C-Suite Network™

Growth Personal Development

Does Your Company Have a Chief Localization Officer?

By Scott Yancey

A company’s success overseas is directly related to the number of languages the company ‘speaks,’ and how well its marketing team is able to localize and deliver content to target markets and regional sales teams. In order to reach 80% of the world’s economically active online audience, a company needs to deliver content in 14 different languages. That’s a lot of languages to reach a significant percentage of the buying audience. How will you maximize your product development, marketing and staffing dollars to effectively engage and sell overseas?

That’s where the Chief Localization Office comes in. To be clear, I’m not necessarily suggesting this as an actual C-Suite role; however, the need for a new kind of ‘lightning-rod’ leader or group that is able to influence the C-suite and advise them on the importance of an enterprise wide global roll out strategy is critical in today’s economy. Companies are spending more on translation and localization than ever before, and the numbers continue to grow – the global market for outsourced language services and supporting technology is expected to grow to $49.8 billion by 2019. Global organizations need a high-level authority responsible for global execution that includes localization as a strategic, revenue-generating process that affects:

  • Product launches and updates
  • Marketing campaigns, Websites and content
  • Social audience engagement
  • Sales enablement and channel support
  • Human resources and legal resources
  • Customer support and training

In order to up-level the importance and impact content localization has on audience reach and revenue, the Chief Localization Officer will ensure it is not only on the C-Suite’s radar, but a key revenue driving performance indicator (KPI) used to measure the success of the company’s go-to-market efforts.

The Chief Localization Officer’s responsibilities might include:

  • Responding to the Company Revenue plan by clearly understanding where each product, along with all the supporting company functions, can be effectively monetized.
  • Setting objectives and prioritizing cross company budgets to meet the required number of languages and dialects needed to address both existing and target markets.
  • Managing and leveraging the company’s multilingual assets, including translation memory, style guides, and corporate glossaries, so they are leveraged across ALL divisions, functional teams and regions for brand and message consistency.
  • Researching and identifying the best translation automation technology for the company’s needs and ensure it has the ability to integrate with the existing technology the company already uses (CMS, Web CMS, marketing automation, file-sharing service, etc.).
  • Overseeing the localization process to ensure bottlenecks are avoided, go-to-market timelines are met, and workflow is automated to maximize team productivity.
  • Utilizing analytics to monitor translation spend.
  • Analyzing ROI to ensure localization efforts are meeting objectives, whether they are sales, marketing or demand gen.

Managing multilingual communications on a global scale is increasingly challenging, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every company, but a well managed, efficient localization process is critical to the success of any global launch process, day-to-day marketing, and training or support effort. It now deserves to be recognized as a business process in need of optimization with an elevated level of oversight and strategic intent. Typically, second and third tier target markets receive localized product and content many months after the English ‘launch’, and every day you can’t launch in those markets because localization wasn’t finished, inevitably leads to lost revenue and market share.

Does your company have a Chief Localization Officer? You might consider whether your competition already does.

Scott Yancey

CEO and Founder at Cloudwords, Inc.
Linkedin | Twitter
As the co-founder and chief executive office of Cloudwords, Scott Yancey runs the premier cloud-based software company that has revolutionized how businesses manage their global communications and localization processes.
In today’s increasingly connected world, selling and supporting customers in their local languages often means the difference between success and failure. Yancey developed Cloudwords’s end-to-end SaaS platform to enable companies to deliver global content to market faster by slashing the cost, complexity and time associated with localization projects.
Scott Yancey was a key architect on the salesforce.com platform and applications, and his technical leadership and expertise helped grow salesforce.com from 2,000 customers to an industry titan with 77,000 customers and $1.5 billion in annual revenue. His experience on the R&D frontlines during both the earliest and most explosive growth phases of salesforce.com forged a unique set of technical skills, best practices and historical knowledge. His roles included architecting and delivering mission critical areas of the salesforce.com service and he provided technical leadership at both the team and organizational level. He has 9 patents pending from his tenure at salesforce.com.
Scott graduated cum laude from Santa Clara University in 1999 with a degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Neuroscience. Prior to joining salesforce.com in 2001 Scott performed functional MRI research for a Neuroscience lab at New York University.
Growth Personal Development

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Growth Personal Development

C-Suite Network Announces Winners of C-Suite Social Media Legends Awards


C-Suite Network Announces Winners of C-Suite Social Media Legends Awards

The honorees were announced at the C-Suite Conference on November 2nd at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco 

NEW YORK, NY – December 10, 2015 – The C-Suite Network, the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders, announces the winners of the C-Suite Social Media Legends Awards. The awards acknowledge business leaders who show outstanding success in social media engagement and thought leadership.

