Listen to What ISN’T Being Saidstring(33) "Listen to What ISN’T Being Said"

In the realm of business, where every interaction holds the potential for growth, the words of Peter Drucker are powerful: “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

This is true and extremely important because the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communications. When it comes to sales for your business, and growing your business through referrals, understanding this concept is a cornerstone for success.

Notably, not all sales transactions require relationships or extensive communication. Consider online shopping, where the transaction is swift and often devoid of personal interactions. However, even retail giants like Wal-Mart, not typically associated with warm customer relations, emphasize the value of communication and relationships. Their employment of a visitor host to greet customers at store entrances underlines a strategic approach to fostering connections, albeit in a mass retail environment.

My friend, Sara Minnis, is a seasoned coach dedicated to helping sales professionals navigate the intricacies of rejection. She has dealt with a phobia many salespeople face within the sales process by coaching those who are afraid of being rejected by a prospect or customer. She says, “Sales ‘phobics’ might have an unrealistic fear of being rejected during cold calling, during the closing phase, or during a phone conversation.”

This, she suggests, is because the phobic salesperson tends to focus their communication on the emotional fit between themselves and the customer. She explains, “The real business of selling can’t begin until the sales phobic feels that the prospect likes him or her.” To avoid this, she says, “The professional seller directs their communication toward finding a fit between their product and the buyer’s need. Focusing on “being liked” only enhances fears of personal rejection, while attending to the customer’s needs drives the transaction toward a closed deal.”

Communication Builds Connections

Establishing strong relationships with clients gives sellers a competitive advantage, because clients who feel connected or bonded to the seller are more likely to engage in repeated transactions. Communication emerges as the single most important tool for forging this connection. The quality of communication becomes the linchpin upon which a strong, bonded relationship is built.

The art and science of communication extend beyond the mere exchange of words; it is more than simply talking and hearing. It encompasses a myriad of strategies and techniques aimed at earning the right to have your message heard, and to have it understood. A pivotal aspect of this is the ability to align your communication with the customer’s style rather than imposing your own. This strategic alignment sets the stage for masterful sales conversations, where the rapport is cultivated through an understanding of the customer’s preferences and communication patterns.

In the contemporary landscape, sales mastery has shifted towards a more consultative perspective. Many box retail stores have embraced this evolution by adopting the term “sales consultant” to describe roles that were once associated with traditional store clerks. Master sales consultants recognize that their ability to communicate effectively is critical to selling client solutions. Rapport and trust, the foundational elements of successful selling, are intricately woven into the fabric of communication. The successful sales professional understands that building and sustaining client relationships are contingent upon a consultative, communication-centric approach.

The profound wisdom in Peter Drucker’s words reverberates through the evolving tapestry of business networking and sales. The ability to decipher unspoken cues and recognize body language messages, coupled with a strategic and adaptable approach to communication, is the key to navigating successful salesmanship in today’s business landscape. As we move forward, the role of a sales consultant becomes more than a title; it reflects the evolving dynamics, where effective communication is the cornerstone of lasting success.




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Attitude of Gratitudestring(21) "Attitude of Gratitude"

I know that when some people hear the phrase “Attitude of Gratitude,” they often think, “Oh yeah, more new-age psychobabble. Where are the hard facts?”  Well, I agree that hard facts are important. To prove their importance, here are some reputable sources who argue convincingly about the positive impact of the science of gratitude.

The Benefits of Gratitude

  • Multiple studies, including one from Harvard Medical School, showed that people who express gratitude are “more optimistic and feel better about their lives.”
  • The Templeton Foundation conducted studies that showed that an “attitude of gratitude” can actually have a positive and “lasting effect on the brain.”
  • A paper published by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence concluded that “expressing gratitude completes [a] feeling of connection” with others (which I say is pretty important in building relationships).
  • Even neuroscientists argue that gratitude is effective. Paul Zak, professor at Claremont Graduate University, states that “the neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust,” especially when it is tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.
  • UC Berkley conducted fMRI scans on individuals who wrote gratitude letters and compared them to the fMRI scans of people who did not. They found that the people who wrote gratitude letters had a greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex than those who did not write the letters. The medial prefrontal cortex is, among other things, believed to be an area of the brain that triggers responses to nicotine, drugs and alcohol. In other words, showing gratitude is proven to be a healthy way of achieving a natural high.
  • Studies by the Cicero Group that were published in Forbes found that people who are on the receiving end of gratitude have a 33% increase in their innovation, a 22% increase in work results, and they stay with the organization longer than those who are in companies who do not have a practice of appreciating their people.

So much for psychobabble: Gratitude improves attitude, feelings of connection, and results. It is far more science than just a New Age trend.

The Gratitude Effect works when a person comes coming from a place of being grateful and acknowledging people along the way. This means that it is important to take time to notice all the good things that you may take for granted. Like so many other principles of success, it is simple, but not easy. That means this is a simple concept, however it is not an easy concept to apply regularly in your life. It’s not easy, because the easy thing is to notice what is wrong, what annoys you, what you don’t like, or the problems that you face.

Focus on Solutions

Over the years, I have learned that if you focus on problems, you will become a world-class expert at problems, and it is hard to show gratitude when you are obsessed with the problems around you. However, if you focus on solutions, you can become a world-class expert at solving problems. This process begins by recognizing what is right around us, right now. From that starting point we can be grateful for those elements. Additionally, we can begin to acknowledge those around us for the efforts they are making, both personally and professionally. The Gratitude Effect requires a life-long journey of developing our ability to be grateful.

Expressing gratitude completes the feeling of connection with others. Here is how you can start doing this today: We all have many people who have helped us during our lifetime; they are “in our story.” Have you acknowledged them? Have you thanked them? Have you recognized and shared the difference they have made for you?

I heard a story from a woman whose sixteen-year-old son had pretty much stopped going to school. His grades began to fail, and he started drinking alcohol. Worst of all, he was caught stealing a car and joy riding late at night. She told me that he was making some really poor life decisions and that she was beside herself with what to do.

