Skip to content

Archive for

June issue of Harvard Business Review a great read

Lots of informative articles in the latest Harvard Business Review on rebuilding trust, innovating in turbulent times and an assessment of Obama's first 90 days in office.

Some key points…

New leaders must do 3 things right within their first 90 days on the job:

  • Secure early wins to build credibilty and avoid /mitigate losses

  • Lay a foundation for accomplishing key priorities within the first year, starting with assembling a strong executive team

  • Articulate a compelling vision for what they'll accomplish during their tenure so folks willingly follow

Innovative companies have both-brain partnerships running the show — a right-brain creative and a left-brain analytical. "If you don't have highly creative people in positions of real authority, you won't get innovation. Many companies allow left-brain analytic types to approve ideas at varioius stages of the innovation process. This is a cardinal error."

To rebuild trust, create a culture of candor at work. And to create that culture:

  • tell the truth

  • encourage people to speak truth to power

  • reward contrarians

  • practice having unpleasant conversations

  • diversity your sources of information

  • admit your mistakes

  • build an organizational architecture that supports candor

  • set information free

And the best quote of the issue goes to a manager who said "the only messenger I would ever shoot is the one who arrived too late."

Book review: Personality not included

Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity And How To Get It Back

By Rohit Bhargava

McGraw Hill


So have you lucked out and found the next Jared Fogle?

You remember Jared. He's the guy from Indiana who dropped 45 kilograms in three months by eating turkey and veggie subs for lunch and dinner at Subway. The local campus newspaper ran a profile on the slimmed down Fogle and his self-styled Subway diet.

A franchise owner saw the story, sent it to Subway's ad agency and a star was born. But Fogle's 15 minutes of fame almost didn't happen. Subway's national brand manager wasn't keen on turning Fogle into an official pitchman and didn't believe you could use the healthy angle to sell fast food. And the legal types worked themselves into a frenzy over potential liability issues over the health benefits of the Subway diet. So the agency offered to shoot the first ad for free and run it only as a regional spot. The ad took off, spawned a national campaign and Fogle became the face of the franchise and an advertising icon. Subway's annual sales jumped by 18 per cent and went up another 16 per cent the following year.

Why was Fogle such a hit?

"He was a real person who had an authentic story and people believed it," says author and social marketing guru Rohit Bhargava. "He was certainly not a celebrity, but he was real. He may have been discovered by chance, but he was deliberately cast in the role of spokesperson by an agency unafraid to take advantage of the good fortune of finding him."

Authentic, believable and real spokespeople such as Fogle give otherwise faceless and forgettable organizations a much-needed personality transplant. And according to Bhargava, personality is the missing ingredient that prevents most organizations from becoming great.

"Personality inspires trust and trust builds loyalty," Bhargava says. "Personality is not just about what you stand for, but how you choose to communicate it. It is also the way you reconnect your customers, partners, employees, and influencers to the soul of your brand in the new social media era. Great brands and products must evoke a dynamic personality in order to attract passionate customers."

Bhargava defines personality as the unique, authentic and talkable soul of your brand that people can get passionate about.

It's accidental spokespeople, ambassadors and enthusiasts such as Fogle who talk up your brand with family, friends and strangers. What they lack in polish, they make up for in passion.

The good news is every organization has a Fogle. Search among your customers or employees, retirees, suppliers and community partners. You're sure to find some true believers are tirelessly building a fan base just for you. And thanks to the wonders of social media, they're now blogging, sending out Tweets, singing your praises on Facebook. You simply couldn't buy that kind of advertising.

But here's the bad news. Not every organization wants a Fogle. Fearful organizations with control issues layer on the policies and procedures to stifle and silence accidental spokespeople such as front-line employees.

Only designated and trained talking heads are officially sanctioned to deliver well-rehearsed and wordsmithed party lines drained of all personality.

"The flaw in this logic is that employees are already your brand spokespeople to a degree because they are already talking about the organization they work for in their own personal interactions," Bhargava says. "Compare how a message-trained communications professional describes his or her company with the way it is described by a passionate employee who has spent years developing a product and believes it is the greatest invention in the world.

"By silencing these individuals, many organizations have lost their best chance of creating authentic dialogue and of having real people demonstrate their brand's personality."

Along with supporting and sharing the stage with accidental spokespeople, Bhargava recommends coming with a compelling back story that personalizes your organization and capitalizing on personality moments. These are make-or-break moments where you win or lose with your customers. You have dozens of these moments before, during and after you make a sale or provide a service.

Get these personality moments right and you build a stronger bond. Screw up these moments and you risk losing your customers.

Along with a step-by-step guide for building personality, Bhargava offers up more than 100 success stories from smart and savvy organizations that have found their own Jared Fogle and figured out how to connect with customers in real and authentic ways.

Building a speaker’s bureau

Pulling together the framework for a speaker's bureau here at work. The bureau would coordinate, support, promote and evaluate speaking engagements by the leadership team. We'd respond to and proactively seek out engagements to connect with key audiences.

Two great online resources for corporate speaking engagements:

Ragan Communications (check out the speechwriting section) and Nick Morgan's blog.


Is it right?

Cowardice asks the question "is it safe?"

Expediency asks the question "is it politic?"

And Vanity comes along and asks the question "is it popular?"

But Conscience asks the question "is it right?"

And there comes a time when one must take a position

that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular,

but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

The TED Commandments for public speaking

Check out The TED Commandments on Presentation Zen. Here's the rules every presenter at the annual TED Conference must follow. Worth adopting in your own workplace if you're plagued with really bad and boring presentations.

  • Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.

  • Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.

  • Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.

  • Thou Shalt Tell a Story.

  • Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.

  • Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.

  • Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.

  • Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.

  • Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.

  • Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.

A cool idea to engage kids in math using mobile phones

The latest issue of Fast Company has an article on apps for iPhones and Crackberries. Seems everything's migrating to mobile phones and there's a fortune to be made from $2.99 downloadable applications.

So here's a really cool idea from the Virginia Department of Education — it's a competition to create an iPhone app that engages middle school kids in math.

I went to Disney World and all I got was this really cool book

Picked up Be our Guest: Perfecting the art of customer service by the Disney Institute. The salesperson (cast member) working the register at a store in Downtown Disney seemed geniunely surprised that someone actually bought the book.

Review to come. Here's an online tool to measure the ability of your organization to deliver Disney-like customer service. And Jeff Kober has this summary of Disney Service Basics — guidelines for how to treat customers and how managers are to treat staff.