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Saleswise Blog

December 2012

Selling is Not About Relationships

Dec 11, 2012 9:43 AM
Nicki Weiss

 Ask any sales leader how selling has changed in the past decade, and you'll hear a lot of answers but only one recurring theme: It's a lot harder. Yet even in these difficult times, every organization has a few stellar performers. Who are these people and what can we learn from them?

The following is an adaption of an article I found on the HBR Blog Network that talks about the qualities of these star performers.

Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of the Sales Executive Council wanted answers to these questions. They launched a study of sales rep productivity three years ago involving more than 6,000 reps across nearly 100 companies in multiple industries. Here are their three insights:

1. Every sales professional falls into one of five categories

Every B2B sales rep falls into one of the following five types, characterized by a specific set of skills and behaviors that defines the rep's way of interacting with customers:

Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet a customer’s every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.

Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They'll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.

Lone Wolves are the self-confident, rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.

Reactive Problem Solvers are, from a customer’s standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues are addressed quickly.

Challengers use their deep understanding of their customer’s business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They're not afraid to share potentially controversial views, and are assertive with both their customers and bosses.

2. Challengers dramatically outperform the other profiles, particularly Relationship Builders

Average reps are fairly evenly distributed across all five profiles. But close to 40% of high-performing reps cluster in the Challenger profile. Three key capabilities define these stars.

a) Challengers teach their customers. They focus the sales conversation not on features and benefits but on insight, offering new (and typically provocative) ideas that can make or save money for their customers.

b) Challengers tailor their sales message to the customer. They have a finely tuned sense of their customers’ objectives and values and use this knowledge to position their sales pitch.

c) Challengers take control of the sale. While not aggressive, they are certainly assertive. They are comfortable with tension and are unlikely to acquiesce to every customer demand. When necessary, they can press customers a bit around issues such as price.

Why aren’t Relationship Builders star sellers?

Just as surprising as it is that Challengers win, it's more eye-opening who loses. Relationship Builders come in dead last, accounting for only 7% of all high performers.

Relationships still matter in B2B sales, but the data point out that the nature of the relationship makes the difference. Challengers win by pushing customers to think differently, using insight to create constructive tension in the sale. Relationship Builders focus on relieving tension by giving in to all customer demands. Where Challengers push customers outside their comfort zone, Relationship Builders focus on being accepted into it.

These findings are often troubling to sales leaders because their organizations have placed their biggest bets on recruiting, developing and rewarding Relationship Builders. Here's how a leader in the hospitality industry reacted when he saw these results: "You know, this is really hard to look at. For the past 10 years, it's been our explicit strategy to hire effective Relationship Builders. After all, we're in the hospitality business. And, for a while, that approach worked well. But ever since the economy crashed, my Relationship Builders are completely lost. They can't sell a thing. And as I look at this, now I know why."

3. Challengers dominate the world of complex "solution-selling"

When Dixon and Adamson analyzed their data by complexity of sale - separating out transactional, product-selling reps from complex, solution-selling reps - they found that Challengers dominate as selling gets more complex, accounting for 54% of all star reps in a solution-selling environment. Relationship Builders fall off the map almost entirely, representing only 4% of high-performing reps in complex environments.

For any company on a journey from selling products to selling solutions — which is a migration that more than 75% of the companies I work with say they are pursuing — the Challenger selling approach represents a dramatically improved recipe for growth.

Talk back: I’d love to hear your insights about challengers and relationship builders.

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Discussing the Undiscussable: Part 2

Dec 4, 2012 9:17 AM
Nicki Weiss

 A few months ago I wrote an article about Discussing the Undiscussable and received many responses. Many were from manufacturers reps, all of whom face challenging working situations that no one in their offices talks about. This month I’d like to address one of those responses and ask for your help in finding solutions to some others.

Struggle #1 “Everything has become tactical, not strategic. I’m fighting daily battles with little time to invest in strategic thinking.”

This manufacturers’ rep has the best intentions to take care of strategy, as all good salespeople do, to make a plan, prepare for a call, work on his website, update his presentations and then, Wham, the phone rings. It’s a customer complaining or a manufacturer who wants something. The rep responds, saying goodbye to strategic thinking time and hello to yet another task to care of immediately.

