January 31, 2007

Better Words

Filed under: Selling, Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 4:17 pm

“Forget a better mousetrap. Concentrate on better words…There can be no curiosity where there is no mystery, no delight without surprise.”

Roy Williams

Seen this?

Filed under: Uncategorized, Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 4:09 pm

111,111,111 X 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

Pretty cool, huh?

Resources for Speakers

Filed under: Speaking and Communication — Mark Sanborn @ 4:04 pm

Executives, amateur public speakers and professional speakers often ask me what resources I recommend to help them learn to speak or speak better. Here are some excellent books and tapes:

Wake Me Up When the Data is Over: How Organizations Use Storytelling to Drive Results by Lori Silverman

Let Me Tell You a Story by Tony Campolo

What’s Your Story? Using Stories to Ignite Performance and Be More Successful by Craig Wortmann

Speaking Secrets of the Masters compilation, ExecutiveBooks.com

”Speak Like a Pro” (audio series) by Mark Sanborn

The Million Dollar Toolbox: A Blueprint for Transforming Your Life & Your Career with Powerful Communication Skills by Ty Boyd

January 30, 2007

Junk Clumps

Filed under: Observations — Mark Sanborn @ 3:57 pm

Ever notice how the junk of life clumps together? I can go weeks without anything more than a minor inconvenience, then suddenly, I get a full month’s quota of hassles  all in the same day. Unexpected problems, technology glitches, business challenges…you know the drill.

So is there any lesson in this? We’ve all had “clump of junk” days. And we’ve all dealt with them, and survived. As my grandfather used to say, “It is an inconvenience, but it isn’t fatal.”

The lesson: enjoy the junk-free days more. Let the clump of junk days remind you that these situations are the exception and not the norm of life (thankfully).

January 29, 2007

Adventures in Passing the Buck

Filed under: Leadership, Politics — Mark Sanborn @ 3:19 pm

Someone must have been thinking like me when they asked Hillary Clinton what she’d do to get the U.S. out of Iraq. Her answer was a tirade about President Bush: he got us into that war so he should get us out before he leaves office.

Er, excuse me, but did you misunderstand the question Ms. Clinton?

Even if you agree with her line of thinking, don’t you find it perplexing that she doesn’t have any answers about what she would do?

When a leader is asked for an opinion or solution, he or she owes it to the questioner to answer, not pass the buck.

January 28, 2007

Necessity versus Opportunity

Filed under: Observations, Leadership, Politics, Customer Service Strategy — Mark Sanborn @ 11:02 am

The Girl Scouts are shipping cookies this year that are free of transfat. New York
was the first city to ban transfat from restaurant food preparation. Both the Girl
Scouts and NYC are among the willing who act on opportunity. They are those who
do the right and/or smart thing before they must. 

The cable industry is finally improving service times for installs. This is primarily
in response to rising complaints and demands from customers. For years, any cable
company that willingly used a shorter window for installs would have had a significant
competitive advantage over those companies that made you wait around all day. But
the window of opportunity has given way to the door of necessity.

When you must do something to survive, you’ve got little or no competitive advantage
in doing it. When you willingly do something because it is the smart and valued
thing to do, you seize the high ground. This is the difference between the begrudgingly
compliant and the willingly opportunistic, between the “musts” and the

Recent research is that we spend 12 hours a month working on our computers. Why?
Because we must to keep them functioning. How much time have you spent working on
important or personal relationships? Chances are unless there was a crisis–a demanding
friend, a spouse fed up and about to leave, or a client about to abandon you for
a competitor–you haven’t spent that much time building and maintaining relationships.
For most of us, until it becomes a necessity, we just don’t invest the time.

If being counted among those who will is where the advantage lies, shouldn’t
you and I change camps? Wouldn’t your relationships benefit more from investing
the time in them because you choose to rather than because you have to? 

The airline industry was late for a total of 22.1 million minutes last year. Will
most airlines ever improve their on-time performance much? Probably not. Why? Because
there is no necessity. If your plane is late, what are you doing to do? Quit flying?
Switch to another carrier who is just as likely to be late?  

Comparing necessity and opportunity can explain much, not just in our personal lives
but in business as well.

