“Sales Force Efficiency”…not sales force effectiveness

SalesForce Efficiency

Sometimes I like most get caught up in business language rather than the real application. “Sales Force Effectiveness” is that ambiguous business language that quite frankly has very little real application. Isn’t sales force effectiveness just a sexier way of saying “Sales Force Efficiency”? With all the tools that fall under the SFE umbrella (e.g. salesforce, SAP, Netsuite etc), the question becomes do these resources truly deliver an effective sales rep? My answer to that is NO. These tools are efficiencies that support specific behaviors but they do not in themselves help the sales rep to be effective…sales training, coaching, development, leadership do. This post is not meant to bash CRM and all the other components that bolster its reputation; I do concede this sales technology resource provides value. My argument is making the distinction between “Efficiency” and “Effectiveness”, I think our sales forces today need to think and behave more efficient…leave effectiveness to effective COACHING. I’ve led sales teams both domestically and internationally and I can tell you the biggest challenge I faced was minimizing the “non-controllable” my sales teams faced, and having them focused more on the “controllable”. Coaching effectiveness for me was easy because I was coached well (which is key), keeping salespeople focused on the efficiencies of their role…well let’s just say that was a work in progress. Having the various CRM resources at my disposal certainly helped various efficiencies with regards to prospecting, targeting, territory/region management etc, however, I learned very quickly these tools became a “depended” not an independent resource. Like many of you out there that have led sales teams I use to have to put up with the constant barrage of complaints about the data (“I don’t have the correct accounts loaded”, “My profiles are incorrect”, “It’s not recording my call activity”…). I found I spent a great deal of my time dealing with “sales crutches” versus “sales effectiveness”. Call me old school but “sales” comes down to good ole fashion blocking and tackling…create value, sell value, and close value. However, we’ve seen a shift where “sales tools” are being packaged as “sales effectiveness tools” and this is causing the blockage to real sales excellence performance. Sales force effectiveness is a commitment to a roll up the sleeves policy that draws in an intimate sales coaching process between the sales leader and sales person and holds each accountable to the desired sales performance behavior. This is why I’ll always argue that if we continue to ambiguously confuse “Effectiveness” with “Efficiencies” companies will realize “sales crutches” rather than sales results.

Coaching “Sales Efficiency” in 2016

My most important job as a management consultant is trying to identify that “Blue Ocean” space for my clients, that wonderful picturesque landscape that my client’s competitors haven’t discovered. In the sales space there’s this thirst to find the “magic sales tool pill” that will alleviate every company’s efficiency pain…that thirst still hasn’t been quenched. I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about “Business Efficiency” perhaps the below passage from that blog will inspire you to rethink how you’ll coach your sales team in 2016 and create that “Blue Ocean”:

The word “Efficiency” while it has an official definition (“describes the extent to which time, effort or cost is well used for the intended task or purpose”) each of us interpret its use differently thus execute it differently. We’re moving into a time where there’s no advantage to just throwing everything against the wall and hoping something sticks….it’s analogous to throwing money at a problem and thinking that’s the remedy to all of our ails. How we best utilize “human capital”, “finances”, and importantly “TIME” is what’s going to separate the good companies from the great companies (that “Good” to “Great” philosophy). The trick is to become better strategic in your thinking on how you look at your business and ultimately the customer. I have to tell you I have been looking forward to this day where everyone is forced to take another look at how they evaluate performance or for that matter success.  In recent years strategic thinking in the form of “Efficiency” has been literally MIA and with the current global economic conditions that has caused a significant shift in how we look at our personal lives and careers, just about EVERYONE is grasping for ways to do more…..with less. This has positively in some ways created a push to develop different skill sets outside our current competencies. For example, if your entire career has been in a sales capacity you may be of limited value for a company looking to streamline its sales capacity and looking for someone who has both sales & marketing skills thus avoiding hiring two people. Every company I’ve come in contact with and I would guess even those I have not are moving to what’s called in corporate America “Centers of Excellence” which is a fancy way of saying efficiency. I am very familiar with the “Centers of Excellence” philosophy as far back as the early 90’s and its funny how many companies today are just now adopting many of the principles associated with the theory. In my humble opinion business success in 2014 will be predicated on your aptitude at being more efficient through the strategic placement of 3 resources (“Human Capital”, “Finances”, and “TIME”). Sales and Marketing processes such as “customer targeting”, “call planning”, “marketing asset planning”, and “brand management” are going to take extreme efficiency measures going into 2014. I’m predicting companies in 2014 and beyond will be aggressively searching for talent that have competencies in a variety of areas, and maintain a level of efficiency (“Centers of Excellence”). If you are looking for work or additional responsibilities at your company you would be wise to develop additional skill sets so that you’re a part of this “efficiency” type thinking moving into the future.   

I still believe today that being better at efficiency can predict whether or not a company stays in business…or a sales professional keeping their job. Since writing the above passage in 2013 I’ve seen an uptick in companies becoming more thoughtful on how they operate their business more efficiently (not saying due to my advice…but I’ll accept the credit LOL!). For example, auto giant and family owned Toyota has taken operating an efficient business to a new level. Take a peek below to see some examples of how Toyota remains not only the most successful family owned company in the world, but is the definition of “Centers of Excellence”:

Toyota…“We do not just build cars, we build people”

  • Enjoys a market value that’s twice the combined market value of its next five competitors—with only one-sixth as many employees
  • Has never laid off an employee due to economic downturns in its entire corporate history
  • Has learned to treat employees/unions and suppliers as partners, defusing potential labor problems before they ever start
  • Makes a strong and genuine commitment to environmental improvement, in an industry widely known for its stonewalling on the issue
  • Will sometimes compensate an entire class of customers, as they did to all Lexus purchasers in 1996–97, following complaints about tire life; every purchaser got a $500 coupon, whether or not they’d complained

Again, in my humble opinion it’s “Sales Force Efficiency”…not sales force effectiveness

Sales force effectiveness is a commitment to a roll up the sleeves policy that draws in an intimate sales coaching process between the sales leader and sales person and holds each accountable to the desired sales performance behavior.

A.H.

“Sales Force Efficiency”…not sales force effectiveness

 

Thanks!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

Pricing VALUE…is an emotional COST

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Albert Einstein said “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value”. Einstein’s quote places a rather interesting twist on success and if I’m reading between the lines it’s not a positive success twist. Perhaps his implication is that “Success” is and always has been a self-centered journey with very little human advancement. But, as I’m prone to do I could be over analyzing Einstein’s tale…but my hubris tells me I could be spot on (hehe!). Visioning a future where success is not measured by some sort of materialistic advancement metric but on how it delivers VALUE on human life is a future worth paying for. So, the question becomes what truly defines value? Is it the IPhone? Is it Google? Is it Innovation? Could you argue that value is in the eyes of the beholder? Answering yes to all these questions wouldn’t be incorrect…and there lies the beautiful complexity. Like “happiness” we all want it every day of our lives, yet notice I said “we all want it” and not providing it. Providing happiness one can argue is analogous to providing value, yet when we look at value subconsciously we expect the boomerang effect that returns the favor. Businesses everyday preach the value of creating value for their customers with the expectation of a nice monetary return, but is that what value truly represents? As I’ve mentioned there’s a beautiful complexity when it comes to evaluating true value and the reason for that is when placed as a noun or verb its definition can be ambiguous at best. Apple’s IPhone 7 will probably be priced at $599 (just guessing since previous phones were around that price); can you say Apple’s IPhone 7 will have a true value of $599? Who will that value belong to Apple or the customer? Apple will indeed argue that the value is pushed to the customer…as long as there is a demand (hehe!). Now, an APPLE fan could argue that they are receiving value from the IPhone and I wouldn’t attempt to try to win that argument and probably would say congratulations…and under my breath murmur “a valued sucker”. Certainly we all place value on different things that’s what makes us all unique as human beings, and placing a cost on VALUE can be a very emotional experience.

