The former are evangelists; the later are subversives.
The challenge is to develop and then retain the number of evangelists. How?
The Container Store is among very few companies that know the answer. It continues to hire at each of its 47 stores and probably has the lowest rate of attrition of any retail organization. Moreover, it is always on Fortune magazine’s annual lists of most-highly regarded, best to work more, most profitable, most valuable, etc.
Here is how its co-founder, chairman, and CEO, Skip Tindell, explains its success with attracting, training, and retaining evangelists: “We take very special care of them and then they take very special care of our customers.”
I presume to suggest that you read the article, watch the video, and then read Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force co-authored by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba and for which Guy Kawasaki wrote the Foreword.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Heidi Grant Halvorson for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals, but not others? If you aren’t sure, you are far from alone in your confusion. It turns out that even brilliant, highly accomplished people are pretty lousy when it comes to understanding why they succeed or fail. The intuitive answer — that you are born predisposed to certain talents and lacking in others — is really just one small piece of the puzzle. In fact, decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do.
[Here are four of the nine. To read the complete article, please click here.]
1. Get specific. When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. “Lose 5 pounds” is a better goal than “lose some weight,” because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you’ll “eat less” or “sleep more” is too vague — be clear and precise. “I’ll be in bed by 10 pm on weeknights” leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do, and whether or not you’ve actually done it.
2. Seize the moment to act on your goals. Given how busy most of us are, and how many goals we are juggling at once, it’s not surprising that we routinely miss opportunities to act on a goal because we simply fail to notice them. Did you really have no time to work out today? No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers.
To seize the moment, decide when and where you will take each action you want to take, in advance. Again, be as specific as possible (e.g., “If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I’ll work out for 30 minutes before work.”) Studies show that this kind of planning will help your brain to detect and seize the opportunity when it arises, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.
3. Know exactly how far you have left to go. Achieving any goal also requires honest and regular monitoring of your progress — if not by others, then by you yourself. If you don’t know how well you are doing, you can’t adjust your behavior or your strategies accordingly. Check your progress frequently — weekly, or even daily, depending on the goal.
4. Be a realistic optimist. When you are setting a goal, by all means engage in lots of positive thinking about how likely you are to achieve it. Believing in your ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate how difficult it will be to reach your goal. Most goals worth achieving require time, planning, effort, and persistence. Studies show that thinking things will come to you easily and effortlessly leaves you ill-prepared for the journey ahead, and significantly increases the odds of failure.
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Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., is a motivational psychologist and author of the new book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (Hudson Street Press, 2011). She is also an expert blogger on motivation and leadership for Fast Company and Psychology Today. Her personal blog, The Science of Success, can be found at www.heidigranthalvorson.com. Follow her on Twitter @hghalvorson.
This is one of the titles in the “Memo to the CEO” series published by Harvard Business Press, each less than 200 pages in length and superbly produced. In fact, none is a “memo” or written solely for a CEO. In this volume, Steve Steinhilber (Vice President of Strategic Alliances at Cisco Systems) explains “five basic criteria to identify and characterize” relationships that will achieve significantly higher and more consistent shareholder returns, enabling a company to grow faster and more profitably by leveraging those relationships rather than going it alone. The criteria are identified on Pages 2-3. Steinhilber then identifies three reasons why alliances are a “must-do” investment for any company competing in the global marketplace. With regard to the three ways to make strategic alliances work, identified as “essential building blocks,” they are (1) the right framework, (2) the right organization, and (3) the right relationships. A separate chapter is devoted to a remarkably thorough examination of each of the three.
It is worth noting, as Steinhilber does, that more than 2,000 strategic alliances are launched worldwide each year and this number increases about15% annually. More than half fail and only about 9% of the companies “build alliances well.” Of these, Cisco Systems probably has been among the most successful and Steinhilber heads those initiatives so he is well-qualified to explain what to do, what not to do, etc. As I began to read this brief but content-rich book, I wondered why Cisco allowed Steinhilber to reveal so much about what the company does and how it does it; more specifically, to explain in detail the mindsets applied to prospective allies and then to business partners, respectively. Perhaps there is a parallel with the chairman’s letter that Warren Buffett contributes each year to Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report. By the way, there is a recently published second edition of those essays, selected, organized, and introduced by Lawrence Cunningham. In these essays, Buffett shares everything he has learned about Corporate Governance, Corporate Finance and Investing, Alternatives to Common Stock, Common Stock, Mergers and Acquisitions, Accounting and Valuation, and Accounting Policy and Tax Matters. Of course, knowing what Cisco does and does not do insofar as strategic alliances are concerned by no means ensures the same outstanding results that Steinhilber and his associates have achieved. However, such knowledge will certainly improve the chances fort success.
