Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Asking 'why' can validate the things we do -

Whether you're managing a team of employees or you're on your own, remember that although what you do and how you do it are important, it's the "why" that provides real motivation to succeed.

An experiment conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business demonstrates the power of "why." At a university call center where employees phone alumni to solicit contributions to scholarship funds, the staff was randomly divided into three groups: The first group read stories written by former call-center employees about the benefits of the job (such as improved communication and sales skills). The second group shared accounts from former students about how their scholarships helped them with their education, careers and lives. The third, a control group, read nothing. They just explained the purpose of the call and asked for a contribution.

After a month, the researchers found that the first group and the third group raised roughly the same amount of money from alumni after the experiment began as before. But callers in the second group, who had related the stories about the impact of the scholarships students received from the fundraising campaign, raised twice as much money from twice as many alumni as they had before.

Understanding the importance of their work -- the "why" -- apparently motivated them to get better results. Put another way, as I like to say: A salesperson tells, a good salesperson explains and a great salesperson demonstrates.

I'll go so far as to proclaim that the most important question you can train your employees to ask is "why?" Does that send shivers up your spine? Let me explain.

When an employee asks why we do things a certain way, and the manager can explain the logical reason, then we know what we are doing is valid. But if that manager can't begin to hazard a guess beyond the "we've always done it this way" reply, we must reconsider our motivation. If the boss doesn't really know why we're doing what we're doing, it's time to thank the employee who gave us the wake-up call.

Same goes for training. When I listen to a mentor describe the most effective way to sell an envelope, or the best approach for a hot prospect, or even our preferred method of answering the phone, I'm expecting to hear not only the "how" but also the "why."

There's an old story about a group of monkeys that was placed in a cage with a bunch of bananas hanging overhead. Every time a monkey tried to climb up and grab a banana, it got drenched with cold water. Eventually the monkeys caught on, and they quit climbing up after the fruit.

But then the monkeys were replaced one by one. As the new monkeys tried to climb up after the bananas, the older monkeys would prevent them from climbing. In time, all the original monkeys were replaced. And amazingly, none of the newer group ever tried to climb up to the bananas, even though none of them had ever been splashed with the cold water.

I know that monkeys can't ask "why" the way humans can, but the story illustrates how easily followers can fall into the trap of doing things the same way without any real justification.

The Marine Corps is said to use this story to teach new officers the value of learning the reasons behind policies and decisions. By asking "why are we doing this?" they can help prevent people from blindly performing tasks repeatedly when the reason behind them has long since vanished.

The conventional wisdom has been that bosses manage and employees do what they're told. We've learned that thinking is upside down.

Innovation is not the exclusive domain of corporate leadership. Pay attention to those employees who respectfully ask "why" -- they are demonstrating an interest in their jobs and exhibiting a curiosity that could eventually translate into leadership ability.

Encourage them to offer their suggestions and give their ideas serious consideration. They may be the brave ones who reach for the bananas!
Consider the wisdom of author and educator Diane Ravitch: "The person who knows 'how' will always have a job. The person who knows 'why' will always be his boss."

Mackay's Moral: It's not enough to know how to do things -- you must know why you do them.

by Harvey Mackay Nov 28, 2011

Asking 'why' can validate the things we do -

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advice for delivering a good speech -

There are only two times in life when you're really alone -- just before you die, and when you have to make a five-minute speech. Studies have found that many people would rather die.

You may know Teddy Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech: "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. … His place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Do leaders still sweat it out in the arena? You bet! At least that's the way I feel every time I make a speech, and I make 30 to 40 speeches every year!
I have a very useful tool to make speechmaking easier. It's called the "Mackay 35 to Stay Alive," and it's one of many handouts that are available free on my website, Here are some of its key points. The the most important are the first three:

Room size. Room size. Room size!

