When All Goes Wrong In Paradise

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It looks great on paper. Tomorrow’s annual convention in Scottsdale is opening with a keynote speaker and all the fanfare of a Hollywood movie premier. One thousand of your association’s finest members have arrived. They are excited and chomping at the bit to get underway. Then you get a call in your room at 7:00 in the evening. It’s your speaker. She’s in Kalamazoo and can’t get out because of snow. What now?

We all have challenges, but when the ramifications effect hundreds or even thousands it’s enough to turn hair grey in a hurry. Seasoned meeting planners have the experience to deal with these challenges and you can learn these same skills.

Karen Climo, of the American Movers Conference, arrived on site at the hotel only to find out it had been sold and was now under new managment, begining that morning. “The entire sales staff was gone. The new management team was marching the former employees out the front door and had a trailer at the back door where they were hiring an entire new staff,” says Climo. “We wanted to go through a dry run of our program and no one at the hotel knew what was going on. Everyone we had worked with ahead of time had vanished. Lucky for us, everything was documented. I made sure that the new team had the latest version of what was supposed to happen at our convention and then went through the plan, step-by-step. There was no way they could fall out of it. Every minute was staged.”
Luck wasn’t really involved here. Karen not only had the foresight to stage the entire event, but made sure everything was documented. She also knew to arrive with copies of the entire plan. It is critical to always have copies of all contracts and correspondence with you on site. You never know when you will need to create a quick solution to a problem caused by miscommunication or a hotel staffperson’s short memory.

Cynthia Huheey, of the American Resort Development Association, created the ultimate closing awards banquet for her members. The banquet hall was divided into two sections and used a large curtain to conceal the surprise entertainment that would follow dinner and the awards presentation. When the production crew started to remove the curtain halfway through dinner instead of waiting until after the awards were given Cynthia went into action. “The crew chief just wouldn’t listen so I called his manager at home,” Huheey said. Cynthia went on to say, “most of the times that things go awry it’s because of miscommunication. I’ve enough experience over the years to know there is a way to fix everything. Sometimes you just have to do it a different way.”

Cynthia knew the value of having the home phone numbers of all the important players. She also had the confidence to know that there is always a solution. Don’t be married to the program or the process. Instead, be married to the results. If you keep that in mind, you won’t be too upset when you have to change something to solve a problem, as long as your atendees still get the great time you planned for them. If the cheese cake doesn’t show up and you have to substitute chocolate moose at the last minute, that’s okay. Remember, most of the time, the attendees never know the details anyway.
Marsha Rhea, of the American Society of Association Executives, has had challenges with speakers and their lack of preparation with using new, high-tech equipment. “Speakers don’t come early to test out high-tech equipment that they are using to show how ‘with it’ they are.” One time, Marsha had a speaker show up at 12:00 for a 12:30 program. He had a computer and a Power Point presentation only to find out that he didn’t have a copy of Power Point on the computer to run the show with. Quick work by Marsha produced a portable computer with the correct software. Then it turned out that the file wasn’t a Power Point file after all. The speaker happened to also have a video with him. Along with using the video, Marsha manually placed the overheads on the projector, which wasn’t on the stage. All was saved. “We now are thinking about requiring our speakers to show up a specific amount of time ahead of the program to test the equipment,” said Rhea.

There is no replacement for trial runs and testing out all the variables. Professional speakers, for the most part, know to arrive early to check out the room and equipment. Sometimes, industry experts need a little extra reminder about rehearsals.

By planning to the finest detail and then documenting everything, you will lay the foundation for a great program. Arrive early with your file of documentation in hand and an open mind. Changes may need to be made. Have back ups or sources for backup for your speakers and equipment. Things go wrong from time to time. It’s usually “when” not “if.” Seasoned meeting planners know there is always a way out and that paradise can be just around the corner.

