No Distractions - Insights from Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp

In the corporate world one of my biggest nits is the indiscipline use of cell phones, tablets and laptops in every meeting.  Yes, it's great when people are searching for information to help the meeting.  But too many times people are checking email, texting, and checking Facebook and all the rest.  It's a distraction and a problem leaders will have to deal with more directly if they want to improve productivity.

At Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp none of the artist had their cell phones out, none.  they were focused on their customers, us, and they practiced. They were into their jobs and made sure all oil us were getting the instruction we needed to perform with the headliners, Nancy Wilson, Chris Layton and Buddy Guy.  They were fiercely driving us to be better.

As leaders, we need to be more like the teachers at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp and require ours teams to stay focus on the challenge in from of us, not texting.

Wayne StricklandComment
Taking Risks - Insights from Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp


As a leader I frequently talk about taking risk and putting yourself in uncomfortable position to learn more skills and to learn about yourself.

Well this experience over delivered in being uncomfortable.  In 4 days we played with Nancy Wilson from Heart, Chris Layton from the Stevie Ray Vaughn Band and Buddy Guy, the Legend. You had to decide your songs, your role in the band and practice, dozens of times.

I am a believer that being put in uncomfortable positions makes you better if you lean into them, listen and try new things, even if they are not great.

This was a great experience and looking forward to my next camp.

Wayne StricklandComment
What is a Leadership Philosophy?

Living by a Personal Business Philosophy

(Click on the title for an article on best practices leadership ideas)

Almost 30 years ago after moving from a field sales role and entering my first in-house corporate role I realized quickly I could not make everyone (or anyone) happy unless I developed a set of personal priorities that would guide my choices each week and each day.

I was gaining weight, losing sleep and almost everyone was a little to really frustrated with me.  I was also more than a little frustrated and working towards angry at myself. So, I started with a simple list of 10 things that included specific tactics about things like exercise, time with my children each week, time for me, investing in my growth and things like that.

Over the next 30 years the list has growth and become more specific and informed by years of experience.  I call it my Leadership philosophy.  It has evolved into my second book called, “Get Over yourself, Decide to Lead; Insights from Hard Lessons Learned”

These are 5 of my Leadership Philosophies

1 -Define your Brand and live up to it

Many people proclaim their brand to be things like, honest, credible, having high integrity, inclusive and other words that sound really great.  The problem is that they never live up to them.  You don’t proclaim your brandyou earnit, one decision at a time, day after day, year after year.  If you know what you want your personal brand to be, then start living by it.

2 – Be a great Listener

Early in my career a very Senior Executive stop by my little cubicle one day and said, “write this down young man”.  “ You are the master of what you don’t say and the slave to what you do say, choose wisely.”

Clearly I had be rambling about something no one cared about but in a meeting or meetings and he was sending me a message.  

After a month a rarely speaking, he stopped back by and said ok, you can talk again but start with asking great questions about things you don’t know.  I am pretty sure you already know what you know.

That was a message I never forgot.

3 – The best team wins

A great leader knows that the best team will out perform all other teams over time.  Any team can get lucky one year and hit a few numbers but the best team will win the most over time.

So a great leader is always recruiting, always. They are looking for new talent everyday in meetings, in the field, with other suppliers and with customers. They know when their best people will be moving on and have a top shelf list of replacements ready to go. They also know when their bottom performers will need new jobs and have replacements for them too.

I never waited for an HR team to provide me with a candidate list for a job. I already had my list.

4 – Never Give Feedback about Your Boss, ever

Yes this one is personal and that’s why it’s on my list and one you should consider.  Years ago a consulting group was getting input for a project and one of the questions were ways your boss could improve.  I gave 3-4 very specific ideas and it backfired.  My boss and I had been friends for years and he took it as a stab in the back and I thought I was doing my job.  

Our relationship never recovered and I will never give feedback about my boss again.

5 – Focus on the Marketplace, not a Conference Room

The longer people are in assignments the more time they spend in a conference room with other people who work at the same company and less time in the marketplace where real transactions happen.

Spend time in the marketplace.  It has the answers not in a conference room with people talking to themselves. Go see, first hand what the competition is doing. Go see how other companies are launching new products.  Go look at new merchandising and marketing ideas. For certain the next big idea is being tested, it just has not been scaled yet.  Do you know where and what it is?  It’s not in a conference room, that’s for certain.



