Wednesday, December 30, 2009
“What is it that’s really scarce in the Internet economy?” And the answer is attention. [Psychologist] Herb Simon recognized this many years ago. He said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
Interview transcript and video published in the McKinsey Quarterly
Monday, December 28, 2009
What Tom taught is that your plan usually covers what you expect to happen. There will also be unexpected opportunities, where you optimize luck, and problems, where you need to get back from disaster. Excellent concept.
Tom presented a number of precepts and examples, all of which make sense.
We were assigned of small group exercises. My group looked at how to generate an action plan to implement a change. Hemant Mehta, another McCaw alumni (who I didn’t know back in the day) and I came up with five key points, which pretty much completed the task. This exercise mirrored the way we worked at McCaw, during the rollout of the analog cell phone network.
Looking back, my McCaw experience was the only culture I have participated in that made mergers successful on a daily basis.
Another member of the team, a successful CXO, wanted to insert, “stop people from doing the wrong thing.” I disagreed, said I would probably ask the subordinate to teach me what he was doing. Hemant was nodding his head. The CXO asked why?
I said, “First if he is in the position, I expect competence. Second, I have a chance to learn something, and third, if there is a flaw, teaching gives the person doing the work an opportunity to improve his plan.”
That was apparently a big insight for our CXO. It caused me to think of the many managers I have known who will stop a project if they don’t understand it, yet are generally late understanding and applying the tools and concepts that are revolutionizing the top players in their industry.
- The chief lesson of Pac Man over checkers is you learn not moving will end the game faster than making the wrong move.
- Sailing teaches you have to be under way to improve your course. Being stopped leads to more being stopped.
- Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?
In Tom’s presentation, I learned that for two of us, our culture of twenty years ago was still influencing our activity, and creating valuable teamwork.
What are your experiences with culture as an unexpected asset?
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Went to a great event last week organized by Andrew Meringoff at the Washington DC Connections LinkedIn Group. No matter how emailed, Web 2ed, blogged and phoned we get, face to face still does a lot of my work. I’ve been thinking about what I learned at the event, tried a number of writing approaches, and as my deadline went by what came out is my Networking Checklist.
Attitude Check –Networking is helping someone - Tom Peters
Time Check – Most golf matches are won before the first tee or after the eighteenth – Bill Van Dyke. I come early and leave late.
Name Tag - Bring your own. Make it work for you.
Purpose – Why am I going? What do I want to accomplish? “20 meetings a month” is my start, add to that.
So many targets, so little time! – I want to acknowledge everyone I already know as my first order of business. After that, I concentrate on having a complete conversation with each person I meet, resulting in a recommendation or commitment to action. That is usually more than twenty people per hour, and I have helped some people, met people, and I’m tired. What more should I want?
Offer – What am I offering? I rarely start a relationship and then close a transaction at a first meeting. This is the information age. I think a public group meeting is for establishing initial interest. An interesting handout centers the discussion and enables further inquiry. Explaining a handout usually creates a line of people listening and waiting to talk with me.
Of course, I also enjoy being the featured speaker whenever I can arrange that.
Positioning – I don’t move much. Once, a new acquaintance told me she was trying to get over to meet me and I disappeared. Other people are navigating their way through the group.
What is your guidance for open meeting networking?
Monday, December 21, 2009
About once a year, a participant would get very disturbed and splutter, “That’s not true!” I couldn’t get a coherent explanation of the issue, but did understand they were angry. The rest of the audience and the presenter (me) would try to understand the problem, would be mystified, and would proceed…cautiously.
After the third time that happened, I was flying home and sat next to a shrink. I described what had happened, and asked what it meant. He must have been great shrink, because he asked a couple of questions, looked at my handout, thought about it, and explained.
The problem was I was letting people develop examples of how they are excellent in either the past or the future, he explained. Truth is about something that has already happened. Telling a story about the future is neither true or false, since truth can only be measured in the past. The future story shows vision. The splutterer was having an emotional reaction to trying to measure the truth of something that hadn’t happened.
Sometimes we need to discuss our vision of the future. Proverbs 29:18 “When there is no vision the people perish.” However, when demonstrating truth, the safest course is to tell a story about something that has already happened, and even better, is already known and accepted by the audience.
Today I make sure I explain this drawing during the presentation and everyone is happier.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
One of the organizers expected more comments.
“How many were you expecting?”
“I was expecting more.”
I have been thinking about that for a few days.
First, we already have a one-out-of-three response rate. Direct mail measures response in hundredths and thousandths. Print advertising is less.
Second, as usual, the commenters educated the presenter. I was amused, provoked, and moved forward by the thinking in the comments.
Third, our combined information is now available to others. I plan on making this presentation several times next year and adding to the comments on this post. I might like to know about a presentation before I attend, I may have a better informed audience in the future, and I expect further comments are going to expand our knowledge of the subject.
Finally, I was already in a meeting with these 40 people for almost two hours. I don’t believe I learned as much through the conversations in person as I learned from the comments.
Your comments? *grin*
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Shyness is an attribute that could prove to be damaging to your career and increase the price of goods and services... by Tom Foremski
Friday, December 11, 2009
What about when someone discovers the origination point of a sale?
It’s way before a project goes out for bid, before negotiation, before specification. If you were present at origination, stands to reason that could be a huge advantage.
Thursday I was at a Grip’N Grin at the Alexandria Chamber Of Commerce. Joe Shumard, Membership Driver was making some announcements. He and I are running an experiment to raise the use of Web 2.0 by Chamber Members. I would be satisfied with an ostentatious display of mastery from the members. This was the kickoff.
Joe asked two questions.
“How many of you have a LinkedIn account?”
“How many are in the Alexandria Chamber LinkedIn group?”
And he dropped the subject, went on to other announcements. I was fielding questions the rest of the morning.
The headwaters of the sale are the point where the buyer starts to consider the solution. That’s the efficient place for me to be.
Let me give you another example.
A friend asked for help building a presentation for a industry-wide meeting where he was selling document management software and services. We had done this before and agreed that the battle would be won or lost with the opening question.
Come the presentation the opening question was:
(Hand raised above head) “How many of you…have ever…lost a document…in your own computer?”
End game at three minutes. The audience took over to make all his points for him. It was a feeding frenzy and he was busy graciously welcoming his new customers.
Been there, done that? Tell us!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The bottom rungs in our organization were researchers and typists. We picked up interns just out of school and had them doing an enormous amount of repetitive work that has now been replaced by computers.
We had an increasing morale problem. Business was flourishing. The work just kept coming. Mistakes were increasing.
Finally we came up with a new tactic. My partner would walk out of his office into the bullpen every day around 11 AM. He would look around, nod his head, and say,
“It’s important work we do here.”
Turn around and walk back into his office.
Morale improved. Our guys started paying better attention. They felt better about their jobs.
“It’s important work we do here.”
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
A friend was meeting another friend for the first time to discuss an opportunity. While prepping for the meeting he got off into, “Well if he even thinks of saying that, I’m gonna…” building a fantasy disaster.
I thought of that smart guy who said “of all the horrible occurrences in my life, very few of them actually happened.”
If I expect the worst, anybody around me who is paying attention knows it and adjusts. Every time.
Then there was a reader who got quite exercised by my ceaselessly promoting my financial business. Wow! I learned a long time ago that there are words people and numbers people and I am most definitely a words people.
I searched for some other posts from the guy to get an idea of where he was coming from…couldn’t find any other posts. Looks like his first comment in this marvelous new world was a flame. I am so sorry.