If 100 people are going to attend, the room should seat 75. You want the excitement of a standing-room-only, bumper-to-bumper crowd. I could put the world's two best speakers in the wrong-size room, or in a room laid out the wrong way, and they would rate only a B.

Here are some other tips:

Find out who the group's last three to five speakers were and how they were accepted. Probe as to why they succeeded or failed.

Never check out a room with any of the audience present. If the audience has started to arrive, it's already too late to make substantive changes. You want the first impression to be of you, on stage and in control -- unless you decide to greet people as they come into the room, which I find also makes a great impression.

Set the podium back a few feet from the audience so you can walk in front of it. You want to create intimacy with the group at critical moments.
Bring your tool kit: your speech, a ruler and masking tape. If the lip of the lectern is not high enough to accommodate your papers, use the ruler and masking tape to build your own lip. Masking tape can also strap down any door latches that might bang shut while you are talking.

Outside noise from the adjoining rooms and hallways is the No. 1 killer of meetings. Is another event being held in the rooms next to your talk? If you can't hear a pin drop, you're in the wrong room. A quick phone call to the catering manager will help ensure total quiet.

If you are addressing a breakfast, lunch or dinner audience, ask your introducer to request politely that the people with their backs to the stage turn their chairs forward so they can see you better without distractions. The rest of the audience won't have to deal with them bobbing and stretching throughout your talk.

If you have a questionable story, try it out first. Tell it to the person who invited you to speak and at least two others before using it. Better yet: If in doubt, don't use it at all. I once asked a friend if I could run a joke by her to make sure it was appropriate. She replied, "If you have to ask, you already know the answer."

Introducers are critical. Always try to have a real pro introduce you. Be wary of giving the honor to someone who is a poor speaker. The stage must be set.
Never end your program with a question-and-answer session. You cannot control the agenda or the quality of the questions. Start the Q&A five minutes before the end of your talk. Then transition from one of your answers to a dramatic close.

Debrief yourself within a couple hours of a speech. Take 10 minutes to write down what you could do better the next time. Try something new every time you speak and you'll never become stale.

Mackay's Moral: The best way to sound like you know what you're talking about is to know what you're talking about.

by Harvey Mackay Nov 21, 2011

Advice for delivering a good speech -

Dennis Hong a star in humanoid robotics

On a visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York three years ago, Dennis Hong was captivated not by the giant blue whale, or the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, but by the ankle bone of a timid prehistoric deer.

The "double pulley" ankle gave the creature more bounce in its stride, an evolutionary advantage that enables today's suburban deer to bound gracefully over vegetable garden fences.

Hong took out his iPhone and snapped a picture of the diagram. He thought the concept might work nicely on his next robot.

That prehistoric deer's ankle became a knee bone for CHARLI, Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence, America's first full-size, two-legged, walking humanoid robot.

Hong, 40, the son of a famed Korean aeronautical engineer, is the Leonardo da Vinci of robots. Leonardo saw birds in flight and imagined a human flying machine. He studied human anatomy and in 1495 sketched what is considered the world's first robot.

Like the artist, Hong innovates by connecting things that most people might see as completely unrelated. His visions of pulleys and gears spring to life in a workshop in the basement of the mechanical engineering building at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

That's where Hong and a tight posse of 18 engineering students operate the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa), a relatively new and audacious entrant to the robotics field.

Virginia Tech's engineering school ranks 24th in the nation, according to the latest graduate rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Penn all field bigger, older, better-funded robotics programs.

But none of them has Hong.

He arrived at Virginia Tech in 2003, still in his early 30s. There, working with a small team of bleary-eyed graduate students and a shoestring budget, Hong built several of the most compelling designs to emerge in American robotics.

Hong's dream, though, has always been to win RoboCup, a little-known international competition that is one of the premier academic events in robotics.

RoboCup is an annual soccer tournament for robots.

Designing a robot that can find and kick a soccer ball is termed the ultimate challenge in robot design; not long ago, no humanoid robot on Earth could do it.

