Monday, March 30, 2015

The Importance of Telling a Single Story

Today we have a guest blog from Elizabeth Andreini:

Have you ever heard the Indian fable of the six blind men and the elephant? Each man felt a different part of the elephant and described the elephant based on what they felt. One man who touched its tail thought the elephant was like a rope, the one who touched its trunk thought the elephant was like a tree branch, the man who felt its leg thought it was similar to a pillar, etc. Although there was some truth to what each one said, what they described was incomplete because it couldn’t describe the entire elephant or accurately represent what the elephant could do. Anyone hearing each man’s description wouldn’t be able to get the full understanding of the elephant.

Sometimes companies fall into this same trap with multiple messages and varied value propositions. Different individuals may describe what is offered is a variety of ways, whether based on their experience or their perception of the value offered. While those descriptions may be accurate, the message about the benefits of working with the company and value offered by its products or services is likely to be incomplete or fail to convey the full benefit of what the company offers. Multiple messages and different value propositions also create inconsistent understanding in the marketplace and a weaker story for the company, leaving opportunities for competitors to make a stronger impression with a more complete story told consistently. Potential customers selecting a weaker offering from competitors is one sign that your message may not be strong enough or your story consistently told.

Test the story you share with the market by conducting an internal survey and comparing those messages for consistency – and to ensure the story aligns with what your company wants said. Ask each executive and member of the sales/marketing teams to describe the company’s brand promise, its unique value proposition and a summary of your elevator pitch. Compare what each person says to uncover whether everyone describes the company’s value proposition, brand promise and elevator pitch well and consistently.

Once you have a description of the company’s brand promise, its unique value proposition and a summary of your elevator pitch from multiple sources, ask yourself:
  1. Is everyone in my company consistently and effectively communicating our company’s unique value proposition to prospective clients and current customers?
  2. If we aren’t describing what we offer in the same way, how can I get everyone telling a single story?
  3. Are we clearly differentiating our products and services from our competitors so that potential buyers understand why they should choose us over competitors?
If you are sending multiple or different messages then you should bring everyone together and ensure the story you are sending to the market, customers and prospects is consistent and clearly conveys the advantages of working with you. If you are sending a complete and consistent message that highlights the benefits of working with your company and the value offered by your products and services compared to the competitors, then congratulate yourself! (If you would like an example of a tool you can use for this purpose, email me for a template that I used during a recent presentation to Excell at

Elizabeth Andreini

As the President of Accelerate Marketing, LLC, Elizabeth Andreini, is the "secret weapon" CEOs turn to at key growth points when they need to transform marketing and product management to grow their customer base, increase revenue & scale their business. 
 In addition to providing experienced executive insight and guidance, Elizabeth often works as an interim CMO or VP to provide the hands-on leadership needed to rearchitect marketing and product management and improve execution from the inside.  

Elizabeth Andreini, founder & president of Accelerate Marketing, LLC Accelerate Marketing, LLC
206-769-3420 or
Twitter: @acceler8mkting

Monday, March 23, 2015

Say What?! Create a Foundation for Healthy Communication and Collaboration within your Company

Today we have a guest blog from Shannon Bruce:

In 1992, John Gray wrote the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus on the topic of relationship and love. To date, it’s the all-time, best-selling hard-cover nonfiction book ever sold. In fact, over 7 million copies in 40 different languages have been purchased to the tune of $18 million dollars in sales! Clearly there’s a need for us to understand the differences between one another in support of developing healthy relationships between men and women!

So what does a personal “self-help” book on love and relationship have to do with business? I say EVERYTHING!

We spend more time with those we work with than we do our friends, families and partners.  Those same differences (and challenges!) that exist in love relationships exist in ALL relationships because we are all unique, with distinct wiring that makes us who we are as separate individuals.  And, in order to get any real meaning out of life, or results at the office, we are created to be in relationship and interdependent upon one another.

Our similarities end once we get beyond our basic core needs. There’s more that makes us different than alike; our habits, fears, beliefs, values, conflict handling styles, interests and emotional intelligence all vary. This reality creates gaps in our working relationships causing similar communication challenges to those that exist in the love relationships that John Gray talks about. 
As a team coach, I see the dynamics of poor communication in the workplace all of the time. It ranges from gossip among co-workers (even in the C-Suite) all the way to workplace bullying. And you can bet that your employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity are all negatively affected because of it!

So what do you do?  Consider the following to help improve relationships in your organization:

1.     Clarify and Revisit your Why—Do you know “why” your company exists? This is about knowing more than “how” you do business or “what” you do. It’s about clarifying your company’s compelling reason for being in business that acts as a “stake in the ground”. This “stake” is your “true north” for business success and healthy relationship in your organization. It helps to take the focus off of the challenges and problems among individuals and teams and puts it back onto the company purpose. If you don’t know your company “why”, or perhaps it’s changed, be sure to watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the topic:

2.     Challenge your Mission, Vision and Values—Are you clear about your mission, vision and values in your company? If so, are you “on target” and “walking your talk” in the execution of these within your company? Do these three areas align with your “why”? Talk to a few employees and you’ll get a sense of how well you are accomplishing your stated goals. With this insight, what do you need to do next?

3.     Design Agreements—Do you have clarity on what agreements are needed among your team members to support constructive interaction? What are your “rules for engagement”? Do these agreements create an environment of safety and trust so employees can be open and honest without fear of retribution? Are the discussions during team meetings getting to the “heart of the matter” or are they “superficial”? If they are superficial and “nice”, I suggest that at a minimum, you use your company values as a guide to design a set of agreements that will build trust and safety among your team(s) so “real” conversations can happen.

