First, you must be (or become) worthy of the referrals you seek.
Whatever their source of power (e.g. wind, water, coal, nuclear fission), the most effective engines throughout human history share common attributes: they are well-designed and conscientiously maintained. Moreover, whenever appropriate, they are modified to accommodate the requirements of changed circumstances. For example, steam power enabled British coal companies to remove water from their mines, then remove and transport coal to mills from which steel was transported to harbors at which steam-power ships delivered it to other harbors.
John Jantsch makes brilliant use of the engine metaphor when explaining how to formulate a strategy that drives a system that “compels customers and partners to voluntarily participate in marketing, to create positive buzz about the given products and services to friends, neighbors, and colleagues.” In other words, to create or increase demand for whatever is offered by including within its marketing initiatives the active involvement of what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba characterize as ”customer evangelists.” The “referral engine” really is a process rather than a mechanism. Despite what this book’s subtitle claims, no business can be “taught to market itself” any more than a piano can be “taught to play Bach.” However, as Jantsch explains, an organization’s leaders can devise and then execute the aforementioned strategy.
He cites five (actually six) of the realities to be accommodated: People male referrals because they need to (“We rate and refer as a form of survival, and, to build our own form of social currency”), All business involves risk (hence the importance of “a trust-building approach to marketing”), Nobody talks about boring businesses (“And you’re probably boring on purpose” to play it safe), Consistency builds trust (“Commitment to a remarkable difference demonstrates that yours is not a gimmick”), and Marketing is a system (However, “there is no one system that works for everyone”; actually, there is another, the most tragic referral reality of all: “How can a business owner know that word of mouth is so powerful and then do so little to take advantage of it?”
These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Jantsch’s coverage.
o Staff as customer, and, Hire for fit (15-18)
o A culture of buzz (23-24)
o Meet the Four Cs of marketing (33-37)
o An expended view of collaboration (49-53)
o Fulfilling the promise (63-66)
o Visualizing the ideal customer (73-76)
o Referral brand elements ( 80-82)
o The secret sauce: TIHWDIH
o Note: This is how we do it here (83-84)
o Your strategy action plan (90-91)
o Content is the most trusted form of advertising (101-103)
o Your content action plan (114-115)
o Hidden benefits of blogging (126-128)
o A social media system example, and, Your convergence action plan (144-147)
o The ultimate measure of marketing success (160-161)
o How to activate your network (179-183)
With meticulous care, John Jantsch presents a framework – beginning with a set-up of [the aforementioned] realities – a set of overarching strategies, high- and low-tech engagement tools, and a methodology for finding the perfect culture of referral in almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. That said, he adds, “the ideal referral system, based on a strategy that gets people voluntarily talking about your business, can eliminate the need to ever actually ask for referrals again.” Meanwhile, this book will help you to craft such a strategy so that your employers, friends, and neighbors as well as customers become your ”evangelists.”
“But here’s the lesson I learned….”
Note: I remembered this book when I recently began work on material for a workshop on development of middle management and re-read it, curious to know how well the material has held up since initial publication. It has held up very well indeed.
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Whenever a list of the NFL’s greatest coaches is formulated, Bill Walsh’s name is usually included with those of other Hall of Famers such as Paul Brown, George Hallas, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll, and Don Shula. I was especially eager to read this book, written with Steve Jamison and his only surviving son, Craig, because I wanted to gain a much better understanding of Bill Walsh’s leadership style and management preferences during an illustrious career as a head coach in the NFL: a record of 102-63-1 with the San Francisco 49ers, winning ten of his fourteen postseason games along with six division titles, three NFC Championship titles, and three Super Bowls. He was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1984.
Especially in recent years, there have been many articles and books written about how to develop peak performers. (Some of the best observations and insights are provided by Erika Andersen in her book, Growing Great Employees.) The most highly-admired CEOs tend be those who were especially effective developing high-impact leaders among those in middle management. At GE, Jack Welch devoted at least 20% of his time to mentoring high-potential middle managers and his successor, Jeff Immelt, continues to do so. Given that, now consider the fact that a total of 24 head coaches in the NFL were once an assistant coach on his staff at one time, and many of them led teams to victory in the Super Bowl (e.g. Brian Billick, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren, George Seifert, Mike Shanahan). Some of Walsh’s greatest skills were those of a teacher. Many who recalled their association with him after his death (from leukemia in 2007) made it a point to praise his intellect, energy, scope and depth of knowledge, enthusiasm, insatiable curiosity, and especially his passion to help others to understand what great success required and how to achieve it.
