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The Ruse of Experience

Category : 2018

The growth of technology and social media has generated new meanings for familiar words. Viral now refers to popularity, not an illness. A ping is an action, not a noise. Following means to subscribe, not to pursue. Experience has expanded to mean you achieved something-not that you were there.

From a CEO trying to secure the trust of a board to an executive moving to a C-level role to companies working to gain a position in a competitive market, leveraging the word “experience” as a differentiator is wasted energy. Experience is about participation, observation, perception, encountering something, and practice that results in superior knowledge or mastery. In short, whether its an executive or a company, experience simply means you were there. You participated. You interacted with a situation or event. You maybe even learned something.

Companies can serve their marketplace for the same amount of time with very different results. A quick look at Fortune 500 companies shows that a decade committed to a task can yield widely differing results.

Company Years in Business Fortune Rank 2007 Fortune Rank 2017
Texas Instruments 66 185 206
JC Penny 115 116 221
Wal Mart 55 1 1
Weyerhauser 118 105 341
Apple 41 123 3

A look at top executives reveals the same range of outcomes. During Jeff Immelt’s tenure at General Electric, the stock price slipped 25%. Since Facebook became public, Mark Zuckerberg has led growth from $153 million to $40 billion. In ten years, Indra Nooyi has grown PepsiCo from $39 billion to $63 billion, while Ginni Rometty has watched IBM shrink from $98 billion in 2007 to $79 billion in 2017. Obviously, length of time on a road does not equate to distance traveled-or results achieved.

Selling experience alone easily becomes a ruse. If you don’t have a story to tell, don’t try to pretend one exists. Without quantified results, your ability to distinguish yourself from competitors is diminished.

Your experience doesn’t differentiate. Your client’s experience creates market differentiation. What consumers tell about how you helped them, how your product or service impacted their lives-that sells. When a board or other execs talk about your impact in an organization, that creates more credibility than talking about your number of years of experience.

Strong brands sell what people buy-and people buy results


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Hire Maturity … What’s In A Name?

Category : 2018

Peter Gudmundsson – one of our valued Advisory Board members – has launched Hire Maturity.  To gain a better understanding of how and why you should add mature talent to your workforce, take a look at the following video from Peter’s recent visit to Good Morning Texas.

Hire Maturity / Good Morning Texas


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In the Story of Your Brand, the Hero Isn’t You

Category : 2018

Since campaigning for class office in junior high, Leslie Nunn Reed has been a student and a story of successful branding. Today, as vice president at 5by5 – A Change Agency, Leslie helps clients tell their stories with clarity, reach, and impact, including names like Scott Hamilton, musician Matthew West, Compassion International, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center[1] .

During an engaging conversation with Leapfrog Executive Services, Leslie shared her branding insights and expertise. This is the first in a series sharing the 5by5 perspective on branding (5by5 is a StoryBrand certified Agency).

Whether for an organization or an executive, at its core, a brand is a promise you make to your customers about what you stand for, who you stand for, what you do, and how you do it. The human brain is drawn to clarity and rejects confusion. You can’t expect customers or people considering you for a C-level role to figure out who you are and the value you bring. Whether you are a global company or a successful executive, your brand needs a cohesive image and message to tell who you are and what problem you solve. Companies (and people) with a clear message win in the marketplace.

A brand is your story about your customer. When you talk about you to the customer, you’re making yourself the hero of the story. Great branding makes the client the hero and you the authoritative, trusted guide who helps the hero solve his or her problem. When meeting with an executive team, it is far more effective to show how you will solve business problems than to talk about your successes at another company.

The driving force in a strong brand is transparent trust that grows from consistency between what is said and the customer’s experience. Trust is earned and is very specific. Clients may trust a company or person in one area, but not another.

In discussing companies (or individuals) trying to create a brand perception inconsistent with who they are in practice, Leslie responded, “That disparity is confusing, and customers won’t burn the calories required to reconcile the confusion. They’ll simply move on to what is consistent and what they can understand.”

