Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend

I read this fascinating and well researched book Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend by Ron J. Jackson and Lee Spencer White. I couldn’t stop talking about it which is rare for me. It was a hard book to put down. Below is an excerpt from the book.

Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo LegendJoe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend

In 1838 Joe appears to have wanted to seize control of his life. No longer would he endure the shame and humiliation of another estate sale. He would run, and this escape would be like none he had ever undertaken. He would head for Alabama, the only place he believed he might find sanctuary-with William Travis’s family. If William would have wanted his brother Nicholas to know he had lived well, Joe may have wanted Nicholas to know that William had died well.

Joe planned a daring flight across parts of four slave states to find Nicholas Travis on the Conecuh River and there, he hoped, a safe haven. This would be a journey spurred equally by self-preservation and loyalty. The Travis family deserved the truth about what happened at the Alamo, and Joe likely believed that he deserved a chance for a more peaceful life. The next time he spoke about the Alamo, he wanted to be standing in front of the Travis family. Remaining in Texas would amount to nothing less than a death sentence for him, a lifetime of menial labor on some forgotten patch of ground. If the Alamo experience taught survivors anything, it was that a man or woman must be willing to risk death sometimes in order to live.

As a runaway slave Joe would again encounter hardships. He would have to avoid roads, travel at night, and cross countless creeks and rivers. He would have to live off the land, probably consuming a diet of wild honey, berries, nuts, bird eggs, fish, and plant roots. If he grew desperate, he might need to risk being shot or hanged for stealing food. At least Joe probably felt confident in his planned route. He was already familiar with the road that led eastward to the Mississippi River-the Opelousas Trail or La Bahia Road-which he and Mansfield followed from New Orleans. Joe probably planned to shadow the road and follow it to the Mississippi River, the great waterway he knew intimately from his days in St. Louis.

Once across the Mississippi, by far his greatest geographical barrier, the young slave probably hoped to parallel the river northward as far as Woodville, Mississippi. From there he would again turn eastward until he intersected the Second Creek Road, which cut across the Pine Woods of Mississippi and into the southern reaches of Alabama. The final leg of the journey would take him across the formidable Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers, and then to the farm of Nicholas Travis near Sparta.

The roads, frontier thoroughfares to all, would be easy to find. Joe may have also tapped into the information network of his fellow slaves for safe places to hide. No slaveholder could underestimate this sort of shared knowledge. Slaves commonly shared information about safe houses, trails, and sympathetic individuals,”

Once a slave named Jim made a similar journey from Mississippi to Texas. As the story goes, Jim had been ripped apart from his wife, Winnie, when her master moved to Texas. A heartbroken Jim escaped soon after and walked more than four hundred miles through the wilderness, avoiding public roads and traveling at night. He even swam the Mississippi River. Jim eventually straggled into Texas and managed to find his

Turning Soft Skills into Core Skills: 3 Ways to Get Started

Originally posted on Blanchard LeaderChat:

People Management Flow Chart In the field of learning and development, we typically refer to technical skills as hard skills and behavioral skills as soft skills. While soft skills are less tangible than hard skills, they are actually more valuable for a potential leader to acquire. Without the skills of communication, engagement, and empowerment, leaders are not able to direct and support people in the accomplishment of goals.

For this reason, I prefer to label these as core skills instead of soft skills. I’ve been using the term for 25 years, since I first heard a speaker extol their virtues. After the session, I suggested to the presenter that if these skills are so central to communication and maximizing effectiveness and contribution, they might be better regarded as core skills. To make a long story short, both the speaker and I used that term from that day on.

People are invariably the most expensive…

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Honoring America’s First Forester on His 150th Birthday

Originally posted on Peeling Back the Bark:

The following is an op-ed piece by FHS staff historian James G. Lewis that appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times on August 9, 2015, in honor of Gifford Pinchot’s 150th birthday on August 11. 

Born just after the guns of the Civil War fell silent, he died the year after the first atomic bomb was dropped. He was, in his own words, a “governor every now and then” but a forester all the time. Indeed, Gifford Pinchot, born 150 years ago on Aug. 11, served two terms as Pennsylvania governor but is best known as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service (established 1905), which today manages 192 million acres. He also created the Society of American Foresters (1900), the organization that oversees his chosen profession, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (1900), the oldest forestry school in America. And just south of Asheville, in the…

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Are you a “Come On” leader, or a “Go On” leader?

