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Research shows that a positive mindset helps people live longer and better. It also helps leaders turn crises into opportunities by focusing on the future, not the past, identifying and seize new and bigger opportunities, creating belief and motivation within their teams, attracting support for their initiatives, and improving their performance.

Developing a positive mindset starts with controlling self-talk. Leaders have choices about how they think and feel. They should challenge their thoughts, checking every negative thought. Great leaders would do well to identify role models and think and act as they do.

Leaders can condition their mindsets to be positive by:

* Focusing on the future without dwelling too much on the past.

* Counting blessings, finding silver linings in every cloud.

* Helping others and encouraging reciprocity.

* Driving to action, focusing on what can be controlled without worrying about what cannot.

* Breaking daunting tasks into manageable steps while celebrating and rewarding progress.

* Relaxing and smiling, finding the methods that work for the specific case at hand.

Value Conversation – Sales Pitch


In The Three Value Conversations, Erik Peterson, Tim Riesterer, Conrad Smith, and Cheryl Geoffrion present an alternative sales technique. Instead of pushing their products or services, salespeople should have value conversations with their prospects to engage them more effectively. They must do their research, understand their buyers’ business needs, and present solutions that speak to the buyers’ values and interests. For the conversations to be successful, salespeople must differentiate themselves from the competition, justify their solutions, and emphasize the value for themselves and their customers.

The Three Value Conversations

Most selling occurs during casual conversations in places like elevators or parking lots. Great conversations with customers should sound casual, yet be well planned and practiced. They should include the following three elements:

  1. The right message, which is relevant to the customer.
  2. The right tools, which are effective vehicles for delivering the message.
  3. The right skills, which impart comfort and confidence when delivering the message.

There are three types of customer conversations, each of which has specific objectives and outcomes:

  1. The differentiation conversation, which creates value.
  2. The justification conversation, which elevates the value to the right decision maker.
  3. The maximization conversation, which captures the value and maximizes opportunities.

Mastering these customer conversations will help salespeople create more opportunities and move deals through faster with fewer concessions.


Create a Buying Vision

A salesperson’s biggest enemy is the status quo and the safety (though not necessarily satisfaction) it offers the buyer. To overcome this challenge, a salesperson must convince the buyer that the status quo is unsustainable and there is a clear need for change. He or she must shake up the status quo and help the client establish a buying vision. One survey revealed that nearly three-fourths of executives stated they award business to whomever helps them establish their buying visions. They want salespeople to not only help them see the need for change, but to clarify the solution. An effective way to accomplish this is by using the concept of loss aversion, which theorizes that change is motivated more by the fear of loss than the anticipation of gain. Rather than telling a buyer how much the company will benefit, the seller will more effectively motivate the buyer by convincing him or her that adhering to the status quo is unsafe for business and means the company is losing out, thereby creating a sense of urgency.

Speak to Situations, Not Dispositions

Business buying decisions generally involve multiple buyers or influencers. Customizing a conversation with each of these individuals would be challenging. However, early-stage conversations are more about the company’s situation than about individual buyers’ dispositions. It is essential that a salesperson understand this concept, referred to asfundamental attribution error, to keep from overestimating the influence of a particular buyer.

The real power in affecting behavioral change comes in being able to connect with a person on a situational level. The salesperson must intimately understand, and develop a profile for, the buyer’s status quo, by answering some key questions:

*How are prospects currently addressing challenges that the seller’s products of services can help resolve?

*Why does the company think what it is currently doing is working for them?

*With its current approach to solving problems, has the company missed any challenges, threats, or opportunities?

*Where are the missing pieces of the company’s current approach to solving its own problems?

The seller can use this profile to help the buyer realize that his or her approach is not working and that the seller’s product or service is needed to change the status quo.

Unconsidered Needs Drive Unexpected Opportunity

The discovery process is a sales approach that has been used for more than 30 years; the seller asks the potential buyer a series of questions designed to find the customer’s pain points. However, because every salesperson seems to use this approach, it does not add value to the selling process.

Today’s seller must find the buyer’s unconsidered needs. Most buyers know what their companies’ problems are before salespeople have differentiation conversations with them. An effective seller needs to uncover the needs the buyer is unaware of. To do this, the conversation needs to be fresh and different, digging beneath the obvious. Sellers must deliver the insights buyers need by telling them some things that they did not already know, and telling them about problems they did not know they had–problems the sellers can solve in ways the competition cannot.

To initiate this conversation, sellers must ask themselves:

*What are potential buyers doing now that may be harmful to their businesses?

*What evidence can the sellers present to show buyers that their current assumptions are obstacles to their businesses?

*What facts and statistics can be presented to confirm this evidence?

*How can sellers present this information to buyers in the form of an engaging story?

Uncovering a buyer’s unconsidered needs will differentiate the seller from the competitors, who still use the same discovery process.

Keep Claims Limited and Focused

Salespeople naturally want to offer their prospects choices; however, offering too many choices is counterproductive and results in choice overload. Including an option that was not part of the purchasing criteria often influences a buyer to reject a seller’s offering; the buyer may view any additional feature as weak or irrelevant.

Likewise, when presenting claims about the solution being offered, the fewer the better. Three claims about a solution’s benefits enables the prospect to process the message and instills more confidence in the seller. Any more calls into question the validity of the information being presented. Salespeople tend to want to include too much information in presentations. Limiting the discussion to three relevant, focused points helps the prospect remember the information and have a positive perception of the seller.

Finding those three key points is a matter of categorizing and prioritizing the offering to determine:

*If the product or service is truly unique to the seller’s company.

