Posts Tagged: culture

What can you control? Just 5 things.

October 2nd, 2013

I recently heard a speech by a famous man and entrepreneur. He is supremely confident and entirely self-made. He is aware that he is in charge of his own destiny and that his own personal culture is the key to both personal and professional success. Most importantly, he knows what he can impact, influence, and control. In turn, he also knows what to let go of. Too many people waste time and space on the things they have no ability to influence. Deal with what you can impact and don’t waste energy on things beyond your span of control!

His speech was about the five things you can control when you enter a difficult situation. This could be a tough opponent in a sporting event, an arduous negotiation at work, or even a challenge with a friend or family member. Forget about everything else, what is it that you can do to put yourself in the best position to enjoy the possibility of success? These five things vary with each individual and situation. Perhaps it is to manage your nerves or control your temper, be positive if you’re a half empty type, or to prepare proactively versus being reactive.


Here are the five things you can control during times of turmoil:

  1. Attitude – You might not be able to choose the situation or the circumstance, but you can always choose your attitude.

  2. Behavior – Remember the old adage “actions speak louder than words”? It’s true.

  3. Tone – Not just what you say, but how you say it.

  4. Mind – What you decide to learn and allow your mind to dwell on.

  5. Schedule – How you manage your time and energy is entirely up to you.

The point is that each and every one of us has the opportunity to control our reaction to different situations. But this requires you to get to know yourself, manage your own culture, and to proactively prepare and think through what you can do to maximize any situation.

Do you have an important sales call coming up? A significant presentation? A critical vendor review? A tough discussion with your teenager? Well, what are the five things you can control to make that interaction a success?

Sales Strategy + Values Philosophy = Consultative Success

August 28th, 2013

BlankSheetofPaperAs a values-based recruitment services company, our value called Blank Sheet of Paper is what we believe is our biggest differentiator with all of our customers and prospects. Hold up a blank sheet of paper. Obviously, there is nothing on it. So what does this have to do with customers and prospects? From a sales perspective, this means that we do not go into our dialogue and discussion with pre-built solutions or a preconceived notion of how we are going to help. Instead, we start with a blank slate – or in our case, a blank sheet. There are legendary stories in business where an international consulting company sends a “custom solution” to their customer however it has the logo of a competitors on the cover page!  So much for a blank sheet of paper!

The challenges to this concept are many. So many companies use the comparison or the notion of Mission Statement. The Mission is on the wall, or above each door jam, or in the annual report, but the actions and values of the company look nothing like it! There is no alignment or resemblance to the word. The gap is huge! Many use ‘consultative’ or ‘solutions-based’ selling as their catch phrase so many times that the words mean little and become contrived. When you really do it though, customers see and experience the difference.

My goal is to make sure that we live a Blank Sheet of Paper sales philosophy and to demonstrate its value. Knowing what questions to ask matter. Getting to the root of the customer challenge or opportunity is what everyone really wants right? What customers want is an HR consulting service that works and that is going to address the problem. Going at it with options and ideas is wonderful, but lets be clear: this is really about doing a better job for your customer! And the best way to do that? Show your customer how and what you do can make their HR recruiting world better.

Let them know you listened. Tie what you do to the problem at hand. That is what Blank Sheet of Paper is all about. Find the problem and address the problem uniquely through your service offerings!

Why Values and Culture Matter More than Rules and Handbooks

August 7th, 2013

Elkton High School Varsity Soccer 2012As a leader of a successful recruiting company and the coach of a local high school soccer team, I’ve come to understand that too many organizations attempt to create order and discipline through handbooks and rule books.  Don’t get me wrong – they have a place. However, I believe that too many organizations make rules for the 1 in 100 that take advantage of the system, and then 99 have to suffer because of it. Yet, values are forever. They force a union and ownership amongst employees and leaders just as they do players and coaches. Values are enforceable by an entire organization, and there are a lot more players then coaches! This puts the emphasis on all having say and ownership!  Like the saying goes, “Treat people the way they wish they were treated and they just might live up to that standard!”

So if your not convinced, picture me coaching in a game. Imagine my superstar player who is losing his cool or maybe drawing attention to himself in away that puts him above the team. I can promise you that this happens. I might need to talk to him, but 18 other players will step in remind him of the value that  team comes first at all times! Or perhaps we get behind in the score and some players get down on themselves. I hear over and over again about the value that our soccer program never, ever, ever, ever gives up.