Hong first glimpsed the coveted Louis Vuitton Humanoid Cup in summer 2007, during a disastrous trip to Atlanta for that year's RoboCup. The trophy's visit to America was brief; it was headed back to Japan, where it had sat for five consecutive years.

For RoboCup 2011, in July in Istanbul, Hong and his students built CHARLI-2, stronger, lighter and more nimble than his ancestor. In his first match, CHARLI kept losing sight of the ball and failed to score a single goal.

Between games, on the sidelines, Hong and the students racked their brains for a solution.

They finally isolated the problem: CHARLI had a blind spot over his shoulder. They fixed it by hastily reprogramming CHARLI to approach the ball in a wide arc, so he could keep his sensor "eye" on the ball.

CHARLI charged back in a blaze of goals, setting a tournament record and positing himself as the Pele of robots. It came to a final match against Robo-Erectus, a black, bulb-headed robot from Singapore. The two machines teetered around the field for what seemed an eternity. Finally, CHARLI reared back and kicked a decisive shot past Robo-Erectus, who greeted the challenge by freezing into a submissive bow.

Hong, on the sideline, pumped his fist in triumph. Students leapt for joy. The trophy was coming home.

Back at Tech this fall, Hong was leading a tour for visitors from an entrepreneurial robotics lab in Fredericksburg, Va.

Hong drew their attention to the concrete-block trophy wall. In coming weeks, the RoboCup crystal globe trophy would take its place of honor in a display case upstairs on the engineering building's main floor.

"If you want the best students," he told the group, "this is the place."

Gesturing toward the trophy wall, Hong noted to the visitors that it was now out of space.

Dennis Hong: My seven species of robot

by Daniel de Vise Washington Post Nov. 18, 2011 12:00 AM

Dennis Hong a star in humanoid robotics

Wonderfully Surreal Television Interview with Salvador Dali (1958)

In 1958, Salvador Dali appeared on Mike Wallace’s short-lived ABC television program The Mike Wallace Interview. During the 30 minute program (part 1 and part 2), Dali responded to Wallace’s questions in an endearingly surreal manner.

via Boing Boing Edw Lynch Nov 26, 2011

Wonderfully Surreal Television Interview with Salvador Dali (1958)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Businesses should play 'Moneyball'

Art imitates life. That statement is so true in what I consider to be one of the best movies of the year, "Moneyball," based on the true story of Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane. You don't have to be a baseball fan to learn monumental lessons from this film.

Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) meets a nerdy Ivy League economics graduate, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who rates players through analytics and statistical probabilities. Do they get on base at a high rate? If the answer is yes, it doesn't matter if they can hit for a high average.

Brand's charts and graphs confuse and confound the team's scouts and coaches, but Beane buys into the system. He's frustrated by always losing his best players to clubs with big payrolls, knowing the low-payroll A's can't compete with clubs that offer big contracts.

Beane takes a giant leap of faith and follows Brand's formula, making unorthodox hiring decisions. Rather than follow the scouts' assessments, he approaches the players' potential in a more statistical and objective fashion. That allows him to look at players whom the scouts deemed washed up or headed to the minor leagues.

When the team of no-names and has-beens has a rough start, the coaches and scouts feel vindicated. But then the team goes on a record-breaking 20-game winning streak. Who's laughing now?

Billy Beane and Peter Brand demonstrate remarkably creative thinking in solving a problem that seems unlikely to have a positive outcome.

Gerhard Gschwandtner , publisher of Selling Power magazine, wrote, "I can easily see Brad Pitt in the role of a sales manager who has lost three of his top producers to the competition. It is not a big stretch to imagine Peter Brand as the new sales operations manager who teaches his boss how to match salespeople's talents to their specific job requirements. The sales operations manager is the science nerd who knows which tools can fix the sales manager's problems.

"Once the sales manager shifts the focus from chasing superstars to creating (an) organization that aligns people, process and technology, the outcome can be as spectacular as the Oakland A's record-breaking winning streak."

