Archives for October 2012

Authentic Leadership

There is an old saying: “Fish Stinks from the head”.  Your people are always watching.  This video says it well in less than 3 minutes.

Innovation Made Simple: The Five C’s

We make a big deal out of innovation.  We all tend to think BIG AND FLASHY.

My Take?  For my entire career in DeathCare I have watched as we have overserved most of the market and underserved part of it.  It’s not that we have entirely missed the mark but without fully understanding the 5 C’s we really don’t understand what we are trying to accomplish

More important we don’t really see the true opportunities.  We are only dressing up what we already do.


Simply asking “what job is the customer trying to get done?” can be a powerful way to enable innovation, because it forces you to go beyond superficial demographic markers that correlate with purchase and use to zero in on frustrations and desires that motivate purchase and use.

Seductive simplicity hides a rich, robust set of opportunity identification tools. Through our experience utilizing the “jobs-to-be-done” concept in a range of settings, my colleagues and I have developed five tips for would-be innovators: the five Cs of opportunity identification (modeled after marketing’s famous four Ps — price, product, place, and promotion).  The Five Cs of Opportunity Identification…HBR Blogpost

What I would do:

buy and read: 


Integrating Around the Job to be Done By Clayton Christensen


Want Breakthrough or Breakout Results? Set Unrealistic Goals!

It’s true.  Breakthrough results aren’t achieved by methodical planning and strategy.  That’s the kind of thinking that only preserves the past.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review, alluded to in this article, argued that unrealistic goals were what achieved real progress.

DeathCare is in the midst of a “New Normal” to which we have not yet started adjusting.  Maybe it’s time for unrealistic goals.


Take, for instance, JFK’s audacious goal in the early 1960s when the U.S. fell behind the Soviet Union in the technology race: “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Why does a statement like this produce breakthrough innovation? Performance is a function of expectations, since we rarely exceed our expectations or outperform our ambition. As humans, we are drawn to a bold, challenging, and unrealistic goal. Deep inside, we feel uplifted by the thought of climbing a mountain in a way we are not by the idea of scaling a molehill. JFK’s intent produced many breakthrough technologies.

In a similar way, “Strategic Intent” inspired me to think about mountains and not molehills as I shaped my research agenda around breakthrough innovation….More at The Timeless Strategic Value of Unrealistic Goals – Vijay

Want To Change? Be Transparent, Vulnerable and Authentic

DeathCare Practitioners are chained to a stumbling block that obstructs  the adaptability and agility that today’s markets demand…not request, demand! It’s called EGO.  And that ego is manifested in the maintenance of a self-styled persona that does not allow for the display of any imperfection.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the New Normal of society in the developed world will no longer accept anything less than transparency and authenticity.  Oddly, learn to be those things and it is incredibly liberating.  Better, because your learning ability is now open, your adaptability and agility skyrocket…and people like you more besides.

My motto:  Esse Quam Videri…Latin for–“To Be Rather Than To Seem”

The beliefs we are using to guide us are often a tacit thing — something we can’t see because we are so close to it that we actually can’t see it as a “thing”; it has become something “true”, an assumption that frames every decision. Chris Argyris wrote in 1992 that a major impediment to learning is that most organizations “store and use” information in tacit, versus explicit, forms.I’ve come to see that this is true for both personal and organizations situations. And without being able to name the thing, you can’t change the thing. But by naming it, any of us can and will see it as something we can question and only then can we unlearn it. When I unlearn that “perfection must rule on big stages”, I will return to connecting deeply. This carries a risk of course: It may turn out that I’m less “appropriate” in future talks, and my imperfections and flaws may not resonate. Yet, I have to trust — as all people need to — that they can and will learn and adjust and be flexible enough to adapt to ever-changing conditions.

If you’re learning to use calculus or to fly an airplane, you don’t want to have to start from scratch; you want to learn from others and follow the road already paved. But most of life is about learning to be ourselves, and to “learn to be” is about figuring out what we take as a truth — those ways we just “know”. To unlearn, we need to get good at seeing and naming those ways. Unlearning is harder than learning, but it’s crucial to do … because innovation and creativity are rarely about doing more of the same….More at What I Learned from My TED Talk – Nilofer Merchant – Harvard

Managing Misbehaving Employees

We all have them.  They create anxiety and stress for us, undermine company strategy and employee morale.  Here are some good insights on what to do about it.


Situations won’t just disappear because you wish they would. 

You and your leaders have to address issues. And how you do this sets the tone for your company environment.

You won’t have the privilege of being the teams BFF (best friend forever). But you can have their respect and be surrounded by a productive and effective group that moves your company forward — and that’s good for business.