“Social media has a massive impact on business and using it effectively has the power to exponentially grow your bottom line,” said Jeffrey Hayzlett, C-Suite Network Co-founder and Chairman. “These winners know first hand the importance of using social media in an innovated and engaging way. They are truly their brand’s greatest ambassadors.”

The top ten winners were announced on November 2 at the C-Suite Conference in San Francisco:

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot

David Bray, CIO of FCC

Elisa Camahort Page, Chief Community Officer of SheKnows Media

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn

Sandy Carter, General Manager, Ecosystems and Social Business Evangelism of IBM

Christopher Penn, VP Marketing Tech of Shiftcomm

Dharmesh Shah, CTO of Hubspot

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter/Square

Jonathan Becher, Head of SAP Digital

“I am honored to receive this award and be recognized amongst such an esteemed list of social media thought leaders,” said Sandy Carter, General Manager, Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, IBM. “Social media has the ability to transform a business, and I accept this award in hopes of further educating business leaders on the importance of social media practices.”

“These awards acknowledge a prestigious group of winners impacting the way businesses successfully use social media. I am fortunate and grateful to be recognized amongst them,” said Elisa Camahort Page, Chief Community Officer, SheKnows Media.

The C-Suite Network partnered with OneQube, a company that provides real-time social media tools, to develop a unique social media methodology that identifies leaders who are most engaged with their communities. Accenture Digital, a leading global professional services company, was the marque partner for the awards.

“We are proud to support the C-Suite Social Media Legends Awards. It’s a great way to recognize leaders who are making major strides in brand engagement,” said Rob Harles Global Lead for Accenture Digital’s Social and Collaboration Practice, “As a leader in helping organizations drive digital transformation, we encourage C-level executives to become more involved and display their company vision and thought leadership through social media.”

To learn more about the C-Suite Social Media Legends Awards, visit: https://conference.csuiteold.c-suitenetwork.com/social-media-awards/


About C-Suite Network

C-Suite Network is the world’s most powerful network of C-Suite leaders, with a focus on providing growth, development and networking opportunities for business executives with titles of vice president and above.

C-Suite Network brings leaders together through C-Suite Collective, a private online community for executives. C-Suite Network also offers invitation-only conferences held three times per year, custom-tailored content on the C-Suite Network blog, C-Suite TV, C-Suite Radio, C-Suite Book Club, and educational programs from C-Suite Academy. Learn more at www.csuiteold.c-suitenetwork.com, join the LinkedIn Group and follow @csuitenetwork and facebook.com/thecsuitenetwork


Ashley Knapp

TallGrass Public Relations



Growth Personal Development

Q&A: Craig Binkley, CEO of Northstar

Executive Briefings is an online event with a similar kind of context that C-Suite has for physical events. During one of our recent Briefings, Craig Binkley, Chief Executive Officer of Northstar, joined us to discuss how to leverage human insights in a big data world.

As Big Data has changed the way companies think about their base of knowledge of their customers, the importance of understanding the humans behind all those numbers, algorithms and models is becoming even more critical.  In this discussion, Craig Binkley, CEO of Northstar, a global insights consultancy, discusses how companies of all kinds must re-commit themselves to better customer understanding as they endeavor to build a more data-driven, customer-centric experience.

When you were a marketing person you were at clearly one of the biggest brands in the world, Coca-Cola. What kind of challenges have you faced when you were doing that kind of job?

Well, interestingly, one of the challenges we used to face was that we didn’t have data. We had to go find new ways to explore it, so it’s funny how this has come around to where there’s so much data now that people can’t actually deal with it.

The challenges were the same in terms of really trying to understand, not only from a positioning and brand-attachment standpoint, how your brand was responding to consumers and vice versa, but also all the different interaction points. Coca-Cola has the benefit of being its own version of a big data universality, because the brands and products are almost everywhere.

We were very much focused on the actual mechanics of consumer movement and behavior, where were they, what were they doing. We didn’t have the kind of data that the people have today. The concepts that we were looking at, interaction points and inflection points and ways that we could use touch points with consumers every day, not only to talk to them but actually try to sell them more product.

