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Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

7 Tips On How To Motivate Your Team (Hint: Make Them Feel "Progress")


A feeling of “progress” may be the most important motivator for you or your team, according to a Harvard Business Review study on what motivates people (thanks to my colleague Mary for pointing this one out).

The HBR study took an interesting angle on motivation by studying hundreds of workers and digging into what happens on a great work day.

Image courtesy of José-Manuel Benito Álvarez, Wikipedia.

The gist of the study is that on days when workers feel like they’re making progress on projects their emotions are positive and that increases their drive to succeed.

The opposite is true: when workers are feeling like they’re on the “hamster wheel,” working hard with little in the way of results, they feel negative emotions and their performance plummets.

And the progress that your team feels can even be small…and they’ll still feel motivated!

7 Tips For How To Motivate Your Team Through Progress

1) Set SMART Goals

To motivate your team through the feeling of progress, you’re gonna first need to work with them to set goals.

The goals you set should be SMART Goals:

  • Specific — Well defined, clear to everyone
  • Measurable — There should be a metric or some measurement to identify how you’re progressing on your goal.
  • Agreed-Upon — The goal should be agreed upon by the people working on it.
  • Realistic — The goal can be ambitious but should be within reason
  • Time-based — Every goal should have a time-line.

2) Provide Resources Necessary to Achieve Goals

You as a leader should do whatever you can to provide the resources necessary for your team to work on reaching goals.

Spend 1-on-1 time with them to discuss the goals and ask them what they need to reach them.

3) Hold Frequent Meetings To Chunk Down Goals

Let’s say you’ve got your team’s quarterly goals in place.

Now you’re gonna want to set up frequent meetings within the quarter to discuss them.

I recommend that you meet with your team either daily (or every other day) (see Daily Huddle).

In those huddles, ask your direct report to list things that they could do in THAT WEEK to make progress on the quarterly priorities.

E.g. If your quarterly goal is to close a major partnership with a single Fortune 100 customer, then ask your direct report at the start of a week what is it that they can commit to doing to moving that priority forward.

Example of chunking down the quarterly goal:

  • If it’s the beginning of the quarter, the first week’s goal may be as simple as committing to identifying the 10 Fortune 100 customers your direct report is going to go after.
  • The following week’s goal may be to telephone a contact at each of the ten Fortune 100 customers.
  • In the week after that, your direct report may agree to commit to making a proposal to a certain Fortune 100 customer.
  • Etc.

Now, as your direct report makes headway on these chunked-down goals, they will have a feeling of progress.

Remember this nugget of wisdom from my business hero Coach John Wooden (I’m paraphrasing):

Progress is not necessarily reaching your goal…progress is working as hard as you reasonably can on your goal and then letting the results be what they may.

4) Celebrate Milestones

When you reach your goals (i.e. milestones), take a moment to celebrate.

Acknowledge each and every person involved in the project…ideally with specifics on what they contributed to its success.

As a CEO, I ask my team to remind me of whenever anyone does something impressive…and then I try to write a quick congratulatory note to that team member (cc:ing their manager).

5) Acknowledge Failure As Progress

Don’t forget that failure is progress.

For example, your team may have a goal of trying to close certain types of customers or partnerships. If you explore one such deal and it’s not a good fit (for you or the other party), that is still progress.

Remember the old adage about the vacuum salesperson who realizes he has to knock on 50 doors before he makes a sale of one $50 vaccum:

“Each failure (closed door) is worth a dollar!” (because he gets $50 for knocking on 50 doors)

So when someone slams the door shut on a component of your goals, just move on — cuz you’re that much closer to getting what you want.

6) Be Authentic

This one’s easy: your praise of people should always be authentic.

Don’t tell someone they “really moved the ball forward” when you actually don’t know what they did.

7) Be Decisive

If you as a leader are indecisive about decisions around goals and priorities then you delay the feeling of progress that your team gets when they either reach (or fail to reach) their goal.

Progress is tough to feel when leadership is wishy-washy.

So be decisive about such things as:

  • Setting goals
  • Providing resources to help the goals get reached
  • Pulling the plug on deals/losing deals (once in awhile you will either want to pull the plug on a deal or you will have it pulled for you by another party — this is ok, just make it fast).

If you can work on the above 7 tips, you will help motivate your team though progress.

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Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

How To Determine Your Business Values: Exercises, Examples & Top Lists


Do you know what your business’s values are?

I believe that your corporate values may be THE most important asset in enhancing your company’s long-term monetary value.

