The tactics of Gain

Gain, its at the core of everything we are after – whether pleasure, profit, or peace.

But how many of us really understand the tactics of Gain.
Gamblers understand the reality of winning and losing.
They bet they will gain or they wouldn’t play.
You are betting on gains in your stock portfolio.
You are betting on gains in your job.
Gains and losses are visceral.
My Dad was always gaining even when things didn’t work out.
Take the hit and move forward.
There is no time like the present to create the future
Those were all useful gains to appreciate and make part of life.
How do you gain insight into difficult challenges?
How can you gain by letting go?
These questions really go to the essence of being and becoming an Advantage-Maker.
When you can perceive gain and loss in a useful perspective you can adapt and create more effectively.
This is not just about resilience.
You can take everything you have and multiply and amplify the goodness.
If you have not appreciated what you have and then do appreciate it, you have just gained, and life is good.
You can gain in attitude, performance, outcome, experience, better strategy, better approach.
Tactics that gain.
Gain by making things simpler, making things faster, making things easier, making things more meaningful.
Here’s a week long task:
1. At the end of every day for the next 7 days identify what you have gained.
2) You can use the lens of faster, easier, simpler, meaningful, multiplied.
3) if you failed that day, and it happens to the best of us, what did you gain from that?
4) If you succeeded, enjoy the gain, it will multiply in meaning and your brain will want to
keep you on this gain track.
Failure as it relates to gain is not some Jedi mind trick or semantics –
you might have gained something invaluable.
Complaints will go nowhere unless you do something about it.
Did you learn not to do something in that failure?
I’ve asked my clients in the past to fail forward.
Let’s say you were trying to get more referrals but your efforts were less than adequate.
Did you learn to improve the way you approach the situation?
Can you improve how you use language to get referrals?
Did you learn that you need to ask for help?
What ever the effort you got a result – whether good, bad or …
Take a moment and make it a gain – not to deny the failure, but to make it a useful gain.
Advantage-Makers fail more quickly and learn faster than most.
You see, if your orientation is gain, then our failure can lead to something better.
By letting go of what didn’t work, you gain.
If you are lucky, you learn to stay with the unknown and open the door to the original
If our attitude is stinky, then the failure will only make it worse.
Don’t deny the reality, gain from reality.
And for those existential zen oriented, not wanting anything is a gain it itself.
so let me know if you develop a zen koan for gain.
I will be doing this exercise as well and hope to multiply my gains.
Shift the odds in your favor by orienting toward profitable gains.


The advantage-making tactic of shifting; the advantage of tactical shifting

People have been asking me why all this focus on shifting?

The implication is we don’t want to rock the boat in a storm.
While that is true, there are a couple of real world consequences.
1) 60% of opportunity is wasted on a daily basis because of failed shifts
2) A reactive mode produces different outcomes than a proactive advantage-making mode.
3) The level of uncertainly and waves of change now pulsating through the economy warrant shift skills at a new level of proficiency for survival and thriving. Being equipped to shift is a survival tactic.
So, how would an advantage-maker approach uncertainty and a sticky challenge?
How would you?
Here’s a scenario that approximates real world events.
You are running a huge banking operation and putting in new ATM machines. There is a technical glitch (that’s putting it mildly), customers can’t get their money, and newspapers are making it front page news. Most of the executives think you should slow down and reduce the customer complaints. Seems sensible, doesn’t it?
Select your action from below:
a) You agree and reset the workload and expectations to minimize customer complaints
b) You know that slowing down won’t help, but it’s important to reduce the level of customer noise and upset.
You select areas that you can proceed with quickly and areas you must slow down.
c) You disagree about slowing down, you go even faster to get the task done sooner. Your reasoning is that going slower will prolong the customer dissatisfaction and the papers will extend the story and perhaps elevate it further.
The conventional approach is answer A. Seems logical and common sense but the outcome is barely adequate.
better approach is found in answer B. Now you are figuring out the forces at play and trying to thread the needle. The likely outcome is improvement faster.
The Advantage-Maker approach is answer C. You have a good handle of the contextual forces – customers, newspaper, profitability, performance. The way to help customers faster is to go faster. You actually want to help the customer asap. The way to get off the front page faster is to go faster. The way to profitability is go faster. It’s counter-intuitive at first look, but standing back from the vantage points gives you an obvious edge.
In order to act with answer C, go faster, you must shift the tactics, and you must know what to look for to shift. This is the value of being equipped with the five tactical shifts. Shift the question, time, interactions, perceptions and structure.
Shift question and the givens – from get rid of customer complains now to get rid of them by going faster
Shift time – from go slower to go faster
Shift interactions – interact with customers differently and with the newspaper
Shift perceptions – this is key, shifting the winning strategy from going slower to going faster
Shifting structure – this is what you are doing with the entire implementation process.
If you didn’t answer options C, then look at the same situation with the lens of the 5 shifts.
This is the value of experience cycles with the right tools. With the wrong lenses, everything continues to be blurry.
To your clarity