Emotional Cost of Value (Blue Ocean Strategy)

My wife is an APPLE fan…a diehard APPLE fan. It’s clear there’s an emotional tie my wife has with APPLE products so the value is intrinsic and unwavering APPLE like any other business has used value as a way to obtain very healthy monetary returns, but unlike other companies they’ve done a stupendous job tapping into that “emotional happiness” value that I referred to earlier. They’ve used their brand to promote this sense of quality of life that creates a tremendous amount of value, and oh by the way you take clearer pictures on your phone. Its centers of excellence marketing that places a $599 value on emotion. I stress to my clients every day that providing value to your customers is not a Blue Ocean Strategy because everybody is doing it, it’s delivering the emotional cost of value back to the customer that creates a Blue Ocean. Let me repeat: “Delivering the Emotional Cost of Value back to the customer creates distinction” A.H. (yes, I’ve coined it LOL!). Companies like APPLE, Starbucks and IBM have created this environment where there’s an emotional attachment to their products that quite frankly override their exorbitant prices. In the marketing world we call them the specific valued principles that the most successful companies exploit to get you and I hooked on the craziness of waiting in long lines or getting on a year waiting list to obtain their product. For years marketers have used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to help identify customer behaviors but as the consumer have evolved over the years the traits and expected behaviors of the customer is no longer that clear cut. There’s a gumbo soup chocked with different flavors of why today’s consumer make the purchasing decisions they do. However, the one constant is that there is an emotion tied to that decision to spend hard earned dollars on something that will be obsolete the following year. Going back to Einstein’s quote (“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value”), today and tomorrow’s corporation will have to deliver quality, innovation, and emotion to customers just to stay in business. The 3 D’s (Disruption, Differentiation, Diversity) will no longer be the goal, they’ll be the norm. Companies that emulate their customers “Emotion” and not concentrate solely on obtaining it from them will be substantially successful. Value with regards to business will have a different definition in that it will not only be described as a receipt to the customer, it will be regarded as an emotional binding contract between business and consumer. In an article by Smart Insights February 2012 they explained the true power of “Emotional Branding” and why it’s the new value:  

With this much emotion involved in decision making, it’s easy to see how creating an emotional bond with customers makes a direct contribution to building profitability. Emotional branding clearly differentiates companies from their competitors and helps to create deep intrinsic relationships between brands and consumers. Relationships with an emotional dimension are more likely to resist the temptation to defect than comparatively superficial price or convenience-based ones. Creating an emotional bond with customers requires more than good marketing – a company engaged in emotional branding puts the needs of its customers ahead of the product it’s selling. Pepsi, Oil of Olay and Mercedes are a few major brands requiring little introduction. Their appeal ranges from youthfulness to status, but these brands share a deep emotional connection with their customers which translates into unwavering consumer loyalty. Apple is another brand illustrating the effectiveness of emotional branding. Apple almost went under in the 1990’s but amazing brand rejuvenation propelled it to 21st century super-brand status.   Apple has succeeded in giving its product a humanized touch in an ever-evolving technical world. Responding to consumer anxiety about technology’s evolutionary speed, Apple managed to make its customers feel like part of its brand by making it clear the brand understands their needs. When people form an emotional attachment to a brand the strength of that bond is not dissimilar to an attachment to another person. It becomes hard for that person to separate themselves from one brand and begin a new relationship with another. Emotional branding can only be achieved by putting what customers deem most important ahead of everything else. If you can master the skill of establishing a relationship with your customers at this level, you can count them in for the long haul!

To read the rest of the article click on link: http://www.smartinsights.com/online-brand-strategy/emotional-branding-means-customers-stay-loyal-for-the-long-haul/ 

 

My Suggestions on Creating “Emotional Value”

 

  • Create “Creative Transparency”: Identify innovative ways to communicate to your customers a behind the scenes view of your company’s “Vision” in action (e.g. newsletters, blogs, monthly SKYPES, community involvement etc.)
  • “CBO” Impact: Ensure that your entire team follows the basic principles of effective communication with the consumer: Clear, Behavioral, and Obtainable. Your corporate value has to be clear, behavioral and obtainable for the consumer, any misstep in any of these 3 areas will cause ambiguity and indifference.
  •  Identify “Emotional Triggers”: The Budweiser Super Bowl commercials feature a cute puppy, Starbucks features “The Experience”. Identify those consumer emotional triggers that align with your corporate vison/philosophy, these are not catchy phrases or images but emotions that are the foundation of your vision.
  • Create “Touchpoints”: Plan for the right communication frequency balance with consumers. Social Media/Digital Access has caused an overload communication touchpoints with consumers that have had a negative effect. Identify the proper frequency of communication with consumers, offer opt-ins, engagement surveys and other incentives for engagement.
  • Destroy Customer Satisfaction Surveys: Perhaps the most controversial, however, customer surveys have the “Check off box” perception. Consumers don’t complete them after service and companies do not gather honest feedback from them.
  • Create a “Value Action Step Survey”: Consulting Companies like McKinsey & Co often create these case studies where they ask certain SME’s for their opinions, and then follow up with the results of those opinions. Companies can take a page out of McKinsey & Co playbook by offering a survey that’s value based followed by clear action steps of execution. Today’s consumer wants to receive verification that their input has been acknowledged…customer surveys do not accomplish that value need.
  • Reinforce “Thank You”: Goes without saying, a simple and sincere thank you to your customers sometimes goes further than a discount.

Value 2.0

I for one am excited about what the future holds for the word “Value” because I think we’ll no longer see its appeal as something we receive…but something we sincerely provide. Surely, businesses will continue pursuing the quid pro quo that sometimes come with value but the companies that build an emotional valued relationship with their customers will gather their unwavering loyalty. The Value 2.0 model will entail a more disciplined approach on the part of business; everyone from the CEO to janitor will have to demonstrate through communication and importantly their actions on building a personal value connection with their customers. The price of VALUE is a very emotional yet personal cost to the consumer as it should be with business, and the APPLE’s & Starbuck’s of the world have figured out that it’s the “Emotional Value” that creates that beautiful Blue Ocean.

Pricing VALUE…is an emotional COST

 

Thanks!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

 

  

The Business of…improving others

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Whether it’s volunteering, mentoring or helping the small business down the street the next “Value Proposition” for global success is lifting others. It’s no longer just being a stalwart for social responsibility it’s understanding what’s “good for business”, and the most successful and yes devious companies today understand that giving back is bringing in $$$$. Certainly, the argument to this perceived quid pro quo of giving back and expecting a return of some sort has validity but let’s face it charity has become big business. Currently, working as a board chair myself for an upcoming nonprofit I certainly didn’t realize the amount of energy spent on developing a business case to receive funding versus driving our story on helping the community. The nonprofit industry has become the “Red Ocean” of business and each one of us startup nonprofits is trying to identify that “Blue Ocean”. The competitive landscape of improving the lives of others has taken on a new tenor, which is ironic because you don’t normally equate “competition”, “business”, and “value proposition” in the same breath as the “Salvation Army”. We’re moving into the time of year where giving back takes center stage, during this holiday season check out the number of nonprofit organizations seen on TV or present at your local grocery store. Retailers are looking for another shopping bonanza this holiday season…the nonprofits are looking for the bleeding hearts to empty their wallets. The line between the “profit industry” & “nonprofit industry” is becoming increasingly blurred with regards to how it handles its business. Both industries need capital to exist and how the two obtain capital…well, you may find there’s not much difference. I often say to others who ask me about my association with nonprofits that I’ve never worked harder in trying to drive business. It truly is a battle each and every day. I’ve been in corporate America for close to 30 years primarily in the sales & marketing space where the focus is to increase profits, since participating in the nonprofit sector where fundraising is KING I can humbly say fundraising is a BEAST.

Pollyanna doesn’t equal $$$

Each and every good cause is so vitally needed in our society. The disadvantaged and down trodden need all of our help and to those of you who feel immune to suffering I can only say to make sure you get your flu shots…because none of us are immune to misfortune. Organizations both profit or nonprofit who give back to the community whether it’s coming from the heart or profit & loss statement still provide a critical service to the community. So, I want to be clear that any activity that improves the quality of life of others has my unwavering support regardless of the possible intention. With that being said there are many organizations on the profit and yes nonprofit side that use the social responsibility flag as a marketing tool. Unfortunately, we’re seeing the growing sentiment of “Corporate Giving” being more of a business transaction rather than a good “Corporate Deed”. This is causing some havoc among the smaller nonprofit organizations that look to fundraising as a means of survival, and many times just providing the nice Pollyanna story…doesn’t equate to donor dollars. Has the giving back industry become jaded? Some are saying it’s getting close. In an article by Small Biz Connect it speaks to the growing cynicism felt by those who normally participate with charitable causes and why the apprehension is growing:

There is much debate and criticism surrounding the concept of corporate social responsibility. Some people believe that the actual responsibility of a business is only to its owners and shareholders. Others believe that a business should be held accountable for all of its actions (past, present and future) that impact the environment and community. One of the common criticisms of corporate social responsibility is that there is a conflict between the purpose of business and the concept of social responsibility. It is argued by many businesspeople and economists that the true purpose of business is to make a profit for the benefit of shareholders. Doing anything outside of this purpose undermines this fundamental business principle. If an organization has a responsibility to its shareholders to make as much profit as possible, how can it justify spending some of those profits on socially responsible projects or making decisions that will negatively affect the bottom line? One of the serious challenges that businesses face when becoming involved in corporate social responsibility is growing consumer cynicism. Consumers now recognize that for many organizations, social responsibility is simply a public relations campaign in disguise. They are skeptical about the true motivation behind corporate social responsibility and are not easily convinced that a business is acting in the best interests of the community and environment. Even businesses that are genuine in their commitment to social responsibility face the challenge of winning over customers. Businesses need to be careful to not be seen boasting about their socially responsible endeavors. Basically, consumers view this as a marketing ploy and often disregard what is being said as you simply trying to drum up good public relations. This is especially apparent when business has made profits from irresponsible behavior of many years and then expects praise from consumers when they suddenly start to make small changes to their practices.

