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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why Team Sports Matter in Business

My youngest son is working out with his high school lacrosse team, hoping to make the team this Spring. The workouts are long and hard. The same rules apply to everyone, regardless of how well they play. And the coach is demanding. The teamwork, though, is amazing.

In drills where the success of the team is only possible when each and every member of the team is successful, everyone is pulling together and rooting for each other. Cries of “You can do it!” and “Good job!” provide the spark that each athlete needs to go the extra mile.

Even this early in the season, long before the first regular season game has been played, I can see the strong bond that is developing among the members of his team. It is a bond that will keep them together and at the top of their game, especially when the competition is tough. It’s a group where “personal bests” give way to what’s best for the team; where “All-Stars” take a back seat to a winning team.

Think about your business. What do you see?  Is the success of your business only possible when each and every one of your employees is successful, when everyone is pulling together and rooting for each other?  Are your employees cheering each other on with cries of “You can do it!” and “Good job!”?  Is there a bond among your employees that unites and motivates them to put the interests of the business before their own?

If not, perhaps it’s time to consider the lessons in teamwork that team sports can provide. 

I was in Starbucks yesterday for an early wait-for-my-car-to-be-fixed morning. To my right was an empty, single chair and table.

As I started cleaning up my laptop and drinks to retrieve my fixed car, a man came up to me, smiled, and said, "Is this seat..." And before he finished, I said "No." 

He looked at me a bit strange as it was unoccupied. I processed his facial expression, and then said, "Yes, it's open."

And then I said, "Sorry, I should have let you finish." He smiled.

I answered without actually listening to the entire question. What he said was, "Is this seat open?" Most people say, "Is this seat taken." And that's how I answered the "expected question."

We all should "sharpen our saw" every once in a while. Perhaps I should be like Bart Simpson and write on the chalkboard 100 times, "I will be a better listener." 

I’ve held a number of leadership positions in my career – managing the men’s clothing department in a large retail store, supervising a small telemarketing team of outbound sales reps, managing a large billing and order entry center for a Fortune 500 company with over 100 associates, coaching a dedicated global account sales team as well as leading a large Cub Scout Pack and Boy Scout Troop. I’ve learned from these experiences that healthy leadership and strong results require a prescription of team members who think and act differently than their leader.

As a new and inexperienced manager right out of college, I saw how easy it was to simply order others around under the pretense of “I’m the boss”. My young and impressionable ego was inflated by surrounding myself with “yes persons,” subordinates who would agree with and implement my every idea and whim without question.

Over the course of many years and these collective leadership experiences, however, I’ve come to see the people on my team, and how I treat them, as the single most important contributor of my success. Building and sustaining high-performing teams requires generous doses of the following elements:
• Credible advice and counsel – from team members with relevant experience and a documented track record of success – because there is no way I or any one person could possibly have all the answers to the challenges we face
• “Safe to say” environment – where team members are encouraged to speak their minds and tell me what I need to hear without fear of reprisal, especially when the idea I am proposing is not a good one
• An open door policy – managers who are approachable and manage by walking around encourage collaboration and mutual respect
• Risk-friendly culture – for accelerating growth and innovation, with the freedom to make and learn from the mistakes that each and every one of us will inevitably make
• Trust and reliability – across all levels in the organization, where team members are as committed to supporting each other as they are the boss

Strong and confident leaders understand this prescription for success.  Team members who are encouraged to think and act differently know they are trusted and valued by the organization. In return, they will reward their leader with an enduring commitment toward driving strong results.

For more on the connection between leadership and results, see:
• Accelerate Growth and Innovation – Encourage a Culture of Risk-Taking
• Leadership Skills: Maximize Your Resources to Overcome Unexpected Challenges
• Drive Breakthrough Performance with Decisive Leadership

Imagine you are selling a basic commodity, like a simple telephone. The one you’re selling is virtually identical to the ones your competitors are selling (e.g., same color, same look and same features). And yet, you’ve found a way to sell more of yours at a higher price. How?

In the late 1990’s, I asked one of my clients to address the Lucent Technologies sales organization I was with at the time. I encouraged him to help us understand why customers like him were willing to pay a premium for the commodity we were selling. My client was a Vice President at one of the world’s largest hospitality brands and happened to be the General Manager of the Times Square, New York hotel where we were meeting for our annual sales kick-off.

He started by saying there was really no difference between the telephones we were selling and the ones being offered by then-rival Northern Telecom. To him, they were just telephones and he needed them to run his hotel. What made us different and worth paying more for, however, was his global account manager.

Having an account manager who understood his business, who genuinely cared about the success and well-being of his hotel, who was accessible to him whenever he needed him, who was willing to take accountability for service outages and who came to the table with solutions were the things what made our telephones different…and worth paying more for. He went on to tell us how his experience with Lucent Technologies was shaped more by his interaction with his account manager than by our products and services. Like the hospitality business, he explained, the success of our business was all about people and their enthusiasm for serving customers.