*If the product or service is one that the competition has, but the seller’s company’s is better.

*If the competition has basically the same product or service.

Starting with the truly unique offerings, the seller must identify which solution can be connected to the prospect’s unconsidered needs.

Whiteboard Conversations Versus PowerPoint Presentations

How the conversation is delivered is as important as its content. Most people only remember 10 percent of what is said in a meeting, just two days after the meeting. Visuals can increase that retention to 65 percent. For example, drawing concepts on a whiteboard helps the client, or prospective client, engage in the presentation, find the information and the speaker to be more credible and trustworthy, understand the information more clearly and enjoy the presentation more fully, and better recall the information after the meeting.

There are three critical components to the whiteboard approach:

1. Context. The visual must demonstrate the deficiencies in the buyer’s status quo, setting the context of urgency to change.

2. Contrast. To increase the perceived value of the offering, the drawing must clearly contrast the buyer’s status quo with the solution being offered.

3. Concrete. The decision-making side of the buyer’s brain must see the specific need and the opportunity for a resolution. Clear, simple graphics will help convey this message in a concrete manner.


Overcoming a Fear of Heights

Executive decision makers want to have conversations about business issues. Salespeople are usually trained to have product and services conversations. To reach higher-level decision makers, therefore, salespeople must do three things:

  1. Increase their competence in discussing business and financial issues.
  2. Increase their confidence in meeting with upper-level business executives.
  3. Increase the quality of their stories to be more compelling.

If a salesperson is fearful of going over a current contact’s head to meet with a higher-level executive, he or she should involve the current contact in helping to secure the meeting. Many higher-level meetings are actually facilitated by someone else in the organization.

Developing Customer Insight

Upper-level executives are crunched for time, so a salesperson must be able to convince them that the discussion will be valuable and not just a rehash of product knowledge. The conversation must be focused on the buyer’s perspective, creating a “buying vision for business change.” The salesperson must have an understanding of the business situation, including the external factors and the business initiatives affecting it.

Most external factors affect the particular industry as a whole, so they should be easy to research. The key is to address an external factor before the potential buyer has been able to find a solution to it. If the salesperson is able to present a possible solution, the executive will welcome him or her into a conversation.

Business initiatives can be responses to external factors or triggered by internal issues. These initiatives involve the organization’s priorities and vision for its future. A salesperson would be wise to attach his or her solution to a business initiative, particularly one that the executive is personally involved in moving forward.

Financial Statements and ROI

The research involved in discovering external factors and business initiatives includes reading financial statements in annual reports and earnings statements. Income, expenses, and sales trends are usually revealed in these documents. Trends that show up on these reports will help a salesperson identify changes in the business that might be relevant to his or her solution. It is best to look at three-year trends, of both the business and the entire industry, to gain a complete picture and to be able to put the trends into context.

Once the salesperson has completed the research and analysis, he or she can make a better case in conversation with the higher-level executive. The salesperson can identify specifically how the solution will have a positive impact on the financial growth of the company, either by increasing revenue or reducing expenses. The seller must identify the return on investment (ROI) for the executive buyer, rather than presuming he or she will compute it. The seller can then demonstrate how the solution will contribute to real and effective business change.

Executive Engagement

Even if the salesperson has done the research and prepared an engaging conversation relevant to the executive’s needs, the greatest challenge will be to secure the meeting. Without an inside contact, a seller can turn to the executive’s assistant, who is often the first point of contact The assistant often serves as a gatekeeper, trying to both keep people out and get the right people in. The assistant can also offer the salesperson insight into what is most important to the executive.

Executives are always searching for new ways to improve their businesses. The salesperson must be able to present a business solution, not just push a product or service. The solution should be clearly presented, tied to the external factors or business initiatives, and be one the executive has not thought of or cannot produce internally.

Meetings are usually broken down as follows:

*During the first five minutes, the salesperson must grab the executive’s interest.

*In the next 15 to 30 minutes, the salesperson conducts an engaging conversation and asks deeper questions.

*In the final few minutes, the executive may decide to bring more key people into the conversation.

The meeting needs to end with a commitment for the next step, whether that is a follow-up meeting or a plan to move the effort forward.


No Last-Minute Saves

When a salesperson can develop a customer conversation so that his or her products or services are differentiated from the competition and shake up the prospect’s status quo, the shape of the conversation will change. The seller will be able to take more control of the conversation, garner more respect from the buyer, and increase his or her status in the relationship. However, there will still be instances when the customer controls the conversation and make demands of the seller’s time or resources. When this occurs, the salesperson can give in or use negotiation skills.

Learning to negotiate requires some counterintuitive skills. By its very nature, negotiation involves tension; there is a gap between what the customer wants and what the salesperson wants. A skilled negotiator is able to use the tension to generate more creative and profitable outcomes.

The Conversation Before the Conversation

Negotiation begins in the seller’s own mind, with inner dialogue about how the conversation with the customer will go. This conversation before the conversation is the first step to getting the customer conversation right. It is not simply an attempt to get psyched up for the meeting; rather, it involves the seller understanding and believing the story her or she will tell, being prepared, and being confident. The seller must trust in his or her preparation and win the negotiation in his or her own mind before having the conversation with the buyer.

Pivotal Agreements

Late-stage negotiating tactics are no longer relevant in the business-to-business selling process. Instead, successful salespeople know what they want from their customers, and win critical moments throughout the selling process. They can capture maximum value through the entire process by achieving pivotal agreements, rather than waiting until the end of the process to strike one grand bargain. Salespeople must identify the pivotal agreements early in the sales process and prepare to secure them at the appropriate time. Pivotal agreements must be specific, will create tension, will improve the final result.

