Decision-making 101

Executives are hired to make decisions. As such, it’s a topic worthy of study.

Evaluate your assumptions. Before you can move ahead, you need to know where you stand. What is prompting you to make a decision? What is the basis for your thinking?

Consider the alternatives. Knowing your assumptions, what choices do you have? Why would you pursue those choices? Sometimes there are not good alternatives. For example, shutting down a plant or laying off people. Neither is good, but one solution might be better for the health of the organization.

Game-plan the possibilities. When time permits, you can narrow your options to one, two or three choices. Consider what happens in each instance. It’s a bit like stacking dominoes.

Make a decision. Leaders are judged by their decisiveness. When an executive wavers over a major decision, the organization remains in stasis. Nothing happens. Therefore, a leader must choose what do it and why to do it. Next, the leader must communicate that decision widely so everyone knows what happens next.

Only the future will determine if a decision made today was the best choice, but when a leader makes time to think, that is all you can ask.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018, Trust Across America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Trust. Also in 2018, named Baldoni a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. Global Gurus ranked him No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, named Baldoni to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

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Are you an innovation skinny-dipper?

Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Chip R. Bell.


I grew up in the rural South. Most every farm had a pond created for water for cows, especially during a dry spell. It was often the water source for irrigation and the recreation source for fishing and swimming. When a group of boys gathered at a pond with an “I dare you” mentality on a summer day, the challenge to skinny dip was never far away.

Typically, all ultimately participated. But, the ones to strip off first and head for the water were considered the pacesetters. It had little to do with anatomical pride; it was an attitude of adventure and courage.

We live in a time when incremental improvement will not suffice to retain competitive advantage. Winners are the innovators willing to take risks and boldly go beyond what peers are unlikely to even try. It is not foolhardy recklessness like jaywalking on a busy street. When Elon Musk launched a Tesla roadster into space, it was symbol of bravery. When Tim Cook lead Apple’s launching of the Apple Watch, it was less about what the watch actually was and more about a gallant vision of what the watch could become—a wearable portal to practically every facet of life!

One of my favorite innovator stories is skinny-dipper Samuel Colt. Sam grew up on his grandfather’s farm. One of young Colt’s chores was taking a horse and wagon into the shipbuilding town of Glastonbury, Conn., for supplies. On one trip, Sam listened to soldiers rave about the prowess of the double-barreled rifle, boasting the impossibility of anyone ever devising a firearm that could shoot more than two times without reloading.

It was a watershed moment for the 12-year-old Colt, who vowed to become the person who would craft an “Impossible gun.”

Pursuing that childhood dream, he created a pistol (the Peacemaker) that could shoot six rounds successively without reloading. With an order from the Texas Rangers to quickly produce 1,000 pistols, he realized the “one-at-a-time” artisan approach to gun making would never work. However, a pistol with interchangeable parts would be more efficient and help him realize his dream of an assembly-line process for greater productivity.

He wrote to his father in 1836: “The first workman would receive two or three of the most important parts and would affix these and pass them on to the next who would add a part and pass the growing article on to another who would do the same, and so on until the complete arm is put together.”

Henry Ford in 1913 reasoned that Colt’s two concepts (interchangeable parts and assembly line production) could be a way to provide automobiles for the masses. He improved on the process by making it movable. It became the factory operation approach for all industries. With the advent of railroads and the availability of labor, especially immigrant workers, America quickly became the industrial capital of the world, exporting goods cheaply due to efficiencies gained by mass production.

We can thank skinny-dipper Sam for starting a chain reaction that today produces smartphones, IBM's Watson technology and Tesla electric cars that can accelerate as fast as a Ferrari!

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing,” wrote Helen Keller. “To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate, is strength undefeatable.”

Let go of your anxiety of being rebuked, the concern for potential failure and the challenge of going unclothed into ambiguous waters. Surface your inner bravery and dive into the waters of uncertainty to confidently swim in the pond of innovation.


Chip R. Bell is a keynote speaker on leadership, and customer loyalty topics, as well as trainer and best-selling author. He has worked with a range of Fortune 500 companies, associations, and government organizations. He’s also authored several best-selling books, including "Mangers as Mentors," with Marshall Goldsmith. Visit his website.

