I know you care…so what?!

We have been bombarded by ads and emails by companies that show they care about us during the pandemic. This is nice and I’m glad.

But, I largely don’t care now.

Aside from pulling standard shots with the same tedious voice tone and music, what are you actually doing for me? In most cases, I have never been your customer. Not sure this messaging is moving me forward in my decision path in any measurable way.

Bob Hoffman, The AD Contrarian, had this link in his weekly newsletter:

 

Same old…same old…yawn…

There are some companies that are delivering messages on brand. ACE Hardware ran this ad last year:

 

Then they started to run this ad as a result of the pandemic:

 

Do you recognize a lot of the same images? The music and voiceover is positive. The message is consistent with their brand and the position they set out in their previous ads. This is a wonderful example of what to do.

Contrast this with the companies in the earlier clip Their current messaging is quite different from their previous messaging. Here are some questions you should consider asking yourself:

  • Can you see the bind they are in? What about you? How were you positioning your company and products/services before?
  • Is it a natural extension for you to move into the new COVID ads?
  • Do you garner confidence and trust, now as in the past?
  • What were you trying to be, before you felt it necessary to have somber piano music and a “we’re here for you” message? I hope you are here for me and everyone else! Tell me something useful, please!
  • How are you messaging people now? Have you sent emails to check in?
  • Have you made phone calls just to check in?
  • Do you have something relevant to talk about?
  • DO YOU REALLY CARE?!?!?!

Notice there is no “sales” messages in the questions about your email contact program. Focus on existing customers/clients. If you are doing any prospecting you must be very careful – it is a challenge to forge a new relationship at this time. Having said that, your product or service might be very useful and needed by some customers and you should let them know.

Balance in messaging and approach, and context for the situation your new contacts are experiencing, are essential. This is not the time to make people angry at you. At this time, anger will have a loooooong memory.

This also means that you need to be playing a tactical game as well as a loooong game. There is time for thinking and preparing how you can legitimately help people or organizations as we move forward through the pandemic.

Me? I am an opTIMist.  I practice opTIMism.  We will get through this crisis with innovation and sTIMulating new ideas.

Please stay safe. Practice physical distancing. Practice thoughtful actions.

And enjoy life!

 

Losing touch…Social distancing is wrong!

I bet there are a few that cannot wait to take my head off for this title. Well, too bad. Stop being presumptuous. You thin-sliced an opinion based on what is happening around the world. You have not given pause to discern the context of this post.

This phrase “social distancing” literally means separating from everyone. Mankind is gregarious by nature (yes, even introverts, just less than extroverts) and this distancing we are asked to practice is confusingly described as social gaps between people.

Think about this. We are really being asked to practice PHYSICAL DISTANCING. At the same time we are being asked to work from home and talk to friends and family via video tools.

Confused?

Words matter. Context matters. Clarity and accuracy each day is essential. I know that the medical data is changing regularly. Good news/bad news, and everything in between. I am not going to blast our politicians – they need support and ideas not useless bashing. I pray for their guidance and proper balance between health and safety and economic safety. Although I wonder if the politicians are taking a pay cut like many other leaders and their staff are doing???

The media can hold them to account and report the facts as they become known.

At this time social closeness is more important than ever. My classes have been moved online and I miss the in-person interaction with the students. Most are relatively new to Canada – bachelors and masters degrees and terrific enthusiasm. Young professionals. Some with young families. Some by themselves. One of my students said that they were a digital kid – this new “work from home” should be right up their alley. But, after a few weeks of isolation the digital connections are wearing thin.

This situation about “working remotely is the new normal…yadda yadda yadda” reminds me of how first, conference calls, second, web-tools for video-conferencing were going to eliminate the need for in person meetings. Lasted for a short while and folks got tired of the ability to connect in person. We have moved the pendulum, up until COVID, whereby use of zoom, Teams, Skype, etc. have become adopted and learned on an infrequent basis. We all know the drill.

