A culture of accountability and a unique compelling brand are what drive change today

Friday, May 22, 2015

Building a Client-centric Culture

Lots of organizations TALK about their company culture or investigate ways to change the culture. Clearly that is a good thing. But family businesses have a built-in need to ensure constant cultural change. You see when subsequent generations succeed ownership of the business they tend to lead differently.

Sometimes those differences are massive and at other times they are subtle but the team members can be very confused or even incensed over how that change occurs.  They may feel unimportant or underappreciated or o the other hand they may see it as an opportunity to manipulate leadership to “get what they want.” This can have a deleterious effect over the client relationship since it is our team members that are dealing with the client on a daily, weekly monthly basis. This happens with the sales team, account management, customer service, technical services and even accounts receivable, accounts payable and even the receptionist.

Often time’s client contact occurs at various points in the organization. For this reason it is critical in a family business that we focus on the selling culture. The more we can ensure behaviors which are consistent with the culture we desire to reflect the better customer experience we can create. As we examine all of the customer touch-points we can identify areas of alignment and misalignment. This correlates perfectly with the “culture hacking” precept which has previously been discussed.

You might have amazing customer service. You could be the leading provider of cutting edge technology. You may have an amazing Web presence. It's possible that you have the world's most compelling value proposition. But if your revenue-generating sales team isn't reaching its potential, here are some key actions which can help your company to create a more effective client-centric culture:

1. Listen and Learn. I am not telling you to interrupt people when you hear them speaking with clients (internal or external) in a way that makes you grind your teeth. Listen, learn and discuss this with the rest of your leadership behind closed doors. People tend to change their behavior when Mommy or Daddy are watching and this does not give us a clear vision of the true culture.

2. Focus on Language. Help people to learn the right language. I’m not talking about proper grammar but rather the language of the client. Speaking in terms of what is most important to them.

3. Drive results. Customer relationships are built on common perceptions and shared values not just numbers and deliverables. So look at all the results. Certainly the numbers are a pre-requisite and all that count at the end of the day but “getting there” requires us to modify our focus to the small wins that happen with every person in every department, every day.

4. Trim the tree. We all know the negative impact that just one team member with a bad attitude or poor behavior can have over the rest of the team. Putting aside HR laws which we of course need to comply with don’t prolong the inevitable. Let people go free to pursue a career where they will be happier and more productive. That might mean higher turnover but that is better than threatening the culture which impacts the lives of ALL the employees and clients.

5. Elevate self worth. Recognition is important to everyone. Yet employees battle fear and rejection every single day. From customers, other team members, vendors and even their leaders.  If you want them to produce you need to promote how honorable and noble their work is throughout your organization. In your talk and demeanor, elevate the importance of the client-centric function to all the departments in the organization.

8. Build training and coaching into the culture. Training and coaching should be a consistent process in the organization, not a once or twice per year event. It's your company’s job to give your people the tools and training they need to succeed in customer interactions as well as other function. Sales cultures have well-defined systems to help their people grow, learn and achieve. This is especially important for new hires but you also need to have some way to deliver on-going advanced sales training ideas for your entire sales team.

9. Enmesh self- accountability into the culture. Believe it or not, most people need and welcome regular accountability. Spending regular one-on-one time with your people not only gives you a chance to mentor and train with them; it shows that what they do is important and that you care about their success. Part of the reason why coaching has become so popular in recent years is because companies are stretched thin by tight budgets and managers are not able to spend enough individual time with their people so they seek outside reinforcement.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How to Avoid Recruitments Most Common Mistake (or you can hire John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy)

Depending upon who you listen to unemployment is 8% or 12% and some even say 20% when we consider those who've stopped seeking work.

Then why is it so hard to recruit good people?

NO NEED TO READ FURTHER - Listen to My Podcast

We hire people based on their job history but we fire them when we find out who they are.
Over my twenty-plus years of business consulting experience I have observed thousands of employee hires. I have personally interviewed and made recommendations on hundreds of candidates in every industry and company culture imaginable. I have yet to discover that candidates with the best experience and job history make the best employees. I have seen those with NO experience, industry knowledge, formal training or relevant work history beat the pants over those with the experience..


