3 Common Mistakes That May Be Killing Your Sales

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

We all want better sales results—so what’s the secret?

It lies in the brain, and knowing how to guide our sales people out of their Critter State, where they are overwhelmed, stressed, in fight/flight/freeze, and into their Smart State where they have fresh insights, are ready to tackle the day, are motivated and psyched to succeed.

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1-You Aren’t Asking the Right Questions

Some of these are harder than others. But you need to ask them. Often, like quarterly at a minimum.

  • What percentage of your sales people are performing at quota?
  • How many stages are in the sales process? What happens at each stage? In which stage(s) do sales get stuck/slow down?
  • What’s your current sales cycle? How long would you like it to be and by when?
  • What percentage of your pipeline do you close? What percentage would you like to and by when?
  • What percentage of sales do you lose to competitors? What are the most common reasons? What percentage would you be willing to tolerate and by when?
  • What are your clients’ and prospective clients’ 5 greatest pain points?
  • What’s your current client retention rate? What would we like it to be and by when?
  • What are your current margins? What would you like them to be and by when?
  • How many qualified leads are generated each month? Through what channels? How many would you like and when?
  • What marketing channels are you currently using (trade shows, direct mail, social, webinars, blogs, infographics, Slide Shares, ads, etc)? Which are most effective?
  • What is the profile of your clients (SBM Trigger, MP Profile, Customer Journey, VAK preference)? How many profiles do we have?

2-You Don’t Have Visibility On Progress and Performance

Many clients ask me for help in streamlining their weekly sales meetings. Here are some effective methods.

Weekly Salesperson Status Report – Set a specific date/time that weekly status is due so the Flash Report below is complete. Make it super easy for the salesperson to submit their weekly status, like by editing a Google Doc or some such, and also ensure it is clear that to be on the sales team this is what you require weekly:

  • # new client orders and details ($ amount, product/services, etc.)
  • # new existing client orders and details ($ amount, product/services, etc.)
  • # new prospects and details (expected $ amount, sales stage, next steps)
  • [whatever else you require to track performance and uncover potential problems]

Weekly Sales Flash Report – Here’s what to cover each week with the sales team during a group huddle. Be sure to recap on email post-meeting so everyone remembers what was covered.

  • Summary sales activity per salesperson: how many orders at what stage of sales process, total $ per salesperson per stage, total velocity (movement from one stage to the next each week)
  • Winners for the weekly contest (whatever behavior you are currently incenting: new orders, upsells/down sells/cross-sells, specific product/service sales, fastest to report sales status in the CRM, etc.)

Weekly CRM Update – Make sure all salespeople know what data needs to be entered in the CRM after each sales call. For example: sales stage movement for the week, notes per call/communication with prospect, proposal info and all sales activity info above. Some clients have their customer service reps do CRM data entry for salespeople as a reward once a certain sales performance level is achieved.

Some of our clients like to set up a Google doc or other repository to help celebrate sales people (as well as all other team members). On the doc each employee fills in their section listing what treats (under $200) they’d like to receive for terrific performance. Make this public so all can see and use, and you’ll find leaders have a much easier time providing fun and meaningful incentive gifts.

3-Your Compensation System Isn’t Working

The below plan is a super simple way to compensate sales people to incent them to:

  • Sell more new business
  • Hand off recurring business to account management
  • Team-sell where appropriate and know they’ll be compensated

Edit this, make it your own, and see how well it works for you.

Base Commission

  • New sales from new clients at x% (see “Levels of sales people” below)
  • Repeat sales from existing clients at y% (shared between sales person and CSR/account manager)
    1. Year 2 commission at ½ of y%
    2. Year 3 commission at 1/3 of y%
    3. Year 4 commission at ¼ of y% (sales person should be out of commission sharing here or sooner)
  • Gross margin expectation at z% — see “Accelerators” section below
  • Levels of sales people:
    1. Entry level person and entry level quota of $ __________. Base: $ _____ Model salesperson: [name here]
    2. Mid-level person (reaches quota 75%+ of time), has quota of $_________. Base: $ _____ Model salesperson: [name here]
    3. Senior level person (reaches quota all the time), has quota of $_________. Base: $ _____ Model salesperson: [name here]
  • Levels of CSRs/Account Managers:
    1. Entry level and entry level quota of $__________. Model: [name here]
    2. Mid-level (reaches quota 75%+ of time), has quota of $_________. Model: [name here]
    3. Senior level (reaches quota all the time), has quota of $_________. Model: [name here]

Accelerators

  • 2 accelerators on increases in gross sales above quota – at ­­__% over quota gets __% commission, __% over quota gets __% commission
  • 2 accelerators on increases in gross margin – at ­­__% over quota gets __% commission, __% over quota gets __% commission

Team Selling – per sale

  • Effort Allocation must be defined clearly in CRM and entered formally:
  • Partner (shares ½ of all selling work) = 50-50% commission split?
  • Consultant (advisor, stops by client if in town, answers occasional client questions and encourages future communication to be with sales person– gets far less commission but still helpful) = 10-30% ??? of total commission (varies based on specific consultant levels)

Doing the above will help get and keep your sales team in their Smart State—which means greater performance, happier people, less stress for you!”

