Are you influencing?

There are five pivotal platforms of perception. Each of these platforms provides an opportunity for you to get your point across skillfully. I’ve found that most of us, moi included, inadvertently bungle opportunity, or don’t see possibilities that skillful eyes spot almost immediately. This is especially true when it comes to influencing others.
First, Product Influence: nuances in messaging can turn customers on – or inadvertently turn them off. This applies to your Point of Purchase, new product introductions, or similar activities. One message shift achieved a 545% increase in sales, and reduced mistakes that were driving away customers. The company wasn’t placing the product in the right context for the customer to consider. First establish the context before you make a request. 
Second, Promotion influence: tapping naturally occurring ‘decision triggers’ motivate customers to buy now, not later. One easy shift, based upon seeing what was missing, produced an immediate 45% increase in sales. This had been overlooked in plain sight.

Third, Program influence: manage customer touch-points so that each “influence-ready moment” builds upon the last.  This applies to your in-store merchandising, sampling programs, etc. One specific campaign we ran achieved a 33% response rate when the industry standard was only 3%. This was to C level executives in New York City’s Financial District, one month after 9/11 when no one was supposed to be buying. Kind of like now. We questioned the business as usual mode and applied simple, easy, fast influence levers. 

If you would like the full report send me an email at It is an 8 page step-by-step of how we did more with less, achieving unexpected results, and how you might also.

Fourth, Perpetual influence: targeting the “moments of truth” that influence your customer experience and drive brand perception every single day. This is where customer decision triggers impact in-store experience and customer facing interactions in most any industry, online and brick and mortar. We performed an influence audit and recommend ways to manage the customers experience. 

Fifth, Personal Influence: your professional ability to influence others shouldn’t be overlooked. You must know how to influence people. Are you perceived as influential? Your leadership is at stake.  You probably weren’t born with the complete tool set although you were born equipped to learn it fast.  Acquiring the Advantage-Makers secret tactics to instant influence will change you from loser to winner. 
I’m just finishing up the new book on The Secrets to Instant Influence: Revealing the Advantage-Makers Influence Tactics. 

Board of Directors – Do you have the right folks running the business?

Board members –

Do you have the right folks running the business?  

While working with a Director of Marketing the question arose, not about their immediate boss but the management team. It’s a fair question. We are placing our bets and our livelihoods on their know how and good judgment.
Consider the Big 3 Automakers. We certainly can’t have more of the same expecting different results.
There are on doubt competent people in management and it may not be their fault for this crisis.
However, the same managers will unfortunately make similar decisions, unless they are Advantage-Makers.
Let’s not pretend Advantage-Makers never make a mistakes. It’s simply that the are profound learners.
They learn faster, make mistakes quicker, engage more fully in unexpected solutions, work the probabilities and the possibilities and rearrange the scope to create value. Their thought process systematically leads to game changing decisions.
Do you know if your management team are Advantage-Makers?
Assess their ability to shift time:
Does the executive know how to shift rapidly in these trying times or are they using the same words doing the same old same old. Are they acting like Eeyore, woe is me. We all feel it but how are they acting. These folks are not strategic, nor are they using tactical ingenuity. They are duck and covering. Survival is at stake. Defensive moves are important. But if they are only driving defensively you will be at an even bigger disadvantage. Time shifters are able to rapidly adjust to the circumstances, resolve issues early, and shift time horizons. For Advantage-Makers, ‘there is no time like the present to create the future’.
Assess their ability to shift interactions:
Does the executive know who to change the game. Do they know how to uncover viable options in the midst of all the cost cutting. Are they just cutting across the board or are they focused on specific strategic interactions and spectific tactical decisions that they adjust to move with the winds of change. This is no time for platitudes, like stay the course. But it is time for rapid adaptation and knowing how to uncover viable options.
Assess their ability to shift perception to influence outcomes:
Does the executive know how to persuade the remaining employees to reengage? Do they know how to make the case compelling for your products and services. Are they leading? Have they differentiated your brand in the minds of the prospects? If your company is not differentiated your company is failing now. Everyone is paying attention to your leaders command presence in this time of crisis. Both the advantage they create in products as well as their non-verbal, their tone of voice, and the language of influential leaderships.
Assess their ability to shift structure to shape behavior:
Does the executive know how to create structures that succeed? I’m not speaking about the org chart. I’m speaking about the forces at play that drive behavior, make decisions, produce momentum, align the teams and generate movement. Has the executive made command decisions that root out structural conflict, that is, competing objectives between teams and departments that are causing delay. If your executives are not determining the hierarchy of importance and making the hard decisions they are contributing to a structure that will fail.
If they are Advantage-Makers, keep them, endorse them, support them.
If not, change them or get them help now.
Now is the time for the Board to act, for the executives to perform, for the leaders to lead.

Obama’s Inaugural Speech: A Game Changing Message

Obama’s speech was not soaring rhetoric, rather it had a more profound, game changing message.

He said, “What cynics fail to understand is the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. It’s not whether government is too big or too small, it’s whether it works.”
These are not just word tricks crafted to distract us, these reveal a fundamental observation and core message that encourages and requires all of us to shift to ‘higher order functioning’, instead of more of the same.
You will see Obama’s decisions based upon this higher order functioning in the weeks, months and years to come. The tendency in times of stress is to go back to basics. While some of this is necessary, a defensive posture is not a strategic approach that will actually get us our next edge. Back to basics is not making a fundamental shift.
Translating higher order functioning for kitchen table issues is what matters.
This will not be left wing nor right wing, nor moderates for that matter. Higher order functioning is moving from horses to cars, from typewriters to word processors to computers. We will see the shift to green/alternative energy investments as an example.
Higher order functioning means employing the social psychology of influence, transforming a typical 3% response rate to become 33%, Higher order functioning means employing the psychology of shifting, that turned an airline from $84 million dollar in the red to $30 million dollar in the black by managing interactions. Higher order functioning requires thinking in dimensions that finds real leverage in small actions and decisions, for example, shifting the typical 3 year bank integration to only 9 months. Urgency overruled bureaucracy.
Our country’s Declaration of Independence is itself is a form calling for higher order functioning. The U.S. experiment began with a new world, with a new philosophy of governing. We must again shift the game to higher order functioning, we must shift or the existing house of cards will collapse.
While the language of responsibility and accountability makes a difference on a practical level, in itself it doesn’t achieve higher order functioning. It is the thought process that leaders must cultivate to change the game and provide us with the new responsibilities and accountabilities.
Creating this higher order of functioning is the first order of business.

Advantage-Makers at Homeland Security

The Advantage-Makers has advanced into a new sphere of influence. Homeland Security.

At a conference organized by the U.S. Department for Homeland Security last week in New York City, Sidique Wai, NYPD Director Community Relations, quoted from The Advantage-Makers in his presentation “Securing NYC through Community Relations and Partnerships.”
Sidique, himself, an Advantage-Maker, spotted an opportunity to encourage the distinguished audience to increase their advantage-making for the security of New York City and the country. Quoting from our conversation and book, he advised them to see what others don’t see by shifting to a powerful vantage point that Advantage-Makers  seek.
“Great leaders can see opportunities where others see problems…
influence outcomes where others are hopelessly stuck…
transform their obstacles into powerful advantages. 
They’ve learned to use levers of power that other executives don’t even know exist.”
Sidique’s presentation was well received with the Advantage-Maker statement setting the backdrop. I applaud Sidique’s penetrating insight and sound judgment to protect us.

Strategy 1 for Keeping Your Job

Is your boss hungry? If your job is on the line you must make the decision makers hungry. What do hungry people do? They eat. Dinner is served. And you better be serving something they want or you will be sent back or in these times, sent packing.

For Star Trek fans, the analogy is to be Scotty, the Enterprise spaceships’ chief engineer. Whenever the ship was about to blow up, Captain Kirk would ask for, “More shields (or power), Scotty.”

Scotty’s reply was never ‘no problem.’  Rather,

Scotty would say, “I dunnot (Scottish accent) know if I can do it Captain.”

Captain Kirk: “We need this up in 10 minutes.”

Scotty: “It will take at least 30 minutes.”

Next scene we see, the ship is saved, once again. Scotty is a hero and lives (keeps his job) for another day.

Just a movie and TV show? Of course, but survivors make themselves indispensable. When your boss discusses issues this is not the time to say ‘no problem’. That may sound strange since most advice would be to think you should say, “Yes, sir/ma’am.” You certainly don’t want to alienate anyone, but your contribution should be positioned as key to the survival of the organization, now and in the future. You must make them hungry (without being obnoxious or foolish) and you are the only one who can feed them. If it really is no problem you are expendable sooner rather than later.

To make them hungry, you must now be adaptable, you must be the one who allays their fears of failure.

Your Advantage-Maker skills must be exercised and refined.

Shift time to produce urgency for your contribution.

Shift interaction to change the game from your need to the company’s need.

Shift perception to take on a winning mindset and influence perceptions to see you as the go to player who can multiply your value to the company.

Shift structure to shape behavior, reducing wasteful inefficiency and cumbersome conflict, this will align and advance the organization for speed, simplicity and ease.

Your talent and contribution matter. Don’t forget about quenching their thirst and giving them a dessert as well. Anyone who doesn’t think that people aren’t spending on sweets in the recession hasn’t looked at how waistlines grow in times of stress.

I wonder if you are hungry for knowing how to influence your boss, if so that should confirm that creating desire is most important for you to learn now.

Advantage making for college students

If you are a college student preparing for the real world what do you do when you encounter boulders in your life?

Once upon a time there was a king who placed a huge boulder in a roadway. The King hid and watched to see how people acted. Most avoided it, some blamed the King for not taking care of the roads, but none tried to get rid of the boulder.

Until a young shepherd came along with his oxen. The young peasant saw the boulder, laid down his pack and figured out how to move the boulder off the road. After much pushing and leveraging his oxen, he succeeded.  And then, under the boulder he found a purse with gold and a note from the King saying the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the road.

We all have boulders, what do we do when we are up against a rock.  Here are 5 ways to prepare yourself to create advantages, enabling you to deal with your boulders in college and looking for and finding jobs.

The 5 factors of advantage making

1) Find a horse to ride that is profitable.

Now is the time to create the future by finding a horse to ride. You have a dream, find a horse that will help you live your dream. Trout wrote a book about finding a horse to ride for your career. It could be an idea but that’s a big challenge, if you have it, go for it. It could be a specific business or industry, perhaps tech or international business, or it could be an industry that will do fine during the recession. If you have professional interests and a career make sure you pick a horse that can go the distance. In a recession cash is king, so finding a horse to ride will get you to your destination. You don’t have to find one horse for you entire life. Pick one and ride.

2) Adaptability. Shift.

You must be able to shift your behavior. The people who succeed are the fastest and best adapters. The worse thing that could happen is if you are successful in your first set of interactions. Why? Because you will become overconfident, and it will be a false confidence. You will think you know what you are doing, and the likelihood is that you have only a partial understanding, but you were good enough and lucky enough this time to make it work.  Your adaptability should be based upon thinking your don’t know, rather than your certainty that you do. Therefore use doubt to your advantage rather than certainty to your disadvantage. Persisting in what doesn’t work thinking it does will get your fired.

3) Influence. Yes.

Whatever your field, if you want people to say yes to your request you need to be able to influence them. And no matter how much you think people will be reasonable, they make their decisions emotionally. Think about times when you spent money on something you couldn’t quite afford. Why? Because it made you feel good. Unless you are the brightest person in the room, and even if you are, if you can’t persuade people to your way of seeing things you may continue to be the brightest person in the room, only you’ll be all by yourself. Hard to make a living, even over the internet that way.

4) Networking. Connections count.

Yes it is who you know, your connections that will get you in a position for that first interview you actually want. There is an old saying, “Build your well, before you need the water.” Its better to build your connections over time and cherish those connections. Your college friendships are worth more than future jobs, they are a wealth of memories that you will cherish always, especially the one’s that you will laugh about, and are glad are way in your past. So be the first to help others. When I see a little old lady cross a street I’m the first to offer her a hand if she wants it. My thought is someone is doing the same for my family members. We are in this together.  Help someone. Doors will open you didn’t think possible. Recall the 6 degrees of separation. It’s not just an interesting idea.  Your connections and your network are more valuable than anyone can realize.  Help your friends and their parents will appreciate you. And when you need it most there will be hands to help you across the river. Ask yourself, how does this person feel about themselves in my presence? Not do they like you, but do they feel they can do their best, be their best, do what is most meaningful. If you can do that for people you will have a rich deep connection and network.

5) Leverage.  Be an Advantage Maker

Act as if you can create advantages for yourself and others. Look for leverage. Take on a job and do it better than anyone expected. Use your creativity and people will notice. Market your ability to create advantages, people will want to know what and how. Develop your ability to shift your perspectives. Shifting time creates possibilities. TIVO is a product that shifts time, watch it when you want to. Knowing how to shift time to create urgency is most marketers specialty. Shifting interactions changes the game. Managing your interactions will determine how fast you move up the ladder. Facebook and MySpace are services that shift interactions. Shifting perceptions influences outcomes. You can’t be a leader unless you can influence perceptions. L’oreal perfume, ‘expensive but worth it’, is a product that influences the perception of women across the land. Shifting structure changes behavior. The internet shifted the structure of business online. Be an advantage maker now.

These five factors are what the most effective leaders use. Now its your turn to 1) find a horse to ride that is profitable, 2) expand your adaptability 3) Influence others 4) build a network and 5) create advantages through leverage. These skills will travel with you not only in the remainder of your classes but also in your job search and interviews. They may not teach you in school, but this is what works in life. As you live these 5 advantage making actions, putting them into practice, doors will open you didn’t think imaginable.

We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.   The Talmud

Between a pebble and a hard place

Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender. The moneylender, was old and ugly and fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter. So he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the farmer’s debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal.

The cunning money-lender suggested that they let Providence decide the matter. He would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag.
1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven.
2) If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven.
3) If she refused, her father would be thrown into jail.
They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the farmer’s field. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag.
Now, imagine you were standing in the field. What would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her? Under careful analysis we can see there are three possibilities:
1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.
2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the money-lender as a cheat.
3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.
What would you recommend to the girl to do? Well, here is what she did ….
The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles. ‘Oh, how clumsy of me,’ she said. ‘But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.’ Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed she had picked the white one.
The girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an advantageous one.
As we approach Thanksgiving, with our  economic turmoil that seem to place us between a rock and  a hard place remember it might only require a pebble game to win.

The Disadvantge(s) of Across the Board Cost Cutting

Cost savings is sound business. We shouldn’t argue that point. But executive cost cutting may be going overboard and it may not be their fault.

Every executive I’ve partnered with has consistently said there is always fat, and on an ongoing basis we should find ways to do more with less. No brainer.  The economic shock has managers cutting across the board. Is that wise or otherwise?
Throwing good money after bad practices is what you want to cut. But you don’t want to let the GM finance people design the cars. They’ve actually done that in the past, cut costs and no one bought the cars. Saving money is not the game. Making cars that make money is the game winner.
Our economy works because of cash flow. If everyone or enough people take their money out of the flow it not only reduces the existing cash flow, it makes it harder to rebound. Fear takes hold and accentuates the original problem.
Structurally there are some fundamental shifts that must be made. I think the new Obama administration has an economic team that is sharp enough (pragmatists rather than ideologues)  to reduce the rate of the fall and build confidence to get people and companies into the game again. That’s step one. The next step is the time frame. How long will it take and how will you respond in the meantime?
20% cuts across the board will provide expense controls. Even in academia, department heads and program heads are being asked to simply cut. But from where? If you want to drive more business, cutting marketing and sales seems like a counterproductive practice, unless you don’t think you have new customers. The innovators will create value, the Advantage-Makes will spot the opportunities.
CFO’s are the keeper of the cost control levers. They know their job, and the great ones are particularly skilled at managing the ROI. The problems is short term controls that manage cash flow now, but reduce or worse miss opportunities that pay for themselves over time.
Too many company executives are inadvertently contributing to their own pain by playing duck and cover. Again this might not be there fault given that they won’t get beat up for following orders. Take for example a client who typically get a 3% response rate from a marketing campaign to the Fortune 100 CEO’s. If they took the usual route they’d play duck and cover, and be glad they achieved the 3%, who could fault them. But on the other hand,  working with the Advantage-Making principles we devised a campaign that actually achieved a 30% response rate.
From 3% to 30%. Which result would you pay for? And more importantly you must invest in your people who are Advantage-Makers. Not all people operate the same. This is akin to the old 80/20 rule. Your stars will shine now.
The disadvantage of cost cutting with Advantage-Makers is treating everyone equally. It’s really important to consider what is an expense that can be cut and what looks like an expense that is actually an investment and will keep both the Advantage-Makers in your company and your company in the money.
Getting rid of ‘dead wood’ whether people who aren’t rowing with you, or processes that are logjams, or organizational practices that are redundant or create role conflict, or products and services that don’t produce are all solid cost cutting practices. But please be careful of playing duck and cover, rather than creating advantages that generate cash flow and revenue.


Why do some leaders win and some lose in tough times?

In these recessionary times there are leaders who always meet their numbers, do more with less, and despite this crazy economy are able to compete and come out on top. There are a few key reasons why the big winners are consistently successful, and its worth knowing how the big winners do it.

I’ve been studying these people, Advantage-Makers, for decades, and have figured out that they do it by asking a few simple questions that no one else asks.  I’ve began the discussion of questions in the previous blog, let’s take it another step forward.

The first question for Advantage-Makers is that they question the givens.

For example, FedEx CEO Fred Smith’s, hub and spoke system questioned the routine of how packages should be transported. How did he think that sending packages in the middle of the night to Tennessee and then distributing to the rest of the country would work? It earned him a “C” grade in his graduate school class. The professor never consulted for him. But FedEx is guaranteed overnight delivery and as we know a huge success.

Any of you play golf? Jack Nicklaus, renown golf legend, was asked to design a golf course for the Caymen Islands. One catch. The Island is too small for standard golf courses. He didn’t ask golfers to change there swing, the given he questioned was the ball. He changed the ball so it wouldn’t travel as far. Just the opposite of what was expected. Maybe they just yell 2 when they hit it awry. Never the less, they play golf on the Caymen Islands.

Which brings us to the next question. George Prince, CEO of Synectics, an innovation firm, asked,  “What is the anomaly here?” That is, what is unexpected that seems to be pushing forth. This attention to what isn’t expected has earned the company millions and produced millions more for their clientele including many in the Fortune 500.

A national Science foundation code breaker and scientist, asks,

“What am I not supposed to notice here?” As we talked at a restaurant he pointed to a series of ceiling chandeliers that were hanging above us. He described his thought process beginning with the notion, “What is attempting to distract my attention.” He pointed out that the chandeliers were attached about 30 feet above, and we weren’t supposed to notice how high the real ceiling was. Our attention was drawn to the light fixture and light, not the ceiling height. If most patrons had looked at the ceiling the restaurant would not have much clientele.

My friend and colleague, George Silverman, Word-of-Mouth Marketer, asks, “What is obvious that is missing here?” It is his contention that in this information-overloaded marketplace, the product with the easiest decision path tends to win.  He works with companies to make their customers decisions easier.  His question, “What is obvious that is missing here?” leads him to systematically eliminate the most important bottlenecks and provide customers with exactly what they need when they need it.

My advantage-making question is, “How am I taking this ‘situation’ and making it what it could be? It drives counterintuitive solutions that have generated millions of dollars of profitability, created advantages that to others don’t even appear to exist and consistently enabled leaders and their teams to compete more effectively than others and gain credibility others lack. The key is to look for possibility, and shift your vantage point, rather than follow the expected procedure.

Other advantage-Makers have asked, “What is the real driving force, the leverage in this situation? By using this question the path of least resistance was found in a major negotiation that had been overlooked.

