The 6 Stars of Leadership

stars of leadership

Over the last few years I have been focused (borderline obsessed) with honing my leadership skills and abilities. If you were to look through my library, this would be a very apparent area of interest. There is a plethora of literature on the subject, and an equal number of opinions about do’s and don’ts as well.

Nonetheless, I’ve set out to develop my personal leadership model/philosophy, which I call ‘The 6 Six Stars of Leadership’. Why ‘stars’? Well, I found it quite compelling to liken leadership principles to the navigational attributes of stars. Without a map, you need something to help guide your direction, and that is exactly what certain stars do. I initially set out to try and mold each principle so that it would create some cool acronym. It wasn’t working for me, so instead focused on the principles I find most helpful in guiding the way. With that said, here are my 6 Stars of Leadership.

  1. Courage: As a leader, you must have courage to do a lot of things. The courage to initiate, to set things in motion, to defend, debate, the courage to decide, to let go, and to admit mistakes.
  2. Inclusion: You have to include the people who are, and will be, affected by your decisions. The easiest and most effective way to get people to follow you as the leader is to include them in paving a path together.
  3. Competence: Know what you’re good at, and what you’re not. You cannot be great at everything, so don’t try. It’s a fruitless endeavor. Instead, focus your time and energy in the areas you excel, and get help from your team and the people around you for everything else.  This also encompasses courage and inclusion to a great degree. You have to have the courage to admit what you’re weaknesses, and then include the folks around you to enable greatness.
  4. Clarity: There is uncertainty all around us- We cannot escape it. A leader must be a source of clarity among the chaos. Boil complex issues down to clear decisions and directives. Inspire your team through clarity and laser focus on what matters most. And communicate regularly so that your vision and direction are crystal clear.
  5. Coaching: When it comes to leadership, coaching comes in two forms. The first form is receiving, meaning, the leader must be on the receiving end of coaching to enhance and develop their skills. No one becomes great alone. The second form is giving, meaning, the leader must provide coaching to the people around them. Rather than being the source of all answers, teach the people around you to be great so you can grow them into leaders as well.
  6. Influence: By regularly exercising the previous 5 leadership stars, you will hold the keys to influencing the people around you. It is through this influence that you can truly make great things happen.

I’d love to hear your feedback and what you think.


Sell the Dream



Customers don’t really care about features and benefits, they care about their problems and how they can solve them. In other words, what’s going to make their life and/or business better?

In my world, we get lots of questions about price, and many times, it’s hard to divert the focus away from it. So how do we overcome this challenge?


Often times, conversations with leads and customers will include cues, or hints at what they really want. Mentions of network, reliability, support, etc are all cues we should be using to frame the conversation. Keep an eye out for these cues and work toward focusing on what the customer is really after.


There’s also something called ‘relative value’ to consider in your conversations. Relative value is essentially the perceived value a customer places on a solution to their problem, relative to the cost of that solution. As an example, a customer that is not happy with their current provider’s network will likely place a certain value on getting more reliability.

So if they are paying $100/mo for not-so-great service now, it may be worth $150/mo to solve that problem. The customer is placing a relative value of $50 on greater reliability from their network. Solving this problem is the best use of that additional $50, from the customer’s perspective. After all, they could choose to spend that money on a number of different things, but because this is important to them right now, it’s the best use of it.

As a sales team, it’s our job to identify that relative perceived value and convey our capability to fulfill the need in a way that is very easy and efficient.

TAKE ACTION: Sell a picture of success, look for cues to frame your conversations, and leverage the idea of relative value to help customers make good decisions.


15 AWESOME Customer Retention Strategies that Work


This post and content is courtesy of

I’ve snipped my personal favorite top strategies, but you can also check out the full list here.

1. Utilize positive social proof.
While negative social proof (“Nearly 90 percent of websites don’t use heat mapping software!”) has been proven to dissuade customers rather than encourage them, numerous studies on customer motivation have shown that positive social proof (“Join 20,000 of your peers!”) is often the most effective strategy for getting people to listen.

2. Use the words they love to hear.
Not all words are created equal. Certain persuasive words encourage customers to buy more than others, in particular: free, new and instantly. When customers hear these words (and the promises they imply are backed up), they’ll enjoy their purchases more than they would have otherwise.

3. Reduce pain points and friction.
All businesses, no matter the industry, are going to have to sell to the three types of buyers that are out there. According to neuro-economics experts, nearly a quarter of these buyers will be conservative spenders, or “tightwad” customers. George Lowenstein of Carnegie Mellon University recommends using bundles, reassuring words (e.g., change “a $5 fee” to “a small $5 fee”) and reframing as strategies to better sell to these conservative buyers. Read more about his advice here.