To read the rest of the article click on the link: http://toolkit.smallbiz.nsw.gov.au/part/17/84/364

Wow….

Now, you understand why it’s becoming a blurred line between a profit and nonprofit personality in the eyes of a potential donor. What’s more is that organizations who rely on patron funding are finding the terrain getting tougher and simply providing the touching message is not enough. As I work to help build the nonprofits I’m affiliated with it’s going to be absolutely critical that I keep sincerity, trustworthiness, passion, and message value in mind. The “Giving Industry” is becoming a shark infested Red Ocean…the Blue Ocean strategy will be to sell SINCERITY.

The Business of…improving others

Thank you so much!

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

ADVOCATING YOU…without saying a word!

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“Standing out in a world where everybody is yelling LOOK AT ME

 

My wife asks me the other day “Do I have presence, do I command attention when I walk into a room”? I answered immediately “Absolutely…when you’re with me” and she proceeded to pummel me after the answer (lol!). My honest answer is an unwavering affirmative, my wife does have tremendous presence and it commands attention. I like others use to attribute presence to looks, height, stature etc but after evolving quite frankly as a human being I’ve come to learn that it’s none of those things. I’ve been in the company of very attractive people and I can tell you on those occasions presence didn’t stand out to me as distinguishing factors among them. As a matter of fact in many of those situations the most unassuming person appeared to have more presence. Is it someone’s energy, behavior, air that makes for a favorable presence? The answer to that remains open but there is a “there there” when it comes to “Presence”. Just in the past few months I’ve read a lot of articles that speak to networking at conferences and I came across an article in Harvard Business Review: “How to Make Networking at Conferences Less Icky”  (https://hbr.org/2015/10/how-to-make-networking-at-conferences-feel-less-icky)  below is some of the passage:

“Whether you like attending them or not, conferences offer great opportunities for networking. At conferences, you can extend your network by meeting new people, including potential employers or employees, and you can catch up with and get updates from those you already know. In fact, networking has become a key factor for professional advancement and career success. Whether you’re an extrovert who fits naturally into any situation or someone who has a hard time chatting with new people, networking is a necessary skill if you’re looking to get ahead. But while a lucky few clearly have a natural talent for developing business relationships and reaping the resources that come with them, most people find networking uncomfortable, stressful, and even manipulative. I have studied why people have these feelings and have some suggestions for how to overcome them. In research I conducted with Tiziana Casciaro (of the Rotman School of Management) and Maryam Kouchaki (of Kellogg), we examined how people react to the prospect of personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship andinstrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals. In one experiment, we asked 306 adults to remember a time when they networked. One group was asked to recall a scenario in which their goal was to form one-sided professional contacts  — that is, instrumental networking. People in the other were asked to remember an attempt to form a more natural, personal connection with people in their industry — that is, personal networking. Next, the participants did a word-completion task in which they were given word fragments such W _ _ H, S H _ _ E R, and S _ _ P. These puzzles could be filled in with words related to cleanliness like washshower, or soap. But they could just as easily fit words unrelated to cleanliness such as wishshaker, and step. The participants who’d been asked to recall the situation where they’d engaged in instrumental networking were about twice as likely as those who engaged in personal networking to fill those puzzles in with cleansing-related words. We concluded that instrumental networking, but not personal networking, makes people feel not only anxious or inauthentic but also physically dirty. The metaphorical link between feeling morally and physically pure, or clean, is a powerful one. In previous research, my colleagues and I found that feeling morally tainted increases our desire for cleanliness and find ways to be helpful to others in order to reduce such strong feelings”. 

While there are absolutely some very valid points in the article there are a few things that I differ with that I shared as commentary that you can view by going to HBR, but one of them is this idea that only “extroverts” excel in a networking capacity. True, extroverts are comfortable in an environment that’s interactive and sociable however that doesn’t mean their success rate at getting that deal or partnership is higher than someone who doesn’t have that personality type. Those who deem such environments as icky or unclean as noted in the article I would argue from the very outset probably had a negative disposition regarding going to a particular conference. The article clearly differentiates “Instrumental Networking” versus “Personal Networking” which it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess which networking event the participant is going to find most comfortable. The point here is that “Networking” and all of its ambiguity is designed to meet YOUR objectives, and I understand that sounds selfish and self-serving but in the end regardless of whether you’re an extrovert or introvert the environment you choose to participate in will align to who YOU ARE.

“Extrovert” versus “Introvert”

Can we make a pact? Can we agree that it doesn’t matter if you’re someone that likes to be the center of attention or someone who likes to be behind the scenes…that either personality trumps the other? (Pardon the pun “Trumps”…don’t get me started on him). This whole idea that “Mr/Ms Socialite” thrives in an environment where deals are made and partnerships are formed is just not accurate. I agree 99.9% of the path to success is getting out of bed, but the .01% doesn’t mean you have to be the life of the party to be successful. When I consult with CEOs of small and mid-size companies the question always comes up “How do I compete against those with the biggest voice”…another words those that have the most resources to be LOUD. My answer back is “Don’t say a word…show it”. Sometimes the biggest presence between someone who talks too much and someone who doesn’t is the silence between the two. The best salespeople are the ones that you can’t tell are selling you. The trick is “Advocating  YOU…without saying a word”. We often place the titles of “Extrovert” & “Introvert” on individuals but they can also be placed on businesses. For example, you may say that Walmart would be the best illustration of a business that’s an extrovert and let’s say the corner Mom & Pop Store is the introvert. Both offer value in their own way and provide a unique service to a customer segment that enjoys doing business with them; however that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. The popular science is to say “Well Walmart offers so much more at relatively cheap prices so they’re a better store”, and to Walmart’s credit as an extrovert they have loudly driven that value proposition to the point that it’s put a lot of smaller stores out of business. However, while Walmart has amassed a gazillion dollar enterprise there are chinks in the armor that many neighborhood retail outlet stores have been able to successfully exploit. A 2011 article posted in Business News Daily they outlined 10 ways smaller retail stores have been able to fend off the monstrous Walmart:

  1. Target the higher end: Offering higher quality items, something Walmart is equipped to do. “Walmart tries to be all things to all people on the low end,” . “But not everyone wants the lowest quality and the lowest price.”
  2. Create a meaningful online presence: Developing customer email lists, writing blogs and getting involved in social networking are all areas in which small businesses hold an advantage.
  3. Offer specialty items: Small businesses have the opportunity to carry specialty items that Walmart and other big-box retailers can’t because small businesses don’t have to appeal to the general masses. 
  4. Listen to your customers: While Walmart’s iconic greeters are friendly, they can’t really do much more than say hello and point you in the right direction. Small business owners,  have that same opportunity to greet their customers each time they walk in the door — and the opportunity to make changes based on what they are hearing.
  1. Community involvement: Small businesses have the opportunity to make connections in the community by getting involved….personally 
  2. Provide extra services: In addition to selling a product, small businesses have the opportunity to offer their customers additional services, like repairs and installation. Walmart, which doesn’t offer those services, uses a planned obsolescence strategy, selling cheaper products without repair options in the expectation that eventually the consumer will be back to buy another.
  3. Practice top-notch customer service: In a small business every customer can be treated as a VIP. And customers are much more loyal to businesses that make them feel special. 
  4. Change products and vendors: Small businesses can much more easily mix up their product base to consistently meet the changing demands of their customers. If one product isn’t selling small businesses can look for a new vendor or simply change the product, while Walmart has long-term contracts signed with vendors that don’t make it as easy to quickly change things up.
  5. Provide meaningful merchandise: When customers are looking for a special gift… a gift from Walmart doesn’t necessarily ring of love.
  6. Establish convenience: Not everyone wants to spend their time maneuvering their way through Walmart’s cavernous stores. Small businesses give shoppers a place to quickly and easily get in and out with what they want. Mom-and-pop stores can use their small size to their advantage by making it easier for people.