He concluded by reminding each of us that the power to succeed in any commoditized market – the ability to differentiate your brand and to command a price premium for your products and services – resides within you, the account manager, and the other customer-facing associates in your organization.

Does your organization encourage risk-taking? If not, how can you create a risk-friendly culture, especially in these tough times?

If you’re looking to accelerate growth and innovation, you need to encourage risk-taking. Risk-taking enables creativity, which drives innovation. As Edwin Land, the co-founder of Polaroid Corporation, once observed, “The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” Founded during the Great Depression on his belief that consumer markets should be created around scientific research, his company was once the world leader in instant photography – largely due to the commercial success of ground-breaking innovations like the Polaroid SX-70 camera, which was introduced in 1972. The camera was an instant success, garnering year-over-year sales growth of 20% within the first few years of its commercial launch.

If you’re looking to accelerate growth, you need to find ways to innovate – your products, your services and even your customer experience. Encourage the risk-taking needed to enable creativity in your organization. Let your employees know it’s ok to fail once in a while. After all, as The Chief Storyteller®, Ira Koretsky, once told me, “You’re not going to hit a home run every time.”

Here are some ways you can encourage a culture of risk-taking, creativity and innovation in your organization:
1. Embrace a perspective that views mistakes as opportunities for learning, rather than failures.
2. Encourage your employees to follow their passions and to think outside the box.
3. Tell your employees what you want, not how to do it…and recognize there are many “right” ways to achieve the desired result.
4. Encourage collaboration through the open sharing of others’ ideas.
5. Recognize and reward your employees for doing something right.

And finally, on a personal note, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the Polaroid SX-70 camera my dad had when I was growing up. That camera (and the big square case it came in) was an endearing presence during Bailey family holidays and vacations for many years.  Thank you, Mr. Land, for providing us with an innovation that allowed us to preserve our fondest memories...in an instant.   

Many of the leaders I know do their best to make good plans, use the resources they have and manage potential risks. And for the most part, they get along just fine – sales are made, customers remain loyal and net income continues to grow. What happens, though, when things don’t go according to plan and the unexpected occurs? Do they have the skills they need to overcome the challenges they are facing?

Highly effective leaders are able to step back when faced with unexpected challenges. They view the world with an open mind and often see opportunities others miss. They look around to see what resources are available and then skillfully maximize those resources to overcome the challenges before them.

These are the leadership skills Boy Scouts acquire when they earn their Wilderness Survival Merit Badge.  As defined in the Merit Badge handbook, wilderness survival is “taking care of ourselves [in the outdoors] in ways that allow us to come home safely.”

As a former Scoutmaster, I know that even with the best preparation and planning, the unexpected can happen during any outdoor activity – losing your way, encountering a surprise storm and incurring an injury are prime examples.

Let’s assume you’re on a backpacking journey. You’ve lost your way and have become separated from your group. Night is falling, rain is in the forecast and you're feeling alone. You have enough food and water to sustain you for the next 24 hours. Because this was supposed to be a day hike, you have neither a tent nor a sleeping bag.  With an expected night time temperature in the low 40’s, you need to find a way to keep warm and dry.  What do you do?

You step back. You look around (assume your surroundings are similar to those pictured, below). What do you see? A forest? A fallen tree? Some dead branches? Leaves on the ground? And not much else, right?

alt

Now look again. Everything you need to stay warm and dry – and maybe even found – is right in front of you. There are materials for building a fire (e.g., the inner bark of dead branches, twigs and downed wood) and a shelter (e.g., a level surface, a fallen tree, leafy branches and dry leaves).  With the right skills and an open mind, things that seemingly held little or no value to you before suddenly take on new meaning. They become essential resources in your quest for survival and success. 

If your organization has lost its way in the wilderness of lower than expected sales, an increasingly high customer defection rate and disappointing financial results, step back and take a fresh look around. Look carefully for the opportunities others are missing. The resources you need to find your way home safely may be the people who are right in front of you. You won't know until you look.

For more insights on effective leadership, please see:
• Drive Breakthrough Performance with Decisive Leadership
• How the Best Leaders Inspire Others
• How Business Storytelling Helps Leaders Communicate Their Vision

I had the pleasure of seeing Dan Roam speak at an ASAE Great Idea's Conference. He was fun, kept my attention, and shared some great techniques for turning ideas into pictures.

In the past two months, I have purchased five copies for clients. I thought, "now that's a sign. I should write a quick book review."

