Sunday, October 23rd, 2016  4 :55:41pm Eastern Time

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MUApril202015 About Your Newsletter:

Hello Readers,

It's funny, when I started what we affectionately call ExecWatch that fateful day in May of 2004,

I never thought 11 years later I'd be thanking you, our readers.

Frankly, back then I wasn't even sure if business people wanted content delivered to their inbox to help them be more productive, apply key management strategies, promote career advancement, reduce their stress - and maybe get home from work a little earlier with less to worry about.

Tens of millions of article reads later - you have more than answered that question. Along the way we've selected thousands of articles that you, your peers, direct reports, managers and very likely your CEO have read. Our editorial staff  (we like to call them the Content Team) of which I am a proud member, has spent countless hours reading through articles that we thought could help you and your organization. Yes, computers, RSS feeds and the internet have come a long way since 2004, but my humble opinion: it is still best left in the hands of actual people to select the content that will benefit, ahh...well... other people!

More art than science - That's our mantra.

That said, The Publishers Corner is my way of inviting you behind the scenes, into the weekly Content meeting that creates your newsletter; to see not only how we selected your content but why we made the selections we did - and how we feel that content can be valuable to you. While I can guarantee that you won't agree with every article we select, or our reason for selecting it, I can guarantee that we will provide you with a different perspective about topics that can help you and your organization.



Publisher's Corner

Mark Ulian

This weeks featured article: 9/14/2015

Selected Article: 3 Keys To Make Your Next Hire A Complete Success

There has been quite a bit written about behavioral interviewing techniques, trick interview questions and Google's recruitment strategy, however, successful hiring can be achieved by applying 3 simple concepts.

The techniques below are the result of hiring hundreds of people over the last 25 years; from Sales to IT to Board of Advisors - and just about every position in between. Since the best candidate will demonstrate each of the three attributes in hierarchal order, each candidate should be considered by whether they meet each key from 1 thru 3 below. While it is possible for a candidate to succeed if they possess 2 of 3 keys (depending on which ones), the only real way to open the lock to the most successful hire is to make sure the candidate fits into all 3 keys:

1) Chemistry: Unless you're hiring employee number one, you are hiring for an organization that already exists. Great sports teams are born from great chemistry on the field, ice, court – in the dressing room – and outside of it. It's essential to evaluate every new hire in light of the "team" he or she is about to join. I don't mean that they spent 30 minutes talking with their peers who gave them the "thumbs-up" to hire. What I am suggesting is that you look very closely at their make-up as it relates to the current team. How will they fit in? For instance: I once ran a 15 person outside sales organization. Our company was 7 years old in an industry that had been around for over 100 years. We were young and disruptive. I had the opportunity to hire an industry veteran from a much more mature company. He was considerably older, more seasoned, and much more experienced than anyone on our sales team. He had been with a much larger competitor for many years, and while he did have exceptional sales skills (see Key #3 Skills) and training, he lacked both chemistry with our existing team and attitude (see Key #2 Attitude). And as is the case with many "can't miss" prospects – his salary requirements were almost twice that of our average sales person at the time. While I can give you all the reasons why I thought this hire was going to be wildly successful, what happened was he spent a lot of time talking about "how he did things" at his previous firm, keeping to himself, being condescending at every opportunity and grossly underperforming – that is until we let him go.

2) Attitude: There are a plethora of "hire for attitude" articles out there and while I think they make a very important point – I also think they’re missing the big picture. Yes, having a positive attitude is essential in order to turn negatives into positives, but it is only one essential component of three. Make no mistake – it's virtually impossible to hire a candidate that doesn't bring a great attitude in every day. Positive attitude in and of itself, however, without chemistry and skills is a non-starter. For example: At our 7 year old upstart we also hired a sales veteran that must have memorized Tom Hopkins section on “ The positive sales approach". Again, he was older, had more experience and seasoning than just about anyone on our sales team. Furthermore, this guy was Mr. Positive no matter how bad the outcome. In fact, he was so positive about his clients, prospects, co-workers, and management he had a hard time seeing, and more importantly learning, from his mistakes. Clients, prospects and sales would come, go away, rinse and repeat. Very little traction. So while he had perhaps the most positive attitude I'd ever seen – he lacked both Chemistry and Skills. You know where that went.