In the introductory essay, “A Leader’s Book for Leaders,” Craig Walsh identifies five “key” players in his father’s life: Joe Montana (the first quarterback he drafted who led the 49ers to all of their Super Bowl victories), John McVay (vice president and director of the 49ers’ operations while Walsh was head coach), Mike White (a long-time personal friend and a fellow assistant coach at U. Cal Berkeley), Bill McPherson (a defensive assistant coach while Walsh coached the 49ers), and Randy Cross (“a great offensive lineman [and a] member of the San Francisco 49ers for thirteen years including his first three, which were pre–Bill Walsh seasons”). All of them accepted an invitation to “contribute their analyses of the leadership philosophy of Bill Walsh and expand on the comprehensive lessons my father offers [in this book]…these five were asked and kindly accepted the invitation to more fully explain the `genius’ of Bill Walsh.” Their contributions are substantial. Nonetheless, this is still Bill Walsh’s book.
In the Foreword, “His Standard of Performance,” Montana praises Walsh’s ability “to teach people how to think and play at a different and much higher, and, at times, perfect level.” How? Three ways: sharing a tremendous knowledge of all aspects of the game, assembling a highly competent staff as well as coaches “who knew how to coach” and who complemented the intensive instruction that Walsh provided on and off the field, and finally, developing a hatred of mistakes. “He was extremely demanding without a lot of noise…great at making people great students” and “ran a pretty tight ship, but he knew when to let us. He didn’t beat up players mentally of physically.” On the contrary, he assembled teams whose players who had to be highly intelligent to understand the immensely complicated strategies and game plans for which Walsh was noted throughout his career. He may have been the most cerebral head coach in the league’s history. That said, Craig Walsh also reveals that his father “Dad was an outsider; he wanted to be an insider. What he found along the way professionally, starting in his days as an assistant coach, was an unwillingness by others to `let him in.’ He didn’t have the pedigree -and athletic résumé from a big-name school or assistant coaching credentials from a big college program.” Nonetheless, what he accomplished as a coach was eventually considered sufficient for election to the NFL Hall of Fame.
I was fascinated to learn that Twelve O’clock High was one of Walsh’s favorite films and that he identified with the lead character, General Frank Savage (portrayed brilliantly by Gregory Peck) who commanded the 918th Bomber group during World War II. “My father loved that movie because it told the story of what he did in football, and what happened to him as a result, in the context of something he loved – the military.”
The account of Walsh’s career in enlightening. There are important business lessons to be learned from his leadership and management during periods of failure as well as success. This is what his son means when referring to “his ferocious competitive instinct, and his singular brilliance as a strategist, organizer, and team builder,” who “produced historic results.” However, what I found riveting is the multi-dimensional portrait of a profoundly human Bill Walsh that emerges in the book, an “outsider” obsessed with “proving them all wrong.” He did that and, with what he so generously shares in this book, can continue to help others learn “how to be as great as they can be.”
Here is an excerpt from an excellent article written by Aaron Shapiro and featured online at the Fast Company magazine website. To read the complete article, check out other resources, and obtain deep-discount subscription information, please click here.
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These days, every established company is at risk of having its industry–and its own business–disrupted by a startup. Cognizant of this, companies devote a lot of time to talking about how important it is to innovate. But here’s the truth: most companies can’t innovate because everyone is paid to maintain the status quo.
This is the single biggest reason companies fail to do anything new or exciting. You and everyone else are maxed out making sure your company is doing what it’s supposed to do; innovation is what the weekends are for.
Despite the real risk involved, this actually makes sense. Companies are set up to do one thing very well. That’s the business they’re in. All of the roles in the company are defined and structured to create the best environment for doing that one thing as efficiently as possible. The number of people employed by the company fluctuates with the workload. More work, more people. Too many people and too little work means layoffs or mismanagement. Success is doing the same thing you’ve always done, just a little bit better, achieving just a few more sales or shaving a hair off of costs. Change is discouraged by time constraints and the stifling number of approvals needed. Failure is punishable by pink slip. Every day is the same.
Yet, today, your entire industry can change in the space of a headline. If your business can’t innovate, it won’t survive when the startup in the garage across town that doesn’t have to answer to your shareholders does all the things legal has been telling you that you can’t do, all the things that you don’t have time for. It’s never been more urgent to stop talking about innovation and actually start doing things differently. And, with digital, the opportunities have never been greater. Instead of innovating on your weekends, overcome the structural impediments and time constraints to real change by approaching innovation from two directions: outside-in and inside-out.
