Two weeks ago we posted the first part of a conversation with Bud Boughton in which we explored why so many leaders fail to take action. In Bud's mind, this is most often attributable to a fear of failure.

This week, we share excerpts in which Bud offers his opinion on what leaders can do to ensure that they cultivate an environment that embraces taking measured risks.

How can leaders get over their fear of failing and take action?

Maybe everybody doesn't have it, but I think it comes down to finding the entrepreneurial spirit deep inside of you that says, "We need to believe in what we're doing." Think of Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks. If he walked into his parents' living room and said, "I'm going to start a coffee shop chain that sells drinks for $4.25", his parents would have thought he was crazy! The same is true of Frederick Smith, the founder of FedEx. Who would have ever thought that you could put together an overnight package delivery service that would literally have 747s flying all over the world, pulling into depots where packages would be unloaded and rerouted onto other planes... and it would only cost customers $23? In both cases, and in the case of the most successful business models, the founders were not only willing to think outside of the box, but they so firmly believed in their vision that they could set any fear aside and take action.

It's probably easier for a fledgling company to embrace this spirit. But what about mature companies – you can even point to the modern-day versions of Starbucks and FedEx. How can leaders in these businesses engender a culture that isn't imprisoned by 'the box'?

That's a great point. Interestingly, in the case of Starbucks, they realized in the last few years that they had grown too fast and made some bad decisions. So they adjusted back and closed a number of Starbucks worldwide. About a year ago, they even went so far as to close every US location for one day to regroup with all employees and discuss how they would move forward. Think about that – that's unheard of! But you know what? Someone saw the need to do something very, very different, so they did it, and now Starbucks has turned their situation around.

Where does the creativity required to make these changes come from within an organization?

I think it comes from anyone. There's tremendous value in getting cross pollination between the different generational groups, such as matures, baby boomers, Gen X's and Gen Y's. There are big cultural differences between each, but in the workplace, we have to get them working together. The young people need to sit down with the older people, and those older people need to let themselves be educated about the Gen Y's. Ask the Gen Y's, "If we were to come up with a new service, what would you suggest and how would we do it?" For example, I can tell you that many of the innovations in Internet banking weren't thought of by 60 year-olds. They were probably younger people who said, "Why should I have to go to the bank? I should be able to do any of this from my computer or cellphone!"

It's an all-hands-on-deck mentality. And what better way for people in leadership roles to rally their troops than to invite their ideas and their participation?

I believe that every day is filled with opportunities to learn new things. People should always look to be students, to adopt an attitude in which they're willing to change and learn new things: it keeps you fresh, thinking younger, more productive and more successful. But some people aren't comfortable with doing that. They're either intimidated by it or they're fearful that they'll be judged if they fail. It's very real. I think you need to take advantage of all of the brain cells that are out there. Put everyone in the same room and say, "We all live in the same world, how do we do things better?"

I'm not the first person to say this, but senior managers have to get out of their office and walk the floor more. At one of my prior jobs, our chairman had practically isolated himself with a corner office and a private parking spot; he had no exposure to people. So I suggested to him that he should personally distribute pay checks once a month throughout the whole building so he could thank people, shake their hands, ask how they were doing and get their opinion on what the company could be doing better. Those are the people who understand the situation the best because they're closest to the customer, they're closest to product development issues, they're closest to everything. So many senior managers fail because they're so busy with their discussions about strategy and numbers that they forget that the nature of the business is how to deliver the product or service better and produce more satisfied customers. And sometimes to get inspiration to achieve these ends, it means you have to walk the floor and talk to people.

A huge thank you to Bud for taking some time to offer his thoughts on these topics – we hope you found it as interesting as we did! If you have any thoughts to add, feel free to share in the comments below.


Author of two books and numerous articles, Bud Boughton is a former senior executive and thought leader who as a sales coach and leadership development consultant is wired to do one thing – improve performance. A former college football coach who has sold for three Fortune 500 companies and was an officer of a publicly traded company, he brings a wide range of experience to his clients. An outstanding professional speaker, go to for more information.

