London-based Kim-Adele Randall has spent over 25 years transforming professionals so their businesses can reach the next level of global growth. Her experience and lessons have built unstoppable sales teams for multi-million dollar / pound companies, and leaders who naturally draw talent. Kim explains why asking “why” questions is very detrimental, how to rephrase them for positive outcomes, how to focus on facts rather than emotions, learning through stories, how facial expressions are universal even among blind people, and the benefit of encouragement. Kim also presents the most important criterion for business owners who seek to sell or exit their companies. Most critically, her methods work internationally, regardless of age, race, gender, nationality, culture, or top-down vs. bottom-up management style.
The seven secrets to unstoppable sales
Some examples of companies that have applied Kim’s principles.
Distinguishing between “needs” and “wants.”
Dealing with international companies and teaching them to let go of their ego.
Turn Leaders into talent magnets.
Using the principles internationally.
Common Mistakes that prevent executives from reaching their full potential.
Kim-Adele Randall bio:
Kim-Adele Randall is a business consultant, International best-selling author, inspirational keynote TEDx speaker, and proud mum. With over 25 years of experience in the corporate world, she has developed the skills to empower others to achieve sustainable transformation for professional and business success. As a testament to her expertise, her upcoming book is called Authentic Achievements with a very long subtitle, the Seven Secrets of Building Brave Belief, unstoppable sales, and turning your leaders into talent magnets for guaranteed sustainable growth.
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Originally posted here
Hello everyone. Since today’s guest is European, I thought it would be appropriate to have a slight mistranslation of a sign in a Bucharest hotel, which said very simply in English, “The lift,” meaning the elevator in British English, “The lift is being fixed. During this time you will be unbearable.”
Today’s guest is London-based Kim-Adele Randall. She is a business consultant, International best-selling author, inspirational keynote TEDx speaker, and proud mum. With over 25 years of experience in the corporate world, she has developed the skills to empower others to achieve sustainable transformation for professional and business success. As a testament to her expertise, her upcoming book is called Authentic Achievements with a very long subtitle, The Seven Secrets of Building Brave Belief, unstoppable sales, and turning your leaders into talent magnets for guaranteed sustainable growth. Welcome, Kim, delighted you’re with us today.
Philip, thank you so much for having me, and my apologies for the ridiculously long subtitle to the book.
As long as it fits on the cover, that’s fine. That’s between you and the publisher.
As it’s a really small print.
Let’s start by your giving us a bit of background about how you evolved into your current role in the leadership training field. One does not normally wake up in the mornings with an aspiration as a child, thinking this is what I’d like to do. It’s something that normally evolves.
And now you’re so right. And if I were to go back to being a child and what I wanted to do, all I wanted to be was a hairdresser. And I was very fortunate. I left school at 15 and I lived my dream. I became a hairdresser, I set up my own business at 18 and I was like, this is it. So, I think a big time this is going and then, unfortunately, I had an illness at 24 where I became severely allergic to perm lotion which, in the 90s, was a challenge as a hairdresser because it was big stuff.
So, I sold my business. In fact, the girl I sold it to still runs it today, which is great. She worked for me at the time, and I got a temporary contract at a bank while I worked out what on Earth to do now because that would be my dream, my career path. And that led me into the next 30 years of building a career mainly in financial services, but I moved around also into IT and software and technology moving myself up to board-level roles. And I loved doing all of those. And then I became a mum [mom] late in life. And I realized at that point I needed to think differently so I could no longer be the big CEO of a £150 million company and be a good mum. Because I was a single mum, I had to make some different choices.
So, at that point I decided… Well, I’ve done this for years. For years I’ve gone into organizations and made a transformational change. How do you take them when they’re stagnating and get them to break through that next level and really turn around that culture and say, well, I could do that for another company, or I could do it for lots of people, by setting up my own business? And consulting on that basis. That was about 5 1/2 years ago.
And since then, I’ve been really fortunate. My world kind of evolved a little bit as you mentioned. Now I’m a best-selling author, which happened on Day One of the lockdown.
So, on Day One of lockdown, somebody got in touch and said, Kim, we’re writing a book about remote working, and you’ve led remote teams for years. Would you write something in the book? And I said no; I can’t even write about shopping. I certainly can’t write a chapter of a book. And they said, go on, do it for us. And there was an extra challenge, which was you’ve got five days to write your chapter. But I looked at it and I was locked in a house on my own with a 2½-year-old who is friendly enough to sleep a lot because she’s 2 and 1/2. So, I’ve got no excuse, really.
