Throughout history, important agreements were solidified over peace pipes, at village feasts, royal weddings and so forth.
Today, entrepreneurs pitch business plans at coffee shops, businesses form partnerships on golf courses, or secure large contracts at dinners over wine. We as humans instinctly react favorably to “festive”, “fun”, “out-of-the-norm” environments. They put us in better more agreeable moods, which help when trying to move business relationships forward.
Obviously, the environment needs to fit the situation. For example, what might be a good setting for romance probably is not necessarily so for business. There are some simple truths to ensuring the right atmosphere for the after hour “business meeting”. As a person who has been involved in many company transactions, as well as high-stakes sales negotiations, here is my guideline such a gathering.
- Authenticity – Never try to portray a personalty that is not real. Why would anyone have the trust to do business with you if they think you are not being real? So, if you are a young entreprenuer on a college-type of a budget, don’t book a room at the swankiest private clubs.
- Graciousness – Remember you are the host, and with it comes a lot of responsibilities. Above all else, including your business objective for the meeting/evening, be the gracious host.
- Out of the Box – People get in a rut in their daily routine, but in a celebratory evening, they are ususally more willing to do something “out of the norm”. Be creative in planning the event (venue, food, activities). Shake things up, but always in good taste.
- Good Food – Throughout history, people have worked hard hunting or farming and then have used the celebratory feast afterwards as a time of enjoyment and bonding. We’re basically the same today. Make sure that the quality of food is a center piece. Get people passionate about the food.
- Complimentary Drinks – When appropriate and possible, match different drinks with the different courses, including dessert. The Europeans are great at enjoying such pairings and they really enhance the conversations and offer better opportunities for bonding.
- Relevance – Be clear about the business at hand and get clarity when needed, but timing and relevance of your points are very, very imporant. Your points should be in the context of the conversations.
- Have Fun, Be Passionate – Hey, you can’t fake this stuff. Either you are having fun and loving what you are doing or you are not. Your energy will affect the vibe of the evening one way or another. Sometimes, I even engage strangers with high energy into our conversations to just up the mood.
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Ask a successful leader about factors to his success, and “his team” will always be high on the list — guaranteed.
If only it was as simple as that. Of course, a leader wants a great team, but many in power are poor at selecting the right individuals for a team and/or are horrible at building smart cohesion and teamwork. Too often we select like-minded people rather than complimentary skills. They strive for quick consensus and non-confrontational environments, which are not necessarily traits of a good team.
Other times leaders promote strictly based on domain expertise. Does a “rain maker” salesman always make a super sales manager? Does a super software developer really always know how to build a great team of developers? In resumes we stress domain expertise, not true leadership or “latent” skills.
Effective leaders know how to pick team members that compliments each other. Initially these people may not get along or see eye-to-eye. It is then that the leader really needs to build a foundation for the team on trust, productive conflict, commitment, accountability and results. And to make sure that the vision is clear and understood.
Here’s a great tweet by Jeff Raikes (CEO of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) about how a good functional team should work.
A leader who has a great team around him has picked the right people AND has worked hard at building the right team foundation. Then, as a successful leader you can honestly thank your team.
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Change may come at different spurts, but it is ever present in business and personal life. You can count on it. Yet, there are those who resist it and are uncomfortable with the uncertainty of change. Others welcome change as exciting challenges and great opportunities.
A fully-functional organization requires both perspectives to varying degrees. Those who protect against whimsical ideas and put efficiency into proven processes help an organization become more scalable and efficient. Meanwhile as markets change an organization needs those who are forward thinking and optimistic about a new future. These people can put together strategies that take advantage of the changing environments.
Today, I think the ability to adapt to change is more important than ever. The culture you nurture must be around flexibility and change regardless of how large or small the organization. If Dell, and even Microsoft, do not change their business strategies to somehow compliment the consumer adoption of tablets, they could become irrelevant. Many traditional market research companies still haven’t incorporated social media data into their solutions in a meaningful way. That will reshuffle the current hierarchy of that industry. These types of examples are abundant, including around music, movie, or news content industries.
At Alterian Social, we have an Innovation Team that looks at trends and potential opportunities for “disruption”. We want to be as opportunistic as possible within the changing environment. You as an individual, whether working for an established organization or as a budding entrepreneur, need to understand that today offers more opportunities than ever. The rapid pace of change in the current environment is a great equalizer against more established organizations.
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While details of the sexual molestation scandal at Penn State continue to come out, people are polarized on the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno.
While there will be no criminal charges brought against Paterno because he reported one of the incidents that came to his attention to his superiors, many believe he should have done more. No doubt many within the Penn State football program knew that assistant coach Sandusky was a sexual predator of young boys. There were too many recurring incidents throughout the years. Yet, no one called the authorities for years. In fact, it took a brave young victim alerting authorities for the story to unfold publicly.
This makes me think about accountable leadership. The pervasive culture around Penn State football was the responsibility of the program leaders. The fact that people thought the protection of the reputation of the lucrative football program was more important than protecting children against continued molestation is an indictment of the people in power. Joe Paterno and other adult leaders are indeed accountable.
Those of us who are in positions of power are responsible for the work cultures we create. Be careful about how we message and how we lead. It is an extra burden that we bear as leaders. Make sure proper accountability is assigned throughout your organization all the way up to yourselves. That means
creating an environment where people feel safe enough to raise issues that are against the principles of the culture at all times.
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A friend from Paris told me that life is but a series of meaningful memories, as we sipped wine in a swanky bar in Saint Germain, Paris’ left bank.
Amid a stylish, handsome crowd, I enjoyed our continued conversation. I was in France celebrating my 25th anniversary with my wife. We’ve built quite a few memories together. Those memories are indeed a huge part of what bonds us today. But we also are both forward-looking enough to know many more lay ahead. That anticipation may perhaps be even more bonding for us moving forward.
If one really believes life is just a string of memories we make, then remembering the past is important but not enough. Life is a continuum and we need to really appreciate the present and the memories being formed today as well. My trip to France was made so much more memorable because close friends and family members joined us.
We had amazing foods, saw phenomenal sights and laughed together until our stomachs ached. We were in the memories of the moment. Shari and I decided to put a love lock celebrating our anniversary on the Pont des Arts, a footbridge crossing the Seine from the Louvre.
Couples have long puts love locks on this bridge as a symbol of their binding love. There is also another bridge more crowded with love locks but mostly for ‘lovers’ enjoying secret liaisons. Got to love the French.
Shari and I along with our friends went to the more appropriate bridge on a glorious, crisp Paris night. With the bright and romantic lights of the city shining upon us, we ceremoniously put our love lock on the bridge. We made yet another memory and enjoyed the magic of that moment with those dear to us. Those are the memories that make life rich. Now, I can’t wait for the next great memory ahead, just as life should be — a string of memories that we create.
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Having worked with the British most of my career, I could have used this translation guide a lot sooner. The confusion across the channel is just the same across the Atlantic. In conclusion, it seems that I’ve been always overly optimistic working with the British (haha).
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