Ask for More

Potential customers may not easily consent to the seller’s pivotal agreements, which will usually cause tension. However, salespeople must continue to set high targets–that is, stretch and ask for more. Some salespeople can be uncomfortable asking for more, since it is traditionally believed that the customer has all the power. However, they must be confident enough to embrace the tension caused by setting higher targets; asking for more helps to demonstrate their conviction.

Dealing with Price Pressure

Buyers will often say their only focus is price, particularly a price that beats their competitions’. While this is rarely true, a conversation about price does need to take place. Rather than sidestepping the price conversation, a seller should acknowledge and defer–that is, he or she should validate the buyer’s concern by acknowledging the price issue, and get the buyer to agree to defer the conversation about price until later in the process.

Once the seller has gained agreement, he or she can focus on the value conversation, mapping the value directly to the buyer’s needs. In this conversation, the seller must “listen to learn” rather than “listen to sell,” focusing the attention on the customer and gaining valuable insight into the customer’s needs and priorities. Listening to learn is another tactic that will differentiate the salesperson from his or her competition.

Price concessions must be planned before the conversation to prevent the salesperson from making the common and costly mistake of conceding too much. In addition, the salesperson must be prepared to ask back, to only give something away or make a concession if he or she gets something back in return.

The Last Mile

Salespeople can act as trusted advisors to their customers. Buyers will react positively to sellers who tell them what they should want if it is based on research and understanding of the customers’ business needs. Salespeople must increase their confidence, go into the conversations with the proper mind-set, approach prospects as peers, and convey the true value of what they have to offer.


Estimated Reading Time: 4-5 hours, 256 pages

The Three Value Conversations by Erik Peterson, Tim Riesterer, Conrad Smith, and Cheryl Geoffrion outlines the three types of conversations salespeople need to have with their customers in order to differentiate themselves from their competition. The authors provide specific strategies for each type of conversation, including securing the conversation, conducting the conversation, negotiating, and dealing with tension and customer demands. The book is relevant to salespeople and managers who want to reach their customers, connect with executives, present their value, and negotiate more effectively. It book should be read from start to finish, as one chapter leads into the next



The Women’s Leadership Blueprint serves as a bridge between the competencies expected of leaders and the behaviors expected of women. Women can lead, but they have to build their leadership styles differently than men. The blueprint is based on the vast experiences of successful women executives and provides a foundation upon which IMG_6956.JPGothers can build. It is composed of nine key competencies that women must demonstrate differently than men to “break through cats.”


Self-assurance is a hallmark of leadership, but stereotypes of women set expectations that they should be seeking the validation of others. Successful women leaders have found that they can exude confidence and competitiveness when they frame those two characteristics differently. Rather than using confidence to emphasize and defend their position of authority, they use it to underscore confidence in their teams, show their willingness to rise to the occasion, or share and distribute power to others.

When women are confident in a strategy, they frame it in terms of “we” instead of “I.” Men can afford to be more confrontational and state, “This is the way it’s going to be.” Women strive for a more egalitarian approach that says, “This is what I believe needs to happen, and here’s what I am willing to do about it.” Collaborative leadership is not only a more natural style for many women, it is also increasingly believed to be a superior style of leading modern organizations and driving innovation. Women must be confident in the tones they set for their companies, but be willing to give authority and credit to others.


Girls are conditioned from a young age not to brag about their achievements. Men are more comfortable candidly taking credit for something. Women are not only less comfortable taking singular credit, but are penalized for doing so. This makes demonstrating ambition even more difficult for women to do than displaying confidence. However, passion and drive are required to get to the top of an organization and be effective. Women must gain visibility and prove themselves in order to rise higher in a company.

Women can show their achievement drives without looking threatening by rallying others behind their passions. Some executive women find that when they take on a major challenge, success requires bringing many people together. Rather than viewing a project as a personal achievement, they make it something inspiring and engaging to others. Women can also make their achievement drives less threatening via self-challenge. In this way, the drive is not about being the best, but about doing better than the last time.


Influence is an area in which women demonstrate greater strength than their male counterparts, so it is particularly important to women leaders’ success. One of the reasons women are more effective at influencing is because they naturally show more empathy toward others. Fortunately, displaying this type of emotional intelligence aligns with people’s expectations of women; it is therefore a competency that is easier for women to exhibit than confidence and achievement drive.

Persuasion at its most basic level is a three-step process. A person needs to:

*Understand the goals/values/motivations of the person she is trying to persuade.

*Find a personal connection to the other’s goals/values/motivations.

*Share stories and dialogue that highlight the connection.

By establishing a shared vision or connection, women can influence people in positions above them. Finding a shared agenda or goal helps women present themselves as collaborators instead of as people who are pushy or trying to steal the limelight. While men may persuade others in one-on-one conversations over a meal or casual interaction, women are more adept at using emotional connections during a presentation or critical meeting. They are more likely to modify a presentation or approach to suit the audience and connect to a shared set of values or interests.


Inspiring commitment concerns how leaders engage the people around them, facilitate people’s sense of ownership about their work, and foster people’s sense of belonging in an organization. By focusing on interpersonal relationships, inclusiveness, and democratic leadership, women inspire greater commitment from others because these behaviors are positively associated with women in general.

Male leaders tend to focus on building community through question-and-answer forums, sharing the company vision, and drawing on metaphors to establish group cohesion. Female leaders tend to look for more than just dedication and cooperation from others. They are more likely to involve others in problem solving and seek emotional bonds that go beyond employees simply trusting their executives’ expertise. Women set up a two-way dynamic that invites involvement, whereas men set up a one-way dynamic that asks others to form an allegiance to them and/or the company. Two-way engagement has repeatedly been shown to positively influence employee dedication, innovation, and ultimately a company’s bottom line.


