How to Sell Marketing Automation to Your CXO

by Kelly Jo Horton


You’ve reached that point: You need to take your marketing to the next level, beyond the email program that your company is outgrowing.
You know that marketing automation will let you scale your efforts across the board, provide your customers and prospects with more relevant and timely content, save time on campaigns and track everything, so you can prove marketing’s value. You’ve either gleaned this from your time in the trenches, or you know it instinctively from all of the research you’ve done. You could go on and on about all of the things you could do — if you just had a great marketing automation platform.

What’s in it for your company?
That’s all well and good, but the key stakeholders you need to buy into your plan don’t care about what you love about marketing automation. They want to know what’s in it for them.

Sell the CMO
First, you need to find a champion. Selling your CMO on marketing automation could go one of two ways. If the enthusiasm for adopting a marketing automation platform originated with your CMO, then you probably won’t even need to pitch the idea. However, if your CMO has been in place for many years and is satisfied with current marketing efforts, you’ve got an uphill battle ahead of you. Either way, your CMO won’t get fully on board until you can prove that investing in marketing automation is a good business decision — because his or her reputation is on the line.

Three things the CMO cares about:

  1. Marketing you can brag about
  2. Ability to segment and target
  3. Doing more with less

Every CMO dreams of having stellar marketing that is respected within the company and the envy of every competitor. One of the highest forms of flattery for a CMO is to have sales reps tell them that the leads their team is generating are awesome. Come to the table with case studies from companies that have implemented a marketing automation solution, and see a marked increase in the close rate of leads generated by marketing.

Whether you’re a team of one or many, marketing automation will help you scale your efforts across the board. Automation and scheduling are your friends. Your CMO will want concrete examples of how a marketing automation platform will allow you to provide more relevant content to the right audience at the right time, as well as the numbers to prove that marketing is contributing to conversions — and the bottom line.

Pitch specific examples of how you and your team could be more productive and prolific if you had access to a marketing automation platform. Develop a scenario or two about the outcomes in terms of generating and converting leads, and use numbers to help tell the story about how that would affect revenue.

80 percent of CMOs at top-performing companies indicate that their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to increase revenue, and 76 percent say it’s to get higher-quality leads. (Gleanster, 2013) That’s a roadmap for the case you should make to your CMO.

Sell the EVP of Sales
Great sales organizations are successful because they have honed their sales processes and made them repeatable. The relationship between marketing and sales may be strained or non-existent if marketing has been delivering low-quality leads in the past. Adopting a marketing automation platform can help you foster conversations about sales and marketing alignment.

Three things the EVP of Sales cares about:

  1. Quality of leads
  2. Cost per lead
  3. Disruption of process

You can bet your EVP of Sales knows exactly how many leads marketing delivered to the pipeline last year and exactly what percentage of those leads became customers. The challenge will be to convince the EVP of Sales that adopting a marketing automation solution will increase the quality of leads generated by marketing efforts and shorten the sales cycle. Come armed with data points from industry case studies.

Be aware that your EVP of Sales may see marketing automation as a disruption of their tried-and-true ways. Emphasize the fact that the sales team will not have to learn the new platform but will benefit from the additional lead information generated by the marketing automation platform and synced to their CRM. (And when you begin to look at platforms in the market, look for one that delivers marketing and contact intelligence right into the CRM platform, so the reps don’t have to leave the CRM to make use of it.)

Companies that use marketing automation see 107 percent better lead conversion, 40 percent greater average deal size, 20percent higher team attainment of quota and 17 percent better forecast accuracy. (Aberdeen Group, 2012) What EVP of Sales doesn’t want a higher rate of lead conversion and bigger deals? The numbers speak for themselves. Use them.

Sell the CEO
Depending on the size of your organization, you may or may not have to pitch to the CEO. This will be your most complicated sell because you will have to address both quantitative and qualitative concerns. And let’s not forget, the CEO has veto privileges over everyone, so it’s imperative you get buy in from this person.

Three things the CEO cares about:

  1. The entire revenue cycle — top-line growth and profitability
  2. Customer satisfaction and loyalty
  3. The competition

The CEO is more concerned with the big picture than the minute details. Focus on how a marketing automation platform will benefit the company’s bottom line by increasing sales and revenue, maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty and keeping a leg up on the competition. Provide your CEO with a few bullet points of data from case studies relevant to your industry.