Your strategies and trends will come and go — your values can be forever!

This article will help answer the top questions you need to know about corporate values, such as:

  • What are values?
  • Why are values important?
  • How do you determine your values (including a “values exercise”)?
  • What are some business examples of values?

Here we go…!

What are values?

My definition of values is simple: Values are deeply-held beliefs about the right way of doing things.

Each individual operates life with their own set of values…and, of course, a business should as well.

Why are values important to a business?

As the author Jim Collins penned:

“The founders of great, enduring organizations like Hewlett-Packard, 3M, and Johnson & Johnson often did not have a vision statement when they started out. They usually began with a set of strong personal core values…”

It is your values that will guide you through the toughest decisions you make…you know, those 50-50 calls that every business leader faces periodically.

How do you determine your business values?

Here’s an easy values exercise Jim Collins suggests (with my own twists on it after going through a couple):

  1. Sit down with your team.
  2. Imagine that you need to create a mini-version of your company on Mars…
  3. …And you have to send a few people (up to 7)  from your company on a spaceship to Mars to represent your business’s best attributes.
  4. Identify the handful of employees you’d send on the spaceship (you can’t vote for yourself (and, ideally (if your company is large enough), you aren’t allowed to select anyone on the team doing the exercise)
  5. Now examine those people that your team identified and list out the values/attributes they possess that made you vote for them (e.g. Jane operates with integrity,Ralph strives for excellence, etc.)
  6. You should have a list of 10 or more business values at this point
  7. Start poking holes at each business value (you can use real-life business challenges/successes to test each business value to see if it is indeed true)
  8. Some values might be redundant with each other so start shrinking your list (I recommend you get it down to 8 or fewer values)
  9. Wordsmithing — Once you come up with the list of 8 or fewer values you may want to wordsmith them in a way that’s more of a commitment

Examples of Business Values

There are numerous examples of business values out there — here are a few of companies I’m familiar with:

Hot Topic Media’s Values — Here’s an example of values our team came up with:

  • We treat our customers, partners & employees with dignity and respect
  • We do what we say, and we own what we do
  • We give our customers more value than they expect
  • We are good shepherds of our company’s assets
  • We leave the world a better place than we found it (the “Campsite Rule”)
  • We are proud of what we do and have fun doing it
  • We keep things simple and clear

Google’s Values — Google has a version of values it calls “Our Philosophy: Ten Things We Know To Be True

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well
  3. Fast is better than slow
  4. Democracy on the web works
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
  6. You can make money without doing evil
  7. There’s always more information out there
  8. The need for information crosses all borders
  9. You can be serious without a suit
  10. Great just isn’t good enough

Hewlett Packard’s Values — HP Calls these  their “Shared Values”:

  • Passion for customers — We put our customers first in everything we do.
  • Trust and respect for individuals — We work together to create a culture of inclusion built on trust, respect and dignity for all.
  • Achievement and contribution — We strive for excellence in all we do; each person’s contribution is key to our success.
  • Results through teamwork — We effectively collaborate, always looking for more efficient ways to serve our customers.
  • Speed and agility — We are resourceful, adaptable and achieve results faster than our competitors.
  • Meaningful innovation — We are the technology company that invents the useful and the significant.
  • Uncompromising integrity — We are open, honest and direct in our dealings.

BabyCenter’Values — Johnson & Johnson subsidiary BabyCenter calls it these their “Operating Principles”:

  • Operate with Integrity — Always
  • Our Sucess Starts with Our People
  • Be Customer-Driven
  • Strive for Excellence
  • Work Together to Make Decisions
  • Everyone Needs Feedback
  • Respect One Another
  • Face Facts Constructively

A final point: values aren’t just something to write down (or put on a coffee mug as some do).

Values must be based on the real-life actions of a business.

And it starts with leadership — exemplifying their values through their actions and decisions.

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Monday, April 26th, 2010

Eight Steps To Success By John Wooden


In honor of John Wooden turning 100 this year, I’m doing a series on Wooden including tips for success.

Here’s his “Eight Suggestions for Succeeding” from Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations And Reflections On And Off The Court (which I highly recommend you read!).

