Posts Tagged ‘business’

6 Ways to get Your Customers Saying – Please take my Money!

by Himanshu Jhamb on December 10, 2012

Right. You don’t hear that very often. In fact, you probably don’t even think it! In fact, the reverse is usually what we hear – in stories, from our friends, from our colleagues and pretty much every where from customers.

“Please don’t take my money”

“It was not worth it”

“It’s too expensive”

… and many variants of the above.

But, this post is about great customer service. No, wait! It’s about excellent customer service.

I was recently in Peru with my better half and it was the first time I had set foot in the continent of South America – different people, different language, different food – everything was different and yes, being that it was a self planned trip, the “different” was expected. We had planned to be in Lima for a couple of days and like typical tourists, were looking to do the touristy things – experience the food, the people, visit the historical landmarks ‘et al. Yet, at the same time, we wanted to do something that would give us a taste of Peru; something the locals would do. And that happened on our 2nd day when we met a local couple – Sam & Lucas. OK, it was no accident that we met them; they run a culinary tour company, called Capital Culinaria Lima Gourmet Tours and I found them from their almost perfect TripAdvisor reviews.

It’s true that there are many lessons in business one can learn from others, only if we observe them. And observe I did  and here is what I learnt about great customer service:

  • Make a promise… and then keep It. They promised on the experience (which, I believe is what the adventurous traveler seeks the most) and then delivered on it… multiple times over in the tour.
  • Listen. And get to know your customer. Their tours are designed to listen to the customer. For instance, they do not take more than 6 people at one time so that they can create the space to listen to the customer.
  • Give Personal Attention. Lots of it. Well, there is no dearth of that given that they run quite a few tours themselves and I am sure the ones they are not able to, are no less personal!
  • Run Smooth Operations. Given that it’s a 5-6 hour culinary tour, it can be a bit of a tricky proposition to time 3-6 touristy stomachs for that time! Also, since they visit quite a few establishments in the tour – the timing needs to be exquisite with the local providers, too.
  • Be Nimble. They are immensely flexible. Even though they hit an issue in the morning and had to quickly readjust plans – Lucas was right on time to pick us up.
  • Win the Customer. Yes, with the great stories (they have a fantastic entrepreneurial story on how they started off), the mouth watering cuisine, and (ahem) the fabulous Pisco – it is a sure shot recipe to win the customer.

To be brutally honest, they had won me over as a customer half way through the tour. The rest of the time, they were just winning a friend! Now, how do you put a price on something like that…

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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The Soul of a Project #24: The Peter Principle and YOU!

by Gary Monti on September 4, 2012

The Peter Principle states, “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetency.” From a psychological perspective there is a great deal of truth in that statement. Ever wonder why it occurs? Let’s explore based on depth psychology (Carl Jung) and the concept of temperament. Some background will help.

In depth psychology we have 8 function attitudes. These are ways in which we gather and process information. We all have them. Where we vary is in the preferred order in which we use them.

There are two major ways we can gather information: Sensing and Intuiting. These break down further into “extroverted” and “introverted.” Likewise, there are two major ways we can process information: Feeling and Thinking. These, too, break down further into “extroverted” and “introverted.” Combining this information we end up with the following table:

GATHERING INFORMATION

PROCESSING INFORMATION

Sensing – extroverted Feeling – extroverted
Sensing – introverted Feeling – introverted
Intuiting – extroverted Thinking – extroverted
Intuiting – introverted Thinking – introverted

 

We all have all eight. Where we vary as individuals is in the rank order. Also, for each of us, our number 1 gets the highest amount of brainpower while our number 8 is the most difficult to work use. This leads to an interesting dictum.

“For as strong as you are in one part of life there is a corresponding Achilles heel…and there’s no getting around this.”

For example, someone who has Thinking – extroverted as number one has Feeling – extroverted as number eight. What does this mean?

The Thinking – extroverted part means this is a take-charge type of person. She can give orders and take command. Think of an entrepreneur starting a business. There can be a gruffness present that is somewhat abrasive, but things get done! The business grows. It runs like a clock. In fact, it grows to the point that how it is organized (or should I say “disorganized”) is becoming increasingly important. The number of squabbles between employees is increasing and it is showing in terms of how customers are serviced and outsiders view the business.

This is where Peter Principle comes into play. The very strength that grew the business, Thinking – extroverted, has led to a problem that is the most difficult for the founder to solve. Barking more orders only makes things worse.