“Outside-in,” when not based on acquisition, often comes in the form of a skunkworks project. It’s colloquially defined as a startup funded by the parent company, but kept separate from the dysfunction and sluggishness of the whole, in order to incubate great technological advancements. I’ve referenced this tactic before, as the first step big businesses should take to evolve their organizational structures. Google, JetBlue, NBCUniversal, and News Corp. have all used the strategy.
[Here’s a portion of the recipe. To read the complete article, please click here.]
Set the right goals. A skunkworks project should be tasked with developing a new, specific tech product or service.
Give the team freedom to create. Bureaucracy, office politics, and the aforementioned requirement to keep the ship sailing straight ahead all slow down and inhibit big advancements. To succeed, the skunkworks team must be kept free from these deterrents.
Appoint separate senior management. Management by committee is not an option. The quickest route to failure is slow decision making. The skunkworks team should report directly to a senior-level executive who is authorized to green-light initiatives that are separate from the company’s main purpose and to implement these new solutions.
Choose a separate location. The team should not be housed in the corporate headquarters. Ideally, it should live nearby, but in some cases, it needs to be in a completely different location to be able to access the right talent. When Johnson & Johnson decided to build a unit oriented to design, creativity, and technology, the division planted a flag in an old industrial building in a trendy neighborhood in New York. Its corporate headquarters are in suburban New Jersey.
Mix up the staff. The staff should be a healthy hybrid of high-performing internal employees and newbies, so that some participants are familiar with the company’s core business while others have an open mind and fresh ideas.
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The risk involved in these changes is less than the risk of not making them. Innovation is outside the comfort zones of most businesses–but so is Chapter 11.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
Aaron Shapiro is CEO of Huge, a global digital agency based in Brooklyn, and author of Users, Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Business, published by Portfolio/Penguin Group (2011). To read the complete article, please click here.
How and why the difference between great and mediocre managers is the ability to listen
In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain suggests that there is much of value to be learned from those who are primarily introverted by nature and/or preference. For example, when engaged in conversation, they listen intently and purposefully to what another person has to say. In this book, Bernard T. Ferrari explains how to master “the most critical business skill of all,” one that I believe is also the most critical social skill of all. “The key to good listening is to develop a filing system in our heads, and to ask questions that get those folders and cabinets adequately filled.” Ferrari devotes a separate chapter to each of the following categories of situations in which feedback is obtained:
o Get to the mandate: Focus on the question to answer, the problem to solve, etc.
o Understand the plan: How to get from A to B (small picture) and from A to Z (Big Picture)
o Know who is on the team: Who will do what by when? With whom?
o Be aware of how you are executing: What is working, what isn’t, and why?
o Be mindful of the personal: Take defining characteristics of each source into full account.
I agree with Ferrari that in a business setting good listening is a critically important (albeit strenuous) activity, one that must be purposeful, under control, with total focus and engagement, and most active at the front end of decision making. As for poor listeners, Ferrari identifies and discusses six familiar types: the Opinionator (often wrong, never in doubt), the Grouch (everyone else is wrong), the Preambler (wind bag filled with digressions), the Perseverator (self-serving blah blah blah), the Answer Man/Woman (hair-trigger problem solver), and the Pretender (really could not care less). It is difficult to respect those such as these six who have no respect for you or for anyone else. This is a key point, given the much greater need now for collaboration than at any prior time that I can remember.
For me, the greatest value of this book lies in how skillfully Ferrari poses clusters of questions (in Chapters 4 and 7-11), to accomplish two separate but interdependent and immensely important purposes: To sharpen the inquiry skills of his reader (i.e. how to learn what needs to be known), and, to provide a context within which his reader can apply those skills. For example, in Chapter 4 (“How to Keep Quiet – Most of the Time”), Ferrari explains why, whenever possible, he avoids interrupting another person but when appropriate, “any interruptions or responses I make as questions. If I disagree with a statement, I’ll package my disagreement in a probing question.” In advance of discussion of key issues, he formulates a few questions that he may need “to guide the conversation into areas that will be more useful for me and CP.”
Note: CP refers to “conversation partner,” the person with whom one is speaking. The term is significant. Whereas a listener is a recipient (sometimes a target), a partner is a collaborator in a process to increase each participant’s understanding.
