Interview With Greg Crabtree: Author, Consultant & Small Business Expert

Greg Crabtree is a speaker, author, entrepreneur and financial expert.  Crabtree has used his entrepreneurial skills to develop Crabtree, Rowe & Berger, PC, a CPA firm focused solely on the needs of entrepreneurs, helping them build the economic engine of their businesses. I invite you to read my interview with Greg as he shares his beliefs on small business ownership and entrepreneurial management.

Mike Goldman: You mention in your book that it’s important for a business owner to take a market-based wage vs. just drawing money out of profits. Why is this important?

Greg Crabtree: We have found that when the owner confuses “you get paid a salary for what you do and a return on what you own”, you lose clarity on how the business is truly performing.  This is the biggest distortion in privately held companies.  No matter if it is being done for tax purposes, ego or ignorance, it is the first thing we have to address in getting to true business performance.

We strongly recommend that owners stop playing games with their compensation going forward so that they do not have to do Mental Olympics to figure out true business performance.  We have many success stories of getting owners to buy in on this idea and the business taking off in profitability because of the clarity created.  The increased performance of the business made the supposed “tax savings” insignificant to the new level of profitability.

It is also essential in multi owner businesses where the owners pay themselves equally instead of by role.  No two people are worth the same amount of pay every year so if you pay the owners the same amount, somebody is getting the short end of the deal.

MG: You provide consulting services to help entrepreneurs manage their finances. What is the biggest roadblock small business owners face when it comes to money matters in the early stages of a company?

GC: An entrepreneur’s lack of truthful data to manage by has been the biggest issue causing money problems.  Except for the 5% or less of entrepreneurs who have a good grasp of finance, the rest are swimming in a pool of data that makes no sense to them.

Our process helps all entrepreneurs attack this problem with 4 steps to get truthful data you can manage by:

  1. Eliminate distortions caused by owner compensation and owner occupied real estate.

  2. Set profit targets using the Simple Numbers profit model

  3. Use Labor productivity concepts to drive profitability with the business you have before you try to grow

  4. Understand the impact of the 4 Forces of Cash Flow (Taxes, Debt, Core Capital and Dividends)  You can only discuss Cash Flow AFTER you are profitable.

MG: In your book, Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!, you say that paying more taxes is a good thing and you encourage business owners to focus on increasing profit rather than lowering taxes. Can you explain a little what you mean by this and why this is beneficial in the long run?

GC: Most entrepreneurs incorrectly task their accountants about taxes.  If you tell me that you do not want to pay taxes, the easiest approach to accomplish this is to have you spend (i.e. waste) your profits.  The problem with that concept is that is leaves you forever under capitalized and you never build any wealth with your business.

The number #1 Key Performance Indicator of true wealth creation is “how big of a check did you write to the IRS last year?”  If you did not write a big check to the IRS, there are only two possibilities, you either made no profit or you cheated.  Both are bad!

Most accountants and tax advisors tell you they “saved” you taxes when all they did was move it to another year at potentially a higher rate of tax.

MG: The idea of using a Labor Efficiency Ratio (LER) to better manage and project staffing levels is fascinating to me. Can determining the ideal labor spend really be that scientific? What challenges have you seen when companies attempt to implement the LER?

GC: The Labor Efficiency Ratio (LER) has been a huge discovery in our analysis of profit models.  The further refinement of LER to distinguish Direct LER from Management LER has given entrepreneurs an ability to put both hands on the wheel of their business.  My original book only looked at a single LER but I contributed a chapter to Verne Harnish’s book Scaling Up (Chapter 13) where I show a case study of how to use LER to management business.

When it comes to Direct LER (Gross Margin per Direct Labor $), each industry and even each business has their own signature rate depending of the game plan of how they use their labor.  As a general rule, Direct LER will be higher when you have to spend considerable active management time for that group ($3.50 and up).  You can also get a high Direct LER when you use proprietary technology to enhance labor output ($5 and up).  As labor rates go up and the employees are more self managed, Direct LER goes down.  Professional service industries are generally close to $2.

For Management LER (Contribution Margin per Management Labor $), we have actually seen a tight correlation to 10% or better profit needing $3.5 to $4.  We think this is because the way our Simple Numbers Profit Model isolates the business engine from the business chassis (i.e. structure) that runs the engine.  The marketplace will only give you so much labor to manage the output (salary cap) and be profitable.