Feeling – extroverted has been studiously avoided. People are told to suck it up and get the job done. This may sound macho but the reality is the leader is avoiding it because she is at a loss as to how to deal with the issue. In fact, she’s probably afraid of it. There is an important reason as to why this occurs:

Addressing the weaker functions requires putting the strong one aside.

You can probably hear the entrepreneur saying, “Are you crazy! I built this business based on my commanding attitude and now you want me to listen to their feelings! We don’t have time for that! This is a BUSINESS!” At this moment the Peter Principle surfaces in all its flaming glory and if not addressed trouble occurs. That trouble starts with the leader looking foolish and needing to be “understood” and progresses to a tragedy in which clients aren’t getting served, costs go up due to inefficiencies, and the competition starts eating your lunch.

Don’t despair. In the next blog we’ll go a little deeper and see if anything positive can come of this.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Consider how many things we’re familiar with that come in “threes”:

Tenors. Magi. Bears.

Fates. Virtues. Graces.

Snap. Crackle. Pop.

There is something magical about the number three, which permeates writing just as much as anything else. This is perhaps why we have three-act plays; a beginning, middle, and end for stories; and sayings that come in three parts – from Julius Caesar’s “Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered)” to Thomas Jefferson’s “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Next time you review your favorite nonfiction books, look to see how many of them are written with three sections. Examples from my own library include: Daniel Pink’s Drive; Blue Ocean Strategy by INSEAD professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne; neuroscientist Andrew Newberg’s How God Changes Your Brain; Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port; and Alan Weiss’ mega-bestseller Million Dollar Consulting.

For serial entrepreneur, Trevor Blake, the decision to structure his book this way is immediately apparent from the title: Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life (BenBella Books, Inc., 2012). Part One: Escaping the Quicksand offers three chapters (there it is again!) on how to “reclaim your mentality” by focusing your thoughts more on what you want than what you are against. Part Two: Staying Out of the Quicksand – again, three chapters – offers one simple yet timeless and universally applied (at least by extremely successful folks like Henry Ford and George Washington Carver) technique for creating more winning ideas. And Part Three: Beyond the Quicksand articulates how to transform those ideas into achievements.

Written in the style of many of the truly great “self-help” authors of the early 20th century, Blake’s book is as much a memoir as anything – one you would advised to put on your reading list above books written by people whose only claim to fame and source of wealth has come from writing – well, self-help books. Contrast that with Blake who, like so many successful entrepreneurs, came from nothing to create businesses that were eventually sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. As the back cover blurb by Drew A. Graham, managing partner of Ballast Point Ventures states: “Finally, a book about how to succeed by an author who has actually achieved something before writing about it!” Not only that, I found Three Simple Steps to be a compelling read.

But back to the theme of this post: how to structure your nonfiction book. Oftentimes the biggest issue I see with manuscripts has to do with the way the author has organized their material – or, rather, not. Typically these books read like streams of consciousness with no discernible structure.

If you know what you want to write about but have no earthly idea how to set it out in a book, consider what I describe to my clients as The Power of Three. Of course, it’s easy if – like Trevor Blake – you have a three-part process to describe. But what if you don’t? Let’s go back to some of the other examples I gave earlier.

Take Blue Ocean Strategy. Part one outlines the philosophy and explains what it means to create a “blue ocean”; part two clarifies the strategy behind the concept; and part three explains how to execute it. Alan Weiss’s Million Dollar Consulting, on the other hand, begins by identifying what you need to do to prepare to be a million dollar consultant, then goes on to the tactics you would need to employ, and dedicates the final part of the book to ways to grow into the role.

One final example: Daniel Pink’s Drive first considers why we need to look at motivation in a different light; secondly he looks at what are the three elements of “Type 1” motivation; and thirdly shows you how to implement what you learn in his book.

So, even if you don’t find yourself with a neat “three-act play” as Trevor Blake did with Three Simple Steps, you can still find a way to make this structure work for your book. Part one might offer the philosophy behind your concept, why it’s important, or some foundational issues for the reader to consider. Part two could lay out the strategies for success and what planning needs to be put in place to use the book’s material successfully. Part three would then offer “how tos” or tactics to employ to help the reader successfully implement that learning for themselves.

What favorite book of yours is structured this way? Please let me know in the comments below. And for more about this topic, I invite you to go to Episode 6 of my audio series.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Hank is a young fellow working for a fifteen year old company in Sarasota, Florida. He is frustrated because there is a lack of momentum on the part of his manager to fully implement Hank’s gifts and skills. He’s frustrated because he feels underutilized and unfulfilled. He feels like a racehorse that isn’t given enough rein to really run the race and win. He’s being held back, but why?