The final form of executive influencing is strategic control, or a leader’s ability to direct initiatives while simultaneously delegating implementation to others. This can be a major challenge for both men and women because, as executives, they are expected to cede some control over the very efforts that have enabled them to reach positions of leadership. Women face the additional struggle of delegating work without appearing bossy. Male leaders who exercise their authority and explicitly take complete control over a project’s implementation may be able to do so without questions or consequences, but women must use more subtle ways of maintaining control.

Female leaders are most effective at strategic control when they articulate their visions in such a way that managers and direct reports will make decisions that align with those visions. It is also important to maintain a collaborative and empowering spirit with others. When people feel that they are partnering with a woman leader to achieve goals instead of being given orders, they do not view her as being controlling. For instance, one female executive established a structure whereby a male manager would attend negotiations and always report the highlights of the meetings to her by a given time each day. She could make suggestions and course corrections during the negotiations, but she was able to do so in a way that felt collaborative instead of controlling.


Conceptual thinking is a leader’s ability to make connections between disparate concepts and information, to think creatively, and to see the big picture. From a purely biological standpoint, women leaders have an edge over their male counterparts in this area. Research shows that women have a greater capacity for “web thinking” because there are more neural connections between the two hemispheres of their brains. Practically speaking, this means that female decision making is informed by a greater amount and variety of data. While this tends to be more time-consuming than male decision making, it enables female leaders to see parallels and alternatives that can lead to surprising and innovative solutions. It also tends to mean that their solutions are more sustainable in the long term.

Successful women executives use this ability to their advantage but are careful not to boast about it. They offer their solutions or ideas as “helpful offerings” to others. Women must be careful not to present their thinking with an air of superiority or intimidation.


Women’s natural abilities in conceptual thinking also aid their cultural savvy. They are able to pick up on patterns, cultural cues, and nuances that together give them a better understanding of their work environments. This broad understanding includes things such as how people interact, who interacts with whom, when people speak and when they do not, and how people dress. Girls develop greater cultural savvy from an early age not only because of how their brains are wired, but because their socialization requires that they adapt to their surroundings to a greater extent than boys must. Women leaders are therefore more adept at altering their communication styles to their audiences, being aware of how changes in one department will affect another, reading subtle and nonverbal cues, and mapping specific actions they will need to take to reach a goal in a given cultural context.

In contrast, male executives value political savvy more than cultural savvy. While the two are similar, political savvy is more about the power dynamics in play among individuals in an organization. Men tend to value power and status within a hierarchy and are politically savvy in a way that either protects or enhances their degree of authority. In contrast, female political savvy relates more to how women work in groups and with individuals.


The double standard that permits men in leadership to be assertive but labels the same behavior in women “bitchy” is not fair or right. However, women executives find it better to succeed and make others comfortable with their demeanors than to insist on mimicking men. They remain confident without being aggressive and “soften the edges” through a variety of styles that suit their brands.

For some women, humor–particularly self-deprecating humor–is an easy way to put the audience at ease. The goal is to be authentic and remove any hint of superiority or pretentiousness.

A second strategy is to practice showing empathy. This means not being afraid of the role of emotions in the workplace and acknowledging the feelings of others. When women executives genuinely strive to help and encourage people on their teams while demanding excellence and accountability, they move “beyond bitch.” Female leaders report that they receive more respect when they are empathetic than they do when they attempt to demonstrate their power or status.

Finally, women can look for ways to build or acknowledge areas of common interest. For one executive, an interest in local sports enabled her to connect better with colleagues. Another focused on using a different joke each meeting to quickly connect the group. Ultimately, the goal in finding areas of common interest is to create a springboard for trusting relationships that benefit everyone.


Men typically reach the top of organizations faster and more directly than do women. This is often because men are “pulled up” by other senior men, whereas women must forge their own paths. Women who aspire to be leaders must be vigilant and proactive about their self-development and establish strategies for reaching the executive level.

Many of today’s successful female executives reached the top because they actively looked for jobs in their companies that would be stepping-stones to leadership. Rather than focus on the frustrations of taking a less direct route to the top, these women used a greater breadth of experiences to their advantage once they reached a position of leadership.

Women must be wary of jobs that can derail their career aspirations. Jobs in staff departments, such as human resources, communications, and legal, tend to be dead ends on a path to leadership unless they are explicitly negotiated upfront as being otherwise. Line jobs with operations responsibilities are viewed as vital to progress toward leadership.

Most importantly, women must actively look for people in the company who will advocate for them. While male leaders rarely like to admit it, most people in the upper echelons of a company had people sponsoring them on their way. Successful female leaders actively seek out mentors and sponsors to enable their progression. They look for people who allow them to access important networks, who give them greater visibility, and who will advocate for their promotion.


While the Women’s Leadership Blueprint is particularly important for women, the collaborative leadership style it emphasizes is an asset to both men and women. Men do not need to “break through bitch,” but they should recognize that organizations are changing to be flatter, more dependent on innovation, and more focused on employee engagement. Male leaders can benefit from developing competencies such as empathy, self-awareness, inclusiveness, and conceptual thinking.



The thinking to win (TTW) method is more than a business process–it is a mind-set anyone can develop and apply to any situation, whether professional or personal.


The distinguishing characteristic between businesses that succeed and those that fail is the ability of top leaders to think, plan, and act in a way that moves their companies forward. The thinking to win (TTW) method creates that kind of capability.