V3 … the Power of Synergistic Leadership

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Values, veneration and vision are the three elements of quality leadership. Used individually, your organization can expect to see a minor impact. Used together, these concepts create a powerful synergistic force that can turn failing organizational environments into profitable and marketable companies. This synergistic force is the difference between the organization that will be going out of business and the one that will dominate and lead the industry into the next millennium. Using values, veneration and vision, you can create a synergy within your company that will enable your employees to achieve higher levels of productivity, better morale, improved customer service and increased profits.

To effectively implement synergistic leadership, a strong foundation must be laid. This foundation is based on understanding and mastering the concept of change.

Change is the essence of progress. Without a commitment to change, you cannot have any meaningful improvement in your life or organization. A great many people appear to resist change, but they’re really just disheartened by previously unfulfilled promises of change. What seems to be resistance is really fear of another disappointment. Improvement comes through altering, modifying and transforming. Old thinking will not yield new solutions. If you have limited thinking, you will have limited plans. Change involves an expansion in thinking. A commitment to change means opening your mind, realizing the need to make improvements in your habits and behaviors and being able to consider new concepts so you can have the creative plans necessary to achieve your vision. By opening up to change, all members of your team will be able to create the new solutions necessary to transform your organization into a market leader


Values are the cornerstone of all individuals and of any organization. It is critical that you first look to define and understand your own values, then look to define the organizational values. What is it that you really stand for? What are you willing to do to get new business? What are you not willing to do to get that new account? These questions must be answered before personal and organizational leadership can progress.

Quality organizations don’t change their values over time. They look for ways to change the application of a time proven set of core values. As industries evolve, product lines change, markets may change, customers may change, but a consistent core organizational value system will be your foundation of strength and long term success. Your values are the rules by which you play the game. It’s much easier to make a decision when you have a well defined value system on which to base your decisions.

Define your personal values and your organizations values. Dig deep inside and seek out what means the most. You will find a basis for strength and a foundation for implementation of synergistic leadership.


Andrew Carnegie once said, “You must capture and keep the heart of the original and supremely able man before his brain can do its best.” By first understanding what is at the core of the team members around you, you will be able to serve them and allow them to reach their fullest potential. You should not only recognize that there are differences among your team members, but also value those differences.

In many organizations, employees (your internal customers) don’t feel like they are part of a team. They don’t feel valued. They feel as if no one understands their goals, desires or ambitions.

The Council of Communication Management surveyed 705 employees in 70 companies of all sizes and industries. Here is what they found:

  • Sixty-four percent don’t believe what management says.
  • Sixty-one percent feel management doesn’t inform them well about company plans.
  • Fifty-four percent feel management doesn’t explain decisions very well.

Understanding each individual team member’s needs and values will enable you to serve them and create an atmosphere of trust and common cause. It’s really very simple … if you help your employees achieve their goals, they will help you achieve yours. Team members help other team members. It’s an unwritten universal law. Serve your team. They will feel the team spirit and help everyone on that team achieve higher levels of performance.

Veneration also means shaping the right work atmosphere. It is critical that we create a work environment that promotes creative thinking, an openness to change and rewards good effort. All fear must be driven from the workplace. Team members must feel as if they can try new ideas without the risk of persecution if they don’t achieve success. Only then will you unleash the power of all individuals and create an atmosphere that promotes growth.


Just as individuals need goals and a personal vision, every organization needs a vision. This is a unified picture of what everyone on the team is striving to achieve. The clearer the concept, the more likely your team will achieve their goal.

There are three elements inherent in a good vision. To create your company’s own vision, have your entire team answer the following questions. Then, begin boiling the answers down until you create your own organizational vision.

  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • For whom do you do it?

If you use these guidelines, you will be able to create a meaningful vision statement that will serve as the guiding light for your organization.

While on a fishing trip to Canada with my son Geoffrey, an interesting thing happened. Geoff and I were on our way forty miles down river to a base cabin to spend the night. On the way down, our guide pointed out a nest in the top of a tree and standing proud over the nest was a beautiful bald eagle. What a sight!

Upon arriving at the cabin, I mentioned the eagle to others in our group. One fellow stated that he saw forty-seven eagles on the way down the river. He was looking for eagles and found them. We were watching the shore and looking for animals visiting the stream for water.