Thinking about it, I’m going to deny that the best defense is being offensive. Sure you hurt people when you catch them by surprise, but it’s not sustainable, and I can’t think of a valuable lesson I learned from someone expressing their anger.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
What is it?
How do I do it?
Is it for me?
Yes, it’s working!
Yes, it’s getting great results!
Yes, you should be using it!
“Markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.” The ClueTrain Manifesto.
“I get more out of your shorter posts.” Comment from Joe Tedesco.
The core of internet marketing is getting audience focus. That takes conversation.
People aren’t sold. That’s arrogant. Sales managers talk that way. People buy.
Over time, buyers develop an appreciation for what they need…for what I offer.
Different people are ready to buy at different times. I want to be present to be considered when they are ready.
I have developed a process where I touch over 67,000 people twice a week. Takes about 30 minutes. Here is how I do that. (Click graphic to expand)
I started with Gmail on a Firefox Browser. That gives me access to Google Reader, where 50 bloggers share their posts. (You can see my blog roll at Through The Browser.)
Next I got on LinkedIn. Why? Someone asked. I had no idea how I would use it. We have grown together so it is my main outbound channel. The good news about LinkedIn is it has a community of 60 million. The bad news is I have to be linked to communicate with someone.
Twitter is a recent port from LinkedIn.
When I sold my software company, I knew I wanted another blog, so I built Through The Browser on Blogger.
“Dick, that was the greatest post about the internet on your blog! Can I steal it?” (High praise!) It's good to steal as long as you acknowledge where something is stolen from.
Finally Steve Dorfman wanted me to use “DickDavies.com” email, so I built a Google Apps Standard Edition Website over a weekend. That story is on my blog.
Your comments at http://throughthebrowser.blogspot.com/2009/11/building-your-social-media-platform-for.html will give future readers a better idea of how to build their social media platform.
Please comment. Thank you!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Joe found me when he was developing a tag line for the Chamber. He remembered my tagline and searched to see whether it was still being used. I was all over the page. That search and Joe's deal-making skills produced this assignment.
I think we are in a renaissance of how business is being done, and as more and more people use the internet for research, mastering internet marketing becomes increasingly important.
We both believe that asking business owners to invest in untried technologies is hard on the salesman, so we will be showcasing successful free and low cost ways to build new business channels.
My post Friday on the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce LinkedIn Group was about how I built a free website using Google Standard Apps.
We will be discussing how websites, blogs, and social networks are used together to create extraordinary marketing. The technology is here. Let's use it now!
Friday, November 20, 2009
If you're not leaving with the commitment, check to see who starts with the opinions.
Monday, November 16, 2009
One key is first understanding our current mental model for how we work, and then fashioning a model that addresses how our work is changing. Repeatedly defining the best way to work makes the definition process easier, faster, and more valuable. The ability to create a new model when needed is a significant competitive advantage.
“It's my conviction that slight shifts in imagination have more impact...than major efforts at change.” Thomas Moore - SoulMates (Preface)Automation is cutting the time required for repeating processes. The time saved is used for better customer contact.
• What does more valuable customer contact look like?
• What skills are required for better customer interaction?
Peter Drucker says, “You manage things, you lead people.”
Don't change old habits. Replace them with new activities.
Communication is an area that is changing rapidly. Communication is not just talking. Communication is transferring information in usable form to get a desired result at best cost.
Casually asking a busy person to do something for you has less than a 50% chance of success. What can you do to increase the chances of their remembering, understanding correctly, taking appropriate action, and getting you what you wanted?
Eli Goldratt in The Haystack Syndrome defines “information” as “the answer to the question asked.”
I find a lot of opportunities for improving communication come from social media. Thinking through and executing a social media strategy can have impressive results. We are developing standards for effectively using social media, which remind me of developing standards for email ten years ago, and voicemail etiquette ten years before that.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I have seen back-to-back projects with a great team, in the same area, get opposite results. Several times. I was involved.
I never noticed anyone working less hard, or the window of opportunity changing, or even bad luck.
What I noticed was that in each case, the initial solution idea was either right or wrong.
A wrong idea makes success much, much harder. The principle reason to keep playing with a wrong idea is to try to stumble upon a right idea. If you didn’t get it the first time why would you get it the second time?
I think there is a process to increase your chances of getting the right start.
First of all, there is a concept of work. When I was an industrial plumber I was told to show up with work shoes, a belt, a pocket notebook, a pencil and a knife to sharpen the pencil. I was amazed how many guys couldn’t do that for a week. I favor the classic Architecture, Design, Execution, Evaluation process unless someone is really attached to some other model.
Then there is a way of thinking. Merlin Mann says, “Innovation is starting where the last guy stopped.” I am a big proponent of finding and using contiguous processes that we have used before. I haven’t ever seen a new theory successfully applied by teams the first time they use it.
Frame the problem differently. Very often when a customer has a problem he can’t solve, the problem is not stupid customer syndrome, it is we are defining the problem in an unsolvable way. Taking the time to define the problem differently often means you can get the desired result without inventing anti-gravity. And not having to rent that anti-gravity box saves a lot of money.
My friend Bill Van Dyke says, “Most golf games are won before the first tee.” Unfortunately too many golfers arrive late and hung over and lose right there.
Do you spend enough time getting the right start?
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I attended a class for comics and the most valuable thing I learned was that when entering someone else’s performance, the correct thing to say before launching is
That phrase has since worked really well for me in many different types of meetings.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Users who have mastered social networks expect a customized, more useful information environment. Here are some ideas.
If you make your own environment you are either satisfied with it or you improve it. Complaining about support may no longer be a core job skill.
Ernestine, Lily Tomlin’s telephone operator, was at one time THE high tech job. Direct dial ( a newer technology) was her downfall.
Help desk work has been moved to socioeconomically disadvantaged companies, lower cost countries, and automated tools. Help desk is also focused largely on the Microsoft universe. I have some experience with Microsoft, and they seem to be part of a paradigm of highly compensated blue collar staff positioned between the people doing the work and their computers.
Disembodied “IT staffs” who don’t have an interest in the mission of the organization often don’t do a good job and seldom know what the problems are and why they hurt the users so much.
At my gym the electronics on the machines don’t get fixed unless the users explain the problem because the maintenance staff doesn’t exercise, and doesn’t seem to understand why a broken headphone jack should be replaced.
I was talking with the CIO of a Web 2 Healthcare company. He kept referring to his staff as “druids.” I told him that was more accurate than he knew, because not only were the druids wizards, knowing things common people didn’t know, they were also the group responsible for deposing the king when his time was over.
Having just sold an open source company, I have seen that open source development is much faster (because you start building from an existing proven piece of software) and accurate (because as the customer gets a better idea of what they want, they can get it. Users often make the changes themselves) than traditional development. I always felt that freezing the architecture to move to design while necessary, was often done before the customer really knew what they wanted.
Stewart Brand, of the Whole Earth Catalog, has a series on BBC TV about how buildings age, and shows one architect who is still learning from a house 25 years after he built it.
So what happens to all those people who now reset your passwords? What will they do?
Many of them have an aptitude for technical problem solving. Demand for people who can create something new or improve something is always good.
Think about journalism. Journalism is exploding. There are now more working journalists than ever before. Dead tree newspapers and television networks are failing...to new uses of journalism.
Are you concerned about amateurish mistakes and outrageous fraud? Remember Sturgeon’s Law, “90% of everything is crud,” and go find the wonderful.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
“So why are you looking for your keys under this streetlight?”
