The Right and Wrong Way to Lead

The quality of leadership is often the deciding factor between healthy or dysfunctional corporate cultures. When effective leadership is exercised, organizations leverage the very best performance from their people. This significantly increases their chances for gaining market advantage and maximizing profitability. We can usually spot ineffective leadership by observing a brief interaction between the leader and a team member. The short video below demonstrates precisely what I am talking about.

I made this little video to help us to be reminded of how important our language is in winning team performance. Effective leadership really boils down to adopting some very simple communication behaviors:

  1. Try not to let your frustration show. It is not only a sign of weakness but it often telegraphs your lack of confidence or control.
  2. Refrain from making judgments about your team members’ liabilities. As leaders it is our job to encourage them to reach for a higher level of performance not become fixated on their mistakes.
  3. As my good friend Dr. Mitchell Perry would say, “Speak in the language of inclusion.” That means we should be talking about what they can or should be doing rather than focus on what they are NOT doing. 
  4. Be aware of your facial expressions and body language. Words only account for just 7% of the meaning in our communication. Far more critical is our tone of voice, non-verbal cues and facial communication.
  5. Ask plenty of open-ended questions and LISTEN for what your people are REALLY trying to say.
  6. Assume that your people can and WILL perform above your expectations rather will assuming they cannot.
  7. Be willing to invest time with your people helping them through difficult situations or projects.

I hope this has been helpful to you in your quest for a higher level of leadership. I am interested in your ideas. Please give some feedback and I will share with all of our readers.

The Gap in “Learned Leadership” – America’s biggest impediment to organizational growth

Today business leaders are struggling with a number of impediments to organization growth. These are often identified as economic conditions such as a lack of capital, cash flow, increased regulations, softening demand, price erosion or predatory competition. While economic aspects do often hinder business success, it is the unwavering commitment and cohesive spirit of the people within the organization that enables the achievement of a competitive edge despite all economic conditions. This has been proven on numerous occasions. In fact we are seeing some of the most unlikely enterprises gain market dominance in the harshest of economic conditions. This is evident in observing the unprecedented entrepreneurial growth occurring in third world countries. Winning the collective and enthusiastic commitment of the entire organization is easier said than done. This must be accomplished by engaging team members in a way that they willingly volunteer their disposable time and discretionary effort to the enterprise on a continuing basis. This requires that business leaders overtly practice functional leadership as never before. Yet effectively modeled leadership is a rare commodity, particularly in America today. We need only look at the world of sports, politics, and global business to see that even our most revered leaders are disappointing us at every turn. They consistently display a lack of honesty, integrity and commitment, coupled with a pervasive self-interest. It is interesting to note that organizations can sustain themselves for years or even decades even with a “gap” in leadership due to sheer momentum or market force. Unlike adverse economic conditions a leadership gap can go unrecognized and unaddressed for many years. But it is difficult to cultivate growth and nearly impossible to sustain a functional corporate culture without effective leadership. The eventual symptoms are silo building, political infighting, accelerating employee turnover, stunted upward mobility, stymied succession planning and the eventual lack of market advantage. All of this paints a bleak picture for continued business dominance and innovation in America. But recognizing this challenge is the first step in defining a solution. Business leaders must stop focusing on just the economic or market conditions facing their organizations. They must first and foremost confront their own behavioral issues. We cannot teach, train or coach our people to bring about change if we are not modeling the necessary behaviors ourselves. Often times leaders are so involved in the day-to-day minutia of running the enterprise that they lose sight of the mirror of self-reflection. We must be deliberate in demonstrating the critical traits of leadership in everything we do. They are honesty, humility, vision, competence, inspiration, communication and being others-oriented. If we are to properly lead we must integrate these into our personal value-set in a genuine and transparent way. I don’t know about you but if I hold the mirror up-to-myself I often find that I too am lacking in one of more of these areas during daily interactions. It is not just what we SAY as leaders that win people to our way of thinking it is what we DO! Our actions define our intentions. Is leadership an inborn trait or can it be learned? While for some this may be inborn but the good news is YES, it can be learned! With a clear assessment of our leadership competencies, an open mind toward development, proven training, coaching and applied in a practical way with our daily interactions, leaders CAN be made! This will be a first in a series of discussions on “what makes leaders great.” Stay-tuned for more and I’d love to hear your feedback.

Business Success Quick-Tips

This week, we wanted to provide you with three quick tips that can help your business and expand your thinking. They revolve around your cash flow, thinking non-traditionally, and becoming a master at collaboration.

  1. Know your cash position at all times! More important than your profit and loss statement is your cash flow statement. Many companies can operate at a loss for years if they’re able to manage their cash flow. Know your projected flow at least 3 months from now. If you have a solid grasp on your income and expenses, you have a much higher chance of survival!
  2. Think non-traditional sales and marketing. Most advertising does not work. Think of your last encounter with a salesperson. Traditional selling often pushes more people away than it attracts. Use the Internet, social networks, search engines, affiliates and alliance relationships to effectively build your business rather than running ads.
  3. Become a master of collaboration. You may not have the right answer or solution for your clients but chances are someone within your organization or within your sphere of influence DOES. When we collaborate we broaden our expertise and are able to deliver more effective products and services to our clients.

Whatever product or service you are providing the above advice will create greater market impact, win more loyalty and sustain your business for years to come.

Guidelines for Mission Statements

The following are some very practical guidelines for mission statements: 1. Present Tense – This helps the reader to perceive that the mission statement is already being fulfilled rather than intimating that it is an event which MAY occur in the future. 2. Active Voice – In an active voice the subject is DOING the action. For example rather than; “Our company mission is to deliver…” say; “Our company delivers…” 3. Straightforward Language – Eliminate superlatives, modifies and unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. These often water-down the message. 4. Motivating and Clarifying – The mission should be written in a way that motivates team members, clients and referrers to participate. It should also clarify the vision of the company. 5. Verbal Economy – The mission should communicate the reason for existence of the entity in as few words as possible. This promotes readership and comprehension.

Conservation Marketing

While the 70s and the 80s were the “me” decades, the new millennium is the “us” decade. More than ever we are feeling the pressure to tighten our belts and adopt a more conservative approach, build larger reserves for our families and preserve what we already have. The spend, spend, spend and boom/bust mentality is passing away in favor of a more “grounded” mindset. This extends itself to the marketing arena as well.
Everywhere we look, we see the “green story” being touted. This doesn’t just apply to energy companies, manufacturers and Fortune 500 companies looking to join the “green” bandwagon. Organizations in every industry and field of endeavor are opting for adding this element to their communication strategies. According to the American Marketing Association, green marketing is the marketing of products that are presumed to be environmentally safe. Thus, green marketing incorporates a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, packaging changes, as well as modifying advertising. Yet defining green marketing is not a simple task where several meanings intersect and contradict each other; an example of this will be the existence of varying social, environmental and retail definitions attached to this term. Other similar terms used are Environmental Marketing and Ecological Marketing.
One way that we can leverage the current focus on the “green mentality” is to promote sustainability. It’s getting difficult to find an industry or profession that doesn’t have some type of sustainability initiatives. This can encompass alternative energy initiatives, ride sharing, new recycling alternatives, lower consumption levels and the like. I know a display manufacturer that completely retooled their manufacturing process to eliminate ALL harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) thereby reducing their consumption footprint by 70%. While this did require a significant upfront investment in new equipment, it has resulted in a 136% return on investment to date. Their return came in the form of lower material prices, energy rebates and a special low rate financing as a result of the reduced environmental impact.
There are many more ways that we can leverage this 15th Rule. In short let me say that the more we sincerely focus on preserving, conserving and reserving, the more powerful our marketing will be to those who are socially responsible. What can you do to use this concept in your business?

Today’s Show: Crush Procrastination, Why Start-ups aren’t the Answer

Join me on todays Small Business Hour as we speak with Neil Fiore author of The Now Habit at Work offers new strategies for Optimal Performance on the job, in your business at home, and for entrepreneurs. Learn how you can tell your brain and body [your workers] When to start and What to do. Tell yourself the specific time you will start for 15 or 30 minutes on your Top Priority project. We will also be looking at why figuring out how to foster current business growth is far better for our economy than more business start-ups.

