Chapter 2 The Concepts: Let’s Frame This – The Human Being’s Guide to Business Growth

CHAPTER 2

The Concepts: Let’s Frame This

For FIT to wiggle into the day-to-day business of your organization, there are concepts we need to define to ease the transition. Five concepts that frame the rest of the tactics in this book.

To Speed Up, Go Slow

Speed up by slowing down is the idea that contrary to what our gut tells us, the fastest way to growth isn’t as effective as a more deliberate approach to growth. This is baked into FIT because it prevents burnout, creates momentum, and prevents inaction. Go Slow comes from the Mad Gringo tropical shirt company, it was our slogan. One of the investors owned a beachfront resort in Belize that served as inspiration for us as we toiled away in the basement of an old grocery store in Nebraska. That resort was near a small island called Caye Caulker, one of the favorite daily excursions for resort goers. The motto of that island is “Go Slow,” and once we heard it, we adopted it for Mad Gringo. At first it was a joke to keep us in the spirit of the beach holiday, but over time I noticed something. The go slow motto began to creep into our day-to-day business dealings. It wasn’t a cautious slowing down, it was closer to a pause before acting.

It was a lesson I heard years before, but never acted on. My wise old boss, Mr. Carl, said, “Gregory,” (he was very formal), “the thing that makes humans great, besides these thumbs here,” (he’d give me the thumbs up sign), “we can pause. Your cat, you see, is all stimulus, response, but you and I, we’re not like that. We can insert a pause. Stimulus, pause, response. I need you to stop and think before jumping into things.”

The lesson I learned was that going slow avoids re-work. As an excited young sales person, I was always in a hurry, and created twice as much work as necessary. By slowing down, Mr. Carl was telling me, I would get more done.

In Mad Gringo, the Go Slow motto reinforced that same idea and we put it in practice once I started working with companies like Old Guys Rule. We’d sit in a conference room and dream up a vision worth pursuing, describe a course of action, get everyone excited, and people were ready to act. “Let’s do this.” Instinctively, I’d look at my thumbs, be reminded of stimulus/pause/response, and say, “before we jump into action, let’s take a minute and consider some alternate endings and how we’ll react.” The future is unknown, but there are things that we have seen before which we can prevent, and there are some things we have never seen before which we can decide how we’ll approach before we get there.

With Old Guys Rule, we sped up by going slow on the first project I was brought in on. The conversation started with the idea that we needed to bring the online store up to modern standards. The website looked dated, the shopping experience was rough, pictures weren’t big enough, and that had to be why it was no longer giving consistent double-digit revenue increases. The fast response would have been to jump in, start redesigning, and take a big beautiful site to the market, watching orders roll in.

Enter the thumbs.

We paused and considered some alternate endings. What if it didn’t work? As a matter of fact, how would we know it’s working? Were all orders equal? The site was clunky, but did the customers think that or was that just an internal idea. Instead of assuming we knew the answers, we did surveys, dug into site usage analytics, and shopped around. That’s when we found something we didn’t expect.

In the years since Old Guys Rule started selling online, their main source of revenue, Google, had gone through some changes. In 2008, the number of ads on a search results page were a fraction of the number on a results page in 2012. They were still in the number one slot on their searches, but the number one spot was now near the bottom of the screen. With this new information, we regrouped and set a new plan that placed ads in the spots their old organic search results used to own, watched growth return to its previous level, but now faced a new reality, ad costs—which had never been a part of the equation—were now eating into margin. By slowing down, we found the cause of the problem, and were asking a new set of questions going forward. We no longer thought the site redesign would bring sales back, but wondered if a redesign would increase average order size or allow for higher prices or increase conversion rates.

To speed up, go slow.

Make Sure They Think Like You Think They Think

The second concept is to make sure your customers think like you think they think. Put simply, know your buyer’s decision process. The tendency is to make assumptions about how customer decisions are made based on how you make decisions. Invest the time in confirming that your customers think like you think they think. Learn how your customers make buying decisions.

