Charles S. Jacobs is founder and managing partner of 180 Partners, and the author of Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lessons from the Latest Brain Science. For over two decades, he has helped the leadership of corporations around the world improve the performance of their businesses. He numbers among his clients fifty of the Fortune 100, and has worked in Europe, Asia, South America, and the U.S.
His unique approach enables managers to use our new understanding of the brain to comprehensively rethink their businesses, creating more robust competitive strategies and the performance-oriented organizations needed to implement them. His work provides the key to overcome the number one obstacle to meaningful improvement in business performance—the rapid and effective management of change.
His writing has appeared in numerous business publications and he is sought after for print and broadcast interviews. His seminars and speeches offer an overview of the stunning discoveries of brain science and the direct, practical application of those discoveries to management. He completed his B.A., M.A., and PhD work at the University of Michigan.
Here is an excerpt from my second interview of Charles. To read the complete interview, please click here.
To read the first interview, please click here.
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Morris: Much has (and hasn’t) happened in the business world since our last conversation. In your opinion, which change has been most significant? Why?
Jacobs: The key development for me has been the rise of self-managed, leaderless groups, fueled by technology and social media. We saw it with the Arab spring, and with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Regardless of how you might feel about the aims and tactics of such movements, they have been wildly successful in attracting both membership and attention, and they’ve done it with a speed that is dizzying.
I recently asked a client of mine that runs a highly successful business how she managed the fifteen thousand millennial software engineers. She told me she didn’t. She went on to describe a self-managed team with an internal social networking site as its hub.
Increasingly over the last year, I’ve noticed my work has been focused on building self-managing organizations. They’re much more productive, people prefer them, and managers are freed up to focus outward on customers and market trends. I think we are seeing a redefinition of leadership for the wired age.
Morris: For those who have not as yet read Management Rewired, what prompted you to write it?
Jacobs: I’ve always been fascinated by how the mind works. When I started working in the business world, I was struck by how most of our management practices, based on behavioral science, weren’t terribly effective. I found that better results came from focusing on the thinking that drives the behavior.
When I sold my first business, I had an opportunity to study the latest research in brain science and I found it really exciting. The invention of the fMRI allowed us to see the brain at work for the first time, and what we learning had more in common with Eastern philosophy and quantum mechanics than behavioral science.
Not only were the discoveries fascinating in their own right, they explained much of what I had observed in my work. They also suggested a better way to improve business performance, even though it might seem counterintuitive. My book is my attempt to communicate the excitement of these discoveries and their practical application.
Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it?
Jacobs: There were really two for me that were game-changing. The first is that the brain doesn’t faithfully record our experience of the world, as much as it creates it. Our sense data are processed in the brain with input from the areas associated with our goals, emotions, and beliefs.
Rather than being objective, the world we experience is a unique product of our aspirations, feelings and expectations. To be effective in our interactions with others, we need to appreciate the story they tell themselves, and most likely it is very different than the one we tell ourselves.
The second is that our decision-making is driven more by emotions than logic and we make better decisions as a result. If we get too caught up in the objective data, we lose access to our gut feelings, which in reality are the product of the accumulated experience of our lifetime. We then make worse decisions, even in supposedly objective areas like finance. The data is important, but the feelings put it into context.
Both of these revelations challenge our conventional wisdom about management and give rise to new, more effective approaches.
Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ from what you originally envisioned?
Jacobs: The original draft was about twice as long and far more academic. I had a wonderful editor at Portfolio who taught me that an author, just like a business organization, needs to be focused on the customer.
Managers are busy, so a business book needs to be engaging, concise, and immediately applicable. The best ideas in the world will die an obscure death if they’re not presented in a way that compels people to attend to them. I think the same constraint applies to a manager’s communication.
Morris: If you were updating the book (and you may yet), what would be the most significant revisions (if any) in the new edition?
Jacobs: Even in the short time since the book was written, there have been even more substantial advances in cognitive neuroscience, so of course I would want to include those. The same is true of technology.
For example, smartphones are keeping us more connected and speeding up the pace of business. At the same time, there’s less face-to-face human contact, which has been the basis of our relationships for hundreds of thousand of years. Managing in an environment with different rates of evolution for technology and the human brain is a huge challenge.
I would also add more of the view from the trenches. I am fascinated by ideas–they change the brain, the mind, and our behavior. But managers don’t have the time or the bandwidth to answer the “so what?” More war stories illustrating direct applications would help them utilize the power of the latest brain research.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
To read the first interview, please click here.