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Why you (and GE) are feeling dizzy

Each month, When Growth Stalls examines why businesses and brands struggle and how they can overcome their obstacles and resume growth. Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Co., an advertising agency that specializes in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands. The company was recognized by Advertising Age as 2015 Southwest Small Agency of the Year. McKee is also the author of “When Growth Stalls” and “Power Branding.”

SmartBrief offers more than 200 newsletters, including SmartBrief on Leadership and newsletters for small businesses and marketers and advertisers.

After more than 100 years as one of its cornerstone members, General Electric was just drummed out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It was a good, long run. The longest, in fact, of any organization in history.

General Electric was one of the original corporations tracked by Dow Jones when it created its “Industrial Average” al the way back in 1896. But like American Tobacco, National Lead, and Tennessee Coal and Iron before it, GE’s role in the economy has become something less than it once was.

Corporate membership in the S&P 500 tells a similar tale: Five decades ago, the average tenure of companies in the index was 33 years. Two decades ago, it was 20 years. Over the coming decade, it's forecast to shrink to 14 years. What’s going on? The business cycle -- disruption, acceleration, maturation, saturation, commoditization, disruption again -- is spinning ever faster.

A Deloitte study of the UK census discovered that telephone and telegraph operators enjoyed a full century of growth before jobs began to decline. Similarly, a Harvard Business Review analysis of how many decades it took various 20th-century innovations to mature noted that it took 64 years for telephones to reach 40% penetration. By contrast, smartphones achieved the same result in a single decade (by then telephone and telegraph operators had all but disappeared).

That’s why we’re all feeling a bit dizzy. The disruption cycle continues to gain velocity. Business models that once lasted for decades can now become irrelevant in one or two. Just 20 years ago in my industry, for example, digital agencies were hot growth companies. Advances in technology have already put them on the ropes.

In industry after industry, companies with whom we consult find themselves facing a new normal. Call it continuous disruption, as oxymoronic as that sounds.

A few years back, my firm worked with a brand that was struggling with long-term changes in consumer behavior that were making it less relevant every day. We identified an opening that would enable the company to rapidly but sensibly change its offering to lead the evolution of consumer tastes rather than fighting it. The management team’s response? Nah. It required too much mental energy. The company is now defunct.

The mandate to embrace continuous disruption is as real as it is difficult to accept. Just the other day, I ran into a CEO whose retail operation is going slowly, inexorably, out of business. The crazy thing is, he knows it. He also knows a pathway to resurgence that has a pretty good shot of working, but he can’t bring himself to pursue it. It involves too much change, too fast.

Tragic tales such as these offer valuable lessons. If we accept the reality of continuous disruption, we’ll be better able to regularly refresh our relevance. If we don’t -- if we get stuck in our ways and became too comfortable with old, familiar business models -- we’ll end up like those that went down before us. By the time we recognize the urgency of our situations, we won’t have the energy, the courage and -- likely -- the resources to pull it off.

To its credit, GE is belatedly but boldly trying to respond to the forces of disruption by pursuing new CEO John Flannery’s aggressive $20 billion divestiture plan. The company has already shed its locomotive manufacturing operation and its healthcare IT business, and, in what might be the most poetic move of all, may be looking to exit the light bulb business. 

Think about that. GE -- a brand as synonymous with the light bulb as any -- will soon quit making light bulbs. The company already stopped manufacturing incandescent bulbs a few years ago in favor of longer-lasting and more efficient LEDs. That was a courageous decision for an organization so identified with such an iconic product. And it was equally impressive that a technology not invented until the 1990s could have caused such a disruption.

Speaking of 1990s inventions, do you know what the number one US television network is? Here’s a hint: it began as a mail-order DVD rental service. According to Turner Broadcasting, when measured by “gross streaming hours,” Netflix outperforms all other TV networks. That’s one reason why both Amazon and Apple have joined the chase and are spending billions of dollars developing original video content. ABC, CBS and NBC never saw it coming.

GE. The incandescent bulb. Traditional TV networks. They all had a pretty good run, wouldn’t you say?