How does he break this cycle?

Create your Not-To-Do list

Elmer Leterman (author of a number of best-selling sales books, including Commissions Don’t Fall from Heaven) once wrote, "Human beings in any line of work could double their productive capacity overnight if they began right now to do all the things they know they should do, and stopped doing all the things they know they should not do." Leterman suggests that many of us are standing in our own way on the road to success.

We are all familiar with the “To-do” list. It’s long and tactical.

Do you have a “Not-to-do” list? It’s short and strategic.

It is composed of daily practices and long-term strategies that will help you be more proactive, intentional and successful. While a “To-Do” list changes daily, the “Not-To-Do” list doesn’t. Here are some powerful ideas for the list I have learned from other business owners:

  • Stop being a lone ranger and collaborate more
  • Stop answering the phone/emails if you are in the middle of working on something else
  • Stop multi-tasking – you’re sabotaging yourself and not doing any task well
  • Don’t resist change; embrace it
  • Don’t reject technology because you don’t understand it
  • Don’t think that sales training is unnecessary
  • Don’t hide in your office crunching numbers. Delegate and do something invigorating

Start or join a Master Mind Group

Master Mind Group definition: a small group that meets to reinforce growth and success while mutually supporting each other; a group that has identified and set aside time to concentrate specifically on growing in the following areas: business, finances, spirituality, relationships.

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich and the originator of the Master Mind Group concept, said he was inspired by Andrew Carnegie, wealthy steel magnate.

“Mr. Carnegie’s Master Mind group consisted of a staff of approximately fifty men, with whom he surrounded himself, for the DEFINITE PURPOSE of manufacturing and marketing steel. He attributed his entire fortune to the POWER he accumulated through this ‘Master Mind.’”

The benefits of having a supportive Master Mind group include:

  • You have people available to help you succeed.
  • You get the benefit of differing perspectives.
  • Your Master Mind team can bring resources and connections to the table you might not have on your own.
  • You receive accountability and inspiration from the group, enabling you to maintain focus in achieving your goals.

Your group could be as small as two people and as big as your ability to coordinate it. You can simply reach out to people in your network and explain to them that you are seeking their help as part of your Master Mind team. You’d be surprised at how willing many people are since it is an honor to be asked for advice or an opinion. You don’t necessarily need to meet with your entire team in person in a formal setting. You might chat with each individually on the phone, or set up an email discussion list.

Create a quiet space and time to reflect and write

As Meg Wheatley, leadership expert says: “Time for reflection is essential for business and personal growth. When you don’t take the time to pause and notice what is working, what is not working, and what you want, you don’t get smarter.”

You don’t need to create a lot of reflective time. The key is to pause and reflect regularly. Daily is best; every few days should be a minimum. Make it part of your schedule and write down your thoughts.

Here are some questions to consider and write about (I’ve included my answers to help you find yours):

1. What do I want my business/work to feel like? (Organized, easy, fun, productive, creative, collaborative)

2. What does success look like for me in all areas of my life? (Prosperity, helping people be successful, giving back, ease, fun, collaboration, time for everything, adventure)

3. How will I know when I get there? (I’m not working all the time; I’m making the money I want; I’m enjoying my customers; I collaborate with talented people I like; business comes to me through referrals, marketing and my website so I am not constantly prospecting; I have time to spend with my family and enjoy lots of great vacations; I feel fit).

4. Where do I give my power away? (Don’t ask for help; don’t outsource stuff I hate doing; thinking small; thinking that I can’t afford to pay for help; saying yes to stuff I don’t want to say yes to; saying no to networking opportunities; doing the same things and expecting different results).

Looking for your advice

I’d like to reach out to all of you to send me your ideas and best practices about some other responses I received outlining “undiscussables.” Feel free to add to the list with your own ideas. Over the next few months, I’ll share your feedback so we can learn from each other. Here they are:

  1. I've been working as a salesperson for over 30 years, and I am burned out. How do I get past these feelings?
  2. I've lost my drive to scour the earth for new customers. I'd rather work with a few of my best customers to meet their needs and resolve issues, than try to break in new customers.
  3. I'm tired of buyers, especially new ones, trying to make their marks with cost cutting. I’m frustrated with year-in, year-out battles over cost reductions when my principals tell me any fat in the profit has long since been lost.
  4. Ten years ago I was in the field with customers four days a week with 4-5 quality calls/contacts each day. Now, many customers just don't have the time to meet because they are so busy treading water. Their workload has doubled.
  5. I am almost 62 years old and have no exit strategy

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November 2012

Vacations: Good for you; good for your business

Nov 27, 2012 9:14 AM
Nicki Weiss

 I just returned from a two-week trip to Peru. It’s one gorgeous country, filled with kind and seemingly unflappable people.