So, I did it. And on Day 10 of the lockdown, we published and on Day 12 we became international best-selling authors. And I ended up on local, and national radio talking about it, thinking this is surreal. We’re in lockdown. I literally pivoted into something else and that was the start. And now I’ve just published my 6th book. I’m writing my 7th, which as you know has got a ridiculously long subtitle. Then I got into public speaking, I was really blessed to do a Ted X last year. And I think for me it’s been more around. We’re moving into a world of knowledge and people can get that knowledge. It took me 30-odd years to get my knowledge so other people can get it and it might not take them the same 30 years it took me. I might be a slow starter. But what the difference is I can tell them the key lessons that I’ve learned over those 30 years.
So, you don’t have to go through the mistakes, you don’t have to go through the pitfalls. Here are the things that I’ve seen time and time and time again to help you to build strong cultures, to attract great talent, and to drive unstoppable sales to turn your business into something that’s not just scalable but salable. And for me, that’s kind of my purpose, I think.
Absolutely, it makes perfect sense. You mentioned the seven secrets of unstoppable sales. Could you, without divulging too many details because of course you want people to buy the book, share with us some examples of what these secrets are.
So, I think it is one of the first ones… I was talking to an old colleague earlier today, from an organization that I worked with internationally. One of the first challenges is you go into most businesses and when they start talking about things, they talk about what they need.
So, they talk about what it is that they’re providing. So, they believe in what it is that they’re doing. And I remember standing up and I was head of sales for a big international multi-million-pound organization at the time; I remember my boss’s face at the point I stood up in front of this conference and said, “The first thing you need to know is nobody actually wants our product.” And you could see him and go, oh my God, she said. They get off. What’s she doing? She’s killing us. And “as you need to use it, nobody wants it. They need it, I said.” And the reason I say that is we’re an accounting software organization, so nobody unless they’re an accountant, went into business… because they wanted to do accounts. They need to do accounts, so you can’t try and create a want of them. There’s no point trying to pretend you’re the next Apple because they’re just not interested.
What they’re interested in is how you help them achieve the necessity of their accounts in the least amount of time so that they’re not distracted from their business. But if you’re in the “want” business, then you need to react differently, and that was probably one of my key lessons and key secrets. Understand first or if you “want” or “need”.
So, if I were to give you a different kind of example. If I want a pen because I want to write something down, any old pen will do. Any pen you can give me is going to allow me to write stuff down. That’s exactly what I need because I’ve got a need for that. If I want a Montblanc, it’s because I want the prestige that comes with it. I want the feeling that goes around that I want to have the elite status that comes with it.
So, you can’t sell me a Montblanc in the same way you can sell me an everyday Byron and you have to first understand as an organization which party you are playing in or are you “want” or are you “need?” And from there you can craft your brand, your strategy, and your communication and it makes a significant difference over the years. That’s where I’ve seen the biggest disconnect in organizations; they don’t know that key element for themselves first.
Yes, you mentioned some words that our listeners and viewers might not know because they are somewhat European. First of all, previously. But when Brits talk about mum, they mean mom or mother in American English.
So, I have to constantly correct myself. I’ve just been writing some stuff for a colleague. That and I write obviously in English, and they giggle at me all the time. Because it will be in Queen’s English. You’re going to have your favorite Kim and I was like, that’s how you spell it, so oh, it’s not. How do you spell it? Sorry, let me change that because they don’t always translate.
So, we say mum, as in MUM, but American. I know it’s mum as in MOM, so it’s just again trying to always be conscious of thinking about how this land with the person that you’re trying to communicate with, how does it land for you?
And the two pen brand names you mentioned, Montblanc, that’s a Swiss “White Mountain” actually. And did you say Byron?
On so. So, Byron, so over here it would be BIC, which is another brand name I wasn’t setting. If BIC or Byron was more translatable.
Very good. Makes sense. What are some of the companies that you’ve actually grown by applying some of these principles?
So, I’ve worked for quite a few. I’ve worked for some of the big ones. What’s in my industry, some of the big ones, like Sage, and Iris, I worked for Capital One. I worked for Barclays Bank, for Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest, and for Lloyds Banking Group.
So, in the main, I spent a large part of my time in the financial services and IT software space, mainly in technology. Since moving on my own I’ve worked with probably slightly smaller organizations, normally between sort of like $20 and $50 million turnover in the US. I’ve worked with those globally, whereas the bigger ones were the likes of sort of Barclays and Sage.
And are you able to give us perhaps how much you grew their sales in terms of revenue or percentages?