More often than not, managers aren’t conscious of how they influence their team. They don’t even know that there’s a way that they are being that limits the success of their direct reports and the success of the company as well. Only sometimes are they holding back their direct reports in service to their own desired outcomes. Usually, they just don’t know.

What Hank hears from his boss is to not push for change too quickly; “Things take time around here. Slow and steady wins the race.” Hank isn’t a tortoise; he’s a thoroughbred. He was hired for his expertise and the results that he’s capable of. He has the passion and capability to make things happen quickly. After two years with this company under this particular manager, Hank has exhausted much of his creative energies fighting his manager for more free rein.

Hank’s dilemma

Hanks dilemma isn’t foreign at all to many individuals working under a management style that holds them back rather than supports growth and expansion. How does he bring the best he can to a situation where his manager really doesn’t know how to manage a thoroughbred like Hank? He could quit; however, is there something else that’s happening here for Hank that could bring value to his time in this company? What’s possible here as a learning opportunity?

Through our coaching, Hank gets clearer that he is being exposed to a management style that is ineffective for him and people like him. He wants things to change – he wants his manager to be more of a mentor; he wants to move up in the ranks and be a leader himself in bigger and better ways. He’s stuck behind a plow horse and can’t see his way clear to run the race he believes he is here to win.

A fascinating aspect of Hank’s dilemma is that he is actually in a perfect internship opportunity where he has the most to learn to be a really good leader for people like himself. Rather than focus on how ineffective his manager is, he can focus on two things:

  • What’s missing in his manager’s style that if it were present would spur Hank on to greater success?
  • What’s available in the current situation that can be of benefit to him and his leadership development? What’s incubating within himself that will bring about a much more powerful leadership style?

I believe that these questions are so essential in business coaching. Sometimes our clients can’t change their circumstance, however they can shift their perspective. I believe that every situation we find ourselves in is an internship – a place to learn what we need to learn. More often than not, like Hank, we didn’t consciously sign up for these internships – these learning opportunities. Thoroughbreds want to run – they don’t want to do anything else – there’s nothing else to do but get to the finish line. However, Hank has an opportunity to learn through experience and take notes on how to be a leader – committed to the best and highest contribution of his team. He can only do this through his current experience.

Being fully immersed in his current circumstances, Hank is having an experience that informs him about his own personal reality, needs and desires; informs him of what capacities he sees is required to work in the environment within which he finds himself; and, informs him of what capacities he wants to cultivate to be the manager he wishes he had for himself, and that he wants to be for others.

Hank’s practice is multidimensional: He has to get out of his normal operating strategies, which include the automatic generation of thoughts and feelings. He has to look around and see how his environment is currently affecting him. He has to think – I mean really think, about what there is to learn right now beyond perceived constraints. He has to accept that what he thought would be the rewards and outcome of this position in this company isn’t forthcoming, yet there are greater rewards far more rich, delicious and sustainable for him to achieve, right here, right now. Hank can get – and is getting, that this is a leadership development opportunity of a lifetime that isn’t available in any MBA program; not even at Harvard Business School. If he can shift his attitude and perspective, Hank will become an exceptional leader and manager.

We all have dreams about what we imagine our careers will reap. More often than not, we see it happening soon, faster and better than it actually occurs. We get frustrated, pissed off, resentful because it doesn’t look the way we imagined it. As we each step into being grown up and adult, realizing that life doesn’t show up the way we want, but shows up the way it does, we have a much greater capacity to choose willingly to explore the opportunities for growth and learning that are right in front of us. By meeting what feels like demands with openness and curiosity we will be given the rewards we anticipated in ways we’ve yet to imagine.

Though it appears as if Hank’s manager is inept at his job, he will actually be one of the greatest contributors to Hank’s development as an up and coming leader. However, it’s up to Hank to fully utilize his time under his guidance to fully benefit from his mentor’s style.

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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Look at the image of black squares in rows and columns, and count how many black spots you see. While there appear to be many, in fact there are none. When we focus on the figure, we easily ignore the ground. In this optical illusion, the intersections appear to be sprinkled with black dots, which pop in and out and shift about the image with a dizzying effect, purely as a figment of our imagination.

If you calmly focus on any one of the white dots, you can clearly see that it is white, and that the black and grey dots are an illusion. If you focus on the central white dot, and gradually let your field of peripheral vision expand, you may be able to see an expanded range of dots as they are white, without any flickering dots on the screen. This is a challenging shift in focus, because it requires you to see comprehensively the big picture, the details, and the relationships all at the same time.