Peru’s geography is stunning and extreme. It ranges from the miles-high Andes Mountains with their hidden Incan communities to the Colca Canyon, deeper than the Grand Canyon, which still supports terraced farming. In other contrasts, the Amazon jungle is filled with an amazing diversity of wildlife and vegetation, and towns along the Pacific Ocean are next to vast tracts of desert that resemble Mars.
All in all, we had an incredibly good time and were thankful for our sturdy walking shoes.

After every vacation, I like to think about what I’ve learned on the road and how it applies to life and work. Here’s what I brought back from Peru:

TAKE a vacation – regularly, and for longer than you think you can

What do you remember most about your childhood? Another day of school? Or a family vacation?

As you look back over your work life, what do you remember most? Another day at work? Or a trip that woke you up, challenged you, and made you feel alive?

Me? I remember my travels.

Yes, work and school are important. But they can feel like a grind when you don’t take breaks. And there is increasing evidence that taking time off is not a luxury; it’s necessary for good health.

  • A study released in 1992 found that women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year. Follow-up research has substantiated the findings.
  • Another study, published in 2000, looked at 12,000 men who were at high risk for coronary heart disease. Those who failed to take annual vacations during the nine years of the study had a 21 percent higher risk of death from all causes and were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.


Do you have to go away to reap the benefits of vacation time? Ideally, yes, but the real trick is to remove yourself from your daily normal routine. If you stay home, read some novels and go on day trips. Wherever you are, checking your Blackberry every couple of hours or rushing to an Internet café if you are in a new locale doesn’t allow your mind to rest. While in the Amazon jungle we met a fellow from South Africa who was on his honeymoon. He checked in with the office every day at 2 a.m. Peru time (8 a.m. South Africa time.)

I think that behaviour qualifies as insane. And he’s not alone.

For 10 years, the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University has conducted a study looking at what is called “respite effects,” which measure relief from job stress before, during and after vacations.

Professor Dov Eden, an organizational psychologist in charge of the study, found that those who are electronically hooked up to their office, even if they are lying on the Riviera, are less likely to receive the real benefits of a vacation and more likely to burn out.

Give yourself permission to not be the centre of the universe and unplug.

Good things happen while you’re away

Every time I go away for more than two weeks I come back to deals that have closed, or to invitations to start a conversation about a new piece of work.

I know the universe doesn’t save this special sauce just for me.

Take every vacation day you’ve earned

Recent findings show that about a third of employed Americans do not take all the vacation they are entitled to, leaving an average of three days on the table. About a quarter of the workers in Britain do not take all their vacation time, and in France a little less. Don’t become part of this trend and get out of the office when you can.

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Business practices we can learn from honeybees

Nov 20, 2012 9:10 AM
Nicki Weiss

 "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live." ~ Albert Einstein

I am an urban beekeeper. While fairly new at opening up hives, I’ve been an avid reader about beekeeping for years. I’ve always loved bees, or maybe a better description would be obsessed with them. Bees are a buzz to watch (pun alert). They’re fantastic workers, take good care of each other and the hive, and are focused on producing results. The more I work with bees, the more I see connections to good business practices.

Here are a few honeybee facts:

  • A colony of bees consists of 20,000-70,000 honeybees and one queen. The queen lays between 1,000 and 1,500 eggs every day during peak season. Worker honeybees are female, live for about six weeks and do all the work. The males do no work and have no stingers.
  • Every third mouthful of food eaten in the world is from crops pollinated by honeybees.
  • A hive of bees will collectively fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth, to collect one kg of honey.
  • A honeybee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip (wouldn’t you love your salespeople to do the same?)
  • If a honeybee finds a particularly fabulous patch of flowers, water sources, or new hive locations, they come back and do a waggle dance. This dance shares information about the direction and distance to the patches.
  • One healthy hive can produce more than 150 lbs of honey each year.