Once you ask the question you sort for answers, if you are doing it right the usual answers will be background while foreground will be the new unexpected solution. Just as Fred Smith’s hub and spoke delivery system and JacK Nicklaus’s golf ball for the Cayman Island sized golf course demonstrated. Real world unexpected advantages.

The difference between the managers who survive and those who fail is their ability to create advantages every day with employees, customers and vendors. 
60% of daily advantage opportunities are overlooked and missed by struggling managers, who, surprisingly, seldom ask, “What else should I do?”, or “What am I missing”.

Are you providing the daily advantages to employees, customers and vendors that are that are hidden in plain sight? If not, you might want to start paying attention to both what is given, the anomalies and then questioning the givens.

In times of recession, not knowing how to shift will lead to failure

Not all leaders are Advantage-Makers. Leaders with the penetrating insight and sound judgment of an Advantage-Maker are able to turn situations to their best possible advantage, create superior outcomes in the face of constraints, and guard against the designs of their competitors.

Are you ready to take your Advantage-Making ability to the next level?
Many managers wait too long or in this recession play duck and cover. And worse, they repeat what they know instead of shifting. This is a surprising and unfortunate conclusion about failing companies and failing executives. In times of disruption, they rely upon the same strategy they used to succeed in the past.
In my book, The Advantage-Makers, I point out that Advantage-Makers are originators. Their impulse is original. To originate requires a shift. In a practical sense, new products and services aren’t introduced every day, but your capacity for fresh thinking exists every day.
Advantage-Making is not as much creativity, as it is Shifting
Will you engage in strategic shifts when you encounter challenges? In essence, the code of the Advantage-Makers is based upon shifts —- more specifically shifting time, interactions, perceptions and structures. Therefore, at your core, have you deliberately cultivated the capacity to shift?
Advantage-Making is a Craft
This is not a once-you-read-it-now-you’re-done type of talent. Professional actors think of acting as a craft. Excelling in their craft requires learning specific distinctions to get into character. Musicians work on scales to keep their skills honed. Similarly, advantage-making is a craft that improves with practice.
Do the most with the hand dealt to you
While working with George Prince, CEO, of Synectics, we engaged in a research project to understand how to ‘manage innovation with others.’ One of the profound insights we discovered was each winning innovator had a p private question that drove their success. In George’s case, his hidden question was, “Am I making this ‘situation’ what it could be?”
This questions orients and reveals an internal drive – an ambitious curiosity. George’s strong intent and his way of operating had two tendencies. He would shift to different vantage points to view the issues – close up, helicopter view, people view, tech view etc, and he would imagine what those situations could be. In other words, he was generating a world of possibility. George’s ongoing sensibilities was to make these possibilities practical, workable realities. Increasing the chances of spotting an opportunity begins with you exercising the craft.
Contrast George’s approach with a CEO who made money on a single business proposition that he implemented. It worked—until the market changed and he couldn’t change with it. A difference exists between those who are guided by an Advantage-Making question and those who have a one-time win. The CEO stopped looking for vantage points; his personal question was something like, “Is this working?” Similar to a thermostat, he wasn’t thinking or considering anything that could be done.
So consider which approach will win more often
“How am I making this ‘situation’ what it could be?”
“Is this working?”
Furthermore, if your internal question is, “How will they use this against me?” it will narrow your focus, and make Advantage-Making more difficult for you. Each of us has a question, find out yours, it’s determining your level of success. You may be repeating the same old strategy without knowing it.
Don’t wait. Use the Advantage-Making question today (there are others, but try this one now). You have to do more with less. You can cut, and should, where you are not getting value. But across the board cutting is a ‘duck and cover’ strategy. The real problem with duck and cover is eventually you’ve ducked and covered so much you missed the fact that you are now the cut back.
Ask the wrong question, you’ll get an answer, but the recession could turn into a personal depression.
If you absolutely had to make get more revenue, not just cut expenses, would you duck and cover?
The first step to your success in this recession is a question away.
Your future is on the line, ask the right questions.