Easy to get lost in business

The lack of comprehensive vision causes confusion. This happens to many people who enter the world of business. Whether you are an executive or someone on a career path, if you don’t know where you are and where you are going, you may easily find yourself lost in the cross winds.

The flickering mentality leads to a pursuit of short-term profits without regard for consequences. Large organizations and governments which engage in short-sighted or greedy behavior can wreak havoc on the economy and the environment. The pursuit of the flickering dot mirage creates stress, and over time the process tends to chew people up and spit them out.

Itoh Motoshige, Professor of Economics at the University of Tokyo, says that to understand economies today we need a flexible focus, the ability to shift appropriately from the bird’s eye Macro view, to the insect’s eye Micro view for detail, and to the fish’s eye for changes and interrelationships. This is precisely the power of the Mandala Chart, which enables you to shift perspective and focus with ease.

A world of opportunity

The Mandala Chart can help us regain our bearings by seeing our business comprehensively, and what role we want to play within it. It also helps us refocus on the interfaces and spaces between things and people. Because the majority of people are too busy pursuing the mirage to really recognize reality, this is where the opportunities are.

What is typically presented as a good opportunity in business, is often actually an opportunity to be part of somebody else’s business plan. Most of these so-called opportunities are so easy to duplicate, that they lead right to the red ocean of competition for slight edge advantages and dwindling profit margins. If customers are unable to distinguish between brands or quality, they will naturally gravitate to the lowest cost option.

True opportunities are never obvious, because they exist in the spaces between. They represent the world of possibilities and new combinations, and come to life when an entrepreneur or enterprise recognizes and fully engages their potential. This is why so much innovation happens at the leading edge of technology, through interdisciplinary collaboration at the edges, and through networking and mastermind groups.

An ancient principle

The Principle of Comprehensiveness is the second of eight principles in the Framework of Wisdom for the Mandala Chart. Two concepts which help define it have roots in Buddhism, particularly the branch of Esoteric Buddhism which introduced the Mandala to Japan.

(), meaning empty as the sky, which in fact is full of stars, galaxies, and infinite possibilities. In Japanese painting, architecture, traditional and martial arts, space is a powerful entity. It is also an essential idea in Buddhism, often mistranslated as emptiness, but more accurately representing the infinite potential of that which is without form. The realization of this potential depends on the second concept, which is how you engage with this potential.

(en), meaning edge or relationship, which can also mean the opportunity which is abundant in the intersections where people and ideas meet. It may also be thought of as the present moment and space, which is where the past transforms into the future. Think of how often things have developed according to the people you met and the decisions you made at the time. Yet this is an ongoing process, not a final verdict.

The Mandala itself has roots in India, Tibet, China, and Japan, where it was introduced in the 9th Century by a Buddhist Priest named 空海 (Kūkai). From the sixty-four frame (8×8) structure of the Diamond World Mandala, a National Treasure from 9th Century Japan, it is easy to see the roots of the Mandala Chart. The imagery used then represented the iconography of Esoteric Buddhism, as a graphical way of looking at the Buddhist universe with flexible focus.

Back to business

How then do you apply this to business? Once you understand the importance of flexible focus, once you learn how to look at things comprehensively, then you need to fix your eight compass points for business, and place them in the framework of the Mandala Chart.

How you determine those points depends a great deal on your type of business, your role in the business, and the field on which you play. To get you started, try downloading the PDF template COMPREHENSIVENESS MANDALA, which gives you eight coordinates likely to apply to any business. You can apply the Principle of Comprehensiveness to any area of your life (Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Personal, Study, Leisure). It is best if you generate your own questions, starting from the essential ingredients of Quality Questions: WHY? WHEN? HOW? WHAT? WHO? HOW TO? HOW? WHY ME?

  1. WHY?
    • Why are you in business?
    • What Legacy do you want to leave?
    • What would you do if you had the resources?
  2. WHAT?
    • What products and services do you offer?
    • What is your plan for ongoing content creation?
    • What are the platforms by which you will deliver your value?
  3. WHY ME?
    • Why are you the right person (people) to carry out this mission?
    • What in your background supports or led up to this position?
    • Why should people choose you above all of the providers available?
  4. WHO?
    • Who are the key players in your organization?
    • Who are the key stakeholders in your business?
    • Who are your ideal customers?
  5. WHERE?
    • Where will you locate your business physically and geographically?
    • Where can people around the world access your business online?
    • What venues and stages do you have to showcase and conduct your business?
  6. WHEN?
    • When do you plan to begin?
    • Can you put your projects on a calendar or timeline?
    • What are your milestones for progress?
  7. HOW MUCH?
    • How much will it cost to operate your business?
    • How much can be expected in revenues?
    • What are the key numbers and indices that you need to pay attention to?
  8. HOW?
    • How do you plan to achieve your goals?
    • What systems do you have in place for delivery?
    • How will you ensure that your business is sustainable?
  9. HOW TO?
    • How to scale up your business?
    • How will your business continue to innovate?
    • How will you automate your business processes for efficiency?
  10. HOW?
    • How will your business secure cash flow?
    • What operating systems and technologies give you economies of scale?
    • What is your system for accountability and follow up?