Strategic TTW is based on asking what-if questions and taking a long-term view rather than focusing on short-term results. The ultimate determinant of business success is the ability to identify and deliver solutions that delight customers both in the present and into the future as their needs evolve. Narrow thinking that is stuck in the present and based on repeating familiar patterns despite a changing market is a recipe for failure.

TTW is transformational for both organizations and the individuals within them. By equipping individuals with analytical skills that allow them to contribute to the success of their organizations, they will become more empowered and increase their ability to make valuable contributions. An organization that is well-versed in TTW is one in which people have a common goal, feel excited and energized by their work, and share in the organization’s success.

To be effective, TTW must be instilled throughout all levels of an organization. Companies such a Keurig, Jamba Juice, and Procter & Gamble have all generated dynamic growth by creating cultures of strategic thinking that drive business activities.


TTW is a habitual mindset that can be mastered by anyone and applied to any aspect of life. The process begins with applying the following five foundational TTW principles to every situation:

1. Challenge assumptions. In TTW, nothing is a given. Individuals must approach every issue with an open mind.

2. Scope the issue. Situations must be properly scoped so that people understand and are in agreement upon exactly what they are addressing. Inadequate scoping means wasted time and energy and opens the door to scope creep, which occurs when a project becomes larger than it was intended to be.

3. Rely on facts and data. Facts and data (rather than assumptions or persuasive presentations) must provide the foundation for any plan. Individuals must explore the depths and breadth of evidence to ensure there is enough of the right data to make informed decisions.

4. Focus on the vital few. Taking on too many issues at the same time can result in goals not being accomplished properly. Working off the 80-20 rule, TTW postulates that addressing the most critical 10 percent of issues will positively impact 90 percent of the whole.

5. Connect the dots. Individuals must recognize the interrelatedness of factors and elements within a whole and make sure all connections are addressed. A narrow approach is rarely a successful approach. “Linkage, linkage, linkage” should be the mantra for TTW.


Talent, charisma, and serendipity are all great qualities, but they are not the key to winning in today’s marketplace. Rather, the key to winning is effective strategic thinking. TTW drives this type of thinking by integrating the above five foundational principles into a process that results in a winning strategic plan.

The TTW process can be envisioned as an hourglass into which information is funneled, inspiring more specific and focused questions. As data flows through the narrowing of the hourglass, it is refined for specificity, leading to key insights and implications that inform the goals and objectives as well as possible strategies and courses of action that expand into the bottom of the hourglass. The entire process is geared toward answering the following questions, in order:

  1. What facts are known?
  2. What is most important to address?
  3. What is the key competitive differentiator?
  4. What are the key insights that emerge, and why do they matter?
  5. What is the organization’s purpose and position?
  6. What should the goal be?
  7. What choices must be made to achieve that goal?
  8. Was the effort successful?

The first step in the process is creating an umbrella statement, which addresses what the issue is, why the issue is important, the implications of not addressing the issue, and who should be involved in the decision-making process. Effective umbrella statements are clear, focused, and compelling, and they direct the rest of the process.

Once an umbrella statement is defined, data related to the umbrella statement flows into the hourglass. This data can be categorized for manageability according to the seven Cs:

  1. Category.
  2. Company.
  3. Customer.
  4. Consumer
  5. Community.
  6. Colleagues.
  7. Competitors.

Once data is categorized, a SWOT analysis can be performed on the results to analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats relative to the data and the issue. The goal of the SWOT analysis is to identify the strategic competitive advantage (SCA) that undeniably sets a company ahead of its competition. Examples of an SCA include a breakthrough product, superior supply chain, special knowledge or capabilities, or even strong brand equity.


Unearthing key insights takes place at the halfway point of the process (the narrowing of the hourglass). These insights inform the rest of the process and often appear as aha moments, which will not be forgotten once they are realized.

Key insights must be actionable and address the umbrella statement. These insights are critical to identifying the key issues and setting the direction for the remainder of the TTW work. For maximum effectiveness, there should be no more than four to six key issues addressed in the TTW process.

Once the key issues are defined, the implications of those issues must be defined as well. Implications explain the what and why of the key issue and create a bridge to taking action.


A vision is a view of the future–the end state the organization hopes to achieve through its strategic plan. Creating a vision marks the entry into the bottom half of the hourglass, where the convergent thinking that led to key insights and issues transforms into divergent thinking that results in goals and plans.

An effective vision addresses how to position an organization for success. Visions should be simple, concise, clear, and compelling–and ideally come in the form of one sentence that everyone can easily remember. Good visions are unifying and serve to shape an organization’s values and culture.

Governing statements are visions that apply to parts of a company, such as a division. Good governing statements similarly unify efforts in one strategic direction. When Procter & Gamble unified each of its divisions under governing statements, rather than managing products as separate entities, the company was able to achieve 30 percent growth.

Visions and governing statements are living entities, derived from the situation assessment that takes place in the first half of the hourglass. As such, they should regularly be revisited and adjusted to respond to changes in the business environment.

Goals are the natural outgrowth from visions and governing statements. Goals stimulate the action component of the TTW process. It is very important for goals to be balanced across the four elements common to most businesses and institutions:

  1. People.
  2. Organization.
  3. Marketplace.
  4. Finance.

All too often companies focus on financial goals almost exclusively, even though the other three elements can have just as strong of an impact on their success. A balanced scorecard model can help ensure all four elements are addressed.

