I got into it with a ‘sales expert’ yesterday. He told me that “sales is a warrior’s job and the warrior works alone.” I thought, don’t bet your moccasins on that.

It’s true that the best salespeople seem to be ‘hunters’ and not ‘gatherers’. But it’s also true that the most valuable hunters are the ones who hunt for the good of their tribe—not just for themselves. In sales, these hunters remain true to their mission. The needs of their tribe take precedence over their personal interests.

[Cut to scene in forest clearing, as the famed hunter returns to village with his kill.]

Hunter: “Chief, I bring back this white crow. What a great challenge it was to stalk and kill it. What perfect aim of my arrow. My skills as a hunter are unsurpassed!

Chief: “There are fifty mouths to feed, and you call this dinner?”

Hunter: “Ingrate!”

There’s more to being a great salesperson than closing deals. Let’s suppose that sales dollar volume is being met, but most of the ‘wins’ are on low-margin existing product, or product that is in short supply, when the company really needs to move the new high-margin product line, or to reduce excess inventory. Where does that leave you? And what if you have a sales ‘superstar’ who surpasses quota by telling customers just what they want to hear, without a care that the Support, Tech, and/or Production teams will have to miss deadlines and burn up time and cash trying to meet unrealistic expectations.

The complete picture of what if means to ‘team well’ in sales goes well beyond short-term relationships and results. To be a high-quality team player, a salesperson must remain in alignment with, and committed to delivering on:

  • Customer needs and concerns
  • Product ‘fit’, functionality, and roadmap
  • Support team availability and capabilities
  • The company’s short-term management and financial objectives
  • The company’s long-term marketing and strategic objectives

One of my colleagues knows a salesman who works for a very large company that markets enterprise software systems to manufacturers. This person has no crocodile cowboy boots and sports no Rolex watch. He’s actually a little scruffy—just a regular guy who will occasionally put on a sport coat. And yet, year after year, he is the company’s top salesman by a margin of two or three times over the runner-up. Why? Because—as anyone who has worked with this fellow will tell you—he knows the market, he knows the product, AND he is a phenomenal team player.

There is some irony in the fact that Sales Management always looks for people with the right experience and the right personality, when they really should be looking for people with the right experience, who also team well. There’s a big difference between the two.

Long ago, personality testing showed conclusively that most people in the sales profession have high levels of extraversion and aggressiveness. As a result, these traits are considered to be a sort of ‘pass-fail’ measure in hiring for sales. But if you look at most sales organizations, you find high levels of failure to achieve objectives, and high turnover. So while extraversion and aggressiveness have a lot to do with getting involved in sales jobs, they don’t seem to have all that much to do with selling successfully.

Could it be that the ability to ‘team well’ with others is the missing piece of the puzzle? Well, that’s one of the questions I had in mind over 25 years ago, when a colleague and I began our search for a way to measure what happens when people team together. And now that ‘teaming characteristics’ (and other closely related qualities of human interaction) can actually be measured and reported, it is possible to demonstrate just how much selling value a quality team player can deliver.

So, Mr. Sales Expert, it’s time for you to eat crow.

This post originally appeared in InnovationDAILY, September 26, 2010.


I love when a company takes responsibility for its mistakes, but it’s even more impressive when a company steps up to solve a problem that they didn’t even cause.

Case in point: the order from Philosophy that the post office saw fit to return to sender instead of deliver to me, sitting here in my office in the center of Philadelphia, at a well-known address. Apparently the handoff went fine from Fedex, but a postal employee couldn’t – or wouldn’t – figure out what to do with the correctly addressed package.

So I called Philosophy’s customer care line and before I could say a demanding word, the representative cheerfully offered to send replacements immediately so I’d get my order in a day or two. Let me make that clear: no blame-shifting, no having to call a supervisor. Just an employee making it right for a customer.

Cristina, you not only have great products, you empower your employees to stand behind them – no matter where the fault for non-performance lies.

That is the essence of the great CEO.

Ask any entrepreneur what it costs to make a hiring mistake and you’ll likely be met with a groan and a ‘double eye roll’.  Everyone knows the costs:

  • The recruiting fees
  • The job postings
  • The time you spend interviewing
  • Your turnover rate causing increased UC contribution costs
  • The lawyer’s fees for the employment contract, figuring out how to break the contract, and sometimes additional fees–plus the tax on your time and patience–required to defend yourself against wrongful termination!