This lesson was brought to life when I worked at a bicycle shop close to a hospital. The shop carried Specialized and Miyata bicycles that ranged from $300 to over $7,500 (it was the early 1990s). For the clear majority of our customers, middle-aged doctors and lawyers, the bicycles that met their needs were in the $700 range. Beyond entry level, but not at the racing level of the expensive bikes. However, like moths to a flame, the doctors headed straight to the most expensive models. These bicycles were handcrafted frames with advanced suspensions that forced the rider into hunched-over positions that their paunchy bellies weren’t made for. These bikes were made for a single season of hard-core racing and meant to be ridden by a crazed 20-year-old professional. It was the wrong solution, a waste of money, according to me, the salesperson.

Overhearing me talk to one of these doctors, the owner pulled me aside and said, “Greg, they’re not spending your money, they are spending their money.” Years later, I translated that comment into this concept: make sure they think like you think they think. With each passing year, I’m reminded of how my bicycle store guy was right. Don’t assume customers are making decisions in the same way you are. The concept of riding bicycles was an emotional decision to the customers who came into our shop. They worked 80+ hours a week and saw these racing bikes as evidence of their success. I had no right to impose my thinking on their decision process, but I had every right to understand where they were coming from to help them make a good decision.

For the clients I work with today, we spend a significant amount of effort asking customers, prospects, and past customers what they were thinking before they started working with us. If there is a trick to this, it’s in the time-period that we’re asking about. We want them to place themselves right before they chose or didn’t choose us and we want them to work backward from that point. Who else did you consider? How did you narrow your choices? Who else did you consult?

This does a few things for us. First, it reinforces the idea that most decisions are not made logically, but are justified with logic. Second, it illustrates the role of emotion in decisions, especially feelings of trust.

If we had to summarize this concept in two words, no assumptions. Or as the bumper sticker on Mr. Carl’s desk said, “In God we trust, all others pay cash,” based on W. Edwards Deming’s saying, “In God we trust, all others bring data.” That’s concept two.

The Three Reasons Why They Try

The third concept as you work to unleash your team’s hidden selling power: not everyone will buy into your strategic vision for the same reasons. When we talk to business owners and managers, the idea we hear is that their people are either on board, or need to get on board with the strategic direction. However, over the years we’ve found that being on board with strategy is more nuanced than that. There are three reasons your people are on board with strategy:

1. They are bought into the strategy as promoted by management.

2. They see their peers bought in and they want to support them.

3. They have an affinity for your customers.

What we’ve found is that expanding the reasons why an employee is on board with your strategy—going from one to three reasons why they try—does two things for management. One, it increases the manager’s empathy toward their employees while deepening their understanding of the employee’s point of view. Two, it moves the needle on employee trust of management. Both do wonders in opening communication between managers and employees, which The Human Being’s Guide to Business Growth relies on for results. You’re going to ask many employees to step out of their comfort zone for the good of the company, and they’ll want to know they can trust you when they take those first, wobbly steps into the future.

To make this happen, we don’t suggest walking up and asking, “Which one of these three reasons sounds more like you?” and marking it in their file. This question of why they try changes over time, and if our managers are open to multiple reasons for buy in, they are more effective, which we’ll cover in Chapter 7. Until then, a small nonprofit that I volunteer for is an example of this topic. Wear Yellow Nebraska raises funds for cancer patients through an annual bicycle ride. The funds are primarily used for a single purpose, to pay for cab rides transporting cancer patients to and from their treatments when needed. It’s a noble cause and provides a necessary service to the community. One would think that to volunteer time or money, you need to be on board with the specific mission, getting patients in need to and from their treatments. A cursory survey of the 20+ volunteers doesn’t quite match up with that.

There are some members who are volunteering because they have direct experience with cancer, know what it does to families, and see the need for a service that shoulders some of the burden on the patient’s support system. There are some members who volunteer because they have friends or family on the board or involved with the ride. When asked, they will answer that’s it’s because of the mission of the organization, but their actions suggest that they are involved because of their relationships with their riding group, their coworkers on the board, or their family members on the board. Still others are bought in because they will buy into any service related to cancer. Their affinity with people who have been touched by this dreadful disease is strong enough that they may not even know what a bicycle is or care where the money goes, they will give time because it’s related to cancer.

