Digital mentors improve performance

It’s never been easier to surround yourself with thought leaders, experts, and virtual mentors to help you navigate a world you didn’t know exists

Front-loaded education creates a knowledge gap that widens over time as technology, exponential growth, and capabilities across different fields converge. In 1994 I conducted a survey that proves this point – a search for well-known consumer product companies including FORD dot com returned an error message. Their site didn’t exist. People preferred the Minnesota Gopher Network, data was still shared on paper, and pagers outnumbered mobile phones 10:1, and pay-phones were still ubiquitous.

In the mid-90’s devices were built for one purpose and many services we depend on today did not exist. Communicate, record, photograph, send, catalog, play music, and so on, all single function devices. As those machines merged, apps have exploded; review the catalog of software and services launched in the last decade: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Zoom, Dropbox, Uber, Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, Siri, Airbnb, Tic Toc, Instagram, YouTube, and countless social media apps.

This has created an impossible situation. People don’t have the bandwidth to sift through the data explosion around them. We all need teachers, guides, virtual mentors, actually “Digital Mentors” who can help us make sense out of the massive information cloud and explain it to us in simple terms. We need people who can teach us how to use it.

Experts have good instincts about what to keep and what to ignore in their domains. It’s easy to find opinions, but it’s difficult to uncover insights, since noise is increasing faster in our omni-connected world. This is a challenge.

Experts flag actionable insights, deliver them in a consumable way, and provide a framework to help us remember what they just taught us

How many devices have smart phones replaced? Pagers, address books, cameras, CD players; and all the physical devices and furniture they rendered obsolete – film, phone books, compact discs, the jewel cases that housed them, countless CD albums to hold discs, albums to hold photographs, and bookshelves to hold the albums. Smart phones vaporized entire industries. Here’s my digital mentor, Robert Tercek, explaining how everything that can be vaporized, will be. His trend-spotting work has enormous implications for companies that ignore innovation and the employees that choose to work for them.


Consider the CEO’s of major corporations. They are supported by executives who lead armies of people and systems committed to solving enormous problems. The leader has predictable data streams flowing to them and people to focus attention on specific signals. They also have a Board of Directors – a team to coach the CEO and executives who manage the financial markets, strategic risk, innovation, talent, and new products and services.

Individuals advisers too – experts in different domains who provide new ideas, new methods, and new fundamentals to keep a CEO relevant. Digital mentorship democratizes knowledge since ambitious young leaders no longer need to invite an executive or thought leader to lunch to collect wisdom and hope senior leaders can coach them from the minors to the big leagues. Insights are accessible to anyone. Technology changed the world – and a little planning can help you uncover the contemporary experts all around you. Google’s and LinkedIn’s algorithms offer a great starting point.

The recipe:

Create a knowledge framework that bins insights among a few domains. Broadly speaking consider: People, Process, and Technology. Then add a few layers – including a “future” component – combine trends, and convergence, and call it Innovation. Then sprinkle in thought leaders in your industry and your profession to end up with about ten categories.

Your list provides a solid starting point. Begin to identify a few people in each category through google searches for each domain you selected. Capture their names from keynote speeches, Ted Talks, interviews, books, and other sources; then examine their work, follow their blogs, their LinkedIn articles and their Twitter feeds. You’ll uncover excellent work – papers, talks, books, and posts. As you learn more from your digital mentors you’ll become their digital protégés.

Here’s a simple vetting process:

  1. Is your prospective digital mentor an expert?
  2. Do they provide sufficient evidence to support their beliefs and insights?
  3. Do they share knowledge freely?
  4. Are their ideas original?
  5. Do they curate content from many sources?
  6. Are they good story tellers?
  7. Can their observations and ideas be applied to your situation?
  8. Is their material helpful and actionable for other people?

Life is short and the world is big – if you can’t answer “Yes” to every question keep looking – the rewards are great once you do, and every leader in the list below passes my test.

  1. People & Leadership: James Citrin, Amy Cuddy, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Matthew Syed, and Bob Sutton
  2. Process: Alan Weiss, Charles Duhigg, Jason Womack, Keith Ferrazzi, and Larry Keeley
  3. Technology & Innovation: Peter Diamandis, Robert Tercek, and Brian Krebs
  4. Sales & Marketing: Tony J. Hughes, Craig Elias, David Meerman Scott, Bryan Eisenberg, Jim Stengel, Robert Cialdini
  5. Economics: Kyle Bass, James Rickards, and Nassim Taleb

Check them out and let me know who you’ve picked to be your Digital Mentors.


Coaching Featured

Ace Interviews and Tell Better Stories

Interview skills are the single highest-payoff capability anyone can develop. Learning how to sell yourself will change your life

It’s impossible to know what questions you’ll be asked during your next behavioral interview, but there’s an approach to handle anything and land the offer. This article introduces practice questions, a response framework to ace them, and a “storyboard” to organize your experience.

Behavioral interviews are grounded in theory. They flow from a belief that the way you’ve reacted to situations in the past can predict how you’ll react to similar situations in the future. These questions are selected to determine how suitable you are for roles in the hiring organization.

Thorough employers often conduct resume reviews and behavioral interviews by phone before candidates are scheduled for in-person interviews. These interviews usually consist of ten to twenty behavioral questions ranging from “tell me about a time when you worked for a difficult boss” to “give me an example where you had to influence a peer.” When questions are open-ended successful candidates deliver concise, relevant stories that describe their role in similar situations. Rambling answers that miss key points will knock you out of consideration so preparation counts.

