March 31, 2010
There's a war for talent coming, and the companies that win it will have a social value proposition to offer hi-potential candidates. These companies will have an outstanding quality, social and financial reputation. Their employees would be proud to list them as their employer on a social networking site - even fanning the corporate public page and using the company logo.
In the near future, we'll see a big shortage of high skill talent in a variety of areas from computer sciences to health care to sales management and beyond. The 1999 McKinsey study (The War For Talent) explains why - it's a demographics phenom driven by declining birth rates in Gen X, Y and Millenials.
A follow up study found that the condition was actually escalating. As companies grabble for talent in this new world, the financial comp plan won't be enough to win over the bold and smart. They are young, socially aware and highly networked - all bad things for companies that have a weak reputation or a non-existent mission of value.
Here's a video clip from my keynote speech at MPI's convention in Houston in 2008. I've been booked several times since then to speak to companies about the primacy of employership/social responsibility branding as part of the talent acquisition process.
March 30, 2010
I just had a great conversation with a british author working on a book about love in the boardroom.
Her challenge is similar to the one I faced a decade ago when I wrote Love Is The Killer App. She has to answer the following smart question: What's love got to do with business? It seems fair enough, business after all is about measurable results and love is fuzzy - difficult to define and impossible to weigh.
Her research tells another story. She told me about the days of chivalry, where the "good lords" developed a fondness for their charges, and built highly loyal and effective teams. Later, during the industrial revolution, scale changed all of that. You can't scale the good lords model, argued early industrialists. The whole point of capitalism is to scale something into increasing returns for the owners. Love doesn't scale, but machines and processes do. That's where love was buried in the model of big business.
When I thought about it, that made sense. Show me someone who wants to build a massive business, and I'll show you someone that has a hard time finding a role for love in the model. Of course, there are some pretty big organizations (Southwest Airlines, SAS Institute, Aveda, etc.) where the founders defied convention and much like the good lords, leveraged engagement of their people into profits (via customer delight).
In my experience, when you show business love, you are sharing your intangibles to promote the other's growth. You are sharing knowledge, your network of relationships or your compassion to help others grow, end suffering and prosper. You do it with the belief that nice smart people succeed and most of all people reciprocate. This means you have a high degree of faith in human nature's tendency to give back and love back. This is where it all goes wrong for the modern industrialist. That's a big bet to make, especially on an entity as unpredictable as humans. You can go Six Sigma and have blind faith in an almost perfect assembly line, but you can't put people at the center of the business without a slight fear that chaos is around the corner.
You need to find the faith. The norm of reciprocity is as statistically valid as any manufacturing process ever created. We are a species that reciprocates and gives more to people that truly care about us. Here's the real problem: ego. The modern business leader never wants to be wrong about people, because that would be quite 'personal'. You can make a bad bet on a machine, then blame someone later in the supply chain. Hire someone, groom them for greatness, then have them compete against you in the market? A failure of epic proportions on your part.
Get over it. If you want to test how you will feel about this in your later days, just visit any retirement community and talk to the former bizfolk staying there. Ask them about their managers, reports and vendors. Ask them if they consider them friends, sons, daughters, brothers, etc. To a person, you'll get a twinkle and a tear, as they explain that some of the greatest relationships of their life happened at work. This is why I love my people in the here and now. I'm not so hungry for scale, that I'm willing to turn humans into objects. I'm not afraid of being wrong about people, perfect is the enemy of good.
March 25, 2010
An old friend of mine recently posed a question to me: Where would I be today if the Internet had never been invented? What would my accomplishments be? What kind of life would I be living?
After thinking about it for a minute, I responded, "I'd probably be doing the same thing, in the same place in society and likely enjoying life just as much." He looked puzzled. Then he reminded me of my success first at broadcast.com, then Yahoo, and how that turned my life around and led to my books being published, etc.
But I held my ground. I would have still advocated the power of great relationships, and that would have worked whether I was born in the 60's or the 30's. I was raised to value, nurture and feed relationships by my grandmother, and later in my mid-30's, Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's startup (Audionet) became a platform for me to do this on a grand scale. My claim to fame at that company was producing the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 1999, which crashed the Internet. But it wasn't about technology, and my value proposition to Victoria's Secret wasn't "selling things." It was about creating better relationships by getting customers to sign up for email updates, so the company could have inexpensive two way communications with millions of clients.
