The QuickBase Blog
I spoke to Mike Morrison, who is an established interim manager, coach, business adviser, mentor instructional designer and trainer, on occasions he writes, blogs, and twitters. Morrison has over 20 years experience in HR/OD and a proven track record of providing pragmatic business solutions. In the last 10 years, Mike has been designing and delivering training programs for clients, as a consultant, interim and employee providing third party services. Before founding RapidBI, he worked as a Management Development Adviser with Business Link for London and prior to that as a Training Manager for a large private hospital where he developed training for a wide range of staff, managers and coaches. In the following brief interview, Morrison talks about how he handles change management, training employees, teamwork and selecting the right people for the job.
Dan Schawbel: How do you handle change management and what are some of the issues as you transition projects from one state to the next?
Mike Morrison: Change management is rarely the same twice. Even in a global training project such as the current one I am involved in, each of the 50+ countries has different issues and challenges. There are 3 principles that my team and I work to… communicate, communicate…communicate. This in conjunction with sharing responsibility for implementation, and creating as much local involvement is critical. If people feel their view has been listened to and some of that taken on-board, then change resistance is reduced.
The change initially needs to be managed differently from the change or transition to “business as usual” after the training team have departed.
Schawbel: How does change management impact individuals, their projects and forming a successful team?
Morrison: Quite simply if you don’t recognize the need for some form of “change management,” then everything is an uphill battle. Every change to what a person is doing has an impact. That impact may be productivity, social or emotional. Of course not all change is negative and resisted, and in my experience, it is about using these positive changes as tools when a change is perceived as negative. Change management needs to cover both the processes you want/need changing, and to realise the psychological changes and adjustments required for success. Sometimes you need to operate with flexible timelines to allow for this. Let your team set the deadlines where practical.
Then when you really need something in a certain time frame, tell them and they will usually back you up and deliver.
I believe that it is about working with the individual, in order to build the team. This can often mean not communicating to one, but all. Keeping communications as transparent as possible. If one person appears to have a passion or interest in a factor, then let them lead, even if the direction changes slightly. If they own it and you show them trust, then it reinforces the team spirit.
What is fundamental (IMHO) is that your team respect you. They may not like you, but respect and trust is critical. As a leader you need people to follow you, not blindly, but because they believe in the “vision” or direction in which you are guiding them.
Schawbel: How do you go about training other people so they are confident that they can deliver on various projects? What issues tend to arise when you’re training others?
Morrison: By building on successes. Sounds simple, but most “train the trainer” approaches focus on weaknesses. We focused on strengths. It was important for people to know their weaknesses, but not to focus on them, or to let these become distractions. In my case I was training trainers, to train super users to train others. Focusing on success was critical. The added challenge of working across languages and cultures was an additional complication.
Our goal was to show people that they could do things… not to highlight that they could not. For success breeds success. Of course no-one is perfect, so its about celebrating success, and recognizing development opportunities.
Schawbel: How do you go about getting a team to work most effectively together? When do teams usually not work out well?
Morrison: Teams do not “work out well” when there is lack of clarity or conflicting objectives. My team consisted of 15 people, each based in different countries, often in very different time zones. I re-ignited a social collaboration platform that was available internally but not really used. Rather than email, we used this for communications, and kept 95% of all communications open between the whole team. The team either volunteered or nominated each other as champions for various projects or changes we needed to apply, and that champion became the lead interface to the specialists in the business. Active collaboration was encouraged at every step, and this helped people build relationships whilst in different countries. When the team changed, I was able to bring the new and existing team members together for a “train the trainer” workshop lasting 3 weeks. Team building and team working was the prime focus of that intervention. This accelerated the collaboration effort that has so far lasted over 12 months.
Most teams are not teams at all, just a group of people working on loosely related tasks. A team really shows its value, when they drop their own individual priorities and deliver on behalf of the team. I have been fortunate to have that happen many times over the last 12 months
Schawbel: What is your process for selecting the right people to work on the right projects and then ensuring that everything gets done on time?
Morrison: In my most recent assignment, we seconded people from around the business. Generally speaking, we agreed to take resources from certain regions, and those regions proposed a number of people. I interviewed them, but for this project I asked but a few short questions:
1) Working in a global context, with people from different countries, how will you approach a person who says “they don’t understand?”
2) What factors might be taking place when a person:
a. Will not ask a question?
b. Asks very challenging questions at every stage
3) What problems do you anticipate not being home much for the next 12 months?
The biggest problem we had with previous people was their lack of cultural awareness, being flexible and open minded meant they were open to development, and were less likely to be stressed by the challenges they faced.
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You need to delegate a project but no one on your team is precisely equipped to handle it. But the work needs to get done, and you don’t have time (or skills) to do it yourself. How do you proceed?
When you don’t have the right person to delegate work to, here are six questions to ask yourself.
1. Can you outsource it – either to another department or a vendor? That might not be an ideal solution, but sometimes it’s the only solution. Don’t be afraid to explore how you might get the work done using someone who isn’t officially on your team.
2. Does the work really match up with your team’s goals? Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – when there’s no obvious choice to delegate work to, it’s because the work actually isn’t squarely in line with your goals. When that’s the case, it’s worth taking a step back and reassessing whether it’s work that you should be doing at all.
3. Is the issue that you don’t trust anyone on your team to do the work as well as you would? If so, do a gut-check about whether you have a pattern of wanting to do work yourself rather than delegating it. If you do (and many, many managers do), you might need to start working on letting go! To get the best results as a manager, you do have to delegate work to others; you can’t do it all yourself.
4. Could you equip a staff member to do the work well – or well enough – with a small investment of training time up-front? If so, would that be worth it to get the work done? It might turn out that you have an employee who’s eager to learn the skill.
5. Is this an ongoing problem? If you’re continually fielding projects that don’t naturally fall to anyone, it might be a flag that there’s a skills gap or capacity issue on your team and you need a bigger picture solution, like bringing on new staff.
6. Is there a staff member who you should theoretically delegate the work to, but who you just don’t trust to do it well? If that’s the case, then you’re probably looking at a performance problem, not a delegation problem. That’s something you’d need to tackle head-on; it’s a signal of real trouble on your team.
There are a lot of business people losing sleep these days as they contemplate during the wee hours of the night how they are going to stay competitive in a business landscape that seems to accelerate daily – if not by the hour.
Will they miss the next big opportunity? Will their strategy bog them down? How can they get change to happen quickly when they need it?
The answer may in a new book by John P. Kotter, “Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World.” Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor, advocates a new framework that can help companies thrive in a time of constant change.
Contrary to others who say the only way to survive the new business challenges is to blow up traditional hierarchies, Kotter says companies should keep them in place because they are one of the “most amazing innovations of the 20th century” and they are “absolutely necessary to make organizations work.”
Still, he admits there are some downsides to such management structures, such as policies that inhibit speed and a short-term focus on quarterly results.
That’s why Kotter says that the solution is a dual-operating system.
Under this system, a network-like structure is formed that is more agile and free of bureaucratic labors and runs alongside the traditional hierarchy. The driving force behind the structure is a “volunteer army” of people who are enthusiastic about the vision and strategy.
Such a system allows companies to keep the bottom line healthy, but react more quickly to strategic opportunities and challenges, he says.
“You create this sense of urgency that is less focused on ‘Oh, my God! We’re going to sink!’ to focusing on how there is opportunity in crisis,” Kotter explains. “It’s been proven that once the big opportunity is clear to them, then it becomes rational and compelling and the panic evaporates. “
Kotter explains that the “big opportunity” can be a new market or new demands on a company because of competition, but it can lead to great outcomes if the possibility “is exploited well enough and fast enough.”
One key is that you must appeal to the heart and the mind, Kotter says.
“Passion – or whatever you want to call it – is an incredibly powerful source of energy,” he says.
As the windows of opportunity open and close more quickly than ever before, it’s critical that leaders be able to clearly explain why that window is opening and why they should be excited to jump through it.