MG: I’ve seen many situations where the CFO is the only member of the leadership team that really understands the financials (and sometimes not even them!). How important is it for all members of the leadership to be literate in reading the financial statements?

GC: We are huge fans of Open Book management.  Our Simple Numbers Model makes it much easier to at least share the business engine section of the P&L (Revenue, Gross Margin, Contribution Margin).  As I often say “a man who aims at nothing hits it with amazing accuracy!”.

With the Simple Numbers Model, your Critical Number becomes Contribution Margin.  It is the highest value number on the P&L since it has no distortion or discretion in determining it.  If you can forecast Contribution Margin dollars, I can predict every other number in the P&L.  As long as you keep Management Labor Efficiency at the right rate, you can almost guarantee profitability.

Direct LER is a great way to discuss compensation with your team.  We are fans of paying market based wages.  But if I give someone a raise, there is a definitive amount of productivity that has to occur to adjust for the wage increase.  It also helps you discuss with your team when you are “paying ahead” for future performance instead of paying them for where they are.

To learn more about Greg, visit


Interview With Bob Burg: Speaker & Author

Bob Burg is an author, speaker and expert on how to succeed in today’s business world. By sharing his knowledge with Fortune 500 Companies, franchises and direct sales organizations, Bob has become a prominent resource for many business leaders. I invite you to read my interview with Bob as he shares his beliefs on leadership and the ever changing world of business.

Mike Goldman: We seem to both be members of the very small pool of business parable writers. What inspired you to write The Go Giver and It’s Not About You as stories instead of standard non-fiction books?

Bob Burg: My first few books had been “how-to” nonfiction, including my biggest seller up to that point, Endless Referrals. However, I’d always enjoyed reading business parables and felt they were a great way to connect with a reader in such a way that the message could be received while in an entertaining, easy-to-read and absorb format. For a while, I’d carried around the idea of taking the basic premise of Endless Referrals, which was that, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust” and putting it in a parable format. Fortunately, I was able to team up with the brilliant writer/storyteller, John David Mann and collaborate on what eventually became The Go-Giver. It’s Not About You was our second parable together which just seemed like a good follow-up to the original.

MG: I’m a big fan of your “Five Laws of Stratospheric Success.” For readers who might not be familiar, these are:

  • The Law of Value

  • The Law of Compensation

  • The Law of Influence

  • The Law of Receptivity

  • The Law of Authenticity

MG: For someone who really wants to succeed, is one of these laws more important than the others? How can they start to apply it to their own life?

BB: Thank you for your kind words, Mike. In answer to your question, while Law #1 is the foundational law, none of them are any more important or less important than the others. Without applying all five one can never reach their full success potential. After all, no matter who you are or what business you are in (assuming it’s a free-market environment where no one is forced to do business with you) you must always give more in “use value” than you take in payment, or cash-value (Law #1). Otherwise the customer will not buy from you. Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t make a profit. Typically, go-givers make an excellent profit and tend to sell at the higher end of the price spectrum. The reason is that they are selling on high-value rather than low price. And, a person will only buy when they feel they are receiving more in use value than what they are paying. Of course, since price and value are two different things (price is finite while value is the relative worth or desirability of something to the end user), the seller can give significantly more in value than what they take in payment and make a very substantial profit.

After that, you must also impact the lives of many people with the exceptional value you provide (Law #2). You must place the interests of your customers first (Law #3). Again, they are buying from for their reasons, not your reasons. You must be authentic (Law #4) or people will not trust you. And, you must also be willing to receive abundantly (Law #5). So, all the laws work together wholistically.

Regarding how one can start to apply these laws into their own lives and businesses, you simply begin by beginning. Taking action is the key. You don’t have to do it perfectly but you do need to begin. And, of course, the how-to aspect of each of these laws can be learned and perfected with both study and action.

MG: You’ve talked about the importance of building a network of “Personal Walking Ambassadors”, what is a “Personal Walking Ambassador”? How can you build a network of them?

BB: A Personal Walking Ambassador is a person who not only “knows, likes and trusts you”…they are a person who believes in you and wants to see you succeed. They will go to bat for you. They have your back. And, it isn’t one way. They know you feel the same way about them and are there for them, as well. Develop this kind of network and you become that center of influence; that go-to person with a fantastic reputation. You’ll also be the recipient of a very large and profitable referral-based business.

