The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture

“Accountability is one of the biggest challenges business leaders face, but it can also be one of the most important factors leading to success.” Greg Bustin

Top business consultant and speaker Greg Bustin has dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of companies on this crucial topic. Over the last five years, he has interviewed and surveyed more than 3,200 executives around the world–from such admired companies as Marriott, Container Store, Ernst & Young, Sony, Herman Miller, Nucor, and Southwest Airlines–to understand how high-performing corporations successfully create and sustain a culture of purpose, trust, and fulfillment. Along the way, Bustin developed a set of leadership tools that will increase accountability and drive success for any type of organization.

Here are the Seven Pillars of Accountability that came out of his research:
•Character
•Unity
•Learning
•Tracking
•Urgency
•Reputation
•Evolution

If you would like to integrate accountability into your company, join Greg on September 4th for the Soundview Live webinar, The Key to Driving a High Performance Culture. Greg will provide powerful concepts and practical examples you can apply in your organization along with provocative questions and useful exercises to help you create a high-performance culture in your workplace.

Breakthrough Strategies for Increasing Diversity and Improving Your Bottom Line

GENDER INTELLIGENCE

Why the Glass Ceiling Still Exists
The glass ceiling is still very much intact, write diversity consultants Barbara Annis and Keith Merron in their book Gender Intelligence, not because companies are unwilling to change but because companies are approaching the problem with the wrong mindset. The most well-meaning diversity managers and their executive bosses are failing in their efforts to empower women and develop more women leaders, because they are trying to build equality in numbers and sameness in behavior. In other words, in the male-dominated workplace, Annis and Merron write, women are taught that success depends on women acting more like men. What men do makes no difference, and they don’t have to change anything; it’s women who have to change.

Other leaders insist that they don’t discriminate against women. In their companies, these leaders explain, they have “gender-blind meritocracies.” The problem is that in many organizations, the supposedly objective criteria used to judge performance is based on male tendencies. For example, high-tech firms value people who communicate in a very rapid style, who are incredibly analytical, and who will tear down any idea or anyone that demonstrates a flaw in their thinking; these are typically male traits, and not surprisingly, women avoid the resulting aggressive, conflict-ridden environment created by such traits.

Men and Women are Different

The fact is that men and women are different and will always be different, the authors emphasize. In an early chapter of the book, the authors lay out the neuroscience that reveals how the brains of men and women are structured differently — for example, women have a greater prefrontal cortex, which enhances consequential thinking and moderates social behavior, thus leading them to look for win-win solutions to conflict, while men are going to take a more competitive approach.

Thus, asking women to act like men is asking women to be inauthentic. Inauthentic behavior is not only bound to fail, but it is also unnecessary. As the authors argue, the path to what the authors call “gender intelligent” companies is based on the understanding that the different styles of women, such as their less linear, more creative and web-like approach to problem solving, are of equal value to business as the ultra-linear, blinders-on, focused approach of men. The challenge is to bring the two styles together in a productive way. As the authors explain, “Teaching women to think, act, problem-solve and lead like men devalues and discourages women while limiting the vast potential of the masculine and feminine blend in leadership that is crucial for success in tomorrow’s workplace.”

In the second half of the book, the authors focus on achieving this productive blend. They lay out, for example, the three fundamental shifts for becoming a gender- intelligent leader: 1) going from a sameness mindset to embracing the value in gender differences; 2) creating meritocracies based on different models for success; and 3) recognizing when their behaviors are not congruent with their intentions — too many leaders have gender blind spots that undermine their well-meaning efforts.

The authors also explore how functions, processes and systems work in gender-intelligent organizations. For example, Deloitte, which once depended on nearly all male consultants advising all-male clients, now recognizes that women partners who listen, are understanding and encourage dialogue can be effective and in some instances even more effective consultants than their male colleagues.

The greatest contribution of this essential book, however, is in shining a light on the fact that the glass ceiling exists not because men want it there but because both men and women working to shatter the ceiling are building their efforts on the wrong assumptions.

*Barbara Annis is also the author, along with John Gray, of Work with Me: The 8 Blind Spots Between Men and Women in Business.

Business with a Purpose

Here at Soundview, we’re always looking for the latest trends in business. These trends are highlighted by the hot topics of the business books that are being published. Recently, there seems to be many books coming across our desk on Purpose.

One such title is The Purpose Economy by Aaron Hurst, which we are summarizing this month and hosting a webinar with in September. Like the Information Economy, which has driven innovation and economic growth until now, Hurst argues that our new economic era is driven by connecting people to their purpose. It’s an economy where value lies in establishing purpose for employees and customers through serving needs greater than their own, enabling personal growth and building community.

