How To Spot A Liar In One Word

April 25, 2016, by Doug Sandler

My mother says it more eloquently. “He isn’t lying, he handles the truth recklessly.”  Statistically, we are exposed to over five thousand marketing messages a day. How do we know who to trust?

Marketers entice us with offers too hard to resist, results too good to be true and guarantees that are impossible to fulfill. Yet, somehow we believe them, the evidence of our belief is in the billions of dollars we spend every year on their products; we want to believe them. A pill to cure this, a product to cause that. What we do know is this, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

The obvious ones — Lose 16 pounds of belly fat in 14 days! The not so obvious ones — Save 10% on your insurance in 15 minutes. We’ve been coaxed and prodded, persuaded and cajoled, seduced and flattered into thinking we can be thinner, healthier, richer, stronger, faster, better, happier, safer and more wanted if we simply use their product. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to tell who is shooting straight and who is pushing the needle on the lie-o-meter.

“Marketing is storytelling. The truth is elusive. No one knows the truth about anything.”

— Seth Godin

Seth Godin on marketing, “Marketing is storytelling.” Godin on truth in marketing, “The truth is elusive. No one knows the truth about anything.” I one time had a boss that used to say, “It’s tough to live a straight life in a crooked world.” The comment made me feel like I HAD to bend the truth in order to get ahead, close a deal and succeed at anything in life.

What it comes down to is this (and here is your one word); what’s your intention? Are you focused more on yourself or your customer? There is a fine line between attention getting and misleading. And if you are the one making the offer, what happens next is completely up to you. Professional marketers understand there is power in their words and they take the user experience and results into account. Their intention is to be truthful yet creative. They may be great storytellers but they care about their market, because they don’t see them as a market. They see their market as people, human beings, individuals using their products and services. They also care about their company and their reputation. Liars only see dollar signs, signed contracts and closed deals. If their products and services also benefit their market, that’s just a bonus.

“Don’t focus on the sale, focus on the person.”

— Shep Hyken

If your intention is to help others by solving their problems, you’re a professional. Focus on what is important, helping your customer. While meeting goals, deadlines and quotas are all critical elements in business, make sure you have your priorities in line as well.  Align your intentions with exceeding customer expectations, adding value to your relationships, solving problems and being a better you.

So when you see products claiming to cure the common cold, reduce wrinkles overnight, boost your bottom line by 80%, or reduce your bottom by 20 pounds in 20 days, you may want to steer clear of the sales pitch that comes next, they may not have the best of intentions. Make it your goal to keep your focus on what it takes to earn the business while keeping the best of intentions in mind. Your customers will be happy, and so will you.

 

MaxCo Advisors, May 2016

Advertisements

Hire the Best People, and Let Them Work from Wherever They Are

I love this article published in the HBR, February 8th, 2016 by Cassandra Frangos, Cisco Systems


I ran into a former HR colleague at a conference last month. We got to talking and she mentioned she was finding it difficult to hire a cyber security expert. I wasn’t surprised. Security talent is scarce in the tech sector right now. “I found someone phenomenal, but she’s in Washington State, and she won’t move to our cyber security group in San Francisco,” my friend lamented.

I said the first words that popped into my head: “That’s great.”

Hiring a candidate who is going to work remotely has three levels of benefits.

  1. The company benefits. Removing location as a limiting factor offers organizations access to (literally) all the talent in the world.
  2. Hiring managers benefit, because they have an opportunity to create diverse teams. For instance, it’s widely accepted that people who come together from different backgrounds bring new information and diverse perspectives.
  3. Individual employees benefit, because they can live where they want, close to family or perhaps in a place that has the type of climate they prefer.

Most organizations say they are more open-minded than ever about virtual teams, and yet they still have old-school systems in place for hiring people across the country or around the world. From where I sit, the overlapping barriers come down to structure, culture, and mindset.

Structurally, many organizations remain hierarchical. Decisions are still passed down from one to many as opposed to emanating from small, autonomous teams.

Culturally, the face-to-face meeting is still an important symbol of productivity. Want to finish something? Sit around a table together and get it done.

Mindset is the toughest impediment of all. Many traditional leaders fear a loss of control if they give people the latitude to work where they can’t be overseen.