Right Person, Wrong Role? Or Wrong Person, Period?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

People get into the wrong roles for a number of reasons.

Perhaps there was a reorganization and the company didn’t want to lose them, so they were reallocated without consultation or training. Maybe they were promoted beyond their capability without a training plan. Or maybe they were hired to do a project that’s now irrelevant and they’ve not been redeployed to produce meaningful results elsewhere. And then there’s our all-time favorite, the Untouchables.

Do you have Untouchables? Also known as Sacred Cows? These are people who were hired because they are related to (or friends with) the CEO or other powerful team members. Even though their performance is sub-par, they get promoted or allowed to stay on for emotional reasons.

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Case Study: Company X

Company X was a tech consulting firm with a $37 million in annual revenue and approximately 270 employees, about two-thirds of whom were consultants. They were tracking at $137,000 in revenue per employee… ouch! The company was run by a married couple, John and Sarah, who initially contacted us about perfecting their sales process. They felt that their salespeople could be performing much better. What we found was a much bigger issue.

Assess: What We Found

The findings were grim: a fear-driven culture with 53% employee turnover each year. Company X did an exceptional job of technical training for new hires, only to see them leave for higher pay within a year.

The two owners of the company had virtually opposite Meta Programs, and this was causing chaos. Sarah (Active, Toward, Options, Difference) would proactively start an initiative, rally the troops to move toward the new goal, then jump to the next option/project. John (Reflective, Away, Procedures, Sameness) would want to analyze before launching the new initiative, so he would kill it or block it, minimize exposure, and set up a procedure to handle the proposal through testing, no matter how much or little the cost associated risk. The resulting chaos was confusing to the team and sending them deep into Critter State.

The glaring gap in the consultant’s training curriculum was in sales. Even though their role was heavily client-facing, the consultants weren’t trained in the basic selling skills and had no incentive to do anything but fix technical problems. They also had no interaction with the sales team — which was sequestered in a different area of the building. The consultants were the right people in the right role — but with no support to perform their best.

Harry, the new sales manager, had been with the firm for three months. Shortly after hiring Harry, the company had reorganized to close a failing business unit. Sarah and John had moved their niece, Toni, the VP of the failed unit, into a new role as the VP of sales and marketing — wait a sec! What? Did we read that right? Yep, the niece was given one of the most important roles in the firm after killing an entire business unit. Sounds like a sacred cow to me.

There were three problems with this scenario:

  • Harry (who now was sales manager) had no sales expertise — his entire background was in Internet marketing)
  • Toni was an experienced sales manager but wasn’t strategic and had no marketing expertise
  • The two disliked each other — Toni was threatened by Harry and Harry thought Toni should have been fired for her lackluster leadership of the failed business unit

To make matters even more fun, Toni’s boyfriend, Taylor, had been hired as director of client care. He had solid experience, but a perpetual mocking smirk when interacting with anyone but Toni.

Act: What They Did

The first thing we had John and Sarah do was to create clear and compelling mission, vision and value statements. This would help everyone know why they were coming to work, and where they were going together, and how they agreed to behave. They posted these statements in the lobby, and the managers worked with smaller teams until everyone was on board.

Next we established Needle Movers together (first for the executive team and later for everyone) in line with the new mission, vision, and values, and radically increased accountability using weekly reporting and the Accountability Equation. We created a reporting process for the sales pipeline and marketing effectiveness metrics and set up an incentive plan for the consultants to source future sales.

We also redefined the roles and responsibilities throughout sales and marketing to get the right people in the right roles. Some people were reallocated, and one or two were let go respectfully. Since the company had a history of high employee turnover it was key to minimize Critter State via thoughtful communication.

John, Sarah, Toni and Harry worked on their on key challenges. Toni got the tools to turn her department around. Harry was moved out of sales management and into the right role — marketing — where he is brilliant and a perpetual learner. He still reports to Toni, who now manages the sales team directly. Harry’s initiatives have made Company X top of mind in their target market. Now that John and Sarah communicate more explicitly, they are no longer creating chaos, and Toni and Harry have developed mutual respect for each other. Taylor had to be let go. He didn’t want to uphold the company values, and had burned too many bridges to be salvageable.

