If you want your email campaigns to land in the inbox of your subscribers, you should improve the email deliverability. The golden rule of email deliverability is not to act like a spammer. Every single email you send, including transactional emails such as receipts, passwords, and resets, should be as non-spam like as possible that your users in all probability need. Even though the email got sent on your end does not imply that it made it to your subscribers’ inbox. It could have gone to the spam or junk folder or got blocked altogether. It means that you need to put the following measures in place.

1) ISP compliance

Internet service providers are the guards of your subscribers’ inboxes. Its goal is to deliver emails that its users want and expect to receive. Nothing gets beyond without them. They provide the client with their email address. These include Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Comcast, Yahoo, colleges that give out dot Edu addresses and enterprises. Each has its own set of rules, checks, and algorithms to decide whether your mail passes. Many even publish their standards online. Your job is to earn their trust because they watch what you’re sending by making a few inquiries to check whether anybody has heard about you or have read your message to ensure that you’re posting something that clients want. If they don’t trust you, regardless of how good your email marketing campaigns are, no one will see them. If you structure your email program with this in mind, then everything else typically falls into place.

2) Device compliance

For emails to make the right impact people need to be able to read them. They’ll do it using all sorts of devices and gadgets. So, you need to be open to exploring different deliverability techniques and methods.

3) Blacklist compliance

There are various blacklist organizations that ISPs subscribe to help them determine whether you are a spammer or not. These organizations hold large databases of spam domains and IP addresses. Some of the trusted ones are BSB, ACBL, PSP, and spam cop. Each has their spam filters. ISPs usually don’t publish which blacklist services they use. In any case, just knowing the big players can help you track if you ever get blacklisted. And so, you can get in touch with them to get you removed from their blacklist. The rule of thumb to follow to be blacklist compliant is never purchase or rent lists from shady sources and don’t scrape websites to harvest email addresses.

4) In and out compliance

Have a proper opt-in process. The sender must have either explicit or implicit consent to send email campaigns. The sender must document how it got the email address, including the opt-in date, connecting IP address, and the sign-up page. What’s more, the message must inform recipients how to opt-out of future messages. In other words, the email must include a functioning unsubscribe link. If a subscriber opts out, you must honour it within a reasonable timeframe.

5) Country compliance

Numerous nations have laws regulating what you can and can’t do with emails. And even if you aren’t operating in the country where the rule applies, you may still be subjected to their requirements if you’re sending emails to that country. Complying with them is to your benefit and should be part of any good email marketing process. The more well-known ones are Canspam in the US and Casle in Canada. If you’re sending your emails to other states, you may want to consult their local laws. However, complying with Canspam and Casle can put you into compliance with a vast majority of countries. Canspam stands for controlling all non-solicited pornography and marketing. Some of the requirements include the message cannot have false or deceiving header information. The email cannot use misleading subject lines. If the content is in an advertisement, you must identify it as such. The campaign must clearly state the location of the business. Casle stands for Canadian anti-spam legislation, and it has one of the strictest anti-spam laws in the world. Some of the requirements include the message must identify the sender and must provide a way for the recipient to contact the sender. Even if you don’t have Canadian subscribers, compliance with Casle would be a decent practice because it will cover your bases with most other countries’ email and anti-spam laws.

Even if you are not a spammer, the mailbox providers do all sorts of complex and sophisticated analysis to determine whether your message is worthy of the inbox. So, you need to understand how this process functions so you can utilize it in your favor to improve your email deliverability.

First felony in the cryptocurrency world

First felony in the cryptocurrency world

Previous blockchain blogpost

Some businesses and companies prefer to stick to their past, but this is not a good marketing strategy. Instead, it is essential to take a progressive approach and look out for the next big thing. That is what happens when companies begin to accept Bitcoin payment that put them in a position for greater success. Embracing the power of this new blockchain technology shows the customers and prospects of a business that it is well ahead of the curve.

