November 22, 2013
Each one of us is part of a network of relationships, where we serve as a resource for each other. We protect, promote and inform each other. We advise, connect and encourage each other. It's a support base that can help you overcome extreme adversity or complete a moonshot project.
We do not inherent these networks, nor do they appear like magic for the chosen few. It's not a legacy or a lottery. We build them, like homes, one brick at a time. Sometimes, if we ignore a network node, his or her support levels wane. When we invest in a relationship with someone in our network, our synergies and mutual support grows.
Ignore or invest. While this reads like a simple choice, where the no-brainer is the latter, we don't act like it. In our face paced go-go life, we often finish our work weeks, ignoring our personal networks unless prodded by mutual opportunities. If we don't plan for it, our chances to make new connections or add value are occasional.
If you want to build up a strong support system and widen your world, carve out a minimum of 4 hours every week for relationship development. Put four one hour blocks on your calendar. During each block you can:
1. Mentor people via phone calls or email. They present themselves to you with questions, problems or requests for help. Do some homework. Send some help. Solve some problems.
2. Make helpful introductions. Connect people that should meet via phone or email. Keep a running list of "should meets" on your phone. Always be building introductions. Accomplish three connections per week.
3. Reconnect with dormant connections. According to Adam Grant in Give Or Take, they will be glad to hear from you and will possess a unique perspective and set of experiences. That's the value of catching up!
4. Give encouragement or say thanks. Send out thank you cards. Be on the look out for friends in need and deliver encouragement high touch (phone, face to face).
Don't relegate this exercise to your weekends, evenings or free time. It's a real business investment that's right up there with long meetings, hour long status calls and TPS reports. Surely, you can find five wasted hours in your current biz-life that's a weaker investment than your support network!
In just a few months, you'll see a change in your business ecosystem. More opportunities will suddenly appear in your Inbox. Complex problems will be solved with just a few phone calls, instead of countless hours. You'll eventually realize that investing in your network is a way to save time, and extend your horizons.Tweet
November 15, 2013
Fear is often cast as a bad thing, never to be fed or encouraged. But that is an oversimplification. Fear comes in many flavors, driven by its source. Some sources are healthy, some are illusionary and others are destructive. That’s right, some fears are quite healthy for your sense of balance.
Fear is the acknowledgement of a formidable threat and substantial stakes. If you don’t really think it can hurt you, you aren’t afraid. If it doesn’t matter, you can sluff it off as a casual concern. If you lack ANY fear, in many situations, you aren’t dealing with reality or you are overconfident. By recognizing the constructive fears, you’ll find proper direction.
For example, when consultants or journalists asked former Yahoo CEO Tim Koogle ‘what kept him up at night’ in 1999, he would reply, ‘two college kids in an apartment, tapping out code that will disrupt the industry.’ In other words, he feared irrelevance. It was a legitimate fear too, as Google was being hatched on the Stanford campus at that exact time.
On the other hand, I’ve worked for several CEOs that put more of their energy against the fear of failure. They worried that the proposed product might not sell well, giving them a black eye to investors. They worried that shifting to the new technology platform might lead to downtime, alienating legacy customers. Were these fears legit? In all situations, the greatest risk wasn’t a botched release or a short outage in services. It was competitive innovation.
The best way to manage fear in your life is to prioritize them by their legitimacy and urgency. The healthiest fear for a modern day business leader is obsolescence. As Koogle pointed out to me, “for every company that goes down due to a few bad product SKUs or sloppy accounting, there are nineteen that die a sudden death because their customers flee to the new-new thing.”
Takeaway: Your fear of getting lapped in the marketplace should be the one you pay attention to and lose sleep over. If you want to be a modern day innovator, your fear of obsolescence should be greater than your fear of failure.
What do you do with these fears? Face the worst case, and resolve to do better than it. Deploy resources to overcome its source (competitive innovation). Talk about it as a burning platform to your colleagues.
