Any Buffoon Can Cut Costs. Real Leaders Build

I was running the most successful region globally for a leading software company. We had just competed the year at 300% of annual revenue target for my region and with record margin. In the last two years we’d won 3 of the 4 biggest contracts for the company globally. All this from an office with just 35 people amongst a global workforce of 1,800 staff. This is where I conceived my RSVP deal management framework and it was a key factor in our success.

Then we were acquired by a larger software company and I was appointed as regional head of the new bigger entity. All seemed well… but confidence is often the feeling you have just before you understand the situation. 7 weeks into my new appointment I received an e-mail from North America. It included a spreadsheet with staff names on it and instructions to fire one-third of my employees. No phone call, no explanation, and no rationale for how the names were selected; just instructions to book 12 minute back-to-back meetings in a hotel lobby to hand people a lawyer's letter and tell them they were locked out of the office and IT systems. It was lunacy to wreck a healthy performing business… and the way HQ executed showed incredibly poor values. What happened from there is a story for another time.

3 years earlier I had been leading the Australian and New Zealand region for another company and they appointed a new VP for the Asia-Pacific region. My new boss had convinced the board in Europe that Asia-Pacific needed a clean-out and that he should be rewarded for improving net profit rather than on profitable revenue growth. They fell for it and he proceeded to destroy years of hard work and success while maximizing his personal remuneration. 40% of staff were fired and with much unnecessary angst. Again, very poor values.

Any buffoon can cut costs to temporarily created profit but cost-cutting is almost always a tactic, not a strategy. You cannot cost cut your way to sustained success because sooner or later a business must provide value and differentiate through innovation and service. The world needs builders, not destroyers, but building businesses organically (not just through acquisition) is tough work. It requires genuine leadership, commitment and passionate sales and marketing people to execute.

If you aspire to leadership you must be a builder, not a wrecker. You must be positive, not negative, You must encourage and lead, not criticize and push. Build people, processes and systems to innovate and provide outstanding value and service. Treasure great sales people who create the most valuable asset of a business… quality loyal customers.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Simon & His Camera

Cultural Fit – The Toughest Element in Hiring Salespeople

There is massive latent brand risk in any employee who is a cultural misfit or emotionally disconnected from positive values. For this reason, one of the most expensive mistakes an organisation can make is to hire or retain misaligned staff – especially sales people who face stress and pressure constantly. It is important to manage this commercial risk by understanding that skills are easy to measure and evidence but values often live behind a facade of salesmanship.

Know what you’re looking for beneath the surface of a resume or LinkedIn profile and understand how to penetrate the persona being projected during an interview. It is very difficult to change someone’s personality or values, instead we should seek those who are aligned. Here are characteristics that the best leaders seek when hiring new people:

  1. Guided by solid moral values. They treat others as they wish to be treated and place the well-being of the corporation, team members and customers above personal interests. They never bully or undermine others through gossip, negative politics or passive-aggressive behaviour. They clearly understand what is right and wrong and have the courage to always act with integrity.

  2. Committed to being part of the team. They ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their role. They believe their personal value comes from the timely results they deliver and their positive influence; not from their position, knowledge or qualifications.

  3. Cares about quality in everything they do. They actively listen and ensure understanding before jumping to solutions. Proposals are well written and follow the brief or address the problems articulated. They proof-read everything, including e-mail, before sending.

  4. Driven to achieve results. They focus on what needs to happen daily to achieve outcomes and they treasure their time and respect the time of others. Although they have a bias toward action, they avoid the busy fool syndrome.

  5. Strategic thinker. They listen far more than they talk and they gather intelligence to create insight before making decisions. They consider the politics within an organisation and the various self-interests at play in complex decision-making.

  6. Focused on delivering value. They work intelligently but also know there is no substitute for a strong work ethic. They are committed to delivering tangible results with a focus on the customer’s business case and managing their risk.

Almost everything in this list is an attitude more than a skill. It begs the question: how do you hire for cultural fit and discover the truth about a person’s character? The psychometric tools that measure intelligence and identify dominant personality traits do not address the issues of values and attitudes. To minimise hiring risks it is essential to understand all the relevant factors, including how candidates think and operate. Sales people are especially adept at projecting a polished facade. When hiring sales people, focus on the following:

  • Past performance is an indication of likely future performance. Reject any candidate with a resume that fails to document consistent high performance against targets or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Be weary of people who claim to have achieved great things with past employers yet regularly move on within eighteen months.

  • Assess their LinkedIn and social selling profile for a focus on value and relevance along with a strong network. All this should be evidenced by the groups to which they belong, the posts they publish and the contributions they make to online discussions.

  • Explore their Social Proximity to you within LinkedIn and research them to either eliminate or validate in advance of an interview.

  • Use candidate skills, experience and qualifications to screen individuals out of the process and then obsessively focus on cultural fit with the remaining applicants. Dig deep using behavioural questions and push for real-world examples.

  • Ensure the candidate evidences claimed traits with examples of difficult situations they faced and the challenges they overcame. Ask them about their failures and what they specifically learned.

  • Ask them to define what strategic selling means to them and to provide examples of how they execute, both online and in the physical world.

  • Use reference checking early in the process, not as mere validation at the end. Most importantly, you select and request the referees you want to talk to and reject the ones proposed by the candidate.

How people sell and operate is incredibly important for every business as they represent the brand more than anything else. Hiring the wrong people is a massive mistake so never rush the process. If you have people in your team that you suspect need to be moved out, use my Rule of 24 to help make the decision.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Rory MacLeod

The Rocks & The Sand

“The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” - Stephen Covey

There's never enough time in the day as a sales executive. You carry a significant number and you're looking to exceed quota. I know what you're thinking, when will you make the time to dominate social media while keeping everything else in the balance. You can schedule tweets, you can automate some of this but you still need an authentic strategy to navigate all of your responsibilities. At the end of the day, you've got to stay focused on the twenty percent of the opportunities that will drive eighty percent of revenue growth. This translates to actions, the percentage that will create eighty percent of the impact.

But how do you choose? The analogy of rocks and sand comes to mind and I learned this from Dr. Stephen R. Covey in First Things First. Each day when you get to your desk, don't even open your e-mail. Write down the top three things you need to accomplish by lunch on a pad and execute on those in the optimal sequence. These are the big rocks to fit into the jar of your life. These are the proactive lead measures you can affect to lever the Sisyphean boulder of your day up the proverbial hill.

The sand are the reactive prospect e-mails, the training video you had starred to watch, those social media notifications, the news of the day, sports scores, etc. What's important is that you take the time to clearly define what the rocks and sand are for you. If you put the sand into the jar first, you'll never fit the stuff that matters into your schedule – the rocks. You'll struggle just to play catch up.

Social media is just one tool in your arsenal. It's very powerful when you leverage batch processing. Utilize a social listening platform to track your greatest prospects in target companies first. Prioritize them. Prioritize everything. Companies like Avention, InsideView and Nimble can help you do this.

Watch what's trending with CXOs and take the time to comment on it. First listen to the stream and pick out the people with whom you'd like to engage. Then make it meaningful. Ten touches trumps one hundred when you make them count. Setting Google Alerts or a daily LinkedIn digest of group activity can give you an edge to find the signal in the noise. Batch process by having the discipline to take just thirty minutes when you wake up and thirty minutes before bed on this exercise. You'd be amazed how far you can get with a concerted mono-tasking effort on the target. The secret is scheduling time just like you would with cold calling and don't forget to still do that too. Yes, it can be a rock or sand. The choice is yours based on the due diligence and time you put in to picking the right targets.

LinkedIn Navigator is a watershed moment for front-line sales managers and sales people alike. It allows us to passively listen to just the targets we wish to pursue and then engage at the precise right moment. It allows us to receive a blended digest of these updates without needing to glue our eyes to the feed like a stock ticker.

The myth of social media is you have to spend all your time on it. Just as with tool such as the telephone, if you schedule your time, have an objective in mind and execute your plan in a concerted way, you can produce dramatic results. There's a major compulsion to 'always be on' because we fear missing something. But control this impulse and realize you can always catch-up at scheduled intervals. Listen to hashtags, listen retroactively to a custom list you built or just listen into the past; arguably even into the future.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Geoff Stearns

What I’ve Learned About Personal Leadership

As I write this, I’m 52 and our family just celebrated my son’s 18th birthday. His birth and also my daughter's arrival into the world changed my life and ever since then they've inspired me to be the best father, the best man, I can be. Here is what I’ve learned so far here on Earth and I share it with you because none of us lives long enough to learn the necessary lessons from our own experience and mistakes. If you’re younger than me, I especially hope this is of benefit to you.

We are the way we are for reasons we never fully understand. Nature and nurture – genes and our upbringing – combine with our world-view and beliefs to create our values and attitude. Also within all of us is an innate and irrepressible need to protect our self-esteem, justifying our defects or limiting beliefs rather than engaging in the process of objective examination and beneficial change. As evidence of our inability to see the truth of our own state, consider the fact that a camera captures a very different image compared with what we see in a mirror. We’ve all seen a video or photo of ourselves where we look grumpier or heavier than what we imagined. This is because the camera captures a third-party snapshot of how we really are rather than the filtered version we see in our own reflection.

The first step in overcoming any challenge is to face reality. In the context of leadership we must first overcome the conundrum of the ‘human condition’, which is prone to selfishness, short-sightedness, moral lapses and breathtaking stupidity. Beyond facing the awful truth we also need to be intelligently self-aware. The dictum ‘know thyself’ is most often attributed to Socrates and embodies the concept of self-awareness which has today been enhanced within the concept of EQ – Emotional Quotient. Self-awareness combined with genuine humility is an essential part of being able to lead others and build teams that leverage strengths and compensate for weaknesses. Successful leaders value difference and the opinions of others.

The very best leaders live by example and embody unbreakable determination in pursuing their cause, yet they do not bully or manipulate. Rather than create pressure they provide clarity, focus and energy for the people they lead. They focus on providing the right environment and ask the right questions rather than give answers. They are humbly self-aware, not self-absorbed, and they are honest, direct and accountable in their commitments and behavior. They understand that a good leader is first a good human being.

Much can be achieved when you don’t care who receives the credit and when you surrender the need to be constantly right. Leaders seek to understand before attempting to be understood. They know that lasting motivation comes from within and they therefore encourage their people to personally take ownership of outcomes. They build their people’s self-esteem and promote their team’s ideas by encouraging them to take calculated risks, stretching their capabilities. When things go wrong they provide support and do not lecture or punish. Neither do they rescue when the consequences are not catastrophic; instead they regard ‘opportunities to fail’ as useful. Later, without negative emotion, they facilitate reflection.

Great leaders are morally grounded in enduring values yet adopt purposeful pragmatism rather than judgmentally holding to narrow dogmas. They suspend judgment and accept diversity. Our ability to build other people in teams is more important than having all the ideas. Be counter-intuitive in your leadership style by humbly serving rather than grandstanding. Do what it takes rather than merely your best. You cannot lead from behind – pull people through rather than push. Accept the blame when things go wrong and learn the necessary lessons from criticism and failure so that you can adjust accordingly. Genuinely pass the credit on to others when things go well – success is always a team effort.

Time is the only real limited resource. Invest your time and treasure it rather than spend it. There is no such thing as wasted time if you always have a good book with you when you travel. Do not allow the trivially urgent to prevent you from doing the important. Make time for what matters most. Set goals and priorities, and regularly measure your own progress.

Less is more – less talking creates more influence and more learning; less clutter and distracting noise creates more clarity; less information creates better cut-through in the message. The best way to improve something is to reduce it. Cut the unnecessary elements away rather than add complexity or overhead. The more we take the less we become; we only become greater when we give and contribute. We can become our very best when we let go of what we treasure and embrace the very things we fear. What does not kill us can make us stronger. Building character and developing emotional resilience is a valuable foundation for future success. Failure can educate, and with resolve to overcome, we can gain wisdom and prosper.

Happiness is a state of mind concerning how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world. Be grateful for what you have. Laugh as often as you can. Reject judgment, bitterness and revenge – they are self-destructive forces, devouring the host. Do not take yourself too seriously; instead have an optimistic attitude and positive sense of humor. Freely admit when you are wrong, and say ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ every chance you get. Forgive and move on. Be prepared to take risks but without foolhardy recklessness.

Never be a victim; instead be fully accountable for your own success and happiness. Do not blame others or bad luck for failure and setbacks. Believe in yourself and earn the right to ask for what you want. Never bully or manipulate and do not allow knowledge to manifest within you as arrogance. Do not allow success to make you egotistical; instead learn genuine humility in acknowledging the contribution of others as well as good fortune or blessing.

Choose your friends and work environment wisely as both will change you through osmosis. Avoid those who are addicted to destructive gossip. Encouragement is far more effective than criticism – believe in the competent and help them become better. Expect the best of others and treat them with respect regardless of their station in life. Serve your employer, team and customers ahead of your own interests – trust the law of reciprocity to reward your integrity and ability to create value. Show thoughtful initiative and a strong work ethic. We learn nothing while talking, and making a noise rarely makes a difference. Instead become a great listener who is genuinely interested in others, asking insightful and powerful questions.

Success is living a life of purpose and achieving your goals, yet the passage of time is the only valid perspective for measuring achievement. There is no excuse for not being your best or failing to fulfill your potential. Barriers and difficulties are there to exclude average people, and for the purpose of ensuring the worthiness of those who achieve. Scarcity is what creates value. We all wish our circumstances would improve but it is usually we who must change first. Become better rather than wish it were easier. Be the change you want to see in the world – start with your own bedroom, garage, and backyard. You cannot manage an enterprise if you cannot manage yourself. Avoid gossip, criticism and judgment. There is genuine peace in not worrying about things that don’t matter (inconsequential trivia) are outside your control.

Knowledge and technical competence are not enough. Your value to your employer and customers is defined by your ability to positively influence and deliver results. Thinking strategically and executing masterfully is more important than adhering to methodologies – obsessively pay attention to excellence in execution.

Success or failure is the accumulated result of thousands of tiny decisions. Most people become disempowered through inner-corrosion rather than by a catastrophic event. Sustained success is the result of painful and diligent growth occurring below the surface, for the most part unseen by the outside world. Work on yourself rather than criticize others. Self- awareness, self-discipline, self-leadership and positive attitude are what attract success beyond mere knowledge and skill.

Work is not different from the rest of life – bring all of yourself to your work. Treat your sales career as a profession that creates value rather than being a competitive game. It has serious and profound lessons to teach if you are open to learning. Be the person worthy of the life you seek – success and failure, belief and doubt are necessarily conjoined. Finally, lessons tend to be repeated until learned – think about that one as you wonder why you’re so ‘unlucky’. You can find the problem and the opportunity in the mirror.

Leadership really is an inside job.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Edd's Images

The Gift That Changes Lives. Thanks Dad

We live in unprecedented times and if you are a student of history or perhaps eschatology, the human narrative is accelerating at a mind-boggling rate. Technology is now enabling ‘the information age’ at the speed of thought. Artificial Intelligence is upon us – yes, the scary science fiction kind. The ‘web of things’ is linking cars, appliances, machines, assets and people. Wearable Bluetooth and mobility tracking are combining with beacons to create geo-context and proximity alerts via wireless networks and satellite communications that are ubiquitous. Big data is extending into micro predictive analytics. Social media has already democratized the internet and cloud computing is enabling the most complex of capabilities for the smallest of enterprises. Meta-algorithms are creating their own priorities and financial systems have a level of interdependency that no-one truly understands. It all seems to be creating an ever-consuming life of it’s own – real human interaction is taking a back seat.

We have never had more access to information yet we drown in the data, drinking from the proverbial fire-hose, incapable of digesting all that is overwhelming us. We seek clarity amidst all the voices clamouring for our attention – there are a thousand channels to watch yet nothing is on. Everyone strives for cut-through and the result is sound bites and fear inducing sensationalist headlines. We have never been more connected yet so disconnected – 1,000 friends online and no-one we can count on in a crisis. We struggle to be heard – we crave for meaning and purpose amidst all the activity and interactions.

