8 posts categorized "February 2011"

February 25, 2011

Early Is The New On-Time

On Time
Promise made, promise kept - That's a principle I hold dear. 

This was taught to me early in life by my grandmom, who raised me.  She believed that we should keep our promises for ourselves (self-image) as well as for others (politeness, reputation).  In her day, it was a basic measure of integrity, whether you are keeping a promise as an individual, a city or even a nation.

Unfortunately, when it comes to being on time or on schedule, we live in a nation of tardies.  This is profoundly true in the technology and creative community.  When I worked at Yahoo, the parking garage was almost empty until around 9:30, then it gradually filled up - and stayed full well past 6pm.  Meetings never started on time, as most participants filed in fashionably late.  When seasoned execs joined the company (after the dotcom bust), they were horrified by this cultural practice...wondering how people could get-stuff-done in such a slack environment. 

Worse, the advent of the mobile phone has enabled anyone to run late, so long as they call (or text) to say they are "stuck in traffic/meeting/etc."  In the old days, you didn't like to be late because of the stress of the unknown, but now that your manager can say, "It's OK, take your time," then why run on time? 

This mentality has bled into enterprise level tardiness: Product launches and project implementations that run late or are re-scheduled at the first sign of complication.  Over the last decade, it's culminated into a late-running nation of professionals that can't be depended on to be on time.  

But that's coming to a screeching halt in the frugal "performance economy" - where excellence is the admission price to being gainfully employed or patronized by customers.  Being late now signals a lack of commitment or maturity that's unacceptable when so many (more dependable) options are available.  So, I've made it a new policy to be a little early for everything: Turning my book into my publisher.  Dialing in for a conference call.  Showing up for a sound-check or keynote.  

Why?  First, it gives me an internal sense of integrity, that I can be counted on.  In my next book (Today We Are Rich), I talk about internal integrity as the 'sealer' for one's confidence.  Second, early can often delight others that depend on you - and finding an easy delightful-surprise is always good when the Customer experience counts.  In fact, being early (instead of late or barely on-time) is one of the best ways to increase the positive emotional experience of everyone that comes in contact with you. 

There's a bunch of ways to approach being early, and faking yourself out with fast running clocks or artificial deadlines isn't the solution.  Here's a few things I've been doing: 

1 - Personal: Have redundancy when it comes to alarm clocks.  I use 3: My iPhone, a battery operated travel clock and wake up call.  Never depend on a hotel clock, they are seldom accurate.  Always double estimate traffic times.  Leave a meeting that's running late, if it's causing you to be late for the next one.  Announce your full-stop time if you are meeting2meeting, and don't let anyone talk you into being late.  Even your boss will appreciate you filing out of an ops meeting to be on time for a client call.  

2 - Enterprise: Determine a soft-launch, launch eve and scheduled launch based schedule.  Make the soft-launch comfortably in front of the scheduled launch, and let your most demanding stakeholders in on the preview.  On the launch's eve, be prepared to pull an all nighter to finish and never accept the 'delay announcement' as an option.  If you miss the soft-launch, that's a great time to reset expectations (which is also key to the Customer experience.) 

3 - If you do run late, pay the price.  Over compensate those you let down to the point of pain on your part.  This will raise the stakes, forcing you to be on time the next time.  

February 23, 2011

Why People Are the Heart & Soul of the Information Age

On Monday, I gave a keynote address to 1000 IT and technology managers on the subject of people skills. 

Not just the fine art of getting along or motivating the troops, but something any engineering mind can relate to: Enterprise and Work-life design.  If a company, or even a group within a company, is designed to bring out positive mood state, a culture of cooperation and a human working environment - the end result will be excellence.  

Consider the findings of John McKean in Information Masters: The Secrets Of The Customer Race (illustrated above in the chart).  He studied hundreds of companies and identified a segment he calls "Information Masters."  Wal-Mart is an example, where IT Supply Chain excellence delivers every day low prices and Pac-Man growth opportunities.  These companies are excellent in areas of tech, information management and how it relates to supply chain and CRM performance.  When he broke down how these companies invested, he found out the real difference between Good and Great when it comes to IT: People-centric business.  

