Ali Ghaemi

Oct 302016

CMO has a nifty infographic on Online Marketing (also known as Web Marketing or Digital Marketing – in a moment you will know why I added the acronyms with which you are already familiar) they have borrowed that I wanted to share.

It is informative, easy to read and connects the dots on how to attract visitors, affiliates and buyers on the web. It is well worth a study to find the components and understand the relationships among the various concepts.


However, to make it easier for everyone and create an even more unified set below you will find the definitions* for all the terms involved as well offering the components for each topic under them. So here it is above (image) and below (definitions) for everything you need this side of good content, which itself should be

  • long-form,
  • current and updated and
  • shared directly and, in turn, by influencers who received it from you directly or indirectly.


SEM: Search Engine Marketing is the purchase of advertising on search engines based on specific words or phrases input by the person using the website.

Tracking Codes: similar to cookies, these are a unique set of letters and numbers, essentially a code, which track users across the web for variables such as referring website, geographic location, keywords used and more. On a URL address the tracking codes appear after the question mark (?).

Bid Management: is the optimization of marketing spend on Internet marketing and advertising.

CPC: Cost Per Click refers to the cost to the advertiser every time someone clicks on one of its advertisements and is directed towards a designated web page. It is also known as PPC.

PPC: Pay Per ClickSee CPC

CTR: Click-Through Rate is the percentage or proportion of viewers who click on an advertisement on the Internet versus the total number of visitors to the web page who potentially view it.

Conversion Rate: a subset of CTR, this is the number of visitors who click on an advertisement and take the action desired by the advertiser such as make a purchase or register for an event.

Mobile Advertising: is advertising to customers who use mobile devices, which access the Internet. The metric is rising in importance as, according to Wikipedia, as much as 45% of Internet traffic stems from mobile devices.

Smart Phones: are mobile telephones, which have features that allow users to visit the Internet. The term is anachronistic as these devices increasingly do much more than allow for telephone calls.

MMS: Multimedia Messaging Services is one protocol for exchanging rich media over mobile devices.

Mobile Web Banner: pictorial advertising on the Internet which is designed to be best viewed on mobile devices.

Mobile Rich Media: these are similar to mobile web banners, which also feature audio and video.

SMS: Short Message Service is the protocol for exchanging text-only communication over mobile devices.

Inbound Marketing: uses content, relevance and channels to attract consumers to you. Relevant content blogging is one example of this type of marketing. Attractive Instagram or Pinterest images are other examples.

Leads: are persons, collectives or organizations which are interested enough in what you offer to show active or passive interest. The definition needs to be agreed to by all concerned at the company.

Sales: is the receipt of money or something of value in exchange for a good or service that is wanted or needed by the buyer.

Customers: a person or organization who buys or consumes another’s goods or services.

Improvement: is the act of making the activities of inbound marketing better.

Buy Cycle: the period of time and patterns of customers issuing buying commands.

Traffic: the number of visitors to a website and how often they return.

SMM: Social Media Marketing is the use of so-called Social Media (Pinterest, Twitter, etc.) websites to reach a desired audience.

Communities Online: are the users and visitors to websites which marketers target based on their particular interests.

Viral Marketing: is the type of marketing that through interest or innovation encourages users to pass on the message and advertising to other persons such as contacts.

Multimedia: is the use of audio, graphics and video in an interrelated way to promote a marketer’s message.

Mash-ups: is a web application, which presents content and features from more than one source to present a new system, advertisement or service. An example is the use of Bing Maps to locate specific type of retailers.

PR: the use of websites to promote one’s message. The websites could range from industry-specific websites to posts on websites like LinkedIn and twitter.

Conversion Rate: a subset of CTR, this is the number of visitors who click on an advertisement and take the action desired by the advertiser such as make a purchase or register for an event.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the process by which webmasters design and promote their websites to place nearer the top of search engine results thus attracting more visitors

Offsite Optimization: is the portion of SEO that happens elsewhere on the Internet. This includes having other websites link in, mentions, presence on Social Media and more.

SERPs: Search Engine Results’ Page is the specific page referred by a search engine based on the user’s query.

