Politics or Performance?

by Judith Glaser

Step out of your comfort zone and lead.

As we enter organizations, we each face a simple choice: Do we primarily play politics, or do we try daily to perform at our best?

Why do we often choose to play politics? Because the politics of the organization often appear to dictate who is hired, promoted and rewarded, and so playing politics seems to be our best chance to control our plight, especially in a volatile business climate.

How Change Changes Us

Business is not predictable; in fact, outside forces are always creating disruptions that require major shifts in how we work together. We join a company that is headed in one direction, and the next minute it’s turning 180 degrees in another direction.

We can’t control all the market shifts; as leaders, we can only proactively respond to them or try to influence them and ensure that everyone moves with agility in the right direction.

But the big question is this: How do you get everyone to successfully shift, learn new skills, and embrace change for the good of the company?

In the process of change we, as leaders, are bombarded with an incredible amount of detail. Do we have to educate and train employees on a new business direction? Do we leave it to the Human Resources department, or do we educate a few who teach the rest? Who announces the shift and how? What happens if people are afraid of change or don’t want to take on the new challenges, for fear that they won’t learn as fast as others or, worse still, that they may fail?

And, what if you are the one having difficulty? You want to stay with your organization but don’t like the direction it’s headed. What do you do? Do you try overtly to influence other executives to change their minds? Or do you play politics behind the scenes, trying to keep everyone from changing?

Step out of Your Comfort Zone

Answer the following seven self-assessment questions and try to get a realistic picture of how you fare when faced with changes and pressures in the workplace.

  1.  When challenged by others: Do you doubt your own abilities to lead and allow fear to drive you into defensive behaviors? Or Do you engage with others to build partnerships for success?
  2. When competition is fierce: Do you hold on to your old avoidance behaviors or rely on old strategies that have helped in the past? Or Do you focus on engaging with others to discover new strategies for success?
  3. When expectations for performance are high: Do you get upset with employees because they are not delivering results? Or Do you focus on having developmental coaching discussions to help them reconnect to their aspirations and skills for success?
  4. When your bonus is on the line: Do you step in and get involved in your employees work for fear they may make mistakes? Or Do you focus on engaging with others to discover new strategies for success?
  5. When you manage a team: Do you give people the freedom to make decisions and then take back their power when they do things differently than you would? Or Do you focus on Letting Go and allowing them to discover their own answers?
  6. When you are leading: Do you find employees retreating, avoiding confrontation, or losing faith in your management? Or Do you focus on encouraging employees to discover their leadership instincts?
  7. When employees’ performance is low: Do you confront these problems by deciding it is easier to fire them? Or Do you focus on having courageous conversations and help them grow?

What does this self-assessment show you about how you function when faced with changes and pressures in the workplace?

I encourage you to engage with others to build partnerships for success—to co-create new strategies, to reconnect people to their professional aspirations, to enable people to discover their own answers and their leadership instincts by developing and using your conversational intelligence to have courageous conversations and help them grow.

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 creatingwe.com; conversationalintelligence.com or contact her at jeglaser@creatingwe.com. Follow Judith on Twitter @CreatingWE or connect with her on Facebook.

A manager’s top 5 ‘must do’s to create an engaged workforce

by Ruth K. Ross


A manager’s top 5 ‘must do’s to create an engaged workforce

Engagement doesn’t happen without ownership and hard work. It can’t just fall on the shoulders of one person, but rather requires equal but different contributions from senior leaders, managers and employees alike.  That’s how you can create the magic of an engaged and committed workforce.  While everyone needs to be responsible for engagement, I’d like to focus today on the critical role that one of these three groups needs to take on to create an engaged workforce, and that’s managers.

But before we dive into the 5 ‘must do’s’, we need to answer an important question, why are managers like an accordion? Think about it this way, in order to make sweet music (aka engagement) come out of that cumbersome instrument, both sides need to be embraced in perfect harmony. The left keyboard on the accordion stands for top management, handing down a mandate to produce more, in a faster timeframe, all the while keeping resources flat or even reduced. The right keyboard stands for employees who require more of management’s time, energy and support. Each side relies on the other for that sweet music to be made.

Therein lies the lasting conundrum. How are managers supposed to keep both of these sides playing in harmony, creating in-tune music together that results in higher engagement, increased productivity, customer satisfaction and increased revenue? Managers can’t play a harmonious tune if even one person on their team is disengaged. It’s like trying to play a song on a piano missing a key. In today’s tough business environment, managers can’t afford to have a team working for them that is not fully engaged. Even worse, if your manager is operating on a low battery, then how can you expect him or her to charge and reengage others?

Managers have my greatest respect as they play an enormously important role in the journey toward reaching full engagement. Here are my tips to create an engaged workforce.