This chart is courtesy of my good friend Peter:

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I am quite certain that we have all experienced this situation and the reactions of colleagues. And now with people at home trying to work, you can get dogs barking, kids screaming/laughing/crying, etc. How are we going to manage all these aspects of real life and still remain productive? The long-term impact has not been determined. Leaders need to think like the front line staff in these situations – not from their spacious home with ample distance built-in.

What if the family had a single PC, which was just fine “in the old days.” Now with Mom and Dad and the kids all needing access, scheduling just became extremely important. How do you prioritize? Well, that is up to you. Be socially respectful or you will be distanced from your family when this is over.

I am becoming more interested in how companies are working to keep their customers and staff confident that this situation can be appropriately managed. The social side is more important than ever and we should NOT be social distancing. Physical distancing is needed. Social togetherness is mandatory.

Special thanks to all the front-line healthcare and first responders and those still working to support the rest of society in food, transportation and other areas.

At this time, the Stoics offer solid advice for us all. There are always things that are outside of our control and we should not worry about them. We need to control ourselves first and always so we can better serve others – especially family and friends during this time. Courage, justice, temperance, wisdom – the four tenets of stoicism can help us through.

Let’s connect socially now, virtually, while maintaining the necessary physical distance. Soon we will be able to connect socially – in person!

Make each day better than the one before.

 

Forged in Fire

First a confession – I am mechanically declined. I can do some things but I need time and no supervisor (dear). There are other areas of business and life where I have been able to apply my talents, such as they are.

My Dad was an incredibly handy and talented person. Woodwork, fix-it projects, MacGyver work-arounds, and a phenomenal artist. That gene went to my sisters (sorry bro, missed you too). I never applied myself to try and get better at handyman activities because it wasn’t as much of an interest growing up. I still only draw stick figures or worse 🙂

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I am fascinated by the TV show “Forged in Fire” and usually watch an episode every week. The bladesmiths are tasked with creating a specific style of knife in the first two rounds that must meet certain physical dimensions and then work through various tests of strength and cutting ability. The judges are skilled in bladesmithing or weapons so it is also a history lesson. These tests are completed in the forge of the show and one smith is sent home after each of the first two rounds. For the final test, the two competitors must make a unique blade from history and they do it in their home forge, usually with 4 or 5 days to complete. They return for three final tests and the winner is crowned.

The skill and ingenuity displayed by these smiths (men and women) is amazing. Timed rounds, with sometimes challenging ingredients to craft a unique blade with a handle that meets specs. Very impressive.

I believe we need to be like these bladesmiths now as we assess what our businesses must do post-COVID 19. Our personal and company winning game plan needs to:

  • be clear about our objectives and make a plan – what is the knife we are making? Plan (or draw) your blade and handle and build from that plan
  • be confident in our skill and knowledge and expertise – stay in our wheel-house to start
  • be adaptable if what we do now is not needed or is needed in a different way. If a blade is warped, the smith must make a decision on what to do with time constraints and material factors impacting success or failure
  • be creative – if every smith makes the same blade you will not stand out. What can you do with materials, style and personalization that can help you achieve the objectives in a unique way
  • be respectful and pay attention – the judges are the experts and they provide feedback and direction as they see fit after each round. Your customers are giving clues about what they want to achieve an opportunity or what problem they are needing resolved
  • know the advantages and disadvantages of the materials you select. Your 4P’s of marketing (product, place, price, promotion) can provide the direction you need when applied properly and with discipline
  • be proud of your work, even if you don’t win the $10K and title of Forged in Fire champion. There are exceptional pieces of work that do not win each week. The smiths are very proud of their work and in other circumstances their piece might win. You might not win every customer, and you should keep trying to get better each time out. This aspect of kaizen (small, continuous improvement) can help you in the long term

Your customers are the judge of the quality of their interaction with you at every step of the buying (forging) process. You need to sharpen your skills and get ready to do damage to the competition.

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OK, that was a bit too dramatic – but this is my blog 🙂

Over my career, I continued to hone my game planning skills. I have been fortunate to lead teams and companies to success because of a good plan and terrifically skilled people that did wonderful work. Each of us can be our own bladesmith and focus where our talents are needed now and tomorrow so we can keep moving forward in this new and strange environment.

Forge ahead!

