Yearly Archives: 2015

What Yogi Berra Taught Us about Making Tough Decisions

imagesThe world recently bid farewell to a man of great character. As an immigrant’s son who dropped out of school before completing the eighth grade, Yogi Berra succeeded in life because he pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, and made a man out of himself. As a three-time MVP and Hall of Famer for the New York Yankees, Yogi handled the pressure of multiple World Series’, oversaw the success of a phenomenal Yankee pitching staff, and managed to remain married to his beautiful wife for 52 years. He was a man’s man who knew how to make tough decisions when called upon.

As in baseball, so it is in life. Decisions that you, as a leader, are called to make on a daily basis could make the difference between winning or losing. Yogi chose to win in life, and he did it by applying the following principles:

Trust your instincts. Oftentimes, when faced with a choice, people straddle the fence, making no decision at all. Strong leaders must not be afraid of making wrong decisions, which is why Yogi once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” He wasn’t simply trying to draw a chuckle with this statement; he was stating that strong leaders are often called upon to draw their line in the sand, make the best decision they can, and stick by it.
Surround yourself with people you can trust. Just like Yogi depended on his base coaches, his bench coaches, and the rest of his team, a great leader requires support. Great teams don’t happen by accident, but are developed over time.
Want to learn more about winning in your career and leading in life? Contact us today!

How Millennials are Changing the Wine Industry

Article from Wine Industry Advisor

While the precise dates governing the birth years for the biggest generation in history known as millennials vary, (somewhere between 1976 and 2004), there is no dispute that they love their wine. The first segment of this group hit legal drinking age in the early 2000s, as U.S. wine consumption surged. It has increased at a steady rate ever since. Millennials are responsible for nearly 27 percent of the total U.S. wine consumption, second only to baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) who account for nearly 42 percent.

Approximately 70 million millennials are currently age 21 and account for 30 percent of weekly wine drinkers. As the number of aging, wine-drinking boomers decreases, the millennial generation is stepping in to fill the wine buying slack — and marketers and industry experts can’t help but notice. This generation’s whole approach to wine is vastly different from those who have come before them.

Millennials are the first digital generation, and their technological fluency shapes their buying decisions. They
have grown up with instant, on-demand access to information, price comparisons and peer reviews. They don’t wait for a special occasion to drink wine, nor do they stash wine in a cellar for a decade like their boomer parents. Wine is used to relax, to socialize with friends or family, with or without meals, while cooking, while hiking, during wine tasting parties, and on vacations. A 2011 study of 467 millennials by the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University showed that this generation drinks wine as part of their informal, everyday life, and therefore in larger quantities than previous generations. The study suggested that “ by linking into these motivations of socialization, relaxation, and fun regarding wine, marketers will be able to relate better to Millennial desires.”

Millennials are not fans of slick advertising or pretentiousness, and want authenticity and transparency from winemakers. They want to know the unique story behind their wine, how it is grown, blended, and by whom. Critics’ scores and gold medals hold little weight for them; instead they’ll value what their friends are saying about the wine on social media.

These wine lovers are experimental and they crave adventure. Traditional wine and food pairing rules don’t concern them. The per bottle maximum they pay for a celebratory quaff hovers around $20, but the daily drinking comfort zone is closer to $10. Millennials are active and they want their wine to be just as mobile and portable. This marketing shift is a challenge that the wine industry appears to be excited to tackle.

Companies are increasingly allocating more of their marketing dollars to social media advertising, and interactive online marketing strategies. Wineries have created digital marketing divisions and director of social media positions. They maintain active and engaged roles on Facebook, throw Twitter parties, curate wine blogs, and produce tasting videos to keep the wine chat flowing 24/7. Wine apps allow users to shoot a photo of a wine label and immediately access descriptions and ratings, adding their own tasting notes to the database. The Wall Street Journal noted that when it comes to wine apps, “Sometimes it seems as if there are almost as many wine apps as there are wines.”

Millennials value the connectivity and networking benefits of in-person social settings — wine bars and festivals are thriving, and tasting groups are forming. Producers such as Gallo, owner of Barefoot Wines, sponsor face-to-face events, like the World Series of Beach Volleyball. Stephanie Gallo, VP of Marketing, draws her inspiration from Starbucks, “which brought a premium product — gourmet coffee — into the mass market.”

The yearning for authenticity and the desire to know where and how the products they eat and drink are sourced has spilled into wine packaging. Millennials value eco-conscious products, and alternative packaging is evolving to comply. The proliferation of premium-boxed wines that use recyclable materials is illustrative of just that.

