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The One Strategic Mistake Your Company is Likely Making

Do you know what your company’s core values are?

You know, those ten to fifteen statements that are supposed to be the guiding principles that dictate the behavior and actions of your company? The foundation from which you are supposed to be ‘Built to Last’ and help you make your most important decisions? Could you recite them out loud right now without looking them up?

I didn’t think so.

Chances are your CEO can’t either. And I think that’s pretty sad. It’s part of the reason why most companies are mediocre. Most people, like your CEO, would say that having core values in business is important. However, very few are actually living them… not because they don’t have any but because of the opposite – they have too many. People can’t remember them all and so they forget. And if you forget what your core values are then you aren’t making decisions using them.

Stop confusing people.

Steve Jobs said it best: “Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. It’s a very noisy world… And so we have to be really clear on what we want [the world] to know about us.” And it’s not just about marketing. It’s everything. Your core value should be the lens through which you see the world and make all important choices. By having fifteen “core” values that nobody remembers, you’re needlessly complicating things for your constituents over who you are, what decisions are best for the business, and how to talk about your company. You’re confusing your team and everyone else around you.

What’s the solution?

Get it down to One Word. Whether it’s #Innovation (3M), #Love (Starbucks), or #Health (CVS), having a single guiding value helps communicate to your team, your customers, and the world what you stand for. It also helps make the big decisions easier like being one of the first big companies to stand up for gay marriage (Starbucks, #Love) or walking away from $2 billion in annual tobacco sales because it doesn’t align with your One Word core value (CVS, #Health).

This might be painful.

If you’re at an organization that hasn’t ever really dug into what’s most important then turning those fifteen core values from a plaque on a wall to an actionable, meaningful One Word, will be difficult. People will disagree. Some may quit. Others might be asked to move on. But until companies start looking beyond the resume, beyond the skills, and start looking at do our people’s values match up with what we stand for as an organization, then all the other strategies and tactics won’t save your business.

Get your One Word right. Apply it as the operating philosophy through which your entire company is run. Give your team, customers, and investors something to actually be proud of. And watch your culture, impact, and profits soar.


About the Author

Evan Carmichael is the author of Your One Word (December 6, 2016), and he also coaches entrepreneurs for peak performance. At 19, he built then sold a biotech software company. At 22, he was helping raise $500k to $15mil. He has been interviewed or featured as an entrepreneur expert in The New York Times,The Wall St. Journal, Forbes, Mashable, and elsewhere. He now runs EvanCarmichael.com, a popular website for entrepreneurs. He speaks globally and is based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter @EvanCarmichael.

Hank Moore

Mentoring and Lifelong Learning

Professionals who succeed the most are the products of mentoring. I heartily endorse that find a great mentor. I have had many excellent ones in my long career and have in turn mentored hundreds of others.

The mentor is a resource for business trends, societal issues and opportunities. The mentor becomes a role model, offering insights about their own life-career. The mentor is an advocate for progress and change. Such work empowers the mentee to hear, accept, believe and get results. The sharing of trust and ideas leads to developing business philosophies.

The mentor endorses the mentee, messages ways to approach issues, helps draw distinctions and paints pictures of success. The mentor opens doors for the mentee. The mentor requests pro-active changes of mentee, evaluates realism of goals and offers truths about path to success and shortcomings of mentee’s approaches. This is a bonded collaboration toward each other’s success. The mentor stands for mentees throughout their careers and celebrates their successes. This is a lifelong dedication toward mentorship… in all aspects of one’s life.