We could learn a lot from bees.

1. Whatever your job is, do it well
Newborn bees clean up their cell so the queen has a place to lay another egg. As they age, bees take on different tasks to ensure the hive works well: nursing, foraging, guarding, cleaning and constructing honeycomb. Are you flexible enough to offer help to your team when and where you’re needed?

2. No one has to keep track if everybody shares
All the jobs in a hive are necessary. Not every bee makes honey, but all bees share in the honey.

What if we had an “ours” vs “mine” mentality in business? If salespeople felt accounts belonged to the company, not their private fiefdoms, they might stop hoarding information and behaving like lone superstars. The benefits just might be less in-fighting and more productivity and profits.

3. Thriving communities include all ages
Some beekeeping practices contribute to what’s known as “colony collapse disorder”. For example, beekeepers may move their hives hundreds of miles away to make the most of current flowering plants. Bees out foraging in the fields when the hive moves don’t know its new location and die searching for it. Young bees in the hive may not survive because older bees aren’t bringing in food.

A business works best when a variety of age groups and backgrounds contribute to the workplace. All businesses need their share of mentors, coaches, teachers, “rainmakers”, “hunters and farmers”, and young talent with new ideas and energy.

4. You can’t make honey by yourself
Bees can only make honey by collaborating.

The definition of collaboration at work: The ease and efficiency with which people share knowledge and work together for a common purpose. How collaborative are you? Do you look for opportunities to work with colleagues, customers and leaders to make more honey?

5. Bees say a lot without words. Learn by listening, watching and waiting
You can gather up many clues about a hive when you watch the activity. You can tell if a hive is happy, agitated, if the queen is sending out word for the worker bees to return, if they’re getting ready to swarm . . .

The same holds true in business. If you stop talking and start observing customers’ behavior, you will be able to gauge what they’re thinking but not saying. Keep a close eye on how they treat their employees and whether they act collaboratively.

6. Bees pick up on fear
Bees know when you are afraid, and that’s when you’re more likely to be stung. Customers can also sense fear, and that’s when they’re more likely to take advantage of you or decide they don’t want to work with you.

Calmness is power, particularly when you’re nervous. Breathe slowly and breathe again.

7. Will people remember you for your honey or your sting?
Be careful how you treat people. They carry your reputation

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What Top Sa1es Managers Do To Develop Winning Teams

Nov 13, 2012 9:43 AM
Nicki Weiss

 Linda manages a team of 15 salespeople for a manufacturer of electronic components, and she is getting fairly tired of the lineup outside her office. ”I feel like I should put a ‘Doctor is In’ sign on my door because so many people on my team want me to solve their problems and make their decisions for them,” she says. They are mostly knocking on her door about standard matters such as pricing a deal or fielding a customer complaint. “I am happy to make decisions about the unusual or tough issues but I want them to take care of these everyday questions,” she adds. And she is beginning to understand her part in the dynamic. “I might be too available and not helping my staff fly on their own.”

She’s right. Linda is acting as Chief Problem Solver and Subject Matter Expert instead of as a Coach who can help her people realize their full potential. It’s easy to fall into this role, and many sales managers do. Linda could get rid of the lineup and increase her team’s performance at the same time if she learned how to:

  • Surrender her problem-solving role
  • Ask each person in the lineup the questions that would help them solve their problems on their own
  • Support them in their decisions and help them learn from both their successes and their failures

Here are some suggestions for shifting attitudes from those of a manager to those of a coach.