When your managers go deeper than the binary “on the bus, off the bus” and consider multiple reasons why a great employee does what they do for the company, they open up a flood of new opportunities for engagement.

The Power of Self-Identified Strengths

Do you remember the first time you took a personality test? When you get the results, and read the descriptions, the blood rushes into your face, and a magical sense of wonderment settles over you as you think, “How do they know?” This next concept is tied directly to that feeling. The Human Being’s Guide to Business Growth uses strengths tests to help your manager’s effectiveness because when their people get to use their strengths in the work they do, regardless of what that work is, they’re happier doing it.

There’s a hang-up that some of our clients run into when this concept comes up and we’ll try to work through it on this page. The word strengths, just like the word passion, suggest that there is an ideal. It sounds like, “If I can find a job that takes advantage of my strengths, I’ll be unstoppable.” A manager thinks, “I just need to put the right person in the right job.” Both are putting the onus on the job, but what we’re talking about is focused solely on the strength applied to the job. The reason this works so well is that even when we are doing tasks that we find distasteful or boring, the studies show that if we’re allowed to use our self-identified strengths on those tasks, we tend to stick with it longer, and get better results. The key to getting all of this to work is strengths must be self-identified. They must come directly from the employee and the employee needs to say, out loud, “Yes, that sounds like me.”

Remember that feeling at the beginning of this section? The one you had the first time you took a strengths test? The reason you read the descriptions and thought, “How did they know?” is because, hold on for it, you answered the questions. In case you haven’t taken one of these tests, the range of choices are on a scale of “Always like me” to “Never like me,” in relation to a series of statements such as, “I am the life of the party.” After answering one-hundred of these questions, your answers will rank a series of strengths from highest to lowest. Think of this ranking as “Most like how I see myself” at the top and “least like I see myself” at the bottom. It’s fun and useful as a management tool, when used the right way. Let me show you.

Exercise: The Accomplishment Story

Let’s end this section with an exercise. It’s in two parts and will take 20 minutes to complete. The best part is the results will give you something to implement in your workplace immediately. Not only will it be implementable, it will produce measurable results in less than a month. I’ve yet to experience anything different.

Part One

Think back to your early career. Imagine yourself at the time when you were young, headstrong, bright, but not yet experienced. In that time, you performed a job you were rewarded for. It may have been a reward from a direct boss, or maybe a company award, or maybe a weekly award. For this exercise, the only requirement is that it must be something you’re proud of. No one other than you will read this, so make it your story. It needs to be in written form for the exercise to work. You can use the space provided or a sheet of paper.

As you tell your story, answer these questions along the way:

What were you asked to do?

How did you get it done?

What was unique about how you got it done?

Why was that worth rewarding?

Take no more than 8 minutes to write about it in the space provided. Don’t edit, write freely. Grab a pencil, set the timer on your phone, and go.

I thought of a story. One time, I was rewarded for an accomplishment when …

 

 

 

 

Time’s up. You’ve written some ideas down and the exercise should have been easy because we are looking for a single accomplishment with any type of reward. If you managed to answer the four questions along the way, you’re excellent at following instructions.

In the spirit of sharing, here is one I did. Unedited and rough … but real.

I thought of a story. One time, I was rewarded for an accomplishment when …

“I remember te time at my third or fourth job where we were having a drawing because the company was celebrating it’ s 25th anniversary. This was going to be a giant party and they were bringing in the Pointer Sisters to sing. Each \division - I think there were 30 - was going to get one person in the drawing for the \thing - or maybe it was a highest over gaol\ for the week thing that would put two salespeople in position to get a backstage visit for and with the poointer sisters. If you remember their number one song is or was I’m So Excited. I told everyone I knew about this prize and said I was going to get a it and get a picture of me and my wife with those ladies and put a caption on it for Christmas saying “We’re so excited … to be wishing you a merry chirstmas” - it was really funny. And you konw what? i won. and it was awesoem. Me and this other woman from another division were at the party and brought to the side andtold that we were going to be announced and in front of the crowd ans then we were goingt o watch teh show and then go backstage. We got up, got our accolades - thhen sat rhgout an amazing show for the 1500 empo, yees and their dates - it was like a silicon valley tech party blowout … and then it was time to gather. We met at the assigned door, then the person came out and said “sorry - the pointer sisters don’t have time” - well, it turns out that the ladies were pretty much enemiesand couldn’t stand to be around one another - so - that’s my story. I won the big award.”