Same goes at Yahoo. All the big deals I worked on were designed to foster cheaper, better and faster relationships with clients or business partners. That was also the theme for all three of my books, my current consulting and almost every talk I ever give. Relationships are still more powerful than technology in my view.
Still, his question was provocative, and helped me distill my value proposition and gain more focus in my life. Once I realized that the Internet is only the tail of the dog, I felt very free, knowing that I wasn't lucky or just "in the right place at the right time." Many of you that read this might also operate under the assumption that you'd be lost if the Internet had never come along. You wouldn't be in your current job, have the success you have, etc. It's not true. There's something you are doing (relationships, innovation, efficiency, etc.) that 'works' on the Internet, and would have worked in the real world decades ago. So spend a minute today finding that thing, and you'll gain more focus on what makes you rich, powerful and successful.
March 23, 2010
When a smile isn't reciprocated at work, an opportunity to connect is missed.
Too many leaders have a macho attitude about this, only returning smiles to top producers or key team mates. Otherwise, a smile back is feared as a sign of weakness. This is not true. General Patton once praised Ike's ability to "smile back at the grunts". Do you have this power? It'll do wonders for your company or organization culture. This is part of my people skills area of expertise, elaborated on in my second book, The Likeability Factor.
From my 2006 keynote speech at the Maximum Impact telecast, here's my rant on the value of smiling back: Great Leaders Smile Back (video).
March 19, 2010
Promise made, promise kept. That's a rule for high quality leaders and doers alike.
Today, I received an email from a big time internet producer that started out with the line, "I promised, I'd get back to you by end of the today, so here's my .02:" The email arrived just before 4pm my time. She'd beaten her follow-up promise by an hour. I was impressed.
When I thought about it, this is actually pretty rare in my life. Sure, we promise to deliver a report by end of the day tomorrow, and we do that - because it's a "deliverable". On the other hand, we dish out "I'll get back to you tomorrow on that" like we mindlessly ask people, "how are you doing?"
In our mind, it's a very small promise, not worth writing down or putting in your day scheduler. But really, it's the little promises, so easy to keep, that build our reputation with others that we are dependable, action oriented and on-top-of-it. In my research for the Likeability Factor, I learned that leaders that are great at keeping small promises are the most respected, and considered the most honest.
In this go-go world we live in, we talk to dozens of people a day, and few conversations enjoy a closed loop. There's follow up of some type. When we are making little promises to non-strategic contacts (peers, prospects, potential suppliers, new contacts), they have less weight than the ones we make to our boss or best customer. But remember, that boss or great client was once a prospect or a peer. They decided to take a chance on us because they believed in us. In those situations, we probably had a high promise keeping ratio, especially on follow up.
In his new book MOJO, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith shares how your reputation is built: Others observe your patterns of behavior. So if you want a great reputation, write down EVERY promise you make to follow up and put that ahead of your To-Do list and insert it into your schedule.
You might realize that the list ends up with a dozen promises a day, more than you can manage (and be accountable for). That's a sure sign that you promise too much, just to end meetings or conversations. That's a post for a different time, I promised someone that I'd get back to him before 4pm his time today, and I'm almost late!
This is a concept that's included in my next book, Today We Are Rich. Visit the book page and you can pre-order a copy and receive a free eBook excerpt with an entire principle! You can also visit its facebook page too.
March 18, 2010
Leaders wake up: Promoting competitiveness might backfire on you!
It's very tempting to use competitiveness as a prime motivator to get sales people to increase efforts, suppliers to cut prices or prospects to sign deals. But at what expense?
Think about how you manage people: You need more results than ever from your employees and they seem a little glazed over from the last two years of funky business climate. So you pit one against the other in an ad hoc call out (why can't the rest of you perform like Eric?). You see a little bump in activity, but Eric's now eating alone in the break room. Or you formalize it with a winner-take-all sales contest that acts more like a reality show competition than a team building exercise.
You tell your supplier-partner that your other suppliers have cut their monthly fees by 20%, so she'd better do the same. You start to publicly share RFP proposals to drive bidders crazy (whittling down each other's margins along the way). You spend time building urgency into your sales pitches, using warm leads and limited inventory to scare your prospects into signing.
Does any of this sound familiar?