She decided to send him to a leadership conference to see if that would help take his life in a new direction. At first, he said, “no” but around the holidays, he said that if this was that important to her, he “would do it for her.”

He attended the multi-day event and came home telling her that the event was amazing. He learned that people matter. Decisions matter. The people around you matter. She told me that one of the speaker’s at that event had a particularly large impact on the young man. Then she reached out to that speaker from the event and told him the story; she expressed her gratitude for the impact that his talk had on her son’s life. She told him, “You gave me my son back.” The speaker was so moved that he sent a video message to the young man telling him how grateful he was that he said something that the boy found helpful and that he was proud to be a small part of that. What’s more, the young man replied and told him a little about the life that he was now creating for himself.

This story reminds us that the Gratitude Effect doesn’t take much effort and it costs little or nothing. However, it makes an enormous difference in yourself and the people around you. When you acknowledge people in this way, people are drawn to you like a magnet. This accelerates the relationship-building process. As the story above shows, the Gratitude Effect can come full circle and then continue to spiral off in new, impactful directions. It is proven by science.




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Does Networking Work for Employees?string(35) "Does Networking Work for Employees?"

Yes, it does. Business networking is an important aspect of professional growth and success. Whether you are self-employed or you are a professional working within a larger organization as an employee, I believe it is worth the time and effort to find networking groups that can refer new business to you. If you currently work for someone, I suggest you take steps to persuade your employer that you will get business by working with these groups. The following story demonstrates the ways that networking can be beneficial to you.

The Bank Manager’s Triumph: A Networking Success Story

Several years ago, I met a bank manager who was diligently attempting to persuade his supervisor that participation in a BNI® chapter would yield substantial results for his branch. The supervisor reluctantly agreed to let him become a member on a trial basis. The bank manager began getting referrals soon after joining the group. After several months, a fellow member gave him a particularly good referral; it was a man who was disgruntled with the level of service at his current bank. The manager decided to visit the man at his company. The man told the bank manager that he felt he was not getting personal service from his bank. The manager assured him that his bank prided itself on service. He gave the man his personal mobile and his home phone number and told him that if there were ever a problem, he could be reached any time of day, at home or at work. The man thanked him for coming to his office and told him he would get back to him.  

Two days later, at exactly 9:00 a.m., the man was standing at the bank door with several savings and checkbooks in hand. The branch manager met him at the door and thanked him for coming to his branch. The man said he was impressed with the way he was handled by the manager and that he had decided to transfer his accounts to the manager’s bank. To the astonishment of the bank manager, the new customer handed over checking, savings, and money-market accounts totaling over $950,000! After everything was completed, the man told the manager how glad he was to be referred to him by their mutual friend.

News of the Referral Got Around

I first heard this story when my office, BNI Headquarters, started getting phone calls from every branch manager in Southern California, USA, who worked for that particular bank. Each of them wanted information about a local BNI chapter in their area. When the bank manager who got the $950,000 referral told his supervisor where he got the referral from, the supervisor (Remember him? He was the reluctant one.) called all his other branch managers and told them to join a local BNI chapter within the next two weeks. The transformative power of effective networking had not only boosted individual success, it had also become a catalyst for organizational change.

Lessons for Employees: Persuasion and Initiative

For those of you working as employees, the bank manager’s triumph offers valuable lessons – the biggest one is persuade your supervisor. Convincing supervisors of the merits of business networking is often the first hurdle. I spoke to an individual who was eager to join a networking group but faced continued resistance from his boss, who cited budget constraints and said the company would not pay for it. Undeterred, the savvy salesman proposed a compelling deal: he would personally fund the membership, and if he secured two referrals resulting in sales within the thirty days, the company would reimburse him. The boss said, “Sure, if you come in with two sales, I’ll see to it that the company pays for the membership.”

Highly motivated by the potential for success, the salesman closed three sales and was working on four more by the end of the first month. True to their agreement, the boss covered the initial membership cost and then paid for the renewal, acknowledging the tangible benefits derived from the salesman’s networking efforts. This story underscores the transformative impact that personal initiative and persuasive communication can have in creating a supportive environment within a company for networking.

Networking – A Cultural Shift

The bank manager’s success and the subsequent organizational response highlight the opportunity for a cultural shift within companies. The reluctance of the supervisor who was initially hesitant about the networking idea, transformed into proactive encouragement for all branch managers to join local BNI chapters. This shift reflects the recognition that networking is more than an individual pursuit; it can be a strategic advantage for the entire organization.

Creating a culture that values and promotes networking involves leadership buy-in, consistent communication, and the showcasing of tangible results. The success stories that emerge from individual networking efforts can serve as powerful tools to persuade employers of the broader benefits. Organizations that actively support and facilitate business networking initiatives are more likely to foster innovation, collaboration, and a heightened sense of community among employees.

Virtual Platforms and Global Reach

In today’s digital age, the landscape of networking has expanded beyond traditional face-to-face interactions. Virtual platforms and online communities provide avenues for connecting with professionals globally, transcending geographical boundaries. While in-person networking remains invaluable, the digital realm offers unique opportunities for expanding one’s network and accessing a diverse range of perspectives. Embracing this digital shift allows individuals and organizations to tap into global networking and business opportunities.

The Enduring Impact of Networking

The bank manager’s triumph serves as a testament to the enduring impact of strategic business networking. Whether you’re a self-employed professional seeking to carve your niche or an employee within a larger organization aiming to create a culture of collaboration, networking is an invaluable asset.

The lessons learned from the stories in this blog extend beyond individual success to encompass organizational growth and cultural transformation. By recognizing the potential of business networking, and actively pursuing professional relationships, individuals and companies alike can unlock doors to new referral opportunities. Whether you are self-employed or you work for someone else, I recommend that you start looking for networking groups that can refer new business to you.

How Great Leaders Communicate Their Visionstring(42) "How Great Leaders Communicate Their Vision"

Co-creation involves knowing how to collaborate in a way that gets the best out of your partners and yourself. In this excerpt from our new book, “The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Success,” my co-authors, Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto and Dawa Tarchin Phillips, and I explain how to gain buy-in and consensus as a leader and move projects forward despite any challenges that may arise.