ROI: What They Got

About six months into the change process, things got pretty scary. The consultants became resistant and didn’t want to work on internal projects for which they had no billable hours, and John and Sarah almost pulled the plug and reverted to chaos. Instead they applied energy management tools, worked through their own resistance, recommitted, and held their team accountable to the direction they had chosen together. The results were not all immediate — patterns occasionally resurfaced and to be readdressed — but overall the results have been phenomenal. They zoomed through the $50 million inflection point and are preparing for $100 million. Their employee retention is now normal for their industry, and employee surveys show that engagement and satisfaction continue to improve.

Two Myths About Strategy — And Two Tools To Make Yours Work

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

We all know that setting a strategy matters. It’s one of the first steps to steer your company to achieve its goals and fulfill its mission. So why do strategies so often fail?

Because making strategies work requires execution.

Why Strategies Fail

Strategies fail when the average bear doesn’t know how to execute, and they aren’t empowered to adjust to meet the goals. When strategies stay in the clouds, employees get lost in the woods. Meanwhile, back on Earth, they’re trying to figure out exactly what to do to execute the strategy.

When organizations chunk down their strategic plans into tangible, measurable, specific quarterly goals, their teams know what to do. They can keep moving and course-correct if they get off track.

Two Myths About Effective Execution

In a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes, and Charles Sull report on their effective strategy execution research. They interviewed 7600 managers in 262 companies across 30 industries to gather their data. Organizations studied in their sample were typically large (6000 employees on average, with median sales of $430 million), and across volatile sectors including financial services, IT, telecommunications, and oil and gas.

The research busted several myths about effective strategy execution. Two of which I find essential to discuss in the context of why strategies fail. I’ll also share two simple tools that will help you put your strategies to work!

Myth # 1: Execution Means Sticking to the Plan

No strategic plan can accurately predict the future. Even if a plan includes detailed roadmaps that specify who should do what, when it should be done by, and what resources are needed. In practice, unforeseen crises or unexpected opportunities can throw plans off.

Leaders must make it safe to adapt to address obstacles and capitalize on opportunities. Because sometimes sticking too rigidly to the plan can run counter to the strategic objectives.

That’s why I find one of the most important activities any organization can undertake is to create the right decision-making spaces when setting accountabilities.

TOOL #1

Decision spaces cover what someone fully owns, and can make autonomous decisions about. So when something unexpected happens, they are empowered to make decisions swiftly, effectively, and in accordance with their competency. Put simply, they don’t need to call on anyone to make the call!

Compiling a list of answers to the following will help you when setting decision spaces:

  • What you can make decisions about
  • What you can’t make decisions about
  • Who to escalate a decision to that is outside of your space

Myth #2: Communication Equals Understanding

It is true that people in the organization need to know exactly what the goal is, why they are doing it, how their department is going to achieve it, how each team member is going to contribute, and what the success metrics are.

However, many executives believe that communications (e.g. emails sent, presentations delivered, etc.) are automatically understood. Not so! Sending out communication pieces does not guarantee they are understood. Just like sharing a lot of words with someone doesn’t guarantee they are heard properly, nor does it mean it will inspire the right actions.

TOOL #2

One of the simplest tools you can use to help staff understand and connect to a strategy is the Outcome Frame (OF). The OF simply helps chunk your strategy down — it brings great clarity as to the “why” and “how” of it, and then you can distribute this clarity to the relevant areas of your organization.

In addition to helping people understand their accountabilities, the OF also emotionally engages the team in the outcome that we hope to achieve from the strategy. This is helps them have their own insights around it — which is key.

Employees must feel connected to the strategy. Human beings make decisions based on emotion, and they will default to activities that lead to the best-feeling. No emotional connection, no engagement. Period. 

This doesn’t mean work must be all about joy, happiness, or inspiration.

Here are some of the OF questions I recommend using to elicit detailed responses from people. I’ve provided sample responses for clarity’s sake:

1. What would you like? “I want to double our client retention rates.”

2. What will having that do for you? “I will feel happy, fulfilled, and excited about the work I do — and the team I have! It will also give me more commissions to send my kids to the best colleges, making me a proud parent!”

3. How will you know when you have it (specifically)? “50% of the existing client base I oversee will agree to renewing and extending their contracts with our company for at least another 2 years.”

4. Where, when, with whom do you want this? “At this main office which is responsible for 2 major global markets (U.S. and U.K.), by the mid-year, with my team of four.”

5. What of value might you risk or lose to ensure you achieve this outcome? “I would be willing to let go of clients who are no longer aligned with our mission, vision, and values — so we can focus on those who are. I will overcome my disagreements with Sales and collaborate with them to help identify and secure new client accounts that are better aligned with us. I’d also have to spend more time cultivating my team, so I’d likely lose a few hours of strategic time each week for the first 3 months of this change.

6. What will likely happen if you don’t solve this the way you want? What will be the impact on your business and life? “Not achieving this outcome would delay funds available for reinvesting in product development. If we don’t fund innovation, we might lose market share to our competitors. Personally, this places financial stress on me as a parent providing for three children at home. Since part of my commission is based on retention metrics.”