Once goals are established, there must be methods in place for assessing progress toward achieving those goals. Goals can be assessed through the following three Ms:

1. Measures: What will be assessed, such as sales or earnings.

2. Metrics: The relevant quantifying data, such as growth percentages or financial targets.

3. Milestones: The timeframe for achieving specific targets.

Goals and the three Ms must be explicit. The goals themselves must be challenging, but not unrealistic. Setting too low of a bar will not achieve the desired results. Setting too high a bar will be demoralizing.


Choosing a winning strategy can be risky, but that risk is minimized when a sound strategy development model is used. TTW provides such a model, allowing strategic choices to naturally unfold as a consequence of asking three questions:

  1. Which of the business’s key competencies would be most valued in the marketplace?
  2. What are other unanswered marketplace needs the business could respond to?
  3. What is required to become the market leader?

Even with the answers to these questions in hand, there are still a number of strategic options to consider when it comes to executing in the marketplace. Brainstorming is one method for identifying various strategic options, as are aha moments and spontaneous insights.

Once a number of strategic options have been defined, the next step is further refinement through inquiry. Considerations in choosing which strategies to follow include the level of difficulty in following through, enablers and barriers to execution, and which strategies are critical and which would simply be “nice to do.” Even if a particular strategy is discarded, it is worth documenting in the event it becomes more relevant in the future.


Successful execution depends on a firm grounding of strategic initiatives in the situation assessment component of the TTW as well as strong, coordinated teamwork. Strategic initiatives must be specific in defining what people are supposed to do. Good strategies are not only about asking the right questions, but also about putting the right people in place to do the work. Thoughtfulness in team composition as well as ensuring a collaborative mind-set are essential for driving action that accomplishes strategic objectives.

After objectives are selected, they must be managed to meet scope, time, and costs. These three components must be kept in balance. A change in one variable will undoubtedly create change in the others.

Defining responsibilities ensures the right work gets done by the right people. An accountability matrix can help label individuals in terms of their roles in particular actions. This matrix helps identify whether individuals are accountable, collaborators, or stakeholders.


Successful strategy execution depends on getting everyone in the organization aligned with the process and moving in the right direction to achieve organizational objectives. Compelling and timely communication is essential in accomplishing that alignment and action.

Key messages provide the foundation for strategic communications by answering a few questions:

*What is the current challenge?

*What is the business going to do about it?

*What will the results of these efforts be?

Messages must capture attention, convey a sense of urgency, and clearly describe not only what needs to be done, but also the expected results. Therefore, every key message must address the situation, the action to be taken, and the impact of that action in a compelling way that engages the audience. Key messages should be able to relate back to the SWOT analysis and target only the most important critical initiatives.

Visions are the highest level of strategic messaging. Like key messages, visions must be engaging and compelling, but they must also be unique and concise so they are easily remembered and internalized. Visions can be linked with compensation to ensure people are focused on them and applying them in their performance.

It is very important for leaders to become good communicators so they can provide direction to their organizations. Additionally, communication must be managed on an ongoing basis, beginning with annual meetings and working downward into quarterly and weekly updates. Communication should be an ongoing loop of consistent and aligned information-sharing that informs and engages organizations.


TTW is not simply a process to be cycled through in order to achieve a specific objective or end state; rather, it is a mind-set that should be embedded into every level of an organization. The change TTW brings about is anchored within organizations through unifying symbols and rituals that reinforce its principles.

By providing training and sharing the TTW experience, leaders can create a common language and frame of reference for its principles. Making more productive use of meetings, championing accountability, recognizing TTW successes, and empowering the Human Resources (HR) function to assist in transforming the organization are all methods for anchoring change.


TTW is ongoing. Once one issue is addressed, the process invites leaders to address the next issue, plan for the future, or revisit a previous issue. As TTW competency develops within an organization, the process of asking critical questions becomes second nature. TTW is especially useful in today’s multi-generational work environment. By providing a common language and approach, TTW easily bridges generational differences.

TTW’s fact-based, structured approach encourages creative thinking and can be transformational in the annual strategic planning processes, which traditionally are often not much more than a rehash of previous presentations with a focus on minimizing risk. TTW works well with both for-profit and non-profit organizations and is as useful for individuals in making personal decisions as it is for business professionals charting strategic corporate paths.



The decision to pursue the calling of an expert takes courage. Change is always intimidating, and it can elicit fear about what is to come. There are five ways to control this fear:

  1. Acknowledging the feelings and emotions.
  2. Not wasting energy focusing on failure.
  3. Sharing the fears and asking for support.
  4. Uncovering inspiration from many sources.
  5. Accepting that fear exists and moving forward in spite of it.

Both enthusiasm and negative energy are contagious. Experts must embrace the former. Being positive will promote self-esteem and move a fledgling expert along the path to success. This success requires a mindset that is disciplined, systemized, creative, resilient, ethical, and responsible.

Being an expert is a dynamic proposition. The most successful experts are always improving, growing, and adapting to new surroundings and information. Effective experts also rely on the support and guidance of other experts. Advice from other experts helps with solving problems, placing value on the services and programs offered, and acquiring more clients.

A true expert ties a message to his or her area of expertise. He or she is honest and ethical in the business setting. There is a responsibility that comes with being an expert–namely, standing by a program or service and offering real and lasting results.


A solid, clearly defined brand sets the tone for an expert’s image and outlook. It should help to connect the expert with potential clients. People want to invest in a brand that they trust and that offers them enthusiasm and hope. An effective brand toolbox includes business cards, a logo, a website, the use of social media, video and other marketing materials, and a target market.

Experts should ask themselves several important questions when establishing a brand:

*What sets the business and expertise apart from competitors?

*What are the top three goals for the business?

