Posts Tagged ‘innovation’


Motivating High Performance

August 2, 2010

From a recent question on linkedin, regarding the “Pygmalion Effect”. Do high expectations and motivation create high performance?

We all know what makes for good performance. What makes for good motivation?

Motivation is a mystery; it’s one of those words like “stress”, or “jubilation” that fall into a category called “nominalizations”. These are words that we use to describe something that is intangible, and only exists for those who experience it. You can’t put my motivation in a bucket, or in a chair; it’s real, but virtually impossible for me to share with you. Expectations, on the other hand, can be described, quantified, and measured.  But, if my expectations are high, does your motivation improve in some way?

What Henry Higgins did in Pygmalion was not so much about motivation as it was education. I’m not sure what motivates anybody, and sometimes my own motivations are a mystery (even to myself). But, I can say with certainty that if I know how to do something, and I know why I should do something, that I’m a lot closer to taking action and …DOING SOMETHING. Action is the evidence of motivation, wouldn’t you agree?

Action creates performance. Motivation? Mysterious, no matter how high your expectations! If we seek high performance, what we need is action – action that comes from a base of knowledge and understanding “why?”. If you have a team that you want to perform, concentrate on those areas and you will create this elusive concept of “motivation”, with recognizable results.

What Higgins did was provide Eliza with the kind of education that helped her to see a new world for herself. (His motivation? It was a wager, and one that he came to regret!) She learned, she took action. The result was a complete transformation for Eliza; and Higgins was not the “hero” of the story.

If you want to create great performance, don’t focus on motivation. Give people the power to excel through teaching and communication, clear expectations, and an understanding of “why?”. Is money is a “motivator”, or a result of action? (Pick choice #2 – and that’s a subject for another post).  Great performance comes through knowledge. Do you and your team know how to win? That’s where great performance starts.

Hopefully, this post has provided you with some excellent motivation….whatever the heck that is. 😉


3 Steps to Selling Green

July 7, 2010

When it comes to getting consumers to invest in green initiatives, marketing strategies are heavy on “green” and light on “initiative.” According to the Consumer Electronics Association (, 60 percent of consumers want to make “green” purchases, 72 percent say they want energy-efficient homes, and 70 percent are concerned about their energy costs.

Yet as few as 7 percent of homeowners actually follow through on energy-efficiency purchases. Why? Don’t we know that energy efficiency is the right thing to do? So why the hesitation? Can’t anybody sell this stuff, especially when most people want it?

Doing the right thing, and paying for it, are two separate events—and bringing together conscience and consumerism is today’s premier marketing challenge. (Are you paying attention, power companies, systems integrators and manufacturers of power-consuming devices?)

The ability to sell sustainability represents the single most important challenge for companies engaged in the production and consumption of power (read: just about everything with a power cord, battery or electric bill.) Without some clear strategic selling strategies around green initiatives, change in this market will remain elusive.

Here’s a quick three-step process you must consider if you want to change concept into action, and responsibility into profit:

1. Focus on the why

Consumers and media focus on the “what”—what makes a home green, what makes a power conditioner more effective, etc. What’s missing is the “why.” Why do consumers need to buy in? Because it’s right for the environment. Because they can save money. Because it offers savings and convenience. In Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, he writes:

The question [is] of the long-term survivability of so many other companies that have defined themselves and their industries by WHAT they do. They have been doing it the same way for so long that their ability to compete against a new technology [or to introduce it effectively]… becomes a daunting task.”

2. Lift the “restrictions”

Going green has come to represent solutions that are seen as compromising, intrusive or prissy. And few want to be slaves to lifestyle choices that are perceived as limiting or restrictive.

George Velazquez, principal at Integrisys in Chicago, recently installed the energy-saving electronics system in the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified residence in Illinois.  His team developed the LivSystem to fill a void in the luxury energy management category. From Velazquez’ perspective, green is not something you can separate from good design. And you shouldn’t try. Energy efficiency is an integral part of the system’s design.

“People are looking for solutions to manage the inefficient and the unmanageable,” Velazquez says. There’s nothing restrictive about it; sustainability without sacrifice is the why, and being environmentally friendly is simply a byproduct of a quality solution. For the team at Integrisys, you can’t separate quality from energy efficiency.

3. Create value in your brand

The public perception is that green costs more. And paying more for limiting or intrusive solutions is not a good value equation. So how do you overcome pricing objections? Create exceptional value. Consider this: The Ritz-Carlton just opened its second LEED-certified hotel in Lake Tahoe, and Ferrari recently unveiled its new hybrid supercar, based on the 599GTB platform (it’s still got a V-12 that can make a nun curse, but its carbon output is reduced by 35 percent). Ritz-Carlton and Ferrari are making sustainability a part of their brands. It’s a stretch to say that these companies have intrinsically branded energy management into their corporate cultures, but no one can argue that they aren’t making progress. Proving the value of effective energy management and consumption is the role of a good brand. Your job is to create an energy-sensitive brand that helps set expectations about your products and solutions. It is vital that customers understand your brand’s promise of energy efficiency.

One more point, but it’s a vital one: To effectively sell and market energy efficiency, it has to be who you are. It must be an intrinsic part of your company’s culture, solutions, and your “WHY.”  As marketers of devices that consume energy, we must educate ourselves about the value of smart consumption. And there is a clear need for companies and service providers that weave energy management into their cultures—and communicate that focus throughout their branding.

No matter what the product or platform, the good news is that good marketing and branding never goes out of style.  Getting consumer interest starts with the “why” and a cohesive brand campaign that lets people know your commitment to the environment—and to their bottom line.


The Color of Money

May 8, 2010

Four years ago, my friend “Money” was a regional account manager for a local manufacturer’s representative, carrying a bag and trying to make a buck.  Now, in just four short years, he’s the COO at a major IT and integration firm.  His story is especially timely, not only because of the economic climate, but because Money is having a birthday this month…he turns 29 (no joke). How did Money rise to the top?

Here are some key characteristics that put Money in the corner office:

1.  Education: Money went back to school, finished his undergraduate degree (he was a few credits shy) and then started in on his MBA at night.  Balancing a travel schedule and a family added to the complexity, but forced him to stay focused.  Now he goes back to his alma mater and advises graduate students on workforce initiatives and interview skills.  The advanced degree was crucial; Money sees the value of education.  Others would not be able to balance a family, a career, and graduate coursework (and Money might say that “balance” was not a fair description on many occasions).  However, the folks that make extra impact are willing to make extra effort.  Success comes to those who will do what others will not.

2.  Watching the Bottom Line: Money has always been focused on …the money.  His impact as a salesperson was evident when he would help customers to see the financial implications of their decisions.  The best salespeople are able to create a clear vision of the future (in their customer’s eyes), and that future always includes their products or services.  If you are a sales leader who wants to advance your career, a clear understanding of finance is crucial to your success.  It’s not about reading a balance sheet (although that’s where it starts); it’s the ability to put your products or services into the cash flow of the organization.  Adding value to your customer means understanding their business well enough to know the bottom-line puts and takes of your sale.

The words “Trusted Advisor” have become almost cliche, but if you understand the underpinnings of the company – in other words, if you can follow the Money – you create the kind of trust that makes customers for life.

3.  Empathy: What makes Money so successful is his ability to read other’s emotions, as well as his own.  Covey says “seek first to understand than to be understood.”  I just say, “Money!” While his accomplishments couldn’t have happened without a healthy ego strength and mental toughness, Money is always quick with some kind of self-effacing humor.  Being able to see the forest and the trees, whether we’re talking about business or indiviual traits, is an important mark of an executive.  That’s the “EQ” (emotional quotient) that is often missing from hard-charging type A individuals.

4.  Diversity: Did you know that the author of “Jurassic Park” and the creator of “ER”, Michael Crichton, was also a surgeon?  Some of the most interesting people I have ever met have surprisingly disconnected backgrounds or interests; like Crichton, these folks somehow manage to succeed in very different fields.  This internal diversity has always been an indicator of intelligence and adaptability.  Money is no exception; a former college athlete, he is also a classically trained pianist.  Reading music – and reading defenses?  Impressive.

5.  Find opportunity in your own backyard: Money is now running a company that he previously worked for, right out of college.  Early in his career he made a strong impression with his work ethic, but moved on to larger opportunity elsewhere. Last year, he returned to his previous company – a company he had followed closely since his early days.  Staying plugged in with an organization, through industry events, personal contacts, and networking can help you to add experiential insight to the interview process.  Upon returning to the scene of the crime, Money walked in like an insider.  That “inside track” is the path to rising above your last title.

6.  Get plugged in: If you aspire to run an organization, you have to understand how it works – within the industry, and within the marketplace.  As I’ve said before, that internal understanding starts with the balance sheet.  Money knew what the organization needed, he knew what he could do for them, and he told his story in a way that was compelling and convincing.  Why?  Because he already knew the plot and the characters. Sales leaders know how to use their past experience to establish a pattern of success, described in terms of a future that includes their impact and influence.  If that last sentence sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you, well, what can I say? Maybe you aren’t Money. Creating the future (with you in it) requires storytelling skills and a firm track-record of accomplishment.

You may find new opportunity awaits you in Manitoba or Marrakesh, but chances are that your best hope for advancement will come from where you are now, or where you’ve been.  I’m not denying any far-off possiblities, but moving forward quickly usually starts close to home, in an industry or company where your talents are viewed with “rockstar” status.  Your greatest value is to those who know you, in an industry where you are an established player.  (Transferring skills from one company or industry is a subject for another blog post).  Where you’ve been is a pretty good indicator of where you’re going, if you know how to capitalize on your talents and experience.

All that being said, the truth is that Money is far from perfect.  In fact, he would be the first to tell you so, typically in a story where he is featured as the punchline.  In our adventures together, we’ve made an interesting observation:  no matter your version of “success”, life circumstances often exist to help us identify our inner comedian.

It’s best to react to triumph and adversity with a wry smile before you believe your own press – good or bad.  Money is no exception; he’s rightfully proud of his accomplishments, but never loses sight of the bumps and bruises that got him to this point.  He is driven, ambitious, well-educated – and still able to laugh at himself on a daily basis.  Perhaps that characteristic is the most important of all.


Make Your Breaks – Thoughts on Serendipity

April 24, 2010

Serendipity is good – but can it be shaped?

The answer is yes, if you understand how to create the unexpected and turn it into opportunity. Serendipity means good luck in making fortunate unexpected discoveries; so how do we create the unexpected?

IU Logo here

Indiana University

My dad always told me, “You practice like you play”. As a former college quarterback, he knows a lot about the importance of practice. His logic goes like this: you practice your game, so that you can create unexpected events. Practice creates opportunity; skill allows you to capitalize on the unexpected. After all, the difference between “serendipity” and “surprise” is… results.

From Nathan Jamail’s “Sales Leaders Playbook”: Athletes spend 90% of their time practicing, and 10% on performance. In business, it’s more like 1% practice, 99% “just do it”, and hope for the best. Not a good strategy for serendipity, but it certainly can create a lot of surprises!

In the business world, effective practice means taking time to reflect on opportunities, to explore ideas (like this one!) with others, and exchange innovation with other thought leaders. By asking “What if…?” we can unlock the key to imagination – that’s the birthplace of new discoveries (IMHO). Creativity shapes serendipity. Put that idea into practice by exchanging new ideas; prepare for the unexpected by considering it with colleagues you trust.