Real questions from real interviews:

Experience suggests that even the most structured behavioral interviews include traditional questions and candidates must be prepared to answer both. Over the years I’ve asked workshop participants to  write down three common questions and the ones they fear most. Another exercise gave them a chance to work through responses together to develop strategies that target their weakest areas and present solutions to the rest of the group. It’s an effective way to form automatic responses that keep your answers on track and on time. Here’s the list:

Icebreakers designed to “get to know you:”

  1. Tell me about yourself?
  2. What did you do to prepare for this interview?
  3. Tell me about your education?
  4. You have college experience on your resume, did you earn a degree?
  5. Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
  6. How does this position fit into your career plans?

Traditional questions:

  1. Why should we hire you?
  2. Why do you want the job?
  3. Describe yourself in one word?
  4. Tell me about your career plans?
  5. Tell me something about yourself that no one in this room would know about you?
  6. Give me three words that each person would use to describe you: Supervisor; Peer; Direct Report?
  7. Why are you better than the other candidates in this pool/panel?
  8. Why do you think you are ready for this job?
  9. If you could lead your current department/division/company for one day what would you change?
  10. What is your most significant accomplishment?
  11. What is your greatest weakness?
  12. How would you determine if we should begin service in a particular market?
  13. If you were a tree what kind would you be?
  14. What kind of animal do you identify with?
  15. What is the greatest misconception people have about you?
  16. What’s your greatest weakness?
  17. What’s your greatest strength?
  18. What would your manager say about you that you need to change?
  19. If you could go back in time what period of your life would you relive and why?
  20. What the last book you read?
  21. If you were on the cover of a magazine, which one would it be and what would the story be about?

Opinion questions:

  1. What do you think about our ad campaign?
  2. What did you think about our latest earnings release?
  3. What do you think about our initiatives for next year?
  4. How do you feel about sick time?
  5. How would you change this company?

Behavioral questions:

  1. Describe an experience that helped you get ready for this?
  2. Tell me about a difficult co-worker?  How did you handle him/her?
  3. Tell me about a difficult supervisor?  How did you handle him/her?
  4. Tell me about a time when your supervisor asked you to lead a task you were uncomfortable with?
  5. Tell me about a stressful experience at work?
  6. Tell me about your biggest failure?
  7. Tell me about a time you used your strengths and what happened?
  8. Tell me about a time when you walked away from a sale?
  9. Have you ever fired a customer?  Tell me about it?

Case questions to evaluate problem solving skills:

  1. How many golf balls will fit in a Boeing 777?
  2. If an airplane takes-off at 130 mph on a 72 degree day using 4,500′ of runway, how much runway is required on a 100 degree day?
  3. How many tickets did the Rolling Stones sell on their last world tour?
  4. How much water did the city of Dallas use in the summer of 2015?
  5. How much energy does a satellite launch from Sea Launch save? Sea Launch is a towable marine-based platform that carries rockets to the equator for liftoff.

A Response framework for Behavioral questions – the STAR format

“Tell me about a time when…” is a powerful clue that you’re facing a behavioral question.

Behavioral questions and traditional questions demand preparation – it’s very easy to spend five, six, or ten minutes recapping endless details about a particular situation. When your question begins “tell me about a time when…” your story should be delivered thoughtfully, and contain several predictable elements. This framework will keep your answer on track and organizes your response.

Keep these principles in mind. Your response should provide background, details about your work, a challenge or specific result you were asked about, and a conclusion. All of this should be well-organized, delivered seamlessly, and in three-minutes or less. The interviewer is looking for a relevant, concise story, that fills-in enough detail to verify you’re experience met their criteria. Apply the STAR format to guarantee credit:

  1. Situation.
  2. Task.
  3. Action.
  4. Results.

Combine the first two steps. Spend 30 seconds setting up the “Situation” and “Task” – usually something like this: “When I worked as a budget analyst for Acme Corporation, I was responsible for my department’s sales forecast.”

Next deliver your “Actions.” Provide details about the task and challenge, and how you handled it. This is the meat of your answer, spend two minutes on it. It will sound like this: “Each month I sent worksheets to managers in the department and scheduled a follow-up conference call to review results and capture information about variances to plan, and build an up-to-date pipeline report. I also used the calls to cross-pollinate best practices within the department and ensure leaders were focused on their targets.”

Then conclude with “Results” – take thirty seconds to wrap-up. “Because I developed a pipeline report to identify where each opportunity was in our sales pipeline my forecasts were always within 1% of actual results.”

Plan to succeed – it works.

Pick a good story from your storyboard:

Mastering the STAR format is actually more important than the “Right” story. Each candidate will bring different experience to a role – by definition every response will be different – interviewers spend very little energy or attention to decide if your story was the “Best” from your experience – something that is unknowable to them.

Create instant recall by developing a grid to capture information about your previous roles and experience. Put jobs or assignments in different rows, and qualities, characteristics, and outcomes in the columns. Populate the cells with a story title, to aid your memory, and summarize actions and results. It should look like this:


There’s one more thing your practice should include – how to decline to answer a question. Most interviewers have a list of questions to choose from – if they ask you a question that forces you to select a poor fit, or worse, ended in failure – don’t answer. Pause for four seconds, and then say, “I don’t recall an experience like that – I’d like to pass on this one.” You can pass or decline in infinite ways although practice is always helpful to get you comfortable for the next time when you need a gracious answer.


