Recession Headwinds. Can you find a tailwind?

Headwinds. That’s what you are up against. It stresses you and your people. It would be great if in the midst of all this chaos you could find a tailwind.

Many motivational speakers encourage you to have a positive attitude, get rid of your negative attitude. Not a bad idea, but will attitude positive or negative change your business results or generate income?
I was at a Las Vegas craps table, you’ll understand why they call it craps in a second. The guy rolling the dice was making lots of money. Whooping and hollering encouraging his luck. Everyone was getting in the mood, the good feeling of being on a roll. Like having the wind at your back. Intoxicating in itself. The gambler looks at everyone and says out loud, “Let’s have some good positive thinking here. Good positive thinking.” We all smile until…
The table croupier (the dealer working for the casino, running the craps table) says, “Positive thinking?” Yeah these casinos are all built with that positive thinking!” A nervous knowing laugh erupts at the table, and we keep encouraging the shooter. Stay positive we whisper to ourselves. Some operate like this in every situation. Pathological optimism? Eventually everyone loses at the craps table if you stay too long. Crapping out is not something we can actually control. If you can heed the message you take your winnings and leave early.
Positive thinking is betting on a wish. Nothing wrong with having a good attitude. It sure beats a negative attitude.
Let’s talk about those negative attitudes everyone is trying to talk you out of, including me. Some folks no matter what you say take on the devil’s advocate role, or Eyore in the Whinny the Pooh storybooks. Nothing will every work out, they shoot down all suggestions. Woe is me. Woe is you. Woe is the world.
I call this kind of negative thinking ‘Swiss cheese thinking’ (my apologies to the Swiss). Swiss cheese thinkers only notice the holes in the cheese, not the cheese. A pretty empty experience. Neither ‘pathological optimism, positive thinking’ nor ‘Swiss cheese, negative thinking’ will actually bring in more revenue, improve performance or do more with less. They probably will make you miss opportunity.
What will? Strategic Influence.
Some people consistently know what to say, when to say it and how to say it to get people to say yes to their request. Their influence is unquestionable, I call them Advantage-Makers. They are masters at influencing perception. When you are up against a headwind and the disadvantages we are all facing, influence becomes a huge advantage if you know how. The ROI on influence is dramatic.
At one company a simple, easy, quick psychological contrast positioned the product inside the customers mind so vividly that it increased sales by 546% almost overnight. They compared the inexpensive cost of ownership of the product to a much larger potential purchase. This single move dramatically increased sales. In this case they didn’t have to lower price, change the spec’s on the product, switch out sales employees or do a major reorganization. But without an influence strategist showing them the specific words sales had been flat.
Imagine the time you needed to influence – your boss, employees, peers, vendors, customers or position your products and services for customers to reduce resistance and increase desirability. Strategic influence is the key to helping yourself with a tailwind.
Do you have the magic to get people to say yes to your requests, your point of view more often? The key is the decision triggers in the brain. For example, during times of uncertainty the power of the herd mentality in non-arguable. Do you employ it? Or consider how powerful it is to tap the unconscious motivations of being consistent with the image you have of yourself. If you strongly value being a ‘provider’ for your family, you will do whatever it takes to make it happen. Knowing the psychology of Yes is worth millions.
Is it more important for your argument to be valid or vivid? Many engineers I work with argue that it must be valid. I ask them how their valid arguments are working for them. Not well is the usual response. They fall on deaf ears. It actually isn’t deaf ears it’s a bungled influence moment. A more useful strategy you can use is to ‘to make your valid arguments vivid’ We then get to work on making their valid argument vivid, with a 75% improvement in their influence ability. This isn’t some theory, this is based upon real results. Wouldn’t that make a difference in your bottom line. In fact, wouldn’t it make a difference in your top line. And it begins by saying ‘No’ to silly attitudes, like always having positive attitudes or always avoiding negative attitudes as the key to your success.
Do you know the magic? It’s actually not magic at all when you know the influence strategies. A set of 9 specific decision triggers in the brain that ethically gets people to say yes willingly.

A quick reminder from Wayne Gretsky

Recessions are slippery ice. No one knew how to score better on ice than Wayne Gretsky. Arguably the greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretsky scored more goals, 894, than anyone else.

How did he do it? And how can he teach us to score on slippery ice?

Gretsky was an Advantage-Maker.

Fundamentally, Advantage-Makers interact with the world differently. In Gretsky’s words, instead of waiting, I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.

We should take Gretsky’s advice to heart. Shift into the short term future to score. In hockey a few seconds can make all the difference. Gretsky read the ice so well time seemed to slow down for him.

In my book, I make the point: There is no time like the present to create the future.

In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake devastated the city and its banking community. Bank of America, a small bank at the time, seized the advantage-making opportunity, continued making loans and went on to become one of the largest bank in the U.S.A.

