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Who's to blame for New Orleans? Kid A blames George Bush for not being aware of the situation. Kid B blames FEMA for not acting quickly enough. Kid C blames his parents for situating their home in a hurricane area. Kid D doesn't blame anybody but himself. He asks, "What could I have done?" Twenty years later, they all start businesses. Guess who succeeds.

Posted on June 28

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Consider Billy. When it comes down to it, Billy makes his own choice. He likes that. He craves it. He loves it. He'll fight a war over it. When you try the hard sale, you're removing Billy's sense of freedom. Instead, start creating an environment where he can choose to buy. Take it from former HBR editor Edward Bursk


People like to buy. This is the fundamental psychological reason for the effectiveness of low-pressure techniques. Assuming for the moment that none of the customary deterrents to buying are present, we can say that the act of buying gives the normal person a sense of pleasure. There is a certain feeling of power in being able to acquire things, entirely apart from any anticipation of enjoying the products or services bought. Buying flatters the ego. Certainly vanity is involved, particularly when a person thinks he is buying wisely and shrewdly, "getting a bargain."

The moral: think "buy"--not "sell". A switch in perspective will change your business. (Dramatically.)

Posted on June 27

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Simply put: Love your customers. I'll explain more at the end of the article, but first: Think about the stereotypical salesperson for a second. He's arrogant, aggressive, and pushy. He can't be nice. He can't tell customers the truth. He's focused on selling that next car. He's focused on quota. After all, isn't that what we've always known about a salesperson?

Don't Follow My Crappy Start

When I was younger and got a job selling men's frangrance (of all things!), I focused on the me-first-customer-second philosophy. The startup company I worked for promoted that mindset, so being the ignorant 15-year-old that I was, I went along with it. I focused on my sales, disregarded what the customer needed, and wondered what I would buy with my newfound wealth. Unfortunately then, but fortunately now, I sold nothing. I followed the stereotypical salesperson approach, so what happened? When you go into each sales meeting wondering what you'll get from it, ironically, you won't get it. Yet, when you focus on your customer first (as philosophical as that may sound), you'll get more sales. I guarantee you.


Switching your mindset to a me-second-customer-first mindset allows you to concentrate on their needs. If they don't need something, tell them: you'll build a long-term relationship, and establish your credibility as a trustful resource. Yet, if you feel something will help them improve their business (or lives), show them how your product will do just that. You won't get to do the latter, though, if you're not passionate about your customers' well-being.

Take it from the world's greatest salesperson.

Joe Girard made history in 1973 when he sold over 1400 cars in a month. In total, he sold over 13,000 cars. His record for a day? 174. Not bad, if you consider the average car salesperson sells four cars a month. Here's how Girard does it:

It's like a marriage. You need to like each other. And if you treat people right, you will love them. I told my customers that I liked them, that I loved them, all the time. I would send a card every month with a different picture, a different greeting, and the card would say, "I like you." I would close a sale, and I would say to my customer, "I love you." I even gave them buttons that said "I like you." People may have had to wait for an appointment, but when I was with them, I was with them body and soul.

You won't need a total customer-centric organization to have a successful organization. But, if you're selling, loving your customers is the first step.

Posted on June 26

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Peep this: Sally's going through rough stages in her business. Her business has lost money for the fifth straight quarter, after a record run on profitable quarters. Her managers are seeking outsiders to replace her. The Board is tempted to pull the switch. Investors are angry. Yet, she's confident in her approach to solving the current business issues. After all, she was the person who led those profitable quarters, right? If she'd just continue what she did, she thinks she'll be okay. Not quite. Because one thing correlates (i.e. her leading & record profitable quarters), it doesn't mean causation played a factor (i.e. her leading causing the company to attain record profitable quarters). Sally is blinded by her own biases. She's taking the "I'm right--you're wrong" approach, which rarely is true. Says Sydney Finkelstein in Why Smart Executives Fail


In fact, though, nearly every decision maker is eager to collect data that support his or her point of view and slow to seek information that contradicts it. Psychologists consider this part of the vexing "bounded awareness" problem. Max Bazerman and Dolly Chugh, in "Decisions Without Blinders" (HBR January 2006), catalog the cognitive characteristics that "prevent a person from seeing, seeking, using, or sharing highly relevant, easily accessible, and readily perceivable information during the decision-making process."