Part of the Do Books series, Do/Purpose is written by David Hieatt. In Do/Purpose, Hieatt offers insights on how to build one of these purpose-driven companies. You know, those rare brands we all fall in love with. The crazy ones that don’t just make something, but change something as well.

Another purpose-focused book is Black Hole Focus by Isaiah Hankel. As Hankel puts it, “Don’t get stuck on a career path you have no passion for. Don’t waste your intelligence on something that doesn’t really mean anything more to you than a paycheck. Let (me) help you define a focus so powerful that everything in your life will be pulled towards it. Create your purpose and change your life. Be focused. Be fulfilled. Be successful.”

When we talk about corporate culture, there is also A Culture of Purpose by Christoph Lueneburger. Building a culture of purpose is one of the greatest challenges facing modern leaders, as today’s best minds are looking for meaning, not just jobs. More than any other single factor, cultures of purpose power winning organizations, attracting the smartest, most creative, most passionate talent.

There are more, but I’ll stop with these four. Why the interest in purpose? I think there are several factors that have brought this theme to the forefront.

One key factor is generational. The younger generations in the marketplace are looking for more than the Traditional and Baby Boomer generations when it comes to purpose. It’s no longer about making money to retire and enjoy life. It’s now about enjoying life along the way, and believing that what you do matters.

Another factor is the ever faster pace of life. As work spills over more and more into life, people want to know that what they’re doing has a purpose that is worth the sacrifice.

And perhaps a third factor might be a greater interest on the part of younger generations in the environment around them. They want to know that the company they work for is focused on the health and safety of people, and on the preservation of the environment. Again, this is purpose-driven living.

Perhaps you see additional factors at work that are causing this focus on purpose. We’d love to hear what you think. Post your own thoughts in the comments section of this blog for others to consider.

Five Decisions Every Successful Leader Must Make

PIVOT POINTS

Making the Right Decisions at the Right Times
The debate of whether a leader is made or is born is irrelevant, according to leadership consultant Julia Tang Peters in her book Pivot Points. Through in-depth interviews with selected leaders followed by a carefully targeted survey of 500 professionals, Tang Peters confirmed that successful leadership is invariably a journey that involves five “pivot points” – five pivotal decisions that serve as the catalysts to a leader’s careers. Thus, the successful leader differs from others not through innate leadership ability or acquired knowledge and experience but through the ability to evolve: to make the key decisions in their careers when they’re needed, in the words of Tang Peters, to “change the story and hold themselves accountable.”

The Five Pivot Points

The five pivot points in a leader’s career, writes Tang Peters, are the launching point, turning point, tipping point, recommitment point and letting go point.

The launching point is the decision of leaders to do more than their jobs, she writes. It is the decision early in their careers to achieve mastery in certain skills because work has become more than just about making money. They have goals and aspirations and are motivated to achieve them.

The turning point occurs when leaders want to take their business to the next level just when a pressing need or opportunity gives them the chance to do just that – if they make the right decisions. The turning point, according to Tang Peters, lays the foundation for them to become leaders in their fields.

The tipping point is when leaders become fully engaged in the art of leadership. They are at the height of their power. They have a team that takes care of the substantive responsibilities, freeing them to focus on visionary leadership both inside and outside of their organizations.

At some point in the leadership journey, there will be turbulence and significant change that forces leaders to reconsider where they are and where they are going. The recommitment point, writes Tang Peters, “is primarily a decision to recommit to self – to their North Star.”

Inevitably, there is in the journey of all leaders a letting go point – when it is the right time to leave, “a time of strength so that others can carry on the work.” This can be an emotionally challenging time for leaders given their passion and commitment to the work over so many years. But it is also the time when leaders build their legacy.

Five Leaders

Tang Peters illustrates her five pivot points through case studies of five leaders – two in their 80s and three in their mid-50s. The ages are important, as identifying the five pivot points in a career is most accurately done at the end of a career. Thus, for the younger leaders, the author writes, “the decision points having the greatest impact on their entire careers may look different later and are yet to come.”

Nevertheless, the case studies bring to life Tang Peters’ theoretical framework. For example, for marketing entrepreneur Bud Frankel, founder of Chicago-based marketing powerhouse Frankel and Company, the pivot point that had perhaps the greatest impact on his career was the launching point: when he decided that rather than struggle to be a partner in a PR firm, working for people such as his boss who admitted to Frankel that “he didn’t want to work that hard,” Frankel realized that he had to start his own firm to reach his dreams.