Because merely having the experience, work history and job knowledge does not mean you possess the attitudes, behaviors and discipline necessary to excel. On the other hand if you have the attitudes, behaviors and discipline you are open to learn all you need to know. In short success is not based upon WHAT we know but rather WHO we are.

I am not saying that work experience. industry knowledge and job history is meaningless. In fact possess these competencies can often mean a shorter training or acclimation period. It could make on-boarding faster. But work history will not make-up for poor attitudes, behaviors and discipline.
Even mass murders Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy had a great resumes. They were pillars in their community. They did all the right things except who they were in secret was evil and sinister.
While it is likely that candidates with good attitudes, habits and behaviors will usually have a good resume that's not always the case. Life intervenes.

I am always amazed at how employers congregate to one of two extremes...
Either they are completely oblivious to candidate behaviors focusing ONLY on their work experience and job duties or they hold candidate's to unrealistic behavioral requirements which even they themselves fail to satisfy!

How about being realistic.

Sometimes when I'm listening to employers Yammer on about the kind of candidates they want to hire I think... even I myself wouldn't qualify!

So is you are in the recruitment process begin to think differently about the human capital you are recruiting. Think attitudes, behaviors and discipline more so than industry experience, job knowledge and work history.

Listen to My Podcast

Thursday, March 12, 2015

We Can't Motivate Anyone

One of the most common questions I get as a business consultant is; “how can I motivate my people?”

I shudder at the thought of how much business I have lost when I answer this question with, “You really can’t.”


Surely as business leaders we need to find a way to help our people to give their best. Let’s face it, that is good for the company, the clients, co-workers and even for their families. But how can we “motivate” to give their best? When I say, “we can’t” what I really mean is that typical motivation methods just don’t work.

Science has proven over and over again that typical motivational tools, like; incentives and rewards, in most cases, don’t produce better results. In fact most of these studies show that the higher the reward, the worse the performance. (For those of you, who might doubt this, please check out my attributions, listed below. This is a well proven fact and correlated in numerous studies.)

Now if we are speaking of a simple repetitive task, yes, a consistent reward will produce predictable results. But for cognitive, higher functioning tasks and responsibilities, typical motivating tactics will fail every time. So if you want anything other than repetitive, manual labor, if you want analytical, creative or decision-oriented work, rewards can actually backfire.

Ultimately rewards just motivate people to, well… get the Reward!  When the rewards go away, the motivation ends. Makes sense right?

Engaged, sustained, higher level performance does not occur by manipulating others through incentives, contests or rewards. It is less about “what people GET” and more about “How people FEEL.” Motivation is not a mathematical calculation it is rather an emotional mindset. Now I do need to add that this doesn’t relieve us from paying competitive wages and benefits. If you fail to do that, no motivation methods (emotional or otherwise) will work.

Here are some basic tips on how you can create an environment where people FEEL motivated. When I say “create and environment” I’m not talking about office amenities like; a pool table, snack bar, gourmet coffee cart and dimly-lit conversational pit! I’m speaking of the “emotional environment which we create.”

1. Stop Bribing People – I once had a client who summed-up motivation like this; “Their motivation is their salary!” Hmm, not too successful. Honestly though most motivators, incentives or rewards are nothing more than bribes. Paying people well is important but I have often witnessed that continued pay hikes, bonuses and freebies actually result in lower performance. They amount to nothing more than entitlements. That is getting something for just showing-up. Any compensation increases need to be directly linked to outcomes in terms of both behavior and performance. The goal of the leader in terms of motivation is to incite a behavioral change which has a dramatic impact on performance. We can’t change someone’s behavior but THEY CAN! The idea is to create the kind feels that make them decide to change.