The Manager The Coach
1.Keeps reps dependent on them 1.Lets salespeople be independent and self-driven
2.Doesn’t ask for accountability from reps 2.Empowers salespeople to be fully accountable
3.Gives the answer or solution to a problem 3.Draws out the answers through questioning
4.Focuses on the result 4.Focuses on the process
5.Gives little follow-up or follow- through; support is inconsistent 5.Provides consistent coaching to reinforce changes in reps’ behavior until the desired result is achieved
6.Emphasizes what reps do 6.Places emphasis on who reps are and who they want to be
7.Looks solely at reps’ actions 7.Observes and is curious about reps’ actions, behaviors, and attitudes
8.Assumes reps possess current knowledge and sales acumen 8.Makes no assumptions; questions everything; draws conclusions based on facts and evidence
9.Engages in conversations that have agendas and desired outcomes 9.Lets conversations with reps evolve collaboratively
10.Stresses the symptoms of poor performance, such as a reluctance to make cold calls 10.Digs deep to get to the source of the issue or problem
11.Gives hollow advice when a problem is identified
11.Has the rep identify the solution; and offers real-life advice on how to change thinking
12.Doesn’t provide a consistent new-hire orientation program 12.Provides a 30/60/90 day new-hire orientation
13.Shows inconsistency in taking accountability for team performance 13.Takes full accountability for team’s performance
14.Tolerates excuses 14.Develops an excuse-free culture
15.Only focuses on coaching underperformers, not the whole team
15.Coaches those committed to improving, including top performers.
16.Shows frustration and emotion during coaching conversations 16.Coaches all reps with a neutral tone and curiosity during conversations

What's one thing can you do differently- right now - to shift from manager to coach?

Let me know what you’ve tried and whether it worked, belly-flopped, or something in-between. You might also consider hiring your own coach to help you take the leap.

I’d love to hear what you’re learning!

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Hire for Values First, Skills Second

Nov 6, 2012 9:28 AM
Nicki Weiss

 A couple of months ago I received a call from Bryan and Jeff, partners in a mid-sized company. They were disappointed with the performance of one of their reps and totally mystified since they hired him based on his selling skills and track record. They asked Saleswise to help solve the problem and our probing uncovered a basic mismatch. He didn’t share their values.

Every organization has values that define it and shape its identity and its reputation. The whole bundle makes up its culture. Does the organization take risks or follow a safe path, encourage teamwork or individual performance, embrace change or stick with the tried-and-true.

Bryan and Jeff believe employees should pull their weight, seek out new prospects and treat all customers like royalty. The rep was financially comfortable, toward the end of his career and didn’t want to work very hard. His selling skills were good, but the cultural difference was huge. If Bryan and Jeff had been clear on their company culture, they could have uncovered this no-fit when interviewing and saved everyone a lot of grief.

In the work we have done with a variety of organizations we’ve found that a candidate’s alignment with company culture counts as much – and often far more – than skills or experience.

Our advice? Hire for a value-match; people can learn or hone their skills. Employees who don’t share company values chip away at what the company is trying to achieve and tarnish its identity.

Here’s some ideas for developing a values-based hiring process:

Don’t just ask candidates about their values; let them show you
Your process could include a group interview, in which multiple candidates interview for open jobs at the same time.

You can learn a lot about a person from watching him or her interact with other job applicants and employees. To test for risk-taking, for example, ask candidates to role-play how they would deal with a situation in which one colleague has been called out of town and needs a less-experienced co-worker to deliver an important presentation.

A company I work with engages candidates and employees in a "raw-egg drop exercise," in which they work in teams to design a travel vessel for the egg (using only straws and tape), develop a marketing presentation to "sell" the design, and then drop the vessel from about 10 feet. They quickly learn which candidates exhibit leadership and teamwork qualities, and which ones perform well in unusual situations.

Be crystal clear about your culture and values
Prospective associates will walk away on their own if they don't believe they can fit in with your culture. I've seen it many times, as in the man who called my client’s raw-egg exercise "really weird" and the woman who announced she didn't want to be part of their "kumbaya culture”.

It’s far better to screen out these people in the initial interview than learn of their discomfort with your company culture during their first months on the job.

Don't combine skills interviews with values interviews
You’ll get a fuller picture of a candidate’s potential when you assess values and skills in separate sessions. For example, one of my client’s young superstars came to his group interview with little relevant job experience — which would have held him back had they been focusing on skills — but he demonstrated such ambition and leadership that they jumped to hire him.

Hiring good cultural matches is the best way to assure the continued success of your company. You’ll achieve higher retention, better employee engagement, and deeper connections with customers.

What’s not to like?

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October 2012

Where do you give your power away?