For more, watch this video clip from 2005 where I share Tim Koogle's insights and the Paul Galvin story. "Do not fear mistakes. Wisdom comes from them!"Tweet
November 07, 2013
It's only three weeks until Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Most years, we huddle up with family and friends, and give thanks for the bounties in our life. In too many cases, we are thankful for stuff: home, possessions, luxuries. In some cases, we are thankful for the people in our lives. That's when it has the greatest impact on our psyche.
In Today We Are Rich, I wrote that gratitude is a muscle that we need to exercise often. Otherwise, we get spiritually flabby, lose our gratefulness and nosedive in our relationship lives. This applies to work as much as it does our personal life, too.
So here's a simple exercise you can give your gratitude muscle over the next few weeks: Buy a box of Thank You cards (nice collection here). Create a list of professional connections that have made a real contribution to you or your work over the last year. Write a short note in each card, itemizing what he or she contributed, and what it has meant to you. Send the card so that it arrives the week of Thanksgiving. Your entire investment will run you less than $30, including postage.
Do not take any shortcuts here. Don't send an emails or an electronic cards to save time/money. They don't have nearly the impact as a real card that you've signed with a pen. Don't limit giving the cards to those that report to you or work side-by-side with you. Find people that might be surprised by your gratitude, yet deserve it for their contributions.
This exercise is inpsired by my friend Brian Palmer, who has surprised me on many occasions with a thoughtful Thank You card. When I've told him what a classy move it was, I could sense that he got just as much out of the exercise as I did. And now I know why.
The whole experience will force you to turn up your noticing knob, trying to locate the recipients for the 20 Thank You cards in your box. The act of writing a short note to each person on your list will cause you to recollect the times when he or she was there for you, and it will fill you with positive feelings.
Like any work related gratitude exercise, the experience will also drive something deep into your perspective: You are not alone. There are people in your life that are helping you, supporting you and caring about your future. This will bolster your sense of confidence about your future, knowing that you are not in it alone.
You'll also see your mood lifted and your behavior influenced by the process. One taxi driver I met in Denver told me that he was taught to believe that gratitude is a compound word: Gracious + Attitude. He's right too. When you are dialed into what people are doing for you, your ability to bounce back from life's little obstacles will be greatly enhanced.
Check out this video from Soul Pancake, which demonstrates the emotional benefits of expressing gratitude:Tweet
November 05, 2013
More than ever, telephone mastery is the key to success. In my work, the phone is my number one tool to close deals, network, conduct deep research and build relationships. It's a magic medium that allows me to connect deeply without the time-space requirements of face to face meetings.
A phone call is much higher touch than an email exchange. You can hear someone's intentions in their tone of voice, unlike reading one of his or her emails. The interactivity of a phone call allows for adjustments, explanations, retraction and exploration. While this might make common sense, in reality, it's not a common practice in the digital age.
Over the last decade, many of us moved our conversations from the phone to the Inbox, thinking we would be much more efficient and less interruptive. Generation Y doesn't like to make or receive calls, instead preferring a text. The idea of voice exchange to many feels like 1999.
As a result, many of us conduct our phone calls on-the-go, usually over our smart phone. We call people in our car, while we wait on our next flight, when we eat and whenever we can squeeze it in. We likely think that the quality of our work isn't suffering, but in fact, it is.
Our calls are often garbled, as reception varies when we are on the move. We are constantly distracted by traffic, people interacting with us, our computers and anything that crosses our periphery during the call. At best, we are giving 50% of our attention to the call. If you've been on the other end of one of these mobile calls, you know exactly what I mean.
While calls on the go might work for simple transactional work, it's no way to make friends and influence people. Your mobile phone work gives very low ROA (Return On Attention), which will cause you to lose access to them in real-time. And real-time is the new face-time in business.
If you are going to schedule a phone call with someone of any length, consider the following appraoch:
* Schedule calls for no more than 30 minutes. Send information prior to the call, so the entire conversation is about reaching a decision, understanding a situation or charting a plan of action.