The most significant lessons that I learned in my business life from mentors, verified with experience, are shared here:

  1. You cannot go through life as a carbon copy of someone else.
  2. You must establish your own identity, which is a long, exacting process.
  3. As you establish a unique identity, others will criticize. Being different, you become a moving target.
  4. People criticize you because of what you represent, not who you are. It is rarely personal against you. Your success may bring out insecurities within others. You might be what they cannot or are not willing to become.
  5. If you cannot take the dirtiest job in any company and do it yourself, then you will never become “management.”
  6. Approach your career as a body of work. This requires planning, purpose and commitment. It’s a career, not just a series of jobs.
  7. The person who is only identified with one career accomplishment or by the identity of one company for whom he-she formerly worked is a one-hit wonder and, thus, has no body of work.
  8. The management that takes steps to “fix themselves” rather than always projecting problems upon other people will have a successful organization.
  9. It’s not when you learn. It’s that you learn.
  10. Many people do without the substantive insights into business because they have not really developed critical thinking skills.
  11. Analytical and reasoning skills are extensions of critical thinking skills.
  12. You perform your best work for free. How you fulfill commitments and pro-bono work speaks to the kind of professional that you are.
  13. People worry so much what others think about them. If they knew how little others thought, they wouldn’t worry so much. This too is your challenge to frame how they see you and your company.
  14. Fame is fleeting and artificial. The public is fickle and quick to jump on the newest flavor, without showing loyalty to the old ones, especially those who are truly original. Working in radio, I was taught, “They only care about you when you’re behind the microphone.”
  15. The pioneer and “one of a kind” professional has a tough lot in life. It is tough to be first or so far ahead of the curve that others cannot see it. Few will understand you. Others will attain success with portions of what you did. None will do it as well.
  16. Consumers are under-educated and don’t know the substance of a pioneer. Our society takes more to the copycats and latest fads. Only the pioneer knows and appreciates what he-she really accomplished. That reassurance will have to be enough.
  17. Life and careers include peaks and valleys. It’s how one copes during the “down times” that is the true measure of success.
  18. Long-term success must be earned. It is not automatic and is worthless if ill-gotten. The more dues one pays, the more you must continue paying.
  19. The next best achievement is the one you’re working on now, inspired by your body of knowledge to date.
  20. The person who never has aggressively pursued a dream or mounted a series of achievements cannot understand the quest of one with a deeply committed dream.
  21. A great percentage of the population does not achieve huge goals but still admires and learns from those who do persevere and succeed. The achiever thus becomes a lifelong mentor to others.
  22. Achievement is a continuum, but it must be benchmarked and enjoyed along the way.

These are my concluding pieces of leadership advice. Know where you are going. Develop, update and maintain a career growth document. Keep a diary of lessons learned but not soon forgotten. Learn the reasons for success and, more importantly, from failure.

Good bosses were good employees. They have keen understanding for both roles. Bad bosses likely were not ideal employees. They too are consistent in career history. Being your own boss is yet another lesson. People who were downsized from a corporate environment suddenly enter the entrepreneurial world and find the transition to be tough.

Poor people skills cloud any job performance and overshadow good technical skills. The worst bosses do not sustain long careers at the top. Their track record catches up with them, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.

Good workers don’t automatically become good bosses. Just because someone is technically proficient or is an exemplary producer does not mean that he-she will transition to being a boss. The best school teachers do not want to become principals, for that reason. Good job performers are better left doing what they do best. Administrators, at all levels, need to be properly trained as such, not bumped up from the field to do something for which they have no inclination.

Truth and ethics must be woven into how you conduct business. If you do not “walk the talk,” who will? Realize that very little of what happens to you in business is personal. Find common meeting grounds with colleagues. The only workable solution is a win-win.

Leadership and executive development skills are steadily learned and continually sharpened. One course or a quick-read book will not instill them. The best leaders are prepared to go the distance. Professional enrichment must be life-long. Early formal education is but a starting point. Study trends in business, in your industry and in the industries of your customers.

People skills mastery applies to every profession. There is no organization that does not have to communicate to others about what it does. The process of open company dialogs must be developed to address conflicts, facilitate win-win solutions and further organizational goals.


About the Author

Hank MoorePower Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame is now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.

Hank Moore

Public Service Announcements

Non-profit organizations and the causes they promote are greatly served by enlightening the public. Public education is an important part of the charge for those organizations.