2. Create the Right Feelings – We often think of the workplace as less emotional, more formal and serious. But it doesn’t have to be that way. People are motivated about something they feel strongly about more so than money. Dan Pink, an expert in motivation says that “for complex tasks we are more motivated by the need for purpose, mastery and autonomy.” As leaders we can leverage this by helping our people to “feel good” about their role, responsibilities and accomplishments. This also promotes creativity and teamwork. If you consider this, it is diametrically opposed to the carrot and the stick. Dale Carnegie said to “give people a fine reputation to live-up-to and they might surprise you in the end”

3. Encourage Progress – Sometimes the reaching the destination is over-rated. Help people to reflect on what they have accomplished SO FAR. Persistent people spend twice as long thinking about their accomplishments. In this super-speedy, techno-crazed blur of a society, the thing they crave most is sincere, honest recognition. There’s no time for that soft, mushy stuff right? Now I’m NOT talking about incentives, rewards and gifts, I am speaking of a “good word” when deserved. It is amazing how powerful this can be. Send a written note. Yea like with a pen and paper. You remember those? Life satisfaction is 22% more likely for those with a steady stream of accomplishments (Orlick 1998).
Remember that people are engaged and motivated with “why” we do things more so than “what” we do says Simon Senek, author of Start with Why. Think of Martin Luther King’s, I Have a Dream, or John F. Kennedy’s, “It’s not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

No one performs at optimal performance when they are being nagged. I hope these tips will help you to lead and manage with great creativity, sensitivity and produce better outcomes.

Here’s my story which I hope creates a feeling for you and spurs you to take action. I am part of a fundraising group here in Redondo Beach and our aim is to refurbish our children’s library. They have outdated computers, worn furniture and walls that need paint. We are raising $30,000 to improve the environment to motivate kids to learn. I’d like to ask for your help. If everyone who is reading this donated $10 we would exceed our goal. So how about it? Skip a few Starbucks this week and help some kids learn. Donate at

Thank You

Mark Deo

Attributions: Time Article (, TED Talk, The Puzzle of Motivation Dan Pink -, Study by Bashaw and Grant 1994, Orlick 1998 Study of Satisfaction, Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Simon Sinek, Start with Why.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Delegation Dilemma

Julia slumped across her desk, head in hands staring at the pile of work she just received. She was wondering how she was going to distribute all of it to her staff who already felt overworked.

The holidays were rapidly approaching and she could already hear their comments at the upcoming staff meeting. Bob, one of her supervisors and most productive employees would roll his eyes and tell her he would not be working any overtime and he would not be cancelling or changing his vacation. She knew that Bob's wife coordinated her vacation with him as well as the vacations of their children. So getting more hours from Bob would be impossible. In addition she did not feel it was worth threatening their rapport and good working relationship in order to simply get him to put in a few more hours.

Audrey was her most experienced and knowledgeable employee but was rather resistant to change and wasn't exactly the best at getting along with other people or working together with other departments. Audrey worked best when she worked alone. Surely Audrey could take on some of the work but Julia knew that doing so might make her even more temperamental than she currently was. There certainly would be some complaints from other department managers as well as other employees. Again, in Julia's mind, upsetting the "Audrey applecart" was not worth the effort to attempt to delegate this additional work.

She also knew if Bob and Audrey (her best people) were resistant in taking on additional work, certainly the rest of the staff, who followed their lead, would not be willing. She could do as she had done before and distribute the work evenly among all of the members of her staff but it just ended up resulting in more errors and duplicate work than was practical. Often times the employees would go to Audrey and Bob for help anyway. Her last attempt at doing so almost called the departmental mutiny.

Sadly, Julia felt the best way to handle this new pile of work was to get it done herself. But she also knew she would have to cancel her holiday plans which would greatly disappoint her family. Not to mention the fact that this wasn't very good leadership.

How do you think Julia should deal with this situation?

Maybe it sounds familiar. I will be collecting responses and next week I will be delivering another email with the best suggestions and my advice in how to deal with this kind of issue.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hold on Tight or Let Go?

Skylar and Sheena were sisters and they both owned similar businesses which seemed to be valued at nearly identical levels. Each of the sister's had desired to sell their business for an amount of money which would easily finance a comfortable retirement for themselves and their families. The had about the same business model, prospects for growth, intellectual equity, resources, head count and cash reserves. Yet the leadership style of the sisters were quite different.

Skylar was in the office every day. She had control over every variable of the business. Nothing happened without her knowledge and approval.

Like Sheena, she had two Sales Reps, but Skylar was always the person to negotiate the deals with critical clients. She oversaw contact with investors and business partners. She would direct the marketing initiatives. She ensured that customer service was timely and accurate. She kept a watch over production daily. She was involved in leading and managing every aspect of the business right on down to who would assume new responsibilities and how they would do so.