7. What are your next steps? “Schedule a meeting with the sales team to define the optimal client profile, meet with marketing on retention programs and outreach to new prospects, set up recurring meetings with my team to mentor them on our new approach, set monthly targets and celebrations as we approach our goal.”

Try these tools to boost the success of your strategies. Then let me know your results!

Ready To End Silos, Sabotage And System Dysfunction In Your Organization?

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Got silos?

How about sabotage?

System dysfunctions like these are generally symptoms of low cultural alignment.

The two founders of Company Z were at war. The CEO was aggressive, the CTO often sabotaged the CEO, and the company was divided into two camps. In addition to their personal strife, there had been recent technological breakthroughs that were changing the way customers worked and put their product at risk of becoming obsolete.

Productivity across the organization was plummeting, and the executives didn’t trust one another and didn’t cooperate either. All the CTO wanted was to work on strategy, but he was afraid he’d lose whatever power he had if he shifted to a new role and let go of his direct reports. Further, because the culture was low on communication and high on fear, the COO had set up her own camp, and the CRO repeatedly said all the executives except the CEO were “impossible” to work with. The silos were spreading.

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Assess: What We Found

Team members were dispirited. The feud at the top had not gone unnoticed and translated into turf wars, mixed loyalties, internal competition, and low motivation. When client projects were specified, the CTO’s team and the COO’s team didn’t talk, so the CRO was often livid when client deadlines were missed and projects were delivered with missing functionality.

In the early days, the company had revolutionized its industry, taking it out of the Dark Ages and into the twentieth century. The problem was that it was now the twenty-first century and their competitive advantage was eroding fast. They could no longer attract and keep the engineering staff they needed.

Act: What We Did

The CEO needed to help the CTO move into a new role before anything could happen. This was a priority to recover from their stuck spots because the firm badly needed his talents to be focused on creating a new strategic direction.

We helped the CEO learn to speak the CTO’s Meta Programs to shift him out of his Critter State. The CEO used this messaging to start the CTO’s shift into his Smart State: “I need your help [give CTO power, enroll emotionally]. We’re crafting a new strategic direction and I know we’ll be growing really fast. I’m concerned that we’ll move too quickly without mitigating the risks or taking the time to properly create the foundations to ultimately move even faster [Away, Reflective]. We need a step-by-step [Procedures] implementation plan to ensure we’re ready for the growth that’s coming, and I need someone who knows how to do this [Internal]. Few people here can see both the forest and the trees [General-Specific] like you can. You’d mentioned that you want to shift to a more strategic role and free up your time from management work. With a role like this you’d be doing what you’re great at [External] and have the hassle of management work gone [Sameness with Exception].”

We helped the CTO get very clear on what he wanted (no direct reports and work on strategy only across departments). We also coached him to set up office hours to avoid the constant interruptions that made him crazy. Additionally we coached him to replace his sabotaging behavior toward the CEO with influencing skills. The CTO changed roles to become Chief Systems Architect, letting go of his direct reports, and he accepted reporting to the CEO with clear conditions that honored his priorities. He gave up his seat on the company’s board, creating an opening for an industry influencer to be added.

The CEO and new Chief Systems Architect hashed out and communicated a new vision that team members owned and were inspired by. That act alone created the same kind of motivational buzz that they had experienced in their early years – and they had created it together. The bond was being rebuilt!

The stage was now set to bring up the rest of the team. This involved reducing the number of direct reports to the CEO partially through internal promotion and in one case through recruitment. We coached the entire C-suite on clarity of communication and taught them tools for explicit communication.

Next, we guided the C-suite and senior management team through the process of creating new accountability structures to get on track. They learned how to move from problem thinking to outcome thinking and how to develop rapport using Meta Programs. By making all the changes structural rather than symptomatic, this team was able to turn their ship around and create sustainable growth. One critical factor to making collaboration more seamless and comfortable among previously disenfranchised team members was the use of social technologies. We followed Vala Afshar’s ten steps to build a social enterprise and get everyone communicating more easily.

What Company Z Got

• The CEO of Company Z gained back ten hours a week and improved his relationships, both personal and professional.

• The new chief systems architect (the former CTO) now adds huge strategic value as he and the CEO work together to orchestrate the next industry revolution.

Company Z was able to make their new strategic direction profitable quickly as it capitalized on existing assets and they accelerated through the $250 million inflection point at which they had been stuck. About one year later, they sold off an unprofitable part of their business and regrouped under the guidance of the realigned CEO and Chief Systems Architect. Then they secured funding for their next surge. With renewed intention, they are now accelerating toward the $500 million mark.

3 Practices To Become A Great Listener

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Are any of these phrases familiar to you?