More often than not, if you are looking for something, you will find it. If you are looking up, you’ll see eagles. If you are looking for something else, you will see that. Know what it is you desire. Look for it. Work for it. In the end, you will achieve your goals.

Values, veneration and vision do not achieve results. You do. It is your responsibility to take these concepts and apply them to your organization. The difference between management and leadership is this: Management administers past ideas, implements existing systems and maintains existing relationships. Leadership creates the future, with and through people.

So, the question I ask you now is: Do you want to be a manager and be in charge of the past or do you want to lead and create the future?

The Paradox of Change

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Where would you like to be in six months? One year? Two years? How do you get there? The first step is to clearly define what it is you want to achieve. The next step is to determine what you will have to change to get to where you want to be. Sound easy? Well, it can be.

If change is the catalyst that helps us grow and achieve at a higher level, then knowing what we want and creating the target is what activates the catalyst of change. I refer to these targets as primary desires. Once we recognize our primary desires, we can concentrate on figuring out what it will take to achieve them.

Although change is necessary for growth, people naturally resist change. According to Industry Week magazine, a recent survey revealed that 55% of all Americans remain resistant, even phobic, when it comes to taking advantage of technology in their everyday lives. People resist change because of a variety of reasons including:

  • Fear of change.
  • The uncertainty that change involves.
  • Trying new things is uncomfortable.
  • Difficulty with poor results until the benefits of change come.
  • People don’t want to lose control.

When Martin Marietta and Lockheed merged, Norman Augustine, CEO and Chairman of Martin Marietta, said, “These are Darwinian times in our industry. The failure to change is the failure to survive.” I believe that these are Darwinian times in all industries and all our lives and a failure to change may mean a failure to survive.


Change is scary, but people only accept change when they feel safe.

Recently in Richmond Virginia, the City Council felt the fear of change. After a seven hour hearing, the Richmond City Council voted to erect a statue of Arthur Ashe among the memorials to Confederate heroes on Monument Avenue. Mayor Young said, “We have grown, and it is painful to grow.”

Change offers new opportunities and new hope. Many times people are concerned when they are in the middle of a period of rapid change. The natural characteristic of change dictates that new opportunities will open up and those people that are poised to take advantage of those opportunities will far outperform those who are not.

Former manufacturing CEO John Mariotti, said, “The successful companies of the future will be able to react to change with incredible speed and flexibility by shifting their shape to create and deliver value better than their competitors – by being very good at what they do.”

The world in which we live today not only expects us to change, but demands it. By identifying your primary desires, determining changes you need to make to achieve those goals and then implementing those changes, you will achieve immediate results. Tap into the powerful force that change brings. Learn to manage that force and use it to create competitive advantage professionally and a richer life personally.

Embracing Change

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Change is the essence of progress and in order to have growth at work and in our personal lives we need to be willing to commit to change. However, change can only be initiated as the result of a primary desire. Lasting change is possible only when the need and desire for change is both understood and internalized. People will not change until they are ready to change. No one can force you to change. No one can start the process of change for you, except yourself. As human beings, we have the ability to change anything and anytime we want. Are you ready to change?

Many people are “too comfortable” to initiate change. They are too comfortable to risk failure. If we do today what we did yesterday, we will get the same results tomorrow that we are getting today, or worse. To achieve any level of meaningful improvement we must consider and implement change. In business, if you don’t improve, you will move back, because your competition will improve and pass you by.

Let’s say you want to lose weight. There are two variables that you can control, what you eat and how much you exercise. If you eat the same way today as you always have, and you don’t change your exercise habits, your weight won’t change. Now, let’s say you change the food you eat so that you are reducing fat and calories. Even if you don’t change your exercise routine, the change in food intake alone will change your weight situation. Likewise if you don’t change your eating habits but increase your exercise regime, you will burn more fuel and lose weight. Of course, the best thing to do would be to modify your intake and increase your outflow through a good exercise program. To maximize my performance as a runner I needed to lose some weight. I went on a low fat diet. Less than 25% of my calories were from fat. I also increased the frequency and length of my running workouts. As a result I lost 14 pounds!