Leaders as Vision Champions

The real-world application of any concept is critical if you want it to truly impact people and the company they work for. It takes a special type of leader to execute co-creation. Leading a co-creative process must begin by displaying a quiet confidence in everyone else’s abilities. Co-creative leaders are somewhat like conductors of a symphony. Their role is to unify the performers, set the tempo, and keep the orchestra playing in time and in sync. In effect, they are the vision champions. They maintain the big picture of the overriding objective while allowing everyone to add their unique contributions to the crowdsourced result.

As the world becomes ever more complex and interconnected, the traditional top-down approach to leadership is no longer effective. To create lasting change, leaders must learn to co-create with their teams by identifying team members’ strengths, creating a safe environment where everyone feels heard and respected, and leveraging their abilities to achieve collective success.

Leaders can hold the vision in many ways.

By Clarifying Expectations
Leaders must be clear about what they want to achieve and why it’s important. They must also be open to input from all team members. Only then can the team reach consensus and move forward together—and, as always, in alignment with the overarching vision.

By Leveraging Contextual Intelligence
Leaders must be able to adapt their plans and strategies when circumstances change. They must also be able to identify potential saboteurs and manage conflict effectively.

By Asking Questions
Leaders can derive great value from co-creative teams simply by asking good questions. When do we want to get this done? When do we want to make this decision? What is our ultimate goal for this project? What is stopping us from achieving this success? Routinely asking good questions has the effect of reinforcing consensus and ensuring a cohesive vision among all stakeholders.

By Leading from Behind—and with Guardrails
Sometimes leading a co-creative process can seem like your team is running on a field, and you are running behind them, hollering, just trying to keep them inside the boundaries. In fact, co-creation often means leading from behind. That ensures the leader can keep the big picture—the vision, the boundaries—in mind while everyone is working their way down the field. This approach also positions the leader to gather as much input and extract as much value as possible from each team member.

By Coaching and Cultivating
Leaders must relinquish control and focus instead on coaching others to perform at their best. By identifying each team member’s strengths, the leader can position them to contribute based on their individual talents.

By Communicating
Clear and effective communication is necessary among all stakeholders for co-creation projects to succeed. We believe in the communication saturation approach that Richard modeled in our co-creation story.

Positioning the leader as the vision holder in a co-creative process also helps destroy the old model of command and control—of lead, follow, or get out of my way—and helps everyone embrace this 3rd Paradigm.

Above all else, the leader must be an example for others to follow. They must be open-minded, respectful, professional, nonjudgmental, humble, transparent, and appreciative. More than that, their actions must embody the project’s vision—the mutually desired outcome. Otherwise, they will drag the entire process down. Our open-ended survey of over 4,000 business professionals contained an astounding 1,945 mentions of the word “leader” when discussing the benefits and drawbacks of co-creation. And these responses were NOT to questions about leadership.
Strong leaders are crucial to a successful co-creative process.

Barriers to Execution

Even when leaders are committed to holding the vision throughout co-creation, internal barriers can emerge—emotional and psychological ones—that can crop up and cause problems for you. If you are leading a co-creative process, be wary of the following issues.

Procrastination – Co-creation is a dynamic and sometimes messy process. Kicking the can down the road only ensures co-creation won’t happen. Don’t succumb to the impulse to put things off.

Lack of transparency – Execution of co-creation must be transparent. Co-creation will fail if you are not transparent with all stakeholders.

Denial and/or avoidance – Denying there is a problem, miscommunication, or any other issue almost guarantees poor morale. Trying to avoid dealing with a problem only creates more problems.

Perfectionism – LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” If you demand perfection from your team, the co-creative project will almost certainly fail. Always strive for further improvement, but never let imperfections restrict the co-creative process.

Lack of humility – Humble people don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less. The lack of humility can be a problem for co-creation because it can lead to individuals prioritizing their own ideas and perspectives over those of others, hindering collaboration and stifling creativity. Additionally, a lack of humility can create a competitive and confrontational atmosphere, which can ultimately impede progress toward the shared goal.

Leaders must not only hold the vision of the co-creative project, but they must also hold themselves accountable. Recognizing and dealing with these barriers is a good place to start.

 When you become a leader who can effectively communicate your vision to your team, you expand your leadership capacity by learning how to gain buy-in and consensus and move projects forward despite any challenges that may arise.

Businesses Need an Edge for Successstring(35) "Businesses Need an Edge for Success"

As we go through economic cycles, businesses face constant challenges. Statistics indicate that more than 50 percent of all ventures close their doors within seven years, and during recessions, the rate of failure rises dramatically. To thrive in such an environment, successful businesses need an edge over their competition.

While many rely on advertising to gain an advantage, simply offering the same products or services in the same way as competitors rarely leads to differentiation. The key to success lies in creativity, especially in marketing strategies. Today’s thriving companies and professional practices understand that creativity is a fundamental pillar in standing out from the crowd.

A story exemplifying creative ingenuity features three store owners with adjacent storefronts in the same building. Faced with tough times, the first store owner put up a sign proclaiming, “YEAR-END CLEARANCE!!!” in hopes of attracting sales. The second owner, attempting to compete, countered with his own sign, “ANNUAL CLOSE-OUT.” However, it was the third store owner, situated in the middle, who realized the importance of a swift response. He placed a larger sign over his front door that said, “MAIN ENTRANCE.”

The tale underscores a crucial lesson: businesses cannot control the economy or the actions of competitors, but they can control their own responses to these challenges. Embracing creativity enables them to navigate turbulent times and carve out a unique position in the market.

The Significance of Creativity in Marketing

In the competitive modern landscape, relying solely on traditional marketing methods may not suffice. Because consumers are bombarded by advertisements from a variety of sources, creativity is the key to capturing attention and making a lasting impression. Creative marketing campaigns can leverage humor, emotional appeal, storytelling, and/or innovative visuals to engage audiences and foster brand loyalty.