You build a network of them individual relationship by individual relationship; by always looking for ways to bring value to those whose lives you touch. As one of the mentors in the story, Sam, told the protégé, Joe… “by making your win about the other person’s win.”

MG: In my own work and in my book, Performance Breakthrough, I focus on the importance of passionate teams to overall business success. You presented a number of lessons for leaders in your book It’s Not About You: A Little Story About What Matters Most in Business. What do you think is the most important lesson to be learned for a leader who wants his team to excel?

BB: You’re doing such important work by having that as a focus. I think that it always goes back to the leader understanding that it isn’t about themselves but rather about those people whose lives they are trying to impact. And, there’s nothing Pollyanna about that. If you note the greatest leaders and top influencers, this is simply how they conduct their businesses. It’s how they lead.

With that in mind, it’s important to understand what moves your team members as individuals. A team is made up of individuals. An effective team is made up of individuals who understand that by putting the good of the team before themselves toward their common goal they are actually creating a win for themselves, as well.

I always loved what Dale Carnegie said in his classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People – “Ultimately, people do things for their reasons, not our reasons.” So, the effective leader asks themselves questions such as, “How does what I’m asking this person to do align with their goals; their needs, their wants, their desires?” And, to the degree you ask yourselves these questions and are willing to ask them and listen to their answers and make the connections between that and what you want the team to accomplish, your chances of leading a successful team increase dramatically.

MG: I agree with you that the creation of real value has to come first for both business and individual success. Why do you think that so many people have a hard time with this idea?

BB: If they have a hard time with the idea itself it’s because they haven’t been exposed to that as a way of successful doing business and living life. What I find, more often than not, is that even when people do intuitively understand that the value must come first (or even if it’s something they have learned) they have difficulty applying it.

One big reason for this is that, as human beings, we see the world from our own unique viewpoint, what I call our Belief System. Based on a combination of upbringing, environment, schooling, news media, popular entertainment, etc. it’s simply how we see the world. Interestingly, our personal belief system is pretty much set in stone by the time we are little more than toddlers and everything after that simply adds to the basic foundational premise.

So we grow up and live our lives driven by our personal belief systems that we’re not even consciously aware are driving us (our unconscious operating system). And, as human beings, we tend to believe that everyone else sees the world pretty much the same way.

The result? What we see as being of value is what we assume our prospective customer understands to be of value, as well. And, that is not necessarily the case.

The key is to understand that “Value is always in the eyes of the beholder.” It’s what they find to be of value, not what we find to be valuable. So, we must be able to match the benefits of our product or service with THEIR needs, wants, and desires.

As we like to say, “Money is simply an echo of value. It’s the thunder to value’s lightning.” So, the value must come first, and the money you receive is simply a very natural result of the value you’ve provided. And, your focus must be on discovering what they find to be of value.

And, this holds true for all aspects of our lives, not just business.

To learn more about Bob, visit.

John Spence

Interview With John Spence: Business Thought Leader & Leadership Development Expert

John Spence is recognized as one of the Top 100 Business Thought Leaders in America, one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in America, and one of the Top 500 Leadership Development Experts in the World. In my interview with John, we explore his thoughts on company culture.

Mike Goldman: Company culture is so extremely important, as you know. What are a few ways managers can establish and develop strong office cultures to keep employees motivated and engaged?

John Spence: There are a number of ways to foster a strong and motivating company culture. The very first step is to make sure that you create a sharply focused and extremely well-communicated description of the desired culture. Something that is easy to understand and is reiterated often via every communication channel in the organization. Another key to a strong culture is modeling of the desired attitudes, behaviors and actions by the senior management team. The key leaders must be a living example of the culture they want to create. Another important step is to reward people who do a wonderful job living the culture and deal decisively with anyone who actively disrupts the desired culture. In the end though, culture cannot be dictated and in large part it is controlled by the employees, so constant focus on and support of the culture is essential.

MG: In your book, Awesomely Simple, you write that the best organizations clearly  communicate their Vision, Mission and Values. What tips can you give a new leader who doesn’t have experience communicating at this level?

