Book Summary of ‘The Relationship Edge’ by Jerry Acuff

The Relationship Edge is a reminder that business always has, and always will be, about building relationships.

In this summary, we’ll learn what a valuable business relationship actually is, and how you can go about building them.

The payoff for following the principles you’ll learn in this summary and book are huge. Most importantly, you’ll have a systematic way to engage with people with whom you don’t naturally connect – people you meed for the first time, people you don’t know well, and people you haven’t connected with in a very long time.

What is a valuable business relationship?

Of course, it’s not enough to just build a relationship, because everybody . What we are talking about here are valuable business relationships.

The most valuable relationships, Acuff tells us, have lots of AIR – Access, Impact, and Results.

Access is exactly what you think it is. People will take your calls, answer your emails, and believe that any time with you is time well spent.

Impact means that you have you have an opportunity to influence the relationship in a positive manner, and vice versa.

Last but definitely not least, there’s results. Without it, you don’t have a great business relationship, you have some rapport or maybe a even a friendship. But not a successful business relationship.

When we have a valuable business relationship, people are proactively doing things to help each other succeed. It seems simple, but like in any pursuit, if you don’t focus on and master the basics, you’ll never succeed.

So that’s what a valuable relationship looks like, but that doesn’t tell us how to build them.

Building them includes mastering a conscious, systematic and routine process – having the right mindset, asking the right questions, and doing the right thing.

Of course, the process of building a relationship doesn’t happen overnight, and it will typically progress through six stages that Acuff calls the relationship pyramid.

The relationship pyramid

Here are the six stages, starting from the bottom of the pyramid and ending at the top:

  1. People who don’t know you by name;
  2. People who know you by name:
  3. People who like you;
  4. People who are friendly with you;
  5. People who respect you;
  6. People who value a relationship with you. This last step is your goal with any relationship you want to build to the highest level.

In any relationship you have you’ll probably recognise it at one of those stages. Before we move on to discuss how we can start moving up the pyramid, there are a few points to keep in mind.

First, movement up the pyramid doesn’t have to be sequential. You can’t skip any of the steps, but you can jump through multiple steps at once.

Second, it is a lot easier to move down the pyramid than going back up. Trust is a big issue in relationships, and once it’s gone, it’s tough to get back. So remember to continuously nurture the relationships that already have at the top of the pyramid.

Lastly, this process won’t work on everyone. Sometimes people just won’t want to have a relationship with you, no matter how hard you try. You need to learn to identify those situations, and move on when it it’s clear that you are up against a dead end.

Now let’s move on to the tools you can use in building a valuable business relationship.

Having the right mindset

Think well of yourself

As Acuff says in the book, to build any successful relationship, you must think well of yourself. If you can’t see yourself having a relationship with a high powered executive, you can’t have a relationship with a high powered executive.

Without the belief that you are capable of building relationships with the people you want to business relationships with, you won’t get very far.

Once we’ve got over that hurdle, we can move on to…

Think well of others

Zig Ziglar has a quote that is often repeated, and it’s worth repeating again here:

You can get everything you want in life if you simply help enough other people get what they want.

In order to do that, you need to have a genuine desire to help other people. If you don’t, the entire process of continuing to build relationships is going to burn you out, quickly.

Why? Because as Acuff says, relationships are built over time, and time is one of the most important elements of relationship building. Spending time with people is just part of the deal. The more time, the better.

Things that will make this better and easier for you when you spend time with people include:

  • having a natural curiosity about others;
  • focussing on others instead of yourself;
  • appreciating and understanding the other person’s points of view;
  • having a desire to make people feel important;
  • listening to other people because you want to hear.

For some people this just comes naturally. But it can also be taught. In the next section we are going to talk about asking the right questions, which will help you uncover information from people that will help you make a stronger connection with them, which will help you think better of them, which will make you want to spend more time with them, which will ultimately end with you building the relationship you want to build.

It all starts with…

Asking the right questions

The best way to make connections with people you are building relationships with is to find out what they treasure. As Acuff points out, if you know what and who people treasure, and you act on that information to show you know you care – they are much more likely to tell you want they need professionally.

The best way to find out what people treasure is to ask them questions. Lots of them.

Asking the right questions

Acuff lists out 20 questions you can use to get the ball rolling with anybody you meet:

  1. What do you do when you are not working?
  2. Where did you go to school (and how did you choose it)?
  3. Where did you grow up and what was it like growing up there?
  4. What was your high school like?
  5. What do you enjoy reading when you have the time?
  6. How did you decide to do [whatever it is they do for a living] for a living?
  7. Tell me something about your family.
  8. Where is your favourite place to vacation?
  9. What kind of vacation would you like to take that you have not taken?
  10. What community associations, if any, do you have time to be involved in?
  11. What sports, if any, do you enjoy participating in?
  12. What sports do you enjoy watching?
  13. If you could have tickets for any event, what would it be?
  14. How did you decide to settle in this area?
  15. Tell me something about yourself that would surprise me?
  16. What things would you really want to do more of, but don’t have time for?
  17. What challenges/issues in your work might I, or my company, be able to help you with?
  18. What is the most frustrating thing about being in your business these days?
  19. In your opinion, what two or three qualities make a top-notch [insert your job role here]?
  20. If all work paid the same and you could go around again, what would you do?