But sometime over the past few decades, something fundamentally changed. The cycle sped up. Disruption became the norm rather than the exception. Today, industries are born, thrive and decline over a shorter time span than the average professional’s career, which explains why this generation has a lot less job stability.

It’s tough to keep business going in an industry when the industry itself can’t stay in business.  But like the jet engines that GE continues to manufacture, wear and tear (not to mention fuel inefficiency) mostly occur during takeoffs and landings. Once a plane is flying, it requires a lot less effort and energy to change course.

That’s an instructive metaphor. The days when change happened in decades-long fits and starts are long gone, but it doesn’t mean we can’t adapt. Once we recognize what’s happening, we can adjust to it. Our task is to stay aloft by refueling in mid-air.


Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Co., an advertising agency that specializes in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands that was recently recognized by Advertising Age as Southwest Small Agency of the Year. He’s the author of When Growth Stalls and Power Branding.



Should You Charge More for Your Business or Service?

Resist the urge to sell your product or service short.

How broken is your business model?

Each month, When Growth Stalls examines why businesses and brands struggle and how they can overcome their obstacles and resume growth. Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Co., an advertising agency that specializes in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands. The company was recognized by Advertising Age as 2015 Southwest Small Agency of the Year. McKee is also the author of “When Growth Stalls” and “Power Branding.”

SmartBrief offers more than 200 newsletters, including SmartBrief on Leadership and newsletters for small businesses and marketers and advertisers.

Hasbro recently reported a double-digit decline in revenue and a big internal overhaul. That followed Mattel’s news that it will be hiring its fourth CEO in as many years as it also tries to overcome slumping sales. Why are the behemoths of the toy business in such trouble? Because their most significant historical distribution channel, Toys R Us, declared bankruptcy.

Why did Toys R Us declare bankruptcy? Because of Amazon.

It’s true that other factors contributed to the decline of all three companies, including an ill-timed leveraged buyout that loaded Toys R Us with debt. But it was the advent of e-commerce in general, and Amazon in particular, that is dealing the heaviest blow. Toys R Us’ demise means that Hasbro and Mattel must find a way to adjust to the same distribution dynamics that a year earlier felled Sports Authority and caused Whole Foods to wave the white flag.

While the winds of change have always been unrelenting, never before have they created such noticeable gusts. We feel them in the marketing consulting business; for example, Google, Facebook and their ilk rapidly continue to sweep up ad dollars that used to come our industry’s way, causing a permanent shift to which firms like mine must adjust. I suspect you feel the breeze in your business as well.

In research we conducted this year, a plurality of corporate leaders confessed to unprecedented difficulties in managing (and even understanding) what’s happening to their businesses, with more than four in 10 going as far as to say they need an entirely new business model. It was especially true of companies whose growth is slowing and/or who are struggling with the “Amazonification” (nee: commoditization) of their industries.

Clearly, this is no time to be complacent. Because there is no time to be complacent. It’s all happening too fast.

Corporate strategy used to largely focus on carving out a defensible competitive position within an industry. Today it’s not enough to think in terms of the niche alone, or even of the industry. It really is a question of business model. As one of my partners recently quipped, we’ve got to stop defending the gates and focus on building the tower. We have to be willing to sacrifice branches to save the tree.

We must become the destructor rather than the destructed. It’s on us to question everything about the business proposition we’re putting forth into the world, granting no quarter to sacred cows.

For example, as Hasbro and Mattel face what amount to existential challenges, what business model, exactly, should they be pursuing? To the casual observer, they both look like toy manufacturers. Is that what they really are, or should remain? Are they toy developers? Toy market-makers? Are they in the business of play? Entertainment? Education? Should they pursue vertical integration? Disintermediation? Cooperation?

These are deep and consequential questions, and the more of them they explore, the more additional ones may surface, at least for a time.

Which leads to the question for you: How broken is your business model? If you say “not at all,” I say you’re probably not paying attention. You may be out in front of your competition, but these days you’re less likely to spot them in the rearview mirror as you are darting out from a side street, arising out of the dust or dropping from the sky. We’re now in a “butterfly effect” economy in which a shift in one business model can affect all others.

Most leaders I know don’t have their heads in the sand; they have some sense of where their business model is being threatened, up to and including obsolescence. That’s a good sign. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, nothing focuses the mind like the sight of the gallows. But most also struggle with what to do about it.