So, probably one of our biggest was Sage. So, when I first went into them, they had stagnated growth. So, I went in, and we took them from stagnated growth to double-digit growth. We then did four consecutive quarters of double-digit growth. We grew them from that one section that I looked after. Grew from 100 million to 175,000,000 in the period that I was there.
Dollar or Pounds?
Pounds because that was at the time that was a UK-based piece. If I think about some of the ones from a dollar point of view, it was probably going to be… Capital One was probably my best example… and there the organization we were at $200 million for the section that we looked after, and we were able to take that to $300 million by really digging into what was happening in the organization. It’s about both levels, so very often I see people talk about growing the revenue, but actually. It’s your bottom line, so sometimes you want to grow more sales, but sometimes there are sales you want to say that I don’t want any more of those because they actually cost me money. So, it’s understanding kind of which absolutely has an impact on your bottom line because that’s the piece that really is important to an organization.
One of the principles you mentioned to distinguish between “needs” versus “wants” or to distinguish whether your product or service is a true necessity or something simply desirable. What are some of the other principles that you have mentioned?
So, I think one of the most important things for me is what we can do as a leader. So, people in their base want to be listened to, understood, and respected, and I believe that to be true of every human being on the planet. That doesn’t mean to say we can never disagree, but we never disrespect. So, we really start to understand what’s important to our people and what they are trying to do. And I used the analogy again of being a hairdresser.
So, when I was hairdressing, they taught me that what I had to do was listen to understand what was really important to that person to help them to try and achieve it and to have them leave you feeling the best version of themselves and in my opinion, that’s leadership. If we can do that for every single person that works for us, I promise you they will walk through fire for you. Because they know that you care and that you’re interested.
And I think it was Steve Jobs that said, you know, don’t recruit people and then tell them how to do it, what to do, and when to do it. Because you could train a monkey to do that. Bring them in because you think that they’re going to be able to inspire the organization to move forward. Have to set boundaries, but we need to move away from micromanaging and allow people to take a step toward their full potential. And I think once in the organizations where I’ve done that and where I’ve been confident to say, do.
You know you know this better than I did. I don’t have to know this. If I knew how to do every one of your jobs better than you did, I don’t need you. That’s not a great place to be. So, prove me wrong. Show me how much I need you. Show me the value you add. Show me your uniqueness, because that’s going to be as an organization. How we really grow, but that takes an ability as a leader to be vulnerable, to be able to say I don’t know. And it’s OK to not know.
And that’s probably one of the biggest lessons that I learned. I remember having a boss many years ago who said, “but I love you, Kim, you don’t have a personal agenda.” And I always used to joke, I’m not bright enough for a personal agenda. I can only deal with one agenda, so I’m going to go with the one you’re paying me for. And if I get that one right, then you’ll think well, of me and, therefore my ego will be OK because you won’t think I’m hopeless.
He said, but literally, the goal that you were given was the one that was the most important in getting there in the best way, and I think we often see this in the organization at the place we derail ourselves and we derail the organizations that we’re working in because we get too wedded to being right rather than being wedded to the right thing being done. And I think once we learn that shift, for me, it’s more important that the right thing gets done, and if I don’t get recognition for that, I really don’t mind because over time people will spot that the right thing gets done wherever you turn up.
Where I’ve seen it go wrong is in those organizations where people want to go, “but that was because of me. I did that. I did that.” And they’re so big on getting that recognition actually. It gets lost in translation. Particularly, and you know, I know we’re talking today about international challenges that get lost in translation very quickly when we talk about the different cultures because different cultures view those things in a very different way.
And I’d like to explore that more. One of the aspects that you were talking about is that the Leader should admit what he or she doesn’t know, and I’m just thinking, in many societies in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and Asia, I’m not sure the leader can admit that readily because the leader is considered not only the figurehead but the font of all wisdom and knowledge. How does that work?
It’s so true and I think it’s not about admitting, per se, that I don’t know how to do that, but it’s admitting that as the wisest leader and as the wisest leaders across the globe, in all cultures, what they’re able to do is engage the experts. Because they’re wise. Instead of admitting defeat, what they do is encourage a culture of engaging experts where they go, “I know all of these things. But because I know all of these are at a high level, what I really want to do is have my expert at hand who knows the depth of this one, that can like, really get down to the nitty-gritty”. So, I’m not suggesting I’m vulnerable per se as a leader, but I am acknowledging that my ability to bring out the best advisors is the best support in building on my knowledge because I’m wise. So, it’s all about how we position it, but it’s having to admit, at least internally, that you can’t know everything. So how best do you ensure that you have all of that knowledge at your fingertips? In a way where you still feel that your position has not been undermined.
