The Advantage of Questioning the Givens

Two shoe salespeople go a foreign country to sell their shoes.The first shoe salesperson calls up headquarters and says,

“They don’t wear shoes here I’ll be on the next plane home.

The second shoe salesperson calls up headquarters and says,

“They don’t wear shoes here, send all you can!”

This story illustrates the difference between accepting the givens or taking advantage of the givens.

One salesperson has a long tiresome plane ride home, the other salesperson spots opportunity.

Who would you want on your team? Which salesperson are you?

An Advantage-Maker’s judgment begins with questioning the givens.

Are you just going along with your circumstances?

To be able to see solutions that others don’t even know exist you must first question the givens.

4 critical advantage-making strategies

When it comes to creating advantages it pays to know what you are after.

There are 4 major criteria that should guide your efforts.
1. Faster – Does your product/service accelerate the sale? Retailer use accelerators all the time.
Does your leadership accelerate the needed change?
2. Easier – Is it easier to use your product than the competitors? ie. Mac’s vs. PC.
As a manager are you making your messages easy to take action on?
3. Simpler –  Does your offer simplify the lives of users? It’s been said that the future belongs to the simplifiers.
This does not mean simplistic. Google makes internet search simple, easy, fast.
4. Multipliers – this is the king of advantage-making, creating leverage and your edge.  How can you leverage your existing resources? What is a 180 degree shift from the conventional approach that will fundamentally change the game?
Ipods bring more value to the users.
Do you want a cup of coffee or do you want Starbucks?
Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign mobilizes millions of young people through Facebook. One supporter can make multiple contacts in seconds, and its rallying and engaging the youth of America.
Recessions put most at a disadvantage.
Accept the disadvantage or become an Advantage-Maker.
Take advantage of the recession and leverage your resources. Think about tactics that can multiply and make customers and followers lives easier, faster and simpler.
Remember MEFS (multiplier, easier, faster, simplifier).

Is a recession structural or psychological?

The ‘R’ word.

‘Recession’ is on the back of most of our minds. Everything was going along just fine and then boom the worry machine starts.

A rule of thumb is that a recession is two consecutive quarters of shrinking GDP. Are we in one now? We won’t technically know for another few months.  But listen to your TV news reporters patrolling the stock exchanges, see the worldwide tumbling of stock markets, and feel the effects of your stock portfolio shrink and it’s no longer academic.
You are on the roller coaster and you didn’t even know you bought a ticket. Today the market plummeted 300 points and closed plus 300. A 600 point swing. That’s volatility.
How did the sky begin to fall (if it did at all)?
Is a recession a structural problem or a psychological problem?
Certainly, when fear takes hold, perception drives behavior and we head for the exits. But underneath that there is the structural issue.
Structure drives behavior.  Just as a river has an underlining riverbed that shapes the behavior of river the underlying structure shapes the behavior of the US economy and your business.
Structural forces can strengthen and weaken the economy. Growth, productivity, value creation, fiscal and monetary policy must contend with the housing market slowdown, the subprime mortgage debacle, oil prices skyrocketing, the weak dollar, rising food prices, overextended credit card delinquencies and job losses that are immediately felt. These forces are driving the behavior of the markets and your decisions.  They effect our time horizon and what we think is possible.
I asked my stock broker if the sky was falling and he said this is the cycle, history will repeat itself, things will get better, but it will be rocky for awhile.  But I didn’t want the history lesson. I wanted the structural forces lesson.  What and how were the structural forces at play so I could make an informed decision now, instead of a reactive emotional issue to my stock portfolio dropping.
A recession is both structural and psychological. 
To take advantage of the situation
Advantage-Makers shift perceptions and work with the structural forces at play to form their judgments, or use their influence to change the structural dynamics.
The stimulus package of fiscal and monetary policy, by the President, Congress and those proposed by the Presidential candidates must address the underlying structure. Short term and long term solutions must reduce structural impediments and structure us to be competitive to be able to win. Otherwise, a 75 basis point rate reduction by the Fed generates fear and uncertainty instead of stability.
We look to our leader for structural solutions. Specifically, their ability to spot the structural forces and influence them for the common good.
Think as an advantage-maker.

Advantage-making leadership

I’ve been asked, “How do you define leadership?” a thousand times.

While my answer has refined over the years, from my vantage point:
leaders create advantages that encourage followers.
And followers can be customers, employees, stakeholders or the voters.
Your leadership becomes obvious and irresistible when you shift the odds in their favor by producing leverage for followers.
Just because you are in charge or have a title doesn’t mean people will follow you willingly.
When you create or endorse advantages that encourage followers you know you have a winner.
The ipod and iphone engaged a community of users.
If you are a supervisor, do your strategies and tactics create advantage for your employees?

Shifting the Odds in Your Favor: The Advantage-Maker Blog

Do you know how to shift the odds in your favor in the best of times and the worst of times?

Imagine that you are a commander of a fortress under a daily siege for six months, your supplies are down to two bags of grain and one cow. You have no way to communicate to the outside world for help.  What would you do?

Expecting to hear the expected – ration as best you can, you can empathize with the quartermaster’s surprise and shock when told to stuff the cow with grain, and catapult it over the wall during the next attack.

What would you think of this bovine assault if you were on the receiving end? The field officer interpreted the counter attack as an act of disdain and defiance.  There must be plenty of supplies – since the cow was well fed…

The result? Fearing a long, drawn-out battle, the enemy ordered an immediate retreat, ending the conflict.

As the leader, would you have been able to shift the odds in your favor under the duress of battle?  More importantly does this have any application to 21st century leadership?

That’s the subject of my book, The Advantage-Makers: How Exceptional Leaders Win by Creating Opportunities Others Don’t. It’s also the subject of this blog.

Advantage-Makers see things differently.

Military analogies have their uses and limitations when it comes to business. What matters here is the illustration of changing the game.

The Advantage Maker Strategy is a radical new tool that changes the game by helping you see what your competitors do not, and act on these insights to gain and sustain the leadership position in your field.

Your ability to consistently create superior outcomes when a wall is placed in front of you separates the leaders from the followers, the advantage-makers and the disadvantage-acceptors.

Advantage-Makers consistently transform challenging situations (whether its competition, customer, organizational, team or people issues) into the best possible outcomes more often. Perhaps you are not under the harsh conditions of war, but your ability to strategically shift in the face of constraints is called into action repeatedly.

Derek Gordon (the CMO at Clorox) tells me “that’s what we have to do, to deal with the walls, and get over them.”

You have walls placed in front of you, how do you relate to them? Advantage-maker or disadvantage-acceptor?

Our fortress commander didn’t get over the wall, he tossed the cow over the wall.

Advantage-Makers see solutions others don’t even know exist.

It’s not news that the best leaders are those able to spot opportunities, create benefits, and influence outcomes.

What is new is knowing what is going on behind the curtain, what strings they are pulling to see opportunities where others see only problems, move forward when others are stuck, and create successes where others fail.  It almost looks like luck, but it isn’t.

Advantage-Makers aren’t any more creative, intelligent, or determined than you. Advantage-Makers do not possess any specific personality type or traits. In fact, it’s not about positive or goal-oriented thinking, although there is nothing wrong with those things.

Advantage-makers are in a different league.

How do they do it? There is a secret code Advantage-Makers share and use. If you wants to play in their league this blog will help you learn the code, play and succeed.