Are you a true Professional?

It was a San Francisco elevator ride that started me thinking. I was hired to work with eight different sales teams for a client.  They were scattered around the country and the project was going to take a full three months to get done.  I was in the heart of research that would become my book, The 21 Secrets of Million Dollar Sellers.  Each office had three levels of salespeople (my nicknames):

 

  • Up and Comers:  They were young and were just starting to build a book of business.  They were Tier 3 with production numbers in the $250,000 to $400,000.  They were hungry and eager to learn, plus they were under pressure to make the next Tier.  There were also veteran sales folks comfortable in the amount of work and revenue at this level.
  • Solid as a Rock:  These Tier 2 producers were in the $500,000 to $750,000 range.  They were seasoned salespeople and the company hoped they were working hard to make Tier 3.
  • Pinnacle Performers:  These were the elite sales kings and queens.  They were million dollar plus producers and most often industry leaders.

I had the opportunity to work with all three tiers in eight different districts.

OK, back to the elevator.  I was working with a Tier 2 salesperson that so resembled Brad Pitt that I’m sure people asked him for autographs.  We were heading to the offices of an oil and gas executive that the salesman had met at a party. I asked him about his first-time interaction strategy.  He told me; “I work it out on the ride up.” WHAT? “I’ve done this a thousand times.” How many times have you met with this potential client? “First time.” WHAT?

 

What a True Professional Looks Like

 

There are dozens and dozens of definitions of professional and I’m pretty sure a 90 second level of preparation isn’t in any of them.

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith are the original Broadway stars of the epic hit Wicked (my second favorite musical of all time, next to Les Mis).  Between 2003 and 2005 they did almost 1,000 performances and hundreds of rehearsals. Each performance had to be brilliant. Why? Despite the number of times they sang the same songs, recited the same lines, stood in the same correct spot they knew their jobs;

“ All we ever have is just the next performance.  We aren’t promised anything more. To us, EVERYONE in that audience is seeing Wicked for the first time.  We owe them spectacular.”

Professionals see the big picture and understand the potential of their impact.  They hold themselves personally accountable for their performance. They are constantly building themselves into something better.

That elevator ride pointed me in the prime direction of what is and is not professional. It was an interaction that helped me search for the patterns of pinnacle performers and define what separates and differentiates sales professionalism.   Maybe he was overconfident? Maybe he was on cruise control? Here’s what I immediately knew, Tier 3 was a million miles away!

The Art of Doing

 

It’s a dangerous business going out your door.   You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to”

Bilbo Baggins – The Hobbit

At Creative Ventures, we get to spend a lot of time in the realm of ideas.  We often act as the genesis point for new ideas or we move and shape existing ideas.  It’s a wonderful creative playground, but it’s not the final act on the stage of creating value.  No, it’s not the sketches and the roundtable discussions.  It’s not the ideation or the Skunkworks group.  At the end of the day, it’s about doing. The actual application of an idea in the real world of business, of client connections and generating profit while cementing value.  Doing is a damn scary business.

 

 

There is an insular aspect to the world of ideas.  It’s safe.  It’s kind of like staying indoors during a storm.  When you don’t venture into the cold of the world you can stay warm and comfortable, but ideas are about motion and movement.  They’re about making something happen and making something happen is always a riskful proposition.

 

The world is not found in your books and maps, it’s out there. . ..

Gandalf to Bilbo

 

 

Roy and Ryan Seiders are brothers, brothers that were tired of the cheap and fragile coolers they took with them every time they went hunting and fishing.  They started to play around with an idea for something better.  They made model after model until they figured they had it right.  It was big.  It was a hard shell tank of a cooler. It kept ice for days.   It was EXPENSIVE.  It was the evidence from idea to a real something.  It was the birth of the YETI brand.

They presented it to a small sporting goods store and the owner was skeptical.  “That’s a lot of money for a damn cooler.”  Roy and Ryan told him; “this is no ordinary cooler”.  After a few rounds of “pitch”, he agreed to take a few, which to his surprise were sold in two days.  Proof of concept.

 

 

Next came the famous tumblers of which I am never without.  Mine follows me around the house and the golf course.  It’s a miracle of modern design.

Roy and Ryan are still on the Board of Directors of YETI, which now employs close to 600 people.  They went from idea to model, model to sale, sale to a dominate new thing!

It’s hard to let your idea go from its warm and comfortable flipchart, but making an idea real, even in its earliest stages is the only way to really get it out there.  Make something.  Test a service.  Create a model.  That’s the road from idea to value to impact!

 

Table Stakes – Stick to the Basics

 

“This is a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball. Got it!”

Skip – Bull Durham

We were recently in a Dazzling Blue meeting with a client, a meeting where the focus is on the remarkable small space between ordinary and extraordinary when designing and delivering a “Dazzling” client experience.

The conversation centered around a batch of new client experience ideas. One element of the meeting that was quickly glossed over was the standard deliverables, what the meeting leader referred to as “table stakes”. In my sketchnotes, I rapidly drew a stop sign, followed by an exclamation point. “Can we go over the current delivery of your basics, those parts of the product/service expected by the client?” You can’t brush the basics under the rug when talking client experience if you want to be DAZZLING. You have to be a master of the basics. You have to look at the basics as the heartbeat of what you do.