To me, some of the most valuable material in this book is provided in last chapter in which Steinhilber explains how Cisco manages complexity. He addresses specific issues concerning intellectual property such as those involving jointly developed technology, solutions, residuals, branding. With regard to refining business goals, he recommends that two questions be answered: “How do we achieve our desired global market?” Also, “Which pieces of the value chain are central to sustaining our long-term profitability in a market?” Then, once objectives and the specific market(s) have been analyzed, he suggests taking one of three different approaches: (1) Partner with market leaders, (2) Partner with market leaders/challengers, or (3) Partner with both. Steinhilber acknowledges that there may be times when it makes sense to “spread your bets with dealing with uncertainty.”
To evaluate the breadth of an alliance portfolio within a market space, he identifies five criteria: market share, market segmentation, competitive overlap, potential acquisition strategy, and ability to execute. Steinhilber concludes with these comments: “In a globally linked business world with shortening life cycles and flattening value chains, building alliances capabilities will give you the chance to tilt the competitive playing field in your favor and significantly enhance your company’s or organization’s chance for long-term success.”
Credit Steve Steinhilber with presenting a wealth of rock-solid information and real-world wisdom about an immensely complicated business subject. Even more remarkable, he does so within relatively few pages (only 134 plus an Appendix). This will be an excellent resource for decision-makers in companies that plan to compete — or now do so — in the global marketplace but also for decision-makers in other companies that wish to do business with them.
Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Marjorie Kaplan, president of the Animal Planet and Science networks, who says true creativity comes from the ability to tolerate some confusion and to “be able, in the right moment, to land the decision and then move forward.”
To read the complete interview and Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
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Chaos and Order: How to Strike the Best Balance
Bryant: Do you remember the first time you were somebody’s boss?
Kaplan: I was working at Ogilvy & Mather. I had several people working for me, some who were spectacular, and one was a lovely, lovely human being who wasn’t going to make it in the business. So it was hard.
Bryant: And so what did you do?
Kaplan: I convinced him that he wasn’t going to make it in the business.
Bryant: How old were you?
Kaplan: I was probably in my early 30s.
Bryant: How did you handle that difficult situation with that one employee?
Kaplan: I found it incredibly hard. It’s easy to be somebody’s friend. It’s harder to be their manager. And that was kind of the baptism-by-fire experience. You have somebody whom you like enormously, whom you had a real relationship with, and then you have to find the ways to say, O.K., let’s first try to make it better, to try to clear a path for that person, and then to help them make the decision not to stay. That was really hard.
Bryant: Other lessons early on?
Kaplan: Management is also lateral. In the agency business, so much of the job is about engaging with people who don’t report to you, but you have to manage them anyway. As an account manager, you were kind of the monkey-in-the-middle who had to manage everybody without having authority. So you were trained to handle those kinds of situations.
I think that, on some level, managing without authority is a life skill. People do it in other parts of their lives. The point is that you have to be true to yourself. I think the ability to manage really comes from being true to yourself, and treating people respectfully.
Bryant: What else, looking back, helped you learn how to lead?
Kaplan: I’m really, really interested in people. I like to think about what motivates them, what they care about. Look, I love work — the intensity and the competitiveness of work. But what I really like is the human interaction. So if I’m having a conversation with someone, I’m thinking: “What motivates him? What interests that person?” It’s much more interesting to me. And I’m not about demanding. I’m about challenging.
I’ve learned a lot about managing creativity from my husband, because he’s an artist. And he’s very challenging.
Bryant: As all husbands are….
Kaplan: And as artists are. He does not like to be told what to do. He barely likes to be asked to do something. But he once explained to me that the most motivating thing for him was problem-solving. And that really stuck with me. And so I view my job as presenting the most interesting problems, finding the biggest challenges.
Bryant: Talk about the culture you’re trying to create.