Kotter emphasizes that the big opportunity is not a vision, but is more specific. He suggests using a statement such as: “Because of contextual factor X and our special capability Y, we have a very real and exciting opportunity to offer service Z and substantially grow our revenues and profits starting in this year and continuing on for at least five years, with unprecedented benefits flowing from the top of the firm to the bottom.”
Why talk about opportunity and not just state a vision? Because in traditional hierarchies, talking about the future can trigger fears that silos are about to be affected, and that can prompt people to become territorial and protective of their turf. They will become resistant. But when you talk about opportunity, it’s more likely people don’t see their future as being threatened, Kotter explains.
He also warns that a big opportunity should also not be considered a strategy in any way, shape or form.
“A strategy is just a more analytical way of describing a vision,” he says. “If you start with strategies or strategic initiatives to create aligned urgency, more often than not you will be using statements that are emotionally barren: all head and no heart.”
He says that his experience shows that organizations can get 75% of large employee populations to grasp and be excited by a good big opportunity statement in ways that just don’t happen with strategy or vision statements.
In his book, Kotter writes that the most effective big opportunity statements have characteristics such as:
- Being concise. It can be written on less than a page, often just a quarter of a page. Keeping it shorter makes it easier to share with others and helps create a sense of urgency around it among large groups of people.
- Making sense. Based on real happenings inside and outside the organization, the big opportunity statement doesn’t sound like fantasy. It’s based on reality. A good statement will address what, why, why us, why now and why bother.
- Being compelling. It appeals not just to the head, but to the heart of all relevant audiences – not just to the people at the bottom of the hierarchy or the top, to some silos and not others.
- Sounding positive. It’s about an opportunity and isn’t designed to scare anyone. It’s more like a statement of a “burning desire.”
- Feeling real. This isn’t just a feel-good message to rally the troops. Senior leaders genuinely believe in it and are excited about it.
- Being clear. If you don’t want people rushing off in non-aligned directions, ensure your statement is clear so that everyone is on the same page.
- Staying aligned. This statement must be aligned with any existing similar statements at higher levels of the organization. For example, you cannot be at odds with strategic plans or it will lead to stress and problems.
Finally, Kotter says that the most successful statements are created by the executive team of the unit that wants a strategy accelerated immediately, or wants a new way of operating to win in the new business landscape – or both.
“We have no evidence that consultants or task forces can write this sort of statement for people who actually run the relevant unit,” he writes in the book.
On November 30, 2014, end-of-life for Cisco WebEx WebOffice comes to fruition. Intuit QuickBase has been working hard for many of the 350,000 WebOffice worldwide users who were originally notified of the End-of-Life (EOL) process for WebEx WebOffice (“WebExOne”) and Workspace services in December of 2013. These users have been relying on WebEx WebOffice to run their businesses on the Web and have welcomed Intuit’s fast action to make the transition to its more modern and feature-rich cloud-based database platform.
Intuit QuickBase is extending its 25% discount offer for the first year to WebEx WebOffice customers. And as always, support is free.
For all WebEx WebOffice customers who may need to quickly find a replacement database platform for their applications – QuickBase is a cloud workspace for customizable business apps that fit your process exactly. Teams work smarter by collaborating on centralized data, automating tasks and workflows and delivering instant insights through interactive reports.
We welcome WebEx WebOffice users to take advantage of this Special WebEx WebOffice to QuickBase Offer by starting a free 30-day trial today.
“Transitioning from WebEx WebOffice to Intuit QuickBase was extremely easy. I immediately felt at home in QuickBase and understood how it worked. It felt like upgrading from an old, slow car to a new, faster car with that familiar feeling, only with more features and capabilities. Moving to QuickBase from WebOffice was a big, yet simple upgrade. We now run our business on QuickBase and are extremely happy with our decision and experience to date.” - Ian Greig, Group Technical Manager, Run Energy
More than 500,000 users and thousands of companies from small to Fortune 100 have been using QuickBase to solve a wide range of business problems. To date, over 3 million apps have been built in QuickBase. As a customer, you’d be in good company with American Greetings, eBay, Google, Kayak, P&G and more businesses of all sizes running their projects, operations or business on QuickBase.
- Custom Tracking: Track all kinds of things to resolution, from projects to people to budgets without writing a single line of code
- Interactive Reporting: Make an impact with graphical dashboards and interactive reports created with just a few clicks
- All in one place: Collaborate safely by sharing the right data with the right people, inside or outside your company, from one central place
- Automated tasks & workflows: Get more done and reduce errors by automating tasks and workflows
- Documents – Attach different types of documents and share with selected team members
- Security & compliance – Businesses and consumers across the globe entrust their financial information to Intuit’s state-of-the-art data centers
- Getting started: Get a head start with one of the hundreds of ready-made business apps built, used and reviewed by your peers
- Support: Find answers in no time utilizing our remarkable customer care team, live help community, and online help center.
Contact sales directly or start your free trial.
Photo Credit © Cisco WebEx WebOffice
Vampires in popular culture range from Bela Lugosi’s campy Count Dracula, to the sparkly Edward Cullen, to Charlaine Harris’ True Blood vampires who seek peaceful (although sometimes violent) co-existence with humans, to the truly scary Nosferatu and Van Helsing’s Prince of Darkness. Many different qualities and traits have been attributed to the undead, but there are some commonalities: vampires can fly, they avoid daylight, they suck unsuspecting humans dry of blood and energy, they create more vampires, and they can bend others to their will. Oh, and fangs.
Project managers need to be on the lookout for vampires, too. A project vampire can quickly derail progress with tactics that steal the life out of your team and scare them into inactivity. You may have heard the term energy vampire, which refers to appliances and electronics that consume energy in standby mode, even when not being used. Energy vampires waste money and resources. The same is true of project vampires. You may not be aware of them, but they are working behind the scenes to derail your project, and not just on Halloween.
- Project resources are bled dry. When resources and employees are not used efficiently, not only can budget overruns occur, but resources may run out before a successful outcome is achieved. Ensuring a commitment to have necessary resources available and careful management of resources with good project management software can help avoid resource blood-letting.
- Taking flight, vampire-style. You have a room full of brilliant planners with different ideas and diverse goals. In the excitement of getting the project off the ground, things may start moving before the project has good definition. Your project will quickly be out of control and flying off in the wrong direction. Spend enough time at the front end, and don’t mobilize until your team has a cohesive plan and understanding of the desired outcome.
- Avoiding daylight. When a project encounters difficulties, teams can get caught up in the blame game and pointing at reasons for failure. Even worse, problems are ignored and faults or mistakes are hidden. Your project falters as soon as daylight is shone on potential weaknesses because you haven’t accounted for the possibility or owned up to the problem.
- The vampire bite creates vampire children. So do indecisive or vague customers. Trying to please a customer who moves project phases around, changes orders, and keeps altering expectations is like trying to manage dozens of brand-new baby vampires. They are all single-minded, hungry and ready to drag your project off into their distant lair. Managing customer expectations means setting firm goals and schedules and referring back to your outcome plan regularly when indecisiveness threatens.
- Bend to vampire will. This may actually be a vampire strategy good managers can mimic to their benefit. Weak leadership and a lack of clearly defined project objectives can kill project success when scope creep comes along. If multiple requests come in for changes and tweaks, each one demanding accommodation, the project manager can exert his Count Dracula force of will and yell: “Children of the night, shut up!” (Love at First Bite, 1979)
- The invisible vampire. Unforeseen occurrences can impact your outcomes and schedule in a big way. For example, if your product release date coincides with the debut of Edward and Bella’s baby in the latest Twilight Saga sequel, you may have a problem generating interest. Perhaps the best way to protect your project and your team against the unexpected is to perform a good risk assessment. As good vampire boy scouts always say: be prepared.
Finally, a word about fangs. A number of practical vampire proponents have acknowledged that one of the drawbacks to vampire fangs is “fang thpeak.” In other words, fangs interfere with clear speech. Lack of clear communication is perhaps the biggest project killer of them all.
Congratulations. Your business is growing. But to meet your new goals, you now you have to hire a dozen employees in a short period of time. What’s a manager of a fast growing business to do?
