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Archive for the Leadership Category

Solve Problems by Changing the Rules

Solve Problems by Changing the Rules

Having trouble finding a solution?  Maybe you’re trying to solve the wrong problem!  Take a step back and think…re-think…re-think again.  I know it’s not popular to stand back for a minute and think about things before you act.  Reacting is pretty popular.  Thinking before you act… not so much.

If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.
 A Harvard Business Review article about problem solving began with this great quote from Einstein.  Unfortunately, the article goes on with a detailed list of 16 questions to be answered to define the need, context and  critical success factors for your problem definition.  That’s just over the top for me.  Probably over the top for most.

Now, I’m a big fan of looking before you leap.  And, I do fully support Einstein’s position.  But, the rest of the advice is so involved, most humans won’t bother with it.  So, we proceed to the super-human, Captain Kirk.

One of the smartest approaches to problem solving is from a book by Loud Sugar entitled “7 Simple Steps to Transform Your Small Business Marketing from a 98 Pound Weakling to a Bull in a China Shop”.  The book is free and you can download it from their site.

Build Small Business

You can beat the problem, not with new “solutions” to fit the problem, but by changing the problem to fit you.
 The first of the 7 steps is “Change the Rules”where the authors describe the Kobayashi Maru test challenge faced by Star Trek’s James Kirk.  It was a no-win  scenario that Kirk won.  Obviously, he changed the rules.  He planned in advance and turned the tables.

How Reality Can Trump the 5 Rules of Market Leadership

How Reality Can Trump the 5 Rules of Market Leadership

brand liesThere are too many people walking around with the foolish conviction that they are the biggest and best in their market.  They believe they have all of the answers and that they set the guidelines for the rest of their market.   I steer clear of these folks.  They operate with a closed brain and an open mouth, yet feel they’ve uncovered the secrets of market leadership.  I will let you in on their secret.  With 5 rules and a mere 50 words, they’ve figured it all out.

Repeat these words consistently to everyone you speak with inside and outside your company:

  1. We are the number 1 leader in this market.
  2. We have more customers in the market than anyone else.
  3. We have higher customer loyalty vs. our competition.
  4. All of our competitors follow everything what we do


I’m not sure if their perception is their reality or if deranged or if their egos are too fragile to understand that they can’t possibly know everything about everything all of the time.  But, there are a ridiculous number of folks who believe that saying something makes it possible.  Saying it loudly and consistently to everyone makes it “true” (in their world).  Unfortunately, there are hordes of unthinking people who get swept up into it and believe those false “truths”.

I have one easy rule…one simple filter… to help separate truth from fiction:

  1.  Objectively measure all claims and prove it’s truth (or fiction)


Many people claiming leadership don’t actually have a clear definition of what constitutes their market nor do they have objective performance measurements of their claims.  That closed-brain, open-mouth strategy might actually enable them to gain some group.  But, within time, a ‘David’ will arise to challenge their self-claimed Goliath existence.  And then, without a firm grasp of reality, they’ll fall down.  Just remember that reality can be your best friend…. or the inescapable sword that bursts your balloon.


Who Wins the Marketing Vs. Sales Battle

Who Wins the Marketing Vs. Sales Battle

The marketing vs. sales battle has been going on for ages.  And, there are no winners.

As part of the marketing department in a number of large corporations, we marketers consistently heard sales folks telling us that “nothing happens until it’s sold”.  On the other hand, marketers always felt that “if it doesn’t get sold, it’s marketing’s fault” and “if it does get sold, it’s because of the sales teams’ hard work”.   Forget about ‘holier than thou’ attitudes and ‘woe is me’ thinking.  It doesn’t help anyone.

So, who is more important?  I think the best answers are.

(a)    Neither

(b)   Both

(c)    All of the above

It does indeed take a village.  Marketing and Sales need to be working together.  If they are, the business will get the best of both worlds —  the longer time frame and broader market view of marketing combined with the shorter time frame and drilled down view of the market of sales.  Both marketing and sales should be working shoulder to shoulder to reach the highest sustainable top and bottom line while building a foundation that will support the organization down the road.  That’s a win-win.

That win-win village of collaborative marketing and sales teams uses information as currency.  If you’re going to have a solid alignment of sales and marketing objectives and a common understanding of where you’re driving the organization together… you’re going to need to keep those lines of communication open.   Marketers need to understand they they need to include sales before marketing objectives and programs are set.  They need to be willing to explain why they’re doing (or not doing) certain things.  And, sales teams need to be willing to explain their needs and challenges when they’re still mole hills.

“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”  Zig Ziglar



Silent Drama of Photography

Silent Drama of Photography

salgadoI’ve always been enchanted by the power of photography.  I came across this TED talk from Sebastio Salgado entitled “The silent drama of photography”.  Salgado has spent a majority of his photographic career focused on the forgotten and discarded people of the world.  In this talk, he shows how he’s transitioned to the discarded landscapes of our world, pointing out the contradiction that, in modern times, building has been accompanied by destruction.

Salgado is passionate about his ‘big picture’ view of the world.  He is presented with situations and uses the tools available to achieve his objective whether it is educating the masses about inhumane injustices or encouraging us to build a world that can sustain all of us and reverse the destruction we’ve caused.

His photography is anything but silent.  It speaks volumes without a word because it’s filled with the type of passion that makes good things great.  Whether you’re changing the world or just a small part of it – be passionate.  It stirs your creative spirit and speaks volumes.

More images from Salgado

Five Why’s to the Root

Five Why's to the Root

Five WhysEmployee: Our new client is unhappy.
Me: Why? (1)
Employee: Because we delivered the new brochure a week late
Me: Why? (2)
Employee: It took much longer to complete it than we originally thought.
Me: Why? (3)
Employee: We had to wait for data from the client.
Me: Why? (4)
Employee: Don’t know.  They didn’t answer our phone calls and they wouldn’t answer emails.
Me: Why? (5)
Employee: Well, it is their busy season so it’s understandable
Me: We should have realized our schedule wasn’t workable, given their busy season. [root cause]

The beauty of the five why’s. I’ve used the five why’s after a conversation with a 4 year old. Probed with his five why’s made me realize how useful that little 3-letter word really is. It gets you to the heart of things and helps to identify the root cause of a problem or situation.  Admittedly, the root cause can sometimes be identified in less than 5 why’s – and sometimes it takes more than 5.  But, 5 why’s is usually just right.

Now, I have to confess something.  I thought the five why’s was my idea.  It’s a good simple tool that works and I was proud to take ownership.  But, I didn’t realize that the five why’s have much more illustrious beginnings.   The technique was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and has been widely used within the Toyota Motor Corporation as part of their problem-solving training.  Additionally, Six Sigma claims the 5 why’s as their own but they usually refer to it as Root Cause Analysis Methodology.

All I can tell you is that the 5 why’s works.  Try it when you struggling to get at the root of a problem




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What Are People Saying?

I have had the pleasure of working for Susan on several assignments. One of her main strengths is her creativity and the unique talent to provide proper direction and vision to her vendors when contemplating a new project.   Although not necessary, she always found the time to pass along praise to our workforce when we went the extra mile. A true rarity these days.

Doug Robertson

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