Backlinks: are links elsewhere on the Internet which point to the website in question.

Meta-tags: are a piece of code in the Internet’s language, namely HTML, that allows search to classify the website.

White Hat: refers to SEO techniques that are considered to honestly improve SERP and contrast with deceptive methods such as spam backlinks or including false descriptions in meta-tags.

Onsite Optimization: is the portion of SEO that happens on the website itself. This includes having visitors, mentions, coding, offering video content and more.

Web Site: is a collection of pages on the Internet or World Wide Web (www) that reside under one domain name.

URL: stands for the Uniform Resource Locator and is the alpha-numeric address associated with a website.

CMS: Content Management System allows for the creation and maintenance of the components of a website such as text, audio and video and their organization.

E-commerce: Electronic Commerce refers to the conduct of business on the Internet and could be as simple as the exchange of e-mails or a sophisticated purchasing and interaction engine.

CSS: Cascading Style Sheets is an Internet language which gives form to the way a web page is presented and with which sources it interacts.

JS: Java Script is an online and offline language that in the context of the Internet is used in conjunction with HTML to typically address the website’s interactions with its visitors and functionality. JS, among others, detects the browser, device or operating system used to visit it.

PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor is a language for the servers on which websites reside. It allows for dynamics websites and operation.

HTML: Hypertext Markup Language is the default language of the Internet used to create web pages’ content and format.

Media: images, audio or video presented or distributed or consumed on the Internet.

Images: a digital picture.

Ads: attracting attention to one’s goods or services on the Internet.

Videos: including visual media on a particular website.

Articles: including text information on the website.

Banner: pictorial advertising on the Internet.

Slides: refer to communicating through a presentation on the Internet.

Comments: a program that allows users and visitors to leave comments on websites to encourage visitors and interaction.

Affiliate Marketing: is an arrangement whereby website owners share revenue with ‘affiliates’ in exchange for web traffic, sales, promotions or registrations.

Advertiser: is the website owner in the affiliate marketing relationship.

Pay Per Lead: also known as PPL, this is the payment by advertiser or the website owner based on number of conversions or leads.

Cost Per Action: also known as CPA, this is the payment by advertiser or the website owner based on a predetermined contractual action such as visitors or sales.

Publisher: is the person or organization that promotes a product or service belonging to the advertiser in the affiliate marketing relationship.

Pay Per Sale: also known as PPS, this is the payment by advertiser or the website owner based on actual sales figures stemming from the affiliate. This metric has lower conversion rates, but is most ideal for advertisers whose goal is sales.

Affiliate Networks: is typically a middle-man or intermediary organization sitting between the website owners and advertiser and their publishers or affiliates. In exchange for a share of the revenue affiliate networks allow website owners to reach a larger audience and broader channel.

E-mail Marketing: is sending e-mails with commercial intent to either prospects or customers.

Landing Pages: is the web page a visitors arrives at based on clicking or responding to an advertisement or invitation.

Spam: also known as junk mail is the kind of e-mail which is unsolicited and often illegal.

B2B: short for business-to-business, this type of marketing is often more focused as it deals with the aim of commerce between two organizations.

B2C: short for business-to-customer or business-to-consumer, this type of marketing is often more broad as it deals with the aim of commerce between an organization and persons as customers. It is expected that B2C has shorter time span and is simultaneously quicker than B2B on average.

Clients: are customers (whether persons or organizations) or users of a product or service.

Links: often highlighted and underlined, links are pieces of code on the Internet whereby clicking on them allows users to jump to another web page or website.

Newsletter: or e-newsletter as sometimes called in Internet parlance, is a regularly or semi-regularly sent to actively communicate with prospects or customers.

Banner: is a graphic advertisement on a web page that is often clickable.

Adclicks: advertisement clicks are the number of times a form of advertising on a web page are clicked on by visitors.

Impressions: refers to the number of times an ad on the web is fetched by its ad server and sent to be viewed based on the presence of a viewer. Impressions, sometimes roughly called ‘eye balls,’ are monetized through the CPC or Cost Per Impression price.

Hover Ads: are web ads that hover over the page and are not dismissed by scrolling elsewhere on the web page.