Managers are the catalyst for linking people to work

People want and need to feel emotionally connected to their work and the workplace environment. Their direct manager is the conduit to making that tight connection. If the connection is frayed, the rope linking them together will break.

A good manager makes people feel valued

How hard is it to show people that they are appreciated for the work they do? It doesn’t take much to convey that they are valued through a word or gesture of thanks. A surefire technique to make someone feel less valued is to micromanage him or her.

Instill trust through transparency

Similar to what is expected of senior leadership, line managers should uphold the company’s commitment to transparency by being honest and forthright with their employees. You don’t want to be the one to start the water cooler chatter by creating an environment of secrecy and closed-door conversations.

Give employees the tools and processes they need to be effective in their jobs

How many of us can remember starting a new job and not even having a computer or access to the company’s systems on day one or two or three? I know I can. There is nothing worse than being expected to perform a task for which you have no training or tools to accomplish your goals.

Paint an exciting picture for the future of what could be and should be, regardless of what is.

Like an exciting journey, it all starts with a roadmap that may involve some detours along the way. But, regardless of the obstacles that prevent themselves, managers should always have an ultimate goal in sight and navigate their employees there.

It’s time to have everyone operating at full power!

Ruth K. Ross is an Engagement evangelist, Speaker, Successful HR Executive for top Fortune 500 companies and Author of Coming Alive: The Journey To Reengage Your Life And Career. After 30 years of working with corporate leaders and managers as a senior human resources leader, Ruth knows firsthand that focusing on engaging your people is the most direct way to improve the bottom line of your business. Disengaged employees can cause even seemingly strong companies to stumble. She has a personal passion for identifying and reengaging the disengaged employee. That’s because she once was one herself. Visit her website at http://www.ruthkross.com or on Twitter @ruthkross.

Almost everything you think you know about Millennials is wrong.

by Jared Kleinert

“Millennials are screwed.”

Over two years ago, a then-twenty year old Stacey Ferreira and a then-seventeen year old version of myself set out to share the stories of ambitious, talented, and misunderstood young entrepreneurs, creators, and doers from around the world.

We met at at Thiel Foundation Summit in New York City in November 2012, where the final speaker of the conference shared with us the fact that there were 2 billion people in the world 20 years old and younger – the “2 Billion Under 20”. And that’s how it all started.

A few months later, I posted in the online Facebook group shared by members of the Thiel Foundation’s community of entrepreneurs, techies, and scientists. I asked them whether or not they’d like to share their stories in order to inspire other young people to act on their passions in life and that, contrary to popular belief, Millennials across the globe are succeeding in changing the world with their alternative, ambitious paths.

You see, when we started research for the book, if you typed “Millennials are” into Google, the autosuggestion tool for the world’s most popular search engine would list options such as “lazy”, “stupid”, “the next hippies”, and “screwed”. However, as we’ve found out after literally studying, interacting with, and befriending hundreds of the world’s smartest and most talented young people over the last few years, we’ve quickly come to show that Millennials are actually quite entrepreneurial, caring, and ambitious.

Within half an hour of making the post about “2 Billion Under 20” on Facebook, the thread had over fifty likes and sixty comments. Three or four stories for the book had already been sent in for review, and over the course of the next few months, me and Stacey combed through our personal networks, introductions and referrals from trusted sources, and media outlets featuring the stories of talented young people, ultimately receiving well over 300 one-to-three page anecdotes to choose from in creating the book’s content. In the end, we chose to include the seventy-five stories we thought were diverse and inspiring enough to lead a generational rallying cry in sharing how Millennials are breaking down age barriers and changing the world.

Next up: securing a publisher. Originally looking to self publish, we ended up choosing to partner with St. Martin’s Press, one of the largest and most reputable publishers in the U.S. in order to provide a credibility boost to all our book’s contributors as well as create a high-quality, reader-ready product.

Now, after over two years of hard work, thousands of emails to and from contributors, months of planning press coverage and book launch events, and weeks of less than normal sleep, we’re proud to share 2 Billion Under 20: How Millennials Are Breaking Down Age Barriers and Changing The World with you today.

So far, the book has been reviewed and endorsed by business celebrities such as Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, #1 NYT Bestselling author Keith Ferrazzi, and the Chief Revenue Officer of Mashable Seth Rogin, as well as director, writer, and actress Talulah Riley, social entrepreneur and Co-Founder of The Malala Fund Shiza Shahid, and even Kristine Barnett, the mother to the world’s youngest astrophysicist. Publisher’s Weekly says, “This book would make an excellent graduation gift for ambitious Millennials,” and the official Coca-Cola Twitter handle has previously tweeted that, “@JaredKleinert and @StaceyFerreira show us the @2BillionUnder20 who can change the world.”