Published in 2008, "Back of the Napkin," was Dan's first book. Now it is an international bestseller and according to his website, "the most popular visual-thinking business book of all time." I believe it is such a popular book because it is filled with helpful, illustrative pictures. Most business self-help books contain only a few pictures. Most of Dan's book is pictures. They include walk-throughs, tools, and examples. His whole approach is built on the simple premise that you don't have to be creative or know how to draw. If you can draw stick figures, then you are ready to tackle problem solving with pictures. If you find yourself sometimes at a loss for how to show a problem visually, consider reading Dan's book.

Resources:
- Back of the Napkin website
- Back of the Napkin book site on Amazon
- Back of the Napkin blog
- Change This Manifesto:  The 10 1/2 Commandments of Visual Thinking: The "Lost Chapter" from The Back of the Napkin
- Change This Manifesto:  Found In Translation: The Case for Pictures in Business

Imagine a culture where your customers are your advocates. Strong, personal relationships have been forged with your brand. Your customers perceive you as their trusted advisor. And your customer retention rates are above industry average.

Is this something your brand is aspiring to? Or perhaps you’re already there.

Most brands who have achieved this position have done so with the realization that brand loyalty begins at home. With your employees. And how you treat them.

Employees who are trusted and valued by their employers find it easier to build similar relationships with their customers. They inherently trust others outside of their organization to honor their commitments, act in their best interest and speak positively on their behalf. This trust makes it easier for them to forge deeper, longer-term relationships.  Customers are viewed as collaborators, not conspirators.

In turn, customers are attracted to brands whose employees genuinely delight in serving them. Customers find value in content, products and services designed to meet their specific needs. Trusts are built and relationships are strengthened.

If you’re aspiring to higher levels of brand loyalty, where do your employees stand in your organization? How trusted and valued are they?

For more on employee loyalty and collaboration, please see these recent posts:
• Inspire Employee Loyalty – Celebrate Your Employees
• Back to School:  Collaboration Is In
• Business Is Personal:  Accelerate Relationship Building with Small Talk

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"No" Often Hides the Door to "Yes"

Over the years I have learned to use the hidden power of "No" when working with certain types of people or with time-challenged teams. 

Today I have a client where the team is out of town half of every month. Saying that scheduling meetings is a challenge is sometimes an understatement.

With their personalities and time commitments, they are the perfect candidates for applying my "No" style of consulting.

For example, while developing a new presentation outlying the group's strategy, we would collaborate and develop the outline. I would then show them two to three options for each of the major concept storyboards/slides. The various team members inevitably would tell me more about what he/she didn't like than what he/she did like.

And that was perfect. I got the results I wanted. I learned what the team preferences were for the messaging and visuals.

Sometimes consultants shy away from what seems like a confrontational communication style. Try looking at how the client communicates, the reasons, and what you can do to adapt your style to achieve the same results.

About a month ago, I posted a blog asking if volunteer leadership experience is relevant when looking for a job in business.

Apparently the folks at LinkedIn think so. On September 7th, the online version of CIO magazine featured an article on LinkedIn’s new profile section, “Volunteer Experience and Causes.”

LinkedIn’s own research apparently convinced them that volunteering is not only beneficial to those who are being helped; it’s also beneficial to the careers of volunteers, as well.

Some of the reasons cited in the article include:
• It can differentiate you from your competition
• These opportunities can provide you with a low-risk forum for trying new things and demonstrating new talents
• It often leads to new business relationships that can help enhance your career
• Volunteer activities provide proof of your commitment to helping others and your ability to work effectively in a collaborative environment

If you volunteer and your resume does not include this experience, you may want to consider adding it. As LinkedIn’s Nicole Williams aptly observed, “Whether you’re employed or unemployed, including volunteer work on your LinkedIn profile is essential to the current economic climate.”

For many of us in the U.S., the Labor Day holiday marks the official end of summer and with it, the close of our summer pool, water park and beach season. It’s also when the summer lifeguards-- those typically tan, buff and attractive figures who watched over us every time we were in or around the water -- return to school or other full-time jobs.

Who are these lifeguards, anyway? I suspect your answer depends on your personal experience with them. To some, they are the men and women in red bathing suits who spend endless hours in concentrated observation atop towering white chairs. Others see them as the rule enforcers – blowing their whistles when we stray too far from shore or when we are running on the pool deck. And to many others, they are the ones who clean up after us by taking out our trash, straightening the lounge chairs and cleaning the pool.

There’s more to their story, though. They are there to ensure our safety and, if necessary, to perform water rescues and administer emergency first aid. In an actual emergency, they are the ones who respond first and how they perform can mean the difference between a happy ending and a tragedy. 

The lifeguards I know are an elite breed – among them Eagle Scouts, honor students, competitive swimmers, cross-country runners, football players, basketball players, crew team members, etc. They undergo rigorous training and renew their certifications in first aid and water rescue annually. By doing their jobs well, they keep us from becoming stories in the news. And yet, the quiet and concentrated demeanor they bring to their day-to-day duties often lulls us into thinking they are simply there for our comfort and convenience.