“I can see better here.”
I heard that story about selling several times recently.
Yesterday I was talking with a strategy consultant who said a small company was going to sell to government agencies by going through integrators who held program contracts.
I asked him why an integrator would sell his customer’s offering. He said there was a legal requirement. I said there were a lot of solutions for that requirement, and the least expensive was ignoring the requirement. I knew it had been ignored for over a decade.
Years ago I was with another small company. One of the salesmen prided himself on getting us on “the best teams.” That meant that we had to participate in a lot of proposals. It also meant we got very little work from this effort, usually not even a task order. Management was thinking about legal force, since “we were on the team!” That never went anywhere.
I was privileged to bring a unique solution to a global integrator. However, that was not apparent to them at the beginning. I broke in by bringing them a project they badly wanted that I had won. The salesmen loved it. Their management was furious.
As we learned to work together, on two consecutive years my guy working civilian agencies was the top salesman on the globe the first year. The next year the DoD rep had the honor. For me, that was like winning the Superbowl two years in a row.
From them I learned that they had eight account reps in the federal space. Seven were totally focused on getting in to agencies. They never made a sale. The eighth was in charge of integrator relationships. He would get an inbound phone call, go over and make all the sales.
The company had come up with this organization when they realized that without penetration to the end customer, there was no demand for their product. Salesmen wanted to spend time with the integrators. That was where the sales came from. But the sales were usually created by the agencies.
I have seen similar in commercial sales. Someone represents that they have a “connection,” and want to get paid to use it. Months and years are lost by rookie sales teams that fall for that. Sales managers are trying to “recruit rolodexes.” Two problems with that. One, who still uses a paper rolodex? Second, people hold jobs for short periods of time. You want to be able to see the person holding the position, not the person who formerly held the position.
One time my boss wanted me to go to a networking party with my sales peers. I asked him, “Why, will there be any buyers there?”
Tom Peters said, “Networking is helping someone,” and I have given and been given referrals that resulted in sales. However, even though they are harder to get, the majority of my time is figuring out how to get the focus of the end users. Once I get their interest, it is much easier to work back to funds, end user permits, budgeting, agent networks, and whatever else their culture requires.
Build your machine to interest real customers.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Life has been giving me anecdotal evidence these are not accurate models. If you give enough presentations, you eventually have several where the buyer’s first question is, “How much is this going to cost?”
Here are two answers from the straight line school:
“I would be happy to answer that question, after I learn a little about your situation…” Not good.
“I have to ask my spouse, er manager.” Worse.
How about, “A quarter of a million dollars.” Buyer’s response, “OK. Can I get it in red?”
A few months ago I read that seller-enforced regulations are designed to control the buyer…and that in an internet world, buyers are not interested in being controlled.
Have you ever seen a door in a retail store that said, “Employees Only”? Perhaps you were looking for something that was out of stock on the shelves and that door was to the storage area.
Can you imagine seeing something like that on Amazon.com?
A model is a simplified way to define a complex process. What would a new sales model look like?
I started thinking it is a circle as some sales presentations circle as a buyer develops their knowledge.
Then I realized the salesperson has a flat out question-answering model. That’s scary, because that means it is the quality of your answers that keeps the sale developing. But when was that any different?
We just used old models to deemphasize that.
How would you prepare for that model?
I see four areas of preparation, and any order will be selected by the buyer’s interest.
The first area is beginning a conversation. Call it an introduction.
The second is getting the buyer to talk…and listening to what is said. Sometimes that is easy and sometimes it is like breaking rocks. I find making the sale gets easier when the buyer tells me something they didn’t know before our discussion…when as a result of our conversation they have a new understanding of their situation, of what they want.
The third area is knowing when and how to answer the buyer’s questions. We find there are some questions the buyer asks with good intention, which will terminate a transaction if answered incorrectly.
So it is up to the salesperson to recognize the pitfalls and craft the answers to these questions.
The fourth area is the close. However, with all the emotion and misunderstanding traditionally associated with this activity, (Did she buy? No. Ah, you didn’t close) let’s redefine a kinder, gentler close.
How about: “A close occurs when you and the customer agree to do something.”
The purpose of using this sales model is not to manipulate the buyer, but to have a working model of where you are when you are working. It’s a paradigm shift, which I find much closer to reality.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
People buy on emotion and justify with reasons. The primary benefit of a live sales person is to create the emotion that begins the sale. That doesn’t necessarily create an immediate sale, and I had an “aha” moment last year when I had lunches with two of my previous technical partners.
They both said that most of their current business was coming from people we met when we first started our territories many years ago…and that the current sales people weren’t seeing many new people. They were stretching their account administration duties to fill the month, averaging five to eight external meetings.
I make major sales and aim to have 20 meetings a month. First meetings, second meetings, group meetings, abject apologies, project resets, completion celebrations, I don’t care. They are all an opportunity to open more business.
I once had a marketing person ask, “But are they good meetings?”
I asked her, “Have you ever had to create twenty external meetings a month? I’ll take anything!”
“Good meetings” come from our ability to interest others in what we are doing and the total number of attempts. I don’t expect every prospect meeting to generate immediate business, but I have seen them create multimillion dollar projects, referrals to interested prospects, ideas for how to better explain what I am doing, and acquaintances who forward the sale for me when I’m not there.
Then I had one manager who said, “So you’re not interested in closing.” I was stunned. That’s another meeting, and knowing what people want makes it an easy as well as profitable meeting!
It seems to me that salespeople (and managers) who focus on “closing” have a harder life, since the customer defines the close. By focusing on opening, I spend more time doing things that turn into sales.
BTW, I define “closing” thusly: A close occurs each time the customer asks you to do something.
What do you think?
Monday, October 19, 2009
At breakfast he said, "I suppose you want to know how I found you again?"
He is now Director of Development at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and was in a meeting discussing the value of tag lines. He said, "I remembered yours, 'Explosive Growth, Abundant Cash Flow' as the best one I had heard, so I went to the internet to see if it was copyrighted or anything. Low and behold you were all over the Google page. So I sent you that LinkedIn invitation."
I got that tag ten years previously, when I asked Jim Dixon, President of Bay Area Cellular Telephone what was the best thing I was doing for him. I was stunned by his response and never forgot it.
After seeing Joe, I came home and tried Googling "Explosive Growth, Abundant Cash Flow." Works best with the quotation marks, but it really works.
What are you using for a tag line these days?
Friday, October 16, 2009
I had someone get exercised that I was using my gmail email rather than a custom domain. Frankly, I am a rabid GOOG fanbois. It's their engineering and I suspect the future is in open source development and the power of the open source community.
But I knew about the hotmail prejudice from years past and figured if one person still had it, probably more (and maybe most) did, too.
When I see a domain on an email, I usually check it...and want to see something other than a squatter's placeholder. What should I put?
Over ten years ago I built an AOL-hosted website using notepad, laboriously checking content, spelling, code, and links for what became an extensive series of essays and observations. I remember some unreasonable pride when I learned how to code “curly quotes.” I downloaded all kinds of steadily improving html editors, clip art, and at one point had burning flame letters. I had more enthusiasm than taste.
This time I started with Google Apps standard edition, so I have capacity for a website, 50 email addresses and 500 aliases at no cost, all sitting on Google servers. The biggest hurdle is understanding the Apps paradigm, and that was minor, just like switching from Wordstar to Wordperfect, to Word, to Writer.