Charlie Shrem comes from a predominantly Jewish and Russian neighborhood in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. His father used to work at a jewelry store, and his mother looked after his sisters and him. Awkward and shy, Shrem blossomed when he discovered that he had a passion for computers. Charlie Shrem learned computer programming and started engaging in hacker forums. While in Brooklyn College in 2009, he co-founded a deals site known as Daily Checkout and fell in love with sales.

Earliest Cryptocurrency Company


BitInstant Source: Coindesk

Charlie Shrem, a promoter’s promoter, was among the pioneer public faces of cryptocurrency. Shrem saw value when Bitcoins were worth practically nothing or maybe a few dollars each. Shrem claimed he was among the ten people globally to find out about Bitcoin. By 2011, he was well known in the network of Bitcoin and co-founded a startup company called BitInstant. He became the Chief Executive Officer of Bitinstant that was one of the earliest and most significant cryptocurrency companies processing a third of all Bitcoin transactions. It helped people obtain digital money and transfer it between exchanges.

Partnering for support

Shrem partnered with Gareth Nelson, a Welsh coder, and handled the business end, managing to raise funds from Roger Ver, an angel investor, and from his mom. But one person who refused to invest warned Shrem that BitInstant had no safeguards to protect against money laundering. That was fine with Shrem as a substantial portion of the clientele were users of Silk Road. These people needed to exchange dollars for Bitcoins to buy drugs on the black market. There was a middleman, a plumber in Florida by the name of Robert Faiella who had a business obtaining Bitcoins for these users.

Abetting with crime

Shrem soon found out what Faiella was up to and helped him source money for drug transactions, rather than shutting him down. Shrem’s partner, as well as the cash-processing company of BitInstant, wanted to stop it. But Shrem encouraged Faiella to disguise his identity using a new email address and username. The flow of money went on until Shrem eventually cut him off in 2012 when Faiella pleaded guilty to running an unlicensed money-transmitting business. By the time he went to prison for four years in jail, he had laundered a million dollar through BitInstant.

Vision with swagger

By 2012, Shrem was a young Chief Executive Officer, a motor-mouthed cocky capitalist, and a proud pothead. He had swaggering ambitions as he wanted to turn BitInstant into the Apple of Bitcoin and his company soon would be processing a massive chunk of all Bitcoin transactions. When a payment processor cut all connections with Bitcoin companies under pressure from MasterCard and partner banks, leaving customer funds stranded, it was BitInstant that hacked together a solution to let users withdraw their money.

Bitinstant gaining traction

Bitinstant raised $1.5 million, most of it from Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the twin brothers, who had a venture capital firm

The company raised $1.5 million from Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss Source: CNBC

Bitinstant raised $1.5 million, most of it from Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the twin brothers, who had a venture capital firm. The company helped them buy their first Bitcoins. Since then they were hooked. After raising funds, the company’s future looked bright, and Bitinstant became an industry barometer because crypto-economy depended on rapid money transfers. In early 2013, during the Cypriot financial crisis, when bank accounts for regular citizens taxed them 6.75%, Bitcoin suddenly became a haven.

Chaotic early days

Charlie Shrem embodied the legally questionable, chaotic early days of cryptocurrency. Two of Shrem’s best friends quit Bitinstant due to a dispute with the investors. Something went out of Shrem with the departure of his two best friends who were his confidants. He seemed distracted, spent the night partying, sleeping in and showing up late to work. Meanwhile, the site was straining under the traffic surge, leading to waves of complaints. A platform upgrade became mired in legal concerns and technical problems. It became clear that Bitinstant had been operating without licenses, and the cost of acquiring them would be prohibitive. Bitinstant that made Shrem a Bitcoin millionaire eventually went bust and shut down in 2013 as it was all too much for everyone concerned to carry on.

Bitcoin foundation speaker

Shrem became an overnight sensation when he featured in a documentary about the new virtual phenomenon. He co-founded the Bitcoin foundation, which was the first nonprofit advocacy organization for the digital currency. He then flew to Argentina on a Bitcoin foundation mission because by then Shrem had become a proselytizer and a speaker at industry conferences. His business was now himself and not BitInstant as he began to charge speaking fees as all the while his life was a whirlwind of deal-making and partying. Everywhere he went he kept telling people that he is rebuilding BitInstant.