Think of these these costs as ‘direct damage’:  a real strain on any entrepreneur’s budget, but not an unexpected cost of doing business.  Bad hires happen.  But wait…..have you considered the ‘collateral damage’?

No hiring decision happens in a vacuum.  You need your team to be whole. You have a missing part.  You seek to fill it in a way that capitalizes on the assets of your existing team members – and makes up for their deficits.  That’s why prudent employers engage search specialists, scour resumes, do 360-degree interviews, personality tests, reference checks, and even credit checks (where allowed by law).  But somehow, bad hires still happen, and when they happen to you, you’re naturally disappointed.  Or worse.  Because if you’ve pegged your hopes and plans on the wrong person, it’s the collateral damage that costs so much more than the hiring failure.

We all pride ourselves on being good judges of people, and we are — but only if we have the whole story, not just a collection of data components.  If you have had the misfortune of more than one or two hires that turned out badly, you may even begin to doubt whether you (or your people) are even capable of hiring successfully. When all the signs–including ‘gut feel’ point to “YES”, and still a new hire turns out to be a dud, the first piece of collateral damage may be your self-confidence as an executive decision-maker.

And then there is the impact of the bad hire on the rest of the team.  Here’s the worst part.  The better your team is, the worse the collateral damage will be.  If you have brought the bad hire in over people who are great performers, you’ll see the decline happening right before your eyes.  And worse, it won’t take long before your they are plotting their next career move.  And they aren’t likely to tell you because really – who is going to challenge the boss on a hiring decision?

Finally there is the adverse impact on present – and future – stakeholders.  News travels fast, especially since the investor/entrepreneur ecosystem has the modern day equivalent of jungle drums and really knows how to play.  You know what I mean: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and all those f-t-f networking events.  Word gets around when someone (or some team) clearly doesn’t have the right stuff.

So in view of all this, wouldn’t it be great to know how someone will perform on your team – before you hire them?  You can, but only if you are measuring for the right things: not just for individual characteristics – but for behavioral ‘Teaming Characteristics’, which are derived from a person’s Coherence and Role. (To our knowledge, TGI’s Role-Based Assessment is the only way to measure these.)

To minimize some of the collateral damage you have experienced in the past, consider this: there nothing wrong with your decision making.  As an entrepreneur, you have a good sense of how to behave on a team because you know you can’t do it yourself.  You respect people who apply their skills, their experience, and their deep commitment to your vision.  Good decision making assumes good behavior.  Since you are a team player, you’ll tend to expect others to be good team players–and unfortunately, some are not. In fact, some are truly toxic to team play.  So keep on trusting yourself, and keep in mind that there is now a ‘new way to know’.

This piece originally appeared in Innovation DAILY March 29, 2010.


A few months ago, the experts at Right Management surveyed more than 900 workers in North America, asking a seemingly innocuous question: “Do you plan to pursue new job opportunities as the economy improves in 2010?”

These were the responses

  • 60% said they intend to leave in 2010
  • 21% said they might, so they’re networking
  • 6% said it wasn’t likely, but they have an updated resume
  • And only 13% stated their intention is to stay in their present job

You can look at this data in two contexts.

First, you can think of what it means on the employee level and glean some pretty useful plans.  You can ‘do the math’ and realize you might be needing to replace up to 87% of your workforce.  You can hire another recruiter – or ten.  You can change your comp and incentive plans to try to keep your mission-critical people.  You can even start cross training, internship, mentoring, engagement, and similar programs.

Or, for something completely different, you can think about your workforce as a human infrastructure.  How could it have become so fragile? How can it be restored? What have we been missing? How can we avoid repeating the same mistakes?

Obviously something has been missing, and there’s a good chance that you need to learn the ‘new math’ of valuing people’s performance in teams.  And to avoid making the same mistakes, get answers to these questions before you launch a massive recruiting drive:

  • What do we really need to accomplish: adding more people, or building a sustainable human infrastructure?
  • If it’s true that people leave managers, not companies, what’s the best way to identify and support managers who naturally get people to ‘stick around’, and how can we replicate their success?
  • Are we using measurements that were designed to identify teaming characteristics and to solve team performance problems?  If not, why not?
  • Have we structured our teams correctly, ensuring that the teaming characteristics of the people are a good fit to the functional mission of the team?

And finally:
What’s our strategy for identifying and dealing the people who just don’t fit – never have and never will?

Could it be that you never had the right people on the bus in the first place?

This piece originally appeared in Innovation DAILY, February 27, 2010.