Charles Jacobs cordially invites you to check out these websites:
In the gripping conclusion of the movie The Interpreter, Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) has a gun at the head of former liberator turned genocidal murderer Zuwanie (Earl Cameron), dictator of the fictional African country Matobo. She forces Zuwanie to read from his own autobiography, which opens on the dedication page with these words:
The gunfire around us makes it hard to hear.
But the human voice is different from other sounds.
It can be heard over noises that bury everything else.
Even when it’s not shouting.
Even if it’s just a whisper.
Even the lowest whisper can be heard over armies…
when it’s telling the truth.
Silvia Bloome longs for Quiet.
I thought of this movie as I selected Susan Cain’s new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking for the March First Friday Book Synopsis. Susan Cain starts with an obvious acknowledgement – an all-too-obvious contemporary reality:
We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal – the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.
Or, to put it another way, we seem to value “loud,” not “quiet.”
Maybe we are simply too loud. We need some quiet.
Now, people who know me can attest to the fact that I fall into the “too loud” category. I speak loudly. I like to meet new folks, to engage in conversation with any/many “new folks.” It is not my nature to “hang back,” and be “quiet.”
But, as this book affirms, it is clear that the quiet folks have so very much to offer. And it is in the “inner worlds, the “quiet places,” that some great insights are found.
There is, in Cain’s words, “a bias against quiet.” But, as the book argues, we rob ourselves of so much if we make the introverts pretend that they are extroverts. (And there is great pressure for introverts to, in fact, pretend that they are extroverts).
Among many other strengths, Cain states:
Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time, and can have mighty powers of concentration.
In this bombastic age, with loud noises coming from every direction, there are times that I hunger for the Quiet. I think this book is hitting a hungry nation at just the right time.
“There’s another word for such people (introverts): thinkers.”
“Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno”
Those who have read the novel, Three Musketeers, already know that its author, Alexander Dumas pere, took advantage of every appropriate opportunity to have his principal characters (d’Artagnan and his friends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis) proclaim “One for all, all for one!” Andrew Sobel had that motto in mind when selecting a title for this book because it is in this same spirit of solidarity and comradeship that he introduces and then explains ten strategies “for building trusted client partners,” for creating what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as “customer evangelists.” In an exceptionally informative Introduction, Sobel briefly acknowledges six important trends and pressures that should guide and inform relationship-building strategies, briefly reviews three epochs of client relationships, and then provides a “quick sampling” of several practices (e. g. enhancing dialogue with clients exemplified by Bain & Company and customizing the relationship experience exemplified by WPP) that he will examine when presenting ten strategies for building what he characterizes as “trusted client partnerships.”
Sobel carefully organizes the material that follows within four Parts: First he presents case studies of two “extraordinarily successful trusted client partnerships” and defines the six levels of professional relationships before summarizes the aforementioned ten strategies; next, he rigorously examines the first five strategies that are primarily (not exclusively) the responsibility of an individual professional; then he rigorously examines the second five strategies that are institutional and require specific commitment and support of senior management; and finally, he poses and answers the 17 most commonly asked questions about how to build long-term client relationships. This is a clever idea because the Q&As enable him to review key points after completing his narrative; also, Part IV facilitates, indeed expedites frequent review by his readers later.
At this point in the review, it seems appropriate to share two questions I always ask when meeting with a prospective consulting client to discuss its client relationships: “How many `customer evangelists’ does your company now have?” and then a separate but related question, “How many of your other customers are not `customer evangelists’…but COULD be?” Presumably Sobel agrees with me that in many (most?) companies, there is a tendency (albeit unintentional) to take customers for granted, to neglect them, with the inevitable results that (a) there is less frequent direct contact, (b) a diminished understanding of their needs (especially unmet needs) and concerns, and (c) increased vulnerability to competitor initiatives. None of this would happen if the relationships were “trusted client partnerships” that are steadfast but resilient and mutually beneficial. Hence the importance of executing strategies such as those Sobel recommends.
After identifying the components of trusted client partnerships, he devotes almost all of his attention to explaining how to establish and then sustain those relationships, with “sustain” obviously a key consideration and objective. What impressed me especially as I worked my way through this book is that Sobel combines the skills of a cultural anthropologist with those of a raconteur. He anchors his observations and insights in real-world situations, citing exemplary companies such as Environmental Resources Management (ERM), Bain & Company, Citigroup’s Global Corporate Bank, IBM, Towers Perrin, Cognizant, WPP, and Eden McCallum. Better yet, he does so with a focus on the impact of each strategy on human interaction. Insofar as customer relationships are concerned, Sobel is a pragmatist with an insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why.