 

Keeping Your Distance

Walking Trappar in the mornings is beginning to seem like I am the only person in Winnipeg on the August long weekend. And yet, at around 7 AM, the traffic picks up.

We might see one or two other dogs being walked and everyone stays well away from each other. Trappar, being the WalMart greeter, just can’t figure out why he can’t say “hi.”

Watching news clips of the streets of New York, Chicago and LA also have that spooky feeling of emptiness.

I had to run out for medical supplies last week and I was astounded at the volume of traffic. And I was concerned. Perhaps we want to seem invincible to this virus. And if so, why aren’t more people practicing social distancing and staying at home? Is everyone who is out working at a grocery store or distribution center?

When we have contained this contagion, I want to be confident that everyone has done the right thing so that commerce can get back to normal quickly.

Alas, I am concerned this will not be true.

The more stupid things people do to congregate and not isolate, the longer the isolation is required.

I am very concerned about businesses that are operating on a thread. Smart execs were prepared for some impact. I am not sure anyone was prepared for the magnitude and breadth of this economic impact. Serious cash flow management must happen now. The best organizations are working on 90 day cash flow plans. How are you doing?

The best organizations are investing (not spending) their time on learning more about their customers and their customers’ situations. Because different industries are affected in various negative and positive ways, great companies are learning everything they can to ensure their value statement accurately reflects what their customers need. Deep thinking and understanding is the starting point. Next, compassion and assistance is required.

Put your oxygen mask on first (airplane analogy) so that you can assist where required. If you are not mentally, physically and financially healthy, how can you be of value to anyone else?

I am not scolding anyone for their actions. Life must go on; albeit in an adjusted manner. I am imploring you to think about others.

The evening news in Winnipeg tonight had a story featuring our Premier about to blow his lid. And justifiably so. The news station had lots of video of groups of people – of all ages – engaged in outdoor activities. Why? What are you not understanding about the severity of this situation?

I have moved most of my current work to video platforms and more electronic communications. And I understand the impact on networks with more remote workers. For example, if mom and dad are now both at home, and their children are also being remotely schooled, this is a substantial strain on most normal internet connections. The providers likely never modeled such heavy use in a compact period.

I wonder when it breaks. The economic consequences could be dire. This is not fear-mongering, it is simply a statement of technical fact. Systems are built to carry signal via trunk lines with high capacity, and then distribute to the end user.

I do not know the state of readiness of the multi-tenant buildings as far as signal capacity. And for those now working at home that must enter their work networks via secure access, this is also a strain on VPNs and system capacity and linking.

We will survive and we will soon be thriving again. Memories of this pandemic will be discussed in business schools and halls of government. What will we learn? What will we change? How will remote working affect the human race – we are gregarious by nature.

I sure appreciate video communications. But I prefer a hearty handshake or warm embrace.

Let’s all act responsibly and shorten our time in storage.

Just like Trappar wants to say hi to the other dogs, I cannot wait until we can “release the hounds” and visit our friends, favorite restaurants and attractions.

That will be a celebration I want to be part of. And sooner than later.

Un-LinkedIn…Good

My LinkedIn account was hacked. A phishing message was sent to all my contacts. I was able to answer some of the return messages from my contacts. I posted a message that my account was hacked and I hope that people read that before the message. I do not have confidence this is happened.

I reset my account, new password and two-step authentication. And then LinkedIn restricted my account. I went through all their processes to regain control. But, in over 12 days my submission is still being reviewed. And because I cannot get into my account, I cannot send a message to the customer service team to get some update and, ideally, resolution. Alas, I am in customer service limbo.

This post is not about my situation, it is related to your customer contact processes and how you handle situations similar to mine. I added the word “good” to the headline because this problem has forced me to revisit many things. The COVID-19 pandemic should cause you to revisit things as well.

Let’s begin by asking if you actually know who your customers are. Your current customers, classified according to their importance as specified by you – could be revenue, frequency of purchase, share of wallet, number of products, etc – must be understood. How do they use your product or service to help them get a specific job done? This goes from something that is an input component, easier to visualize; to a service or commodity, that has a feeling of satisfaction as the job to be done. Some people get a smoothie in the morning instead of a traditional breakfast for convenience or maybe it is the protein content or just the unique flavours. Do you know why your product/service is selected?