What other cultural issues arise through this method, or others where there might be cultural disconnects, for example?
There can be so many. I mean, we were talking before we came on, weren’t we? Yeah,. I’ve got some people that I was dealing with, and they were dealing with some Danish colleagues. Now culturally in the UK, as an example, we’re dreadfully bad at feedback. Dreadfully bad if you get something wrong, we’re going to tell you all about it. But if you get something right, at best we’ll go “Good job.”
If you deal with people in Danish culture, they’re just going to be brutally honest. If it’s good, they’re going to tell you what it is. If it’s bad, they’re going to tell you what it is. In the UK. If we just talk about those two cultures. The minute someone’s direct with you, you feel they don’t like me. They’re going to get rid of me. This is really awful, and so we layer in all of these levels of it meaning something else, whereas for the Danish person, they’ve told you what it was and then they’ve gone on about their day. You know, it’s like they’re not giving it any more thought. It’s not got this additional story that’s coming with it.
So, I was dealing with a guy that was doing leadership coaching and every time I spoke to him, he was like I’m on my last legs. They’re going to have me out [fire me] and I said if they said that to you, I promise that if they thought you were on the way out, you would know. And not know from the subtle innuendos of what might be layered into the stories that they’re telling you. You would know because they would have sat in front of you and said, if you do not change, you will be out. Full stop. Because culturally, that’s appropriate for them. Collaterally in the UK, we would go, ”Oh that’s a bit harsh. Someone should sugarcoat that pill, shouldn’t they?”
So, I think there are so many nuances, so I think for me one of the biggest things about working internationally is that you have to take a globalized strategy to it. So, although you’re working globally, you’ve got to engage locally, so you’ve got to understand what’s going on in that individual culture. How is that? How does that fit? How does that manifest? And I know we were chatting earlier; I think we both had a similar story, didn’t we? I worked for Capital One and I had a colleague that had joined us from America, who very nearly got into a fight because somebody invited him out for a cigarette break, which if they’d said cigarette break would probably be OK. But in the UK, we’d say, do you want to go for a fag? And that has a very massively different connotation, so it caused huge problems in something that was so seemingly innocent in that they were trying to engage and make him feel welcome, and inadvertently he didn’t feel hugely offended and massively unwelcome.
You also say that you turn leaders into talent magnets for guaranteed and sustainable growth. What methods do you use for that? Are they similar leadership qualities or are there some others instead?
So similar leadership qualities, but all but also the art of really learning to listen to understand, not to interject. So, unfortunately, listening is an art form that we’ve lost the ability to be part of. So, all too often in conversations, we listen to interjections. We listen, to give our point of view, to say what we think and therefore we’re not really listening anymore. And so, when we instead listen to understand and one of the things that I encourage people to do is swap judgment for curiosity. So, the way our brains are wired is they’re wired to make judgments. Because they needed to know, we used to have to work out if we were about to be eaten or not. So, we kind of wanted to make a bit of a snap decision that likelihood is now we’re less likely to be at risk of being eaten every time we step out of the door. So, we’ve probably got a bit more time, but we really need to think so.
So, one of the things I do for myself, I do with colleagues. Our brain will automatically snap to judgment. We’ll do it all the time. Somebody says something. Can you say, I agree with that. I don’t agree with that. That’s interesting. The point of swapping judgment for curiosity is to just get passionately curious. So, when somebody tells you something that you don’t agree with, instead of saying I don’t agree with that, just say I’ve never come to that conclusion. I’ve never considered it that way. Would you mind giving me some more insight into how you got there? You may still end up … but you’ll be amazed at what you learn on the journey. Likewise for yourself. When you go, I don’t agree with that, be curious about yourself. OK, so that’s interesting. Why am I so adamant that that’s wrong? What is it that tells me so? It’s just swapping all of those statements and turning them into questions that are a bit like children. There’s an old methodology that’s called the “five why” methodology and it talks about the fact that the first thing that we say is the thing that we think is most likely to be accepted.
So, it’s not necessarily the truth, it is true. But it’s and you’ll see this a lot when people say they’re leaving a job. And you go oh. Why is that? It’s the money. OK. But if you start asking them questions, Ron, what about the money? What else is it that comes to the fact that by the time you get to the fifth layer, you’ll actually get to the crux of the problem? You’ll get to the piece that really needs fixing,
And while they don’t advocate that everybody turns into toddlers and starts going, why, why, why? Because it’s just being more curious and for me personally, I try not to use the “why” term in any questions because again, culturally, in certain cultures it brings with it a layer of judgment.