Of course, these are just some of the questions you can ask the people you meet.

If you want to create more questions, or make it easier to remember those 20, remember the acronym FORM. It stands for family, occupation, recreation, and motivation (as in what motivates them in life). Asking questions about those things will always get you to uncover the things that they treasure.

Asking these questions right

Once you have the right questions to ask, you need to make sure you ask them right.

There are two things you need to do in order to expect the questions to uncover anything of substance.

First, you need to create an atmosphere of comfort and safety. People will often feel more safe if you are open and share with them as well. For instance, after you ask somebody where they are from and they answer, you can respond by telling them where you are from and something about why you moved there.

Another technique for making people feel comfortable is to ask their permission to ask a question. For instance, you might say something like the following:

“Before I talk about my product, I thought it might make sense for me to ask you a different kind of question. Do you mind if I ask what you enjoy reading when you have the time?”

As Acuff points out, almost nobody will answer “no” to the permission question, giving you the ability to continue asking personal questions and building the relationship on a personal level.

The second thing you need to do is ask good questions. A good question doesn’t suggest an answer, and invites the person to answer openly and honestly.

When you transition from personal to business questions, the best questions are the one that gets your prospect to think differently about an issue than they did before.

Doing the right thing

As Acuff points out, relationships aren’t built on your mind-set or the information you gather, they are built on your actions. Ultimately, you don’t build them on what you say, but on what you do and how you do it.

One way to show that you value a relationship is to give inexpensive, unexpected and thoughtful gifts based on information they have shared with you. Let’s say that somebody told you that they really enjoy a particular author’s work. And let’s say that you happen to be at a conference where that author is presenting. You might suck it up and stand in line to get an autographed copy of the book to send to them.

But as Acuff points out, gifts like golf balls, pens or coffee mugs with your logo on them don’t count. Neither do things like dinner or taking somebody out golfing. Those things don’t show any special thought or care for the person you trying to get closer to – those are expected on thoughtless gifts.

Other things you can do to show you care about them is remembering important dates like their birthday or wedding anniversary, important family names, or special interests the person might have.

Being alert for when something relating to those things pops up, and acting on it in a timely manner, will go a long way in building the relationship.

Another thing that most people value highly in a business relationship context is access to people they view as important. So if you know somebody that the other person respects and looks up to, find a way to connect them to that person.

You can also remain alert to major events in their lives. Things like a marriage, promotion, or a negative event like a serious illness or business downturn stand out here. When it comes to the negative major events, most people turn away. If you are genuinely trying to build a real relationship with these people, being there for them in good times and bad are opportunities to bring you even closer.

Pyramid Hopping

Building relationships takes time and work. But sometimes there’s a path to accelerate the process, and it’s called pyramid hopping.

This is when you actively pursue contacts by leveraging the relationships you have with people on your Relationship Pyramid.

The higher you are on someone’s Pyramid, the stronger the endorsement you are likely to get when her or she introduces you to the person you are trying to connect with.

As Acuff says, it’s the difference between “I don’t know him very well, but I’ve been in some meetings with him and it seems like you two might have something in common” and “You need to meet Jerry because he can help you.”

Just like everything else to do with relationships, it works better if you have a strategy. The heart of the strategy involves three steps.

First, you need to uncover who has you at the top of their pyramid. You should have a pretty good sense of this already. But to be clear, it doesn’t include every one of your 500+ LinkedIn connections.

Second, you need to uncover who is at the top of those people’s pyramids. Those are the people you’ll most likely get a strong introduction to. This typically requires asking them specifically who they know in a particular field that you want an introduction to.

Third, when you ask for the introduction, you need to be as specific as possible about what you are asking for. The more specific you make your request, the more likely it is that you’ll get the introduction you are looking for.


As we continue to dive deeper into technology and tools designed to help us create connections with people, it’s easy to forget that we still need to build real relationships with people based on principles that work.

Building and maintaining meaningful relationships has always been, and always will be, critical to your success in business or your career.

So, as we wrap up today, think about one specific action you can take to climb your way to the top of the relationship pyramid with just one of your contacts. Do that, and then keep doing that every single day for the rest of your life.

Eventually, you’ll get to exactly where you want to go.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘The Leadership Gap’ by Lolly Daskal

Lolly Daskal has seen it all in her years as an executive coach. She’s spent countless hours in boardrooms, executive suites and corporate jets. She’s helped leaders navigate both success and failure.

Through her work she has identified the one thing that separates the best from the rest – great leaders have the ability to rethink who they are. Many leaders get stuck because they rely on what has worked for them in the past, even when it is no longer working. Great leaders, on the other hand, are open to learning and growing to better serve the people they lead.

In her book The Leadership Gap, she introduces us to a system of seven archetypes that will help view yourself objectively so that you can identify the gaps you face as you work towards greatness.

You’ll see parts of yourself in each of these archetypes. We shift between them depending on the situation.

But you’ll also recognise yourself in what Lolly describes as leadership gaps. These gaps sometimes lead us to the “shadow side” of our leadership archetypes, ultimately holding us back from becoming successful.

Once you are able to see yourself objectively, you can start to create a path forward. That’s exactly what we’ll explore as we introduce you to each of the seven archetypes.

The Rebel

The Rebel is somebody who sees something that isn’t right in the world, and then does everything in his power to correct it. In a business context, you’ll notice them overcoming huge roadblocks to save project, or in extreme cases, a company.

When we think of rebels, we think of people like Rosa Parks and Elon Musk. They seem to ask themselves, “how can I push the envelope?” in every situation.

The rebel’s strength is self-confidence, backed up by competence. As Lolly points out, confidence alone is not sufficient. You need both in order to become great as a rebel leader.

The rebel’s leadership gap is self-doubt – in most cases, the irrational kind. Almost every high achiever faces some degree of self-doubt. After all, they are trying to do what other people would not, or could not, do.

When self-doubt creeps in, it leads to the leadership gap archetype called The Imposter. It’s the never-ending sense that somehow you will be “found out.” It’s the need for perfection, when you know that perfection is impossible. It’s comparing yourself to others, when you know that there’s always somebody better, faster and stronger.

Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to overcome this gap and find your inner rebel when you need it most.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  2. Remind yourself that there is no such thing as perfect.
  3. Make a list of your accomplishments to remind yourself that you are indeed capable of great things.
  4. Create an inner circle for support.
  5. Assess your skills and work on strengthening the skills that cause you to doubt yourself.
  6. Constantly remind yourself of the cause you are working towards. Self-doubt has a habit of disappearing in the face of a worthy cause.

The Explorer

The Explorer is somebody who knows when to rely on their analytical mind, but also when to rely on their intuition. In particular, they use their intuition to test the boundaries of what is known, and how things are currently done.

When we think of explorers, we think of people like Jeff Bezos, Sarah Blakely and Neil deGrasse Tyson. They seem to be always asking themselves, “what can I discover?”

The explorer’s strength is intuition. Intuition is knowledge based on experience, stored deeply in your brain, and available quickly on demand. Most people commonly refer to this as listening to their gut, but as Lolly explains, it’s a little more complicated than that.

The explorer’s leadership gap is manipulation. When people trust your intuition as a leader to guide them, it’s a slippery slope to use it to get whatever you want. Sometimes this leads to using intuition to manipulate others to gain their control.

When this happens, we end up with leadership gap archetype called The Exploiter. They will set themselves up as the expert in a situation even when they are not. They will withhold information from others, and they will often make threats to get what they want.

When you find yourself slipping from the Explorer to the Exploiter, there are a number of things you can remind yourself of to get you back on track:

  1. Look for opportunities to praise instead of prey. Don’t take advantage of other people’s weaknesses.
  2. Don’t make others give up something in order to serve your own self-interest.
  3. Mean what you say and say what you mean. The Exploiter will often say things other people want to hear, but aren’t quite true.
  4. Leverage your qualities as an Explorer – the power of self-assurance, the ability of persuasion, the capacity for decisiveness, and the quintessence of preparedness.

The Truth Teller

The Truth Teller is somebody who believes he owes it to the people in his life to be honest, open and sincere at all times. He will the tell truth when it serves others, even when he runs the risk of offending people.

When we think of truth tellers, we think of people like Ronald Reagan, Indra Nooyi, and Winston Churchill. They seem to be always asking themselves, “where should I speak up?”

The truth teller’s strength is candor, which one of the hardest things we can do. A research study at the University of Massachusetts showed that 60 percent of adults can’t complete a ten-minute conversation without lying at least once. So, somebody who can speak the truth in all areas of their life is a rare bird indeed.

The truth teller’s leadership gap is suspicion. Truth tellers can easily succumb to the suspicion that those around them aren’t telling the truth. Then, little by little, it becomes easier to justify not telling the complete truth yourself.

Ultimately this path leads to the leadership gap archetype of The Deceiver. Deceivers are remarkably charming (it’s easier to be charming when you’re not restricted to the truth), they are emotionally manipulative, and wonderful at distraction. They are also notorious blamers and never take accountability for their actions.

If you find yourself identifying as a deceiver, here are some ways to get yourself back on track:

  1. Learn to be flexible. Deceivers tend to see the world in black and white.
  2. Communicate everything – the path to the deceiver often starts with withholding information, not outright lies.
  3. Look for solutions, not blame. When you create a culture where solutions are rewarded and mistakes aren’t punished, the truth can be told by everybody – including you.
  4. Model your own high standards – don’t tolerate liars and cheats.

The Hero

The Hero is somebody who takes action while others sit on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to step up. They act in spite of overwhelming odds and opposition. They are willing to put their careers (and sometimes lives) on the line for a shot at greatness.

When we think of heroes, we think of people like Justice Anthony Kennedy, Malala Yousafzai, and J.K. Rowling. People like this seem to always be asking themselves, “where is courage needed?”

The hero’s strength is courage. Science doesn’t yet understand why people take on heroic tasks, but we do know that it’s an activity that has distinct characteristics. It is performed in service of others in need, voluntarily, with the recognition of the risks, and without expectation of external gain.

The hero’s leadership gap shouldn’t surprise us – it’s fear. A hero in one situation can be paralysed by fear in another. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “fear defeats more people than anything in the world.”

Fear can lead to the leadership gap archetype of The Bystander. Why? It’s easier to watch things unfold rather than take action. What you don’t realise is that when you are a bystander to an injustice, you make it easier to rationalise being a bystander as well. It’s contagious, and it’s destructive.

If you find yourself tempted to be a bystander in a situation that calls for action, you can close the gap by doing the following:

  1. Create a bias for decisive action. As Susan Jeffers says, feel the fear and do it anyways.
  2. Stand tall, literally. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia Universities have shown that practicing the “power pose” for a few minutes increases testosterone and lowers cortisol, making it more likely you’ll take action.
  3. Remind yourself that you are in control. You ultimately decide whether or not you take action

The Inventor

The Inventor is a visionary, constantly inventing new products, or improving existing ones. An inventor typically refuses to settle for anything else than excellence. They are experimenters, knowing that small bets pay off in big wins. They are also willing to fail in order to pursue those wins.

When we think of inventors, we think about people like Walt Disney, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Blake Mycoskie. They seem to be always asking the question “how can we make this better?”

The inventor’s strength is integrity. As Lolly says, in order to have integrity you need to know who you are, you need to know what you stand for, and you have to know what your code of conduct is. When an inventor has integrity, there is no stopping him.

The inventor’s leadership gap is corruption. Every single day you’ll face opportunities to let your integrity slide. The seven deadly sins – wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony are good places to start.

Once your integrity starts to slip, you are on your way to becoming the leadership gap archetype The Destroyer. Instead of making the world better with their ideas, product and companies, they serve their own purposes and make things worse.

Here’s what to do to close the gap if you find yourself tempted to let your integrity slip:

  1. 1. Look for the good, not the bad. A destroyer tends to focus on the negative in any situation, which makes it harder to stick to your code of conduct.
  2. Set high personal standards, and avoid the temptation to cut corners, even when others aren’t looking.
  3. Get to know yourself. Integrity is created and maintained through constant self-examination.
  4. Honour your commitments.
  5. Take responsibility when you fall short on your commitments.

The Navigator

Navigators know where to go, and they know how to bring people with them. They have a way of making the complicated simple, and the simple understandable. Even more importantly, they know how to navigate themselves.

When we think of navigators, we think of people like Michael Bloomberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Nassim Nicholas Taleb. They seem to be always asking “how can we get to where we need to go?”

The navigator’s strength is trust. They trust in their own ability to lead, and they also know how to build trust in those around them. Trust allows people to open up without the fear of being hurt. To take the appropriate risks without the fear of reprimand.

The navigator’s leadership gap is arrogance. When you have a high level of trust in your ability to navigate an organisation towards success, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know it all. “I’ll just tell people what to do and they’ll do it” is something you might find a person like that saying.

This path ends up with the leadership archetype of The Fixer. As Lolly says, a fixer is a navigator that nobody trusts. The fixer feels the need to help save people from themselves instead of leading them. They micromanage.

Here’s what you can do to close the gap if you find yourself slipping into the fixer role:

  1. Learn to fix the fixer – start with fixing yourself.
  2. Be mindful of boundaries – don’t let yourself get swallowed up in other people’s challenges. Give them the opportunity to fend for themselves.
  3. Pay attention to communication, commitment, competence and character.
  4. Demonstrate trust by honouring, admiring, and appreciating those around you.

The Knight

The Knight is a loyal protector and defender with unwavering beliefs. Knights will stand beside you and serve you before they serve themselves.

When we think of knights we think of people like Mother Teresa, Herb Kelleher and Jill Abramson. They always seem to be asking themselves “how can I serve you?”

The knight’s strength is loyalty. Loyalty expert James Kane tells us that there are three specific things that determine whether or not we feel a sense of loyalty to another person, brand or organisation: (1) a sense of trust, (2) a sense of belonging, and (3) a sense of purpose. A knight taps into all three.

The knight’s leadership gap is self-serving. As human beings, we have a bias to serve ourselves first. One of the manifestations of that is to rationalise that what’s good for you is also good for others.

This often leads to the leadership gap archetype of The Mercenary. They have a lack of dedication to the cause, inadequate loyalty, and usually a shortage of competence.

Here are some ways you can get back on the path of the knight:

  1. Realise that thinking about serving others first is what ultimately leads to the highest levels of success.
  2. Pay attention to how people respond to you.
  3. Put yourself in other people’s shoes.
  4. Get to know the people around you – it’s easier to serve people you connect with.
  5. Be honest with yourself. You can’t expect loyalty from others if you don’t model it yourself.


Being a leader is tough, and you will almost always find yourself in times of darkness. But as Desmond Tutu once said, “hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.”

In those situations, you now have the tools to choose the light over the darkness by choosing the leadership archetype that the situation demands.

The rebel, explorer, truth teller, hero, inventor, navigator and knight are all inside you.

Make your choice, and make it a good one.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Instant Influence’ by Michael Pantalon

Would the ability to influence your customers, your work colleagues, your partner or even your children be valuable to you? Michael Pantalon wrote the book Instant Influence to do just that. He gives us a scientifically supported method that gets people to take action because they want to. In fact, it’s even possible to use the Instant Influence methodology on yourself. Spend the next few minutes with me exploring how you can be a master of influence.

Can you motivate anyone in 7 minutes?

Have you ever found yourself wondering why the people in your life won’t change, despite the numerous logical reasons you’ve pointed out to them? As it turns out, that type of persuasion rarely – if ever – works. As Pantalon tells us, people change because of their own reasons. That’s the secret sauce of Instant Influence –it helps people discover their own justification for doing something, even something they thought they didn’t want to do.When someone genuinely doesn’t want to change, change won’t happen. But even the most reluctant of us has a tiny spark of desire to change hidden within. Helping us find that spark can literally transform our lives.


People take action when they hear themselves say that they want to. Get someone to tell you why and action to change is almost sure to follow. Pantalon uses this notion at the heart of his Instant Influence method and he extends it with the following four assumptions:

1. We are free to choose how we behave. 2. Other people can threaten that freedom by attempting to impose control. 3. We tend to react very negatively when our freedom is threatened, making us more resistant to the control being applied. 4. Our freedom can be restored by asserting self-determination and taking control ourselves.

The key point is how we frame our attempt to influence. We need to take the frame of our focus not our own. Our influencing conversation must contain statements such as:

“This is your choice, not mine.”

“It’s completely your decision.”

“You’re free to do whatever you want”

“I can’t make this choice for you – it’s up to you.”

All of these give power back to the influencee, brightens the spark and gives ignition to change.

Pantanlon’s Instant Influence method consists of six progressive steps leading to change. In challenging situations we may need to move through each stage. In other cases – having created the spark – the influencee takes control and accelerates the process themselves.

But let’s move step by step.

Step #1: Why might you change?

The first challenge we must meet is how to put the influencee in a position where they are able to visualise themselves in the desired situation. In most cases you will have identified what you want to change and what the desired outcome should look like. It’s not news to your family member who doesn’t have a healthy diet that continuing down that path might lead to health problems.

So you need to phrase questions in such a way as to challenge the influencee to see themselves in that scene. Instead of focussing on the negative behaviour, Pantalon suggests we look for desirable behaviour close to where we want to get to.

He suggests asking questions such as:

Why are you doing …..? (Where the focus is close to the target) for example, “Why did you choose salad today” for someone who wished to lose weight. Follow up with “Why would you do more?”

Pantanlon suggests we could focus on the past and ask: “Why have you ever[done the thing we’re talking about]?”

There are some questions we need to avoid especially as we have identified, those which sound like orders:

Why don’t you…? Why haven’t you…? Why wouldn’t you…?

Pantalon then suggests we use a technique psychologists and counselors call reflection. Reflection is the process of repeating back, or echoing, what the other person has just said, as if you are holding up a mirror to his words. We need to reflect back even the tiniest spark of motivation to help the other person see more clearly what it is he already wants. Having kindled the spark we need to give it more oxygen.

Step #2: How ready are you to change?

The next step starts with the deceivingly simple question: on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 means “not ready at all” and 10 means “totally ready”, how ready are you to make that change? The goal of Step 2 is to help you and the other person gauge their motivation.

Pantalon suggests we don’t attach too much importance to the numbers. A low number doesn’t mean that they’re not likely to take action, nor does a high number mean that they are likely to take action. What’s important isn’t the number but the process of thinking about why they might want to do something.

We then move quickly to…

Step #3: Why didn’t you pick a lower number?

This is where the technique gets interesting. Why would someone who they think is trying to encourage them to do more ask why we didn’t do less? If somebody picks a low number, this will usually stop them in their tracks. Then they’ll start thinking of the reasons why they didn’t choose a “1” instead of a “3”.

This is where the person starts to uncover some real reasons why they are ready to change. The critical part is that the reasons for change are coming out of their mouth and not yours. They are no longer being told what to do and will now feel like they are ready to make a change because they want to. This is incredibly powerful stuff.

Step #4: Imagine you’ve changed. What would the positive outcomes be?

Here’s where we start to crystalise the benefits of change. We can suggest that the change has already happened and encourage the person to visualise the change in detail. Ask them what would be different in their life. What would they be able to do now that they’ve changed that they couldn’t do before?