Ad Server: is a server on the Internet which holds different ads for different participating websites and ‘serves’ them conditional on certain criteria such as the presence of visitors.

Content Ads: content advertisements are ones which offer more information and information than the standard ad aiming to persuade with an educational element. Other ad types are concept ads, which offer high production values, pop up ads and more.

Skyscraper: no surprise that skyscraper ads are vertical banner ads that run along the side of a web page.


 *The definitions are mine and offered, as much as possible, in the specific context of this article.


*Things That Need To Go Away: Intrusive, Invisible Or Opaque Marketing That Also Breach Privacy Rights 

Sep 072016

You read it correctly. The title is not a typo.

In an article that was sent to my inbox this week the author reports that it is ten times more effective to train your sales managers as opposed to your frontline sales people. The article, which seems to be based on a slightly older talk by Neil Rackham the author of the famous SPIN selling books and program for an organization called the Sales Management Association, also cites a study with the same organization. The study surveyed 161 companies about their sales budget and found that those, which allocated more than 50% of their training budget to sales managers saw the greatest increase in sales and hence the most return on investment. The degree of return increases the more of the training budget is directed at the management team.

This assumes sales managers are concentrating on being teachers and given time and mandate to transfer their knowledge onto the frontline.

Naturally, the study does not suggest or target a complete abandonment of training for salespersons. For instance, sales will still be trained upon hire and be introduced to new products or versions. Importantly, the coaching will be administered by sales management. However, if one chooses to give this premise credence, one could justify its veracity by remembering that the concept of leverage applies here as it does to maintaining a partner or reseller channel for example. After all, companies maintain a reseller channel in order to scale in a way that they could not on their own. A sales manager works with multiple salespersons at the same time. More importantly, and again if you believe this study and I always recommend examining every piece of data meticulously, the proof is in the pudding i.e. the facts speak for themselves.

It would be useful now to get some feedback or thoughts from those affected – sales people and sales managers – and from sales trainers here. The implications are important as the sales budget and companies’ revenue depend on it.

Do you agree that a more effective training budget is better deployed on sales managers than on the frontline? It is certainly novel and food for thought.


*Things That Need To Go Away: Obligatory Sales Training With No Follow-up Or Carry-Through

Aug 172016

You Are Whom You Hire









Who touts itself as the book to solve one’s “#1 problem.” It is a book on the importance of hiring correctly and how to go about the undertaking. It relies on three focus areas to achieve its goals. Those are Scorecard, Source and Select.

A Method, which is the authors’ methodology, is for hiring an “A Player.”

The book begins impressively with substantial quotations before delving into its process and formula. Naturally, as is par for the course nowadays, there is an ulterior motive at play and in the introduction the authors fit in an advert for their business, which does consulting for recruitment and human resource management. One’s confidence, however, is soon restored when the authors cite the largest statistical study on the topic of candidates who became successful employees, which comes courtesy of the University Of Chicago, as the basis for their theory and book. The authors, and their researchers, interviewed CEOs, billionaires and successful people to find out what makes one good at hiring. One notes that the list excludes actual HR folk from its list, which hints at the senior levels with which it concerns itself. With that said, the authors make no distinction about the importance of a very tight process in hiring regardless of level and neither should they.

Each hiring mistake costs the company 15 times the amount of a salary in hard costs and productivity, we are told.

On page 6 the book’s entreaty is for hiring persons to break existing bad habits and cease what it calls ‘voodoo’ hiring methods. There are ten of them and number three is the funniest.

  1. The Art Critic (instinct)
  2. The Sponge (multiple uncoordinated interviewers)
  3. The Prosecutor (aggressive questioning)
  4. The Suitor (selling to and impressing the candidate)
  5. The Trickster (gimmicks in lieu of interviewing)
  6. The Animal Lover (dotting on pet questions)
  7. The Chatterbox (idle chit chatter)
  8. The Psychological And Personality Tester (self-explanatory)
  9. The Aptitude Tester (should not be used in isolation) and
  10. The Fortune-Teller (asking hypothetical questions about the future)

The book occasionally is funny and especially so in the earlier chapters.