JS: The key to clearly communicating the vision, mission and values is simply to over-communicate them. Using different, but very similar terms, these items should be communicated via email, at all-hands meetings, at one-on-one meetings, in the company newsletter or blog, on the website… consistently sharing a clear and easy to understand vision for where the company is going, why that mission is so important and what core values will guide that journey for the organization.

MG: You’ve said that “You become what you focus on, and like the people you spend time with.” That seems like a true and powerful principle in life and business. How do you see that idea play out in high-performing business cultures?

JS: What you spend your time thinking about…what you fill your brain with – and who you choose to spend your time with will in large part determine what your future looks like a decade from now. This idea is just as true in an organization as it is for an individual. From a business standpoint this means getting the absolute best people you can get on your team and then focusing them on the vision, mission, values and core strategies of the organization. Great people focused on the core elements of the business and living the values of the organization is a fundamental factor for long-term success.

MG: You’re an author, and you also read and analyze a staggering number of business books every year. Are there any business ideas that you see repeated that you think everyone should take to heart? Do you see any books repeating ideas that you think should go extinct?

JS: Your question actually gets to the heart of one of the most important things I’ve learned in studying so many different business books, one of the key elements of expertise and strategic thinking is: pattern recognition. People who know a subject at a deep level have the ability to see patterns and understand trends before others recognize them, which gives them a distinct competitive advantage.

One idea that I have seen lately is the idea of simplicity. Obviously this is a topic that is important to me, since I built my career on making complex things very simple, but I now see many other authors and lots of organizations embracing the idea of simplification.

 An idea I read about often which I would like to see go extinct is the idea of a leader being some sort of unique, visionary, charismatic Superman (and yes, most business books still infer that the vast majority of leaders are men). I have met many quiet and humble leaders who were exceptional. I’ve met incredible leaders who were female, gay, from other countries, with different skin colors… that were each superb in leading their organization successfully. Leadership is not about a certain type of person or personality, it’s about being a living example of what you hope your followers will one day become.

To learn more about John Spence, visit


Interview with Geoff Smart: CEO, Bestselling Author and Social Entrepreneur

Geoff Smart is the Chairman & Founder of ghSMART and one of the most recognized experts on hiring and performance. He’s also the bestselling author of Leadocracy: Hiring More Great Leaders (Like You) Into Government and Who: The A Method for Hiring. In my interview with Geoff, we explore his thoughts on hiring and talent.

Mike Goldman: In your book, Who: The A Method for Hiring, you make the case that effective hiring is a prerequisite for any successful business. Through your consulting work, you’ve seen all kinds of hiring practices. Where do most companies get it wrong? And, what advice would you give to a new leader who hasn’t been involved in hiring before?

Geoff Smart: Thanks Mike. The topic of hiring talented teams, is currently the #1 topic in business.  This is according to global surveys of what’s on the minds of CEOs by the Conference board, by Harvard Business School, and if you believe some of the business greats like Jim Collins, Richard Branson, and Google’s Eric Schmidt.

Our Who book is the #1 top seller on this topic of hiring talented teams.  We at ghSMART get asked to advise and speak with all sorts of leaders in all sorts of organizations—from Fortune 500 companies, to the biggest private equity firms, to Superintendents of school systems, to military leaders, to several heads of state.  We joke and say that our books and our consulting are only useful in organizations that have people in them! So what I’m about to tell you, I hope, is valuable to any of your readers.

Companies get hiring wrong because they skip steps.

There are 4 required steps in good hiring, if you want to achieve a 90% hiring success rate.  (This is better than the 50% hiring success rate that managers typically achieve).

  1. SCORECARD:  Leaders make hiring mistakes when they don’t give enough thought to the outcomes they want someone to achieve.  Leaders say things like “we need a marketing person” but what they fail to do is articulate the specific results that this person is expected to achieve.  This concept is not new.  My mentor, the great Peter Drucker, coined the term “management by objectives”—MBOs.  Our notion of scorecard is consistent with his observation that the best leaders are pretty darned clear on what they want to accomplish.  Skipping this step is not smart.  When the outcomes are not specified well, leaders blow it on the next 3 steps too.

  1. SOURCE:  If you have failed to do step #1, you are going to fail to source the right candidates.  So you’ll have a bunch of random candidates of various skill-levels and flavors and varieties without a sense of priority.

