Heard Any Good Books Lately?

Multitasking takes on a whole new meaning when you’re on wheels. Get where you’re going and learn a little something at the same time with audio books.

Confused about the title? I’ll explain shortly.

As busy business leaders, we face lots of challenges doing our jobs or running our businesses. One of the most important challenges we face is the need for on-going professional education. We may recognize the importance of life-long learning, but who has the time and energy to do any of it?

One simple strategy that I’ve found to deal with this paradox is to embrace the concept of the ‘University of the Automobile.’ Here’s how it works. Assume the average person commutes to work an hour a day over a 40-year work life. Do the math; that’s 10,000 hours spent in the car—even more if you use your car during the workday or for business travel.

That is more time than you would spend in class, studying and doing assignments to earn both a BS and MBA degree. Most current business books are available free from your public library in CD format or for downloading to your phone or iPod. Plus, there are thousands of podcasts that relate to the business challenges you might be facing.

So, make a commitment today to spend part of your daily commute learning. It won’t take long for ‘part’ to become ‘all’ of your commute when you see the value first hand.

Where do you start? Ask your colleagues what they’ve been reading. Google ‘new business books.’ Or, check out one of the best business books I’ve read recently: The 100 Best Business Books of All Time: What They Say, Why They Matter and How They Can Help You,’ by Jack Covert & Todd Sattersten, 2009, The Penguin Group, New York, NY. The detailed summaries have useful content. Therefore, they help me determine if I want to read—or listen to—the whole book and make it easy for me to impress people that I actually did read the whole book.

Hey, as Jim Collins might say, “… works for me.”

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,440-449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  

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  • Next up: How to Assess Yourself

    How to Assess Yourself

    Playing to your strength is an important part of being successful in business. But how well do you really know yourself? The resources listed below will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and how to leverage that knowledge to help your business succeed.

    Playing to your strength is an important part of being successful in business. But how well do you really know yourself? The resources listed below will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and how to leverage that knowledge to help your business succeed.

    • StrengthsFinder 2.0: Uncover hundreds of strategies you can use to apply your unique strengths. 
    • How to assess employee skills: Here’s a 4-step plan to identifying your employees’ core competencies. 
    • Identify Skill Gaps: Here’s a handy chart to use that will help you pick out where the skill gaps are in your organization. 
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  • Next up: How to Make a 60-Second Sales Pitch to a CEO

    How to Make a 60-Second Sales Pitch to a CEO

    Read on below to learn what sales pitches pique the interest of the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company.

    I spent an evening with the CEO of a $3.6-billion company based in Minneapolis. We were at a conference held by the Young President’s Organization (YPO) at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

    We walked and talked at the expo held for the construction industry. Really, he talked and I followed along to see how he conducted himself at an industry expo. I wanted to learn the secrets to how top CEOs get value from an expo since I have always found them to be time bandits. 

    Spoiler alert! He does not handle an expo like the rest of us mortals!

    When I say “expo,” you all know what I mean. There are tables of vendors set up around the perimeter of the expo hall and the food tables are in the middle of the room. The attendees of the conference are hungry, so they want the food in the middle of the room, but they have to carefully navigate the hall to make sure they don’t accidentally run into one of the salespeople eagerly positioned around the room. It’s kind of like running the Greek gauntlet in Homer’s Odyssey and trying to avoid Scylla and Charybdis (extra credit if you remember this obscure Greek reference from high school). 

    The expo salespeople stand by their tables and as soon as you come within earshot, they are eagerly reading your name badge, engaging you by asking where you’re from and then launching into a 60-second pitch about their product or service. They give the same pitch over and over hundreds of times per expo.

    I observed the following methods that my CEO companion used while tackling the expo:

    Get right to the point. The difference between how most of us handle ourselves in these situations and how this CEO works the room is simple: If a vendor doesn’t get to the point, and fast, the CEO of the $3-billion company will interrupt and say one of two phrases:

    Response No. 1: “Please get to the point.”

    Response No. 2: “You’re talking to the wrong guy. Do you have any other products or services that might be of interest to me?”

    Be polite but efficient. I thought he would be “Minnesota Nice,” but he was quick to interrupt if the salesperson was wasting his time. He often tried to help them understand why their pitch was not landing well. Some of the salespeople understood that they were losing him and deftly changed their pitch. Many just got flustered and restarted their pitch with the same or different words. He politely walked away to the next booth. I don’t want to give the impression that he wasn’t nice, just that he was completely intolerant of wasting time. He came to the conference with a shopping list and if what you’re selling doesn’t include what’s on his list, he’s not buying. 