At Disney, they are always looking at the next big thing, the next must-see attraction. In fact, since the 1971 opening of Disney World, new attractions multiply like rabbits. EPCOT, Disney Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon, Animal Kingdom and the 2017 opening of Pandora- The World of Avatar. Despite the entertainment push, Disney focuses like an electron microscope on their table stakes, their basics. Let’s just look at one, CROWD CONTROL.

I grew up in Southern California and a trip to Disneyland was an annual staple. I can remember my mom telling all us over-excited kids to remember, we parked in BAMBI. The control of the massive number of guests that visit the parks (+/- 150,000,000) is a power basic for the Disney guest experience.

 

 

What does a real focus on “table stakes” look like?

  • An underground command center that monitors all things related to the guests and can give real-time responses. A yellow warning light at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride generates a call to launch more boats. The length of the line at certain food concessions generates a call to open more registers. Fantasyland a little crowded, send a mini parade to will shift the guests to Tomorrowland.
  • Anticipate the impact on your basics. Disney tracks weather on satellites. It looks at hotel reservations, airline bookings, and park history to anticipate needs.
  • Long line at an attraction will generate a character interaction. Hey, there’s Mickey!

Every “basic” impacts the product and when the product is “happiness” you better strategically pay attention. At Disney, table stakes are a science.

So, take a long hard look at those things that make up the primary stuff. At McDonald’s, it’s consistency. Is every Big Mac the same? Better be sure before you introduce a new sandwich.

Your table stakes are the heart and soul of your current reality. Before you add a bow, make sure the package is well wrapped. Remember you are judged on a daily basis on how well you stick the basics!

As a leader, do you have your feet planted in the past?

I am a child of the west. Born in California. Lived in Idaho and now a long time Texas resident (I don’t think an outsider is ever a true Texan). I always marvel at travel back East. When a client says; “Take the train from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, I furrow my brow and say, “Train?” When I hear the train I think of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

During a recent trip east I watched an old-time engineer backing up his engine. He had his head craned out the window looking backward at the ground crew for hand signals. No rear view mirror on this engine, or simply an “old school” engineer. Trains are used to going forward.  They don’t often think about reversing. Leaders do.

During our two-year study into leadership (The DNA of Success), I was amazed at the role the rear view mirror played in great leaders. They were great at stopping, turning around and thinking about what they did. They were great decision reviewers.

From this key leadership characteristic, here are some of those rearview images.

 

Keeping Perspective in Leadership

 

  • THE SEARCH FOR PERFECTION: When you take time to look at how you responded to a leadership situation you quickly learn to forget about perfection. In leadership, it simply doesn’t exist. If it is your goal you can’t catch that leadership train. Mistakes, getting it wrong, missing a choice by an inch is just part of the deal. I love the quote that “perfection is the enemy of good.” Leaders love good.

  • NOT ENOUGH HELP: I can do this by myself, heck, I’m the leader. It’s my job to make the call. Every leader we interviewed talked about that learning moment where they figured out they couldn’t do this alone. Somewhere along the line, they were embraced; “I don’t know”. This is a classic mindset shift, a moment past a blind spot. I remember Israel Alpert, a tech/video leader using this little gem – PHELP – It stood for “Please HELP”.

  • WHO AM I LEADING? Leaders ask this question all the time. They check their past, both close and distant for key contact points, and don’t lose touch with their direct team. They check in further down the line and become VISIBLE. They hang out with their customers, ask questions, and listen. They check in!

Leadership is a process that centers on the two key timeframes.

 

  1. The Past – They are learners by experience and experience only teaches when you take a look back.

  2. The Future – They are required to shift their gaze from the learning past to peeking into the various potentials that could make up their tomorrows and the opportunities available to their organizations.

Some trains may not have review mirrors, but you should!

The Challenge of Story and Raising the Quality Bar

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Today the nominations for the 2014 television Emmy Awards were announced.  What do think the following categories have in common?

  • Best Original Programming
  • Best Actor in a Drama Series
  • Outstanding Drama Series
  • Lead Actor and Actress in a Mini Series
  • Outstanding Mini Series
  • Outstanding TV Movie

Not ONE nominee from the Big 4 TV networks.  Not ONE!

3d leadership business dynamic conceptThe quality bar has been raised so high by the original programming coming out of HBO, Netflix, FX and other content providers that network TV simply has not been able to keep up.

Sure, there are lots of factors in this viewing and nominating formula.  We have radically changed how we consume content.  From binge watching via streaming services to mobile technologies, but at the end of the day it’s really not about delivery strategies, it’s about the quality of the crafting and delivery of story.  It’s always about STORY.

The writing and idea development for TV is raising the entertainment and educational bar (think Cosmos) to new and challenging heights.  Couple that story crafting with high dollar production, effects, acting and direction and you will see the true POWER that exists in the two core aspects of story –  CRAFTING and TELLING.

 

Once_Upon_A_Time_Project_Logo

 

In our THE ONCE UPON A TIME PROJECT we bring these very aspects to every part of an organization and its individuals power to leverage story as a core business development strategy.

The future holds nothing but challenges for the television entertainment industry with barriers being pushed and new ideas  creating new levels of risk.  Staying put is the same as staying behind.  It’s simple, craft and tell a better story and watch the business flock your way.

“Be prepared to fail when aiming higher than when playing it safe.”  Kevin Spacey