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If the Shoe Fits: Juxtaposition of Values

October 21st, 2016 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mI’ve been talking, a lot in the last few weeks about the importance of values.

And more importantly, why/how they need to be embedded in your company’s culture to protect it as you grow.

Not just my thoughts, but links to business leaders and entrepreneurs who say the same thing.

The problem, of course, is that talk is fast and easy, while execution takes time and effort.

And that’s the reason  the result often looks like this.


Image credit: HikingArtist and Thomson Reuters via CB Insights

Entrepreneurs: Tien Tzuo on Learning from Marc Benioff

October 20th, 2016 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/howardlake/9289616655/Founders have a new, or should I say, back to the future, attitude regarding the success of their companies.

It can be summed up in one word: revenue.

While there are great examples and plenty of advice on generating revenue, as opposed to just growing users, I think these four lessons that Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, the eleventh hire at Salesforce.Com and its first CMO, learned from Marc Benioff are worth keeping front and center in your mind (details are at the link.).

  • Pitching is Listening.
  • Run towards big ideas, not away.
  • Never lose sight of your first principles.
  • Tear Up the Master Plan.

Based on my experience, founders, especially younger founders, will have the most trouble with the first and the third in the list.

Pitching is Listening: whether driven by passion, nervousness or fear, most founders want to push their vision, their product, their ideas to potential customers.

Marc is always testing his ideas, testing his strategy, testing his vision.  Marc is always in a mindset to listen, to observe, to understand, and it’s this discipline that allows him to always be in touch with the marketplace. It’s easy for people in his position to get disconnected and fall prey to myopic thinking.

Never lose sight of your first principles: it takes thought and a solid knowledge of oneself to identify core principles. Unfortunately, taking the time and spending the energy on such an ostensibly esoteric goal seems to happen less and less these days.

Try searching “invest in yourself” and you’ll find that most talk about adding skills, exploring/developing your creativity and maximizing physical and mental health.

That’s all good, but if you truly want to invest in yourself then set aside time to know yourself, i.e., your values and basic principles; the intangibles that make you you.

Image credit: Howard Lake

The Humorous Side of Layoffs

October 19th, 2016 by Miki Saxon

https://www.flickr.com/photos/searchengineland/2263318234/Michael Smith, CEO of TeraTech and a past client of mine, sent a link to a Medium post about recognizing the signs that a layoff is coming.

Here are three examples.

  • Fresh CEO blood.
  • Loss of eye contact.
  • Earlier rounds of layoffs.

I  would add

  • Lots of smoke and dancing by management, instead of answers.

Obviously, layoffs aren’t funny.

However, management’s belief that no one will notice the signs is funny.


Because you can’t brag about hiring smart people and then assume they will miss the telltale signs around them that something is wrong.

Image credit: search-engine-land

Ducks in a Row: John Legere and T-Mobile

October 18th, 2016 by Miki Saxon

T-Mobile un-carrier movement

*click image to read

John Legere is not your typical big company CEO. Legere is an ancient 58 year-old leading a company filled with Millennials in a market driven by them.

Perhaps he should be termed the “un-CEO,” just as he is branding T-Mobile as the “un-carrier.”

… his mission to turn T-Mobile into an Un-carrier — essentially the opposite of any other mobile company.

The interview with him is worth reading, especially if you want to learn how to compete against brands (AT&T and Verizon) that are better known and far richer and successfully lead people who are not like you.

In just four short years he has taken Deutsche Telekom owned T-Mobile from a joke to the third-largest and fastest-growing carrier in the US.

Not too shabby.

He radically changed the culture, and, as he says, “set out to solving customer pain points in an attempt to fix a stupid, broken, arrogant industry.”

And not just with talk; but with an additional million square miles of LTE and new services, such as Binge On (unlimited streaming at 480p quality from services like Netflix), forcing competitors to follow suit.

His advice to business school students is something that anybody at the helm of any company, from the the corner dry cleaner to the Fortune 5, should embrace.

“I can summarize everything you need to know to lead a major corporation. Are you prepared to write this down?” And then they get all ready. I tell them I can summarize how I succeed as a leader: Listen to your employees, listen to your customers, shut the f— up, and do what they tell you. Then I say that the genius of the marketing strategy that we’ve had in every company that I’ve ever been in, is that if you ask your customers what they want and you give it to them, you shouldn’t be shocked if they love it.

Ask your customers. Listen to your customers. Give your customers what they want.

Definitely rocket science.