Oct 30, 2012 9:14 AM
Nicki Weiss

 I was training a team of managers last week in coaching techniques and part of the program explored how to pause and be quiet. More than a few managers observed astutely that many people try to exert power by filling up a room with their loud and opinionated voices. I started thinking about the power struggles we get into every day at work and at home, which led me to think about how, and to whom, I give my power away.

Here are a few ways that may sound familiar and some ideas for restoring power.

1. I complain (usually behind people’s backs)
“That person is a gatekeeper. He is blocking my ability to get this project off the ground.”

“My teenager doesn’t give a flying (fill in the blank) about school.”

Complaining makes me feel lousy. Gossiping about others makes me feel even worse. Given how I react when others complain (defensive, annoyed, or thinking they might need some cheese with their whine), I’m guessing my impact is similar.

The fix: make requests
Underneath any complaint is a request.

Wouldn’t it be more powerful if I said to my customer, “I’d like us to collaborate on this project and include others in the conversation.”

Or if I said to my teenager, “I want you to do well in school so you have more options in life. While I can’t control your behaviour, I know you are capable of making good decisions and I hope you will make good choices around school.”

2. I have to do it all
I give my power away when I feel I have to provide all the answers. Thinking “small,” as in, “I am the only resource available,” eats up my time, and zaps my energy and creativity.

The fix: shift my thinking and behaviour from “me” to “we”
Collaboration, for me, is the key to thinking and behaving sanely and effectively.

I know that teams outperform individuals. When I remember to ask myself or others, “Who else needs to be in the conversation?” or “Who can I outsource/delegate this to?” my productivity and sense of power increases.

3. I become too attached to outcomes
I recently had a very large engagement reduced by half.

My teenager (yes, the one who is struggling in school) told me he doesn’t want my help and to back off.

Of course, I lost sleep over both situations and took them personally.

The fix: practice “unattached”
When I successfully remain unattached, I stop taking an outcome personally. I roll with the situation, start thinking clearly and feel quite liberated.

It’s about separating wanting from getting.

In that mindset I can accept that my client has good reasons to reduce the size of the project. I can also understand that I passed Grade 11 long ago. It’s my child’s turn to do the work to pass . . . or not.

“Unattached” is a very liberating and powerful practice.

4. I give my opinion even when no one has asked for it
I love my opinions. I have bazillions of them. I think you should love my opinions, too. What? You have your own ideas? And they’re not the same as mine?

I get really annoyed when people tell me what to do. And yet, I have no problem telling others what to do.

I’m not alone in this behaviour. When I accompany reps on sales calls I see them bombard customers with information about their products or services, and not ask enough questions. When I observe sales leaders working with their teams, it’s like watching an endless wave train of their opinions, suggestions, and advice.

The fix: give others room
Bring powerful questions, not answers, to a conversation. Start with “what” as in “What do you mean?” “What do you want?” “What’s important about that for you?”

Your ability to influence, inspire and connect with others increases in correlation to the fewer number of opinions, suggestions or advice you dole out.

Talk back: Let me know the ways you give your power away. And how you get it back.

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My Top 7 TED Talk Videos and One Bonus Video

Oct 23, 2012 9:05 AM
Nicki Weiss

 This year my colleagues Mary Ellen, Joanne, and I developed curriculum and a suite of programs to help very progressive, entrepreneurial organizations expand their leaders’ leadership capacity. It’s been a lot of fun and along the way we’ve viewed some inspirational TED talk videos on leadership, collaboration, how to motivate employees, connection, and how to self manage.

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences -- the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer -- TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

TED talks are riveting lectures by remarkable people, free to the world.

You may have run across some of them in your own work. As I’m always looking for inspiring, funny, and just plain interesting videos and articles, please send me your top votes.

Here are mine:

Bob Newhart - Stop It
This one is my all time favourites (not a TED talk, but a TV comedy sketch). Bob Newhart gives some practical advice on how to get the things that might be in your way…out of your way.

Dan Pink - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us
This lively video illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and at work. Daniel H. Pink is the author of four provocative bestselling books about the changing world of work.

Joachim de Posada – Don’t Eat the Marshmallow
Dr. Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on delayed gratification — and how it can predict future success. You will enjoy his infectious energy and humour, and this priceless video of kids trying their hardest not to eat the marshmallow. You need to ask yourself, “Am I still eating the marshmallows?”.