These are 5 of my 12.  Guess where you can find the other 7?  

Wayne StricklandComment
Tips for managing in a Gig Economy

What are the best practices for securing your remote workforce?

Communication and Metrics – You Must be Best Practice at Both.

(Click on the title for an article on best practices on managing in a gig economy)

I have managed many remote workforces and believe this will be much more the trend going forward. To be the best team you must have the best talent and the best talent will never be exactly where you need them to be.  So you must be great at managing a remote workforce.

There are 2 skills that you must master.

The first is communication. You must be crystal clear on what you expect from them how they should do the work, and who do they work with on a regular basis.  This normally requires an on boarding process that includes a heavy dose of adult learning techniques. (say it, say it again, have them do it, repeat…)

After they are on board, your regular, predictable communication is critical.  This might be a weekly email, and a weekly phone call, and a team communication at the end of the week.  There are many choices on how to communicate but it must be done on a regular and consistent basis.

The second skill you must master is giving them measureable, quantifiable metrics. This might be revenue, sales call per day, store visits per day, pieces moved by day, etc.  But you have to give them metrics that everyone understands, hopefully agree on but 100% accept and held accountable for them.  Without this you will have low performing, over paid, hard to motivate remote workfarce.

Wayne StricklandComment
Top Customer Service Tips

Top 3 Tips for Customer Service and Customer Experience

(Click on the title for an article on Best Practice Customer Service)

The number one factor in any customer or consumer experience is, “Did they listen to me?” Consumers want to know if you listened and more importantly do you care about their business.  To make sure you listen and communicate clearly, YES I CARE, always follow these 3 tips.  By following these 3 steps you will be far ahead of your competitors and will drive additional business any loyalty.  By following these 3 steps, your business will be the one people talk about (word of mouth the best marketing, right?) for the best customer service.

Top 3 tips for excellent customer service and customer experience

1)  100% of the time, follow up the same day anyone writes you a note, email, Amazon negative post, or gives you feedback about your product or service.

2)  After you communicate with them send a follow up note, email, phone call or a written thank you note (my #1 preference) to say thanks for the feedback and specifically what you are doing about it.

3)  30 days later, contact them again and ask them about their recent experiences with your product or service and ask what you can do to serve them better.  Ask them for additional feedback by asking the question, “I need your help” on how we can get better.

By following these 3 steps consistently, not just when it’s easy, you will differentiate yourself in the marketplace as the company that listens. That’s the number one 

Wayne StricklandComment
Top 10 Sale Tips all Salespeople Should Know

Top 10 Best Sales Practices

(Click on the title for an article on top sales practices from AMA)

1)  Call on every qualified prospect.  You don’t know which one will be solid gold.

2)  Make an extra sales call everyday

3)  Follow up 100% of the time

4)  Make every appointment, 100% of the time, no excuses

5)  Be 15 minutes early for each sales call

6)  Be 100% honest even if it means passing on sale because its not right for the customer

7)  When you make a mistake, own it, call the customer and apologize

8)  Create great prospecting skills

9)  Set a goal of 70% closure for all sales pitches

10)  Send a thank you card after every sale

Wayne StricklandComment
Tips for Negotiating Your Salary Like a Pro

Tips for Negotiating Your Salary Like a Pro

(Click on the title for an article on how to ask for a raise like a pro)

Imagine you are negotiating for the Republicans and Democrats to become one party. It’s going to take time and planning.  This is not an impulsive, knee jerk, hip shot, flip conversation and if you fail at it, it might cost you the next raise.

This is an example of how not to do it.  15 years ago I gave an employee an above average salary increase for a slightly above average performance and he pushed back and wanted more money.  He didn’t have any more facts, results, data, he just wanted more money.  So, I agreed to re-visit the performance rating and his salary adjustment with fresh eyes and also to take another look at his performance relative to a broader group, including outside my division.  I told him he could take what I gave him or put it all at risk.  He wanted the fresh look.  I did that and included my HR manager and it netted out a slightly lower salary increase. 

The guy lost his mind but the message had been sent and delivered to the larger group that if you want to negotiate salary come prepared, don’t be whining.

The best process for negotiating a better salary is to do your homework starting with an HR representative.  Most companies have a salary range for each job and a mid-point for each job.  Find out where you are relative to the mid-point. If you are low to the mid-point that is a perfect way to start the conversation.  There are lots of managers that do not know where their people stand relative to the job mid-point.  You can make it easy for the manager to give you a larger raise with this information.