Before big data were a lot of the required decisions made from more intuitive perspectives? You had some data but did you have to just trust your gut a bit?

Well, you definitely had to trust your gut. You had to be able to read between the tea leaves. It’s always “How much insight do you have?” and “How much do you need?” based on your risk profile of what the decision’s going to be.

I think that’s a universal thing that’s carried us through. Back in those days, if you didn’t have the information you still had a conceptual idea around test, learn and respond. The more in-tune you were with being able to change your marketing mix and your marketing equation as you read results, that’s what we did then and what were trying to do now.

We’ve been watching big data take the front seat in people’s minds. We’ve come to the conclusion that we can gather all this information about customer behavior, customers’ conversations, customers’ feelings, everything they’ve done with us since they were born. We have all this big data and it is going to give us a clear picture about the customer. Is that true?

What’s happened is that big data has become its own brand. It’s understood many different ways by many different people and that’s become part of the problem. I’ve seen some surveys that talk about how executives define big data and this sort of gives you the sense of the problem we must deal with. It deals with everything from a greater scope of information to new kinds of data and analysis to real-time information to data influx from new technologies to non-traditional forms of media to large volumes of data.

As soon as CEOs are telling you that big data is just one of the latest buzzwords you realize that it’s taken on a life of its own.

CEOs have a different perspective. They have the whole business and they also don’t have the in-depth understanding of the things that we’re going to talk about here because that’s not their job, it’s the CMO or VP of Marketing or the marketing team’s job.

They still walk away with a belief, because of the money we’re spending in this area, big data is going to change their life in some fundamental way. First of all, let’s just agree on what big data is. Big data, to me, is just an awful lot of information. Often it seems to me that if I had more information, I’m on the brink of the potential for chaos.

Absolutely, because any of those little bits of information, if taken as an absolute truth, can lead you down the wrong path. As we talk about going through the looking-glass of big data and what’s behind that, any one of those little things can be just simply a data point, but you don’t understand the things behind it.

It makes it incumbent upon the business people and marketers to take a bit of a deeper look. There’s this idea that you can actually do a little bit of analysis on a lot more data and make better decisions than doing really deep analysis on a little bit of data.

That’s sort of the conundrum that people are in, that big data is creating. Is it walking away from deeper analysis on smaller data, and they’re going into very little analysis on big data.

Is it really key for marketers to understand where the data came from and why is the data the way it is?

Yes. When we get into the marketing component of data, for example, you get all this explosion of data the marketer’s getting. It has a strong bias. What it does is it quantifies behaviors and predicts future outcomes based on historical views.

People talk about being predictive and prescriptive and all the words they talk about with data. You can see what customers do and a wide range of activities, but you do not know the why. There’s certainly power in the ability to use that information to adapt your marketing equation to do tests and AB things that help you be more efficient with your marketing impact, but you still don’t understand the “why” behind that.

The humanity of the person behind it is still missing. You can be effective and you can save money and everybody should be thinking about that, but it’s not the complete picture. I have friends that run very large companies that really understand how they need to blend what big data is, what “traditional” market research technologies are and what business strategy understanding is to be able to truly get a complete picture and take the proper actions for sustainable programs and growth.

What I’m intuiting is that what’s missing is a process that’s reason for insights. I can analyze data all day long and I can make my spreadsheets turn out any way I want, but getting the insights from that, that will shape my product development, my programs and more, that’s a different game, isn’t it?

It is a different game and it goes back to the definition that people used to say, “one person’s objective is another person’s strategy.” If your purview is really the number-crunching world and coming up with an anomaly or pattern, this may be considered insight.

From a business standpoint, that’s not really an insight. I think that’s part of the issue we’re driving for here. Just saying, “Here’s a pattern where left-handed people do certain things.” That’s really not an insight. That’s a pattern in the data.

One of the things I’ve seen is that 90 percent of all the data the human race has produced has been in the past two years. With all this data coming in, if we’re simply going to say that an insight is the pattern or the anomaly in the pattern, that’s not enough. As business people and marketers, we can’t just accept that that’s all we need. We need to go deeper than that.

You work with big companies, and they’re grappling with this issue all the time. What are you telling these companies they need to do with this big data so that they, indeed, can get the insights they’re looking for?

There are a couple of things. We’re really talking about a blended viewpoint. That’s sort of the crux of the whole thing because big data can’t do all the pieces for you. You need to be able to blend this together.