Reading the book my mind occasionally arched back to HP and all the disastrous CEOs they keep hiring from outside. Do large companies really hire so badly? The stakes are so much higher when hiring CEOs, right?

One criticism attributable to the book is one that is the by-product of hiring to exact rules – hopefully people me are smart enough to hire to variety – despite the book’s insistence that the end all, be all of the universe is “A Players” and not B or C players. The last two are never defined or even seriously contrasted from one another however. When one process exists and all hiring is done in similar or alike fashion blandness will set in – even if the book rationally insists that there should be a written scorecard based on outcomes for the job. This cannot be a good idea when you need to the team to be complementary and offer a variety of perspectives and experiences. One company that hires – or thinks it does – with a diversity of thoughts is Salesforce. Something not addressed either is the importance of an enabling structure and environment for employees to succeed. This book is not concerned with what happens after the hiring has happened. A Player has happened and all is A-OK. It is all about the superstars. Page 12 does give the definition of an A Player (they mean the grammatically correct ‘A-Player’).

A candidate who has at least 90 percent chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10 percent of possible candidates could achieve.

The book goes further and asks ‘who cares if there is a 90% chance of achieving one’s/the company’s goals when anybody could accomplish them? Er, I do. I do. I, and many other people, would be happy with such results. Who cares, in that case, if we have A-Players or Z-Players?

Getting into more details the example on page 13 is silly. One does not need a system to not hire someone who gives an answer like the one used and yes everyone asks questions at interviews. According to the example, a candidate sent an email to all colleagues saying the boss was incompetent.

Pages 30 to 32 list twenty plus qualities of A-Players. These include Efficiency, Honesty (which the book already had ironically nixed), Ability To Hire A Players, Calm Under Pressure, Work Ethic, Attention to Detail, Persistence and so forth.

As mentioned, a written Scorecard that features outcomes and written objectives and not descriptions of who to hire is necessary. Moreover, Who insists that linking business plans to people’s jobs are also part of the parcel.

Page 65 of the book changes focus and considers how to source candidates. These the book lists as Referrals from outside the company, referrals from inside the company, deputizing friends of the firm, hiring recruiters, hiring researchers and having a sourcing system, which lends discipline to your own search effort.

Paying attention to interviewing, the authors put forward four interviewing techniques. These are:

Screening Interview – on the phone which asks about career goals, fortes, weaknesses and opinions of the last five bosses on a scale of 1 to 10.

Topgrading Interview – a chronological walkthrough of a candidate’s career that asks five questions for each job the candidate has had in the past fifteen years, which are what were you hired to do, which accomplishments make you proud, who was your boss and who were your colleagues and what will they say when I call them and finally why did you leave your job? Additionally, the authors discuss the three P’s. These are clarifying questions about how was the performance compared to the Previous Year, how was the performance compared to the Plan and how was the performance compared to the Peers?

Focused Interview – where one focuses on a topic and gathers more information on it. One drills down on a specific outcome, asks about accomplishments in that area and asks about insights learnt based on mistakes and failures in the area.

Reference Interview – Not ever skipping reference checks, of which seven need to be done, the hiring manager asks references for context of relationship with the candidate, the candidate’s biggest strengths, areas of improvement, rating on a scale of 1 to 10 and where the candidate struggled.

Noteworthy are several points this book makes. The candidates should not be allowed to parrot you and interviewers should disqualify ‘website’ speak. There are no strengths in disguise. Only actual weakness are allowed when asked. The interviewer has to be clear that he or she will speak to former bosses. It is not a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when.’

Page 116 offers red flags too. Not wanting candour candidates should not speak ill of former bosses, and the candidates should not seem more interested in compensation than in the job itself. Other red flags are when a candidate is self-absorbed and is unsupportive of change. In my opinion, it is corporate-speak to claim all change is good. Nothing in and of itself is ‘good.’ Look at this book’s claim that hiring some with or without certain qualities, which is a change, is bad. See?