My personal favorite though is “Nothing negative said, nothing negative received”. I think every business, HR firm or not, needs this value. This one is about team or group trust. Too many times we assume that something said was negative, and too many time we hear it as such. We want a positive atmosphere, where we maintain a benefit-of-the-doubt team culture. We want to trust the gap between what we see and hear and what happened!

I hope you enjoy seeing how our values work for the team. By the way, this is my third year with the team and results come slowly (when they are going to stick)! This is the year we win some games! Our philosophy: Our goal is not to win alone, but to build and improve every day in order to play the game perfectly.

Below is a list of values that we hope all players at Elkton High School can embrace. If we can accept and practice these values, we can better our team and the soccer program, but more importantly we can better our lives and better serve others around us.

Elkton Soccer Program Values:

1. We never, ever, ever give up.

2. Nothing negative said, nothing negative received.

3. Our goal is not to win alone, but to play the game perfectly.

4. We will outwork our competition on and off the pitch.

5. We will follow our player agreements.

6. Everyone plays, that is how we get better as a program.

7. Team comes first at all times.

8. We will play with emotion, not show it.

9. We will do everything with intention (practice, training, pregame, off the field).

10. We must be willing to teach and learn.

11. Every player, regardless of their background, brings an important and necessary element to the team.

Outside-In® Value Spotlight: Everyone is a Leader

June 26th, 2013

Everyone is a Leader. Each of us is empowered to be a leader and do our part to make a difference and inspire change. No limitations, no secrets, and no red tape.

Outside-In Pocket Guide

Modern business took its organizational look and feel from the military. When you’re fighting a battle you have to be able to count on the person to your right and your left; and to trust that orders once delivered are being followed without any doubt. Military leadership gives an order and it is given to middle management and then distributed out and down to the front lines.  This works great in the military, and probably worked pretty well in business for many decades. Then the world changed.

Today the world moves faster than it used too. Strategic business plans used to be 5 or even 10 years in nature. Life did not seem to change as fast back then. The factors are many, of course. Global competition has meant that companies have so many more competitors for customers. This is of course has been brought on by the incredible advances in technology with all things computers and Internet. I read once that the changes in computing are akin to a luxury car getting 500 miles to the gallon and costing $500 dollars. No wonder things have changed!  We have so much more access to the world, to information, and of course to talent for your company and customers for your products and services.

This is not a brand new thing of course. I figured this out years ago with a bunch of smart people at The Placers. We talked about these changes and the impact that it was having on us as employees. Dealing with and mastering change became a really important thing if we were going to survive and prosper. Mastering new skills became everything, knowledge became the new power for all of us. Those that had more seemed to get ahead.

This is about more than just employees and their mindset though. I wanted to change our organizational structure to support this changing world. I do not think my company has the time for me to make all of the decisions and then to disseminate them out to each of them. This is slow, cumbersome and just flat out wrong. By the time you hear my thoughts, the world has gone in a different direction!

So we are a flat business without layers and titles. We know that if you focus on knowledge, and your growth than you will have really great opportunities to have insights on how we should be running this place. After all, you interact with more customers (Defined by 3 of course!) than I ever could.

Everyone is a Leader relates to the fact that I want all of my employees to be leaders. They’re on the front lines, and when you’re there, if you listen and look up you will hear things that can make you better immediately.

But here is the interesting part.  All leaders want to have information on how to run their company better; that is our charge. If you want to be a leader then you have a really, important obligation. You need leadership training and experiences in the areas of running meetings, problem solving, project planning, handling conflicts, and really the list goes on and on depending on the moment. That is what leadership is all about! Mastery requires 10,000 hours of something. Think about it like this: 3 hours a day for 10 years.

Everyone is a Leader is so much easier to embrace than it is to actually be effective as one. Our greatest gift in our company is that we get the opportunity to pursue this mastery in all of our roles.

So embrace it, and know that it is one the hardest to take from understanding to being really good at. That is why leadership is so hard!

In Honor of Father’s Day: The Best of Alan Burkhard

June 12th, 2013

So everyone should find a way to do something nice for their Pop this time of year.  My Dad, Alan Burkhard, has whatever he wants that might be considered material or he will just buy it for himself – and besides, he is a real pain to shop for. Everything is too “something”.

