Archive for the 'Communication' Category

Face-to-Face: Old School fundamental and New School cool

For 172 years, communication technologies have sought relevance in an increasingly noisy universe.

Now, well into the 21st century, there is actual management pain from an embarrassment of riches of communication innovations. And this discomfort is especially keen when staying connecting with customers: Should you call? Email? Text? How about IM?

And when should you use social media platforms? I’ve had customers who want me to connect with them on Twitter. Others send me notes on LinkedIn.

But in an era where there’s an app for everything, there is one connection method we must never be guilty of minimizing. From Morse to Millennials, in-person connection has retained its relevance as Old School fundamental and New School cool.

Indeed, face-to-face is the original social media.

Today, social media euphoria is being tempered by ROI reality. And as useful as each new communication resource proves to be, they are, after all, merely tools to leverage our physical efforts, not eliminate the basic human need for human interaction. Consider this story:

A sales manager (whose gray hair was not premature) noticed the sales performance of one of his rookies was below budget for the third consecutive month. Of course, he questioned the numbers previously but had allowed his better judgment to be swayed by plausible explanations. Now the newbie’s sales was trending, but in the wrong direction.

Upon more pointed probing, the manager discovered the reason for loss of production: too much electronic and not enough in-person connections. The rookie was relying too heavily on virtual communication at the expense of opportunities to get in front of the customer.

It turns out lack of training, demographic reality and not enough “rubber-meets-the-road” experience left the young pup uncomfortable and unprepared to ask for and conduct meetings, like a proposal presentation. He wasn’t benefiting from how the success rate of growing customer relationships can increase when critical steps are conducted in person. Consequently, this manager immediately developed a training program that established standards for how and when to integrate all customer connection tools, including face-to-face.

If your sales performance isn’t trending the right way, perhaps your salespeople need help getting in front of customers, particularly at critical steps. Like the manager above, you may need to establish specific, measurable and non-negotiable standards for when face-to-face meetings should take place.

From telegraph to Twitter there is one connection option whose relevance has borne witness to every one of the others: in-person contact. Let’s remember John Naisbitt’s prophesy from his 1982 book, Megatrends: “The more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want.”

Write this on a rock … As the original social media, face-to-face will always be relevant.

4 Power Questions That Will Cultivate Your Leadership Tree

Most agree that there are many traits of a true leader, including: highly competent, professional, visionary, trustworthy, instill confidence, good communicator and, of course, courageous.

But great leaders have three other qualities that further set them apart.

  1. In the 21st century marketplace, the prime devotion of leaders is to their people because they know it’s through engaged, high-functioning teams that their “bottom line” goals are achieved. If you can deliver on this trait, you’ll be more likely to accomplish your professional and personal goals.
  2. The most successful and beloved leaders I’ve known had another trait that’s sometimes overlooked: They mentored their people to become leaders. Great NFL coaches like Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Tom Landry and Bill Parcels became legendary through the subsequent performance of the coaches they mentored. It’s called the Coaching Tree. Whose names will be on your Leadership Tree.
  3. This quality has two parts that are as inextricable as the sides of a coin: 1) They’re devoted to asking questions; and 2) they listen.

Number 3 is so important that I want to offer four cardinal questions that will help you become a legendary leader and build your own Leadership Tree. The first two are from my friend and Brain Trust member, Chester Elton, co-author of “What Motivates Me.” The last two are mine.

How’re you doing?
Chester says this isn’t a drive-by question. It’s a look ’em in the eye, “I’ve got time to listen” question. The setting has to be where the leader can be “in the moment” with the other person. And answers are not pre-supposed – might be about their job, their aspirations, or their personal life. Great leaders care about all of that.

How can I help?

Chester says this question creates a safe environment. A mentor once told me, “If you’re in trouble in your job, don’t go down by yourself. Get me involved early and let me help you get out of trouble.”

What do you think?
I call this the Leader’s Power Question and it produces two kinds of fruit: 1) few things cultivate the illusive engagement factor more than when the boss asks the opinion of an employee; 2) valuable information almost always spouts.