There are “lifeguards” in almost every organization – those whose ordinary duties mask a higher purpose – flight attendants and nurses are just two examples that come to mind. As we return to work after Labor Day, let us use this occasion to celebrate the important contributions of the “lifeguards” in our organizations. They really are more than just a book with an attractive cover.

Yesterday I came across an interesting blog posting "The Pull of Narrative – In Search of Persistent Context." It was an interesting and thought provoking piece on the concept of narrative and why it is better than storytelling. This excerpt does a pretty good job of capturing John Hagel's sentiment. Below the excerpt is my comment.

Excerpt:  Stories and narratives are often used interchangeably, as synonyms.  But here I will draw a crucial distinction between the two.  Narratives, at least in the way I will be using them, are stories that do not end – they persist indefinitely. They invite, even demand, action by participants and they reach out to embrace as many participants as possible. They are continuously unfolding, being shaped and filled in by the participants.  In this way, they amplify the dynamic component of stories, both in terms of time and scope of participation. Stories are about plots and action while narratives are about people and potential.

-------------------------

John,

Just came across your posting. Your article is interesting and thought provoking. After reading it, I do not agree that narrative is different from storytelling.

My focus is storytelling as part of making your professional and personal communications unforgettable. Every single thing you say, write, or post online is a story. 

For this to work, the "effect" of the story has to persist long after the story is read or heard.

It is funny for me to say this, when I was in college, I was repeatedly told that the soft skills were less important…I came to believe it. How shortsighted that thinking was. And unfortunately, it is ubiquitous worldwide.

It is an easy laugh to say public speaking is the number one fear. There are more than 20 phobias associated with communicating. Life in and of itself is not the best teacher for communication. Most students who graduate high school, college, and to some extent graduate school are not truly prepared for the professional world in terms of communication. They have the skills to be excellent in his/her profession. 

I learned from working in a hospital years ago a nursing adage:  see one, do one, teach one.Rather than redefine or move people to rethink narrative over story, I'd strongly suggest providing people with the know-how (e.g., tools, templates, examples, and case studies) to be great storytellers--to be great communicators. 


Ira Koretsky
The Chief Storyteller
www.TheChiefStoryteller.com/blog

A friend of mine, Bob, once sat through a job interview where he was asked about his leadership experience. The interviewer wanted to know if he had ever managed people, coached others for improved performance or been accountable for achieving results through others.

When he mentioned that he was an Eagle Scout and, as a teenager, had organized and managed a highly successful food drive to benefit his community, the interviewer wanted to know what else he had done. He mentioned his experience as an adult leader with the Boy Scouts of America, where he helped young men learn to take care of themselves and to lead others.

The interviewer acknowledged this experience and then said, “That’s all volunteer work. What leadership experience do you have in business?”

In response, Bob told him that effective leadership is the proven ability to move other people to action. It means making a connection with the people you are working with. It means making them feel good about who they are, what you want them to do and why you are asking them to help you. It transcends the organization and applies equally in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, team sports, business and other not-for-profit organizations.

As for Bob.... He got the job and went on to distinguish himself as one of the most effective leaders in that organization.

For more on leadership, see the following posts:
• Drive Breakthrough Performance with Decisive Leadership
• How the Best Leaders Inspire Others
• How Business Storytelling Helps Leaders Communicate Their Vision

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Road to Best-in-Class

Name the best in your industry, profession or sport. What are they doing now?

Practicing. Preparing for the next campaign, interview or game.

Somewhere right now, someone is competing with you for the top spot.  They’re honing their strategies, perfecting basic skills and learning new techniques. 

If you or your organization is looking to become the best in your industry, profession or sport, you need to make sure you and your team members are all-in. In short, everyone needs to be personally invested in your success. And that means practice and preparation.

Practice can make a positive impact in almost every functional area of an organization.  In the area of marketing communications, for example, team members from best-in-class organizations tend to exhibit these attributes:
• A well-rehearsed elevator speech (answer to “What do you do?). Everyone should be able to internalize and deliver the same 30-second pitch.
• Presentations with purpose. Prepare for and rehearse your customer presentations so you start and end on time and follow a customer-focused agenda.
• A clear and consistent message.  Every message you share verbally, in print and online should be consistent with your desired brand perception.
• The right tools and resources. Choose your resources wisely. Use tools like white papers, email, direct mail, websites, testimonials and social media that demonstrate a record of quantifiable success.
• A relentless pursuit of excellence. Strive to exceed your customer’s expectations. Outperform your competitors.