With the release of 2 Billion Under 20, we have created a new holding company, the StartsWith Group, and are launching a consulting firm, StartsWith Insights, to help large companies better work with Millennials. Whether your company needs help marketing to Millennials, recruiting and hiring top young talent, or engaging and retaining current Millennial employees, we’ve built a foundation of research and a network of the world’s smartest and most talented Millennials in order to provide insights and solutions to large companies who have the biggest influence on our generation. Starting with talks at a handful of Fortune 500 companies during our book tour, as well as sharing my thoughts at the upcoming TED@IBM event in October about “Millennials – The End of Corporate America (As We Know It!)”, we are excited to start this new chapter in our work piggybacking off the book launch.

Through the personal anecdotes from 75 contributors at or under age 20 (at time of writing) who have involved themselves in remarkable things, from entrepreneurship to athletics to music and more, we are slashing negative stereotypes to prove that our generation is making an unprecedented and positive impact.

Millennials are not, in fact, “screwed”.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAH_AAAAJGQ2OTQ2ODBkLWJmYzctNDc5OC1hY2EyLTBmZDQzMTBjZDIzYgJared Kleinert is the co-founder/co-author of 2 Billion Under 20, Founder of Kleinert Ventures, and in-demand public speaker. As a speaker, Jared’s spoken to audiences of 20 to 1000+ around the world, from TEDx stages to corporate boardrooms, about Millennial empowerment, youth entrepreneurship, community-building, and more. He’s shared the stage with various thought leaders including Peter Diamandis, Kevin Harrington, Les Brown, Charlie Hoehn, and even Pitbull. Learn more at jaredkleinert.com, and find Jared on Twitter @jaredkleinert

Sales and Consumer Care May Know More About Your Customers Than Marketing and Production

by Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey


Your marketing people have done a fine job of creating a marketing plan, strategy, and package. They’ve considered the market, the competition and the delivery systems. They have honed the message, dialed in the positioning, and developed the compelling logo, catch phrase, and merchandising materials. But like any aircraft designer, they must eventually launch it; then be ready to redesign it based on the constant feedback they get from the pilots who are actually flying it through the headwinds, storms and down drafts.

Who are the folks who intimately know what’s right and wrong with the program? Who knows first about the changes in the marketplace, attacks by the competition, and the nuances necessary to keep the brand image and experience excellent? Who are the pilots of the customer experience? Your sales and customer care people.

In some companies marketing and production are considered to have a higher status than sales and customer care. Too often sales is viewed simply as “sales execution,” and customer care is viewed as “complaint resolution.” This attitude can result in restricting the information flow from the consumer to production and marketing.

Relevance is the key to an excellent customer experience and brand image. Your products must remain relevant and leading edge in a market filled with alternatives, creative initiatives by your competitors, and constant changing circumstances on the ground. Who knows about these shifting conditions and challenges first? Your sales people. Now they are not just executing sales – now they are your best source of timely tactical and practical feedback. Your marketing people should listen up and even thank them for sharing their street smarts!

Relevance is also a function of “complaints.” In fact complaints are a gold mine of information that will keep your products and services relevant. Your customer care people are in touch with your end users daily. They know more than anyone in your organization about what’s going on with your customer experience. Only one in a thousand complainers actually take their precious time to call and talk with your company about their concerns. The others just walk. But the complainers really want to improve their experience with your product. Sure, they want a resolution, but more importantly, they want your production people to hear their concerns to help keep “their brand” relevant. Do your customer care people have a clear channel to you production people? Better yet, do your production people respect their input as extremely valuable? Or do they see it as a threat to their job security coming from a perceived ‘lower’ level in the company?

The problems begin when the company culture dictates that there are separate divisions that are higher or lower than each other, rather than working together as a team. When the sales people are considered “outside” and the customer care people are in a call center; and everyone else is “inside” there is can be a disconnect. The other departments have direct access to top management on a daily basis and can easily outnumber sales and customer care.  So at a C-Suite level, do you allow a misguided view of structural status to block sincere and valuable feedback coming from your end-user?

Ironically, from a status standpoint, if you really do put the customer on top, you must realize that sales and customer care come next on the totem pole. That’s how you stay relevant, practical, and excellent.

Everybody says they want to give exceptional customer service, but they must be willing to hardwire their companies to provide sales and customer feedback to marketing and production for a dynamic brand image and experience. Stay informed and stay relevant!

For related complimentary business resources and graphics, please visit: www.barefootbonus.com.

Copyright © 2015 by Footnotes Press, LLC

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 launched 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 thebarefootspirit.com, and find them on Facebook and Twitter @barefoot_spirit.

C-Suites Eyeing Europe See 50 Shades of Green in Ireland

by John Lee

Well, to be honest, everybody sees 50 shades of green in Ireland, but what business leaders see are lush, verdant greens of a fertile environment for business growth.  So when North American C-Suites look to establish a European presence for their businesses or to expand current operations there, increasingly they look to Ireland.