* Conduct the call on a landline or via a super dependable connection. If you are Skyping, make sure you have an ethernet connection.
* Conduct the call in a closed door environment with no distracting noises or window scenery.
* Create a written outline for your call so you can begin it with your computer screen OFF. Never do any computer work during the call unless you are looking something up by request or looking at a website for the purpose of the conversation.
* If the call is part of a project or a sale, get permission to record it so you can capture all of its value. Send the audio file out to Rev for inexpensive transcription. You'd be surprised how much gold you'll find in the transcripts. For your conversational partner, it's pretty impressive when they receive an edited transcript from the call. Really values their time (and content) highly! (PS - Rev only charges $1 per recorded minute, no minimum.)
* Send an email after the call, highlighting what was agreed upon and next steps.
The keys then to a great call are preparation, focus and followup. If you adopt this practice, you'll find that your phone is your best weapon to acquire new business, delight customers and gain valuable insights. You'll leave the thumb warrior smart phone crowd in the dust.Tweet
October 31, 2013
Success is not a destination, it's a direction: Forward. However, it's surprisingly easy to end up going sideways in life. Aimlessly moving neither forward nor backward. Passing time, waiting for a sign or a miracle. I've experienced this in my life, and I'm sure at some point you likely have too.
In some cases, a tragedy or adversity sends us spinning like a top. A death in the family, a lost job, foreclosure, divorce, etc. But in most cases, we go sideways because of our thought patterns and not reality. While life is still good to us, we find a way to go negative on the inside, and quickly steer our career into the abyss. Our thoughts shape our way of seeing the world, and design our emotional response system.
How does this happen? We change what we put into our mind. We start to listen to a new program on the way to work. At first, we enjoy the shocking news or crude humor, but then it eventually seeps into our psyche. Or we start to hang out with a mean spirited or pessimistic person at work. He eventually convinces us the sky is falling and that most people are 'out to get you'.
As we are adding these negative inputs, we stop consuming the positive. Our mind is quite binary in that it's hard to enjoy both diets at the same time. The former inoculates us from the latter. If the world is coming to an end and people can't be trusted, how can you be grateful?
At some point, the negative inputs change our focal point, and our work suffers greatly. Our new perspective makes us less appealing to others and less resilient when faced with a challenge. The little failures that follow likely confirm our dour outlook, and we add to the problem by increasing the negative inputs: More bad friends, more bad programming.
Here's the risk: At some point you stop moving sideways, gain traction and then enter the downward spiral. Going backwards into self-destruction. That's when it becomes hard to right the ship. There's not clear threshold either. You won't see the shift into reverse coming.
Here's your way out: Feed Your Mind Good Stuff. Be as judicious about what you put into your head as what you put into your mouth. If you find yourself muttering internally about all the things wrong with your life, this country or the world -- check your sources of information. Scrutinize them for positive-neutral-negative intentions. Rethink your media patters and consider changing out your work friendships.
Once you scrub out the negative inputs in your life, replace them with constructive ones. Spend your first 45 minutes of each morning reading from a book that gives you confidence, inspiration or direction. Find a new colleague at work to lunch or spend time with, and give her as much positive feedback as she gives you. Quickly, you'll find yourself moving forward again, as your thoughts dictate your actions and reactions.
If you know someone who has suddenly jerked his career sideways, and you cannot figure out why, now you know. And it's time for YOU to be the positive inputs in his life.Tweet
October 24, 2013
Last Saturday I was stranded in the Cartagena Colombia airport for almost six hours. I was not alone. Early that morning, the radar system at the Panama City airport went down, causing all flights in and out of it to be delayed. As it's the hub for the entire region, which meant that all travelers in Cartagena would wait in the gate lounge until the situation clears up.
By 3pm, we were all tense, tired and stressed out about our connections. The silence was deafening. Then, something magic happened. Members of the University of Richmond symphony whipped out their instruments, tuned them quickly, and launched into an impromptu concert for us.