You’ll be amazed how quickly you can capture deep insights and catalog life experience to share during your next interviews and meetings. You don’t need 72 stories, but the more you remind yourself the better the fit and you’ll be well-prepared for any interview. This approach offers flexibility and adds diversity to your responses; it gives you a fighting chance to highlight relevant experience from different roles and situations.

Rock your next interview, ace behavioral interviews, and own your story. A thorough storyboard, along with practice responses to the questions listed here using the STAR format will dramatically improve your results.

For more detail about the STAR technique study this excellent post by Nagesh Belludi at his “Right Attitudes” blog. And for information about frameworks not covered here – specifically related to “case questions” review Marc Cosentino’s website or his book, Case in point.


What I’m Watching in 2019

One of my favorite moments in 2018 – when SpaceX’s “Falcon Heavy” put “Starman” in space to drive a Tesla for eternity and the boosters stuck a double-landing.  Now here’s what I’m watching in 2019:

  1. Fully autonomous cars offered for sale.
  2. Permits to allow humans to be carried by autonomous drones.
  3. Permits to allow single pilot operations in a “twin-aisle” cargo aircraft.
  4. Permit to allow autonomous operation of a commercial aircraft.
  5. George Bye’s Sunflyer will receive FAA certification.
  6. Better batteries – Solid state batteries with a substantially higher energy density than current Li-ion batteries.
  7. Solar panels with 2X efficiency of current panels.
  8. Power Over Ethernet lighting – POE Lighting.
  9. The first company to react to air quality complaints based on data from Plume Labs handheld air quality meters.
  10. The normalization of deterministic and probabilistic applications for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning as a patient analysis tool at the onset of a visit to a Doctor’s office (or no visit at all).
  11. The first announcement about a patient cured with CRISPR technology.
  12. Widespread 5G deployment (50% coverage in top 5 markets) then 50% in top 25 markets, then 100% in top 25 markets.
  13. The first company to be charged under the EU’s new Global Data Privacy Regulation – GDPR
  14. De-dollarization.
  15. College tuition costs to decline more than 25% and the Future of Education from Peter Diamandis.
  16. The Best of CES 2019.
  17. MIT’s Technology Breakthrough list for 2019 – due sometime at the start of Q2 2019.












Deloitte’s CORE Leadership Program teaches Veterans the art of personal reinvention

Change is hard – it requires effort, it takes time, and demands gut-checks that are uncomfortable.

Thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen leave the service every year. Their choice means leaving behind a strong sense of purpose, service, leadership, teammates, co-pilots, neighbors, classmates, responsibility, and a life they understood and knew how to navigate. As a group, Veteran’s have more management, leadership, and decision-making experience than civilians twenty-years senior to them, but they often lack interview skills and job search experience. This is a gap Deloitte’s CORE Leadership Program fills.

Deloitte University

A few weeks ago Deloitte volunteers completed another three-day CORE Leadership Program for 50 Veteran’s in transition. Participants were selected to attend a series of workshops and networking events at Deloitte University (DU) to learn more about themselves, know their fit, know who to ask for help, and learn how to tell their stories effectively. Soon after the immersive program began Dorie Clark gave a powerful talk about personal reinvention.

Dorie’s an accomplished writer, speaker, and teacher who’s observations and ideas are supported by pivots from journalism, to politics, to non-profit leadership, then on to teaching, speaking, and writing for Forbes, the Harvard Business Review and other premier publications. Her talk about personal reinvention resonated with every person in the room.

Over the years I’ve witnessed capable peers, and accomplished employees, struggle. They either lacked confidence or story telling skills; they languished in jobs they were overqualified for because they didn’t know how to reinvent themselves. One of the greatest skills anyone can learn is how to interview well. Simply put – it’s a high payoff activity that gives people command over their careers, and it’s the reason CORE is so potent. The exercises, workshops, round-tables, practice interviews, and evenings at the “Barn” filled the middle.

The Barn

CORE ended on a Saturday afternoon – with a presentation by a Veteran, and two-time, Paralympic gold medal winner.

Here’s a preview at the risk of sharing too much with future CORE participants. During a raid the speaker activated an IED while moving to aid two Afghani Commandos who suffered serious injuries minutes earlier when they set off a 40lb explosive charge. Days after being flown back to the United States he learned devastating news. His situation changed – he had to reinvent himself.

This hero delivered an emotional, inspiring story. He offered more laughs than tears and called out many people who put themselves at risk or made other sacrifices to give him a second chance at life. He’s still adding chapters to his amazing story, and all of us have someone to cheer on in the 2016 Paralympic games.

Before CORE I thought about what I could offer, and how I could help. I left CORE  humbled, and more grateful for the Veterans who stepped-up after I left the Army seventeen years ago; I left filled with a sense of purpose and pride in Deloitte that is every CHRO’s “employee engagement” dream and I’m looking forward to meeting a new group of Veterans in February 2016.

Personal reinvention is hard, but a comprehensive roadmap exists. Please share this with service-members you know are ready to transition. Click here for more information about the CORE Leadership Program, including program eligibility and application requirements.

Originally published on LinkedIn.


A Top-Secret Technique That Guarantees Successful Leadership

There’s a powerful secret that successful organizations apply to get higher performance from their people. And it stands in contrast to the low performance generated by managers who filter their teams’ efforts, rather than acting as catalysts to drive productivity and results.