The logic of the location of these questions on the Mandala makes sense when you refer to the Wealth Dynamics Square covered in the previous article, Time for a Change #16: A Rewarding Business, with FLOW in the center, DYNAMO on the upper side (How to? What? Why me?), BLAZE on the right side (Why me? Who? Where?), TEMPO on the lower side (Where? When? How much?), and STEEL on the left side of the square (How much? How? How to?). The important thing here is to consider them all with the flexible perspective made possible by the Mandala Chart.

Spend some time trying to see your business comprehensively, looking for new opportunities in the spaces between, for new ways to connect and integrate each of these elements.

The next time you find yourself getting tired, confused, or stressed by your job or business, look at your Mandala Chart. See if you can take your mind off of the flickering dots illusion, and refocus on the substantial opportunities that exist in the spaces between. Be sure to write your insights down. What you discover will calm your mind and benefit your business.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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The Soul of a Project #18: Beware The Full Moon!

by Gary Monti on June 6, 2012

A strange beast shows up when the full moon rises on a project. It’s the full moon that appears when fundamental changes brought about by the project are free to take shape. The beast seems vaguely familiar while frightening and surprising at the same time. Actually, more than one appears. They are very common. I am talking about the organizational werewolves.

The full moon rises when the impediment to success or progress is removed. It’s right when the project is ready to go into full stride and grow. One of the most common impediments is the Manager From Hell (MFH). The team and supportive stakeholders grumble about the MFH, wondering how (s)he got power since they only seem to hurt situations. While moaning and groaning about the MFH the gossip mill generates enough power to light a small city. Productivity drops. Everyone dreams of a day when this person is GONE!

When that day finally arrives there is a collective sigh of relief. But something odd happens that night. The next day strange creatures show up aggressive behavior, both passive and active, arising at the tactical level.

Where did these creatures come from? Simple…THE TEAM…and stakeholder population!

So what is this all about? Let me explain. When working on projects that bring about substantial change a warning is given at the kick-off meeting and goes something like this:

As we progress impediments to progress will be found. Some will be technical and some may be individuals. A word of caution, “Avoid demonizing the person!” To the extent you’ve been working with and adapting to their behavior you have enmeshed and have issues of your own to address. When impediments are removed do not relax. That is the starting point NOT the finish line! Everyone will be challenged to take responsibility for themselves and see what behaviors of their own need to be changed.

Trust me, no one remembers this. Such a focus is placed on the MFHs people lose sight of their own shortcomings. When this occurs with senior managers the project is in danger. The infrastructure issues that need repaired or built for the first time, in order for the project to succeed, are considered superfluous. It is assumed everyone will do just fine with the project automatically proceeding towards success. It is a simplistic, dangerous view. Think of Yugoslavia after Tito’s death. Freedom! Or at least that is what everyone thought. A new age dawned but it definitely wasn’t what everyone expected. Instead, the slow descent into hell that made international news occurred.

What this all boils down to is taking leadership of one’s own responsibilities and examine where your own performance has slacked off because of the MFH. Where have you given yourself a get-out-of-jail-free card because the environment is harsh? It is time to turn those cards back in, return to the principles that matter, and work in a disciplined way. Build. Get the job done!

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Thought Readership #5: Telling Tales

by Liz Alexander on April 16, 2012

If you’ve ever attended one of the Dale Carnegie introductory seminars you’ll be familiar with this “trick.”

A facilitator shows participants a list of 20 items – say, a pair of shoes, lampshade, ice cream etc. – and claims that in ten minutes or less they can teach anyone how to recite that list from memory, in the correct order.

And they do. When every participant is let in on the “secret” they discover that the way to instantly recall any number of otherwise disconnected items is to weave them into a story.

We’re all born with the ability to tell stories; it’s how we learn because the brain is an associative device. Storytelling is an essential skill for the novelist, but it’s also a powerful non-fiction tool.

Many writers of case studies could benefit from becoming more familiar with storytelling concepts; so could business book authors. There are three concepts in particular that are very useful in helping make your work more compelling.