Next, what does that customer journey look like across your interactions. How easy do you make it for someone to purchase from you? How do you handle their queries? What tools do you use to “be more efficient” when you are not solving the problem? I find some chatbots are horrible for serving customers. Does everyone in your organization have a customer first mindset that allows them to do the right thing for the customer at their touchpoint? And how do you know this? As leaders, CMO or CEO or COO, how much time do you spend “managing by walking around?” This was old school, but it is still a great school. Yogi Berra said, “you can observe a lot by watching.”

Image result for yogi berra you can see a lot by observing

With the impact of COVID-19 varying widely by industry (positive and negative impacts) there cannot be a one-sized solution. Some industries are shrinking, such as restaurants. Some industries are booming, such as food distribution. On a high level, the food supply chain is being buffeted in both directions. Only until you dig deeper can you determine if the result is good or bad. Context is key. Add in variances by company and their individual financial strengths, and you can see that an industry assessment can become confusing and frustrating to create meaningful groups.

And the result of the initial analyses is that you now might have to craft a number of messages for the splintered profiles that are compounded by the pandemic.

Gee, marketing is actually more difficult than just “making it pretty” and requires the skills of a behavioural scientist, a financial mindset to understand how to ensure you are offering profitable products/services, and a strategic thinker to consider future “what ifs” and a tactical mind that can focus on activities and actions in the next 12 months.

If Marketers are allowed to develop this deep insight and track it with the right measurements (key performance indicators) then operations can receive actionable intel about customer trends, needs, desires and wants.

Your goal is to create a position for your product/service that answers the following questions (thanks Professor Ritson):

  • What do customers want?
  • What can you deliver differently or better than your competitors?
  • Are you able to sell for a profit?

So, applying these statements to my current LinkedIn experience, the answers from my perspective are:

  • A response to service questions in a reasonable time
  • I am exploring other social platforms and going to revise my website as a result of this debacle
  • It will take a lot for me to want to upgrade to a paid LinkedIn  plan

Given this current climate of unrest there lies opportunities for assessment and deep thinking. Please take the time to get yourself ready for when the good times will inevitably roll again. They will probably be different times, but they will roll.

I look forward to connecting with you again soon.

Fighting a Virus

It is not what happens to you, it is how you react to what happens to you.

This phrase describes the essence of resilience. While it is good to know steps to take, I don’t believe you can develop resilience from any single source – you have to experience something and then rise up and get back into the fray.

The collective resilience of government leaders, executives and the entire population of our planet is put to the test with the responses to the COVID-19 virus. How we handle the current evaluation of people to determine if they are carrying the virus, how these people will be treated, and how we take steps to rise from the corresponding economic carnage occurring right now, will go a long way to determining what quality of life we will be leading in the years to come.

I heara a terrific phrase on a Jeffrey Gitomer zoom call this week – “are you ‘spending’ your time now (binge watching and wasting your self-distancing time) or are you ‘investing’ your time?” When recovery begins are you going to be ready to achieve greater success (TK: success defined by your own measures)?

This is a valuable opportunity to reset your marketing efforts – in your company and for yourself. Today, I will focus on your company.

I want to apply the 4P’s of marketing with an eye to “review, refocus and recharge” your business performance. And, regardless of some that think this model is outdated, please apply the 4P’s from a customer-centric perspective. Any model can be crafted to achieve what your objective is. If your objective is to strengthen your customer relationship, there is no time like the present to achieve this:

  • Product: What do you currently sell customers currently buy from you? I am going to refer to product as including a physical product or service. How does it truly differentiate from competitors or potential substitutes? Do you really understand the value that your customers receive with your overall product? When was the last time you were able to see your product in action? This will vary and can be more difficult for a service since it is intangible. And, you can measure the strength of these interactions to determine the value. Measures include: watching for ease of use, smiles of users, frustration shown by users (this lowers your value score), and completing independent research.
  • Place (distribution): How was your distribution channel affected by the shutdown and isolation measures? Were you able to adjust and maintain a level of customer contact (I realize this varies by industry – restaurants that closed do not need fresh ingredients…who else does, perhaps soup kitchens?) Were you able to send messages of support – not sales messages? Were you able to use technology like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to hold or participate in virtual meetings? Did you use your cell phone for the phone capability? How will these adaptations now allow you to be of better service in the future? Perhaps locking in some of these changes now will have you ready for takeoff when the green light is given and life gets back to normal.
  • Price: Unless you have materials in storage that have a shelf life, you might not have to lower your prices to move the inventory. With other adjustments to your business model, are you also able to adjust your pricing? Are you able to find extra value based on your assessment of product and place that your price can be maintained, with lower costs, so that you are more profitable? Is there a situation where you might have to share the financial burden in the short-term so that you keep, or strengthen a long term relationship? This “P” is often forgotten; please keep it top of mind now.
  • Promotion: This is the “P” that gets most of the focus because it includes advertising. Marketing is not advertising. Advertising is a component of marketing. What is the message you should convey today? Some products, and stores, are essential and advertising is an important tactic to keep customers accurately informed. Ensure your message is informative and positive. And there is nothing wrong with advertising so that you are positioned “top of mind” when life returns to normal. Please be respectful.

Life does not have to end. This situation gives everyone an opportunity to take stock of their position and make some changes to be prepared in advance of any similar future situation. You can develop fantastic resilience at this time and you are going to be better tomorrow than you are today.

This post may not make it to LinkedIn. My account was hacked on Monday. Despite my best efforts to recover the account, the hackers had sent a message to all 1600+ contacts asking them to click on a voice message. I do not know if this was a phishing scam. I was able to post a message about the situation on my account before LinkedIn locked my account. I actually no longer exist in LinkedIn right now. So, my email, voice and website become more important. LinkedIn has not been able to resolve the issue for me in nearly 4 days. While it is frustrating, I can only believe the people in that company are overwhlemed and dealing with many other issues.

As the Maxwell Smart character often said on the show, “Get Smart,” “If he only used his powers for good and not evil.” Too many other scams existing now are taking advantage of vulnerable members of our society. If I EVER find these bad guys…”To The Moon!

 

WOW! Brand…or Not!

I stayed in a new hotel during a recent business trip. I had stayed in it previously when it was operating under a different name. It was physically refreshed and had an air of “new” from the moment you walked in.

When I was walking to my room I noticed some interesting signs on the walls:

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The note beside the coffee machine reads:

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while the note beside the face cloths reads:

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The writing paper was only one page, so I asked the housekeeping staff for another one as well:

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And even the door hangers had unique sayings:

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And finally, how about this attention grabbing headline from the menu doorhanger:

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I love this stuff! Give me more!

Except…I was disappointed in the overall experience because it did not live up to these tasty tidbits of brilliance.

While the staff seemed mostly nice, there were some odd behaviours. For example:

  • walking into the restaurant at breakfast, the host simply asked for our free breakfast card…not even a cheery “good morning”
  • the young server who tidied up our dirty dishes made two trips and never said a word. As we walked past her towards the exit she said “have a good day” but rather solemnly
  • the young lad pushing a room service cart down the hallway stopped to let us go past, but he had his head down and didn’t acknowledge us with any type of greeting
  • several of the servers in the restaurant, most patrons had the buffet and didn’t need a server except to take away dirty dishes, never said a word to anyone

There is a brand disconnect. And since a brand is the sum of all experiences you have with a product or company, and most importantly what you say about the product or company when they are not in the room, this brand gets a “D” because of this inconsistency. If someone in the marketing team has created all the wonderful messages, it is incumbent on the leadership to make sure the tone of the messages is lived throughout the guest experience.

Perhaps a Westjet flight crew can be brought in to demonstrate enthusiasm. But, only if this is the type of image you want to present to customers and anyone else you deal with.