It’s common and expected that people will try to stay in their comfort zone. This is an area where risk is minimal. Chances are not taken. Failure is not a consideration. This is where we’re “comfortable” and where we know we can “handle” almost any situation that comes up. Greatness does not exist in the comfort zone. The comfort zone is for people who are not looking to better their position in any of the seven major areas of life. To succeed in life one must recognize that “trips” out of the comfort zone are not only necessary but also required. Most people are afraid of change. However, it’s only through change that we can improve.

The space inside your comfort zone is finite, it is limited. The area outside the comfort zone is infinite, it has no limits. For example, if a runner can run a mile in seven minutes and always trains in his comfort zone, he will always run a 7-minute mile. Maybe he is happy with his time. If so, that is okay. All of his workouts will be similar, non-taxing, and he won’t test his ability. However, if he wants to improve, he must not only desire the improvement, but also be willing to leave his comfort zone so he can achieve long term success in running (his chosen area of desired success). By adding more difficult workouts to his training regime that push his limits, tax his respiratory system, jack up his heart rate, and increase the lactic acid in his bloodstream, he can improve and grow as a runner. His threshold will be raised and his time lowered. The change in the workouts may be somewhat uncomfortable or even downright difficult, but it is obligatory to improving performance and lowering times, which is the goal he established from his primary desires. The satisfaction of achieving his primary desire will be greater and last longer than the pain (price paid) he endured to achieve his primary desire.

The difference between the animals and human beings is that people have the ability to change. We can change our lives. We can change our surroundings. We can change our habits. We can change our future based on changes we make today! The salmon swim upstream every year at the same time. The swallows arrive at Capistrano every year at the same time. Grizzly bears crawl into their caves every year at the same time. But if you’re tired of your job, if you’re tired of your attitude, if you’re tired of your relationships, if you’re tired of your physique: if you want something better, you have the power to change and get what you want out of life. Human beings have the ability to change and to shape what they become.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you fulfilled all of your primary desires?
  • Is the comfort level of what you have now more important than the unknown of working toward your goals?
  • Will you be happy later in life if you haven’t put forth your best efforts to achieve your dreams?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” or you are unsure, then you should move forward by initiating change. Only through change can you break existing patterns and start new ones. By changing how you think and act, you can change your results. Apply this system both personally and professionally. By making changes in your attitudes and habits you will actually have a paradigm shift. You will be able to incorporate concepts and tasks into your plan that, before, you would have thought impossible.

If you have limited thinking, you will have limited plans. Change involves an expansion in thinking. A commitment to change means opening your mind, realizing the need to make improvements in your personal habits and behaviors and being able to consider new concepts so that you can have the creative plans necessary to achieve your primary desires. Make a personal commitment to change and growth will follow.

The Power of Choice

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We become what we become because of the way we choose and will ourselves to think. Our choices affect our thoughts and our thoughts affect who we are, what we stand for, and the footprints we leave on this planet.

Throughout our lives, we are faced with a myriad of choices. We may not always recognize their presence, but, like it or not, we are constantly faced with the responsibility of choosing. There is no escaping this responsibility. Not deciding what to do or how to act in a given situation is, in itself, a choice.

Making choices also means accepting the idea that we are part of a bigger picture. We are not alone in our choices. Our choices affect not only ourselves, but the people around us. Our choices shape our actions. Our actions are received and interpreted by those around us. These actions shape the opinions and feelings of those individuals and, ultimately, the actions they take for or against our behalf.

Some choices we make, like our financial well being, will ultimately affect the members of our immediate family. As we grow financially, we are in a position to provide on a different level for those we love. We make choices regarding our values and how we balance our lives. These choices will certainly impact our family and friends. How you treat others professionally will impact the results your business team achieves. As you can see, the choices we make can affect a wide array of people in our lives.

To a great extent, our beliefs about ourselves and our own capabilities, as well as how we see the world and the forces at play in it, affect what we will find possible. These beliefs will impact our choices. Our choices will shape our actions and our actions will determine our results.