When an organization has spectacular challenges, such as an inadequate budget, creative thinking and bold actions are frightening and daunting to even the most unflappable managers. But you can't afford to do things the ways you've always done them. If that had worked, you wouldn't have all those challenges, would you?

Great ideas don't always arrive like a bolt of lightning. Creative thinking thrives in the proper environment. When you think you are out of ideas, you have to find a way to manufacture creativity. It's not as difficult as it sounds. Ask yourself these questions:

What would happen if we tried (fill in the blank)? Would the company fall apart? Or would it open new paths?

Is there another way to do what we've always done? Are our competitors/friends/other businesses doing something that we could adapt to our needs?

Why have we always done it this way? Has anyone tried anything else?

What's the craziest way we could proceed? Might that be worth considering?

What's the worst way we could proceed? Are we sure it wouldn't work?

If solving this problem were a matter of life and death, what would we do?

What three changes would make this idea better? Or worse?

Can we re-examine all our brainstorming notions and find a reasonable yet novel way to move forward?

Bear in mind that idea people are not always execution pros. Let everyone have a chance to contribute. Use every available resource.

Big problems need big solutions. Big solutions involve big risks. Remember, too, that not addressing big problems involves even bigger risks. If you're meeting resistance in taking a risk, describe it differently. It could be called meeting a challenge, changing course or pursuing a new strategy. Find a way to tackle the problem.

Billy Beane understood that his options were not served by conventional wisdom. How often have we seen extraordinarily talented athletes perform less extraordinarily than we expected and then watched the minor leaguers knock it out of the park?

Mackay's Moral: If you hit enough singles, sooner or later you are going to win big.

Businesses should play 'Moneyball'

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Persistence, determination can conquer resistance

Although my days of running marathons are just pleasant memories, I still get the itch this time of year, when the Twin Cities and Chicago marathons are held.

I have 10 marathons under my belt, including four New York races and one in Boston. When running a grueling race with thousands of people, for most it doesn't matter where in the pack you finish. What matters is simply that you finish. It's all about persistence.

Even the elite runners -- those who finish the 26.2-mile trek in a little over two hours -- have to convince themselves to take the next stride. Imagine how a runner who is still at it after four or five hours feels! Then think about the rush that comes when the finish line is in sight.

The difference between those who finish and those who give up lies in the old axiom that successful people do those things that unsuccessful people don't like to do. Successful people have the determination, the will, the focus and the drive to complete the tough jobs -- like running a marathon. Or launching a business.

Gerald Levin must have felt he was running a marathon when he took on the challenge of making something out of a subscription TV service called Home Box Office in the early '70s. He set up a satellite distribution system at a time when he was suing the federal regulators who approved cable TV licenses.

Levin believed in his product and pushed on. He heavily promoted HBO to TV watchers at a time when few homes had cable TV. Now HBO is a household name, and Levin went on to become chairman of Time Warner Inc.

You may recall the story about when I was starting out and asked a colleague I respected how many calls he would make on a prospect before giving up. He told me, "It depends on which one of us dies first."

Keeping your eye on the prize is usually easier said than done. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the demands of a long-term project. Here are strategies for staying motivated:

Focus on what you can accomplish rather than obstacles. Direct your energy toward achieving a goal and tackle the problems with an emphasis on edging closer to a successful result.

When you identify a roadblock, develop a realistic plan to overcome it.

Refuse to give up. Alter your course if necessary but concentrate on the desired conclusion.

Work with your colleagues or employees to make it easy for them to say yes to your requests. Never ask them to do something that you wouldn't do yourself. Provide options so they can contribute to the best of their abilities.

Be assertive without being aggressive. Set the direction and take responsibility for results.

Persistence and determination are what keep us hammering away. I don't know any entrepreneurs who have achieved any level of success without those two traits. When you have a dream that you can't let go of, trust your instincts and pursue it.

