Culture is Much More Than a Free Lunch

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Culture is a popular topic.  By itself, Google shows more than 1.6 billion results for the word culture.  Narrow your search to include the word “company” with culture and you’ll find 84M results.  Yes, culture is all the rage.  Read any corporate website, literature, or social posts and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about.  Every company claims to have the best culture.  A culture of winning.  A culture that rewards performance.  A culture that resembles a family.  A culture that encourages innovation.  Are any of these really culture?

Companies that claim their culture is all about family might actually be telling the truth.  But whose family are they comparing their culture to?  The Brady Bunch?  The Partridge Family?  The Adaams Family?  The Simpsons? The Bundy’s?  You see, it’s important to understand what family the culture is most emulating.  A family culture in a vacuum may in fact not be the family you’re most comfortable with.

What about companies that say they have a culture of innovation?  Few companies operate like Apple where they publicly say they “inspire innovation” and actually deliver it.  Most use innovation as a platitude…sounds goods, makes an impression.  Yet innovation by itself isn’t what makes the culture innovative.  A deep level of curiousity that permeates the company coupled with the passion and desire to learn and fail is the culture.  Innovation is simply an output of a culture that inspires ideas, dreams, and invention.  A culture that is built upon a foundational trust between its employees and management is a company that will grow through reinvention because the trust exists to take risks, learn, fail, adjust and succeed.  There can’t be success without failure.

So why do so many companies promote their culture, and who cares?  Should you?

Forget about free lunches, ping-pong tables, fitness centers, and bring-your-dog-to-work programs.  That’s not culture.  Those items are simply perks, benefits, lures to help attract talent.  Dig deeper to understand the culture.  What’s the turnover rate – voluntary and involuntary?  How much training and development is provided annually to each employee – time and dollars spent?  How visible is the leadership team in the trenches?  Not how many lunches do the leaders provide, or how many town halls they give, but how often are they involved in the day-to-day running of the business and interacting with customers?

Culture is deep.  It’s how a company is wired and ultimately its employees.  Nothing is given for free.  The folks I’ve talked to who work for Google, Apple, or HubSpot love working there, yet when you ask them why you’ll never hear because of the great hoagies or the free teeth whitening.  No.  Instead you’ll hear things like “I love working with really smart people”, or “I thrive in a hyper-competitive organization”. Dig deep when exploring culture.  Don’t settle for what’s sold on the surface…the freebies…because in life there are no free lunches.

Be a Tour Guide Instead of a Sales Person

 

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In 2015 I took my first trip to Yellowstone National Park.  To be honest it wasn’t my first choice, but it was solidly in my dad’s bucket list and so we made it a “guys” trip.  Three generations of DeRosa’s (father, son, grandson) traveling to where the buffalo roam, to see exploding geysers, breath-taking views, and to take in the simple beauty of the land.

Of course, the sales and marketing geek inside of me looks for every opportunity to observe, study, and ponder how each experience plays into how people make buying decisions.  Yes, even at Yellowstone I was on the prowl for insights into how sales people can better connect with the buyers journey.  Our Yellowstone tour guide unknowingly provided a powerful example in navigating the changing scenery of the buyers journey.  But first a little context…

If you’re in Sales, or any position charged with hitting a revenue number, you’ve got to sell.  You need to find buyers, and you need to sell them.  Sell them as much as you can, as quickly as you can, to reach your number, celebrate briefly and move on to the next.  Right?

WRONG!

Buyers have become increasingly sophisticated whether buying a pair of shoes, or selecting a payroll provider, or choosing Tom Ford over Hugo Boss.  If you think selling hard, and selling fast is your best chance of success you may want to consider a different career.  Today’s buyer wants to be courted.  They want to feel special. They want to feel important.  They want to believe the option they have chosen is the best option for their need.  Notice I didn’t say the buyer wants to have confidence in the solution you sold them.  No.  They are not to be sold.  They are doing the buyer.  They want you to be their tour guide.

I watched as Kylie, our tour guide welcomed us to a small group tour setting out to see Yellowstone in all its majesty.  Her welcome was warm and genuine.  She was quick to point out the creature comforts we probably would need for this journey.  Blankets, water, soft drinks, snacks, distance between rest stops.  She had anticipated our questions and addressed them before they were asked.

As we started our journey from the Grand Teton’s into Yellowstone, Kylie provided a history of both parks in a way that only a master-storyteller could do.  Her story was highly engaging, edge of your seat, filled with suspense.  She educated us on the wildlife ecosystem and how everything was interconnected.  I’m embarrassed to say I probably learned everything I know about biology and the circle of life from this tour.  Up to this point in my life I hadn’t taken time to think about how life and nature were interconnected. She led us on this journey of enlightenment through her personal passion for the landscape and wildlife within these two parks. It was amazing. In fact, so much so, that we embarked on a second tour a couple of days later with a different focus, in a different part of the park.

I’ve often thought about my experience on this Yellowstone tour.  I’ve thought about how I was educated in a way that allowed me to fully grasp the concept of a wildlife ecosystem.  I think about how my interests in conservation have since grown as a direct result of this new knowledge.  I ponder the impact personal passion has on the transfer of knowledge.  I do believe that if Kylie simply read a script, or ran through the motions, I would have left Yellowstone feeling quite different…less connected.  Her passion created questions of my own.  Her stories have become remarkable memories for me, my father, and my son.

As a revenue leader it is important to have a true passion for what you do.  It’s not enough to be a VP of Sales.  Kylie could have been a tour operator for a double-decker bus in Manhattan, but it wouldn’t have served her passion.  You’ve got to have passion for what it is you’re selling.  What is the ultimate purpose for what you do, what your product does, what improvement it makes in the buyers life.  Too many people are occupying positions for a paycheck, not really believing in what it is they are selling.  We’ve all done it.  The problem is, your buyers can spot a scripted seller miles away and today they vote with their shoes by either walking toward you or walking away.