The wine company Bota uses soy-based inks printed on recycled, unbleached Kraft paper, bound with cornstarch instead of glue. Many box wine producers use organic grapes from sustainable, fair practice farms in California, Washington and Italy. To quench the millennial thirst for information, producers are including more product information on packaging as well.

Several companies now offer single-serving wine pouches. All this experimentation pays off for wineries because approximately 85 percent of millennials are willing to purchase an unfamiliar brand, according to the Wine Market Council. Just as long as that brand offers them sufficient information, authenticity, convenience, and eco-friendly, portable adventure.

The Core Beliefs of the Delightfully Successful


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Last year I listed some simple daily habits of the delightfully successful. Revisiting that article made me think. Success is based on action, but actions are the result of beliefs – so what do the delightfully successful people I know almost all believe?

1. They believe they don’t have to wait to be “selected.” They can simply select themselves.  Once upon a time most people had to wait: to be accepted, to get funded, to be promoted – to somehow be “discovered.”

Not anymore. Access is nearly unlimited; social media allows you to reach out to almost anyone. (Whether or not you actually connect is up to you and how you craft your approach.) Anyone can publish their own work, distribute their own music, create their own products, and attract their own customers.

You can do almost anything you have the desire and skills and drive to do; you don’t need to wait for someone else to discover your talents. You get to discover yourself. The only thing holding you back is your willingness to take the leap and try.

2. They believe being the first matters less than being the best.

Success is often the result of perseverance. When the first person to the game stops trying, stops striving, or starts compromising their principles and values, the person who relentlessly seeks perfection is the person who wins. Other people may be smarter, better connected, more talented, or better funded. But they can’t win if they stop trying.

Don’t worry about being the first one in. Focus on being the best one still in the game.

3. They believe success seems predictable only in hindsight.

Read all the stories of successful entrepreneurs and it’s easy to think those people have some intangible entrepreneurial something: some talent, or skill, or idea, or level of creativity that you don’t have. (Or maybe they were just born lucky?)

They don’t. Success is never inevitable. It’s easy to look back on an entrepreneurial path to greatness and assume that every vision was clear, every plan was perfect, every step was executed flawlessly, and tremendous success was a foregone conclusion. Incredible success only seems inevitable once incredible success has been achieved.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.” ~Steve Jobs

Success is never assured. Success is never predestined. If you’re willing to work hard and persevere, who you are is sufficient – because when you work hard and persevere, who you become is definitely more than enough to do something significant.

4. They believe personal success comes from service, not selfishness.

I don’t know anyone who has accomplished something amazing on his or her own. Great leaders focus on providing the tools and training to help their team do their jobs and achieve their goals. Great consultants put their clients’ needs first. Great businesses go out of their way to help and serve their customers by solving for the customer.

And by so doing they also reap the rewards.

Your odds of success are proportional to the number of people that want you to succeed.

When you’re in it only for yourself, initial success is always finite — and fleeting. When you’re in it for others, they succeed – and so do you.

5. They believe in doing a few things no one else is willing to do.

Only do what the crowd does and your career success will be no greater than the average of the crowd.

Every time you do something, think of a few extra things you can do that others aren’t willing to do. A little more research. Another look at something others have ignored. Another shot at salvaging a failed customer relationship. One more call, one more email, one more attempt to connect and build a relationship.

“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.” ~Zig Ziglar

The best opportunities often lie waiting in fields other people can’t be bothered to cultivate. Find those fields and start cultivating.

6. They believe that the depth of their network is more important than the breadth

The downside of the ease of social media is that building a network can become a numbers game. Few people need numbers. Every person needs real connections: people they can help, people they can trust, people whom they care about and who care about them.
Forget amassing a huge network. Reach out to the people whom you really want to be part of your professional life for a long time.

7. They believe ideas are important… but execution is everything.

Ideas are not a product. There are notebooks, binders and computer files filled with ideas and high level plans that were never implemented.

Have an idea? Great. Craft a strategy. Set up a basic plan to implement it. Then execute, adapt, execute, adapt, and build something useful that wort of works. Success doesn’t come from ideas. Success comes from executing ideas.

8. They believe leadership is earned, not given.

Leaders don’t just bring in venture capital or negotiate a big customer contract. While certainly examples of leadership, those actions typically indicate a kind of leadership that is situational and short-lived.

Real leadership involves people. Real leaders consistently inspire, motivate, and make their employees feel capable and skilled and respected. Real leaders are the kind of people their employees follow not because they have to but because they want to.

How? They make people feel they aren’t following – they’re on a journey together. And that means their team has given them the permission to lead, a permission they’ve earned over time.