The human condition is not addressed by technology. This is why machines will never replace humans in the field of relationship solution selling. Machines and technology cannot deal with nuanced context, nor can it create insight or transfer emotion. It is certainly incapable of navigating politics. No soul, no love, and no emotional connection.

So amidst a cynical world where destructive beliefs, narcissism, fear, prejudice and distrust seem to pervade everything; how can we make a difference? Let me share this true story.

My Dad passed away on Christmas Eve 2013. He was a committed atheist and he taught me the power of belief. My parents divorced when I was age 9 and Dad moved interstate. He was a workaholic and not around very much so I really only got to know him in my late teens when I moved to live near him. I then joined him in business and wow, what a ride. Dad was a Mensa level genius, bipolar (manic-depressive) and alcoholic. What a combination; he had a break-down and was hospitalized, and I was thrown in the deep-end to manage the business. My dad was difficult to work with, to say the least, and I was young and judgmental.

But months later, over dinner with just him and me – I asked him to tell me his life story. Judgment gave way to compassion and I started to become aware of the greatest gift we can give to another person.

Dad had an unconventional childhood where he lived with various foster parents, estranged relatives, in convents and boarding schools. By the age of 12 he had lived in 16 different places. This was because his father raised him as a single parent and was an Air Force officer during World War II. His mother, Winifred, incredibly beautiful, suffered from postnatal depression and was subjected to electroshock treatment – she descended into severe mental illness and, as was the custom of the day, was institutionalized and never spoken of. Dad only discovered that his real mother existed when he obtained a birth certificate as part of applying for his driver’s license at age 22. He was told that she had died giving birth to him – but this was not true and I was there when he finally met her for the first time, shortly before she died in her eighties.

From birth through to joining the Australian Air Force in 1952, Dad’s childhood was as far removed from normal as one could imagine. He had no real sense of belonging or being loved. To compound his childhood problem of being relentlessly moved from situation to situation, Dad suffered from a severe speech impediment – chronic stuttering. He was always the loner, the outsider, and the target of bullying and sexual abuse.

I asked Dad how in the world he had managed to survive and why he wasn’t a bitter person. Dad was a pacifist and never sought revenge. He answered by telling me about Ms. Beatrice Ternan, a speech therapist, who had the biggest positive impact on him as a child. His stuttering affliction was debilitating and he was sent to Ms. Ternan several times a week for speech therapy exercises. Once she got to know Dad, she let him sit and read, no speech exercises. She would quietly do paperwork and then take him to her home for biscuits and lemonade where he was then collected by his father. She told him that his stuttering was something that would simply pass and she showed him a kindness that he had never experienced. She gave my Dad the gift of believing in him. Beatrice also taught Dad two principles that stayed with him for life: “To be interesting you must be interested, and give generously and you will be rewarded many fold.”

As my Dad and I hugged that night, emotional and slightly drunk, he whispered into my ear. “Son, all you need to make it in life is someone who’ll believe in you.” He was that person for me and I became that person for him.

So, as you wrap presents for those you love and send notes and gifts to those you work with, think also about giving something that can change their lives – the gift of believing in them; the gift of encouragement; the gift of speaking positively into their future. There are people in your life – your children, your partner, your employees, even your boss; that need you to believe in them. Every word from your lips has the power to build or destroy. Your words can be precious gifts that help change lives because behind the façade of confidence is usually someone secretly feeling that they’re an imposter. Inside the shy or reserved, is someone great who just needs a little encouragement to break-out.

Here’s the biggest thing I’ve learned about leadership: ‘It all about you but it’s not about you.’ Leadership is an inside job – then it’s about serving others by finding a worthwhile cause that changes lives for the better. Read that again. Forget the pursuit of happiness, instead seek meaning in what you do. Happiness has nothing to do with what you have but instead is all about who you are.

Professional selling is changing but don't let all the technology and all the noise distract you from what makes you powerful – be human, and be a person of authenticity, generosity and goodwill. Make every relationship count in 2015 and be kind to those weird, unhappy or nasty people you meet because they too have their own stories that would change how you view them if you knew.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Andrew Magill

Your Team Culture Is In The Mirror

The culture of an organization is defined and imbued by the leader; plain and simple. To identify and understand the culture, simply get to know the values and operating style of the leader. If you are the leader and seek transformation in your people then you need a mirror, not a manual to begin the process of change management. Vision, mission and values statements are not enough – you must be the change you seek in your organisation, especially when it comes to being customer-centric and market driven.

Although the leader sets the tone and defines the organization’s culture, people rather than vision and mission statements are the manifestation of culture and it is therefore essential to hire only those with the right attitudes and values. One of the leader’s most important roles is hiring for cultural fit but the problem with most hiring processes and job descriptions is that the focus is on skills, experience and qualifications. These are important prerequisites for hiring but rarely the reasons for firing. Instead, the rationale for dismissing an employee is most often ‘poor cultural fit’ and this can be a point of contention when seeking to manage an employee out.

Latent brand risk resides in any employee who is a cultural misfit or emotionally disconnected from positive values. For this reason, one of the most expensive mistakes an organization can make is to hire or retain misaligned staff. It is important to manage this commercial and brand risk by understanding that skills are easy to measure and evidenced but values often live behind a façade of salesmanship. Know what you are looking for beneath the surface of a resume and understand how to penetrate the persona being projected during an interview. Here are characteristics that the best leaders seek in a senior team member:

  • Guided by solid moral values. They treat others as they wish to be treated and place the well-being of the corporation, team members and customers above personal interests. They never bully or undermine others through gossip, negative politics or passive-aggressive behaviour. They clearly understand what is right and wrong and have the courage to always act with integrity.
  • Committed to being part of the team. They ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their role. They believe their personal value comes from the timely results they deliver and their positive influence; not from their position, knowledge or qualifications.
  • Cares about quality in everything they do. They actively listen and ensure understanding before jumping to solutions. Proposals are well written and follow the brief or address the problems articulated. They proof-read everything, including e-mail, before sending.
  • Driven to achieve results. They focus on what needs to happen daily to achieve the right outcomes. They have a bias toward action and focus on delighting customers. They focus on business-case and managing risk.
  • Strategic thinker. They gather intelligence to create insight before making decisions. They consider the politics within an organisation and the various self-interests at play in complex decision-making.
  • Strong work ethic. They work intelligently but also know there is no substitute for a strong work ethic.

All this begs the question: how do you hire for cultural fit and discover the truth about a person’s character? The psychometric tools that measure intelligence and identify dominant personality traits do not address the issues of values and attitudes. To minimise hiring risks it is essential to understand all the relevant factors, including how candidates think and operate. The best employers focus on the following elements:

  • Past performance is an indication of likely future performance. Reject any candidate with a resume that fails to document high performance against targets or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  • Use candidate skills, experience and qualifications to screen individuals out of the process and then obsessively focus on cultural fit with the remaining applicants.
  • Thoroughly research candidates and use social media tools such as LinkedIn to find connections within your network to further eliminate or validate someone in advance of an interview.
  • Challenge claimed achievements and be weary of people who claim to have achieved great things with past employers yet regularly move on within eighteen months.
  • Ensure the candidate evidences claimed traits with examples of difficult situations they faced and the challenges they overcame. Ask them about their most difficult situations and failures, then what they specifically learned.
  • Use reference-checking early in the process, not as mere validation at the end. Most importantly, you select and request the referees you want to talk to.

Even with the right employees in place, the leader’s actions set the tone and define the culture that cascades throughout the organisation. So what defines a healthy culture in the context of business? Here is some food for thought. Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, chronicles what he describes as ‘level 5 leadership’. His research identified the attributes of the very best leaders who possess the following:

  • Face the awful truth in acknowledging realities.
  • Accept personal responsibility when things go wrong.
  • Attribute success to others when things go well (genuine humility).
  • Have quiet yet unbreakable determination in achieving success.
  • ‘Hedgehog Principle’ for developing unassailable market position.

Interestingly, the first four elements are attitudes and only the last item on the list is a skill. 80% of what Jim Collins identifies as essential attributes for sustained leadership are difficult to measure and not usually evident in a traditional resume or catered for in the job application process.

Use a Mirror not a Manual to Create a Customer Centric Culture. Everyone within the organization represents the brand and the leader needs to enthusiastically embody and live the culture of the organisation and make all values, vision and mission statements real and meaningful for everyone in the team.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Gavin Llewellyn

How To Create Customer Centric Culture?

Everyone who touches a customer needs to be a steward of the brand and seek opportunities to deliver value and create revenue. Everyone else in the organisation ultimately supports people who interact with customers – back office and technical staff therefore have frontline employees as their internal customers. Customer service is the new sales model in a world where social media gives every consumer the ability to instantly damage or build a supplier’s brand. Unhappy customers tell everyone who will listen and they can do real damage to your brand. Your website, other digital points of presence and social media strategies must be used to empower staff to engage customers and stakeholders in meaningful conversations, not just to project your sales and marketing messages.

Rather than restricting staff in their internet and social media activities, consider thoughtfully implementing programs that educate and empower staff to be transparent and responsive to customers through any channel. Be clear with your employees that with freedom comes responsibility and accountability. Also be transparent and communicate openly to staff and customers that when mistakes are made you always seek to rectify the problem to the complete satisfaction of the customer.

To ensure productivity and control, provide tools to staff such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems with embedded social media feeds delivering a ‘single source of the truth’ about customers. Implement ‘web to lead’ systems so that when a customer interacts with your website you have a system to capture their interest or complaint. Especially reward staff who listen in social channels and convert unhappy customers into advocates – every complaint or negative Tweet about your brand is a sales opportunity! Reward staff who refer new business regardless of whether they work in the sales department. Most importantly, acknowledge staff who go above and beyond their job description or market expectations in delivering exceptional customer service.

Vision, mission and values statements are meaningless without validation through the actions and behaviours of employees. Personal attitudes and values must be aligned with the corporate ethos and connected with emotion. To achieve this consider your vision, mission and values statements and then write something new: ‘Here at our company we believe …’ Then define how these beliefs should manifest in the attitudes and actions of you and the team. Make it real with examples and acknowledge those who exemplify the culture and values. Consider the effectiveness of Richard Branson who personifies the Virgin brand. It can be argued that Richard Branson is the Virgin brand and he ensures that every Virgin business obsessively hires based on cultural fit. This is because they know they can train skills but it is very difficult to alter attitudes and values.

Conversely, look at the disaster of Enron where the appalling values within the leadership drove recklessness and greed that spread like a cancer to eventually destroy the corporation and harm hundreds of thousands of lives. Enron’s caustic culture was their biggest commercial risk and it festered behind a paper-thin facade of clichéd mission, vision and values statements.

The leader is the culture and poor hiring, especially within senior ranks, introduces significant brand and business risk. Corporate and individual reputations take years to build and can be lost in an instant through the misbehaviour of an individual. Because the foundation of positive culture is values, authentic leaders are committed to a solid moral framework regardless of whether anyone is watching. Anthony Howard is a thought leader on moral leadership and his white paper, It’s Time For Moral Leadership, is a must read for exploring this in greater depth.

The reality is that there will always be a gap between aspiration and execution but without striving to become better we do not grow. Look deeply at the value you bring customers and markets to identify the higher purpose of what you do. How do you impact individual lives and society? In what way are you a force for good in the world? Instilling a foundation of positive values and beliefs for making a difference is tremendously powerful in harnessing human energy to build your enterprise and brand.

As a leader, first strive to be a good human being who places customers and staff ahead of your own needs. Be a force for good and, rather than criticise, encourage and seek solutions. Be energetic and passionate about the success of your team and customers. Be accountable and driven to achieve results.

In summary: Define what you believe about yourself and your organisation concerning the value you offer your customers, markets, investors and employees. Then document how these beliefs should emotionally impact behaviours at every level. Begin with yourself and become obsessively focused with customer success and bring your entire team on the journey of change so that every individual can personally own the right values and embody the culture. The leader’s actions need to be the culture. Constantly ask yourself: How are my actions evidencing the culture we claim to have? Be the change you seek in your organisation and carefully recruit only those who share your customer centric values. Empower and liberate the team to represent the brand and trust them to step up and do the right thing.

These are the key ingredients for creating a positive customer-centric culture:

  1. Focus on your higher purpose relevant to customers when defining your culture and create emotional connections for all staff.
  2. Use a mirror, not a manual, to transform your organisation by living the values to transfer the culture.
  3. Carefully hire only those who are culturally aligned and have proven themselves to possess the necessary attitudes and values.
  4. Empower and liberate all staff to embody the culture and represent the brand. Trust the team to step up and reward and recognise those who create customer magic.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Nick Webb

      Decoding the CEO – Ten Rules For Engaging

      No matter how senior our role, we all need to sell to our boss or board and it starts at the job interview. Later we need approvals for various initiatives or projects we want funded. We also have agendas we want advanced, promotions we seek, and conflicts to resolve. Every organization is political in nature and competing agendas abound – this complexity creates a minefield that must be navigated to then engage with the person of ultimate power… the CEO.

      The buck stops with the CEO, but so does every decision – he or she has the power of veto. CEOs are the puppet-masters pulling the invisible strings in the background. Their agendas are the ones that win, their people rise to the top, and their priorities take precedence. But it can be intimidating dealing with the CEO, whether you’re an external consultant, sales person or an internal subordinate. Yet the CEO need not be a mystery. Every CEO is human, and he or she has needs that you can meet. Behind the façade is a real person with fears, insecurities, goals and aspirations. They have to manage the board, inspire their leadership team, deliver results and manage risk that could blindside or derail. They also need to build the corporate brand – but most neglect building their own.

      Strategic selling is first and foremost defined by engaging early at the most senior level possible. You may not need to engage the CEO of the organization, but you do need to sell to the ‘CEO of the problem’ that you can help with. The person who actually owns the problem or opportunity, the one on the hook for delivering the result, the person who controls the funding and authorizes the decision – this is who you need to engage. Everyone else is a mere recommender or blocker.

      So, how do you engage effectively at the CEO level? The very best leaders are focused on delivering results, making a difference, treasuring time, building people, and leaving a legacy. Here are ten rules to honor on your quest to engage successfully.

      1. Be a person of value – a domain expert who can help make things happen. No-one likes being sold to but they value relevant information, insight and perspective from someone with humble wisdom, a strong network and the gravitas to carry the conversation.
      2. Start at the end and lead with ‘why?’. Get to the point and be concise. Genuine insights are rare and never cliché, so do your homework and understand why the conversation is important. Only once you’ve anchored the conversation, should you talk about the what, how, who and when.
      3. Open powerfully by not talking about yourself. Make it all about them by showing that you’ve done your homework and that you understand how you can potentially help deliver their agenda, solve their problems, or realize their opportunities; both for them personally and professionally.
      4. Talk the language of leadership: positive outcomes and managing risk.
      5. Talk the language of business: delivering financial results and KPIs.
      6. Talk the language of legacy: sustained change that makes a difference in the lives of customers and staff.
      7. No faking-it and no bullshit. Know the industry and have evidence to support your assertions. Be masterful at telling great true stories but be conservative. Also be honest and transparent. If you don’t know, then say so.
      8. Always be early, have an agenda, respect time, follow-up in writing. In short – be a pro.
      9. Let them be in control. Ask them what they want to see happen after the meeting and what the next steps should be. But if they sponsor you down, always maintain your direct relationship – the right to contact them whenever necessary.
      10. Always deliver on every promise. Be rock-solid reliable.

      People are best motivated by reasons that they themselves discover. Never therefore preach, sell or lecture. Instead ask great questions that cause self-reflection for the person with whom you engage. All of the above is relatively straight-forward but here is something that could change the way you create value for the most senior people you work with. The fact that you’re reading this means that you could execute.

      Most CEOs are consumed by delivering for their company and many neglect their personal life and brand – burn-out is common. Every sales person should build their personal brand in social because people buy you before they buy what you’re selling. You should become an expert regardless of your age. It’s a skill that requires much research and nuanced effort but it’s essential. Why don't you offer personal education and assistance to the CEO on how to build their personal brand in B2B social?