In his research, he found that most companies pile the cash on data and technology.  Machines, programs, consultants, etc.  And all of it, a whopping 92% of the budget, produces a mere 25% of the outcome.  If you add up their 2% investment in people, 1% on culture development and 1% on leader (training) - this small batch of cash produced 50% of success in terms of productivity, ROI and customer value.  

This explains why companies like Google, SAS Institute and Genetech all roared to the top of their piles even though they didn't have the same mountain of machines and service providers as their competitors.  In each case, people were considered the heart and soul of the business - relegating data and technology to the extremities of the company.  And when you step back and think about it, the whole finding makes perfect sense - unless you are steeped in the engineering mindset.  

To quote Tom Peters, the difference between a good software engineer and a great software engineer isn't 20% or 50% like it is in the world of sales and marketing.  Nope, the difference between a Good-Geek and a Great-Geek is more likely 10,000% or 30,000%.  These highly engaged innovators produce the breakthrough products and make the competition obsolete.  The trick is to get them to come to work, collaborate with others, finish what they start and guard the company's culture like a parent looks after a newborn.  You don't generate that with checks, you generate that with an obsession on people.  BTW: all three companies above are also on Fortune's Top Companies To Work For list year-over-year with SAS Institute ruling at the moment. 

Here's how you can re-engineer your business to put people at the center and race to the top: 

1 - Hire nice smart people only.  NEVER hire a depressed, negative minded or anti-social person. One of them can bum everyone else out, and destroy your culture.  You've got too many good candidates to choose from, you are being lazy when you hire a jerk.  In fact, if they are high-performance on paper, but Larry David like in the interview (or the reception area), call your competitor and send over a referral!  

2 - Measure and manage the mood state thoughtfully.  If your employees come to work with a song in their heart, Heartmath and Daniel Goleman  both found that the resulting chemical flow produces higher engagement, creativity and desire to please customers.  And that's money.  Don't let the mood state be driven by the market though, that's also lazy.  Walk around, look at your people's faces, analyze the spirit of your groups.  If there's not 'buzz,' you need to find out why.  A few companies I know put 'mood state leadership' into the annual reviews, holding managers responsible for the emotional quality of life of their people. 

3 - Invest heavily in people via training, development and wellness.  Don't just teach them how to program, teach them how to present, problem solve, meet better, etc.  By investing in their soft-skills, you'll take the tech edge out of your group.  The end results will likely be more minds coming together around problems.  And as Steve Jobs says, "Every good idea starts out as a bad one.  That's why it takes so long."  Wellness programs are the silver bullet too.  They have a four to one return on investment due to less sick days and higher productivity.  They are also very popular with your employee's family - causing them to cheer from you when a poacher or high flying competitors comes calling. 

Pink Elephant knows this: Check out their new video (Are You Ready?) that illustrates the value of people in the face of fast changing IT developments (from social media to cloud services).   


February 21, 2011

How to snap out of a bad mood

It's up to you: Either stew in your head or snap out of it. 

This morning, I woke up in a bad mood.  Yesterday, I'd received some get-busy (eg. bad) news and last night I tossed and turned, having nightmares to boot.  This AM, I found myself rehearsing what I was going to say and grumbling to my wife Jacqueline.  Fortunately, I caught myself, realizing, that being in a good mood is a prerequisite to being effective.  So I launched a plan to flip my mood from crappy to happy.  

By 1PM, I was well with the world again.  Not because yesterday's problem was fixed, but because of a few things I set into motion to reverse my state of mind.  If you have a bad mood AM (and you'll know it because you'll have a case of the Mutters), here's what you can do: 

1 - Admit you are in a bad mood to your significant other or best friend.  Confess that it's likely overblown and will ruin your day's work if you don't solve it.  That will paint you into a positive corner. 