Dr. Posada created the curriculum for the University of Miami’s Sales Institute, and this video has lots of application for sales people and leaders.

Viktor Frankl - Youth In Search of Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl was Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School. He spent three years during World War II in concentration camps, including Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau, where he formulated many of his key ideas. Logotherapy, his psychotherapeutic school, is founded on the belief that striving to find meaning in life is the most powerful motivation for human beings.

This is a grainy, black and white 6 minute video that is fascinating. Shoot for the stars so you can hit the moon.

Brene Brown - Vulnerability
Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

She is an engaging and humourous speaker whose ideas will help entrepreneurs, business leaders and, well, absolutely everyone.

Elizabeth Gilbert – A new way to think about creativity
"Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Jill Bolte Taylor - How it feels to have a stroke
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Workplace Gossip: Just Make it Stop

Oct 16, 2012 9:56 PM
Nicki Weiss

 It’s the time of year we all make resolutions. Could we add one more to the list ahead of the usual weight and exercise mantras? I won’t gossip at work, or take part in a gossiping group. The reason? It hurts your credibility as much as the people you are trashing. Einstein summed up the effects of gossip in one of his lesser-known relativity equations. “If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut.”

Here’s how the gossip cycle goes:

Patrick has a problem with Terry: he thinks he is arrogant, doesn’t meet his deadlines, and is not above taking credit where it isn’t due. Over lunch one day he shares his personal gripes about Terry with Michelle, Betty, Joe, Jim ahd Sherri.

About three minutes after trashing Terry, Patrick began to feel a little embarrassed because he had just acted like a 12-year-old in front of five of his peers. And Patrick’s peers felt a tad dirty because they jumped right into the trash container with him. In this exchange, Patrick has proven he can’t be trusted to handle conflict directly. The others don’t look like winners either. They have proven that they don’t have the maturity to deflect gossip.

The nasty cycle has even more layers. Patrick quickly realizes he can’t trust Michelle, Betty, Joe, Jim, or Sherri. They welcome gossip, and on some intuitive level he knows that those who share in gossip tend to be equal-opportunity mudslingers. He could be next on the gossip agenda.

Michelle, Betty, Joe, Jim, and Sherri figure it’s just a matter of time before Patrick will be gossiping about each of them.

Terry knows at some level that something is going on and has a sense he can’t trust any of them.

Okay, everybody, on the count of three: shut up!

Vow to NEVER talk behind another person’s back

Instead of leading a gossip huddle, Patrick could have been upfront about his dissatisfaction, telling Terry the consequences of his behaviour. “When you’re late with that report, I have to go on my knees to my boss because I’m late. Please promise you’ll get future reports to me on time.”

What to do if someone starts to gossip in your presence

Simply say, “Gee, it sounds like you need to talk to Terry directly so you can work this out.”

Or, as my father used to say, “Wow…and she speaks so highly of you.”
Incidentally, bosses are people, too. If you want to alienate yourself from your boss, talk to others about what she has or hasn’t done. Just don’t be surprised when you are frozen out, or let go.

Decide your priorities

If you say it to hurt, it’s gossip. If you say it and it could hurt, it’s gossip. Even if it’s true, it’s gossip. And nasty words are no more acceptable when you start with, “I really shouldn’t be telling you this . . .. “

You have the choice to communicate constructively or destructively. Usually destructive communication starts off as a small interaction and then the negative impacts grow like a snowball until they're out of control.

Tips to stop gossip

  • Create an environment where workplace gossip cannot survive. Talk with your team about the far-reaching impacts of their negative words, and how gossiping can affect their professional reputation and opportunities for career advancement.
  • Establish a clear definition of what workplace gossip is and is not. Help your staff understand that gossip prevents others from doing their jobs effectively and cooperatively.
  • Talk about the reasons people gossip.
  • Help your employees and colleagues build skills to stop workplace gossip, including how to resolve conflicts, vent constructively and deal with gossipers.
  • If anyone start to gossip, interrupting is ok. Simply say, “Sounds like you need to have a conversation with . . . ”
  • If you find yourself gossiping, stop yourself and say, “Wait a minute. This isn’t right. I need to apologize to the other person and reassure him/her it won’t happen again.”