Understanding Customer Needs

Creativity in business involves a deep understanding of customer needs. By conducting thorough market research and listening to customer feedback, businesses can identify pain points and tailor their offerings accordingly. Addressing unique client needs creates a competitive advantage that sets a business apart from others in the industry.

Niche Marketing and Targeted Strategies

Rather than trying to appeal to a broad audience, many successful businesses embrace niche marketing. Identifying a specific target audience and catering to their preferences allows for more focused and impactful marketing efforts. Targeted strategies ensure that the message resonates with the right people, increasing the likelihood of conversion and customer loyalty.

Innovation and Adaptability

Innovation goes hand in hand with creativity, as businesses need to continuously explore new ideas and adapt to changing market demands. Stagnation can lead to obsolescence. Forward-thinking companies that embrace change are more likely to thrive in any economic environment.

Building a Unique Brand Identity

A well-crafted brand identity plays a crucial role in standing out from competitors. Creativity in branding involves defining a compelling brand story, designing eye-catching visuals, and establishing a consistent brand voice. A strong brand identity instills trust, fosters client loyalty, and creates a lasting impression in the minds of consumers.

Embracing Digital Marketing

With the digital revolution, businesses have a plethora of creative tools and platforms at their disposal. Social media, content marketing, influencer partnerships, and interactive experiences provide innovative ways to connect with audiences and create a memorable brand presence.

Networking and Collaboration

Creativity also extends beyond marketing strategies to business partnerships and collaborations. Networking with other professionals and businesses can lead to mutually beneficial opportunities, expanding reach and resources in unique ways.

Creativity is the driving force behind gaining a competitive edge in the ever-changing business landscape. Successful professionals recognize the importance of creativity in all aspects of their business. By embracing creativity and responding creatively to challenges, businesses can position themselves for sustained success and weather economic fluctuations with resilience.

In a world where constant adaptation is essential, creativity emerges as the key differentiator that allows businesses to leave an indelible mark in their industries. It gives them an edge that can significantly impact their success.

4 Key Things You Need to Know About Your Business to Truly Succeedstring(66) "4 Key Things You Need to Know About Your Business to Truly Succeed"

Co-creation is a process in which several parties come together to produce goods or outcomes that serve a common goal. In our new book, “The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Success”, Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto, Dawa Tarchin Phillips and I outline five types of co-creation that can result in success for businesses. But before you begin collaborating with outside companies and individuals, we stress that it is vitally important that you have a solid understanding of your own operation. We call these pillars “The Four Knows” and in this excerpt from the book, we explain why each is so critical to success.

The Four Knows

No matter which of the five types of co-creation you use, you will need to have all four of the following in place to succeed:

Know the Right Focus
Know the Right Process
Know the Right Communication
Know the Right Execution

The Right Focus: Establish Mutually Desired Outcomes

Everyone involved in co-creation needs to be rowing in unison and in the same direction. This means everyone must be focused on a mutually desired outcome. Disaster strikes when people fail to work together. We conducted a survey of 4,200 business professionals, and one respondent shared how ineffective teamwork derailed their leaders’ attempt to market an event: “We had not been able to communicate the WHY to them or get their views to make the event a part of the entire team.”

Focusing on the mutually desired outcome requires that all team members have a shared “why.” Co-creation leaders can guide their teams through a series of questions that will help them work together efficiently, effectively, and creatively, even if they are composed of diverse stakeholders.

This process will help identify their right focus. The outcome cannot be vaguely defined—it must be clear. When it is, the co-creation stakeholders will have the necessary shared purpose and intention. Once the mutually desired outcome is established, teams can accomplish the unthinkable. One survey respondent shared this sentiment: “If the right people, with the same goals, lifting, encouraging, and working together with the same commitment to achieve TOGETHER are in place, wonders can happen.”

The Right Process: Implement a Framework

Identifying the right process for a co-creation project ensures stakeholders can work efficiently and effectively. It is not enough to have a team that is committed to a mutually desired outcome. Without an underlying process guiding the mission, frustrations will mount, and the project will become mired in problems.

The process of choosing a framework begins by selecting from the five types of co-creation we previously introduced (think tank/brainstorm, crowdsource, open source, mass customization, and user-generated content).

Once the co-creation leaders determine the right type, additional pragmatic considerations will provide the overarching framework and process. These include determining clear roles and responsibilities for team members, developing an accountability system, defining the situational context of the co-creation project, and mitigating unconscious bias.

Some survey respondents attested to the importance of having the right process: “All persons working on a project should be specifically responsible and accountable to some extent. All persons should be required to provide input.” Others remarked on the importance of having “a good framework for growth in place” and the “need to be clear on the set tasks, with deadlines and people being responsible to either follow up with them or track the process.” Defining the process can be at a granular level, such as one respondent who shared, “We used to have daily review meetings on the product development, so it helped us to have a close watch on the development process.” Another recommended to “hold each member accountable for their piece of the process. Make sure the pieces fit moving into the next phase. Avoid backstepping.”

The Right Communication: Ensure Open Communication

Open communication is crucial to successful co-creation. This must span employees, customers, vendors, and all of a company’s other stakeholders. Without clear communication, co-creation will fail, even if everyone involved is passionate and fully engaged in the project. Many survey respondents underscored the importance of having the right communication:

“Communication is vital.”

“I cannot say this enough: The better the communication you have with the people who work for you, the more successful your company will be.”

“In companies where ideas are freely shared, a tremendous amount of growth happens. I have been at companies where the people in charge did not want to hear any ideas that weren’t their own, so no growth happens there.”

“[Co-creation] needs a lot of clear communication at every stage for the idea to develop properly.”

“The larger the organization, the more there is a lack of communication about strategy and goals, which results in having no direction.”

One of our more memorable respondents wrote, “EVERYONE MUST BE SINGING OFF THE SAME SHEET OF MUSIC!!!!!” Indeed, a chorus full of enthusiastic singers each giving it their all will have a miserable time if everyone isn’t performing the same song.

The Right Execution: Ensure Knowledgeable Leadership

Even with everything else in place—the right focus, the right process, and the right communication—all will be for naught if an organization lacks the right execution. Leaders of co-creation must lay the groundwork for successful empowerment and execution. With this final Know, leaders must have a clear plan and capably execute it while empowering stakeholders.