Whether someone looking for the next opportunity or a company looking for their next client, the Branding Process has three elements-

  • Assessment: Use objective research and market analysis to validate the ecosystem, audience, potential and existing brand perceptions. Then, develop a brand strategy and ways to communicate the message. When multiple brands compete for the same audience, the answer is to simplify-get clear on the message.
  • Brand Harmony: The brand look and sound must work together in concert. The photography, typeface, and colors must align and communicate the same message before creative visuals can be developed. Your LinkedIn photo should be professional-not an action shot on the golf course.
  • Driving the Brand: Multiple avenues are used to drive a brand – website design, content marketing, sales strategy, digital advertising and social media, influencer strategies, and the internal team. Again, all work together in concert in a successful brand strategy. On a personal level, a personal website, a strong LinkedIn profile, and professional comments on Twitter and LinkedIn all contribute to driving an executive’s brand.

When communicating consisted of sending radio waves into the air, engineers monitored and measured signal strength and clarity on a 5-point scale. When a message arrived loud and clear, both dimensions were rated a perfect five – giving the 5by5 Agency its name. Technology has transformed how we communicate and the speed with which it happens. But effective messaging in any environment demands strength and clarity. The individual or company with a solid brand will always aim for 5by5.

Learn more about …


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Transforming Learning & Development

Category : 2018

From time to time we share content from another HR solutions provider.

Click here to learn more about:  Sirius Solutions

Over $70 billion dollars are spent every year in the US on learning & development. This is an increasing trend since the great recession ended. Studies promote development and retention as the new mantra of the C suite. Yet, L&D is often the first area cut during a corporate downturn. Often, that is because in the current model, learning & development does not work effectively for the vast majority of corporate learners. Is all of that money wasted? No, certainly not all of it, but a good amount of those dollars fall far short of the goals and expectations of corporate leaders. The lack of value can and must change as we embrace a new generation of workers.

Millennials constitute 33% of the workforce today and 75% by 2025. It is well documented the people in this generation are more technologically savvy, are interested in personal development, and want to have more control over their career paths. Simply put, a new approach is needed to leverage the technological prowess and developmental focus of the Millennial generation. If L&D is going to be a relevant and a potentially strategic component of organizational goals and objectives, the journey needs to begin now.

Learning is different than training. Training tends to be episodic, one-size-fits-all, and linear, with very little control by the learner. Learning should be continuous and learner-centric – i.e. the learner should be able to seek out information when and how they need it – the same way we gain new information through Google, or You Tube. While development in the new design is correlated with the needs and objectives of the organization, the journey is one the learner enjoys – rather than dreads.

Even more insidious than the episodic approach to training is the lack of opportunity in the current model for true learning transfer and desired behavioral change. Reinforcement of key learning messages does not occur on a consistent and systematic basis. Programs tend to end with no concrete plan for sustaining and even growing the knowledge gained over time.

Here is a remarkable opportunity for Learning & Development to reinvent itself. Learning in the future should be a continuous exercise for all that are focused on how to excel in their current roles and prepare for future roles. Always-on learning, with the learner in more control of how, where, and when they engage should be the focal point. Learning for certain programs will necessitate a deep exploration of a topic, taking more time, whether instructor led, web-based, or a blend. For the majority of learning programs, micro-learning in short bursts, spaced over a period of time will give the learner the time to digest the information and provide a better mechanism for true learning transfer to occur and achieve behavioral change. A critical component of this model gives the learner the opportunity for true reinforcement of learning in an on-demand, just-in-time format that pulls the learner in to seek out information.

The tenants of the Learning & Development 2.0 approach include:

  • Learning is continuous, device agnostic, and available 24/7
  • Most learning programs whether ILT, WBT, or blended should be spaced out to give learners the time to assimilate new information
  • WBT, should primarily focus on micro-learning which is short and to the point, with time between modules to synthesize the information
  • Multiple touch points provide reinforcement of key learning messages
  • Reinforcement should be systematic, device agnostic and always available. Critical to this model is leveraging content management systems designed to pull the learner in to get information at the point of need and then quickly get out.
  • Measurement should occur for every program, tying metrics to key corporate goals and objectives.

Different eras demand different approaches to almost everything in life. We are in a new space and L&D needs to adapt. Those leading-edge organizations that make the journey from training to learning will become employers of choice and will be rewarded with high potential individuals who value development. The stakes are high. The time is now.


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Branding Lessons From P.T. Barnum

Category : 2018

Branding is building a reputation and crafting a message about who you are and the value you bring.  Effective executive branding is built on authenticity, integrity, and delivering what you say you are.

Can a brand be built on what is not true? History would say, “Yes.” Perhaps no one more effectively built a global brand on impressions and giving people “what they want to see” than Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum. But the fact Barnum did it is not justification that his life is a model of success.

