Posts Tagged: training

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.

Introducing Your Culture to New Employees

December 12th, 2012

What do you say to new employees about your culture?

I hope it involves stories, fables, and anecdotes.  Stories stay in the mind long after the first day on the job. After all the introductions, product overviews, and orientation meetings, people remember the stories in the end. What’s more, the messages in the stories are what really stick. I have some favorite stories that I use to bring our cultural values to life. I’ll share one powerful story with you today.

I often start by saying that there will be No Strings here.  I am not a Puppet Master, and you are not a puppet. The strings are a metaphor for tangible tools that managers use to yank us around as employee puppets.  Strings are threats, one-time contests, or traditional leader behaviors that create the typical reward for the right kind of behavior.  This management style is not evil or wrong. This style is just not our culture. No Strings describes freedom of expression. No Strings  means that your motivation is within.  You’re responsible for your own career and development. You’re driven by our set of 20 Outside-In® values.  Your actions and behaviors are congruent with who you want to be and how you want to live your life.

All in all, No Strings is the difference between internal or intrinsic motivation (things like learning, challenging work, respect, fun, growth) and alignment or extrinsic motivation (money, title, power, benefits, company perks, or fancy trips).  Don’t get me wrong,  all of us are motivated to some degree by financial needs.  But, all things considered, they don’t stay that way for long . Given the choice, most of us will choose the learning and fun over some short term performance based threat or bonus to hit a production number.

So, if you’re a leader are you a Puppet Master? If you’re an employee, are you a puppet with strings?

What stories do you tell your employees in their first week? Share them, I dare you! I have told this story three times this week, and hundreds of times in my leadership career. I know that No Strings empowers and creates equality in our flat, ever evolving set of companies.

Customers Aren’t Sold, They Buy!

November 21st, 2012

I am feeling giddy these days.  This is the time of year to count our blessings and to give thanks for all that we have around us.  I am blessed with friends and family, my health, and a company full of employees, partners, and customers that work together in relative harmony.  Business is good.  The harder we work, the luckier we get.  Now that the barn fell down we can see the moon. When I go slow I go fast.  These are all my favorite Burkhardisms that I use to explain our winning formula.  Regardless, we just try to get a little better as individuals, as teams, as functions, as departments, and across our three companies. Alas, this blog is about selling or as I would say, customer’s buying habits, so let’s get into it.

First off, I would like to address the behavior of those that sell and serve a customer base.  What is your language like as you talk sales in your company?  Do you “stalk” your targets?  Do you find an “angle” to create conversation?  Do you talk about your “pitch” or work on your “ four corner” or “Ben Franklin” close?   I would challenge our choice of words as sales people.  A mark of a successful salesperson is how they act when the customer is not watching!  We need to learn to be authentic, to rid ourselves of stereotypes, and bad one liners.  You know what I mean, too.  Reflect on your last sales meeting internally.  Just how much of  your conversation could a prospect or current customer listen too without making you cringe or be embarrassed.  I listen for inside-out behavior all the time.  That is a leader’s job.  Words matter.  Values matter.  How we act and behave inside our company is hard to hide once we enter our customers place of business.

Why do you ask those questions so early in the meeting?  Prospects hate you for it.  They don’t throw you out because they don’t know how to do it fast.  But they do wince on the inside when they hear them.  Those stupid, early qualifying questions leave their scars.  And you know that you know better.  But, you do it anyway.  You can’t help yourself.  This meeting was so hard to get.  You need to qualify to know how much time to invest in this relationship right?  You have a target to hit. Your so busy with activities.  And networking. And meetings.  You have forgotten something paramount to your success.  You may be likeable.  Your company may be impressive.  Your service might even be something that the prospect needs.

Salespeople are, in general, so shortsighted and have so much urgency, that they simply can’t slow down and think.  We are like three year old’s that want a cookie.  We can’t delay gratification to do things right.  DOING THINGS RIGHT means that you cannot ask any question of your prospect that is only in your best interest.  Try this Litmus test.  Think about why it is of value for your audience to answer your question.  My guess is this:  your question is a fine question.  The problem is when you choose to ask it.

Prospects want to buy, they do NOT want to be sold.

Using Complexity Skills to Your Advantage

August 8th, 2012

Why do we buy new software and equipment for our business? We do so because we are looking for an advantage in business. We are looking to do things better, faster, or cheaper.  Every now and then, a business makes physical investments to improve themselves, but they don’t seem to get a full return for what they bought.  Yet, leaders are oftentimes heard espousing things like, “Our company is all about our employees!” or “We get our advantage from the uniqueness of our talent and our culture!”.  These attitudes are not wrong, but imagine if the leaders gave their employees another way to equip themselves?