3) Skills: While this is perhaps the easiest key to identify, assess and measure in tangible terms – its also one that is elusive. You see, in order to factor a candidates skills into the equation, you first need to decide what skills are important to the position. Seems easy – right? Sales people are going to be extroverted, positive, and talkative. Unfortunately, many studies have concluded that more often than not the most successful Sales professionals are introverted, and spend more time listening to a conversation than talking over it. Soft-skill identification for purposes of mapping to specific candidates and the positions they are competing for is often times counterintuitive. Hard-skills are quite a bit easier to assign and make part of the hiring equation, however, making absolutely sure a candidate is proficient is another story. For example: Several years ago at ExecWatch we were considering a full-time Application Developer who had spent 5 years with a fortune 500 company. Although he had demonstrated an aptitude for developing solutions in an environment similar to ours – we decided to first hire him as a full-time outsourced (IT recruitment company) resource. It took our tech-team exactly 2 weeks to determine that the Developer had virtually none of the rich skill set that was required to do the development work we needed. During the two weeks the candidate displayed real chemistry with the BWN tech team – and a positive attitude. He just didn't have any of the skills necessary to do the job.

Apply the 3 Keys to your next hire.

My humble opinion: It may take you twice as long to find the person that clearly fits into all 3 keys – but you'll be glad you did.

This weeks featured article: 9/01/2015

Selected Article: Choose Your Mentor (Whether They Know It Or Not)

As my career developed I realized something was missing. It took 2 reasonably successful businesses and 10 years to dawn on me. I guess I should cut myself a break; some people never realize it. Back then I remember reading articles about Mentors: how to identify good ones, how to approach them, ask for a mentorship, build trust… It always seemed so difficult for the person I might be asking. So awkward. So selfishly self-serving. Maybe that's just me. I had worked for several very successful entrepreneurial companies – the founders of which had no lack of originality and charisma – but none of whom I felt I could model my career after. When I was President of my 3rd company - that changed. The only trouble was, my prospective Mentor was the Founder and CEO of a highly successful partner firm and he had no idea that I, or the company I was running, existed. No problem.

Why did I choose my Mentor? Here are a few highlights.

In 1969 he founded the first List Management & Brokerage firm to support catalog mailers (L.L. Bean, Sears, American Management Assoc. and catalogs you might not know) and publishers. His vision created not just a company, but an entire industry of B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) companies that successfully reached customers via U.S. mail. In the 70s, he created the first Data Warehouse’ (Co-Op) where many mailers could contribute customers and better target by mapping recipient interests across many customer lists and data points. Arguably the beginning of "Big Data". Later he pioneered the "Private Database" concept where companies like Microsoft, Dell and HP were able to build their own mailing lists for in-house use to split off the corner of a Co-Op, and have it administered with specialized list resources and marketing tools.

It wasn't that he had invented his firm before there were any of its kind, or that he never took any professional investment money to grow it, or that at one time he employed over 200 people – most of which never left the company once they came in (and many that worked for Dave are still there today), not because he ran the business like a family owned firm - with the performance of a hard-driving publicly traded company, or that this easy-going ex-Marine (apparently those two phrases are not mutually exclusive) invariably treated people with dignity, respect and genuine honesty, and most certainly not because of the legendary story from the early 70s of how he refunded a client $50,000 on-the-spot because they were "unhappy" with the results of their mailing, and most decidedly not because of the fact that when he sold his business, subsequently repurchased it from the behemoth that bought it, then put his team back together and resurrected it, only to sell it once again. He made at least a dozen employees millionaires and many more that never had to worry about college tuition or paying for a kids wedding.

Certainly it was all of the above.

Now back to the story. It didn't hurt that the startup I was running at the time had a Fortune 100 high-tech client roster fueling some nice growth for my prospective Mentor's partner firm. I had a plan. "Build it and he will come." Perhaps more accurately: "Build it, get it noticed, and then come to him." Of course, it didn't hurt that my personal mentoring recruitment plan also had the dual role of more rapidly fueling my firm’s growth. Two birds. One stone. One good shot. My first job was to be recognized by the people in the firm where he worked. Then get a first meeting. Impress Dave with my view of the industry, ideas for new products that could help mailers.