The earliest PSAs promoted the selling of war bonds and were shown in movie theatres during World War I and II. The campaigns included: “Loose lips sink ships” and “Keep them rolling.” With the advent of radio in the 1920s and its popularity in the 1930s and 1940s, it was a natural sign-off for national shows to include public service messages. Local stations began airing PSAs during their programming to fill the holes when they had not sold all the commercial availabilities. Then, there were Community Calendar shows. Every disc jockey had their favorite causes, and talk shows often featured representatives of non-profit organizations to discuss their services.

When television hit in the late 1940s, public service advertising was institutionalized. PSAs were aired, just as had been done on radio. Local TV stations promoted non-profit organizations via recorded and live spots, ID slides and crawls of calendar items in local communities.

Some of the famous campaigns included annual United Way appeals, Smokey the Bear (“Only you can prevent forest fires”), McGruff, the dog (“Take a bite out of crime”), the United Negro College Fund (“A mind is a terrible thing to lose”), Just Say No to Drugs, the American Cancer Society (“Fight cancer with a check-up and a check”), anti-smoking campaigns, voter awareness, vaccinations, immunizations, educational programs, etc.

Many of the famous PSA campaigns were created by The Advertising Council. This was a consortium of advertising agencies who lent their creativity on a volunteer basis to a variety of causes. These ads won awards for creativity and spurred participating agencies to serve their clients and communities by their volunteer service. Other PSAs were devised by public relations agencies and the non-profit organizations themselves.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America was founded in New York City in 1985. It was a consortium of advertising agencies who produced public service messages discouraging drug use. It coordinated campaigns with the federal government in its efforts to stem the spread of illegal drugs.

PSAs have had a massive impact on our culture. They steered many people into lives committed to community stewardship and leadership. In the old days, broadcasting was regulated. Stations had to reapply for their licenses from the Federal Communications Commission every three years. We were required to keep Public Files of correspondence from the listeners and community stakeholders. We were required to perform Community Ascertainment, a process by which we interviewed leaders on problems of the municipality and how our station might help to address them. Through all that, I became enamored with community service, developing trust relationships with stakeholders.

Newspapers began contributing space to non-profit causes back in the 1930s, plus writing stories on many of the programs. Community newspapers followed suit in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

The billboard industry began offering free public service facings to non-profit organizations in the 1960s. As public opposition to billboards as environmental blockages increased, its industry made efforts to work with non-profit organizations to get their words out. In the 1990s, I testified to my city council on behalf of the billboard industry. I stated that they would never get rid of the signs, and their best strategy would be to work with the industry, assuring that local non-profits would be served through PSA boards.

Then came my next time to testify, and recalling this incident makes me sad. I testified before the U.S. Congress, begging them NOT to deregulate broadcasting. I was there in support of non-profit organizations and said that deregulation would be a death-knell to public service advertising on radio and TV. I said that unless the FCC requires PSA quotas to broadcasters, they would not deliver the time. I opined that a handful of mega-corporations would ultimately own broadcasting frequencies and would not have the same public service commitment as did the “mom and pop” broadcasters that they purchased. Sadly, history has proven me to be correct.

Because of deregulation, non-profit organizations were forced to buy time on radio and TV. Many got corporate sponsors to pay the freight. Others cut into programs and services in order to fund marketing. That is exhibited when you see every competing educational institution buying airtime to promote their services to the community. I performed a management study for my state comptroller’s office. I reviewed the costs of public awareness campaigns on behalf of state agencies. I opined that agencies felt compelled to spend funds to compete with each other in the arena of marketing.

New forms of public service announcements have emerged to take the place of lost free time on radio and TV. In the 1980s, I started producing filler ads for community newspapers. They were laid out in the style of paid advertising and were furnished as camera-ready copy for newspapers, in the most-needed space fillers as the newspapers had. Thus, they were used.