One of my favorite stories is about a dreamer named Henry Comstock. Henry was a miner of precious metals in the American West in the mid-1800s.

Henry found a mine, staked his claim and dug until he found his treasure. He unearthed a little bit of ore, but he knew there was more to be found. So he picked and scratched, always convinced that somewhere there had to be the mother lode. He was determined to find it. He was really going to make it big.

The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months, the months to years and finally he gave up in 1859, when someone offered him $11,000 for his claim. In those days, that was a lot of money. Henry Comstock looked at the buyer and said: "You've made yourself a deal. You've got yourself a mine."

The person who bought it dug a little deeper -- just a few feet deeper -- and the mother lode was found. Within a short time, the mine produced ore worth $340 million.

Dreams take work, they take practice, they take patience, and sometimes they require you to dig deeper.

Mackay's Moral: Instead of giving reasons why I can't, I give myself reasons why I can.

by Harvey Mackay Nov 6, 2011

Persistence, determination can conquer resistance

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Symphony in Red

Symphony in Red by sabotage

Karina Marandjian (Daunhaus)

Benson Cartoons - Political Cartoons - The Arizona Republic

This week's caption winner (Nov. 5): Get out of the way! The Viagra is kicking in! -- Russ Carter, Cottonwood.

Benson Cartoons - Political Cartoons - The Arizona Republic

Mackay: Book offers street-smart business tips

A buddy of mine dubbed my newest book, "The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World," "Harvey Mackay's economic stimulus plan." It's custom-tooled to boost the take-home pay of sales pros, from novices to veterans.

Right now, war is raging between the old school of pound-the-pavement sellers and New Age techno-mavens. Should you still smile-and-shoeshine your way to prospects? Or do you poke the traffic of today's 200 million tweeters? The truth is you better master both. And this book lays out the two worlds with 100 percent ease of access.

Coaching legend Lou Holtz, who wrote the introduction, calls me a "playing-field psychologist without rival." Outdo Lou? Not a chance. But this I can promise: Every competitive tip I've learned from Coach and titans like him are squeezed between the covers.

When galleys of "The Mackay MBA" were mailed to lecture-circuit colleagues, I asked these experts which 10 tips they thought readers would find most valuable in the book. They came back with these picks:

Nothing can beat a hungry fighter with a positive attitude. Success is 90 percent mental, and your attitude determines your altitude. Sir Winston Churchill nailed it: "I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else."

The difference between failure and success is doing a thing nearly right and doing it exactly right. Selling is a skill, and it takes practice to perfect it. Practice makes perfect ... not true. You have to add one word: Perfect practice makes perfect. The Beatles performed together live 1,200 times before their 1964 breakout success.

Confidence can do, well ... almost anything! "I will" beats IQ nine times out of 10. Believe in yourself or no one else will.

Do your homework. "The Mackay 25" checklist zeroes in on how prospects communicate. Know the channel of choice. Some cellphone hounds are strictly texters. If the customer is a company, do you surf the Internet for breaking news? Are you tracking the vast resources of the invisible Web?

How many salespeople thumb a magazine in the reception area of a prospect company? Can you really afford to ignore that video on the firm's new product launches? Those softball trophies are statements of company pride. The speech, pace and apparel of employee passers-by are a case study in company culture.

Salespeople who choke in the clutch almost always think too much. Gifted pros closing a hard-fisted negotiation will visualize the effortlessness of a perfect golf swing. And stay true to yourself at your very best. You can't play outside your range. At the Super Bowl, play the game that got you there.

Older salespeople can't make 50 their psychological speed limit. Surf the Net, stream videos, eyeball a lecture on the Web. When you call on Generation Y execs for your account, don't be rattled. Your pitch is bound to compete with endless smartphone interruptions. Gen Y'ers are being their normal multitasking and, not infrequently, multimillionaire selves.