The entire process is at stake if the co-creative initiative falls short on execution. One survey respondent quipped, “Just a joke from my university days: When I die, I’d like the people I did group projects with to lower me into my grave, so they can let me down one last time.” With the right execution, stakeholder morale soars; without it, disappointment abounds.

Anyone who wants to implement co-creation in their organization must understand each of the four Knows and its interdependency with the other three Knows. Co-creation will only succeed if all four of these key things are in place and functioning effectively. Once you master the Four Knows, you will be well on your way to successful co-creating.

It’s No Longer About Competition or Cooperation. This Is the New Force That Is Driving Business Success.string(110) "It’s No Longer About Competition or Cooperation. This Is the New Force That Is Driving Business Success."

Imagine a world where you can tackle the greatest, most challenging problems with a proven approach that leads to unmatched success. That is the premise and the promise of The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Successthe new book I co-wrote with Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto and Dawa Tarchin Phillips. In the following excerpt, we discuss the state of the relationships between businesses with their competitors, their customers, and their internal teams.

We live in an age of sweeping conflict, widespread skepticism, and intense anxiety. Contention feels pervasive. Balanced discourse is a thing of the past, and pundits constantly tell us what’s wrong with society. People complain like it’s an Olympic event, and gurus in the marketplace obsess over the massive problems they see in the world. Negativity seems to be the norm.

However, we believe there is hope. There is an answer, and it starts with focusing on the solutions. When people focus on problems, they become world-class experts on “the problem.” When they focus on solutions, they can become world-class experts on “the solution.” We believe “the solution” to today’s massive challenges lie within the 3rd Paradigm.

As a reference point, a paradigm is a philosophical framework or discipline within which theories and laws are formulated. We believe we are entering the era of the 3rd Paradigm. Let us take you on a short journey through what we define as the three paradigms of the modern era.

The 1st Paradigm

The 1st Paradigm is the era of competition. This paradigm was formulated within the framework of the laws of production by early pioneers of business thinking. Formal theories of management began to be developed in the late 1800s by experts like Frederick Taylor, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, Max Weber, and others who focused on issues like workflow, economic efficiency, and labor productivity. This was the era of “scientific management,” which was the beginning of business theory. Scientific management’s focus on production led directly to the 1st Paradigm’s emphasis on competition.

The 1st Paradigm was so focused on productivity and competition that it failed to account for the needs of the people in the workforce. Competition was about gaining something by defeating your rivals or establishing superiority over them. It meant having a winner and a loser. The impact this had on individuals was generally minimized—unless it had an impact on productivity.

Can you imagine living in this production-oriented, competitive model today? Sixty-hour workweeks would be the norm, there would be few—if any—breaks, you’d be expected to work during much of your current lunchtime, safety regulations would be nonexistent, and children might be working right next to you in a factory. In most “developed” nations, that now seems inconceivable, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common throughout the world. In those countries where employees are still required to work extreme hours, it can easily lead to burnout, stress, and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

You might even be working in an environment like this right now. Did you find yourself nodding your head when you read about routinely working 60-hour weeks, eating lunch quickly—or even at your desk— and feeling stressed and burned out? If so, your company might be stuck in the 1st Paradigm, so focused on “getting ahead” of the competition that workers like yourself are left behind. If so, know there is a better way to do business.

The 2nd Paradigm

The 2nd Paradigm is the era of cooperation. This paradigm evolved over time as people learned that a strictly production-oriented approach did not take into account the interaction of the people involved in the process. This era was about two or more people working together toward shared goals. The focus on acting together for a common purpose started to evolve in the 1960s.

Around this time, MIT management professor Douglas McGregor published his groundbreaking book The Human Side of Enterprise (1960), which introduced the concepts of Theory X and Theory Y. His framework highlights the motivating role of job satisfaction and argues that people can do their work without constant direct supervision. McGregor insisted that people are one of the most valuable assets for driving organizational success and that success comes from people being highly engaged in the process, with management recognizing employee contributions. His theory further focused on the motivating role of job satisfaction for individuals in the workplace.

We may be puzzled by this because these ideas seem so obvious now, but they weren’t at the start of the 2nd Paradigm. This was, in fact, revolutionary management thinking in its day.

During the time of the 2nd Paradigm, management consultant Peter Drucker developed the MBO process (Management by Objective), whereby managers and employees could identify common goals, define their areas of responsibility, and determine measures to guide the contributions of each individual. These and other advancements led to forms of collaborative project management, which enabled teams of people to collaborate across departmental, corporate, and national boundaries to achieve organizational objectives.

Today’s organizations are much more collaborative. Old command-and-control methods have largely been replaced by much more openness and transparency than during the 1st Paradigm. Cooperation focused on better communication and compromise.

The collaborative approach used in large companies has trickled down to small and medium-sized businesses as well. In a 2012 study entitled “Punching Above Their Weight,” published in the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, it was found that the vast majority of small businesses (almost 78 percent) were very open to collaboration as a way of developing their operation.

While the collaborative model was a massive improvement from the strictly competitive, production-oriented model, it was still lacking the full potential that the human experience can bring. In the 1980s, John Naisbitt wrote in his groundbreaking book, Megatrends, that humanity is moving toward a “high-tech, high-touch” society, saying that the more technologically advanced we become, the more important it is to become highly connected to people. Advances in management theory and technology have been leading society toward the next paradigm. It’s important to note, however, that the transition from one paradigm to another doesn’t happen overnight. They emerge by evolving over time.

The 3rd Paradigm

The 3rd Paradigm is the era of co-creation. This concept begins where cooperation leaves off. The difference between cooperation and co-creation is the difference between working together and creating together. You may collaborate on a project, but you co-create products and services. Co-creation is a significant step beyond cooperation. It is about bringing different parties together to actually produce, improve, or customize a product or service, based on a mutually desired outcome. We define co-creation as creating value through a joint effort, typically involving both internal and external stakeholders.