4.     Develop a Conflict Handling Process—Conflict is about “differences” so expect it to happen frequently and often in your company! J Be proactive to prepare for conflict by defining how you want to communicate when it gets difficult. What “code words” will help you enter into the “awkward zone” of conflict? When you aren’t in agreement with others, how do you want to deal with it? A great resource to developing your conflict handling process is the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Handling Mode Instrument.

5.     Provide ongoing Feedback—This is the most critical step to maintain your foundation for healthy communication and collaboration. It’s not a “one and done” process! Questions to be asking regularly are, “How are we doing as a team?” “What’s working?” “What’s not?” “What will we do differently to improve?” If you’re not creating a feedback loop for continuous improvement, start.

Relationships needs to be nurtured at the office just like they are at home. Say what?! Yes, your greatest assets within your company are your people. If you’re not maintaining these relationships like you are your fixed assets, then it’s time! In fact, this might be where you’ll find the answers you’ve been looking for to improve your bottom-line results. With this in mind, what’s your next step?


Shannon Bruce, PCC is a Professional Certified Coach and current President and CEO of StoryBridge, Inc. of Kitsap County. She has been in the professional coaching industry for over 11 years working in many capacities as an Executive and Leadership Coach, Team Coach, Facilitator and Trainer. Her diverse background also includes 13 years as a CPA with Ernst & Young, Corporate & Regional Operations Management in the wholesale distribution field, and entrepreneurship launching multiple business start-ups.

Shannon considers herself a Catalyst for Culture Change who is an “out-of-the-box” thinker looking for new and life-giving ways to enhance business results and team relationships. With her corporate background and coach training, Shannon understands the needs of both “people” and “profit” to help companies produce more with less. Her true passion & mission is “going into companies” to “create communities”.

Living in Bremerton, WA with her 14-year old daughter, Shannon enjoys quality time with family and friends in addition to reading, exercising and hiking.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Do you have an A-Team?

Today we have a guest blog from Marty Vondrell:

When I work with CEOs and business owners I always like to ask them:
Of all the people you have working for you, how many are A-players?

This usually brings on a conversation about the talent of their employees and staff. Questions like: what is in A-player? What is a B-player versus a C-player? And do you have any employees that aren't even C-players and should be fired?

I would ask you to get a print out of your employee roster and take some "alone time" and quickly label each employee as an A, B, C, or below. If you have marked any below C, figure out how to legally manage them up or out as quickly as possible.  These people are a huge drain on your company in so many ways.

Now calculate the percentage of A players, B players and C players.  What does this ratio look like for your company? How is these ratios related to your compensation strategy? Are you hiring expensive talent in getting the most out of them? Are you hiring cheap talent in getting the least out of them? Or possibly the worst of both worlds ­— hiring expensive talent and getting the least out of them?

It is possible to have 90% A-players but your hiring procedures need to be in structured with that goal.  I promise you that your business and your life in general will look a lot different than a CEO who has 10% A-players. 

When you have only 10% A-players you have either done a poor job of selecting talent for the job or you have such a high percent of C-players that the culture will force your A-players from the company.

A-players DO NOT like to play with C players and they will either leave the company or gravitate down to a B-player at best. All of this works together to create a high or low performing culture.

I believe this is one of the most fundamental and important exercises you can do to promote and improve the success of your company. It is exponentially easier to manage people that are a good fit for the job they possess and the company they work for. If their behavioral communication style, inherent motivators and skills/competencies are not a good fit for the job they hold, they will not be a high-performer.

And you will spend much more time "managing" poor performers than needed. This will be a huge factor in your success as a CEO.

I believe the amount of talent you have in your company (A-players) is directly correlated to the success of your business assuming you have a healthy organization, as described by Patrick Lencioni in “The Advantage”.  There are other factors that play a role in your business being successful such as your strategy and execution. But all of these are greatly determined by the talent of your employees that are executing and in some cases strategizing to promote your success.

Peter Drucker said ~ “The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage, since very few organizations are very good at it”

The ultimate question I asked you is: How good is your team?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Customer Expectations

I always watch for trends and I am noticing something that is really disturbing me.  Many clients are indicating that they and their teams are feeling exhausted.  This is a recipe for disaster. 

Let’s talk about how we might have arrived at this point and how it is showing up and then I want to hear from you about how much you identify with this issue and what you are doing about it. 

Over the last decade, market forces have required businesses to operate leaner, while expectations by their customers is that they will run faster and with a higher level of quality.    All my clients are now doing more, doing it better and doing it faster (no matter what the “it” is). 

The result that I am noticing is that resilience is reduced.  They are less able to rebound from the unexpected (Black Swan events) and their energy is more directed, then ever before, on the tactical.  It also means that we are all depleted and more fragile, as people and organizations.

People are laid low by colds/flu’s and take longer to recover.  There is a frenetic pace to work and here, let me add that all my clients and the businesses I talk with are having record setting sales and margins are not a large concern.  At the same time, I get the sense that all these people are looking over their should and wondering, “How long will these good sales times last?”. 

The impact is that I see/hear less joy and less satisfaction from the accomplishments that people achieve.  There is more resignation than I can remember ever experiencing.  These attributes, unchecked, will leave anyone, or any organization, depleted and susceptible to being blind sided.  So, tell me, am I missing the boat?  Are things more positive then I am perceiving?  Based on your responses, I will develop my next blogs (either move on from the subject or begin to develop it and solutions).  Let me know.