9. They believe in paying it forward.

Ever heard a colleague say, “I would be willing to work harder if I got a raise”? Or, “We would do a better job if the customer paid us more”? Or, “I would be willing to make a bigger sacrifice if I knew it would pay off”?

Successful people don’t wait to get a raise; they work hard to earn a raise. Successful businesses don’t wait for higher prices to deliver greater value; they deliver greater value to earn higher prices. Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for a payoff to give their all to a startup; they give their all so they can earn a decent payoff.

It is common for people expect to be compensated more before they will consider doing more. Successful people see compensation as a reward for exceptional effort, not the driver.

10. They believe they will make their own history. 

Few people summit the Mount Everest of career success. Few people become household names.    But think about the past 20 years. Technologies, industries, and ways of doing business that were once science fiction are now commonplace.

The next 10 to 20 years will be no different. We can all be a part of whatever the next waves might be. We can all make a change in our industries. We can all make a change in our professions.

We can all stand at the forefront of a minor or major change, even if only in our niches or communities. When we’re willing to try something new, someday we will look back with pride on the part we played in history. Someday we will look back in pride on the part we played in making life a little better for others.

And isn’t that the best kind of success? The delightful kind?

Are you a Social Chameleon? The Risk of Faking Authenticity

by Kathy Finnerty Thomas

There is a great line from the movie Into the Woods spoken by Prince Charming – “Hey my mother raised me to be charming, not sincere.” And that is how some choose to live their lives.

Authenticity has become the gold standard for leadership (Harvard Business Review). Authenticity is just that –to be authentic. Authenticity is defined as true and accurate, real and genuine. And yet there are those who choose to mask their insecurities and vulnerabilities with charm, always putting “the sale” before all else; whether the sale is an actual product or service or selling themselves.   It often seems to be the ones who say “Trust me” and preach about how authentic they are, that turn out to be the ones most lacking in true authenticity.

The Growth of Authenticity as a Leadership Principle…Trust and authenticity are intricately woven together.  As a leadership virtue, authenticity has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years for a variety of reasons- Multiple scandals and distrust of companies and management making employees and shareholders suspicious, syndical and skeptical.  In 2012, trust in business leaders fell to an all-time low (Edelman Trust Barometer).  A lack of authenticity, trust and transparency led to a huge mistrust of the American Banking System and many financial insitutions following the financial crisis.

Employee engagement or those who are psychologically committed at work, has also reach a low point. In a worldwide Gallup poll only 13% of employees were engaged at work and the greatest reason for changing jobs was a result of mistrust, misalignment of values, frustration and burnout. The growth of authenticity has developed from this lack of confidence by the public and low employee morale.

When leaders lead with true authenticity their words and actions match. They are truthful and honest and open and they inspire their employees to a higher commitment and extraordinary efforts. It is no wonder that companies are now focusing on the importance of this trait. It doesn’t require that a leader bares their soul and details all their weaknesses, vulnerabilities and insecurities. However it does require a confidence in their own strengths and the ability to acknowledge that these exist. Some of the best leaders openly acknowledge that they don’t know everything and respectfully lead those who bring strengths lacking in themselves.

Richard Branson openly acknowledges his dyslexia. Openly admitting weakness is both liberating and draws people to great leaders.   Great leaders are not afraid to hire people who are smarter than they are.

The Social Chameleon…However many business leaders and politicians have been driven to become chameleons to cover their vulnerabilities and insecurities. Because of this flexibility they often rise rapidly in organizations and this plays best to the skill of the social chameleon. However, they often talk a great deal about authenticity and its importance while they fake. This type of person needs to move rapidly in an organization before this inauthentic behavior is discovered. Some are incredibly skilled at this technique and lead others to believe they are truly authentic. However, molding yourself to please everyone, can create problems of its own leading to the disintegration of this authentic perception.

Those who always try “to be the right person in the right place at the right time,” according to Mark Snyder, a social psychologiest at the University of Minnesota, became extraordinarily attuned to the ways others react to them. They continually monitor their social performance, skillfully adjusting it when they detect that they are not having the desired effect.”   (

The challenge for those choosing to fake authenticity while also attempting to say and do whatever is necessary to please everyone is that our brains give more credence to body language and actions than they do to words. When the words and body language don’t match, audiences believe the visual clues and distrust the words.

This chameleon approach to pleasing others and constantly working to make a good impression by changing oneself into what others want to see and believe can spill over into personal relationships as well with less stable and satisfying friendships and relationships. Long term friendships become much more difficult to maintain when they lack authenticity. The chameleon in some cases has lost sight of who they truly are at their core rendering them incapable of a true and honest relationship at work or personally.

