How Organizations, Teams, and Communities Raise Performance

FROM SCHOOLS TO BEER AND MUCH MORE

Emotional and spiritual uplift, write authors Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle and Alma Harris in Uplifting Leadership, is at the heart of effective leadership. “It raises people’s hopes, stirs up their passions, and stimulates their intellect and imagination,” they write. But there’s also a social and community component to uplifting people – helping people to rise above difficult circumstances, to raise their prospects, the authors write. And combining all this emotional, spiritual and social power, uplifting leaders can help people improve their performance and results, inspiring them to do better than ever before and outperform their opponents.

Both Soft and Hard

According to the authors, the process of uplifting leadership involves six interrelated factors. “Each of these factors,” the authors explain, “also exhibits some inner tensions between what people conventionally consider to be “soft” and “hard” parts of leadership and management.”

Dreaming with Determination. The uplifting journey begins by defining a dream, but that depends on determination to overcome the inevitable setbacks.

Creativity and Counterflow. Uplifting leadership inspires creativity that often goes against the mainstream.

Collaboration with Competition. Part of the counterintuitive approach of uplifting leadership is the willingness to collaborate with actual and potential competitors.

Pushing and Pulling. Team members are going to push each to accomplish more, to meet above-normal expectations. But they will also support each other, helping those who have fallen down or behind, as they are all united by a common purpose.

Measuring with Meaning. As the authors write, “Uplifting leadership makes extensive use of data to manage and monitor progress but also uses data intelligently in ways that fit the values of the organization – and that are meaningful to and genuinely owned by the people who work there.”

Sustainable Success. Uplifting leaders are focused on success, but at the same time they want that success to be sustainable.

The authors are academics and consultants in the field of education policy, and several examples involve the amazing turnaround of school districts and education systems in the U.S., U.K. and Finland. For example, the school district of Hackney, a northeast London borough and one of the most disadvantaged communities in England, makes a compelling case for the power of collaboration with competitors. Taken over by a nonprofit company, the district is divided into the U.K. equivalent of charter schools. The charter schools are not independent islands, however, but work closely together so that students in all schools succeed. The authors detail how the experience of one successful principal taking over a second school that was failing evolved into a system of school-to-school networks called federations.

The authors move beyond education for most of the detailed case studies that pack their chapters. One example is of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, one of the most successful craft breweries in the U.S. Dogfish exemplifies counterintuitive creativity through its decision to put ingredients in its ales that, write the authors, “were inconceivable in mainstream beers.” The brewery also collaborated with one of its major competitors to create an alternative beer. Finally, Dogfish illustrates the foresight of sustainable success, having refused venture capital to avoid too much debt.

The authors present an inspiring picture of leadership. It all starts with a dream, but success is built on hard work, determination and the courage to do the unexpected.

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Be Bold and Win the Sale

Jeff Shore thinks we’re addicted to comfort. When it comes to selling, we avoid the uncomfortableness of the situation and this leads to less sales. Jeff’s answer – be bold!

“My goal is to help you develop a skill of boldness, knowing that boldness takes us to places that an addiction to comfort forbids us to travel. The challenge is yours if you are up to it, but in won’t be easy. Get it right, and it will change your world and the world of those around you. Be bold . . . and we’ll journey together to the height of your potential.” Jeff Shore

So how what does Jeff provide that can take you from comfort to boldness? Here is what he promises in his book Be Bold and Win the Sale:

•How to figure out exactly what inhibits you
•Why you make certain decisions in moments of discomfort
•How to train your brain to prepare for uncomfortable moments
•How your customer’s own discomforts affect his or her purchase decisions

If you would like to learn how to be bold in sales and in other areas of your life, join us on September 16th for our webinar by the same name, Be Bold and Win the Sale. Jeff will take you through the steps from comfort to boldness, including self-assessment tools, hands-on exercises, and case studies showing his methods in action.

How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy

OWN YOUR FUTURE

Don’t Have a Career Plan!
In the past, long-standing, respected, industry-leading companies might disappear due to competition from nimble upstarts; today, as author Paul Brown describes in the early pages of Own Your Future, it is entire industries that keep unexpectedly and jarringly disappearing: “Been to a music store lately? Drop off any photos to be processed? Used a pay phone? … Used a travel agent to book a routine vacation? Probably not.”

What does this mean for building careers? It means, according to Brown, that career plans are often useless. If you were an associate marketing manager for TomTom and had a plan to work up to regional manager and, some day, director of marketing, those plans ended when the unthinkable happened to the stand-alone GPS market: car manufacturers started including them in their cars. The same holds true for the ambitious low-level manager at Blockbuster.

The bottom line, according to Brown, is simple: don’t have a career plan! Brown has a better idea for dealing with the uncertainty of today’s world: a methodology known as ALBR.

What Serial Entrepreneurs Do

Nobody knows more about uncertainty, writes Brown, than serial entrepreneurs. Launching a company is always an exercise in terrifying uncertainty: Will my products or services attract customers? Will they be willing to pay the price that I need them to pay? Serial entrepreneurs – those who are always looking for the next business to start -thrive on such uncertainty. And for that reason, he writes, thinking like a serial entrepreneur is the best way to succeed in an uncertain economy.

Writing with Charles Kiefer and Leonard Schlesinger, his collaborators on his previous book Just Start, Brown describes in Own Your Future the path that serial entrepreneurs take as they launch their latest business.

  1. Serial entrepreneurs set out to do what they want to do. Passion is a word that is sometimes overused. Indeed, not every company launched by a serial entrepreneur was based on a passion. But at the very least, there was desire: serial entrepreneurs start companies doing something they want to do.
  2. Serial entrepreneurs act. Serial entrepreneurs don’t spend decades pondering an idea. No company was thought into being. But when they do act, they take a small step toward their goal. They don’t overcommit. They don’t risk everything. And they don’t become paralyzed by thoughts of “what if ” or “what might happen.”
  3. Serial entrepreneurs learn. After taking the small step, they stop and see what they have learned from that small step. Is the market response suggesting a different course? Do they still have the desire to move forward, or do they think they would like to do something else?
  4. Serial entrepreneurs build on what they’ve learned. After taking a small step and pausing and reflecting on that small step, they use the lessons of the first step to develop the next step.
  5. With the next step, they start the process all over again. Brown summarizes the process as Act, Learn, Build, Repeat – or ALBR. According to Brown, ALBR is the methodology that serial entrepreneurs use to deal with the endless uncertainty of launching new companies, the methodology that in Just Start helped organizations deal with uncertainty and, in Own Your Future, the methodology that will help individuals build successful careers no matter what their job.

The power of ALBR is that it turns career planning on its head. Instead of imagining the perfect job of the future and then figuring out how to get there, through ALBR you slowly create your dream job. This is a vital difference for the simple fact that the perfect job of the future on which you have set your sights may suddenly disappear from the horizon.

Own Your Future is a career and success book that, unlike many others in its category, is adapted to today’s realities. Brown and his coauthors are not afraid to dispute some of the most basic advice often seen in other books. (e.g., the oft-repeated maxim that if you do what you love, the money will follow is false; the money may not follow). From overcoming obstacles and choosing between love and money to how to act entrepreneurially without starting a company, Own Your Future is packed with advice and keen insight for those looking for their next job… which should be everybody.

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.

The Key is to Care

LEGENDARY SERVICE

Fable Unfolds ICARE Essentials
Written with two veteran consultants of the Ken Blanchard Companies, Kathy Cuff and Vicki Halsey, management guru Ken Blanchard’s latest fable offering is Legendary Service, which focuses on customer service. The story focuses on an employee working in the Home and Office section of a large discount store who strives to apply the lessons she is learning in a customer service class she is taking at a local university. In those classes her professor lays out the ICARE customer service model.

The Framework

The five elements of the authors’ ICARE model are:
Ideal Service. The focus here is on consistent dayto- day service, which the authors describe as employees striving to meet customer needs because they truly believe that service is important. In the fable, the heroine of the story, Kelsey, exemplifies Ideal Service by jeopardizing a sure sale for the benefit of the customer: she confirms to that customer that the vacuum cleaner he’s decided to purchase for his wife’s birthday is not a great present.
Culture of Service. Going beyond individualized day-to-day service, write the authors, a culture of service creates the environment in which employees are inspired to focus on the customer and are held accountable for carrying out the company’s service vision. While Kelsey’s employer displays a complete lack of service culture, various businesses that cross Kelsey’s path, including the physical therapy practice rehabilitating her grandmother’s injury, illustrate the hallmarks of a service culture, including a posted service vision for the company.
Attentiveness. This element of the model involves knowing customers and their preferences well. Kelsey is led through the exercise of creating a customer profile: the various categories of customers she serves and their respective needs and preferences.
Responsiveness. Knowing your customers is a first step; the next step is knowing how to respond to their needs. In the story, Kelsey’s colleague deals with a customer who is unhappy that the store no longer matches competitors’ prices, in this case for a lamp. The colleague notes that the competitor charges extra for the lamp shade, thus making his store’s lamp actually less expensive. “Kelsey was impressed,” the authors write, “not only with the way Rob had listened to his customer and solved the problem to her satisfaction but also with his knowledge of the other store’s pricing policy.”
Empowerment. The final letter in the book’s customer service model is for empowerment: employees having the freedom to take the initiative to implement their company’s service vision. Both Kelsey and her manager want to turn around the store’s poor customer service reputation and yet are continuously hampered by a leadership that focuses only on the bottom line.

Legendary Service is successful because most readers will be able to relate the fictional characters and events to actual people and situations: the people-oriented small business owner represented by the physical therapy practice owner; the small business that dresses up its facilities but offers terrible customer service, such as the fancy hair salon Kelsey walks out of; the stores that offer the same products but with completely different customer service cultures, illustrated by the two competing discount stores at the heart of the fable. The situations are authentic, and the conflict that moves the story forward – will Kelsey quit and join the competitor as her own store goes from bad to worse? – will keep readers engaged. And if there is a bit of a deus ex machina ending, why not? It worked for Jane Austen.