The fact that you’re asking why brings across a feeling that you are judging their previous answer is incorrect. Not in all cultures, but in some. So instead, asking what open questions, it goes. OK, that’s really interesting. What is it that makes that so important? How is it that manifests so just remove just the word “why.” From my experience in a lot of cultures, you can suddenly end up in an argument with somebody that you don’t in some way. You got there. And it’s because you use the term “why” which makes them think that you are almost automatically saying I disagree. And they now ask you to justify your point. So again, learning those different questioning techniques can be really useful internationally.
Yes. I learned not to say “why” from a therapist because when you ask someone why, it can sound very accusatory. And therefore, it’s not an equal conversation. I’m right. You’re wrong. And so forth. So instead, as you say, rephrase the questions as, What causes you to think that? Or how did you come to that conclusion? Or how did this evolve for you? So forth. Very useful in that way. How do your methods apply to other nationalities? Are these universal or do you find that some nationalities are more receptive than others?
Great question, Phillip. I think we think some nationalities find it easier to kind of take on board and try. For others, it’s helping them find that comfortable space where they can operate because you know being vulnerable as you’ve already mentioned in certain cultures is not, it’s not done.
So, it’s how we can find how we can help them to find a space where they’re able to in reality be vulnerable without demonstrating that vulnerability overtly. So that’s back there. I invite the experts in. So, I’m wise enough to surround myself with the experts and be able to demonstrate that that’s been being done in their culture all over the place. So, so, you know, for history and for.
So, I think some of it is nuanced; it’s being able to do so. I was trying to liken it to if you’ve written a best-selling book. Let’s say it’s a best-selling novel because everyone will have a novel that everyone will have a favorite business book, so we’ve got a best-selling novel that’s been written, and that author wants it to be available worldwide. So, it gets translated into different languages, but what often happens with those books is there’ll be certain elements of the book that have to be translated, transcribed, and changed slightly. Also, to make it relevant to that culture.
So, although the main story doesn’t change, although the main message doesn’t change, although the characters don’t change, there’ll be elements that get changed to make the story readable, usable, and enjoyable in that culture. And I think for me, the nugget of working internationally is saying you’ve got these things that you know, that work wherever they go, but you’ve got to be able to translate them into achievable, actionable, enjoyable things that the culture within which you are working is going to be able to embrace.
And since translation is our field among others, one of the mistakes that people commonly make is to assume that artificial intelligence or what’s called machine translation will simply work. Many times, it done primarily in Spanish and French. But many times, it doesn’t, especially in Asian languages and Asian cultures. And even though you can translate the words as you say, they have to be culturally adapted to the situation or to the culture. The very common example is if one refers to football. Football to you and Britain means something very different than it does to me as an American. We would say soccer, you would say football because obviously you invented it and created the concept.
So just those very simple cultural adaptations, of course, must be considered, but the words as well. Just to know that certain times, translation does work well and interestingly, especially when it’s technical, it does work well because there are not a lot of differences in how one phrases something. But if you have common speech, like if I use the word “spring” in English, Spring has at least four meanings: the season, to jump, a brook and a coil… a coil in a mattress. So, you know that’s an example in common speech. Mistranslations often happen in common speech.
They did and again we were chatting, weren’t we before we came on here, and say you see these big differences when you’re dealing internationally. But we all have had them ourselves dealing locally, and if we can have them dealing locally, they’re just going to get magnified dealing internationally.
So yeah, I think I shared when I got my first Saturday job and I worked 25 miles away from where I lived. So really close. And yet and what we used to call the bread for your sandwich, or you’d put your fillings in was called a cob. 25 miles away, when I worked in the next city, a cob meant you were really upset. Somebody really hurt you, that you were mad and angry. And frustrated, used by someone else. So, when I innocently said I’m going to the cob shop, meaning I was going to go and get my lunch, they were like. Oh, my God. Kim, what’s happened? Who’s hurt you? And said, I’m hungry. It was lunchtime, and it was such a ridiculous thing, but we were so close.
And I’ve seen this in organizations, and you know where they’re dreadful these days for acronyms. We use acronyms all the time, and businesses literally globally that I’ve worked out, they’ve all got their favorite acronyms and you almost need a kind of organizational English Dictionary to work out what they were saying.