They’re seeing more that the Guinness and the golf, though those are two compelling attractions.

What they are seeing is a natural gateway to the rest of Europe, an easy hop to all the capitals of the continent.

They’re finding that Ireland is the only English-speaking country in the Eurozone, offering barrier free access to over 500 million European consumers.

That it’s populated by one of Europe’s youngest and most highly-educated workforces.

Over 1,100 multi-nationals have chosen Ireland as their strategic European base. Some of the biggest names in US and multinational business are flourishing in Ireland’s corporate ecology, including:

  • 9 of the top 10 global software companies
  • 9 of the top 10 US technology companies
  • 10 of the top 10 “Born on the Internet” companies
  • 9 of the top 10 global pharmaceutical corporations
  • 15 of the top 20 global medical technology companies
  • 3 of the top 5 US games publishers
  • More than 50% of the world’s leading financial services firms

To put some names on those numbers we’re talking about Google, LinkedIn, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, IBM, Microsoft, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Prudential, Citi, Mastercard, Accenture, SAP, Fidelity, Fujitsu, and so many more.  Quite a tech cluster—you know these companies wouldn’t be in Ireland without superb data transmission and digital asset hosting capabilities.


Various international business studies and indexes have named Ireland “#1 in the World” for:

  • availability of skilled labor
  • flexibility & adaptability of workforce
  • investment incentives
  • productivity & efficiency of companies
  • inward investment by quality and value

And “#1 in Europe” for:

  • Ease of paying business taxes
  • Being most entrepreneurial country

Ireland is also known for its pro-business tax environment–12.5 percent corporation tax, 25 percent R&D tax credit–and the financial incentives it makes available to support companies.

Here’s a negative that Ireland turns into a positive: take away its agricultural land, its great tourism business, the aforementioned golf, a vibrant culture that gives Ireland an outsized presence in the world, and you’ll find a country pretty much lacking money-making natural resources—except for its people.  Those people and their government know they have to bend over backward to bring businesses and jobs to Ireland…and they do just that.

Ireland’s inward investment promotion agency, IDA Ireland (Industrial Development Agency) is responsible for the attraction and development of foreign investment in Ireland. The first stop for businesses considering an Ireland location, IDA Ireland has seven offices in the United States.

Another resource is ConnectIreland, which rewards people for making the introductions that result in new jobs coming to Ireland and helps smaller scaled-businesses operation take root on the Emerald Isle.

The center of Irish business is Dublin which has morphed into a vibrant cosmopolitan capital, with Cork in the role of “second city” for foreign investment, but last year 45 percent of the jobs from foreign direct investment were outside of those two cities.

There are a lot of great business reasons for the C-Suite to look to Ireland when they look to expand in Europe. There’s also the natural warmth of its people, the scenery, the great music, the town and country charm, the burgeoning farm-to-table cuisine, the sports, the theater scene, the whiskey, the Guinness and the golf…and all those shades of green.

John Lee is a senior account executive for TallGrass Public Relations and is the producer of All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on the CBS RADIO network Play.it. Active on the Irish scene, he’s a frequent panel moderator at the annual Ireland Day at NYSE and New York New Belfast conferences, and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the Irish Business Organization of New York. He’d be happy to connect you to the right person to answer your questions about expanding your business to Ireland. Follow him at @johnleemedia.

3 Things Marketers Should Not Overlook This Summer

by Steve Olenski

The summer. Depending on where you live, work and play the word can connote different things – from beaches to barbecues, to camping to fishing, to mountain climbing and white-water rafting and on and on.

The summer is a time for vacation for sure. And yours truly could use one right about now. But that’s another story and quite honestly you probably don’t care and I can’t say I blame you. The summer is also a time to spend with family and friends to yes – engage. And we all know, when it comes to marketing, engagement is everything.

Here’s a list I compiled of 3 things marketers should not overlook this summer. No, I did not include sunscreen for that should be obvious.

1. Your Database (and the growing thereof)

This time of year, AKA the summer (at least in the northern hemisphere) people are on the lookout for their next greatest vacation spot. And companies that provide access to rental properties are in a fierce battle with one another to stand out while growing their list of repeat customers.

One such company is Swantree 30A and its co-founder Jason Koertge says others in the same industry – as well as all companies in general, can benefit greatly via two traditional methods.
“Email newsletters and social media,” says Koertge. “I realize these are not exactly new platforms but we rely on both heavily to stay engaged and grow our list at the same time. I think these are goldmines that many companies downplay or overlook completely.”

2. Something New i.e. New Technology

It’s very easy to be lose sight of a new release of new technology over the summer for after all, you have your tan and summer reading to think of, right?