My Dad is a many time entrepreneur who works at his craft relentlessly. His credos and philosophies are timeless. They are Outside-In®, a business approach we jointly trademarked and use in running our customer centered businesses. So for Father’s Day, I think I will share some of the “best of” comments and ideas that have made Alan successful:

The Best of Alan Burkhard

1. Try to close the gap between where you are and what your capable of. Start everyday with the goal of maximizing your abilities. Know that few people ever learn to use everything they were given to work with. This is where success, growth, challenge, and bringing your capabilities to life actually happen.

2. Know yourself. Do you have a culture of one? How can you work someplace if you don’t what you stand for? What are your values?  How do this fit into the bigger picture?

3. You have the most control when you give it all away. This applies to parents with kids or leaders with employees. So many times we just sit on a situation. We dictate. We direct. We tell folks what and how to do it. The best way to grow people is to give them say and control. Yes, you can provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Trust and accountability are the ultimate ways to control.

4. Be able to change.  There is nothing more relevant to grasp.  Change is hard to start.  But it gets easier, and oftentimes, the gain and the good comes down the line. But for all of us?  Learning to adapt and take advantage of change is a life skill that will put us ahead of the curve.  All types of organizations need change-makers. Those that do, often get the choice opportunities.  They make things happen for themselves!

5. Making decisions is about having the right information. Remember, getting the right information is the hard part. We want to jump to take action and try things. But really, solving problems and making decisions can be easy – yet, few have the patience. Everyone is too busy to do it right. Many quick decisions seems to be in vogue for leaders. Being busy and taking action is confused with productivity. The basics are in gathering the right information and in learning to interpret it.  Taking action is easy and convenient when you do the other steps well.

6. Let them live life and learn from it.  We all wear many roles in life.  We have to let our kids, our employees, our loved ones live life.  YOU have to let life happen to them.  Get out of the way and let them learn.  We all must take risks.

Josh and HallieNow, for my Father’s Day message to my kids:

Being a Dad is much harder then being President of a company.  At work, my job is to love everyone up or out of the company. At home, well, that is just not so easy. I am “stuck” with you for a few more years anyway in the same house.  After thinking about Father’s Day and all of the cards, special breakfasts, and nice T-shirts I have been given over the years, I decided all I really want is for you to read this and take from it what you can.

1.  You don’t yet know what your capable of. But work at it. There is always a gap here.  Work everyday to close the gap.

2.  Life is fleeting. Be happy right now where you are. Know that whatever you are doing right now is your life. Don’t plan or wish it away.

3.  Life is messy but go for it. I see you both stand on the sidelines so much.  Go to the party. Try out for the team. Make the phone call to go to the beach. Go on the trip.  Go have experiences good and bad.

4.  Find your confidence. I don’t know how to give you both confidence. But I know this. I did not have it at your age. At some point, it was like “turning a switch”. I think I figured out that others are not that confident. Or not that much smarter. Or that much better at whatever it is in question. But this comes with experience I guess. I promise you if you work at it you will be the most confident person in the room for the right reasons- you will have earned it.

5.  Have integrity and find it fast.  When you are alone in the middle of the night are you proud of yourself? Have you been honest with yourself and with the ones that care about you most? Trustworthiness and having integrity, means having a strength of character and making it matter. “Character is how you act when know one is looking.”  Be a character, but have lots of it.  And stand for something!  Personally, I think you have to fail here in order to decide this.  Having integrity starts to feel important and gives you an edge.  The more you do it, the less you ever want to compromise on it.

Even if the words above are geared towards one family generation to the next, I think this advice can apply to all in their personal and professional lives. By reading this, I hope you are inspired to define your personal philosophy. Create your own culture. Establish your values, or revisit them if need be. That is how you will find success (and happiness) in life. No matter how you define them, I believe that the points above will help guide you on your path towards achieving your goals.

Why Our Culture is Upside Down and Outside-In®

May 22nd, 2013

Our culture is upside down. We take a traditional organization and reverse the thinking. The folks on the top of the page? Customers. The employee.  Who is at the bottom? The leaders. Our culture is upside down because the old way does not work here any longer.  Its too slow. Leaders too far away from the action and ill-equipped to make all of the decisions.

So this is crazy talk right? Who makes the decisions? Who has the responsibility? Who is in charge? Who is the leader?  Well everyone is around here. We all have the best chance to blow away our customers if we are empowered and if we act like we own the place.

We feel like we own the place because of the trust, respect, and authority that is bestowed upon us. This is a sacred bond and trust. We are honored to take up the mantle, and we never want to let ourselves, our customers, our peers down. We do things because we want to; because we are allowed to think, not just do the task we are assigned! This is what being valued and living the culture of Everyone is a Leader is all about.