Undeterred page 118 displays some ego by insisting that ever starting an interview answer with ‘no’ or ‘but’ or ‘however’ is unacceptable. All of the interviewer’s ideas must be met with a ‘yes.’ Otherwise, say the authors, the candidate has an “overactive ego.” That is, “yes that is a great idea” is the only favoured answer. This implies that the interviewer has the overactive ago in my opinion.

All in all, Who is fastidiousness and displays rigour. Having said that, as a hiring manager the biggest problem is finding candidates who are 50% let alone 90%. The sourcing tips of the book sure will get a workout and so does its insistence that compromise is a dirty word here. One cannot help becoming much more involved, intense and process-oriented again having read the book.

The book is a methodology, but one is again reminded that it is also a sales collateral. As with the beginning of the book, the conclusion reminds the reader that the authors and principles are available to be hired to run their recruitment seminars, be a “keynote speaker” and consult.

Aug 082016

We know that Fear And Pain Avoidance sells.

We also learnt that Insulting And Boring Sell (well… maybe).

What about confusing? Does that sell? According to a study from the University Of Arkansas confusing targets via a “Disrupt-Then-Reframe” technique also sells. The research shows that keeping the technique’s order intact and the components intact are crucial.

The technique suggests confusing or ‘disrupting’ the buyer’s thought process and while they are trying to figure things out make a strong statement, which is to your benefit that claims it is all simple and easy to purchase. This goes against the traditional advice that should a customer be asking questions or not understanding the best way for a seller to go is to clarify things. This technique suggests doing the opposite of allowing the customer to figure things out.

According to the study, the rate of purchase of cards from a seller went from 35% to 65% when the salesperson announced the price of cards as “300 pennies” then went on to explain that it means “$3” before stating that “it’s a bargain.” This study also shows that resistance from those who are on the fence is not overcome through additional incentives, but through the DTR technique which disrupts the resistance when customer has purposefully been distracted.

*Things That Need To Go Away: Clever Sales Techniques That Sell Unneeded Wares

Jul 222016

How many lies, half-truths and jibs do you recognize? They are everywhere, right?

big Mac corporate lies Trump Lies

Many people will likely consider themselves smart enough to spot the above. What about sales-related information though?

Do you enjoy learning from the various statistics and infographics on sales you find on the Internet in places like LinkedIn, Twitter or sales blogs? Do you know anyone who takes these for granted, ‘likes’ them or quotes them? The folks in charge of the Internet sites have as much inclination to check facts as Pizza Hut has to supply you and I with nutrition.

One of the books I read years ago, which still sits on my shelf, was Trust Us We’re Experts! The book narrates real-life stories of experts and so-called scientists whose claim are factually inaccurate and whose facts are anything but. Think that is bad?

Here is something worse: when the experts and data sources do not even exist… they are all made up… and people like you and I rely on them, quote them and internalize them. Look at this one:


The problem? The source for the depicted ‘data’ in unknown and likely non-existent. To start, National Sales Executive Association does not exist. Go ahead and check it.

So, the next time someone disseminates one of these icons with many neat and packaged data bites question the information and ask the person to take a second look. At the very least, we will all have more free time to learn something factual instead of wasting time being fed myths.


*Things That Need To Go Away: Quoting And Reposting Infographics And Articles With Dubious Source Material



Jul 112016

Last time Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) was in Toronto it was 2012 and then-CEO Steve Ballmer was announcing Windows 8 as his microphone kept failing the audience.

How things change with the passage of only four years. Satya Nadella is the CEO of Microsoft, Cortana is here and the show went without a hitch as far as one could tell.

The opening keynote was once again at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, but instead of new product announcements (rumour has it that the partner application store AppSource, a rebranding, was accidentally announced prematurely) and opportunities for VARs and resellers, the keynote was one challenge after the other extended to ISVs to build on the Microsoft platforms. AvePoint’s Citizen Services is one of the first 200 apps on the new portal.

To hammer the point home that solving problems and extending technology to all corners is the route to success Nadella invited GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt onto the stage to speak about how his company has become a software company. He also insisted that the era of outsourcing has come and gone and successful companies of the future must innovate with technology or die.