The manual is fantastic. It's the Google box. I would type in Google Apps and whatever I wanted to do, and get back Google help, Squidoo lenses, blog posts, and generally I had my answer within the first three results.
As always, architecture was 75% of the battle. I decided that this site should bind together all my web real estate, and for the first time provide the handouts from presentations over the years. (I have been admiring how Tom Peters posts his slides, and learning how Web 2.0 is about contributing so we can get more done over the web.)
Slideshare was where I placed documents, handouts and slide shows.
Yeah, I do slides when hobbled by webinar technology.
For background information about me, I could never write (heck, I've never seen) anything as good as the recommendations my friends have written on my LinkedIn site. When I started doing LinkedIn, I had no idea how it was going to turn out, but the recommendations on LinkedIn are where the awesome power of crowdsourcing really hit me.
One nagging detail was that I hate the repetitious emails at custom domains, like firstname.lastname@example.org. I think that's silly. Actually, I wonder who has email@example.com? That would be the height of cool! I figured for brochures and collateral I would put “Dick Davies, firstname.lastname@example.org.” And we were off!
What do you think? Sure would appreciate your comments. Thank you!
Three gems on copyright:
- The US has been extremely productive at the creation of culture. New culture has a relationship with previous culture. The laws don't reflect that.
- That's not a theoretical question. Someone did and the book hasn't sold well. Our audience supports us, we are all part of a community.
- If we can't beat a copycat at our own game, we suck.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Here are five areas that professional resumé writers use to improve development speed and the results job seekers get from resumés. Figuring out the best way to present these five areas creates your best resumé.
Most amateur resumé writers use only two to three parts of this system. Download Handout
What most people include:
- Contact Information - Name, address and telephone. Recruiters find that many resumés have bad contact information. Tip-The telephone number on the resumé should call your answering machine.
- Chronology - Chronology demonstrates you can stick with an assignment.
A second, minor benefit is showing where you developed your skills.
The chronology line is: Dates, Title, Organization
1. Dates - Just use years. Most recent date includes "present" if you write the resumé while you have any connection with your employer (including severance).
2. Title - Since you can only use one title for each chronology entry (I say so), use the best one.
3. Organization - I once consolidated three short positions over an18 month period when I discovered the person had stayed to complete one project which was being passed around three different contractors.
Organize for your advantage.
- Tickets - Pick the degrees, certificates, memberships and personal information that are most likely to interest your reader. Use these to fill up the little space left at the bottom of the only page of your resumé.
- Stories - Spewing facts and capabilities at people makes their eyes glaze. Tell them a story and they will see new applications for your skills. The bad news is that no matter how precise your story, people will not hear what you said. The good news is that they hear what they want to buy. Develop two to three stories that show your best achievements.
- Positioning - Taking a position at the top of the resumé helps the reader identify where you fit. Paragraphs with words like “challenge,” “diversified” and “energetic” don't get it. I consider three perspectives for developing an effective positioning.
2. Skills and Experience-I once built a resumé for an "Orchestra Conductor." At the same time I also built a functional resumé for him that was positioned for Marketing/Fundraising/Public Relations. The Marketing resumé got him the job as an orchestra conductor.
3. Industry experience-There are industries that require experience specific to that particular industry. Industries where you start at the bottom and gain experience, like computer programmers, wildcatters, soldiers and sailors (staying in their field) can use an industry experience positioning.
Sample PositioningsGeneral Management/Corporate Vision
Each of these went on a real resumé. Sometimes I use 2 lines for extra emphasis. (Second lines italicized)
General Management Executive
Hospitality Management Executive
Assistant to a Senior Executive
Information Systems Management
Applied Research-Product/Process Development
Sales/ Marketing Management
Strategy Development & Execution...Team Building...Product Development Direct Sales . . . Sales Management
ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGEMENT / ASSISTANT TO A SENIOR EXECUTIVE
Direct Sales/Training/Administrative Systems
Hardware Programs Networks
Macintosh, IBM PC's, DEC, Nova, Micos , IBM 4330, HP 3000 Novell, TOPS, AppleShare, 3Com
A top telemarketer and award winning programmer ...I use telephones and computers to uncover competitive information, feed reseller networks, and close key accounts better than direct sales forces.
COLLEGE ACE TURNS PROFESSIONAL
Deadline-Proven Writer/Editor Seeks Assignment
A one-page resumé shows you understand what you are selling. Getting the right material on one page is difficult and requires thought. Experienced buyers appreciate the effort.
More than one page indicates your ego may be more important than your message. Or it may indicate a lack of focus. More than one page risks boring or confusing the reader. Don't make your buyers work any harder than you have to!
Times 12 is the best typeface for resumés because just about every computer can display and print it. Use italic or bold, but sparingly. If you need more space, shrink the side, bottom, and finally the top margins before you reduce the type size. As you get older, your arms get shorter, so small type is harder to read.
I dislike words like “resumé”, “objective” “work history”, and “education,” to identify your “resumé”, “objective” “work history”, and “education.”. If the reader can't tell what it is, write it better!
NOTE - “Objective” is what you think you want. What if they want you for something much better?
Using resumésIf you see a great blind employment advertisement that does not name the company, find the three best suspects and go talk to them all. Your chances are better at the two companies that didn't run the ad, because they aren't swamped with 500 resumés they have to read before they can hire someone.
The best cover for a resumé is a thumb and forefinger. Your resumé is just a promotional brochure for your job search. You get your best results using it in person.
If you really want to send a letter, use an opener that creates interest,
- include the story from your resumé that the interviewers like best, and
- ask them to call you.
When you call, don't ask if they got your letter (the only sane response is "no"). Instead tell them you want to meet them, and when they ask why, tell them the story you sent in the letter.
I had one prospect who got my letter ask me if I had been on the Tonight Show. He knew the story, just didn't know why.
We would like to know about your experiences showing what works with resumés. Leave a comment below.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Two and a half years ago, I started giving talks about Web 20. I have spoken about:
- “How To Establish Your Web 2.0 Presence In Two Hours Or Less” to the Association for Information Technology Professionals,
- “Three Discriminators That Allow Companies To Grow To A Billion Dollars In Ten Years” to the Washington DC Harvard Business School Alumni, and
- “What Is The Value Of Technical Communication In A Time Of Blogging?” to the Society for Technical Communication.
For the handout, I wanted a diagram suitable for hanging on the wall, and I am inordinately fond of this one. If you are interested you can get the brochure here.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Twenty years ago I bought a video camera and and small playback television to videotape participants in a sales class. The first time we did it, they learned more watching themselves than they had ever learned through feedback. And there was nothing for the teacher to do, since they were getting better instruction, that they liked and understood, and changing their behavior faster without me. That hurt for a minute.
Ten years ago we were demonstrating a new GUI interface proposed for the federal payroll system. We had a couple of hours and were sharing the time with another competitor, call it a throwdown. Somehow we were selected to go last, and the other team went way over their time. Finally my host realized there was less than 30 minutes left, and asked if we wanted to reschedule? He said his people would have to leave to get their car pools. Getting this meeting had taken 60 days of schedule twisting and another 60 days would be after vendor selection.
I asked my technical partner, “Can you do a two minute demonstration?”
He said, “I can do a drive by.”
And he did.
And they asked him to do another quick demonstration about something else.
And he did another drive by.
And they asked him to do another quick demonstration about something else.
And he did another drive by.