Well in case you didn’t know there is a slew of new technology that will be release this summer including the Apple iPad Pro, Microsoft 10 and Oculus Rift, the latter of which could finally open the doors to using virtual reality (VR) as a true marketing tool.

According to AdWeek, Marriott, which has dabbled in VR in the past, is considering making the Oculus Rift – which will be available for pre-order this summer, a permanent fixture inside its hotels this year.” Last year in fact Marriott offered guests a one-minute “fantastical glimpses of Maui’s Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach and central London from the dizzying heights of gigantic skyscraper Tower 42″ via an initiative named #GetTeleported.

3. You Are Not the Only One On Vacation

Just as obvious as using sunscreen (see above) so too should the fact be that marketers need to remember that people, AKA your customers and prospects are on vacation, too.
Now I can hear you now: “No kidding, Steve. Of course I know they’re on vacation. What am I an idiot?”

Well I not get into the whole IQ aspect of this topic but I will get into the fact that consumers during the summer are under a different mindset. For one thing the pace is slower; more relaxed. This is not to say they are still open to hearing of about a sale or receiving a coupon, etc.

But the pace at which they disseminate the marketing messages they receive is slower. I have no scientific data to back this up – am relying on good old fashioned common sense. Don’t you as a consumer slow things down just a notch during the summer?

And please, do not set your marketing machine on autopilot for the summer. Do not send message after message without one iota of consideration toward relevance. Just the other day I published something onLinkedIn entitled The Danger For Brands Who Don’t Master This 9-Letter Word.

The 9-letter word in question is relevance and the article touched on findings of a recent study which revealed this mind-blowing stat:

20% of U.S. and U.K. consumers say they receive between four and five irrelevant marketing messages per day.

So please, I beg of you, don’t fall into the “set it and forget it” mode and blast one irrelevant message after another to your customers during the summer hoping they will respond to one of them.

*This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Steve OlenskiSteve Olenski was named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred. Steve is a senior creative content strategist at Responsys, a leading marketing cloud software and services company. He is a also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing and co-author of the book “StumbleUpon For Dummies.” He can be reached via LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter @steveolenski or at the nearest coffee shop.

7 Ways to Improve Your Business Communication

by Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey


Thanks to tweets, texts, posts, and very short attention spans, we have become a society constantly looking for the shortest way to communicate a thought.

That may be fine for the captions on a cute kitten picture, or texting your friend a remark, but it’s counter-productive in business communication. In fact, just the opposite is true, especially when you are working with outside services that depend on explicit explanations.

We now have a new generation entering the workforce who, because of the technology they grew up with and take for granted, often try a minimalist approach in business communication. They are really surprised when the projects they handed off come back just plain wrong. They are dumbfounded by the misunderstandings and tend to blame the outside vendor.

Business communication should be maximized, not minimized. By spending a little more time on the front-end thinking about the ways in which you could possibly be misinterpreted, you save tons of time, recrimination and embarrassment on the back end.

Here are some guidelines we use to reduce misunderstandings in business communication:

  1. Say it Both Ways. State what you want and then state what you don’t want. Ask them to confirm that they understand. Say, “Just so I’m sure I didn’t leave anything out, please tell me what you understand about this project.” You’ll be amazed at what they didn’t get and you’ll be glad you asked.
  2. Deadlines. Be clear about deadlines. Schedule a reminder when half the time has passed and again, when 3/4 of the time has passed. Say, “Just checking in to see if you need anything more from me,” and then, “Are we still good for the finish date?”
  3. Don’t A-s-s-u-m-e. Don’t assume anything except to be misunderstood. Anticipate how your message could be misinterpreted and head that off at the pass. We like to read our business communications out loud before we send them. We are often surprised at what we hear!
  4. Phone ‘Em. Don’t rely on email. It’s better to explain what you want in person or over the phone, and then memorialize it in a written email memo, for the record. And always say, “If this is not your understanding of our discussion, please call me today so we can get it right.”
  5. Provide a Cushion. Give yourself and the vendor some wiggle room. Don’t wait until the last minute. Whatever time you think they need, double it. In fact, give them a deadline that is several days before your deadline. You’ll be thankful you had the time to check their work, and more importantly, have time to fix it if necessary.
  6. Specific Details. Be specific on the details including wording, functionality, design, and even font type and size. When you don’t, vendors or staff will have license to be “creative,” and often will not realize that you have a more comprehensive project that their job is only a part of.
  7. Acknowledge Good Work. If and when they get it right, thank them and tell them specifically what you liked about what they did. The next time they will be much easier to work with. They will also then be more interested in paying close attention to what you want, ask better questions, and make your job a priority.

Business communication requires thinking ahead about what could be misinterpreted, what could possibly go wrong, and how to achieve your deadline. A few more minutes of thoughtful time spent on what you really want – and don’t want -will save you days in the long run.