In the big data world, where we have all this information, and it’s not just the social-type information that you know about the likes and the follows and who’s on your page, et cetera. You can actually, then, append in actual purchase data, real purchase data, real response to CRM systems and more things along that line.

Then as researchers, we need to think about is there a cut on the big data before we start doing the survey? Then, if we survey people who we already know things about, we can also take a lot less time getting some of the behavioral understanding that the big data’s already telling us.

We can focus on the acute business issues, the key questions, getting the right insights and direction coming out of that as opposed to spending a lot of survey time trying to get basics that big data, fortunately, already tells us.

Well, it seems to me that big data is a bit like financial reporting. It’s historical but it doesn’t give me an in-depth view of “Why is it the way that it is?”

Yes, we think about the things that combine what big data can’t do. First, it can’t tell you the whys. It cannot effectively tell you the motivations behind actions, the way that traditional methods do. You don’t get the human interaction with it.

It doesn’t tell you about where you don’t have the data. For example, if you’re a retailer and you’re looking at a $1,000 customer and all your data in your dataset tells you a $1,000 customer is a very good customer, but you don’t know the denominator. You don’t know whether that’s $1,000 or more than $1,0000 or less than $1,000 or out of $10,000.

You need to use new tools to go beyond that, to figure out what the headspace or the growth opportunity is for your customer base. You can’t just be within your own limits of your own data.

It also can’t measure what doesn’t exist. We do a lot of work for major companies on new product development and there’s absolutely no way that big data can tell you about a completely new idea. Logically, we know that it can’t do that.

Another part of big data that’s interesting is that so much of the conversation is around technology. It gets into processing powers, storage technology, building algorithms and what technology you need to buy. It’s not seen as what it really can be, which is rapid experimentation, smarter decisions and predictive insights. The technology component of big data, to some extent, still dominates the conversation versus the consumer and customer part of it.

Lastly, the blending allows qualitative research to build customer relationships. If companies think about the “research component” of their CRM and their connection into all these touch points as part of a relationship, now you’re talking.

Now you’re talking about a direct customer relationship that blends the best of what big data tells you, the best of what you can do programmatically to effect your marketing equation and the best of what you can do to particularly survey and get human insights behind that.

As soon as we start looking at that model, we’re starting to hit all the right buttons for what we can really do as marketers and business people to leverage big data, leverage traditional tools, leverage and get true insights that will drive strategy.

It seems to me that there is a disconnect because the data analyzers have a different skill set than the data interpreters. Do we need to create a different kind of role in organizations that sits at the center of big data to bring a bigger skill set to apply to this?

That’s a very interesting point. The answer is yes. They are different. Even in our own organization, we have a lot of studies that we do for customers that are more of what you would call the big-data type. They’re highly numeric and they’re less of the intuitive — certainly qualitative versus quantitative.

Even our own people are a blend of skills, and we put those together on teams to bring the best solution to the clients. On the clients’ side that same thing is happening. Big data research is really the art and science of combining what is behavioral data, attitudinal data and the analytics that you get, so that you can get better business results.

That, like a lot of things in companies, requires a different set of skills to come together behind a common mission and be able to work together, to communicate together, which is why I think it’s so important that this conversation happen at a high enough level. This way it can combine those different skills and not be taken down one path of a very easy, lazy conversation around “big data” because it’s so misunderstood.

Is there any data showing the impact of all this data on the top and bottom lines of companies?

I haven’t seen that. What I do know is that only 15 percent of CMOs have been able to quantify the impact of social media on their business. When we see numbers like that with the social media component, that is what drives a lot of this.

It’s because we had the Facebooks and the Googles and all these people collecting all this data and tracking everything — the time you tried to buy that ugly tie and it chased you across the Internet. That pretty much shows you that that’s what’s happening.

It’s going to get even bigger with the Internet of Things. All of a sudden, your world gets surrounded by the data that gets to you. The more this happens, you notice that if 15 percent of CMOs have been able to quantify the impact, that means 85 percent haven’t, and that’s just social media.

Then, start to think about the other components of data and programmatic buying and more. You know that the old adage of “50 percent of my marketing is wasted, I just don’t know which 50 percent.” You know that’s still true in this world.

Is marketing just a murky area?

Absolutely. I mean, can you imagine going to a cocktail party and leading a brand and not having a social presence? Your people would beat you up, or you’d be the uncoolest person at the party.

