How to Connect with Your Audience
Posted on Monday, Sep 29, 2014 by Michael Canic


I was attending a pre-conference social event. As an icebreaker they set up a fun competition between tables: Which table could correctly answer the most trivia questions?

One question provided a quote and then asked which famous business person said it. The options: Jeff Bezos, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, or Warren Buffet. At which point one of the younger people at our table asked, “Who’s Jack Welch?”


So I don’t make any false assumptions about my readership … Jack Welch is the former CEO of GE who between 1981 and 2001 grew the value of the company by 4000%. He was lionized by many as the standard-bearer for CEOs.

But … Welch retired 13 years ago. His legacy is receding into history. For anyone under 35 – that is, for any millennial – the name “Jack Welch” is all but meaningless.

The point? To connect with your audience you must first know your audience and then use examples and stories that are relevant to them. Your frames of reference may be different from theirs.

Don’t start with you. Start with them.

Your thoughts?


How to Surmount the Insurmountable
Posted on Monday, Sep 22, 2014 by Michael Canic

It’s that time again … the biannual clash for golf bragging rights between the U.S. and Europe. Get ready for pressure, drama, joy and heartbreak.

In 2012 at Medinah, Illinois the Europeans trailed 10-4 on the second-to-last day. Clawing back two late wins they ended the day trailing 10-6. Not a promising scenario, especially considering the Americans have typically dominated the singles match format on the final day.

Still, European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal delivered a simple message to his players on the evening before the final day:


That’s all. Just believe. As Vaclav Havel, the former Czech playwright and president noted, “Belief is not a prognostication. It’s an orientation of the spirit.”

The result? In what was dubbed the “Miracle at Medinah” the Europeans came back to win and retain the Cup.

When things in your organization look bleak do you still believe? Do you force yourself to believe? And do you exude nothing but relentless belief when you engage your people?

Your thoughts?


How to Keep People Engaged in Meetings
Posted on Monday, Sep 15, 2014 by Michael Canic

Meetings often get a bad rap and, in many cases, justifiably so. Yet well-structured meetings can be an effective way to share information, get input, challenge assumptions, and promote collaboration.

Here’s a technique I find keeps people alert and actively engaged in meetings: At the start of a meeting I tell everyone I have one expectation of each person. That you make us stronger. So for every agenda topic each person is expected, if called upon, to provide their one best question or one best comment that will make us stronger. You might reinforce an idea that was presented. Or challenge it. Or provide an alternative. Or a caution.

I may call upon you only one time during a meeting. But when I do, you need to give us your best.

One expectation. Each person. Make us stronger.

Your thoughts?


Why You Don’t Want a Consultant Who Promises Results
Posted on Monday, Sep 8, 2014 by Michael Canic

Sometimes clients like to ask if a consultant guarantees results. Sometimes consultants are tempted to say, ‘yes’.

Wrong question and wrong answer.

Success in every consulting engagement depends on both the consultant and the client. Both need to do certain things – and not do certain things – to be successful.

If I’m asked whether I guarantee results here’s what I say:

Imagine you and I are handcuffed together in the desert. We’re on our own 25 miles from civilization. If I choose not to walk, you can’t drag me 25 miles which means we’re both going to die. If you choose not to walk I can’t drag you 25 miles which means we’re both going to die. So I can’t promise you we’ll get the result. But what I will promise you is that I won’t be the one to stop walking.

Your thoughts?


How to Pick the Right Consultant
Posted on Monday, Sep 1, 2014 by Michael Canic

Last week I covered what types of consultants to avoid. OK, so how do you pick the right consultant? This is what to look for:

1) Results-Driven
The consultant you want should be motivated by the opportunity to have impact. So they need to determine if that opportunity exists. It’s a good sign if a prospective consultant grills you to truly understand your situation, your commitment and if they are likely to have that impact.

2) Exceptional, Relevant Experience
Asking if the consultant has “done it before” isn’t enough. More importantly, was their experience relevant to your specific situation? What was the context of their experience? What actions did they take and why? What outcomes did they produce? Was what they did exceptional?

3) Glowing References
As good as the consultant might seem, it’s imperative that you check references. Does the reality match the story? Were there any red flags? A so-so consultant might get decent references but only an exceptional consultant will get glowing references. Look for the glowing.

At some point every growing organization will benefit from using a consultant. Knowing what to look for and what to avoid can make a tremendous difference.

Your thoughts?