You hold a cattle call, that’s what. And from the dozens, if not hundreds, of potential employees that answer your call, you have to choose the best ones. How do you make that process as efficient as possible?
As it happens, we know the answer. Read on.
Determine what you want from a candidate
In order to process and select from a large group of applicants in a single day, try a group challenge and an interview.
Determine what qualities you’re looking for in a candidate and assign point values for each. In the interview portion of the process, you may be looking for conversational skills, creativity, problem-solving aptitude, interpersonal skills, depth of knowledge, etc. But in the group challenge, you may be looking for leadership, ability to recognize and address problems, flexibility between leading and cooperating, and clarity of communication.
Remember to build a spreadsheet or use a voting system ahead of time, enabling you to score each candidate for desirable factors. And don’t forget to provide assessment questionnaires for the interviewers to complete after each interview. Because proper planning prevents repeating this particular performance.
Because one person can’t possibly interview dozens of candidates in one day, build a team of interviewers to share the workload, making sure you have a mix of newer and more seasoned managers within your organization. To better prepare your team, role-play with open-ended questions so they become comfortable conducting mass interviews.
Important: Work with HR to train your team leads in the interview process: They’ll likely need a reminder on what types of questions to ask…and what to avoid.
On the all-important interview day, schedule candidates and interview teams so that candidates meet, say, three interviewers sequentially.
Be sure your team members have 10 minutes between appointments to complete those questionnaires while the interviews are still fresh in their minds.
After the interviews, assign candidates to groups for some teamwork exercises, which will be observed by interviewers. Challenges include assembling a structure from which one piece is missing, or perhaps where some pieces have been incorrectly assigned among the groups. How long until they realize and address the problem? Who leads? Who works well in the group? Who does not?
Take note of the group dynamic too: Is the leader actually leading, or just excluding dissenting opinions? In such cases, it might be the outsiders willing to stand up for themselves you may want to take note of.
Observers should not interact or remark during the exercise but silently observe. At the end of the challenge, observers sit with their assigned teams to discuss the team’s performance. This exercise provides the opportunity to see how candidates handle a combination of stress, competition, and cooperation.
As with the interviews, your team needs to complete their assessment cards for each candidate in the group they are assigned to immediately after the group challenge.
Before displaying the assessment results, allow the team to discuss how the day went. Capture feedback for future improvement and address any immediate issues right away.
Now bring up the candidate list ranked from highest to lowest. Quickly run down from the top, checking for objections as you mark Hire on each of these top candidates, until you reach the point in the list where there is no longer easy consensus. Next, work up from the bottom. Does anyone disagree with your rejections on your way back up the list? Again, stop when you hit the level at which the hire/reject decision is no longer easy.
Save time for the middle and undecided names. There may be some gems who choked on an interview or got lost in the noise of the group challenges. Ask those with a strong feeling for or against a contender to concisely state their case, then take a quick handvote to see whether the candidate’s score has increased or decreased.
Make the hire/reject decision, or move on to the next. Your goal is to select those who are clear hires, reject those who clearly don’t fit, and only spend discussion time on those of the remainder who made a strong impression on your assessment team.
Finally, compare your Hire number to your Openings number. If you’ve selected slightly more candidates than you have openings, do you agree to make offers to all of them or just the standouts? If slightly under, do you need to take a second look at that middle group…or do you actually need a second recruiting effort to close the gap?
When the decision is made, ensure that your recruiting manager gets the offer and rejection notices out to the candidates within the coming week. Set and stick to additional goals regarding negotiation and onboarding.
Last but not least, reward your recruiting team, and get ready to welcome your handpicked group of new hires.
You thought you had a smoothly-functioning team – but now a personal dispute between two staff members is threatening your team’s stability and creating unpleasantness for people around them. What can you do when two people on your team don’t get along?
Before you intervene in any personal dispute between staff members, it’s key to determine the answer to these two questions: How is it impacting the work? And how is it impacting the work environment, both for the people involved and for others around them? You want to stay focused on these questions because whether or not two employees like each other isn’t really your business. You don’t need your staff to be best friends, and it’s fine if people aren’t huge personal fans of each other. But you do need them to work together productively, to be pleasant and professional, and not to create a tense or unpleasant work environment. And that’s where your feedback should be focused – not on their personal feelings toward each other.
It’s entirely reasonable to tell people involved in a coworker dispute that you expect them to behave pleasantly and professionally at work, regardless of their personal feelings for each other, and that part of their jobs is to deal with their coworkers civilly. You should then hold them to that just like you would any other performance expectation.
That said, handling these situations fairly doesn’t require treating both employees exactly the same. If it’s clear to you that one person is in the wrong – or significantly more in the wrong than the other – your discussions with each of them should reflect that. For instance, if you have a situation where one employee is being hostile to another, you should give the instigator the “I expect you to behave pleasantly and professionally” talk above. And then you might meet with the target of the hostility to say something like, “I’ve made it clear to Jane that she needs to treat you pleasantly and professionally. Please let me know if you continue to have problems.”
Additionally, personal disputes should be a rarity. You want to build a team where it’s widely understood that personal conflicts are out of sync with your culture, and where people handle disagreements kindly and professionally. You can do that by modeling that behavior yourself, by talking explicitly about how you expect team members to relate to each others, and by calling it out quickly when you see behavior that doesn’t match up with what you want.
Operation Fuel keeps people warm — literally. The organization partners with communities, businesses, government and people in the state of Connecticut to ensure that thousands of people in need have access to energy assistance – fuels, gas and electric utilities – year-round.
However, piles of paperwork kept Operation Fuel from growing and reaching more people. Fielding thousands of paper applications proved more than Operation Fuel’s processes could handle. Operation Fuel found a solution in an app built with Intuit QuickBase. Within two years, the organization was able to quadruple the assistance it provided to those in need.
“Our program would fail if it weren’t for the Fuel Bank Management System,” says Operation Fuel Executive Director Patricia Wrice. “The system enabled us to grow from a $1 million program to a $4.5 million program. It’s a tool we simply could not function without.”The Need for a Better System
Prior to QuickBase, Operation Fuel’s systems were entirely paper based. The organization fields proposals from statewide social services agencies who act as fuel banks and apply on behalf of each person in need of assistance. Each fuel bank approves its own applications and disperses Operation Fuel funding as needed, but the system was fraught with problems, says Wrice.
“No one knew where they stood against their budget, and we often found the fuel banks were not following our guidelines for approving applications,” she says.
What’s more, Operation Fuel staff had to drive out to the fuel banks to perform audits, which would take months every year.
“The State of Connecticut was prepared to increase our funding, but we needed to show that we could provide a detailed accounting, in real time, of how the monies were being distributed and ensure that we weren’t overspending. More importantly, we needed a system that would provide an accurate picture of the need and how well we were meeting it. The pressure was on,” says Wrice.From Paper to the Cloud in One Month
In 2007, Operation Fuel hired QuickBase Solution Provider Dovetail Associates to build a solution using Intuit QuickBase. In just one month, they were able to design and launch the system, which moved all key processes and data from paper forms to the cloud, giving Operation Fuel the ability to instantly view and track everything they needed to. It wasn’t long before Operation Fuel saw real results.
“Within six months the system was giving us all the data we needed,” says Wrice. “Now fuel banks could sign up a new client in just seven minutes and our staff could see all the activity in real time.”
The system also enables Operation Fuel staff to quickly review and approve all applications, ensuring clients meet application requirements. Fuel banks could also track how much of their budget was left to distribute and Operation Fuel staff no longer needed to conduct audits in the field. By the end of the year, Operation Fuel was able to increase the number of fuel banks it worked with to more than 100. The ability to customize their QuickBase solution remains critical to Operation Fuel, which has to stay on top of an ever-changing landscape.
“Because our eligibility and reporting requirements change from year to year, we needed a flexible solution. QuickBase is just what we were looking for,” says Wrice.