But again, there was one organization that I was dealing with, they were financial services, and I was sitting at a board meeting, and they were having this massive debate. And I was raised with them. I said I think the thing we need here is a few more TLA’S and I feel like nodding away. Yeah, that’s brilliant, Kim. But who’s going to take that as an actor? Somebody put their hand on mine. Don’t know what it is. And thank you for being brave and mean three-letter acronyms because you guys have spent 20 minutes talking about T’s and C. But for this half of the table. T’s and C’s means training and competence because we are a regulated financial services organization and therefore, we have to have that for the regulator and they’re all nodding again, yeah, yeah. So, but for you guys over here, you’re meaning terms and conditions, which we also need to have for the regulator, but under a different banner. So, you’re making decisions about something that you don’t understand, the context within which you’re making the decision, and I see that all the time.
So, I think for me when you’re dealing internationally, you’re more cognizant of that. You’re more aware of that because you know that there are those language differences. And for me, it’s being cognizant of the ones where you have a pre-assumption that there will be less of those, but there are fewer of those areas.
So, I deal a lot with America, which for you guys is not international for me as a UK person is international because different things, yeah.
So, I went into an organization and was talking to them about what over here we would call your management information, your P&L, your key performance indicators, your reporting, your budgets, all the things you’re going to do. We badge all of that as management information and we call it MI. That’s our little analogy. I may as well have been talking Swahili. Everybody I spoke to would just be sitting. They’re going, what are you talking about? So, does anybody know what she’s saying? Like, but it’s the English woman. That’s kind of coming and saying all of these things.
So, it’s recognizing that sometimes. You put more effort into thinking I’m about to speak to a Middle East country or an Asian country or a South American country or a European country. So, I’m going to really think about the culture where we often get tripped up in those countries that we go… Well, the same as us, aren’t they? You know, America is the same as us. They’re like peas in a pod but like you say, we can’t even agree on the name for football. What likelihood is it that we’re going to not have other areas where we are creating misunderstanding?
That’s very true.
Another question. What common mistakes or blockages have you found that can prevent executives from reaching their full potential?
It’s a great question. I think one of the greatest blockages is the mindset. So, I’ve done quite a lot of work in the last five or six years with business owners that are getting ready to sell and they might have multi-million-pound businesses and they, do you know, they’re often between 20 and 50 million. And they want to sell. They want to get ready to retire, but it’s not worth what they want it to be worth yet. And so, they kind of want to retire early. So, they bring in this hybrid, where they bring in a Managing Director or a CEO and they kind of go with you, you run it and I’m going to go over here. And the number one mistake I see them make is they bring themselves in a different likeness.
So, the research has shown that in 85% of cases it fails. And it fails for a really good reason. They’re not the right people to take it to that next level. So, one of the big things that I work on with people is that it’s that mindset shift. So, you know, I was dealing with clients around this just the other day. And I said, imagine your business is like your baby.
So, you’ve put all your time and effort into it, and you want that baby to live on after you. That’s why you put all your time and effort into it. So, imagine that your baby is now ready to go to college. Do you want to go to Harvard, Stanford, or Yale? Or do you want it to go down the road to the local college?
And they’re like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. In which case you need to go and employ a Harvard, Stanford, or Yale professor. You cannot get the professor from down the road. And that’s your challenge. You’ve built the business; you’ve made it your own. You are always going to be its inspiration. But what you now need to do is pass the gauntlet on to somebody that’s able to take it to that next level, and you’ve got to be comfortable and confident that that doesn’t make you less. It makes you more. Because you are above the ego element and able to do the right thing for the child and it’s getting that mindset shift.
And for me, that’s the piece that I see and have done for the last 20-odd years. The biggest thing that holds us back is the ego. It’s our biggest barrier. Our ego gets in the way of our potential and once we can align the two and go, the only way I’m going to achieve my potential is if I admit that I might have to get somebody who’s better than me to take the leap, that’s the thing that unlocks it, and you can kind of talk to people and go do you want to have 100% of a £10 million business or 50 percent of a billion-pound business. Which one’s going to make you feel more successful? Because that’s your choice. That’s it. The kind of difference, I think, between those people that really go on and achieve their full potential is they are willing to admit they need other people to help them get there.
Ego can get in the way of so many aspects of business, of course. You know, we were talking before the broadcast about what I call “name screening” or “name evaluations.” And I’ve seen this so often. One of the mistakes that companies make is to assume that their company name, their product name, or their slogan will transfer easily into other languages in other countries. And they’ve got such a big ego that they don’t bother to contract with a language agency just to test it.