Sell the CIO
Your CIO is not concerned about the marketing piece of this solution, so drop the marketing speak and put on your technical hat before you talk to him or her.

Three things the CIO cares about:

  1. Data and system security
  2. Implementation requirements
  3. Ongoing demand on IT team

You have to get your technical ducks in a row before pitching to the CIO. If your company has a standard list of security questions for vendors, get that filled out before you schedule a meeting. Do you know what DKIM is? How about DNS? Whitelisting? Be honest. If you aren’t completely comfortable with fielding technical requirement questions, set up a call with a technical resource on the vendor side so the CIO can get answers to any questions he or she might have.

The CIO will want to be assured that implementing this new marketing automation platform will not have a big impact on his or her (already overburdened) team. Prepare an implementation timeline with estimated hours for each task so there are no surprises down the line.

Sell the CFO
You may or may not get the opportunity to pitch to the CFO, but even if you don’t, you can bet the CFO will be looking closely at any of the financial breakdowns you put together for the other executives. So be very sure your numbers are accurate.

Three things the CFO cares about:

  1. Controlling costs
  2. Return on Investment (ROI)
  3. Reducing risks

The CFO’s main concern is controlling costs for the company, which includes understanding the ROI of every proposed purchase that comes across his or her desk. The CFO is not someone who takes risk lightly and will require data to prove that other companies in the same industry have made the investment in marketing automation and seen success.

The CFO will also want to review any financial terms and agreements that need to be signed off. 70 percent of top-performing companies indicate their investment in marketing automation generated a positive ROI after the first year of use. (Gleanster, Nov 2012) Emphasize the fact that a marketing automation platform will allow you to generate reports, which will give the executives better visibility into the ROI of your marketing efforts.

You Can Do This
Are you still with me? You can do this. You now have some insight into what it’s going to take for you to sell your passion for marketing automation to your C-Level executives. There’s no shortcut to success here. Do your homework and be prepared.

*This article originally appeared at

kellyjoKelly Jo Horton is a marketing and technology consulting for B2B, B2C and hybrid. She works in the trenches of digital marketing, constantly searching for the emotional hook and human connection in every interactive campaign she designs and deploys. Kelly is a Primetime Engineering Emmy winner in the Interactive Media category. Follow her on Twitter @KellyJoHorton.
Act-On Software is the world’s fastest growing marketing automation company; its cloud-based marketing automation platform is the foundation of successful marketing campaigns everywhere – from small, simple and direct, to complex globally implemented programs. Follow @ActOnSoftware on Twitter.

The Six Steps of Leadership (Plus Courage)

by G.J. Hart


I worked at a poultry processing plant during college. I worked my way up and became general manager of the plant when I was 21, overseeing 500 people. I had done pretty much every role in the operation. That was a big advantage — knowing and living what people do every day. That allows me to understand people and help them grow. I like to say that leadership is about getting people to exceed their own expectations. You can’t do that unless you understand what they do and how they do it, having lived some of it yourself.

One thing I’ve learned over time is a lot more patience and tolerance. I used to always want things yesterday and would be very anxious about moving things along faster. But now I understand that tomorrow’s another day and things will move along. I think more about whether something really matters and how it will make a difference, versus thinking that everything matters and everything makes a difference. It’s also much clearer to me now what the leadership qualities are that are most important to me.

I call them the six steps of leadership, surrounded by courage. Courage is an interesting one because any leadership role is about stepping out and having the courage to be different— because you have to be different to be a leader.

  1. The first step is to be the very best that you can be, because you can’t lead anybody if you can’t lead yourself. So you have to be honest with yourself about your good qualities, your bad qualities and the things you need to work on.
  2. The second thing is to dream, and dream big. What’s the world of possibilities for yourself and for your organization? You have to be able to say, “Here’s where I want to get to.” It’s not that you’ll ever necessarily get there, but if you don’t dream, you’ll never even get started.
  3. The third is to lead with your heart first. Let people see that you’re human and that there’s a human side. Show people that you have compassion. It doesn’t mean that you don’t set expectations and standards. But if you lead with your heart, people figure out whether you’re genuine, whether you’re real.
  4. The fourth thing can be the hardest for young leaders: to trust the people you lead. It’s about letting go and allowing people to grow into leadership roles. At the end of the day, it’s OK if they make a mistake or if they fall down. Because as leaders, it’s your job to pick them back up.
  5. The fifth is do the right thing, always. It’s easy to say. But the way I like to describe it is that if the rules say one thing, particularly as it relates to people, and you genuinely believe in that person, sometimes it takes courage to do the right thing and give that person a second chance. Because we’ve all made mistakes, and somebody picked us up.
  6. The sixth is that it’s ultimately about serving the people you lead. It’s about putting the cause before yourself and a willingness to see it through. I developed this list over time because it’s the way I live each day. My job is to lead and to make a difference. I’m a catalyst for change, to create an environment where people can grow and prosper.