Let me tell you a personal story.

Second-Lieutenant Lessons

I remember the moment I led my first platoon operation outside the walls of an Army compound in South Korea. I was twenty-two and responsible for a convoy with ten armed Humvees, thirty-two people, and a handful of eighteen and nineteen year-old drivers strung-out over a half-mile behind my truck. I kept one eye behind me, and one on the road, always ready to pull in the mirror to navigate between houses on a road designed centuries earlier, and way too small for our enormous vehicles.

Don’t screw up – and no accidents.

The words of my larger-than-life Commander echoed in my ears. He was a big man – even measured against a Company of MP’s. He played football at a Division I University before the Army – and he was a combat veteran. Lucky for me he was also an incredible teacher and a strong leader.

I had already confronted the stress every new Second-Lieutenant experiences when they’re not with their unit during an operation. It’s impractical for a Military Police Lieutenant to spend every waking hour with his soldiers during law-enforcement operations, when each squad is assigned an eight-hour shift. How would you sleep if your employees (fresh out of high school with sixteen weeks of intensive training) strapped on a Kevlar vest, a Berretta semi-automatic pistol, a few extra magazines, and a ticket book–and dispatched a four-wheel drive vehicle, with lights and a siren, to drive around all night? It’s a maturing experience–one that left a lot of bruises and a few scars, but far more lessons I’ve put to good use every day since.

As I looked back at that line of trucks, with gunners in their turrets to man their M-249 grenade machine guns, I’d already received a few calls at 3 a.m. from my Platoon Sergeant who always started with, “Sorry to wake you, but I want you to know about…”  It hit me that they had all the training and experience they needed to make a sound decision in any situation we would encounter. I realized what the secret ingredient was. Trust. Expect more, and you will receive more. Said another way, “You get what you reward.” This is moving beyond lip service to the phrase, “empower people.” You should really expect more–and tell them.

Autonomy + Expectations = Higher Performance

When you give people autonomy, and make it clear what’s expected, you’ll get high performance to match, without the overhead and friction created by micro-management. One of my favorite expressions is: “I’m not asking for perfection, but I want you to try.”

There’s a lot of research that proves what I learned during my first weeks as a troop leader in Korea. I describe it as “Engineering Human Performance” – or how to create a pre-determined outcome. How can business leaders engineer higher performance?

Easy. When you put someone in charge, they’ll step up to perform well, make sound decisions, and generally do the right thing. The military operates using the ‘situational attribution‘ theory; decision-making authority rests with the senior person present. When the boss is gone, the next person in line has the authority to make operational decisions required to complete immediate tasks. This quality causes soldiers, sailors, and airmen to view leadership as a condition of their circumstances rather than their pedigree. They are not paralyzed by the loss of a leader, because even the lowliest Army of one has someone in charge.

Rising to the Role

In most companies, when the boss is away, subordinates need to find another senior leader to sign documents, approve budgets, sign off on expense reports, and make other decisions to operate the business. This is the ‘disposition attribution‘ theory at work; businesses incorrectly assume that sound decision making is a function of the employee’s level. It’s not.

“People assume the qualities of the roles they’re assigned.”

People who wear surgical scrubs, judge’s robes, or uniforms understand this. Uniforms create a feedback loop from bystanders–even a tentative rookie will step up under scrutiny from a crowd that expects them to succeed or to perform in a predictable way.  People also routinely commit the fundamental attribution error–they assign values and assume expertise where none exists. This misperception is demonstrated each time someone asks a doctor how they should invest their money–wrongly assuming that high achievement and domain knowledge in one area translates to other domains.

Catch Me If You Can

We saw countless examples of this in Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in the 2002 Steven Spielberg film, “Catch Me If You Can.” Consider how people treated Frank Abagnale Jr. when he forged checks as a nineteen-year-old pilot for Pan Am Airways. Self-confidence can overcome negative bias, since it can be difficult to identify an expert out of context–someone wearing tattered clothes who walks up and declares–”I’m a doctor” will get everyone’s attention. Think about the Holiday Inn commercials when self-confident people tackle a challenge they would otherwise be unprepared for–at the end revealing they have no qualifications except that they “stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

The Guards and the Prisoners

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo and other researchers at Stanford wanted to measure how role expectations could change behavior, outlook, and self-esteem. In a study about prisons sponsored by the U.S. Navy, they devised an experiment where young men were randomly selected to be guards or prisoners in a Stanford prison experiment. Twenty-four students participated in the mock prison. Guards quickly asserted control over the prisoners, and subjected them to various forms of psychological torture. Most of the prisoners accepted their treatment, but a few resisted, only to be attacked by other prisoners who helped guards keep everyone in line.

“Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.” Philip G. Zimbardo

The Blue Eyes and the Brown Eyes

When we don’t live with an open mind, our bias is predictable and easy to uncover. The day after Martin Luther King was assassinated In 1968, Jane Elliott, a third-grade teacher in Riceville, Iowa, divided her class for an exercise about discrimination. Students were arbitrarily placed into two groups–blue eyes (superior) and brown eyes (inferior). The blue-eyed group was placed in charge, while brown-eyed students were not allowed to use the playground equipment or the drinking fountain. Students were told that blue-eyed students were naturally better at math, English, and other skills, while brown-eyed students were told they were not as good. The next day, Jane announced she had made a mistake and the roles were reversed.