Here's another insightful, thought-provoking video from TED by a fantastic presenter and storyteller Benjamin Zander. A quick bio note states that he is "a leading interpreter of Mahler and Beethoven" and he "is known for his charisma and unyielding energy -- and for his brilliant pre-concert talks."

He weaves in his ideas brilliantly and seamlessly with authentic, passionate words.

From the TED Talk Description:

Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music, and helping us all realize our untapped love for it -- and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections.



Is your organization looking to become best in class? Are you striving to achieve breakthrough performance in business results – like sales, customer loyalty or brand differentiation? If it is, then it may be time for some decisive leadership.

I recently read an article in The Washington Post that talked about recent personnel changes by the Washington Redskins, our local NFL franchise. In this highly competitive world where coaches and players are held firmly accountable for their performance (i.e., where careers are made or broken by the number of games won in a single season), I was struck by the leadership perspective offered by Mike Shanahan, current head coach and 3-time Super Bowl winner (twice as a head coach): “A lot of people are afraid of being second-guessed. They make their decisions based on what other people say, rather than what they see with their own eyes, on general consensus. They don’t see it themselves; they ask other people’s opinions.”

Are the leaders of your organization behaving like this? Are they afraid to make decisions for fear of being blamed if results are less than expected? Are they relegating important decisions to general consensus? If this decision-making approach is failing to deliver the results you are expecting, then perhaps more decisive leadership is in order.

Sure, every decision entails some element of risk and not every decision will result in the desired outcome. Breakthroughs in performance often come from new ideas and almost always require leaders to assume some level of risk…and accountability.

Confident, informed and inspired leaders like Coach Shanahan know what it takes to drive breakthrough performance. What they need from you and the other members of your organization is a culture that rewards decisiveness and accountability.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tips for Winning at Sales

As I reflect back on my experience in large commercial Information Technology (IT) sales, the one constant that keeps coming to mind is the presence of formidable competition on virtually every deal.

Since my price was rarely, if ever, the lowest, I learned to work harder and smarter than my competition to win deals. I learned to sell beyond price.

Here are 5 helpful tips for winning at sales:
1. Get to know your customer.
 Understand why your customer is buying and how you can help him or her to be successful. Position yourself as a consultant. Strive to become their trusted advisor.

2. Focus on your positive attributes.
 If you are a small company competing against a larger one, emphasize the higher level of personal service your customers will receive. Conversely, if you are a large company competing against a smaller one, focus on the resources that are available to support your customer.

3. Get in front of your decision makers.
 Show your decision maker(s) through personalized service and tactful persistence you are interested in earning their business. Find reasons to engage them in conversation often – over the phone or in person.

4. Introduce your team early.
 Help your customer feel comfortable with the people who will be working with him or her after the sale. Introduce your team members early in the sales process and showcase their expertise.

5. Provide a list of satisfied customers.
 Have a list of enthusiastic customers who are willing to share their positive experience with you and your company. Be sure they can speak to the tangible results they’ve realized by implementing the product or service you are selling.

For more tips on how to win at sales, please see:
• B2B Sales Tip: Friend Your Customer
• Are Your Salespeople Unforgettable?
• Trusted Advisor or Vendor: How to Tell the Difference

Join NBPCI and The Chief Storyteller for a roll-up-your-sleeves workshop to make your three most important documents unforgettable to prospective government clients. They are your elevator speech, capability statement, and capability presentation. Turn your Big 3 into memorable, powerful packages inspiring prospects to say, “We need you.” 

The event is Tue, July 26, 8:30 - 11:30, Fairview Park Marriott Hotel, 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042.

*** We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

Detailed information is below...

The Big 3:  How to Grow Your Revenue with a Compelling Elevator Speech, Capabilities Statement, and Capabilities Presentation

Learn how to develop high impact messages with supporting talking points, content, and win themes through easy-to-follow processes. Your program is rich with practical ideas and thought-provoking exercises you can implement immediately.

Bring hardcopies of your Big 3 documents and your laptop, as you’ll be making changes to your documents during the program.

* Special Offer:  For 30 days following the workshop, you are eligible for a free review of one of your Big 3 documents. Each review includes personalized suggestions.

Benefits of Attending
- Learn a powerful, internationally-taught process for developing compelling and engaging sales messages
- Make changes in real-time to each of your core sales tools
- Be inspired with proven, fresh ideas to convert prospects into clients

Your Program Includes:
- 30-page workbook filled with exercises, examples, how-to’s, processes, and templates
- Three, multi-page tip guides
- Free access to over 700 thought-provoking articles, ideas, and tips
- Copy of the presentation in PDF
- A 3-hour hands-on workshop, along with a specific action plan for improving your Big 3

We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

About Your Presenter, Ira Koretsky, The Chief Storyteller ®
Ira has been helping companies like yours develop strategic messaging and content management frameworks for over 23 years. He knows how to help you turn your Big 3 into documents getting prospects to say, “We need you.” Ira has delighted audiences around the world turning business stories into revenue. He is a sought-after speaker, consultant, columnist, and trainer. Be inspired with his mantra, “Think deliberately and differently.” Stay engaged with insightful exercises and actionable ideas you can implement immediately.
The Chief Storyteller helped IntelliDyne win a $94 million contract with the Federal government, TCIG quadruple its contracting revenue in six months, professionals at the EPA develop clear and compelling mission statements, and the CDC develop a complete outreach program for an important community health initiative.