*This article originally appeared as an interview in the New York Times

GJ Hart 1-304G.J Hart, Chairman, CEO and President of California Pizza Kitchen, is a highly respected industry leader who brings to CPK a proven track record of growing casual dining concepts. He most recently was CEO of Texas Roadhouse, a publicly traded casual-dining company that owns, operates, and franchises more than 350 restaurants across the country. His achievements have been recognized by leading media publications and industry organizations, including IR Magazine as one of its top CEOs (2011) and the Kentucky Restaurant Association as the Restaurateur of the Year (2010).

The Difference between Social Business and Social Media

by Emily Constantini


Lately I’ve noticed that the terms “social business” and “social media” are often confused — or at least we haven’t come to a firm agreement as an industry what the key differences and similarities are between the two. While this can be frustrating for someone like me who has been immersed in social business for the past several years, I can see how these terms may be confused. They both involve computers, social and networking, so they must be the same, right?

Working in social business comes with many opportunities to indoctrinate colleagues and friends with how this is going to fundamentally change the way we work. But even as more and more companies adopt social business technology, I can tell that many folks still equate anything “social” and online with Facebook and Twitter — consumer-oriented social networking sites we all know and love. While these sites play a role in social business, they aren’t the whole story.

Social networking, at this point, has been mostly a consumer activity — people using online tools to connect with others around all sorts of topics and interests. Businesses have jumped onto these platforms to market and advertise because this is where their customers are gathering. Marketing and advertising go where the people are, and over the last 100 or so years, these dollars have moved from print, to radio, to TV, to email and now to online social networking sites.

So, how is social business different than your company having a Twitter and Facebook account? Social networking, as described above, is a part of social business. But social business is not just about networking with your customers. It is about how we work together using online tools that are very much like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ but are designed to meet the special needs of businesses.

The online tools for social business need to be specialized for the enterprise. That is where software companies like Jive and’s Chatter have made huge contributions. They provide secure social networking environments where employees connect, collaborate and create, whether they are in the same office or thousands of miles apart. And social business tools are unique in the way that they meet special business-related requirements like security, collaboration and document management.

There is a lot more to be written about social business. We are at the beginning of this movement. We are just starting to create best practices on implementing these tools in organizations and adapting business processes to best utilize them. At the same time, the software is continuing to advance and adapt to better meet the unique needs of businesses.

Remember the days when we called having an online store and email “eBusiness?” Now, it is business as usual. And someday soon, social business will be business as usual. Once I can get everyone to understand what it is…

emilyconstantiniEmily Constantini brings more than 13 years experience in sales, territory management, large account management and business development to the JCS Consulting team as vice president of sales, Western region. Prior to joining JCS, Emily served as a regional director for Vistage International, an exclusive membership organization focused on helping senior business executives become better leaders, solve their business problems, and achieve better results. Her role was to select C-suite individuals to participate in local private advisory boards. Previously, Emily worked in the financial services industry, focused on business development in both financial systems and financial products distribution. She has consulted with small, medium and large financial institutions on wealth management platform installations. Connect with Emily on LinkedIn.

Jeffrey Hayzlett Talks About The C-Suite Network

Kurt Shaver interviews C-Suite Network Chairman Jeffrey Hayzlett about the creation of the C-Suite Network and the ways in which its online and offline components complement each other to give C-Suite leaders a competitive advantage.

Listen to the full interview at The Sales Foundry

C-Suite Network Conference Presents Powerful and Exclusive Series of Keynotes, Panels and Technology for C-Suite Leaders

The C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey will feature a lineup of world-class speakers and panels, along with leading edge technologies and services, that will strengthen the success of C-level leaders in attendance.

