Monthly Archives: March 2009

Culture Comes From the Top Down

This principle exists independent of any specific domain, and has come up recently in two completely different contexts.

First, I was having a discussion about some different civilizations and societies from history, and it was noted that the culture of the group seemed to almost always be established by the leader and his or her attitude. If a king was honorable, his subjects tended to follow his lead. If a leader was lazy or promiscuous, so went the folks.

Then a little later, I was watching a sports show, talking about the NCAA basketball tournament, and the commentators all agreed that the attitude and demeanor of the coach was the biggest element in shaping the team.

This principle absolutely holds true in business. Zappos is a great example of everyone at the company enjoying life, because that’s the attitude of the CEO. I have also observed that the best way to motivate a team, department or company, is simply the example of the leader. If they have a good work ethic, stay late to get tasks done, and are always excited, these same characteristics tend to find their way to the masses, as if by magic. On the other hand, nothing seems to keep people from pushing themselves, like a leader who is lazy.

While this is the natural flow, it can be altered. Even if your direct supervisor falls into the not-so-good category, you can make a conscious decision to break the chain. By setting the right example and having the right attitude, your group can attain success and set the standard for everyone else.

Thoughts on “The Influencer”

Last week I sat in on a presentation by Ron McMillan from Vital Smarts, on how to be an effective influencer.

Overall the presentation was excellent. He began by claiming that the most important thing we can learn is how to influence ourselves and others. Obviously this statement can become so broad that it encompasses just about anything, but his point was right on. He discussed how almost everything we do, from trying to diet, to raising children, to succeeding in the workplace, can be boiled down to a task of influencing ourselves or others.

He gave several examples of various people they studied who had been measurably and consistently successful influencers, and the proceeded to outline what they felt like each had in common.

First, each successful influencer started by identifying the specific results that they wanted to obtain. SMART goals were referenced here.

Next, influeners identified the behavioral modifications that needed to happen to achieve these goals. He referred to these as “Vital Behaviors,” which are a small handful of behaviors that if lived will have a direct causation of the results desired. In his description, these few behaviors will cause the whole house of cards to fall down. And these can be positively or negatively focussed, such as “always do this” or “never do that.”

The last step was to identify what he called the “Spheres of Influence” that would lead to each behavior. Essentially, there is type of influence associated with both motivation and ability for each of the personal, social, and environmental realms.

He then went on to site examples of how to help establish each of these spheres so that they point toward the vital behavior. And suggested that in order to properly succeed, it is essential to ensure that all six spheres are aligned, because if one is pushing someone away from the behavior it can cause everything to fail.

Throughout the presentation the two things that stood out to me most were:

1. Working backwards from specific goals, setting up a series of steps that will each trigger, almost without fail, the next. Then all you have to do is knock over the first domino, which is much easier to quantify, than the end goal.

2. Observing the six different “Spheres of Influence” and thinking about how each one can and must be applied for each of the vital behaviors.

All in all an excellent presentation, and I must say that I’m planning on buying their buying their book this week.

Email: The First 50 Characters

An email came in the other day from my utility company, telling me they received my payment.

“Return to Home Dear Scott Burton” it began…

Obviously, when the message was pulled up completely, it was formatted to look all pretty, but that doesn’t come through on a preview in Gmail, Outlook, etc, as well as most PDAs.

This brings up two keys points about email in general, but especially the first line.

1. Make sure it is readable if no styling is applied. As mentioned, the first glance at your email will usually be through a preview or a PDA. The biggest offenders here are generated mailers and that means they’re the easiest to fix, although it may take a little fight with your marketing department.

2. Make your point in the first sentence. For the same reason, you don’t want your reader to have to scan through a few paragraphs to get to the point of your email. They may have to refer to the rest of it later to get details, but between the subject and the first sentence, they should be able to know what’s going on.

Switching to WordPress

I have been using another site to host my blog, but I have been much more impressed with WordPress as of late, so I think I’m going to switch over here.

I’m dreading the tasking of moving over old posts and trying to keep old URL’s consistent, so we’ll have to see what happens there. ┬áBut in the mean time, at least new posts will show up here.