  • “You just don’t understand.”
  • “How many times do I have to repeat myself?”
  • “I can’t tell if you’re distracted, or you just don’t care.”

Whether you’re hearing these phrases or saying them, they’re all signs of ineffective listening. And ineffective listening can lead to damaged relationships, inefficient use of time and energy, and silos between key people in an organization.

The conventional advice to improving your listening skills ranges from practicing active listening, walking in someone else’s shoes, echoing back what the other person says, and paying attention to nonverbal communication (body language, facial expressions etc.).

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Here are three steps to being a better listener.

Step 1: Build Rapport

By building rapport, we make the other person feel safe by giving them the experience that we are the “same as” them. The more safety you provide to another person, the more safety you provide for yourself when interacting with them.

This frees up your attention and energy to listen to what the other party is communicating. It also frees up their attention and energy to express what they are truly thinking. Rapport is about caring, not controlling or manipulating.

There are many ways to build rapport. Here are the two we suggest everyone start with:

  • Physical Body Mirroring. By mirroring a person’s posture full body position you step into what it feels like to be them. So for example if someone is leaning back and has his arms crossed, you do the same. Always pause before mirroring so that changing your position isn’t rushed or abrasive.
  • Keyword And Gesture Backtracking. Mirroring the words a person uses to describe their experience, and the gestures they use too furthers “same as.” If someone says, “I’d like to go the extra mile!”, while slicing the air with their hand—you can respond by gesturing similarly, and backtracking their keywords, “Yes! Let’s go the extra mile.”

(Note: this does not mean paraphrasing—which does not build rapport. Using their keywords is important.)

Step 2: Use the Meta Model

You’ll often hear people use non-specific phrases such as, “I find this task too difficult”. Often, we assume we understand what the person means by “too difficult.”

For a software programmer, “too difficult” might mean they have been asked to develop a better version of Microsoft Word by themselves. For you, “too difficult” might mean you need more time to complete a specific task. We all have our biases.

Key to clarifying what someone means, is to use what’s called the Meta Model in neurolinguistics. The Meta Model helps us see the world from the other person’s perspective, rather than our own.

The most useful Meta Model questions you can use include:

  • “What specifically?”
  • “How specifically?”, and
  •  “In comparison to who/what, specifically?”

Given the example we discussed, you could ask the person any of the following questions:

  •  “What specifically is this task, that you find too difficult?
  • “How is this task too difficult, specifically?”
  •  “Too difficult in comparison to what, specifically?”

Step 3: Make It Easier For Them To Express Themselves

What we say to someone can make it easier for them to express themselves and feel heard. Key is to first understand the root causes of why ineffective listening and communicating occurs: a lack of the three key emotional experiences of safety, belonging, and mattering.

1. Lack of safety. If the persons in communication do not feel safe, they’ll likely be in Critter State. This can lead to defensive behavior, aggressive interactions, and conflict avoidance. Rather than telling each other openly what they mean—a lot of their attention is directed to making sure they aren’t being harmed emotionally (or physically).

2. Lack of belonging. Without sufficient belonging, people will not care to share what they want to say. And they won’t care to listen to what others want to share either. People want to feel connected to and supported by the people they belong with (colleagues, industry peers, friends, and family).

3. Lack of mattering. If two people communicating don’t make each other feel they are important, and they matter—it’s difficult to feel heard, understood, and respected. People want to know they count, that they make a difference, and are contributing to the greater good.

Safety, belonging, and mattering are essential to your brain and your ability to perform at work, at home, and in life overall. In every communication, we are subconsciously reinforcing or reaching out for more safety, belonging, and mattering.

Try the three above steps and you’ll find your interactions will be more fun and more fulfilling too!

The Only Effective Way To Deal With Conflict

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

What leadership and organizational behaviors would you like to change?

I had the great good fortune in 2010 to spend a week with the Dalia Lama on his tour, supporting him behind the scenes as he interacted with thousands of people. One of the things he likes to say is “recognition is liberation.” When we see, when we recognize, when we increase our self-awareness and awareness of others, then we are liberated — we are free to take a new path. Thanks to Kim Scott’s work, Radical Candor is a tool that enables us to offer feedback and empower behavior changes in all our interactions.

Why Radical?

Some people find the word radical a little scary. Yet radical means you take the leap and have the courage to say the stuff that you were thinking anyway. And you say it within a framework that is emotionally sensitive and considerate.

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What Is Radical Candor?

• The opposite of conflict avoidance! Conflict avoidance is not dealing with what is right there in front of us. Have you ever avoided something because you thought it was going to be unpleasant, but the act of avoidance resulted in a brain-dominating background process? That background process drained so much energy that you couldn’t focus on the things that you really wanted to create. But what would happen if you just sat down and dealt with the problem? In my clients’ experience, one of the most common things they say is “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” or “This was so much more painful in my mind than it was in reality!”