Originally posted on Why Lead Now:

I recently went out for some drinks with friends of mine who both work in the medical profession. Each of us being in leadership roles of some form, the discussion turned to styles of leadership. They both agreed that, in their line of work, you couldn’t work with junior team members – new doctors, and nurses; and tomorrow’s leaders of the health system – simply by telling them what to do. You had to be there to show your team how things should be done, and then let them take the reins whilst you step back.

This reminded me of a speech I’d heard about four years ago. I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember the key opening line. In life, you’ll come across two types of leaders. There are “Come On” leaders – leading from the front, setting the example, and pioneering the way for their…

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HHSB: The Physiology of Sales Calls

Do you have the pressure to perform on every sales call? Below is a post from Heavy Hitter Sales Blog.

The Physiology of Sales Calls

Sales is a profession based upon pressure: pressure from sales management to make the numbers, pressure from competitors who are trying to defeat you, the pressure you place yourself to be number one, and the pressure to perform on every sales call.

Pressure upon the salesperson during sales calls has a profound impact. It creates an emergency situation that triggers our body’s “fight or flight” system. Here are a few of the physiological changes that happen to a salesperson who is making a stressful customer sales call or conducting a critical presentation he hopes will land him or her the big deal.

  • The eyebrows instinctively rise and the eyes widen. The iris eye muscle contracts, causing the pupils to dilate. These actions enhance vision so that maximum visual information about the perceived threats can be sent to the brain.
  • The brain’s cortex interprets the visual information it is receiving and transmits messages to the brain’s hypothalamus. The hypothalamus activates the adrenal gland, which instantaneously releases adrenaline into the blood stream. The hormone adrenaline activates the body’s emergency response systems.
  • The heart pumps at up to twice its normal rate. Breathing increases so that the lungs can supply more oxygen to the blood. Oxygen-rich blood is sent to the brain for clearer thinking and to muscles for quick reactions. The stomach stops digestion so that blood can be diverted elsewhere in the body. The liver releases sugar reserves for a quick boost of energy, and the bladder sends a message that it wants to be emptied so the body can flee faster.
  • On the outside of the body, perspiration gathers as sweat glands are activated to reduce the body heat caused by the increased flow of blood. The mouth widens so that air can be taken in faster than through the nose. The face loses color and appears ashen as blood is diverted for more important uses.

The increase in bodily activity corresponds to the escalation of mental activity as well. The salesperson’s internal dialogue speeds up, jumps from subject to subject, and second-guesses itself. “Are they with me?” “What should I say next?” This tension and fear are exposed in the salespeople’s speech. They talk too fast, repeat themselves, stutter, or under extreme stress completely forget what they were going to say.

The reality of this situation is that the salesperson must project a calm, cool, collected presence to the customer at all times. To do otherwise would increase the customer’s stress level. Nervousness and agitation may be misinterpreted and convince customers that the salesperson has something to hide. Verbal faux pas may be thought of as incompetence. Think about your last visit to your dentist. What would your reaction have been if before he started to work on your mouth he seemed nervous, agitated, or flustered? You would be scared and have a very stressful appointment.

HBR: What Makes Great Salespeople

Below is a blog post from Harvard Business Review. Do you have the right customer engagement?

What Makes Great Salespeople

What behaviors drive successful salespeople? Last year, research by my people analytics company VoloMetrix identified three things that were highly correlated with top performing reps: More time spent with customers; larger internal networks; and more time spent with managers and senior leadership. These three behaviors persisted regardless of region, territory, or sales role, suggesting that they are foundational ingredients for success.

We came to these conclusions after studying the sales force of a large B2B software company using six quarters of quota attainment data for several thousand employees. We then correlated it against 18 months of VoloMetrix-created people analytics KPIs. Since then, we have had the opportunity to work with several more companies to perform similar and much deeper analyses.