There is a role for all these new technologies. I’d look back in time and we used to have a dream, a vision, that when someone was going down the aisle that if only you could simply spring-load an orange juice can, this was back in the days of frozen orange juice, into your customer’s cart when you knew they showed up.

Then today, the reality is with beacons and mobile devices, you’re pretty close to that. There are clearly all these opportunities, from a marketing standpoint, where you can really have interactions that are correct with your customer. You can understand and do programmatic if-then and games and engagement rules to where you can actually really have a much better, more appropriate relationship with your customer.

That’s all great, but if you don’t really understand the pieces of the data that gets created, you’re simply working in the if-then. Again, part of the problem, in the long term, is that if you follow the programmatic big data and you effect the marketing equation today, you will have success. If you do it well you will have success. Whether that’s three percent, five percent, eight percent, you will get better.

I think that if people are just simply happy to get that three or five or eight percent, they’re missing a much bigger opportunity to blend it together and shoot for that 15, 20 percent improvement that you can get if you really understand why those beacon touch points and why those ATM touch points and all the CRM stuff that you’re kicking out with the data, why that’s happening the way it is. That’s where the strategy has to happen. It can’t happen simply tactically; it’s got to happen strategically.

I can really understand how this all applies in what we would call the B2C world, but what role does this play in the B2B world?

Interestingly, in the B2B world, B2B companies a long time ago were out in front of CRM. They actually used to have more data on a customer than a typical consumer products company did. The problem was a lot of that data was at an enterprise level as opposed to a human level and so the similar part about understanding the human behind the numbers.

We’ve done a lot of work over the years in B2B, helping companies understand that. If you want to sell a market into a B2B environment, you have to actually understand that there is a human that’s in that job position that’s inside of that company you’re trying to sell to, which is a rooftop customer, an enterprise customer.

The human insights behind that become the same. You’ve got to understand the humanity behind this. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, it’s understanding humans because even in a B2B buying environment, when you’re marketing and selling, whether it’s $100,000,000 technology deals or it’s a smaller scale, you have to understand the humanity behind that.

If all the CRM systems in B2B are just kicking out numbers and numbers and numbers, you really can’t effectively do any marketing and selling program inside of that.

When I think about considered purchase, it would seem to me to be more difficult for us to use big data unless we have some interpretation of it because considered purchase is really that. My consideration for buying something, particularly bigger-ticket items has to do with so many different variables that it’d be a bit harder to predict that, wouldn’t it?

I think that’s a very good point, because the humanity behind a considered purchase in both worlds requires you to get the humanity. What the programmatic stuff does, whether it’s messaging or it’s advertising or touch point or force outs or promotions, is in fact doing much more of this sort of impulse move that says somebody is in a mindset but you’re actually trying to get them to just move to the next level. That next level of purchase or the next logical product that you get out of big data.

In a B2B environment you’ve got a much different sort of consideration set. You’ve got multiple constituencies that go into it, and I do think that it even calls more for the human component as opposed to letting the big data drive the engine.

Do you foresee big data insights ultimately being generated programmatically? Will the model be sophisticated enough that we can now move a step back and say, “Now, we don’t need so much of the intuition” and “We need something that’s more consistent because human intuition is a little flawed”?

Human intuition is always going to be flawed and A.I. (artificial intelligence) is going to take over a component. What will happen is that level of “insight” that comes out of the data will get better and better through A.I. and learning. That’s the dynamic of A.I., the intelligence and how it gets smarter at what it does, but it still doesn’t give you the human behind it.

There’s a piece of this which is always going to be that we need to actually talk to the people that are generating all that data. We need to get inside the head. We need to understand why things happen. We need to be able to both append and amend what we’re learning from the big data with other types of information.

I don’t think it’s ever going to be totally programmatic, but, certainly, we would expect that the nature of big data is the more you collect, the better the models become, right? The more data points you have. It will get better. It will be programmed to be better but it’s not going to — we have to talk to humans. We can’t leave the humans behind.

It seems to me, from what you’re saying, that if we can automate more of it, then that leaves more of our budget available to actually spend time talking to the customer. Then bringing those two together to create the right perspectives.

That’s true everywhere. What’s happening is that because we have all this data on customers, we don’t have to spend the time. We can focus more on what the real need for information is from them, so we don’t waste their time, because we have survey burnout. People don’t want to do them. They don’t want to take a long time, so because of numbers, we can use a lot more people, split the questionnaires up and actually get a lot more information at the acute human level than we could get before.