Complete biography chiefstoryteller_pdf

At 6:17 am I was awoken by a loud banging noise. Well, more of a knocking noise. There is absolutely nothing in our bedroom that could make the noise!

Perhaps it was a crew roofing a neighbor's home. The thought of that premise made me just a tad upset...6am is just too early. I looked outside. Nope!

I just couldn't imagine what it was...I got dressed and went out back. Lo and behold, there was a woodpecker furiously pecking away at the wood just below the roof line, above our bedroom window.

"What did I do?" you ask.

Well, I did what every normal communications professional would do...I asked nicely.

She looked a bit startled. And then she promptly flew away (she based on my limited research. the bird was either a Hairy Woodpecker [Picoides villosus] or Downy Woodpecker, [Picoides pubescen])

It got me thinking. I could have selected any number of negative actions to rid myself of the woodpecker. Instead, I went the way of kindness--an important mantra of mine that I live by and offer in my programs.

What can you do to make an uncomfortable, inconvient, unpleaseant, etc. situation better? What positive steps can you take to diffuse a situation. My dad always said, "kindness first."

Join NBPCI and The Chief Storyteller for a roll-up-your-sleeves workshop to make your three most important documents unforgettable to prospective government clients. They are your elevator speech, capability statement, and capability presentation. Turn your Big 3 into memorable, powerful packages inspiring prospects to say, “We need you.” 

The event is Tue, July 26, 8:30 - 11:30, Fairview Park Marriott Hotel, 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042.

*** We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

Detailed information is below...

The Big 3:  How to Grow Your Revenue with a Compelling Elevator Speech, Capabilities Statement, and Capabilities Presentation

Learn how to develop high impact messages with supporting talking points, content, and win themes through easy-to-follow processes. Your program is rich with practical ideas and thought-provoking exercises you can implement immediately.

Bring hardcopies of your Big 3 documents and your laptop, as you’ll be making changes to your documents during the program.

* Special Offer:  For 30 days following the workshop, you are eligible for a free review of one of your Big 3 documents. Each review includes personalized suggestions.

Benefits of Attending
- Learn a powerful, internationally-taught process for developing compelling and engaging sales messages
- Make changes in real-time to each of your core sales tools
- Be inspired with proven, fresh ideas to convert prospects into clients

Your Program Includes:
- 30-page workbook filled with exercises, examples, how-to’s, processes, and templates
- Three, multi-page tip guides
- Free access to over 700 thought-provoking articles, ideas, and tips
- Copy of the presentation in PDF
- A 3-hour hands-on workshop, along with a specific action plan for improving your Big 3

We have secured a special rate just for friends of the The Chief Storyteller. Register today.

About Your Presenter, Ira Koretsky, The Chief Storyteller ®
Ira has been helping companies like yours develop strategic messaging and content management frameworks for over 23 years. He knows how to help you turn your Big 3 into documents getting prospects to say, “We need you.” Ira has delighted audiences around the world turning business stories into revenue. He is a sought-after speaker, consultant, columnist, and trainer. Be inspired with his mantra, “Think deliberately and differently.” Stay engaged with insightful exercises and actionable ideas you can implement immediately.
The Chief Storyteller helped IntelliDyne win a $94 million contract with the Federal government, TCIG quadruple its contracting revenue in six months, professionals at the EPA develop clear and compelling mission statements, and the CDC develop a complete outreach program for an important community health initiative.

Complete biography chiefstoryteller_pdf

A few days ago All Things Considered (National Public Radio) ran an article and radio piece on how many people we have in our network. NPR's journalist, Rachel Martin, cited Robin Dunbar and his "Dunbar's Number."  

Robin Dunbar is a professor of evolutionary anthropology at the University of Oxford.

A few points stood out for me:

"Dunbar has found 150 to be the sweet spot for hunter-gatherer societies all over the world. From the Bushmen of Southern Africa to Native American tribes, a typical community is about 150 people. Amish and Hutterite communities — even most military companies around the world — seem to follow the same rule."

"Dunbar says there are some neurological mechanisms in place to help us cope with the ever-growing amount of social connections life seems to require. Humans have the ability, for example, to facially recognize about 1,500 people."