4. Make it personal.
In a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers found that waiters could increase their tips by 23 percent by the simple act of returning to tables with a second set of mints. So do mints have magic powers? Apparently not: The researchers concluded that the mints created the feeling of a personalized experience among the customers who received them. So it was the personalized service received that made them enjoy their experience so much more.

5. Utilize surprise reciprocity.
Although reciprocity works incredibly well on it’s own, research shows that it is even *more* powerful when started by surprise. For a simple example, recall a time that someone did something nice for you unexpectedly; the gesture probably wasn’t all that unusual, but the fact that it came out of nowhere left a strong impression on you.


TAKE ACTION: Start practicing even a few of these strategies today and you will IMMEDIATELY recognize a difference in both your ability to gain and keep customers. Pick one or two, put them in place within your organization, and reap the benefits!


Screw up… It’s okay.


Screwing up sucks. It actually sucks really bad sometimes. But the majority of screw-ups are not the end of the world. Learn from the mistake, move on, and be a little bit better tomorrow.

I’ve always struggled with the realization that I’ve made a mistake, significant or not. More times than not, the thought of a recent screw up will nag me until I convince myself it’s really not that big of a deal, and can move on.

But here’s what I’m [slowly] learning. Mistakes, screw-ups, errors, or whatever you want to call them……. are a part of learning and growth. Some folks actually subscribe to the idea that the more you screw up, the faster you learn. I’m not yet a subscriber to that school of thought, but to an extent it makes a bit of sense.

TAKE ACTION: In the event you flubb one off the goal post, be pissed off at yourself for about 3.5 minutes, reflect on what you could have done better, and then DO IT BETTER NEXT TIME.


Are you a hedgehog or a fox?


In Jim Collins’ best seller ‘Good to Great’, he talks about something he and his team of researchers refer to as ‘The Hedgehog Concept’. Here are the core ideas in this gem:

  • Hedgehogs simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, the basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything. It doesn’t matter how complex the world, the hedgehog reduces all challenges and dilemmas to simple – indeed almost simplistic- hedgehog ideas.
  • Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world and all its complexity. They are scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, never integrating their thinking into one overall concept or unifying vision.

The Hedgehog Concept was a key differentiator in great companies. Why? Well, I would sum it up into one word- Focus. They focused rigorously on the following three circles, never wavering to the temptations of shiny new ideas or knee-jerk reactions to mis-aligned opportunities:

  1. What they were deeply passionate about.
  2. What drove their economic engine.
  3. What they could be the best at in the world.

Hedgehogs are tiny, fuzzy, and cute little creatures. But do not mistake them or their ability to outwit the competition (those pesky foxes).

TAKE ACTION: Identify your three circles, stay focused on them with unwavering discipline, and watch the competition lurch from idea to idea, never gaining real traction or growth.


3 Important Circles You Should Understand


I often refer to Stephen Covey’s Circle of Influence and Concern when faced with challenges. Likewise, I often encourage others to take a similar approach when their concerns seem to lie outside both the circle of control — the small inner circle — and the circle of influence — the slightly larger inner circle. Let me explain…

Circle of Control: This is the zone where you have direct control over both the inputs and outputs of a situation. An easy example of this is your personal attitude. You have absolute full control over the way you conduct yourself- No one else controls that but you.

Circle of Influence: This zone extends your direct control, although there are things you can do to shape the outputs. An example of this could be coaching someone to do a certain task. While you cannot control the output, although many managers/coaches would like to think they can, all you can really do is guide, persuade, and influence those outputs.

Circle of Concern: This is the biggest zone, the ‘Can’t Control’ zone, and many times the main culprit of distress and problems. The circle of concern can be any crazy ass thing you can think of. Crime rates, gas prices, that co-worker with the annoying laugh, the weather…….the list goes on and on.

Here’s the kicker- most people (yes, I am generalizing) spend waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy too much time hanging out in the ‘can’t control’ zone (circle of concern). Why? I’m not entirely certain, but here’s my hypothesis: Because it’s easy, and we like drama.

It takes very little effort to complain or worry about something, although it’s very time consuming, but it takes quite a bit of effort to actually make changes in the two other zones- Control and Influence. Regardless of what I say here, I’m not blind to the fact that the circle of concern will remain a dominant force in most of our lives. I get it, but I don’t have to succumb to it.

