There are things that work and many more that don't. Let's discuss what we've experienced . . . not our opinions . . . but actually what our days and nights as marketers, business leaders, parents, people are teaching us. Please give us a hand. Tell us about your experience with this stuff.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Leading an Organizational Breakthrough

Great organizations are not only built on the genius of one or two people.  If that were not true, Apple's stock would be moving toward zero.

However, few organizations understand how to harness the insight and intelligence of their managers who are so close to the product/service and sometimes closer to the clients?

Over and over, its been my experience that if I use a proven facilitation process to get my team to address strategic, tactical and business issues, the team doesn't just do well, they exceed my expectations.  And the team can be high-end professionals or line managers.  In total, they know more, are committed more and will respond to any effort which sincerely allows them to identify opportunities and strategies to become better than we currently are.

What is actually required of the leader is two things:
  1. They must set the bar:  what are we trying to do or where are we trying to go.  And most importantly they must make it clear that 'the train has left the station, so get on board'.
  2. The leader must engage their team in a process that brings the most important ideas to the forefront and ensures that the plan to reach the bar is representative of his team.  This is not only important for 'buy-in', but truly, the best ideas will come from the team.  (note:  I define 'best' as ideas which meet the bar criteria and which will get executed.  There are great ideas that can't or won't be executed by the team and those ideas mean nothing.)
So our math here for organizational breakthroughs depends on the leader setting the bar, providing a team process for planning/execution and making sure they don't get in the way too much.  People don't just surprise you sometimes, they can surprise you almost always, if given a chance.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Want High Performance? Do What Jacob Does

I was recently visiting Kansas City and watching my 5 year old grandson, Jacob, play baseball (with 7 year olds) when a line drive was hit up the middle and Jacob leaped to his left, became parallel with the ground and made an amazing catch.  The entire parent crowd on both sides let out an audible 'wow'.

After the catch, many parents came by Jacob's father and expressed their amazement at the catch.  'Such talent', 'I can't believe he caught  that', etc.

But what I knew was that Jacob had made that catch hundreds of times before.  The year before (when he was four), at Jacob's insistence, I had spent an hour throwing balls that required him to dive in order to catch them.  I knew that for years Jacob has been making the throws, the catches and the plays that the other parents and coaches were dazzled by.   And that it was less about talent, though he has that in abundance, and more about practice.  Even at 5, there is no baseball game, no soccer game, no basketball game that will present Jacob with a situation where its his first rodeo.

He has pitched 100's of baseball games (not pitches, games).  He has scored a thousand goals.  It is what he does.  He has separated himself from his peers based on his practice.  Oh, by the way, did I mention that he is always the smallest player on the field?  Makes no difference.

There is no substitute for experience.  Not talent, not intuitive insight, not knowledge from a book.

And there is no substitute for practice.  Your 'n' count for the number of times you've tested it, done it, researched it is almost everything.

It comes down to what you have done . . .over and over again.  Ask Larry Bird and yes, Micheal Jordan.  Both legendary men of practice.

What's the great old quote?  'Wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from bad decisions.'  You betcha.

Are you talking?  Talk from experience.  Note your practice and decide if you should open you mouth.

Are you defining yourself professionally?  Please do it from what you've done.  Then seek to get as much practice at the things which give you energy and joy.

Malcolm Gladwell famously refers to an old study we had been referring to for years.  As I remember it, its purpose was to find the predictors of professional success for Julliard violin students.  After identifying and testing a myriad of variables, it was found that practice was the clearest and most dependable predictor.  Those students who practiced some 6,000 hours became members of an orchestra; those who practice 8,000 hours might become the concert master (head the violin section); those who practiced 10,000 hours could have a solo career.

So the math for high performance is:  do what Jacob does.  You find the thing that gives you energy and joy and then you do it as many times as your resources and opportunities will allow you to do it. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Confusion is Sending You a Friendly Message

Particularly as a young man, I felt a need to be sure of myself and strident and to walk with conviction.

I see many people in their 20's these days with a similar attitude. I refer to it as 'Young Man's disease" which, of course, is an omage to my own history.