  1. SELECT:  Managers make hiring mistakes when they use bad interview approaches.  One type of bad interview approach is to ask candidate hypothetical questions.  For example, Mike, if I asked you, “How would you resolve a problem with a teammate?”  You might tell me a nice answer about how you would sit down with the person, listen to their side, collaboratively work out a set of possible solutions, select one together, then implement it.  Well, that’s nice.  But unfortunately, a half-century of research in the field of Industrial Psychology (the field in which I earned my Ph.D.) suggests that the way people answer hypothetical questions has very little predictive validity in helping you see how they will actually behave on the job.  So don’t ask people to speculate how they “would” do things.  That’s dumb.  A smarter approach is to conduct a series of interviews that are aimed at collecting real facts and data about what candidates actually have done.  Then do some reference interviews to verify the data.  Now you can predict with greater accuracy how somebody is likely to perform in a job, and make a great hiring decision.

  1. SELL:  Oh yeah, there is one more step.  Managers sometimes fail to sell a candidate on taking a job.  Here the manager puts so much work into finding great candidates, but then falls short of really closing the deal.  We have found that candidates say “yes” to jobs based on fit, freedom, family (being OK with their taking the job), fortune, and fun.  We call these the 5 Fs of selling.  You can use them as a checklist to make sure your ideal candidate says yes.

MG: Many leaders believe that it’s possible to have too many A-Players on their team. For example, they say “I can’t have all A-Players because they’d all want to get promoted and my business can’t support that”. What’s your reaction to this? Is there such a thing as too many A-Players?

GS: No, there is no such thing as too many A Players.  Let’s define what A Player means.  The way we define A Player is a person who performs in the top 10% relative to their peer group.  True, talented people generally want to get promoted.  But you can hire plenty of A Players who are happy to just do their job.  My CFO is an A Player; he has been in his job for 11 years.  My cleaning person is an A Player; she has been in that role for 5 years.  It’s all about fit to role and A Players are the ones who perform best.  As a manager, you are always “paying” for A talent, the big question is whether you are getting it.

MG: You and I are both believers in quickly removing underperformers (C-Players) from teams. While most leaders would agree with this view, actually removing underperforming employees is something most leaders have a hard time doing. Why do you think this is?

GS: It’s funny.  The less experienced the leader, the “harder” it is for them to remove a C Player.  Oh no, what if I hurt the other person’s feelings?  Oh no, if I have a person who is a bad fit for this job, I should probably try to coach them.  Oh no, I’m really conflict-avoidant, I shy away from having tough conversations with people.  These are the signs of a really inexperienced leader.

In contrast, the best, most experienced leaders I know are very quick to move somebody who is a bad fit for a role, into a role in which they are a better fit.  Like immediately.  Like, as in, right away.  They know that leaving the wrong person in a job is bad for the company, bad for the person, and bad for the team.  So the best leaders look at a person who is a poor fit and say, “What are you good at?  Let’s see if we can change your role so you can focus on what you are good at and what you love to do.”  And if the person is just not good at anything, or is unwilling to do a job they are good at, then the best leaders will give that person some time to look for another job outside of the company, then leave.  But with the best leaders, compared to the worst or most inexperienced leaders, there is not this habit of leaving poor-fit employees in place and wringing your hands and hoping their performance will suddenly improve.

MG: For most companies, reference checking a fairly low value tool. I love your TORC idea to dramatically improve the values companies get from reference checking. Can you briefly describe how it works?

GS: Sure.  I think typical reference checking is not super valuable.  Typical reference checking is to take the list of references that the candidate gives you, call them, and you don’t hear much useful info.

Here are 3 best practices to doing good reference interviews:

  1. You choose the people you want to talk with, based on hearing the names of bosses, peers, and subordinates during your interview with the candidate.  Ask the candidate, “I’d like to talk with some of these people you worked with.  What do you think Dina Moore will say were your biggest strengths and weaker areas in that job, when I talk with her?”  To give credit where it is due, the term TORC (Threat of Reference Check) was coined by my father, Brad Smart.  I love that term, because it is indeed the accountability that you are going to verify the candidate’s statements with references that compels them to tell more of the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Just asking a candidate “what are your weaknesses” generally gets you the typical fake weaknesses like working too hard, perfection, and caring too much.