2 - Get more information about the 'thing' that set your mood off.  I know, sometimes a bad mood is more general than that, but often there is a stressor that triggers your negative feelings.  Directly confront or engage with the most-responsible-party involved to find out more, and redefine the situation as one of those "I'll have to roll up my sleeves, but I'll live" situations.  Focus on solutions, not problems.  If you avoid the stressor or it's cause, thinking that today's not a good day for it - every spare moment will throw you back into your funk as you pontificate and guess.

3 - Take a few minutes to connect with family or friends.  Focus some energy on how grateful you are for them, and take a walk outside with one of them (or call them on the phone, not to talk about your mood, but to talk about love or friendship).   Don't stay alone on a bad mood day. At the same time, don't use this time to dump on those you care about.  You might give them the same funk or spin them up into a frenzy.  Just be. 

4 - Give your body a treat.  You mind is sending Cortisol through your system when your mood is bad, and that's not good for the body.  Eat something healthy or even treat yourself to something tasty or sweet.   Today is had some Pho and green tea and it's really helping. 

5 - Focus your attention on purpose.  Why are you here?  Why are you doing your job?  Why is today and important day for you and those you care about.  If your focal point is the "Why" and not the "What", you'll find that your stressor or situation is very small in the bigger scheme of things.  


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.


February 17, 2011

Why Groupon is smarter than you think

Over the last few months, it's easy to get on the what-was-Groupon-thinking? train. 

First, they walked away from a six billion dollar buyout offer from Google.  That's like Mark Cuban walking away from Yahoo in 2000.  Or Yahoo walking away from Microsoft a decade or so later. When Groupon politely declined Google's overtures, countless people  wondered, "what were they thinking!?"

Second, Groupon produced a Super Bowl spot that made light of the Tibet issue and endangered whales! The ensuing backlash led to a sacking of the TV ad and a buzz in social media.  

Believe it or not, in the end, Groupon may emerge stronger for both decisions.  First - If Groupon took Google's offer, a CNN report wonders if they would have settled for too little vs a potential IPO that would value the company at FIFTEEN billion.  But more importantly, I've found out from insiders there that the Google acquisition would have never cleared in Europe - the most important revenue territory for Groupon.  The EU isn't keen on Google, and would have held up the purchase for months or perhaps years.  Meanwhile, Groupon would be stuck in a getting-bought holding pattern, allowing Google to catch up with its own product (which they launched just recently).  The Business Insider has their own views too (Why Groupon Said No To Google).

Regarding the Super Bowl ad: Sometimes buzz trumps form.  One ad agency insider in Chicago (not working for Groupon) tells me that marketing wonderkinds had predicted a backlash, tons of social media mentions, and a windfall of PR around the spots.  They knew that the replays and extra mentions to follow in the days ahead would increase the ROI of the ad buy way beyond more socially acceptable spectacles such as Budweiser, Kia or Pepsi would produce.  In other words, by ticking us off, Groupon likely got the most bang for their super-bowl-ad buck...as dotcom ads in this venue are more about awareness than esteem or relevance.  A recent Marketwatch article makes the same suggestion. 

What's the takeaway?  Smart comes in many flavors, especially in hot-industry startup world.  What looks insane to us may actually be calculated and on-the-money when you are in a race to get big fast.  For all we know, Groupon may end up being the next Facebook in investor world and Andrew Mason may emerge as a more social, savvy and hip version of either of the Marks or either pairs of the Stanford Twins. 


February 14, 2011

Why Love Is The Most Powerful Force In Business

FC Cover BIG
Nine years ago today I published Love Is The Killer App

A few weeks prior, Fast Company ran a cover story excerpt from the book, leading with this line: "The most powerful force in business isn't greed, fear or even the raw energy of unbridled competition. The most powerful force in business is Love.  It's what will help your company grow and become stronger. It's what will propel your career forward."

Today I believe that statement more than ever.  The downfall of shark companies, moguls and take-no-prisoners bizfolk prove my point.  If you want your success to last, build it on the platform of BizLove.  Promote success in all those you do business with - treat your employees and customers like you'd treat your family.  Why?  People reciprocate and give back Love.  It's how we are built as beings.  In certain cases, fear or suffering trigger non-reciprocity...which can result in greed, evil or deception.  But those cases are very rare, once your ego let's go of them. 