While some scholars recognized the theory of co-creation in the late 20th century, it was in the 21st century that the internet brought the concept to the forefront. Crowdsourcing has become a critical tool for engagement. Waze, the navigation app, used by millions of people is a good example of this concept. The widespread application of digital technology has made customer empowerment a must.

Society is rapidly moving from a passive to a more participatory consumer culture. Co-creation plays a key role in this, since today’s consumers want a say in creating new products and services or improving existing ones. In their 2000 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Co-opting Customer Competence,” C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy make the distinction that from approximately the year 2000 and beyond, customers transitioned from being a passive audience to being active players—becoming “co-creators as well as consumers of value.” In this age of co-creation, consumers want to work together with their favorite brands to ensure that products and services are adapted to meet their needs. In addition, many want to make sure there is a social cause related to the brand. Organizations engage in co-creation because they wish to foster the buy-in of stakeholder interest and increase value through innovation. People tend to genuinely care about what they create.

I invite you to learn more about co-creation in The Third Paradigm and how it can help drive your business success, too.

Unlock Networking Success by Mastering Approachabilitystring(54) "Unlock Networking Success by Mastering Approachability"

Have you ever found yourself at a networking event, feeling awkward and isolated, watching others engage in lively conversations while you stand alone wondering what’s wrong? You’ve dressed the part, you’re in the room, yet people don’t seem to be lining up to speak with you. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, it might be time to consider whether your approachability is the issue.

In the world of business networking, being approachable is a game-changer. Your body language and behavior can make the difference between someone viewing you as a potential referral partner or just another face in the crowd. You may not realize that you are the one getting in your own way when it comes to meeting new people and kindling business relationships. To succeed in networking, you must ask yourself a critical question: Am I approachable or alienating?

The Power of Approachability

Approachability is the quality that makes people feel comfortable approaching you and engaging in conversations. It’s the secret sauce of networking that encourages others to connect with you. To become a master networker, you must assess whether you exude approachability or radiate alienation.

Behaviors of an Approachable Networker

Positive Attitude
Approachable individuals maintain a positive and pleasant attitude. They smile, laugh, and create an atmosphere that invites interaction. It may sound simple, but your demeanor speaks volumes. Many people don’t realize they are frowning, or that they look bored during a conversation. Try it – look in the mirror and observe how your facial expressions transform when you frown versus when you smile.

Open Body Language
In my book “Networking Like a Pro – Second Edition,” I discussed the concept of positioning during conversations. Instead of engaging in one-to-one conversations with closed-off body language, approachable networkers stand in ‘Open 2’ and ‘Open 3’ positions to ensure their stance allows for others to easily join in. They create an environment that welcomes new connections.

Approachable individuals are consistent in their actions and words. They live by their values and demonstrate authenticity. In networking, authenticity is a prized asset, as people can easily detect inconsistencies and insincerity. At networking events, conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of that particular event. If you were at someone’s party, you would want to make them feel good about themselves and the party, right? Make it a point to consistently engage others in conversation by being genuinely interested in them and their business.

Alienating Behaviors to Avoid

Negative Attitude
Constantly talking about personal or professional hardships can repel potential referral partners. Leave your problems at the door of networking events. If you’re always complaining or focusing on the negative aspects of life, you’re going to turn people off. Networking is an opportunity to create positive connections, not to bring others down with your grievances.

Closed-Off Body Language

Alienating individuals exhibit body language that discourages interaction. A scowl on your face or having your arms crossed over your chest can deter others from approaching you. Open and welcoming postures are essential. Put away your phone, too; being engrossed in a call or text is a sure way to miss out on a conversation with someone in the same room.

Lack of consistency between your words and your actions can erode trust and credibility. For example, if you are reiterating how much you value kindness in others and then speak poorly to a server or the event host, your potential referral partner may be skeptical of your sincerity and dependability. If you say one thing and do another, people may perceive you as insincere and unreliable.

Take Action for Improvement

To enhance your approachability and shed alienating behaviors, consider these practical steps.

Attitude Adjustment
When you are getting ready to go to a networking event, choose your attitude ahead of time just like you choose what to wear. Focus on maintaining a positive attitude and leave personal problems behind when attending networking events. Approach each gathering with a welcoming demeanor.

Body Language Awareness
Pay attention to your posture and facial expressions. Put a smile on your face and position yourself in an open and inclusive manner. Maintain eye contact with others, especially during conversation. Avoid behaviors that convey disinterest such as fidgeting, looking at your phone or around the room, and yawning.

Ensure that your actions align with your words… all the time. Stay authentic and consistent in your interactions by showcasing your true self when networking. Strive to be interested more than interesting during conversations. Remember, a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately.

The Compound Effect of Approachability

In networking, as in life, the little things add up. Approachability is a skill that can be cultivated. Don’t assume that because some of the suggestions mentioned above are simple and easy to understand that you don’t need to practice them. I recommend you practice them on a weekly basis because repetition produces results. Incorporate these strategies into your business networking efforts to create an inviting and welcoming presence.

If you’re not sure whether you’re projecting approachability or alienation, consider bringing a trusted friend or referral partner to your next networking event. Observe each other’s body language, tone of voice, and words. Afterward, engage in constructive feedback with the intention of helping each other become better referral partners.

Approachability is a critical factor that significantly influences your networking success. Networking isn’t merely about meeting people; it is also about how you make others feel when they meet you. It is about forming meaningful business relationships. Being approachable is the key to forging those connections.

Approachability isn’t a one-time achievement; it is an ongoing, lifelong practice. By mastering this trait, you can transform yourself from a wallflower into a magnet for meaningful connections. As you venture into the world of networking, remember that success is not only about the number of people you meet but also about the quality of relationships you build. Learn how to be someone who is easy to approach so you can navigate business networking events with ease and watch your connections grow.

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speakingstring(43) "How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking"

Did you know that people have ranked the fear of public speaking as worse than the fear of dying? Talking to an audience can be frightening, especially if it is for more than a minute or two. The mere thought of standing before an audience, trying to convey a message or pitch an idea, can send shivers down one’s spine.