Operation Fuel has also found that training new users is a breeze. Because there is high turnover in the social services sector, every year there are new contacts at the fuel banks who need training. Dovetail Associates creates demonstration videos to describe any application changes from year to year, and Operation Fuel staff do trainings via web conferences when new people join the network. “If we still had a paper system in place, we’d need four to five staff members to manage the program, and even then it would be impossible to do the reporting that’s required,” says Wrice.
For a subscription that costs just $15,000 per year, Operation Fuel has nearly doubled the number of fuel banks it works with. And because the system has helped Operation Fuel disperse all of the fuel funding more accurately each year, the organization has been able to grow from $1M to $4.5M annually.
“If it weren’t for this system, I’m not sure how we could administer our program statewide. Data from QuickBase enabled Operation Fuel to demonstrate that the more resources we have, the more utility and heating assistance we can provide to people in need.”
Learn how Dovetail Associates can address your fundraising and data management needs.
I spoke to Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who has run his own venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures, since 2004, following nearly two decades at VC firm Kleiner Perkins. His highest-profile investments have lately been in clean tech: wood-based biofuel, new types of batteries and water purification. He studied engineering in India, then at age 20 tried and failed to start a soy-milk company. Khosla moved to the U.S., got a Stanford MBA, then co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982. In September 2014 a judge ruled that Khosla must let the public access his private beach near Half Moon Bay in California. In the following brief interview, Khosla talks about what makes a startup successful, how employees can best collaborate, the scalability issues that occur, and what most companies get wrong when it comes to operating a business.
Dan Schawbel: Can you tell me what was different between those startups that worked and didn’t work out, and specifically what was different operationally?
Vinod Khosla: The biggest mistake I see entrepreneurs make is not knowing what they don’t know. That leads startups to focus on the wrong incentives, ask the wrong questions, and over the long run, they are unable to remove the key risks and build a large sustainable business. That being said, I wouldn’t discount the impact of luck and timing for startups. They both play a large role, and assuming otherwise is folly. Often the single biggest differentiator of success is the founder and their entrepreneurial skills, their clarity of vision, their focus on only what is critical, on their leadership and their persistence and openness to learning.
Schawbel: Assuming you’ve hired the right people, how do you get them to collaborate efficiently, especially if distributed?
Khosla: That first assumption is the most important part though, so I would like to focus there. Hiring the right and the best people is incredibly difficult to do, and very few startups get this exactly right. I firmly believe a company becomes the people it hires, and a lot of the other pieces (including collaboration, distributed teams, etc.) will work themselves out with a great team. A great startup team is resourceful and willing to iterate and experiment on all things (not just their product / business model, but also their internal collaboration). Having said that, it is the CEO’s job to provide leadership and ensure that the team operates as a team and has shared and aligned goals.
At Khosla Ventures, we spend a lot of time focused on working with entrepreneurs to develop the right “gene pool” as we like to call it. In fact, we have a whole section on our website dedicated to team building for startups, or gene pool engineering.
Schawbel: What scalability issues occur after the first hundred employees are hired?
Khosla: As a company scales, by default, more structure will need to be added to keep a well functioning organization. This naturally could lead to increased collaboration problems, hierarchy issues, politics, etc. You need process but you cannot let process win over entrepreneurial culture. I would rather have too little management than too much.
To keep a company thinking like a startup, building out your gene pool with the same principles as before is important. For example, Scott Cook talked about a direction change at Intuit for middle managers as “guiding experimentation” rather than “managing projects.”
Schawbel: How do you know what types of functions to build out in an organization as it scales?
Khosla: ”You cannot. You have to assume plans will change, and build teams with that flexibility in mind. Planning is important to understand the quality of thinking of a team and to have them consider all the factors that affect a business. But as the thing to meet at all costs it is mythical targets. Sometimes I see companies meet plans at the expense of building real value on what will make them successful in the long run.”
Schawbel: What do most companies get wrong when it comes to business operations?
Khosla: Going back to the beginning – companies tend to have blind spots because they don’t’ know what they don’t know. It’s impossible to completely correct for, but missing those critical questions can lead to problems in recruiting, team building (which can manifest years later), sales strategy, product building, etc. There are many tactical and strategic issues that different companies can get wrong (e.g. scale before product-market fit, solve a problem no one will pay for, etc.) but those typically are manifestations of the original issue. I am always surprised how many organizations know what they are doing but have not formally and critically asked why they are doing it and is that the most efficient thing to do.
More than three decades ago, psychologist Aaron Beck and his student David Burns explored the idea of the cognitive distortion, or an assumption the mind makes that isn’t objectively true. Even though they are inaccurate, they sound rational, and so they trap us in a cycle of negative thinking and behavior. In alphabetical order, here are the most common cognitive distortions. Do you recognize any of them?
Black and White Thinking
We tend to place people and situations in either/or categories. Either something or someone is all good or all bad. Shades of gray don’t exist, leading us to view ourselves and others as failures if we aren’t 100 percent perfect in every way.
As victims of blaming, we either constantly chastise ourselves for things that are not our fault, or we transfer all responsibility to other people without objectively considering our own role in the situation.
No matter how many times life hands us lemonade, we expect lemons. Misfortune is likely in every situation and there’s little we can do about it. When we hear about something bad happening to another person, we feel certain that the same thing will happen to us.
We assume that, with enough effort, we have the power to transform others, and we believe that we can’t be happy unless other people change to suit our needs.
We may be either internally or externally controlled – and they’re both bad. Too much internal control means that we take responsibility for the pain and happiness of the people in our lives. Too much external control means that everything that happens is the result of fate and we bear no personal responsibility.
When we feel an emotion about something, we assume that something must be true. We believe our feelings are a completely accurate portrayal of reality, which is of course not the case.
We have an implicit belief that every situation must be fair and are constantly examining whether we are being dealt with in a just manner. Because other people won’t always agree with us about what is fair, and because sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways, we end up feeling cheated and resentful.
During the course of a single work day, we might experience 12 positive incidents and 1 negative incident, yet our mind will focus solely on the negative incident and blow it out of proportion until our perception of the whole day is soured.
Heaven’s Reward Fallacy
We go through life as martyrs, thinking that if we sacrifice for the greater good, we will be rewarded with good things. We incorrectly believe that some great force is up there keeping score.
Jumping to Conclusions
Although we aren’t mind readers, we think we know how other people feel without them telling us, and we anticipate what they’re going to do before they do it. We interact with them based on an assumption that’s likely inaccurate.
A single error or behavior may cause us to attach a negative label to a person or situation. For instance, if a fellow passenger cuts in line at airport security, we may say: “he’s so selfish.” We may also attach negative, overarching labels to ourselves based on failing at specific tasks. For example, we may say: “I’m a bad parent,” because we didn’t handle a simple conflict with a child as effectively as we could have.
When something bad happens once, we assume it will keep happening, and we’ll draw a general conclusion (typically a negative one) based on a single piece of evidence.
We often look for the insult or personal affront in others’ behavior toward us. We may also view ourselves as the reason behind an external event over which we had no control.
We’re convinced that our beliefs and opinions are correct and that other people are wrong. We will argue with others until the cows come home because we can’t imagine that we’re the ones who are mistaken.
I’ve talked about this one before. We create mental scripts about how people are supposed to behave and how life is supposed to proceed. We get upset with ourselves when we don’t follow the rules, and upset with others when they don’t.Banishing your distortions
So how do you get around these cognitive distortions before they ruin your life and work?
The first step is simply to identify when you’re engaging in negative thinking and try to refute the thought in your mind.
For instance, if you wake up in a bad mood, you might arrive at work feeling inadequate and incompetent. But once you recognize that feeling inadequate and incompetent doesn’t mean you are (emotional reasoning), you can coach yourself with positive thoughts like, “I was the only one in the group to get promoted last year,” and “my boss trusted me to draft his report for the general manager.” Your emotions might not change immediately, but you’ll be much better equipped to get on with your day.
Here are four key steps to persuading your boss to let you take on higher level work.
1. Be really great at what you’re already doing. This is easily the most important item on this list. Your manager is far, far more likely to give you more responsibility or more challenging work if you’re doing a great job with what you already have. Show that you can be counted on to stay on top of what comes your way and that you approach whatever you’re assigned with excellence, and you’ll have already done a lot of the groundwork in showing your boss that you’re a smart risk for bigger assignments.
