The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work

By Tony Schwartz

Smiley FaceMore than 100 studies have now found that the most engaged employees — those who report they’re fully invested in their jobs and committed to their employers — are significantly more productive, drive higher customer satisfaction and outperform those who are less engaged.

But only 20 per cent of employees around the world report that they’re fully engaged at work.

It’s a disconnect that serves no one well. So what’s the solution? Where is the win-win for employers and employees?

The answer is that great employers must shift the focus from trying to get more out of people, to investing more in them by addressing their four core needs — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual — so they’re freed, fueled and inspired to bring the best of themselves to work every day.

It’s common sense. Fuel people on a diet that lacks essential nutrients and it’s no surprise that they’ll end up undernourished, disengaged and unable to perform at their best.

Our first need is enough money to live decently, but even at that, we cannot live by bread alone.

Think for a moment about what would make you feel most excited to get to work in the morning, and most loyal to your employer. The sort of company I have in mind would:

  1. Commit to paying every employee a living wage. To see examples of how much that is, depending on where you live, go to this site. Many companies do not meet that standard for many of their jobs. It’s nothing short of obscene to pay a CEO millions of dollars a year while paying any employee a sum for full time work that falls below the poverty line.
  2. Give all employees a stake in the company’s success, in the form of profit sharing, or stock options, or bonuses tied to performance. If the company does well, all employees should share in the success, in meaningful ways.
  3. Design working environments that are safe, comfortable and appealing to work in. In offices, include a range of physical spaces that allow for privacy, collaboration, and simply hanging out.
  4. Provide healthy, high quality food, at the lowest possible prices, including in vending machines.
  5. Create places for employees to rest and renew during the course of the working day and encourage them to take intermittent breaks. Ideally, leaders would permit afternoon naps, which fuel higher productivity in the several hours that follow.
  6. Offer a well equipped gym and other facilities that encourage employees to move physically and stay fit. Provide incentives for employees to use the facilities, including during the work day as a source of renewal.
  7. Define clear and specific expectations for what success looks like in any given job. Then, treat employees as adults by giving them as much autonomy as possible to choose when they work, where they do their work, and how best to get it accomplished.
  8. Institute two-way performance reviews, so that employees not only receive regular feedback about how they’re doing, in ways that support their growth, but are also given the opportunity to provide feedback to their supervisors, anonymously if they so choose, to avoid recrimination.
  9. Hold leaders and managers accountable for treating all employees with respect and care, all of the time, and encourage them to regularly recognize those they supervise for the positive contributions they make.
  10. Create policies that encourage employees to set aside time to focus without interruption on their most important priorities, including long-term projects and more strategic and creative thinking. Ideally, give them a designated amount of time to pursue projects they’re especially passionate about and which have the potential to add value to the company.
  11. Provide employees with ongoing opportunities and incentives to learn, develop and grow, both in establishing new job-specific hard skills, as well as softer skills that serve them well as individuals, and as managers and leaders.
  12. Stand for something beyond simply increasing profits. Create products or provide services or serve causes that clearly add value in the world, making it possible for employees to derive a sense of meaning from their work, and to feel good about the companies for which they work.

In more than a decade of working with Fortune 500 companies, I’ve yet to come across a company that meets the full range of their people’s needs in all the ways I’ve described above. The one that comes closest is Google. I’m convinced it’s a key to their success.

How does your company measure up? What’s the impact on your performance? Which needs would your company have to meet for you to be more fully engaged?

Photo Credit: The Political Carnival

World War I’s Crucial Lesson for Today’s Leaders

By Sir Robert Fry

A great power looks on anxiously as two overseas rivals square off to resolve ancient hostilities and new frictions. One of the rivals has aspirations of supreme economic dominance and has embarked on an ambitious naval building program. The great power is hesitant to act, as two recent military engagements have illustrated the limitations of its power. Evidence of decline can be seen in all dimensions of national life, and a reordering of world affairs looks possible.

This description could equally fit Edwardian Britain on the eve of World War I and America today. Exactly 100 years ago, on August 23, 1911, the form of British involvement in World War I was decided at the meeting of the Committee for Imperial Defence. The fact that an intervening century has replaced France and Germany with China and India seems an appropriate parable for our times.

In World War I the Allied strategy was to engage and defeat the center of gravity of the Central Powers, the German field army. This strategy was simple in conception but heartbreakingly difficult in execution, being based on flawed assumptions, an irreconcilable gap between strategic design and execution, and a comprehensive failure of management information systems. But by 1918 firepower had been integrated with protective cover and mobility, in the form of tanks and military aviation, and had been complemented by the use of radio to open the lines of communication and facilitate alignment from top to bottom and across units. This ultimately restored mobility to the battlefield and initiated the blitzkrieg form of warfare that would dominate the battlefields of the twentieth century.