You live in the real world of constraints. Limited resources and time. You must to do more with less, do it faster and better.

Are you skating to where the puck is going to be?

Recession protection guide for organizational leaders

Millions were made during the Great Depression.  To position yourself to win,  consider shifting, or more specifically, the consequences of not shifting.

– As your market shifts can you shift fast enough?

– As your customer’s request change, asking more for less, can you multiply value so they stay with you rather than with your competition?

– As your competition adjusts can you shift to make it simpler for customers to stick with you?

– As your organization shifts to adapt to the economic shock, can you make it easier for your employees to play to win again, rather than play to avoid losing?

65% of change efforts fail in good times. And that number gets a lot worse in bad times.

Now is NOT the time to be one of the losers by making common avoidable mistakes. Your blind-spots are dangerous.  They prevent you from finding the right shift.

Choose the wrong shift, and you’ll look really bad and your credibility will be squandered. Your leadership is at stake.

Here are some of your constraints:

– Competition

– Organizational silos

– Lack of alignment

– Time and delivery schedules

– Execution challenges

– Shortages

– Inefficiencies

– Workload outstripping capacity

– Talent

Shifting is not based upon positive thinking. It is, however, a result of thinking powerfully, harnessing your ingenuity, and developing choice-making powers.

In these times of economic peril, “It’s not the best who wins, it’s who is most adaptive.”

People confuse these two and it leads to poor performance. Arguably IBM was the best but they couldn’t adapt, or adapt fast enough, and they took a terrible beating in the marketplace until they shifted what they were doing.

The economic waves of change will make business dinosaurs… Adapt or die.

You’ve heard, “If you continue to do what doesn’t work and expect it to work, that’s called insanity.  Do something different!”

OK!  But how?

Let me see if I can begin to help you here.

And, yes, it’s ok to get help on this. Many of the brilliant Advantage-Makers I’ve described in my book, The Advantage-Makers, collaborated, had mentors and advisors to successfully shift.

The ‘how’ to do things differently is in the art and science of strategic shifting.

You need maneuverability in your thinking.  And you need it now, not later.

One immediate way to do that is to identify your ‘attempted solutions;’

Doing more of the same, harder, seldom gets you where you want to be.

For example, telling your team to work harder, when they’re already working hard, seldom changes anything, and may make it worse.  You mean well, but it’s not going to work.  Most executives are surprised to discover they have blind-spots and need help to see they are repeating mistakes.

When you are not getting the results you want, ask yourself, how’s your approach working for you, really?

Don’t let your ego get in the way. If you can’t see it, ask others sooner rather than later, or there may not be a later.  One tell-tale sign is problems that keep repeating. Find the pattern.

Then, when you know the pattern, shift 180 degree and you’ll often spot solutions. You’ll be amazed at the results if done right.

Solutions to problems are often hidden in plain sight.

For example, Most of you know about the Avis slogan, “We’re Number 2, We Try Harder”.

But you may not know HOW and WHY that strategic shift worked and how it can help you.

Avis was on the verge of bankruptcy.

The more they tried to be Number 1 against Hertz, the more Hertz fought back and the further Avis dropped. A losing game.

Look at the clues in Avis’ persistence, their repeated ‘attempted’ solutions.

Don’t be fooled by the myth of persistence; ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’   What if the persistence is actually the problem!?

It was a brilliant 180 degree shift to go to, “We’re Number 2, We Try Harder.”

While this shift was ‘hidden in plain sight,’ it wasn’t easy because of the conventional wisdom that to be Number 1, you must persist until you drop.

(Influencing the executives to use this shift was part of the persuasion skill that made this effort a success; this will be covered in future blogs.)

For now, is your persisting in conventional wisdom a blind-spot as you battle the recession and economic downturn? If so, you may get lucky and still be around.

But this downturn is no time for luck, or for amateurs.

You must have a steady hand and do something sensibly different to create advantages.

Getting your people to think this way has huge upside leverage for you and the organization. Sadly, most people wait too long, and don’t find the real leverage.

I’m not talking about crazy swings, but shifts that count.

The skill of advantage-making enable you to anticipate and make moves others overlook.

Start thinking now: what is my winning move(s), my winning shift(s)?

Chuck Fox, CEO Chameleon Systems said to me, “The biggest mistake I made was not finding the winning shift sooner!”

Rx for Tough Times: Managing Interactions

What’s the biggest hidden killer of business?

It’s central to leadership, sales, influence, persuasion, marketing, performance, doing more with less, getting stuff done on time, taking the right tack, and outwitting your competition in the midst of economic uncertainty.

This is not a trick question.

It’s knowing how to manage interactions.

The road to hell is paved with mishandled interactions.

Sticky problems become stickier when you don’t handle interactions skillfully.