  1. Fear no opponent. Respect every opponent.
  2. Remember, it’s the perfection of the smallest details that make big things happen.
  3. Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.
  4. Be more interested in character than reputation.
  5. Be quick, but don’t hurry.
  6. Understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will get.
  7. Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.
  8. Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
2 comments so far (is that a lot?) | Continue Reading »

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

7 Business Lessons I Learned From The Grateful Dead


I’m a big fan of the Grateful Dead — I attended 100+ shows, collected 300+ bootlegs (that are in cassette form still in the hallway of my San Francisco apartment!) and I received an original signed 1968 Grateful Dead concert poster as a signing bonus when I sold the Mojam business.

In additional to bringing me a bunch of musical joy, The Dead taught me a ton about my other passion: business.

Just look at the numbers: The Dead pulled in $95 million a year at the height of their 30+ year journey (according to Booz & Co.) and was referred to by The Altantic Magazine as “one of the most profitable bands in the history of music” (see Management Secrets of The Grateful Dead article).

The De-facto Leader of The Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia

The De-facto Leader of The Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia

So allow me to elaborate on two of my favorite subjects: business…and the Grateful Dead:

7 Business Lessons I Learned From The Grateful Dead

1) Moving the “Free Line”

There’s a lot of talk in Internet business these days about “moving the free line” — in other words, providing more of your products/value available for free and make your money on the back-end.

Well the Grateful Dead were doing this 40 years ago.

The Dead made much of their product (their music) free by allowing fans to make recordings at their shows — they even set up a “taper section” dedicated to the fans who were recording so that all of their tall microphones and other equipment could be conveniently placed in one part of the concert venue.

Those recordings were of course copied and shared amongst many fans (both those who attended that particular show and those who didn’t) and acted as free viral marketing for the band (I had 50 bootlegs of the Grateful Dead before I even attended my first show!).

So, let’s take me as a customer for instance: the Grateful Dead didn’t have any of my money for the first year of my exposure to their products.

The Dead were pushing the concept of "moving the free line" 40 years before this best selling book on the subject

But by the time I attended my first show (October 12, 1983 at Madison Square Garden in New York City) I was hooked as a customer– and would invest many thousands of dollars on additional live shows, t-shirts and recordings over the next 12 years.

Think about it: Would you allow me to have some of your products for free for a year if you knew I would be a loyal customer paying you $5,000 for additional products over the following decade (and turn on a number of my friends who would also invest around the same!?).

I think so!

2) Product First, Profit Later

Sam I. Hill, Chief Marketing Officer of Booz-Allen & Company in Chicago, points out that the Grateful Dead were leaders in the “Product First/Profit Later” philosophy later executed by Nike, IAMS Pet Foods, Snap-On Tools and MTV — (e.g. Nike set out to build a better running shoe; IAMS, a high-quality pet food) in this  “How to Truck The Brand: Lessons from the Grateful Dead” article from 1997.

Hill added: These companies simply believed in what they were doing and “were smart enough to see when it worked, and to exploit it.”

One former President of the Grateful Dead, Ron Rakow (whose cool business card from the time is here) is an uncle of a friend of mine. Ron once told me a relevant story that I’ll do my best to paraphrase:

Rakow said that early on in the Spring of 1967 he asked the band (before the band was successful) what they envisioned success looking like. A few of the band members responded with such comments as:

  • “I want to have a number one record;”
  • “I want to have a number one hit;” and
  • “I want us to be famous”

But Jerry Garcia, the band’s unofficial leader, said something more to the effect of:

“That all sounds good, but I think we’d just like to have as many people as possible enjoy our music.”

Rakow told me at this point that all the band members nodded their heads in agreement with Jerry, saying “Yes, yes, …lots of people should listen to our music — that’s it!”

As Rakow tells it, the band then agreed to empty all the money out of their pockets (there was a total of $50 or so) and rent a flat-bed truck on which they would play a free live concert in the Panhandle near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco).

The band indeed put on a free show on May 28, 1967 in the Panhandle…Rakow says that initially very few people showed up but the band kept playing for a few hours and eventually many thousands of people joined in.

…and the Grateful Dead product was on its way (with profits very soon to follow).

3) Secret to Being #1: Do NOT Be The Best At What You Do…

Music Promoter Bill Graham famously described the Grateful Dead on the Marquee of the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco as:

“They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”

I think you get it? Focus on what is truly unique about you or your business…and then OWN that!