Great story, but what does it have to do with American business leadership today? A lot, because the strategic models are strikingly similar. Rarely in warfare have the challenges of the battlefield looked so insoluble as in 1916 and ’17; rarely in business have the macroeconomic, fiscal, and technological characteristics of the marketplace looked so complex as in the post-2008 world. And the fundamental problem is the same: a failure of alignment, by which I mean of the elusive ability to link strategic intent at the top of an organization to tactical performance at the bottom, via an unbroken internal narrative.

In business terms, this means a chief executive must not only have the intellectual clarity to define his vision but also be willing to give leadership away to those around and beneath him. Only by mandating, and explicitly trusting, successive levels of management to execute according to his strategic design can he release the full potential of his organization.

Today’s CEO must:

—Foster an environment of highly effective internal communication skills,

—Encourage the improvement of procedures to the point of praising a failed initiative even when the status quo is “good enough,”

—Cultivate a like-minded culture of innovative experimentation and collaboration, and, above all,

—Have the personal and institutional confidence to lead by communicating the mission and then letting go.

The alternative—C-suite jealously holding fast to the levers of execution at the top—looks like the worst example of 1916 chateau generalship. It will end the same way.

When you look at the parallel between the breaking of armies in 1917 and the corporate challenges of the twenty-first century, you see that the battlefield and the marketplace are comparable scenes of adversarial competition, and the path we must take to achieve success is simply timeless.

Sir Robert Fry is executive chairman of McKinney Rogers, a global consultancy. In a previous military career he held posts that included commandant general of the Royal Marines and deputy commanding general of coalition forces in Iraq. His postgraduate thesis at King’s College, London, was written on British war planning, 1906-14. He holds the U.S. Legion of Merit.

How to Inoculate Your Sales Team Against the Excuse Virus

By Gregg Gregory 

Excuse-making, is a behavioral virus that’s wormed its way into businesses everywhere, at every level. This particular virus doesn’t need to mutate – it’s already lethal. It’s not seasonal; it’s an affliction for all seasons. It can turn the healthiest of businesses into bedridden patients on life support. It’s airborne, too: to catch a really nasty case of it, all you need to do is listen. To spread it, just open your mouth and let it out.

And to contain it? To kill it? To prevent it from infecting your sales team and management in the first place? For that, I’ve got a three-part business Tamiflu of my own.

Hire the Right Salespeople and Managers to Build Your Team’s Resistance to Excuse-making

Think of your star salespeople and managers as white blood cells who cruise the bloodstream of your organization, smothering excuses wherever they’re found, whether actively or passively. Actively, when they counter excuses with solutions. Passively, just by succeeding where others don’t – after all, it’s hard to say you can’t when others obviously can.

Like white blood cells, you need a sufficient count of the right salespeople and managers to clamp down on nascent disease before it becomes a full blown catastrophe (I know an overactive immune system is not such a good thing when it comes to H1N1, but humor me). So how do you inject more of them into your team? Identify the traits you want to emphasize in your organization. Find candidates with those traits in abundance by using proven assessment tools (and no, an interview is not a particularly useful assessment tool, as I’ve written elsewhere). Hire them. Watch excuse-making dwindle.

Turn Your Organization Into an Excuse-Free Clean Room

This is the business equivalent of spraying Lysol everywhere: simply stop accepting excuses. When an excuse can’t find a place to stick and fester, it dies. Kill it even faster by asking what the excuse maker would do differently, if he or she couldn’t make the excuse – which they can’t.

Know What Sales Health Looks Like

Define expectations, measure performance against them, and hold employees responsible for results. Sound simple? It is, but you’d be surprised how many businesses fall short in this area. If you don’t know what constitutes a healthy organization for you, though, how will you know when you’re sick? How will you know when you’re better? And what defense do you have against excuses?

Just as in disease of the biological kind, it’s important to treat the core malady of excuse-making, rather than just the symptoms, which range from poor morale to a lack of sales that will put you down for good. But with the right people, the right environment, and the right metrics in place, you can beat the excuse virus and look forward to a healthier bottom line in every season.

Monday Motivation From Jill Harrington

Monday Motivation

The best product or service doesn’t always win the deal.
How you position your offering in context of the goals, motives and priorities of each specific customer
will clinch the deal.

*** Jill Harrington is masterful at shifting the thinking and actions of sales professionals and business owners so that they achieve bigger sales results, faster, in highly competitive markets. A respected sales expert, speaker and trainer, she instils the skills and confidence required to get the attention, time, and long-term business of today’s busy buyer.

7 Facebook Updates You Shouldn’t Make

By Nicole Williams | Divine Caroline
It’s one thing to peruse Facebook for a few minutes at work every now and then.

It’s another to use it as a way to communicate to the outside world how hungover, miserable, or bored you are during office hours.