(- See more at: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/879-walmart-small-stores.html#sthash.JAPJiggr.dpuf)

 

“Walk softly and carry a big stick” is a significant quote in that sometimes “Leading by Example” and not being the big personality in the room can get you very far in life. Now that we have many ways to get in each other’s face the backspin to success will be how each of us can leverage that interaction so that it brings “VALUE” on both ends. Being boisterous doesn’t work nor being a recluse, however if you bring value to others in your ACTIONS and not just your words you’ll definitely achieve success “Advocating YOU”…even if you don’t say a word.

ADVOCATING YOU…without saying a word!

Thank you so much!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

Confusing “STRATEGY”…with planning

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The saying “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail” can be true or false depending on the planning process. Have you ever been in a planning meeting (disguised as a “Strategy Meeting”) that was nothing more than a pontificating brain storming session? In other words it was just an assembly of people talking about what they’d like to do…versus agreeing on execution steps. I’ve always asserted that “Strategic Meetings” are where Leadership, Accountability and Execution take center stage; it’s where everyone walks out the room with their individual mission. I laugh to myself sometimes when I remember scheduling strategic meetings with my sales leadership team and feeling this sense of anxiety from them because they knew the meeting would demand accountability. My strategic meetings weren’t about planning; they were about task and execution. It’s my feeling the reason why most people hate meetings is that the meeting is often disguised as a strategy session when in reality it was formed to be a brainstorming pontification of “creative ideas”. I apologize if I’m coming across negative or perturbed, but I think many of you understand my frustration when you expect to receive more actionable results from a strategy session. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with planning and I do not want to misconstrue my temperament in suggesting preparation/planning is a waste of time, I do agree “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail” when it’s NOT costumed as a strategic session. Ian Symmonds of Ian Symmonds & Associates (a comprehensive research, consulting, and thought leadership firm for schools, colleges, and non-profits) nails it perfectly distinguishing “Strategy” & “Planning”:

Confusing Strategy with Planning

We often find that “strategy” and “planning” are referred to as the same activity by clients and colleagues. Perhaps it is because we often refer to “strategic planning” as an activity that most schools and colleges undertake every few years.

The reality is that they are very different exercises.

  • Strategy is making tough choices to inspire a preferred future.
  • Planning is the intentional sequencing of those choices.
  • Strategic Planning is the process of identifying both strategic and writing the plan.

And, leadership is required to pull off all three exercises.

Don’t confuse activity with meaning. Strategy precedes the plan. And, if you write a plan without a cogent strategy, than it is not likely to create a better tomorrow for the organization. The truth is most schools and colleges fail in the area of making the tough decisions to inspire a preferred future. They focus on collaboration, inclusion, and participation of internal stakeholders, but fail to see that the real opportunities available to them are going to take courage. Interestingly, most of the tough choices come from external environments, which is why it is often hard for organizations to act upon them.

Mr. Symmonds hits a point that I’d like to expand on and it’s this idea that activity has meaning (in his words “Don’t confuse activity with meaning”). We see this often in corporate America where an important “strategic meeting” is formed to discuss a critical business decision, and the decision is being S.W.O.T. analyzed, brainstormed, and pontificated on only to be tabled for another meeting to agree on the final answer to the original decision. So, essentially you had a lot of activity that peeled back the onion of the decision…but strategically no one made the call. Earlier in this post I declared there are 3 components required to have an effective strategic meeting: Leadership, Accountability, and Execution. Without “LAE” you have a planning meeting that’s disguised as a strategy meeting that causes a backlash against having meetings.

Strategy is about EXECUTION

Strategy is a self-fulfilling prophecy in my humble opinion. When I ran track in college the coach would tell me to “Vision yourself crossing the finish line 1st”, now an analogy I would never forget. Any and all strategic initiatives should envision the finish line and the accountability steps to get there. Colin Powell (Retired 4-Star General and Former Secretary of State) from his book “Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell” states the “Zeal to Execute…from Strategy”:

“Many leaders focus first and foremost on their organization’s ideas-its goals, vision, mission statement, and so on. And to be fair, this is a large part of what they’re hired and paid to do. Unfortunately, though, many leaders fail to follow through. They consider the implementation of their ideas as a task mostly for other people. (Perhaps some of them think that the sheer power of their ideas will assure success.) Execution of the plan becomes an afterthought. And that is why so many grand plans never make it out of the starting gate.”

What Secretary of State Colin Powell is saying is Execution Matters. A bonafide strategic plan has to have as Mr. Powell puts it a zeal to execute. There’s little sense in even articulating a mission, or laying out a battle plan, unless you are prepared to pursue that mission and fight that battle with complete commitment. In other words, unless you’re unequivocally committed to a path, don’t even go there. While execution is the most important aspect of strategy we cannot forget that there’s an operational component to strategy that has to be in place in order for execution to be successful. While most strategic thinking takes place at the brain trust level of an organization, execution is typically carried out by mid-level management in an operational process. Defining the “carry out” objectives to mid-level managers is the job of senior management. These objectives cannot be ambiguous and unclear otherwise the execution part of the strategy will fail. For example, an objective is a result expected by the end of the sales (or other designated) cycle. At the beginning of that cycle there was a clear and specific (no ambiguity) communication of the result we wanted to occur by the end of the cycle (execution). After a strategy session there should be a clear definition of objectives in the execution phase of the strategy…leaving room for ambiguity or self-interpretation will negatively impact the desired result. The next step in the operational process of the strategy is assigning responsibilities…or as I like to say “the accountability phase”. The slippage of not assigning tasks/responsibilities after each strategy session will lead to project or performance failure, this is one of the main distinguishing factors between “Strategy” & “Planning” because typically planning meetings turn out to be think-tank brainstorming sessions. Senior leaders of an organization should break down the operational objectives into pieces and hand out these objectives in bite size manageable chunks to ensure there’s a realistic outcome for positive performance. You see this often times when execution orders are given after a strategy session in a “20-Page Dictation” and the receiver of this order is left confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated…which results in very little execution.

Successful leaders/businesses understand the difference between “Strategy” & “Planning”, and balance the two superbly. While planning is striving to interpret what the strategy (execution phase) will look like (e.g. crossing that finish line), we should never confuse “activity” for “meaning”. Without Leadership, Accountability, and Execution you do not have a strategy…you in essence have a set of brilliant ideas that will fade before everyone leaves work.

Steps Developing Strategy (Execution)

  • Establish the desired outcome for the strategy. An outcome is something that each colleague will take away from the meeting.
  • State the purpose and desired outcome of the meeting at the top of the agenda. This helps colleagues determine whether they should attend.
  • Structure the content of the strategy session to support its outcomes. Determine the type of process and action desired to achieve the expected result.
  • Avoid the “information only”, “discussion only”, and “decisions made for next meeting” conversations. These wastes of time verbiage should not be included in a strategy session.
  • Ensure there’s accountability for each colleague in attendance at the meeting. Regular process reports after each strategic meeting will help ensure execution goals are met. If deadlines are being missed, ask the person for his/her assessment of why this happening and what will be done to correct the situation.
  • Most importantly, ensure that you are keeping all stakeholders involved post strategy session so that feedback on milestones are consistently tracked. This not only helps keep everyone informed of execution status, it also keeps everyone inspired and focused to achieve a positive outcome/result. 

Confusing “STRATEGY”…with planning

Thank you so much!