Instead of rewarding bad behavior with your silence, here are three decisive moves to help protect and restore your standards and the teams focus….More at Don’t Reward Bad Behavior – How To Address Challenging Team

DIY Marketing Why It Can Work Against You

As I have grown older I have discovered I like being creative.  I also have strong opinions.  Somehow that has convinced me that I know how to market myself.  Then I ran into somebody that actually had training and was gifted in that area.

Life is an expensive university.  Here is why “Do It Yourself Marketing” isn’t always a good idea.


Because you’re not spending money on outside resources you might think you’re saving tons of money with a DIY approach. Just remember this…it’s not just what you spend, it’s what you spend and get back on what you spend.

, like Steve Jobs did, like Nike’s Phil Knight did, and like every successful business owner does. And, they didn’t just do it when they were big successful companies with huge marketing budgets. They did it from the very beginning of their companies, only months after they incorporated….More at 5 Reasons Why Do-it-Yourself Marketing Can Actually Hurt Your

One more thing.  Recent research and long term experience of most you, dear readers, is showing us that conventional DeathCare advertising is working against us not for us.  Personally, I would look outside the industry for help.  And I would take a few risks…like using humor for instance.

Stars, Potentials, Zombies and Vampires

Every business has them.  But when you have an employee who is a top producer that undermines your business and culture can you really afford to keep them.  I call it “The Tyranny of The Ten Call Man”.  This writer calls them Vampires.  Either way, if you want to succeed in the long term they need to find their future elsewhere.


Our company, Axcess Worldwide, was shaped in its early years by a small, tight knit group: my partner, Kirk Posmatur, and me and our first few employees. Now, after significant growth, we were honing our strategy, placing the right people in the right roles, continuing to deliver profitability while simultaneously maintaining a strong and meaningful corporate culture, something we consider to be one of our most powerful assets.

The new executive we were discussing that day was doing what we had hired him to: immediately deliver results. But he was doing so in a manner that didn’t strike us as consistent with our culture; he was focused so intensely on “what he did” that he paid little attention to “how he did it,” which resulted in consistently dismissing the opinions of others and pursuing what we felt was a strategy of “winning at any cost.”…More at When to Fire a Top Performer Who Hurts Your Company Culture

Life Comes At You Fast

We ignore social at our peril.  Note, I did not include the word media in my use of the word social on purpose.  Not that it shouldn’t be included but the use of it is self limiting.

We have entered the SOCIAL ERA as this article illustrates.  If we are to cope, much less survive, we are going to need to prepare and know how to act in this new era.  An era capable of toppling whole governments (think Arab Spring)

Dell learned the hard way that consumers are not just consumers any more. They are collaborators, conspirators, and co-creators. Fail to listen, engage, and involve and you may find yourself with a customer insurgency. As a brand, you can’t create strategy exclusively from headquarters, any more than the military can fight terrorists from a battleship. But by listening to social channels, creating a volunteer army of brand advocates, and including customers in your team of teams, you will find yourself a winner in the social revolution….More at Countering a Customer Insurgency – Mark Bonchek and Chris

Leadership Lessons From Softball

We have all heard about having the right people in the right seats on the bus.  Here is a great video on that topic using Softball as an illustration:

One thing the best leaders do is make their employees aware of how important their jobs are to the mission and vision of the team, of the organization, and hopefully society as a whole. The more leaders can draw a line-of-sight to how their employees’ contributions matter to the organization and society, the better.  View the Video at:  Leadership Lessons from the Softball Field

Which Is It? Strategy or Execution?

The cart before the horse, the egg before the chicken?  These Socratic questions take up a lot of time and space in literature, schools and business forums.  But they are important discussions.  My experience in DeathCare has been that there is a lot more emphasis on what many might perceive as execution than strategy.  People go to seminars and try to execute when they get home without any real strategy.  “Well it worked for George (or so he claimed), so it’ll work for me.”

This is particularly important to raise as an issue as the NFDA annual convention closes and the ICCFA Fall Management conference attempts to make “reinvention” the latest “fad-word” of our industry.

This article from Booz & co.  is especially timely reading.  If you want a balanced and potentially successful approach, that is.

 I once heard a business leader say, “Strategy is results.” He meant that strategy doesn’t matter as long as you are producing results. Many other business leaders feel the same way. Often, this is because they associate strategy with analysis and execution with getting things done, and they attribute more value to doing than to analyzing. From that perspective, a strategy is a lofty, self-evident statement such as “Our strategy is to maximize customer value” or “Our strategy is to become the market leader.” Such “strategies” don’t contribute much to producing results. Possibly, they motivate the troops, although even that is highly debatable.

On its surface, this view that strategy is less important than execution is hard to refute. If that’s all strategy is, execution is clearly more important.

But any seasoned strategist knows that strategy is not just sloganeering. It is the series of choices you make on where to play and how to win to maximize long-term value. Execution is producing results in the context of those choices. Therefore, you cannot have good execution without having good strategy. Read more at Strategy or Execution: Which Is More Important?