C-Suite Network, the world’s most powerful network of C-Suite leaders, today announced the powerful and exclusive line-up of keynotes, panel topics and technology geared towards C-Suite executives for the upcoming C-Suite Network Conference on November 16 -18 in Marina del Rey. The Conference brings together C-Suite executives and the world’s most elite thought leaders to discuss the challenges of success and providing attendees with the knowledge and tools to return to the office with a competitive edge.

Bringing their own experience and insight, conference co-hosts Jeffrey Hayzlett, host of the Bloomberg show The C-suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett, and Rolonda Watts, CEO and President of Watts Works Productions, will be moderating the sessions for C-Suite leaders.
The conference features in-depth interviews with successful C-Suite teams that have grown to become leaders in their industry. Leading keynotes and panel presentations focus on today’s top business issues, sharing experiences in building successful growth organizations while highlighting the constraints and pragmatic approaches to move a business forward.

The C-Suite Network Conference keynote speakers include: Randy Gage, author of nine books, including the New York Times bestseller, Risky Is the New Safe; Dr. Tony Alessandra, the CEO of Assessment Business Center and author of 27 books; Glenn Llopis, Chairman of the Glenn Llopis Group and Founder/CEO of Center for Hispanic Leadership; Michael Williams, CMO of Grand Prix of America, Formula 1; and Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, founders of Barefoot Wine and authors of the New York Times Bestseller, The Barefoot Spirit.

Read the full press release at MarketWired

To Get True Entrepreneurial Culture, Corporations Must Pay for Performance

by Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey

Bank Teller Counting Money for Customer

Some of the most popular search terms we see coming from the C-Suite (top corporate executives) these days are, “entrepreneurial culture,” “employee engagement” and “employee empowerment.”
Nowadays, it seems even the big corporations want to make the shift to a more entrepreneurial culture. So we put together a companion to The Barefoot Spirit  just for the C-Suite. It’s called — you guessed it — The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People.

We will be launching the book at the C-Suite Network Conference in Marina del Rey Nov. 16-18, 2014 and on television in December on the new network run by Jeffrey Hayzlett, former Chief Marketing Officer of Eastman Kodak, called C-Suite TV. We are very excited to have our new book featured on C-Suite TV and C-Suite Book Club.

We saw a great cartoon recently where a haggard employee was sitting at a bar after work, complaining to the bartender, “Sure, they want me to be creative and innovative, but I’ve got a career to think about!” One of the chapters from The Entrepreneurial Culture suggests entrepreneurial compensation to solve this problem.

Use performance-based compensation, and share the wealth.

Allow us to be blunt: We don’t think that set salaries are a great idea. When you have a compensation plan based on an hourly rate, you’re paying for attendance, not production. Regardless of how much they do or don’t accomplish, your employees will have an “I was there, pay me!” attitude… and can you blame them? Instead, our experience has shown us that performance-based compensation is better for everyone — you, your employees and your company as a whole.

We created a pretty radical pay system at our company for a simple reason: We were a small business that needed to sell large quantities of merchandise, and we couldn’t afford unproductive people. So basically, we asked employees to bet on their own productivity. Or, as Michael told job applicants, he was asking people to bet on themselves.

For salespeople specifically (and to a lesser extent, sales-support people), we offered a small base salary and told new hires, “The more you sell, the more you make. There’s no limit.” And in order to ensure that our employees didn’t ease off when they felt they were making “enough,” we set up an increasing incentive, so each step — though more difficult — would be worth a lot more than the last.

Here’s an example of how it worked: If someone sold, say, 100 cases in April 2000, and 100 cases in April 2001 (these numbers are unrealistically small for simplicity), their commission would be the same in both years. But if they sold 10 percent more — 110 cases — they would get $1 for every case over that 100, or $10 more.

If they sold 20 percent more in April 2001 — 120 cases — they would get $2 per case for every case over 100. Not just $1 for cases 101-110 and $2 for cases 111-120; they would make $2 for each case, or $40 more. They didn’t just get higher pay for additional growth, they got the boost for all the growth. It kept multiplying. So, 30 percent more – 130 cases – would earn $3 times 30 cases, or $90, and on up. (And again, keep in mind that these numbers are unrealistically small!)

At various points, we were chastised by other businesspeople who felt that we were “overpaying” salespeople. This was partially due to the fact that several of our top salespeople made more than we, the owners, did! Yet, when we looked at the numbers, we knew we were doing the right thing.

