C-Suite Network™

Growth Human Resources Investing Leadership Personal Development

Are You Sure You’re Training the Right Things?

Not long ago a training consultant got a call from a sales manager who said, “We need sales training!”

The consultant answered, “Are you sure?”

The caller explained that some of their customer service reps were doing four times the volume of others. It had to be because they were better salespeople … right? So, they needed sales training!

The consultant agreed to help, but insisted on observing the company’s top performers to get a better understanding of what sales techniques they were using.

As it turned out, the top producers weren’t better salespeople at all, but rather had developed a more effective method for processing customer transactions. Once the consultant recognized that, it was easy to document their techniques and build short training interactions around them. The result was an almost instant uptick in sales across their entire customer service rep population.

The message? To get the results you want, you need to understand the reality of your situation. Here are some non-obvious, commonsense steps to help you do that and avoid wasting time and resources.

Step One: Get Real Information from the Right People

A modified version of DACUM (which stands for Developing a Curriculum) can be effectively used in situations like that one. DACUM, which was created by educators to design courses, analyzes what people really do and what they need to learn.

In stark contrast to getting only the leadership team or training department heads in a room, training designers should invite the “boots on the ground.” These are the top performers, the gurus, and the go-to people everyone in the organization knows and relies on. A facilitator leverages a process by which they can extrapolate all that delicious institutional or “tribal” knowledge that exists only in their heads.

Diversity of perspective is key here, so don’t be afraid to have a mix of people. Here’s a sample group:

The new person who really gets it! – That person on your team who’s been in a role for six months to a year and really seems to get it. He or she provides a fresh perspective.

The go-to person who has been there forever! – He or she can be described as having forgotten more about the job than most people will ever learn. They provide historical knowledge about how the role has changed over the years.

An adjacent collaborator role – Don’t be afraid to bring in someone who is not in the role, but “close” to it. This individual can provide an outsider’s perspective and bring knowledge and experience to a different role.

Key stakeholders – This group is essential because they need the results. They are often your champions who need to understand the process and often support your budget.

Step Two: Create an Occupational Definition – Prime their Minds!

Get everyone in the room focused on the role and get discussions about leadership, work ethic and good communication out of the way. You can use a simple quadrant matrix to document:

  • Reporting lines – Who does the role report to up, down and laterally.
  • Critical knowledge and skills – What specific skills are essential to doing the job well?
  • “Nice to have” abilities and traits – What type of person tends to perform well?
  • Learned but wasn’t taught – What were those “a-ha moments” your group had on the job?

Step Three: Define the Body of Knowledge for Peak Performance – The Meat and Potatoes!

A Duty/Task Matrix can be used to define the body of knowledge necessary to perform in the role. You only need some big post-it notes and sharpies. Get the information on the wall so everyone can see it. Put duties down the left, and tasks going across left to right. Here are the definitions and some examples:

  • Duties – This is a something that is top-of-mind for the role. It doesn’t have a beginning or an end. It is ever-present while on the job and usually ends in –ing. Some examples:

Restaurant Manager. Duty: Maintaining food safety

Automotive Maintenance Manager. Duty: Selling products and services

  • Tasks – These are processes or procedures that have a beginning and end. They usually can have a metric associated with them. These roles fulfill duties by repeatedly completing a series of tasks, usually four or more. A defined task requires an object, verb and qualifier. Some examples:

Restaurant Manager. Task: Wash hands properly

Automotive Maintenance Manager. Task: Write a customer-facing estimate

When you identify all the duties and the tasks required to fulfill a role, you’ve documented the entire body of knowledge used by your experts in the room. You’ve also just blown your LT away, because they had “no idea!” your people did all this stuff!

Step Four: Understand the Gaps and Criticality

Your Duty/Task Matrix stands before you and now you need to know where the information is and what tasks have the highest impact on performance. Here are steps to follow:

Draft a Gap Analysis – Go task by task. Where is it documented how to perform this task? In HR? Marketing? Sales? Ops? Or is it in one of your expert’s head? Has it been passed down over time? If it’s the latter, it’s a gap!

Consider criticality – Everything in your Duty/Task Matrix is important … but what’s most critical? Use a simple rubric and define the impact to the business, performance, individual or team upon failure. Ask the question: If the worker fails to perform this task, does anyone notice? Does it create some rework—possibly a lot? Will you lose a customer? Will someone get hurt?

Step Five: Build Your Plan

You now have all the information you need to build your plan. You know what the role looks like, contained in your Occupational Definition. You know the body of knowledge that needs to be learned, as described in your Duty/Task Matrix. You know what exists and what doesn’t, laid out in your Gap Analysis. And you know what information is critical to performance, as summarized in your Criticality Analysis.