Once a lack of authenticity is perceived it can color everything that has been said leading up to that discovery. Using words that belie their meaning just to please or impress leads to mistrust of anything that is said before or after resulting in a loss of employee morale, distrust by customers, a loss of votes for politicians and a damage to personal relationships.

In politics we have seen examples of this in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign when she described her flight into Bosnia and the danger she experienced only to have photographs from that day exposed revealing her lie. We also saw the same with Mitt Romney during debates where his lack of authenticity was revealed in both body language and impromptu comments that contradicted his intended message.

Can trust be rebuilt?

So if you have lost credibility by faking authenticity, can it be rebuilt? Can confidence be regained once it is lost through the lack of authenticity? Trust, once lost, can often never be fully regained. In many cases it does depend upon the extent of the damage. It also is dependent in many cases on the amount of knowledge others have about the person. For example, if you know a person well or for a long time, small occurrences of in-authenticity are overlooked. However, if there is not a strong relationship or a lack of knowledge, one occurrence can cause others to assume that everything that person has said is untrue or said only to impress or flatter or mislead. We have seen this often in the political arena where a politician rises rapidly in popularity, only drop off the charts in a few weeks.

I believe it can be rebuilt but regaining trust is never easy. The leader has to own their mistakes which may be the hardest step of all for the chameleon and an impediment that prevents many from attempting to restore trust. The value of the relationship often determines the willingness to commit to such a task. Personally accountability backed with consistent and trustworthy actions are critical. Trust can only be restored over time and it doesn’t happen overnight.

In business, in politics and in our personal relationships, it is a choice to act in an authentic way or to choose the path of the chameleon. However, there are many benefits for those that choose to be authentic.

True effective leadership requires authenticity and trust. It leads to success through employee commitment and engagement in addition to strong customer loyalty. These are the initial building blocks to great organizations and are critical to the successful implementation of a true vision and values based culture. Article at LinkedIn.

Managers Can Motivate Employees with One Word

by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Human beings are profoundly social — we are hardwired to connect to one another and to want to work together. Frankly, we would never have survived as a species without our instinctive desire to live and work in groups, because physically we are just not strong or scary enough.

Tons of research has documented how important being social is to us. For instance, as neuroscientist Matt Lieberman describes in his book, Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, our brains are so attuned to our relationships with other people that they quite literally treat social successes and failures like physical pleasures and pains. Being rejected, for instance, registers as a “hurt” in much the same way that a blow to the head might — so much so that if you take an aspirin you’ll actually feel better about your breakup.

David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, has identified relatedness — feelings of trust, connection, and belonging—as one of the five primary categories of social pleasures and pains (along with status, certainty, autonomy, and fairness). Rock’s research shows that the performance and engagement of employees who experience relatedness threats or failures will almost certainly suffer. And in other research, the feeling of working together has indeed been shown to predict greater motivation, particularly intrinsic motivation, that magical elixir of interest, enjoyment, and engagement that brings with it the very best performance.

Theoretically, the modern workplace should be bursting with relatedness. Not unlike our hunter-gatherer ancestors, most of us are on teams. And teams ought to be a bountiful source of “relatedness” rewards.

But here’s the irony: While we may have team goals and team meetings and be judged according to our team performance, very few of us actually do our work in teams. Take me, for example: I conduct all the research I do with a team of other researchers. I regularly coauthor articles and books. My collaborators and I regularly meet to discuss ideas and to make plans. But I have never analyzed data with a collaborator sitting next to me, or run a participant through an experiment with another researcher at my side—and my coauthors and I have never ever typed sentences in the same room. Yes, many of the goals we pursue and projects we complete are done in teams, but unlike those bands of prehistoric humans banding together to take down a woolly mammoth, most of the work we do today still gets done alone.

So that, in a nutshell, is the weird thing about teams: They are the greatest (potential) source of connection and belonging in the workplace, and yet teamwork is some of the loneliest work that you’ll ever do.

So what we need is a way to give employees the feeling of working as a team, even when they technically aren’t. And thanks to new research by Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton of Stanford University, we now know one powerful way to do this: simply saying the word “together.”

In Carr and Walton’s studies, participants first met in small groups, and then separated to work on difficult puzzles on their own. People in the psychologically together category were told that they would be working on their task “together” even though they would be in separate rooms, and would either write or receive a tip from a team member to help them solve the puzzle later on. In the psychologically alone category, there was no mention of being “together,” and the tip they would write or receive would come from the researchers. All the participants were in fact working alone on the puzzles. The only real difference was the feeling that being told they were working “together” might create.
The effects of this small manipulation were profound: participants in the psychologically togethercategory worked 48% longer, solved more problems correctly, and had better recall for what they had seen. They also said that they felt less tired and depleted by the task. They also reported finding the puzzle more interesting when working together, and persisted longer because of this intrinsic motivation (rather than out of a sense of obligation to the team, which would be an extrinsic motivation).