It took years for Dave to take my calls. And many more for him to listen to my thoughts, and commit his company assets to them. Success beget more success. All the while I kept showing him that he (and his firm) was important to me beyond the new markets we were opening and revenue we were creating together. I always went above and beyond for Direct Media. He always took the extra time to counsel me (gently steering my direction). At 30 years my senior – he became my professional father. I'd like to think that in the end – I helped him work through some business problems he faced - while he was helping me face mine. When the time came for me to start company #4; he was the first person who saw the investment slide-deck.

"Mark, I love the company. It's a winner. But you don't need me or my investment money to start this company." Of course, he was right and I was too close to it to see it. That's Dave. He'll give it to you straight – even if he might loose an opportunity in the process.

Funny, I'm the same age today that Dave was when I met him. The company he told me I could start on my own, is going on 12 years now. Over the last few years I've had a number of business colleagues (several former Direct Media employees) reach out to me to discuss startups they have conceived. I always take the time to meet and consider their plan. I try to give them a genuine opinion about whatever they ask. Pay it forward I believe is the term.

Oh, and I recently had lunch with Dave not to far from the former headquarters of the company he founded. I hadn't seen him in 6-7 years. I got up from the table to meet him at the door and reeled his outstretched handshake into a bear hug. We sat down and began talking like we had just had lunch last week. He was sharp as a tack. "Dave, I just want to tell you that you were my Mentor all these years, that I'd never have been here without your advice, and I'd like to write a LinkedIn article about you if you don't mind". He paused for a moment, and then I watched his ear-to-ear smile work its way up to a twinkle in his eye as he quietly replied: "I'd like that".

Who is your Mentor?

This weeks featured article: 8/17/2015

Selected Article: 3 Things Your Boss Wants From You Today & 3 Things You'll Get In Return

The last boss I had that was not a client, was in 1987.

I won't restate the year I graduated from Northeastern University – but suffice to say it was only a few years before that.

I started in Sales.

My initial business training was to report to the client first, and look at all decisions through their eyes. Over the years, with each company I've owned and operated, I have continued to make decisions in much the same way I was trained.

How will the decision affect the Readers?


How would I feel about the decision if I were in their shoes?

Although I do not profess to know what your boss wants from your perspective, I do have extensive experience knowing what your boss wants from their perspective. Interestingly enough, what they really want from you may in fact be what you really want from them.

Imagine that.

Be The Boss Before You Are The Boss: "See the Big Picture" and "Connecting the dots" do not do this justice.

Before you come to your Manager with a problem, first make sure it’s a problem worthy of a side-bar.

Secondly, make sure you come in with at least one viable solution to discuss.

Better yet, bring several strong options in with you. If the conversation turns into a discussion about your proposed options – job well done.

When you do present your boss with an important issue and the opportunity to discuss solutions, trust that he or she will feel great when you walk out – even if the ultimate solution turns out to be different from the one(s) you suggested.

Oh, and as you continue to make the above SOP, don't be surprised if your boss starts looking to you for more guidance and responsibility when decisions need to be made. I know I would be.

Macro Manage The Micro Management: My humble opinion: "Micro Managing" is a direct result of a lack of confidence (read: insecurity).

Sure, your boss needs to know what you're doing today – but they also need to know you're working independently, creatively, productively AND expediently.

Create a hierarchal list of what you have going on each week from top priority to bottom. Identify future contingencies and potential issues. I refer to this as a hybrid to-do list. Its a birds-eye view with a few key "to do's" referenced underneath the larger items.

If your boss is a Micro Manager start sending the list update (adds, drops, changes) at the end of each day. When you are hit with the inevitable Micro Management questions, begin by responding, "That should be in today's report".

Next, move from sending a daily report to a weekly version (now you're building more confidence) and change the response to "that should be in this week’s report". Depending on the industry you're in, your performance, and your boss – it’s quite possible to take the weekly report out much further.

Hopefully, your boss will respond by first landing, and then moth-balling the helicopter hovering over your head each day.

Next thing you know – your quality of work improves promoting (you guessed it) a more "Macro Management" approach from your boss.

Dare I say happiness begins to set in?

Now you and your boss are Macro Managing!