*What are some of the challenges to growing the business?

*What is the long-term vision for the business?

Brand-storming is the process by which an expert’s unique message augments the products and services offered. A mission statement, or brand promise, should set any type of expert apart from the competition. It should establish the benefits an expert brings to customers that competitors do not, and indicate what makes the expert’s program or system more innovative than any other. Analyzing the established competition is a key step in moving forward as an expert.

A highly paid expert usually moves through the following stages:

*Novice: Someone completely new to the expert business.

*Skilled: A person with more experienced and developed skills.

*Specialist: Someone who has reached a level where a reputation has been developed in a specific field.

*Authority: An expert who is generating steady streams of income and charging higher prices.

*Highly paid expert: A person offering the highest level of brand quality and perceived value.

An expert must understand that self-promotion is crucial. A brand is about a person–marketing strategies merely enhance the expertise and knowledge that the person already has. When self-promoting, an expert should illustrate a unique style, be resilient, and establish proper market position. Resisting or resenting self-promotion will be a huge obstacle to success.

There are six steps for effective self-promotion:

  1. Always be marketing.
  2. Get serious about the business.
  3. Develop time-saving systems.
  4. Be productive.
  5. Stay focused on goals.
  6. Ask for help if needed.

Effective marketing involves researching the competition, duplicating ideas, and tweaking them for success (the RD&T method). The Internet can serve as a tremendous help, as it offers an unlimited potential customer base, a fast way to develop and expand expertise, and an effective networking tool to get the word out about a business. Effective use of the Internet can result in becoming the go-to person in a given marketplace. Today’s consumer uses the Internet to find answers to almost any question. Therefore, Internet domination is essential to building a brand and reaching clients. Choosing the right domain name for a website is the first step to achieving Internet success and saturating the online marketplace, while using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, and video promotions is key to creating a market niche.



Studies have shown that watching or hearing negative stories in the news can affect a person’s mood. Negative feelings may not be the result of the amount of news people hear, but rather the way the stories are told. Everyone is a broadcaster. A person’s friends, family, and coworkers are his or her audience. The things people choose to talk about each day have a direct effect on their moods and the moods of those around them. In her work with the Institute for Applied Positive Research (IAPR), Michelle Gielan has come to three conclusions:

  1. People’s stories are a reflection of their mind-sets. Positive stories fuel hope and inspire others, even in difficult situations.
  2. People’s stories can predict their success in business, education, and health.
  3. Everyone is a broadcaster. People are constantly broadcasting information to others.

A person does not have to be in a position of power to influence others with positivity. In fact, research conducted with Fortune 100 companies found the top three predictors of success to be:

1. Work optimism. Those who can take a realistic look at work challenges and believe they can make a difference are more likely to be successful.

2. Positive engagement. People who see stress as a challenge rather than a threat are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

3. Support provision. Those who support others at work are less likely to experience burnout.



Great leaders must be aware of the fact that each of the seven mindsets has a corresponding dark side:

  1. High aspirations: Aspirations should not be about self; rather, leaders should focus on the mission and gain team buy-in.
  2. Courage: Leaders should not be lone heroes; success will come from a team effort.
  3. Resilience: Leaders should avoid pointless battles. They should fight only for prizes worth the effort, where success is assured, or when there is no other way to achieve the goal.
  4. Positive: Leaders should avoid denial, recognizing and dealing with problems as they arise.
  5. Collaborative: Leaders should not chase popularity but instead earn trust and respect.
  6. Accountability: Leaders must not try to do everything by themselves.
  7. Growth: Leaders must drive toward action, recognizing that learning is a means, not an end.



According to Owen, there are three different types of mindsets:

  1. The accountable mindset, in which leaders control their own destinies and shape the world.
  2. The corporate mindset, where managers perform within an established framework, like a cog in a machine.
  3. The victim mindset, which causes people to feel helpless in the face of the world around them.

Truly successful leaders believe they are accountable for what happens to them and for their own feeling. They also believe that challenges are opportunities to learn and grow, that other successful leaders are role models rather than competitors, and that they have the talent to succeed.

Leaders can cultivate accountable mindsets by celebrating success and learning from it, always evaluating why things went well. They should face brutal facts and learn from them, and look to the future without engaging in the blame game. They should learn from both the good and bad experiences of others, and avoid judging or being overly critical.




The High-Impact Middle Management System helps middle managers optimize performance by clarifying which actions improve performance and which do not. The system focuses on developing the skills needed to carry out the most worthwhile practices. As with many areas of management, the 80/20 rule applies. To develop habits that make the most impact, it is first important to understand the management assumptions that are not helpful and the actions that either work poorly or do not work at all.

Haneberg offers five valuable myths about managing people:

Myth 1:Employees Do Not Want Management. Although it is true that most employees do not like micromanagement, it is not correct to assume that employees do not want to work in a well-managed department. Employees expect and hope that their manager will show leadership, plan the work, and make sure that everyone is doing their job.

Myth 2:Performance Evaluation Systems Improve Performance. In most organizations, managers dread doing performance evaluations and employees dislike receiving them. Even though the evaluation system may promote discussions that clarify expectations, it does not always directly foster improved performance. Along with being ineffective, evaluation systems also take up substantial time and resources.

Myth 3:Employees Prefer a Sugarcoated Counseling Session to a Candid One. Managers often sandwich criticism between positive statements, but this technique does not work because employees see right through it. If a middle manager needs to counsel an employee, she should do so in a manner that is direct, clear, and candid.