I think it is due to a phenomenon I call Complexity Skills. To define complexity skills we must first understand that work is done differently today than it was in the past.  The workplace has been forever altered by so many forces.  Today, technology and globalization, government compliance, shifts in social norms, generational influences, acceptance of varying business models, and leadership styles have left so many employees (and frankly leaders of companies) confused on what to label the whole change. I call it Complexity Skills: The ability of an individual or entire company culture to deal with swift and constant change in the business world around them.  If you are in leadership, you understand how envious your peers would be if you could say that your company and employees were the best at re-tooling and changing direction through Complexity Skills.

Ultimately, this is about change; however, Complexity Skills are so much more. Imagine your workforce is equipped to not just serve customers and interact with them, but is also capable of gathering incredible insights into customer wants and needs.  Hints at future products or new features.  Or better yet, the emergence of an entirely new business line.

This is about more than change, but Complexity Skills require the mastery of it.  If you are an employee or a leader today, the best thing we can do is understand and master the art of change.  We have a choice: make it unique and your own or be run over by it.  So much inefficiency and personal angst is spent dealing with, “This is not how we used to do it” or, “This is not how I was told my job would be”.

The concept of Complexity Skills is about intention. Those that get it know that they must focus on being knowledge workers. It is so much more than a popular catchphrase.  Those that stop learning stop growing and start to think they know it all.  Know-it-all’s stop competing.  To be a knowledge worker is to know that knowledge should be equal to productivity.  The more knowledge you have the more confidence and self-esteem the worker or total workforce will have to do interact with customers.

Do you have a high quotient of Complexity Skills?  Does your team?  How about your company?  The only way to get it is to lead the way and work at it.  Know that to have it is an incredible advantage that will be really hard for others to define.  Those that you are competing with for jobs.  Those organizations that are in your “space”.

I have seen teams that have it.  There is trust.  There is understanding.  Complexity Skills go beyond the classroom.  The company has a mindset.  And that mindset defines its culture. A culture with strong Complexity Skills has a defining marketplace advantage.  Yes, it can be all about your employees.  Just give them a different mindset…

What does Marshalls have to do with Leadership?

June 20th, 2012

In some strange way, I think Marshalls has everything to do with today’s leadership.

I was recently dragged to this discount retailer to look for clothing. After all, why pay full price when you can get the same designer item at Marshalls? As I walked in, I could not help but wonder how different the store looked compared to three years ago! (It may have been the last time I shopped in a non-Apple store, frankly.) I immediately noticed a difference in the store’s inventory – it was really light.  There used to be aisles jammed with clothing, food, kitchen ware, home items…you name it, it was there. Piles of merchandise were often scattered throughout the store, overflowing from its respective shelves. Today? Not so much.

This got me thinking about the world and how it has changed leadership practices for now and perhaps for a good long time. Today’s leader does nothing in excess. Hiring, manufacturing, R&D, innovation, capitol investments….it is all “just-in-time” and/or “just enough”.

The empty shelves now symbolize our new way of leading. I think it is getting harder and harder for discount retailers to find supplier’s excess. Excess is over-production. The excess is the inventory they buy cheap and sell for a little less than cheap.

As I dig deeper into this new world leadership order, I see the same lack of inventory on the shelves as I see in organizations that are building and developing talent. Leaders prefer to lease or rent talent. They prefer another organization to develop it and then poach it. Don’t get me wrong, this is my business. We serve a very necessary strategic purpose. BUT, it is getting more difficult to find leadership talent with “high potential” as it is called.

Our lack of inventory is partially due to the demise of middle management. This has been going on for years. Perhaps the more influential reason is that organizations have not been investing (certainly a gross generalization) as much or as frequently in the proper development of leaders. Who has the time?  Who has the budget? Leaders are now responsible for doing and producing so much and there is very little time to develop “other leadership skills” like strategic planning, budgeting, and forecasting…while doing something other then responding to email.

Typically, I give folks a hard time when they bring me problems without possible solutions.  Today, I am guilty of the same thing. We have a need for leaders to be developed and no one wants to invest in it.  There is a real advantage to those organizations that do decide to replenish the empty shelves… What do you think?