Our unorthodox compensation system didn’t stop with our salespeople, either. Performance-based pay also applied to our sales support-staff (i.e., everyone who wasn’t a salesperson). In addition to their salaries, these employees received bonuses based on quarterly sales.

At first, many members of our sales-support staff were skeptical. For example, one bookkeeper claimed that it wasn’t fair to be paid a bonus based on quarterly sales because bookkeepers could not affect sales. Turns out, that claim wasn’t entirely accurate. Here’s what happened: Soon thereafter, one of our salespeople got a last-minute meeting with “Mr. Big,” a supermarket chain buyer, at 8:00 a.m. the next day. And because the bookkeeper in question knew that his bonus would be affected by the sale, he made sure the salesperson had all the necessary reports by 7:00 a.m. Needless to say, our salesperson came back to the office with the purchase order.

Here’s another example of how pay-for-performance motivated our sales-support staff: One day, a gentleman walked into our reception area wearing an aloha shirt and Bermuda shorts. Although he appeared to be on vacation, this man was checking out our wine display and everything written on the walls. Our receptionist, who knew that her bonus was based on sales, proactively asked the visitor if he was a wine buyer. When the man shared that he was actually a big wine buyer for a 30-store chain in the Southwest, our receptionist immediately introduced him to our national sales manager. And because this wine buyer was relaxed, on vacation, and in discovery mode, he ended up putting our product in all of his 30 stores! You can bet that our receptionist really savored that particular quarter’s bonus.

Overall, performance-based pay really helped us grow, and best of all, the increased “pay” was “found money” that cost us nothing. Plus, we reduced turnover, which is the No. 1 hidden cost of doing business. Think about it: When members of your team leave, you don’t just lose those employees; you lose their hours of training, their institutional knowledge and their relationships outside the company. In the case of salespeople, you can lose customers who are more loyal to your former employees than the product they represented. Plus, it can be costly to look for and train new candidates.

Basically, our compensation system meant that producers couldn’t afford to leave, and non-producers couldn’t afford to stay. Meanwhile, we constantly attracted new go-getters who were willing to bet on themselves.
It’s simple: How you treat your employees directly correlates to how successful your business will be. If you treat them like a commodity — if you’re stingy with pay, recognition and benefits — they’ll do only the bare minimum to keep their jobs, and eventually, they’ll leave.

We suggest you use performance-based compensation, too. Yes, every company and every industry is different, but if it’s possible to earn profits, it’s possible to tie those profits to your employees’ salaries and bonuses — and we guarantee that you’ll see results! Sharing the wealth never looked so good!

Michael-Bonnie-ProfessionalMichael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are the founders of Barefoot Wine, the largest bottled wine brand in the world, and authors of the New York  Times Bestselling Business book The Barefoot Spirit. From the start, with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative strategies to overcome obstacles, create new markets and foster key alliances. Michael and Bonnie now share their experience and entrepreneurial approach to business as consultants, authors, speakers, and workshop leaders. Michael and Bonnie are launching at the C-Suite Network Conference their new companion book to The Barefoot Spirit entitled, The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People. Learn more at, and find them on Facebook and Twitter @barefoot_spirit.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

by Tony Alessandra


Can you imagine giving your doctor permission to operate on you without first reviewing MRI images, X-Rays or other evaluations? Of course you wouldn’t!

Smart business people use assessments to make decisions about personal development, hiring, managing, promoting and leading others. You can think of assessments as “MRI tests” to reveal someone’s innermost values, behavioral tendencies, skill sets, etc. They empower the roadmap for development and improvement.

Assessments provide invaluable tools to enhance the human capital within your organization, whether it’s leveraging your investment in existing personnel or increasing the probabilities for success in new investments in human resources. Assessments can measure a variety of criteria: intellectual ability, motivation, skill proficiency, work styles, behavioral characteristics and personal values. Assessments are used to help determine training needs, career counseling and personal development.

A good assessment tool is designed to increase personal awareness of how individuals interact with others. Our assessments come with support materials and action plans to help individuals implement new strategies, skills and behaviors. Whether your individual career track is frontline customer service, face-to-face sales, technical/professional services, supervision/management or executive staff/boardroom, it’s important for an individual to have the skills to demonstrate those attitudes and behaviors that enable them to get along with others. To get along, they must better understand themselves and others to communicate with others more effectively.