That expertise, in fact, is the “tower” my company continues to build. Ironically, our changing business model is to help other companies identify and leverage their changing business models. It’s nothing if not relevant to the times.

There’s a cliche that says every family is dysfunctional in its own way. Similarly, every business model is broken -- or breaking -- in its own way. If you’re feeling the marketplace shifting under your feet, you’re not alone. Nothing, it appears, is beyond disruption or off limits to the forces of creative destruction. Not to pick on Amazon, but the company just announced it’s going to start delivering packages straight to the trunk of our cars, for crying out loud.

So yes, every company should ask itself, “How broken is our business model?” But there’s a second, more important question: “How might we break someone else’s?” All it takes to transform threat into opportunity is the proper mindset.

Whatever the case, don’t ignore the very real (if sometimes imperceptible) likelihood that your business model is becoming obsolete. Even if your company is cruising along, someone or something is coming after, hovering over or undermining it.

Don’t let data trick you if you want to create a new future

I want to begin by saying I don’t believe in judgment calls. Or, better said, I don’t believe that when we make judgment calls, we are judging with our guts. No, I believe that what we call “judgment calls” are just decisions where factors other than facts and past evidence are considered in the decision-making process.

What we should be asking is: When do we allow factors others than facts and evidence to be considered in the decision-making process? Do these other factors belong in the decision-making process? How do we know when to consider those other factors when decision-making?

Consider my situation: On a Friday, I was invited to facilitate a three-day retreat with the top management of a nonprofit organization I’ve never worked with before. Because it was a new organization (to me) and considering the high stakes of the work (the nonprofit was considering closing its doors), I would normally take a few weeks to prep (as past failures have taught me the importance of distinguishing between the espoused purpose and outcome of a retreat versus the real reason for having it.)  But the CEO said the retreat was in two Mondays. Knowing the risk involved, knowing that — rationally speaking — it was not a good idea, I decided to take the assignment. Why?

The factors that played a role in my judgment call to facilitate the retreat:

  • I wanted the new client and was determined to make it work.
  • I wanted to test my own ability to improvise with little information.
  • I engaged with a sense of adventure and the thrill of getting into a potentially risky situation.
  • I was curious to experiment with shorter preparation time and wanted to see how I would bring a typically much longer preparation process to bear in only five days.

Now, I am not a big believer in asking why people do things because I think we often make up answers. We tend to answer with the noblest explanation — “I did the retreat because I am risk-adverse and flexible” — and discard the less complimentary one —“I need a new client” or “I am crazy.” But we do the exact opposite when we have to explain why other people do things. We tend to discard their noble explanations and often believe the less generous ones.

I will put this objection on hold for a moment and will continue, despite the impossibility of considering every factor in my decision and being fully aware of my limited capacity for an objective account of my own decision-making process.

No doubts: based on past data I should have said no. Yet if I were to rely on past data only and not on those other factors, I would have foregone an opportunity to learn about myself and given up a great experience for my client’s organization.

I believe that the challenge of creating a future for ourselves and others lives in a different domain than relying on fixing, changing or re-engineering based on past data. Simply, it relies on creating. That starts right in the decision-making moment of saying yes!

(I should confess: During that decision-making process, I felt the thrill of the possible failure, and like a gambler ready to lose all his money for just one more bet, I was OK with it. I had no idea how I would handle it, but my answer to “How?” was “Yes!” Yes, I was ready to lose it all.)

Credit: Stencil

In business, like in personal life, we rely on data. Yet data is about yesterday, not tomorrow. Data can identify patterns and illuminate future choices, but relying exclusively on data is like driving relying only on the rearview mirror.

Based on the past, I should not have accepted the job. So, clearly the decision to facilitate the retreat was a different kind of decision — the kind of decision where faith has a role because it was about creating a new future. I had faith that this retreat was a way to stretch myself and experiment with the intention of helping others. I had faith in the power of coming together to create a new future for this organization. I had faith in people’s ability in that organization in crisis to make things better for themselves.