Internships: The advantage of experience cycles

You are an intern at a company. Your boss doesn’t ever seem to have the time for you, he just tells you to do work you consider boring and worthless. And truth be told he’d say the same thing. You still have time left in the internship to make it all worthwhile.

Which is most like you and what would you do?
a. You ask for advice from your friends – this is an honest complaint, you really want this to work.
b. You are glad they are paying you but think what a waste of time and talent, hoping they will finally get around to you.
c. Initially put your head down in frustration wishing you were somewhere else but then you take things into your own hands. You figure out how to ask you boss – without offending him –  to work on areas that will be more engaging and which also will add significant value to the organization.
So which action and outcome do you get?
With the job market so tight and plenty of competition it is important that you build your resume, but equally important that you learn to add value fast. You have to be proactive, show initiative, be a leader. You’ve heard it a thousand times, you don’t need anymore preaching. But what are you really after?
This is real world stuff. I’m glad they are paying you but it won’t add to your experience cycles. You must have manyexperience cycles of different and useful activities to grow rapidly and prepare yourself for getting you first real job.
Complaining to your friends is certainly an outlet, but not going to get those experience cycles. You already probably know who from the experience cycles of drowning your sorrows in too much to drink. Let’s move on to experience cycles that will get your what you are after.
Taking this opportunity and learning all you can even what you know you won’t like doing is adding to your experience cycles. The faster you go through it effectively, by learning and adapting the faster you will be able to impress people when applying for the real job.
You want the experience of leading on
making the complex, simpler;
the hard, easier;
the slow, faster;
the mundane, engaging, and
the average outcome, multiplied in substantial gains.
That’s what you are after. Because by doing that you will be an advantage-maker and an opportunity spotter.
You have to take the situation into your own hands, and with the help of others. Shift the game. There are five ways to get the experience of advantage-making.
1) Shift the Question, don’t accept the givens. See if you can find a way to find a different horse to ride.
A different function or different boss or ask what would make a difference if they were going to hire you and do that job. Ask your friends what questions to ask and please try to avoid saying, “I did that already, they are too busy.” Use the early unworkable questions to trigger ideas that may work. Keep asking until you find a new way. That’s what the rest of us do who have made it in terrible times.
2) Shift time, reduce the amount of time being annoyed, and shift into finding quick things you can do for the company. If you don’t know what to do, and its not your fault since you are an intern, see if you can find someone who will give you 1 important thing to do for the day. Most of the time there is one person who will make a difference.  Shift the time you interact with the boss. If the boss is too busy in the middle of the day, see if you can come in a few minutes early or see if you can walk him out to his car after work.
3) Shift interaction, Have at least one question you want answered that only they can answer and interact with them. Showing them you understand they are busy and you want to get a good recommendation. Ask what will i have to have accomplished by the end of the internship that will make you want to hire someone in my position? (you are not forcing them into a hiring question, that would be a foolish push and not shifting the interaction skillfully) You interact from a position of willing to work and understanding that asking questions and getting feedback are part of being a good contributor.
4) Shift perceptions, this is key. Perception is outcome. Many people say perception is reality, well I don’t think so. Perception does drive behavior. And one important decision trigger for managers is not losing, money or anything else. If the boss sees something that could become a problem he will want someone to work on it. So instead of drudgery work, point out what could go wrong, what will cost more and offer to research a solution that can save money. When they see you will solve his headaches he will ask you to do more useful and what to you will be more meaningful work.
5) Shift the structure. Move to another desk that is in the line of site. Ask if you can work with the team of ‘cool’ people so you can get more out of them. Just make sure that you can still get a recommendation from the ‘boss’.
Suggest to him that you will work on all the things interns are supposed to do, but you most want to have at least one thing that will make a big difference by the end of the internship.
When they ask you how the internship went will you point to your experience cycles?

