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    Internal email series aimed at improving senior executive performance.
At The Gate - StorageCraft Executive Minute - Original Thought Leadership Series
The saying goes that the cobbler's children have no shoes. In many businesses, effective internal communication is neglected in the scramble to get content noticed outside the company. To help reverse this trend at StorageCraft, I launched this experimental weekly email update for the executive team. It's meant to be consumed on the run in one minute, with an  invitation at the end for an optional deeper dive on a related topic. Each installment features an original leadership lesson I've learned and tested through the years in marketing, advertising, broadcasting and business development. These advanced organizational development themes continue to be well received by our C-Level leadership team.
First Issue Introduction
Welcome to “At The Gate” – an executive thought starter you can scan while you’re waiting for a flight. One insight you can turn over in your mind while you’re on the road or out for the weekend and convert to inspired action on Monday.
This is a raw prototype to be revised and improved on the fly.
Executive Minute 1
A StorageCraft Executive Minute – April 29, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” – Dale Carnegie
I clipped this article to my Evernote this morning and recommend you do too. The essence is this – if you really want new behavior on your team, no amount of persuasion (negative or positive) is going to get you there. You have to change the environment.
To keep a company on track and accountable, numbers are fundamental, but consider this. $500 million, $200 million, or any abstract amount of money isn’t really an objective. It’s an outcome. Revenue is a by-product of one person taking informed and inspired action that benefits another person.
Scale that, and you’ve created an unstoppable market force.
Employees want meaningful work that helps them reach a personal goal, master a skill, earn respect in a peer group, gain acceptance for their ideas, and meet challenges that make them better versions of themselves. Numbers are vital compass points, but they don’t persuade by themselves. What can we do, starting with what we have and where we are right now, to turbocharge our team projects by replacing persuasion with one specific, empowering environmental change? This thought inspired me today and I hope it inspires you too. Let’s try it out and see what happens.
Executive Minute 2
A StorageCraft Executive Minute – May 6, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“Don’t mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get faked out by being busy.
The question is: Busy doing what?”   – Jim Rohn
On my commute this morning, I heard an audio book author say that around 90% of our waking activity is driven by habit, rather than by conscious choice.
Ninety percent.
It occurred to me that we habitually toss a lot of buzz words around in our staff interactions without thinking very deeply about what they mean – or about the specific daily actions we have in mind when we use them. Words like:
• Channel
• Partner
• Customer
• Revenue Attainment
• Lead Generation
It’s easy to assume that because we say them all the time, everyone knows what they mean at StorageCraft. The more clear and intentional we become about defining (and modeling) these terms for our teams, the better they’ll get at saying “YES” to the daily actions that drive and support them. By extension, they’ll also get better at INITIATING those actions on their own, and saying “NO” to things that make us look busy without being effective.
Scattered action gets scattered results. So does scattered meaning. How can we use more precise language to channel StorageCraft’s amazing brain power in the right direction?
[LINKEDIN PULSE POST] WHY YOUR CHANNEL PARTNERS ARE NOT YOUR CUSTOMERS – Hans Peter Bech (average reading time – 6 minutes)
Executive Minute 3
A StorageCraft Executive Minute – May 13, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“The dumbest mistake is viewing design as something you do at the end of the process to ‘tidy up’ the mess,
as opposed to understanding it’s a ‘day one’ issue and part of everything.” – Tom Peterson
As we transitioned into 2016, we heard several key observations about the status-quo at StorageCraft. One of them was, “We love complexity, so we create complexity.” All over the company, people are responding to that observation and starting to simplify – but they want to do more.
Anything we build into our processes or products beyond the essential thing that solves the problem at hand creates a friction point – from a staffer trying to submit an internal form, to the placement and naming of a command button in SPX. Those friction points give off heat in the form of wasted motion and lost margin. It follows naturally that the more friction points we eliminate for our teams, our partners, and our end users, the faster and higher our revenue will rise.
How do we become great at taking friction out of the StorageCraft experience? Modeling others who do it well is a great way to start. Visit In-N-Out Burger and notice how many items are on the menu. How are you greeted at the drive-up? How do the employees treat each other behind the counter? Pay attention to the checkout experience on Amazon. Buy some personal business cards from MOO and see how they’re packaged.