The other thing is the platforms that are allowing us, as researchers, to more efficiently take that data and put it into more visual information. Taking out some of the human component of the research process itself is making it much more efficient.

We are now polling like crazy, particularly in the political arena, right? There’s a poll every five minutes. Is this polling of people sort of corrupting the validity of polling? The data changes so often that it’s hard to see what’s really going on.

There are actually some articles on polling. We have a company inside of our MDC partners’ network that really is deeply into the political world and polling. The problem is, there’s the traditional research of statistical significance and probabilities and a lot of big number. In a lot of cases, when people are voting it’s binary. It’s either I’m voting this or that.

Polling has, as we’ve seen in many elections around the world over the past seven or eight years particularly. It has that dimension that says, “Well, the probability is 98 percent.” If the two percent happens, everybody looks a little bit silly. I think that has actually happened to polling and it has hurt the idea of what polling does.

That’s sort of an unfair attack on the total value of polling when what we’re talking about is not polling to figure out what it is you’re going to vote for or not, but actually trying to get some human insight behind the poll to drive the strategy.

I think it is like the polling argues the same thing we’re talking about with big data. It’s not enough. You need to go behind that a little further.

How does that perception of polling not being as accurate as, perhaps, people thought it was once? How does that impact companies you work with looking to you to do research? Does it impact their mindset?

It does, and that’s why I come back to the blended discussion. If we say we’re going to talk to 1,500 people that we get from a panel, who claim they’ve bought a fashion brand. They promise you that they’ve bought it in the last 60 days, and they’re quite sure that they paid more than $200 for that. That’s all respondent-based claimed behavior.

In today’s world that same company has a list of 500,000 customers. They know what they bought. They know where they bought it. They know what size, how often and what marketing they responded to. As researchers, we need to change our model and not rely on panels of claimed behavior but actually integrate with the actual customer database that our clients had.

We’re doing that more and more and more. Clients are coming to us and saying, “You’re doing our net promoter’s score, talking about satisfaction and promoting our brand. We have this great promoter trend over time. Let’s start tacking it onto the data we have on our campaigns and our users and our profitability to make it a more robust view.”

From both sides, we’re getting this idea that we need to bring it together and create a more robust blending of insights behind the data that’s being captured on all our customers with all the technologies and the CRM systems and the socials, and match that up to this more acute learning that we’re doing. Without that, either side is going to be incomplete.

Thomas White is the CEO of The C-Suite Network and the host of the nationally syndicated video program, Business Matters. This was taken from dialogue on C-Suite Executive Briefings.

Growth Leadership Personal Development

Want To Be A More Effective Leader? Listen

By John T. Hewitt, CEO and Founder of Liberty Tax Service

When it comes to communication, no one gets it right. It’s an essential part of every relationship, whether it’s a marriage, a partnership, a business, or an employer and employee. I don’t care if you have a Ph.D. in communications; I’ve never met a person who consistently listens or gets their message across. Even if you’re close and you try, things are taken out of context or misheard or misstated. Communication is something that no company and probably no couple have ever mastered.

Here’s the problem: human beings are communication stoppers. Every person I know wants to receive communication – they want to know everything – but they don’t give communication back. Information is power and people will hoard it. Whether or not it’s going to the trouble to say something or simply remembering to communicate at all, our desire to get information is greater than our desire to give it. There is no solution to our constant communication dilemma, but we can work at improving every day.

As an entrepreneur, you can never make assumptions. If you are not in direct contact with your customers on a daily basis, you have to communicate with the person who is. Successful business owners must listen to their employees. Those in authority need to pay attention to the troops on the ground.

Our Chief Marketing Officer, Martha O’Gorman, and I once flew to Kansas City to interview a person for the CFO position. Martha asked, “What is your management philosophy?” He replied, “Ours is not to reason why, but to do or die.” In his world, all orders come from above and you are not supposed to question them. Just do it, like a good soldier. That is how many companies run. Many CEOs issue edicts and say, “this is what we’re going to do,” instead of listening to the people who deal with the customer because they think they know best. It’s partly because they feel if they admit that they don’t know best, then they look inferior or won’t be perceived as a good CEO, so they just don’t listen.