Humility Breeds Trust

March 8, 2010

Since so many CEO failures are caused by failure to put the right people in the right job, and the related failure to fix people problems in time, the big question is, why do such smart people make such bad decisions?

One reason is approaching the problem and believing that you already know the solution. Starting with a full mind leaves no room for new perceptions. Performance is highly linked to how much trust is in the DNA of the culture. And we know more about how to destroy that trust than we know how to build it.

Most people’s default is to trust others and to expect to be trusted. They assume that everyone is headed in the same direction, toward the achievement of the vision. Then they crash into someone who neither respects nor returns that trust. They have their first experience of disenchantment.

Sometimes it’s the rigid, Machiavellian boss who promises you’ll get to try your wings on an exciting project and then clips them mid-air. Sometimes it’s the co-worker who has little original thinking but is happy to take credit for your work.

If you want to lead a trust-based organization, you should start by focusing on bottom-line results. If you believe the hype about leaders, you’ll think that all it takes is a lot of charisma and a great story. That helps. But neither vision nor execution alone gives you bottom-line results—they require vision plus planning plus execution plus follow through.

You can’t do all that yourself. No one can focus on all of these at the same time and accomplish anything. Teams can achieve what an individual cannot, but only if there is diversity of style and focus, and a leader who realizes that no one can be everything. Humility will keep you from flying into the sun, unlike poor Icarus who was gifted with many qualities of leadership — save the humility that would have allowed him to listen to others who warned him that things were going to heat up far beyond his control.

Here are some suggestions for building your trust-based organization:

  • You don’t have to be a member of a 12-step program to take a fearless inventory. Is your default arrogance or humility? Do you know how you affect those who work with and for you?
  • Remember to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the people. You won’t know what those needs are unless you know people as individuals and understand what motivates them. A good measure of your humility will be your lack of surprise when you realize that what motivates you most is not necessarily what motivates them most.
  • Understand that there is great value in the diversity of other people’s styles and roles. People who don’t think the way you do are tremendously valuable to you in solving problems and coming up with innovative ideas. Listen carefully to all of them, and understand each point of view and carefully consider it even if, at first, you don’t agree with it. If you turn it down, do it with respect and gratitude for their act of trusting you with it.
  • Earn the best team you can get. Engage them in your process — vision, execution, evaluation — and make it a living process. Set team goals that are challenging but attainable and lavishly reward the entire team for achieving them. Rewards can be non-financial and just as effective as long as they are oriented to what motivates each individual.
  • Remember your origins. You were not born to lead at birth. Someone trusted you. Now it is your turn to trust and to be trustworthy. The further you get from your origins, the further from Earth you will fly until, like Icarus, you are left with no supports, and your fall is inevitable.

This piece was originally published by Leadership Excellence magazine.


If you’re a CEO like me, you have high expectations for everyone. I mean really high. If we work this hard, shouldn’t everyone? If we knuckle down and deal with tough problems, shouldn’t others do it with the same gusto? And if we can nail down value points and key indicators like a pneumatic hammer, why does it seem that others are pounding with rocks.

We aren’t the only ones. There are probably lots of people in your organization who feel ‘alone at the top’ of their team. It’s frustrating, but guess what: there’s no where it’s more frustrating than in HR.

Finance has the tools and the data to generate projections. And Operations can give you production metrics. Sales has the top line numbers. Even Purchasing can tell you how much money they’re saving as they upgrade the old coffeepot to the fancy barista station. But HR? Their hard measures are things that keep you up at night, like rising health insurance costs! HR’s other metrics- turnover, onboarding speed, and engagement – never quite seem to ‘measure up’ in terms of business value.

So consider this: all those other executive functions have tools that allow them to analyze needs, identify best options, and demonstrate solution value, while HR has disparate databases, training programs that don’t measure outcomes, personality tests from the middle of the last century, and metrics that neither speed nor simplify management decision making.

Here’s an alternative. Let them you know want them to have the tools they need to prove their business value. Then direct them to The Gabriel Institute and tell them to ask for your old friend Dr. Janice. I’ll take it from there.

Dr. J

P.S. Our solutions cost little, predict how people will perform in teams, build the strength and productivity of your human infrastructure, and deliver measurable business value. Just give HR a little time to learn how to apply them. You WON’T be disappointed.


The Real Score

January 17, 2010

People who think they can be everything to everyone fascinate me, especially when it comes to leadership.  This is a quiz designed to frustrate them because you have to choose only one from each pair.  Even worse, I’m going to ask you how you actually behave, not what you think you would do.  Are you game?