If you feel like things are going really well, you can even ask them to give a deadline of when you think the change would be complete. Pantanlon’s research has shown that people are far more likely to change if they think of the upside of changing, rather than the downside of not changing.

Step #5: Why are those outcomes important to you

In step 5 we are getting close to visible change itself. But before then we need to once more take the frame of the influencee. Pantalon asks us to ask them to dig deep for reasons to make the change. The familiar Five Whys technique is of value here. Ask, “Why are those outcomes important to you?” and for each answer ask why.

By the time you’ve got to the fifth why, you’ve most likely reached a true personal reason, close to the heart of the influence. Don’t be surprised if they become emotional at this stage. It’s sometimes quite a journey. Invariably, the answers move almost magically from the practical and impersonal to the heartfelt and deeply personal.

Again, the technique of reflection is valuable. The influencee needs to hear back how you understand how they’re hopeful, what they want, why they want it and how they truly believe things could be better.

Step #6: What’s the next step, if any?

The final step no longer looks at the whys, but turns to the hows. “What’s the next step, if any?” Adding those two little words – if any – is another way to reinforce the other person’s autonomy: it’s still up to her to decide whether there will be a next step.Now you are ready for one final action.

Ask their permission to meet again after an appropriate time has elapsed to review progress and to re-commit to the change. As stated, it’s likely that all six steps may not be necessary. Taking a structured approach to encourage change can often be the trigger for the influencee to take control themselves.

Influencing yourself

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about influencing others, but you can also use the Instant Influence technique to influence yourself. Here is Pantalon’s self-influence process:

Identify a change you’d like to make or an action you’d like to take. Formulate it in terms of behaviour, not results.

Write down the first Instant Influence question (Why might I change?), and then write down your answer. Move on to the next step, writing down your answers until you reach Step 5.

When you get to Step 5, write “Why?” then answer. Repeat four more times so that you’ve asked and answered the “five whys.”

When you reach Step 6, choose a small, manageable step, and pick a time that you will check back in with yourself to review your progress and choose a next step.

Advice for applying the method

Start small. Keep looking for smaller and smaller beginning steps until you find one that feels safe or that you can at least visualise doing.

Allow for the possibility that any problem might have many different solutions.

Focus on action, not decisions. We often focus too much on the how when we really should be looking at the why. But sometimes the how is the problem, and acquiring skills may be all that’s needed to get the ball rolling.

Don’t judge or self-censor. Just be open to the process.

Prepare to be surprised. You will almost certainly learn something new about your own reasons for wanting something.

Trust the process. You may find yourself taking action almost without realising it, so don’t feel you need to force yourself.

Have you consulted an expert? Experts may be able to identify whether the problem is one of skill or will.

Motivation is like a seed that sprouts and begins to grow while still underground. We may know it’s there, but we don’t always trust that one day it will break through to the light.

Affirm the influencee’s right to say no. Affirm their ownership of the decision.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Book Summary of ‘Make It Stick’ by Marc McDaniel

The first line in the preface of Make It Stick says it all:

“People generally are going about learning in the wrong ways.”

There is plenty of research done by cognitive psychologists to show that most of what we’ve learned about learning turns out to be wasted effort at best, and harmful at worst.

In this summary we are going to cover (a) what learning is, (b) what doesn’t work in learning, and (c) multiple strategies for making your learning more effective.

Your journey to making your learning “stick” begins now.

What Is Learning?

The definition the authors give for learning is this:

Acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.

Then they go on to explain their three immutable aspects of learning:

  1. To be useful, learning requires memory, so what we’ve learned is still there later when we need it.
  2. We need to keep learning and remembering all our lives. Just like we can’t advance through middle school without some mastery of language arts, maths, science, and social studies, we can’t advance in work without mastering job skills and how to deal with difficult colleagues. Then, in retirement (if you ever end up retiring) you pick up new interests you need to master. You have an advantage in life if you continuously learn.
  3. Finally, learning is an acquired skill, and the most effective strategies are often counterintuitive.

Learning Is An Acquired Skill

Learning is most definitely an acquired skill, and in order to develop it, you need to believe that you can do it. Carol Dweck calls this the Growth Mindset in her fantastic book Mindset, which you should most definitely read.

Every time you learn something new, you actually change your brain. This is called neuroplacticity, which is a scientific term that describes the lasting change to the brain throughout your life.

So while it’s true that some of your intelligence is determined by your genes, it’s also true that you can learn to become a more effective learner.

How well you learn, which will become an increasingly important skill in the next ten years, is completely within your control.

Understanding this, along with understanding how to deal with failure (where the most important learning occurs), will determine the trajectory of your life.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to what doesn’t work in learning.

What Doesn’t Work

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

– a quote often misattributed to Mark Twain

Before we move into what works about learning, we have to unlearn a lot of the things we thought we knew about learning.