I’m secure enough in my leadership to listen to employees. They are the boots on the ground and they know what the customer really wants. Whether it’s a higher level of service, kid-friendly offices, or refreshments, I listen. For example, we print out a letter that we give to every customer with their tax return. Why would I think I could do that better than the person who gives it out thousands of times? They give out two million letters with tax returns. Why would a CEO think he could create a better letter than the people who are closest to the customer? They should design the letter; we should just implement it. There are hundreds of issues like this.

In my company, I know the big picture better than anyone, but my franchisees and employees know the tools they need to exceed customer expectations. A good CEO will trust employees to make the right decisions – empowering them instead of just issuing automatic edits that they must follow. To succeed, employees must feel free to make suggestions and give advice to their managers without concern for retribution. Remember, humans are communication stoppers. The managers who listen the most – and listen well – to their employees will win.

While I still believe that no one really masters communication, we work to improve every day and set the standard. I regularly teach the importance of improving every day in the way we communicate to our customers, to our employees, and to our owners. Customers come first – always. Words aren’t the only communication that a client notices. An employee’s attitude, tone of voice, facial expressions and gestures are all part of the message, leading to either positive or negative results. At Liberty, an important part of our system is to call each client within 24-48 hours of completing a return. We ask for feedback on our service and they can offer any suggestions to help us improve. Most importantly, we listen.

Excerpted from:

iCompete: How My Extraordinary Strategy for Winning Can Be Yours, by John T. Hewitt, CEO and founder of Liberty Tax Service, available on Amazon March 29, 2016

Growth Personal Development

How to Bring Out the Best of Your Leadership Style

How to Bring Out the Best of Your Leadership Style

by Tony Alessandra

If you are part of the C-Suite, you should be very aware of your leadership style to allow you to work more effectively with your direct reports and transform from being just a boss into a true leader.

However, before you do that, you will need to identify your leadership style. I espouse using the DISC behavioral model. DISC is an acronym for the four primary behavioral drivers: dominance, influence, conscientiousness, and steadiness.

Dominant people are decisive risk-takers who speak boldly and confidently. Influence driven people are apt to intertwine emotion with work and they are interested in forming social bonds. Steady individuals are cooperative and composed and approach their work consistently and methodically. People with a bent towards conscientiousness prioritize accuracy and precision and tend to me more guarded and tactful in their expression.

You can also self-identify yourself based on two questions:

  • Are you more open (emotive) or guarded (controlled)?
  • Are you more direct (faster-paced) or indirect (slower-paced)?

Based on your answers, you can find your primary DISC style:

D – Direct and guarded

I – Direct and open

S – Indirect and open

C – Indirect and guarded

Once you have found your DISC style, you can begin making your leadership style more palatable to others who might not share your behavioral type. Here are some ways a leader can round off some of the sharper edges of his or her DISC style:



Ratchet down a notch or two! Keep in mind that others have feelings and that your hard-charging, know-it-all style can make others feel inadequate and resentful.

Accept that mistakes will occur and try to temper justice with mercy. You might even joke about errors you make, rather than trying to always project a super-human image.

Encourage growth in others in at least two ways: by praising employees when they do something well and by giving direct reports a measure of authority and then staying out of their way so they can use it. Whatever you lose in control, you are likely to gain in commitment and improved staff competency.


Your people depend on you not just for ideas, which you are very adept at generating, but also for coordination, which you are probably less comfortable providing. So anything you can do to become more organized — making lists, keeping your calendar current, prioritizing goals — will pay big dividends for both you and your team.

Nothing’s so dispiriting as to see the boss drop the ball on important matters. So, remember: if you fail to follow-up, procrastinate on tough decisions, or make pledges you don’t keep, your employees will lose faith. Even though you don’t do those things purposely, your direct reports will feel as if you’re letting them down. Your charm and warmth can’t compensate for unreliability.

Also, come to grips with the fact that conflicts are going to occur. Try to deal with them up front instead of sweeping them under the rug. In addition, strive to keep your socializing in balance with your tasks.

If you are a STEADY RELATER…

You are probably a well-liked leader. Your goal should be to become a more effective well-liked leader.

Learn to stretch a little, taking on more small risks or different duties and trying to accomplish them more quickly. You may want to be more assertive as well as more open about your thoughts and feelings.

Being sensitive to your employees’ feelings is one of your greatest strengths, but you must seek a middle ground between that and being knocked off balance by the first negative comment or action that comes your way. Try to develop a thicker skin for the good of the team.