Immediately, previously low-performing blue-eyed students were producing better work. They were trying harder, while high-performing brown-eyed children started to perform below their previous levels. Jane Elliott’s impact on education is significant. Her experiment in Riceville created the foundation for her work as a speaker and coach about discrimination and diversity training for corporations and colleges around the world. In 1970, her third group was filmed and a documentary was released called “Eye of the Storm.” In 1985 Frontline created a program about the experiment, based on a book by the same title, “A Class Divided” and it includes footage from the 1970 documentary. You can watch it here.

Jane tested her students regularly and found that scores went down during the time a student was part of the low expectation group, and up during their participation in a high performing group. But another effect was more surprising. After their participation in the experiment all students’ scores increased. Researchers at Stanford reviewed the results and concluded that the experiment led to a dramatic change in the students’ performance.

“The act of believing you could do better showed the kids they were able to achieve more, to perform better, and evidence presented during their time as high-performers increased their self-confidence and performance.”

Damage of Discrimination and Stereotypes

Jane Elliott demonstrated how discrimination is manufactured, and Philip Zimbardo showed us how people act out role stereotypes.

Both experiments offer important lessons for us. It’s a small leap to recognize that leaders and managers who encourage and support their teams will generate higher performance, while the reverse is true, too. People will perform to the expectations others set for them, and knowledge about their situations does not automatically reverse those effects.

Powerful, Little-Understood Leadership Lessons

My own military experience provides further evidence to support Jane Elliott’s conclusions and the Stanford researchers’ experience. Incredibly, those lessons have not yet penetrated business leadership principles in a meaningful way.

You have a chance to make a positive, lasting difference, and as you do, think about how the evidence in this article could influence leadership-rotation programs, recruiting practices, and B-scale pay plans. Trust your team, expect more, and give your people more autonomy–the results will shock you.

I’d love to hear from people who want to change the culture in their business or organization.

This article was originally published on the PipelinerCRM Sales blog


Confessions of a Professional Networker

My oldest daughter, Kate, loves horses. There’s a horse park next to the soccer fields where she started playing when she was four. She watched the horses during the game, and would always ask me to take her to see them when her game was over.

Then as soon as we climbed out of the truck she would ask me to ask if they would give her a ride. I  always said, “No” and this went on for several weeks. Finally I said, “Kate, It’s your job to ask for a ride, but I have a better idea. You can’t ask directly…so let’s try two things – pay a compliment, and ask what the horse’s name is.  Tell the rider something you admire about their horse, it’s color, markings, the way the mane is braided, or the saddle, then ask about the horse’s name.”

Incredibly, half the time, the rider would invite Kate to sit on the horse or even offer a short ride in the parking lot.

This describes my approach to networking, or meeting new people in any environment. It works as well at forty as it does at four. First – be fearless – nothing bad will happen from paying compliments, and if you ask to connect with someone, either by exchanging business cards or through LinkedIn, the worst that can happen is they will say “no”…or ignore you. The best outcome is that you’ll find some common ground and a way to help each other solve a problem, achieve a goal, or launch a connection. The most valuable people give you access to information or relationships you have few other ways to reach. Great connections have little in common with you and almost no overlapping knowledge and experience. The co-worker who sits next to you at work and lives in your neighborhood can do little to expand your worldview compared to these people:

Connect with people who matter – people who are open to serendipity and the power of relationships. People who have established a personal brand and communicate their thought leadership or expertise in any area.

Connect with people who are geographically distant in your industry, or physically close in other industries.

Connect with people who are in completely different industries, and geographically removed, but have similar interests, educations, or other shared experiences that you can leverage to connect.

Connect with authors, speakers, and researchers – they are very open to new connections and easy to reach if you share a positive comment or thought about something they’ve produced or created.

Connect with billionaires and investors – they’re actually very accessible and frequently seeking new ideas.

Connect with LIONSLinkedIn Open Networkers. They self-identify as people who are open to new links.

Placement surveys show that 75% of all jobs that pay >$100,000 are found through a candidate’s network. That’s an incredible statistic…so how do you put your network to work? For existing connections send a brief email that describes your strengths, experience, and what you’re looking for. Never ask for a job directly, rather, request that your contacts alert you of anyone in their networks who could benefit from your skills and experience.

What about new connections?

Here’s a proven road-map to build local connections and secure their help to find a new opportunity in your hometown.

1. Find a list of the fastest growing or most profitable companies in your City or State – usually published by the local business journal.

2. Select 25~30 companies that your skills could be well-suited for.

3. Search LinkedIn for LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers) that are well-positioned on that list. The world is full of people who want to help you – all you need to do is ask. And the more senior the person the more likely they appreciate the power of chance meetings.

4. Send a personal note to the LIONS or other people you identified from companies on your list. Say this:

“Hi, I found your profile on LinkedIn while researching XYZ company. I’d like to connect with you and would be delighted if I could buy you a cup of coffee sometime in the next two weeks for a chance to learn more about what you do?”

This works – especially for sharp candidates who have been out of the workforce for an extended period. Initiative catapults you to the head of the line. Nearly half the people I have shared this technique with end up in a job that was designed for them. Experience has shown me that a personalized request, like the example above, will yield about a 40% acceptance rate for people with a complete LinkedIn profile. And the final meeting rates will exceed 25%. Furthermore, half of those meetings result in a new connection revealing information about unpublished openings in their companies – hidden jobs. It doesn’t take many cups of coffee to heat-up your search.