To avoid this if you're a leader, leave your biases at the door. Then, as Finkelstein encourages, have and listen to a devil's advocate at all times. They'll transition you from what you want to think, to what you should think. Word.

Posted on June 25

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Employee A: "I do it for the money." 

Employee B: "I do it because I have nothing else to do."

Employee C: "I love my work."

It seems conventional wisdom would tell you which employee type would generate the most results.

Yet, most managers forget about attracting the totally committed. "Most people work just to make a living," right? Not quite.

At the heart of human nature, we want something more. We don't play music for the money.

Nor do we run marathons, coach youth soccer, volunteer at a shelter, or read a novel.

We do stuff passionately because we enjoy them.

It's in the study.

Says a study on employee commitment:

Company leaders won't be surprised that employee engagement - the extent to which workers commit to something or someone in their organizations - influences performance and retention. But they may be surprised by how much engagement matters. Increased commitment can lead to a 57% improvement in discretionary effort - that is, employees' willingness to exceed duty's call. That greater effort produces, on average, a 20% individual performance improvement and an 87% reduction in the desire to pull up stakes, according to the Corporate Leadership Council, which surveyed more than 50,000 employees in more than 59 organizations worldwide.

If employees aren't totally committed to your organization, something's wrong. It could very well be a wrong fit, or you might not be communicating as effectively as you could be. Whatever it is, it's time to fix the problem quickly.

Posted on June 24

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Most bosses, unfortunately, aren't. The biggest crime bosses commit is that most are blind of their abilities and shortcomings. It's the whole: "I am right. You are wrong. So, do as I say"-mentality. It sucks. And, it kills your company. If your workers aren't doing their jobs, maybe (probably) it's not their fault. Did you place them in a position where they could excel? Did you communicate properly? Did you provide enough resources? What about training? The list goes on. When bosses confront their own self-realities, they'll see a dramatic improvement to their company morale. What's the first step? Admitting your mistakes, of course. Here's a great article to identify your shortcomings (if you have any, anyway). Some examples of bad boss characteristics:

Mr. Insensitive

"I have had a weight problem all my life. I had a boss who told me, twice, that 'we have to teach you how to walk like a lady instead of charging around here like an elephant.' About my sister, who was dying of cancer, 'God, it's taking your sister so long to die!" When I had muscle spasm in my back, he got down on the floor and simulated sexual intercourse, stating that that was how I had hurt my back. I told him upfront that I have fibromyalgia syndrome, and he wrote me up, stating that I was a hypochondriac. He just never stopped."

The User

"My last boss was the type who used others to deflect his own rather aggressive personality. He would give a manager a message that would go something like this: 'Now I want to go out there and get with Smith and tell him this is unacceptable, and you stay on him until this gets done!' That's the politically correct vernacular. Then, come evaluation time, he'd tear that person apart because 'your co-workers find you overly aggressive, uncooperative and downright tough to deal with.' He had played this card with a particularly loyal and straightforward supervisor, then threatened to fire him should he hear of another complaint. Nice guy, huh? And guess what, he's now being promoted to a vice president's position."
Posted on June 23

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Team USA loses. 2006 World Cup: history. Fifth-ranking: gone. Coach blames refs. Like the first game with the Czechs, Coach doesn't blame self. What else is new?

Arena kept on talking in the referee's direction after the penalty kick until an assistant coach pulled him away. He also waved his arm at Merk when the final whistle sounded, turned and walked off, leaving American players out on the field...Blame referee Markus Merk for the United States going out of the World Cup.