Everyone in the audience missed their car pool that day. We won the business and ever since I have encouraged my teams to stay with two minute demonstrations, and two minute or less answers.
This week, one of my customers invited me to watch their brand new forty minute prerecorded video webinar. I got through the first seven minutes...because they are a customer. By the time my phone rang and I logged off, they were still introducing the cast. Nothing had happened yet.
I remembered that when I was designing my first website a decade ago, I learned about the “tube” theory of organizing your points in one long presentation, and the “chaotic” theory of web design, where you make one point quickly and then give the reader the choice of several links for what they want to see next. That was for paragraphs, but it also works well with videos.
Short videos load faster, are much cheaper to produce, and as a viewer, I appreciate not having to sit through something I don’t want to see before I get to the good stuff.
Watching others, the good stuff is different for everyone. But watching video seems to be more fun that reading for just about everybody.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
For more than 40 years, the Sales Funnel has been the dominant model to chart how a prospect transforms into a customer. Originally a measure of what information had been released to a prospect by a sales person, the Funnel has been tweaked to predict sales volume, timing, required size of initial prospect class, and closing ratios. It is the Swiss army knife of sales management.
Today citizens have other sources of information about you. They can find your customers and competitors without alerting your organization. They are educated elsewhere.
If the Funnel is ending, you would be getting more off-funnel, bluebird, untracked sales. If you are, are your salespeople present when your prospects are learning about you and making their decisions?
What is your next model?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Three problems which the internet largely solves are time, distance, and addressable audience.
Time, because internet communications are both instantaneous and asynchronous.
Asynchronous means every participant in a communication does not have to be present at the same time. I can read an email or watch a video when I want to, which can improve impact of the message.
Another assault on time is that through hyperlinks we can provide a complete education, as quickly as the user wants it. No longer are we limited by the constraints of other appointments, energy, and availability. I don’t teach, people learn. My job is to make their learning as easy as possible. Hyperlinks allow user-based, custom learning.
Distance is solved because the internet allows us to interact with people anywhere. FedEx has built a business extending the illusion of “close” created by the internet browser.
Addressable audience means that for the first time, we have the technical capability to communicate with almost anyone, more easily than ever before.
Even though these three problems are largely solved, people are still building communication plans making these three problems the foundations of their work. Why? Perhaps they don’t know what comes after solving those problems.
What comes next is earning “focus.”
Just because you can contact everyone, everywhere, immediately, does not mean you are making a difference. To make a difference requires getting your partner’s focus. That is the next challenge of using the internet.
We have to earn the focus of the audience.
From push to pull.
From broadcast to conversation.
This weekend, I saw an advertisement on The Food Network. It was 30 seconds of “How To Make Mango Salsa.” I put my book down and watched attentively…because I was interested. I go to Baja Fresh for their mango salsa. I wanted to see how it was made. At the end I learned that the ad was sponsored by Garnier. I was appreciative of their commercial and resolved to look at Garnier the next time I needed shampoo.
Now I already knew what Garnier made. Sarah Jessica Parker from “Sex in the City” explained that last year. I had a low level cultural awareness, but no focus. Now I had focus.
Earlier this year I worked with a team from a global software company to figure out how they could take advantage of open source. They wanted to define their “open source business model.” They are not an open source software company, and have no plans in that direction, but their customers are interested in open source.
We realized that these customers build applications and utilities that work on our platform. And that these programs might be useful for other customers. And that the people who wrote those programs would be flattered to get some recognition from outside their company for the excellence of their work. Creating more utility for our platform could build customer loyalty, and might be useful for attracting new customers.
We saw the opportunity to create a space on the internet where our customers could share their custom programs.
Featuring our customers, the creators, gives them a place to see themselves featured on the internet, and shows newcomers that we are a tribe of heroes.
Instead of spending our time begging for appointments, negotiating for sales, we can also use the internet to spend time making our customers famous, honoring their achievements, and making everyone we touch feel better about being part of our tribe.
Creating focus is different from hammering the traditional “qualify, present, and close.” That is better done on the internet, at the customer’s pace. Our primary job is increasing their understanding the benefit we offer. Which starts by catching their focus.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Take everything that could go wrong with a live software demo, crank it up a notch and turn it into performance art for "GRRF: The Last Lecture"
How come my former SE asked if I had been watching him recently?
After I read this for the third time, I realized they missed one important point - never mentioned PowerPoint, TheDestroyer!
This is fun!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The sales funnel has been a foundation of sales practice since before WWII. Whole sales organizations based their activities on this model…because the funnel accurately explained the buying process.
What if the sales funnel no longer mattered?
How could you tell?
What would be a more productive model?
How would you change your selling activities?
Would you manage differently?
What if the sales funnel no longer mattered?
Disintermediation – def: Removing the middleman or intermediary. The internet is changing whole industries. Why not the sales profession?
Through the internet, all prospects are now instantly available. Instead of painstakingly identifying and contacting enough prospects, we can easily contact more prospects than we can ever service. We need to get their focus.
Originally the sales funnel was used to control information flow to the prospect, making sure they got the correct information in the right order. Prospects put up with salesmen because they were the gateway to key resources to learn about the product.
Later, the funnel was crimped to reveal how many touches were needed to interest how many people to generate how many sales, to smooth out vagaries in the demand curve, to cover for organizational mistakes, to predict post sales service revenue, and it goes on and on. The more uses the funnel was assigned, the less accurate it became, but it was easier than creating a more accurate model.
I had one sales manager tell me that the funnel couldn’t forecast individual transactions, but it did give him an estimate of monthly volume.
Today every prospect has a host of internet-enabled ways to learn about your offering. Do you really think your prospects, customers, and investors are not talking to each other on the internet?
How could you tell?
One clear indicator would be an increase of “bluebird” or out-of-funnel sales.
Selling enterprise software and IT services over the last 15 years, I realized that the top tier salesmen are frequently short circuiting the funnel, and that doesn’t count the one hit wonders who intercept a phone call and think they have created a sale.
The salesman has no incentive to admit a sale came from outside the funnel. He is paid to complete transactions.
What would be a more productive model?
Seth Godin pointed out that “prospect” is a term created by a sales organization to mark who they want to sell. Since the “prospects” often don’t know or care about their special status, Seth suggests using the term “citizen.”
How do citizens educate themselves about what you sell? Do you know? Do you participate in, add to, or help guide the conversation?
Tom Peters wrote that “Networking is helping someone.” Are you using “helping” to create beneficial relationships?
“Territories” are a way to keep customers organized…and barriers to purchasing. Before I gave a speech last week, I notified 20,000 people in two hours, using internet and face-to-face communication where I thought the audience might be found. They all didn’t attend, but it was the biggest event my sponsor ever had. I wasn’t selecting “prospects,” I was using demonstrated interest in my subject, industry, geography, and any other affiliation I could imagine.
Some “tips groups” won’t have two members from competing organizations. What about competing to see who has the best offer or the best features for the buyer? I started a $60 million dollar sale by speaking to a tips group. I didn’t even charge them for the speech!
Today all prospects are instantly available. What matters is getting the interest of enough people to support a business. You need fewer customers if you can have more volume from those customers. Of course, if you don’t satisfy your customers, because of the internet the whole world will know.
I read recently that some doctors and lawyers are trying to enforce contracts that you can’t discuss their service with others. Why would they try to choke their most valuable marketing channel?
If the funnel is over, how would you change your selling activities?
Rather than following a “Qualify, Present, and Close” for a limited number of prospects, I am dealing in multiples, telling a different part of the story at each time.