For Bridge2Rwanda founder Dale Dawson, the most important pivot point in his career was “letting go” – specifically letting go of a business career that had made him very successful and wealthy. Dawson had been a partner at KPMG at 30 years old, then built the investment advisory unit at Stephens Inc., the firm behind Walmart’s IPO, before buying, turning around and selling a retail truck parts company. At 46 he was financially set for life, and that, as Tang Peters explains, is when he let go, deciding to leave his business comfort zone and instead launch a nonprofit that advances economic development for the very poor of Rwanda.

With the detailed stories of these leaders, bolstered by two chapters that encapsulate the lessons to be drawn from their examples and Tang Peters’ additional research, Pivot Points offers a new mindset for leadership development: It’s not who you are or what you learn that makes you a leader; it’s making the right decisions at pivotal times in your career that turns leadership potential into reality.

Get Up to Speed Quickly in Today’s Ever-Changing Sales World

AGILE SELLING

What Really Makes the Difference in Sales
Asked by a client to explain her success, sales consultant and author Jill Konrath realized that the most successful salespeople had attributes that went beyond their sales techniques and skills. “Because they were just ‘things’ I did, I had totally disregarded their importance,” she writes in her new book, Agile Selling. Specifically, Konrath writes, it was her ability “to rapidly acquire knowledge and develop new skills, combined with the flexibility and strength needed to withstand challenges and leap on opportunities” that she believes gives her and other highly successful salespeople the edge. Getting up to speed quickly and rapidly adapting to changing conditions are the two core elements of what Kornath calls “sales agility.”

Such agility is especially valuable today, in the age of self-educated buyers who complete 60 to 70 percent of the sales process on their own. Only after acquiring the information they need to make a choice, Konrath writes, do buyers call in a few vendors and start negotiating. Thus, sales success today, she explains, depends on knowing more about the buyer and his or her business, providing value through ideas, leadership and guidance, and providing buyers exactly what they need when they want it and how they want it. Quickly.

Konrath also emphasizes that sales agility requires a new mindset, one that keeps sellers moving forward through challenging times. The first step is to recognize that sales success is a choice, not a right. There will be struggles and doubts, she writes, but agile salespeople decide that they are going to choose success over failure. To achieve this, they have the mindset that obstacles are opportunities; simply taking this attitude, neuroscience shows, reenergizes the brain. Agile sellers also reframe failures as learning experiences and believe in continuous improvement: for them, performance goals are “getting-better” goals.

From Chunking to Prepping

The bulk of the book consists of short, snappy chapters that provide techniques and strategies for learning new information and picking up new skills quickly and acquiring the habits that allow sellers to bounce back more easily from setbacks and stay motivated. For example, Konrath offers six rapid learning strategies that bypass the trial-and-error learning of the past. These strategies are:

• Chunking, or breaking down big subjects into smaller, more manageable chunks.
• Sequencing, or prioritizing the chunks of small topics.
• Connecting, which is the highly valuable practice of linking new skills and information to something you already know.
• Dumping, which is the habit of storing information out of your head and into a place where you can find it later.
• Practicing, a basic habit often overlooked by sellers but which can make a big difference.
• Prioritizing, which is the practice of not attempting to multitask, but rather recognizing that for the best productivity and effectiveness, you need to choose and focus on one activity at a time.

Konrath’s guidance for picking up new skills fast is equally insightful and easy to digest. She offers, for example, the clues that a seller can use to know if he or she is losing the connection with a buyer, including raising of the eyebrows (revealing skepticism), tapping of fingers, heads moving slightly back and forth, uncommitted responses, lack of eye contact and crossed arms. Another chapter offers “recovery” strategies, as when a sellers puts off a buyer because of excited over-aggressiveness (the best strategy: take a step back by explaining, “I get really excited about how we might be able to help, but I don’t know enough about your business, yet – tell me more”).

In the last section of this info-packed book, Konrath focuses on the success habits that agile sellers possess. In a chapter called “Optimize Your Attitude,” for example, Konrath tells the story of a salesperson whose results were being “killed” by the recession. When she accompanies the salesperson on a call, she discovered that he started every pitch with, “So, how’s the recession impacting your business?” The conversation, Konrath writes, went down from there.

Konrath is a veteran sales consultant. In Agile Selling, she shares the wisdom of the highly successful who know that it’s not just about degrees or experience; mindset, attitude and the right habits can make the difference between success and failure.