Within seconds, the mood at the gate lounge was transformed from misery to ecstasy. At this moment, I realized that music is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It can soothe our soul and make us forget our problems. When they finished, there were smiles all around. People begin to strike up conversations with each other and by 4pm, we got the good news that the Panama City airport was back up and running. Many of us talked about the power of music and vowed to listen to more of it ... especially when we were stressed out during times of travel.
I shot a video of their first song. Note how loud the applause was, and how surprised they were at the positive feedback. VIDEO: THE AIRPORT LOUNGE SYMPHONY.Tweet
October 15, 2013
As I travel around the world to give speeches or to consult, I'm often asked about my experience working for Mark Cuban. While many are curious about what it was like to work for him, some dig deeper, asking for my opinion about his secret to success.
My answer is always the same: He understood how to build powerful customer relationships. Beginning with his first startup (MicroSolutions), he adopted a manta: Make Love, Not War. I've met several of his former clients, and they've all remarked about how responsive he was to their needs, even when they seemed overly demanding. He'd personally visit their office, getting underneath desks if necessary to check wiring. He'd answer emails in the middle of the night without any grousing. It endeared him to customers that usually had to fight to get their value from solution providers.
When I went to work for him at AudioNet (later to become broadcast.com), he repeated this mantra often. He explained that too many companies often go to war with clients that don't easily fit into their value chain. Make money or war was their approach.
In Cuban's view, the secret to customer success was to find out what they liked, then give it to them consistently. He believed that a service provider needs to design their company around the customer's needs and wants. He didn't just talk this game, he lived it daily.
If there was a disagreement about the quality of our service, the customer was right and the invoice was torn up. If a customer felt slighted, he or she was welcome to contact Mark directly to resolve the issue. The culture of his startups was about being tuned into and responsive to the desires of the customer - and not the investors/owners.
That's why he retained customers even though he operated on the bleeding edge of technology, where failure was a commonplace occurance. In this sense, it works just like our personal relationships. If we make love, not war, we are often forgiven for our imperfections. Or as author Steve Farber once told me, "If you are an electrician, and your client loves you, you can burn down their house they they'll say 'accidents happen'!"
For more, read his book: How To Win At The Sport Of Business
October 10, 2013
A few years ago, I discovered a technique for overcoming stage fright. We all likely have to fight through nerves when making presentations, sales pitches or participating in meetings -- especially when the audience is tough or the stakes are high.
I've learned that our performance is a function of our thinking patterns, and in particular, the state of our subconcious mind. If we are confident, we can relax for easy power. If we are afraid, we are either too timid or inappropriately bombastic. Furthermore, the last thoughts we take to the stage ultimately frame our mood and outlook.
So what are your last thoughts before it's go-time? In this keynote excerpt, I share my fear-busting technique with a group of high performing sales people. While it seems like a simple plan, it requires one's imagination and determination to rise above the situation. Can you do this?
Reload A Success Experience For Total Confidence by Tim Sanders
October 08, 2013
It's that time of year for professional speakers, when we live out of suitcases and travel non-stop on the fall lecture circuit. A few weeks ago I reached a milestone: Ten flights in a single week. My travels took me to Chicago, Jackson Hole, Phoenix and Colorado Springs. I spent as much time in planes and airports as I did hotels and conference centers.
When I got home on Saturday night, I must admit, I was taxed from the multi-segment week. But I survived. As a seasoned road warrior, I had a plan for my 10 flight week. It worked as well as any plan works for a human going through this much stress and strain.
1. Plan Well So You Can Mosey -- The secret to a wall-to-wall week of travel is to take it easy. If you are constantly rushing around, the stress adds up quickly, and can take your health with it. I plan, double check the plans, and then rehearse them mentally during the weekend leading up to the trip. I leave padding in each segment of the schedule, which results in a little more gate time than I like, but it beats running through the airport. Whenever possible, when I arrive early enough to consider an earlier flight to my next destination, I put myself on the standby list.