Well, the fact is that no matter how much you try to avoid it, networking for your business is going to involve public speaking. You may find yourself giving a 30- or 60-second weekly presentation at a networking meeting, a ten-minute presentation at a Chamber of Commerce function, or a comprehensive thirty-minute educational presentation to a prospective customer. At some point you will likely be in front of an audience. My recommendation? Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can do it.

Use These Strategies

These five strategies are my top tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking and gain confidence to start winning over your audiences.

1) Preparation is Key 

One of the most effective ways to alleviate the fear of public speaking is thorough preparation. Avoid the urge to “wing it.” Instead, create a clear outline of what you intend to say and rehearse it. Utilize note cards or have your speech typed out with large, easily readable fonts to ensure you don’t lose your place. However, be cautious not to over-prepare, as this can lead to heightened anxiety. Strike a balance between being well-prepared and allowing yourself some flexibility to engage with your audience naturally.

2) Be Specific and Showcase Your Expertise

When delivering a presentation, especially in a networking context, avoid overwhelming your audience with too much information. Focus on one or two key aspects of your business that you are most knowledgeable about and passionate about. By concentrating on what you know best, you will enhance your comfort level and reduce stress. Remember, the audience perceives you as the expert, and they are eager to learn from you. Trust in your expertise and present your subject matter with confidence.

3) Use Supporting Materials Wisely

Visual aids such as handouts, PowerPoint slides, and props can be valuable tools to support your presentation. These resources can help you stay on track, and they also offer an additional layer of engagement for your audience. However, be cautious when using PowerPoint. It should enhance your presentation, not serve as a crutch. Avoid the temptation to read directly from the slides. Invest time in understanding how to effectively utilize this tool; there are numerous books and articles that provide guidance on the subject.

4) Embrace Your Role as an Expert

It is important to understand that as a speaker, you are the authority on your subject. Your audience is eager to gain knowledge from you; they want to hear what you have to say. Focus on what you excel at, and you will naturally exude confidence and credibility. Believing in yourself and your message is pivotal to your success as a public speaker.

5) Be Creative and Engage Your Audience 

Don’t feel constrained by traditional speaking approaches. Experiment with different ways of communicating that make you feel comfortable. Instead of simply talking at your audience, engage them in a conversation. You can even start with a Q&A session then answer at length. Don’t be afraid to be different and surprise the audience. Move around the stage, interact with the audience, or use unexpected elements to invigorate your presentation. Having fun with your message can help convert nervous energy into positive energy. When your enthusiasm shines through, the audience will feel it, and anxiety will dissipate.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Starting your journey to conquer the fear of public speaking begins with practice. You can’t get better at something if you never practice it, and the best time to start practicing is NOW. Begin with small opportunities, such as delivering a one-minute elevator pitch, and gradually increase your speaking time as your confidence grows. Look for opportunities to speak at events or educational presentations. Many associations and membership organizations are constantly seeking speakers, and positioning yourself as an expert can be highly satisfying and beneficial for your business.

While the fear of public speaking is prevalent, it is a skill that can be mastered with practice and the right approach. By following these strategies, you can increase your confidence and become a more effective and engaging public speaker. Remember, it’s natural to feel a little nervous. With the right mindset and techniques, you can transform that anxiety into a powerful and positive energy that captivates your audience. So, don’t let the fear of public speaking hold you back; embrace the opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with the world. Overcome the fear of public speaking and enjoy the satisfaction of educating other people about what you do.

I would appreciate your feedback. Please respond in the comment section to any, or all, of these questions.

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “not really afraid” and 10 being “more afraid than death,” how afraid would you say you are of public speaking?
  • What mental and physical manifestations of fear and anxiety do you experience when you are faced with having to speak in public?
  • What tools, tactics, or strategies have you personally found to be helpful and effective to manage your fear of public speaking?

Recognizing Great Customer Servicestring(34) "Recognizing Great Customer Service"

I had an experience at the 2014 BNI® U.S. National Conference that reminded me of how important it is to take time to notice really good customer service.

During that conference, the hotel’s room service would deliver my meals to my suite. Very often the delivery was right as a meeting in my suite was finishing up. Leslie was the hotel employee who made most of the deliveries during the last part of my stay. On one of the days, I had a group of ten BNI Directors in my suite who were kind enough to give me a Givers Gain® plaque made by one of their local members.

As a group, we started to gather around to get a photo and Leslie said, “Would you like me to take the picture?” That’s rather common; employees at hotels and restaurants have become accustomed to taking photos of the many people going through their establishments. However, Leslie then said to everyone, “Okay, everybody give me all your cameras–I’ll take a photo with each of them.” She then dutifully accepted each camera and phone and took many photographs, one by one, making sure that everybody got their own picture.

As I watched this, it struck me that she didn’t act annoyed or irritated by having one camera after another given to her; she happily took the pictures very patiently and professionally. She smiled and chatted with us while she took each photo as though she were taking photos of her own family. I couldn’t help but think that there was a supervisor downstairs wondering what was taking her so long. The truth is, she was giving the guests at her hotel a very nice and memorable experience.

It got me thinking about each trip that Leslie had made to the room during the week. She was courteous, friendly, helpful, and attentive. I was so wrapped up in the business of a running the conference that I hadn’t really noticed just how good she was until the end of the event when things started winding down for me.

While doing her job, Leslie worked diligently to create great guest experiences. So much so, that I later told the hotel manager that she should be teaching customer service training – she was that good.

I’ve traveled a lot in my years as the Founder of BNI and I certainly do appreciate great customer service. I believe in the importance and the power of recognition. I do like to thank people in person, in the moment during the situation or the event where they were so helpful. And I also have a way to fully share my appreciation after the fact when I receive a survey from a hotel or cruise line. When someone provides outstanding service or goes above and beyond to help me, I ask them, “May I take your picture?” That way, I’ll remember their face, see their name tag to spell their name properly, and easily recall the day, place, and circumstances of how and why they were so helpful, giving them the well-deserved recognition.

Have you had a terrific customer service experience in the past? I’d love for you to share it in the comment section. What specifically was it that made your experience great?