So here is the interesting part: We can all act like leaders, even if we don’t have the title.  But if you have the “title”, leaders are on the bottom because we serve the organizational needs.  Our role is to provide for the success of others.  Our job is to plan for, provide the tools, environment, training, and spiritual support so that folks can really let go and perform at a high level!

Why Leaders Answer the Phone

May 8th, 2013

I think it starts with a simple premise. The phone is ringing, so I answer it.“Thank you for calling CBI Group, Chris Burkhard speaking, I can help you!” However, everyday someone – a vendor, an applicant, a customer – seems so surprised when I answer the phone. 

To be specific, this is when the phone rings into my company. We want to get the caller picked up in three, ideally two, or even one ring.  We get busy like any other company and this job is bigger than anyone person who is primarily picking up the phone. We always have someone who does this most of their day. So where does the leadership thing show up in all of this?  One of the hardest things for a leader to do is to show a balance of leading, directing, and doing.  Trust is built when leaders do as they preach. Even if your company (mine) would prefer I stayed off the phones because I am not quite as good at it as some…

I have chosen a leadership model and organizational culture that is one of servant leadership while the business is organized in a flat, matrixed fashion. My goal is to squeeze the middle, empower my customer-facing staff, and force my leaders to work for them. Let that soak in. Empower the front line staff. Leaders work for them. So why should it come as a surprise when everyone in the company answers the phone? Habits. Experiences. Other places we work. All of these gained insights make it so much harder to buy-in.

However, how can an environment of equality exist unless the leaders do their best to be equal? Yes, roles are designed differently. Yes, some roles are critical to business success and very important to the success of a business.  This does NOT mean that there is not a place for a team mentality.

Some environments are siloed – don’t dare talk to someone in another department without having department heads do the talking! Some environments promote hierarchy and fear. Leaders do this by being ominous and scary or by forcing conformity to a practiced culture that all dare not bend or break from tradition.

My tradition and hierarchy are such that people are people and they perform best when they feel valued and they can be themselves – and where teamwork is sacred.  Teamwork is not an “opt-in” or “when and if I want to” kind of behavior. You’re either committed to the team or your not.  NOT just on your favorite tasks or to help your office friend out. So leaders step in and out of what needs to be done for the team.

Stepping in and out can be hard. Do I roll up my sleeves everyday? When will I plan? When will I work on business problems and opportunities?  How do I give feedback and do my leadership job? The answer lies within. But I can assure you if you never step in and help. Or worse yet, if you always dive in and help, you have a real opportunity to improve your leadership persona and have more impact!

So as ridiculous it is for you to think of someone’s President answering the phone because of their corporate culture, as a leader in an Outside-In company, not answering the phone is even more absurd to me!

The First 30 Seconds

May 1st, 2013

At our company we examine every customer interaction and decide how we could take that experience as far as we can. We call this our Service to the Nth degree value. Can we take every moment of interaction to an extreme? How could we make it better for that person? For example, how can we answer a phone call with Nth degree thinking? Try getting to the caller quickly and eliminating voice mail. Or perhaps, always answer in three rings – or better yet, two. (Maybe even one!) Why keep that customer waiting? Create the best Outside-In experience you can.

However, today’s blog is about extending that service impression to the process of sales. In fact to put a fine point to it, for those of us that have to introduce ourselves and our companies to prospects, this is about the first 30 seconds of an interaction! Sales people struggle with the first introduction. Most of us spend hours preparing and researching our target. We know about their last annual report, we have read the press releases, we know about our competitors. My guess is that you’re loaded up with marketing materials. You have brochures, white papers, and case studies coming out of your ears.

So what do you need to focus on during the first 30 seconds? First off, your words.

1.  Be crystal clear with your purpose.  Sales people of the world… face it – we’re not crystal clear with our purpose in the first 30 seconds! We wander in these early conversations. We try to connect and “build relationships”. We try to impress with our knowledge of our offerings. We ask for the “order” when our prospect barely knows us. Be direct without being pushy. Be authentic.

2.  Don’t ask for a relationship right out of the gate. It is weird to ask to build a relationship in the first call. It did not work in the hallways of high school, and it is just as well, creepy when selling. This is just too much of a leap of faith for an audience that really is still paying attention to their email or the project they were working on when you called them and interrupted them.

3.  Differentiate yourself. Oftentimes, we act like and conduct business like everyone else. You could insert any product into your introduction and you would sound like the other ten voice mail messages your prospect deleted this week. Make yourself stand out. Think about how your company differentiates itself and how you can communicate it. Don’t let your introduction be “one size fits all”.