    Ask good questions. When he did get interested in a pitch, he asked good questions. He listened. He asked more good questions. 

    Follow up when interested. If there are any salespeople reading this article, please know that the best you can hope for as an expo salesperson is that he will take your info and promise he’ll have one of his management team members follow up. As we were walking, I asked him if he was sincere about that or if it was just a line. He assured me that if he says it, he really is planning to have a manager investigate the new product or service. He doesn’t care if they buy it or not, just that they consider the new idea.

    In under an hour, we visited all 11 vendors at the expo. He gathered value from the ones that he found interesting. I am sure he’ll have his people call them when he returns to the company—the good ones at least! 

    Jonathan Slain coaches a very limited number of best-in-class contracting, staffing and entrepreneurial companies that want to double (top and/or bottom line) within the next five years. If you are ready to buckle-up, please go to http://autobahnconsultants.com/ or email Jonathan@AutobahnConsultants.com

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  • Next up: How to Master the Skill of Being Aware

    How to Master the Skill of Being Aware

    Dynamic leaders are keenly aware of how to leverage all their strengths. In her latest column, Monika Moss-Gransberry shares some of the lessons she’s learned about how to be aware of and leverage internal and external processes and environments.

    What makes a dynamic leader? The ability to make a difference just by entering a room. Not everyone has this talent, and it has everything to do with being highly aware.

    The place I most profoundly learned to make a difference with my presence is the Gestalt

    Organizational Systems Development Center, (Gestalt OSD Center). It was there as a student and then as a faculty member I was set on the path to self-mastery.

    I recall my mentor and teacher, the President of the Center, John D. Carter often said, “I want my clients to be able to play with all 52 cards in the deck—and the jokers.” This requires a keen sense of awareness.

    Awareness of your internal process and experience, awareness of the environment around you, and being able to shuttle back and forth and see how your thoughts, words, actions are impacting the environment and how the thoughts, words, and actions of others are impacting you is critically important.

    Gestalt theory and method have become one of the top five approaches to organizational change. For 40 years, the Gestalt Organizational Systems Development Center has been using Gestalt concept, theory, method and practice integrated with change theory and organizational development concepts to formulate and teach. This became known at Gestalt Organizational Systems Development.

    Change happens when a system becomes aware of something in a new way.

    Introducing a new experience to an individual or group expands their awareness and potentially their understanding of that experience. The the more awareness we have, the faster that change happens within us.

    Being able to make a difference with your presence in any room with any number of people anywhere in the world is the invaluable proposition that the practice of Gestalt can create. It is the self-mastery that allows for you to move authentically and strategically in the world with confidence and intention.

    Monika Moss-Gransberry is the president of MKM Management Consulting.

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  • Next up: How to Set Up a Board of Advisors

    How to Set Up a Board of Advisors

    “Never tell your problems to anyone; 20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” --- Lou Holtz

    “Never tell your problems to anyone; 20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” --- Lou Holtz

    The quote above from the former Notre Dame head football coach was referenced during a recent COSE Strategic Planning Course discussion about how business owners should best go about asking for help for their business. For a little context, the panel of SPC speakers were saying that when an entrepreneur is in search of advice, the best place to find it is from other business owners. 

    That’s where a board of advisors can come in handy for a business. But what’s the best way to go about setting up such a board? The SPC panel provided the following advice on how to put together a board that can help you work through your toughest issues.

    Board composition and setup

    So, who should you target to be on your board? People like you! You thought CEO was an acronym for Chief Executive Officer? It’s actually short for Consoling Each Other. These are the people who are going to have the best perspective on the various questions you have about staffing, sales, IT, and such because they’re living it too. Find people who have experience in a skill set that you don’t have. You’re a sales wonder, but struggle with marketing? Find someone who fills that gap. Pick people you will listen to, but avoid customers or vendors. You’re looking for neutral third parties here who aren’t afraid to voice their opinion and hold your feet to the fire.

    The COSE Strategic Planning Course can be a good place to find potential board members for your business. In fact, several speakers said they continue to meet on a regular basis with the other business owners they met during their SPC class.

    To avoid ties, try to have an odd number of people on your board. Also, setting a one-year term for board members is a good timeframe to start with to ensure there is a good fit for both the company and board member and to give the board enough time to understand the ins and outs of your business.