View yourself as your buyer’s tour guide.  Anticipate their questions and provide answers before they ask.  Make the journey as comfortable as possible.  Be warm, be kind, be generous with your time.  Study and learn…I mean really learn about what it is you’re selling.  If you can’t get excited or enthused about it find a new product to sell.  Your goal is to help your buyer through this journey at their pace, not yours. Be the best sales tour guide you can be.

A Brief Thought on Leadership

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Leadership is a collection of experiences, ideas, values, beliefs, and opinions. Good leaders ask great questions. Great leaders apply what they’ve learned from those questions to their actions.  It’s not about having,or projecting an attitude, but rather demonstrating humility while acknowledging there is still more to learn. It’s not about being right but rather getting it right.

Leadership is a privilege.  It’s not a right, nor a duty as some may think. It’s a gift given to those who have earned it by demonstrating their desire to serve others. Those who have been given a leadership role without earning it are exposed rather quickly.  People are eager to follow those they believe in, trust, and care about.  That relationship can only be formed through the existence of a mutual trust.  It’s the leaders job to build that trust.  It is granted to the leader who demonstrates his or her genuine interest and caring for others, not because it’s in their title.

Leadership is on loan.  Every minute, every day, every week, a leader must continue to earn and re-earn their right to lead. Great leaders know when to lead and when to follow.  Even the best leaders have to follow at times.  Knowing when to lead and when to follow is an area that separates the good from the great leaders.

Leadership boils down to having the ability to add value beyond your job duties.  Leadership is always about doing above and beyond.  Doing just enough does not exist in a leaders mindset.   Striving, soaring, excelling, delivering, securing, discovering, exploring, and developing are the foundational characteristics of a great leader.  Are there any others you’d include?

 

 

A Brief Reflection on 2015

As I look back upon 2015 there is one word that captures my emotions for the year…blessed.  This year was a great year in so many different ways. As I reflect on this past year, I am once again overwhelmed by how fortunate, and blessed, I am to have so many wonderful people in my life.  

I am grateful for the opportunities I had in 2015 to coach and develop some great leaders.  I am so excited to have the pleasure and honor to be a part of their personal and professional growth…you know who you are.  Throughout the year I was also blessed to have been the recipient of some great coaching from a handful of mentors, many of whom are past bosses…you too know who you are.  My leadership, strategy, decision making, and critical thinking skills continue to evolve and develop in large part due to your coaching.  Thank you.

In 2015 I had the privilege of leading yet another complete rebranding effort, dusting off a tired brand and creating a brand with life, energy, and excitement. I led a team through the deep and exciting work of the Buyers Journey that enabled us to adjust our go-to-market strategy in order to better align with the way our buyers make their decisions. I directed the launch of an Inside Sales team that proved our hypothesis that channel sales – specifically through influncers – can be as successful with an inside sales team as a field sales organization…and done at a lower cost of sale.  I worked with some pretty terrific partners to create some great content for customers and prospects alike, that fueled a demand creation strategy anchored by some great marketing automation tools. It was a highly productive year.

On a personal note, I published my 135th blog and reached 4,000 visitors to this site in the two years since its launch.  I am thankful for all those who follow me, read what I write, share it, comment, and like it.  Your interest inspires me to continue with this life-long passion of mine. I’m setting my sights on reaching 10,000 visitors so keep your comments coming as to the types of content you like reading about and sharing.  Thank you so much for your support.  

Last but not least I want to thank my wife Terri whose support and counsel has been a constant for 26 years.  I couldn’t imagine being on this journey without her.  And to my two kids who continue to show me the power of having goals and dreams, you not only keep me young but inspire me to keep growing.  You’re simply the best.

As we enter this new year I wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2016!

Top Risks for a Consumer-Driven Society

Source: Top Risks for a Consumer-Driven Society

Confidence THEN Conviction

Source: Confidence THEN Conviction

4 Ways to Super-Charge Your Leadership

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If you want to super-charge your leadership skills here are 4 things you should pay close attention to:

  1. Behaviors – What you do, when you do them, how you do them. Do your behaviors change depending on circumstances or do they serve as an unshakeable foundation even in times of crisis? Be cognizant that people are watching. Your colleagues, bosses, clients, partners, are all noticing your behaviors.
  2. Routine – In a recent Harvard Business Review, it was reported that great leaders have routines. They do things in certain ways, at certain times. They are disciplined and methodical in their actions. Leaders who are skilled at identifying their surroundings and circumstances are able to develop the routines that add the greatest value resulting in better results.
  3. Adaptability – Great leaders are capable of modifying their behaviors and their routines based on their circumstances. This requires the leader to be both a teacher and student all at the same time. Recognizing the need to adjust, and as importantly how to adjust, sets great leaders apart from those individuals who manage. Managers watch over a process. Leaders evaluate circumstances, determine a better way, garner resources, provide vision, and secure alignment. To do this, a great leader must be able to adapt.
  4. Seek feedback…genuinely and often – Interesting research from a number of trusted sources indicates that leaders who request regular feedback are more effective. Feedback improves your ability to empathize and connect with others. Unfortunately many people interpret a request for feedback as a weakness or perhaps insecurity. Leaders who ask from a number of sources – not just their boss – gain deeper insight into the organization, its issues, challenges, opportunities, and people. Having the ability to see into your circumstances is critical to your success. Don’t let others perceptions of feedback affect yours or worse prevent you from asking.

Great leaders learn, teach others, learn more, and repeat that process. Take these 4 elements and weave them into your daily leadership actions.