If you are starting to do this, realize something, you are promoting a culture of competition NOT collaboration. A culture is a set of values, communicated by leaders, that creates a system of social control. When you teach people to compete with each other, they continue to do it long after your promotional period is over. While you like the short term results, remember the old saying: When you dance with a bear, you have to keep dancing until the bear's finished.
You see, values are what shape our decisions and how we allocate resources. When you pit people against each other, you are teaching them that there is value in scarcity (the small pie). If you are successful, they will likely understand the motivating force of fear/loss and start to use it for themselves too. Remember, they are looking to you for tools to succeed (same goes for suppliers or customers too). This means that your path to short term success will pave the road to your long term business culture.
Instead, try this: Pair people together and promote their synergy. One of my recent speaking clients in the financial services arena did this: He paired a high sales performance veteran with a rookie that had great research skills. The veteran got fresh leads and some energy from the rookie and the rookie got some sales savvy and made several sales earlier than predicted. This promotes collaboration and a focus on shared strengths. I recently put two of my supplier-partners together to work on my rebranding campaign. They are now able to complete their work for me faster, and I'm going to have less costs too. One recent consulting prospect of mine indicated he couldn't quite afford my monthly retainer, so I paired him with another prospect in the same industry with the same budget issue and now I'm working for both of them on a combined deliverable - we all win. In all three cases, the long term effects can only be goodness.
What's the takeaway? If choosing between fear & love as a motivator, always choose love.
March 16, 2010
(Photo by Nikki Smith Morgan, Public Words)
Last Saturday I was in the center-of-the-social-universe: SXSW Interactive. Bloggers, Tweeters, Developers, Ad Pros, Luminaries and Snark Super Stars were all in Austin to celebrate another year of phenomenal growth in social media. With Austin's great food (my top bites were at Polvos and Jorges) and great music (saw Dick Dale at a small club), SXSW Interactive is truly Spring Break For Geeks.
I was invited to co-host a Core Conversation with Nick Morgan on how to go from blogger to professional speaker. At 12:30pm, Nick and I attended the "I Don't Trust You One Stinking Bit" panel hosted by Trust Agent co-authors Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
Chris and Julien hammered home the idea that you build trust by investing in others. In other words, the key to being successful was helping people. I had to blush when Chris Brogan called me out, for Love Is The Killer App and what I've been doing for him (VIDEO: Chris Gives A Shout Out To The Lovecat). I was also floored when Chris told the crowd that "it took him 8 years of writing to gain 100 followers." Wow. It's only over the last few years, that his readership has soared to where it is now.
The other big takeaway from that panel was around execution. There's a big difference between offering to help someone, and actually producing value in their lives. We are not rewarded for attempts or ideas, we are rewarded for RESULTS.
During our core conversation at 3:30, Nick and I gave high level advice and answered a slew of thoughtful questions. Check out Nick's summary of the event. Here's that I offered: Blog to establish expertise and a big following - but focus on being helpful instead of being provocative per se. Write a book, and make sure and follow Jeff Herman's formula for a book proposal. Write a book about one of your accomplishments, and be very generous with the details of 'how you did it'. The more you give of yourself, even the bad parts, the more people will take your advice and feel the effects.
When you speak, don't speak to impress, be helpful. Focus on takeaways that stem from your expertise. Don't hold back, waiting for consulting offers, show your audience how to tend to themselves. The session was well received, although some people were likely offput by our recommendation to avoid self-publishing as a path to professional speaking.
On the flight home, as I contemplated three days of big thinking, I realized that relationship building will never change. Only the players and their tools will change - which re-confirms my outlook that people are STILL the next big thing.
March 15, 2010
Your network = your net worth. This is a mantra of mine.
Many of us are producing social media (blog postings, videos, tweets and updates) to build a network of followers that we can help, market to and ultimately have a relationship with. Along the way, we try out a variety of different content types from humor to ride-along to inspiration to advice. Sometimes, we just put out what ever we are thinking at the time.
However, many of the people that consume our social media content are customers, prospects or group members. They likely visit our social conversations as part of their decision making process in working with us. Sometimes, we impress them with our focus and expertise. Other times, our randomness plain confuses them.