This raises the question: When should we rely on faith to make decisions in business? I believe the answer is every time we are creating the future rather than fixing the past, every time we are trying to answer questions we don’t even know we have. (I am sure you would admit that this is pretty weird territory!) We should rely on faith every time the work is not about not knowing in the domain of fixing — because if it were, we would simply look for an answer — but about not knowing about not knowing, in the domain of creating the future.

This is a strange place to be for business-oriented, fact-finding, strategy-minded, brilliant people!  Yet when we are in a place where we aren’t looking for answers but for better questions, when inquiry takes over it brings unexpected insights on our way of being in the world. And we soon discover that these kinds of decisions aren’t about “what to do” but more about “who we are.”

Data has been on the wrong side of history every time the world has changed. Data tells us that Goliath always has and will win against David, that 13 small colonies under British rule have no business asking for independence and will not prevail against the biggest empire on Earth, that women have never voted before and should not have the right now. Real entrepreneurship, even in large organizations, is about creation. Corporations, organizations and communities like to make decisions based on data, yet the entrepreneurial spirit of the founders who gave birth to those companies, organizations or communities is often the result of the courage of upholding dreams -- that goes well beyond the present data, to make connections, establish patterns and venture into unpredictable, frustrating and uncomfortable territory to create a place of possibilities.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t take into account data or that there aren’t more or less effective ways when we are in this strange, new territory of creating a future.  The decision-making process in this domain is less about data and more about adopting a different mindset, another way of being like: being faithful and idealistic about the future, being open to being wrong, having the courage to face reality, thriving in uncertainty, creating clear parameters for what success and failure look like, being committed to the experiment.

If I were to discuss the process I used when making a judgment call that couldn’t be analyzed entirely on past data, I would say: “I don’t know why I say 'yes' to the retreat. All I know is I wanted to create a new future for myself and that organization and felt that facilitating the retreat was the way to start doing it.”


Adriano Pianesi is a leadership practitioner, faculty member of the Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University, where he also teaches for the Office of Executive Education. Through ParticipAction Consulting, his consulting practice, he helps diverse groups of people come together to solve tough problems, and helps leaders work for change by harnessing the powers of conflict, diversity and complexity. He is a faculty member of the World Bank "Team Leadership Program" and of the State Department "Experiential Learning Program". He is the author of the e‐book “Teachable Moments of Leadership” where he describes a state‐of‐the‐art experiential leadership learning methodology that gets real results. Visit his website.

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Leaders must animate the vision

This post is excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from "Stop Selling and Start Leading: How to Make Extraordinary Sales Happen" by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner and Deb Calvert. All rights reserved. This book is available wherever books and ebooks are sold.

Stop Selling and Start LeadingPart of motivating others is appealing to their ideals. Another part is animating the vision and breathing life into it. To enlist others, you need to help them see and feel how their interests and aspirations align with the vision. In sales, the classic example of this is the test drive. The reason sellers want car shoppers to get behind the wheel and take it for a spin right away is simple. There’s no better way to see and feel what it would be like to own that vehicle than by driving it.

Without a tangible, test-drivable product, you must paint a compelling picture of the future, one that is so vivid and specific that buyers know exactly what it would be like to live and work in that exciting and uplifting future state. That’s the only way they will be sufficiently motivated to commit their time, energy, and sustained focus to the vision’s realization. Animating the vision makes it so real and meaningful that people will boldly act to do their part in advancing toward it. You may not think of yourself as expressive or emotional enough to paint a word picture that would give people this kind of courage and commitment. You may not see yourself as someone who can speak with genuine conviction about the meaning and purpose of your work with your buyers.

You may think you work with buyers who want facts and figures, minus the fluff. The truth is that everyone is capable of speaking expressively and convincingly, and you do it more often than you realize or appreciate.

When you believe strongly in something, you naturally speak in an impassioned way to communicate what you feel. Your passion brings it to life. Your enthusiasm and expressiveness come from your beliefs. When you unleash your enthusiasm and expressiveness, you muster commitment and courage in others. Don’t underestimate your talents.