• The ability to give feedback that challenges the receiver directly while showing you care about them personally. We have to have both sides. We are challenging and we are caring.

• Immediate impromptu guidance. We want to do things immediately, we don’t want to let things stew.

• A leadership stance of Humble and Helpful.

 The more we start to realize that life is one big collaboration and we all need each other to get stuff done, the more positive outcomes we will experience, on a personal and organizational level. There’s very little that we can do alone.

Feedback is:

•Private if negative

•Public if positive

Radical Candor Benefits

• Makes back-stabbing impossible — either they work it out or you help them

• Makes it easier to speak truth to whomever is in power

• Will help you and your team do the best work of your careers

• Will improve the depth and quality of your relationships

Let’s dive into the quadrants of radical candor. Start to think about where you default, especially when you are in Critter State. Please note that these quadrants describe behavior, they’re not a judgment of who someone is as a person.

 

Obnoxious Aggression Quadrant: The person is willing to challenge directly but they don’t care personally. We’ve all encountered someone like this. Their feedback is harsh and it’s not aimed at a collaborative positive outcome. Does this make the recipient want to change their behavior? Nope. It’s easy to challenge people without caring, but ineffective in creating change.

Manipulative Insincerity Quadrant: The person isn’t willing to challenge you directly and they really don’t care about you. We have all experienced this. Imagine a visit to the DMV where they aren’t willing to help you, they hand you a pile of paperwork with a false smile and you feel stuck in a bureaucratic swamp. What experience does this behavior generate? Does it make you angry? Disgusted? Frustrated? Not helpful.

Ruinous Empathy Quadrant: The person really cares but they aren’t willing to challenge you. This is the quadrant of excessive empathy. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin did some interesting research regarding the differences between empathy and compassion. Empathy means we are stepping into their shoes, in neuroscience we call it switching, we are actually switching into them. If someone is upset, then we become upset and start to own their emotions. Empathy is tough because we lose our ability to be resourceful. We’re as stuck as the other person. We aren’t witnessing their experience, which allows us to bring resources or at least hold space for them to have their experience. Compassion, on the other hand, is the ability to hold space and go “wow, that must be really hard” and use our resources to help them.

Radical Candor Quadrant: The person is caring personally and they are willing to challenge us directly. This is the desired quadrant.

Two CEOs, Two Choices

A few months ago I was working with an executive team at a retreat. The executives were practicing radical candor and gave some feedback on a behavior they’d like to see the CEO change. He had a tendency to bully but was not eager to admit this. After a while he finally copped to it, saying “ok, this is something I need to work on. I commit to do so.” I was really proud of him. His executive team was really proud too… until the next day, when he railed at everyone again and said he wasn’t going to do this “ridiculous radical candor” and dismissed all the great work we had done the prior day.

His executive team is now discouraged. They reach out to me now and then expressing their disappointment in the CEO. But I cannot help — he isn’t willing to look into his blind spots and do the work to grow. So he’s not coachable.

A month later I was working with another executive team. In this case the CEO stood up and said “hey! I get it! I am too hard on you all! I need to change this.” And he is now doing the work. His executives are super proud of him, inspired, motivated, raising the bar on their own performance, and the company is soaring.

How To Establish Rapport & Shift Quadrants

What can shift these behaviors? When someone’s behavior is in one of the three challenging quadrants, what can you bring them that will establish rapport and why? Our good friends Safety, Belonging, Mattering.

Obnoxious Aggression:

What can you bring: belonging and mattering. First, they need to be reminded that you’re in this together (belonging) and they may be having a hard day but you know they care, that’s the kind of person they are, they are bigger than this (mattering) . Bring them back to their humanity and the caring will flow.

Manipulative Insincerity:

What can you bring: mattering first and belonging second — they need to be seen and appreciated (mattering) and asked for help. Connect to them on a human level (belonging) with a personal comment so they see you aren’t a number, you’re a human like they are. Then you’ll likely get the win-win result you want.

Ruinous Empathy:

What can you bring: safety in order to challenge, then belonging and mattering. Here you’ll want to show them you have their back (safety), you are in this together (belonging), and you see they care enough (mattering) to speak their truth.

As you look at these four quadrants, when you go into Critter State, what’s your default? Where do you go and what story do you tell yourself? Remember, human beings are meaning making machines. When something happens, we make meaning. Our power is that we have the choice to decide if that meaning is empowering or disempowering.

This Is What Generation Z Wants From The Workplace

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

Just when you thought you figured out Millennials, Generation Z is now entering the workforce. A whopping 72.8 million individuals are included in this group born between the mid-1900s and the early 2000s.

Are you ready?

While we have learned how to create a culture where Millennials can thrive, what Generation Z needs can be quite different. Here’s the line up:

What Does This Mean?