I'm going to change my ways, starting today. Seth's blog or the Public Words blogs are both very focused on delivering marketing and public speaking advice. They blog with intent. Tom Peters uses Twitter to facilitate a conversation with his followers and peers. That is his intent, and his focus on that makes him successful here. In the past, I've posted or tweeted about a wide variety of subjects from business to leadership to travel to music to social responsibility to social media. In other words, I'm all over the place, less focused than an all purpose magazine or TV show.
From this day forward, Sanders Says, my tweets and Facebook Fan page will center around delivering expertise to my followers that improves their people skills (from relationship skills to a people centered business.) That will be my intent in all that I do. I'll direct these comments to the small biz owner up to the enterprise executive, but I'll always look back at my one-sheet of purpose (Power To The People) as a way of defining my editorial boundaries. I'll continue to update you on live events where I'm sharing this expertise as well as updates on my next book release.
My anecdotal research suggests that a specific focus or niche is the #1 to increase your followership and deliver valuable results. It's pretty easy to just ready-fire-aim when it comes to social media, but if you are using it to build a scalable difference, consider a little focus to produce organic growth in a niche.
Is your social media strategy random or do you use intent?
PS - If you want to know about my travels, music interests and personal recommendations, sign up for my monthly newsletter. That's where I'll let it all hang out. If you want to know what I'm thinking around CSR or sustainability, visit the SavingTheWorld community site.
March 11, 2010
Last week an old friend rang me on my cell phone to catch up.
It was the third time he'd called. "Dude, what's up with you?," he wondered. "We are really out of touch, I've called you several times!"
"Man, I've been swamped," I told him. "Writing a new book, blogging, tweeting, you know - all that stuff. A few weeks ago I retweeted you, though. Does that count?" I jokingly suggested.
"We are good friends, have been since before the Internet. You tweet like 10 times a day and update Facebook every few hours. You can find 10 minutes to call me. If you don't watch out, you are going to turn into an information black hole." His final words really hit me.
He's right. There's nothing like face time or phone catch up time from a distance. When you see or hear that person, you synchronize, and sing a tune together. Why ping when you can sing?
Social media is addicting and eventually can become a bottomless pit of writing and replying. We delude ourselves into thinking that if we Facebook poke or email ping someone we are still cultivating a relationship. Wrong. We are maintaining a weak tie or association at best. But the feelings are being squeezed out of our relationships during digital compression.
For some of us, email is starting to be unmanageable too. Our voicemail is full. But if someone replies to us on Twitter or writes on our wall, we are quick on the draw - because that's on our radar. I've emailed Gary Vaynerchuk at least thee times to give him kudos, a business opportunity and a little advice. He's too buried under his barrage of tweets and video postings that he's never responded. However, if I wrote a 1 star review on his book, he'll answer it on the same day and give his personal email to me to contact him ASAP to work this out. (See what I mean). This is the future. While we aren't all doing this, we are getting more and more unreachable every day by the people that care about us the most.
As a result, I'm afraid we are trading in real friends for digital followers, and it's probably a downgrade in terms of our personal support systems. Remember, your network is your net worth. You cultivate it like a farmer tends for his fields. I'm going to vow, right now, to answer 100% of my phone calls and 100% of non-spammy emails that I receive. If I blog less or update a fewers times, so be it. No one will unfollow me for poor attendance!
March 09, 2010
Every great speech that changes the world makes one point and makes it very well.
When you add a second, third or fourth major point to a talk, you make it hard to follow and cut down the results. When I say "one point" what I mean is that your talk can be summed up in a sentence which reflects the premise of your talk.
Both of my talks this week sold this point: Your network is your net worth, so make relationship development a top priority. If I add, and be emotionally talented or green to it, the whole thing begins to lose its clarity. As Nick Morgan taught me, "write your speech along the spine of a single archetypal story that people understand - and they'll be moved to action."
When you have an hour or two to talk, it is SO tempting to cover two or three major subjects, linking them together like a standup comedian links bits together. But the difference is that speeches change the world and standups make you laugh. One is about audience action the other is audience entertainment.
You may have a few points (2 to 4) that are sub-points that build up to your conclusion, but they are part of the major point. For example, my relationship talk followed this path:
1. Relationships are rocket fuel for success
2. They are built based on your emotional value proposition, your relevance and the situation you are in.
3. To develop relationships, be helpful and generous. This can overcome even the worst relationship situations.
(Premise - Insight - Advice)
Read Nick Morgan's Give Your Speech, Change the World