Hollywood used a generous dose of artistic license when portraying the life of The Greatest Showman. The resemblance between Hugh Jackman and P.T. Barnum is . . . nonexistent. Beyond the singing, dancing, and dazzle of the big screen, the life of P.T. Barnum leaves us an enduring lesson about branding. If you build your brand around impressions, stories, and carefully-managed deceptions, your energy must go toward maintaining the reality you create, often at the expense of truth.

Barnum was an unashamed self-promoter who, from an early age, loved notoriety. He went so far as to request an early obituary so he could read it before his death. As a 15 year-old boy, Barnum took on the support of his mother and five sisters by publishing a weekly newspaper, Herald of Freedom-and getting arrested three times for libel.

His career as a showman was launched at age 25 when Barnum introduced Joice Heth to the world, alleged to be George Washington’s nanny. While many flocked to see her, few seemed to care about the math . . . Heth would have been 160 years old in 1835. Barnum’s grand hoaxes expanded with General Tom Thumb (short because he was age 4 when he started with the show) and the Feejee Mermaid, eventually drawing 400,000 visitors a year to his museum-before he started his famous circus at age 60.

What can we learn from a life built more on fabrication than fact?

  • Notoriety is addictive. A world driven by immediate impressions, instant communication, and real-time feedback provides endless opportunities to be consumed by recognition. The number of people liking a post, viewing a photo, and following someone on a platform are measures of visibility, perhaps even popularity. They are not proof of a strong or noteworthy brand. Notoriety has an insatiable and undiscriminating appetite for attention-not truth.
  • Impressions are fueled by stories, not substance. Barnum’s display of the unusual captured attention as much because of the stories he built around his “exhibits” as the people he showcased. A brand built on impressions vs. substance requires an unending supply of new stories-usually bigger and better than those of the past.
  • It all catches up with you, in the end. Hollywood’s portrayal of Barnum was as charitable as it was creative. Behind the mystique was a man who exploited people, distorted reality, and capitalized on the gullibility of humanity for fame, opportunity, and personal gain. Barnum was capitalism at its best-and worst. His glittering success in the 19th century remains tarnished by the perspective of time in the 21st.

Barnum’s style of branding personified Nathaniel Hawthorne’s haunting reminder that, “No man [or woman] for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”


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Have You Missed Your Window?

Category : 2018

Life is full of misses:

Missing the boat. Missing the mark. Missing a beat.

The world of missed opportunities, includes a well-traveled trail of what-ifs.

  • What if Ross Perot had bought those majority shares in fledgling Microsoft for $60 million?
  • What if Blockbuster president John Antioco had snapped up Netflix for the $50 million Reed Hastings asked for it?
  • What would the tech industry look like if John Young, then-CEO at HP had listened to an engineer named Steve Wozniak and considered his PC idea a viable product?
  • The list of VC firms and individuals who passed on a chance to invest in Google is both impressive-and unfortunate.

Business opportunities are often missed when an executive miscalculates the scope of the opportunity, ignores or discounts important data, or when a leader fails to see the viability of an concept beyond his or her current realm of influence. Missed opportunities to make a strategic career move often follow a similar course.

After interviews with 10,000 senior executives in Fortune 500 companies, The Profitable Ideas Exchange reports that the majority said they do not build time into their schedules for an essential protection from a near miss – making time to self-challenge. The unwillingness, inability, or failure to open one’s thinking (and conclusions) to new information, candid questions, and cold realities is a sure route to a missed opportunity-in a business or a career.

A wise executive that captures and leverages opportunities invests the time required to challenge today’s thinking so he/she is ready for tomorrow’s opportunity.

Though dyslexic and holding a poor record of academic results, rather than waiting for opportunities Sir Richard Branson has created them. From a mail-order business selling records, his Virgin Group has evolved to now control more than 400 companies. While not a perfect model, Branson’s insights can open a leader’s mind to valuable perspectives–

  • The lesson that I have learned and follow all my life is that we should try and try and try again – but never give up.
  • You don’t learn to walk by following rules, you learn by doing and falling.
  • One thing is certain in business. You and everyone around you will make mistakes.
  • Don’t think what’s the cheapest way to do it or what’s the fastest way to do it, think what’s the most amazing way to do it.

If you feel like opportunity has passed you by, consider your next step, then give us a call.