Previously, I referred to the six levels of professional relationships. They form a progression that begins with Contact (initial encounter with prospective client), followed in order by Acquaintance (preliminary exchange of information), Expert (establishing credibility), Vendor or Steady Supplier (incremental increase of involvement), Trusted Advisor (differentiation from others in terms of judgment), and Trusted Partner. How to know when you have reached this highest level, Level 6? He provides his answer on Page 21 and explains on the next page how a client would probably view each of the six levels.
Readers will especially appreciate Sobel’s provision of specific recommendations with regard to how to become a Trusted Partner. For example, with regard to the first five strategies: Becoming an Agenda Starter (Pages 49-51), Developing Relationship Capital (Pages 64-76), Engaging New Clients (“Listening Pitfalls” are listed on Pages 100-101 and suggestions for “Getting to Know Clients as People” are provided on Pages 104-105), Institutionalizing Client Relationships (“Pathways to Growth” are listed on Pages 114-115 followed by best practices for activating each on Pages 115-1129), and Adding Multiple Layers of Value (“Foundations of Value” are examined on Pages 134-136).
Sobel also offers provides specific recommendations with regard to how to use effectively each of the other five strategies, presumably with the full commitment and sufficient support by senior management. The generous provision of advice continues in Part IV as Sobel presents 17 Q&As (Pages 267-294), sharing his thoughts about how to make regular investments in client relationships, four ways of staying in touch with clients, what needs to be emphasized during the relationship-building process, and how to use “traffic building” activities that build a professional brand and create an inquiry stream from prospective clients.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Chris Tratar for Talent Management magazine. To check out all the resources and sign up for a free subscription to the TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.
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Top performers often feel stuck in a career rut and decide to leave an employer if three of their fundamental career needs aren’t fulfilled. Being proactive can help reduce turnover.
To succeed in today’s fast-paced global workplace, companies need to think differently about how to approach employees. Top performers, in particular, must be able to clearly understand what it takes to be successful and have the tools to deliver results. Otherwise they can become disengaged and fall into a career rut.
Top performers often decide to leave an employer because they aren’t getting three important things out of their current work situation: inspiration through exciting work, engagement with a broad people network and clear career paths and development opportunities.
Inspiration. When employees have clear goals, an understanding of how those goals impact the company, the tools to accomplish those goals and are rewarded for their achievements, it’s much easier for them get out of bed in the morning. This clarity of purpose combined with stimulating projects helps inspire employees to give their best.
It is estimated that companies only realize about 60 percent of their projected business results. Up to 40 percent of employee productivity is lost due to poor communication of strategy, misalignment of goals, unclear performance expectations, lack of rewards for high performance, and organizational boundaries and silos. All of these factors tend to build a culture of underperformance where employees tend to focus more on not getting in trouble than actually trying to take responsible risks to do something great.
Studies show that companies that can close that performance gap and build high-performing cultures over time so employees are much more engaged and inspired to do great work are much less likely to have employees get into a career rut.
Engagement. An important part of building a high-performance culture is giving employees the tools to connect with the right people, ideas and information.
New social and collaboration capabilities are breaking down artificial barriers and silos inside and outside organizations, and enabling much higher levels of connection and engagement across broad people networks of employees, customers, partners and suppliers. This is where enterprise social networking, instant video Web conferencing and gamification can play a significant role.
Gamification, which can often help achieve social/collaboration goals, is the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage and solve problems. For example, by making it possible for employees to recognize other employees with “badges” and keeping track of key contributions and badges collected, employees become more motivated and engaged to gain that recognition from their peers.
Tapping into these types of mechanisms can create more social, fun and challenging interactions, which can accelerate employee motivation in a significant way. A Gartner study found that 70 percent of the Global 2000 expect to use gamification by 2015 and 50 percent expect innovation to come from game processes.
Simultaneously, instant video Web conferencing capabilities along with enterprise social networking — such as ideas, discussion forums, questions, video channels, expert location and social bookmarking — have also been found to help establish a highly connected and engaged work environment.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Chris Tratar is senior director, product marketing, talent management at Saba, a talent management software company. He can be reached there.