What did we learn?
I call this the Leader’s Magic Question, and it may be the four most important words in management. Surely redemption is the most human behavior a leader can demonstrate. And the most powerful mentoring moment happens after a team member makes a mistake taking initiative and the leader says, “Okay, now we know what happened,” then redeems him with: “What did we learn?” Powerful!

Write this on a rock … Become a legendary leader with your own Leadership Tree.

Why trust is a business best practice

Are you familiar with the term “dysfunctional family?”

The simple definition is, a family whose members don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and/or estrangement.

Sadly, we humans also create dysfunctional businesses. Perhaps this definition will sound familiar: A dysfunctional company is one whose teams don’t work and play well with each other. Such relationships typically create emotional, mental, sometimes even physical distress, and a casualty list.

Someone once said, “Friends we choose – family we’re stuck with.”  Since we get to choose where we work and who we hire, why are there dysfunctional businesses?

The answer is actually quite simple, and it’s the common denominator in both businesses and families: human beings. If your family, or company, is dysfunctional, it’s because of the behavior of the humans.

Humans aren’t inherently bad, but we are inherently self-absorbed. And one of the by-products of self-absorption is self-preservation. When self-preservation shields are up, mistrust flourishes, goals go unmet, and failure is likely. When shields are down, productivity, creativity, and organizational well-being are evident. But the latter only happens if the stakeholders believe there is a basis for trust.

If your organization is not accomplishing its goals and making progress, look around to see if there’s more self-preservation going on than teamwork. Where evidence of individual and departmental self-preservation is found, you’ll also find lots of dysfunction, but not much trust.

In his book, “Built On Trust,” my friend, Arky Ciancutti, goes so far as to say that trust is “…one of the most powerful forces on earth.” He further states that the two most powerful trust-building tools are closure and commitment.

Closure is implied when there is a promise to deliver by a stated time. It manifests when performance happens or, in the alternative, a progress report is delivered in advance of the date.

Commitment, Arky says, “is a condition of no conditions.” When the relationship between two parties is built on trust, there are no hidden agendas. And while commitment may not always deliver the end product, it does guarantee a report about the progress.

Even though closure and commitment are skills that often must be learned, you’ll find willing participants in your employees, because human beings desire trust.  If your organizational culture isn’t built on trust, it’s not the employees’ fault. Trust and dysfunction have one key thing in common: they’re gravity fed. They start at the top and roll downhill.

Humans perform better in organizations built on trust.  Knowing this, successful managers demonstrate trust-building behavior and instill it in others as not only the right thing to do, but as a business best practice.

Write this on a rock — If organizational dysfunction is a poison, trust is its antidote.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Motivating employees is good business

Smart business owners know that there’s a direct link between motivating employees to be successful in their assignments and the success of that business. Want a good example of why you should be one of these smart managers?

Let’s imagine that your best employee has just resigned. How much will it cost – directly and indirectly – to find, hire, train and get that replacement up to the productivity level of your former employee? The answer is: maybe years. Scary, huh? Now ask yourself if you could be in jeopardy of losing good employees merely because you aren’t motivating them.

There are many ways to successfully motivate employees and all of them require managers to focus on the human beings with whom they work, and who desire to find their own success. Consider these six motivational elements.

1. Communication.

There’s nothing more fundamental to having loyal, productive and engaged employees than good communication. If you’re having problems keeping good employees, the low-hanging fruit for you may be to just start talking with – not to – your people.

2. Professionalism.

This is the aggregation of proper business, ethical and interpersonal behavior, and it’s critical to successful employee motivation.  Professionalism fosters pride and employee loyalty. Demonstrate your professionalism first and then help employees achieve and value their own professionalism. And don’t forget to recognize their progress.

3. Management style.

Check yours. Are you a leader or a driver? Managers who are drivers disregard others, consume people as a means to their end, and are identified by high employee turnover. Leaders value their people and encourage them to be successful. They can be identified by the double-digit numbers representing how many years their employees have been with them, and the multiple black digits to the left of the decimal on their bottom line.