How do we Love people at work?  We share our intangibles: Knowledge, Network and Compassion. We learn from sharing, and refine our ability to find synergy in others: Where reciprocity truly spins up relationships into career-changing opportunities.  Or as I say in the book, Nice Smart People Succeed. 

For more on this, check out the video Adrian Smith (Yahoo Alum) produced at Stacey's bookstore in SF way back in 2001: Tim Sanders on Love Is The Killer App


Love Is The Killer App from Tim Sanders on Vimeo.


February 09, 2011

How to be an effective mentor

Picture 2
Mentoring can be one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have. 

The requirement, though, is to be effective at giving mentorship advice.  That requires delivering value, helping the mentee achieve his/her potential and solving immediate needs.  In many cases, our thoughtfulness doesn't translate into effectiveness when it comes for formal or informal mentoring. We pick the wrong student, come across preachy or fail to make a connection.  

This week, I gave a workshop to a group of business leaders on this subject, suggesting that mentorship wasn't just a matter of being generous with knowledge.  It requires a process.  Here are the advice points I shared with them along the lines of the mentorship cycle: 

1 - Identify:  You must shop for a mentee by looking for two things: Intersections and Reflections.  Intersections occur when change meets opportunity meets ambition.  A new person joins your organization at a point in time where there's uncertainty or novelty.  Someone wants to make the next leap in her career, but her skill set isn't yet up to the task.  Reflections of you signal a good candidate for mentorship.  If you 'see a greener version of you' in someone, you'll likely have empathy for her, and that leads to more compassion and desire to help.  It will also give you more stick-to-it-ness, should you get busy.   Once you've identified a candidate, plot a journey for him, seeing him as a potential hero that needs to embark on an adventure with tools you give him.  

2 - Engage:  You must be overt in your effort to mentor someone, offering to both show-them-the ropes and explore new areas of professional growth.  To do it well, you need to make a personal connection with your mentee, dialing into her passions and goals in life.  The old saying is true here: No one cares how much you know until he knows how much you care.  Once connected personally, agree on your value-add during the mentorship program and schedule regular meetings or discussions. 

3 - Empower: You should always seek to make someone stronger, eventually independent of you.  Offer devices to the mentee in the form of books, resources and new contacts.  Hold the mentee accountable to act on your advice, but be willing to let him modify it based on his life-work context. Most important here: At the end of all mentorship sessions, let the mentee share her knowledge with you!  Ask her, "what should I be learning from you?" and give her the airtime to give-back.  This will give you more knowledge for your next student, and empower the mentee to start the process of becoming a mentor.  One last thought: Never expect repayment of any type.  Do this for the love of helping, giving and growing others.  


February 07, 2011

Reviewing the 2011 Super Bowl Ads

Each year, I study the Super Bowl ads to determine winners/losers. 

It's a great opportunity, given that the world's leading brands and brand-gurus work on these ads all year long.  By reviewing them for performance, we can glean valuable insights into how we market - or what we do when we are on a big stage in the market. 

When it comes to ads, I have two basic rules:  They should be a service, not an interruption.  To quote Sergio Zyman (former CMO of Coke), "Ads should be a service that adds value when you purchase, own or consume the product."  The second rule is that a good way to measure ad effectiveness is by unaided recall.  In other words, is the ad and it's messaging likely to be remembered later?  

So, absent any notes or a review of other analysis of the Super Bowl ads, here are my observations: 

The CareerBuilder commercial (Parking Lot) is a home run.  It is funny, includes their ad-franchise (monkeys) and puts us in a physical place (stuck in a hard place, needing a way out).  That's the perfect pitch to lure more 'passive job seekers' to post a resume on their platform.  

Epic fantasy driven ads from Kia and Coke fail, because they require way to much concentration on details.  Even though there's great effects and eye-popping visuals, it's really hard to follow - and in the end, you just don't know what the point of the commercial is.   Remember: people are watching these ads at a party - Keep It Simple! 