Being an Open Book

July 20th, 2011

The definition of being Open Book can be interpreted in many ways. To CBI Group, being open book means that we have no secrets. We believe that being open book is about more than trust; it’s about sharing information with the team to enable them to make educated business decisions.
Contemporary leadership theorizes that employees should simply know and understand their job requirements and have measurements on the activities that drive productivity within their roles. They believe that sharing the bigger picture will confuse people and complicates things. Besides, how could the average employee see a correlation between their role and the big picture?
Another theory goes that if you provide access to all financial and operational information, employees can act like entrepreneurs in how they go about their work. This open book knowledge helps employees understand how the organization makes money and how long it takes to get a spent dollar back into the organization after an investment is made. So, what’s my theory?

    Tell your employees everything. If your employees sense even a small discrepancy, it shows up like a Grand Canyon chasm. In a small business, trust is everything. Tell the truth. Employees will respect it and embrace it. And once they have it, they notice it when it is gone. Lack of information creates a void — and that void negatively affects trust, engagement and the business.
    Have consistent training sessions and explain the “why”. Trust that employees will appreciate and figure out the connection to their job and the organization’s profitability. This will take time and it will be hard but training time should be a part of every role.
    Treat everyone the same, manage everyone differently. Being flat works because everyone wants to feel equal. Employees do different work and have different skills and experiences. Understand these differences instead of trusting a title or a label — titles are for customers and their understanding. Having a class system creates animosity, loss in productivity, lack of trust, poor working relationships and silos between departments.

That is what being open book means to me. When employees care, free flowing information sharing can have a profound impact on a business. Everyone starts to spend the organization’s funds more like they are their own. Do we really need office supplies? Is the travel really necessary? Are there ways we can improve cash flow by making improvements in how we sell or invoice? These questions will come naturally with the knowledge.
This is difficult to achieve if you typically share information on an as-needed basis. It requires a huge cultural shift and some change adaption but there is tremendous value you in starting to think about being open book and how it can help your company. It also means you might have to hire the right people that care to ask questions, value information sharing and can take action based on what they learn.

Complexity Skills – Are you ready?

May 25th, 2011

Your mindset is everything. How you approach the everyday will make the difference between succeeding or not. Getting the job or finishing second. Whether your business will grow to the next level or lag behind. Will you get that next promotion? Your mindset is important because the business world moves fast and is constantly changing. If you’re not ready to embrace change, you will be left in the dust by those that are.
Learning “complexity skills” will help put you ahead of the pack. What are they? Complexity skills reflect our capacity for adapting to change and learning. Having the ability to comprehend the nuances around us through knowledge and learning. For a business this is all about the organization’s ability to make change and to move in new directions. Is your business flexible? Does it launch new ideas easily?
Complexity skills can be applied to both individuals interested in bettering their situation or to groups or organizations striving to improve and grow. Individuals’ skills, attitudes, knowledge and values are powerful forces with the mastery of complexity skills. But the collective ability of a group with the ability to adapt, drive change, and survive is unstoppable. The world is complex and those that face complexity head on can see opportunities and take advantage of them. Is your workforce capable of adapting to and exploiting opportunities day after day? Complexity skills are about workforce readiness and the role it can play in productivity, business growth and advancement.
Think about the people you work with. There are always some that feel “acted upon,” that are never in control because the change is always happening to or around them. These are the people that say their greatest strengths are having technical skills or a strong work ethic. The others that drive change and exploit it are the ones that have the positive outlook and feel in control of their jobs and their careers! When one truly understands “complexity skills,” their greatest strength is how they adapt well to changing environments and understand that today’s knowledgeable worker must focus on learning to be well-equipped to embrace the realities in a new role!
You may be thinking to yourself, “I get it… but what can I do about it?” It is not easy to influence and change, even when that is your main focus. Complexity skills are challenging for leaders and for individuals. Start by getting a clear understanding of the concept. That business wants a flexible, adaptable, knowledgeable workforce because this approach drives speed and innovation. Speed and innovation help you compete. And if you compete well, you might survive and thrive. Like any other variety of nature, those that do not adapt, do not live on. I for one would like my business and my workforce to have this advantage.

The McKinley Edge

October 28th, 2010

I have a dream to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska – all 20,320 feet of it.  All of my friends and family know it, my mom begs me not to talk about it and my wife laughs a little knowing that I am all talk (for now).  I hike and backpack year-round and take several recreational hiking trips. There is always a peak involved, small east coast peaks that challenge us about as much as a normal day at the office.  To climb McKinley, you have to train ridiculously hard (see the sample workout that I have used) and work up to it by climbing one of the many “fourteeners” (14,000 ft. peaks) in Colorado, then you move on to Mt. Rainier in Washington.  This is standard mountain climbing play book stuff.