Examples of the uniqueness of the Grateful Dead included:

  • Making up the setlist every night — They operated without a setlist most nights
  • NOT playing their biggest hits every night — They repeated songs live (including their most popular) only once every 4+ shows
  • Creating their own music category — Because they blended so many musical styles — rock, country, bluegrass, jazz, funk, R&B, reggae and more! — The Dead were impossible to put into a category…so, guess what: the world created a new one for them: called either “Jam Bands” or just simply “Grateful Dead type music”
  • Being the first band to play at the Pyramids in Egypt — The Dead invested $500,000 to visit Egypt and play at the Pyramids and donated the proceeds to local organizations within Cairo (the final night’s performance was capped off by a full moon and total lunar eclipse)
  • Using two drummers — Hardly any top rock bands were using two drummers. One of them, Micky Hart, played an unusual 11-count measure to his drumming
  • “Spacing” Out — Every night, the band would play music with no words for about 20 minutes (this was called “Drums/Space”
  • Recording when they felt like it — They were known to go into the recording studio only when they felt like it. I’ve heard Garcia admit that they simply weren’t very good studio musicians — live music was their strength!
The Dead Were The First Band To Perform At The Pyramids in Egypt

The Dead Were The First Band To Perform At The Pyramids in Egypt

I can’t tell you how they came up with such unique approaches as above…but if I had to put money on it, I’d bet that these things happened organically, played to their uniqueness/strengths or that they did it just for the hell of it.

One thing’s for sure: they did NOT conform to the industry norms!

4) Embrace Your Community

The Dead invested a bunch in their community.

I already mentioned the taping they allowed, which helped build a massive community that they could not easily reach on their own.

Another example of community was that they allowed fans to mail in requests for tickets (as opposed to relying on buying tickets from a ticket seller like Ticketmaster) (there was also a Dead hotline).

This gave Dead fans a feeling of connection with the band (as in, we kind of know where they live).

Here’s a cool shot of some of the mail that the Grateful Dead Ticket Sales (GDTS) received in their offices (which last I heard were in Stinson Beach, California)


Source: Gypsy Cowgirl's Picture of Some Mail at GDTS

Other examples of the Dead’s support of community included the Parking Lot scene at shows.

The Dead allowed vending in one part of the parking lot (which Deadheads called “Shakedown Street) and many people made their living selling t-shirts, bagels, grilled cheese and pizza.

One friend of mine sold $70,000 per year in pizzas at Grateful Dead concerts! And the Dead embraced it!

The band eventually brought these vendors in as official licensees, according to Booz & Co.

The Dead also embraced fans making money from small community projects such as Deadbase, a print-out of every concert the band ever played with the setlist of songs (that some people sold (such information is now free)).

The Dead was constantly testing cool new things for its community.

I remember walking up to their sound engineer Dan Healy at a 1986 show in Pittsburgh, PA and he explained how they were testing out emitting a radio signal from their soundboard of each show — so that people could listen to the show on their radio.

I tested it out and it was amazing: I was inside a concert listening to an FM Walkman with higher-quality audio than I was hearing within the arena itself. And the fans in the parking lot (who didn’t have tickets to the show) were even more excited that they could hear the show with nothing more than a radio (for free!).

5) Organized Chaos: “Grateful Google?”

A big buzzword in business strategy these days is “Organized Chaos” — Google may be the true master of the concept.

Examples of Google’s chaos: employees can decorate their offices however they want, ride around offices on scooters and goof off on company time and the founders have a “we’ll do what we want, whenever we feel like it” attitude.

However, Google is highly organized/structured: Google breaks down most teams into small groups with two engineers co-running them; the recommended allocation of goof-off time is 10% and the entire company is behind Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information.

Talk About Organized Chaos? Here's Google's First Production Server to Organize the World's Information

Talk About Organized Chaos? Here's Google's First Production Server to Organize the World's Information

But long before Google it was the Grateful Dead who were laying down the magic formula for Organized Chaos.

I probably don’t have to spend much time explaining the chaotic part of the Dead (picture the band showing up in their t-shirts and jeans jamming out to whatever setlist they felt like that night with their avid tie-dyed clothed fans twirling around in circles (many of them under the influence of LSD).

But in actuality, there was a lot of organization to the Grateful Dead:

  • Touring — They consistently toured 50 to 100 shows per year (including a Spring & Fall Tour) in four regions with very specific dates and locations/venues.
  • Sets of Their Shows — Almost all of their shows were structured into two sets with 5 to 10 songs in each set, followed by an encore.
  • Drums/Space — The second set of almost all shows (from the mid-1970s on) included a section in the middle called “Drums/Space” in which the percussionists jammed out alone for awhile and then the rest of the band noodled around with non-song music. While Drums Space was highly chaotic at times (check out this 1987 show (with some cool visual graphics), it was predictably time in the concert with a handful of songs before and after it.
  • Distributed Management — The Dead’s band members (and some crew) rotated as CEOs on a regular basis — how’s that for sharing accountability!?