  1. Ask the candidate to set up the reference call, so you know the reference is willing to speak.

  1. After hearing generic strengths and risks, ask the reference giver some specific questions about the magnitude of a person’s strengths in an area on the scorecard.  For example, don’t just ask, “What are their strengths?”  Say, “Janet mentioned that you might say she was good at landing new customers.  How would you rate her performance in generating sales from new customers, relative to her peer group?”

MG: Most companies I work with believe finding the right people is their biggest challenge? What advice do you have about the most productive sourcing strategies for finding potential A-Players?

GS: This is the #1 question we get asked when we give keynote speeches.  “How to source great candidates?”  Mike, I have the very best solution to offer you.  It sounds extremely simple.  And it may be common knowledge, but I’m here to tell you it’s uncommon practice.  There are two ways to source great candidates.  This is from our personal experience of using these methods over the 20 years of growing our firm ghSMART, as well as from interviewing thousands of leaders and learning how they source their best talent.

  1. INTERNAL REFERRAL BONUS: Do your readers offer to pay a referral bonus to employees who refer other employees?  They should!  Typically, in a room full of business leaders, only 25% offer referral bonuses.  I ask those people to tell the other 75% of the leaders whether it’s a great policy or not.  They all emphatically insist that internal referrals are the best source of great candidates, and to pay for these referrals is how to generate a flow.

  1. EXTERNAL REFERRALS: I call this one the “List of 10.”  Say you want to hire a painter for your house.  You write out a scorecard—what you want them to do, what you want to pay, etc.  Then you make a list of 10 people you know whom you can call on to ask for referrals.  Ask them, “I want to hire a painter to paint my house; I want to spend X.  Do you know any great candidates?”  You will get plenty of great candidates.  Use the interview guides in the Who book, whittle down the candidate pool, and hire an a Player.

MG: In your new book, Power Score: Your Formula for Leadership Success, you say successful leadership starts with asking 3 key questions. Can you tell us briefly what those 3 questions are and why they’re important?

GS: Mike, this is huge news.  We studied 3,052 leaders and their teams, to search for the “Holy Grail” of leadership success.  We found it.

Leaders who were good at 3 things were TWENTY TIMES more likely to be successful than leaders who were not so good at these three things.

The 3 most important things for leadership success, and the questions that go along with them are:

  1. PRIORITIES:  Do we have the right priorities?  Only 24% of leaders are good at prioritizing.  Most just let too many priorities diffuse their team’s focus.

  1. WHO:  Do we have the right people, who are on the team?  Only 14% of leaders are good at hiring and developing talented teams.

  1. RELATIONSHIPS:  Do we have the right relationships to achieve our results?  47% of leaders are good at relationships.

If your team rates from 1-10 your priorities, who, and relationships, and you multiply the three numbers together, we call that your power score.  The average power score is around 400.  Teams that have a 729 power score or better are “running at full power.”  Teams that are running below 400 had better change something about their priorities, who, and relationships, if they are serious about achieving results!

To learn more about Dr. Smart, visit


Christine Comaford: Neuroscience-Based Leadership Coach

For over 30 years, Christine Comaford (@Comaford)has been helping organizations build more engaged and profitable teams. Christine is the author of the bestselling book, Smart Tribes, and the leader of the Smart Tribes Institute. In my interview with Christine, we discuss her neuroscience-based approach to performance and her thoughts on leadership.

Mike Goldman: You’re unique in that you’re very focused on using the science of neurology to strategize and employ tactics that will help companies improve the way they operate. What got you interested in this?

Christine Comaford: At age 15 I looked around the world and saw that money didn’t make people happy. Achievement didn’t appear to either. So I began learning all I could about what makes people experience fulfillment, connection, their own version of success—and it all came down to the brain, our beliefs and our identity–all of which drive our behaviors which then affect our ability to be happy and fulfilled. Now, 38 years later and after having helped over 1,000 companies get the results they want, we have a proven process to get any company any results that rely on human performance.

 MG: Why do you think people often overlook neuroscience as a way to improve culture and productivity? Compared to traditional ideas about leadership, are neuroscience-derived approaches to leadership very different, or are the core ideas the same?

CC: Emotions are just now starting to be discussed in business. Before, the business world was dominated by the intellect, which only affects 10% of our decisions and behaviors! Our neuroscience approach makes the emotional and survival areas of the brain most important. Only once we have safety there can we even care about belonging and mattering so we have to get primal as we launch a performance enhancement initiative.