If you find out you are way above the mid-point then take a different approach.  This usually happens when a person has been in the same assignment for a long time.  They out run the mid-point.  When this happens and you have had a great year, ask for a one-time bonus to reward your performance.  This should equal the amount of the raise you are requesting.  This is helpful for the manager because they can give it to you and not push your base salary past the range for the job and get it “red flagged” by corporate compensation.  The bonus might go against their operating budget but not their salary planning budget.  This is a little salary planning razzle dazzle but an effective way to get paid more for great results.

A few more thoughts that might help you.  Ask your mentor(s) for ideas. I am certain they will have company specific ideas.  Also ask the highest performers in your peer group.  High performers get paid more and they will have some ideas for you. Last, do what you are doing now, research this topic on-line and get more ideas.



Wayne StricklandComment
Top 10 Things you Must Do To Make Meetings More Productive

(Click on the title to read the article on How to Kill Needless Meetings)

1)  Make the meetings shorter – Schedule 15 minutes vs. 30 or 30 minutes vs an hour.  I have found people are more engaged if the meetings are shorter and they appreciate you not wasting their time.

2)  Be crystal clear on what you want to achieve in the meeting and what’s going to happen after the meetings.

3)  Explain precisely the role of everyone in the meeting. For example, are they there to help make the decision, provide input, debate an existing or new idea, brainstorm. Many times people are brainstorming when they should be listening, think they are making the decision vs providing input and they get upset when the outcome is not what they expected.

4)  Be the facilitator of the meeting and drive it..  Make sure you run the meeting and do not let the meeting get into the ditches.

5)  Be certain you are inviting the right people and not just making a list to cover your bases.  Only invite the people that matter.

6)  Develop the habit of finishing meetings early.  If people know you run an efficient meeting they are more likely to attend and participate

7)  Publish what you learned, decided or next steps after the meeting and thank everyone for participating.

8)  Have an important meeting off-site or in a new location.

9)  Provide some creature comforts, drinks, coffee, snacks

 10) And finally the big one.  Shut off the devices. At least during the part of th meeting where people have to listen to one another.  Just simply tell people to have lids down, phones on the table and tablets turned over.  If you really want to make the point, have all the devices left at the door.

Wayne StricklandComment
What is Behavior EQ? Does it Matter?

(Click on the title to read the complete article on workplace strategies featured in on

As a 38 leader at a Brand that lives in this space everyday, Hallmark, I have been living the impact of EQ company for all my career.  

The EQ of the Hallmark brand starts with the private, family ownership, third generation, and is woven into the culture of the company.  This mission of the company is to help enrich the lives of people, around the world, everyday.  It’s products, greeting cards, gift wrap, Keepsake Ornaments and all others are developed with this single goal in mind.

The brand and it’s impact on consumer’s lives everyday drives the decisions of the leadership.

These are specific examples of having a high cultural EQ and its impact on business decisions:

1)  You make investment choices for the long view vs. the short term gain for short term success.  Countless times, I have been part of the process where, as a company, we made long term decisions that made us less money right now but was better for the Brand and the employees. There were times we paid zero bonuses for middle and upper managers but did not reduce the size of the workforce. We made decisions to retain or acquire new business that would have greater benefit down the road but gave significant employment to people then vs. later.

2)  You develop long term customer relationships.  Business relationships are built over years and must navigate good economies, tough economies, good and bad decisions. If a company has a high EQ, you are there for your customers during the tough times.  Great companies with high EQ partner with their customers with their intellectual capital and best thinking on issues like diversity and inclusion, recruiting and developing millennial talent, how to be a better  “Green Company”, education and other issues.  It’s not a competitive environment, it a collaborative, problem solving process.

3)  You take the long view on employees.  Companies with high EQ invest in the development of its workforce, including technical skills but also personal enrichment.  For example, our creative teams get about 10 days a year, fully paid, to go explore their passion to help the re-charge their batteries.  Senior leaders are given funds twice a year to go invest in themselves to get healthier, chase a dream or relax.  Employees that are having a touch year are coached and trained to get to better performance vs immediate 90 performance plans.


It’s been a great journey to be a part of a business that lives in a high EQ mode.

Wayne StricklandComment