Leadership default creates uncertainty

Everyone, right, left, middle and overseas is upset with the political leadership of the USA.

The Debt ceiling game has placed our country, and the world, on the precipice of economic calamity.
For what? A principled stand perhaps.
Or a misguided notion of what the debt and debt ceiling represents?
The debt represents money already spent in the past.
We don’t and shouldn’t have to vote for it again.
The US pays its debts.
To not pay would be bankrupt – not only financially but more importantly who we are.
We fulfill our financial obligations
The full faith and credit of the USA should not be put dangled as a political chip.
It’s irresponsible and has already lost tens perhaps hundreds of billions and delayed job creation.
Dealing with the deficit and spend should be addressed but this 11th hour game on the
debt ceiling is dangerous. Holding the credit worthiness of our nation like a hostage
is bad politics and inept leadership. Uncertainty drives fear and contraction.
This is not about leadership style or bipartisan leadership.
It’s about structures – the forces that drive behavior – 
like requiring a vote to raise the debt ceiling when its already been voted upon
when the spending program was initially approved. This is 
crazy making and leads to brinkmanship.
The system’s rules produce the disadvantage in the negotiation.
Leaders have defaulted on structuring for success, instead we have
structures that produce uncertainty.
The role of government is obviously debated, hotly at times, and this is one of those times.
If companies are not going to invest in job creation, then government has a role.
The really important advantage-making opportunity is putting the good people of America
to work. Finding core industries and investing in them. Setting up policies to create jobs
here in the USA. Public and Private working together. This is the free enterprise system that
works in the United States. Like the successes of NASA and
the transcontinental highway system etc.
What we have in this country is a jobs deficit.
Create demand and the country will be fine.
Consumers drive 65% of the demand.
This requires investment by both private and public entities.
Austerity does not create jobs.
Jops will beget more demand which will beget more jobs.
Let the begetting begin!
Divided government has undermined job growth rather than thwarted political overreaching.
Leadership around job growth is now the order of the day.
I trust President Obama will turn his attention to Job 1.
I hope the Congress will move on this ASAP.

Captain Picard on entrepreneurship


spoken from the helm of the Spaceship Enterprise

And from the commanding vantage point on planet Earth, W.H Murray of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition spoke on creating and initiative:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. 

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.’”

There is leverage in engaging now.

Picard, Murray, Goethe embody the heart of Advantage-Makers

How did Ken Kec do it?

How did Ken Kec do it? (got 4 minutes? Here it is)


Last week, I asked if you were Ken Kec, metaphorically. Are you the person in the room to whom everyone listened?

The person who put his/her finger on the essence of the issue that was non-arguable. Ken had command presence, not in ordering people around, but he had command over the issues – including the customer issues and political issues inside the company.


So how did Ken Kec do it? Was Ken simply smart or was there a secret sauce? If you recall I said that it wasn’t just that Ken was a sharp guy, it was the nature of his intelligence, in particular, his shift intelligence that mattered. Ken shifted. He shifted the questions, he shifted time, he shifted interactions, he shifted perception and he shifted structures. Its easier to remember the acronym QTIPS (question, time, interaction, perception, structure) for each shift.


Let’s pull back the curtain and see behind the scenes what really went on.

Here’s how he did it.

He removed 2 mistakes people make and added 5 shifts that create advantage, and he did it in every situation.

Let me tell you what he didn’t do and you shouldn’t either.

On the don’t do list,

1) He didn’t obsess about unnecessary details, and

2) He didn’t wax platitudes about abstract white space.

If you think this is marginally important, listen to the discussions at your next meeting and you will find time wasted toggling back and forth between obsessive details or abstract pontificating. If you are doing this it won’t help you get to the essence fast.


This ability to shift to the right content level, that is, what is relevant, can make a huge difference in your meetings and in your approach. During one strategy session, we made signs that people held up when the group got off target. The signs said, Obsessive Detail, Abstract and Very Obsessive Detail. It made for both an amusing and informative strategy session. The meeting accelerated.


What Ken did (on the to do list):

1) The first task in his mind was creating a strategic framework to understand and solve the issue. To do this, to get to the essence he focused his mind on patterns, repeated tendencies. And the patterns he was looking for were the patterns of interaction – between people, between the customer and company. You could say he was looking at the ecology of interactions, a supply chain of interactions. What worked and what didn’t. The relationships between key elements and people. And what kept repeating itself. Ken was intent on determining the real forces at play, and shifting interactions to change the game.


2) Next Ken established a hierarchy of importance. What mattered in this specific situation?When people say you need to be more strategic, that actually means you have to think hierarchically. Not who’s who in the office hierarchy but what’s most important relative to the stuff that people care about. For example, which is more important in this situation, profits now or long-term business relations. And if both are important which is more important or what percentage of each? Ken made structural calculations.


3) Now Ken did not just accept the givens, he questioned the givens. That’s the basic Shifting the Question aspect of those who have high shift IQ’s. This can be tricky because we live in an assumptive world. It’s like water to a fish; it only realizes when it is out of water. We can be better than fish on most days. Most of our solutions are too small, we can play bigger by penetrating questions that lift us out of the existing sea of expectation. We can frame the issue in a new light. By noticing the patterns we also can begin to question the recalcitrant patterns as Ken did.


4) Having questioned the givens he began to think about the options, not a laundry list. He knew what the variables were and could be both creative and practical. For example, if the variables were price, quality, technology and time to market he would move those around in terms of where the big win was for them. As a result he could determine the tendencies for movement and more significantly the momentum tactic. Ken thought both inside the box and out of the box. That’s tactical shifting.


5) And finally, knowing the patterns of interactions, the hierarchy of importance he shifted perceptions to influence the outcome. Ken penetrated into the decision triggers of his ‘target audience’ and delivered a non-arguable case. Ken was not just a good sales guy, he was someone who really put on his thinking cap while others were making noise, thinking they were thinking. And he delivered the message just at the right time.


So quick review, Ken set a strategic framework; spotted the patterns, established a hierarchy of importance, questioned the givens, generated options, influenced perception and at the right time.


Are you similar to Ken Kec? I hope. If not, you can learn to think, perceive and influence like Ken Kec by improving your shift IQ. Ken wasn’t born with these habits; he acquired them and refined them. Ken studied how to shift the odds in his favor. If you want to shift the odds in your favor you can too.


There is no time like the present to create the future.

Next time, you might be the person in the room to whom everyone listens.

Are you Ken Kec?

Many years ago I was consulting to HBO & Co., no, not that HBO, the healthcare software corporation.

Their National Sales V.P. was Ken Kec, a Czech with a great sense of humor. But more importantly,
in the middle of a debate he was the person in the room everyone listens to. And not because he was
the V.P. Ken would sit and listen himself. After he heard the diverse opinions of the issue, he would
lean forward and say, “so the net, net of this is …” And after he delivered his “net, net” proclamation, people
 got on board quickly.
He had netted out the issue, done the math, knew which way the wind was blowing – all those mixed metaphors
Are you the person in the room everyone listens to? When you speak do others listen?
The person in the room everyone listens to, whether an exec or a front line customer support is
the Influence Champ. This is more than simple persuasion techniques or position of power. It requires substance as well as sizzle.
If you are not the person everyone listens to you are limiting your career.
Ken’s ability to tactically shift to get to the essence of the issue and tactically influence others was key. Just a small adjustment could change the game.
You see, Ken knew how to shift the game and see what was really going on and be able to create viable options and solutions that others didn’t see. As an Advantage-Maker he shifted the odds in his favor.
In one consultation we collaborated on changing a $200,000 deal into a $2,000,000 deal in less than 24 hours.
Ken was undoubtedly intelligent. However, it was the nature of his intelligence, in particular his shift intelligence that matters to us. Shift intelligence is something we can change. The first task in Ken’s mind was creating a strategic framework to understand and solve the issue. He not only gathered the facts, he garnered the underlying forces at play, and questioned the givens.  Ken was able to face obstacles and shift the question, that is, frame the question in a new light.
Do you know Ken Kec or Ken Kec’s?
Because if you do, get real close to them.
And pay even closer attention to how they frame issues.
Next time, you might be the one who everyone listens to.

Social Network:Facebook

I live a few blocks from Facebook. I play a bit on Facebook. Tonight we went to see the Social Network movie all about the inception, the originality of the social network medium and growth of Facebook, and mostly the founding genius Mark Zuckerberg. The reports of fiction or non-fiction and type of personality are intriguing as a separate storyline.