A- My job is to inspire my team, so I have a vision I share with them that they can believe in.


B-  My job is to motivate my team, so I give them rewards for a job well done.

A- I spend some time most days focusing on what I need to do to achieve my vision.


B- I spend some time most days focusing on achieving the desired outcomes.

A- I know where I’m going and I expect my team is following.


B- I frequently check in and herd my team so they don’t get lost as they work toward the goals.

A- I explain what I want to my team as they seem to need it.


B- I have documented very clear rules and I expect my team to follow them.

A- I give my team wide berth to do their jobs in the way that makes sense to them.


B- I am careful to set reasonable limits on how far people are allowed to deviate from my plans.

A- I thank my team for being there.


B- I praise my team for doing things well.

Add up your As and your Bs and don’t be too concerned which you had more of.  You are who you are: if you have more As, most people would say you’re more of a leader. If you have more Bs, they’d say you’re more of a manager.  One isn’t better than the other; they’re just different.

But that’s not the real score.

To get your real score, answer these two questions:

1- In how many instances was it very difficult for you to choose only one option?  (The more difficult, the more likely you actually are capable of doing both, which is, after all, what needs to get done if you’re going to have anything to lead.)

2- In how many instances did you think of someone else on your team who prefers the opposite of your choice?  (The greater the number, the more likely you focus on the team rather than yourself.)

The real score is that leadership happens when you’re not thinking about it.  It happens when you focus so much on supporting other people that they can’t think of you as anything other than a leader.


This post originally appeared on the Human Capital Institute blog and has been cited elsewhere.  Here it is, updated with the most critical thought for CEOs.

1- Shut up and listen:  Every moment you speak is a moment your interviewee is silent.  Unless you are interviewing someone who will be working for you as a mime, you aren’t learning anything while you’re talking.

2- Ask SPIN questions: Help your interviewee learn more about the position and company–while you’re learning more about them–by asking them value-centric questions.  Try using what sales guru Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling and many other books on business communication, calls ‘Implication’ and ‘Need-payoff’ questions.  “What if you got this position and could do anything within reason to make it a success?”  “Here’s a recurring problem (describe it); how many kinds of adverse impact on our business can you identify? This gives the candidate an opportunity to ‘dig in’ and actually sell themselves on the job opportunity, while giving you a view into their thinking and problem solving processes.

3 – Stick to a plan: Remember that an interview is a form of assessment.  If every interview follows a different path, they will not result in accurate or reasonable comparisons between candidates. Not only do you need to ask the same questions of each interviewee, you need to interpret their answers in the same way.  Furthermore,  if you don’t isolate the key message points and stay focused on them, it is all the more likely that the candidate’s physical characteristics, gender, race, nationality, style of dress, etc. will creep into the assessment–and before you know it you will be adrift in unconscious biases that can lead to future trouble.

4 – Pick a team player: Consider using an assessment that is designed to measure teaming characteristics.  Hiring has always been focused primarily on the characteristics of the individual candidates. Ironically, how well they will perform on the team doesn’t come to the fore until after the hire–and isn’t recognized as a failing until after the ‘bad hire’ has done plenty of damage.  You can’t really ask people how they ‘team’ and expect a reliable answer, so you need a way to predict how they will behave.

5 – Take the high road: Even when you’re having a tough day, remember that you are making decisions of critical importance to your organization.  You have direct influence on building and maintaining a human infrastructure that will determine the success or failure of the entire organization.  Take a deep breath, ask for a second opinion if you’re unsure, and always keep learning.

And for CEOs:

Remember, you are picking someone who will be teaming with you.  Do you know what your teaming characteristics are?  Don’t fight them: they’ve gotten you this far so don’t mess with success.  Just make sure the person you’re bringing in will be three things: Coherent, a Role complementary to yours, and someone with the kind of teaming characteristics that spell success on your team.  You’re building your human infrastructure so you may as well build from your own specs!


I was going to write something on Labor Day but entrepreneurial CEOs work 24/7 so there wasn’t time.  Not even much time to think about how many labor/management problems would disappear with better job-fit.  And management-fit.

Instead I dug out the tombstone from my late father-in-law’s 1960 IPO and brought it to my office, where it now stands as a reminder of the history of a company – and lives – destroyed by equal amounts of greed and entitlement on the parts of both an investment banker and a union leader.

Fast forward almost 50 years and I’m not sure much has changed.

When is Entrepreneurs Day?

%d bloggers like this: