4 posts categorized "April 2012"

April 26, 2012

Why Lunch Is A Bad Setting For Real Business

One of worst techniques you'll pick up in business is "let's do lunch." 

It sounds like a great device for conducting business, be it a pitch or project work.  Often, your offer is accepted, after all, we have to eat!  It sounds less ominous than, "I'd like to setup a meeting to come talk to you about X."  

While it's easy to arrange, conducting real business during the meal is like running an obstacle course or conducting an orchestra with one hand tied behind your back.  Think about all the distractions: The server, the food, the cleanup, the other people eating, and so on.  It's a miracle if you can finish an entire idea without being full-on interrupted. 

There's no way to take good notes (to document what you promised to follow up on), present anything visual or to brainstorm.  Sure, you can try and use your iPad in lieu of a laptop, a slide deck or a whiteboard...but it's still sub-optimal. 

Nope, I'm changing my ways effective immediately.  Meals are no longer a venue for conducting real business for me.  Sure, I can get-to-know-someone better over a meal, say a potential employee or business partner.  But I'm not going to pitch anything or work through project details unless I'm in a professional environment...at work! 

As one seasoned movie honcho told my friend: "Don't invite me to lunch if you want to sell me something.  Set an appointment at my office to come pitch me if you really want my business!"


April 16, 2012

Three compensation innovations that will change your culture

That which is compensated, is motivated.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Between my speaking and consulting, I have many opportunities to compare comp plans and the resulting corporate cultures they create.  If you want to have a strong customer service culture, for example, you'll need to aim all compensation plans at achieving it.  If you want to have a strong entrepreneurial gene in your, generously reward the risk takers.  

It's sad, though, that in sales cultures, we get stuck in the Quota/Bonus pay out trap.  By trap, I mean that most companies reward sales and management, based mostly on financial performance.  It's easy for this to lead to a weak culture (what-have-you-done-lately) that overly rewards the people that are close to the money - and marginalizes those close to the real work. 

Here are three comp plan innovations that ensure a strong sales cutlure: 

1.  The 50/50 - When you give a bonus to a sales person, structure it so she gets 50% for her self and then distributes the remaining 50% to a team mate (or several people) that was a top contributor to her success.  

2. The Net Promoter Slice - When you strucutre annual bonus, leave a big slice (say, at least 25%) for a measurable non-revenue metric.  In this case, if you want to have a strong customer focus, the Net Promoter Score is a great indicator of success.  So tie comp to it, and watch behavior change. 

3. The Company Bet - At Interface, compensation is driven in part by the company's sustainabiltiy performance. The company's Mission Zero initiative is companywide and everybody's expected (and comp'd) to contribute. Last year, Google changed compensation so that every single employee's annual bonus is impacted by the success of their social network, Google+.  This certainly increased cooperation across the company, and made the company intiative every single person's business.

One of my consulting clients made a deep investment into sales force automation, which not only streamlined their business, but likely ensured a huge gain in customer performance. After begging sales staff to enter all order information into it for over a year, they made a tweak to the commission plan: Fail to enter all your required information into SFA, and you don't get paid on the deal! That fixed things very quickly, and despite the VP Sales fear's, no one quit the company over the change.  

As you can see, there are several ways to shake up the carrot-and-stick to drive difference types of performance than...just making money for the company.  By the way, Dan Pink's latest book Drive suggests that money isn't our only motivation - so take that into account. 

April 06, 2012

Is Your Company Culture All In?

Recognition experts Adrain Gostick & Chester Elton have pivoted from recognition to culture with their new book, All In: How The Best Managers Create A Culture Of Belief and Drive Big Results. And well they should, as today, culture is more important to your company than ever. 

Why? Transparency, the cloud and a new generation that needs a dollup of purpose with their paycheck.  Bad cultures are now a matter of JobVent record.  With the cloud, startups spring up like weeds, requiring less capital than ever.  The Millenials will bail on a bad boss, a negative group or a company they-just-don't-get. 

Think of your company culture as the operating system of the entire group.  It focuses human energy towards specific programs, gives and enforces commands and makes necessary connections or deletions.  In Gostick and Elton's view there are effective cultures and disfunctional ones.  The effective ones satisfy the customer, the talent and usually the owners.  The bad ones cause the company to sputter or shutter through ineptitude, inconsistency and negative behavior.

They decided to write the book after repeated requests by their clients to address it in their consulting work.  In working with several companies, they quickly realized that culture was one of the most important areas a CEO needed to focus on.  Bad culture = inconsistent results for everyone involved. 

So, they commissioned a massive study (300k people) with Towers Perin and validated some assumptions and uncovered 7 areas of excellence that every manager or leader could learn from. The first idea: Define Your Burning Platform is a winner in my view.  Too many managers forget about this.  Why are we doing this?

Get the why right and the group comes together organically.  Humans rally around a shared vision of value.  You can connect with what the company is doing for the world (Delivering Happiness or Mission Zero).  You can connect with what you are doing to respond to your competition (Steve Jobs loved this one).  You can even connect with what your group is doing to respond to a company edict or challenge (eg., the Don Ostler story from my 3rd book.) 

The point of this chapter is that the foundation of widespread belief is a sense of purpose.  Making money isn't enough, you must trigger a Maslovian need: Pride, Survival, Actualization.  

Pick up the book, spend a few hours learning about how to innovate your culture at work.  This is an important topic and I hope it takes market share away from the Leadership Category (which I find oversubscribed these days...a subject of next week's post here.)



April 03, 2012

How To Make Someone's Life At Work

A touching thing happened on the way to my last keynote speaking gig. 

The night before, I attended the company's dinner function, which started with a retirement sendoff for Marc.  He was a long time manager and employee of the company.  As we were served food, a stream of co-workers presented their account of the difference Marc made, including funny slides and inside jokes.

Over and over again, presenters stressed how much Marc had influenced them and made a difference in their life.  At the end of the half hour ceremony, a slide collage played while "In My Life" by the Beatles played over the sound system.  Everyone, especially Marc and his wife, choked up during this touching moment.  I did too, and I don't even know him.  It was all the attention to detail, the thoughtfulness of the troupe of co-workers that organized the ceremony.  It was love.

The next day, before my talk, I congratulated him.  He replied, "I feel like my life was made last night." From a psychological standpoint, his reaction makes sense.  Abraham Maslow would call this a moment of self-actualization, the highest need we have as humans.  Marc was publicly and personally made in that his contributions were acknolwedged sincerely by people he cared about and respected. 

"You just don't see that enough these days," was a common phrase I heard at breakfast that morning.  It's been a few years since I've seen such a staged recognition event (I've attended a few heart-tuggers that Career Builder put on for their top performers - including flying in family and creating custom videos.)  Most companies likely are too busy to stop, kiss the roses, and put on the thank-you for their best.  Maybe leaders fear creating jealousy?

The value of public recognition goes beyond how it makes the recipient feel.  It shapes the culture too, teaching others that their contributions are appreciated and will be recognized.  In all these ceremonies I've attended, no one was thanked because he killed his numbers.  He was thanked because he helped and cared about his people.  

Culture is a conversation about the way things are done around here.  How's yours?  Do you regularly stage recognition events to promote gratitude and giving ?  Next time you have an event or meeting, find a reason to say thank you to a contributor and don't forget the details, the pictures and special guests to make it memorable.  Who knows, you might make someone's life.