I am depending on my customers and stakeholders to share telling the story, and I am working with them and rewarding them to improve their story.
I am working hard to know where my customers congregate, where prospects congregate, and how I can put them together.
I am working hard to make sure that anyone who is dissatisfied or has an idea for improvement is publicly recognized.
What would you manage differently?
The last to suspect seem to be the sales managers. And the managers of managers. They have all mastered talking about the funnel. They insist that funnel must still be out there, otherwise they will have to learn new skills. So they continue using a tool that has less and less to do with their actual performance.
For the first time in history, there are many companies that are growing to a billion dollars in less than ten years, and as near as I can tell, they have all abandoned the funnel.
They are selling products and services and experiences, and replacing the funnel with a more accurate model of the customer acquisition process has been their key to success in story after story.
What is the state of the sales funnel in your practice?
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Kent Hammer, CEO of HammerConsulting.net, a hot sales improvement outfit, asked for a short (3 paragraph) piece on how Sales Professionals can best use Web 2.0 without having it consuming all their waking hours for the current issue of “The Hammer Letter.”
LinkedIn (free version) is your personal website. Trick it out with photo, customized URL, and any websites and collateral you want prospects to know. Break the default “resume” format to something that is interesting for your prospects (They really don’t want to start with your “title and company.” They want what you can do for them!) Change the “what are you up to?” box every week so all your links get a weekly email that shows what you are doing for others.
The number of links are your power. When I saw that the real father of the Internet, Vint Cerf, has over 500 links, it was time to take action! The purpose of links is not showing off. They are very useful. Here’s an example: Recently, when the CEO of a federal contractor wanted to team with a software company that does neither online nor federal, he was repeatedly told the company had no interest. It took me three minutes to find the person in the company with the LinkedIn page that said “New Markets, New Products” and put the company in play. Our contact was a friend of a friend I had never met, but he was thrilled to get on our team.
Groups - For outbound credibility, I join groups that interest me and make a point of either starting or commenting on two discussions a week. I offer something useful to others and am amazed at the stream of people who check me out and identify themselves as wanting to buy something. This post is an example.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Too much email pollution?
Is telephone tag an expensive part of your schedule?
Would you be interested in an inexpensive way to increase the time and attention available for educating prospects about your services?
Since the 1970's I have been designing and producing events to teach groups of people new skills and information. I use events because they:
- are inexpensive, and
- satisfy the participants.
This is about designing short shows that sell for you.
The First Step Is Setting A Date.
Second, Create A Great Title.
The title creates interest, so I spend half my development time playing with titles.
Some say that a negative is the strongest title, i.e. "How to stop getting caught making stupid mistakes!"
I like positive uplifting titles. For positive titles, the first criteria is the "WIIFM Test" for What's In It For Me? When prospects see a clear benefit from the title, they are more likely to attend…and are already considering your offer.
I also make claims about the value of the event. The audience creates the value of the performance. Coaching them on what to expect improves their response.
Creating the Audience
Many people would now spend time developing the presentation, which is exactly the wrong thing to do!
Your primary concern should be creating the audience! We can create the presentation in forty minutes, the day before the event.
Who are your best clients? Determine why they are your best clients and then identify other groups that have similar attributes.
Who do you already know? Ask them to fill the audience, by attending and bringing others. Provide tools to help them.
What could you offer your co-sponsors for helping? Access to people in the audience, the same thing you want!
I invite my clients to events to give them another opportunity to buy. Perhaps I haven't learned what other things they want and they haven't learned all I do.
How many people do you want in your audience? I always figure maximum occupancy, standing room only, sardine packed. More than that and I take everyone to a larger room, a corridor or outside. Encourage the audience to decide they are attending a popular event!
How To Market Your Event
My best channel for producing an audience is direct contact-Walking up to someone and asking them to attend. I print and distribute invitations. I also ask others to use the invitations to bring the audience.
I send out letters every month, which brings in some attendance, but chiefly creates an ongoing communication with the companies I am prospecting.
Finally, there are excellent free media opportunities. Find them and use them. Direct mail and advertising typically produce less than 10% of my audience.
Designing Your Event
This is for selling, not showing how smart you are.
- Make a list of twenty most-asked questions about your subject.
- Prioritize the questions.
- Define one or two physical exercises for your audience for every hour you will be working with them. People learn more when their learning is tied to physical activity.
- Create value-packed handouts.
I talk for less than 18 minutes setting up the exercises, each person in the room gets to talk for about five minutes. People in the audience buy from each other which makes me the “expert.”
Finally, finish on time. That is more important than finishing your presentation. Your prospects need to know that you keep your promises.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
A Sense Of History
Bought his first subscription to Fortune when he was 7, now owns every issue ever published. Keeps them for reference. If you want new ideas about an industry go back to the 30s and see what was written about that industry in Fortune magazine.
Next fell in love with retail, He started out as a retail analyst for May department stores, and is familiar with DC as the place where May’s Hecht’s was always trying to overtake Woodward & Lothrop. Well that took care of itself.
Wanted to start his own business, interested in big box stores. In the ’50s, Charlie Lazarus started the first big box store in Adams Morgan, called Toys R Us. Toys R Us has gone through its lifecycle and isn’t so much now, but back then it was precedent breaking.
Just before he started, after seven years of research, he went to a book convention to see what was coming in big box bookstores. Got into the presentation about ‘The Future of Bookselling,” and waited for an hour. They never mentioned big box stores.
After selling the books store, set up the Business Reference company, which became
His speech was on “Requirements for Entrepreneurship.”
1. Curiosity – Entrepreneurs are always asking questions, which other people think are often inappropriate. “Nothing has ever been discovered in the same place as everyone else was looking.”
Technology (def) - Any better way of doing things.
What are you curious about?
The biggest change in the last 50 years was women entering the workforce. Most went to work at banks, which continued to be open , Monday thru Friday, not when the customers were available. People shop nights, weekends and lunch hours. The banks, who hired the women, missed that.
Market researchers are always lagging behind the customers.
Next big themes are the aging of
What would Roland H. Macy do if he were alive today?
He feels that Lou Gerstner was closer to Tom Watson, Senior than how IBM insiders remembered Watson. He said the most important thing was to serve the customer, not wear a blue suit.
3. Geography - Understanding where you are in space and time, can be your most important advantage. What is the difference between an IT consulting firm in
When starting a company, ask what it should look like in 10 to 20 years. To do that, you have to establish what it looked like 10 and 20 years ago.
50 years ago, ads in Fortune always said where the HQ was. “Coca Cola of
Sam Walton said, “In a store, adjacencies are more important than price.”
Vern Harnish of gazelles.com asks, “Do you have a map on the wall of your office?”
Michael Dell knows a lot about
Four requirements for Vision:
1. Clear words, sentences and paragraphs that mean something. Business executives and college professors can’t do this. Need a third grade vision. Best one he ever heard was a national retail chain of hat stores, Hats, Inc. Their vision? “Sell Hats, Have Fun.”
2. Commitment - Great companies do one or two things incredibly well over time. Acquisitions aren’t the way to heaven. Be really focused on what you are doing.
In the 50’s, American car manufacturers decided to get into sports cars. They came up with two, the Corvette and the Thunderbird. The Corvette was always a red 2 seat V-8. Now I am sure they have consulting studies to get into four door, SUV add-ons. But they stayed true to a red, 2 door, V-8.