Starting today, what actions can we take to make simplicity and clarity a visible and credible pillar of the StorageCraft brand? I’ll personally reimburse the first ten readers who bring me their In-N-Out receipt before 4pm on Wednesday for the cost of their burger.
DESIGN WISDOM THAT INSPIRES FACEBOOK’S UX MASTER – TED Ideas (average reading time – 3.5 minutes)
Executive Minute 4
A StorageCraft Executive Minute – May 20, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“The top software developers are more productive than average software developers
not by a factor of 10x or 100x or even 1,000x, but by 10,000x.”
– Nathan Myhrvold – former CTO, Microsoft
What are the top six things on your priority list for today? Author Greg McKeown says that five of them are probably distractions.
Recently I started reading McKeown’s book called “Essentialism.” If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it, not just for personal productivity benefits, but also for the impact it can have on leadership decisions. Nathan Myhvold’s 10,000x quote is probably an exaggeration, but it hammers home a crucial reminder. Effort alone is not a predictor of results – or rewards. Examples of the pareto principle at work are so abundant that it’s really not open for debate anymore.
Work hard. Move fast. Both important – but they only matter if we’re moving fast and working hard on the right things. Pushing harder on a flawed process only yields incremental rewards at best. The leaders who rise to the top are the ones who train themselves to say “no” to the nonessential and focus their energy and attention on doing fewer things better – and knowing which few yield the most results.
How can we get better at applying this way of thinking when we’re tasking our teams with income-producing activities? One obvious answer is that we can start by modeling it better as individuals.
THE UNIMPORTANCE OF PRACTIALLY EVERYTHING – Harvard Business Review (average reading time - 5 minutes)
Executive Minute 5
A StorageCraft Executive Minute – June 10, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave.
The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” – Dale Carnegie
The more our company grows, the more you’re going to be called on to give effective talks in front of groups. The group may be a handful of your direct reports, a roadshow audience, or a conference hall full of prospective partners. This isn’t optional or extracurricular. It’s part of the real work of a leader, and if we want our presentations to have an impact, to communicate a vision, and change behaviors, we’re all going to have to get better at preparing and delivering them.
To do that, it’s important to understand what moves people to action and how a great presentation frames one clear, actionable idea around a few key points that your audience can understand and respond to. The tough truth is that nobody cares about that data table on the screen. They want to know what it MEANS, and how to apply it to things that THEY want, like significance, connection, growth, and a sense of contribution. How can we become experts at turning facts and data into stories that inspire people to think and act bigger?
[VIDEO]  THE SECRET STRUCTURE OF GREAT TALKS – TEDxEast (viewing time – 18 minutes)
Executive Minute 6
A StorageCraft Executive Minute – June 17, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“I’m perfectly happy with all the people who are walking around and just staring at the clouds and looking at the stars and saying, ‘I want to go there,’ but I’m looking at the ground and I want to fix the pothole that’s right in front of me before I fall in.” – Linus Torvalds
Every StorageCraft employee, no matter what their role or title might be, gets the same number of available work hours. It’s the choices we make minute by minute that determine how much value we get in return for those hours.
With all the big challenges we have in front of us, it’s more vital than ever to be clear on how we rank the actions that are truly important. The truth is that EVERYTHING we do matters – the real question is whether those actions move us closer to the outcomes we want. Yes, the big slide deck for the next board meeting is perceived as more “important” than five minutes listening intently to a junior staffer. Is it possible that the idea you get from that staffer – who’s closer to conditions on the ground than you are – might have far more positive revenue impact than the slide show? What about the ripple effect that employee will create when they leave your office? Having felt heard and valued for that five minutes, what confidence, vision, and energy will they carry back to the partners and coworkers they interact with today?
What could happen at StorageCraft if we started making choices based on significance, rather than on the surface importance of things?
[VIDEO] The Butterfly Effect – Andy Andrews (viewing time 9 minutes, 45 seconds)
Executive Minute 7
A StorageCraft Executive Minute - June 24, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“It takes two seconds to tell the truth and it costs nothing. A lie takes time and it costs everything.”