Image credit: T-Mobile via BI

Golden Oldies: The Screen that Kills Connection, Friendship and Empathy

October 17th, 2016 by Miki Saxon

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

A couple of years ago I cited research that showed how the vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and that, like muscles, it needs exercise to stay strong; screen time weakens that connection. I also predicted that the research would fall on deaf ears if it fell at all. Sometimes I hate when I’m right, so here it is again. Read it carefully, share it with all your friends and then plan your own vagus exercise routine.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitpedia/4882197805People’s preoccupation with their screens has been blamed for many things and if you’ve been around someone who kept sneaking peeks while talking you know how annoying that is.

But did you know it messes up not only your brain, but also your capacity for connection, friendship, empathy, as well as your actual physical health?

Texting even messes up your infant’s future!

New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.

It’s not just a case of being distracted.

Your vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart and how you handle your social connections affects the vagal tone, which, like muscle tone, can improve with exercise and that, in turn, increases the capacity for connection, friendship and empathy.

In short, the more attuned to others you become, the healthier you become, and vice versa. This mutual influence also explains how a lack of positive social contact diminishes people. Your heart’s capacity for friendship also obeys the biological law of “use it or lose it.” If you don’t regularly exercise your ability to connect face to face, you’ll eventually find yourself lacking some of the basic biological capacity to do so.

Do I think this research will actually make a difference in people’s actions?


Even if the information becomes widespread I don’t think people would give up the instant gratification of being mentioned or conquer their FOMO and focus instead on quality face time.

It doesn’t seem a big deal right now, but look into the future at a world that doesn’t just lack connection and empathy, but is filled with people who aren’t even capable of it.

I’m glad I won’t be around.

One last item; a short essay that says better than I have in the past exactly why I don’t carry a cell phone. Enjoy!

Flickr image credit: Digitpedia Com

If the Shoe Fits: the Empathy of Jack Dorsey

October 14th, 2016 by Miki Saxon

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mA few weeks ago I wrote about three ways to close a company — the right way, the wrong way and the (allegedly) crooked way — and years ago referenced Guy Kawasaki’s guide to laying people off.

The common thread that runs through them, both the to-do and not-to-do, is the need for honesty with employees and the speed with which rumors will spread and kill moral.

A year ago Twitter laid off over 300 people — most by by email, but some by more of a lockout.

We’re hearing that at least a handful of employees who weren’t remote also woke up to seeing that they were laid off via the fact that their emails and Hipchat, a messaging product, had been turned off overnight.

These days, continuing rumors of more layoffs to come, combined with chaotic reports that the company may be sold, has sent morale spiraling downward at an alarming rate.

Rank-and-file staff members are frustrated about being in the dark on the company’s future, and a handful of employees have stopped showing up for work entirely, several insiders said.

Dorsey’s response to the turmoil is garbage.

“I empathize with the feelings that come from the constant critique, the constant negativity, and the constant doubt.”

There is no way a guy worth more than a billion dollars can put himself in the shoes of someone who depends on their paycheck to feed their kids and pay the mortgage/rent.

And that lack of empathy shines clearly through the rest of his comment.

“But hey, that’s life in the arena. All we control is how we choose to react to it.”

I sincerely hope that his global workforce is choosing to update their resumes and react with their feet.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: What Leadership Looks Like

October 13th, 2016 by Miki Saxon

KG emailed me this cartoon and asked what I thought.

leader-bossI responded that I had a better image of leadership, only mine was drawn with words.

I’ve shared them here before, but a reminder never hurts.

As for the best leaders,
the people do not notice their existence.

The next best,
the people honor and praise.

The next, the people fear;
and the next, the people hate—

When the best leader’s work is done,
the people say, “We did it ourselves!”

To lead the people, walk behind them.

–Lao Tzu

Now that’s what I consider a beautiful image.

Image credit: Anonymous via the Internet

Innovation and the National Park Service

October 12th, 2016 by Miki Saxon

Bureaucracies are not noted for their vision or rapid adoption of new technology and the National Park Service is a prime example of that.

So it was a major surprise to see that the NPS is integrating cutting edge technology in iconic Yellowstone Park’s infrastructure.

Not only that, but NPS is doing it with a public/private partnership, to boot.

The new concrete, called Flexi-Pave, is made with stones and recycled tires, and Michelin has been helping them install it all over the park.

Wow. If NPS can do something this radical maybe there’s hope for progress on other fronts and from other bureaucracies.

Video credit: Tech Insider

Ducks in a Row: To Get It, First Give It

October 11th, 2016 by Miki Saxon


A response on Quora offers a key good insight for human interaction. It’s especially applicable when leading/managing a team, whether you’re a CEO or just-promoted supervisor.