In contrast Ford took the Thunderbird and moved it to four doors killed the brand, let it lie for a couple of years, brought it back, then killed it again. Today you can’t buy a new Thunderbird.
It was not what the Thunderbird lost, it was what Ford gave away by not being true to their concept. By the way, in the ’50s Thunderbirds outsold Corvettes three to one.
Ford has bought Volvo and is doing the same thing. In the
3. Serving – Saying “we exist to make a profit” is like saying we drive a car to get good gas mileage. You drive a car to get somewhere, good gas mileage is a secondary consideration. Being measured is not why enterprises exist.
When Wal-Mart started, Sears was the king of smart retailing, knowing the most about their customers, selling the highest quality, investing in suppliers, getting the right real estate for the lowest price, having the best merchandise. How did Wal-Mart surpass them?
Turns out they didn’t. Sears took their eye off their customers and started acquiring financial service companies and other services, while Wal-Mart was fanatical about supplying what the customers wanted The bottom line is “all power is in the hands of the customer.”
When someone approached Sam Walton about investing in IT systems, he would ask, “How does that help the person in line check out faster? How does that help us keep adequate stock in each store?” Anything you buy has to directly serve the customer.
4. Unique – You have to be unique.
Steve Jobs is the master of the unique. When they brought him back to save Apple, all computers were beige. He said, “Make ours pink,” and sales took off. The next time he had to save the company, he invented the i-pod.
For the future,
Large firms don’t understand differentiation. To be everything to everybody doesn’t work.
When you understand how you are differentiated, it drives the business, how you define your offer, your work environment, treat your customers and employees.
5. Passion - a successful business has to be built by people who love what they’re doing. You make fortunes doing what you love.
Question (from audience) “What is the role of quality?”
Answer - Yes, we lost it and got it back. In the sixties to nineties how could General Motors have 40 years of idiot CEOs, accountants as CEOs, accountants who didn’t love the product?
Question – I have a problem being government where I have to serve everyone
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Over the Labor Day Weekend, I had a chance to slow down and think about my relationship with the phrase, “Thank You.”
As a rug rat, I remember learning both the term and where to apply it from my parents. Then there was an extended period where “thank you” was possibly weak and immature, so it was certainly not used with my peers. I think that period was called “adolescence” and perhaps was extended.
More recently, as I have to get things done, I have been shown some big examples of the wonderful power of “Thank You.”
I think I started with some idea that people should have to do something worthy to rate a thank you. Then one day I thanked someone by mistake and was astonished by the result. They really thought they had done something good, and proceeded to change their behavior to keep being extraordinary!
I was amazed.
Then I observed that most of the time I could be bothered to thank someone, they immediately thought I had observed superior performance, and even if it was momentarily confusing to them, they started doing everything they could better.
I had discovered something important.
Next I learned that people I was thanking would often tell me what they were thinking about how we could improve some aspect of our relationship. This was good stuff that made immediate sense, and I was grateful to learn it.
Customers and employers thought I was gifted.
There have been a number of customer CEO's (more than five) who said something like, “I wish I had the relationship with my people that you do. Can you tell me how to do that?”
Now we're talking a pantry of ego food.
I remember going to a ten a.m. Saturday morning meeting with the owner of a company in Herndon, VA. He was all excited that we were having this private meeting when nobody else was in the building (his requirement), where I was going to tell him the secret of my success.
I said I thought the trick was I was thanking his people when they helped me.
He said, “Well, I can't do that.”
I was back in my car at ten after ten having wasted a perfectly good golf day.
More recently, in this ugly economy, I have been holding together some unintentionally volunteer projects. At least they were volunteer until they either paid off or were shut down. And I have noticed people can get prickly when they find themselves in an unintentionally volunteer project for too long.
Several times I have seen how “Thank You” kept people in play until we can create a successful resolution.
The other day I read a study that people don't quit companies. They quit bosses. Of course, I immediately thought, “They quit bosses who don't say, 'Thank you.'”
So I think “Thank You” is more than a social lubricant, although that is important.
Thank you is also a potent motivator that causes people to find the best in themselves and deliver time, after time, after time.
About three years ago, I started ending my emails with the phrase, “Thank You” after a sales manager objected to my using Dave Garroway's closing from the early Today Show, “Peace,” to members of the Department of Defense. The warriors liked it, he didn't.
Since then I realize that I truly am thankful for the recipients putting up with my errors, typos, wrong headed thinking, and interruptions. I am really thankful for the results that come from using this instantaneous, asynchronous, communication channel.
Yeah, “Thank You” works, but it also reminds me of all that I have to be thankful for working with many gifted people.
Of course, if you want my real appreciation, comment below on what you have observed about the power of “Thank You.” Let's build out this meme.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Have you ever known a manager who agrees to a one-year plan on January 15th…and by March 1st knows that there is no way the goals can be made?
Perhaps that manager is the person your spouse married?
Yet picking a goal and achieving the goal are two different tasks. Both are necessary, but they have little in common with each other. Today we are examining how to improve our chances of achieving the goal, no matter how hard it looks.
How many hours do you work in an average week?
How many decisions are you asked to make in a typical day?
Are you really smart enough to make decisions for others?
How many prime thinking hours do you have in a typical day?
If you spend all your time telling people how to do simple things, your successor will have to do the hard things.
Yet, your subordinates may want you to do their thinking for them. If you haven’t defined the parameters for successful decisions, they will want you tell them what actions to take. Your focus and their focus becomes concentrating on activities instead of concentrating on results.
I say that you can teach your subordinates to make their own decisions on the basis of some broad guidelines. Developing the guidelines is the true work of top management.
Which reminds me, it is easier to tell someone how to do a job you have previously mastered, than to develop your current job.
Dale Carnegie tells us that if we can’t get a week’s worth of work done in 40 hours, we won’t get it done. I have seen this enough to believe it is true. I have also observed that a senior manager who has to manage more than thirty hours a week does not have the time to make his or her organization successful. We need to build time for thinking and time for dealing with unforeseen circumstances.
If you have trouble with the thought of managing less than thirty hours a week, let me ask this question. How do you measure the contribution of people in your organization?
If you are measuring time in the office, or the color of a tie, or where cars are parked, you are missing the opportunity to build a high performance organization.
If your subordinates can trap you into telling them how to do their jobs, they can be pretty sure you won’t have the time to change the focus of what they are doing or make them accountable for their results. You see, every time you change your orders to them, all previous orders and expectations are set aside. The game is not to succeed, but to get the orders changed before being evaluated.
Let’s change that.
Edwards Deming, the management scientist General MacArthur took to Japan at the end of World War II, said that if you spend time examining failure, you will learn a lot about failure, not necessarily anything about success.
Opportunities often occur when we recognize patterns that have previously generated successful results. Yet unless our internal business communication is about what has been learned about success, other people in the organization fail to recognize opportunities.
The opposite is easy to prove. If we communicate what works in our businesses, other employees will recognize similar situations and take advantage of them.
Phrases to Practice
Here are three speaking conventions that high performance managers can use to get the most out of their people.
“Good Job!” is not a measured response evaluating performance. “Good Job!” is a preliminary response to some excited news. It is an automatic response to make the conversation proceed and replaces comments like “I should have told you our plans have changed”, or “I already know that.”
“Good Job, and you will have to do some more work on it” will create better, faster, more motivated work than if you leave the “Good Job” out.
If you plan to manage people by their results, they need some basic information about the company. When they can make their decisions confident that those decisions reflect the company mission, I have seen the number of decisions required by top management decrease by 80%, with increased efficiency to customers, lower receivables and diminished error rates.