I’ll wrap up with two more tips: in business credibility matters and it’s customary to use a senior manager’s firstname, even if the CEO. Don’t use “Sir” or “Ma’am” when speaking with someone about their company or in your introduction – it signals weakness or insecurity and reduces your position. Finally, the next time you encounter a networking event, look like a pro – carry your business cards in your left pocket, so you can pull one out as you shake hands with people you meet. Place the cards you receive in your right pocket. This prevents cards from getting mixed-up, and you can maintain eye-contact while delivering your card. It’s a small step, but deliberate, meaningful improvement will add up over time and turn your into a confident networker.

Please “Like” this and pass it along if you found it helpful.

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Deloitte’s relationship with several major airlines. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, Diio, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He helps people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

Coaching Featured Sales & Marketing

Why I’m Cheering For Uber

I landed at Heathrow at 10PM and needed a ride to the airport Sheraton on Bath road. My phone was acting up so I wasn’t able to use the Uber app that worked earlier that day in Qatar, and in the preceding days in Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Los Angeles, and London. So I did what any road-weary traveler would do – I hailed a taxi. As the driver picked up my roll-aboard he looked at me and framed his demand as a question, “You’re paying cash right?”

What? Of course I am – I’ve been held captive by cabbie’s all over the world – and though I have tremendous respect for the most professional among them, the London Cabbies, I know better than to negotiate a credit card payment near midnight in the middle of nowhere (T4 is very quiet that late).

That four-mile drive lasted twenty minutes and cost my employer more than $30.

There are 400 airlines operating scheduled service around the globe, I don’t know how many hotel brands, or travel agencies exist, but ground transportation companies are part of a very fragmented industry. Until now.

I used four airlines to fly from Dallas, to Fiji, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and back to Dallas via London. The Western shore of Nadi, Fiji was the only place I couldn’t find Uber.

I’m not surprised by the polarized reaction discussions about Uber generate among travel managers. It’s hard to grasp how many problems Uber solved for globe-trotters and urban dwellers alike unless you’ve lived through it.

1. I can see where my car on the map in the Uber app before I request one.

2. I know the driver’s name and have his license plate before he arrives.

3. I can watch my journey in real-time on my phone while we travel to my destination – an address that I frequently plug-in before Uber arrives – which eliminates the three-minute discussion about where I’m headed and how to get there after the meter starts.

4. I get out of the car when I arrive at my destination. There’s no transaction or payment to the driver… no more lost cellphones or wallets because they’re safely tucked away before the driver pulled up to the curb. No more searches in his trunk to find those ancient multi-page slider-style receipts and listen to griping about how I needed to pay cash while he acts like it’s been months since anyone gave him a credit card.

5.  No more brake-stompers, tail-gators, loud-music listening, cellphone talking, A**hole drivers who act like they’re doing you a favor. You know what I mean if you’ve ever taken a cab between La Guardia and Midtown. Because I get to rate the driver after every trip. And if enough of his customers think he lacks the manners or skills to get us to our destination safely his ratings will plunge and Uber will cut him loose. How many taxi companies use customer ratings to do that?

Guess what? Uber driver’s rate their passengers too – and I care about my score – because if I ever need a ride out of a rough part of town at three in the morning I know someone will already know I’m a decent human-being and pick me up while the drunks and suckers have to hail a cab.

I know – Uber doesn’t blah, blah, blah, insurance, blah, blah, blah… well, I’ve jumped out of airplanes from 1,000′ without a camera and it wasn’t to enjoy the freefall, and I’ve flown airplanes upside down. I spent a few years as a first-responder too – I don’t care about insurance – that’s a check to give survivors. I care about safety. Have you seen the car Bob Simon was riding in when he died?  Here it is – the driver survived. I haven’t seen the full accident report, but early indications are that Bob was in the back and wasn’t wearing his seat belt.

If you really want your travelers to be safe tell them to buckle-up and only accept rides from Uber drivers with a 4.7+ rating.

Please hit “Like” and share this if you found it helpful.

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Deloitte’s relationship with several major airlines. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, Diio, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He helps people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

Aviation Risk Management Travel Management Trip Reports

What I Learned Connecting With Unicorns – The Top 100 STRATEGIC Social Sellers

Tony Hughes published a list of his top 100 strategic social sellers – “Unicorn’s” in Tony’s parlance. I was connected to three of them when I read the article, but I was curious about how they made the list and what contributions they made to their followers, so I invited each of them to connect with me. This turned into a meta-social-knowledge acceleration program.

Over the three days I pushed out invitations nearly half accepted my request within twenty-four hours. Twenty-five percent of the time I found their email addresses somewhere in their profiles, in a few other cases I dug it out from blogs or company websites. For the majority I simply indicated they were a “friend” and sent a two sentence email: “I’m a Tony Hughes fan and found you on his Unicorn list. I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn and follow your work.” It doesn’t get easier than that.

Eleven people sent me a “thank you” email, and most were personalized, but also included highlights and links to additional resources they created for people related to social media, linkedIn, sales force training, and other powerful content. I received several offers to write guest posts on blogs, and found one connection ten minutes from my house – we’ve already made plans to meet in-person.  Craig Elias actually called me while I was still cranking out requests. We had a powerful conversation on a range of topics. His “Trigger Event Selling” process resonated for me and I’m looking forward to spending more time to incorporate his ideas into my work.