ThirdRiver consultants, Ken Jennings and Heather Hyde, exemplify all of them in their business fable The Greater Goal: Connecting Purpose and Performance (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).

First, think of any classic “hero’s journey” movie. To capture the viewer’s attention, something happens fairly quickly that rocks the hero’s ordinary world and sets in motion the character transformation we see at the end. (That’s how you can identify the hero; it’s the person who changes the most.)

For example, in Gladiator, the catalytic event is the murder of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. In Star Wars, it’s finding Princess Leia’s message. In The Descendants, it’s the wife’s coma.

In The Greater Goal, the hero Alex Beckley is in a near-fatal car accident. This major, dramatic event helps to completely change Alex’s world, and it happens quickly – on page eight!

When we first meet Alex he’s a failing company president with a laundry list of personal and professional issues that he doesn’t know how to overcome. Cue essential storytelling concept #2.

In addition to moving the story along with a quick, dramatic wake-up call, every hero benefits from a mentor (think Harry Potter and Dumbledore). In Alex’s case, his mentor comes in the form of wise consultant Quinn McDougall.

Why does The Greater Goal work so well, not just as a business fable? Because it immediately gets right to the point. Alex faces a raft of challenges most of us can relate to: poor performance and low morale stemming from an obsession with results; job insecurity; no sense of work-life balance; the notion that what he’s always done isn’t working, but he doesn’t know how to change.

By page 13 Alex does what every hero must do before transformation can take place, he asks for help. Help in the form of mentor Quinn McDougall allows the authors to show the difference that comes from embracing five key practices for leading differently: Commit to the greater goal; Construct shared goals; Cascade greater goal coaching; Reinforce alignment; and Build on success.

Yes, there’s a happy ending (oops…should have said “spoiler alert” but you expected that didn’t you?), but what is handled especially skillfully in The Greater Goal is something often missing in business books and business writing generally – tension (storytelling concept #3). Like all good stories where you know the hero prevails, we don’t want that to be immediately apparent. Which is why it was wise for Jennings and Hyde to include naysayer Nate in their story.

Even if you’re not planning to write a business fable, any business book will benefit by:

  • Getting quickly to the challenge (i.e., don’t start out with a lot of “backstory”).
  • Ensuring there’s a build up of tension in the narrative.

The author taking the role of mentor (because if you’re playing the hero you’ve missed the point).

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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“Blogging isn’t writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation.” ~ Line from the movie Contagion.

You’ve seen them, haven’t you? Those pseudo-Successories posters that wags often buy to adorn their office walls?  One of my favorites depicts a capsized boat with the slogan: “It could be that the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.” In the same spirit, we should be grateful to James Altucher for publishing I Was Blind But Now I See (CreateSpace, 2011).

His book plays an important role in warning aspiring authors of what can go wrong when you write a book in three days (one of the pieces of advice the author offers for improving your life!), upload it to CreateSpace, and think that there’s merit in sentences like:

“Over time these exercises compound and similar results as I describe will develop. What’s different below from my prior writing on this is the modifications.”

“Money is the most external manifestation of the spirituality that’s the 10th commandment above.”

Altucher’s book (which he calls “my best book ever”) is a bloody mess, if you’ll pardon my French. A hodgepodge that one Amazon reviewer succinctly sums up as having,  “no direction, no structure, is riddled with typos… The entire book is basically an angry rant.”

If only Mr. Altucher had been aware and taken note of freelance editor and literary agent Susan Rabiner’s sage advice from 2002 when she wrote, “A book that knows why it is being written, for whom, and most important what it wants to say is well on its way to successful publication.”

Of course, that was penned back in the days when “gatekeepers” largely determined what got to be published, successfully or otherwise. Now all we’re left with is our own judgment. Which is fine, but here’s a piece of advice:

Know what your book is about before you start writing.

One of the activities I commend to any author before they begin to write is to complete the following sentence: “The question I answer with this book is…” Then, as you gather your material, you can check to see what, if anything, that content contributes. No relevance? Then it’s extraneous to needs!

I have no idea the question that Mr. Altucher posed before cobbling together I Was Blind. He offers us The 10 Commandments of James-ism, essentially diatribes on religion, home ownership, a college education, the US Constitution, the FDA, and the Media, among others. There follows a string of reconstituted blog posts with titles like: Abolish The Presidency, It’s a Useless Job Anyway; 25 Dates Until I Met Claudia (his wife); and Why I Write Books.