For related complimentary business resources and graphics, please visit: www.barefootbonus.com.

Copyright © 2015 by Footnotes Press, LLC

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 launched 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 thebarefootspirit.com, and find them on Facebook and Twitter @barefoot_spirit.

C-Suite Q&A – Good Teams Need Great Leaders

by Brendan King

C-Suite Q&A

Good Teams Need Great Leaders

As the CEO of Vendasta, Brendan King is constantly traveling through North America, frequenting conferences and talking to partners. Being a bit of a rarity—he runs a successful tech company out of Saskatoon in the Canadian prairie— he’s often pulled aside for interviews. His team noticed a few questions that hadn’t been asked, and decided to do so regarding being a member of the c-suite. Here’s what he had to say:

What’s the biggest c-suite myth? What is the biggest perk that people think you have, and what is it really?

The biggest myth might be that you don’t have to worry about the small things.  You can’t let the small things slide.  If the coffee is empty, make it. If there is garbage on the floor, pick it up.  The biggest perceived perk depends on where you sit.  People that don’t travel think it is travel, people that have structured schedules think it is freedom.  For me the biggest perk is creating a shared destiny for the company.

What obstacle did you have to overcome that people around you thought was nearly impossible? How and why did you do it?  

Start a global tech company in Saskatoon Saskatchewan.  We did it because there is a great base of talent, work ethic, skills and smarts.  It’s not without its challenges, but it also has its advantages.

What do you think you are most successful at and why?

Creating a vision for the future and developing a plan to get there.  Understanding what businesses need—not what they want—and finding a way to deliver that value.  And why? My degree is in physics: I have always wanted to understand how and why things work.  I would say that I have an unrelenting drive to uncover the basic mechanics behind what is really happening and why, and build testable and provable business hypothesis.

Do companies have to tell customers or employees everything to be open and honest?  

I think transparency is important.  It forces you to have clarity of thought and reasoning, and to develop succinct communication.  We hold back some types of financial information, but more for competitive or strategic reasons.

It’s been said that nothing is ridiculous if you’re willing to employ a little ‘irrational’ leadership to create tension and results. Does this resonate with you? If so, how do you know where the edge of the table is and what failure looks like?

Damn right it does. In physics we used to say F=MA (Force = Mass x Acceleration) and you can’t push a rope. Often you need to push a rope—complacency is the enemy. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. Sometimes you simply have to get a little “irrational” to make people move. The edge of the table is always farther away than you think it is. The real world is not flat—it’s pretty hard to fall off the edge. Failure is hard to define. Failure is simply disproving one hypothesis and moving on to another, and at the end of the experiment, you have success.

A lot of people want to believe that the c-suite and leaders in general have all the answers, but we know that is not true. In fact, wearing your failures on your sleeve has become vogue, even passé. Has failure become too much of a badge of honor? What is your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?  Failure is only cool if you learn from it, QUICKLY move on and pile up some wins.  Hanging on to it like a badge is not cool.  I think how you react to failure often is a product of your environment.  Where I am from, we dust ourselves off, learn from it and move on to proving the next hypothesis.  My biggest failure?  A long time ago in a different life I got into a crappy industry (retail), and tried to do everything myself.  I never asked for advice. Now I ask for advice from people who have been there and done that.

We always think of the c-suite as having people doing things for them but what are things that you do that you do that you won’t let anyone else do?

Make decisions without data. At the end of the day it’s my behind on the line.  If we are going to make a decision without data, it may as well be mine.

Has your c-suite changed and evolved? How does it determine your and your company’s cadence?

Absolutely.  Our s-suite is currently made up of folks I have worked with since 1999, except our CFO, who was the VP of Finance for Bacardi, because I talked him out of retirement when he moved back to Saskatoon.  Every one of these guys has a different and complementary skillset.  When we were a startup, we all participated in the big decisions.  Now as we grow through 150 people, that simply isn’t possible.  Executives have to make individual decisions and take singular responsibility.  The drum of our cadence is beating faster.

What does it take to keep things fresh and still retain your brand distinctiveness?  

It takes constant creation of value for your customers. This means tirelessly testing new hypotheses and constantly creating new products and improving existing products.  I often say that we need to move forward so fast that there is no need to look in the rearview mirror.

When I say think big, act bigger what do you think? What does that mean to you?

I know a lot of folks that have big dreams.  They talk about their ideas for hours, days and years, often over a bottle of wine. Unless you act—make a plan and do something—all those great ideas will go to waste.


Brendan King is the co-founder and CEO of Vendasta Technologies, a company that builds white label reputation management, social media marketing and listings management software for some of the most successful media companies in the world. Brendan and Vendasta are almost synonymous. Both are governed by four core values: drive, innovation, respect and agility. Brendan is extremely passionate about upholding these core values while leading Vendasta down a path of innovation to become the number one provider of essential brand management products. Follow him on Twitter @brendanking.