So, how does your total customer experience stack up? Here is a quick 5-point checklist to help you get started:

  • Do you have a “brand bible” that describes what your values are? And does this also describe the tone and expectation that you have for any interaction? The Summa Health organization did a remarkable job of creating a “Standards of Behavior Handbook”  that describes exactly what all the expectations are. Most importantly, the employees drove the creation of this tool.
  • Do all employees understand how they fit within this brand expectation and how their day-to-day responsibilities contribute to this desired image?
  • How often do you audit all your messaging for consistency? I mean all your messaging – from how guests are greeted at reception to how the late payment notice is worded. Perhaps a “secret shopper” can be employed to conduct an objective assessment to “help you see yourself real.”
  • Do you have input from all employees or is it a top-down process. I highly recommend that you include the people with the vast majority of customer contacts or leadership runs the risk of seeing things only from the corner office. This view is often not close to the real world.
  • Do you ask your customers what they think of you? After all, without customers you have no business.

Diligence and focus are requirements to a building and growing a great brand. The brand is so much more than a logo or tag line. It is the essence of everything that the company does for their customers – tangible and intangible actions.

ATD – Attention to Detail – can help you live the brand as you want to be seen.

Cute phrases on their own will not create the brand you want.

RIP TJ – you were a tenacious competitor with a big heart.

 

 

A Leader is Someone Others Willingly Follow

Jack Welch, legendary CEO of General Electric (GE) passed away on Sunday. He was only 84 years young. He was widely revered, and sometimes reviled, for his leadership style. Under Welch’s leadership, GE became the largest company in the world, by market cap at $500 billion. He was crowned “manager of the century” by Forbes in 1999. When he was CEO the market cap was around $14 billion, and in 20 years he grew it to $500 billion. IF you owned GE shares at that time you made a lot of money.

He was a chemical engineer by training, with a PhD. in chemical and bio-molecular engineering. This education certainly tied in with one of his nicknames as “neutron Jack.” Although, this moniker was for his focus on making cuts or divestitures.

Welch gave his mother the credit for instilling in him the hard work necessary to be successful. One great story I uncovered when reviewing his life, is from a story by Paul Batura (wrote a biography of the illustrious Paul Harvey – highly recommend this book) that goes as follows:

“If there was one story of his mother that he told time and time again, and that seemed to sum up her blend of warmth with her penchant for bluntness, it was the aftermath of a high school hockey game against an archrival, which Jack’s Salem High team lost in overtime.

Frustrated with the defeat, Jack flung his stick across the ice, retrieved it and headed to the locker room. A few minutes later his mother appeared inside, and in front of all his teammates, laced into him for his poor sportsmanship.

“You punk!” she yelled, getting up to him real close. “If you don’t know how to lose, you’ll never know how to win. If you don’t know this, you shouldn’t be playing.”

Looking back on the embarrassing confrontation, Welch expressed gratitude for his mother’s willingness to be honest with him. She was a woman who didn’t suffer fools lightly.

“The insights she drilled into me never faded,” he recalled. “She always insisted on facing the facts of a situation. One of her favorite expressions was ‘Don’t kid yourself. That’s the way it is.’”

A couple of takeaways:

  • Mother willing to be honest
  • Son accepting responsibility for his actions
  • Never forgetting the lesson

Welch had another side as expressed by a colleague, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who served as full tenured professor at Emory’s Goizueta Business School for a decade and a professor at the Harvard Business School for a decade, and who is currently the senior associate dean of leadership programs as well as the Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management for the Yale School of Management, as well as founder and president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, a nonprofit educational and research institute focused on CEO leadership and corporate governance. Sonnenfeld brought Welch into his MBA programs to talk with the classes. His friendship provided him with a different perspective:

“His greatest legacy was his leadership development commitment. Welch was not a snob and would talk with anyone – to learn something new or discover rising talent. His renowned Series C meetings every 90 days were very tough periodic talent reviews which he cared about almost as much as business unit performance.

He taught many GE Crotonville management classes himself. His progenies included: Jeff Immelt of GE; Bob Nardelli of Chryslers; Jim McNerney of Boeing; Dave Cote of Honeywell, Jeff Zucker of CNN, Davis Zaslav of Discovery. He was all business. He was blunt and direct, ruthlessly competitive but had no tolerance for bigotry.