Safety, belonging, and mattering are essential to your organization’s culture and the ability for your team to perform at work. For Millennials, the greater the feeling of mattering and being seen for their unique gifts, the greater the feeling of connection with others, the greater the feeling that they are in this together and they belong together. Thus, the greater the feeling that they personally matter and make a difference and are contributing to the greater good, and the greater the success of the organization and the team. As a leader, mattering means creating an environment where we can be seen, acknowledged, appreciated, and our unique needs are honored.

For Generation Z, safety means they are looking for stability and that opportunities to advance within a company are based on performance. They want to know what the rules are, and that they are fair. They’re okay with taking risks to stretch and grow. Is it safe to take risks at your company? They need an environment where they can be independent, competitive and even territorial. 35% of Gen Zers would rather share socks than office space. Gen Zers are very entrepreneurial and want to ‘own’ their projects and areas in the organization—here’s where the mattering comes in. They see their peers experiencing mattering every day in their social media feeds, so recognition needs to happen on a regular basis, once a year is not going to cut it. Does your company culture work this way?

Both Millennials and Gen Zers can be happier, more productive, more efficient and more effective as team members now that you have identified which primary need–safety or mattering–is programmed into their subconscious mind so powerfully that they literally crave it.

What are you doing in your organization to prepare for Generation Z?

If You Aren’t Doing Content Marketing, You’re Missing The Boat

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

The Content Marketing Institute together with Marketing Profs and Curata released an essential study recently.

You need to read it.

Why? Because it found that 75% of companies are increasing their investment in content marketing, and 43% are increasing staff levels. Content marketing works, and I’ll show you how and why in the next 3 minutes.

Chief marketing officers have repeatedly recognized the need for a core content marketing team. And this team doesn’t need to be led by a CCO — chief content officer — a role which is being retired at many companies. Instead the successful content leader typically has a marketing operations manager or writer/editor title. Their job is to develop and orchestrate a content strategy across the company.

What’s Your Marketing Mix? Credit: Bluewire Media http://www.bluewiremedia.com.au/web-strategy-planning-template

Content Marketing Works

Content marketing is all about non-egocentric (i.e., end-user-focused rather than product- or company-focused) content that helps buyers with their jobs and careers. This content adds value—that’s why it works. Yes, you can include a smidge of product content woven in with the value-based message. Also be sure to publish via multiple content channels. As a result you will speed up the process of providing the necessary nine to twelve high value touches, which is a rough standard for B2B conversions for marketing efforts.

Four Keys To Successful Content

1. Use SBM (safety, belonging, mattering) in your messaging

2. Use meta-programs: when you have a blend of different meta-programs you need to use them all, since the brain deletes information not relevant to it. The good news is that this actually works!

4. Have three or more of the five curve elements:

C for Curiosity: does the content make the recipient curious?

U for Urgency: does the content make the recipient want to take action?

R for Relevance: is the content relevant to the recipient’s situation or context?

V for Value: does the content reflect the recipient’s values and/or is it valuable to the recipient?

E for Emotion: does the content evoke emotions in the recipient? Is it funny, fascinating, surprising…?

In addition to multiple channels you’ll also want to repurpose your content to ensure your reach is to the greatest potential relevant audience. As we know, if you only post one type of content in one specific way, you are only reaching a small percentage of your entire audience and potential prospective customer base. Let’s look at some examples of content marketing that worked.

Blogs

According to Content Marketing Institute, 80% of B2B marketers include blogging in their marketing and 53% of B2B practitioners say they are achieving greater success now than in previous years. They attribute that increase to spending more time on content marketing, which includes blogs. The trend from “snackable content” to “sumptuous feasts” is rising. Consumers want to trust their information sources and are expecting that content be researched, accurate and worthy of their time and attention.

After many years of blogging, I have found that posting value-added blogs, on a regular basis, continues to deeply resonate with my audience. Based on views and comments, I am able to determine which blog content resonates the most and repurpose this information so that it can be shared on different channels and in different ways (infographic, SlideShare etc.) to reach a larger audience. When you create content that works well, reuse it in at least six different ways (including webinar, podcast, guest blog, video, etc).

Infographics

One of my clients posted their first infographic on LinkedIn. It had 3,674 views in the first 72 hours, which resulted in 22 leads. Conversations are now in process and we’ll see how many of those convert. Next, they emailed the infographic out to their list and had open rates 83% higher than usual.

Emails

One of my company’s clients held a reception after a conference and had a goal of setting up meetings with those that attended. He sought my help in crafting an email that would compel the recipients to agree to a meeting. After we edited the message, using a blend of different meta-programs, this email received a 20% response rate—meaning 20% of the recipients agreed to the call to action (CTA), which was a meeting with our client. This was a new record for the company!