The mission statement is a basic tool that describes where the company would be in six months to a year if everything went right. The vision should be bold enough to create interest, is based on vision more than facts, and should closely reflect top management’s aspirations.
The mission statement is spoken and written as if it were already achieved, and in a certain sense that is true. Once everyone speaks the mission statement as a part of the company, it gets measurably closer every day.
What is your mission statement?
The Story or Parable
The third key technique for managing to get results is the use of the parable. This is how you define the patterns for everyone to recognize.
The parable is always true, often the story about how you dealt with a previous client. When Peter Falk as Columbo tells a story about his wife, he makes a point without accusing any of the people in the room.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie tells us that people always misinterpret parables, and that they always misinterpret them to mean what they want to happen.
If diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell and making them look forward to the trip, I suspect that parables are a major part of diplomacy.
The PSR Format
The PSR Format is a template for a story that allows people to understand more than just facts. They get context and the details provide the “hooks” that allow them to apply the stories to similar situations.
Problem (2 sentences) Establishes magnitude/importance
Solution (2 sentences) The listener will translate your specific actions into general capabilities. This is why a parable works. Use the word "I."
Result (1 sentence) Dessert or punchline. What was teh benefit, not to you, but to your previous customer?
After each PSR, qualify the listener’s interest by asking a question.
The whole process takes 45 to 90 seconds
Lyndon Johnson and Will Rogers were famous for their ability to use parables to make their points without threatening their listeners.
All requests to obtain a result, from “pretty please?” to “MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY!!” are negotiating styles.
The trick is to develop a negotiating style that suits your purpose. Negotiating strategies are based on previous negotiations and current needs. If you are going to change your negotiating style, I suggest you give more than ample warning, or subordinates who have come to love watching you grovel may miss the whole negotiation.
Usually the biggest change is that we are going to focus on defining results, not activities. Hopefully at the start of this article we established the futility of trying to think for your employees.
Restrict yourself to defining what results you need by what time. You can also define some milestones that will have to be met, but don’t pick delivery dates at this time. Also, consider a pre-delivery date to give you sufficient time to become familiar with the project before you turn it over to your customer.
The formality of writing your request on a single piece of paper may help you make a better presentation, and certainly leaves a record for everyone else.
At this point you can take the project to the person who will be doing the work. Tell them why the project is important, and what (if any) related part you will be doing.
You will get one of three responses.
If they reject your proposal, take the job to someone else. If you think you will be rejected on a crucial project, try to have someone reject a simpler project and be replaced first. Word gets around. If you are rejected, don’t take revenge. You may have just eliminated a disaster before you got hurt.
If they offer to negotiate your proposal, find out what they are willing to do. Until you are satisfied that what they are proposing will be successful, keep defining the results you want … let them propose the actions. When they accept your proposal, set interim milestones and dates where they will report back to you.
From the point where they accept, the project is out of your hands. You can then start defining the next one.
A Better Management Style
As you get experience with this type of management style (putting the time in defining the project instead of later taking back authority to recover from inadequate planning) you will pre-define a higher percentage of the issues that need to be discussed before starting a project. This means that your subordinates will work for longer periods of time without your supervision … that the amount of rework will be less … and that everyone in your organization will develop a better ability to plan, execute, and live with their commitments.
When you suddenly find that the whole organization is working well without you, don’t panic. This is the way the organization should work. Rather than getting underfoot on someone else’s project, you might draw up a list of the toughest problems facing your company and go tackle them one at a time.
I have also noticed that when this management style gets underway, your subordinates will come to you for advice instead of avoiding your criticism. To maintain that type of rewarding relationship keep using “Good Job”, your Mission Statement, and your Parables.
Poor meeting technology causes more wasted time, bad interpersonal relationships and drama than soap operas. If you find that your meetings consistently generate more heat than light, consider using a more effective meeting program.
I recommend a 4-part meeting we originally designed for sales meetings. Over the last five years I have used the format for negotiating joint ventures, putting a research facility on a profitable basis, and increasing the efficiency of several boards of directors.
The first phase of the meeting is to have everyone introduce themselves and identify the goal they want from the meeting. This doesn’t guarantee that their goals will be achieved. However, I find that people achieve more goals when they define them.
Go around the room letting everyone use this introduction;
WHY ARE YOU EXCELLENT? (Mission Statement)
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL FOR THIS MEETING?
This may take a couple of meetings to get everyone to figure out what they see of themselves that is excellent, but the phrase provides excellent thinking for constructive negotiation.
“Goal for this meeting” decreases the number of observers and game players in the meeting. Sometime you can ask the people at one of your meetings what value they expect from the meeting. Sometimes the answers are enough to close the meeting.
The second time around the table answers the twin questions “What did you promise, and what did you produce since the last meeting?”
No one promised anything? That’s a good indication of the value of the last meeting!
The purpose of “Promised & Produced” is to make everyone attending the previous meeting keep a record of their own commitments. This isn’t a competition or an opportunity for judgment. Instead, it is an ongoing process where each person improves their ability to forecast results and execute on schedule. This ability improves over time if encouraged.
We don’t want to hear excuses for what hasn’t happened. Nor do we need editorial comment from third parties. If you choose to manage by pointing out failure, you fall back in the trap of monitoring activity instead of results. Let each individual learn to set and monitor their own work. You provide the forum for them to practice.
The third time around the table the question is, “What did you learn since the last meeting?”
This is the logical time for excuses, but excuses lose most of their attraction after the results are public. Excuses are made to keep the results from becoming public or to modify the criticism generated by the results.
Actually, few people learned anything since the last meeting. Learning is a conscious activity. But if you force people to make up something that they learned, and tell it as a story, then they start to learn what they did between meetings. This may be the only time when the attendees get time to think about the significance of their actions. This is a potent teaching tool, as everyone in the meeting has the opportunity to learn from each PSR.
“What did you learn” can take up 45 minutes of a one hour meeting. Also during this time, people can make requests for help (not to be answered, yet), and you can introduce new projects or information.
The fourth time around the table, the question is “What will you accomplish by the next meeting?” This is when the requests are answered by promises to take action. By putting a time-out between request and response, we are giving each respondent time to figure out what can be done and give an answer that can be accomplished.
The first response comes from the meeting leader who verifies the time and date of the next meeting. Each attendee gets to write the meeting time and date in their personal calendar.
After the format for the meeting is been established and mastered by the group, the meeting leader can and should change so everyone gets a chance to run the meeting, which will improve communication skills and confidence for each member of the team.
I have run this same meeting at organizations every week for over a decade, and the only thing that changed was the quantity and accuracy of the promises as participants got better at planning and using their time.
This meeting format should be used for no more than an hour, saving the last 5 to 10 minutes for making promises. If the meeting is not completed in 60 minutes, it is more important to quit on time than to finish the meeting.
I have worked with 50 in a group, but that requires extraordinary discipline. I suggest 20 in a group. Those 20 usually need noticeably less supervision during the following week. This means management spends less time managing, refereeing, or finding fault and more time defining areas to make contributions.
Managers who master time demands, pattern recognition, communication, negotiation style, and meeting formats often find they have time for the real opportunities of managing instead of responding to crises. The teams who work this way exceed annual goals, because everyone is making a more effective contribution.
Instead of concentrating on how far behind they are at the start of the year, this group finds a rhythm for doubling performance in a predictable period of time and executing way beyond previous performance.