I shared the rough, rough draft because it doesn’t need to be readable prose, it just needs a semblance of a story. It needs to move from your head on to the paper. Just get it out.

Now that we have a story that will be used in part two of the exercise.

Part Two

Dr. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania has a project called Authentic Happiness. As part of his work, he has a questionnaire that was developed by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman called the VIA Survey of Character Strengths.1

It’s a series of questions you answer on a scale of “Very Much Like Me” to “Very Much Unlike Me.” The questionnaire has 120 questions and takes about 15 minutes to complete if you really stop and think about all the questions. I suggest reading the question and going with your instinct. There are no right or wrong answers. You can take the test multiple times, and your results are private.

https://viacharacter.org/survey/account/register

Go take the test now (the free download on the left side of the page is all you need for this exercise).

When you have your results, you’re ready to finish the exercise, which will illustrate the importance of using self-identified personal strengths in your work.

Take your top three strengths from the Character Strengths test, which should ring true to you because you answered the questions. These are self-identified strengths that aren’t ranked against a population and pass no judgment on which strengths are better than others. The test simply ranks your 24 character strengths based on your answers to the questions.

Take your top strength and go back to the story from Part 1. Where do you find examples of that strength in your story? It’s not surprising to see your top strength mentioned directly. Now, do the same with strengths two and three. You will see multiple places where your strengths helped you achieve your accomplishment. Let me go back to my example.

My Example

My top three strengths from March 2015: Creativity, Ingenuity, and Originality; Humor and Playfulness; Capacity to Love and be Loved.

The first strength doesn’t show up in my written story directly, but I can see where it helped me. I remember working hard to get the business to win that contest. Specifically, I remember telling every one of my customers that I wanted to win and sharing the reason why: my Pointer Sister’s “So Excited” Christmas card idea. Bringing my customers into the contest with the promise of getting a copy of the card was creative and original. It was a natural path for me, maybe not to everyone else, but natural to me and I took it. Just thinking about it right now makes me laugh, which happens to be my second strength. The thought of me at a company party with my CEO and the Pointer Sisters is funny. It’s ridiculous. I loved every second of it and look forward to telling the story again.

My third strength shows up in what happened backstage at that event. It showed up in two ways. First, my lovely wife, who happens to be a shade under 5′2″ tall, was not thrilled about being in a photo with those women. If you don’t know it, the Pointer Sisters are about six feet tall and known for wearing giant heels. I remember the expression on her face when the photo opportunity was cancelled. I was secretly happy that she didn’t have to be dwarfed in a picture just for my entertainment.

Second, I remember the other woman who won the contest being heartbroken. She was a super fan of the Pointer Sisters and worked long hours to win that spot. She was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I remember giving her a hug and cajoling the backstage bouncer into letting her backstage. “Please! Can’t you help her meet just one Sister?” I said. It didn’t happen, I felt bad, but it’s an example of my capacity to love and be loved.

If you’re a no-nonsense manager, this exercise sounds corny, but I can tell you that after administering this exercise hundreds of times, your people will experience a powerful moment when they realize that their strengths—their perceived strengths that they identified—and their best results are tied together.

Results/Effort/Time and FIT

Why is this important? Let’s go back to the FIT graphic from Chapter 1, Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1 Results/Effort/Time and FIT

Getting every human being in your company selling requires your employees to use their self-identified strengths to accomplish the company’s outcomes. When they can apply their self-identified strengths to the task of business development, the magic happens. And it takes less time, and less effort, than you think.

Field Notes

Before talking to Greg about the concept of FIT, I was annoyed with some of my junior associates. Specifically, I was annoyed with what I saw as lip service to the partnership path I was advising them on. We hire the best attorneys from the best schools but they don’t seem to understand the work ethic they need to be successful. Seeing the word “entitled” on the effort/results/time graph, I remember thinking, “Yes. That sounds familiar.”