      Here is why it could work. Domo and CEO.com recently published analysis on the social presence of every Fortune 500 CEO. Here are some of their findings:

      • 68% of CEOs have no social presence at all on the top five social platforms
      • Of those who are on social, 73% are solely on LinkedIn
      • Nearly one-third of CEOs on Twitter don’t tweet
      • Almost none understand social strategy and the interconnectedness of platforms

      Below is an incredibly well designed infographic from Domo and CEO.com and you can also download the full report here: 2014 Social CEO Report.

      LinkedIn is an amazingly power platform. Find ways to use it to research and then engage with the CEOs you can best help. Become the expert they trust and rely upon. Don't be intimidated – step-up after you’ve earned the right to do so. It’s not as scary as you think.

      Here is an excerpt from my book, The Joshua Principle – Leadership Secrets of Selling, where Joshua’s father, a CEO, is giving his son, a salesman, advice on how to engage at the senior executive level. We pick-up the conversation with Joshua asking Mark about potential insights gleaned from reading the annual report of Zenyth, his must win deal.

      “Anyway, there’s a lot to talk about with Zenyth. This meeting with their CEO is going to be critical. Do their financials reveal anything concerning what’s really driving their decisions?”

      Mark opened a folder he had brought in with him. “It’s actually quite interesting. If I was on their board I would ask the CEO what they’re doing about all the cash on their balance sheet.”

      “Isn’t cash a good thing?”

      “Not necessarily. Too much cash on your balance sheet can make you a hostile acquisition target because the cash can fund financing costs. Cash is also an underperforming asset; it means you don’t know what to invest in for growth.”

      “I guess Zenyth is conservative.”

      “It’s not about being conservative. Too much cash on the balance sheet is a wasted resource. I’m pretty sure that the new CEO will be under pressure to look at acquisitions or some other plan for expansion. But they have a bigger problem; I’ve analyzed the last five years of numbers and had a look at recent analyst guidance – well, criticism really. Their sales costs, as a percentage of revenue, have been going up for the last three years in a row. Their margins are also being squeezed and I found an interview with the new CEO that pretty much reveals his hand.”

      “Thanks for doing this. You must have spent most of the afternoon on it. Is that the interview last month written by Patricia Smith?”

      Mark was impressed that his son had also tracked down and read the article. “David Thomas stated that client retention is his number one priority and that he wants delighted customers. I bet the reason they’ve been losing customers is that competitors are targeting them. When you have market dominance you’re a sitting duck for niche players to pick off your vulnerable customers.”

      “Thanks Dad. I hadn’t made the connection with any of this. So would you say they were in growth, crisis or business-as-usual mode?”

      “Why do you think it matters?”

      Joshua explained the concepts he had discovered concerning the modes of business and the consequential motivation for decision-making. He fumbled with his own notes and showed them to Mark. “This is what I’m trying to figure out – the mode they’re in and how it translates to the things that are driving the CEO.”

      “If I think about their situation in those terms I guess I would say they have a mild crisis – customer churn is consistently eroding profitability. If I were David Thomas [Zenyth CEO] I would invest in things that help retain and grow profitable customers. All businesses invest in strategies to drive top-line revenue but many neglect the fact that it is far more cost effective to retain a customer than acquire a new one.”

      Joshua was busy taking notes as Mark continued in a measured tone. “The smart thing for David Thomas to do is invest money in limiting customer churn. That’s where he will get the best return on investment. He can continue the pressure on his sales operation to keep delivering new clients but he will only fix his profitability problem by stopping the defection of valuable customers.”

      “Are you sure? How can you know all this from looking at their balance sheet?”

      “All I know is that they have too much cash on their balance sheet and they’re suffering from eroding profitability which is positioned as a cost of sales problem. But one thing I’ve learned in business is that the problem is almost never the problem. Symptoms are not causes, and I think that if you get to have a genuine conversation with their CEO, he will admit that the real problem is customer churn rather than customer acquisition.”

      Joshua looked up from the notes he had been scribbling. “But how do I have that kind of conversation with a CEO? I’m just a salesman.”

      “You can have a conversation with your own CEO can’t you? Look, David Thomas is just another person but he’s under real pressure to deliver results. He needs to fix a problem he describes as a customer satisfaction challenge. His P&L describes it as a cost of sales problem. Their annual report describes it as eroding margins caused by competitors. They are a market leader defending their incumbent position. All you have to do is understand what keeps him awake at night – but don’t ask it that way. I hate it when salesmen ask that question. I usually say; ‘my wife – she snores rather loudly’... They always laugh too but then I ask if they have any other inane questions.”

      Joshua stopped laughing as Mark continued. “The only thing a CEO dislikes more than amateurs who waste their time, is sales people who waste their time. Josh, you seem to have done your homework and I hope my input is useful, but you must have a business conversation with him. He’ll open up once he sees that you have genuine insight.”

      Joshua rubbed his face with fingers combing back hair revealing a pensive look. “I can’t begin to tell you how far out of my depth I feel. If I botch this meeting with their CEO I’ll be finished with my boss.”

      “Son, even the most successful men have insecurities. We all secretly worry that we are going to get found out. I feel like I’ve been out of my depth most of my life; I really mean it. Maybe David Thomas feels out of his depth too and you’re someone who can help to get one of his problems under control. If you succeed it will make your career.”

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: DonkeyHotey

      The Tao of Jobs in Sales

      “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

      Is there still room to innovate in the world of sales? Emphatically, yes! Study the masters, the greats, study all styles and build your own. Realize buying habits have changed so study research from Corporate Executive Board (CEB) and make sure to factor in the real-time nature of the internet, as Andy Paul talks about in his books. The great salespeople I’ve managed and trained have had an inherent sense of curiosity, always questioning, always innovating, looking for new ways to blend the technology of sales: Old school meets new school. SPIN questioning is a technology, so is Challenging with new insight.

      “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

      Intuition is key in navigating deals of all sizes but especially in reading big complex deals with ultra long sales cycles. Many of you reading this have put in your 10,000 hours. My advice to you is simply, “trust your gut.” Sometimes you get split seconds to make a call, the Gladwellian thin-slice, nanoseconds to read people and pressure to react. Great managers empower their people, they train them through role play and ride alongs to hit their marks. There’s a temptation to play a character, to 'fake it until you make it' but ultimately, being yourself which requires that you muster courage and confidence, is going to trump everything else. Even a seller leveraging weaker tactics who believes in herself will outsell any contrived facade masking insecurity. 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone of voice and 7% is the actual words spoken so the nonverbal cues will be huge for you. Be comfortable in your own skin. Develop this. Seek to enjoy the selling process. To do this, simply move from interesting to interested, wholeheartedly hang on your customer's every word. It’s about them!

      “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

      There’s something to be said for customer experience design, the design of a CRM, your Salesforce Automation, your enablement programs, your pitch and the insights themselves. It’s all a grand design, think hard on it. Measure twice, cut once. Coming from a design perspective is actually a unique way to look at it. “And one more thing…” Jobs was a master of suspense and showmanship in his legendary keynotes.

      “Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?”

      Salespeople will like this. It’s definitely a field that requires pirates and ninjas level freedom of improvisation and creativity. Ultimately your gauge of success will be revenue and customer satisfaction/retention so it will be up to you to structure your day, week month and quarter to optimize the ultimate outcome. Perhaps the greatest form of rebellion is pushing yourself to total mastery of the art and science of sales which is a triumph over self. This requires extraordinary levels of patience. I’m not suggesting you fly the Jolly Roger from your computer but thinking differently is the Jobsian hallmark. There’s no one right way to success! Approach the playing field with out-of-the-box ideas and a lion share of intensity coupled with fresh energy. Never to be discounted, there are many lessons to be learned from military strategy also.

      “.. almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

      Passion dictates performance. Find your niche, do what you love. If you figure that out, you’ll never work another day of your life. Jobs figured this secret to life and business success out early on. Fall in love with helping customers solve problems. Fall in love with serving and helping others, the time will fly!

      “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

      Setting expectations is key, always level set with customers. That being said, anytime you exceed expectations, you’ll blow their minds. Do you know how rare it is to receive a handwritten note these days? How about the Dale Carnegie simple strategy of just remembering someone's birthday. Dale kept it on notecards, you get notifications every day from social networks directly to your inbox; there’s simply no excuse. Customize, tailor and research for your presentations. Make agendas thoughtful. Be strategic. Take time to learn about clients before you meet with them. Winging it is the opposite of a quality experience. You are the face of your brand and the company. Going the extra mile is actually about little personal touches in this digital, always-on era. Excellence is in the execution.

      “A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.”

      There’s an optimism conveyed in this quote. Know that you can sell, believing wholeheartedly in your product and the company you represent. Join a company that is growing where the energy you contribute can have a synergistic effect: 1 + 1 = 5. From acorns, oaks.

      “To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines.”

      Discipline meets disciplines, we wear multiple hats as entrepreneurial sellers. We must stay laser focused on the daily activities that drive outcomes that we can influence. The therapist, the doctor, the technician, the customer service rep, the personal trainer. The analogies are endless. It’s a long game and you will gain the greatest payout sticking it out more than 18 months in one role. Outlive the enterprise sales cycle and set your sights on a bright horizon, knowing you can get there with consistent inspired effort each and every day. A positive attitude is your edge. It’s how Jobs continuously silenced critics and skeptics, creating something out of nothing, even releasing a phone when so many in the industry panned his breakthrough idea as "already done," predicting failure.

      “In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

      When you think about confusing sales processes or a hodgepodge of CRM data you get a sense for a need of design inspired thinking. With the customer defining the new funnel, designing a set of procedures to reflect this and allow reps to be nimble is critical. Customers being 57% through the decision making process, creates a bizarre asymmetry. Engaging upstream with critical insight requires designing a new sales process for your organization, getting closer to the buyer. "53 percent of B2B customer loyalty is a product of how you sell, not what you sell," according to CEB research.

      “You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new.”

      This quote has profound implications on sales. It may be the most relevant one when you talk about B2B complex selling in enterprise environments. Nine times out of ten, a customer will surface a symptom they believe is the problem. It’s up to us as sellers to peel the onion and to do much of this in advance. We can collect enough data during due diligence to provide an informed diagnosis, refine that diagnosis and work collaboratively on a prescription. We can come to the table with a rock solid value hypothesis and work to prove this out together qualitatively and quantitatively (Jeff Thull). Clients don’t always know what they want, what's wrong or what a solution could look like. They're often enamored with the status quo or a shiny object that they think will solve it. They've often been misdiagnosed and are drilling off into infinity compounding the problems. Executives do understand their core business drivers but sometimes they’re so close to it, they're blinded by familiarity. Moving off the solution to focus on their pain is a Mahan Khalsa principle that is an ingenious perspective on this. Fixing a set of symptoms is just a band-aid approach. Bring your subject matter expertise to the table to close this gap in understanding and help point customers in the right direction of incremental progress.

      “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

      Iterate quickly, take 100% responsibility for your mistakes. Own them to your manager, to your customer and to the executive team. If you operate with good intentions and integrity as your compass, you’ll inspire confidence and become a trusted advisor.

      “The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.”

      This is the Jobsian distillation of management science at its finest. Hire rockstars or train them to be so (take responsibility for grooming them) and then get out of their way, remove obstacles and push them out of the nest so they can fly. Watch the magic then unfold when you empower and enable gifted sellers. Drive comes from within in so unlocking this in people creates star performers who take pride in their work and self manage to an extent. I like this quote because it highlights the simplicity of the viewpoint of building a team of talented people and getting out of their way. Jobs lead by example and created a world class culture of innovation. He demanded this by the example he set. He brought in people he felt were even stronger and more talented than he was like Jony Ive, to expand his ability to put a “ding” in the universe. Despite foibles, he did not act alone even though catching heat as a misperceived solo flyer.

      “I think we're having fun. I think our customers really like our products. And we're always trying to do better.”

      Spirit of play, élan vital, esprit de corps, there are so many ways to express this concept. Put into practice: have a blast, work hard and play hard. A sense of joy in what you’re doing is contagious with customers. In fact, "fun" unto itself can create customers even entire markets.

      “I want to put a ding in the universe.”

      I love this quote. You’d think setting huge goals would be demotivating. The old adage, "reach for the stars and you just might hit a mountain," is more realistic. I actually find I’m even more motivated when I think bigger. Set achievable goals but also put forward stretch goals to anchor your progress.

      “So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.”

      This quote is about handling rejection graciously and persistence. Jobs didn’t take no for an answer. He was hell bent on selling his vision. The sales will come, you have a good product, just know that it takes consistency and persistence over time.

      “Pretty much, Apple and Dell are the only ones in this industry making money. They make it by being Wal-Mart. We make it by innovation.”

      Brazen, yes I know but Jobs was always willing to stir the pot. I really just think it shows the faith, tenacity, and unerring vision in the company he’s building. The takeaway here is to have an unwavering belief in what you’re selling.

      “It took us three years to build the NeXT computer. If we'd given customers what they said they wanted, we'd have built a computer they'd have been happy with a year after we spoke to them - not something they'd want now.”

      Challenger selling vs. relationship selling. You can give clients exactly the product they’re looking for and risk being commoditized out. Or, you can diagnose the larger complex problem which is typically comprised of many facets and build out a suite of solutions that even see around corners. This will protect your margins and buffer you from competitors nipping at your heels.

      “Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

      Steve Jobs was a game changer and polarizing force but he changed the world as we know it, millions would agree. His technologies live in our homes and most of our pockets. Market share? He created and won by literally creating new markets. Sales and product teams can unite with those in marketing and design. Getting the silos out of the organization and making sure to have meetings of cross-functional teams is critical to stay ahead of the breakneck pace of technology acceleration. Product can inform Marketing, can inform selling. Front line sellers are closest to the customer after all and can bring incredible insight back to the product team from the field. Sellers run the gamut in unique ability and life experience. I’ve found many that are extremely talented in another area like music, swing dancing, language learning, philosophy, Sudoku or Jai alai. Through his "reality distortion" field and Jedi Mind Trick intent, Steve Jobs was able to push through the barrier of skepticism and actually change the world. There is a great amount of resistance to change. We need to puncture through this wall with our advocates in the buying organization to foster true disruptive innovation from within, especially when we vault like David vs. Goliath against megalithic incumbents.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: MIKI Yoshihito

      "Boulder Management" by Sisyphus

      Let's just assume Sisyphus finally summits to the mountaintop and rests the boulder in place. Rest assured, he'd have an instant business management bestseller on his hands that every MBA would be required to read forevermore. Implementing the below methods and drawing inspiration from these books will certainly help you breathe a sigh of relief as you right the ship and navigate it through a frenetic 2015 sales management maelstrom.

      For those of us who’ve dedicated our lives to a career in sales, we’re all too familiar with Sisyphus, the Greek Myth of the man pushing a boulder up a hill for eternity only to have it fall back down upon him, time and time again. So much of what we've traditionally done to succeed has been mind numbing repetition but all that is changing thanks to things like automation, social selling, trigger events and new ways of connecting with target prospects.

      Perhaps you've felt like Sisyphus in a deal. It’s even a trendy tech word "Sisyphean" which is often interchanged with Herculean, although these dimensions are highly juxtaposed when it comes to the concept of conquering a massive challenge or reaching a "wildly important goal." This post is all about the WIGs, so that I'll get right into that in a moment.

      Luckily, the challenges of professional selling are not insurmountable but if you do not heed the following advice, you too may find yourself banished to a seeming eternity of rock pushing if not enjoying selling much less. In sales, we thrive on the challenge of battling time and exceeding our number. We thrive in going up against the incumbent, our competitors and the two horsemen of time and the status quo. Whether your boulder is conquering your personal best, renewing a key account with ACV growth or disrupting legacy dinosaur business models, the following ideas could help you prevent it from falling back down on you, even lighten the load:

      I read the book Four Disciplines of Execution recently and was struck by its deconstruction of lead measures versus lagging measures which drew a parallel in my mind to Jason Jordan's bestselling management book, a modern classic. It was very interesting to witness Sean Covey focusing on WIGs or "wildly important goals." I’ve written about the rocks and the sand, my 80/20 inspiration for daily time management and extensively about Cracking the Sales Management Code, which espouses leading indicator driven KPI management in prior posts, so I think these points are worth underscoring in recommending this superb, foundational work.