The aforementioned Cortana was the first product to get a name check followed by Dynamics365 from Nadella followed by less tangible, but more fundamental concepts, like “digital transformation” and the Cloud residing in every endpoint was IMG_20160711_112354 IMG_20160711_101728 IMG_20160711_101539 IMG_20160711_101451 IMG_20160711_100953 IMG_20160711_095503 IMG_20160711_095140laorrainebardeenhololens IMG_20160711_092237 IMG_20160711_085704 IMG_20160711_084512 IMG_20160711_084310 IMG_20160711_084135sequence IMG_20160711_081928also discussed. The technology is impressive, but also from a sheer cool factor point-of-view the demonstration of a virtual engine via HoloLens in collaboration with JAL (Japan’s largest airline) took the cake.

Microsoft is increasingly a platform company. That is obvious. It is interesting to watch how much Nadella and the company can extend the giant’s distinct platforms away from licensed SKUs and line items into the platform realm without going too far revenue-wise i.e. whether the balancing act can come fast enough.

By the way, did anyone see or hear any mention of the recent LinkedIn purchase? After all, it was only last month that Microsoft announced its intention to spend $26 billion (US) on the acquisition.

*I do work on behalf of AvePoint and also worked at Microsoft.

*Things That Need To Go Away: Attending Conferences Without A Clear Benefit Or Specific Outcome

Jul 022016

An earlier article addressed job interview questions and what to do from the perspective of an applicant.

Here we consider the interviewer and the hiring company’s perspective. If you have not read it review this article first. It speaks to the imperative of having a process and judging candidates against it.

As mentioned in those posts, asking the right questions during an interview, having a method that is followed and designed with the company’s needs in mind helps make the most fundamental decision to any company’s survival, growth and sustainability a more scientifically pertinent one. There is no more an important decision that a company makes than who to hire.

Unfortunately, too many people short-change or neglect processes and either ‘wing’ the interview, colour it with multiple biases or both. Things are so bad that an article notes how, for certain hiring decisions, machines are better than humans. This speaks to either a lack of process or the introduction – or better put: not suppressing – of personal and institutional biases.



So what makes hiring more effective, more aligned to goals and speeds up the process for both?

To start, and as part of the suggested systemic interview process, here is a list of questions one should consider asking and situations one wants the applicant to shine in:

Q: Tell me about your previous (‘relevant job description’) success.

A: Does the answer align with what it takes where you work? Are there actual examples culled from the interviewee’s past included in the answer?

Q: Tell me about an occasion of (‘relevant job description’) failure.

A: Does the answer take responsibility, show analysis and a modicum of learning from the candidates past mistakes. Is there an actual situation where the candidate admits to failure and offers a description of the resolution?

Q: Describe a good day.

A: The ideal candidate will give a thoughtful response to how he or she works. There is not a wrong or right answer here. There is, however, a star or two for the candidate who has process, introspection and logic and displays alignment with what you believe leads to success in the job at hand.

Q: Why you?

A: Can the person articulate a convincing reason why he or she has applied and why you should accept the person’s application.

Q: Do you have questions for me?

A: Any good candidate has legitimate and considerate questions. These differ from canned questions that are irrelevant to the particular job or are so clichéd that they obviously stem from a ‘how to interview’ article.

All questions and answers should be situational unless the interviewer specifically is asking for a ’yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Moving away from hypotheticals and into the realm of experience elevates the discussion.

Crucially interviewers must remove their biases, which includes the error of judging a book by the cover or the resume. A person’s appearance, their resume’s content, gender, age and race are not always indicative of their qualification one way or the other. Be aware of one’s personal biases and leash them as best as possible. Doing so would lend itself to the validity of the hiring/interview process. Ask good questions, listen carefully and impartially to assess the responses and you have done yourself, your company and the job seeker a favour.




*Things That Need To go Away: Haphazard Interview Questions Made Up On The Fly

Jun 262016

Essential Features Of A Real Team

Leading Teams Hackman









Early in the book author J. Richard Hackman, who is a scholarly expert on teams and managing them and a Harvard professor, writes about his own membership experience with teams and how he will never be on a specific one again himself.

The book is written on the basis of scientific research, including situational observations, and whilst including anecdotes and stories is backed by methodical study.