You Go Business Pro: While it may be true that some things in the office are personal, you need to check your emotions at the front door.

Remember, there is always the coffee machine or water cooler for those emotions that sneak through.

If your boss has a problem doing the same (see my previous post LINKEDIN LINK TO "Toxic Boss") it may be gut check time.

Adopt a matter-of-fact persona at work. Challenge yourself to be calm, cool and collected even in the face of the worst possible disaster.

Let the office politics roll – and be a team leader by showing leadership – not filibustering meetings. Address team members with professionalism and respect. Improve your vocabulary and storytelling by reading books you like.

If your position is not customer facing – your best hope to graduate into a customer facing position is to show your professionalism internally.

Don't be surprised if your boss starts to look to you for more – much more.

Reciprocity is a two-way street and you now have both lanes open.

What are three things you want from your boss today?

This weeks featured article: 7/20/2015

Selected Article: Getting People To Agree With You

Everyone from the CEO to the Mailroom Manager needs to build consensus. But how do you get people to agree to advance your idea? If persuasive success often seems elusive - you are not alone. In fact, very few people understand the give and take of agreement. Or put in other terms - how to lay the foundation, and then get someone to actually agree with YOU.

My favorite elective in college was Philosophy of Religion (second only to Psychology). While I wasn't the brightest bulb in the room by a long shot, I did pull an A in that class mainly because I could quickly formulate a good argument - and then back it up.

Not surprisingly, my track record in high-school and college arguing with retailers, school administrators, and parents (sorry Mom) was better than average. My fact-attack strategy seemed to be pretty effective, albeit as I would find out later, only to a point. Yes, I could wear-out the other side with a better argument, perhaps even set-them-up to walk into my debating points, however, this proved to be ineffective as the stakes got higher.

Why was that?

It's been proven that the more you take-on a particular position that differs from another person - the more vehemently the other person defends their position - even when they know its wrong. That's right - wrong! The more you keep increasing the intensity of your argument the bigger the size of the wall the other side builds to shut you out.

And of course, when the other side begins to make their argument - what do you think you're going to do? Correct. You're going to dig in. Does this seem like a recipe for consensus? Fascinatingly (is that really a word?), almost all of us get sucked into the vortex.

Do you want to break the rip-tide?

First, stop swimming against it and start swimming with it. Find a point that the other side is making - or better yet find a point that might contrast you're position positively - and agree - FIRST. And I don't mean as meekly stated: "you make a good point" or "I can see that". What I mean is come right out and say with conviction "You know, I can honestly say that I absolutely agree..."

Here is an example:

A few years ago I was on a conference call with a Fortune 500 client to debrief a lead-gen pilot program we had executed for them. There were 6 members of the Marketing team on the call, including the VP responsible for the decision to roll-out the program - and me. As I'm fond of saying "it was a mismatch on their best day!"

All kidding aside - there was one woman on the team I knew was going to make the point that the leads we had been providing did not exactly match the Preference profile criteria. Of course, I thought the leads were better than any other partner was able to provide.

So instead of spending 15 minutes disagreeing and debating the point - I agreed wholeheartedly with the woman's analysis, gave props to her for pointing out the issue, and absolutely agreed that there was a flaw in the Preference mapping.

I spent about 3-4 minutes agreeing to a number of points related to the above. When I was finished the woman (and team) quietly listened. I then spent 15 minutes explaining how the leads we were providing were incredibly accurate, conversion ready, and just might be THE best leads generated on behalf of this Fortune 500 company.

Everyone listened; and everyone agreed.

Much to my surprise, the woman who came into the meeting ready to submarine the program - agreed that we should continue to roll it out. That Fortune 500 company generated $5,000,000 in NEW business directly from the leads we provided for that program - many times their own ROI on Marketing dollar spend.

My humble opinion: If you want to get more agreement - give more agreement.

This weeks featured article: 6/22/2015

Selected Article: Toxic Boss? How Successful People Overcome Them

My first foray into owning a business was an Office Supply company with two college buddy's. From a small storefront stationer, to a Commercial Office and Computer Supply Dealer – we took that company a long way. Starting with 4 employees and $250,000 in annual sales – and 7 years later growing to 30 employees and $7,000,000 annually. My job was to manage Sales, Marketing and IT. That was a time when Staples, Office Depot, and OfficeMax we're battling each other for retail growth – and eyeing Commercial Stationers (like us) for acquisition to a new business marketplace. "There is a time to eat, and a time to be eaten" I recall saying to my fellow Board members as we debated an acquisition offer. But that’s a subject for another day.