There’s a huge conglomerate. It’s a Mexican bakery whose trucks flow around the southern part of the United States, and they’re called Grupo BIMBO. Well, a bimbo in American English is not a very positive word, and so I presume in Britain as well.
So, you know why? How did they come up with this thinking that they could just assume their success? So obviously it worked and so… you know, that’s fine… but that’s a decision that I don’t know if they even made. Did they ever talk about that someone would criticize their name like that? But it’s something that one should consider.
Well, because you don’t know if it’s kind of the name that you’ve picked up might be really offensive in another culture because you’ve just not realized how it’s going to be. How is it going to translate or resonate with those areas, I think? … I guess a lot of that, and I don’t know, Philip, if you see this as well, when we start a business, we don’t start with the end in mind. We kind of start because we’ve got an idea and then we go and build on the idea but we don’t think about it. But what if this suddenly took off internationally?
What if this suddenly became a global conglomerate? Is it now going to make sense in all of those countries? We didn’t think about that at the time. Because we did it from the side of our desk and hoping to just be able to cover our salary. And you know probably the number one question I asked the businesses I work with is what’s your exit strategy and the number of them that come back? And I would say more than 80% say they don’t have one. But you have to have one because you’re not immortal.
So, whether or not you have an exit strategy or you don’t, you will exit your business, and you have to have it. Now that could mean you could have four or five. You know, you could say, well, I want to give it to the family. I want to sell it to the staff. I want to be bought out. I want to float, doesn’t matter what it is, but start with the end in mind because what that means is all the things that you’re doing as the business owner that is in here. You start to document and make it scalable. As the business goes and flows. And yet it’s probably the number, I mean the amount, the number of my clients at the moment that I’m dealing with that is all there are all $1,000,000 businesses and yet they didn’t have that and you kind of go in and go well, you had to do this bit. Oh well, I’d do this. No, but if you weren’t here. Oh well, no, nobody. I know how to do it. Then we’ve kind of got an issue.
Somebody told me a very sad story. And it was true about an organization this guy built and it was, I think it was turning over about 35 million. He went to sell it and if he wanted it to be worth a lot more it wasn’t, so they didn’t have the sale. And heaven forbid… but unfortunately, he had a massive heart attack and died two months later, and his wife went back to see whether or not she could make that sale. The business was worth nothing because it was only worth anything with him in it, and he didn’t document any of those things.
And I think that’s the scary reality of running businesses these days. Again we have to acknowledge we’re not immortal and therefore make the provisions so that the business survives us because that’s what we set it up with the intention to do.
Very, very true. Do you find that these principles work with other nationalities, for example in East Asia, where either again the egos may be stronger or they’re much more group cultures where employees are to conform rather than to take the initiative?
It’s quiet, I think, certainly from the organizations I’ve worked with in East Asia, it’s been very much about building their ability to communicate in such a way that they can raise an idea without it appearing that they’ve really raised it that makes sense.
So, that art of being able to go, “And we chatted the other day. You said something hugely insightful, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since.” And then give them your idea. So, I think yeah because that’s a great idea. That’s amazing. To me, I’m cool. So, so really, it really is in the part of how you present it.
So, I think a large part of success is our ability to communicate, and one of the biggest challenges we face is conflict. Nobody likes conflict and when we come up with conflict in any culture. And there’s a great book that I highly recommend to anybody, which is called Crucial Conversations. And it talks about the fact that in our life… moments in our life… we’ll have a conversation that becomes crucial. And by that, we mean emotion becomes involved, and what happens in those cases is that we either respond with violence or silence. And what we mean by that is we get louder, we get more aggressive, we get more assertive. I always use the analogy of it’s like playing Pictionary with my best friend. If I don’t get it straight away, she underlines it. I’m like, no, I can see it; I just don’t know what it is, so underlining it is not helping me.
You know, especially Americans shout and then shout even more loudly, “What do you mean you don’t understand English? Can you understand me now?”
I love it. You just say it louder. Just yell or the other party is silent. So, we bury our heads in the sand and go, that didn’t go very well. I don’t want to be involved in that. But neither way addresses the issue because the issue stays there. One or more of you felt fearful of something fearful. Of being found out, fearfully being sold, too fearful of being made too well, doesn’t matter what the fear is. But fear, and there’s a great five-step process and it works across all cultures. And I’ve used this for about 15 years.