Andre’ Harrell
AH2 & Beyond Consulting

Loss of Memory…loss of LIFE

Older-Black-couple-ponder-Alzheimers11

Having witnessed my grandmother being tortured by the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease and my mother serving as caregiver, I can literally say it took a piece of my mind. Between my grandmother not recognizing me and watching my mother drained mentally from the burden of caring for someone who did not recognize her as the daughter, it’s clear a “Loss of Memory” is a loss of life for everyone involved. Dementia is described as an umbrella of symptoms that occur when the brain is affected by certain diseases or conditions. There are literally many different types of dementia although some are far more common than others like Alzheimer’s, Vascular Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, and Fronto-Temporal Dementia. What we see however as those not medically experienced in Dementia is someone not having all of their mental faculties…which is disheartening. Not excluding those who have to care for love ones having dementia, that activity is such a “Loving Burdensome” that many feel there needs to be more attention paid to the caregiver. What makes Dementia and the various forms of it so devastating is that people diagnosed with it can continue to have the disease for the remainder of their lives…a drip drip debilitating devastation. Alzheimer’s disease for example causes changes in brain tissue that lead to direct, negative effects on 3 main areas of brain function:

  • Cognition: one’s overall perception including memory, visual and spatial orientation, and speech
  • Activities of daily living (ADLs): one’s ability to perform everyday tasks, such as dressing, paying bills, driving, and preparing meals.
  • Behavior: how one acts in social situations

Because of the many troubling symptoms of dementia (e.g. Alzheimer’s) it is considered a disease that affects both the individual and their entire family. As I’ve mentioned for the caregiver who has the responsibility of caring for someone with dementia, often times symptoms may go unnoticed because they are mistakenly attributed to “Grandma’s just getting old”…when in fact grandma has a more serious problem than just forgetting her purse at the supermarket. The insidious problem of Dementia is that eventually symptoms if left untreated can progress overtime and have the classic “snowball effect” where mild symptoms can become severe.

Alzheimer’s…we’re still learning

One of the challenges when facing the prognosis that a love one has dementia is distinguishing whether or not someone’s loss of memory is just a normal-aging process or something more serious. While Alzheimer’s for example is associated with aging, not all elderly people develop AD. Many individuals experience changes in their ability to remember new information, as they grow older. This is considered a natural part of the aging process, in fact in almost all individuals a measurable decrease in brain size and neuronal mass begins at about age 60…which may explain this natural loss of memory. Although affecting the ability to remember new information, age-related memory loss will not hamper one from living independently or functioning in social or professional environments. While someone with age-associated memory loss may have temporary lapses, he/she will eventually be able to recall the forgotten information. Yet, someone with Alzheimer’s disease the short-term memory loss is rapid and he/she is likely to forget whole experiences, rather than just certain details. This memory loss, as well as other symptoms of dementia, will eventually affect all areas of one’s daily life. What makes Alzheimer ’s disease so intriguing is that every person diagnosed with the illness can present different symptoms at varying degrees. For example, a person with AD may be in a depressed mood for a short period of time due to the realization that memory loss is beginning to occur or may suffer from a longer lasting depression. Depressed mood usually occurs in the mild to moderate stage of AD. Depression however, is a disorder that lasts a long time and is typically found in the moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. So, you understand why Alzheimer’s is not only debilitating for those unfortunate to be diagnosed with it…dealing with the various presentations of it can lead to nightmarish consequences. The current diagnostic techniques for Alzheimer’s Disease have provided healthcare professionals with an accuracy rate of about 90% which isn’t all that bad, however, there are several common challenges when diagnosing AD in the early stages:

  • The individual and caregiver usually develop compensatory mechanisms to mask Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms (e.g. “Oh, Mom is just getting old…)
  • The healthcare provider (e.g. physician) doesn’t observe the individual and caregiver in the home setting so he/she does not get a true sense of the individual’s capabilities (e.g. caregiver grooms and dresses the individual)
  • The healthcare provider (e.g. physician) does not interact with the individual frequently, and therefore cannot identify the slow progression of the disease.

These 3 examples are not all encompassing, but illustrate common situations that can make diagnosis challenging.

Improving “Quality of Life”

There are a wide range of diagnostic tools and techniques used to detect the presence and help make an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Conversely, there are a smorgasbord of pharmaceuticals that help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with Dementia…but remember there remains no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. So, as it stands the measurement of success for those being treated for their symptoms of Dementia entirely lies in their ability to have some semblance of “quality of life”. As we discussed earlier one of the 3 main brain functions associated with quality of life are the Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s). Success for many individuals with severe cases of dementia is just having the ability to dress themselves, pay bills, or drive a car…each of these can have a profound effect on mental behavior. We also noted that depression often presents itself when dementia is diagnosed, so you can imagine all of this can have a profound impact on one’s quality of life. The most relevant factor to healthcare professionals and caregivers when they assess the success of treatments and the individual’s progression from stage to stage is their ability to do the most mundane things we ALL take for granted. Getting back to the caregiver, quality of life is pursued on both ends from those who have dementia and the love ones responsible for their well-being.  Brief definition: A caregiver is defined as “anyone responsible for the well-being of an individual”. This concept of caregiving is especially relevant to Alzheimer’s Disease since 1 in 10 American adults has a family member with AD who will need a caregiver. The caregiver plays a critical role in the management of dementia because Alzheimer’s Disease is such a unique disorder from most other diseases in that the concept of caregiving has been redefined. Other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or cancer, involve caring for an affected patient to some degree. However the AD caregiver, whether it is a family member or friend, is starkly different. The caregiver will inevitably become completely responsible for all aspects of care and daily living as the condition of the individual with Alzheimer’s Disease declines…so you see the perspective of “quality of life” impacts everyone involved. The AD caregiver is instrumental and vital in all stages of the disease because individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease are typically:

  • In denial so the caregiver must take the initiative in seeking help early in the disease process
  • Not involved in their own treatment process because they may be unaware of forgetful, causing the caregiver to take over the management of treatment
  • Unable to make decisions regarding day-to-day living so the caregiver must manage this part of the life of the patient with AD as well
  • Healthy-looking to those uninvolved, yet incapable of functioning normally
  • Slowly declining over the course of several years, to the point of needing total care

The AD caregiver is involved in the entire process and continues usually until the individual unfortunately passes away. As a result, the caregiver becomes just as important (if not more so) in the trek of improving the quality of life of the love one with Alzheimer’s Disease…while all the while trying to sustain theirs.

 

“Grandma keeps calling me a different name every time I see her.”

“Mom just asked me where dad is…Dad died 12 years ago.”

“Grandpa has trouble dressing himself.”

Loss of Memory…loss of LIFE

 

Thank you so much!

ARTZ PHILADELPHIA: Check out what we’re doing to help those with Dementia! 

Click on link:  http://www.artzphilly.org

“LIKE” our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ARTZPhiladelphia?fref=ts&ref=br_tf  

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

 

Leading through…“YOU’RE NOT MY BOSS”

Closeup of young business man yawning during meeting with colleagues in background

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of LEADERSHIP is leading those who are not accountable to you.

 

Have you ever been placed in a situation where you had the proverbial “dotted-line” responsibility of leading a group of people who just assume you go away and not bother them? Well, I have and it certainly tests your leadership capability…two-fold. A few years ago I had a consulting opportunity where I was pretty much made the general manager of a product that was long in the tooth having been on the market for over a decade, and the company wanted to squeeze as much water out of the rock as they could. I was tasked with rejuvenating and growing any additional dollars I could out of what was really a loss leader. What came with that “attractive” opportunity was a marketing team low on ideas on how to rebuild a brand and extremely protective against any outside influence appearing to have more experience with failed brands. So, in comes this guy (yours truly) a complete stranger full of energy, with plenty of out of the box strategies to work on what most would say is an impossible initiative…with a  marketing team who pretty much shut the door on me. Looking back on the situation I perhaps could have handled my arrival a bit better which I’ll detail later on in providing tactics you should implement when leading those who are not accountable to you. Nonetheless, through trial and a lot of error I managed to receive full cooperation from the marketing team who implemented a “comeback strategy” that APPLE would blush over. In today’s cooperate environment especially those companies with massive infrastructure and multiple reporting channels often times leadership ambiguity is a big problem. I’ve never been a big fan of “Matrix Leadership Systems” however companies like Boeing which I researched for my whitepaper (“Cross Functional Leadership”…leading across the ambiguity aisle: http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/cross-functional-cross-functional-leadership-best2-p-whitepaper) have done a wonderful job implementing one of the best matrix leadership model processes this country has ever seen. But, Boeing is the exception as many companies attempting to copy their model have failed miserably and created a terminal leadership crisis for themselves. In its strictest definition a matrix organization structure is where people have more than one boss; you could simply define a matrix team as a team where individuals on the team report to more than one boss. Again, as you can assume when a leadership platform like a matrix system is not fully organized and mapped out…all h*ll can break lose.  