In the 21st Century, I believe that the future for public service announcements lies on-line. Every non-profit has its own website, and most have blogs in order to disseminate public awareness messages. Many non-profit organizations are producing videos for YouTube.

Now for something new, yet I’ve been advocating this since 1997. I believe that corporate websites are the most untapped source for public service messages. I encourage corporations to have a Community Corner on their homepages. Highlight the causes that they support. Put filler ads for non-profit groups on their websites. Encourage their customers and stakeholders to support their designated causes. Non-profit organizations need the support of Cause Related Marketing.

Here are some final tips for non-profit organizations in constructing their public service campaigns:

  • Carefully choose your topic. Create plausible narratives.
  • Research the marketplace and your cause for support.
  • Consider your audience. Get reactions from your audiences.
  • Get the attention of stakeholders carefully and tastefully.

About the Author

Hank MoorePower Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame is now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.

Hank Moore

Management Styles

Organizations should coordinate management skills into its overall corporate strategy, in order to satisfy customer needs profitably, draw together the components for practical strategies and implement strategic requirements to impact the business. This is my review of how management styles have evolved.

In the period that predated scientific management, the Captain of Industry style prevailed. Prior to 1885, the kings of industry were rulers, as had been land barons of earlier years. Policies were dictated, and people complied. Some captains were notoriously ruthless. Others like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford channeled their wealth and power into giving back to the communities. It was an era of self-made millionaires and the people who toiled in their mills.

From 1885-1910, the labor movement gathered steam. Negotiations and collective bargaining focused on conditions for workers and physical plant environments. In this era, business fully segued from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial-based reality.

As a reaction to industrial reforms and the strength of unions, a Hard Nosed style of leadership was prominent from 1910-1939, management’s attempt to take stronger hands, recapture some of the Captain of Industry style and build solidity into an economy plagued by the Depression. This is an important phase to remember because it is the mindset of addictive organizations.

The Human Relations style of management flourished from 1940-1964. Under it, people were managed. Processes were managed as collections of people. Employees began having greater says in the execution of policies. Yet, the rank and file employees at this point were not involved in creating policies, least of all strategies and methodologies.

Management by Objectives came into vogue in 1965 and was the prevailing leadership style until 1990. In this era, business started embracing formal planning. Other important components of business (training, marketing, research, team building and productivity) were all accomplished according to goals, objectives and tactics.

Most corporate leaders are two management styles behind. Those who matured in the era of the Human Relations style of management were still clinging to value systems of Hard Nosed. They were not just “old school.” They went to the school that was torn down to build the old school.

Executives who were educated in the Management by Objectives era were still recalling value systems of their parents’ generation before it. Baby boomers with a Depression-era frugality and value of tight resources are more likely to take a bean counter-focused approach to business. That’s my concern that financial-only focus without regard to other corporate dynamics bespeaks of hostile takeovers, ill-advised rollups and corporate raider activity in search of acquiring existing books of business.

To follow through the premise, younger executives who were educated and came of age during the early years of Customer Focused Management had still not comprehended and embraced its tenets. As a result, the dot.com bust and subsequent financial scandals occurred. In a nutshell, the “new school” of managers did not think that corporate protocols and strategies related to them. The game was to just write the rules as they rolled along. Such thinking always invites disaster, as so many of their stockholders found out. Given that various management eras are still reflected in the new order of business, we must learn from each and move forward.

In 1991, Customer Focused Management became the standard. In a highly competitive business environment, every dynamic of a successful organization must be geared toward ultimate customers. Customer focused management goes far beyond just smiling, answering queries and communicating with buyers. It transcends service and quality. Every organization has customers, clients, stakeholders, financiers, volunteers, supporters or other categories of “affected constituencies.”

Companies must change their focus from products and processes to the values shared with customers. Everyone with whom you conduct business is a customer or referral source of someone else. The service that we get from some people, we pass along to others. Customer service is a continuum of human behaviors, shared with those whom we meet.