In training for such a difficult climb, one must train to the concept of the McKinley Edge – going beyond your training comfort zone.  When faced with a life threatening situation, no matter how tired or exhausted you are, there must be reserves left – a final gear to get you out of danger. The McKinley Edge involves training your body for that extreme or going to maximum heart beyond the point of exhaustion.  Each person has a different stress tolerance or pain threshold.  Everyone’s endurance level is different.  The key thing is you can train your body for extremes and that really got me thinking…

If you can find the McKinley Edge for you body, can you work on it for your business?  Can you find your leadership McKinley Edge?  I think you can.  As a young man while working at Placers I had many different roles and assignments.  As soon as I thought I mastered one office, I got two. When I learned to handle managing managers I got five direct reports.   Never managed the HR function or sales?  I got the exposure and it definitely did not come easy.  I would like to apologize now to those early employees that had to teach me to manage them.  I had the motivation and desire, good mentors and my work ethic was non-stop.  Still I had to get used to the stress and responsibility and grow into it. I had to want to grow into it.

The key was something that my father, Alan Burkhard, theorized and has lived everyday of his life: You can train for stressful situations in business by practice. It involves getting comfortable with change; you have to want to exploit it.  It can not happen to you; you must make it happen.  The McKinley Edge in business is different for all of us.

You can get there by:

  1. Seeking out special projects and additional responsibility at work. Gain an edge.
  2. Make a presentation in front of others.
  3. Start a business – SO MUCH TO LEARN! It is a constant McKinley Edge training session for years to come.
  4. Put yourself in new/uncomfortable business situations.
  5. Work from an entrepreneurial business!

My McKinley Edge at this point?  It never changes.  Every two weeks I have to meet payroll for my company.  This is one thing I will never get used to.  Take a moment and define your McKinley Edge for your role or your business and post your thoughts!  I have learned that most would send me an email in private instead of posting – find your edge and post….

Leadership is About Giving People a Learning Curve

December 23rd, 2009

The world has lost it a little bit lately. Leaders are pushing for everyone to work harder, make more phone calls and produce more numbers. It is all direct effort to  a direct result. Few will trust the correlation of learning and knowledge to a better place or outcome. In leadership, you have to teach the right things and trust that people do the right things — it’s very simple. Because knowledge equals everything!
We all would rather run a 100 yard dash each day than train for the marathon! And today there is even less time. So we run like Forest Gump.  We just run and run without even knowing why.
We must trust if I invest in you as your leader that the business will get some inherent value from it.  But this is not the case as of late. The recession has depressed and altered the traditional career path, and with it, the importance of the learning curve. People want certain things in their career and we know it’s not only about money, it’s not only about benefits. With a learning curve we are challenged &mdash’ it means we are tested. It means we get to work at something. It means using your mind. We get choice projects. We get the difficult challenge. We get to do more than our job description says!  What happens when the learning curve stops? Everything stops. The person stops learning and soon the company stops too. As the saying goes, when we are not growing we are closer to death; this goes for the company and the employee! When the learning curve goes down, the company goes down. If the learning curve goes up, than the company results can go up too!
So one of the things that people really need is to continue to learn. Knowledge equals confidence and self-esteem. That’s what it means, and if people have that kind of confidence and self-esteem, they are more likely to do the things that produce results. If you have more knowledge you get more results. With confidence you make better decisions, take risks and you are more innovative, more creative, more tolerant, more disciplined. You trust that your results will be superior. You must trust that intangibles will turn into results!
This application also applies to more than business. It’s directly relevant to children doing better in school. The school system teaches kids to get a certain grade; it rarely teaches them to learn, retain and use the knowledge provided. Parents usually reward on just grades, not what is learned or applied. I have often thought about this with my son who is always “bored” with school and has the C’s and occasional D’s to prove it. As he leaned over my shoulder while I was writing this blog, he had a real light bulb go off. He might want to use what he learns some day!  And it might help him get the career he wants or to have hobbies that interest him.  And just maybe his grades will improve now!
If you are a small business owner or leader now is the time to differentiate and invest in the learning curve for your people and your organization!
Next post about how a leader can utilize the Holidays to their advantage!

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