2. Have a plan to keep your existing work covered. Your boss might be perfectly willing – in theory – to let you work on that new high-profile project or to let you take on a whole new area of responsibility, but her bigger priority is probably ensuring that none of your existing work slips. Give some thought to how you can take on the new stretch assignment without giving short shrift to the rest of your work, and be ready with a plan that will set your boss’s mind at ease. (Of course, in some cases, the new work might be important enough that the plan might include delegating some of your existing projects to others, but make sure you’ve thought through the options and have a realistic proposal ready to go.)
3. Suggest something low-stakes. If your boss isn’t as enthused as you are about you branching into a new area, suggest something low-stakes at first so that if it doesn’t work out, the impact will be contained. For instance, if you’d like to get more management experience, you might propose managing the department’s interns before you take on managing full-time staff. Or if your goal is to eventually run important client meetings, you might propose just filling in for your boss when she can’t attend.
4. If all else fails, ask what you’d need to do to get a “yes” in the future. If you try all the above and don’t get results, ask your manager what you should work on in order to get a different answer down the road. A good manager should be able to give you candid feedback about what skills you need to develop in order to take on more responsibility in the future.
Social media, cloud computing, big data and analytics are changing the way companies function, and digital innovations are only expected to grow. Companies that ignore this reality will be left behind, while the “digital masters” will increase their potential, contends new research.
When hearing the term “digital masters,” many business people think of Silicon Valley and the whiz kids running dominant IT companies like Google.
But a new book contends that it’s time other companies woke up to the reality that if they want to excel in the future – with their employees, with their customers and in running their operations – then they need to also embrace the idea of using technology to transform their business. They, too, must become digital masters.
In a study of more than 400 large mainstream organizations in every industry around the world, authors of “Leading Digital,” found that digital masters are those companies that use digital technologies to drive greater profits, productivity and performance. Specifically, research shows that those who do digital transformation well are on average 26% more profitable than industry peers.
George Westerman, a research scientist in the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and one of the book’s authors, says the research also found that companies lagging behind in making a digital transformation were often worried about the cost, the lack of skills or regulatory concerns.
But the book debunks those worries, noting that making a digital transformation isn’t just about pouring money into IT and trying to woo talent away from Silicon Valley. Westerman explains, for example, that it’s also critical that a company have the leadership willing to drive that transformation throughout the culture. In addition, the employee talent for digital transformation doesn’t just come from tech backgrounds, he says.
“You don’t have to make yourself into Google,” he says. “Even if you’re making soap, there are things you can put into place that will give you an edge.”
If you don’t, Westerman warns, be prepared to be less productive, profitable and left behind as your competitors make the transformation.
Authors Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee found that digital masters are those who use analytics, social media, mobile and embedded devices to understand customers better. These companies also implement technology to link customer-facing and operational processing in new ways. At the same time, they use analytics to make better operational decisions, as well as digital technology to increase the performance and value of existing products.
Just Do It
One of those companies profiled as a digital master is Nike.
The authors note that while Nike has traditionally built its business through innovative products, intensive brand building and efficient operations, Nike jumped on new digital technologies. Specifically, the company used technologies to improve customer experiences, develop new selling processes, connect athletes worldwide and implement new design and manufacturing methods in its operations.
They explain that Nike didn’t begin by strategizing its business model, but rather investigated ways it could provide more value to its connected customers. While it had a social media presence, it decided to weave its technology and information together in a new business model, which is how the Nike+ concept took off, the authors say.
Nike+ includes several connected elements such as a shoe, a sensor, an internet platform, and a device such as an iPhone or a FuelBand.
This allows Nike to gather valuable information about how customers use its products, which allows the company to improve the product and develop an engaged community of users.
“What Nike demonstrates is that you don’t have to rebuild the wheel every time,” Westerman says. “They are coordinating everything very nicely.”
Westerman explains that Nike lets its various operations do what they do best, whether it’s marketing or product design, while providing each one with more information to help them do their jobs better. For example, social media conversations from customers about how a new product is being used is conveyed to those building the products, while marketing is in the loop regarding a new product before it’s even built.
Nike CEO Mark Parker has made it clear he doesn’t want the company resting on its laurels.
“One of my fears is being this big, slow, constipated bureaucratic company that’s happy with its success,” he says. “Companies fall apart when their model is so successful that it stifles thinking that challenges it. It’s like the Joker said – ‘this town needs an enema.’”
The authors explain that there are a dozen steps to becoming a digital master, beginning with an awareness by top leaders that digital is critical and the opportunities it brings. But more than that, companies must be able to transform a digital transformation vision into action by setting strategic goals and designing a roadmap of digital activities. Funding the transformation, explaining the benefits to employees and aligning incentives and rewards are also keys to success, they say.
“There are a lot of smart people in a lot of industries,” Westerman says. “It’s time companies brought in those who are able to think digitally and put some of these things in place. Let IT be part of the conversation, because it will cost you more if you work around them. You need a tight link with IT.”
I spoke to Karin Hurt, the author of Overcoming An Imperfect Boss and the award-winning blog, Let’s Grow Leaders. Hurt has a diverse background of executive leadership experience in sales, customer service, call centers, human resources, merger integration, training and leadership development – the last 20 years of which have been with Verizon. Most recently, she served as Executive Director of the Strategic Partnership Channel at Verizon Wireless where she transformed customer service outsourcing, working with companies and call centers to build strong cultures that deliver positive customer experiences. Prior to that she led a Verizon Wireless sales team, leading the nation in store sales to the small and medium business space. In the following brief interview, Hurt talks about being successful at work despite a bad boss, how to build a stronger relationship with your boss, and more.
Dan Schawbel: Is it possible to be success at work if you have a bad boss? Why or why not?
Karin Hurt: Absolutely. You just have to work a bit harder. In fact, having a “bad” boss can actually be a catalyst to success because you have to work harder to fine-tune your persuasion and other skills, and it forces you to create a more robust network of support.
Schawbel: What are some ways to build a deeper connection with your boss?
First, recognize that she’s just a messy human being doing the best she can just like you. Letting your boss off the hook from being “perfect” or fitting into your ideal standards will be very liberating for both of you. Next, communicate: Arrange some time to talk about how you can best support him or her. Also do what you can to make her life easier: (1) Sweat the small stuff and do what you say you will do without reminding (2) proactively communicate, make emails easy to read and forward in bulleted summaries (3) uncover issues and address them (4) thank her for her help – everyone likes a bit of genuine appreciation, and (5) document your accomplishments.
Schawbel: Why are people so quick to leave their company because of their manager and what should they do instead?
Research has shown that the most significant indicator of job satisfaction is the relationship with the boss. That frustration often leads to quitting a job prematurely. If you’re considering leaving your job because of a boss, think well. Bosses come and go. Don’t waste all you’ve invested because of one jerky guy. On the other hand if your jerky boss is only one part of the problem, look deeper. Your boss may be reacting to your behavior or your impact on the team. Before you quit, invest in having a deeper conversation with your boss. Get to know him or her on a more personal level and find out what more you can be doing to enhance the relationship. Also work to broaden your network of support. Seek out mentors and sponsors. Invite others to share their feedback with you on how they perceive you. Volunteer for special projects that will give you broadened exposure and new challenges. Work to build strong and deep relationships with your peers.
Schawbel: Can you explain one exercise that leaders can do to improve their relationship with their boss?
I include an exercise in my book where both the employee and the manager complete a simple assessment of the relationship, based on 4 components (R.E.A.L.) Results, Energy, Authenticity and Learning. Then you sit down together and discuss the strengths of your relationship and areas you would like to improve. Then you identify a few specific actions to which you will each commit. This exercise reinforces that the relationship is two-way. You each are answering the same questions.
Sample questions include:
Results: Our work together leads to breakthrough results.
Energy: I’m energized by our interactions
Authenticity: I trust you to tell me the truth
Learning: You challenge me to improve
Schawbel: What impact can a bad or good boss have on your career and how can you maximize the relationship?