The word “together” is a powerful social cue to the brain.  In and of itself, it seems to serve as a kind of relatedness reward, signaling that you belong, that you are connected, and that there are people you can trust working with you toward the same goal.

Executives and managers would be wise to make use of this word with far greater frequency. In fact, don’t let a communication opportunity go by without using it.  I’m serious.  Let “together” be a constant reminder to your employees that they are not alone, helping them to motivate them to perform their very best.

Best Practices for Seeking and Giving Advice

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Stage 1: Finding the right fit.
Each request for advice is unique, reflecting a distinctive combination of circumstances, personalities, and events. But because time is often of the essence, you won’t want to search anew for potential advisers in every situation. Put together a personal “board” in advance, including people you value not only for their judgment and their ability to keep confidences but also for their diverse strengths, experiences, and points of view. All of them should have your best interests at heart and a track record of being really willing to tell you what you don’t want to hear. Try to find at least one person you can turn to in a variety of situations, because that adviser will develop a multifaceted sense of the problems you face and your natural proclivities and biases.

Stage 2: Developing a shared understanding.
At this stage your primary goal as an advice seeker is to convey just enough information for your adviser to grasp the problem you face, why it poses a challenge, and where you hope to end up. That will allow her to offer informed, unbiased recommendations without getting lost in the weeds. So ground your narrative with telling details and provide context—but avoid taking her on a lengthy tour of antecedents, diverse interpretations, and potential consequences. Otherwise you may distract her from the central issues or lose her interest.

In the telling, you may need to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about your behavior or weaknesses. Your discomfort with revealing certain information may actually signal its importance to fleshing out the story. An adviser can be only as good as the personal and organizational portrait she has to work with, so share all key details—even those that are unflattering or difficult to discuss. It will help her get past your biases and blind spots.

Stage 3: Crafting alternatives.
Because decision making improves dramatically when diverse options are available, seekers and advisers should work together to come up with more than one possibility. Even go/no-go decisions yield improved results when nuanced alternatives are described and considered.

If you’re the adviser, think of yourself as a driving instructor. While you provide oversight and guidance, your ultimate goal is to empower the seeker to act independently. Our interviewees were unanimous in saying, essentially, “It’s the seeker’s job to find the path forward.” You can never fully step into the advisee’s shoes, and it is important to acknowledge that clearly. As you’re helping her generate viable choices, spell out the thinking behind each possibility. Describe the principles that are shaping your advice, along with any experiences you are bringing to bear or using as analogies. Articulating your thought process—and your possible biases—can help both you and the seeker determine how well your reasoning and perspective fit the situation. If you are senior to the seeker, you can shrink the power difference and increase the likelihood that your advice will be useful by explicitly asking what doesn’t seem quite right.

Stage 4: Converging on a decision.
When it’s time to narrow down options and choose a course of action, seekers often fall prey to confirmation bias, picking the “easy way out,” or other forms of flawed reasoning. So test your thinking by reviewing discarded or briefly considered options and by asking your adviser to play devil’s advocate. And don’t hesitate to solicit a second or third opinion at this stage—particularly if you remain uncertain. This can offset any biases or conflicts of interest your adviser may have. Experimental evidence suggests that two opinions are generally enough to yield most of the benefits of having multiple advisers. But for complex, ambiguous, highly visible, or contested problems, or when implementation is likely to be complicated, a few additional points of view are often helpful.

Stage 5: Putting advice into action.
As a seeker, you’ll need to act on the advice you’ve received and make real-time adjustments. Advice is best treated as provisional and contingent: It should be a cycle of guidance, action, learning, and further guidance—not a fixed path forward. Especially if the advisory process has occurred over an extended period, circumstances may have changed by the time you are ready to act.

So follow up for further advice if needed. You may benefit from multiple meetings, especially if you have gleaned new information from your first steps forward or have a series of decisions to make. It’s also considerate and helpful to let your adviser know what you’ve done and how it’s working out. It’s a way of expressing your gratitude, strengthening the relationship, and helping the adviser learn as well.

Overall, our guidelines for both seekers and advisers amount to a fundamental shift in approach. Although people typically focus on the content of advice, those who are most skilled attend just as much to how they advise as to what they advise. It’s a mistake to think of advice as a one-and-done transaction. Skilled advising is more than the dispensing and accepting of wisdom; it’s a creative, collaborative process—a matter of striving, on both sides, to better understand problems and craft promising paths forward. And that often requires an ongoing conversation.