Their generosity wasn’t confined to LinkedIn – it spilled onto Twitter where I generated eight new follows. Profile views on LinkedIn generated activity on my website when viewers clicked on links to articles only available on Celina Guerrero even commented on my latest article on LinkedIn.

This is an accomplished bunch – they didn’t make the list by sitting around to catch up on television. Most have authored one or many books, host their own blogs or websites, all of them are active on social media, and only a few have conventional W-2 jobs. Several have sales training backgrounds including with Miller Heiman and the Anthony Robbins Companies. Several lead social media or sales force effectiveness teams at bigger companies. They’re Act-On, Infusionsoft, and Hubspot fans. Pipeliner CRM actually has four people on the list, while only four or five were official LinkedIn Influencers, two are current LinkedIn employees. As a group they’re deeply curious – since the tools and techniques they’re expert in didn’t exist when they started their careers. They are selfless givers who recognize the rewards for help and knowledge freely given allows them to earn income from the trade-secrets and valuable approaches locked away for the exclusive use of their paying customers.

Here’s the big secret – great content isn’t always behind a pay wall and it doesn’t have to come from a book.

  1. Craig Elias’ “Trigger Event Selling” – A powerful framework to focus people who are ready to buy – don’t waste any more time.
  2. Aaron Ross’ “Why Sales People Shouldn’t Prospect” – This is a goldmine and should be read by anyone who doesn’t have sales experience but touches the process.
  3. Jill Konrath – From Topsalesworld, “Why Half-Baked Ideas are Perfect Sales Conversation
  4. I’m already a huge Colleen Francis fan and subscribe to coaching content at, but she provides free resources there too, and it’s always relevant and professional.
  5. Michael Brenner published “How to create an army of social contributors (for free)” It’s excellent – and I recommend another project he was involved with, Business 2 Community.

During my call with Craig we discussed techniques – I asked him what he would have done earlier – and he explained how useful webinars could be to reach people. He suggested two ways to increase participant list size and engagement: first, partner with a company that wants to promote a product or service, to provide the foundation; next, find other experts who complement your skills to fill in gaps or expand the  scope. Great advice. Did I mention it was free? And he called me – all I had to do was answer the phone from a number I didn’t recognize. We’re old friends now.

Anything is possible if you just focus on how. Thank you Tony Hughes!

Please share, tweet, and comment if this was helpful.

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Deloitte’s relationship with several major airlines. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, Diio, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He helps people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

Coaching Featured Sales & Marketing

Self-Confident Networking

Successful people are self-confident. Confidence alone doesn’t make you successful, but it’s so important it’s worth studying in detail.

Confidence has several ingredients – how we act, look, feel, what we say, and how we say it. Our body language, speech, and delivery influence people around us.  Amy Cuddy taught the world how “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” in a TED speech watched more than twenty-million times. We convey a lot of information about ourselves, our status, and how we’re feeling through our posture, body language, and how we move to establish personal space.

How do confident people act, walk, and talk? You know it when you see it. Let’s look at an effective teacher – the Military. Drill and ceremony rehearsals, confidence courses, the “gas chamber,” where Soldiers and Marines are inoculated against the fear of being hit with “tear gas” through the experience of being exposed to it. On demolition ranges where they learn how to throw live hand-grenades – safely. Airborne school, where Soldiers are turned into Paratroopers, and on countless missions, deployments and real emergencies that challenge participants to control their emotions to keep fear in check.

Early in my Military Police career I witnessed how attitudes affected preparation, readiness, and performance. I watched a five foot three inch, hundred and ten pound women control her fear to subdue a violent man twice her size. Phrases I half-believed then I embrace completely now – “fake it till you make it”, “when in charge, take charge, and when you’re not, act as if you are.” Confidence is not a substitute for competence, but it trumps alternative ways to approach life.

Training can be designed to teach tasks that together form skills that Soldiers or business-people master before they are qualified. Drown Proofing is a good example. It begins as a series of easy-to-achieve tasks. Soldiers are taught how to stay afloat and to make a flotation device from their clothing. The training culminates with a fully-clothed soldier, complete with kevlar vest, helmet, rifle, and boots thrown into the water. To pass, they need to stay afloat, no style points – as long as they don’t panic, they’ll get through it. And that’s true for anything you do in life – don’t panic.  More dramatic than conventional drown-proofing, this image shows Marines inside a helicopter mock-up as it rotates into water – you can watch the entire video on youtube here. This specialized training increased the survival rate for helicopter passengers caught in a forced-landing on water by several hundred percent.

Marines a modular Amphibious Egress Tank

Lessons learned in the Military can be applied to business. Networking is to business what drown-proofing is to Marines. Research on networking conducted at Harvard University adds evidence on this topic.

“Basically, the more “powerful” the person, the less they view “networking” as a “Dirty” activity. The lower power the person, the more they view it as a shameful chore. One implication for practice is that, to foster the advancement and effectiveness of professionals at low hierarchical levels, organizations need to create opportunities for emergent forms of networking, as those who need instrumental  networking the most are the least likely to engage in it.”

People I work with don’t need to do more good things better, they need to stop doing one thing poorly or step-up in situations where senior leaders wouldn’t hesitate. Usually it’s a single self-defeating inaction, or belief that stops them from moving forward. Self-confidence is the most common element their focus can fix to achieve the results they want. Think about how this could apply to you.