After I sold my interest in that business, and before the next venture – I took a consulting gig from a non-competing Computer Supply Dealer. The husband and wife owners seemed nice enough as we discussed how I might be able to help them. With the ink not dry on the consulting agreement – I arrived for my first day in the office. The first thing I noticed was that everyone, and I mean everyone, was there at 8:29am. In fact, those closest to 8:30am were running in like it was raining cats and dogs outside. I remember thinking – wow these people are pretty dedicated. At 8:35am the last of the inside sales people arrived, and at 8:36am the owner calmly rose from his glass office and headed for the rep's desk. The rep hadn't even got his coat off as the booming voice of the 6'4" Brit began to rise above the sales floor. 5 minutes later, the red-faced owner returned to his office; the rant on the employee's tardiness, recent performance, and future prospects completed. No one but me even looked up. Of course, everyone heard.

Over the coming weeks I watched as Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde returned daily. One day Dr. Jekyll was smiling laughing and joking with the troops, the next minute Mr. Hyde would appear and berate someone in front of all. It was the most unprofessional, toxic work environment I'd ever seen. The co-owner (wife) had her own version of Jekyll and Hyde – and occasionally they'd turn the shouting match on each other (now that was funny). The employees reminded me of abused dogs at the shelter, beaten so badly for so many years they were numb. One of the top reps, an older women who had been at this company since inception (10 years) would literally pour her heart out to me every week. "Why do you stay" I would say to her. "With your accounts and experience, you could go anywhere you wanted." She never gave me a good answer but her eyes did: she had been brow-beaten and brainwashed into thinking her only value was in staying. Sadly, she had a major health problem while I was there. It wasn't long after that I ended my "consulting agreement".

I just Googled the company and it's still there - albeit with a new President, Executive team and employees. Of the 30~ current employees, I can identify only one person as remaining from my short stint. Maybe the owners sold the business. Perhaps health-problems beget them. Maybe, they realized that they cannot go on like this. I know I sure did. My humble opinion: Often times the best way to deal with a toxic boss is to remove yourself from the toxicity altogether.

This weeks featured article: 6/9/2015

Selected Article: 5 Ways To Tell When, And When Not, To Stick To The Plan

A few years ago I was invited to sit on the Advisory Board of a Venture backed tech startup in our industry. I tried not to act too excited when the CEO, in his best matter-of-fact voice, said:

“Mark, I'm putting together an Advisory Board and I'd like you to consider joining.”

I had my eye on this company since it had won a West Coast Angel competition – and its first $1M~ investment. The Series A was a forgone conclusion. Automatic. I'd be joining some pretty heavy hitters on the Board. Many of them I either knew from industry events over the years - or knew of. I took a few days to mull it over. The time. The travel. The distraction from running my own company. In the end, the chance to join a group of talented executives, and help guide a funded tech-startup was just too much. The fact that the technology platform could revolutionize our industry didn't hurt either.

“If the offer is still on the table – I'm in.”

I believe was what I said on the phone. Over the subsequent months the business model and planned execution was laid out. There was already an existing platform under full fledged development, customers, and revenue, albeit small, when I arrived in NYC for an industry trade-show. I met the CEO at his booth to get the latest demo and see the technology in action. As we walked to the back of the Convention Center and sat down, he let me know the development schedule and first planned Advisory Board Meeting. Then he dropped the bomb.

“We're going to turn off the sales and marketing effort so we can devote more time to building out the platform features.”

I felt like a goalie turning around to pull the puck out of the net. Red lights going off all over the place. The CEO clearly had a plan to develop THE best technology platform – the question in my mind was for who? I listened carefully to all of the reasons why turning off the customers and revenue made perfect sense. Then I looked at the CEO and asked if he could keep the customers going while he built-out the platform. Others asked during the months following, but the plan was in place. By the time the first Board meeting convened in Las Vegas, v2 had launched and sales had been turned back on – from a full stop. No traction. No momentum. This seemed very easy to me and the rest of the Board. We need to focus time, effort, energy, and resources on the sales and marketing strategy. The CEO seemed to have another idea:

“We should build out the platform with more features and functionality first.”