6) Co-Opetition: Grow Your “Orbit” By Inviting In Your Competition

Long before Silicon Valley coined the phrase “Co-Opetition” (the concept of cooperating with your competition), The Dead made it a key part of their movement.

  1. They invited bands who were competing for the Deadhead customer base — including Phish and The Dave Matthews Band — be their warm-up band for concerts.
  2. They openly invited competing musicians, such as Carlos Santana and Pete Townshend, to join them onstage to strutt their stuff.
  3. They played cover songs of many other bands such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Marley) whose products were still marketed at the Deadhead demographic.

This had the effect of keeping such rival music closer within the Grateful Dead “orbit.”

Afterall, if you could get a bit of The Beatles, The Stones or The Who as part of your Grateful Dead experience, isn’t the Grateful Dead orbit even more powerful!?

7) Reinvent Yourself

While the Grateful Dead’s leader Jerry Garcia died August 9, 1995, their music and business lessons live on with members of the original Grateful Dead playing in such bands as The Dead, Phil Lesh & Friends, Bob Weir & Ratdog, Rhythm Devils and 7 Walkers.

It’s a testament to the powerful momentum of the Grateful Dead, that numerous successful bands emerged from the ashes of the death of its de-facto leader.

And the business innovations from these Grateful Dead spinoffs keep comin’.

Marcom Professional’s Marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead points to his recent experience with the spin-off band The Dead:

So, 45 years after the Grateful Dead were founded, the band’s enterprise value “keeps on truckin onnnnn, on.”

I hope you leverage these tips to design your business to last that long!


One more thing: After I wrote this, I got pinged by a guy named David Merman Scott who said he found this article valuable for his Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead book.

Here’s the Grateful Dead Marketing Lessons Book on Amazon:

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Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

How To Innovate: 5 Tips From The Top Innovators


I was fascinated by a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article on how to innovate (an abstract is here with the option to purchase).

They researched such innovators as Apple’s Steve Jobs, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar and Meg Whitman, Intuit’s Scott Cook and Proctor & Gamble’s A.G. Lafley.

Their key finding was that innovative entrepreneurs (who are also CEOs) spend 50% more time on five “discovery activities” than do CEOs with no track record for innovation.


I fully agree with these five tips for how to innovate; and want to provide my insights on them:

Five Tips On How To Innovate

1) Question (The Status Quo)

HBR points out that Michael Dell famously created Dell with the question:

“Why do computers cost five times the cost of the sum of their parts?”

Innovators are excellent at asking questions that challenge the status quo such as:

  • Why not try it this way?
  • Why do you do things the way you do?
  • What if you tried this new thing or stopped doing some old thing?
  • What would you do if failure was not an option?

2) Observe

Innovators are strong at observing people and details.

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Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

What Is Thought Leadership & How Do You Apply It To Your Business?


I met an interesting woman, Natalie Wood (not the deceased actress) who’s focusing her career on the subject of Thought Leadership. I asked her to cover the topic with me in a Q&A.

Read on to learn more about what thought leadership is; why businesses should care; examples of thought leadership in business; and how to leverage thought leadership marketing.

Natalie Wood of The Thought Bank

Natalie Wood of The Thought Bank

Q: What is your definition of Thought Leadership?

We see Thought Leadership as the new paradigm for how businesses market themselves and build brand. Thought leadership evolves through the efforts of both individuals and businesses making the commitment to develop a deeper understanding of the specific forces shaping their industry.

Why is Thought Leadership important?  Gautam Ghosh of Accenture claims that… “Simple, great thought leadership means never having to ‘pitch’ or ‘sell’ for business.” You become a trusted advisor, counselor and partner, not just a vendor.

Today, Thought Leadership is becoming the new standard for how people and companies communicate their value to the world and their customers.  This includes B2B strategy, marketing, product development, customer support and sales. Companies can no longer avoid the impact of Thought Leadership and what it means to their market and to their customers.

Thought Leadership enables companies to build strategic value in their industry that transcends ad campaigns, PR efforts or marketing initiatives. These types of contributions can directly affect a company’s success and brand.

Q: Why should businesses care about Thought Leadership?