As we continued talking about applying self-identified strengths to work, it reminded me of the effort I had to put into making my high school basketball team. I wasn’t blessed with height, but I had speed, and I understood one thing better than anyone in my school. If you wanted to be on the court at the end of the game, you needed to make free-throws. I put in hours and hours of work and used my shooting to get a spot in the rotation and earned the starting guard position for my junior and senior year.

With that insight, and the battery analogy Greg uses to describe when pressing employees out of their comfort zone, I feel like I’m looking at my people through new eyes. Now, not only am I describing the path they need to get to partner, I’m advising them on ways to use their strengths to move in the right direction. We’re getting on the same page and I see how it will help.

—Michael K. Bydalek, Partner, Kutak Rock, LLP

Technology Will Set You Free

The last concept is the idea behind robots: machines are made to help us do our work. They make it easier and improve our lives through automation. This book shows you how to use technology to lock in your people’s gains and it’s the last concept we need to cover before jumping into the nuts and bolts of FIT. So far, we’ve talked about speeding up by slowing down, we’ve covered the importance of a deep understanding of your buyer’s decision process, we’ve talked about the reasons your people buy into your vision, and we’ve looked at unleashing the power of self-identified strengths. As you make incremental gains in each of those areas, technology can help us build momentum using automation.

Studies show that in individual coaching sessions, half of the insights that are unleashed are lost within 24 hours unless they are acted on. The number climbs to over 80 percent of insights being lost in 72 hours. You’ve experienced this if you’ve attended a powerful presentation at a conference breakout session. Before you leave the session, you take detailed notes about how you’re going to implement your insight when you get back to the office. At the social gathering after the session, you begin to lose enthusiasm as you hear others share similar insights and talk about similar plans. On the plane ride home the next morning, you make some initial notes to relay to your team on Monday because it’s the weekend. Every conference seems to end on a Friday or Saturday, right? By Monday, the impetus is lost. Sure, we try to re-tell the stories and relate them to our managers, but I guess you had to be there, in the end. At that moment, if you’re lucky, you will communicate 20 percent of the ideas that the conference sparked. If your people go right to work, they will put 50 percent of your 20 percent into action.

The way to think of technology is that as you unleash ideas in your people, the clock starts ticking. They need to take immediate action to lock that idea in. As we said in the first chapter, adults learn in the sequence, tell–show–do–review. That “do” part is important in locking in new ideas. If there is a robot there to help your people repeat their initial actions, their retention goes up, your effort to rebuild the moment goes down, and your progress increases exponentially over time.

When I was a new sales rep, one of my tasks was to send hand-written thank you notes to customers and prospects at various times in the year. Their birthday, their anniversary with the company, and on the half anniversary. At first, this was easy because I didn’t have any customers and few prospects where a hand-written note made sense. After a few months, however, when asked if I had any notes to send that week, I generally forgot. After a few weeks of doing the head-slap and promising that I’d get them out before leaving for the weekend, Mr. Carl said, “Mr. Chambers, if you can’t get this down, I’m going to let you go.” That was shocking. He followed that with, “But there’s no reasons for that, because all you need is a trigger. Something that reminds you to remind yourself to write the notes each week, and it can’t be me.” That’s what it took. From then on and to this day when I think Friday, I think Fired.

Technology can be that trigger. Sometimes you will be asking it to automatically do the activity that needs to be done—send notes, print correspondence, prompt phone calls—but many other times, you will be asking the technology to simply trigger a reminder to try the new task again. In The Human Being’s Guide to Business Growth, technology is the thing that turns nonsales people into competent marketers. Just like another of Mr. Carl’s sayings, “In sales, the only things you have are follow-up and follow through.” Technology is the secret weapon that helps the nonsalesy staff member generate opportunities. We’ll use the robots to make things easier, versus using them to complicate our team’s lives.

Remember

Speed up by slowing down

Put your people’s self-identified strengths to use every day

Lock in small gains with technology

1 VIA©Copyright 2004–2017, VIA Institute on Character. Used with permission. All rights reserved. www.viacharacter.org