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

Your interactions with customers, colleagues, and especially with your competitors’ strategy make a huge difference.

Jan Carlson, president of SAS Airlines, turned an ailing airline, SAS, around from $20 million in the red to $80 million in earnings by managing interactions. Specifically, he identified 5 significant “Moments of Truth” – the points of contact in your business interactions in which you create advantages or disadvantages. Like baggage handling, seat selection, boarding, and departing from the plane etc.

Carlson asked the question, “What business are we really in? We are not in the business of flying airplanes. We are in the business of providing for the transportation needs of the traveling public. Therefore, our real assets are not the airplanes, but the passengers. We have to focus on giving them quality service for repeat business.”

And Carlson got to work influencing customer perceptions by managing the interactions. On average there were 10,000 daily passengers experiencing 5 Moments of Truth each flight. That’s 50,000 Moments of Truth each and every day.

Carlson was an Advantage-Maker. Shifting interactions changes the game. And furthermore, he shifted structures to accommodate to the new interactions with the customer. By shifting structures you shapes behavior with less resistance.

How many moments of truth does your business have?  Have you identified them?

Do you know how to manage those interactions?

Are you skillfully shifting the structures to shape customer behavior or aligning employee actions?

Leadership Judgment: Get it right or lose

Leaders are judged by their judgment.

Here are the 5 Core judgments of advantage-making leaders.

These judgments become a force multiplier to outstanding results.

Are you providing this for your people?
1. Direction
Where are you going? Provide a target and time. Keep your eye on the prize.
2. Protection
Credible defense against external and internal threats. Provide strategies against competitive designs. Resolve internal conflicts skillfully and quickly.
3. Action
Create movement and manage momentum. Determine what is hierarchically most important. Orchestrate resources to hit specific targets.
4. Interaction
Game changing interactions. Provide skillful collaboration to avoid the road to hell which is paved with mishandled interactions. Manage the network of interactions.
5. Intention
Play to win rather than playing to avoid losing. Provide a generative orientation that drives results. Minimize reactive tendencies.
These are the daily judgments leaders must check to create winning organizations.

How does your Time IQ influence your advantage-making? Identify your profile

As one of the four levers for advantage-making, shifting time is the most fluid.

You shift time to create possibilities. TIVO has shifted time on your television viewing. Walt Disney envisioned Disney World by imagining a future in Orlando, Florida, and then making it a reality.

You can identify your own time profile or time IQ:

The Now or Never folks need immediate reactions, but may press too hard, move too fast and miss opportunities that a little perspective may have landed.

The Eventual, Steady Eddy types who take their time and have a long time frame, they deliver results over time but they miss market changes and can’t adjust fast enough to opportunities.

The Same Old, Same Old, Past Oriented, let’s not break it if it works while the competition runs right by with innovations.

The Time Shifters who are able to adjust their time frame, they can take action now, be patient to grow organizations and companies, use what worked in the past but not get stuck in any one time frame. For Advantage-Makers there is no time like the present to create the future.

What do most people think of their time shifting?

Most people think they are time-shifters but in fact when they get stuck or shoot themselves in their own foot its because they haven’t made the right time shift.

Now or Never tends to press to hard.

Steady Eddy delays when they should be pressing the point.

Same old, Same old doesn’t consider future changes.

You can use time shifting in your negotiations. By adjusting time frames you can help overcome resistant thinking. For example, if the customer says they can’t buy today, have your customer imagine doing business with you in the future rather than right now. At that point they will be more open to considering your offer. And while its likely to be later, at least it is later, and you might get them to open up a new train of thought in the process.

Pay attention to the time horizon present in your thinking, then shift it and you will find solutions you hadn’t thought of before. 

The top three actions followers want from a leader during a recession

The top three things followers want from a leader during a recession.

1. Followers want to know you see reality as clearly as they do, and that you can find a way through the difficult and dangerous patch beyond just belt tightening. Cutting cost tells them they may be next.  Now is the time to demonstrate that you are a leader who consistently sees possibilities others miss. Now is the time to learn more, learn faster, and transform your insights into breakaway strategies. Not easy, but a requirement.  
2. Let them know a human being is steering the ship, not just a numbers cruncher. From this they will determine how secure their job is, and if they should be looking out for themselves or for the company. So be visible, not hidden in rooms where people become numbers to be crunched and eliminated. Now is the time to teach!!!!  For leaders this is mostly about influence. Teach your followers to effectively collaborate, help them become better at handling adversity, encourage their resiliency. 
3. Your voice, do you convey command presence. Your every move is being watched more closely. And even more importantly how you sound! You credibility is on the line. Pretending everything is fine doesn’t convey confidence. At the same time, acting as if the sky is falling is just as debilitating. When you speak, the non-verbals are telling the truth.  If you don’t already know how to support your voice so that it conveys command presence – learn quickly. It doesn’t take long but it travels a long way

Obama is an Advantage-Maker

The Democratic Presidential race will have historical consequences.