“Cognitive Dissonance” Leadership

An area where leaders have a false sense of reality when in positions of authority…is thinking they have unconditional “Authority”. We all can agree the “My way or the highway” leadership style no longer works in today’s business environment and I would argue it never worked in yesteryear’s business environment, but there still remains this hubris thinking that because I’m the boss people will fall in line. All the rage these days is how you manage/lead the “Millennial” the population some say will look at you like you’re crazy if you give them direction (LOL!). The current workforce is demanding their leaders earn their leadership badge and if that means insubordination on a smaller scale they’ll test the mettle of today’s leader. “Cognitive Dissonance” is the new indifference when it comes to the behavior of the employee, and in my humble opinion corporate leaders have not made that adjustment to their personal skill set. The Leading of an individual or team of individuals who do not have a direct line of accountability to that leader will not innately make that leader’s priorities theirs…that’s a reality.  It’s not to say that there’s some nefarious purposeful refusal to act in accordance to that leader’s direction, it’s really the ambiguity that causes the cognitive dissonance to occur. There has to be a cogent expectation of how roles within a relationship are going to operate whether it’s a direct or dotted line reporting structure. Such as the case of my personal example above when I was selected to lead a marketing team from a management consulting angle, there wasn’t a clearly defined set of expectations among the parties. Companies often make the disastrous mistake in assuming just because they give someone the title of “LEAD” that everyone should follow lock step, when in reality it’s not that everyone is in disagreement with the arrangement they’re just not certain of the expectations which causes cognitive dissonance. One of my favorite authors on “Coaching”/”Leadership” is Ferdinand F. Fournies (“coaching for improved work performance”- http://www.amazon.com/Coaching-Improved-Performance-Revised-Edition/dp/0071352937), Mr. Fournies outlines the critical importance of providing expectations when leading through “Cognitive Dissonance”:

DOES EMPLOYEE KNOW WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE DONE?

One of the most prevalent responses managers give to the question, “Why don’t employees do what they are supposed to do?” was “They don’t know what they are supposed to do”. There are four parts to this not knowing problem. Employees may not know what specifically they are supposed to do or when to begin it or when to end it or importantly what they are doing it for. Has an employee ever done a job for you that turned out to be less that what you expected, and when you described how much more work had to be completed, his/her response was, “Oh, I didn’t know that’s what you wanted…I’ll be glad to do that”. Too frequently, employees are given direction but the only one who can recognize when an expectation is completed is the boss. The result is that employees keep bringing what they believe to be a completed expectation to the boss and are repeatedly told, “No, that’s not what I wanted.” Keep in mind I’m not talking about those ridiculous but common situations where the boss clearly identifies to the employee what the proper expectation looks like, but when the expectation is completed, the boss decides something else should be done rather than what was previously agreed upon. This happens quite frequently when there’s ambiguity and improper communication with regards to the manager’s expectation.

The responsibility of leading those who aren’t directly accountable to your “authority” is tough enough, not clearly defining the roles, and expectations makes it impossible.

From my experiences and those I’ve had the pleasure to be mentored by, below are steps you can take to properly engage and lead those who may think to themselves…”You’re Not The Boss Of Me”:

  • Show Empathy: Right out the gate develop a “We’re all in this together, success depends on all hands on deck” philosophy. Credibility is not gained…unless there’s mutual trust.
  • Demonstrate Competency: Telling someone you’re “Smart” is not going to cut it. Do your homework, make sure you have a thorough understanding of what needs to get done and importantly know the “Landscape”.
  • Create Value: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Creating mutual value between yourself and team creates a positive “WIIFM” (What is in it for me”) environment that empowers and breeds accountability toward completing the desired goal.
  • Forge A Partnership: Develop a “Connection Session” strategy which each indirect report. Discuss working relationship, accountability, and importantly “VISION”.
  • Inspire Commitment: “Leading by Example” is the soup of the day. The best way to inspire those not directly reporting to you is to get in the “mud” with them, demonstrating your commitment to their success and the overall team success will definitely inspire.
  • Grow Skills: If there’s an opportunity to “Teach” take it! If people feel like their growing under your direction they’ll wish you were their official boss…rather than an ambiguous one.
  • Shape the Environment: Perhaps the most important is developing and molding an environment based on “TRUST”. The corporate environment is chocked with “snakes” and the immediate cognitive dissonance between a dotted line leader and employee is “Can I Trust You”? If the top bullet points are followed to mastery then shaping the environment of trust should come naturally.

Leading through…“YOU’RE NOT MY BOSS”

 

Thank you so much!

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Baby Faced Leadership”…should never be underestimated

BabyFaced Leader

It can be a blessing and it can be a curse but one thing is clear…a lacking grey haired leader is noticeable. Let’s be honest we all have a predisposed bias for the person at the top of the food chain to have some “Stress Hairs” on the scalp, it can be perceived as a sign of maturity and credibility. I’ll admit I have made interaction choices on whether or not I do business with someone based on the outer appearance…I fully admit and come clean with that admonition. What’s interesting about that subconscious/conscious admittance from me is that it comes from someone who has been possibly passed over because of that same bias, and that I actually look like my LinkedIn profile picture…YOUNG! I am not a spring chicken however those days are gone but proving I belong as a qualified subject matter expert in the subjects of “Leadership” & “Strategy” is often times brutally challenging and I’ve come to the conclusion photoshop can’t help that (lol!). So, I understand the young but gifted entrepreneur or the gray-less executive who can’t quite break the perception that they aren’t ready for prime time based on superficial biases. We’ve long believed that those who look like they’ve gone through as they say “Life” provide the priceless wisdom and educational value and I tend to accept that belief, but based on content…not perception. Some of the wisest advice I’ve received in my career came from those much younger than myself, however, had I not allowed myself to be open to their commentary because of biases towards their age and youthful appearance I would have missed out on personal & professional growth. Last year I had one of those epiphany moments regarding our obsession with how someone looks in relationship to their ability to lead, here’s a caption of post I submitted last year: “Looking Presidential”……is this REALLY important?

I’ve just listened to some folks on a recent internet radio show (internet radio is becoming the NEW medium) argue with each other over What/Who looks “Presidential”….I do wish I could have that 20 minutes back in my life. Now, I’m NOT naive to think there are people out there who place a tall priority on how someone looks regarding their leadership potential, but should that be a defining feature? I’m the first to admit that I believe in being polished and I try myself to project an image of maturity, capability, and competence however I also know that once I open my mouth if the articulation isn’t on point no one will care if I have a “Brooks Brothers” suit on. My issue is that we place way too much emphasis on this superficial observation and not on content/character.  I read a story a while back that talked about how President William Harding was a “Regal” figure and he primarily won the presidency based on his appearance as a tall distinguished looking man that some said just commanded a room whatever “commanding” the room means. Today presidential historians have said President Harding was one of our worst presidents…I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover. I had to take a moment to scribble this quick blog entry and plead with those who read this article by saying sure it’s okay to examine one’s outer exterior as a 1st impression metric but NOT stop there when there’s more critical variables such as integrity, honesty, and importantly “COMPETENCY”!

Thanks for letting me vent!

“Looking Presidential”……is this REALLY important?

 

Content equals Competency

Absolutely, it isn’t fair to make a snap judgement on someone’s ability to lead based on how they look, however it’s up to us “Baby Faced Leaders” to ensure we get our content/competency out there whether it’s in writing or verbally. We’ve all heard the saying “Content is King” and I believe this mantra but it’s up to each one of us to put aside the obsolete traditional ways we look at “appearance leadership”, and focus on what’s coming out of the brain. As I’ve mentioned earlier I’m just as guilty as the next person in placing faith in an individual just because they have greyed temples, and now realizing that I’ve probably missed a lot of opportunities to work with some great people because of that ridiculous bias. Yet, determining whether or not someone succeeding in a leadership role based on outer appearance continues to go on even at the upper echelons of business. A wonderful article was published in Forbes (2009) by Robert W. Livingston “The Baby Faced Black CEO Phenomenon”, below are excerpts from the article:

More than 95% of the leaders of America’s 500 largest companies ranked by revenue are white and male. The dearth of minority representation in upper management has been attributed to a number of causes, including economic disadvantage, which limits access to the educational, cultural and social capital needed for getting up the corporate ladder, and majority groups clinging to social hierarchies that preserve their status, power and privilege, thus locking minorities out of positions of power. I recently conducted a study to find out what we can learn about the relatively few African-Americans who do manage to ascend to positions of senior leadership. Together with Nicholas Pearce, a Kellogg School of Management doctoral student, I asked a total of 127 non-black participants to rate photographs of some black and white chief executive officers from the 500 largest companies. We paired 10 black male CEOs with 10 white male CEOs who served before or after them at the same corporations. In addition, we included 10 white female CEOs paired with a random set of 10 white male CEOs. The participants were asked to rate all 40 CEOs on their appearance of interpersonal warmth and what we called “babyfaceness.” We allowed some of the participants to rate the photographs on a 1 to 4 scale based on their own subjective perception of what a baby face was. We gave others specific scientific definitions and a training session on what a baby face was before they did their ratings of each face on a 1 to 4 scale. The results were the same for both groups. Babyfaceness? It was our hypothesis that black leaders who are so successful must possess not only impeccable credentials, proven competence and tireless diligence, but also what we call “disarming mechanisms”–physical, psychological or behavioral traits that lessen perceptions of threat, fear, envy or resentment. Disarming mechanisms send a message: I am not a danger to you. I am not a barbarian breaching the gates of Rome. Disarming mechanisms come in many forms, but we specifically examined whether the physical trait of babyfaceness is related to the success of black male leaders. Babyfaced adults are sometimes perceived as being weak and incompetent. Indeed, research has found that babyfaceness is a liability for white males seeking high positions of leadership. However, we hypothesized that a babyface would benefit black leaders, by increasing warmth and tolerance toward them and reducing negative emotions whites sometimes have about blacks. Research has shown that there is no difference in the average babyfaceness of blacks and whites in general, but our results, forthcoming in Psychological Science, indicate that black male chief executives are significantly more babyfaced than white male chief executives. Also, our respondents judged black CEOs to appear warmer than white CEOs, even though they rated blacks as a group as less warm than whites. Furthermore, the more babyfaced a black CEO was, the more likely he was to lead a more prestigious corporation and earn a higher salary than a less babyfaced black CEO.

In an interesting twist Mr. Livingston points out that in some circumstances the “Baby Faced Leader” can have its benefits in the case of some African American Males…and not so much with white males. However, because it’s perceived as less threatening and disarming from an African American Male perspective I still believe it’s a negative for gentlemen that look like me. I respect Mr. Livington’s attempt to put a positive spin on the “Baby Faced Leader” however there still belies this notion that a very youthful appearance gives off a weak and sometimes incompetent perception (paraphrasing Mr. Livingston).

Look, for all of you “baby faced only a mother could love” leaders out there cherish your youthful appearance because it will eventually dissipate and you’ll be perceived as the “over the hill hack”. While there will be those that overlook you because of superficial biases remember this…when they learn that you are not only youthful in appearance but youthful innovatively, creatively, and strategically…they will regret they did not give you a second LOOK.

“Baby Faced Leadership”…should never be underestimated

Thank you so much!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

 

“CHANGE MANAGEMENT”…is dinosaur thinking

DINOSAUR THINKING

They say the two guarantees in life are death and taxes…and some will say it’s the taxes that cause the death. I’d like to make a 3rd appendage to that short list and argue that fighting “Change” can be deathly taxing to you. Change is guaranteed and quite frankly there’s absolutely nothing you and I can do about it, it’s the uncontrollable that many of us try to control with poor results. Every single one of us has kicked and screamed like children when asked to change our behavior towards something we’ve grown accustomed to doing. Notice I said “asked to change”; in many cases what makes change difficult to accept is that often times its thrust upon us without notice. There’s been a dearth of books, lectures, seminars etc on “Change”/“Change Management”, and I’m here to say “Change Management” in its current definition is a dinosaur. One of my favorite subject matter expert papers is McKinsey & Company partly because I participate on their online executive panel (hehe!) and because their research on leadership/strategy is world-class. McKinsey & Company recently (July 2015) released a paper on “Changing Change Management” that explains why the “Digital Age” is altering how we react and implement change in today’s global business. Because we’re moving into the so-called “Digital Age” which in itself is causing some to have “Metathesiophobia” (Fear of Change), McKinsey & Company are selling the fact that embracing the digital paradigm can surely address the outdated thinking of “Change Management” (McKinsey & Company Report):

Change management as it is traditionally applied is outdated. We know, for example, that 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. We also know that when people are truly invested in change it is 30 percent more likely to stick. While companies have been obsessing about how to use digital to improve their customer-facing businesses, the application of digital tools to promote and accelerate internal change has received far less scrutiny. However, applying new digital tools can make change more meaningful—and durable—both for the individuals who are experiencing it and for those who are implementing it. The advent of digital change tools comes at just the right time. Organizations today must simultaneously deliver rapid results and sustainable growth in an increasingly competitive environment. They are being forced to adapt and change to an unprecedented degree: leaders have to make decisions more quickly; managers have to react more rapidly to opportunities and threats; employees on the front line have to be more flexible and collaborative. Mastering the art of changing quickly is now a critical competitive advantage. For many organizations, a five-year strategic plan—or even a three-year one—is a thing of the past. Organizations that once enjoyed the luxury of time to test and roll out new initiatives must now do so in a compressed period while competing with tens or hundreds of existing (and often incomplete) initiatives. In this dynamic and fast-paced environment, competitive advantage will accrue to companies with the ability to set new priorities and implement new processes quicker than their rivals.

While McKinsey & Company believe digital apparatuses of today and tomorrow will improve corporate efficiencies and operations it still leaves the rhetorical question will we as human beings grow to embrace change…or will we continue to kick and scream “H*LL NO”. 

Leading “Behavioral Modification”

I go back to the 2nd & 3rd sentences in the McKinsey & Company passage above that explains the real reason why “Change Management” has never really had a stellar record: “We know, for example, that 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. We also know that when people are truly invested in change it is 30 percent more likely to stick”. “Change Management” is nothing more than behavioral modification packaged in a “corporatocracy” nonsensical complex way. The key to successfully implementing any type of organizational change requires leadership not necessarily just from the top but throughout the organization. “Change” takes a comprehendible “Vision” that provides “VALUE” to everyone most impacted by the change. One of the major issues that occur when change is implemented is the absence of accountability leadership which leads to the ambiguity and rejection of the change. Being on the forefront of change takes a great deal of courage, which explains why many leaders choose to take a passive role in its implementation fearing that their butt is on the line if the execution of the change initiative fails. Leading “behavioral modification” sounds like a psychology course in college but in reality it is exactly what’s required in order to successfully influence change. It isn’t really “The Process” of change that’s difficult…it’s getting buy-in from those impacted and quite frankly critical to the success of the change implementation. “Behavioral Modification” doesn’t take place by a “Like it or Leave it” demand because its success totally depends on the execution and that lies totally on those being asked to change behavior. I’ve done a great deal of research on “Organizational Change”/”Change Management” and I have yet to find a better evaluation on leading change than “Managing By Influence” by authors Kenneth and Linda Schatz who examine THE CHANGE TRIANGLE – 3 Techniques To Bring About Exceptional Change:

Technique #1: “In the Past”

Adding the phrase “in the past” to your thoughts and conversations focuses on assumption that the future can be different. Thinking “in the past” raises the question, “How do I want the future to be?” It may also bring to the surface your underlying feeling that, in the situation you’re addressing, nothing can change – that’s just the way things are. You will never consider a new potential for the future when your thought process unconsciously screens out the possibility for change. This very feeling is the block to action and it resides in your own mind, not in the situation. You can adopt a more useful point of view: that you can influence the future once you know the part you’ve played in the past. If you’re leading change use the statement “in the past” as you speak to people or overhear people making statements that tell you they don’t see a new potential.

Technique #2: “Step Out of Character”

Now we see the need to “step out of character” – to go beyond your usual mind-set and image of yourself to produce behavior that exceeds what was previously possible. Stepping out of character is major change, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Use “step out of character” to recognize that the past does not need to extend into the future, and to not limit yourself to demanding a linear step into the future. Shoot for a breakthrough step that goes beyond the old character of the situation, and find a new way to act, not just new actions within the old way…but seek a new context or framework. To enhance your own leadership, using more of the born leader already in you, you need only step out of character and find a new possibility in yourself. One of Vince Lombardi’s (Hall of Fame Football Coach/Legend) strengths was his ability to see more in his players that even they saw in themselves. He took nothing as given; he focused on the ability in people to exceed their behavior of the past.