I’m fond of that game where you take two or three disparate things and try to find a way to connect them. In the case of this book, I was stumped, although somewhere the author alludes to offering guidance on the meaning and pursuit of happiness.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so low after reading (well, skim-reading largely) a book, and not because of the subject matter. When I see unsubstantiated claims like, “For every dollar you give to charity about 2 cents a year, give or take, goes to the actual charitable cause you wanted to support,” I suspect the author isn’t one for balanced, thoughtful debate.

My experience while reading I Was Blind was acute embarrassment for the author as much as anything. Mr. Altucher is perfectly at liberty to publish whatever he likes. And, yes, it’s unkind of me to think that the 20 people who’ve written him 5-star reviews on Amazon (many admire his “honesty”) need their heads examining. Some books are like a Rorschach test – one person’s meaning is another person’s ink splodge. But to spew out a stream of consciousness like this and proudly call it a book? I wouldn’t want to. Although take a look and then let me know — would you?

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Time For a Change #5: The Power of One Page

by William Reed on March 8, 2012

The benefits of brevity

Considering the value of your time, would you rather receive a one page summary, or a 50 page report? People don’t want to go deeper unless they have first been convinced of the value by a short summary, a great title, or a brief introduction. Books are sold by browsing the cover and table of contents. Samples always lead sales.

If you want to earn the attention of your listener a one page summary is not only a courtesy, it is a requirement. If the short version is good, the long version is bound to be even better.

What makes your one page powerful?

Here are the essential ingredients which make your message powerful, especially when you nest it on a single page.

  • Understandable. Expressing your message in compact form creates a key for understanding. The message is only complete when this key unlocks the same understanding in others. Do not assume that because an idea makes sense to you, that others will understand it just by explanation. Communication is a bridge that helps ideas to pass back and forth between people. That bridge must be easy to cross.
  • Memorable. Once the bridge is crossed, you must ensure that the other person can remember your message. Understanding does not guarantee recall. Unless you provide memory hooks with visual anchors, metaphors, and emotional impact, chances are that your message will be forgotten by nightfall. Make your message stick.
  • Remarkable. If your message is interesting enough, people want to talk or remark about it to others. The easiest way to make your message remarkable is to convey it through a story. Information is ordinary, but knowledge and wisdom makes it extraordinary.
  • Motivating. The real measure of your message is in how it inspires people to take action or change their behavior. Motivation is putting people into motion. If you want a response to your call to action, your message should be enticing, help solve a problem, or promise to make things better.

How to present your message

Whether your message is printed on paper or displayed on a screen, it is more powerful when it appears on a single page. Avoid the temptation to cram as much information as possible in the space available. For effective communication less is more. Select photos or illustrations which reinforce and resonate with your message. Useless or decorative clip art will only dilute your message. It is more effective to integrate a powerful phrase with good graphic design. A good source of information on how to do this is Garr Reynold’s blog Presentation Zen.

The need for attractive and informative display of visual information has created a new media form known as infographics. To see the variety of creative ways in which information can be graphically displayed, look at examples of social media infographics. News and business magazines are another excellent source of ideas and infographics.

The Mandala Chart is a 3×3 matrix which structures a group of eight ideas around a central theme on a single page. Each idea on the chart is indexed by a letter or number, so it is easy to navigate and present to others. The art and applications of creating Mandala Charts is covered in depth in my Flexible Focus column on activegarage.com

One Sheets are a compact way of displaying information such as a speaker’s bio, a seminar, or product description. Roger C. Parker has written a number of excellent articles on how to create One Sheets as a personal branding tool, including Best Practices and 6 Questions your One Sheet must answer. This tool serves as a promotional poster, and is often better than a brochure.

You can download a Mandala chart here, summarizing these ideas with questions to help you express your ideas with ONE PAGE POWER.

You are the message

The messenger is always more important than the message. No matter how good your graphics, your message will fall flat if you lack confidence or authenticity in how you present it.

Examples of professional slides and graphics can make you feel like you cannot do this without hiring a graphic artist. However, there are many ways to create quality one page presentations on your own. You can model the professional graphic designers without directly copying them by using ideas and elements that you like. You will be far more effective at presenting something you have created yourself, than by showing something you simply found on the Internet, and people will instantly know the difference.

The discipline of expressing your ideas on a single page helps you find the essential elements of your message. Remove anything that you might be tempted to include, if it is not directly related to your central theme.

The most effective way to present your slide, proposal, or one sheet is to read it aloud. Leave it with the other person as a summary of what you present, as a supplement not a substitute for your presentation. If you cannot convey your message clearly in conversation, chances are that it will not be much clearer on paper.