If your friend list contains one or two coworkers, those comments could ruin your status at the office. Here are seven off-limits updates.
1) _____ wonders why everyone is so incompetent.
Chances are, a few of those “incompetent” people are on your friend list. And if you just finished working on a project with one of them, they might have an inkling you’re referring to them. Not only will this make for some awkward moments at work, but they could follow your lead and get back at you via Facebook … and a raging Internet war could ensue for all of your co-workers to see.

2) _____ is still waiting for my car service to the airport! So glad I have my new iPhone and that my meeting with the CEO isn’t until four. If anyone else is in L.A., email me and we’ll meet at the Ivy for lunch tomorrow!
These kind of updates just make you look smug, self-absorbed, and like you have delusions of being a celebrity. It’s great if you have a fabulous job where you get to travel, get chauffeured around in fancy cars, and take meetings with bigwigs. But it’s a lot cooler if you don’t broadcast it. (Although, please post if you do happen to have any good celeb sightings while you’re lunching in La-La Land.) In fact, it’s so obnoxious, one anonymous blogger started, a site dedicated to cringe-worthy clue-ins.

3) _____ wishes her boss would go on vacation with no Blackberry reception.
While you may secretly wish this (and spend half your day trying to send telepathic messages that she should book a one-way ticket to Antarctica), it just makes you look unprofessional and immature. Sounds like you could really use a break from technology after posting this one!
4) _____ is contemplating calling out sick tomorrow. “Sniffle Sniffle.”
The only reason you should be taking a sick day after writing this one is to regain some lost brain cells. While your best friend may find this hysterical, remember that this will show up in your colleagues News Feed, too, and it will spread like wildfire that you’re scheming to play hooky. Unless you find the time to craft some Ferris Bueller-style decoys, you’re in trouble. And if you’re actually sick one day in the future, no one will believe you. Haven’t you heard that old wives tale, “The Account Executive Who Cried Wolf”?

5) _____ is sneaking out for the Marc Jacobs sample sale! Meet me there!
You may be known as the office fashionista, but save your sample-sale shout-outs for the weekend or your lunch hour. Everyone has to pop out of the office for a doctor’s appointment here and there, and if you just so happen to pass a great sale after receiving a clean bill of health, then by all means treat yourself to the half-priced, distressed leather tote you’ve wanted since last season. But don’t blast it to all 565 of your friends that you’re NOT at work, doing your job. It’s bad for business.

6) _____ wants to know how people get to be managers with no actual skills.
This one falls into the same category as status update No. 3. Everyone gets frustrated with their boss from time to time. And while you may find yourself stewing with resentment that they appear too leisurely by making their 15th coffee run of the day while you’re slaving away over spreadsheets, don’t make it public. Vent to your real-life friends, in person, preferably at happy hour.

7) _____ wonders if her co-workers noticed that she’s wearing the same clothes as yesterday.
Well, if they didn’t, they do now, genius! If you were out on the town and pulled an all-night party session, please, pretty please, do whatever you can to make it home for a quick change before work. Even if you’re five minutes late, your co-workers will thank you for not making your entire cubicle area smell like vodka and french fries all day long. And the fact that you’re posting this on Facebook makes others think you want them to know about your late-night shenanigans. Not a good move for earning respect at work.

2 Steps to Success in Negotiations

Despite your best attempts to sell value and remain firm on your price, some clients will press ahead with their request for a discount. After a solid attempt from you to reassure them that your price is fair, if your prospect is still pushing for a discount, you have a choice. Walk away from the business because you want to maintain your price or slowly start to give concessions in an attempt to win (or save) the business.

If you want to give concessions, following a simple system will ensure a profitable negotiation.

Your First Step
The first step, always, is to find something else to give up that doesn’t reduce your price. Free shipping. Extra manuals or training. A client profile on your Web site. What you choose will be specific to your business, your markets and your client base. The key is to have the list of things you’re willing to offer prepared in advance, so you can draw on it during the negotiation.

It’s hard to think creatively in the heat of a negotiation, so planning ahead can give you a ready-made solution that leaves both you and the client feeling satisfied with the transaction. Your goal is to maintain the price integrity of your product while delivering extra value to the customer with a service that does not cost you anything (or very little). For example, if the customer asks you for a discount consider offering them following instead:

• An unconditional money back guarantee

• Free shipping

• Payment terms

• Payment with credit card

• Free training CD’s or in house training by you on the product

• Access to a public seminar or trade show your company is sponsoring

• Free set up (if you are a printer/embroidery/promotional products company)

• Future discounts based on volume: the company will pay full price today and receive a discount on a future order. You can also do this as a gift certificate for them to use later.