Building off of the earlier findings, we have developed a broader framework for each of the behaviors we idenftified (two of which we combined), plus an additional one:

  1. Customer engagement.This not not only includes overall time spent with customers, but also factors in the number of accounts touched; time spent with each; frequency of interactions; and breadth and depth of relationships built within them.
  2. Internal networks.We’ve found that it’s useful to break internal network characteristics into three sub-categories:
    • General: This includes overall number of relationships within the company; time spent interacting with other colleagues; and influence within the network.
    • Support resources: A set of metrics focused on the relationships reps built with sales support staff, including pre-sales specialists, inside sales reps, and others.
    • Management: A set of metrics concentrated on relationships between reps and their direct managers, as well as broader rep engagement with company leadership.
  3. Energy:This new angle, which is very much related to the previous two, includes a collection of metrics that measure overall time and effort exerted by salespeople.

In total, our new analysis suggests that sales success requires the right engagement model with customers, the right relationships within your own company, and putting in the needed time and energy. These insights may seem intuitive — and in many ways they are — but, according to the data, the details matter. Here’s how our findings play out:

Customer engagement doesn’t just mean spending time with more customers. We’ve stated before that top performers spend up to 33% more time with customers per week which, depending on the company, is typically 2-4 additional hours of time.  It’s clear that time with customers matters. However, through further analysis we’ve found that degree of focus can matter as much or more than total time. For example, in one large B2B technology company, top performers spent 18% more time with customers per week. Yet they interacted with 40% fewer accounts over the course of a quarter allowing them to spend more time with each of those accounts relative to lower performers.

In other words, depth trumps breadth when it comes to accounts — top sellers focused on building deeper relationships with fewer customers rather than casting a wider net of shallower engagement.

Of course, these metrics are not one size-fits-all and the right balance varies by company based on what they are selling (e.g., highly consultative sales processes benefit most from depth whereas more transactional models can benefit from breadth). Regardless, these key metrics relating to time spent with customers and account relationships have emerged both as strong predictors of sales outcomes as well as highly actionable metrics for sales leaders to track, incorporate into territory design and use to help their teams improve performance.

A bigger internal network is generally better, with some nuances in sales support. No matter how we cut the data, top performers have significantly larger networks within their company (30-40% larger, which typically equates to 10-20 more people they interact with regularly), higher centrality (a measure of influence within the network), and spend more time with leadership. When you think about the level of complexity in a large organization, it makes sense that people who find ways to build more relationships get exposed to more ideas from across the business, are able to access expertise quickly when needed, and have more context about what’s happening. All of these things help them to be successful.

But building relationships doesn’t mean attending lots of meetings, especially those with 20 or so attendees. When we measure relationships, it involves both a frequency and an intimacy component. To qualify as a “relationship,” you have to not only interact with someone frequently (at least 2x per month), but that it also has to be in a relatively intimate group (five or fewer people involved in the meeting or email). So to establish a large network, you have to interact with many people, on separate threads, frequently.

This takes a lot of time. The top performers we study typically spend anywhere from 10-15 hours per week interacting with small groups inside their companies. Often sales executives balk at the idea of their reps spending so much time internally instead of out selling, but the data suggests that it is time well spent.

When we work with companies, we help them find ways to minimize large standing meetings and instead create ways to enable broader networks consisting of smaller groups of people. The unfortunate truth is that top performers in most companies are finding ways to build these bigger networks in spite of the processes they work within rather than because of them.

Management relationships are another important aspect of internal networking. Generally speaking, more exposure to senior leadership correlates with successful sales outcomes. That said, we have found a lot of variation in the specific interaction patterns between sellers and front-line managers across regions, product lines, and companies. For example, in some companies we have seen an inverse correlation between front-line manager involvement and seller success, meaning that top sellers spend less time with their direct manager than lower performers do. However, even in these situations, the top sellers spend relatively more time with other members of senior leadership.

Lastly, in complex sales organizations, the relationships between sellers and sales support staff is an area where more relationships is not necessarily better. In fact, in some cases sellers who have more relationships with sales support workers perform worse. This is sometimes the result of inconsistent pairings in which, for example, sellers aren’t able to work with the same pre-sales specialist consistently and instead have to work with a different one each time. This can lead to more relationships, but a weaker team. We’ve also seen that there is a stronger relationship between the time spent with support relationships and the complexity and number of products being sold than there is to actual outcomes. In other words, sellers who are trying to sell a broader portfolio or simply have more complex offerings are more heavily dependent on support resources, regardless of their effectiveness.

Sales is hard work (but you probably knew that already). Consistently, we’ve found that top performers simply put in more time. Their weeks are approximately four hours longer, with up to 40% more time spent outside of normal working hours compared to their lower-performing counterparts. But the answer isn’t saying that everyone should just work harder; even low performers work an average of 50 hours per week.