Sounds More than a Little Like Blame to Me

Filed under: Observations, Politics — Mark Sanborn @ 9:06 am

I heard a clip on CNN this morning from Hillary Clinton posturing for her White House run. She said we still live in a great country (agreed) despite poor leadership in the recent past (also agreed). I do wonder if she realizes that referring to our political leadership as “poor” she, as a senator, includes herself? More likely, I’m guessing, she figures the brunt of the blame will go to W.

Then she said something that bothered me. She said that she wouldn’t have voted to go into Iraq if it wasn’t for the bad information Congress had been given. I can think of a bunch of stocks I wouldn’t have purchased, movies I’d have skipped and restaurants I would never had dined in had it not been for the bad or incorrect information I’d received.

But that isn’t the point. I purchased, watched and dined without blaming. I figured I should have gotten better or different information, but that was my responsibility. So while inaccurate information might be an explanation, I don’t see it as an excuse.

Republicans and Democrats need to stop living in the past. We’ve heard plenty of explanations and they’re wearing thin, especially when tinged with blame. So what are you going to do now? What course of action are you going to take? Get past blaming and get on with solutions.

January 27, 2007

Wikinomics, Farming and Horseshoes

Filed under: Observations, Reviews — Mark Sanborn @ 11:06 am

I just read Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. I’ve always been a fan of Don’s work and view him as a leading thinker on things internet-related. His new book does a good job of analyzing and synthesizing how collaboration and technology are changing not just how we do business but how we live.

I particularly liked a quote towards the end of the book by blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow who said, “Blacksmiths weeping into their beer about their inability to sell horseshoes in the era of railroads doesn’t make horseshoes more popular. Blacksmiths learning how to become auto mechanics, on the other hand, puts food on their table.”

I grew up on a farm and spent the first years of my professional career in agribusiness. Many then felt family farming was an entitlement, which always puzzled me. What that usually meant was that some family farmers didn’t want to change the way they farmed to keep pace with technology and marketplace changes. To use Doctorow’s metaphor, they didn’t want to change how they farmed, but to have the government protect them so they could keep making horseshoes. My opinion, much disagreed with at the time and probably still, was that the move to save the family farm was more about saving a lifestyle than a business.

Getting comfortable and stuck doing what we’ve always done is a potential pitfall for all of us. Wikinomics gives some clues about what new skills the blacksmith might want to be learning.

January 25, 2007

If You Want a Safe Job…

Filed under: Leadership, Difference Makers — Mark Sanborn @ 5:11 pm

My favorite quote of the day goes to Senator Chuck Hagel. He co-sponsored a resolution opposing the president’s planned increase in troop levels. Commenting on the riskiness of not towing the party line and/or going against public sentiment, he said to his fellow senators, “If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes.”

Good leadership is always risky.

Mediocre leadership is less risky.

Bad leadership is rarely risky.

Leadership is often about following one’s convictions, and that can mean paying a price in popularity or approval.

You may or may not agree with a leader, but you should always acknowledge when he or she is standing for what they truly believe is important. Conviction is often sadly missing from politics these days.

Where Do You Find Uncommon Ideas?

Filed under: Observations, Success — Mark Sanborn @ 5:04 pm

Answer: in uncommon places.

I know that many Americans read The New York Times. But far more don’t read it than do. That is why I periodically read the Sunday edition–that $5 tome–of that paper. I often find an article or angle significantly different than the media-light I indulge in daily. (And sometimes I read the week day edition of The Times as well.)

Readers of my blogs know that I like USA Today because it is a quick overview of world events (and research is clear that you get far more information more quickly reading almost ANY daily newspaper than you do listening to or watching the news). Because USA Today is so widely read, the chances of unearthing a novel idea are diminished.

I also read the Economist. This British publication provides a much more interesting, and one could argue global, view of world events as well as happenings in the U.S.

Bestseller lists pose an interesting conundrum: they report on what everybody is reading, but not necessarily the best books available. As an author who has been on numerous bestseller lists, I’m glad for the attention such lists bring to my books. Personally, I peruse the bestseller lists to see what others are reading so I can have a shared frame of reference. But I devote hours to finding really interesting and well-written books that often don’t make it on the radar of the populous. These works give me far more creative fodder because they are less read.

It is easy to go to familiar sources to get familiar information, but it won’t feed your creative spirit nearly as well as searching out a different perspective or source of information.

Go to uncommon sources to find uncommon ideas.

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