Many companies are now taking on thought leadership branding initiatives as a part of their own intellectual branding campaigns. The main reason a business should care about Thought Leadership ties back to how their company is viewed by the marketplace.

Thought Leadership, as defined by… “centers on earning trust and credibility.” Thought Leaders get noticed by offering something different—information, insights, and ideas, for instance. Thought Leadership positions you and your company as an industry authority and resource and trusted advisor by establishing your reputation as a generous contributor to your industry.”

A growing number of companies have started to realize that thought leadership is a core component of becoming a successful market leader.  Most companies aspire to having their brand seen as one of the more knowledgeable and innovative in their field or industry.  And, many may want to be seen as the market leader, but haven’t put together a strategy or resources needed to make this happen.

Thought Leadership has the ability to help you and your company:

  1. Raise Company visibility and credibility to the world
  2. Educate and reach customers
  3. Enlighten the media on your contributions to the market
  4. Inspire customers and partners to connect with you in new and meaningful ways

As the business world changes, thought leadership is playing a greater role in how many of these changes are taking place. People are becoming a part of the new era of brand development. Many product focused brands are also now transitioning to people focused brands through social media, communities and increasingly through thought leadership.

People represent how a product and company are perceived by their customers and the market at large. A company’s credibility, market reach, standards of conduct and recognition are affected by the value and brand of their people. Thought leadership is the new marketing platform for people and the companies they represent.

A key finding from the survey: Engaging Global Executives: Ten Megatrends in B2B Marketing, shows that 56% of companies consider Thought Leadership as their second biggest objective for B2B marketing.  That’s number two behind building new business as the top priority in the next 3-5 year (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2008).

Q: What is “Thought Leadership Marketing,” a term I’ve heard used in this area?

Thought Leadership marketing is focused on helping a company position itself as a “thought Leader” in a specific marketplace.  The strategy supports the company’s core initiatives while at the same time promoting its intellectual corporate branding.

Thought Leadership marketing programs are a part of a larger thought leadership strategy and help raise a company’s visibility with their key customer base and market.

Thought Leadership seems a little nebulous until you understand the value it brings companies. According to Dana VanDen Heuvel of the Marketing Savant Group, the value of Thought Leadership marketing includes:

  1. Prospects put themselves further into the sales cycle – shorter sales cycles,
  2. Changes the pattern and terms from how customer buy from you,
  3. Diminishes Price Resistance and
  4. Prospects experience your value before buying.

Another way to define Thought Leadership is “the recognition from the outside world that the company deeply understands its business, the needs of its customers and the broader marketplace in which it operates.” Elise Bauer.

A great way to put Thought Leadership into context is to think of it as the economic impact of ideas and content.  Thought Leadership is both macro and micro.  It helps define and influence the macro forces of markets while shaping micro forces of product innovation, marketing, and resource management of companies.

By understanding the full impact of Thought Leadership companies can align the macro forces shaping their markets with the micro strategies of their company for smarter product and marketing decisions.

As a result Thought Leadership marketing has now emerged as a new and growing standard for how companies leverage this important medium to develop market awareness, reach prospective customers and evolve into smarter, more effective organizations.

Thought leadership marketing programs include the following:

Research and Publications: Thought leadership content through market research, executive surveys and interviews. Client sponsored white papers, executive summaries and advertorials.  These are not company product or service white papers, but rather research regarding specific industry pain points and future trends.

Online Marketing, PR and Lead Generation: Integrated thought leadership marketing campaigns that tie into corporate branding and advertising campaigns with specific thought leadership messaging. Developing recognition and influence through the public dissemination of important industry research and information, incorporating podcasts, webcasts, online polls, social networking and online lead generation tools.

Custom Events: Multi-sponsored or smaller single sponsored thought leadership events that focus on specific topics and bring together various related industry thought leaders to debate and discuss current issues. These types of events help sponsors to gain visibility with senior-level target audiences and can offer invaluable networking opportunities. Event programs are often tied into larger thought leadership marketing programs and provide additional content for marketing campaigns via multi-channels that include online branding, distributed video and research. These type of events range in size from 50 to 300 plus attendees.

Thought Leadership marketing help companies be seen as more knowledgeable and innovative in their industry. These types of marketing programs enable companies to share knowledge with their clients and public, along with delivering programs that speak to the corporate social responsibility needs of their company’s branding initiatives.

Q: Please provide some examples of Thought Leadership in the business world (including the Internet) and the impact it had on each business.