      Both books got me thinking about the meta concepts of Leading versus Lagging Indicators and their corollary Leading & Lagging Measures. It's an important question to relentlessly ask ourselves? Which actions am I taking that are driving results?

      How can we tangibly effect change on our external environment, increase our pipeline, impact the current sales cycles we’re in and accelerate our progress as professional sellers? One major way is to focus on leverage. The levers that push that proverbial boulder up the hill. They are most certainly leading measure activities in contrast to the static lagging measures that "follow," levers to hurtle the metaphorical missiles of enterprise tactics from your trebuchet of strategy over the parapets into the stronghold of Castle Status Quo. I think I just hit the TILT switch on metaphor usage.

      Ironically, revenue itself is a lagging indicator and cannot be managed in a CRM. Management can bark at pretty dashboards projected at a wall and send consternation down the command chain but this typically just creates an end-of-quarter fire drill and is much ado to no avail in helping your team qualify their deals more stringently, make that 5th to 12th contact (where 80% of sales actually close) or engineer a competitive strategy to close the deal more efficiently and effectively.

      Things like reporting, endless meetings and constant revenue check-ins coupled with unrealistic goal setting and vanity metrics really don’t move the lever toward the Wildly Important Goal. This is a big goal each one of us sets that harnesses our inner drive. The 4DX book makes many recommendations but one I appreciate is weekly WIG sessions between managers and direct reports to recalibrate, checking in on the progress of the goals set the week before. There's a new science of change management in play here that is worth studying and applying to bring your organization to a new level. Rather than review the entire book which is a jewel in the crown of Franklin Covey’s flagship global training, I thought I’d simply hone in on a few key concepts.

      As a supplemental side note, Mahan Khalsa who's trained sales squadrons at blue chips, the likes of Microsoft, Oracle and Accenture is also doing brilliant things over at Franklin Covey and wrote Let’s Get Real or Let's Not Play which is another sensational treatise centered on authentic "get real" sales processes to grow revenues. It features amazingly useful and thought-provoking flowcharts throughout that I recommend to help sustainably grow revenues in 2015. Key takeaways for your team:

      • Surface new business opportunities in a holistic way that all parties can be invested in
      • Build a conversation structure that gets to the bottom of the true client needs and fosters a trusted advisor relationship
      • Ask the hard questions is a finesse way, then practicing active listening
      • Increase propensity of deal closure by building mindshare and openness
      • "Move off the solution to diagnose before you prescribe," see Mahan's brilliant YouTube video below:

      What are the actions that you can control in your day to move the needle as a front line sales manager or sales executive? Step one, take a look at environs you can play in where contact rates are the highest. What activities can you execute each day to engage most effectively? Hint: that’s rarely still email or a telephone (under 5% engagement rates). I’ve tested my ability to contact senior executives in companies and granted, this is the software and technology sphere, but Twitter can often garner a refreshingly rapid response and effectively personalized, Group-driven or InMail-driven digital outreach can yield incredible results i.e. higher conversion rates to appointments set. Another leading measure can even be the research phase itself. Rather than rattling away endless calls to Executive Assistants, performing due diligence to get smart about segmenting and targeting a healthy base of the key clients based on trigger events, goes a long way. This helps you avoid the "busy fool syndrome" I've talked about and is one of Konrath's Paradoxes: "slowing down to speed up."

      When asked about how to measure the success of social selling and get to ROI by Gerhard Gschwandtner in a recent Selling Power interview, Jamie Shanksresponded, "There are a couple of leading indicators you should be looking at. One of them is the size and the effectiveness of your LinkedIn Network and it's called your social reach...And 'How is my voice growing over time?" Linked & Twitter are providing you these baseline metrics...Those are leading indicators. The lagging indicators are the opportunities and the revenue you are driving. And if you’re not driving that money, then you need to look back at your leading indicators and say, ‘what am I not doing? Are people listening? Is my social reach terrible because my network is small? Whatever that is." I would add that generating super high quality influencer content via LinkedIn Publisher will be a new lead measure activity this year as sales people become micro-marketers.

      If your goal is to close 5MM in new revenue this year, you'd better have a realistic concept of where those sales cycles began last year to land some of those in the first and second quarter. Otherwise, have the courage to level set with management and your CEO that these will most likely stack up in Q3/Q4 because you'd rather do it right and nurture the account rather than destroy the natural order of paradise by being pushy or rushing. Real-time selling is real but it's no longer a sales cycle, it's a buying cycle so customers are leading the dance.

      Relentlessly focus on strategy in qualifying the exact companies you will seek to penetrate based on trigger events, the strongest of which are stakeholders who were just promoted or transitioned to new companies. Keep this list a short list and go deep to the target rather than widening the approach. (Mike Weinberg) If your company has sold to these executives before and they’ve moved into a new world they are already champions of your disruptive solution paradigm, so getting back in touch with them via a referral / warm introduction can help you to gain ground in the new account.

      Static and active is another sound way to look at KPIs from this vantage point. Bernard Marr wrote the book on KPIs as a mechanism for accurate business forecasts so peruse his prescient corpus at this link. Jason Jordan found that only 17% of sales metrics captured are activities that contribute to a sale! Jason and Michelle Vazzana unpacked 306 metrics, breaking them into 3 buckets: sales activities (17%), sales objectives (59%) and business results (24%). The first are highly manageable, the second directly influenceable and the third are not manageable but relate back to sales objectives. “Activities can be managed – outcomes cannot."

      If I could only obtain 6 metrics (in addition to deal value) from a CRM, and assuming the data is accurate, here are my choices:

      1. Qualified pipeline as percentage of quota/target
      2. Opportunities by deal stage
      3. Opportunity qualification scores (with snapshot versions)
      4. Deals stuck at stage beyond defined period
      5. Meetings that progress the sale (with call plan in the CRM)
      6. Opportunities with close plans (versioned and in the CRM)

      What would your six key metrics be to drive the team and ensure they are building pipeline and progressing the best opportunities effectively?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: AK Rockefeller

      My Plane Crash and Lessons For Leadership

      I was a pioneer in the ultralight movement in Australia and owned a small aerobatic biplane. My passion for flying was tempered with a healthy respect for the dangers of aviation and I knew that deaths in sport aircraft were mostly attributed to ‘pilot error’ or the lack of correct ‘owner maintenance’. Usually a polite way of explaining inexperience, over-confidence or shoddy modifications leading to catastrophe.

      On the day of my crash I was part of a group of 5 aircraft travelling cross-country to a fly-in, cruising at 2000 feet above a huge plantation pine forest. I was at the rear and slightly above the others. Everything was normal – then it happened. The engine screamed to maximum revs and the needle on the tachometer swung wildly beyond the red-line. I immediately urged the nose down to maintain airspeed while reducing the throttle. The engine idled and I slowly reintroduced power but it raced away again with little throttle input. The propeller was simply free-wheeling in the air-stream and it was obvious that something in the drive system had failed.

      The twisting narrow dirt roads below were tell-tales that the terrain was treacherous but in the distance ahead, the forest ended and semi-cleared scrub took over. A little further to the left of the shortest route out of the forest was a cleared semi-rural area that looked viable. I should be able to make it to the clearing, but if I can’t I’ll adjust my glide-path to the right and land in the scrub, I thought.

      My father’s words echoed in my head: “Any landing you walk away from is a good one.” Don’t try to save the plane; stay calm and you’ll live, I thought. For a brief moment I toyed with the idea of deploying the ballistic parachute which was connected to the aircraft in the event of structural failure. But the vision of an uncontrolled spiral decent into a pine forest, with the aerodynamics of the wings fighting the parachute, had no appeal. I killed the engine, switched-off the electrics, tightened my seat belt, fastened the chinstrap under my helmet and offered a distracted prayer while I focused on managing the glide. No radio and no-one noticed by forced descent – I was on my own.

      My plane had a 16’ wingspan and was a home-built, flown under Australian Air Navigation Orders (ANOs) for ‘ultralight’ sport aviation. We were largely self-regulated and the rules stated that we were always to stay out of controlled air space and below 500 feet. But height is safety – it buys you time if there is an engine problem. This is why I was cruising at 2,000 feet but well below the 10,000 feet controlled airspace above.

      I had lost about 500 feet since the drive system failure and was heading for the clearing just beyond the edge of the forest. Keep it flying, maintain airspeed, don’t stall, stay focused, relax. All I could hear was the haunting sound of wind whistling through the rigging wires but I was steadfastly calm. I had made dozens of practice forced landings in previous ultralight aircraft and on two occasions had real emergencies during take-off. On both occasions I had managed to walk away and I believed I could do it again – if I maintained control.

      Now at 1000 feet, I was feeling decidedly nervous about my ability to make it to the clearing on my current glide path. At 500 feet it became apparent that I wasn’t going to make it. I made the decision to abort the clearing and moved the stick to the right and headed for the nearest exit point from the forest where there was a small dam in semi-cleared scrub. The tops of the pine trees were looming and on my current glide slope I was going to be 70 feet short of escaping the forest, but I still had good airspeed. I focused on the tip of the trees 50 feet in from the boundary where I would begin to wash-off air-speed before finally escaping the forest. At least, that was the plan.

      I was now down to 100 feet above the tree-tops and 150 feet short of the last of the pine trees. I had 55 knots and I eased the stick back, decreasing my rate of decent, but now sacrificing airspeed. Stall was always preceded by sluggish controls and would occur at 32 knots; the point at which the wings failed to produce adequate lift. I knew that stall-induced spins were always fatal close to the ground.

      My air-speed was down to 40 knots and I was holding a reasonable sink-rate with 25 feet to go. The controls were beginning to feel mushy; 35 knots! I pushed forward on the stick to improve airspeed and in doing so gently brushed the tip of the last pine tree. Airspeed – I must get more airspeed! I only had 60 feet of height with a small dam in front of me and light bush beyond. I pushed the stick forward and dived for the dam to create more airspeed and lift – pull back!

      The relative silence of flight was shattered. My tail wheel snapped off with the impact of my heavy three-point landing and the suspension was hammered. After careering only fifteen feet, my main wheels dropped into a deep bulldozer rut that had been formed during dam construction and the whole under-cart was torn away. The fuselage skidded forward on its belly and lower wings. The propeller and right engine bearer snapped causing the engine to collapse, destroying the firewall which partially lodged against my right leg. The journey was abruptly halted when the lower left wing collided into a hidden tree stump. The wing-spar was snapped close to the fuselage and my landing had come to an abrupt end only forty feet beyond the dam. The picture in this post is the actual crash site.

      The silence was eerie but I could hear my heart pounding with adrenalin. I wondered if I was okay and wiggled my toes, successfully confirming that I had feeling. The splintered fire-wall and engine however was pressing against my right ankle. I tried to bend my knees but my lower right leg was jammed. I removed my helmet and dropped it to the ground. I noticed helmet paint on the instrument panel and could smell fuel. Petrol vapour is explosive and I focused on how to extricate myself but removing my right leg seemed to require the agility of a contortionist. I twisted and leveraged myself out leaving my shoe behind. The fuel tank had not ruptured but the feed line had been split, fortunately not dripping onto the exhaust. There was very little fuel due to the fact that I had has closed the tank valve in the air.

      As I looked back at the pine forest from in front of the aircraft, I remember feeling euphoric. Great landing – I’m alive and uninjured, I thought. I then walked toward the forest and stood on the dam, surveying my makeshift runway. It was not a pretty sight, seeing the wrecked plane from behind. Five feet either side of my chosen path were enormous half-buried trees covered by light re-growth, making them invisible. I surely would have shattered my legs if I had impacted any of these head on. This was the era before mobile phones, and I walked for about forty minutes to a remote farm-house to be greeted with suspicion before being allowed to use the phone to call for assistance.

      I’ve come to understand that the outcomes we experience in life are largely determined by the way we think, feel and act. Bad luck is often not that at all. Every profession has an ethos, a code, and tried and true set of beliefs and values that drive it forward. There is no better example of continuous improvement and leadership excellence than aviation. Airbus, Qantas and QF32 are great examples with Captain Richard de Crespigny and the flight crew of QF32 embodying the very best of leadership design and behaviour.

      In my own time as a private pilot, there were truisms I embraced: All the runway behind you is of no use at all (always take the time to taxi all the way to the end to provide as much runway in front of you as possible. If you have an engine problem, you’ll be able to abort or land more safely). You only have too much fuel on board if you’re on fire (always have maximum reserves in case you get lost, the head-wind is stronger than anticipated or the weather turns bad and you have to find an alternate field).

      I attribute my survival to a number of things; one of them being a definition of success for forced landings that my father taught me: “Any landing you can walk away from is a good one.”

      There was another definition that also helped save my life, imparted by my flying school instructor. Just before I went solo he asked me: “What’s the definition of confidence?”

      I thought for a few moments and gave him what I believed was a good answer: “When skill and experience come together.”

      He shook his head. “No. Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.” He went on to say that almost every recreational pilot who crashes, does so because they were over-confident and too casual with their pre-flight and weather checks. “Never over-rate your ability and never take anything for granted – dirty fuel, an insect in a pitot tube, anything.”

      I chose to own that definition of confidence for flying and business – it has saved my life and won many deals. It has helped keep me safe and successful because I constantly think about what could go wrong and I seek to be vigilant and prepared. I regard confidence as the paradise of fools.

      My father first taught me to fly and beyond attitude and definitions, he emphasized the necessity for both knowledge and experience. He educated me about engine failures by encouraging me to experience them in controlled circumstances. I had glided my plane all the way onto the runway many times. Practice, experience, correct thinking, and a positive attitude, all played a role in my successful landing. The way we feel about ourselves and our purpose in life largely determines how we respond to opportunity and adversity. We need to be positively expectant, yet our confidence can be misplaced. Years later I reflected on what I had learned from flying, and how my flying instructor’s definition could apply to business and all aspects of life.

      In truth, my aerial mishap was no accident – it was 100% my fault. Months earlier I had broken a propeller on a heavy landing that I mismanaged. I replaced the propeller but did not pay attention to the drive-system. A hairline fracture had been created in a $2 bolt and it was only a matter of time before it failed – I should have replaced it. Sound familiar? Just like Air Crash Investigations, catastrophe is often the cumulative effect of small problems or innocuous cascading events. Here are the five lessons for leadership that flying has taught me:

      • Pay attention to the detail – it’s where the devil lives. Strategy and planning means nothing without great execution.
      • Be positively paranoid, always think about what could go wrong and be prepared for every contingency.
      • Always consider the unintended consequences of an action or event; think things through.
      • Remain calm, think clearly, and maintain situation awareness when things go wrong. Leadership demands clarity.
      • Stay on task, filter the noise and don't let distractions take you away from what’s important.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Maing Image Photo by: Tony J. Hughes' crashed Cessna

      Leadership Secrets From The Inside

      Leadership is mercurial stuff – it’s very hard to put your finger on. Most of us think we know what good leadership looks like but the reality is that we struggle to appropriate it for ourselves. That’s because knowing the principles of leadership is very different from being the person needed to change our world. The human condition is a complex thing but here’s what we know for sure about great leaders – success is an inside job. To lead we must do so from the inside-out. Forget personas, we must be the real deal.

      Poor leadership abounds and worse still, toxic leadership is often veiled in a cloak of transient success, sporting metaphors and bravado. Performance cultures where politics fester in every corner are common-place. Corporate bullies and psychopaths are all too common. Flame-thrower style management for short-term financial KPI achievement all to the detriment of sustained success. ‘Shareholder value’ touted as a euphemism for executive stock plan optimization. Lord Of The Flies meets Wall Street… it’s no way to live.

      Real leadership, on the other hand, is precious because it’s rare. There are many in leadership positions but only a few are great. Most live lives of discomfort when it comes to leading, wondering when the day will come that they will be found-out. I have a confession to make; I’m one of them. I’ve been leading teams and companies for decades and I’m not a natural leader; it’s been hard yards, working on myself – building from the inside-out. What is leadership and how do we become one worth following?