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Are You Working From Love or Fear?

Oct 9, 2012 9:36 AM
Nicki Weiss

 My son Lee graduated from high school last week, and I’m thrilled.

Even though Lee tests as gifted in a number of areas, he struggled his entire school career, and I feared for him the whole way. As the Vice Principal spoke to the graduates and their parents about the relationship between love and work, I pondered what my role was in my son’s experience of high school and his lack of love towards school and work.

I am talking about this now to shine a light on how reactions based on fear are not nearly as helpful as those rooted in love. Extending this thought to the world of work, I believe that if we, as leaders, act out of love rather than fear, particularly when we are scared, we could have greater impact on our teams and on our success.

What scared me about my son’s struggles? I worried that he might flunk, drop out or stay in high school far too long. I fussed that he might never develop the habits that could lead him towards finding and hanging on to a good job.

I tend to imagine the worst and turn that bleak scenario into an endless series of private little earthquakes and aftershocks.

What if, instead of showing my disappointment (fear), I had said, “Yes. I get that school is a hard road for you.” (love) Would that have made a difference for him?

What if, instead of using my well-honed judgment skills (fear), I asked myself, “Will my critical comments help him?” and decided to say nothing (love)?

Shifting to the work scene, the list of fear responses that show up is long and creative: Fear that the reps we manage will anger a customer or principal and possibly damage relationships; fear that we/reps may lose the sale; fear that there aren’t enough hours in the day; fear of getting fired.

Here are some ideas to help you stop acting out of fear and develop a more powerful, yet softer presence.

Switch Your Questions

Ask yourself one question: whatever I’m about to do or say, will it be out of love, or out of fear?

If you answer “out of fear”, take a moment before you speak or say yes to something. Switch your orientation, and figure out what you would do out of love.

My customer is angry. Should I avoid calling him back (fear)? If I loved my customer, what would I do/say? Maybe, “Our shipping date is going to be delayed by 5 days. I wish we weren’t going to be late. I hope this doesn’t cause problems for you, or for your customers. Let’s talk about what we need to do to help you out here.”

Do I really need to say yes to that request? If I loved my time/sanity/colleague, what would I say?

Discover Your WORD

The notion of your own “word” comes from one of my favourite books: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Liz was having a conversation with a friend about how she and some sexpot that just walked by could not both belong in Rome. Her friend told Liz that the secret to understanding a city and its people is to discover the word, the essence, of the street. They discussed possible words for cities: New York is ACHIEVE; Los Angeles is SUCCEED; Rome is SEX; Naples is FIGHT; and Stockholm is CONFORM. Since Liz’s “word” is Seek, or Hide, or Devotion, (she couldn’t quite figure it out, “But one thing I can say with all assurance – it ain’t SEX”), she and Rome weren’t completely compatible.

What is your “‘word” for you?

I’m changing my word from Critic to Seeker, or Simplifier, or Adventurer. The point is to stay grounded, positive, and lean into your “word” when fear creeps in.

Simply Observe and Stay Unattached

We all have the capacity to stand outside ourselves and witness what we are thinking, feeling or doing. This awareness can be an invaluable asset for making decisions, operating effectively under pressure, and relating well to others. An observer capacity also builds the kind of awareness that is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence.

Building the capacity to observe allows us to develop a calm center of equanimity. We become somewhat unattached to our own thoughts and feelings, and to the actions of others.

To develop your observer self, the next time your phone rings, at home or at work, be still and just listen to the ringing. As you do, notice your desire to act – to rush to the phone and pick it up – or your desire to avoid the ringing. Carefully observe what is going through your mind and body.

When you are in a challenging situation and you have an impulse to act, or have thoughts or feelings you want to express, step into observer mode instead. Remind yourself that, just as with the ringing phone, you do not have to “answer” those impulses. You can learn to simply watch. Then, whatever action you take will be more thoughtful, strategic and mindful of potential consequences.

I wish I had done all these things as my son navigated high school. He’s now happy, employed, and has a game plan for next year. All has worked out, despite my fears, but I could have saved both of us a lot of stress along the way.What situations in your life are you complicating because of fear?

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