At the book’s end the author marvels that not even the best team leader can make a team effective. So why write this book? It is to say that the leader creates the conditions and the probability of success tilts to the favourable.


Conditions And Not Cause And Effect


The book begins by banishing several myths whose persistence has rendered them accepted wisdom.

  • Teams whose members work harmoniously perform better than those which experience conflict
  • A primary “cause” of team dynamics is the behavioural attributes of its leader – note the emphasis on ‘cause’ as causality is refuted soon enough in the book.
  • Larger teams perform better than smaller ones due to more resources
  • The performance of teams whose membership is constant deteriorates overtime as members lose attentiveness and forgive oversights and errors.

Each of these conventional wisdoms is wrong. Does the author have your attention?

Leading Teams Setting The Stage For Great Performances begins by distinguishing between two management philosophies:

  • Minimizing risk by reducing or eliminating self-management and scripting
  • Opening up to risk in order to exploit the benefits of self-management to do more for the customers and the creativity therein

The first option comes with opportunity costs such as underutility of team members’ intelligence, initiative and other obvious losses.

The second options may lead to excess creativity and the relegation of the customer as a priority

This book asserts that effective leadership does both: “threading carefully between the poles of creativity and control.”

In that instance impressive teams with impressive leaders:

  • Serve customers well
  • Are capable performing units that get better
  • Are comprised of individuals who learn and are fulfilled

The criteria for team effectiveness, however, changes depending on the situation and with it also changes the relative weight one assigns to these factors


Conditions And Not Cause And Effect


The book lists the 5 conditions a leader puts together in order to increase the chances for the above three instances:

  1. A real team is not in name only
  2. A compelling direction
  3. An enabling structure that facilitates work and does not hinder
  4. A supportive organizational culture and context
  5. Available and ample expert coaching

The book is insistent regarding environment and contextual causes and shuns the standard cause and effect correlation; however, a leader enabling the above conditions and triggering the right moves itself is a cause and effect, right?

In the chapter on A Real Team the author almost throws a thought grenade insisting that thinking has to be regarded to teams and away from individuals (be they leaders, best salespersons, etc.). Reorienting to group level thinking is unconventional, but makes sense within the context of the book’s message. A well setup team functions well and there is less emphasis on individuals. The message is reminiscent of the lesson offered in the recently reviewed book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. Set the scene, fix the environment and even below par individuals perform better in above par groups.

In the same chapter the four features of real teams are itemized:

  • A team task exists
  • Clear boundaries exist
  • Clearly specified authority for members to perform is defined (Which suggests inclusion of executable work, monitoring and managing the work process, designing units and arranging for organizational support and of course setting direction and objectives) and
  • Membership stability over period of time is a given

Under providing team (page 63) with a Compelling Direction the author discusses a compelling script, invitation by the leader, a consultation to start to get the direction right and then the abandonment of concepts like “empower” and “consensus.” There are shades of Daniel Pink here.

Page 72 lists the Functions And Benefits Of Good Direction in a table.


Page 73 elucidates Setting Direction about Means versus Ends in a table

Table 3-2

It is counterintuitive but a nuclear power plant for instance requires the type of work that is in the upper right-hand quadrant.

Overall though a direction has to be challenging and achievable.

Bottom-line key to success: lead others compellingly and paint a picture of the end-state.


Conditions And Not Cause And Effect


Under Enabling Structure, which the authors arguably places the most emphasis, the obvious ask is for the leader to create a good basis so the team does not have to create one on its own.

The three structural features for effective teamwork are on page 98 and involve dividing up tasks and coordinating subtasks, but also changing task masters in order to give all a taste of the entirety of the concept.

In terms of how much autonomy to grant there is an interesting example on page 101. The writer takes the example of a worker whose work takes place during the midnight shift. These workers have the most autonomy in how to complete their task and take on the most responsibility. Yet, and by nature, risk is introduced.

Part of offering the team an enabling structure is getting the number of members right. Here research demonstrates the number to be 4.6. In terms of mix, another myth shattered is that homogenous team are at a disadvantage. Research suggests that there is little evidence they perform better and moreover are not liable to learn as much as heterogeneous ones., for example, is one company whose hiring practice emphasizes a mix of different people and skillsets.