Some bosses are better than others, but it’s tough to categorize any human being as either “good” or “bad.” You can learn a great deal from the strengths and weaknesses of any boss you have. Pay attention to how your boss’s behaviors impact you and others. Don’t let a jerky boss turn you into a jerk, but letting stress roll down hill or picking up bad habits. Ideally you’ll have some great bosses in your career who will help to develop you had help you to grow, but never forget that you are in charge of your career. You have more power than you think.
You can download a free chapter of the book here: http://imperfectboss.letsgrowleaders.com/
“Show me the money!” is the popular refrain from the movie “Jerry McGuire,” but how would your boss react if you said such a thing? The woman who is known as the “female Jerry McGuire” says she has the negotiation tips you need to get what you want on the job – and a special message for women.
Molly Fletcher spent nearly 20 years as a female sports agent, handling famous professionals like baseball’s John Smoltz and football’s Joe Theismann. She has overcome stereotyping and criticism as she fought for and achieved deals for more than 300 clients. She’s learned the art of negotiation in the rough-and-tumble world of professional players and coaches and recently talked with Anita Bruzzese about lessons learned and why the secret is treating the deal like “a conversation, a relationship, a rhythm built over time.”
Anita Bruzzese: You’ve negotiated contracts for people like Joe Theismann, Bobby Cox and Doc Rivers. What are some lessons you learned from negotiating in such male-dominated sports?
Molly Fletcher: To be authentic. You develop a reputation based on the way you negotiate and how you approach the conversation. Negotiating in that type of high-pressure environment certainly taught me a lot and shaped my 5-step approach which I share in my book, “A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating.”
AB: Which is what?
MF: You have to be prepared, find a way to connect, know your stuff and remember it’s a long-term relationship. It’s also important that you be able to embrace the pause, not take anything personally and learn from your mistakes.
AB: What part did being a woman play in your negotiating tactics?
MF: It wasn’t something I consciously thought about entering a negotiation. There were certainly a few occasions where I was reminded of my gender, but I never tried to be someone or something that I wasn’t. In my experience, I maybe had less room for error, especially early on in a relationship because I was the only female in the room. I learned to always have something up my sleeve and I was very observant. You don’t always have to hit someone over the head to show them that you belong. Sometimes it’s just a subtle comment or piece of information you weave into the conversation that commands respect.
AB: It’s been said that men are better negotiators than women. Do you find this to be true?
MF: One of the things I emphasize in the book is that negotiation isn’t a trait that you are born with. Anyone can learn to be an effective negotiator with practice. That is where you see the gender difference. It’s not that men are born with a negotiation “gene.” Men, for a variety of social and institutional reasons, feel more welcomed at the negotiating table. They initiate negotiations about four times as often as women do. They do it more often, and as a result, get better at the skill. It’s my goal to make women a much greater part of that conversation. I want women to feel comfortable negotiating and to be able to ask with confidence for what they want.
AB: What are some common mistakes you believe women make when negotiating?
MF: The biggest one is not even making “the ask.” About 20% of women, according to a recent survey, say they don’t negotiate at all. To generalize, women are often afraid of making the ask, especially when there is ambiguity or gray area. They worry about damaging the relationship, being perceived negatively by their peers or hearing no. Women also sometimes feel pressured to adopt a negotiation style that’s not them. I’ve never seen that be successful.
AB: What are some common mistakes that everyone makes, whether male or female?
MF: Lack of preparation seems basic, but many people don’t do a good enough job of combining the hard data with 360-degree awareness. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and it’s especially true in negotiation. Also know what’s not on the table. We might recognize monetary value, but what else matters and what else is potentially available?
And finally, most people don’t take the time to build a relationship with the other side. They approach negotiation as an adversarial battle where the winner takes all, instead of as a productive conversation.
AB: What was one of the toughest negotiations you’ve ever been involved in, and how did you react?
MF: The toughest negotiations are when there isn’t a “better option” or choice was incredibly limited and the other party potentially knows it. Not having leverage is a tough position to be in during a negotiation. You have to be able to use every possible resource you can to create leverage for yourself. That’s when you have to be really creative but also realistic.
AB: How do you know it’s time to be satisfied with what you’ve achieved in negotiations and not press it too far?
MF: You have to get as clear as you can before the process even gets started. Negotiations can be emotional, they can be draining and they can take on a life of their own if you let them. You have to really prepare and be clear on what you want before you even start the conversation. Ask yourself: At what point am I comfortable walking away? What does success look like?
Keep yourself in check and know what’s fair. Recognize that this is hopefully a relationship and a conversation that will continue. It’s important to not put yourself in a position where you can’t go back to the relationship because you’ve overleveraged a situation at the expense of the relationships. Anticipate what might happen if you do over-negotiate.
I would see this a lot in sports, where an athlete would command the highest salary possible, but then seemingly be blindsided by the pressure and expectations that came with it.
AB: Is there anything that isn’t negotiable?
MF: Of course there are boundaries, but it’s an important question to ask. If we start to think that way, we see more opportunities. The reality is, we negotiate every day in our lives, whether we realize it or not. When we fail to recognize that an opportunity to negotiate even exists – that’s when sometimes we really miss out.
We recently talked about mistakes to avoid in your one-on-one’s with your manager. This week, let’s look at mistakes you might be making – and should avoid – in one-on-one’s if you’re the boss.
We’ve talked about some of the basics in the past: Ask your staff member to prepare an agenda; spend most of your time on items that truly require conversation, not just on general updates; ask probing questions to figure out how work is really playing out; and give feedback as a regular part of these meetings. If you’re doing all that, you’re already ahead of the game! But now, let’s refine your check-ins further, by ensuring that you’re not making these four common mistakes.
1. Not taking a few minutes to reflect and prepare before the meeting. Hopefully you’ve asked your staff member to create an agenda for the meeting, but be sure that you’re also setting aside time to review it before you meet. If you’re walking into the meeting cold, you won’t have had the time to really think about the items your staff member has indicated she’d like to discuss, and you probably won’t have had time to think about items of your own that you want to allot time for.
2. Not letting your staff member run the meeting. If you want to help your team members take more ownership over their work, having them run your one-on-one’s is a great way to reinforce that. By putting them in charge of thinking through the agenda and how to make the best use of your time together, and by letting them set the pace of the meeting, you’re giving them responsibility for being thoughtful and strategic about what they need from you in order to keep their realms running as effectively as possible. Coach people to do this, and you’ll reap the benefits through a more engaged team.
3. Only talking about ongoing work or projects that are coming up, and neglecting to debrief work that recently finished. It’s easy to fall into this habit – after all, work that’s still in process or coming up quickly on the horizon is the most urgent and pressing. But if you don’t set aside time to talk over how recently completed work went, you’re losing out on one of the most valuable opportunities you have to develop your staff members’ skills and set them up to get better and better at what they do (or to talk about ways someone might be falling short, if that’s the case).
4. Not prioritizing them. If you cancel check-ins, regularly reschedule, or don’t hold them at all, you’re shortchanging yourself and your team. Sometimes managers feel that they talk so often with staff members throughout the week that there’s no need for a separate check-in, but even in that context there are real benefits to check-ins: They provide structured time to reflect on progress, give feedback, and talk about bigger picture issues that often won’t otherwise come up in the course of day to day work.
How do you effectively measure the success of a project and then how do you communicate that success to stakeholders? In this interview with program manager Adam Kowal, from Intuit QuickBase, we asked him about ways to help you make sure you’re using and reporting on the “right” metrics.
Alexandra Levit: Adam, what should you do at the planning stages of a project to ensure that you are able to effectively measure success later?
Adam Kowal: Ensure the team and leaders are aligned on what you are trying to achieve with the project. Think about why you are trying to affect change. If you don’t have alignment here, all is lost. Then, facilitate a session to brainstorm the quantitative or qualitative metrics that will be good leading indicators of success and final indicators of success. Understand what your dials are and how you are going to turn them – so you can watch if turning the dial makes any difference.