4.  Make sure to speak in terms of customer benefit.  As sales people, if we’re not careful our opening conversation sounds something like this to our prospect, “I am Chris Burkhard, I work for my company, I am interested in getting to know you so I can sell you my product so that I can meet my monthly quota, because I am falling behind on my bills, and I really need this sale now, you see.  Truth is, I need a a quick hit to stay on track, and keep my sales manager off my back.” Does your introduction sound like me, me, me?  It is subtle but true.  Until we learn to speak in an Outside-In way and in terms of the customers benefit, we will always sound selfish. Who wants to build a relationship, ever, with someone that is all about themselves?

Sales people of the world, if you’re on plan then you can ignore me.  If you’re falling behind, I bet I know why, and I have the answer – it starts with your first 30 seconds.  How good are you and your company at first impressions?

Leaders, Admit When You’re Wrong Please!

April 3rd, 2013

Today’s companies operate differently than a decade or two ago. Globalization, technology, cultural and social change, demographic trends and shifts have all impacted the way business is conducted. This structural shift has impacted the worker too. Today’s worker must be focused on knowledge building and embracing change skills to maximize themselves.

However, I think this structural shift has impacted the way leaders need to lead. One of my personal pet peeves is when leaders don’t take the time to admit fault. There is this funny thing called “leadership pride” that keeps our lips shut.  We may act like we did something wrong, we may make amends or attempt to fix a mistake, however, we don’t often vocally admit mistakes enough. When we don’t admit our mistakes, we damage trust on our teams and in our company. Trust is a funny thing. Easy to lose. Hard to get back.  Must be built through your actions and of course, your words.  They better be close to one and the same.

By not admitting mistakes we look fake and disingenuous. Today’s worker must do their job on the edge of their seat and take risks in their job to create some wow (or do something Nth degree in Outside-In® language). But the risk is the key.  If you won’t show vulnerability as a leader and expose yourself how do you expect others to do so?  And if you expect creativity or new thinking from your people, then celebrating mistakes is a requirement.

Making mistakes makes you real.  By making mistakes you are human. By admitting them, you allow others to admit them and creates an open channel for improved communication to blossom. A problem said out loud, is a problem half solved! Openly addressing mistakes you’ve made as a leader allows trust to grow and build between you and your employees. It’s about being Open Book — being honest, vulnerable, and transparent – and living Outside-In® leadership, where accessibility and trust are key components of a strong leader.

We all need a culture of admission, right?

Is Your Brand Working Hard for You?

March 27th, 2013

Sales is not an easy profession. By the very nature of the role you have to be able to deal with a lot of negativity and rejection. Most buyers say no. This is simply a fact. The job requires so much hard work – busy work, really – research, preparation, meeting planning, detail follow-up with emails and phone calls, all for brief “performances” with your prospect and customer.  Sales is 99% hard work, planning and preparation, and 1% actually selling.

There is so much we can do to be better sales people.  Reading about sales and going to workshops on sales technique is a must. Being prepared and planned everyday is critical. Many sales people sometimes wing it; they count on their strengths too much, and they don’t prepare to to maximize their time. They do too little in the way of the activities that are necessary to produce the volume of output their quota probably requires!

However, I have come to grasp that sales people can’t do it alone! Your company has to work hard on your behalf.  I believe a company must work hard on its brand, and that the brand must be an honest representation of what the company stands for, whats it personality and character are like, and what promise you can make to your prospects.

This is always a brand challenge for any business. Every business has a brand.  Sometimes the brand is intentional; sometimes it is the absence of a plan. In all cases your company gives the marketplace an impression of what it is all about and what it stands for.

In my experience, I have found that being an Outside-In® company matters. Our brand is about being all about the customer. Our brand is our culture, and our culture is how we view ourselves. You can call this our overall personality! This personality is how we help our sales staff add value and clearly how we stand out in a world that is terribly the same! We are definitely not the same. However, we are not different for the sake of being different.  Our difference is because we chose to turn ourselves inside out. We are what our customers need and want us to be!

Our culture and our values? 100% a reflection of employee behaviors that will best enable each employee to be the best they can be in the unique business landscape we all operate in today. Our brand is our culture.  Our culture is our values.

Remember, good marketing helps you amplify the truth, not pitch something that you wish exists. That is the difference!

Watch our video for our truth!


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