LinkedIn

We created a case study that celebrated the success of one of our clients. We used a combination of channels to distribute this information. First, we posted the case study to LinkedIn with a CTA that took the recipient to a LeadPage. The LeadPage had a CTA asking them to opt-in to our list to receive one of the resources that was mentioned in the successful case study of our client. The conversion of the LeadPage was 68.5%. The automated email that we sent out to those that opted in (which contained the value added resource promised) had a 92.9% open rate and 82.1% click rate. These numbers, combined with the feedback from those that received the resource, showed us that our content, which combined safety/belonging/mattering, meta-programs and high-value, resonated with our audience.

Slideshare

We started using SlideShare 90 days ago. We have posted two presentations that contained content that was repurposed from popular blog posts, and have had a total of 2,672 views. Our one presentation had over 300 views over the course of two days. We now know that SlideShare is a social media channel that resonates with our audience and will continue to post on a more frequent basis and test different CTAs to determine what resonates the most with our audience and what is compelling them to convert.

Why Smart People Make Stupid Decisions

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

We’ve all been there.

We make what we think is a rational decision. And then seconds, minutes or days later we wonder “What was I thinking?!” Was it a temporary lapse of sanity? Were we just distracted and decided anyway?

We knew it wasn’t the right decision or the best decision, but in that moment, we made a decision anyway. And it ended up being a stupid one. Why?

Shutterstock

The Science Behind “Stupid”

Does this mean that we are indeed stupid? Nope. It simply means that not every decision we make is actually rational. We see what we want to see filtered through our inherent biases, and then we make decisions based on those biases. These biases are called cognitive biases and we all have them.

cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. These biases cause conclusions, inferences, assumptions about people and situations to be drawn in a less than logical fashion. We all create our own “subjective social reality” from our perception of the input we receive — both from outside of us and inside of us.

How can we stop making stupid decisions and start making smart ones? By spending time understanding our cognitive biases.

When we understand, we make better decisions.

Check out this graphic, then in a few minutes I’ll walk you through how I used it to help a client make a smart hire instead of a stupid one.

What’s Your Bias? Or How Bias Impacts Business

Neil Jacobstein, an expert in artificial intelligence, notes that we all use AI and algorithms to mitigate and compensate for many of the following heuristics in human cognition (thinking):

Anchoring bias: Tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.

Availability bias: Tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events with greater “availability” in memory, which can be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes.

Bandwagon effect: Tendency to do (or believe) things because many people do (or believe) the same. Related to groupthink and herd behavior.

Hindsight bias: Sometimes called the “I knew it all along” effect, the tendency to see past events as being predictable at the time those events happened.

Normalcy bias: Refusal to plan for, or react to, a disaster which has never happened before.

Optimism bias: Tendency to be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes. 

Planning fallacy bias: Tendency to overestimate benefits and underestimate costs and task-completion times.

Sunk-cost or loss-aversion bias: Disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it.

Click here for a complete list of all cognitive biases.

Jacobstein is fond of pointing out that your neocortex has not had a major upgrade in 50,000 years. It is the size, shape and thickness of a dinner napkin. “What if,” he asks, “it was the size of a table cloth? Or California?”

The Benefits Of Bias—And How To Optimize Yours

Biases can be helpful. They filter through information overwhelm, they help make sense of the world, they allow us to make quick decisions in a fast paced world. Check out this recent challenge an executive coaching client of mine had.

My client needed to hire a VP marketing to take the company to the next level. He had four candidates that had made it to the interview stage and one had even made it onsite to meet with four different key stakeholders in the organization. I asked him why he favored this one candidate by such a long shot. As I listened I heard the following biases. He was showing:

• Planning fallacy bias: Underestimating how long the process would take and what a great hire would cost.

• Anchoring bias: Focusing on one piece of information (the candidate’s current job accomplishments but not his entire career—his resume had  two decades of one to two year roles).

• Availability bias: Because the candidate was successful (in a huge company with tons of resources available) he assumed he’d be successful in a much smaller company (with about 1/6 of the resources the candidate was accustomed to).

• Optimism bias: Some of this too…thinking we’d have a solid candidate identified, screened, hired within six weeks.

I expressed these concerns, and how cognitive biases can be busted when you:

• Take Your Time: You will make better decisions when you aren’t hungry, tired or stressed. Taking time before making a decision allows you to have think about the future and the impact of your decision.

• Get An Outside View: Ask a trusted advisor or peer for their opinion.

• Consider Options: What else could you do?

Then he asked me to interview the candidate. I deeply questioned the candidate in each of the bias areas our client had. The result? They’re not the right fit for the company. Not by a long shot. The excellent news is our client avoided a costly hiring mistake and the super excellent news is that he still has three candidates that might fit the bill once they are interviewed by carefully avoiding cognitive bias.

While we’ll all still make stupid decisions now and then (welcome to being human!), once you understand cognitive biases you’ll mitigate risk by implementing the tools above.