Limit the important success metrics to no more than three. If you have too many, you probably don’t really know how to measure success. Also, watch out for people trying to solve for the “number,” which could result in bad business decisions made to ensure hitting metrics.
Alex: Do you have an example of this?
Adam: Sure, how about measuring call centers on “time on phone” without realizing that reps are creating terrible customer experiences and not up-selling/cross-selling in an effort to get the customer off the phone faster.
Alex:What metrics are most eye-catching to senior leaders and why?
Adam: This is a three-part answer. 1) The most eye-catching metrics to senior leaders are ones that don’t add up! You must ensure you have good data and have tested your instrumentation process. 2) In my experience, a good PM will align with senior leaders on what metrics are most important to their group and the business as a whole. Make sure you’re not wasting time crunching numbers no one cares about. 3) Information that means something is eye-catching. Don’t put the onus on senior leaders to distill all your data into action. Do it for them and talk through your logic.
Alex: What mistakes do you see PMs making most often with respect to measurement?
Adam: Changing the goal posts willy-nilly. If you determine over time that some of your metrics aren’t right, don’t change them in a vacuum. Think end-to-end about the impact of the change and discuss the issue with your stakeholders. Don’t spin on it for weeks – push for a decision ASAP.
Alex: Once you have initial results, how can you keep measurement momentum going so that you are able to report on long-term success?
Adam: It’s the PM’s responsibility to champion ongoing attention to this. Metrics are highly sought after in the first few months of a program, but then people tend to get metric-itis. But the one time you don’t check the metrics, something important will pop up that you’ll miss. One helpful tool is a web-based dashboard report that provides a consistent look at your metrics and gets stakeholders into the habit of doing regular quick checks.
Alex: Any final recommendations?
Adam: Yes, one more thing. Partner early with whoever owns system reporting or needs to build instrumentation. Often reporting and instrumentation are an afterthought, and it’s too late to do them right – or do them at all. Be planful when it comes to these, and make them part of the project requirements at step one.
In our previous interview with Adam, we asked,”Are you collecting customer feedback the right way?”
Over 300 million members in 200 countries use LinkedIn as a favorite professional social network, a way to connect with both friends and potential employers. But if you consider it merely a job search and recruiting tool, you’re missing out. LinkedIn is the single most powerful tool for business development and sales leads—if you know how to use it. Lucky for you, we do. Let’s get LinkedIn to work for you.
Before we can start, there are three preliminary steps you must take:
Create your profile with your audience in mind.
Under your profile summary and the description under your current job, write a small “pitch” on behalf of your company…while still conveying who you are as a person.
For instance, you might say, “I have been a sales and business development professional for the last ten years, and it is my personal mission to ensure customers have the best possible experience when they work with my company. If your company needs to convey its strategic value to its target clients, call me. My company can help yours shine.”
Make it easy to contact you: Add your email, Twitter, and even phone number to your profile.
Connect to your existing contacts.
Ideally, you should be linked to more than 500 connections. Your colleagues, former and present, should be the first people you contact. Quality counts as much as quantity. Make sure you are linked to a few leaders of your industry…even if you don’t know them personally.
It may take time for some people to accept your invitations. Be patient.
Join relevant Groups.
Join up to 50 professional associations, industry groups, alumni groups, or geographically specific groups. Remember to focus on the most popular ones in your field.
LinkedIn’s search algorithm gives you results that are displayed in order of keyword relevance, as well as your degree of connection. Those who are first-degree connections come first, followed by second-degree connections (you know at least one person in common), followed by people with whom you share a group, followed by 3rd degree connections and those you have no connection with. Therefore, joining all the right groups is crucial to adding connections.
Once you have set your account up for success, you can leverage the Advanced search of LinkedIn, a powerful tool for reaching the right decision-makers.
To do this, click on the word “Advanced” next to the small magnifying glass icon on the top of the screen.
On the next page, you’ll see the “Relationship” section in the middle. It will default to only selecting 1st/2nd/Group-level connections. Be sure to select 3rd degree connections to get all results.
Here’s where the fun happens:
Search for your future client by job title and company name. If you want to find all the chief technology officers at Aetna, you can complete that exact search. (To make sure you are getting search results of only people currently at Aetna, select “Current” under “Company.”)
Search by a specific phrase, using quotation marks. For instance, if you are searching for alumni of Columbia University, you can do an Advanced Search and enter list “Columbia University” (in quotes) to get alumni of Columbia University. If you search just for Columbia University (no quotes), you will find alumni of the University of British Columbia and several other unrelated schools.
You can use Boolean search terms as well— “OR” “AND,” or “NOT” (in all capital letters). For example, perhaps you want to search for CTOs and CIOs at Aetna. You can enter, under “Job Title,” the following search string: “Chief Technology Officer” OR “Chief Information Officer” OR “CIO” OR “CTO.” To generate a list of CIOs in the oil and energy industry within 50 miles of Houston, you can search by job title and delimit by industry and zip code.
Note: If a contact is a 3rd degree connection, you can either upgrade and send InMail, or copy and paste the person’s “headline” and first name into Google, which usually reveals their full profile and a “Connect” button.
Within your search results, look at the left-hand side of the page. You can also find the top five current companies of people with certain job titles, which can help you expand your search:
You can also look under company pages to find other companies that “people also viewed” to find similar companies and key groups:
And for many individual people in your search results, you can find “people similar to” and “people also viewed” for that contact person—all great sources for additional leads.
Here is an example of “people similar to”:
And “people also viewed”:
Once you find your ideal target, you have to connect with them. To connect, be sure to click to view the person’s full profile (clicking the “Connect” button from the search results page—or from the mobile app—will not allow you to customize your invite message).
Finally, write your crucial introduction message, something like, “Does your company need a secure, cloud-based platform for sales management, which allows for your sales team to connect from their mobile devices? I’d love to tell you more about our new software that is perfect for mid-sized companies like yours.” If the invite is accepted, you can follow up with a longer message and a request to chat.
The rest is business history.
I spoke with Jason Falls, who is the SVP of Digital Strategy at Elasticity. Falls is the co-author of two books: No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing (Que 2011), co-authored with Erik Deckers; and The Rebel’s Guide To Email Marketing (Que 2012), co-authored with DJ Waldow. Falls is also noted for founding SocialMediaExplorer.com, one of the industry’s most widely read blogs. In the following brief interview, he talks about how to get your employees to understand their role with social media, the type of content they should publish, the mistakes employees make, and more.
Dan Schawbel: How do you get your employees to understand what they can and can’t post on social media? What is the best way to align their postings with the company they work for?
Jason Falls: That’s a great question because I can count on one hand how many people actually read the policy manual. The key to ensuring any policy you have is enforced is to continually discuss it and reinforce the good (not just the bad) in the office. Make it a point to find the employees that are really doing a good job of sharing content, aligning with the company and being useful in that realm and showing the rest of your employees what good is. The reason many feel as if they don’t want to be a part of any company effort is they don’t know what good looks like. That, and they think the company is going to try and force them to post. Illustrate what the appropriate use for them is personally and for the company as a whole and they’ll be more apt to want to help.
Schawbel: What types of content can employees share on social media that will make a big impact on the company from both a revenue and thought leadership perspective?
Falls: Any content that makes them (the employee) look smart in the eyes of the ultimate consumer of the company. If you’re in the financial services industry, your social posts that will be most beneficial to your company are those that share good information about investing, saving money, managing money and the like. These can simply be links you share from media sites like the Wall Street Journal, or they can be the company’s posts. The important thing for the employee is to carve out their own reputation as someone who is a resource of good content in that given area. The fact they work for the institution at hand is the residual benefit for the company.
Schawbel: What mistakes do you see employees make on social media? How should a company respond to an employee who is “off-brand”?
Falls: Assuming the employee identifies themselves clearly as an employee of the company (because without this, the company is less affected by their social posts, positively or negatively), the biggest mistake I see is the employee who mixes far too much personal that might be distasteful to some with the posts that support the company’s mission. I think this is why most people defer to the personal account only approach. Twitter and Facebook are more suited for personal connections, so talking about going out for cocktails on the weekend is more natural content there. But when that bio says “Company XYZ” and that drinking Tweet is there, well, that’s not going to be kosher with most employers.