You can build your Learning Maps for the role, from beginner to expert. You can start to design and develop training around the gaps that really impacts performance. You can map these duties and tasks to competencies and leverage them in cross-team training interactions, and make decisions on the right method for delivery

Now you are armed, much like a marketing department, with an analysis of your customer base and potential for results based on empirical data and not simply feelings. Now you can go to your LT with a plan that justifies a budget and will deliver results. Oh, and you’ve done it all in two days. Good luck!

Best Practices Entrepreneurship Human Resources Management Personal Development

Answer the Call for Rest and Recovery

You know that I’m Australian. But, I’m also a US citizen. Now for me, my entire family is in Australia. Now my honey and I moved here many, many, many years ago and I still call Australia home, and I call the US home as well.

I think it’s important I go back to Australia to see my family. Now so many people say to me, oh I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but it’s so far. Well here’s how you think of Australia. It is very simply just six movies from LA. That’s right. Once you get on the plane, have a little snack, have a meal, have a little nap, watch six movies and voila, you’re there.

But why I think it’s so important to share this message about why I go back to see my family, is I think it’s really important to live a life that we don’t have any regrets. I think so often as busy professionals we think, oh, I’ll make a vacation when I have time. I’ll make plans when I have time, I’ll put it off, I’ll put it off, I’ll do it when I’m not so busy. Well here’s the reality. We are all busy. And one of the things I want to challenge you about is as a leader you are role modeling for your team about the importance of recovery. If you don’t spend time with your family or do whatever recharges your batteries then you become a tired leader and honestly, you become a boring leader.

My team knows that I have to go back to Australia every year because I get homesick. There is literally no cure for homesickness except being with people that I love. There is something about the Australian concha, the food, the sense of humor, the beauty the sunshine, the animals and it’s very different to what I experience here. I love living in the US. I love working with my American clients and my Canadian and also love being able to go home to Australia, see my family, wrap my arms around my mom, see my baby sisters, well they’re not really babies anymore, see my nephews and nieces. To shop at my favorite stores, to see my dearest friends there.

What are you doing to take care of your recovery? How do you recover? How do you show your family that they mean so much to you? You see when we pay attention it’s not just about what we pay attention to professionally, it’s who we pay attention to personally. And for me, that involves a trip to Australia every year. Sometimes even twice.

While you may not need to go to Australia. When was the last time you visited with your family? And if you can’t physically visit them, when is the time last time you videoed with them? I want to encourage you, what’s your Australia. What’s a trip maybe that you’ve always wanted to take but you keep it off? Now is the time to book it. I go back to Australia every year because I love and adore my family. I enjoy spending time with them and frankly, I need to see them. They are a recovery opportunity for me. What’s your version of Australia? I’d love to hear from you.


Entrepreneurship Management Marketing Personal Development

The Sudden Death of Products and Services

Texas Sunset

Your customer has spoken: products and services are dead.

Consumed by new marketing strategies, all products and services have been replaced.

The next next thing in marketing and branding?


Marketing and Branding with Chris WestfallCalling something a product or service just doesn’t make any sense in the new economy. The description is out of date. Those words don’t apply to today’s consumers or companies.

Marketing professionals and sales people need to understand:
Products and services are dead.

Every leader has to understand: every company, everywhere, is selling experiences.


Think about it: The things that we buy and consume, either as individuals or as a corporate entity, are not products. These things are not services.

We buy, acquire, endure and enjoy experiences.

Related: Four Ways to Overcome Your Blind Spot on Entrepreneur.com

Today, commerce trades on the experience you have, and the experience you provide.

Consider these experiential products:

  • A vacation in Hawai’i
  • Purchasing a new Porsche Panamera
  • Transitioning your organization to SAP CRM
  • Changing vendors for your outsourced call center

Which of these are products, and which are services? Answer: None, and all. The old words don’t work anymore; we need to choose new ones if we want to tell a story that’s authentic and complete. And all customers – all consumers – crave authenticity.

Marketing Products and Services in a VaccuumYou see, no product exists in a vaccuum.

Even a vaccuum cleaner.

No service stands alone without products. These things are really events, or experiences, made up of a series of products, services and interactions.

And so many things are outside the scope of either products or services. For example: what if you donate to a non-profit? What about that last iPhone app, or a new piece of software – what is it exactly, product or service?

What we want, what we pay for and what we get can all be summed up in one way: experiences.