Ahh yes, build it and they will come. The ruin of many-a-startup. Interestingly enough, throughout the highly charged Board meeting the Venture firm that had the $5M~ invested was noticeably quiet. Surely THEY would chime-in and allow the Founder to see the err of his way. Of course, the company ran itself out of money a few years later. Many of the Board members (myself included) had long since moved-on. Over the years I've owned and operated a number of businesses. I've learned a few things and one of them is never tell a customers you can't help them – simply reset the price for the help you are to provide.

If they still want the product or service, then that must be considered in the business plan. In other words, the plan has to be fluid, it has to live, change and morph into a new plan each day, month and quarter. The plan is: start with a plan, and if it’s working try and figure out how to make it better. If its not working then try and figure out how to make it better. You can apply the plan to just about anything you do, just remember-stick to the plan.

This weeks featured article: 5/26/2015

Selected Article: Huge Risks Everyone Needs To Take (At Least Once)

There I sat in my office. Newly unemployed 42 year-old with a loving wife, 3 kids, a dog, a house and bills to pay. It was 2002, and the mushroom cloud from the dot-bomb explosion seemed to be spreading out, enveloping more companies daily. The one I was running became the latest casualty. I kept thinking about my idea for a B2b digital publishing company. As the days (and sleepless nights) continued on, it was obvious to everyone in both my immediate and extended family what a reasonably young, successful Ex CEO should do: look for a job. It seemed so simple to everyone - everyone but me.

Now, some people have their best idea's during the day, or driving to work, maybe eating breakfast - or perhaps in the shower. I had an Organizational Behavior Professor at Northeastern that used to tell us he ALWAYS had his best ideas in the middle of the night. My 20 year-old friends and I would laugh at this 40 something Harvard grad's stories of how he kept a notepad and pen next to his bed every night. It turns out, while I'm a little different in that I actually wake-up with an answer, we share the same trait. Nighttime is when we thought best.

Over the years, I've noticed, I can go to bed with a problem on my mind, wake up 3-4 hours later with an answer - and usually a good one. After so long, I have actually come to expect to solve problems in my sleep (Note to self: try and solve more problems during business hours). After a week of winding down the company I was with, talking with family, friends, and business associates - I woke up at 3am in a cold-sweat. The ExecWatch Network was born.

At the moment I woke-up I literally could visualize the entire company from a birdseye vantage point. Not the in-the-weeds details, just the business at a high-level. The next day I woke up, head spinning, and told my wonderful wife the plan. "Honey, I'm going to start my own company". Her eyes glassed over as she shot back quickly "You're going to what? Are you out of your mind? How are we going to pay the bills? You won't have a salary? We're going to have to use all of our money to start this - and there are no guarantees the business will succeed?" Of course she was right. From her standpoint the risk was excessive. But I just knew the business would be successful. I had the industry contacts to pre-wire it's success. All I needed to do was get out there on that diving board and not worry about the belly flop.

I'm 54 now, one out of college, another headed off too. Even the "baby" is 13. I hope the next time you have an opportunity to take some risk you think about this story. I know I do.

This weeks featured article: 5/7/2015

Selected Article: How to Quit Asking Bad Questions and Start Asking Great Questions

There is an old adage in sales that a trainer by the name of Tom Hopkins made famous years ago: make your value proposition to your prospect in the most compelling possible way - and then stop. The next person that speaks loses. What he meant was that silence is a great communication tool. What?  How can silence be a great way to communicate? Well, it most certainly will communicate exactly what the other person is thinking - albeit after what might be considered a painful silence. The strategy Mr. Hopkins was employing can best be described as: most people like to fill-in that uncomfortable silence, often times with exactly what is on their mind (in this instance; the information required to make the sale).

Now let's move this concept into more of an internal organizational setting. When I meet with team members at ExecWatch Network, often times I think I know the answer right away to a particular issue that may surface. When we first started the company 11 years ago, I'd chime-right in with what I thought was the answer to the problem and then silently start looking around the room. All I'd see were nodding faces and we'd all happily move on with the meeting. Ah, I thought, another problem solved. I'm so darn good, so efficient, a problem solving machine.  