The strategies that most people use in order to get through school with passing grades are often the least effective strategies if your goal is to actually learn the material.

The first ineffective strategy is rereading. The strategy most people employ when studying for their tests are to reread the notes they took in class along with the books that they read during a course.

The authors point out that rereading has three strikes against it:

  1. It’s time consuming;
  2. It doesn’t result in durable memory (you’ll forget what you reread shortly after rereading it)
  3. It often involves a kind of self-deception, where you feel a growing familiarity with the content, which you mistake for mastery of the subject.

For those reasons, you should stop using rereading as one of your strategies.

The second ineffective strategy is called massed practice, which is the single-minded, rapid-fire repetition of something you are trying to burn into memory. The most common application of this strategy can be found in students cramming for an exam the night before.

As the authors point out, these strategies will make you feel like you are mastering these subjects, but you are not. For true mastery of a subject, those two strategies are a waste of time.

In addition to those two ineffective strategies, there’s a commonly quoted theory that people have a learning style that they learn best through.

For instance, some people are auditory learners and some other people are visual learners, and so on. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing there is no empirical research that backs up that claim.

However, there is research that suggests you’ll learn better when you engage as many of your senses as possible when you are learning.

Now that we’ve got what doesn’t work out of the way, let’s move on to what does.

What Works #1: Retrieval

Practicing retrieving new learning from memory is the primary study strategy to replace rereading.

As you are learning something, instead of just highlighting things you want to remember, pause periodically and ask yourself questions like:

  • what are the key ideas?
  • what terms or ideas are new to me?
  • how do the ideas relate to what I already know?

This works much better for a few reasons.

First, it eliminates the reliance on the sense of mastery you’ll feel because the subject matter is familiar.

Second, you find out what you actually know. If you don’t actually understand how the knowledge might connect with other knowledge you have, you haven’t really wrestled with it and fully understand it. And now you’ll be armed with where you don’t quite understand the subject, and can go back and deepen your understanding.

Third, it forces you to understand the central precepts of what you are learning rather than on the peripheral items.

As the authors point out, your brain is not a muscle that gets stronger, but the neural pathways in the brain do get stronger when you retrieve from your memories – which is what you do when you quiz yourself.

When you start doing this for the first time it will feel awkward and frustrating. It’s also likely that it won’t feel as productive as rereading your notes.

What Works #2: Space Out

Your learning is much stronger when the retrieval practice is spaced out. So, in addition to testing yourself shortly after you learn something, you’ll continue to test yourself on the knowledge over time.

In order to put this into practice, you’ll need to overcome your natural inclination to focus on one subject and work on it until you’ve “mastered” it.

Your intuition will tell you that you are making progress, which will reinforce your belief that your strategy is working.

However, you’ll fail to see that almost all of these gains are coming from your short-term memory, which will quickly fade over time.

Instead, by spacing your retrieval practice, you’ll be able to retrieve the knowledge more readily, in more varied settings, and apply it to a wider variety of problems.

You know, in a way that is actually useful to you as you try strive to accomplish your goals in our business and life.

Again, this way of learning is going to feel more awkward and difficult than cramming. But when you are reconstructing what you learn from your long-term memory, you are strengthening your mastery of the topic.

What Works #3: Interleaving

Interleaving is the practice of two or more subjects or skills during a single session.

Here’s the example the authors give in the book. Suppose you are trying to teach new employees a complicated new process that involves ten procedures.

The typical way of doing this is to master procedure 1, repeating it until you seem to have it down, and then move on to procedure 2, and so on.

Interleaving practice would suggest that you practice procedure 1 a few times, then switch to procedure 4, then to 3, then back to 1, and so on.

Doing it this way will feel slower than ploughing through the procedures one by one, and you’ll notice a difference, but the goal isn’t for you to have the topic in your short-term memory, it’s to master it and implant it into your long-term memory.

The research shows unequivocally that for mastery and long-term retention, interleaving practice is the way to go.

There’s another benefit that both variation and interleaving bring to the table that aren’t immediately obvious. It allows you to extract the underlying principles or “rules” that differentiate types of problems, further allowing you to be more successful at picking the right solutions in unfamiliar situations.

Which has to be the point of learning, right?

What Works #4: Elaboration

Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know.

There are many ways you can do this, but the most powerful way would be to explain it to somebody else in your own words, while connecting it to other material you already know.

As an example, reading these books and summarising them is my way of implementing this practice into my learning journey.

Another powerful form of elaboration is to find a metaphor or visual cue for the new information. For instance, when teaching the structure of an atom, many science teachers will use the metaphor of the solar system, with the planets orbiting the sun, just as electrons spin around the nucleus.

This technique is extra powerful because there’s no known limit to what you can learn if you make elaboration a cornerstone in your learning strategy.

What Works #5: Generation

Generation is an attempt to answer a question or solve a problem before being shown the answer or the solution.

After growing up in a school system that only rewards having the right answer in the right way, this technique might strike fear in your heart.