– Randi Rhodes, Syndicated Radio Host
What DON’T we want to know about our business?
Chances are, the more uncomfortable the answer makes us, the more useful the information will be.
Maybe it’s an “American Dream” thing, or a regional culture thing, or some primal, adaptive element of human nature. Wherever it comes from, people waste a huge amount of creative energy dealing with things as they wish they’d be, rather than simply facing them as they are. Peak performers train themselves over time to resist the instinctive tendency to idealize the world around them. They confront the situation in front of them – immediately and directly – exactly as it presents itself.
What would happen if all the energy that went into wishing things were different got channeled into MAKING things different?
What don’t you want to know about what’s in front if you right now – at home or at work? Here’s a personal takeaway that has made all the difference for me – in business and in my personal relationships –  people can handle more of the truth sooner than we give them credit for.
Executive Minute 8
A StorageCraft Executive Minute - July 1, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.”
– John Wooden
How did Intel manage to dominate the microprocessor market for so many years?
They understood the power of convergence.
While their hottest selling chip was keeping their competitors on defense, their creative focus was on products three to five generations out. Rather than benchmarking on today’s capabilities, they looked at three key gating factors in their business and committed resources based on where those lines of technology would converge several years in the future. For Intel, those factors were feature size limits for microscopic components, the line width limitations of their fab tools, and uniform crystalline structure across ever bigger silicon surfaces. For us the gating factors might be operating system attributes, dashboard market trends, global data center practices, or something else entirely.
What’s important is not the factors themselves. It was Intel's way of thinking that made them successful – their ability to imagine a world beyond their immediate circumstances and work FROM a bigger outcome – not toward it.
Imagine what could happen at StorageCraft if we funded, staffed, equipped, and developed for where our market is going, instead of where it’s been. Who’s ready to quit the catch-up game and lead?
[ARTICLE] MEET THE 2016 CNBC DISRUPTOR 50 COMPANIES – CNBC (reading time – 3 minutes)
Executive Minute 9
A StorageCraft Executive Minute – July 8, 2016
You’re just one good idea away from a breakthrough.
“When a company has a reputation for fair dealing, its costs drop: Trust cuts the time spent second-guessing and lawyering.”
– Joel C. Peterson
It’s been said that culture is the glue that binds a company together.
What’s the glue that holds culture together? The answer is trust – our unspoken agreement that things are the way we tell each other they are.
Trust is the basic condition that frees people up to put their creative energy into the present moment – to devote their attention to the task at hand. Without it, the organization’s imagination and effort [the stuff on which our success depends] drains away in one of two unproductive directions. People will either spend it dwelling on past events where trust was broken, or on imagining their hopes or fears coming true in the future. To earn my own trust, I have to make and keep small promises to myself over a consistent period of time. To earn YOUR trust, I have to show you visible evidence that I’m not only going to DO what I say, but also that I know HOW to do what I say.
Trust is easy to lose, and tough to win back. Mistakes happen. If you’re driving on an unlit road at night and slide off into an unmarked ditch, that’s a mistake. When you’re driving down that same road in bright sunlight and ignore a warning sign about the ditch, that’s not a  mistake. It’s a choice. Regaining your trust after a mistake may be simple. Winning it back after a pattern of bad choices is another matter. Can you forgive me? Probably. Will you do business with me again? Not likely. What specific actions are we taking today to ensure that there’s a fabric of trust holding our teams together?
[ARTICLE] – HOW SMART LEADERS BUILD TRUST – Stanford Graduate School of Business (reading time – 4 minutes)
Audience Feedback
"Nice post, Tim."
"I love this one. And I need this one too."
"Thank you, Tim. I needed to see this today. Love it!"
"I have read/watched every one of these that you have sent.
I get something out of each of them -- thanks for passing along."
"Great email!  Thank you for constructing this type of information... I have included the Extended Exec Staff on this thread. Without question you are right: Revenue is a by-product of one person taking informed and inspired action that benefits another person...  We need everyone in our company to take this view! Change the environment starting with including and empowering our members."