*This article originally appeared at

Tony_Alessandra-559410-editedTony Alessandra is the CEO of Assessment Business Center, a company that offers online 360º assessments, and a founding partner in the Platinum Rule Group, a company which has successfully combined cutting-edge technology and proven psychology to give salespeople the ability to build and maintain positive relationships with hundreds of clients and prospects. Tony is also prolific author with 27 books translated into more than 50 foreign language editions. Dr. Alessandra was inducted into the NSA Speakers Hall of Fame in 1985. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAlessandra.

The Secret to Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

by Steve Rizzo


The first time I can recall my sense of humor having a dramatic effect on my life was when I was in the third grade. I was performing in our school play, “Alice in Wonderland.” No, I wasn’t Alice. I was Humpty Dumpty — you know, the egghead who was damaged irreparably when he found out he didn’t have workers compensation.

It was opening night, and the auditorium was packed with parents, teachers, students and their families. Peering out from the wings of the stage I could see the rows of expectant faces. That’s a lot of pressure for a third grader. The time for my scene came in the blink of an eye, and there I was, sitting on the wall in my egg costume. Everything was going fine until my line, “I’m one who has spoken to a king, I am!” I guess I said it with just a little too much enthusiasm… because I lost my balance and fell over the back side of the wall.

All the audience could hear was a giant thud! I didn’t get hurt, but I remember how humiliated I felt waiting behind that wall for the house to realize that falling wasn’t a part of the act — at least not yet. All I could think was, “I messed up big time.” I was going to be the laughingstock of the entire school, and I assumed the rest of the cast would berate me for ruining the play. And how, I wondered, could I ever face my parents? I wanted to run off the stage and hide, but I was frozen by fear, crouching behind the wall — an egg with egg on his face.

While these negative thoughts were running rampant in my mind, the teacher in charge was running up the steps from the first row, calling out, “Steven, are you OK?” Instinct kicked in, to rely on the ability that had gotten me out of bad situations before: humor. Without missing a beat, I yelled out as loud as I could, “Yeah! But I think I cracked my shell. I hope Alice doesn’t mind scrambled eggs!” To my young surprise, the entire audience exploded with laughter.

Hearing the laughter, I slowly stuck my head above the wall to check out what was going on. As soon as they saw my big egghead, the laughter turned into cheers and everyone in that auditorium, including the cast, was standing and chanting, “Hump-ty! Hump-ty!” Because scrambled eggs just aren’t as good without a little ham, I jumped on top of the wall and proceeded to take many exaggerated bows.
The teacher was begging me to please sit down before I fell off again, but I couldn’t help myself. I was totally blown away by the reaction and attention I was getting. The cheers and the laughter grew louder as I took one final bow, but eventually I sat down and let the play continue — and it was a huge hit. What happened that night that allowed me to shift from embarrassing failure to incredible success? My “humor being” came to the rescue.

In a matter of seconds, there was a major shift in perspective — an emotional transformation. Just by blurting out the first obvious joke that came to my mind, I went from klutz to hero, from experiencing humiliation to becoming the show’s star. And I’m not exaggerating when I say “star.” When the play was over, I was actually signing autographs.
Every time I look back on this significant incident in my life, I am reminded of how important it is to be in control of my emotions in business and in life and how laughter can help me find control. Why? Because in addition to signaling to yourself that your problem is laughable, you’ve also stopped the rampage of negative thinking. You’ve calmed down your nervous system to the point where you can shift your thoughts and think clearly, reassess the situation, bounce back and take control.

That night as Humpty Dumpty, when I joined in with the laughter of the audience, I felt instant relief. I regained my confidence, took control and hopped right back up onto that wall. Now that’s power!
Remember, your sense of humor is your sense of perspective. It’s a choice we all have on how to deal with the insanity that life throws at us every day.

*This article originally appeared at

Steve RizzoSteve Rizzo is more than a Funny Motivational Speaker. Don’t let the laughter fool you! What Steve brings to the table is his captivating ability to engage the attendees with laughter as he challenges them to SHIFT their focus and way of thinking to discover greater enthusiasm, increased productivity and new levels of success. Recognizing difficult situations don’t cause us to fail or be unhappy, but rather our negative thoughts and beliefs about the situations, Steve has been Adjusting Attitudes in organizations throughout the world such as AT&T, Prudential, State Farm, LaQuinta, and even the CIA (yes, he even had them laughing!) since 1994.
Find him on Twitter @steverizzophb, Facebook at Riz’s Biz Steve Rizzo, LinkedIn and Google+.