The funniest ad isn't always effective.  In my view the Bridgestone ad (Did You Reply To All?) was hilarious and highly relatable.  The problem lies in the call to action at the end: Buy our tires.  The humor doesn't remotely connect with the product.  Sure, the Geico ads don't always do it either, but usually they find some way to bring the entertainment back to the value proposition (So easy, a cave man could do it...) 

Stars aren't always a sure-fire way to increase sales.  Best Buy bet the farm on Bieber and the Osbornes, but it was done in a jittery-manic sort of way that distracted from the point of the ad (we'll stay on top of technology for you.) 

The Super Bowl provides certain companies a way to generate an exogenic shock, launching themselves from obscurity to trail and usage.  Chatter.com, The Daily (for tablets) and Groupon all did just that - leveraging a few million into instant awareness.  Time will tell if they captured enough trial to justify the expense, in the case of The Daily, I think they did. 

My other observation is that it's ironic that so many ads generated humor via people getting hit in the head with objects, doors and cans - during a game where there's an intense focus on REDUCING head injuries!  The disconnect will likely not be lost on viewers. 



February 02, 2011

What's your point-of-view about People?

People will almost always fulfill your expectations of them. 

This is the core idea behind research on The Pygmalion Effect: People sense what you expect of them, and respond accordingly.  Sometimes, and it's rare, they do the opposite.  Note that I say 'rare' as in less than 10% of the time or so.  

If you want to be an effective sales person, you have to possess a positive bias about your suspects, prospects, customer and company.  Otherwise, you'll use false urgency or misrepresentation to make the sale - and you'll likely turn on your company on a dime.  If you are a leader, and you have a distrusting attitude about people, you'll bully, mislead and manipulate them to go in your direction. The minute your performance slips, though, they too will turn on you.  

There's a thread that runs through all my books and speeches, and it has to do with my point-of-view about human beings.  I believe that people are good, fair and loyal.  They want the same things you and I want.  They almost always give back when given to or pay it forward.  When they are selfish, boorish or mean-spirited, they are motivated by suffering or fear.  Only in rare cases do human break this design-mold. 

But in our minds, the ego magnifies each violation of the 'give-back-be-good' ethic, making us think that people are usually in it for themselves, or at least half the time, takers instead of givers.  It seems that way, because no one wants to be taken advantage of.  That's the ego talking.  If you wrote down a list of every person you've been generous too, and circled the ones who took-the-good and ran - you'll find that in about 80-90% of cases, my theory came true.  This exercise is liberating, because it frees you up to be an investor, not a user.  It frees you up to be a giver, not a taker.  

Here's the takeaways from my POV: 

1 - Design your business to assume that people are kind, fair and loyal.  For employees, take some risks and be generous with them from Day 1.  For customers, trust that when you give them value, they will give you back goodwill, future income and satisfaction.  There's a business model out there called "The People Customer Model" - where you take care of employees, who then take care of customers and partners - putting your enterprise into a trust based virtuous cycle of profits.

2 - When people are bad, find the Tiny Tim story or the Fear source.  I talk about this in The Likeability Factor:  Most negative behavior, especially bullying or pessimism, is driven by a suffering.  When employees at Yahoo complained to me about co-workers in this regard, I challenged them to do some research first - finding the Tiny Tim in their life (personal problems, health issues, etc.) that explain the behavior.  In a remarkable number of cases, they came back brimming with empathy, because I was right - The bad guys were sleeping on a friend's coach, battling a health scare or suffering from a  life of being mistrusted and/or abused.  In some cases, the selfish were, in fact, fighting for their economic or political survival.  Here's the point, if you judge a person as bad before you do your research, your ego is running the show. 

3 - Make yourself vulnerable by extending trust to others, even those you've just met.  Over time, this habit will pay dividends, because people will trust you back.  If you haven't read my post on Mack Brown ("Develop a Sincere Interest In Others"), it's a good follow up to this post.  Do not wait for people to earn your trust and generosity - by that point, your response is merely calculated.  This is what Dale Carnegie meant when he wrote, "you'll accomplish more by developing a sincere interest in people, than trying to get people interested in you." 

Read an excerpt from Love Is The Killer App from Fast Company for of my perspective.