Our choices not only affect us today, but affect our abilities and our choices in the future. For instance, if you feel out of control in a given situation, you may choose to withdraw or avoid the problems at hand. This choice leads you to escape from a challenge instead of confronting and possibly overcoming it. The degree to which you avoid or escape from problems today impairs your ability to face, deal with, and grow from various challenges in the future. Choices you make today will prepare you for choices you will be faced with in the future. As the complexity of life evolves, one choice will build on another, enabling you to handle increasingly difficult situations.

An awareness of choice is the first step towards growth. It is critical that we understand the importance of our choices and also the value of the present. By focusing on our current actions, living in the moment, we develop a certain mindfulness and can apply ourselves to do the very best job possible right now! Clarity of mind allows us to recognize the choices at hand and deal with them in a positive and proactive manner. You can create the future you desire based on the choices you make today!

Selling The Invisible

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I just returned from the winter workshop of the National Speakers Association. It is a great opportunity to renew friendships, share ideas, and hear the latest buzz. I had particularly been looking forward to the Saturday morning keynote, delivered by Harry Beckwith, the author of “Selling The Invisible.”

If you haven’t read Harry’s book, I strongly recommend it. Although a large percentage of our business economy is based on selling goods and services that you can’t hold in your hand, such as insurance, investment counseling, and other professional services, the principles are certainly relevant to physical products as well.

Harry stated that there are four main issues you must manage in order to achieve success in “Selling The Invisible.”

1. Price

Price is important, but not in the way you may think. Price denotes value. Therefore, if you sell at a low price, then your value is perceived as low. If you sell at a substantially higher value, then your value is perceived as high. People naturally desire to buy high quality.

Taking this concept further, studies have shown that a client will be intrigued by a 25 percent price difference. They see this price decrease as a significant saving and may justify a lesser quality in order to save the money. If your prices are 5, 10, or even 15 percent lower, then odds of making the sale do not increase. You will only be giving up profits.

If you want to use price to help convey value you must be more then 25 percent higher then your competition. Remember, price alone does not determine value. Your perceived value will also be conveyed through the level of service you deliver, as well as the other features and benefits of doing business with you.

2. Brand

What are you known for? What reputation do you or your company have in the market place? A brand is a promise that you make with the market. When someone chooses you and your service, they should know what they are going to receive.

Think of your brand as your reputation. Then the question is, “How do you grow your reputation?” If you work on developing and strengthening your brand, the value of your business will grow.

One way of conveying to the market place what you do is through stories. Don’t just tell people how great you are, how wonderful your service is, and the fantastic results you will help your clients achieve. Tell stories about actual experiences that your clients have had working with you. People relate to stories, and they learn from stories. Stories are believable, and are a very powerful way to make a point.

Use stories in your marketing efforts, and you will build your brand.

3. Packaging

How are you visually communicating with your clients? What does your office look like? How do you dress? Are your letters and other printed materials presenting the image that you should be sending?

Everything about you and your organization should present a great first impression. Your “packaging” has a direct correlation to your perceived value.

Look at your competition and the industry in which your work. What type of packaging do they use? How do they dress? What do their presentations look like? What is the quality of their web sites, printed materials, and any other collateral marketing materials?

Once you have a good grasp on what everyone else is doing, you are in a great position to determine if you are on the right track, or if you need to make any course corrections.

4. Relationship

What are your relationships with your clients and prospects like? Relationships are built over time and through service. When your clients call you, how long does it take for you to return their call? What type of commitment does this response time show your clients?

What do you sacrifice for your clients? Do you give them time, attention, and assistance? How do you welcome them when they call, or when you meet with them? What are you doing to show your clients the level of importance they hold?

These are tough questions, but the answers to these questions will reveal how you are building relationships, and they will identify possible shortcomings.

People like to be valued. We want to feel important. Invest the time and energy to make each client and prospective client feel important, and they will show tremendous loyalty to you.

Focus on these four areas, and you will be on the road to being accountable for your organization’s success!