Myth 4:Positive Reinforcement Is a Great Tool for Improving Performance. According to Haneberg, many positive reinforcement practices backfire because they manage behavior but do not optimize performance. Although employees do want to feel appreciated, practicing positive reinforcement does not accomplish this. When positive reinforcement is part of a deliberate practice, it feels fake and manipulative. Employees may feel insulted rather than motivated.

Myth 5:Salary Increases Improve Employee Motivation and Productivity. According to Haneberg, pay and other extrinsic rewards do not improve performance, nor do they increase an employee’s overall motivation. When lacking, or at an unsatisfactory level, these extrinsic factors can get in the way of employee motivation. Once they are at a satisfactory level, however, they have little or no impact on motivation or achievement. Employees want to be respected and included in meaningful brainstorming and problem-solving discussions. High-impact middle managers know that these things matter much more than gold stars, performance ratings, and other extrinsic rewards.

Maximizing Throughput


Skilled middle managers know the importance of monitoring throughput and productivity, making sure nothing gets in the way of the team’s success. Throughput is the rate at which a person, department, system, or function produces results. It may be expressed in terms of speed, quantity, time, or a combination of these factors. Middle managers are in the best position to recognize and resolve problems that limit throughput. The most common problems that reduce throughput are:

Problem 1:Bottlenecks. A bottleneck is a point of congestion that reduces the flow of work and hinders progress and productivity. There can be several bottlenecks occurring at the same time.

Problem 2:Constraints. A constraint is the bottleneck that has the most impact on overall throughput and results. A constraint can be a person, system, process, step, piece of machinery, or computer function.

Problem 3:Slow Process Connections. Sometimes the connections between resources affect throughput more than the steps of the process itself. This is especially a problem with work processes that rely on two or more handoffs between people in the same or different departments.

Problem 4:Lengthy or Complicated Critical Paths. Dependencies among steps slow processes. A critical path shows middle managers which interdependencies are affecting the overall throughput rate.

Problem 5:Skill Deficiencies. One common reason for slower throughput of work assignments and projects is a middle manager’s inability to plan, monitor, and assign work. Other skill shortages also get in the way of throughput. Middle managers who have not developed their abilities to partner, manage performance, set goals, or coach others will also suffer from lower throughput.

Problem 6:Breakdowns. Breakdowns are symptoms of process failures. People can also be the cause of breakdowns. Personal illnesses, vacations, and other situations that cause a person to stop working on a task could be considered breakdowns.

Problem 7:Errors. Errors are mistakes that lead to other additional work or cause work to have to be reworked.

Problem 8:Waste. Waste, as it relates to throughput, is work that is substandard or not usable – or work that, though satisfactory, is not used. An example of waste would be when an employee copies and then distributes reports that few people read.

Problem 9:Changes. Changes affect throughput in a variety of ways. When changes occur, error rates and waste may also increase; many changes can result in temporary skill deficiencies and workplace slowdowns.

Problem 10:Employee Turnover. Employee turnover results in skills deficiencies, higher error rates, slower work pace, breakdowns, and waste.

Problem 11:Inadequate Worker Training. When changes are made, workers need to be retrained. If they do not have the right training, they cannot do their best work.

Solving Throughput Problems

Haneberg offers several solutions for solving throughput problems.

Solution 1:Distinguish Constraints from Bottlenecks. Middle managers may waste time removing bottlenecks that are not constraints. Individuals who seek to optimize their part of a process without looking at the whole picture are most likely to face this problem. Distinguishing constraints from bottlenecks and focusing on constraint performance will ensure that time and resources have the highest benefit.

Solution 2:Reduce the Impact of Constraints. Once managers identify constraints, they can work to improve or supplement the constraint’s performance. This is often the most valuable work that a middle manager can do. When dealing with constraints, managers should consider using these steps:

* Test to confirm that the constraint has been properly identified.

* Determine the potential capacity of the constraint. The constraint capacity is the amount of work related to a particular process that can possibly be done under the best of circumstances.

* Identify ways to improve capacity.

* Seek out additional resources to help lessen the constraint.

* Optimize the efficiency of the constraint through better setups and handoffs.

Solution 3:Reduce Bottlenecks When Necessary. Managers must also address bottlenecks that are likely to become the next constraint. They may also want to reduce bottlenecks as a part of an overall process redesign or optimization. To reduce bottlenecks, managers can take steps similar to addressing constraints:

* Test to ensure that improving the bottleneck will improve results.

* Determine the bottleneck’s capacity. How much high-quality work can this resource complete? Can this resource produce more?

* Identify ways to improve capacity.

* Identify additional resources to decrease the effect of the bottleneck.

* Optimize the efficiency of the bottleneck through better setups and handoffs.

Solution 4:Shorten Critical Paths. Many throughput problems occur because the process or project design does not support the needed pace of throughput. Middle managers often underestimate the time needed to get through the various parts of a process, or critical path. Managers can take the following steps when dealing with critical paths:

* Ensure that the critical path is accurate and complete; beware of hidden steps or delays.

* Test assumptions about each step on the critical path.

* Identify ways to shorten each step on the critical path.

* Identify ways to shorten handoff times.

* Reduce unnecessary steps.

* Determine methods for doing more work concurrently, but ensure that doing so will improve throughput.

Solution 5:Improve Skills. Training and development are useful managerial tools for improving throughput. Managers should objectively determine the skills required of themselves and their team, identify teaching resources, and establish learning follow-up and reinforcement.

Solution 6:Deal with Other Barriers to Throughput. Barriers to throughput regularly challenge middle managers. Managers can obliterate barriers by diagnosing the root cause of problems affecting throughput, and addressing patterns, themes, and recurring barriers.