The first step is you share a little bit of vulnerability and by that, you might say something like, “I feel really conflicted about bringing this up, so I’m demonstrating that I’m not out here to like to attack you. I feel a bit conflicted. However, I know we need to discuss this. That’s because it’s currently getting in the way of whatever it’s getting in the way of… “
So, I’ve shared a bit of vulnerability. I’ve said why I’m breaking my vulnerability and I’m doing something, and then state your intention and the most powerful intention that I’ve found in the last 15 years that works across any culture is: I’m 100% committed to finding a solution that works for both of us. And the beauty of that one is that whatever happens next, you can come back to that, and you don’t have to get back up here in emotion. You stay down here in fact.
So, you can then say on that basis I’d like to share with you my initial thoughts and when the person comes back and goes well, that won’t work for me. OK because remember, the intention is we find a solution that works for both of us.
So how do you think we could solve it? If they come up with something ludicrous again, you can go,
“That wouldn’t work for me, but I know our intention is to find a solution that works for both of us.” Then what you do is you agree on things. You can agree on it because what we do when we’re in conflict is focus all our attention on the things we disagree on.
But if we start to focus on all the bits, we agree. And so, let’s work out the bits we agree on first and carve them off, so the problem goes from being this big to being this big. And what we’ve done in doing that is we’ve demonstrated that we’re not as misaligned as we thought we were because we agree on quite a lot really, don’t we?
So, if we agree on quite a lot, there’s going to be a way through this, and it allows you to really deal with those different cultural challenges of not appearing to be stepping outside of the boundaries where you should really be trying to operate. I guess people are the really simple framework to take you through where you kind of guide people down that path without being confrontational or conflicting at any place.
Or letting people know that that’s what you’re doing.
And now on Step 3. You can all hold your horses. We’ll move step by step. 4 Next. And that’s why it’s more of a framework than a specific one. It’s just like broadly taking people down this path because you’re kind of removing some of the emotion and again as we talked before, we came on. I’m qualified to read Micro Expressions, and I’ve just been a lifelong fan of communication and learning how to hopefully be able to better understand people because I again believe people want to be listened to and understood, and respected.
And when I first came across my quick expressions they identified, and they’ve done research on this since the 1960s. The irrelevance of our age, our race, our culture, and our gender. In fact, even if born blind, they did tests on this with blind Olympians. That we use the same 43 muscles in our face to demonstrate the same seven human emotions and our emotional brain… Neuroscientific really responds 24 times faster than our thinking brain, so by the time we think and don’t show emotion, it’s too late. It’s already out there, and again, even born blind.
So, people don’t have to have seen these emotions to be able to see them. It is a great skill for people to be able to learn. Because what it allows you to do is just spot those and a micro expression can last 125th of a second; it’s fleeting. But it tells you what’s really going on. You see those moments of anxiety or fear or happiness, or joy or contempt, and it just gives you something to say. There’s something else going on here, irrelevant to what’s said next. Again, not to call it out, but to be able to ask better questions to demonstrate that it is understood, respected, and listened to.
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?
I think for me the number one thing that I learned, in leadership and this works across all cultures is … I think the thing that connects us all again, irrelevant of age, race, gender, or culture is that we teach, and we learn in stories. We’ve been doing it since cavemen drawings and hieroglyphics. When we’re trying to get a point across, when we’re trying to build a business, drive a vision, create a compelling story, help people to understand the part that they’re expected to play, and then let them play it.
You know I used the analogy that if I were a film director, I’d just put Helen Mirren and Brad Pitt, and Pierce Brosnan in the face. I’m not going to micromanage how they bring that character to life. They’ve kind of pretty much earned the right to do that themselves.
What I’m going to do is direct the outcome and where we get to, but I’m going to allow them to step up and do it their way. And I think when we learn to do that as leaders. When we realize that our role is to direct at that level not to micromanage, the art of the possible is huge, and the greatest gift that I think there is in any one of us is the gift of belief.
Every single day, every single one of us is a leader who actually gives our belief to somebody because we asked them to do a job and we asked them to do it because we expect them to be successful because if not, not only do they look stupid, but we also look stupid. So, we’re not going to do that unless we think they’re going to be successful. But what I’d urge people to do is take an extra minute and tell them why you believe they’re going to be successful.
Because on those days when they’re doubting themselves, just knowing that you didn’t give them a job because you just gave them a job, that you gave them a job because you believed that they were going to succeed at it because of a specific skill set or a specific thing that they’ve done in the past is going to be the thing that unlocks not only their potential but yours.
Very true and very wise. Yes, thank you so much. This has been a wonderful session with Kim-Adele, Randall, and I hope everyone will join us next week for another edition of Global Gurus and our stories of international business. Thank you.
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