However through the years, some important people have encouraged me to prize clarity over progress and over action. And for me, clarity takes time.

I can't overstate how many decisions I've made in my life where I've substituted desire for clarity or truth for clarity or guilt for clarity. All of those can be incredibly destructive in the wrong situation. And each tends to minimize or eliminate other important points of view.

And there is the danger. When one does not have the necessary professional or personal experience to make certain decisions or deal with challenging circumstances, one tends to substitute the natural confusion that can normally exists with ego, false confidence and defensiveness. And unfortuneately that leads to many minor disasters and some not so minor.

So the math here reads like this:  Move too slow and it may cost you something, move too fast and it could cost you almost everything (paraphrasing Brant Bryan; yeah, I didn't listen to him).  But if you want to know when to move, decide, take action, then you will have to cultivate a discipline which leads you to clarity; and this will take time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What Makes a Difference?

I'm constantly haunted by this: don't mistake the urgent for the needed, the activity for the value, the short term for the future, intensity for commitment.

We see it in day to day work.

If we're busy, then we often think it is a good day. And emtionally, that's certainly better for most of us than not being busy. But if you put enough low-value, reactive days together, one finds that very little real progress is being made. And it can be demoralizing.

If you look at your business or career and realize that you are doing the exact same thing you were doing five years ago, then you better be a professional whose market isn't changing or whose expertise doesn't require evolving (yeah, I know there isn't one).

On the other hand if you are like me and not independently wealthy, then you have to take the time to review what you are doing, how you are doing it and how you can truly make a difference for the people you work for and the people who work for you.

Its there; that difference to make is there. And I assure you that you are sharp enough to see it and move that direction. Just give yourself a chance. Because the math is clear; either we find a way to evolve and make a differnce or guess what? We just don't really matter. And that's usually not acceptable to our firm or to our own conscience.

If you need one, here's a starting point. In the next one-on-one meeting ask the person what would make a difference in their professional life. Explore it together.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Want an easier professional ride? Know Thyself

Make it easy for yourself. Be clear on what you bring to the table and what you have yet to develop.

You have some very specific experiences that make you a valuable contributor. Do enough thinking, talking to someone who knows you, writing your list of accomplishments (real things; not puffery) and then use these as your filter to understand where you fit.

Doesn't mean you won't be learning new things and having new experiences. (For most of my career I defined that equation as growth and used it to measure the value of my current job.)

But the point is to know when to be aggressive with your opinions (based on your experience; and please express it that way) and when to listen, observe and learn.

The math here is to always be aggressive with your efforts; just know when you have something to say and when you don't. Check your experience list and you'll know.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Building social media relationships requires multiple access points

For many practioners of social media marketing, a frustration level is often reached as they find their efforts going unrewarded in terms of recognition, interaction, and in the end, no new relationships.

This problem is as old as marketing itself. And for those who feel challenged, Sales Media Marketing Magazine recently ran a piece I wrote for them which provided a simple case study of how its been done over the years. My aim was to get us to focus on the listener, not the tools nor ourselves and consider what is needed to provide a continuum of access points for potential listeners.

Here it is; see what you think:
Building social media relationships requires multiple access points: From Social Media Magazine:

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Evolution of Legal Marketing

The more things change, the more they stay the same? Yes and certainly no.

I actually find cycles to be a bit more helpful in understanding the way things are working at any moment in time. Businesses, relationships, organizations go through predictable cycles given their internal and external challenges and goals.

Anywho, HubbardOne was foolish enough to ask me to talk about where I think law firm marketing / business development organizations are for 2011. Here's my thoughts:

One says a lot of stuff. But for me an organization's ability to say 'yes' to big strategic ideas which can make a difference (and most of the time have no historical basis in the organization) may be the most important attribute to have for 2011.

Oh and the more you say yes to these, the fewer resources you have to do lower value, legacy activity (certainly there is high value, legacy activity that you do as well). Gives you an inherent tool for saying 'no': 'no, we don't have any budget for that'; 'no, the Board has told us to concentrate our people resources over here instead'.

Hope your 2011 is starting off well and you are getting to 'yes' on some things that will make a difference.