    Running the meeting

    Once you’ve settled on the makeup of the board, you’ll need to decide how often to meet. Setting up quarterly meetings is a good timeframe to start with. It’s also a good idea to pass along a copy of the agenda and any related materials so board members can begin preparing in advance. On the agenda, consider listing out how long you plan to discuss each item (e.g., 15 minutes to recap last quarter’s financials, 30 minutes on staffing, etc.) Designate a timekeeper for each meeting whose role will be to ensure the board doesn’t go over time on agenda items.

    If running a meeting is not your strong suit, don’t be afraid to designate someone to take on that role. You’ll also need someone to take notes during the meeting and then to distribute those notes following the meeting.


    Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind about your board of advisors? Listen to what they have to say! It can be easy to coast along with your business. You need people who are going to ask you the difficult questions that you need to answer if your business is going to grow.

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  • Next up: How Communicating Your Company's Vision Impacts Employee Retention

    How Communicating Your Company's Vision Impacts Employee Retention

    Do your employees understand the vision you've set for your company? If not, you might lose them. Here's why.

    Do you have a clearly stated and communicated vision for your organization? Do you believe all your employees know what the vision is for your company? Is it engaging and inspiring and does it drive key decisions that you and your team make daily?

    I have asked this question to CEOs and their teams for years and found that often, we get so busy and wrapped in goals and tasks that we forget the vision/purpose for the company. I have also heard some leaders say that their employees don’t need to know the vision, they don’t care about it, they only want to know what they need to do. Well, this is partially true but mostly false. 

    Yes, your employees need to know what is expected of them, but they also need to understand where (the vision) we are going and why (the purpose/mission) we want to go there. Unless you want drones working for you that only execute tasks and don’t bring their passion, ideas and creativity, you need to do the work of clearly articulating the vision and purpose. And if you care about retention and engagement, here are some interesting statistics:

    • Seventy percent of executives say employees’ desire for purpose is impacting HR’s ability to recruit and retain top talent.
    • Eighty percent of employees who said they have a good variety of benefits to choose from also said they identified strongly with their organization’s vision and values, as opposed to 40% of those who don’t.
    • More than four in 10 (41%) of employees feel personally aligned with their company’s mission and 49% with their values, yet 94% of employees and 98% of employers say those connections are critical.


    The need for meaningful work

    “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.”   – Friedrich Nietzsche

    The millennial generation is just coming into its own, and its members may not be as entitled and narcissistic as they are commonly portrayed. A study by the career advisory board at DeVry University looked at millennials’ attitudes about employment issues, based on input from hiring managers. The study found that 71% of millennials ranked finding work that is meaningful as one of the top three factors determining their career success, and 30 percent of millennials ranked it as the most important factor.


    Millennials are willing to make less money and work longer, nontraditional hours, as long as their work is personally meaningful.” source

    3 ways to check on your company’s vision

    Great leaders make the picture of the vision and purpose come alive for their teams. I work with executives and their teams to help them clearly identify and define their vision (what), purpose/mission (why) and strategy (how) so that they can focus on the work to achieve their vision. It ranges from half-day vision workshops to multiple day retreats, engaging as much of the leadership and key employees as possible.

    Don’t assume they know or they don’t care, here are three things that you can do right now to see how you are doing:

    Number 1: Look at your vision/mission/purpose - does it still relate to what you are doing today or does it need to be refreshed?  Is it motivating?

    Number 2: At your next team meeting, ask your leaders if they can share the vision / mission /purpose (without looking at the wall).  If they can all explain it consistently, BRAVO, WELL DONE, make sure it cascades down!  If not, consider spending the time to make sure it is not only communicated but understood and embraced by the leadership team.

    Number 3: Ask your sales team if they know the vision/mission/purpose. This is the group that has the most contact with your customer. If they are not aligned to it, there is a big missed opportunity.

    “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Joel A. Barker

    Knowing your vision/mission/purpose is the first step. It sounds simple, but it is so critical.  When you do this right, all your decisions and strategies are aligned to it and it makes it easier for everyone to make the right decisions, stay focused on the right goals and empower your teams.

    Need help?  Reach out to me for a free consultation at jillwindel@talentspecialists.net or schedule a time directly at FREE CONSULTATION

    Jill Windelspecht of Talent Specialists Consulting is an executive organizational consultant, coach, trainer and keynote speaker and podcaster - Brain Hacks 4 Leadership and certified John Maxwell Team Member.  Leveraging neuroscience  and social science to focus on People…Science….Purpose.

    www.TalentSpecialists.net  jillwindel@talentspecialists.net

    Schedule a Free Consultation Here: Schedule Now

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