This is what happens in experiential learning – you set out to accomplish a task, you run into a problem, you look for information that will help you solve the problem, and then use that information to solve it.

This has the added benefit of helping you uncover the difference between what you thought the answer would be, and what it actually was. I’ve found that this helps create humility, because the answer is almost never what you expect it to be.

What Works #6: Reflection

Reflection is the act of taking a few minutes to review what has been learned in a recent class or experience, and then asking yourself some questions:

  • what went well?
  • what could have gone better?
  • what might you need to learn for better mastery?
  • what strategies might I use the next time I encounter this problem?

What Works #7: Calibration

Calibration is the act of aligning your judgments of what you know and don’t know with objective feedback so you can avoid being carried away with illusions of mastery.

For instance, airline pilots have gauges and dials in the cockpit that let them know critical things like whether or not they are on the right course to reach their destination, and whether or not the airplane is level.

Without objective feedback on what you know and what you don’t know, there’s no way to figure out where you need to improve.

What Works #8: Mnemonic Devices

Finally, mnemonic devices are tools which allow you to organise large bodies of information in a way that makes it easier to recall.

For instance, the book Made To Stick (a classic marketing book by Chip and Dan Heath) uses the acronym S.U.C.C.E.S. to help us remember what makes marketing messages stick: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible and emotional stories.

While you won’t likely be forced to recall information in the real world like you do on a test, and very little of what you do in your work will require you to make split second decisions (and thus prevent you from referring to notes you might have made on a subject), the more information you can store and recall in your brain, the more creative and innovative you can be in your solutions.

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

Deliver + 1

In the last post we talked about how to figure out what your customers want out of a positive shopping experience. Today we’ll talk about the concept of Deliver +1 and how this concept can take your customer service to the next level. I’ve decided to split up this post so the next one will cover the 1% Rule.

Consistency is the key to any great customer service experience. If you want to take your satisfied customers to Raving Fan status, you have to go above and beyond the average customer service experience.

There are three ways to develop consistency:

Avoid offering too many customer service options.

We sometimes get so caught up in giving customers what they want we get away from our original vision. Instead, stay true to your vision and offer one or two solid customer service techniques that will set you apart from the competition.

You need to fine tune the current systems you are using before you can add anything to the mix. There’s nothing worse than launching a new program when you haven’t even worked out the kinks of an old system.

Put solid systems into place.

Once you know what you’re going to offer, you need to have a system in place to execute it flawlessly every time. This system needs to consist of the right people in the right roles and responsibilities and technology that guarantees a positive experience every time. Emphasis needs to be placed on the results, which ultimately is the satisfaction of the customer.

Good training is the key.

Once you have your system in place you need to train people to use it properly and efficiently. This helps your people deliver the results your customers are looking for. While, training is essential for the system to work and for all your people to work together cohesively, appreciation will go a long way.

I hope this has given you a look into what you need to do in order to have a quality customer service system in place. If you need help, try our FREE test drive and gain access to a wealth of resources, tools and coaching.

Another Secret Revealed

In the last post we talked about the first secret to building a solid customer service plan and how to decide what your vision is.

Today we’ll talk about the second secret in taking your satisfied customers to raving fans. You must know what your customers want. Know who your customers are and you will know better how to serve them. Demographics are really important here. An upper-class woman in her 30’s is going to have completely different expectations than a working class man in his 50’s.

There are four main areas you need to consider and plan when figuring out what your customers want:

  • Listen to Your Customers
  • Ask Your Customers Sincerely
  • Offer More than Just a Product/Service
  • Know When to Ignore Them

These are all important when deciding what your customers want out of their shopping experience.

Listen to Your Customers

You need to listen to both what they say and what they don’t say. Customers may say they want one thing and really mean something else. For example, if you customers are begging for lower prices, you may find out their real priority is quick delivery.

Also, listen to your “silent” customers. These are the customers who don’t bother to complain because the service is so bad they’ve just given up and don’t feel like their voice matters. They feel unwanted and when a competitor shows up, they’ll be gone.

Lastly, you need to listen to customers who only reply with “fine”. These customers are similar to the “silent” customers in that they are so used to bad customer service they only give a monotone response.

Ask Your Customers Sincerely

If you aren’t sincere when you ask their opinion, they are going to see right through you. You may be thinking, “What about the customers who aren’t saying anything?” You need to ask them sincere questions that get them thinking about their experiences. Make them feel like you really care and you should!

Offer More than Just a Product/Service

Your customers are looking for much more than a simple product or service, they are looking for an experience that makes them feel good. They gauge every step of the process with a value. When you take this into consideration and treat them like people, they will feel like they belong.

Know When to Ignore Them

You may think this goes beyond providing good customer service, but in reality you can’t give them everything and some people you will never make happy. You have to set limits and stick to them. If your vision and company don’t meet the needs of the customer, they will be best suited somewhere else.

These are the steps and tricks to figuring out what your customers want and how you can use them to work on your customer service vision and plan.

If you get stuck, try our FREE test drive on and let us help you through the process.

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