Companies such as Cisco are focused on educating prospects through thought leadership. At Cisco every executive must establish and develop themselves as a Thought Leader through public speaking, blogs, whitepapers, etc.

“Once thought leadership is established, the rest of the industry, the media, academia, government policymakers and the broader business community turn to that company for ideas and for insights into where things are going.” Mark Peshoff, Senior Director of Cisco’s Executive Thought Leadership

Both Cisco and HP have several divisions with resources and programs dedicated to ongoing thought leadership research, marketing and events; many of which tie into their corporate citizenship and thought leadership branding initiatives.

One example is Cisco’s large scale thought leadership program for Cisco’s Global Education Group .

Over the past several years, Cisco’s Global Education Group has partnered with a number of leading corporate, government, educational and endowment groups to help improve education on a global basis.  They put together a 21st Century School Initiative to help improve education, technology infrastructure and the skills needed for employment in the 21st century.

Cisco also created internally a job skills training group called The Cisco Networking Academy which has classes set up in 160 countries to help teach people IT/networking skills.

In January 2008, Cisco, Microsoft and Intel sponsored a “project to research and develop new approaches, methods and technologies for measuring the success of 21st-century teaching and learning in classrooms around the world.

The Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) project is focused on defining those skills and developing ways to measure them.”

As a part of this they also created an Education Leaders’ Program and Education 3.0, what they call, “systematic approach towards education transformation.”

Another example of Cisco’s Thought Leadership research on education is a white paper they sponsored entitled, “Global education 20/20: What role for the private sector?

This white paper was developed for a thought leadership event, held by The Economist in 2009 in New York, called Education 20/20: Creating partnerships to educate the global workforce of the future and used specifically for Cisco’s thought leadership education marketing and partner outreach programs.

A 21st century education system is governed and managed with the ultimate goal of maximizing learning outcomes for all students. There are transparent processes in place to communicate and implement decisions, develop and monitor curriculum, sustain the budget, and procure resources.

Additionally, policies and procedures are implemented to enable these education institutions to use data to drive school standards and accountability while stimulating and managing innovation.

Finally, school learning is recognized as embedded within and dependent on an ecosystem of partners that support learning and/or provide other essential children’s services (e.g., health, social services).

The entire system is a learning organization with a supportive culture that promotes ambitious and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Leaders throughout the system champion and model the 21st century educational vision and work with well-trained and -supported teachers.

Emphasis is placed on the recruitment and retention of both principals and teachers through carefully designed outreach efforts and training programs. A 21st century system explicitly promotes a culture of high expectations, respect, collaboration, and shared accountability.

These efforts have helped Cisco become a market leader in the area of education through their thought leadership programs which include research, marketing, events and partnership programs. All of which tie back directly into their corporate citizenship and thought leadership branding initiatives, and which incorporate their company’s main services and product offerings.

Other companies such as Crest Toothpaste, HP, Qualcomm, Coke and other Fortune 500s view Thought Leadership as imperative to their success.  What are some of the ways companies become Thought Leaders?  There are many, but to name a few… whitepapers, blogs, public speaking, cause marketing (Pepsi’s “refresh” program is a great example), PR, events, case studies, and social media.

The list goes on. But what is most important is a company’s vision and the thoughts and ideas of its people.

The ability of a company to harness the collective thoughts, ideas and vision of its people is very powerful and often inspiring.  But without a proper Thought Leadership program these visions and ideas are trapped inside companies.

They don’t see the light of day or they are crafted into PR sound bites that only reveal a fraction of what a person or company is thinking.  That is why many companies are now implementing Thought Leadership programs to help guide and develop their executives to help align their ideas with company vision and innovation.

As I mentioned above, Cisco’s thought leadership programs have been on a much larger scale than most mid-size businesses will ever employ, however, the basic principals still apply. Thought leadership programs can range in size, apply to any industry and be successful if they are part of a company’s core business and branding strategy.

If you want to be seen as a thought leader in your market, it’s important to come up with a thought leadership strategy that will enable your company to develop and deliver expertise over the long run to help your clients and the marketplace improve.

This can produce rewards for your business that can be exponential to both your company and clients along with the marketplace as a whole.  That is why Thought Leadership holds the hope of inspiring something great.

The world is watching for guidance, ideas and suggestions.  Customers and prospects want to know that you understand the pressures and challenges that affect them just as well as you know your own challenges.  And yet, they also want you to inspire them, show them the way to a better tomorrow and to a better future.

Q: If someone wants to get in touch with you, how should they do so?