Don’t let your talents be diluted, either, by canned sales presentations that are packed full of data and product features. Details derail sales. Buyers want to be stirred into action. American  architect and urban designer Daniel Burnham understood this. When he was eulogized by his archrival Frank Lloyd Wright as “an enthusiastic promoter of great construction enterprises,” Wright spoke to Burnham’s sales abilities more than his architectural style, and said, “His powerful personality was supreme.”

This visionary architect didn’t rely on blueprints, sketches, drafts, and plans. Burnham surely had all of those in hand, but he didn’t lead with them. Instead, in describing his “city of the future” master plan for Chicago, he spoke from his heart about what he’d pictured for his hometown. He used imagery, descriptive words, and the interests and dreams of those to whom he was talking to inspire the city’s movers and shakers to support the plan. Sellers in any sector can do the same.

When you weave the emotional connection to what matters most to the buyer together with the logical case for change, you animate the vision. You breathe life into it by making it more concrete. To accomplish this, leaders use symbolic language to create mental pictures and provide something familiar that makes a vision seem more real. They tell stories and share anecdotes to connect the elements of the vision and portray what it will look like as it takes shape. They offer examples and testimonials to draw parallels between something proven in the past and an image of the future. All of this helps buyers, too, to picture the possibilities.

Metaphors have this power. A metaphor is a figure of speech used to show a resemblance to something that is not actually the same. “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog,” “all the world’s a stage,” and “the elephant in the room” are metaphors that conjure up instant images and elicit comparisons to promote understanding. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, is a master of metaphors. He includes “make your own metaphors” as one of the crucial plays that contributed to the explosive growth of Salesforce from a little idea to a company worth $8 billion in under twenty years. Marc says metaphors are a great way to communicate your message: “I spend a lot of time creating metaphors to explain what we do. For example, early on I explained what we did with the metaphor ‘ is meets Siebel Systems.’ Later, when we launched AppExchange, we called it ‘the eBay of enterprise software.’ ”

Relating something new to something familiar creates a feeling of comfort. Symbolic language and comparisons help people see what you’re proposing. With a little practice, you can create your own powerful metaphors. They’re all around you, and you probably use them already. There are art metaphors, game and sports metaphors, war metaphors, science fiction metaphors, machine metaphors, religious metaphors, and spiritual metaphors. James Geary, deputy curator at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and a leading expert on the use of metaphorical language, reports that people use a metaphor every ten to twenty-five words, or about six metaphors a minute. Learning to intentionally use metaphors and other symbolic language greatly enhances your ability to enlist others in a common vision of the future.

Storytelling is another way to infuse facts with meaning and connect the dots between emotions and logic. Educational psychologist Jerome Bruner determined that people are twenty-two times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story. This is why television commercials and letters from charitable organizations show you the stories of people your donations can help instead of giving you the simple facts about the need. When you can relate emotionally to the story, you are more likely to respond. Stories invite listeners to travel somewhere new with you, from “once upon a time” to “happily ever after.” When we listen to stories, we are engaged and feel a sense of belonging. This buyer’s simple statement sums up the importance of telling stories: “I appreciate personal stories because it helps to build not only a business relationship but a personal one as well. It has a huge impact as it builds trust and creates a partnership.”

A vision is an image in the mind. A vision becomes real as you translate images into concrete and relatable form for your buyers. The word vision itself stems from the root word “to see.” Vision statements, then, are not statements at all. They are pictures. They are images of the future.

This means to enlist others in a shared vision, you must be able to speak about the future and create pictures with words so buyers have a mental image of what things will be like when they embark on this quest with you. You have to use descriptive phrases and specific examples to deliver the mental image a buyer can relate to and see. This is not a skill reserved for a few gifted speakers. This is something you already do when you genuinely want people to understand things the way you do.

Think about something you enjoy doing. When you describe your hobby to someone else, you speak descriptively and share specific examples. You create mental images by using words alone. How you say them matters, too. Social scientists have found that individuals who are perceived as charismatic are simply more animated than people who are not perceived that way. They smile more, speak faster, pronounce words more clearly, and move their heads and bodies more often. Being energetic and expressive are the keys to being perceived as someone who is charismatic. Humor and energetic interaction add to the perception. The old saying that enthusiasm is contagious is certainly true for sellers.