Kaplan: I like having a flat organization. It gives everybody access to each other and to me. And helps build relationships, but also an awareness that we’re all in there to move the business forward.
One of our stated goals — and it’s a goal that’s been in every business plan we’ve ever submitted — is to make Animal Planet the place that people within the company and outside the company want to work for and with. I want us to be the place where, when you come to work, you feel like you have the opportunity to bring your best self and you’re also challenged to bring your best self. And I’m explicit about that. We have those conversations regularly. For a team off site, I sent out a note to people to say that we need to be as fresh as we were when we were new, and as brave as we were when we had nothing to lose. And that was the focus of the day.
Bryant: What about the art of running meetings?
Kaplan: There are a couple of different things. I think I’m an energetic person. So I think sometimes a meeting just needs a certain kind of energy. You know it needs a free flow of ideas. And so some of it is that you have to be willing to invest your own energy in the room. You know, ask people to talk, challenge people to say things and just bring the body language of energy to a meeting because meetings can be pretty stultifying. So I think that’s one thing.
The other thing — which is a learned skill, because I have a tendency to think that I have great ideas and I should just say them — is I’ve learned to be quiet. So I often will not speak, particularly in creative meetings, until everybody has spoken.
Not that everybody gets to weigh in. The goal isn’t: What do you think? What do you think? What do you think? It’s to make sure there’s enough conversation, and to really listen, and then try to say, O.K., out of all these things I’ve heard, what do I think is the most important piece of information here? What insight can I glean that I can pull forward that I think can help clarify a situation?
Bryant: What else about the culture?
Kaplan: We want to make sure we’re a learning organization. We have a lot of junior people, and I noticed in some meetings that these people were smart, but that they really needed some presentation skills. I think it’s great that we’re in an organization that allows all these junior people to stand up and speak. But let’s make it interesting, and let’s let them learn.
We put together a presentation-skills class, but we did it with storytelling. So we brought in people who specialize in storytelling. And they did a skills-training, focusing on how to tell stories and how to use those stories in presentations. That’s for a couple of reasons. One is that we are a storytelling business, so I want us to be thinking about stories. A second is that I think storytelling gets you closer to yourself. I think the best presenters are people who are themselves. It gave them some skills. And so when these people are now in meetings, they’re different in meetings. Their voices are stronger. They’re braver.
I think part of management is bringing people along. I want people to feel brave about their ideas. It’s really about saying, “Bring your best self.” Bring your best self every day to work. Bring your best self to the conversation. Bring your best self to the presentation. And we will give you something back. We’re investing in you. You’re investing in us, we’re investing in you.
Bryant: So how do you hire? What questions do you ask? And what are you looking for?
Kaplan: What I have done very successfully is given people assignments before I hire them. For example, I have two senior development executives who work for me. I hired them both. I told them, look at Animal Planet. Tell me three prime-time shows you like and three shows you don’t. And tell me how you’d make them all better. And then in the second round, I asked the people I was really interested in to actually assess some shows that had come in for development and to do write-ups on them.
I’m looking for bold ideas. I want people who are looking for a challenge. I want to have a conversation with somebody where we can have a good debate about something. I want to feel like they’re going to be additive. I want people in the room who are going to tell me things I haven’t thought about before.
Bryant: And what kind of more general questions do you ask?
Kaplan: What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had and why? What’s the most frightening thing you’ve ever had to do and why? What have you done in your current job that you’re most proud of, and why? It’s about hiring people who are going to go the extra mile, who always want to do a little bit more, who ask you interesting questions about the job, who want to know what it’s going to take to grow. For me, it’s mostly energy. I also tend to hire people who lean forward rather than people who sit back.
Bryant: If you could ask job candidates only a handful of questions to decide whether you wanted to hire them, what would they be?
Kaplan: The obvious questions are: “What was your biggest accomplishment and why are you most proud of it?” And, “what was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?” And since we’re in the television business, you probably have to make sure you ask, “What’s your favorite show on television?”
I might say, “What’s the biggest, boldest, greatest idea you have for us that we’re not doing that you think would help transform our business?” Or, “What do you think we’re doing that we’re not doing well enough, and that you think you could make better?” And then I’d probably ask one about management. I’d probably ask a question like, “What’s the one thing you’re doing in your job now that you hope to never have to do again?”
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. To contact him, please click here.