"Friends, if you don't see them, will gradually cease to be interested in you," he says. "Family relationships seem to be very stable. No matter how far away you go, they love you when you come back."

Looking for a way to inspire greater employee loyalty? Boost overall morale? Or make your employee experience unforgettable?

Celebrate your employees. Share good news. Engage them in the conversation.

A friend of mine was recently promoted. Promoting from within is good news, whenever it happens. It’s even better news in organizations where a majority of the newly created positions are filled from outside. And it’s really great news in an economy suffering from an unemployment rate of about 9%.

I was fascinated with the story of what happened when her employer released an organizational notice announcing her promotion. Almost immediately, congratulatory emails began pouring in. People whose names she couldn’t recall congratulated her as they passed in the hallway. Well-wishers came by her desk and offered kudos. Everyone was smiling.

The news of her promotion had become a celebration of sorts. It is a story that speaks to the hopes and desires we all aspire to in our careers. It is a story that makes people feel good about the organization they work for. And it is an unforgettable story that will be told to job applicants and candidates for months to come.

My daughter recently "graduated" from the infant room at daycare to the toddler room. As such I haven't seen the women in the infant room for about a month. I typically pick up my daughter in the evening while my wife drops her off in the morning. Today, I dropped her off and by chance, ran into Barb from the infant room.

She smiles and without hesitation said, "I haven't seen you in a while. When are you making me a new baby?"

I turned red from embarrassment , laughed loudly, and responded, "you'll have to ask my wife."  

Because we have gotten to know Barb so well with various baby and home issues you would never imagine talking to a stranger about, she was comfortable telling me such a bold statement. As much time as she spent with our daughter, we thought of her as an extended part of our family. And the way she treated our daughter, she thought of herself the same.

What kind of relationships do you have with your staff, bosses, colleagues, partners, vendors, grantees, and so forth?  Relationships are everything. It's too easy to switch "relationships" when you don't have a genuine and authentic connection.

Here are some areas to ask people about to to deepen connections. Start small until you have gained someone's trust.

- Family
- Hobbies
- Job
- New projects
- Upcoming business travel
- Upcoming holiday travel
- Books reading/recently read
- Articles reading/recently read
- Movies watched/recently watced
- Significant dates (e.g., birthdays and anniversaries)

I met Colin, the CEO of E Group at a regional government contractors conference. After a great conversation, we exchanged business cards. As per my norm, I looked at the card front and then back.

Lo and behold, I was compelled to read the back. I discovered Colin's personal statement (see images below).

I excitedly peppered him with all sorts of messaging-related questions. As the CEO, Colin shared everyone in the company has his/her own customized card (as a second example, see Frank's card below).  

In all of my 25 plus years of professional networking and personal events attended...in meeting thousands and thousands of people, I can without hesitation say this is truly a unique card. The other unique card comes from Superhero cards (read Mere Mortal or Superhero? and I Love Being a Superhero).

What are you doing to stand out and be unforgettable?

I arrived early for a business meeting the other day. The meeting had been scheduled well in advance and the list of participants included about a dozen team members. When the scheduled start time had arrived, there were just two of us in the room.

Over the course of the next ten minutes, the other participants drifted in. Three of those who arrived late chose seats at the end of the table opposite the host. They spent the entire meeting pounding away on their laptop keyboards, looking up occasionally as if to appear engaged in the conversation at hand.

Another member of the team, who held a pivotal role in the implementation of the project we were discussing, left and returned twice. Sitting across from him was another participant, who despite a polite reminder from one of her colleagues, refused to silence the sound of incoming emails on her iPhone.

I began to wonder...if these participants weren't really engaged in the meeting, how could they possibly be paying attention to what was being discussed?

I’ve written before on the importance of collaboration in the workplace. Collaboration results from listening. Listening occurs when everyone is paying attention. Paying attention to the host and others who are speaking shows a respect for other viewpoints and encourages thoughtful debate. Each team member is given the opportunity for input, informed decisions are made, and everyone leaves the room on the same page.

The next time you hold a meeting, you may want to share this advice from Television Anchor Diane Sawyer, "I think the one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention." It could mean the difference between a wildly successful group effort and a mediocre one for your organization.

For more on meeting behavior, see:
- Staying Professional in Virtual Meetings
- Attention Trainers and Presenters: Think Before Speaking
- Help Wanted: Applicants with Boardroom Etiquette

How well do you inspire others? Do the people on your team consistently exceed your expectations? Or do you wish there was a way you could simply get them to do more?

I’ve learned over the years the best leaders do more than just motivate their teams…they inspire them! The best leaders I’ve worked with inherently know the key to inspiring others to do more is how you make them feel – about you, the task at hand, and the organization they serve.