Customer Service – The DISC Styles Way!

by Dr. Tony Alessandra

Everywhere you turn today, you hear about the importance of customer satisfaction. From the bank to the phone company to the video store, every business seems to proclaim “The Customer Is King,” that “People Are Our Business,” that “Your Satisfaction Is Our No.1 Goal.”

So, you might think that service is getting better with each passing moment. Surveys, though, suggest otherwise. In fact, one customer in four is said to be thinking about leaving the average business at any given time because of dissatisfaction.

What’s wrong? One answer is that that too many companies and employees view customer support as something that happens once and then is over. But true service focuses not on a one-time event but on building a sustained, positive relationship.

A second reason for poor service is that we often treat customers and clients as if they’re all pretty much the same. But only by honoring their individuality can we hope to build lasting rapport. Firms and people with a positive attitude toward service know that each contact–even a conflict or a complaint–is an opportunity that may never come again. Such encounters typically fall into three categories:

Moments of Magic: Positive experiences that make customers glad to do business there.

Moments of Misery: Negative experiences that irritate, frustrate, or annoy.

Moments of Mediocrity: Routine, uninspired service that leaves neither a strong positive impression nor a strong negative impression.

Moments of Magic might include a hotel clerk who greets you with a warm smile, uses your name, shakes your hand, and sincerely asks that you call her with any problems. You remember such experiences.

But you probably remember even more clearly Moments of Misery, such as clerks who won’t take responsibility for solving problems–personnel who don’t know what they’re doing-and worse yet, don’t seem to care–or salespeople who first ignore you, then act as if they’re doing you a favor by taking your money. We’ve all had those experiences, but usually not more than once at the same place. Because we don’t go back.

Exceeding Expectations

The key to creating a Moment of Magic is exceeding a customer’s expectations. Sounds simple enough. But because people’s expectations vary according to personality type, what works for one may not work for another.

Handling a complaint is one of the most common, yet difficult, service situations, for customer and employee alike. So we’re going to look at that process and how we can use knowledge of the DISC behavioral styles to create Moments of Magic.

As anyone who’s ever dealt with upset customers can attest, they can be a diverse bunch: some loudly belligerent, some agitated but overloading you with details, others low-key and almost apologetic. But if you respond the same way to the belligerent, the agitated, and the apologetic, you might increase the irritation for some of them. You might even produce a Moment of Misery.

That’s because each style shows different symptoms of stress and reacts in different ways. But if you can recognize and respond to these patterns, you can reduce stress, yours and theirs.

Dealing with High ‘D’ Dominance Styles

As complainants, High D’s can be aggressive and sometimes pushy. And they may become intrusive, perhaps saying something like, “I demand to see the president this instant!” or “If you don’t furnish me every last bit of correspondence in this matter, you’ll hear from my lawyer in the morning.”

High D’s may appear uncooperative, trying to dictate terms and conditions. But ask yourself: what do they need? You can help defuse them by providing:

  • Results, or at least tangible signs of progress;
  • A fast pace;
  • Evidence that they have control of the situation;
  • A belief that time is being saved.

The last thing you should do is to assert your authority and argue with the High D’s. They’re not going to be listening, and they’ll probably out-assert you. “Nobody ever won an argument with a customer” is an axiom of service. And that’s doubly true with High D’s.

Dealing with High ‘I’ Influence Styles

High I’s with a complaint may seem overeager and impulsive. “I need this settled right this moment,” they might say, despite your logical explanation of why this complex situation can’t possibly be cleared up for 48 hours. High I’s, usually skilled in verbal attack, may also come across as manipulative, perhaps saying, “I wonder if a letter to your CEO and chairman of the board would improve your attitude?”

Under stress, High I’s’ primary response may be to disregard the facts and anything you say. But you can address their needs by giving them:

  • Personal attention;
  • Affirmation of their position;
  • Lots of verbal give-and-take;
  • Assurance that effort is being saved.

You may think the best course is to sit there impassively and let the High I’s harangue you. But, actually, you’d probably be better off to give them a quick-paced, spirited explanation that shows you aren’t just brushing them off.

Dealing with High ‘S’ Steadiness Styles

High S’s are the least likely to be loud and argumentative. When they do come forward, they may appear submissive, hesitant, or even apologetic. Worse yet, they may not even complain openly but just internalize their dissatisfaction and then take their business elsewhere. So if you suspect a problem, you may need to draw them out.

High S’s hate conflict, so they just wish this whole problem would go away, even if it weren’t necessarily settled in their favor. “I’m sorry to make such a big deal out of this,” they often say.

High S’s will be made most comfortable if you:

  • Make them feel they’re personally “okay”;
  • Promise that the crisis will soon ebb;
  • Guarantee that the process will be relaxed and pleasant;
  • Show you’re committed to working with them to iron out the problem and save the “relationship.”