He demonstrated the need for CEOs to focus on shareholder value, reinvigorating a hidebound bureaucracy for a new era, and to develop new leaders as a top priority.”

And there are the detractors that saw Welch as a cutthroat leader who was famous for tough decision-making by seeming to forget there were humans involved. He had a “vitality curve” that grouped people into a 20-70-10 structure. The top 20% are the superstars and should be left alone. The middle 70% need care and feeding to continue to get better. And the bottom 10% should be cut from the team.

Personally, I had a hard time understanding this. However, if you knew the rules of the game when you joined any of the GE companies, then you accepted the possible outcomes. Full stop.

There is a retired Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, that describes a principle that he sees as essential called “Extreme Ownership.”  This book and his associated podcasts and interviews describe the principle in detail and in many situations. Jocko places the responsibility for actions with each individual. And for leaders this is absolutely critical for your success.

Famed leadership researchers and authors, James Kouzes and Dr. Barry Posner of “The Leadership Challenge”  have the best definition of leadership I have ever seen “a leader is someone others willingly follow.” Willink also reinforces this in his assessment of leadership capabilities. As a SEAL team leader he accepted responsibility for his actions and this gave his superior officers confidence in his future actions and gave his teams the trust that he would always take care of them.

And Willink is not soft. He has high expectations of himself and of his people. Check out his website for examples of his discipline and focus.

I have never been an advocate of blindly following a particular leadership style. Many of the greatest leaders were not easily copied, for a variety of reasons. Not least of which is that you need to be true to yourself. Don’t try and be someone else, be yourself. However, adapting successful strategies or tactics to suit your own situation can be very productive.

If you chart the way, provide care and feeding of your staff, and act according to your values, you will likely be successful as a leader.

Sounds simple. Now the hard work begins.

And the hard work continues…who knows where you will end up?!

To your success!!!

If we’d known we were going to be the Beatles we would have tried harder

I am reading Eric Idle’s book “Always look on the bright side of life” – thanks Turnar! In his “Sortabiography,” Eric, of Monty Python fame, mentions the quote from George Harrison that is in the headline. In the book it is in the context of “how could we know we could become them?” as Eric talked about the formative years of Python.

The Beatles were brilliant and changed music for generations. The Python troupe changed sketch comedy for generations.

Now, I know not everyone is a Beatles or Python fan. That is not the point. When you consider disruption, these are two lasting, and famous, examples.

The George Harrison quote can be applied and considered by everyone. You don’t know what you are going to become in the future. And if you wait until your moment, it might be too late to capitalize on it because you actually didn’t put in the work earlier.

This is the main point and is reinforced by the teachings of John Wooden and shown in the apex of his Pyramid of Success, “Competitive Greatness: Perform at your best when your best is needed. Your best is needed every day.”

Martin Luther King also said:

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

We all have hopes and desires. Some of us dream of pro sports stardom; some dream of inventing something life changing for the world; some dream of raising a family; some dream of being an accountant? (with apologies and respect to my accounting buddies – watch the Python sketch about the boring life of an accountant) and so on. None of these aspirations is any better or worse than the other. We all make our choices and we move forward from there.

And yet, do we really prepare a bit extra each day to improve our standing or help us reach our goals faster? If this was so, then every company and organization would be operating at peak efficiency. In Canada, our productivity index is always slightly behind the US. I don’t want to get into all the details, you can go here for a deeper explanation, but such comparisons always make me wonder if organizations are aligned for improvement by helping their people get better.

Let’s start with a new employee “onboarding” approach. How many companies give out that 2″ orientation manual on day 1??? Be honest!

Doesn’t this move scream “bureaucracy” to everyone? I mean, this is Dilbert material for sure.

When do you share your culture and values? Oh, you mean you didn’t talk about this during the interview process? Well, it is a good thing you have that 60 day probation period in case “Tim” doesn’t work out because he is not aligned.

Come on. This is 100% your fault.

When John, Paul, George and Ringo got together they made sure they were aligned at the start. They made magic and then wanted to change and the group ended. Way too soon from an outsider’s perspective, but, they were the ones that had to work together.