• Free electronic copies or hard copies of your help / training manuals

• Upgraded support levels

• Participation on your client advisory board or panel

About half the time, your customer will take you up on the offer to provide a “non monetary concession.” The other half will continue pressing for a price discount because in today’s marketplace it has become all too common for one supplier to attempt to trump all others by lowering their price. In many cases, your clients are being trained by the competition and other vendors to demand lower pricing from you. It’s a short term strategy, and it does little to benefit buyers but that doesn’t make it any easier to assure prospects they’ll get equal or better ROI by paying more. Sometimes, a prospect just wants you to lower your price, and you (with your company’s support) will need to consider doing it.

Your Second Step
If you feel you have to give up a discount in order to close the sale, do yourself a huge favor and always ask them one of the two following questions first:

“What is important to you about an x% discount?” or

“Why is an x% discount important to you?”

These questions will flush out any last details that could help you find a different way to structure the terms and pricing. This allows you to keep your price while letting the customer walk away with their needs met as well. If, however, you ultimately do have to reduce your price, make sure to follow these two rules:

• Never reduce your price without getting something in return. Getting something in exchange for a pricing concession is key to managing customer expectations that future discounts will not be easily dished out. As with the “no money” concessions above, what you get in return for a price reduction will be unique to your business and markets. It could include references or case studies, a bigger order, introductions to senior level executives or cash up front, etc… Again, whatever you ask for, prepare the list in advance so you can respond quickly and smoothly.

Nothing is worse than coming to an agreement on price (especially a reduced price!) only to find out that your prospect is still looking for other concessions. Be sure to get a firm verbal agreement from the customer that this discount is all they will need to get the deal done. Try asking them something like “I’m not sure if I can get you this price, but if I can, is it fair to say that we can go ahead?” or “I’m not sure I can get this discount for you. If I can, though, are you willing to ….?”

By asking them this last question, you can ensure you get all the issues on the table first, giving you the chance to deal with them fairly once and for all. So what goes after the “willing to”…. in that question? I believe that if you must, absolutely must reduce your price to win the business NEVER let that price drop without getting something in return. “No Free Gifts” my friend Steve Kraner taught me. Try some of these best practice ideas submitted from Engage clients for finishing the question…

“I’m not sure I can get this discount for you. If I can, though, are you willing to ….?

1. place your order today?
2. provide full payment up front?
3. place a larger order?
4. provide me 3 qualified referrals / introductions?
5. give us a testimonial or case study?
6. all us to sponsor the event you are organizing?
7. invite me to the event you are having for their clients?
8. provide me space in your newsletter for a monthly column?
9. provide my company an exclusive purchasing arrangement?
10. introduce me to additional departments or internal decision makers?
11. have us in for a “lunch and learn session” with your staff?

This step is easy to do if you have conviction. The first step to finding better clients – ones that focus on value and not price – is making sure you are 100% confident that you are delivering such a high value to the marketplace. Confident that all buyers will want to own it at full cost. When you do believe this, you will not have any trouble asking for something valuable in return for your price discount.

Remember that what you ask for does not have too be of equal monetary value. In fact it can be free for the customer to provide as long as it has value for you. The goal is to employ reciprocity – you will gladly scratch the customers back as long as they are willing to scratch yours! Creating equality in your client relationships ensures that you will have a long lasting trust based relationship which reduces the amount of “shopping” the customer does each time they need to order. This increases your profits, decreases your sales cycle and encourages referrals.

Effective Selling Starts With The Customer

by Dave Stein

I’m not sure of the origin of the aphorism, “We see things not as they are, but as we are.”  I’d like you to think about this for a moment with respect to your customers and how they buy.

Actually there are two levels to consider: your Customers, meaning that set of businesses to which you would sell your products or services, and an individual customer. (For this post I’ll use the following convention: Uppercase “C” for all your customers and lowercase “c” for a single customer.)

At ESR, again and again we see sales and marketing leaders who don’t deeply understand these, among other characteristics of their Customers:

  • Their buying preferences and tendencies
  • Pressures and trends within their markets
  • Alternative strategies to overcome challenges or leverage opportunities
  • Business justification required for a purchase
  • Influencers—both inside and outside the Customers’ organizations

With respect to customers, many sales people don’t have the skills, tools, and support to discern, among other things:

  • Their buying preferences and tendencies
  • Pressures and trends within their markets
  • Alternative strategies to overcome challenges or leverage opportunities
  • Business justification required for a purchase
  • Influencers—both inside and outside the customer’s organization

What’s the difference, you ask.  It’s the same list except for the last bullet.

The difference is this. In building your sales methodology with the requisite processes, tools, learning, reinforcement, supporting infrastructure, etc., you must take into account how your Customers really buy, looking at them not as you see them, but as they really are.  Then, and only then, will you have a framework within which your salespeople can be empowered and have the flexibility to sell effectively to their individual and unique customers.

This comprehensive and objective view of your Customers isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. But it’s required to achieve any forward progress in your mission to significantly improve the performance of your sales team.