Monday, May 20, 2013

Ownership and attitude

In one of our earliest posts, Ownership Attitude, we noted that while the definition of "ownership attitude" may be open to debate, it's attributes are manifest:
"Owners are independent, strong-willed, risk-taking, opinionated, combative, willful, perfectionist, far-sighted, deaf, myopic, sleep-deprived, the first out-of-pocket but last to be paid, and most often not 'millionaires-or-billionaires.'
While not exhaustive by any stretch, what these attributes illustrate is that owners are NOT employees.  In fact, they make HORRIBLE employees, by and large."

Here's another take, authored by the Bill Bonnstetter of Target Training International, and published in the Harvard Business Review.  Bonnstetter looks at the attributes and skills that are most and least prevalent among serial entrepreneurs.  In sum:  Great vision and drive; poor management and interpersonal skills.

If entrepreneurialism is driven by these qualities, is there any hope that the business owner can understand his/her employees' needs and motivations, given the noted deficit in empathy?

Yes, there is hope.  More than hope, actually, there is science.

According to behavioral economist Dan Ariely, who also visited with us last week, there are several keys to motivating humans, be they employees, co-workers, spouses or siblings.  (It is also very relevant to sales and marketing.  Ping me and I'll describe how.)

Ariely's TED presentation on meaning, motivation and ownership is thought-provoking. His conclusions:
  • Meaning drives satisfaction and performance
  • Recognition and praise is essential to meaning
  • Investment (time and effort) creates meaning and drives ownership

As a business owner, these tenets can be both comforting and troubling.  Ask yourself:
  • Am I able to bring out in others the qualities that made me successful?  
  • Can I not only install the practices but instill the culture needed to manage it?  
  • Do I need to delegate that critical assignment because I am not wired to do so?

The future success of your enterprise depends on your ability to answer those questions honestly and to execute the solutions correctly.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's little helper

Some mother's day musings:

Jeffrey Gitomer is one of my favorite business personalities.  His books, blogs, videos and seminars on sales and selling contain the kind of practical, no-nonsense nuggets that can only come from someone who not only has a true passion for his craft, but has truly mastered it. Such as:
"Your Mother taught you everything you needed to know about connecting to people before you were 10 years old: make friends, play nice, tell the truth, take a bath and do your homework!"
On the other hand, Dan Ariely's observations are a not exactly motherly, unless your mom is a cognitive scientist and behavioral economist.  His belief is that you can't always trust your intuition, or your eyes. But his delivery is every bit as pithy, and his conclusions are as trenchant, as Gitomer's.

Enjoy your week, all you moms and mom's helpers.  Be clean, be helpful and be mindful of your irrational behavior.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Staying afloat

From the time we are young we are schooled in the necessity to persevere.  Parents, teachers, clergy, classic literature and popular culture all channel adages and aphorisms designed to inculcate the idea that if you just keep at it, all will eventually work out in your favor.  

In other words "soldier on."  

Perhaps one of the most famous quotes on the subject from my boyhood was Vince Lombardi's motto: "Winners never quit and quitters never win."  We've written about overcoming failure as an ingredient in the recipe for success on a couple of occasions ourselves, including this post.

We all want to be winners in life, whatever our personal definition of that term may be.  Lost in the sea of exhortation though is practical, actionable advice:  "How do I do that?" Science shows that it is much more than simply the power of positive thinking.

In his book, "To Sell is Human," author Daniel H. Pink notes that whether or not the job title includes the word "sales," the vast majority of us humans are selling in some form or fashion -- moving others to take an action.   Pink lays out the attributes of a successful human "salesperson," and examines what psychologists and social scientists say are the three components of one of them: a characteristic that Pink calls "buoyancy."
  1. Interrogative self-talk:  We all talk to ourselves.  Pink writes that science shows that the best internal conversation is not necessarily positive self-talk (I am the best) but one that allows for questioning in building or reinforcing a belief (Can I do this?), and "inspire thoughts about autonomously or intrinsically motivated reasons to pursue a goal."  Think more "Bob the Builder," than Tony Robbins.
  2. Positivity ratios: Positivity is incredibly important in moving people to take action.  In his book, Pink quotes researcher Barbara Frederickson saying: "Positive emotions...broaden people's ideas about possible actions, opening our awareness to a wider range of thoughts and...making us more receptive and more creative."  Negativity is important too, judiciously and appropriately applied.  The perfect ratio for success?  3:1.
  3. Explanatory style: How you interpret events and explain them to yourself is a critical success factor.  Those with a more optimistic view of setbacks ("it's just temporary") have significantly higher success rates than those with a more pessimistic view.  Scholar Martin Seligman says "flexible optimism -- optimism with it's eyes open," is a key to what Pink calls "tough-minded buoyancy -- the proper balance between downward and upward forces."
Pink writes that "staying afloat in an ocean of rejection is [an] essential quality of moving others." I say it's an essential quality of success in all things.

Carry on.