This way of working is no longer sustainable. The talent gap in certain technical specialties, such as security and data science, is one reason. A more universal reason is that removing location as a limiting factor gives organizations a lot more freedom to find and hire the very best global talent — and keep them. How do you make virtual teams the rule rather than the exception? What kind of process do you need in place for hiring that superstar in Washington State? Four things are required:

Do deeper due diligence. No matter how sophisticated the process, companies usually design interview questions to rate a candidate’s experience and fit — in other words, to find out whether they have the skills to succeed and the mindset to thrive in their specific corporate culture. In hiring virtual candidates, however, you need to dig deeper.

This next level of direct questioning should assess whether the person is independent, passionate about their work, and collaborative. They need to be flexible and willing to travel and know that corporate headquarters is still where the action takes place. In addition, the most important experience this individual should have is past success working remotely. Find out how they made it work and double down on the due diligence.

I live in Boston — 3,000 miles away from Cisco’s San Jose headquarters. I work with executives around the globe; so being on Telepresence and Webex is a natural way we communicate. Still, there are many times when I need to be at corporate headquarters because important conversations need to occur in person and because informal hallway banter can surface new ideas and accelerate solutions.

Look at leadership capabilities. Consider the individual’s leadership style and how he or she projects himself or herself. In order to make an impression from afar, people need to stand out in a crowd and be an advocate for their ideas. In addition, the organization needs to scrutinize not only the candidate but also the manager to whom they will report. Remote employees need someone who will advocate for them regardless of where they live. Does the leader have the experience and dynamism to lead virtual teams? Does she value results over face time? Is her compensation tied to the success of her team?

Invest heavily in relationships. I recently ran across a team of three dynamic leaders who manage a business unit in tandem from three separate cities. Operating out of Germany, New Jersey, and San Jose, California, respectively, the trio is a high-functioning, collaborative team. How do they do it? They respect each other and communicate constantly. Initially, they invested significant, in-person time to forge the relationship. They understand each other extremely well and now they finish each other’s sentences. They tackle tough customer issues in unison and are on the phone or video together constantly. They’ve been together for several years and it works because they attend to their relationship.

Do a logistics and tech check. Setting people up to succeed off-site requires attention to IT support and infrastructure. Can people easily teleconference from their mobile device or PC? Are all team members comfortable using collaboration tools? Is any data flow to and from the virtual team secure, and do all team members understand the company security protocols? At Cisco, we use technology to make communication as dynamic as possible. When language and cultural differences come into play, for instance, seeing each other over a video feed that’s clear and reliable can make a big difference in deepening the interaction.

The last part of hiring people who are going to work remotely is knowing when it won’t work. There are some jobs where location is fixed. In some companies, for instance, the head of sales needs to work in close proximity to the CEO. For other mission-critical positions, it is necessary to be face to face with local accounts or available for the community.

Yet, I would argue that this is quickly becoming the exception, rather than the rule. Knocking down the cultural and psychological barriers that make hiring the best global talent impossible can open everyone’s eyes to the virtues of a more dynamic working environment.

 

Cassandra Frangos is vice president for global executive talent and organizational development at Cisco Systems. Connect with her on Twitter: @c_frangos.

 

MaxCo Advisors, April 2016

Is A Dose Of Outside Ingenuity What A Company Needs To Stay Healthy?

Most Companies Will Die Before Their Fiftieth Birthday

It’s a medical truth—chronic diseases are the most deadly and costly threat to human health. In the US, they’re responsible for 70% of deaths and 86% of healthcare expenses each year, according to the CDC. Diagnosing and managing these illnesses early can drastically reduce both numbers.

The same concept applies to countless companies, except the disease is complacency and the ideal treatment is innovation. As a new EY report explains, most companies today will not live beyond their fiftieth birthday. John Chambers, ex-CEO of Cisco, believes that 40% of today’s leading companies will not survive another decade.

“Today’s disruptive environment is ripe for new markets and opportunities,” writes EY Global Vice Chair, Markets Uschi Schreiber in conjunction with this month’s EY Innovation Retreat in San Francisco. “Every industry and government body must rethink how to connect to their clients and constituents.”

To take but one example from the ever-shifting tech landscape, in 2010 the US Federal Aviation Authority estimated that there would be 15,000 civilian drones in use by 2020. Right now, at least that many are sold every day.