How to Pick the Wrong Consultant
Posted on Monday, Aug 25, 2014 by Michael Canic

You’ve decided you need a consultant. Great. But consultants are a dime a dozen. How do you not pick the wrong one?

As a consultant for the past 20 years I’ve come across my fair share of consultants. As you might expect, they’ve ranged from terrific to terrible. Here are a few types to avoid:

1 The ‘Tweener

Many people between jobs want to show continuity on their resumes. So while they’re looking for the security of that next permanent position they call themselves consultants. They’re not consultants. They’re pretenders.

2) The Surfer

Not quite ready or able to retire but not wanting another full-time employment gig, some people decide to ride out the wave of their careers as a so-called consultant. Unfortunately, their motivation and commitment is all-too-often in inverse proportion to their experience.

3) The Dabbler

Then there are those who want something to do when they feel like doing something. The telltale signs of the Dabbler? No process, no methodology, no track record. They’re not in the consulting world. They’re just visiting.

Next week: How to pick the right consultant.

Your thoughts?


Don’t Simply Ask, “Does the Person Fit?”
Posted on Monday, Aug 18, 2014 by Michael Canic

Yes, you want people with the right talent and right fit. Yet what if someone isn’t exactly right?

One thing that separates great coaches from ordinary coaches is how they answer this question. Pete Carroll, head coach of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, doesn’t simply look at a player and ask, “Does he fit?” Instead he asks, “What does he have that’s special?”

In other words, what talents, traits and/or skills does the person have that can help us win? Maybe the player doesn’t cleanly fit an established position or role. Yet is there a legitimate position or role the player can fill that can support the organization’s success?

The answer may point to something or it may point to nothing. But asking the question expands your thinking and ensures you don’t overlook what you shouldn’t.

Your thoughts?


How to Be a Fallen Angel
Posted on Monday, Aug 11, 2014 by Michael Canic

It’s not an uncommon story. Up-and-coming business has a better concept / model / product, connects with customers, develops a following, expands rapidly, and becomes the shining star in its field.

Then loses its way.

It’s happened to many and it happened to Starbucks. How? To Howard Schulz, who masterminded Starbucks meteoric growth, stepped down as CEO in 2000, and then returned in 2008 to reinvigorate the company, the answer is clear.

Success covers up mistakes. Profits hide many sins. A sense of entitlement starts to develop. And companies get conservative. They “play defense instead of trying to score.”

Schulz’s approach since returning to Starbucks has been to counter conservatism by placing big bets on big opportunities, investing in management training, turfing deadwood executives, streamlining operations, and refocusing the culture on Starbucks values. It’s worked.

Keep the edge. Cultivate a healthy dissatisfaction. Apply positive pressure.

Don’t be a fallen angel.

Your thoughts?


The Myth and Reality of Apple Design
Posted on Monday, Aug 4, 2014 by Michael Canic

To design compelling products and create a great user experience, Apple must have the best designers, right?

Not according to Mark Kawano, former user-experience evangelist and long-term designer with Apple. The secret lies in how the organization is “structured to appreciate and support design”, and the culture that results. Design is what people think about, focus on and value. Designers don’t have to fight to be heard. They aren’t at the low end of the status ladder. Design is core to the fabric of the company.

Sure, Apple has very good people. Like Google, they have a rigorous process to make sure they hire people who are a strong fit with the desired culture. But those people flourish because of the systemic support.

The reality of Apple is the reality of every successful business. It takes the right people with the right focus in the right environment. All three.

Your thoughts?


The Surprising Secret to a Great Adventure
Posted on Monday, Jul 28, 2014 by Michael Canic

The reason to go on an adventure is of course for the adventure. Yet when you're exploring, exerting, and taking in the wonder of everything, there is one other thing that can greatly amplify or diminish your experience.

The food.

We recently did the 5-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. Starting from a high plain, up and over a mountain pass at 15,200 feet, then down into the jungle ... the pace at which we passed through distinct ecosystems was almost surreal. A great trek.

And fortunately we had Herbert. Our first clue that he was special came on night one when he quickly prepared a delicious four-course meal for us. I stared at the meat dish trying to determine what it ... good God, it's chicken cordon bleu!

On day two he somehow baked us a cake.  On day three he made us the most delectable mushroom ceviche framed with sweet potato spears. Not for a second did I pine for seafood ceviche!

And so it went. Great food reinvigorated the spirit of our team at each meal.

So here's a question: What simple things can you do to reinvigorate the spirit of your team? To bump morale? To enhance their experience?

Your thoughts?



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How to Connect with Your Audience
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