MG: Similar to my work, you help companies engage their employees to cultivate a passionate workforce and increase revenue. What do you find are some of the most common issues clients come to you with? What are some obvious missteps that companies can avoid?

CC: People are tribal. Once we address the core needs of safety, belonging and mattering, we have to focus next on creating a shared identity that is bigger than oneself, forging shared beliefs and a compelling purpose and place we want to go together and who we want to be together. These can be embodied in potent mission, vision, values—which are often flat and energy-free when we first start working with a client! So once those have life/energy in them we need to take the culture’s temperature via an assessment or simple employee engagement survey. From there we know what to do next. Likewise with leadership we do 360s (which are great tools when done right, again, alas they are often done wrong) and see where leadership is missing opportunities to create a compelling passionate experience for their tribe.

MG: You worked for the George W. Bush Administration to help reinvent the Small Business Administration, which is pretty impressive! What were a few takeaways from that experience?

CC: Get all the influencers on the bus from the get-go. Aligning politicians and securing government budgets requires close to an act of God. Have a sense of humor, because conditions will constantly change. Make the plan 5 steps or less and very simple. Complete it, then launch the next plan.

MG: Where do you see leadership in the next few years as our economy shifts with more freelance and contracted employees, especially in smaller businesses? Is leadership as we know it fading because of the increasing technological advances that allow people to work remotely?

CC: I think leadership will always be key, except that our leadership is evolving to all levels of an organization, which is very healthy. This means focus, clarity in communication/intent, accountability, influence and sustainability are more important than ever before. With a distributed remote workforce as well a strong culture needs to be constantly reinforced. This is why we must use webcams in our meetings to receive the largest part of communication, which is nonverbal, and have many virtual high fives/celebrations and frequent feedback. Our greatest risk now is letting people get disconnected from one another. Leadership is about creating the conditions for people to soar, whether they’re in one office, many, or none at all.

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What’s Your Organization’s Attitude?

By Mike Goldman on StrategyDriven:

What’s your organization’s attitude? How is it impacting your culture? How is it impacting how you’re viewed externally? How is it impacting your results?

What are your employee’s attitudes about your company? What are their attitudes about your customers? How do they feel about the work they do?

Read the full article on StrategyDriven.

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Book Review: Performance Breakthrough is a Small Business Must-Read

Most small business owners appreciate the value of continuous learning when it comes to improving their ability to run their companies. But let’s face it; given the many demands that come with building and growing a small business, it can be hard to find the time needed to learn new things.

Continue reading on Succeeding in Small Business.

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Forbes: New Business Fable Reveals 4 Secrets Of Passionate Organizations

By Kevin Kruse:

What’s wrong with the golden rule at work? Why shouldn’t we try to fix our weaknesses? According to consultant Mike Goldman, there is definitely better way to create highly engaged teams.

In his new business fable, Performance Breakthrough: The Four Secrets of Passionate Organizations, Goldman details four strategies that dramatically increase passion, productivity and profit. These are based on Goldman’s two and half decades of experience at Accenture, Deloitte and as an independent consultant. …Read More on Forbes.

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What Team Centered Goal Setting Really Looks Like

As a leader, how much time are you spending setting the vision and tone for your company versus wading into the details or putting out fires? Your focus should be to create a great team and give them the tools to produce the results you want. However, the biggest challenges leaders face are trusting their teams enough to set the right goals and holding teams accountable once the goals are set. Many leaders think their employees should be given direction to get the job done and find it difficult to trust even their A players with defining goals and making key decisions.

By micromanaging and being involved with every goal or decision, you are creating a bottleneck and demotivating your best people. Therefore, you need to come to terms with any trust issues. Leaders need be learn to be more collaborative in goal setting by giving their team’s ownership for setting goals rather than setting goals for them. Continue reading “What Team Centered Goal Setting Really Looks Like”

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The Platinum Rule – Acceptance

News flash: The Golden Rule doesn’t work! We’re all different. So why do we think everyone wants to be treated the way we would want to be treated? The fact is that we can’t treat people the way we want to be treated because everyone has different motivations, learning styles, goals and cultural backgrounds. Therefore, it’s time to follow the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated.