Posted: 8/16/2011 2:19:57 PM by Andy Klein | with 1 comments
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I recently came across a survey, Managing Reward Risks: An Integrated Approach, which has found that there is growing unease amongst HR professionals in the UK regarding how their organizations reward employees. Says Charles Cotton, performance and reward adviser of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD): "The past 12 months have been a turbulent time for many employers in terms of pay and benefits practice. They are fearful that the way that reward helps them attract, retain and motivate their employees is no longer appropriate."

Reading this study, I couldn't help but think of what Steve Brown wrote about motivating employees in his management classic 13 Fatal Errors Managers Make: "In all of industrial history, we have developed only three approaches for getting employees to produce more. Every motivational scheme falls into one of these three broader categories: fear, rewards and belief building."

Drawing on the management experience of hundreds of thousands of client managers, Steve finishes this proposition by advocating only one of the three tactics, but before I get to that, an anecdote on managing with fear:

A past client (let's call him Sam) once told us about a trainer he brought in to work with his team. This was several decades earlier – an era with a very different workplace culture. Working with the entire team on the very first day, the trainer asked Sam how he would confront a poorly performing employee. Sam started to give what he felt was a reasonable response: "Well, I'd pull them aside and try to find out..."

With Sam in the middle of his thought, and without any warning, the trainer leaned over the table, grabbed Sam by the scruff of his shirt, pulled him across the table, threw him to the floor and said, "That's how you confront!"

Clearly this was a different age, to be sure. But now or then, I think you can guess whether or not we'd recommend this form of motivation!

Putting fear aside, of the other two motivational approaches to growing employee engagement and productivity that Steve identified – rewards and belief building – Steve continues the proposition cited above by promoting the latter, saying, "Only belief building will give you long-term productivity."

On the face of it, rewards are an enticing tactic to further motivate your employees. As evidenced in a recent L.E.A.D survey by Leadership Management Australasia, the number one characteristic for an 'employer of choice' was that they recognize and reward staff well! But they're also an easy way out, too often a band-aid that buys your organization only short-term results, measured literally in weeks. So to those HR professionals reading CIPD's study, we recommend that you spend less time thinking about rewards and devote more time to whether or not your managers at all levels are equipped to build belief amongst your employees. Belief in the organization, belief in what it can do for its customers and shareholders and belief in themselves and the contribution they make.

Posted: 9/21/2010 7:18:08 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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Many senior managers lack sales experience, and as a direct result they fail to appreciate the critical importance of sales leadership and the demands placed on it.

Those of us who manage salespeople have different challenges than other managers. Sales management is different and it's different for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the amount of accountability salespeople must deal with – more so than practically any other employee. Sales is results oriented, so the numbers are either there or they're not.

Often a sales representative will be in a territory by themselves, carrying the responsibility of the company's success in that area, and sales managers must have the skills to help them deal with that pressure. More broadly, salespeople operate under the constant scrutiny of the management team and are held accountable for the continued sales success of the business. The output of no other job is so immediately visible, transparent and tangible. There is no place to hide.

In addition to this accountability, sales managers are the only managers who manage people in a commercial environment who are afraid. And salespeople are afraid. Unlike almost any other occupation – be it an engineer, an accountant or a secretary – salespeople come to work afraid. Salespeople face the unknown every day, and are consistently challenged by a different ditch to cross, a different fire to put out, and always, numbers that must be achieved.

You may think this fear is only relevant to new salespeople, who lack experience and confidence. But so often, as Steve Brown relates in our sales management training program, our most senior, most successful salespeople are also afraid. These individuals so often fear they can't maintain the level of productivity they've had, so they also find themselves under pressure. And without exception every member of the team knows that if they say or do the wrong thing they risk losing a major account. So once again managers must have the skills to deal with the fear, the unknown, that our people face on a daily basis.

How can the management team – not just sales managers – help salespeople cope with these fears and not let it derail their success, and that of the company? We'll discuss this critical management issue further in later blogs.

Posted: 7/1/2010 5:38:17 AM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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