A company should simply reach out to the employee and remind them of the policy. Certainly they can implement some 1st, 2nd and 3rd offense repercussions. But, depending on the nature of the company policy, at the end of the day, the employee either identifies themselves publicly and openly as an employee of the company and follows the rules. Or they remove the company exposure as much as they can and treat it as a personal account. I’m sure there will be litigation and the like to come in the next 5-10 years that will better define this legally, but if I were a company, I would err on the side of assuming you have no right to an individual’s social media accounts unless they are those created for the employee by the company and for company use.
Schawbel: Do you recommend that a company develops social media guidelines or some kind of doctrine to get employees on the same page? Why or why not?
Falls: Certainly. We live in a search engine and social network world. This is where people are spending time, searching for and finding information, sharing conversations and information with their friends and family — and sometimes about companies and products. Consumers are there, so companies need to be. Consumers are employees, too, so their employer needs to ensure they are not detracting from the company in their social postings. While there are lots of various approaches, both liberal and conservative and that benefit the company more or the employee more, each company should have a policy, even if that policy is simply: Don’t do anything foolish.
Schawbel: Based on all of your corporate experience, can you give examples of companies that have been able to successfully align themselves around social media and what they did right?
Falls: The easy answer is Zappos. They empower their employees to represent the company right along with their own personal content, recognizing that people are people and glorious in all their differences, strengths, weaknesses, etc. But these people also work at Zappos and can help you if you need something here. At Cafepress, our policy was that your social networks are yours but behavior there that is detrimental to the company is like behavior at a bar or anywhere else that is detrimental to the company. We certainly encouraged employees to share company content and help remind folks that’s the best place to get custom or personalized products, but it was never a requirement, even for the marketing team. For those that chose to share, they were always positive and aligned with the messaging the company pushed around our content.
So you’re ready to launch a carefully scheduled project plan. You’ve planned backwards and mapped out each stage of the work and who will be responsible for what, and your project plan is a thing of beauty. What could go wrong?
Plenty, it turns out. Here are five of the things most likely to disrupt your project plan if you don’t factor them in from the beginning.
1. Not finding out from the start who needs to be consulted or bought in. While you’re the one who’s overseeing and perhaps doing the work, there may be others in your organization (or even outside of it) who need to be consulted along the way. Don’t assume that you’ll be told this information proactively, either. It’s often the kind of thing that comes up when a project is halfway through or (worse) near the end. So make a point of explicitly inquiring at the start of the project whether there are specific people who need to have input or be on board with how you plan to proceed.
2. Not confirming each part of the schedule with others who are involved. If you’re relying on others to play a role in the work – whether it’s actually doing pieces of it or simply signing off on work – make sure that you’ve confirmed with them that your schedule works on their side. Otherwise, you risk finding out at a crucial point in the project that the person you were counting on to sign off by the end of the week is out of the country on vacation and unreachable.
3. Not getting buy-in from leadership above you to prioritize the work. The important thing to note here isn’t just that your leadership needs to think the work is a good idea and worth doing; it’s that they need to be willing to prioritize it over other uses of time and resources. “Sounds like a good idea – see if you can make it happen” is a different thing than “let’s commit to getting it done by January and here’s a budget to use.” If you’re planning to allocate significant amounts of energy to a project, make sure that the management above you is aligned with you about when it should happen and what that will mean for other demands on your time that might arise.
4. Not being clear with others about the roles you need them to play. Especially when you’re relying on a peer to complete a piece of a project, it’s easy to inadvertently miscommunicate what you’d like that person’s role to be. For example, your coworker might assume that you’re only seeking ideas from her, or that her participation is optional, when in fact you need her to actually complete a piece of work by a specific deadline. Be sure to clarify exactly what roles you’ll need people to play from the start – and don’t hide the message. Saying “It would be great if you were able to put something together by the end of the month” conveys a different message than “I will need final copy from you by October 29 in order to make our printer deadline.”
5. Not checking in with others as the work progresses. Don’t assume that work is progressing as you’d planned simply because you’ve given assignments to others. Instead, make a point of engaging regularly, so that you’ll know if the work is moving forward on schedule or whether course corrections are needed. Otherwise, you risk having a nasty surprise when work isn’t completed on schedule or looks significantly different from what you were envisioning.
Thank you again for joining us on October 8 for our special Expert Webinar Series on Improving Your Business’s Operations and Project Success – with Gordon Tredgold, Founder of Leadership Principles. Gordon shared with you the FAST method for improving business operations and project delivery. This educational event was recorded and may now be watched onDemand.
As promised, below are the questions asked that we were unable to get to during the live event. If you have further questions, please leave them in the comments.
Q: Should one always broadcast who is accountable for certain outcomes? (Some people are tempted to misuse or misinterpret that information as “blame target”.
Gordon Tredgold: It depends on what you mean, “broadcast?”
Accountability is a 2-way street. We need to be clear about what out expectations are, and we need to be sure that we have ensured that they have the right skills, tools and authority levels to do the job. Then the person accountable can accept their accountability. It’s the acceptance of accountability that drives performance not the broadcasting of it. That does have more of a blame target feel to it. I would also advise asking people if there is any reason why they cannot accept accountability, because if there is, then we need to address this. So it’s more of a conversation than a broadcast!
Q: Is/Should accountability always be accompanied by metrics?
GT: There needs to be some transparency into the performance so that we can see whether they are performing well or not, and if not then provide support and assistance.
So where possible I would always like to get metrics. In SMART goals the M is for measurable and we should look to make all our goals measurable. We need to know what success looks like, so that we know when we have achieved it. I can’t just say I am going to go on a diet to become thinner, it’s hard to know whether or not I achieved, it. I would say, I want to drop a dress size, or I want to lose x lbs. Remember the saying, “what we measure we improve.” I am a very strong believer in that.
Q: Is there a difference (in your definition) between “simple” and “elegant?”
GT: Yes, I think that elegant solutions are generally simple, but I wouldn’t necessarily say all simple solutions are elegant. For example, in the NASA and the pen story during the webinar, would you call the pencil an elegant solution?
Q: What are the specific tools that you were talking about for holding one accountable?
GT: We need to have visibility into performance, and in my experience real live data from systems like Intuit QuickBase can be very helpful for achieving that. I am not a big fan of people giving Powerpoint presentations to show progress, I like to see data extracted from systems. Because then we are discussing performance rather than whether the data presented is correct or not. This data could be sales data from Sales systems, or cost centre data coming out of our Accounting systems. In IT operations, I like to get the data directly out of the trouble ticketing systems such as Remedy. We need to have systems of record, and use those. You can use tools like QuickBase to extract and consolidate the information from source systems, and I have also used Excel to achieve the same although that’s a bit old school now.
Q: I may have missed if Gordon recommended a Project Management software?
GT: I think QuickBase is an excellent tool, and can be used to store estimates, plans and be used to provide dashboards which show our actual performance compared to our planned performance. As I mentioned we need to try and create a GPS for our business or operations, so that we can react in a timely manner to achieve our goals, rather than getting into a situation where we are relying on hope and luck, because hope is not a strategy.
Q: What are challenges, if we hold people accountable for execution of process? Could you expand on that?
GT: OK – where I live in Germany there is a rule and a process that states plants need to be watered if the temperature is above 32C/90F.
So people are judged on whether they watered them when the temp is above 90F. Last summer we had 5 days of torrential rain, we had flood, then the 6th day the temp was 92F.
We had people watering plants standing in 6 inches of water. It was madness. If we held people accountable for the plants being healthy and watered, on this day they would have simply said, OK, it doesn’t make sense to water them. Also what happens when it’s 88F for 20 days in a row, surely the temp is not above 90F, but those plants still need watering. If all the plants die, the gardener can always say, but I followed the process? We need to hold people accountable to results rather than process, because it’s difficult to come up with processes which account for every single situation.
I know this is a simple example, but it’s true and I wanted to show what can happen in such situations.