Thinking we need to treat everyone the same because it’s fair is one of today’s biggest leadership misconceptions. Is it really the right thing to do … or is it the easy thing to do? Leaders need to accept that each employee is different, and they need to make the effort to find out how each individual on their team wants to be treated. Each one of your employees has goals, motivations, values, and learning styles. Some are motivated by money or status, while others by free time and flexibility. Knowing this, should you offer the same types of incentives to all of them? When you understand and take action on these differences, your employees can reach their true potential, experience greater happiness at work, and be more productive in their jobs, which leads to higher employee retention and a healthier bottom line.

So how do leaders overcome the challenge of accepting that we are all different and need to be treated differently? Here are a few suggestions for making the Platinum Rule work for you:

1. Dig deep 

Get beyond the superficial and learn about your employees and what makes them tick. Take advantage of the following ways to dig deep:

  • Conduct personal history meetings/discussions: Find out about your employees’ childhood, families, hobbies, favorite jobs, etc. These meetings can happen one-on-one or in groups.

  • Ask:

1. Meet one-on-one with each team member to ask him or her about their values, motivations, and learning styles. Here are some sample questions:

2. Think back to a time when you were incredibly motivated at work.  What happened right before to make you feel that way?

3. Think of a time when you had to learn something new, and it just “clicked” for you. What method of learning did you use?

  • Conduct behavioral and personality assessments: There are many good behavioral and personality assessments on the market, such as Innermetrix®, Profiles International®, DiSC®, etc. These assessments are typically very accurate and may give you and your employees important insight on their styles, talents, values, and motivations.

  • Observe: Watch your team during meetings, high-stress situations, and social situations and take note of their styles and reactions. Do they take the lead in meetings, or do they follow? Are they agreeable, or do they play devil’s advocate? Do they thrive under pressure, or wilt?

2.  Differentiated learning and development

One size does not fit all in the area of learning and development. Learning programs should incorporate a level of flexibility to support individuals with different needs and learning styles. Some specific ways to add individual flexibility include:

  • Self assessments to determine specific development needs

  • Goal plans to tailor development action items

  • Facilitated discussions to engage the audience instead of one-size-fits-all lectures

  • Use of various delivery mechanisms, including eLearning, instructor-led classes, webcasts, case studies, projects, activities, and workshops

3.   Differentiated motivation and compensation

We tend to motivate people the way we are motivated. We assume if we are motivated by money, other people will be as well. The key is to incorporate a level of flexibility to support people in different life situations with different motivations. If someone’s primary motivation is quality time with his or her family, incentivizing them with a cash bonus for working extra hours will not work well. Incentivizing this employee with additional vacation time would be a much better idea. Instead of assuming that all bonuses and rewards should be monetary, try some of these other incentives, depending on the motivations of the individual:

  • Vacation time

  • Time for volunteer work or other special interests

  • Donations to their favorite charity

  • Public recognition, such as in a town-hall meeting, company newsletter, etc.

  • Take them and their families out to dinner

  • Send them on a trip

  • Pay for training or a seminar they are interested in attending

4.  Vary communication media

Twenty-five years ago, communication was much simpler. Face-to-face, phone, and print were just about the only options we had. These days we have e-mail, instant messaging, texting, webcasts, blogs, social networks, and more. Choosing the right communication medium is more important than ever.

While generational differences are not the only reasons to vary communication media, they are certainly important. To deliver an important message:

  • Baby Boomers may be much more responsive to face-to-face or phone communications.

  • Generation Y may be just as comfortable with instant messaging or texting.

  • You will also find that while some people may never answer their phones, they will respond to e-mail with lightning speed while others may look at e-mail only once per day.

Before you communicate, make sure you understand the different communication styles within and across teams and vary communication media as necessary.

5.  Understand generational dynamics

  • The Baby Boomers think Generation Y expects everything handed to them on a silver platter and can’t understand their work ethic.

  • Generation Y workers are incredibly tech savvy and multitask like no other generation has before.

  • Generation X is caught in the middle of Baby Boomers who have not retired yet—and don’t want to anytime soon—and Generation Y “kids” who are trying to leapfrog over them in the organization. Each generation has value to add, as well as shortcomings.

As a leader, treating all generations the same can lead to disastrous results. The challenge is to understand that everyone is different and trying to do the best they can with a different set of values. So instead of the Golden Rule, practice the Platinum Rule: Understand and accept differences so you can treat others the way they want to be treated. By doing so, you will improve recruiting, retention, and productivity while also boosting your bottom line.