Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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    Welcome to a Silicon Valley State of Mind, thoughts tips and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "Silicon Valley's Top Information Strategist."

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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Strategy

Happy Tuesday, folks! I hope everyone had a fun and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I sure did; Kim and I lounged around all weekend, usually doing something close to nothing. If you know me at all, you know cooking was on the agenda; however, this year I went a little mellow compared to some of the other holidays. I need to drop some pounds, so I started on Atkins a few weeks back. It’s going pretty well so far; I’m down about 7 or 8 pounds. One adjustment that I thought was going to be tough was eating more vegetables; however, it has pleasantly turned out well. The key I’ve found is this: the right ingredients make all the difference—that’s true with diets and it’s true with strategy.

One thing I’ve really grown to love is tomatoes. Before starting the diet, I would rarely eat tomatoes; however, now I eat two to three every day. And now that I’m a tomato connoisseur, I’ve noticed that not all tomatoes are created equal. Sure, Roma tomatoes will not taste like Beefsteak tomatoes. What matters more though is where I get the tomatoes from. The tomatoes from Safeway aren’t as good as the same type of tomatoes from Whole Foods; and these aren’t as good as the same type of tomatoes from Windmill Farms (they carry a lot of fresh produce from local farmers). The tomatoes on the vine at Windmill Farms are awesome and the same type of tomatoes from Safeway are barely okay, even though they look similar.

Selecting people for your strategy—whether they’re full-time employees or consultants—is like selecting tomatoes. The talent differential between average, good, and great is sizable; and looks can be deceiving. It astounds me every time I come across someone from a big-name firm like McKinsey, Deloitte, or Accenture, who doesn’t know the difference between strategy and long-range planning. Or, an Executive Vice President with an MBA who cannot make a decision.

One of the critical elements of executing a successful strategy, is making sure you have the right people on your team. Selection is crucial—you don’t want to end up with a bunch of sour tomatoes.

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Posted by on in Strategy

I went into my bank last week, and I thought I walked into the wrong building. I’ve banked there for at least 10 years now, building relationships with all the tellers and account managers. I go there frequently, at least a few times a month; however, last week when I walked in, I didn’t recognize one person. You cannot build a relationship with your clients if you’re constantly introducing them to new people.

The foundation of your relationship strategy is the people that interact with your customers. There are other things that contribute to customer loyalty like your brand; however, any real relationship involves at least two people: your customer and the person in your organization that comes in contact with your customer.

Banks have a bad reputation for turnover, so seeing one or two people leave is disappointing and demeritorious, but doesn’t really come as a surprise. Last week however, was jolting. There were at least a dozen people working in the bank, and I didn’t recognize anybody. I made a comment to the teller asking, “Where did everybody go?” I started naming names, and one-by-one, she notified me that they had either transferred to another branch, or left “for a better opportunity.”

For me, this isn’t my bank anymore. I’m not leaving or canceling any of my accounts, but it’s just another place for transactions now. I can get the same experience at the grocery store, and since I shop more often than transact with the bank, I probably won’t go to my branch anymore. It’s a shame when I feel more comfortable picking up Chinese food than sitting down with my banker to discuss a loan.

Employee retention is vital in all areas of your organization, but especially where these employees touch your customers. Whether you like it or not, your customers are more loyal to the people in your company than your company’s brand or values. If your employees are leaving for better opportunities, your customers are probably walking right behind them.

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Posted by on in Leadership

In a perfect world, a leader inspires people into action. In the real world, you need to be tough: not all the time, but when it’s necessary. If you’re worried that things aren’t happening fast enough, and you’ve tried the motivational route, you may want to take off the velvet glove and break out the iron fist.

When I was young, John Waite released a popular song called “Mr. Wonderful,” where he sings about someone who’s just fed up with being nice. I don’t think leaders get to that point with their organization, but they do get frustrated and confused: frustrated because things aren’t going in the direction they want, and confused because there’s been plenty of communication going out, but the troops just aren’t rallying.

I’m not against the humanistic movement in leadership, but I think it caused a lot of weak leaders. The higher up in an organization someone goes, the more political they feel they need to be. Politicians carefully guard their exterior, paying close attention to how they appear to the public. The Republican National Convention is opening next week in Tampa with Ann Romney instead of Mitt because they feel she can add a softer side to the campaign. I agree, I don’t think Mitt has done a good enough job connecting with voters, and that will hurt him in the upcoming election.

However, this level of spin-surgery will backfire for a leader in Organizational America. To a large extent you must connect with the people of your organization, but you are also responsible for results, which you don’t always get by being the nice guy. I’ve had many organizations hire me to be the iron fist because they don’t want to get blood on their hands. I appreciate the business, but this is silly. As a leader, you are responsible for making (sometimes unpopular) decisions and holding people accountable. Both of these things are unpleasant at times, but if your magnetic personality isn’t winning them over, that’s the only way to get things done.

Don’t worry so much about your employees’ vote of approval. You’re not running for office, you’re running an organization.

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Posted by on in Innovation

I was shopping for groceries the other day, and decided to get my wife some nice roses (‘cause that’s the kinda guy I am). At the time I had a basket in my hands because I was running in to get just a few things. After the second bag of charcoal, I realized two things: 1) I was going to need a basket and; 2) my roses were going get crushed if I wasn’t careful.

So, I found a cart, loaded in the basket and the second bag of charcoal, and strategically laid the flowers over the fish in the front basket where children usually sit. At checkout, the clerk—who had obviously been working there a long time—said, “You might want to put those flowers in the cup holder on the side so they don’t get crushed. In all this time working here, a trainee just showed me that the other day!”

Novel ideas in business and in life come from interacting with new people. They could be new employees, consultants, or even reconnecting with old friends. Don’t fall into the trap of doing the same thing day after day. Not only is it boring, but after breathing your own exhaust for a while, you’ll pass out.

Great innovators are curious, humble, and persistent. Curiosity doesn’t need to be an obsession with perfection, but you should always have your antennae up for better ways to do things. Humility holds your ego in check and prevents you from being arrogant—a condition where you don’t have anything left to learn. Persistence requires not only patience but tenacity. Trust your instincts—if you come across a good idea, pursue it, and stick with it until it’s done.

But great ideas come from new experiences; often with new people. Invite new people with different ideas into your life and listen to what they have to say. You might just pick up on a novel idea.

Tagged in: ideas people
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