As it becomes increasingly challenging to envision the future, conventional diagnoses and remedies that have led to past achievements just don’t apply any more. Previous success can lead to “a collective cognitive myopia,” explains London Business School’s Gary Dushnitsky. “It’s hard to see beyond something that you’ve excelled at for the last 15 or 20 years.” So what is a health-conscious executive to do? Recognizing the risks of present-day stagnation is only the beginning of successful self-preservation therapy.

 In 2010, the US Federal Aviation Authority estimated that there would be 15,000 civilian drones in use by 2020. Right now, at least that many are sold every day. 

“A lot of companies want to move to a new culture of innovation and entrepreneurship but there’s a reason that incumbent companies become incumbent,” argues author and “Innovation Activist” John Kao. “They’ve mastered a lot of skills: managing complexity; managing resources; attracting talent. These are necessary for the today business but leaders need to understand that they are really managing two agendas and their job is to adjudicate between them.”

The R&D team offers a natural place to foster this life-saving new culture, but internal obstacles may hinder the cure. Even on a team tasked with developing new products, it can be difficult for members to recognize external trends, pursue opportunities not directly related to the company’s standard market, and move quickly enough to benefit from new models.

Corporate venture capital (CVC)—which broadly refers to company investment in external startups and fields—is seen by many leaders as a potent dose of innovation. CVC addresses the critical importance of bringing the outside in, incorporating talent and ideas that are by their very nature foreign to the organization and crucial to its adaptive survival. Investing in exterior entities affords large companies an opportunity to experiment with more agile processes, daring projects, and cutting edge tech and to apply these lessons to the best practices of the organization as a whole.

“When done right, CVC can be a hugely powerful spur for innovation and growth,” explains Bryan Pearce, EY Global Venture Capital Leader. “These investments, when managed effectively, can help company leaders identify new opportunities for growth; new ways to find and excite their customers; and new ways to transform a legacy business so that it is future fit.”

Companies set up CVC funds that look like standalone incubators, strategy department sub-units, more traditional VC equity models, and many other structures. And while the type of CVC dosage will vary from company to company, it’s clear that the most robust organizations build up their defenses well before the most destructive afflictions come knocking. Jan Timmer, the former Philips CEO, printed up a mock newspaper declaring “Philips Goes Bankrupt!” as soon as he became president in 1990.

Exercises like these inspire companies to access the knowledge and capabilities that will help fend off infirmities and remain fit. “Create a story about a future that you want to avoid and then make it detailed and graphic,” John Kao says. “You have to find a story that tunnels under all the intellectual shields, denial and complacency and rattles the emotions.” And while imagining the story of a company’s demise might not be enjoyable, it’s the ideal first step towards ensuring its continued health.

***

EY’s Better Questions series asks some of the tough questions faced by today’s global businesses. Better questions. Better answers. Better working world. Discover more. #BetterQuestions

This article was produced on behalf of EY by the MaxCo Advisors marketing team and not by the MaxCo Advisors editorial staff.

MaxCo Advisors, April 2016

Teach Us to Treasure the Bird in Hand

This is an article recently published by David L. Katz, MD, Founder, True Health Initiative. I have embellished it a bit. It’s powerful and very relevant. I would encourage you to read it completely. This is one in a series of articles where professionals provide advice for the next U.S. president.

It could be re-titled, “We will never cure Cancer, because we are too invested in NOT curing It.

Dear Madam / Mr. President: For more than twenty years, across an expanse of both democratic and republican administrations, we have neglected one of the greatest potential advances in the history of public health.

I invite you, and I implore you, to lead us toward that reachable, luminous prize: the addition of years to countless lives, the addition of life to countless years. We can eliminate up to 80% of the total burden of chronic disease — heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, dementia, etc. — by applying knowledge of the root causes of such disease not only now in hand, but in hand already for decades. You could pledge your commitment to this campaign, and lead us. And because you can, you should. Lives — lives we know how to save — are at stake.

I respectfully urge you to make the combination of longevity and vitality, followed more often than not by a timely, swift, and gentle exit into that inevitable night, the new American standard. I ask this of you because it can be done.

Like so many others, I was moved when your predecessor, whom I admire, leveraged the imprimatur of his high office, and the State of the Union address, to propound his will against the menace of cancer. I was moved in particular because the enemy was not diffuse and pervasive, but seen through an intimate window. I felt the pain and loss in the resolute set of Joe Biden’s face. This was a nation’s mission, but born of a family’s loss.