Your high standards are a double-edged sword. Your employees are inspired by your quest for excellence, but they might feel frustrated because they can never quite seem to please you.

One of the best things you can do is lessen and soften your criticism, spoken or unspoken. Bear in mind that you’re inclined to come off as stern in certain situations.

Ease up on your need to control and attempt to project a more social persona. Walk around and spend more time with the troops, chatting up people at the water cooler or in the lunchroom.

Realize the fact that you can have high standards without requiring perfection in each instance.

Whatever your style, being adaptable can help you to build bridges to your employees and make them feel valued. By learning to best respond to their interests, concerns, strengths and weaknesses, you can get the most from your people as well as leave them more satisfied.

Growth Leadership Personal Development

How Great Executives Avoid Common Rookie Missteps

Nobody’s shocked when someone who’s an obvious idiot flames out in a job they were never cut out for.  But more than 50% of executives still fail within the first 18 months of their appointment to a higher altitude – and many of them are the good ones.  What accounts for so many promising young executives reaching broader assignments and stumbling once there?

Ten years of research, more than 2700 interviews and surveys have revealed consistent patterns of tripwires that cause even the best to fall.   Here are four common traps well-intended executives unwittingly step into. 

The mandate bait  Many executives arrive with a perceived mandate to repeat past success –“you’ve turned around situations like this before and that’s what we need.”  Instead of looking realistically at the current situation, executives reach back to their bag of tricks that “worked before” and begin slapping those formulas on the new  environment without contextualization.  Organ rejection sets in as the leader’s diagnosis turns into an indictment of the culture’s inadequacies. The organization more firmly resists, resenting the executive’s ignorance of what will and won’t work.  Avoiding this trap requires deep knowledge of context – reading it and adapting to it.  Hit the ground learning, not running.

Stakeholder blindness  Deep relationships with new peers, sometimes former bosses, new direct reports, sometimes previous peers, and new bosses, are most critical at the highest levels of organizations.   But given that most rising executives distinguish themselves through individualism, they painfully underestimate how much they need others when they get to the top.  Forming mutual partnerships with those who most hold the keys to your success, and whose success you can influence, is critical.  Connections formed with deep trust, investment, and openness are the best guardian against this trap.  To transform an organization, you have to let it transform you.

Altitude distortions  How your messages are received, and how messages arrive to you, change dramatically when you near the organization’s top.   Assume you now have a megaphone strapped to you 24/7.  Everything you say and do is amplified and open to interpretations far from your intentions.   Similarly, information you get is now sifted.  People sanitize data and tell you what they think you want to hear.  Unable to adapt to these distortions, many executives regain their footing by reverting to the more tangible, less ambiguous work from their old job.  Executive breadth is the requirement for avoiding this trap – having the broadest possible knowledge of your organization, how its pieces fit together, especially of how to bridge the organization’s seams where conflicts are intensified.  Broader perspectives that add value lower level leaders can’t, helps new executives confidently orient to realities of higher altitudes.  Rise above the fray, and stay there.

Power failure  Most executives struggle with the larger sphere of positional, informational and relational power afforded them by bigger jobs.  While tabloids are filled with leaders who abuse that power with indulgent self-interest, the more common power failure is abdication.  Executives are so fearful of wielding power that they avoid using it, especially when the risks seem high.  Indecisiveness, accommodating mediocre performance, co-dependent relationships with others to hide behind, and irresponsible uses of confidential information are just some of the symptoms of a leader who has abdicated their power.  Self-protection, not self-service, is often the driver behind such fearful leaders.  What they fail to grasp is the importance of the larger good their power is intended to serve.  At the top of the organization, your ability to right injustices, allocate resources fairly, provide access to opportunity, focus people on limited priorities, and invest in promising talent are all the privileges that accompany power, and failure to exercise it is as much an abuse of the  privilege as exploiting it for personal gain.  Embracing the importance of executive choice is the custodian against power failure.   Constructing choices with data, appropriate inclusion of others, clear values, and full appreciation of painful trade-offs is an executive’s privileged prerogative.   Executive power is intended to serve others, not hide behind.

Landmines in the field of executive leadership are plentiful, but no need to go tap-dancing in those fields unprepared.  Translate your noble intentions into success by thoughtfully preparing yourself for the realities of executive leadership and beat the odds against failure.