2. Sit Towards the Front -- My favorite seat on a plane is the second row (behind the dreaded bulkhead seat) in the section. On American long haul flights, that's 9A (window). I don't get bumped when the plane is loading and I'm one of the first people off the plane. It makes a big difference.
3. Talk To People Sitting Next To You -- Sitting in silence makes flights longer, and the whole traveling experience more unbearable. I usually strike up a pleasant conversation either as we taxi out or better yet, when we are descending to our final destination. In many cases, I've made friends and valuable business contacts.
4. Don't Forget Your Health -- I never pass a water fountain in an airport. I eat oatmeal or simple eggs every morning before I board my first flight. I wash my hands whereever I can find hot water and soap. I program days to ensure 7 hours of sleep (I'll post something later on how I sleep well on the road). If you get run down, sick or dehydrated, the whole travel experience can turn on you quickly. When I get home from a long travel week, I rehab with a massage and plenty of good food and water.
What are your travel secrets for an action packed week? Share them in comments!Tweet
September 27, 2013
Earlier this year, I was sitting around a table of successful entrepreneurs, listening to them talk about lessons learned in startup world. One founder would soon sell his company for almost two hundred million dollars and the person sitting across from him had just successfully raised one hundred million bucks from Silicon Valley VCs. These two cats knew their stuff.
"If you could change anything about how you built your business, what would it be?" the recently funded CEO asked.
"I would have built culture from day one," replied the soon-to-be-swimming in dollars CEO. "Just like Tony did at Zappos, start with culture then layer on a strategy. If you wait until 20 people, it's probably too late. If you wait until 100 people, you'll need to clean house unless you've been very lucky in recruiting people that are naturally tuned into your values." Deep.
Last week, I gave a keynote at Foundercon, an annual leadership event for Tech Stars alumns. (If you haven't read Do More Faster, you should grab it right away.) Along with sharing my perspective from Love Is the Killer App, I talked to them about the critical importance of prioritizing the building of culture. My message was that when culture builds itself, the buildings look like silos - not a collaborative web.
I believe that culture is a conversation about "how we do things here." Most culture is centered on how team members relate to each other as well as the outside world. The leaders initiate the conversation, then punctuate it with action. They don't hire people that don't fit the culture and they reward the ones that do in succession planning. It's all done very publicly, often talked about and frequently marketing at a visual level. (Signs of "Done Is Better Than Perfect" were everywhere at young facebook.)
Whether you are starting a company, church or a team, if you want to lead, be on top of the conversation. The value of culture building lies in Henry Chesbrough's definition of the concept: "A set of values, properly expressed and enforced, that creates a system of social control." If the culture is strong, every team member knows exactly what to do, even when the leaders aren't there to tell them. If the culture is about transparency, information is disclosed when asked for. If it's about putting the customer first, then refunds with no questions asked are given by associates, even before it becomes a codified policy.
Here's the three keys to building culture, even with a small group:
1. Choose a few values that define the purpose of your business. Make sure they are based on helping people or solving their problems. Choose values you can get a teenager and a grand parent excited about. HINT: "Maximizing shareholder returns" is a really lame value statement. Sounds like a corporate conglomorate, which is fine for investors...but they are gone after they write the check...you need talent, partners and fans.
2. Adopt rituals to promote your values, and integrate them into the fabric of your group. Not just signs or placards, you need to plan events or choreograph group behavior around values. If you value collaboration, have a Friday beer bust and be mindful of messaging. If you value customer experience, host an annual gathering of them to open your ears and iterate. Saturn automobile used this ritual to build relationships with customers, and at the same time, to cement their values around creating a wow experience for customers.
3. Use these values to make hiring, budgetary, firing and rewards decision. If you are working at an established company, but fear that you need to re-build culture -- you'll likely need to let a few people go that don't fit. Words may resonate, but actions motivate others to buy-in.
What are your organization's values? How are you driving them into the conversation? Would love to hear about it in comments.Tweet