Creating a mental image, telling stories, and using descriptive language all trigger emotional responses. These techniques for animating the vision simultaneously produce an awesome connecting experience infused with meaning and emotional sway for your buyers. Your commitment and conviction will shine through as you appeal to common ideals and enlist others to animate the vision.


James M. Kouzes is the Dean's Executive Fellow of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, and according to the Wall Street Journal, one of the 12 best executive educators in the US.

Barry Z. Posner is the Accolti Endowed Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University, where he served for 12 years as Dean of the School.

Deb Calvert is the founder of People First Productivity Solutions and The Sales Experts Channel, and author of one of HubSpot's "Top 20 Most Highly Rated Sales Books of All Time."  Learm more about their new book "Stop Selling and Start Leading."

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Defining roles and responsibilities in project management

Project management is a very much misunderstood profession that has often been equated to herding cats. Much of this confusion comes from the fact that project management isn’t a single discipline but rather the practice of bringing a set of disciplines together in order to achieve a common goal.

One of the big challenges in project management then is the definition and attribution of individual roles in projects that often require expertise and involvement from across an organisation. Today, I want to take a look at how these roles and responsibilities are defined and maintained and the importance in doing so.

The PRINCE2 methodology definition

Project management methodologies are frameworks and principles that underpin the planning, execution and success of projects across any given corporate structure, industry or deliverable. The definition of roles and responsibilities are core to all project management methodologies. If we look at the principles of the PRINCE2 methodology, which is the most widely practiced in the world today, we’ll see the importance of roles and responsibilities is described like thus. As Wikipedia notes:

“Roles are separated from individuals, who may take on multiple roles or share a role. Roles in PRINCE2 are structured in four levels (corporate or programme management, project board, project manager level and team level).”

PRINCE2 methodology stressed the importance of role definition and hierarchy but is also flexible to recognize that some pre-defined roles can be merged, while others can’t.

Broadly speaking, the stated hierarchy is defined by the level of involvement.

  • Corporate management level refers to the project’s sponsors, whose primary involvement will be defining the project’s mandate, defining project level tolerances and ensuring that the project delivers value for money.
  • The project board (sometimes referred to as a steering committee) can be seen as the executive and will comprise key decision-makers, including a business-oriented individual who is ultimately responsible for the project. It is the job of the board to provide the necessary resources and funding to the PM and his/her team.
  • The project manager is responsible for the day-to-day management of the project and is responsible for liaising and reporting back progress to the project board. Because this role is so pivotal, it cannot ever be merged with other roles and exists on a hierarchical level of its own.
  • The project team are responsible for executing and delivering the project within agreed time, cost and quality tolerances. Team member’s roles will vary depending on project scope and size. These could include various support roles with administrative and data compiling duties, as well as asset management.

The importance of hierarchy is largely an operational consideration in the execution of a project, in that it creates clear boundaries between roles. At a deeper level, PRINCE2 also has a clearly defined responsibilities tables with each product (outcome) broken down by where any given producer, approver or reviewer sits in the wider hierarchy.

Stakeholder roles

Another core aspect of role definition in project management methodology are the stakeholder roles. These stakeholder roles are defined by their interest in the project and its deliverables and are as follows:

  • Business sponsors: Individuals who make sure the project delivers value for money.
  • Users: The beneficiaries of the product that the project has been setup to deliver.
  • Suppliers: Those supplying the resources or skills in order for the project to deliver.

PRINCE2 methodology dictates that all stakeholder roles must be represented at both the project board and project team level. Individuals at all levels should be able to understand what is expected of them, what is expected of others and who the key decision makers are.

Specialists vs. generalists

In many projects, especially smaller projects, skills might need to overlap in order to fully utilize the individual skillsets available to you. The tension comes when there is a need for a specific specialism or technical skill set in order to complete a given task. In these cases, the more generalist skill sets of a project team may not be able to fill the gap.

It is the role of the project manager to balance a multi-skilled team with a more specialized one. This will involve thorough planning and the management of the project in stages (another PRINCE2 principle) so as to fully understand where and when specific skillsets will be required and what other stages will be dependent on this.

In some instances, it may be necessary to outsource or bring in external specialist help, but this presents its own set of challenges, not least in getting the budget signoff required.