The same holds true for John, Graham, Eric, Michael, Terry and Terry when they formed the Pythons. They knew each other or about each other and they found ways to collaborate to see if there was a fit. When the fit was confirmed the group moved forward with crafting their show.

The winning onboarding process of a company like Zappos can be studied, and the model adjusted for your company. I am NOT saying you need the Zappos culture. I am suggesting that their approach to finding and hiring and training people is based on wanting them to stay long-term. What a novel concept 🙂

And as individuals, it is up to each one of us to become as good as we can, to be the best employee we can be.

This is not corny, this is real.

I have to sign off now because I have some studying to do. Tonight is finishing reading “Uncommon Service” by Frances Frei. Fascinating read.  And tomorrow is the study of some exceptional sales training.

To your success!

Artificial Intelligence

The Oxford dictionary provides the following definition of artificial:

ar·ti·fi·cial
/ˌärdəˈfiSHəl/
adjective
1. made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural.
“her skin glowed in the artificial light”
2. (of a person or their behavior) insincere or affected.
“an artificial smile”
And the following definition for intelligence:
in·tel·li·gence
/inˈteləjəns/
noun
1. the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.
“an eminent man of great intelligence”
It certainly seems like an odd definition when you combine the two words for a stream that is gaining so much notoriety these days.
We had a CMC event today, and our guest speaker was a very bright and engaging PhD candidate who gave us an overview on AI and Machine Learning. He covered several myths and corrected them, including:
  • Myth – AI is designed to reduce the number of people. Reality – While you hear this a lot in various news stories, we learned that AI is actually best designed to complement what employees are doing.
  • Myth – AI primary benefit is cost savings. Reality – I am sure CFOs want to see costs reduced; however, in the past three years the biggest benefits of AI are revenue generation
  • Myth – AI algorithms can magically make sense of messy data. Reality – AI is not “load and go.” Like any other system with data input, the old adage of “garbage in, garbage out” holds true with AI.  Think about it, AI is looking for new patterns in the data. If your data is full of duplicate and incomplete records you will not get anything of real value as an output.

One of the most interesting comments from Aditya was that the AI tools are not looking to replace the human component of decisions. Humans are still humans. Our normal patterns of behaviour can be randomly upset by one-off events or trauma in our lives.

If I have a normal schedule to get to work each day, and I get cut off by a bozo who doesn’t care, I might just be thrown off my congenial behaviour when I arrive at work. No one could have predicted I would be Mr. “Uncongeniality” – not pleasing. You know, when your colleagues might say something like “who peed in your corn flakes this morning?”

If a retailer’s algorithm had me pegged to make a purchase of a related item to a prior purchase the algorithm would be wrong that day. But the algorithm would not have all the data to complete the picture of me and my demeanor.

My point is that there is a lot of data that cannot be easily loaded for analysis, and smart people know that they have to understand where the data comes from and how complete the inputs are. How much do you trust the reliability and veracity of the data being analyzed?

People can be moving targets when trying to predict future purchase behaviour. And this makes it a challenge to predict. If you have ever purchased from Amazon, you often get recommendations about other products. The algorithm is taking a sample of your behaviour (past purchase) and applying it to be helpful (suggested future purchase). Revenue generation opportunities.

I have seen some interesting applications of AI trying to create ads. Here are a few samples:

I really believe that humans that seek to understand the client’s product or service and how it benefits their customers, or solves a problem/challenge, can always write better ads because they are seeing things real, just as they are. AI is still a bot. The empathy and emotion have not, yet, been captured in the data that feeds an algorithm.

In a terrific post by George Tannenbaum last November, after digesting his insights  scroll down and look for the bit from an ad legend, Dave Trott. https://adaged.blogspot.com/2019/11/truth-and-advertising.html

Dave talks about using facts to create emotion. And he uses the great VW ads as Exhibit A.

We could do well in any profession to think about how facts and truth can elicit an emotional response from our customers. Roy H. Williams says, “win the heart and the mind will follow.”

Thanks George, Dave and Roy.

There is nothing artificial in their intelligent statements.