Today’s customer (whether a corporation or a person, and by the way they are NOT the same) wants an experience. Perhaps an experience that is fantastic (like visiting the most beautiful place on the planet, Hawai’i) or excruciating (transitioning to SAP CRM, for example, because your CFO chose the low-bidder on the job).

Even a traditional product purchase, like buying a new car, requires a series of events that create an experience that circumvents the “product” (whatever the hell that is, anyway). For example, when you buy a car, unless you have $108,433.00 cash (that’s a nice car! welcome to the C-Suite), you are going to need financing.

Maybe you will lease the vehicle. Maybe you will talk to the finance manager, or the sales manager, about your options. You go through a series of events and choices; this is all part of the experience of ownership. The most traditional “product” in America (the automobile) gives you an experience. The experience of the purchase, the experience of the service, and the experience of the brand. How does your car make you feel about yourself? Are you comfortable, and do you feel powerful behind the wheel? Those feelings are as real as the tires and the spark plugs – a very real experience, indeed.

Marketing Matters

“Product” and “service” are incomplete definitions. Consider the experience you want to have, as a consumer or a corporation. And, if you want to reach new customers in new ways, think long and hard about the total customer experience. Services and products alone just aren’t cutting it anymore.


Bullet Proof Branding by Chris WestfallMore Information and Additional Resources: 

Check out Bullet Proof Branding.  Find out how Cisco, Cargill, the Huffington Post and other organizations are creating impact in the digital age.

With a foreword by Ted Rubin, this book takes a look at how the conversation is changing for companies and individuals, in the age of social media.

About the Author: Chris Westfall is the publisher of seven books, including BulletProof Branding. His latest book is called Leadership Language, coming from Wiley in the fall of 2018. A business coach to entrepreneurial leaders on four continents, Chris Westfall has reshaped brands around the globe – creating multi-million dollar results in the process. His clients have appeared on Shark Tank, Dragons’ Den in Canada and Shark Tank – Australia. Find out more on his website and follow him on twitter.

Photo credits: Texas Sunset by the author. Girl with laptop and vacuum cleaner: creative commons via flickr.

Best Practices Entrepreneurship Human Resources Management Personal Development

What CEOs and C-Suite Leaders Really Want

Chris Westfall Leadership Meeting

What do leaders really want?
That’s the question that IBM asked over 1500 CEOs: what’s the number one quality you look for, in a leader?

From Dubai to Dubuque, and everywhere in between, CEOs weighed in on the most desired aspect of leadership.

Surprisingly, the most-desired quality or characteristic was not technical competence.

It wasn’t loyalty, or communication skills, or financial acumen.

The top characteristic wasn’t charisma. Or empathy.

The number-one most important characteristic for business leaders?


That characteristic is quite surprising, when you consider the traditional definition of creativity.  Under careful consideration, “being creative” is not always a positive and encouraging description.

Related: Find out what Entrepreneur has to say, about Identifying Your Blind Spot

For financial professionals, project managers, executives and other task- or numbers-oriented individuals, the call for creativity seems quite contrary to the training and experiences that form the very foundation of the business world.

For example: Where do you find creative accountants?
Answer: Jail.

“Creative” skills are not commonplace in shipping, accounts payable, or operations.  Or are they?

Creativity, in the context of business, means the power of creation.  Creativity is the way that leaders harness imagination to disrupt the status quo, and find new solutions to the same old problems. The global leaders in the IBM survey are seeking creative solutions to business challenges.  The leaders in the survey identify creativity as the antidote for the status quo.

For leaders, creativity is a vital disruption. Creativity is the birthplace of innovation.

Creativity can exist anywhere a process is created or improved. That means in shipping, accounts payable, or operations. And especially in the C-Suite.

Creativity means many things, but at its core, the process of creation begins with an idea.

Based on current information, “what if?” opens the door to imagination. New solutions can only come from within the realm of new ideas.  As the economy continues to expand, the leaders of tomorrow are the ones who are open to new concepts, new perspectives and new solutions.  Seeing things as they are is an important skill.

But, for C-Suite leaders: seeing things as they could be – and then making them that way? Well, that takes some creativity.

  • Do you agree? What does creativity mean to you, and to your organization?
  • How do you develop a workplace where creativity is allowed to thrive?
  • How is creativity linked to innovation for you?


About the Author:

Chris Westfall is the publisher of seven books, including the international best-seller, The NEW Elevator Pitch. His latest title is Leadership Language: Communication Skills for Changing Your Results, coming from Wiley in the fall of 2018. Find out more on his website, and follow him on twitter.



photo credit: Philadelphia Business Meeting image by the author

Powered By MemberPress WooCommerce Plus Integration