Technique #3: “For the Good of the Company”

In business situations, when interfacing with customers you are cooperative and cordial because that behavior is required by the organization. In your personal life you may not have treated that customer in that same manner, the point is your behavior on “company time” is conducive to company standards but importantly those behaviors are implemented “for the good of the company”. Companies that truly care about their employees will be rewarded with positive “behavior” and acceptance to do what’s good for the company. As a leader using “for the good of the company” as a way of influencing change, has to be reciprocated by sincere caring/empathy for those impacted by the change. “The good of the company” is the power base of  THE CHANGE TRAINGLE, as it recognizes people’s deep concern of how change effects them and the support they receive from the organization from the change.[1]

As stated earlier, all of us have reacted negatively to change…it’s a natural behavior because it pushes us out of our comfort zone. However, change is as essential in business as it is in life itself. The physicality of life would cease to exist if there were no change, literally one’s body wouldn’t survive if it didn’t have the ability to grow and evolve. This universe is built on change and motion. As a leader, your main responsibility is to lead your people through whatever change is required and while that will take “Behavior Modification” leadership the chore to get buy-in/acceptance of that change sets entirely on you. Yes, it’s a huge responsibility but think of it this way there are now 3 things guaranteed in this life death, taxes, and “Behavioral Modification”…accepting that and you’ll defeat 99.9% of the battle.

“CHANGE MANAGEMENT”…is dinosaur thinking

To read the McKinsey & Company (“Changing Change Management”) paper, click on the below link:

http://www.slideshare.net/aharrell2000/changing-change-managementmckinsey-company-report

 

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

 

[1] MANAGING BY INFLUENCE (Kenneth and Lind Schatz 1986 Purpose, Inc)

 

“Staying The Course”…strategy’s PARANOIA

Staying-the-Course1

 

“Patience is a Virtue”, “Good things happen to those who wait”…beautiful sayings…never followed. Why do we champion such quotes yet we live in a society that rewards victory TOMORROW? Microwave success happens very rarely yet it’s expected as the standard of excellence. The question then becomes how long do we expect to see marked performance, which is a loaded question because it depends on who’s asking and what’s the situation. I’ll admit I’m in the category of wanting to see success in the next 5 minutes, you’re reading a post from someone who expected to get at least 20 clients lined up at the door when the “consulting open” sign posted in the window. Yet, I often tell myself and my clients that success from “Staying the Course” is like fine wine it tastes so much better when time & work has been put in. There is this sense of hurriedness however that you feel every day that comes from the need to either finish or accomplish something, and not doing so feels empty. Each day I have an agenda of things I need to have completed sounds like many of you right? But, often times my “neurosis” starts to kick in and I deviate from the prepared agenda for fear that I’m missing something…staying the course becomes paranoia. Now, I know some of you have already diagnosed my problem as “A.D.D.” and I thought about that but I’m so anal about completing things that that prognosis wouldn’t be possible. No, the problem I have like many of you is this thirst to find something every day that I can mark as a success story….not status quo (or “staying the course”). My conundrum (again, like many of you) is I understand the value of sticking to a plan and working the plan, it’s the environment that yells SPEED IT UP that forces you to push down on the gas pedal. I absolutely understand there are pressures in corporate America having been there myself for close to 30 years the energy to quickly attain a high level of performance oozes through the cubicle panels, but make no mistake that same energy is also present in the entrepreneur world (sometimes even more intense). The discipline to stick with a strategy until absolutely necessary is very rare in today’s business world and those who do so have an amazing record of success. For example, let’s take a look at Coca-Cola who over the years has had to deal with such a competitor landscape that it’s miraculous how they’ve been able to sustain a top presence in the soft drink space.  Selling “Happiness” has been a mantra/strategy of the Coca-Cola brand since its inception (1886-129 years ago), and while the company has gone through many metamorphosis it’s never deviated from “Life Tastes Good”. Everything the company does is inspired around the question; “How do we continue to promote, develop and create happiness?  Coca-Cola in a steadfast way drives the message of happiness across all points of customer contact, from Facebook to the vending machines you see at the mall. Author Jim Stengel captures Coca-Cola’s “Stay the Course” strategy the best: “They never forget why they started and where they came from, which means a lot to consumers”.

The “Trust/Confidence Factor”

To have trust along with confidence with a particular decision is a stalwart leadership behavior in my opinion. Staying the course when things are tumbling around you is probably one of the most difficult decisions anyone can make, and the ability to remain confident and trustful in staying put takes a great deal of courage. One of the things we haven’t talked about up to this point in this post and is the pink elephant in the corner… is PEOPLE. I would say 99.9% of the time most decisions to stay the course involve people; the .1% leftover probably doesn’t matter. The “Trust/Confident Factor” we place in each other to execute an objective takes place every second of the day whether at work or home, our dependence to get things done through others is in our DNA. So, when you think about an important decision that has to be made on whether you dissolve a department due to lackluster sales or staying the course because you have trust/confidence in the people from the department can turn it around…then the “people component” becomes critical.  I’ve had my eye on Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer since she took over the reins in 2012 partly because she has a very interesting story/background, and because very few people wanted her in that role. Whether the fact that Mrs. Mayer is female operating one of the biggest technology search engine companies on the planet, or that she looks like she could model for the “forever 21” store her performance to date has been topsy/turvy. However, what attracts me to her is what I keep reading regarding her stubbornness to stay the course of what made Yahoo the golden child of internet search engine back in the day, and how she’s depended on the people at Yahoo to keep focused on that vision. Below outlines the beginning of Mrs. Mayer’s experience as Yahoo’s Chief Executive and why she’s been able to develop trust/confidence in the people at Yahoo…and solidify that trust/confidence back:

Some of the people in the room were angry — angry about refused promotions and pay raises, angry that their jobs now seemed to entail an endless series of tasks done only because “Marissa said so,” or angry that new employees were coming into the company and making a lot more money. They were angry because, to them, it seemed like Marissa Mayer had said one thing and done another. Most of the gathered Yahoo employees and executives weren’t so mad. They were just confused. They believed Mayer was brilliant, hardworking, and sincerely interested in the welfare of Yahoo, its employees, and its users. They’d decided this after Mayer came to Yahoo from Google in July 2012 and brought with her sweeping changes that reenergized the entire company. Before Mayer joined, Yahoo’s parking lots were empty for the weekend by 4:30 p.m. Thursday. It took years for Yahoo to refresh its products, while competitors took months or just weeks. Yahoo’s apps for Android and iPhone were embarrassing. Within weeks of Mayer’s arrival, the lots were packed and the headquarters was humming till Friday evenings. Within months, Yahoo was launching products at a pace it hadn’t hit in more than a decade. Within a year, Yahoo was winning awards and praise from the press for its product design. By the summer of 2013, tens of thousands of people were applying for Yahoo jobs every quarter. Yahoo finally had a team of hundreds working on apps for smartphones. Now, in November 2013, the many Yahoos who had admired all Mayer’s progress wondered: Why was Mayer throwing away all the goodwill she had earned with a series of policies that were, at best, poorly rolled out and badly explained to employees or, at worst, plain mistakes. They wondered, more seriously than at any time since she joined, if Mayer was actually up for the job of saving Yahoo. One of Mayer’s first moves after joining Yahoo was to institute a weekly Friday afternoon meeting of all Yahoo employees, called FYI. The point of the meetings was to bring “radical transparency” to a company where, for many years, employees had to learn about what management was up to by reading the press — mostly reports from a journalist named Kara Swisher. FYI meetings would begin with a confidentiality reminder. Mayer would announce new hires and work anniversaries. Then she would go over Yahoo’s “wins of the week.” Mayer or another executive would go into “deep dives,” giving presentations on topics like why Yahoo had acquired a certain company or how a new Yahoo product worked. At the end of the meeting, Mayer would take questions from Yahoo employees and either answer them herself or ask one of her direct reports to squirm in the spotlight.

Marissa Mayer as the full article states arrived at Yahoo like a superhero full of confidence and trust in her ability to rejuvenate what was back then a tumbling brand. Even through a series of mistakes some on her and Yahoo’s history she’s been able to gain trust/confidence from her new team and conversely has grown to have that same faith in them.

To read more on Marissa Mayer: http://www.businessinsider.com/marissa-mayer-yahoo-nicholas-carlson-book-excerpt-2014-12#ixzz3gYKzSQSm

In this “Microwave World” staying the course is becoming a dying strategy and that quite frankly is too bad considering the reality that “Success” doesn’t happen overnight (another cliché that has merit). There’s a reason why the word investing exists and why those who invest for the long term understand that “Staying the Course”…can be a very lucrative trip!

“Staying The Course”…strategy’s PARANOIA

Thank you so much!

Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting