The Greatest Executive Challenge: Changing an Organization’s Culture

One of the greatest challenges faced by Executives today is how to change their organization’s culture. Here’s a helpful hint: Culture is established from the inside out, not from the outside in. It is the natural result of the common habits within a group of people. Great leaders shape their cultures not by controlling their team members, but by influencing and inspiring them!

I recently published two blogs:

Their combined message produces the following powerful principle:

    You will have maximum cultural impact when you can cause people to want to take a certain action, and enable them to cause others to want the same.

There is a big difference between influence and control. Influence is the ability to affect the decisions of others, where ultimately the decision is still theirs. It leverages and even empowers the will of another. Control, on the other hand, determines the actions of others, regardless of what they think or desire. The following four characteristics highlight the power of influence and why it is more effective than control.

1. Influence Grows. Control Creates Resistance.
People don’t like to be controlled, even if what they are forced to do is right. As soon as they don’t have a choice, they automatically want to do the opposite. It’s natural. Therefore, in order to comply, they must resist that natural sense of resistance. And compliance at its best will only meet the minimum requirements to stay out of trouble. Now, if an individual sincerely desires to do something and communicates that desire in a compelling way, then it is likely to influence someone else. You must be that first individual to duplicate your desire in your team members. A sincere desire, communicated effectively is contagious.

2. Influence Learns. Control Remains Blind.
As an executive, it is easy and even tempting to exercise your authority by mandating a certain change. When this approach is taken, team members tend to withhold their true reactions in front of leadership. Instead, they share their opinions behind closed doors, often producing a negative vibe towards leadership. Transparency and trust are diminished between executives and their teams. Instead of forcing a matter, paint a compelling picture of a world that is better with the change than without it. Then listen to their honest responses. If others buy into that vision then they have also validated that the vision is desirable and achievable. If they don’t buy in, then either the vision was not communicated effectively, or it was not considered desirable and achievable by your audience. Now, even if they disagree, you have learned and can adjust if necessary.

3. Influence Continues Beyond You. Control Ends With You.
The moment you influence another person to take action is the moment you stop being a dependency for that action to occur. When it can occur without your involvement, you have succeeded in your goal to produce change and you are free to move on to the next objective. If you are in control, however, then the moment you take your finger off the pulse is the moment it stops beating.

4. Influence Requires Consistency Over Time.
Let’s bring a little balance to this. If you are having difficulty gaining adoption to a change, it doesn’t mean the change is bad or unnecessary. It may simply require greater education and reinforcement. Don’t quit on your idea just because it was not adopted quickly by the majority. Remember that people cannot easily change habits, even if they want to! Change requires consistency over time.

We see that influence grows, learns and continues beyond the instigator. Change, on the other hand, creates resistance, remains blind and ends with the instigator.

Have I influenced your perspective on influence vs. control?

I welcome your ideas, challenges and further insights below…


Whiteboard Thinking: A Thousand Words are Worth a Picture

We’ve heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is true then the converse is also true: a thousand words are worth a picture. What I mean is that if it requires a thousand words to explain, then it’s complex. If it’s complex, then it needs to be mapped out. It needs a picture.

One of Sales Ops Solutions’ fundamental principles is that every complex problem can be translated into a series of simple problems. Think about it. Your business has a lot of moving parts. A dashboard provides a series of simple charts that together provide an overall view of your business. The secret to solving a complicated problem is in mastering the art of translating it into bite-sized, manageable pieces.

I help clients solve complex problems. One of my first questions when I visit a client is “Can I use your whiteboard?” The whiteboard helps us to produce clarity around the problem we are trying to solve and how to prioritize its components.

I like to refer to the following simple steps as “Whiteboard Thinking”. They are designed to help you get started in attacking a complex problem with clarity and confidence:

    1) Settle in your mind that you will solve the problem. The only question is how.
    This will eliminate the fear factor, which often slows us down.

    2) Define the ultimate goal.
    What are we primarily trying to accomplish? Often in trying to solve one problem, we discover 3 more. This causes us to shift our focus on trying to solve all 4 problems at the same time. Bad idea. Define your ultimate goal and stay focused. Often this goal is refined through the process; that’s ok. But stay focused. Each problem will have its turn.

    3) Define the various components.
    What often complicates a problem is the existence of several interrelated moving parts. Define clearly what those parts are. Draw each one as a circle on a whiteboard. Literally looking at these circles helps to bring clarity to our thinking. If you have too many parts, then you may need to create sub-components, so each level contains no more than 6 or 7 components. Deal with the highest level first, then tackle each multi-component level. To demonstrate this step I have provided below a simple diagram that I created to help define Sales Operations. Viewing this diagram provides clarity around what I mean when I refer to “Sales Operations”.
    Sales Operations - Simplified and Defined

    4) Define the purpose of each component.
    Why does each component exist and how does it contribute to your ultimate goal?

    5) Define the relationships between components.
    How does each component effect every other component? This is often represented by a line interconnecting the circles. Often a matrix is helpful in this exercise, with each component having its own row and column. Does each effect strengthen or weaken the respective components’ purposes?

    6) Define the players.
    Who in your organization owns each component. If you cannot identify an explicit owner for each component, then this may be part of your problem.

    7) Define the problem.
    a) What are the fruits? These are visible symptoms that indicate that a problem exists.
    b) What are the roots? These are the ultimate causes of the problem. This is what needs to be corrected in order to stop the problem from recurring. Sometimes identifying the root cause requires digging deeply and speaking to several effected parties.

These 7 steps to Whiteboard Thinking will help you to define and simplify the complex problem so that you can tackle it with clarity and confidence. This exercise is worth your time, because a thousand words are worth a picture.


I welcome you to post your feedback.

How to Inspire End User Adoption

If your organization struggles with end user adoption for new processes and technologies then this post will help. The practical insights provided below have been proven to work whether deploying a new CRM system or a new process within existing technology.

The seeds of end user adoption are planted long before implementation. The secret is to create a sense of ownership and positive anticipation leading up to deployment.

Consider the foundational meaning of the word “adoption”. When a parent “adopts” a child, they take one that belonged to another and makes them their own. By this definition, true adoption goes beyond meeting the minimum requirements to a sense of personal responsibility and expected value.

To create a sense of ownership, create a committee (whether formal or informal) that is to actively participate in shaping the process or technology being deployed. This team should have at least one representative from each role being effected. Guide them to provide input at pre-established milestones.

Be sure to listen carefully and value their input. Give them a sense of ownership. Only the true owner of a project can offer a sense of ownership to selected others. If you do this well, they will advocate the new process to their peers well before implementation. You will have actually effected the culture, which will not be easily changed.

Now, what if we still have an issue with adoption; what if 100% of your sales team members are not passionate evangelists of your process (imagine that!)?

This is where the stick comes in. The stick is to be used only when the carrot doesn’t work. Willful adoption is always more effective than forced adoption.

The following guidelines will help you to continuously increase adoption:

1. Establish metrics to measure adoption AND the expected results of adoption.
2. Use the metrics you established.
3. Acknowledge those who are adopting well and highlight their positive results to their peers.
4. Point out those who are not adopting well.
5. Managers, hold your team members accountable. Manage beyond metrics. Interact with each member.
6. Executives, hold your managers accountable to holding their team members accountable.

How do you drive adoption? You don’t. You inspire adoption!

Character Over Talent: “What talent can build over a lifetime, bad character can destroy in a moment” – Roger Gushway

Three years ago I heard Roger Gushway speak these words: “What talent can build over a lifetime, bad character can destroy in a moment.”  Immediately I thought of various people who had reached great heights of success after a lifetime of hard work, only to see it all tragically destroyed because of one pivotal moment’s decision.  I had to ask myself, “Am I prone to the same tragedy?  When I achieve my desired success, will I have the character to sustain it?

As we aspire to achieve our goals in business and beyond, let us maximize every opportunity to build character.  Character is not acquired through learning or reading.  There is no “Character 101” course or “Character for Dummies” book.  Character is established through a series of daily decisions where the rubber meets the road.

When we choose not to compromise our morals, even if it results in loss, character is built.  When we insist on the betterment of someone else in stead of ourselves, character is built.  When our patience is tested in the fires of daily life, character is built.  When all odds are against us but we do not quit, character is built.  And as our character is built, so is our legacy.

Character does not have a time and a place.  It is always relevant, always appropriate.