Project management requires a structure and framework, but it also requires flexibility in order to adapt to any given environment and the unique challenges they pose. A key determinant of success, however, will always be the proper definition of roles and responsibilities. Getting this right from the outset will make for a smoother journey, where everyone involved is engaged and in the loop.


David Baker has worked within the training industry for many years with PRINCE2 Training. Working on courses such as PRINCE2, ITIL, PMP, Agile, Scrum and Lean Six Sigma. PRINCE2 Training delivers world-class accredited training solutions to thousands of organisations and individuals throughout the world.

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Everyday analytics: Ask the right questions and embrace incremental improvement

Analytics have now permeated into all levels of any company’s organizational hierarchy, creating exciting new opportunities but also some interesting challenges.

Not all businesses are equipped with data scientists and analytics experts to help them navigate what can seem to be a flood of information. The challenge companies face is making data accessible to a range of stakeholders who have little to no experience in data science so that organizations can derive insights and the greatest value from them -- without overwhelming staff.

There are several steps businesses can take to foster a culture that habitually and successfully maximizes the benefit of analytics at all levels.

Analytics can seem intimidating simply because of the massive amount of data that is at our fingertips. I often liken it to an author working on a novel: the hardest step is usually getting started. Being inundated with data from every angle makes it difficult for an everyday user to get started gleaning insights from analytics.

In order to overcome this challenge, it is important first to define the question to investigate -- essentially starting with the first step of the scientific method. By defining the top priority question, the focus is narrowed, eliminating swaths of data that do not contribute to answering the question. This first step is the most important, and the key question can often be determined by the people on the front lines in the organization on a daily basis. They have much greater insight into the question or questions that need to be investigated first.

Even though the people working on a particular question may not be analytics experts, it is essential to understand the source of data and the methodology used to collect and organize it. This is where communication becomes critical. Think of this as research that authors do to equip themselves to best write their novel.

When presenting results either internally or externally, many questions are sure to emerge about how a particular insight was produced and what data was used to produce it. In order to answer these questions, business leaders must work to bridge the gap between themselves and data scientists -- what the MIT Sloan School of Business calls an “interpretation gap.”

Ask questions until everyone involved is clear that the data being produced are applicable to practical, real-world scenarios. This will produce more reliable results that business users can lean into with greater confidence.

Companies must remember that analytics are not a substitute for the intimate, first-hand understanding of a business, referred to as domain expertise. The Boston Consulting Group defines domain expertise as “superior knowledge and insight into a business or category,” and goes further to state that domain experts “use this insight to spur innovation, to see through complexities, and to imagine what could be.” Data are not a replacement for domain expertise but rather complementary to it.

This distinction is key to avoid falling into the trap of viewing analytics in a vacuum. If something doesn’t seem like it adds up in the data, apply domain expertise and ask questions until you have a clear understanding. As Florian Zettelmeyer of the Kellogg School at Northwestern University points out, “Knowing what you know about your business, is there a plausible explanation for that result?”

This is where authors combine research with their own experiences to craft a story with a logical plot that will appeal to readers. Companies cannot rely on data or on their own observations alone to guide actions but should use the results of both to form a holistic view of the business or the particular question they are trying to answer.

Success in applying data-driven insights relies on taking action. But it is important for business leaders not to feel the need to create action plans that completely overhaul or revolutionize their organization -- instead focusing on more granular goals.

McKinsey makes this point: “The impact of ‘big data’ analytics is often manifested by thousands—or more—of incrementally small improvements. If an organization can atomize a single process into its smallest parts and implement advances where possible, the payoffs can be profound.”

Too often, companies ignore the value of small improvements and the potential for exponential payoffs that can result from building on the foundation of these minor victories over time.

The real key to success in applying everyday analytics comes down to one thing: engagement. Leaders and their teams that are simply engaged with analytics are already ahead of the field. This is true of any facet of business, but especially so of analytics. The goal in the end is to use data to make better decisions and to increase efficiencies within an organization.

Producing analytics must not be a goal in and of itself. The author does not publish a novel simply to do so, but to delight readers and to make a contribution to society. On an organizational level, analytics are really not so different.


Ryan Mandell is director of performance consulting at Mitchell International.

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