Your decision will pick the next POTUS.
Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.
The choice has generated huge turnout, especially with the Democrats.
In the Republican race John McCain is the presumptive nominee.
We each have our own criteria for selecting our POTUS. Judgment is core in my opinion.
Hillary is a competent manager, a problem solver.
Barack is a leader, an Advantage-Maker.
Both aptitudes are important.
Aside from the politics, that, in part, is why their language is so different.
Hillary is moving the parts forward, Barack is a fundamental game changer.
Each approaches obstacles differently. 
Problem solvers get rid of what was broken.
Advantage-Makers create opportunities that others don’t see.
They operate on different logical levels.
Problem solvers see what is probable, based upon what has been.
Advantage-Makers see what is possible, based upon what can be created
Bottom line: Advantage-Makers interact with the world differently – they transform it.
Wouldn’t it be great to have the judgment of an Advantage-Maker in the White House?

Take advantage of the recession

Advantage-makers spot opportunities in problems – and a recession can be a real problem. And there’s the opportunity. Everyone wants their problems solved.

Most people think about taking advantage of an opportunity, shift to focus on how you can take advantage of a problem.

People became millionaires during the Great Depression.  And while I don’t know any personally, I don’t think they were all robber barons. Some businesses typically do fine, such as automobile and truck parts.

Be an Advantage-Maker inside your organization. You can either create the horse to ride or pick a winning horse. Your choice. Finding a horse to ride may be faster, simpler and easier at this time.

The first Advantage-Point:

Adapt and Stretch – the person with the widest range of responses wins. Non-adaptiveness is costly.

It’s not the best who wins, its who is most adaptive

While most people are engaged in cutting and reducing, Advantage-Makers put their attention on creating more value.  Now is the time to distinguish yourself in the marketplace compared to the cut and reduce crowd.

Dr. Fleming discovered peninsulin when a pesty mold killed his bacteria culture. Not a good thing. Fleming made a dimensional shift in his thought process and saw the mold not as a problem but a solution to another problem – that of ridding unwanted bacteria. Solutions are waiting to be found in the recession. Shift your efforts to providing targeted advantages for your customers.

A person with attention deficit disorder takes his malady – short attention cycles and becomes a master at disaster recovery – ever ready to multi-task and fix things rapidly.

What solution is looking for the problem you face?

Money is on everyone’s mind now.

Use the code of the advantage maker: time, interactions, perceptions, structures. (T.I.P.S) with the two main problems people are concerned with: surviving and/or saving money. Focus on shifting one or a number of the T.I.P.S. and you may find your opportunity knocking.

For example, shift payments into the future, it will reduce resistance and accelerate sales. Speed is also a time shifting advantage. Taking too long will undermine your responsiveness to customers. Remember customers are really willing to leave now, applying the different shifts can create new value.

During the recession efficiency becomes the catchword.

There is nothing more efficient than creating an advantage.

The consequences of what you notice and miss

How do you categorize experiences?

Do you notice what is there or what is missing?

First, why does it matter?

1) A  technology manager accepted the vendors judgment that shutting down the data center was just like the time before.  This time the system crashed and results were  disastrous, millions of dollars lost.  They missed the small but significant difference.

2) A sales V.P. viewed all challenges as the same old, same old. He almost lost his job because the CEO didn’t think he could develop new strategies. Fortunately, we identified and changed his tendency to categorize experience with what he already knew.

Second, do you sort for sameness or difference?

Do you always notice how things are similar to what you already know and do? What’s the relationship between this job and the last?  Same or Different?

In other words do you look for matches for your current knowledge?

When a presenter is speaking do you find yourself agreeing with most of what they say? That’s just like …


In your thinking do you always find counter-examples.  Ways in which what the speaker is saying isn’t accurate.

Are you noticing the mismatches?

The sameness sorting pattern looks for commonalities.

The difference sorting pattern notices what stands out from the rest of the group.

Another way to say this is that there is a tendency to either match with, or mismatch what is already there.

Advantage-makers are fluent in both matching and mismatching.

If you want to spot opportunity and create advantages it is useful to mismatch, that is, sort for differences.

Advantage-Makers walk into situations with their ability to actively sort for differences. They note weaknesses, threats, and problems, as well as opportunities that others aren’t seeing. Instead of seeing what is expected, they notice what is unexpected. They are able to spot anomalies and then take advantage of them. The point is not to get caught in any rut.

Practice noticing what is different.

In a task or negotiation, ask yourself,

1) What appears obvious, along with what am I not seeing?
2) In the unlikely event that a problem occurs what will we do?
3)  When you are stuck shift from sameness to mismatching, or from difference to matching.

You can spot opportunity but only if you notice difference.