Let me share five tips for inspiring your team members:

1. Acknowledge each and every team member…every day.
    - The simple act of greeting each of your direct reports at the start and end of each day costs little and goes a long way.

2. Manage by walking around.
    - The best leaders are visible. They invest time in getting to know their team members, the challenges they face, and the way they work.

3. Be a role model.
    - Walk the talk. Conduct yourself as you would want your team members to behave.

4. Be open and honest with your feedback – both good and bad.
    - Leaders who seek to avoid conflict by putting off unpleasant conversations are perceived as condoning ineffective performance. Conversely, leaders who fail to praise great performance are perceived as not appreciating it.

5. Treat everyone equally and consistently.
    - Leaders who show favoritism to one team member may cause others to seek opportunities elsewhere and will have difficulty recruiting and retaining new talent.

Irwin Federman described the importance of these actions best when he said, “People love others not for who they are but for how they make them feel.”

For more on inspired leadership, please see:
Nudge vs. Push vs. Shove – What’s the Best Way to Persuade?
How Business Storytelling Helps Leaders Communicate Their Vision
A Passion for Helping Others and Building Support for a Cause

In today's meeting, there were two very strong-willed executives. The goal was to select the preferred headline for their elevator speech (answer to "What do you do?").

Joan, was willing to agree to headline two if the group felt strongly in favor. Christine really wanted headline two. And boy did she let everyone know it. She nearly bullied the room to accept headline two. Can you guess who was the voice of opposition? Yes, Joan. Why? Because human nature kicked in. She become defensive and reactive.

Christine had two options to make the decision process smooth. She could have (1) met all of the key decision makers before the meeting and (b) used subtle ways of influencing and persuading during the meeting. 

When you have a project or idea you are especially passionate about, think about how you can influence and persuade...will you gently nudge, assertively push, or shove them off a cliff?

* names changed

At lunch yesterday, a good friend asked my advice about her handshake. Carol said, in the last month or so, she noticed people she met often commented something to the effect, "Wow...that's a firm handshake." 

She knew something was not quite right with her handshake--she wasn't quite sure.

After just one shake, I knew what the comments were all about. Carol was (a) grasping the hand too tightly and (b) too firmly inserting her web (area between thumb and pointer finger) into the receiving person's web.

With just a few practice handshakes, Carol was back to her "unnoticeable" self again.

People should not be commenting about your handshake. It should just be a quick and natural exchange between two people.

For more tips on body language, read Getting to Yes: Make Body Language Work for You.

When I was a Scout Leader, I used to tell the story of British architect Sir Christopher Wren and how he had volunteered his services to help plan and oversee the construction of one of the world’s largest cathedrals in London. I liked telling this story because it serves as a great example of what happens when leaders successfully communicate their vision…and when they don’t.

On one occasion, he asked three separate stonecutters the same question, “What are you doing?” The first one responded with, “I am cutting this stone.” The second one answered, “I am earning my three shillings per day.” And the third stonecutter, the one who was able to articulate the vision of his leader, responded, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build this magnificent cathedral.”

The next time you are leading a new business initiative, try sharing this story or one like it with the people you are leading. Use it to help them understand the importance of their individual contributions to the organization’s overall success. Show them the purpose behind the plan – the big picture, if you will.

By using business storytelling to communicate your vision, you’ll be turning your stories into results you can be proud of.

For related posts on business storytelling, please see:
- Ignite Passion With a Good Business Story
- Business Storytelling for Social Media
Storytelling Is Essential to Great Leadership 

 

For many in the Washington, DC area, Wednesday evening’s snow storm presented us with some of the more difficult challenges we’ve faced in recent memory. Harrowing hours-long commutes, abandoned cars, falling trees, heavy snow accumulations and lengthy power outages are just some of the stories leading the news these past few days.

So you can imagine how refreshing it was to walk around the office on Friday, as several of my colleagues shared stories of those who put service before self by helping others to cope with these challenges.  There was the marketing manager, who made sandwiches and hot drinks for her neighbors who didn’t have power; the financial planner and the Eagle Scout lifeguard, who took it upon themselves to clear their elderly neighbor’s driveway without being asked; and the president of the advertising agency who helped over half a dozen drivers push their cars up an icy hill.

As I thought about each of these people and their professional relationship with me, a single word came to mind - trust. I trust each of them to help me succeed in the things that are most important to me. Whether it is helping me to increase sales, manage my money or keep my family safe at the pool, I know I can count on them…even in the most difficult of circumstances. Their strength of character makes me proud of my association with them and it continues to compel me to want to do business with them.  

Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Ask yourself where you stand the next time your neighbors could use a helping hand.

For more on the importance of character in the business world, please see:
- When Nobody is Looking, Character Still Counts - Make Your Business Stories Credible
- Character is What You Do When You Think Nobody is Looking
- Do a Good Turn Daily 

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