As we sat and watched the movie – great acting by the way –  I wondered about the audience. Everyone there has been touched by Facebook. There were executives of Silicon Valley companies, VC’s, current employees of Facebook, former employees of Facebook, techies, geeks, psychologists, grad and undergrad students, entrepreneurs and probably a technical genius or two who could be creating the next great device the way Zuckerberg created Facebook. That’s Silicon Valley and the Social Network.
Whatever the truth, Zuckerberg’s genius was paramount even as his own introverted behavior reveals the usefulness of a technology that creates a social network. To be clear, Facebook is a tool of the 21st century for all people across the planet for personal, professional and business relations. It is transformative.
Today Social Network took an even bigger step forward for not only the local audience within a mile or so of Facebook but for the audience of people who only hear about and play a bit with social media.
I think the movie, Zuckerberg’s prototype of the socially awkward, technical genius, and his demonstrable advantage-making talent will inspire entrepreneurs and advantage-makers to act on their generative talents and aspirations

1-800 Contacts: a great example of advantage-making that pays off instantly

This is not an ad. It is a note to say thank you to both 1-800-Contacts, the business, and to Jennifer, the service representative, in particular. And the thank you is specifically an appreciation of their individual and business Advantage-Making culture and skill.

I was calling to re-order my contacts. A small chore, but I had been putting it off. Getting put on hold, fumbling for eye Doc information is not my idea of something I look forward to, so I procrastinate.
One of the easiest ways to spot advantage-making is how the front line service people interact with their customers. Most of us have encountered doing business with people who are overworked, tired, frustrated, under ‘attack’ like at the airline counter. This seldom ends well.
Advantage-making goes beyond just finding a nice person – that is always a good start. And Jennifer certainly is that. When I recently re-ordered my contacts I was reminded and really appreciated what it was like to be in good hands. People who are solving your problems rather than putting up road blocks and obstacles, and when its done well it almost seems invisible.
That is exactly the service and solution that Jennifer from 1-800-Contacts provided for me. And the kicker is i ordered a years supply instead of the usual month or two supply. So they benefitted by helping me. And it wasn’t just the price, which added to my appreciation. This wasn’t life changing, but it was life enhancing. It really was the oft used phrase but seldom believed, ‘it’s a pleasure doing business with you.”
The owners, leaders and company obviously gave her ways to solve problems in advance, anticipating people’s concerns and providing a solution that I would want without adding to my burden. If you want to know how to set up a customer facing business that keeps customers coming back for more, and ordering higher amounts then i would suggest you check out 1-800-Contacts.
And again, thank you Jennifer.

Putting yourself at a disadvantage

Part of what drove me to write The Advantage-Makers is what I perceived as unnecessary waste of effort and opportunity. Many people put themselves at a disadvantage, and they do so unwittingly.

You can be a leader, a mom, a dad, a brother or sister, a fireman or police officer, whatever your career or family roles there are advantages and disadvantages that will come your way.
When you meet an obstacle, whether expected or unexpected, how do you respond?
When you meet an opportunity, whether expected or unexpected, how do you respond?
While true disadvantage exists, and some people have it easier than others from the start, the annals of history are replete with the lives of those who were at a disadvantage in which the odds were against them and they won anyway. The reverse is also true. People who had all the advantages blew it.
Many people don’t realize that their relationship with obstacles determines the outcomes, the experiences they have in life. We all encounter obstacles and we are often called upon to do more with less.
Likewise, many people don’t realize their relationship with opportunity determines the outcomes, the experiences they have in life. We all have opportunity knocking on the door, but how do we answer?
No one I know wittingly puts themselves at a disadvantage. They do so unwittingly.
The first step then is to recognize or spot the action that puts you at a disadvantage.
That’s what the Five Shifts of Advantage-Makers is all about.
You can perceive the pain, but can you perceive the solution.
Shift the odds in your favor. Change the lenses you are looking through.
Shift the question and you will perceive answers you didn’t know existed.
Shift time and you will find leverage where none existed before.
Shift interactions and people will do unexpected good things.
Shift perceptions and you will influence people rather than be controlled by them.
Shift structures and you will set yourself up to succeed.
Today, simply practice shifting the question.
You can do so by having the following question as the background for your events:
What are the opportunities here for someone, perhaps even me?
You might be surprised to realize that obstacles and opportunities are often in close.
So instead of putting yourself at a disadvantage, place yourself at an advantage.