might not want to talk to you unless you can guide them through the change they want and need to make.

statcred8. You keep saying you’re there to serve at their beck and call. Sales today is about more than just problem identification and being there with your iPad ready to take the order. Today’s salesperson has to be able to add value in assisting the person in making decisions, not waiting for them to make it.

7. Confidence (or lack of it). The product is changing constantly. Your customers world is shifting and changing, too. If you stand still too long doing the same things you will have not changed enough and you will quickly become an average salesperson. It’ll happen so fast you won’t even know what hit you.

6. The accumulation effect. You simply do not put enough into your sales pipeline. You must collect leads to build prospects. Prospects must become conversations, bids, proposals, and solutions in draft. This takes a while. Average salespeople sit on what they have and pray that there is enough in their pipeline to meet their goals. However, really good salespeople put more in the pipeline all of the time, forever.

5. Time. It simply takes time. How many touches does it really take? Usually 6-10.

4. You don’t make enough happen. Send one more email. Go to one more networking event or trade show. Make one more call. You aren’t doing enough!

3. You dump the features and benefits of your product or service. In today’s world your buyer has never, ever been able to get more information on you, your business, your service, your competitors, and frankly, even your pricing. Everything is available in today’s connected world. Help your customer sort through it all!

2. Customers buy you first! How good have you been climbing the relational ladder from Ed Wallace’s Building Relationships That Last? Do you make commitments and keep them? Are you showing how you can be a trusted advisor and do you know how to do this?

1. In Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Are you willing to put that kind of time in? Are you good enough to make it that long? How do you get from where you are now to mastery? At eight hours a day this will take you a good five years of focus.

Outside-In® Chronicles: He Who Can Provide Outside-In® Leadership Has the Whole World with Him

October 15th, 2014

Each month our leaders focus on learning and development. Do you consistently allocate time for shared leadership experiences and discussion? This form of renewal really brings the team together and gives us time to think about how accurately each of us lead. Recently, we have been working from Dale Carnegie’s original self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book is one of the most important influences on the way we do things as a business—specifically how we deal with people!

images2We have been focused on Chapter 3, “He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him. He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way.” My leaders discussed and discovered that we have a tremendous role in understanding our staff’s needs and wants. How many times do we present ideas or share our opinions in a way that is good for us? How often do we think, write, or present in a way that is of the other person’s interest? We all think about ourselves before others—this is simply human nature. However, to be truly Outside-In® leaders, we have to start with the other person’s interests first. As the book says, we must learn to “bait the hook to suit the fish.” Just because you like something doesn’t mean that others will and vice versa. Are we really ready to talk in terms of someone else’s interests? We better be.

We can use our title as ammo or yell as a leader to get things done for a moment. Cracking the proverbial whip works once or twice but only for a very short period of time. A sales person can be successful every now and again when they talk about what they want, their product and service, their quota, their tough day, etc. However, consumers want to feel like they are really being listened to. They want to buy, not be sold to. And they want to know that their needs are being met.

How can you take into account the other point of view? We made our list together as leaders.

  1. Listen. Talk less. Be clear that we understand what others want and need.images
  2. Be clear about what needs to be done, especially as we understand how staff wants to do their jobs.
  3. Create a reminder of the hook and the fish concept. What bait do you need to have an effective employee, customer, or family discussion?
  4. Be aware of wants and needs as we delegate. If done correctly, delegation is the key to knowing exactly what these wants and needs are.
  5. Be clear about expectations.
  6. Give staff the opportunities to explore.
  7. Remember that not everyone’s way works all of the time. Sometimes a good leadership push is in order.

Are You a Sharing Leader?

September 24th, 2014

Being a leader in today’s work environment has it’s share of obstacles. The culture of your company directly impacts how you lead and what you do in your role in every circumstance. For example, let’s take the topic of communication and your responsibility relative to cascading messages. Often times leaders maintain the proverbial upper hand by distributing information (or frankly misinformation) to suit their personal goals and objectives. This does not have to be a nefarious or illegal thing by the way. Sometimes as leaders we are simply overly competitive or selfish. Being the leader that always has to win means you’re going to do anything you need to do to come out on top. That often means controlling what you know. Selfish leaders? Well, they are probably just protecting their job and paycheck. Everybody is doing it right? So what’s wrong with it? It’s like a teenager explaining staying out too late or a bad test grade, “…but Tommy is allowed to.”

Today’s world is about information. That’s why it’s called the Information Age. Why not empower today’s knowledge worker with as much as possible? Why not make it a point to share as much as you can? A group perspective is often more right and more powerful than the views of a handful or the privileged.

To be a sharing leader one must:

  1. ID-100161829Be clear on what their role is as a leader. Is it your job to share what you hear and learn in terms of strategy, vision, or simple business updates with your team? If you’re hearing these messages and you don’t see them in newsletter, town halls, or email updates then I bet it is part of your role. Be a messenger. There is good power in doing this well!
  2. Share it all. Don’t hold back an inch. Employees can sense when your holding back and not sharing. Trust them. They can handle the truth. Of course there is confidentiality. This is not what I am talking about. Stop protecting. Quit isolating staff from business news they can help with. They might even view the problems of the business as interesting new projects to tackle to grow their resumes!
  3. Use all means as possible. Some messages are tactical. Some are strategic. Some serious and some not so much. Pick your forum. Have huddles every day for daily sticks. Do a weekly discussion for businesses. Have a phone call or town hall meeting when you’re dealing with longer term updates or when you want to get some real engagement and feedback.

The key is to make communication a part of your daily leadership plan. It will always take a back seat to your inbox and to do’s if you let it!

Outside-In® Summer Reading List

August 27th, 2014

Summer reading is a part of the fabric that defines my free time as well as my summer vacation. The challenge is to decide how to recharge and rejuvenate with that precious time off. Do I really want to read an industry publication or study for that upcoming webinar to keep continuing education credits flowing? It’s not that I don’t like my industry or chosen profession, I just need space and time to decompress. The more space I can create or make more time to think, the more likely I am to find new ideas and thoughts that help with my day-to-day work!

However, sometimes it’s hard to get away without our smart phones tethered to our hand 24/7—we all have to find some compromise, right? The very device that lets you order pizza while on vacation or text the teenagers to find out when they will be home is the same piece of technology that pings every time there is a new email and some work issue that either ruins your vacation mood or requires immediate attention!

I once heard the pile of unread business magazines, articles, books, and white papers on your nightstand or work station referred to as the tower of guilt! I, for one, feel good when I take that pile of work and plow through it. Sometimes I read three or four books at the same time in rotation just to change topics for the sake of staying current. However, this is not the approach I like to take for summertime reading.

So if you’re trying too hard to work and want to recharge while coming back with a new perspective on your business, here are my top three must reads:

ID-1001841481. Anything by Gladwell. Malcom not only sees the world differently, but he does the research to back it up. Try The Tipping PointWhat the Dog Saw, or my all time favorite, The Outliers. If you want to think about your business place in a different way, try escaping to the world that Malcom creates!

2.  How to Win Friends and Influence People. So many smart people know something about their field of study or the technical aspects of their profession yet few invest in their relationships.  No books exists that is more time tested for helping you with tools and tips for great human relations skills!

3.  Zen and the Art of Happiness. Everyone gets down in the dumps from time to time. As Dale Carnegie is for great human relationships this book is for realigning your perspective on your daily life. Things happen to us each and everyday, it is what we do next that matters.

If you have a book that recharges and lifts your energy while helping you reflect and improve your business or your leadership persona please let us know!

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