      Here is a great truth – leadership is an inside job. But within all of us is a labyrinth of complexity and we are the way we are for reasons we never fully understand. The first step on the road to success is to heed the advice of an ancient Greek aphorism: ‘Know thyself’. Here are my thoughts on the factors that contribute to the complexity of leadership and success.

      First of all, we inherit our intelligence, personality and family of origin. None of us were able to choose our parents or genes – these are the cards we are dealt. But intelligence and personality can be enhanced and altered if we choose to do so. Any weaknesses in all three of these foundational elements must be managed as we strive to be the best possible person we are capable of becoming.

      Upon the foundation of genetic IQ and personality our attitudes, beliefs and values build us into who we are. By the age of seven, our personality and values are largely formed and these are influenced heavily by our upbringing and environment (family and society). The Catholic Order of Jesuits is attributed with the saying: "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man". There is much truth in this assertion but we are not robots, nor mere animals. We are uniquely endowed with the ability to laugh and cry, to dream and create, to choose appalling evil or breathtaking beauty, to plumb the depths of hell or reach for the stars. The hope for us all is that we can break the shackles of our past and redefine our futures.

      Attitudes, beliefs and values can therefore be rejected, adjusted or chosen. It is natural to question and challenge all three, especially as we grow through adolescence. My father was a committed atheist and I had no religious brainwashing as child at all; yet I chose faith as a teenager and I remain a believer today. Others are raised in loving religious homes and reject the values inculcated during their upbringing. Free will and free-thinking are what make us truly human.

      But all of this is below the surface – not visible to an observer. For most, it is the unseen baggage being carried while running the race of life. We are rarely held back by external factors, it is instead our inability to let go of limiting beliefs and behaviors that stymies us. Consider the illustration below as we now discuss the factors above the line.

      Here is the reality and the problem that most of us face in life. We can only have the outcomes, results and wealth we desire if we consistently and masterfully execute the right inputs, actions and behaviors. To have we must first do; but to do effectively we must be the person worthy of the success we seek. All of the factors ‘below the line’ in the illustration either enable or sabotage our efforts.

      The biggest mistake people make is seeking to manage by results rather than inputs. Jason Jordan taught me that you cannot manage revenue and he instead illuminates the path of focusing on activities that achieve objectives, that in turn create results. The only thing we truly have control of is our behaviour and actions to execute the inputs that create success. We cannot manage outcomes, results and prosperity or wealth; we can only have them as goals. We should relentlessly focus on what we do and being the person capable of executing masterfully.

      It’s not enough to project a persona, we need to actually be the authentic person worth following. Anthony Howard is a business mentor and he taught me that there is no such thing as authentic leaders, just authentic people in leadership roles. He coined the term ‘human-centered leadership’ and he is worth following. The very best motivation for leadership comes from changing the lives of people by believing in them. Service of a noble cause for the benefit of people (customers and staff) is what drives the very best leaders.

      So as you consider what really drives you and what baggage you need to let go of to be truly successful, here is my list of ten elements for success.

      1. IQ and EQ. Intelligence and self-awareness are both essential. One without the other is not enough. Read and be committed to life-long learning. Become an expert. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
      2. Mission and purpose. In professional selling I teach people to lead with 'why?'… it is equally important for leadership. Your why, and the why of your organization must be meaningful. Money, trinkets, and status are not enough.
      3. Passion and belief. Our why is what needs to drive us but we also need to be true believers in our cause and those with whom we work. The power of believing in another person is never to be under-estimated.
      4. Values and culture. The culture of an organization is the behaviour of the leaders, plain and simple. Are you values worth following and to they drive the right behavior? Culture is the signature of the leader.
      5. People and relationships. Nothing great can be achieved without the support of a team. Relationships with the right people are everything in any endeavor – people of integrity and genuine power.
      6. Numbers and discipline. Never neglect profit or cash-flow. Holding people to account is essential for any leader, yet proactively manage the right numbers – the KPIs which create ultimate results.
      7. Results and managing risk. This is language of leadership – delivering outcomes and navigating the challenges. Stay focused on the prize and be positively paranoid about what could blind-side you.
      8. Activity and attitude. Work-ethic is essential for success. Work hard and smart but realize that attitude is the biggest differentiator.
      9. Gravitas and humility. This may seem paradoxical but the combination is compelling. Powerful people listen much and talk little.
      10. Legacy and philanthropy. We all want to make a lasting difference and the very best leaders care about doing something worthwhile and improving the lives of others, especially those denied the opportunities afforded to the privileged.

      Do the difficult work on the inside in addressing all of these issues. Read, dream, and challenge your own assumptions about yourself. None of us lives long enough to learn all the necessary lessons from our own mistakes. It is therefore important to learn from others. Jim Collins’ book, Good To Great, remains a seminal work. There are many others and we must carefully choose who we follow. Who are they in your life? Here is another related article I wrote concerning what I've learned about personal leadership.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: MilitaryHealth


          Love Versus Greed. What's Your Corporate Culture?

          Within every person is an innate desire to go beyond making a living to make a difference. We should all seek meaning and purpose in what we do but can a career also be a calling? Can we do well and also do good? Do nice people always come last? Are most rich and successful people crooked in some way? Can an organization’s culture go beyond the posters espousing mission, vision and values; to instead be the living behaviors of the leaders, cascading down throughout the entire enterprise? I’ll answer all these questions with two contrasting case studies that will blow your mind.

          If within our lifetime, the average lifespan of a class of people in society had dropped from 80 years to 18 years, we would think there was something seriously wrong... yet this is exactly what has happened in the USA. In 1955 the average lifespan of Fortune 500 corporations was 80 years, nearly 60 years later the average life is just 18 years! Professor Richard Foster from Yale University estimates that by 2020 more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we haven’t heard of yet.

          Here are some other interesting facts: Average tenure of employees is dropping dramatically and only 7 of the top 500 public companies in America have average tenure of more than 10 years! When you consider that it costs between $15,000 and $25,000 per employee every time there is churn, it’s a massive issue. But not at Google and Amazon; right? Google’s average tenure is just 1 year and Amazon is not much better at 1.1 years.

          Today in the workplace we face the rise of narcissism – from Gen-Y (all about me) to Millenials (instant everything). Millenials are 30% of workforce and 81% think they should set their own schedule and almost one-third would leave their job if they got a better offer. ‘Loyalty’ and ‘values’ seem to be ill-defined commodities for many.

          So what’s needed? What should organizations do to overcome this problem? Every organization needs fully engaged employees and they should have documented vision, mission and values to set the tone.

          But statements up on the wall are not enough. I’m reminded of the manager who catches his employee wandering into work late again for the third time in a single week and collars him as they stand in the office foyer. He says to the employee: “Is it ignorance or apathy that’s the reason for you turning up for work late almost every day?” The response was laconic: “I don’t know; and I don’t care.”

          I help companies create these leadership documents and I often see that the concepts are poorly understood. Here’s my take on what they should mean:

          • Vision for our aspirational place in the world and markets within which we operate.
          • Mission for the difference we want to make in the lives of others – our purpose and cause.
          • Values for how we operate – the behaviors we expect from everyone in our team.

          A recent client I worked with had these as their values in an employment contract: Zest for people, inspirational customer experience, thirst for knowledge. I’m not sure what you think about these but let me tell you a true story of a company that changed the world. Their four values were chiseled into marble in the main lobby of HQ: Communication, Excellence, Respect, Integrity.

          This company impacted the lives of almost everyone in the USA and many others around the globe – yet they didn’t manufacture technology and they weren’t a media company. The chairman was Ken Lay and his company’s vision was “To be the world’s leading company; achieved by the relentless pursuit of shareholder value through free markets and innovation.” The company was hailed as a ‘leader of the new economy’. On their way to this lofty goal they became the 7th largest corporation in America with a market capitalization of $70 billion.

          It took the company 16 years to grow from $10 billion in assets to $65 billion but it took just 24 days for them to go bankrupt. It was the largest ever corporate collapse globally... the corporation was Enron and they were on a quest to become the dominant ‘new economy energy company’. We’re going to contrast two corporate cultures and the positive case study is breathtakingly counter-intuitive; but let’s consider Enron first.

          Enron was unbelievable. Pure fraud at many levels and they also applied an obscure and dubious accounting practice called ‘marked to market.’ The concept was to book future hypothetical revenues based on ideas they had with unproven contracts to recognize it in their books as profit and, believe it or not, cash-flow without the actual money being generated!

          For one contract with Blockbuster Video, they signed a 20-year agreement to introduce on-demand entertainment to various U.S. cities by year-end. After several pilot projects, Enron recognized estimated profits of more than $110 million from the deal, even though analysts questioned the technical viability and market demand of the service. When the network failed to work, Blockbuster withdrew from the contract but Enron continued to recognize future profits even though the deal resulted in a loss.

          Enron ended-up buying the electricity assets from The State of California, and then created a futures trading exchange that they manipulated to make hundreds of millions of dollars by ordering power stations to go off-line for ‘unscheduled maintenance’ to deliberately create black-outs and panic. The Governor of California lost the next election and Arnold Schwarzenegger came to power (note that ‘Arnie’ was not complicit with Enron’s activities).

          Here are some of the staggering facts:

          • $1 billion ($1,000,000,000) was pulled out by executives using insider trading and just as it went bankrupt, top executives were paid bonuses totaling $55 million and also cashed-in $116 million in stock options.
          • 20,000 Enron employees lost their jobs and medical insurance.
          • $2 billion in pension / superannuation funds instantly disappeared.
          • The biggest accounting firm in the world, Arthur Anderson (also America’s oldest) was put out of business and 29,000 people also lost their jobs. Shareholders sued for $20 billion.

          So what was Enron’s leadership model and who did they look for inspiration and guidance? The CEO, Jeff Skilling, reported to Ken Lay and he was a big fan of Richard Dawkins’, The Selfish Gene. They subscribed to evolutionary greed and competition – survival of the smartest. The words chiseled into marble in the main lobby (Communication, Excellence, Respect, Integrity) were meaningless and mere marketing spin. Whether you’ve seen the movie Wolf of Wall Street or watched the movie Margin Call, they both show the real life consequences of failing to be anchored to the right values.

          Culture in any organization boils down to just one thing…. the behavior of the leaders. Culture is how we treat each other, it’s how be behave and it’s what we do. Leadership is not a position, it’s who we are. How we behave matters and we’ve seen the devastating consequences of poor values from leaders in business, sport (Lance Armstrong), politics and even churches. Make no mistake, when people in positions of power lose their moral authority, it’s over for them even if they remain in their role for awhile – it’s just a matter of time before the fall.

          Enron was a precursor to the 2008 GFC and in my opinion it wasn’t a financialcrisis, it was instead a values crisis resulting in financial carnage – it should have been called the GVC. You might think that these kinds of things don’t happen today… oh, yes they do. The human condition is an ever-present problem. We’re all wired for addictions, fear and greed, and to lie and cheat. It’s our commitment to the right values that insulates us from the worst of ourselves.

          Enough negativity; you probably already know about Enron, so what’s the corollary and how can we positively lead? I want to tell you an amazing true story about a company that did something completely ‘out there’, the opposite of Enron. They ended-up being featured on the television program Undercover Boss and the episode garnered the highest rating of the year with 18 million people watching it.

          The company is Herschend Family Entertainment (HFC) and Joel Manby is the CEO. He had much in common with Ken Lay from Enron. They both had very poor childhoods and were raised in religious Christian homes. Ken Lay’s father was in fact a Baptist Minister. Both saw education as the way to create better futures and both went to Harvard Business School. But they made very different choices concerning their values.

          Joel had a brilliant career. He took over Saab in North American and did a spectacular turn-around. The reward was that they added South America and Asia-Pacific to his workload. He was in Australia on a trip well into his new expanded global role when he had a tough call with his wife. He was away for two-thirds of the year; their marriage was struggling, his kids hardly knew him, he was stressed and tired most of the time; and he didn’t like who he was becoming. He asked his boss if he could pull-back to just running North America… the answer was a resounding ‘no’.

          He quit to join a technology start-up but then the dot.com bust came… he had 90 days to save the company and that meant firing a lot of people. He went through very difficult times; his work was defining him in ways he didn’t like and he wasn’t happy – professionally or personally.

          It was then that he was asked to apply for the CEO role at Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE), the world’s largest private theme park operator with 10,000 employees in 26 locations.

          Imagine being in a boardroom of a company with 10,000 employees and you ask the question of the chairman of the board: “How would you define the culture here?”

          The answer from the founder’s of HFE, Jack and Peter Herschend, was difficult to fathom: “Love; and leadership by being a servant of others.”

          Joel understood what was behind the words. He writes in his book, Love Works: “I wanted to work somewhere that rejected the false dichotomy between profit and people, or profit and principles. I wanted, in short, to be the same person all the time: at work, with my family, at my church, and when I was alone.”

          He joined HFE and embraced their culture. He had been in the role for a few years when the GFC hit and here is an astounding fact. Although they had to retrench many staff, they received the highest ever employee satisfaction ratings during and after the down-sizing process! This is because junior, middle and senior managers all decided to defer capital programs to buy time, supervisors and managers alike also asked if they could take pay cuts to fund staffing levels. Even those who were ‘let go’ were given 3 months on full pay to find another job and had all of the company’s resources available to help them transition.

          The culture of HFE is encapsulated by two principles: 1) Servant-based leadership, and 2) Love as defined by patience, kindness, trust, unselfishness, truthfulness, forgiveness, and dedication. It’s their paraphrase of I Corinthians 13:4-8 in The Bible. You may be thinking WTF and I agree… Wow, That’s Fantastic! But it’s delivered for them in amazingly positive ways, both with profit and people. Their staff have purpose in what they do and are truly engaged at every level.

          Television is a cynical place and HFE took a big risk allowing Undercover Boss to make an episode with hundreds of hours of footage that was edited down to what the producers thought would pull the biggest ratings.

          Joel says in his book, Love Works: “When your personal values match your work values, you stand the best chance of being content.” He’s been head-hunted many times but loves who he works with and the opportunity to live an authentic life.

          HFE is not the first company to create this kind of culture. 250 years ago a company was started by an Irish man who wanted to help people having their lives ruined by potato-based spirits which were rotting stomachs and causing terrible alcoholism. His name was Arthur Guinness and his drink was brewed for high nutrition and relatively low alcohol content…. He showed you can make money and make a difference, that you can do well and do good, that you can even serve humanity being a factory worker brewing beer. 100 years ago Guinness was providing free medical and dental care for employees, they paid for funerals, helped employees with housing, gave huge sums away to charity… and free beer every day! Unlike modern companies who offer some of these perks to attract the best talent, they did it because it was how they could live their values.

          Values are everything in leadership and for managing people and teams. Values-alignment is usually labelled as ‘cultural fit’ but HFE measure values together with performance. Great results are not rewarded unless accompanied with the right behaviours. Their managers must consistently live in accordance with the organization’s values. Personas and facades don't cut it at HFE. Only competent, authentic people can sustain leadership positions. Everyone’s performance appraisal process is based on the tool below (adapted from the matrix in Love Works, page 158).

          HFE understand an important truth: We must be the person worthy of the success we seek. Our behavior matters in achieving results and that’s because people matter, both customers and staff.

          The greatest risk to any business is not on the balance sheet, it’s the values within the people of power inside the organization and those who represent the brand. Do you really know what your values are? Do you know what you stand for? Are you and your team truly driven by your mission and purpose, personally and corporately?

          Leadership is an inside job. We cannot achieve and possess wealth unless we do, and we can’t do unless we are. We need to be the person worthy of the success we seek, otherwise success will be temporary or a mere illusion. The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. Are you brave enough to love your staff and customers?

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

          Main Image Photo by Flickr: Chris van Dyck

          Message To CEO – Change Your Job Description

          Have you ever looked at the management team sitting around the boardroom table and wondered, who are the most important people here? If you’ve had the privilege of being a father, you’ll be familiar with the question: ‘Am I your favorite?’ We love all of our children to the same degree but in different ways because they’re unique. Later in life, most little girls grow up to be women, marry and then ask: ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ I’ve come to learn that there is no good answer to that question even if you respond with: ‘For me, you are the most beautiful woman in the whole world.’ Yeah – right; it’s the dog-house for you.