Ferrari brilliantly achieves his stated objectives: To review the common pitfalls in conversation and explain how to avoid or correct them; to explain the basic principles of “Power Listening” and the basic tools needed to possess and apply it; and explain also how to develop techniques “for harnessing what you hear in service of a leaner and better-informed decision-making process.” The techniques he discusses in Sections Two and Three can be adopted by almost anyone who is determined to become a Power Listener and is well along in mastering the skills discussed in Section One.
These techniques include being fully aware of everything “that their idiosyncratic filing system already contains or needs to contain; also they “rapidly shuffle and recombine any or all of the stored information, constantly adding to the options and alternatives available for consideration.” I presume to add that the “idiosyncratic filing system” to which Ferrari refers must be managed as a work in progress, one to which updated information is constantly added and from which outdated information is systematically removed. The quality and value of each judgment are determined by the quality and value of the information on which it is based.
In this especially lively as well as informative video, the authors of The Granularity of Growth explain why the best strategies begin with a precise understanding of market and product opportunities.
Companies need to look beyond averages when making decisions about when and where to compete. McKinsey’s Sven Smit and S. Patrick Viguerie, along with Alchemy Growth Partners’ Mehrdad Baghai, discuss “the granularity of growth.”
To watch this turbocharged conversation, please click here.
You may also wish to check out their book, The Granularity of Growth: How to Identify the Sources of Growth and Drive Enduring Company Performance, published by John S. Wiley (2008)
Mehrdad Baghai is the co-author with James Quigley of a more recent book, As One, published by Portfolio/Penguin Group (2011).
Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us
Portfolio/Penguin Group (2011)
Dreamers think about it…visionaries see it and then make it happen, at whatever cost
The material in Ten Steps Ahead is based on what Erik Calonius learned during his research (including interviews of various business visionaries) from which he gained a much better understanding of “what separates successful business visionaries from the rest of us.”
The word “successful” is critically important, reminding us of Thomas Edison’s observation, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” No one can deny what Walt Disney, Edwin Land, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Jeff Hawkins accomplished, not only within the business world but also in terms of the global impact they and their respective companies have had. Calonius also focuses on other visionaries such as Orville and Wilbur Wright, Henry Ford, Albert Einstein, and more recently, Richard Feynman whose achievements also indicate that the brain is a visionary device whose primary function is to create pictures.
Throughout human history, innovator thinkers can usually be divided into two classes: dreamers and visionaries. Those in either group tend to be “ten steps ahead of others” in terms of what their brains “see” but only the visionaries are driven (by forces that Calonius explains brilliantly) to make what they “see” become a reality.
Readers will appreciate Calonius’ strategic insertion of insightful comments throughout his narrative. For example:
Former Apple CEO John Sculley: “Both of them [i.e. Edwin Land and Steve Jobs] had this ability to – well, not invent products but discover products. Both of them said these products have already existed, it’s just that no one had ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them.” (Page 52)
Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer on a term they defined: “Emotional intelligence involves the ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; the ability to access and/or generate feelings when they facilitate thought; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.” (Page 64)
“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, one that heralds the most discoveries, is not Eureka! (I found it!) but, ‘That’s funny.’” Isaac Asimov (Page 73)
Andy Hertzfeld on Steve Jobs’s “reality distortion field”: “It’s a confounding mélange of a charismatic rhetorical style, and indomitable will, and an eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand. If one line of argument failed to persuade, he would deftly switch to another. Sometimes he would throw you off balance by suddenly adopting your position as his own, without acknowledging that he ever thought differently…We would often discuss potential techniques for grounding it, but after a while most of us gave up, accepting it as a force of nature.”
Time and again, Calonius cites an example of a visionary business leader who is willing to suffer and struggle, to put everything at risk, when pursuing a dream that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras would probably characterize as a commercial-strength BHAG (i.e. Big Hairy Audacious Goal). There are countless situations in which visionaries see what no one else sees but are oblivious to the serious dangers that are obvious to everyone else.
Few of those who read this book are or ever will be a successful business visionary (“ten steps ahead”) but all who read it can learn valuable lessons from the material that Calonius provides and be 3-5 steps ahead of where they were before. There are lessons about how to overcome what I characterize as “the invisibility of the obvious” in order to recognize – having developed imaging skills – the opportunities and possibilities that would otherwise be missed. Also, how to overcome resistance, rejection, and ridicule with courage and conviction. Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, they are determined “to strive, to seek, to find…and not to yield.” And as Calonius points out, one factor in success is under our control: “the number of at-bats, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized.”
I congratulate Erik Calonius on a brilliant achievement. To those who read it, I presume to suggest that there are still lots of fat juicy dragons out there roaming around. Go get ‘em!