Chemistry Lessons for Leaders

by Judith Glaser

chemistry bottles with liquid inside

We are all familiar with the “chemistry” factor in relationships and the “chemical attraction” metaphor; now, we are learning that such insights are more than metaphor — they are reality!
I’ve long been intrigued by the chemical impacts — both positive and negative — of conversations. I married a biochemist, and for decades we’ve shared conversations about our work. Positive comments and conversations provide a temporary chemical “high,” while negative ones languish longer. A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague or a fight with a friend can make you forget praise. If you are called lazy, careless or unprofessional, you are likely to remember it and internalize it, easily forgetting all the past compliments.

Chemistry plays a big role in this reaction. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, or when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive, perceiving greater negativity than what actually exists. These effects can last for days, imprinting the interaction on our memories and influencing our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained release tablet: The more we ruminate about fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations also produce a chemical reaction. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to collaborate, communicate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But, since oxytocin metabolizes faster than cortisol, its effects are less dramatic and sustainable.

Chemistry of Conversations

This “chemistry of conversations” necessitates being more mindful of our interactions. Behaviors that increase cortisol levels reduce your conversational intelligence. Your C-IQ your ability to connect and think empathetically, creatively and strategically with others. Remember: behaviors that spark oxytocin boost C-IQ.

When we partnered with Qualtrics, the online survey software company, to analyze the frequency of negative (cortisol-producing) versus positive (oxytocin-producing) interactions, we found that managers use positive, oxytocin and C-IQ elevating behaviors more often than negative ones. Survey respondents acknowledged all five positive behaviors, such as “showing concern for others,” more frequently than all five negative ones, like “pretending to be listening.”
However, about 85 percent of respondents also admitted to “sometimes” acting in ways that could derail not only specific interactions but also future relationships. When leaders exhibit both behaviors, they create dissonance or uncertainty in followers’ brains, spurring cortisol production and reducing CI-Q.

If you tend to tell and sell your ideas and challenge people to produce results, your negative reactions could easily outweigh positive ones. Instead of asking questions to stimulate discussion, showing concern for others and painting a compelling picture of shared success, you enter discussions with a fixed opinion, determined to convince others you are right. You are not open to others’ influence, and you fail to listen and connect.

Three Chemistry Lessons

When managers and leaders understand the chemical impacts of their behavior, they tend to make changes. For example, they learn to deliver difficult feedback inclusively and supportively, thereby limiting cortisol production and stimulating oxytocin instead.
Awareness of the behaviors that open us up and those that close us down, along with their influence in our relationships, allows us to better harness the chemistry of conversations. Conversations are the source of energy that transcends doldrums, the power that launches transformational products, and the golden threads that create trust. Conversations are the way we connect, engage, navigate and transform the world with others.

The quality of our culture depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations. The most powerful “leadershift” anyone can make is to realize that each person has the power to create the conversational space that creates deeper understanding and engagement rather than fear and avoidance.

Remember these three chemistry lessons:

  1. Be mindful of your conversations and the emotional content you bring.
    Pain closes the brain, while pleasure opens it. Are you sending friend or foe messages? Are you sending the message “You can trust me to have your best interest at heart,” or “I want to persuade you to think about things my way”? When you’re aware of these meta-messages, you can create a safe culture that allows everyone to interact collaboratively while sharing perspectives, feelings and aspirations and elevating insights and wisdom.
  2. Conversations trigger emotional reactions.
    Conversations carry meaning, and meaning is embedded in the listener even more than in the speaker. Words allow us to either bond and trust more fully, thinking of others as friends and colleagues, or break rapport and see others as enemies. Your mind will open as you see the connection between language and health, and you’ll learn how to create healthy organizations through your conversational rituals.
  3. Note that the words we use in our conversations are rarely neutral.
    Words have histories informed by years of use. Each time a new experience overlays another meaning on a word, the information collects in our brains to be activated during conversations. Knowing how you project meaning into your conversations will enable you to connect with others and, in so doing, let go of much of the self-talk that diverts from effective co-working.

Judith GlaserJudith E. Glaser is the CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and the Chairman of The Creating WE Institute. She is the author of the best selling book, “Conversational Intelligence” (Bibliomotion, 2013), an Organizational Anthropologist and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies.Visit her at; or contact her at Follow Judith on Twitter @CreatingWE.