While Skylar appointed three managers for sales, administration and production, all decisions would filter through her before implementation. Whenever there was a question or someone wanted to move forward on something they all knew to discuss it with Skylar FIRST before ANY action was taken. Skylar even led all the meetings with employees. She felt this level of "oversight" was necessary for clear communication, good resource management and smooth operations. Skylar believed it was the key to her success and would someday pay-off big when it was time to sell the company. She had a well-oiled machine!

Sheena on the other hand was quite different. She only spent 3 or 4 days in the office and often worked from home. Whenever someone asked her a question she would typically defer it to someone else to answer. Occasionally she would visit clients with one of her two Sales Reps yet she spoke very little at these meetings. She would attend employee meetings but rarely led them. Sheena also established leaders for sales, administration and production who did most of the decision making and merely kept Sheena informed. Many times employees would just start a new initiative on their own and work with other employees to implement these changes, Sheena coached her managers to allow employees to enjoy this freedom. Even though several times these initiatives failed and consumed some resources. Sheena felt this was still OK. She spent more of her time just encouraging, listening and congratulating her team. She was very cordial but to many observers, it looked like Sheena was somewhat disconnected from her business operations. It seemed that "the tail was wagging the dog" at her company.

One day a private equity firm came along to evaluate both Sheena's business as well Skylar's. This was the moment each of the sister's had been waiting for... PAYDAY!

The private equity offered to buy Sheena's business outright for 12 million dollars (FOUR times her current level of sales).

They decided to PASS on making an offer to Skylar for her business as they did not feel it was worth much to them.

Skylar was furious. How could this arrogant private equity firm value her sister's business at four times the current sales yet feel that Skylar's business was worth nothing?

What do you think the private equity firm told Skylar?

I am dying to hear your answers.  Remember other than their style of leadership EVERYTHING about these businesses were the same.

Email me at or better yet leave your comment here.

Mark Deo

Monday, August 25, 2014

Get Your Way by Shutting-up

A while back I had to do something we all abhor... get a root canal. I say we all abhor getting a root canal because I've never heard anyone say they enjoyed it. It is at the very least uncomfortable,  inconvenient and expensive. At worse it's extremely painful.

A root canal has become synonymous with doing something you really would prefer NOT to do! As in, "I'd rather get a root canal than speak with Mark Deo." (A little self-depreciating humor there).
Yet I have discovered something good about a root canal. I am FORCED to shut-up! And not just shut-up but to actually listen.

So there I am sitting or lying in this rather humiliating position in the dental chair at the endodontist office, who happens to be a friend. He is droning-on about some specific problems he's having (This is the downside of having a friend as your endodontist.) It is at this point I realize I actually have a perfect solution for his troubles.

Yet it is impossible for me to tell him due to my mouth being stuffed with; a suction device, dental dam, wads of cotton, various bits of metal, plastic and what feels like all twenty of his and his assistants fingers. I can only emit a deep guttural groan which I decide NOT to do because it might sound like a wounded animal or an ungrateful, onerous patient of which I am both.

Suddenly to my utter surprise he begins to articulate the very solution which I had been planning to tell him. Wow! How could this be? Hearing my own thoughts coming out of HIS mouth started me kicking my feet and waving my hands. I look up at him with big pleading eyes like a harp seal about to be beat over the head with a Louisville Slugger. He looks down at me as if I was a 5 year-old, "it's OK, we're almost done."

Could it be that my higher (yet reticent) level of listening allowed him to work this out for himself? Hmmm... isn't this what a coach is supposed to do?

So this listening thing, which I preach about all the time, actually works! Imagine that.
After all the various objects are removed from my distended mouth he proceeds to thank me for helping him work out a solution to his problem. You really are a great coach, he tells me. I swallow my pride because my jaw hurts too much to speak anyway from all the hardware that has been jammed in it.

I high-tailed it out of that office learning something yet again by keeping my mouth shut.
My next stop... the dental supply store to get some hardware of my own.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Not a Good Sign

I guess it's NOT a good sign when your wife of 30 years decides to buy a book with the name... Living Successfully with Screwed-up People" That would be me.

Thank you Dear!