A knight on his weary horse pulling up to house of a peasant. “Peasant, water for my horse and food and ale for me.”
Whilst eating and drinking, he says to the peasant “I am heading for the next town, what are the people like there?”
The peasant inquires “What we the people like in the last town you visited?”
The knight thinks and says, “The towns’ people were dishonest, unfriendly thieves, I was glad to leave the place.”
The peasant replied “Sadly, I think you will find the people in the next town the same.”

One week later another knight pulls up to the same peasant on his weary horse and says, “Excuse my look, but my horse and I have travelled far. If you have some food and water for my horse and also for myself, I would be grateful.”
The peasant feeds them both, with ale for the knight also, when the knight asks, “We are heading for the next town, what are the people like there?”
“What were they like in the last town you left?”
asks the peasant.
“They were the most wonderful, generous people I have ever met. I was sad to leave them,” answered the knight.
“Do not worry,” said the peasant, “they are are the same in the next town.”

In other words, people rise to your level of expectations.

Not only do they rise, but they also sink when expectations are low. This is most obvious when considering the difference between schools and teachers.

Although more subtle, it applies just as accurately to the workplace.

If you want your people to trust you — trust them first.

If you want respect — offer it first.

While the list of wants is endless, the recipe for achieving them remains the same.

To get what you want, give it first.

Flickr image credit: Chuck Black

Golden Oldies: Customer Service Week 2016

October 10th, 2016 by Miki Saxon

It’s amazing to me, but looking back at more than a decade of writing I find posts that still impress, with information that is as useful now as when it was written.

Golden Oldies is a collection of what I consider some of the best posts during that time.

In case you didn’t know, today is the start of Customer Service Week, focusing on “the importance of great customer experiences to the success of the organization and reinforce a customer-focused culture.” “Customer” typically refers to the people who buy your product, but they aren’t your only customers, especially if you’re a manager. That’s why today’s Golden Oldies includes two posts, with several links to additional, valuable information on the subject of customers and how to keep them. One new link seems worth including; it explains why, unlike other fields, the constant practice involved in active customer service can seriously reduce empathy — an absolute requirement of great customer service.

Read other Golden Oldies here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/angelaarcher/5166009978/Who is Your Customer?

Customer service is a major topic these days (more on that tomorrow); as is employee retention, but do they really have anything in common?


Every manager, from team leader to CEO, is also a customer service manager, because your people are your customers.

That’s right, customers.

More accurately, that makes you an ESM—employee service manager.

Why do you service your people? To

  • help them achieve their full potential;
  • assure high productivity;
  • lower turnover; and
  • create an environment that’s a talent magnet.

How do you service your people? By

  • cultivating the kind of MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) that truly values people and understands how important it is to manifest that;
  • offering high-grade professional challenges to all your people and making sure that they have the resources and all the information necessary to achieve success;
  • fostering fairness so that people know they are evaluated on their merits and favoritism plays no part; and
  • always walking your talk and living up to your commitments.

What’s in it for you?

  • Better reviews, promotions and raises;
  • increased professional development;
  • less turnover and easier staffing; and
  • what goes around comes around—everything that you give your people will come back to you ten-fold!

Flickr image credit: Angela Archer

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/6467405231Employee Retention: Not Rocket Science

Yesterday we looked at how a new IBM analytics tool that analyzes tweets found that customer loyalty was severely impacted by employee turnover.

A decade ago research by Frederick Reichheld found that a 5% improvement in employee retention translated to a 25%-100% gain in earnings.

Deloitte recently released its annual survey, which seems to back up the need for improved retention.

2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, their annual comprehensive study of HR, leadership, and talent challenges, the top ten talent challenges reported for 2015 are: culture and engagement, leadership, learning and development, reinventing HR, workforce on demand, performance management, HR and people analytics, simplification of work, machines as talent, and people data everywhere.

The first three are nothing new; the terms have changed over the years, although not the meaning behind them or their ranking as top concerns.

In a major employee retention push, companies are turning to algorithms and analytics to mine a raft of data, identify which employees are most likely to leave and then try to change their minds.

But some things never seem to change and until they do companies won’t make much headway.

At Credit Suisse, managers’ performance and team size turn out to be surprisingly powerful influences (emphasis added –ed.), with a spike in attrition among employees working on large teams with low-rated managers.

With decades of research saying the same thing, it makes one wonder why the finding was “surprising.”

In fact, nothing will change until companies, bosses and the media stop being surprised every time a survey shows that talent acquisition and retention is most influenced by

  • the culture in which they work;
  • the bosses for whom they work;
  • the work itself; and
  • the difference they can make.

Gee, maybe it really is rocket science.

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson

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