Customers are the lifeblood of every business. Employees depend upon customers for their paychecks. Yet, you wouldn’t know the correlation when poor customer service is rendered. Employees of many companies behave as though customers are a bother, do not heed their concerns and do not take suggestions for improvement.

There is no business that cannot undergo some improvement in its customer orientation. Being the recipient of bad service elsewhere must inspire us to do better for our own customers. The more that one sees poor customer service and customer neglect in other companies, we must avoid the pitfalls and traps in our own companies.

If problems are handled only through form letters, subordinates or call centers, then management is the real cause of the problem. Customer focused management begins and ends at top management. Management should speak personally with customers, to set a good example for employees. If management is complacent or non-participatory, then it will be reflected by behavior and actions of the employees.

Any company can benefit from having an advisory board, which is an objective and insightful source of sensitivity toward customer needs, interests and concerns. The successful business must put the customer into a co-destiny relationship. Customers want to build relationships, and it is the obligation of the business to prove that it is worthy.

Customer focused management is the antithesis to the traits of bad business, such as the failure to deliver what was promised, bait and switch advertising and a failure to handle mistakes and complaints in a timely, equitable and customer-friendly manner. Customer focused management is dedicated to providing members with an opportunity to identify, document and establish best practices through benchmarking to increase value, efficiencies and profits.


About the Author

Hank MoorePower Stars to Light the Business Flame, by Hank Moore, encompasses a full-scope business perspective, invaluable for the corporate and small business markets. It is a compendium book, containing quotes and extrapolations into business culture, arranged in 76 business categories.

Hank’s latest book functions as a ‘PDR of business,’ a view of Big Picture strategies, methodologies and recommendations. This is a creative way of re-treading old knowledge to enable executives to master change rather than feel as they’re victims of it.

Power Stars to Light the Business Flame is now out in all three e-book formats: iTunes, Kindle, and Nook.

Shainaz Firfiray

Building a positive work-life culture

Although work-life balance policies are meant to acknowledge the realities faced by dual earner families, existing workplace norms often stigmatize the use of such policies. While employers have started to offer several policies that facilitate better work-life balance, there is scant evidence that they are helping organisations foster a healthier work-life culture. There is also low utilization of such policies despite the widespread demand for such flexibility. The pressure to work long hours along with the career penalties associated with the use of work-life policies are creating workplace cultures where employees have limited choices in terms of managing their work and non-work demands.

Transforming the culture of an organisation to one that encourages a better work-life balance is often very challenging. Although it is debatable whether organisations have a responsibility for work-life balance, evidence suggests that providing support for work-life issues has significant payoffs for the employment relationship. Frequently organisations may offer a range of work-life policies but if not properly implemented these policies may fail to facilitate better work-life reconciliation.

Often effective policy implementation requires a transformation of the workplace culture and underlying assumptions about how work should be organised and how employee performance should be evaluated. Cultures that emphasize long working hours as a symbol of commitment frequently hinder employees from making use of work-life policies. In several organisations, managers focus on rewarding “face-time” rather than actual performance. When managers have subordinates who face work-life conflicts, the best approach is to direct their efforts toward evaluating actual performance rather than presenteeism or “face-time”. Effective role-modeling by leaders who are aware of the importance of work-life balance may also help in building a culture that champions reconciliation of work and nonwork lives while reducing feelings of inadequacies among workers who utilize work-life practices. Likewise, employees should also be encouraged to raise nonwork issues with their managers and should be assured that their employer does not expect them to subordinate their personal or family roles while prioritizing their work roles. Such a culture may allay worker fears about the negative career consequences of addressing work-life issues and also result in a favorable image of their employer as one that cares about their well-being.


About the Author

Shainaz FirfirayShainaz Firfiray is an assistant professor in the Organisation and Human Resource Management Group at Warwick Business School. She received her PhD in management at IE Business School, Spain. Her research interests include work-life balance, social identity, and workplace diversity.