In the business world, when I evaluate a vendor, a partner, an employee or a customer, I always look for character first.  I’ll take character over talent any day.

Influencing the Influence of Others

Influential sales reps can have a great impact on sales teams, whether good or bad. The wise manager will know how to identify and leverage that influence to his or her advantage.

Turn the Negative into Positive Influence:

When an outspoken sales rep is spreading complaints, the effects can be devastating on the sales culture and over-all morale.  Managers who try to suppress this rep may get the opposite effect from what they had intended.  Have you ever tried to suppress a ball in a swimming pool?  The further down in the water you try to keep it, the greater the resistance you get in return and the bigger a splash it makes.

Instead of trying to stop the complaining rep, engage them, listen to them (whether they are right or wrong) and try to win them over.  Ask their input in advance when certain changes are on the horizon.  Instill in them a sense that you trust them and view them as a leader.  This will give you the right to expect them to use their influence prudently.  You now have a relationship where you can leverage their influence instead of fighting against it.  You will have transformed negative influence into positive.

Maximize the Positive Influence that Already Exists:

If a rep has a positive influence on your team (for example they advocate positive change and prove it quickly in practice) then don’t just leave them alone, maximize their influence on purpose.  Involve them early to help shape important changes (such as new technology and processes that will affect daily life).  This influence can be a powerful force in uniting the team towards a common goal.

As a manager, it is in your best interest to identify and guide existing influence.  Note that not all outspoken people are influential.  Focus on those with real influence.

Effectively channeling existing influence is one of the unquantifiable yet powerful ways to increase sales performance.  This ability often separates the good sales leaders from the great. Your indirect influence through others is greater than your direct influence through yourself alone.

Acceptable Negotiation Practices (Sam vs. Jen)

Sam and Jen, your topic of debate has to do with acceptable negotiation practices. Is it acceptable to falsely inflate your initial price in order to discount during negotiations?

People buy from people they can trust. If you cannot be forthright with your pricing, then the trust factor is absent. I have watched some of my colleagues inflate their prices by 20%, then offer a so called “15% discount”. The customer is deceived into thinking they are getting a deal, when in reality they are paying too much. That is not negotiating, it is stealing. This practice is a crutch for the simple-minded, who do not know how to truly position and sell value.

Sam’s position comes across as pure nobility, but I think it is sheer stupidity. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to leave money on the table. If the customer agrees to a certain price – whatever it is – then they must feel they are getting enough value for their money. Otherwise they would not buy. Every buyer wants to know that they are getting a discount. If you begin pricing at list, then you give yourself very little negotiating flexibility. Company A may get $1M of value from your product, while Company B gets $10M of value from the exact same product. In this case, even if you double the price Customer B will still get ten times the value! Many pricing structures do not take this into consideration and list their products for exactly the same price in both cases. To not inflate the price, is to do a disservice to your own company.

And what will you do when Company A and Company B meet at your next conference and trade notes? You just might lose company B altogether! Would that not be a disservice to your company?

Chances are Company A and Company B will have bought at 2 different times, with very different specs. They will not be able to compare apples to apples. And if they do, they should compare value, not price.

Readers, what do you think? Do you agree with Sam or Jen? Join the debate and post your comments.

Is Sales an Art or a Science? (Sam vs. Jen)

Meet Sam

Sam is a firm believer that sales is a science. Any sales person who takes their profession seriously will establish a very structured and planned methodology. Sam has mastered the process of establishing a target list, carefully scripting conversation tracks, setting pipeline targets and tracking progress through the sales cycle. He always knows where he stands and can adjust quickly when required. “Make your proven sales process repeatable”, says Sam “and your successful results will be predictable.”

Meet Jen

Jen is a firm believer that sales is an art. No two deals are the same; there are too many variables. Timing, economic landscape, personal drivers, budgetary constraints and unexpected circumstances are just some of the moving factors that cannot be predicted and therefore cannot be boxed into a “one size fits all” process. Every conversation will take on its own life and every sales cycle is unique. “Sales is governed by relationships, and relationships are not predictable”, says Jen “therefore sales cannot conform to a repeatable process and definitely cannot be captured in a CRM system!”

Join the Debate

Do you agree with Sam or Jen?  Please explain.