We are moved by such things. We are, despite our proclivities for fractious discord, indelibly caught up in one another, in the common motivations of humanity. At a level deeper than our discords, we know we are family. When a menace invades such private spaces, when it roils the expression of a face we know, we are moved. We are motivated to act.

So it is that I admire the assertion of will, the pledge to find a way to end all cancer. But alas, it is misguided.

President Obama likened curing “cancer” to reaching the moon, and were the analogy robust, we might indeed see it done. But the analogy falls from the sky.

Even those decades ago when President Kennedy committed us to the moon, we had in hand the technologies to get there. We knew where there was; it was a single destination. There was one, clear, achievable mission.

The cure for all cancer is not a single mission, but many. Cancer is not one disease, but many. Ending cancer is not one destination like the moon, but more like the scattershot of stars in the cosmos. Getting there will depend on innovations yet to be conceived. When we know so little of the ultimate ways, we are ill advised to assert that presidential will reliably presupposes them all.

We should continue to foster and fund the already impressive advances against cancer. We have seen considerable success. We struggle, too, against great frustration born of ignorance we may hope to overcome.

But we already know the short list of lifestyle practices — avoiding tobacco, eating optimally, being active routinely, sleeping adequately, dissipating stress effectively, and nurturing our social connections — that can not only help prevent a large percentage of all cancers and an even greater majority of other leading disease killers including dementia, but can even modify the contributions of DNA to our defense. Studies show that lifestyle practices can throw the epigenetic switches that forestall the advent of cancer, and its progression once begun.

I humbly urge you, Madam/Mr. President, to promise us a mission we know can be fulfilled, and lead us in the keeping of it.

Admittedly, this flight plan of mine is rather pedestrian in contrast to far-flung stars, the shine of Nobel Prizes. Progress is gauged in simple, lifestyle choices every citizen arguably owns. But if so homely a route, so long not taken, leads to the most luminous of prizes, surely in this instance those ends fully justify such means.

By asking you to lead, I am not refuting the relevance of personal responsibility. But the choices we all make are ultimately subordinate to the choices we all have. You have something to say about the choices we all have.

In those places around the world where longevity, vitality, and peace at the end of life prevail, it is not courtesy of citizens battling against the currents of their culture. It is where the currents of culture lead toward, rather than away from, just such blessings.

Here, we wring our hands not just about cancer, but dementia, stroke, and heart disease; about rampant obesity and the rise of type 2 diabetes in our children. Yet, we continue to peddle multi-colored marshmallows to those very children, as ‘part of a complete breakfast.’ You might persuade us out of our insouciant stupor, prod us to ask: what part?

In our country, we encourage good and moderate food choices, even as we market food willfully engineered to be addictive. Where is the outrage against such hypocrisy? You might lead us in outrage, and by opposing its reasons, help us end them. But alas, its that’s money thing again.

Ending cancer is not a moonshot; it is, for now, a pipe dream, sprinkled with stardust. But we could banish tobacco to the ashtray of history’s bad ideas, and you could lead us there. We could end the subordination of what diet could do for the health of people and planet alike to predatory profiteering, and you could lead us there. We could be a culture that doesn’t feel compelled to count our every step, because we consider our native, animal vitality and the chance to exercise it a reason to count our blessings; and you could lead us there.

Good may, of course, issue from reaching for the stars; or, more parochially, for that proverbial bird in the bush. Good may issue from ardent aspiration. But there is the danger of promises that cannot be kept, and the disillusionment they engender.

Please beware the reach that exceeds our grasp. That may serve to rattle the bushes, but will never claim their contents. Those bushes are home to things with feathers, flighty ever.

We have known for two decades and more how to eliminate some 80% of all chronic disease; we have known how to enhance the length and vitality of life. Please, make us the generation that turns what we have long known into what we routinely do to advance the human condition. Lead us, and persuade us, to treasure what’s in hand.

And please, beware the conflation of will for way. That itch may tempt your hands to clench, those fists to pound the lectern as you proclaim the inclinations of your power, and glare past the horizon. In the hush that follows, you may open your hand to find the ruin of a beautiful, luminous bird that was in your hand all along. As it is, and has long been, in the hands of us all.

MaxCo Advisors

April, 2016