"It took me years to figure out was I was actually creating more problems than I was solving."

While I was effectively using silence to communicate I was also supplying a closed-ended sentence as an answer instead of an open-ended question to gather information. The reality was; I didn't even understand the problem let alone the best solution. I was a problem multiplier not a problem solver.  

Today, I try to approach every problem as if I don't really understand it. I let the person communicate what they feel the problem(s) might be and I ask an open-ended one sentence question (followed by a silence of course) to elicit more information and options in an attempt to solve the issue at hand. I began to learn a lot more about our business. And in-turn Employees think a lot more about the problems - and best possible solutions.

How do you use questions to solve problems? 

This weeks featured article: 4/21/2015

Selected Article: 5 Surprising Insights About Steve Jobs Management Style (Q&A with the authors of the book Becoming Steve Jobs) goes far beyond all that has been written (and it is voluminous) about Steve Jobs' Management style.

Contrary to popular belief, there was an evolution of Steve Jobs Management style during his career. Yes that's right - even Steve Jobs recognized (albeit not publicly) when his Management style failed, and attempted to make course corrections the next time out. Perhaps early in his career, Steve Jobs personality was such that there was little bandwidth (no pun) for processing his own Management style. However, over the years he did make changes that contributed greatly to his success in the 2 nd , 3 rd and 4 th acts of his business career. Imagine that. You may have more in common with Steve Jobs than you thought, although you wouldn't want to try and imitate his Management style. In fact, what I've found over the years is that great Managers invariably develop a style that dovetails their own personality first - and then refine and enhance the effectiveness of what makes that style work for them. That might sound counterintuitive: Don't I want to fit my personality into a proven, made-for-success Management style? In my experience owning and/or operating a number of businesses and managing hundreds of employees: THE most critical element of any highly effective Management style is how well that style fits the personality characteristics of the Manager.

I began selling PC's back in the 80's. That was back when a Reseller (VAR) needed an IBM/HP/Apple/Compaq (now I'm dating myself) medallion (actual storefront) to sell PC hardware, software, service and training. I was fresh out of college. My first Manager at Moore Business Systems in Boston was a 30 something, chain-smoking Midwesterner whose personality could best be described as easy going, back-slapping "what works best - is best" guy who had adopted a "by-the-book" (literally by the Moore Business Systems book) Management style. Not only did his style not fit his personality, it ran contrary to an industry where there was no book to follow - mainly because the book was being written every day! It was almost as if he had read the latest Management how-to book and tried to take on the persona the book depicted. Otherwise, he'd sit in his office most of the day and study inventory reports. We'd only see his high-spirited, engaging personality after hours. A complete disconnect between the Management style he had adopted and his personality. As you might expect, that Manager underachieved and ultimately lost most of his talented employees including me.

After securing some very good Corporate clients, I moved on to BusinessLand where my new Store Manager from NY was outgoing, outspoken, opinionated and determined to commit those traits to my success and the success of the store. His first move was to forgo the corner office in lieu of the conference room in the middle of the space where everyone could see and hear him. Back in the early 80s this was considered completely out of the Management playbook. His door was always open and he thrived on communicating every success, no matter how small, to the entire team. Even if it meant standing on his desk with his hands over his head yelling about the day's success story. He kept building his Management style around his personality. He was completely comfortable in his own skin, and uninhibited in applying his craft.

"In my view, this was because he started with his own personality, extended it to meet the Management needs of the business, and continued to refine and enhance that style to achieve success."

It started with knowing who he was. His store was consistently in the top 10 nationally (well over 300 stores) in terms of sales, growth, profitability and employee retention.

What is YOUR personality? What Management style best suits you?

Oh, and a side-note about Steve Jobs. Two weeks before he passed away BWN quietly received an email from Apple asking if we could remove Sjobs at from BWN TechWatch and ExecWatch newsletter lists. The email created quite a stir here and I recall at the time thinking this is either a prank or an ominous sign. Like most people I never met Steve Jobs - but perhaps that didn't stop us from sharing some ideas about Management.


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