The Thought Bank is a Thought Leadership Consulting Firm in San Francisco, CA where we help companies and senior executives implement Thought Leadership practices for the benefit of their brand and overall marketing.

We combine our experience in various industries along with capabilities across a wide set of business functions to provide clients with comprehensive thought leadership programs and events that build company market success and brand.

Our mission is to help companies become more effective thought leaders and increase their visibility and client engagement in the world as corporate social citizens.

The Thought Bank is currently doing thought leadership events on The Power of PlayThe evolution of games and their growing impact on business and social communities and The Future Paradigm of Housing Finance in the US. 

For further information, please contact me bu phone at 415-425-7124 or by email at [email protected]

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Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Wooden’s “7 Things to Do” (To Succeed in Life)


I was captivated by John Wooden’s childhood stories, especially what his Dad taught him.

In Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations & Reflections On & Off The Court by John Wooden with Steve Jamison, Wooden says his dad gave him a piece of paper with a list of things that would guide him for the rest of his life.

He would use this guidance to shape his career, marriage and general philosophy.

The list was titled: “Seven Things to Do.” And when Wooden’s dad handed it to him, he said, “Son, try to live up these things.”

Here are Wooden’s Seven Things to Do (with short comments from me after each):

Seven Things to Do

1. Be True To Yourself

At the end of the day, there is no one whose opinion matters more than your own…so be true to yourself.

And Wooden warns you not to get caught up in how you size up to others:

“Don’t compare. Don’t try to be better than someone else. But whatever you’re doing, try to be the best you can be…”

Keys to being true to yourself include:

  • Be self-aware
  • Understand your values
  • Be honest with yourself

2. Help Others

The old saying: “Give and you shall receive” is a powerful one.

While your motivation for helping others should not depend on others helping you back, it is surely true that you will receive back more help when you take a giving attitude.

Think of this: If we all practiced helping others, we all would be helped…and we surely all need help at some point in our lives!

3. Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

I love this one. A “masterpiece” of a day is of course different for all of us. As Wooden points out:

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

And he warns: “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

And Wooden echoes his #2 Thing to Do (Help Others) with this quote:

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

4. Drink deeply from good books (Wooden’s favorite is the Bible)

Wooden believes reading is a key to success (you may recall that my other hero Charlie Munger echoed the same sentiment when he said:

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.” (read here for more Charlie Munger quotes)

Wooden reads the bible regularly and has said that if there were just one book someone had to read, it would be to read a little bit of the bible every day.

5. Make friendship a fine art

Friendship and family (which I find Wooden uses interchangeably) are key to success in life, but they require some work.

Wooden has these tips on friendship:

Friendship comes from mutual esteem, respect, and devotion. A sincere liking for all,”

6. Build a shelter against a rainy day

Pretty self-explanatory…however, I don’t think Wooden means this literally.

A shelter could be physical, financial or emotional…family and friendship, afterall, are perhaps the most valuable shelter to be building in your life.

7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day

Wooden certainly believes in a higher power — here’s a video of Wooden reciting a relevant poem (Wooden loves to write poetry).

More John Wooden Videos:

To see more of Wooden, check out this cool talk by Wooden at the TED conference and a John Wooden profile on Charlie Rose (including interviews with Bill Walton and Bill Russel).

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Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Leadership Lessons From John Wooden


A hero of mine is John Wooden who describes himself simply as a teacher; and who is known by many as the former UCLA College Basketball coach with perhaps the most successful track record in the history of sports.

John Wooden at his 96th Birthday

Some of Wooden’s Records:

  • Won 10 NCAA Championships (in 12 years)
  • 88 Consecutive victories
  • 38 Consecutive NCAA Tournament victories
  • 4 Undefeated full seasons
  • Won 905 games & Lost 205 (won 81.5% of all games) over 40 years

Teacher Wooden turns 100 this year and I’ve decided to share some of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from him in this series of postings (note: Teacher Wooden died on May 4, 2010, just short of his 100th birthday).

  1. Seven Things To Do (from Wooden’s father)
  2. Eight Steps To Success
  3. 15 Building Blocks (with quotes) From “Pyramids of Success”
  4. The Top 10 Searches of “John Wooden” Topics on My Blog

What can Wooden’s lessons do for you?

If you practice these learnings I believe that you will be more successful in business and in life.

I recommend you read any John Wooden book you can get your hands on. I’ve read these so far and can recommend them all:  (and I use them as resources for my series):

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