Online payments don’t have to be tricky

A number of my clients lately have become interested in using their websites to make it easier for customers to pay invoices. While shopping carts on websites are very common, payment forms for invoices are rarer and can be trickier to implement. My latest article is on the primary options you have for accepting payments online, so if you find yourself in this situation, read more at We will also be discussing this in more detail on the Small Business Hour tomorrow at 4 PM. Tune in to our show to learn the best way to add a payment form to your website.

Accepting Online Payments

Here’s a quick overview of the two main options you have when considering payments online.  As someone that spent time on the board of directors of an e-commerce focused credit card processor, I’ve seen lots of options come and go in this industry.  While shopping carts are common on websites and many come bundled with web hosting accounts, the methods to accept payment for bills are a bit rarer and can be trickier to implement.  Your two primary options are to use a full service payment processor such as Google Checkout or PayPal, or to create your own solution that uses your own merchant account and a payment gateway you integrate with your website.

Here are the pros and cons of the two main options you have:

  • PayPal/Google Checkout:
    • These are both widely used online payment processors, so your clients are likely to have used them for making purchases from online stores or making online payments.
    • Security is outsourced to their servers, meaning you don’t need to worry about safeguards and regulations that require you to protect credit card and bank account information.
    • The fee structure is simple, and normally winds up costing less at low transaction volumes (less than a few hundred transactions per month)
    • Simple technical implementation- you are often able to get these up and running much faster than a system where you send transactions directly to a credit card processor from your website.
  • Merchant Account/Payment Gateway:
    • You typically need to have a few things to make this happen- a merchant account to process credit cards, an ACH account or instant fund transfer account to process checks, a payment gateway account (such as that links the aforementioned accounts to your website, as well as taking security measures on your web server. 
    • Each of these items have their own fees that can be annual, one time setup fees, monthly, or per transaction (some may incur fees that fall into more than one of those categories).  Most of them also have minimum fees that you would need to pay even if you didn’t process any transactions.  It is not uncommon for the minimum fees to add up to about $100/month, to have setup fees for these accounts that are a few hundred dollars, and to incur lease payments on some of these items.  The per transaction fees are normally far less, so if you process a few hundred transactions per month these accounts can be less expensive.
    • Check processing directly through a bank can often be done faster than through PayPal (since PayPal adds an additional step to the process)- credit cards take about the same amount of time regardless of which system you use.
    • The technical implementation is much more complicated for these setups, and generally requires greater ongoing troubleshooting and support.  At high transaction volumes this becomes worth it due to savings on fees.

If you’re just looking to allow customers to pay invoices online (not selling products), in most cases its best to start with PayPal or Google Checkout, since it is an easy way to get stated and judge the interest from your customers in making payments online.  If it is a big success and hundreds of invoices are paid online each month, then it justifies migrating to a setup with your own merchant account.

Today’s Guest: Little Guy Makes it BIG!

Join us as we speak with Dal LaMagna, founder of Tweezerman. Dal shows how a lot of pluck and a bit of luck can lead to success.
From creating the first computer dating service in college followed by drive-in discotheques, to inventing a psychedelic light box and selling waterbeds, LaMagna’s many money-making schemes tell the story of a sixties-era seeker who had inexhaustible ambitions, creativity, and resilience. Like the start of most small businesses, Tweezerman was a one-man show.  He did all the selling, inventory management, bookkeeping, shipping, and deliveries himself. He operated out of a 400-square-foot bungalow that was his office, warehouse, and home. His initial investment was $500. Years later, he sold the company and walked away with millions. Dal is author of the book, Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets It Right (John Wiley & Sons).

Guarding your reputation online

The research firm TARP performed a series of studies on customer satisfaction from the late 1970’s through the 1990’s. It was found that many customer complaints are unreported, and that customers are far more likely to talk to others about negative experiences than they are with positive ones. With the prevalence of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it is easier than ever before for customers to relate their experiences to their contact base. As such, it is imperative that businesses do everything they can to find out what is being said about their products and company in general.

I’ve just posted my latest article on how you can use the Internet, including social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to manage your reputation online. Click here to read how you can manage your online reputation.