NoteCalligraphy by William Reed. 書面 (shomen) means document. The message is that what goes on paper should be full of life energy

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Being in business, regardless of the position or title, brings us face to face with choice points. It’s nonstop! Exploring what it is that has us choose what we choose gets us closer to what it is that motivates us to be who we be and do what we do. It clarifies why our professional and personal life is what it is and not something different. It explains why, regardless of our ambition, education and experience, we just aren’t getting ahead.

If there was only one thing I’d like to get across to all of my corporate clients it’s that the personal is the professional and the professional is the personal. How we be in our personhood, our humanity and life in general is how we be in our professional world as well – always and everywhere.

Within any organization’s walls, how one chooses what they choose to choose is most likely how they choose to choose in every other context of their lives. Though the content may be different the process by which they choose is consistent across the board.

We choose based on some fundamental principles, though these principles will differ from person to person. We choose based on:

  • “This is how it’s always been done so that’s what I’m choosing to choose now.” Limiting parameters limit our ability to choose to think outside the box. We can’t choose differently because we don’t know that there is something else to choose; that there is a box to think ourselves out of.
  • What we are afraid others may find out or decide about us. More people than you can imagine operate from this principle. We source our identity from a decision we made a long time ago – perhaps when we were only four years old, when we found ourselves inadequate to bring about conditions we saw necessary, given the context of our little lives. With this assessment of our limitations comes the fear that we will be found unworthy and unlovable, humiliated and rejected. At this point, we begin cultivating survival strategies that have us avoid being humiliated or rejected by listening for what other people want and need. Based on our own interpretations (as a four year old) we go about fulfilling those needs and wants. Again, more people than you can imagine limit their professional development because they are operating from an immature emotional guidance system, which keeps them choosing based on fear. People with greater degrees of emotional intelligence choose based on the needs of the organizations, not based on fear.

If I continue to choose from a fear-based model, which I developed when I was four years old, I know I’ll remain safe and invulnerable to attack. The consequence of this choice is that I also can’t have what I want, because I’m limiting how I will choose to choose what I choose. If I choose differently I open myself up to vulnerability; however, I’m more likely to cultivate the capacity to be with attacks – not being devastated by them, as I always imagined it to be. I can’t grow myself professionally and I can’t grow the company if I continue to operate from a belief that I made up as a child.

 

  • It’s all about me! It’s not uncommon to hear clients say: “Though I said I was a team player and joined this company to further its growth, I’m really only in it for my own personal gain. I choose to choose based on what will bring about the highest visibility of my efforts and will get me the promotions I’m seeking.”
  • I choose to be a team player, listening for what others want. I don’t contribute any new ideas for fear of being found out that I’m inadequate. I hate to be ridiculed, so I avoid any possibility for that happening, even if it means not getting promoted.

Frankly, we are all in it for personal gain; however, this can mean different things to different people. Personal gain can be related to security, stability and safety, to gaining recognition and rewards, to gaining freedom, fun and flexibility. We never know until we begin to distinguish what it is we are wanting from our life in general and our professional life, specifically.

  • What’s in the best interest of the organization?  A client may say: “I can see my own limitations and inadequacies, and based on the fear of being found out I can hide out in other peoples vision, and limit the fulfillment of my personal and professional vision. Inevitably, I limit the fulfillment of the organization’s vision. At the same time I know that there are ways of being that will advance the initiatives I believe in. In alignment with those initiatives I ‘m willing to be open to possibility, though this may mean being open to ridicule; I will be assertive with my opinions and ideas, though this may mean someone asserting that I’m inadequate; I’m willing to be expansive in cultivating my repertoire of possibility, though this may lead to being found out as silly, ungrounded and unstable.

What needs to be in place in order to support a breakthrough of this dilemma? Trust!

Trust is foundational to any change process. If you don’t trust the organization, your execs and managers, even those who are your peers, you won’t choose to choose differently – it’s too risky! If you don’t trust yourself to have what it takes – an adequate amount of skills, experience, knowledge, and most importantly, self-trust, you won’t take even baby steps toward your desired goal.

Just as an experiment, notice where there is a similar choice making process occurring in your personal life and professional life. Perhaps, for example, you’ll notice that how you speak to your direct reports is the same way you speak to your children or your partner. This can be a fascinating exploration; one that will contribute to your capacity to choose differently and more in alignment with what you really want.

Rosie KuhnThis article is contributed by Dr. Rosie Kuhn, founder of the Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group, author of Self-Empowerment 101, and creator and facilitator of the Transformational Coaching Training Program. She is a life and business coach to individuals, corporations and executives.
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