Gavin de Becker points out that young circus elephants are tied to a post with heavy chains they can’t break. Over time, they learn to stop trying, and eventually, as adults, they can be restrained with the flimsiest rope. What ropes are holding you back? Are you afraid, or lack confidence, or self-worth? Learn to be fearless.

Please “Like” and share if you found this useful!

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Deloitte’s relationship with several major airlines. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, Diio, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He helps people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

Coaching Risk Management Sales & Marketing

Sales Planning for Start-Ups

The right focus, at the right time, has enormous influence on top-line and bottom-line growth for any company, but it’s especially true for new ones.

At the moment a company’s founders decide it’s time to add a sales team there are usually more issues to think about than who. “Sales” is used as a catch-all for a long list of activities and documentation that need to be rolled-out before the sales production line is running smoothly. Hiring a traditional salesperson first, before sales-support, and a marketing-driven lead-generation engine is in-place is a recipe for disappointment.

Chief Marketing Officers and Business Development VPs must understand the evolution of effective selling techniques to identify skills and timing that will achieve the best results for their new company. Professional selling is about leading the customer to imagine how your product will improve their condition.

Before there were Challengers: In the 1800’s through 1925, producers and collectors were recognizable personas of formal selling – also referred to as Hunters and Gatherers. Producers were the highly-compensated sales people who secured new business, while “collectors” were low-value operators assigned to gather fees and payments.

In 1925, E.K. Strong published “The Psychology of Selling.” Strong formalized descriptions and methods to handle objections and focus on features and benefits. This approach stood until the 1970’s when research created SPIN selling (Situation, Problem, Implications, Needs). SPIN segmented customers by size and sales by product complexity. The approach was popularized by Neil Rackham’s book, “SPIN Selling.” By then procurement organizations were seeking ways to control costs through various negotiations frameworks. McKinsey & Company introduced the McKinsey 7S process and procurement embraced it as a way to vet suppliers.

Contemporary sales thinkers, leaders, and sales trainers are driving high performance through programs based on the Corporate Executive Board’s research and 2011 book, “The Challenger Sale.” Written by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson it’s based on surveys from more than 1,200 companies about their B2B sales performance. Dixon and Adamson identified five sales personas and their occurrence rates: The Hard Worker (21%); The Challenger (27%); The Relationship Builder (21%); The Lone Wolf (18%); and the Reactive Problem Solver (18%).  They noticed that in low complexity sales, there was little difference between performance rates among the five types. But as product & service complexity increased Challengers separated from the pack as they generated a higher share of companies’ sales and profits.

Five Sales People Profiles

Challengers thrive: In complex environments with multiple stakeholders in the buyer’s organization. The Board’s research found that as product complexity increased performance separation began to favor Challengers over other sales personas.

Challenger Advantage

Here’s how Challengers do it. “A Challenger is defined by the ability to do three things – teach, tailor, and take control – and to do all of this through the use of constructive tension,” (Dixson and Adamson 2011).

Challenger Skills

Teach, Tailor, Take Control – great news – it’s possible to teach other personas and mid-performers how Challengers apply those skills in the buying process. Challengers don’t tell – they create business partnerships to uncover meaningful insights; they see the world from the customer’s point of view and generate ideas to help them grow faster and more profitably. Challenger selling engages the whole organization to think about ways to generate value for customers. Simply put, the Challenger method can be learned. The trick is to understand the mechanisms Challengers use to manipulate the buyer’s path.

Challenger Path

Marketing automation: The arms race between sales and procurement has been accelerating.  Contemporary marketing automation strategies, enhanced through lead-scoring programs offered by Act-On, Hubspot, Pardot, Infusionsoft, and others, are force-multipliers that allow sales and marketing organizations with a few employees to close complex deals with large customers, faster, at a higher-rate.

It doesn’t take an active imagination to realize what a Challenger could accomplish if they were handed a list of prospects who poked around the company’s website, viewed pages with information about implementation schedules, and opened a pricing page multiple times over the previous four days. Marketing automation is a goldmine. Want to see it in action? Download the beacon viewer extension from, once it’s active on your browser visit your competitors and other leading companies’ websites and check out the tools they’re using to track visitors.

Summary: For CMO’s, finding someone who understands the customers’ business and has the bandwidth to position the seller’s products in a meaningful way, earlier in the decision-process, will make a big difference to their new organization’s success. And if you don’t need a Challenger, you might not need a sales team. Sales people cost far more than sales and marketing automation programs, so a solid plan that incorporates both is necessary to drive success from each. A Challenger mind-set, along with a comprehensive list of lead scores from the new company’s prospective customers creates a good starting point.

Ideas and Suggestions:

  • Identify customer personas, and determine those customers’ “consideration paths” to buy your products, then organize content to respond to what you already know.
  • Launch your website early to accrue benefits the Google search algorithms bestow for site age.
  • Focus on meaningful, relevant content to drive participation on your site; refine your meta tags, keywords, and messaging to achieve low bounce rates, and increase visitor times on-page to drive higher organic search results – read “Call to Action” Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg’s e-commerce classic if you don’t know what this means.
  • Hire a good marketing person to create and publish sales collateral, marketing materials, and develop content that buyers will exchange personal information to get their hands on.
  • Launch a marketing automation program to capture buyer interest and develop a sales pipeline.
  • Now you’re ready to hire a Challenger sales leader.

Slides: From “The Challenger Sale.”

Coaching Sales & Marketing