Art of building referral relationship

Building Referral Relationships: The Art of Patience and Persistencestring(68) "Building Referral Relationships: The Art of Patience and Persistence"

In the world of business, good referrals are akin to gold. They can open doors, create opportunities, and supercharge your professional network. However, the question that many professionals wonder is, “How long does it take to receive referrals from your network?” The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Building referral relationships is a process that resembles the development of close personal friendships, and it takes time and effort. Let’s talk about the timeline for nurturing these valuable connections and I’ll share insights on how to expedite the process.

The Friendship Analogy

Strong referral relationships mirror the gradual progression of friendships. It is not about the quantity of contacts as much as it is the quality of the connections you establish. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shed light on the timeline of friendships. It revealed that it takes roughly 50 hours of interaction to transform an acquaintance into a “casual friend.” To become “real friends,” individuals require a total of 90 hours, and to reach the status of “close friends,” the threshold is approximately 200 hours. According to the study, “friendship status was examined as a function of hours together, shared activities, and everyday talk.”

Building Trust for Referrals

Now, let’s translate this into the realm of business referrals. To receive referrals from your network, you need to cultivate trust and rapport with your referral partners. It’s a process that cannot be rushed. So, if you’re impatiently looking for immediate referrals, you might need to rethink your strategy. In most cases, it takes between 90 and 200 hours of meaningful interaction to foster the trust necessary for regular referrals.

I know that 90 to 200 hours may sound like a lot, however that is almost an exact match with what I’ve seen in BNI. When BNI members hit the 90-hour mark of participation they almost always begin receiving more and more referrals. Based on an independent study published in 2012 for BNI, when those same individuals cross the 200-hour mark, they generate an average of over five times the number of referrals they did in their first year! Yes, you read that right: more than 500% more referrals when they have built strong relationships with their referral partners.

Steps to Accelerate Referral Success

Building a referral-based business is a deliberate process that involves nurturing meaningful relationships. To expedite this journey and start receiving referrals sooner, ask yourself the following four crucial questions:

  1. Am I Building Relationships?
    Are you actively engaging with your referral partners and investing time in getting to know them? Building trust is a two-way street, and your effort will be reciprocated.
  2. Am I Demonstrating Value?
    Regularly make stimulating, educational presentations to your network about the value you provide to your clients. This showcases your expertise and reinforces your credibility.
  3. Am I Giving Back?
    Engage in business transactions within your network, allowing you to give dynamic testimonials and direct business to others. This reciprocity is often rewarded with referrals in return.
  4. Am I Staying Informed?
    Maintain regular meetings with your networking colleagues to learn about, and stay current on, their businesses. This knowledge will enable you to confidently refer your contacts to them, strengthening the bond.

The Depth of Relationships

Building a referral-based business is all about building a powerful, personal network. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you will never get the kind of referrals that will make a difference for your business. When you follow these simple tactics and focus on developing strong relationships that are built on trust and mutual support, you are on your way to getting referrals.

 The journey to receiving referrals from your network is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. The best way to speed up the process is to spend time in the process of developing relationships with the people you are networking with. By following the steps outlined, you can accelerate the timeline for receiving referrals. Remember, networking is about farming, not hunting. It’s about nurturing relationships and friendships with other professionals. So, be patient, be persistent, and in due time, your network will become a valuable source of referrals that can transform your business.




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Surrounding yourself with quality business professionals

Surround Yourself with Quality Business Professionalsstring(53) "Surround Yourself with Quality Business Professionals"

One of the biggest networking mistakes you can make is to dismiss someone too early, to assume that they have nothing to offer you because of their profession, their background, or some other reason, and you don’t pursue the relationship because of that assumption. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen a lot.

Well, the truth is you simply never know where your next great referral is going to come from. Which is why successful networkers make it a point to consistently connect with high-quality professionals from all fields, from any, and every, background.

Many times, I hear BNI members say, “I want to network with the CEO.” or “I want to network with the vice president.” Forget about trying to contact the VPs and high-level executives – they don’t want to hear another sales pitch.

You Don’t Know Who They Know

An important thing for all of us to remember about business networking is that any professional who is good at what he or she does will be well-connected to other highly successful businesspeople.

When I lived in southern California, I had a painting contractor whose services we used regularly. Through his work he came to know A-list Hollywood celebrities, among many other affluent people. He was one of the most connected people I knew at the time.

I have a favorite story, which I think illustrates this point perfectly. In this case, a multimillion-dollar referral (one of the biggest I had seen in BNI up to that point) was given by a dentist in Malaysia. She briefly shut down her practice to attend a networking conference in her area. There were opportunities for people to talk and exchange business, to make new friends and immerse themselves in an intense learning experience. She met one of the sponsors of the event, a BNI member from the United Kingdom, who was in the cargo transportation industry.

When she reopened her office a few days later, one of her clients asked her about the conference. This client was in a company that had a $1.5 billion USD shipping budget, and they were looking to streamline their operations, and he shared that he was ready to talk to other companies. The dentist said, “I have just the person for you.” She referred him to the conference sponsor she had recently met and the next day that sponsor in the UK got a phone call to set up an appointment with this gentleman, her client in Malaysia.

The result is that a dentist in a networking organization attended a networking conference, and participated in the conference, meeting new people and learning about their businesses. As a result, she was able to connect her client with someone she’d met at that conference–which led to the multimillion-dollar referral.

To me, it’s a classic example showing that it is really about the quality of business professionals that you’re networking with. They meet people who are decision makers. They get to know people who know people who are decision makers. And sometimes, they have them in the dental chair of their office. You don’t know who they know. And without investing your time to build business relationships with them, you won’t ever know.

The key element with effective networking groups is that it’s not just the businesses of your fellow members in the group. It is also about the people that those members know and are connected to. You just never know who you are going to meet and who your referral partners will have in their office, or whose home they are in, or who is sitting in the chair at their business.

You create opportunities for some great referrals when you surround yourself with quality business professionals. Do you have a story about a referral that came from an unusual source? I’d love to hear about it.

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