Even worse:

No, blame FIFA for not seeding all 32 teams and the Americans getting a tough group. Or FIFA's mandate that referees give yellow cards for the slightest challenges. Bruce Arena had a list of reasons why his players didn't qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup by losing 2-1 to Ghana on Thursday.


Blaming who?

What if Coach stopped blaming others for his team's lackluster results? What if he didn't get so riled up over the bad call--a decision that happened with a full & fresh 45-minute half to go? ...and instead, focused on scoring? Where's the blame for his coaching? The lack of a forceful strategic attack? The lack of strikers? The horrible 5-4-1 format? Etc. Etc. Etc. When leaders start blaming others, they ignore their own problems--problems within their grasp, within their means, within their abilities to solve.

Deal with it.

Bad play-calling is a thing of life, whether it's on the field, in a courtroom, or being judged on a project. You could try worrying about it, but that'd just drain your energy to focus on what matters more: Things you can, should, and must control.

Stop the blame game. Start looking at yourself.

For Team USA soccer to rebound in 2010, it's time to look for a successor who looks in the mirror when things go awry.

Posted on June 22

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[Part 1: What we can learn from tonight's NBA Finals] Can you put a team together, and get results? Nope. It takes more. To build effective teams, you have to start with each individual member. Does that person totally dig the end-goal? If not, s/he may be undermining the team's success. Great teams start out seeking common goals, beyond any self-ambition. Says McKinsey's Jon R. Katzenbach:

When people work together toward a common objective, trust and commitment follow. Consequently, teams enjoying a strong common purpose and approach inevitably hold themselves responsible, both as individuals and as a team, for the team's performance. This sense of mutual accountability also produces the rich rewards of mutual achievement in which all members share. What we heard over and over from members of effective teams is that they found the experience energizing and motivating in ways that their "normal" jobs never could match.
Posted on June 21

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Well, it looks like the Heat did the seemingly "impossible." Down 2-0 of a best of 7 series, the Heat beat the Mavericks four straight to capture its first crown. Only two teams have achieved that feat. The media, fans, and bloggers (us included) had counted them out. Dallas had already planned a championship ceremony for next week. Who could blame them? The Heat looked flat throughout the first two-and-a-half games. Down 15-or-so points in the fourth quarter with about six minutes to go? FUHGETABOUTIT. Yet, the 15 players fought back. Never relented, never gave up. The reason? Simple:

"We've got 15 strong," Riley said. "It's all about 15 strong." "That's what makes it sweet, because not at one moment did one of us not believe in each other," Wade said. "No matter what, in the locker room it was 15 strong."

Team unity. Believing in each other. Believing in and playing for a higher purpose, beyond any individual ambition. Fundamentals. Yet, so rare in the business world. [See Part 2: What Motivates a Team]

Posted on June 20

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Michael Jordan shouldn't play baseball. Bill Gates shouldn't design shoes. Paris Hilton shouldn't teach a university course. Michael Jackson shouldn't fight fires. Howard Dean shouldn't sing. Bill O'Reilly shouldn't box. Mike Tyson shouldn't manage your finances. We get so caught up in doing so many things, when really, what we should be doing is asking ourselves: what should we stop doing? The world doesn't value jacks-of-all-trades. They don't glorify jacks-of-all-trades. They don't make movies, or build festivals around jacks-of-all-trades.

Specialists vs. Jacks-of-all-trades

Jacks-of-all-trades never build on their strengths. They don't build momentum on what they've learned in the past. They're not great at one thing. Good at many things, yes; but, that's it. The world instead values specialists. Specialists who know their strengths. Equally, specialists who know their weaknesses. Specialists who say NO to opportunities that don't fit their values, or their compasses. Specialists become leaders. They move world economies. They change the way the world thinks. A hundred years from now, who will remember you? For what?

Need direction?

First ask yourself: what should you not do? From that, you'll find out what you should do.

Posted on June 19

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