If a member does not play well with others, the options are to isolate the person (wasteful) or to go ahead and put them in the middle of the team (dangerous) or the best alternative is to harvest the skills of this contributor and actively help the person integrate and working around the issues.

In Chapter five the author pays attention to motivation. Intrinsic and extrinsic ones and rewards are addictive and not mutually exclusive. So getting paid a salary or a bonus, for example, add to pleasure if one already has joy.

On a personal note, being a manager several years ago I proposed that a component of my sales team’s bonus/variable come from a shared team achievement number. The idea was to promote teamwork and make everyone on the team stakeholders in the others’ success. The idea was accepted and implemented beginning with the subsequent quarter’s payout. The corporation standardized again back out of my proposal a year later, but while in place seeing the team enjoy the fruits of each other’s labours and working together was something beautiful.

What does Leading Teams suggest are the three aspects of team effectiveness:

  1. Effort
  2. Performance Strategies
  3. Level of knowledge and skill applied

Different coachings should be aligned to the above. This coaching reduces free riding and is motivational, educational and consultative.

Coaching intervention is typically at the beginning, midpoint and endpoints (review time), but the author reinforces the notion that good behaviour should be reinforced at any time.

What coaching is not is to focus on interpersonal relationships. Again going against the grain, the author does not believe harmonious relationships are that important. In fact, the opposite is true, read this twice, good performance leads to good relationships.

However, before good coaching can take place the aforementioned direction, structure and context need to be in place. By the way, good coaching is of significantly more help to well-designed teams than poorly designed ones. It is the same old story, isn’t it? The rich get richer and the poor poorer.

As already mentioned the book makes a forceful effort to refute causation and effect. That is why there is a discussion and endorsement of the concept of equifinality. That is, there are many different ways a person, team or organization can behave and still reach the same outcome. Reading this reminded this writer of the Led Zeppelin line, “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run…”but I digress. It is interesting though that the concept means a leader has the opportunity to expand his leadership repertoire. As long as conditions are set correctly and tasks are related to the goal good things may happen.

As much as there are multiple ways to go about leadership, there are definitely several way to not go about things:

  • Misleading or lying: destroyed credibility and moral issues
  • Ape someone else’s style: embarrassing and ineffectual
  • Resisting data: sticking with one’s preferences in the face of facts and data

Best is to have one’s own style, tend to facts and vary behaviour to match


Table 7-1

Leading Teams is a book built on science and empirical study. This quote on page 227 speaks personally and in several ways to something I have observed and marvelled at working at corporate teams. Leadership requires courage, may engender resistance and will rock the organizational boat. Doing what is expected and managing by polling is not leadership.


Conditions And Not Cause And Effect


Page 140: “Rather than make posters or hold motivational meetings, managers would be better advised to find ways to more directly link team behaviour with team outcomes.” The best way that is done is by improving the design of the work’s team. How? Challenging work, autonomy to accomplish and feedback and coaching.

What this book is either missing or lacking by design is the many other factors involved in leading teams. There are the problems, unexpected surprises, personality and authority clashes and motivational systems. Those are left to other books and studies.

Set the conditions, tinker and adjust as you observe and gather data that a correction is required.



Jun 112016

Fear sells. We know that much.

What else sells? You might think ‘competence sells’ or ‘return on investment sells’ or ‘likability sells’ or even ‘fun sells,’ et cetra. However, the question of the day is whether insulting a customer sells? What about boring a customer? Does that sell?

Take a look at the following videos. In the first, a man who appears to have been in business a number of years (success?) utilizes something he calls G.U.T.S.* Sales Training Method or the *Great Un-Orthodox-Un-Traditional Techniques Of Selling Success to insult the customer into buying from him.

In this video, the world’s most humanlike automaton cranks out calls at rates that would put those embarrassingly useless automated dialing computers to shame. Is he.. could he… be successful?

What do you think?

*Things That Need To Go Away: Calling Lying, Half-Truths, Fudging Or intimidating ‘Sales.’