4. Training.

Employee training pays operational and motivational dividends. It fosters knowledge, which fosters self-confidence, which fosters leadership, which fosters employee loyalty, which fosters customer loyalty, which fosters your bank account. How’s that for a training straight line to return-on-investment?

5. Recognition.

A robin noticed a turtle sitting on top of a fence post.  When the robin stopped to ask how he got there, the turtle replied, “Obviously, not by myself.”

When talking about what your company has done, be sure to manage your pronouns properly.  Whenever “I” can be replaced with “we,” do it. This tiny 2-letter pronoun is a powerful verbal high-five that resonates motivational energy throughout your organization.

6.  Fun.

Fun is very motivational. Make sure your organization finds ways to have fun at work. The people I know who are the most successful and the happiest are those who take their work seriously, but they don’t take themselves very seriously.

Write this on a rock….

Motivating employees to be successful in their assignments is not only good business, it’s also the right thing to do.


Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

Poll Results: Is the mainstream media biased and if so, does it impact how they report the news?

The Question:

Is the mainstream media biased and if so, does it impact how they report the news?

8% - The media are not biased and reporting is fair across the industry.


83% - The media are biased toward Democrats enough to influence their reporting.

6% - The media are biased toward Republicans enough to influence their reporting.
3% - The media seems to have a Democrat bias, but it does not impact reporting.

Jim’s Comments:

For many years, surveys of members of the media have revealed that the vast majority consider themselves liberals and, therefore, likely Democrats. Over the past thirty or forty years, these statistics, as our own polling seemed to indicate, have increasingly manifested as biased reporting.

And you don’t have to take my — or 83% of my audience’s — word for it. There have been a number of cases of high level bias so flagrant that sometimes jobs were lost and careers ended once exposed. In other cased jobs should have been lost but weren’t, like when CNN’s Candy Crowley became part of Team Obama in the 2012 debate she moderated against Romney.

More recently, the bias has been evident in the media’s failure to report on certain issues because it would have been negative toward one of their ideological causes or individuals. Like very little reporting on four dead Americans in Benghazi, while during the same period doing hundreds of reports on Gov. Christie’s Bridge-gate incident, which inconvenienced commuters.

More than a few observers have gone so far as to call the mainstream media corrupt. If this is true, and I wish I could argue with these people, America is the weaker for it. When you consider the state controlled media in Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea, it’s easy to see that an impartial media is essential to liberty and democracy.

Patience is not standard entrepreneurial equipment

One of the markers of American culture is the “sticker” on the window of a new car. This document reveals to shoppers a listing of standard equipment and options, plus, of course, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP.

Photo credit to Business2Community

You would expect this list of entrepreneurial standard equipment to include characteristics like courage, creativity, perseverance and adaptability. But one trait typically not found on this list that’s essential when entrepreneurs become employers, is patience.

Perhaps one redeeming attribute of an entrepreneur is we’re more impatient with ourselves than anything or anyone else. The reason for this self-directed pressure is because seeking excellence requires that we demand much of ourselves. Unfortunately, that same quest can also make us too impatient with those on whom we depend most — our employees. And while impatience with ourselves can be productive, it can create adverse results when directed at others.

When you think about it, high expectations of key personnel is understandable: They show up every day, just like us; work hard, just like us; and they’re dedicated, just like us. Certainly such evidence of commitment creates the impression that they are just like us. And for many key employees it’s not just an impression. They are committed or they’d work somewhere else. The problem occurs when we’re impatient with our people because they didn’t read our minds.

The road to business failure is paved with stories of key people who quit because someone mistook commitment for ESP. Entrepreneurs lacking this understanding will have key employees wishing they had traded up when they first checked out the sticker on their employer.

So how do entrepreneurs avoid misplaced impatience?  Communication. If we demand as much of our staff as we do ourselves, they must have the same information we have, including our plan, strategy, vision, etc.

In 1776 General George Washington said, “We must make the best of mankind as they are, since we cannot have them as we wish.”

Effective communication skills eliminate the need to find employees who are mind readers. Plus, it makes employees more productive since they won’t have to spend so much time trying to make the best of us.

Write this on a rock … Entrepreneurial patience isn’t standard equipment, but effective communication should be.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.




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