The implication, instead, is that every hour is precious. So echoing some of the findings above, here are some changes that could be made at the company level:

  • If salespeople have 15 hours available to spend with customers in a week, focusing that time on five accounts at three hours each rather than 15 accounts at one hour each is likely to lead to better outcomes
  • To facilitate the growth of internal networks, start with onboarding programs. New hires should meet and interact with a large and diverse set of colleagues, and can be supported through collaboration tools, trainings, coaching, and other mechanisms.
  • Create a model where sellers have access to consistent support resources and staff. Having to start over with a different specialist in each account adds lots of overhead and reduces outcomes.
  • Know that every additional product line in a seller’s bag comes at the cost of requiring them to build more expertise and more internal relationships to have a shot at being successful. While offering a broad portfolio can provide a powerful value prop to customers in some situations, the implication on sellers needs to be carefully thought through.
  • The right approach varies by company, and these things can and do change over time; companies that gather objective data on a regular basis to inform decision making have a massive competitive advantage over those that rely only on anecdotes and gut feel. Organizations we work with, for example, receive automated weekly updates on all of these metrics aggregated by team without any manual data gathering.

Lastly, a note on causality. All of the above metrics are highly correlated with sales success, but we haven’t yet accumulated enough data to have confidence on which of these metrics are truly causal. So while it is true that top sellers spend more time with customers, it is not necessarily true that an underperformer would suddenly become more successful simply by spending more time with customers.

That said, rigorously proven causality is not a prerequisite for learning from these insights. Quite a few companies are enjoying immense value in the predictive power of these metrics, which typically account for up to 70% of the variance in sales outcomes quarter by quarter And having access to objective, up-to-date data on what behaviors works and don’t work within a specific sales organization is a powerful compliment to existing management tools and allows leaders to set their teams up for success.

Forrester: Better Customer Experience Correlates with Higher Revenue Growth

Harley Manning wrote a blog post on Forrester. What is your opinion? Does better customer experience lead to higher revenue?

Better Customer Experience Correlates with Higher Revenue Growth In Most Industries

Does customer experience really matter to business success – or is CX just the latest flavor of hype? Recently Forrester completed a six month research effort aimed at answering that question by examining the relationship between superior customer experience and superior revenue growth.

Why did we pick revenue growth as the measure of business success? Because it’s the number one priority of global business leaders recently surveyed by Forrester.

So with that in mind, here’s what we did: Aided by some long-suffering research associates, some of our top industry experts and I picked pairs of competitors where one of each pair had significantly higher customer experience quality than the other (as rated by their own customers). We did this for five very different industries: cable, airlines, investments, retail, and health insurance. Then we built models that compared the compound annual growth rate in revenue of the CX leaders to the CX laggards between 2010 and 2014.

The results were intriguing. There was a clear correlation between superior customer experience and superior revenue growth for cable companies, airlines, full service investment firms, direct investment firms, and retailers.  However, the magnitude of the difference varied widely by industry, with cable coming out on top: 35.4% for the CX leader versus 5.7% for the CX laggard. Even more interesting, the results were a virtual draw for health insurers – superior CX didn’t seem to matter much when it came to revenue growth.

Why doesn’t customer experience always correlate with revenue growth? And why does the correlation differ by industry? Let’s start with the fact that CX drives revenue by driving customer loyalty, something Forrester determined with our CX Index research. But CX-fueled customer loyalty only matters when customers have the freedom to switch their business among competing companies and some of those companies provide superior experiences – so customers can switch and there’s a rational reason for them to switch.

Think of it this way: There are many investment firms out there eager to do business with high net worth customers and there is a big difference between the experience provided by the CX leaders (like Edward Jones and Charles Schwab) and the CX laggards. Therefore superior customer experience drives substantial revenue growth for investments firms.

In contrast, most Americans still get their health insurance from their employers, who subsidize 75% of their premiums. Sure, consumers with employer-sponsored health plans could abandon those plans, go to an exchange, and switch to a different provider. But that’s not happening today because consumers won’t willingly quadruple their costs, even for a significant improvement in CX quality. So right now CX does not drive revenue growth in that industry (though that will change over the next few years, and better CX can reduce cost of service even now).