          As a leader, it’s always a mistake to play favorites or comment on the size of someone’s rear-end; instead we must value difference in building balanced teams. All of us in leadership roles stand or fall on our values, competence, and the team we which we surrounded ourselves. IQ and EQ are both essential – intelligence and wisdom, energy and discipline, inner strength and humility, financial management and people skills.

          Success is a team sport and it’s amazing what can be accomplished if you always pass the credit to others but accept responsibility for failure yourself. The desire to be the smartest person in the room stifles collaboration and crushes the creativity of others. Hiring people just like you creates terrible blind-spots in perspective and weaknesses in execution – the best leaders hire complementary traits, experience and personalities.

          But there is another side to great leadership – the willingness to face the awful truth and accept that the biggest problem and opportunity for your business is in the mirror. Your personal values and behaviors are the culture of the organization. Even if the problem is with others, they are your responsibility because you either haven’t fired them or failed to get beside them and support them in overcoming the issues.

          Forgive me for the generic assertion but I’m right most of the time – sales management is the weak link in your revenue chain. You don't really understand the sales machine and so much about it frustrates you. The results should be predictable, the reports should be trustworthy, the forecast should be accurate, the pipeline real – but selling is a mysterious black box to you and the people feeding you with information seem to be flaky. You are part of the problem because you don't understand complex selling, yet you wrongly regard it as being like every other direct reporting line. You can't lead that way – The Board will eat you alive, the market will punish you. Worse still, you or those within your team could succumb to the temptation to make bad decisions driven by desperation to hit the numbers.

          Here’s the reality of business. One problem, above all others, is terminal – lack of revenue. Every other problem can be managed, massaged, resolved; but shrinking revenues are fatal. For some enterprises cost-cutting is strategic but for most it is a mere tactic and all it usually does is stall the inevitable. It’s rarely a winning strategy to engage in a ‘race to the bottom’.

          Revenue, on the other hand, is like air-speed – it creates lift. You can have the most beautifully engineered aircraft in the world but without airspeed it will never fly. Sales is the thrust that creates forward momentum, and with enough speed you can lift-off, climb and soar into the wild blue yonder. Your sales and marketing team is the engine that creates thrust, their commitment and passion is the fuel – prospects and customers are the wind beneath your wings. In proper aeronautical terms, they are the low pressure area above the wing that sucks you upward.

          But as you survey your generals [I swear this is true: Word somehow changed ‘generals' to ‘genitals’… funniest autocorrect I’ve experienced and very happy I caught it on the proof-read!] sitting around the boardroom table, do you see commanders of fiefdoms acting in their own best interests? Or do you see a unified team, willing to sacrifice themselves for each other and act in best interests of the greater good? Are sales, marketing, customer support and service disjointed? These are the most important roles around the management table and they need to be united in their vision and commitment. You are their common leader, the catalyst to bring them together. But you need to create the right focus and set the right agenda.

          Sales and marketing must especially be an integrated function; simmering hostility or finger-pointing cannot be allowed to prevail. They must come together to define and map customer engagement lifecycle. Everything from social media thought leadership, brand building, website education, differentiating video content, reasons to contact and then the entire sales cycle, on-boarding and retention through to case studies and upselling. Beyond your product, service or solution; what’s the customer experience you can create that sets you apart? How can you be the most insightful, helpful and the easiest supplier to deal with in the eyes of your customers?

          You must take personal control – it’s too important to delegate. You need to become Chief Revenue Officer with sales, marketing, support and service all reporting directly to you. Set a vision for the customer experience you want to create that will outshine your competitors. Facilitate workshops to brainstorm the future-state of your company. Gag anyone who wants to talk about technology. Force them all to first define and then workflow the end-to-end customer experience your clients deserve. What is your customer relationship management strategy and what are the metrics and KPIs that guide you on the path?

          Don't approve any investment request that comes to you for technology; CRM, social, and marketing automation included, unless they can clearly articulate where it fits within the end-to-end strategy. You need to drive a culture of customer success though best possible customer experience with every touch-point providing consistent high levels of service. Maybe you will appoint a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) in the future but for now you will grasp the role yourself. It’s a terrifying role because you cannot manage revenue or results; you can only manage activities and inputs. That’s the very reason why these next two roles must also be assumed by you personally to instil the vision, unity and discipline in your team and throughout the entire organization.

          CEO should really stand for: Chief Example Officer.

          CEO and Chief Customer Experience Officer. Align the business for buyer engagement. Create retention strategies based on irresistible value and service. Love your people and customers. Delight them, inspire them, and show them a better way. Create emotional connections to the way you do business.

          CEO and Chief Culture Officer. Love your staff and serve them with all you have. Be Chief Encouragement Office. Take your vision, mission and values statements off the wall and write them on everyone’s mind and heart. Bring it all to life in the way you live and lead. Be authentic – ditch the persona and instead be human in how you operate. It will cascade down through the organization and the market will notice. You’ll be ‘the good guys’ in your industry and partners and customers will want to do business with you over anyone else. Are you brave enough? This case study can show you how it can work.

          CEO/CRO/CCEO/CCO… it has a ring to it, doesn't it. Seriously, no need to put this inane mind-boggling acronym string on your business card or LinkedIn profile but ensure no-one is in doubt about your obsession. Customer intimacy combined with innovation to create the best market-leading customer experience is the most powerful form of differentiation. This, combined with a motivated and competent sales team is what creates profitable revenue, the life-blood of any enterprise.

          How many business out there already have a CRO or similar role that brings sales, marketing, service and customer support all together under a single leader? What are the barriers you see to breaking down fiefdoms for the benefit of customers and the prosperity of the business?

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

          Main Image Photo by Flickr: John Taylor

          3 Total Failures Who Succeeded Wildly

          Failure is the key to success. Failure is an event, it’s not a person and it should never define you. Those who learn from failure, their own and the failures of others, are best equipped for success and even greatness. We’re all familiar with the statistics of Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan – the number of strike-outs and missed shots; yet they are Hall Of Fame legends. We all know that you have to be willing to fail to succeed. They also knew it but they went beyond the ten thousand hours it takes to become ‘unconsciously competent’ at something to be committed to a winning attitude. They hard-wiring successful habits to break though losing streaks, ignoring the doubters, believing in themselves and earning the success they so passionately pursued.

          But I’m not a big fan of sporting metaphors for business. I instead believe that the military and political spheres are more relevant domains for inspiration in professional selling and leadership. Winning in business is about strategy and execution, people and numbers, attitude and skill, EQ and IQ, work ethic and effectiveness. Allow me to share three true stories – two of politicians with Lazarus style resurrections and one of the richest man in China. There are great lessons here in the role of failure in creating success.

          This first leader came for humble beginnings, born into poverty with his family forced out of their home. At a young age he had to work to support them and his mother died. Plans to take over the family store went nowhere and the business disappeared. He studied and worked to improve himself as best he could before deciding to run for State Legislature and lost. He then lost his job and applied for law school but was rejected. He borrowed money from a friend to start a business which failed within a year. He was a bankrupt and spent seventeen years repaying debt.

          He then ran for state legislature again and won. Life seemed on the up and he fell in love and became engaged but his fiancée died tragically. He was broken-hearted, suffered from depression and had a breakdown. He barely lived – existing with deep dark depression – ‘the black dog’ as Winston Churchill later described. Luckily at that time there was no Fox News or social media to ‘out him’ as wasting tax payer money and he recovered to emerge after six months and later sought to become speaker of the State Legislature but was defeated. He then sought to become Elector and was defeated again. He then ran for Congress and lost. Undeterred, and despite advice not to, he ran for Congress again and this time he won.

          He went to Washington and performed well enough – but not in the minds of voters. He lost as a sitting congressman but was committed to public service. He sought the job of Land Officer in his home state but his application was rejected. A few years later he ran for The Senate and lost. But his passion for politics remained – he wanted to make a difference. A few years later he sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention and attracted less than 100 votes. He then ran for Senate again and lost.

          Many would have looked at him and said: ‘Washed-up has-been, mediocre life, failure.’ If you were his friend at the time you could have easily given him some salient advice: “If the horse is dead, get off. Go find another one – maybe you should go back to business. You’d be pretty unlucky to go bankrupt twice in your life.”

          But he knew that he could never make the kind of difference America needed running a store. He ran for public office again. Failure had not worn him down – it had not blunted his resolve. Instead it had shaped his character and made him more determined than ever. He was stoic and surrounded himself with people he trusted – positive, solid, reliable, insightful, supportive, true believers in his cause to rid the world of self-destructive ideology and evil. He faced the awful truth head-on and had a vision to unite a broken people. Abraham Lincoln became 16th President Of The United States, leading through to the end of the Civil War and abolishing the blight of slavery on the soul of a great nation. He never gave up and was committed to his vision for a just and moral America, and his mission to lead and heal a nation.

          The second leader will be less known to most of my readers. He was called ‘the Lazarus of Australian politics’. His father owned a small gas station in the suburbs of Sydney and he was the youngest of four sons. He grew up to go to university and graduate in law before becoming solicitor. He joined a political party in university and eventually ran for public office winning a Federal Parliament seat and rose to the position of Treasurer of Australia. His party then lost the next election and he unsuccessfully contested the party’s leadership but lost. He contested again before the next election and won the role of Opposition Leader but led his party to defeat at the poles. He was challenged following the defeat in the general election and then lost the leadership within his party when challenged in the fall-out.

          He served as a low level shadow minister under three successive Opposition Leaders but he never lost his aspiration to lead. Six years after being dethroned as Opposition Leader within his party he won the leadership again – he was back. In March 1996 he won a sweeping election victory and John Howard became Australia’s 25th Prime Minister. His Government was returned at three consecutive elections; he became the second longest-serving Australian Prime Minister, after Robert Menzies. His prime ministership achieved a long period of economic prosperity, historically low interest rates and unemployment levels, huge budget surpluses and significant economic reforms that positioned the country to sail through the GFC when it hit being one of the strongest economies in the world.

          He is the first international leader to pledge support to the USA after the 9/11 attacks. He was in America at the time and spoke in congress just days later to a standing ovation. He led through terrorism attacks of Australian and other country’s citizens in Bali. He took the initiative following the Port Arthur massacre, the biggest in Australian history, to successfully pass gun laws that prohibited citizens owning semi-automatic weapons at all or hand-guns without strict controls. It’s rare for a political leader to lose their position but come back to win at the highest levels. Normally, once you’ve had your go you get tipped on the scrap heap – been there, done that, tried him – didn't work… ‘next!’ Howard made a difference and left a positive legacy. He was no Abraham Lincoln or Mandela but he came back, won and made a positive difference.

          Just like John Howard, Mitt Romney can come back as well – it will be a very interesting Presidential race and then election. Bill Clinton was the nicknamed ‘the comeback kid’ and maybe Hilary can come back too? The 2016 election could be a Lazarus battle of Biblical proportions!

          My third example is Jack Ma, the Executive Chairman of Alibaba. He is the richest man in China and personally made more money in 90 days than Amazon Corporation made in 20 years. Alibaba was the biggest IPO in Wall Street history. Yet Jack Ma was trained to be a teacher and he is not a technology geek. Instead he is focused on what technology can do for people, what problems it can solve, what markets it can create.

          Alibaba is staggering and here are some of the numbers: 100 million buyers shopping on their site every day and 60 million actual transactions every day. They’ve created 14 million jobs in China and have gown from 18 people to 30,000 staff in just 15 years. Yahoo invested $1 billion in the business. 800 million people use Alipay; the sister financial transaction system. Alibaba has a bigger market capitalization than Wallmart and IBM… wow! The average age of their staff is 28.

          Jack’s life is however one of overcoming rejection. He applied to 3 colleges to study teaching and he was rejected by all of them. He then gained acceptance on his fourth choice and secured his teaching qualifications. He applied for school teaching roles and failed the exams. He applied for a job with KFC and 24 people applied for roles and 23 were accepted…except Jack. He applied for job with the police with 5 other people and 4 were accepted but not Jack. After he began to be successful in business he applied for Harvard and has been rejected ten times.

          He learned English by offering to be a guide to Westerners for free. This became the education that changed his life. His Chinese name was too difficult to pronounce and a tourist gave him the name ‘Jack’ – he adopted it.

          Jack Ma is genuinely humble and here is some of Jack’s advice:

          • “The most important thing in commerce is TRUST. Everything I’ve done is to build up trust.”
          • “Leadership is about responsibility.” He is absolutely committed to integrity, ethically and legally.
          • “Never rely on the government for eCommerce.”
          • “If we want to change the world, change yourself first.”
          • “My job is making sure my team is happy. If the team is happy, it makes my customers happy.”
          • “The secret sauce for Alibaba's success is that we have a lot of women.”
          • “If someone says no, it’s just the beginning.”
          • “Be inspired and work as a team. It’s all about how you see the world – find Inspiration in movies such as Forest Gump. Life really is like a box of chocolates.”

          Here is an amazing and masterful interview with Jack Ma. Enjoy and learn – you’re watching the world’s commercial future.

          What this means for salespeople and entrepreneurs alike is simple – press on;take the road less traveled. March to the beat of your own drum and be willing to fail forward. Hold your to the vision and the dream. In sales, 'it ain't over 'til it's over.' I can't tell you how many deals were deemed 'closed-lost' that went to the most persistent party that hung in there to get to the 'closed won' finish line. But that's not the finish line: executing on the project is. Delivery of value and retention. Keep an eye on them with Client Services and ensure they receive more than the outcome they were sold. That's integrity!

          Be the change you wish to see in the world and steel yourself to opposing forces. Take inspiration from these true stories; if you can dream it, anything is possible! I've worked for many companies in my career and it's important to know that you can be the success particle to effect change in the system. The grass is always greener and jumping around laterally can build backward momentum. You don't need to be the CEO to lead. Start leading today in how you comport yourself, your positivity and work with the passion of a champion. When you set the stage the world is clay for your intent.

          Failure, tragedy and rejection have shaped my life but that’s a story for another time. Now it’s over to you. How has failure and rejection shaped your success?

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

          Main Image Photo by Flickr: Doug Kline

          Innovate Or Die – The Sigmoid Curve Defines Your Future

          In my lifetime the average age of a Fortune 500 corporation has gone from 80 years down to just 18 years! Combine this shocking statistic with the fact that even the best corporations such as Google and Amazon have average employee tenure of barely 1 year, and I think you’ll agree we have a problem. Professor Richard Foster from Yale University estimates that by 2020 more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we haven’t heard of yet. Problems and opportunities all fused together – it all depends how you look at it.

          There was a time when incumbency in a market or entrenchment in a customer account represented a huge advantage; but now it can appear to be a legacy millstone around your neck. Some are predicting [wrongly] the extinction of sales people, to be steadily replaced by AI social selling autobots [not]. The barrier to entry for new competitors has never been lower; and the process of switching suppliers for customers has never been easier. Web services make integration to ‘best of breed’ cloud application easy. Access to low cost labor, combined with advances in technology and engagement platforms are changing everything. Just have a look at the staggering results of Jack Ma with Alibaba! The numbers of this eCommerce giant are staggering: 100 million buyers shop on the Alibaba site every day with 60 million actual transactions daily. They’ve created 14 million jobs in China and have gown from 18 people to 30,000 staff in just 15 years. Yahoo invested $1 billion in the business. 800 million people use the associated financial transaction system. Alibaba has a bigger market capitalization than Wallmart and IBM… wow! The average age of their staff is 28.

          Change is coming to your local area too but the light at the end of the tunnel need not be your near death experience or a train coming the other way. What’s the secret to prosperity in rapidly changing markets and a globally competitive economy? It’s the same as it always been – innovation and great customer service combined with flawless execution of well-conceived strategy, driven by leaders with good values. We will always live in a human world where real connection matters – people will always invest with and buy from those they like and trust. Social platforms are merely another way of engaging. Technology will never replace those who provide leadership, insight and value in every interaction.

          In one of my posts I stated that any buffoon can cut costs to temporarily create profit; but cost-cutting is almost always a tactic, not a strategy. You cannot cost cut your way to sustained success because sooner or later a business must provide value and differentiate through innovation, value and service. The world needs builders, not destroyers, but building businesses organically (not just through acquisition) is tough work. It requires real leadership, commitment and passionate sales and marketing people to execute. All this raises a daunting question: How do you escape commoditization and avoid extinction – how do you lead?