You might be tempted to think the diffident RELATER is not to be taken seriously and can be shunted aside with mere lip service. But, remember, they’re just as upset as High D’s are; they just express it in a much more low-key way. And they’ll quietly go elsewhere if their needs aren’t met.

Dealing with High ‘C’ Conscientious Styles

High C’s won’t loudly carp and cajole like High D’s or High I’s, but they won’t be submissive, either. And their complaints may have a sharper edge to them than will the High S’s.

High C’s tend to recite the chronology of events and the litany of errors they’ve had to endure. They’ll provide data and documentation and get quite involved in the details of the snafu.

Here’s how you can lessen tension with complaining High C’s:

  • Suggest that they’re right
  • Explain the process and details
  • Show appreciation for their accuracy and thoroughness
  • Help them save face”

You may see them as compulsives more hung up on the process and on showing they’re right than getting the problem resolved. But if you want to retain their loyalty, you’ll deal with them precisely and systematically, emphasizing your firm’s interest in seeing justice done.

An Important Head Start

Knowing and using The Platinum Rule to deal with complaints gives you an important head start toward creating a Moment of Magic. It allows you to collaborate with your customers in solving the problem, reducing the likelihood that they’ll make outrageous demands, become abusive or take their business elsewhere.

In fact, studies show that customers who feel that a business has responded to their complaints are more likely than non-complainers to do business there again. They actually become more loyal than if the problem never happened.

So look at your complaints as opportunities to show much you really care about the customer. Remember: Your customers aren’t just part of your job; your customers are the reason you have a job!


Tony_Alessandra-559410-editedDr. Tony 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.

Hire for Hustle

by Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

How can you make sure you’re hiring people who will help your company grow and thrive? Here’s our advice: Hire people you like who have foundational qualities you can build on, such as integrity, enthusiasm, a willingness to learn, initiative, a sense of humor, and a sincere interest in your company, to name a few.

And keep in mind that you absolutely can tell from the hiring process whether someone is an entrepreneurial thinker who will add to the culture you’re building. A great way to separate the entrepreneurial thinkers from those who aren’t is to place a special emphasis on hiring people with a sense of urgency; people who can and will move quickly; people who don’t always have to be told what their next step should be.

In other words, don’t hire solely based on someone’s technical skill set. You can always teach that. You can’t teach the other stuff— and that other stuff is what will make the difference between an average company and a great company.

At Barefoot, we called that “other stuff” hustle. We had to hustle, and everybody we hired had to as well. Our team was aware that the major advantage we had over the big-name competitors was that we were lighter, faster, and able to adjust quickly to take advantage of sudden changes in the marketplace, not to mention pop-up opportunities. We needed people who could make the most of that.

For instance, when we heard of a distributor who lost a big brand in our price point, we went to them the same day with a proposal to put our product in all the stores that had carried that other brand. Hustle meant money to us, and we built a national award-winning brand in spite of the size of our staff, the size of our competitors, and the size of our budget.

So—how, exactly, can you hire for hustle? Well, part of it is instinct. First impressions mean a lot, so trust your gut when interviewing someone new. Beyond gut calls, though, here are a few good ways to test hustle:

  • Give them homework. During the interview, give job candidates a verbal run-down of the position, your company’s challenges, and your expectations for the position. Then have the candidate send you a one-page summary on a deadline. This will tell you volumes.
  • Take a water break. During interviews, we would sometimes ask candidates to go out and get us some waters. We would watch how they got up, opened the door, left the room, how long they were gone, and how they moved on their return. Were they deliberate, determined, and focused, or were they unstable, slow, and just shuffling along? (Also, did they think they were “too good” to get water?)
  • Grab a file. Ask interviewees to get a report on the other side of the room. This is also a great opportunity to see how they execute a simple physical task, and how long it takes them.
  • Take a walk. After the interview, we would often invite interviewees to take a walk with us around a nearby lake. We would take mental notes on their cadence, posture, and balance. We walked rather quickly, and observed if they could keep up. Their body language shouted volumes. Our experience told us that their approach to the job, with all its challenges and deadlines, would not be much different than how they used their body to perform simple physical tasks.
  • Be creative, and come up with your own hustle tests. Think about what attributes you most want your people to have, and devise a way to gauge whether or not interviewees possess them. Remember, your company will be most successful when each person thinks like an entrepreneur, but works well on a team. You can teach technical skills, but you can’t teach hustle.

For complimentary business resources and info-graphics related to this article, visit: www.barefootbonus.com.

Excerpt from The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey

Copyright © 2015 by Footnotes Press, LLC

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 launched 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 barefootspirit.com, and find them on Facebook and Twitter @barefoot_spirit.