Person-to-person contacts remain the single most reliable way to build a durable sales base. If you translate that to simply cranking up the ol' boy network, oh, boy, are you in trouble. Nearly half of the undergraduate student body at tech bastion Massachusetts Institute of Technology is female. Don't gender-gaffe!

Learn the new one-two punch of sales. Master the one-on-one, in-person sales closing. But use giveaways like webinars to woo and prequalify prospects. Precisely designed prequalification programs allow you to create a range of pitch-perfect approaches to reach the total market.

Recognize that a stint in sales is essential experience for more and more CEOs. In all businesses and organizations, everyone is a salesperson of one sort or another. Mind the new twist to the old sales stereotype: Rather than being flamboyantly egocentric, modern sales successes are listening-driven and customer-centric. And because many products are so complex, more sales are the work of well-oiled teams.

Sales mastery isn't just a profitable business skill. It's also a great tool for living life well. Salespeople learn resilience is indispensable. They know failure is not falling down, but staying down. "The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World" is my legacy book, with advice you can take all the way to the bank.

Mackay's Moral: You can't direct the wind, but you sure can shift the sails.

by Harvey Mackay - Oct. 31, 2011 12:00 AM

Mackay: Book offers street-smart business tips

Boost your skills to compete, author says

It's easy to sell when the economy is expanding.

Now that companies are competing for a small number of recession-scarred consumers, sales professionals need an edge, said best-selling author and syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay.

Mackay shares advice on selling products in a down economy in "The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World," which he will sign in Scottsdale on Thursday.

Mackay, who built a multimillion-dollar envelope-making firm, has written five business and motivational books. Top sellers such as "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive" and "Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt" have sold over 10,000 copies worldwide. His column is syndicated in about 50 newspapers, including The Arizona Republic. His trademark is to end his syndicated columns and sometimes book chapters with a simple "Mackay's Moral."

"Today's game is to take the business away from somebody else," Mackay said. "That person who is prepared, hopefully the person who reads my book, can take their game to the next level."

That includes melding online tools and social networking with traditional selling techniques, a topic that Mackay covers in his new book.

"In the marketplace today, people, customers, are way more knowledgeable, demanding and sophisticated than ever before," he said. "Selling in this kind of climate is all the more important."

Mackay, a part-time Paradise Valley resident, also counsels sales professionals on to handle rejection and to invest in their own development -- skills that the businessman practices in his own life.

Mackay has hired coaches for many activities, from improving his golf game and to learning Chinese.

"When people ask why I have all these coaches, I say, 'I'm not spending a single penny. I'm investing in myself,'" he said. "Once I try my guts out, I can't worry about anything because I'm just doing the best I can with the best coaching."

The book also touches on how professionals can make a seemingly mundane job more exciting to increase their output and allow them to move up to more interesting positions. Mackay said his envelope business has to combat the perception of dreariness.

"When you hear the word 'envelopes,' you think boring," he said. "But being able to make any product, manufacture it, sell it and create some employment is exciting. There's a lot more excitement in that little envelope than meets the eye."

Mackay's recent book is the culmination of his years of business experience, the author said.

His first job as a paper boy, at age 11, taught him basic business lessons, Mackay recalled. He made sure that he got paid every month and signed as many people as he could up for early payments.

After college, Mackay spent five years working at an envelope company, which stoked his desire to be his own boss. He left to found Minneapolis-based MackayMitchell Envelope Company in 1959 at age 26, a business that now turns out 25million envelopes per day.

Several decades later, the business generates $100million in sales each year and employs 500 people at its various offices. Mackay is chairman of the board and remains active in the company.

The advice he shares in his book are steps he takes every day to continue his own success. The first section of the book is simply titled "You."

"I've never met a successful hermit," Mackay said. "You have to be out there, you have to be networking. You have to ignite your own passion."

by Yvonne Gonzalez The Arizona Republic Oct. 29, 2011 02:15 PM

Boost your skills to compete, author says

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