          There is something staggeringly difficult that every business must do to both survive and prosper. It’s the Mount Everest of personal development and business transformation – we must all innovate and reinvent ourselves... but how? The world is filled with advice on what to do… tell me how!

          I am blessed with amazing people in my life. One of my mentors, Anthony Howard, answers the question in the most profound way. He does it with the ‘must read’ leadership book of 2015 which is being published by Wiley in just a few weeks. The title is: Humanise: Why Human-Centred Leadership is the Key to the 21st Century. Anthony Howard is a leadership luminary and I’ve been fortunate to read an advance copy.

          He writes about the Sigmoid Curve as it relates to leadership – it’s an ideal framework for innovation and reinvention. The Sigmoid curve is usually used to visualize product lifecycle and manufacturers know all about this curve and use it to refresh products, create upgraded models and then plan for end of life and next generation releases.

          But companies need to think in the same terms and Anthony goes on to write the following in his upcoming book:

          “In order to avoid the inevitable decline, you need to rethink what you are doing — that is, innovate — as you approach the top of the curve, when everything appears to be going fabulously well. Doing this can sometimes lead to a temporary dip, for instance as profits decline due to increased R&D investment, although success will launch a new curve. This new upswing motion forms an inflexion point and creates the sigmoid curve.

          “Changing direction when things are going well is not easy. In business sales are booming, profits are up, people enjoy working for a market leader, customers love you... In government the economy is strong, debt is being paid down, unemployment is low... In your personal life relationships are flourishing, communication is honest and frequent, the world seems radiant ... This is often the calm before the storm, the comfort before the seven-year itch, the illusory satisfaction of supportive polls or market research.

          “Wise leaders take steps to prepare for the future, just as navigators know the sun does not shine forever and always keep a close eye on weather and water. They know a storm will roll in at some point and always maintain a state of readiness.

          “Looking away from what is successful at the moment to what could be successful in the future requires strong leadership. It requires courage to confront the chaos and confusion that marks inflexion points and to navigate the fog of uncertainty.”

          Anthony is a practical man and was a merchant seaman in his youth. He went on to lead at the highest levels on business. He goes on later in his book to explain how to navigate the Sigmoid curve.

          “The transition from one cycle to the next starts with an initial dip, which can feel like a loss of direction and be financially and emotionally draining. Living in and through the chaos and confusion of inflexion points and disruption is hard work …

          “Sometimes the inflexion point is forced on you by an event such as a global financial crisis. Suddenly what was clear becomes murky, what was straightforward becomes confused. Strategic plans are binned before they can gather dust. Employees are not sure how to act or what to do. The firm is facing a crisis, and you are the leader at the helm. What do you do?

          “Only one strategy works in times of chaos and confusion: Lead by purpose. Ensure people know the reason why. You have no idea how long it will take to work through the inflexion point, nor any great clarity about how things will look on the other side. In times of clear weather and steady-as-she-goes navigation you can make three- and five-year plans. In times of confusion and chaos you can focus only on longer-term purpose, since only it remains clear. Purpose stands like the North Star, or a distant lighthouse, toward which you can steer through the storm.”

          The above text in italics is an extract from Humanise. Why Human-Centred Leadership is the key to the 21st century, copyright (c) Anthony Howard, 2015, John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd. If you aspire to leadership then this book is essential reading; I promise you that it has the power to change your business and your life. If you would like to download a sample chapter, go to Anthony Howard’s LinkedIn profile and download from the Summary section.

          Here are some parting thoughts from me. Markets change and competitors are constantly seeking to out-fox and out-manoeuvre you. Whether it be from disruptive technologies, new market entrants, political and economic change, demographic shifts, whatever… you must be able to innovate, change and reinvent yourself for the people and markets you serve. This does not mean that you abandon timeless values and principles of ethics; but it does mean you must embrace change as you lead. There is no such thing as steady-state or the status quo in business, politics, or personal life for that matter – feelings of certainly are illusionary. The reality is that your business is either growing or withering. Grow it must or it will fade and die.

          The secrets to re-booting your Sigmoid curve include being visionary because the best way to predict the future is to invent it! You must also have customer intimacy in your chosen markets and obsessively listen to your clients and anticipate their needs. You also need a killer team of passionate people; everywhere within the organization (except maybe the accounting department). Finally, have a massive bias toward action and be willing to fail (but fail fast and get off dead horses immediately) while passing the credit on to your team for every success. The leader is the culture of any organization so be the change you need in your people. Be the best CEO you can be, even if you are just CEO of your department or team. CEO stands for: Chief Example Officer and Chief Encouragement Officer.

          What is the true meaning of leadership to you? Please comment below.

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.


          10 Leadership Insights From A Serial Millennial Entrepreneur

          By 2020, 50% of the workforce will be millennials. A millennial is usually defined as someone born between 1980 and 2005. We older people look down upon them and judge their sense of entitlement, narcissism, gadgetry fuelled ADD, and constant need for positive reinforcement. Like the Gen-Y crowd before them, they burst into the workplace saying: “I’ve been here for ten minutes, when are you promoting me? What’s wrong with you, can't you recognise real talent when it’s staring you in the face?”

          But Caleb Hong breaks the stereotype and is not someone you discover on LinkedIn… well you will but he has no photo and almost no detail in his profile. He doesn’t blog – he’s not seeking anyone and prefers to stay under the radar. Sorry Caleb! He is however a millennial serial entrepreneur who is very successful and incredibly complex; shy and thoughtful with a razor sharp mind and sense of purpose in his life. He and I were recently part of a business leadership panel in Sydney and we got to know each other. While he was speaking on stage I was wishing that I was in the audience so I could take notes.

          When I got home, I furiously wrote down what I could remember and then had a coffee with him a few days later. He has even turned a business into a franchise that went national and sold others for healthy profits. At one point he was operating four businesses at once, overseeing a hundred staff and coping with being on anti-depressants. He figured-out how to function effectively with just the 2-3 hours each day where he could positively interact with people and make good decisions. Here is the real world wisdom from Caleb – the rest of this post is essentially from him.

          Insight #1: Listen to the market to find problems you then solve for them.

          I think businesses shy away because they feel they are too small or don’t have enough experience. They have a picture in their mind about what they need to become or achieve before they can approach that potential client or investor. This timidity comes from looking at ourselves rather than looking at what companies and individuals need in the marketplace. It’s got nothing to do with you. One thing about remarkable companies is that they are customer-centric. I think it’s important to adopt that focus early on.

          Here’s a simple process I’ve used often in the past twelve months. Create an approach that can get you directly in front of the right people. Listen to the market, find problems you can solve, Figure out what people want & need. Package it; then sell it back to them. The companies giving you initial feedback can become your first customers.

          I’ve closed 6-figure deals, pre-selling services without a business card or a business logo, because I found what businesses desperately needed and gave it to them. Two months ago I did a similar thing; I reached out to a $6 billion financial company. I had a look at their marketing and extracted 14 key areas where they were leaving money on the table. Then I got in touch with them and gave them a comprehensive run-down on what they needed to do. The exercise was simple, but the impact was huge. When it’s not about you, and you make it about helping and solving problems that businesses or individuals have, you’re able to cut through the noise and gain traction very quickly.

          There are two reasons why I think this might resonate with businesses. What’s changed over recent years is that the marketplace expects businesses to add value – not just communicate value.

          And you want the shortest pathway to cash-flow and at the same time create a proof of concept as quickly as possible.

          Insight #2: Your ability to sell your ideas is crucial.

          Whether it’s a product, a proposal or a project; nobody is going to believe in your idea more than you. But it is critically important that you don’t just rely on the idea to sell itself, even if it’s good. This may seem obvious but so many make this mistake.

          Ideally, you want to have a great idea and be great at presenting and selling that idea, which leads me to the first point.

          A) When selling your idea, work on optimising both the sales process of your idea and the idea itself. Sometimes, we can focus on one at the expense of the other. If you address both, you’re doubling the rate of your success.

          B) If you were the buyer, would you buy your own product? The reason why this question is so important is because people buy into you before they buy into your idea. While you’re selling the idea, investors and potential clients are first looking at you.

          Steve Jobs believed in his company and products so much, it created a reality distortion for the rest of us, including his own team. We talked about the man as much as we talked about the products.

          When we believe in our idea, we’re helping our investors, potential clients and employees close the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’. That gap becomes smaller and smaller. And that’s exactly what we need to move fast and pivot, as our products and business are growing & improving while it gets closer to what it ‘could be’. The most forward thinking companies live in this gap. The businesses that are left behind predominantly live in the ‘what is’ or worse, ‘what was’.

          C) Integrate context with content. Your idea is the content. The industry and the businesses you are applying the idea is context.

          Selling your idea becomes so much more effective and persuasive when you understand the context as much as your content. Your product, proposal or project becomes an obvious solution to a much needed problem or need. A simple exercise is to rate out of 10 how much you understand your product, project or proposal and then do the same for your context – the niche that you are trying to reach, the business that you are speaking to, the markets you are seeking to reach. Then work to improve the content or context based on your score.

          Insight #3: Most of your time is wasted.

          For about 24 months while I was battling through depression, I had a mere 2-3 good hours to get anything done. That taught me a lot. If you only had two hours to achieve results each day, you wouldn’t waste time on trivial things. Rather, you’d be doing things that give you the biggest returns. It’s actually a really powerful exercise – just ask yourself: “If I had 2-3 hours in a day to build my business, what would I be doing? More importantly, what would I stop doing?”

          As you apply resourcefulness to your time, your efforts, your money, something happens… resourcefulness not only makes your resources go further, it actually attracts more resources.

          These are the things I did during that period of forced time-poverty. In the few hours I had each day, I focused on the most critical activities and projects and reduced or eliminated low value activities. I automated or delegated the rest. But that’s not enough. I also created a better process to make decisions fast. I used a simpler but more intuitive set of metrics to drive my businesses – going from whole spread-sheets to just looking at 3-5 numbers a day. Instead of training my best people, I mentored them. It was one of the best ways of taking myself out of the equation while empowering people to achieve bigger results. It’s like training an Olympian. At that level, you become a trainer, a coach and a mentor.

          I love Michael Gerber’s work on repeatable systems, but building systems without the right spirit and heart, without the trust of your best people; is a recipe for sub-optimal results. Connecting people to what you’re doing with mission and purpose is key and I love what Tony has written on this topic (I read his LinkedIn blog).

          Insight #4: Business is about people.

          The quality of the people you work with inevitably changes the quality of your business. And with that said, it’s important to work with the best people, whether they are employees, business partners or other businesses that support your growth – law firm, accountant, HR services, etc. Even if you can’t afford them now, there’s no reason why you can’t meet them now. Here is an example: I’ve worked with law firms that I selected because they were cheaper to begin with and eventually charged me double as I grew and could afford their fees… but they were the best. And I’ve worked with top consultants and accountants in this way too. The best people will also introduce you to other top professionals that you need in your ‘virtual’ team. They will also connect you with potential clients. But what’s even more important is who you become by working with the best people. Quality people make a massive difference in the success of a business – only work with the best; find a way to afford them.

          How do you bring the best people into your world? To do that, here are two practical things I can think of. First you must be the very best you can be, personally and with your business. Great people attract similar people and the fastest way to better yourself is to find mentors.

          The second point builds on the first: You want to create a framework that creates ‘pull’ and attracts the right people. I use what I call the 7C framework – your Core Mission, Character, Chemistry, Competence, Culture, Connection & Contribution.

          I use the 7C framework to better myself and I’ve created a training program using this framework for my team. I use the framework when hiring people and it serves as a compass that helps me identify the right organisations and individuals to build relationships. And using the 7C framework across different areas of the business creates congruency, which is a key ingredient in building a great brand. So the cycle perpetuates.

          Insight #5: You don't need more information – you need more action.

          So many people believe that they need more information before they can decide and execute. I think that’s a misconception because the focus is on learning, rather than execution. The fact of the matter is that we do not lack information – we have information overload! We’re especially running into that problem head-on in 2015 because there’s so much information out there, rather than being compelling, it paralyses. We become overwhelmed with information and it causes confusion & bottlenecks, so we look to learn more to resolve it, and it becomes a negative cycle.

          The key to success is learning the right thing, not learning more. It’s learning the right thing that empowers execution. My guess is that most of us already know enough. We know far more than we are implementing. What is needed is insight and less information.

          Insight #6: Business plans are a waste of time.

          Business plans are slow and they become out-dated quickly, before they’re even finished. The more time your spend on your plan, the longer you are out of the market. It’s all downtime because there’s no cash coming in and by the time you’re ready, the market most likely will have changed and you’re once again out of tune.

          It’s better to plan as you go. When you start a business or a project within an existing business, 80% of your efforts should be focused on selling and marketing, generating revenue as fast as possible. That’s your business lifeline and it’s your proof of concept. Let’s take it from there and just simplify it. If you want to market and sell something, you just need three things to get started. 1) You need to know who your target audience is; 2) You need an offer; and 3) You must choose one customer channel that you’ll leverage to reach them. That’s it. It’s not 100 moving parts – complexity can come later. We are planning as we go and pivoting based on what we learn. This cuts enormous time and energy.

          Insight #7: Ditch the 12 month calendar and instead work with 12 week cycles.

          Many businesses tend to have their biggest months towards the end of the year. That’s because a year gives you at least 10 months where you can procrastinate until it’s crunch time. I treat 12 weeks like a year. I’ve been doing this for my businesses and my client’s businesses and found it makes execution more predictable. The challenge with a 12 month calendar is that there is a lot of assumptions built into it. The further we plan, the more assumptions we’re making. Making decisions and allocating resources on assumptions and theory in a cut-throat market is risky business. Short cycles create urgency, action and accountability – no time to wait or procrastinate.

          Insight #8: It’s all about rapid momentum.

          I was speaking to a billionaire once and there was one thing he said that struck a deep chord. In fact, after that conversation I realised it was something I did very consistently. He said: “It’s not about how big or small a business is, it’s more about how fast or slow a business moves”. This is now more relevant than ever.

          Everything becomes easier with momentum. And to create momentum, you need speed. To create speed, it’s important to make execution easier. Remove complexity. A complex plan is harder to implement.

          One of the metrics I measure daily in my business is doing one thing per day that simplifies something in my business – whether that’s creating a checklist, an SOP, taking out a step in a process, replacing technology, etc.

          The simpler your business becomes, the more likely it’s going to build rapid momentum. Don’t make things more complicated than it needs to be.

          Insight #9: Your life partner is your life-line.

          Something that I learnt was about valuing people for who they are, and not for what they can necessarily do for you. I learnt that from my wife. I’ve never met anyone with so much authenticity. One big factor of life-balance is having the right people around you. They help you do it better through instruction, imitation but most importantly, through inspiration.

          I think life-balance is actually a product of our perspective. The perspective of the life we desire does dictate whether we create balance and how we choose to create that balance.

          One perspective that I love thinking about is seeing myself and a whole bunch of people that I love still doing life together until our last breathe in wheel chairs. That would be cool. And that perspective drives my balance today.

          Insight #10: Instill a multiplier into the DNA of your work

          We’ve been accustomed with the idea that good is not good enough, and that to be good you want to be excellent at what you do. It’s a fantastic idea except today most people in the marketplace are thinking the same.

          It’s hard to stand out in today’s market but I have a hack that could make you dangerous. There are hundreds of articles talking about why you need to upload blog posts regularly. But what if I told you that you can actually pick up 1-2 clients per blog post you create. Would this be of interest to you?

          And what if I then laid it out, step-by-step, thoroughly and as specifically as possible. What if all you had to do was to implement the process again and again whenever you needed more clients. This would very quickly create a list of businesses waiting to speak to you.

          I know this works because I’ve run this for a handful of my clients. One company in Sydney in particular achieved an account penetration by ten-folds using this approach.

          You can apply this in many different scenarios and foresee the outcome of your activities. When you do what you do -- whether that’s marketing, product expansion, sales, strategy meetings, client delivery, etc. – is it going to cause people to beat down your door for more? Or will it cause people to simply say “that was good.”