TAKE ACTION: Next time you are faced with distress, a challenging situation, or high gas prices, remember the 3 circles and ask yourself this: Is this situation within my control or influence? Even when the answer is no, there is actually still a yes- Your attitude and decisions. Your attitude and decisions are ALWAYS within your control.



Mind Push-Ups


Multi-vari analysis, statistical process control, Chi square, Type I errors…….Phew!

Over the last two months I’ve been studying to take the Six Sigma Green Belt Certification exam (CSSGB). If you’re not sure what six sigma is, go to to learn about it ;) The purpose of this post is not to teach you about six sigma, though. It is, however, to urge to you stretch yourself past your comfort zone.

Here’s the deal. I am, by nature, not someone who has historically been fantastic with math, formulas, and crazy calculations. I always thought it was a little ridiculous to mix the alphabet with numbers…. (okay math nerds….. you can stop laughing at me now). But guess what…although my comfort zone is to stay the hell away from math and scary subjects like statistics, I realize that in order to be truly successful in the business world, I need to stretch myself past my ever-so-cozy comfort zone.

Have you defined the boundaries of your comfort zone? What’s holding you back from taking a leap frog jump to a new level in your career? New things are, and will be scary at first. Sometimes downright exhausting. But unless you grind it out, and push yourself to new limits, how will you experience growth?

TAKE ACTION: Identify a subject on the outskirts of your comfort zone…whatever that may be, and tackle it! Get in, get your hands dirty, and learn something new, but still valuable to your personal and professional growth. The first step will be the hardest, but as Nike always says- Just Do It!



Customer Retention Starts Now!

Stop letting your customers slip through your fingers.

Stop letting your customers slip through your fingers.

Customer retention is widely known as that desperate, last ditch effort to save an unsatisfied customer from taking their business elsewhere. This is reality folks. We work so damn hard to find new customers day in a day out, and it’s only in those final moments that we realize the importance of the customers that have already been paying us for months, or even years.

With this post, I am making a declaration! I am taking a formal, and permanent stance on the term, concept, and overall understanding of customer retention.

Here it goes………. Customer retention starts with your very first interaction. Day 1. From the get-go. You had me at hello.

We’re wasting too much energy on last minute retention activities. By the time we get to that point, 98% of customers have already made their decision to leave. And even if you throw a big discount at them, they’re still going to leave sooner or later, because it’s not about the money- It’s about the service.

TAKE ACTION: Take most of the energy and resources you’re spending on last minute retention activities, and put them directly into customer love activities (Yes, I said customer love). Meaning, take care of your customers from day one, show them you appreciate them, and work on removing the chances of them leaving to begin with.



Surprise and Delight the Starbucks Way

starbucks pic

Mocha-frappa-latte-whatever. We don’t go to Starbucks for the $6 cups of coffee. We go because they are so good at creating an enjoyable, creative, and memorable customer experience. And they are so damn consistent.

Want to know how they do it? You’re in luck. Joseph Michelli reveals the coffee kings fundamental principles in the book ‘The Starbucks Experience’. And I’ll share some of the nuggets here as well.

  1. Create Personal Experiences: Remember customer names, orders, and kids names. The more you can learn about an individual customer, the better you’ll be armed to delight them.
  2. Anticipate Needs: The days of waiting for customers to tell us what they want are quickly ending. Customer expectations are shifting towards “you should know what I want, I come in here all the time”. This principle does not only apply to basic transactions, but to emotions as well. Seek out the unexpressed needs and address them- You’ll WOW your customers.
  3. Pay Attention to the Details: Do not….and I repeat….DO NOT overlook the details. Customers will surely notice. Don’t take the small stuff for granted because it adds up to the sum of the overall experience you’re delivering. And for goodness sake, keep your restrooms spotless.

TAKE ACTION: Ask yourself what your company is doing to surprise and delight your customers, both systematically, and spontaneously.


Think….Then Speak.


We are all blabber mouths. 98% of people like to hear themselves talk, so they do a lot of it (fake statistic for entertainment purposes).

Too often, however, we talk too soon. We are all prone to knee-jerk reactions that make us blurt stuff out that might not be as precise or effective as we would have liked. I do it all the time.

Here’s what I’ve learned, or am learning, though. If you take 10 seconds to think about what you’re about to say, before you say anything, that is enough time to collect your thoughts, organize them, and deliver more compelling information, arguments, stories, and rebuttals. Yes, just 10 measly seconds can do all this for you.

TAKE ACTION: Next time you feel the creeping urge to respond to someone’s question or comment as soon as their lips stop moving….suppress that urge! Wait 10 seconds to get your shit together, and then deliver something nearing perfection.