          For example, we can ask ourselves: “What needs to happen in order to publish one blog post and have a list of businesses waiting to speak to me?” And what would happen if you could find application for this again and again in the more critical parts of your business?

          Every activity has an innate DNA. Some are designed to produce average results, some negative, some are great and others are so revolutionary or meet the deepest need in the most practical way possible that it commands the attention of many people immediately. The speed of cut-through depends on a value equation.

          Is your activity designed with the DNA of additions or multiplication? For one speaking engagement, you get three more. What would you have to do for that to happen? Now you’re designing your business to multiply with each small act.

          This last insight, number 10, is one big thing that separated Apple from its competition. Here is a great video by Guy Kawasaki who worked with Steve Jobs.

          And also great wisdom from Steve Jobs himself.

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

          Main image photo by Flickr: meridican

          Chase Your Passion

          Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius

          Many of you know what you love to do in life. Many of you are still searching for it. If you can monetize your passion, time will fly by. Another route to enjoying your career and life more is finding a silver lining in your daily routine that brings you joy and do more of that.

          One of the quickest ways to improve your job is to take an active interest in other people, your customers, managers and colleagues. The move from interesting to interested is a profound step. It may take discipline at first in this selfish world where we're often just struggling to survive and keep up with information overload.

          Winning is an addictive process. Being part of a team is really about finding a way to help your colleagues win. When incentive structures are put in place that reward the right behaviors a sense of purpose and unity is possible.

          So what is work ethic? How can some seemingly work endlessly and maintain high intensity? Is it really just type-A innate capability or upbringing? I think it has a great deal to do with the ability to be present and in the moment – 'being fully there'. Mindfulness is key to enjoying the journey. If you're constantly thinking of the future or past it can stunt your growth; you'll be less effective in the present moment.

          In analyzing what makes the most successful people tick, I would make a strong case for passion. Drive, ambition and inner fire all stem from a place of joy in the doing. Action based people are resilient. We have a high pain threshold, rejection tolerance and get back up after the twelfth round with a grin. As an entrepreneur, it quickly becomes clear that ideas are cheap; real success is in the details and it's all about execution.

          I've met successful sales people who love people. I've met many attorneys that excelled in new business development because they simply loved to debate and endlessly negotiate or challenge conventional wisdom! It's going to take some growing pains but continuing to improvise until you're at last in a position of reinvention in your career where all the pieces fit into the puzzle of an organization, render you a cornerstone.

          There are many ways you can increase your passion but one is a mantra of asking oneself: 'What truly makes me happy?' Curiosity and hunger to know, unlock an inner power. It's a huge piece of what makes great people likable: genuine caring, empathy and attention toward others.

          I was inspired to write this post because I often see what we do as business people, be it marketing, sales or business development, as an art form. Life itself can be lived as a composer free-composing a symphony, as the impressionist casting the stars over Monet's garden.

          The data driven approach has sucked much of the artfulness out of telling stories and all the technology has anesthetized our hearts from the warmth of true connection. Find something about your company, your product, your service, your story or your industry to become passionate about. Passion will open a doorway into knowing and from that pathway, expertise will develop rapidly. Like a sponge, you will take in knowledge as sure as the sun rises.

          Whether you've been innately born with work ethic and drive, or a raw hand of cards has been dealt to you circumstantially, passion alone can illuminate your path. There is a path for everyone to do what they love. There is a higher self to aspire to that we find in beauty, art, music and love. Ultimately, our work is a vehicle to provide for the ones we love. Tying our material dreams and goals to deeper values of people, planet plus profit allows ourselves to be made whole.

          Call me an idealist, but I do believe it's possible to operate with integrity at all times. It's possible to live one's life with integrity and a pure heart, as if everything we do is being broadcast in Time Square.

          I was recently asked about the benefit of hiring aggressive sales people to dominate the industry? My reply was: "I rely on cunning rather than aggression." I would certainly rather be the fox in the fable but there are no sour grapes in this story. You can never have regrets because friction creates the pearl. Learn from your mistakes; move fast and break things. Inaction and timidity are the silent killers. Roar like a lion and hunt. Go boldly after your objectives and figure it out along the way. But be kind and tolerant with others – they're human too.

          The best organizations are agile and ever evolving. Passionate people set the tone and the culture. They are the lightning rods igniting new industries, fostering innovation and making vision a reality. It only takes one person in a company to make a major vibration and change the entire business. If you're reading this, that's probably you.

          What are you truly passionate about? Have you found it yet? Do you love what you do? Did you always? How do you find that inner light so that you can let it shine and touch others?

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au

          Main image photo by Flickr: Joe Bielawa

          Cadel Evans – Lessons For Winning

          I’m a cycling fan and have been since Lance dragged me into the sport with his incredible work ethic and 'never say die' attitude combined with his drug-fueled, iron-fisted ruthlessness and cunning to ‘miraculously’ come back from near death cancer and ignite the imagination of hundreds of millions.

          I cheered, bought a bike and learned to love suffering on a bike, exhorting everyone I knew to join the cycling cult – the new golf for business networking. I read every book Lance wrote and ignored all those who saw me as a lycra-coated speed impediment – I was obsessed.

          Then the sport was relentlessly plagued by drug scandals. The truth is that’s it’s always been mired in drugs. Nothing new in the Lance era except for a giant leap in medical science with EPO, blood doping, testosterone, micro-dosing and the necessary technology to stay one step ahead of testers. I started reading books about Lance including Tour de Force by Daniel Coyle and my doubts grew. Then the truth about Lance became overwhelming and he broke my heart with how he dealt with it – no remorse; no redemption; just denials and arrogance until the end. I binned my yellow wrist-band. If only he had followed Tyler Hamilton he could have salvaged so much.

          But Cadel Evans maintained my hope in cycling. During the drug era of the Tour de France he could never win. He never had any ‘unbelievable’ leaps in performance or super-human comebacks mere hours after appearing completely shattered. He simply had innate talent, unbreakable work-ethic and a stoic ability to suffer. That’s what winning a grand tour (3 week race) is all about – your teammate's capabilities and unity combined with your ability and luck to avoid a crash is the name of game. Oh, and one most big thing... your ability to suffer more than anyone else in the peloton.

          Cadel is Australia’s greatest cyclist. He won the world cup (mountain biking) in 1998 and 1999 before switching to road racing. He was also the first Australian to win the UCI Pro Tour in 2007 and the UCI Road World Championships in 2009. He finally won the prestigious Tour de France in 2011. He has always been willing to turn himself inside-out and suffer more than anyone else but he was never a great leader of men. He is instead an introvert, complex, hyper determined and smart; but he does have a genetic gift – a VO2 max that is unrivaled. His VO2 max is 86 (Lance Armstrong was 84). VO2 max is a measure of the body’s ability to convert oxygen into energy and is often used to compare the performance of endurance sports athletes.

          I believe Cadel won clean in his career and he's been a great ambassador for the sport. As proof of his 2011 Tour de France win being clean, he won with a time-trial up a mountain stage that would have placed him nearly halfway down the pack in previous drug-fueled years. His winning time was substantially slower than exactly the same mounting climbing time-trial stage winners had achieved years earlier.

          in 2015, Cadel completed his very last professional race competing in the one day classic named after him, The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Victoria, Australia. He finished in the leading sprint group in 5th place. Cadel is the only cyclist in history to achieve the number one ranking worldwide in both mountain biking and road racing. He is the greatest cyclist Australia has produced.

          We farewell Cadel as a professional rider and thank him for his integrity, commitment and all the wonderful memories. He made a difference in the sport. For those in leadership and the business world, there are parallels and lessons t be learned from cycling:

          • Be part of a great team. You use 30% less energy when you’re drafting behind riders in front of you. Your team can help pull you back to the peloton when you’re dropped or have a mechanical problem. You can’t win on your own. Choose your team carefully and make sure you can rely on everyone when times are tough. Do they have real commitment and work ethic?
          • Conserve energy and work smart. Use the efforts of your competitors to pull you along in the market. Pick your time to jump out into the wind to sprint and win the deal. Never peak too early. Be cunning and smart as well a brave and committed.
          • Learn to suffer more than anyone else. Don't wish it were easier to win, instead work to make yourself better. It's all the unseen hours of practice and training that enable you to ‘burst onto the scene from nowhere’ to beat the competition.
          • Headwinds and mountains are what enable you to escape the pack. The word for crisis and also opportunity is exactly the same in Chinese. When it becomes difficult, it’s your opportunity to dig deep and put distance between you and your competition.
          • Maintain your poker face. Unlike Cadel, never let anyone see that you are suffering. Be the duck – going like hell beneath the surface and completely calm above the water.
          • Know the difference between a moral dilemma and a temptation. Cheating is cheating and no amount of justification cuts it. I recently heard Lance say that if he had his time over again that he would cheat again. I guess in his mind, it was a level playing field of cheating. Being able to look yourself in the mirror is however one of the most important things in life. Cadel can stare into the mirror with pride.

          There is only one cyclist in the modern era of professional cycling who could suffer more than Cadel and I respect them both enormously even though I know he was a cheat. It’s Tyler Hamilton and he suffered so badly in a race he ground his own teeth down to the expose nerves. But he redeemed himself with honesty and contrition. The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle is the best sporting book I’ve ever read. It explains the ugly psychology of 'winning at any cost' and the dark seductiveness of 'rotten inner circles' and the way we can be lured deeper into compromise to become locked-in to a life of lies, only truly realizing once it is too late.

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au

          Main Image Photo by Flickr: Michiel Jelijs

          Why Finding Mentors Is Like Finding Love - 7 Unicorn Qualities

          Mentorship is a lot like love. To find the perfect mentor, you need to let them come to you. One of the best ways to find the ideal mentor, is to become a mentor yourself. To learn we must teach. There is a reciprocal nature to all cycles of life.

          I believe that in order to reap the greatest benefits from mentorship, seek to pay your wisdom forward either with your own mentees or in a reverse-mentorship capacity where you can turn the camera 360 degrees and teach someone much more experienced than you, something that you specialize in and are super passionate about.

          I've been blessed with an exceptional wife and two beautiful children of my own who teach me a master class every day on every aspect of my life. I've also been blessed with an august leadership mentor in Anthony Howard. We learn from each other all the time. In many respects I have many mentors, I receive insight from my students all over the world, executives that I coach and train.

          You might be asking as you read my portfolio of posts on here, how does this guy over 50 years old, know so much about how Millennials think and all the cutting edge paradigms of Social Selling and B2B content strategy? The answer is simple: I am being consistently reverse-mentored by those that seek me out globally to learn the timeless principles of strategic selling and big deal closing.

          They know I've gone through the excruciating pain of selling to government, 22 month procurement cycles and consulting on rigorous eight (and even 9 figure) engagements to win. I've also had the rare privilege to be a country manager, run sales teams and have relationships at the top of global software conglomerates. I've gone up against incumbents David versus Goliath and unseated them in the 11th hour by deftly applying strategic thinking. Sheer will and failing forward got me here so giving back daily is in my DNA and I encourage you to do the same. That's one of the true gifts to humanity that social media brings – the ability to have a positive value exchange of good ideas across oceans.

          Beyond the karmic elements of serendipity and happenstance, here are some key things to look for in securing a lifelong bond with a leader that embodies everything you stand for, someone who can help you learn and grow, pushing you beyond your bounds and self-limiting beliefs. Feel the fear and do it anyway, get beyond your comfort zone and realize your higher self. A great mentorship should never feel like an obligation or something that helps you look good on a resume or for school credit. If you're lucky, you'll find one or two great mentors in your lifetime much like great loves and you'll never forget them. The truth is, they'll never forget you. Making an impact on another life, reaching out and touching someone's very existence is just like beauty, as profound in the eye of the beholder as those that radiate it.

          1. Do they have real world experience? There's much to be said for composing sonnets from the ivory tower but living the dream amongst the people is a whole other level. Personally, I find that real people who have endured through real world crises and challenges emerging triumphant are most able to teach us the 'why' and 'how.' Inspired action is a million times more valuable than theory. At the end of the day, I'm asking myself: 'Have they actually done it? Have they slayed the dragon, hot air ballooned around the world in 80 days or saved the princess?'
          2. Do they possess a genuine optimism, compassion and zest for life?People that do well in life love people. I suppose there are plenty of stations in life that would elevate the misanthrope but it's been my experience that helping other people on this planet is the true meaning of life. I derive so much intrinsic fulfillment out of leading someone I'm mentoring on a journey of discovery and watching their sphere of knowledge and influence expand. I'm the spark and they are the light in a chained lightning reaction back and forth, as the world illuminates around compelling subjects new and old that we share and evolve.
          3. Do they believe in your vision and hold you accountable to it? I can't tell you how many times I've met successful entrepreneurs furiously driven by a parent or teacher that never believed in them or maybe pushed them too much. They seek to fill this void in their life with a mentor who will believes in them. Lost, they seek to pull forth their mission from within and need a guide. A theme in my writings is that all it takes is one person to truly believe in you, to make you successful. That's all it takes and you can be that person for someone, many someones. When you scout out a mentor, watch the way you feel after you've interacted. Are you bursting with ideas, new insight and enthusiasm to go attack your life with gusto? These are good signs that you've found the right one. Be ignited and ignite. The coolest part about a great mentor is how they stay in touch, check up on you, make sure you're on track for your goals and even the most granular details are interesting to them.
          4. Do they embrace self-education and lifelong learning? Never stop learning, never stop humbling yourself. We could never learn it all in infinite lifetimes so we must fall in love with learning everyday. Phenomenal mentors are multi-disciplinary students of life. They ask the greater questions and their thirst for knowledge is palpable. Their rooms are overflowing with memories, and their studies are overflowing with books, maps, pictures and ideas hitting them like tidal waves in endless flashes of brilliance. You think of someone like Leonardo da Vinci spurring a Renaissance, well these are the Renaissance men and women in your life.
          5. Are they resilient? I find that true character is exhibited in times of strife and crisis. Mentors bounce back, they're anti-fragile and accustomed to challenge. The pressure-cooker of a frontier life has built a heart full of diamonds. They tell stories of conquering unimaginable obstacles and how they did it again and again. Failure, pain, suffering and bad luck are no stranger to them but it was their attitude of gratitude, fire and tenacity alloyed with iron will that saw them through. I strive to approach every situation from the viewpoint of advantage and see the duality in all things. I look for this quality in mentors and mentees alike.
          6. Have they embarked on the Hero's Journey? Joseph Campbell writes, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."

          The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

          A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

          7. Do they truly embody wisdom? Wisdom is something that is earned. I have met some of the wisest people in the world and paradoxically they are often the most humble. Perhaps they've seen everything and they find the divine comedy and tragedy of humankind amusing. It's all just a little history repeating so they have somehow managed to have never lost their childlike innocence. They see the world with new eyes. Someone wise can impart things to you beyond knowledge. They can counsel you in incredibly difficult situations to make moves that may be outside the scope of your awareness. A phenomenal mentor will challenge you to think about every aspect of your life and business in new ways. She may even encourage you to get out of the nest of your comfort zone and take flight. They lead with wisdom of experience, intuition and can see through walls and around corners.

          I started this article with the metaphor of love. Finding the right mentor is almost like finding a soul mate: we have to believe they're out there in order to attract the unicorn to us. If you don't allow yourself to believe, it's near impossible for the magic of mentorship to happen for you. Step one is to keep an eye out for those rare individuals in whose lives you believe that you can make a profound difference... now. I'll close with a couple quotes that may help you think about this entire mentorship subject and process in a new way: “That's the thing with magic. You've got to know it's still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.” Charles de Lint; and “Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

          Great mentors believe in you, and that my friends... is proof of magic. From that transference of belief, all things are possible.

          Now it's your turn: Who are your mentors, the most influential people on your success, your life and your happiness? What do you look for in a mentor? Which one of these qualities do you feel was most important or unusual? What's the most magical aspect of your life and who inspired it? Who are your heroes? Who's had the biggest impact on your future?

          If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au

          Main Image Photo by Flickr: Ted Eytan