Crime caught up

At first, Shrem got away unscathed as he was enjoying his freedom. He took a vacation to Morocco with his girlfriend, Courtney Warner, where he tried opium. In 2014 it caught up with Shrem when he was arrested in Amsterdam as he was returning from a speech.

Arguments for defense

Robert Faiella

Robert Faiella Source: CBC

Shrem argued his case first by advancing the notion that individuals can spend their money the way they want it as long as it is not harmful to anyone else. And second, at the time he was helping Faiella, the government had not decided how to regulate or even classify Bitcoin. If they had not yet determined whether it acknowledged Bitcoin as money, how could that amount to laundering? Shrem did not know whether the law he had violated was just and had wanted to raise these issues but his lawyers advised against it.

Bitcoins buy drugs

In 2015, Charlie Shrem eventually went to federal prison for two years after pleading guilty. He was abetting and aiding an unlicensed money transmitter client, Robert Faiella acquire Bitcoins to trade in the underground marketplace, where it was used to buy drugs. It was a felony that is considered to be the first of its kind in the digital currency world. Although other Bitcoiners had broken the law, Shrem was the first to be imprisoned.

Coming up next:

Charlie Shrem the first Bitcoin felon went to federal prison in 2015 for 2 years. Upon his release he went about strengthening the ecosystem of blockchain. A real breakthrough came when he created a prepaid Dash debit card. He then joined Intellisys Capital and decided to raise funds in the form of initial coin offering but was mired with doubts, as he feared the intense scrutiny from the authorities and eventually backed off.

Manage Your Boss

Manage Your Boss

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, once said that when he asked employees to tell him something about their jobs they inevitably began by telling him about their boss. “If I only know how to manage the boss.” Therefore, he dedicated an entire chapter named, “Managing the Boss” in his famous academic book called “Management.”

Drucker reckons that managing the boss is both an opportunity and a responsibility and outlines seven specific strategies to success:

  • Make a “boss list.”
  • Asking each for his or her input, and giving each your input
  • Enabling them to perform
  • Playing to the manager’s strengths
  • Keeping managers informed
  • Protecting bosses from surprises
  • Never underrating bosses

We outline here seven more:

When you accept a task, your boss expects and relies on you to get the job done. If you are serious about impressing your boss, you better get it done as if your life depended on it. Never promise anything to your boss if you are not confident of doing the job. When the boss sees you as a person who keeps promises on a consistent basis, it is much easier to be in friendly terms. And your credibility as a person would rise a few notches up.

Bosses need cooperation and honesty from their direct reports. Subordinates, on the other hand, require managers to set priorities and make critical resources available promptly to conduct the work efficiently. Smoother the operation, better the relationship between the worker and the boss. It requires the employee to understand the personality traits, communication preferences, and subtle nuances of the bosses and adapt their working style accordingly. Because, after all, success in the workplace depends on your adaptability. The boss needs you as much as you need him/her. Hence establish a working relationship that is compatible to both of you.

If the boss is not aware of certain trends in the market that could derail your plan it is better to disclose that at an early stage so that nothing comes as a surprise. Moreover, the boss may be able to put measures in place that can mitigate risks and help you get on with your assignment without any disruption. Any manager would appreciate a trend-spotter in the organization. In fact, it is an essential skill of a competent employee. It is also a commendable trait to have a conversation about the potential challenges you could face in carrying out your project due to the upcoming trends. Agree on a plan of action and provide periodic updates.

Even if you think you have the permission to be casual with your boss do not go overboard in your friendliness. Keep a professional distance that is acceptable to both of you taking into consideration the company culture and the norms of the workplace. Your professionalism will also stand you in good stead when your boss does your annual appraisal or when considering promotions within or between departments. Developing a professional relationship can earn you your boss’s respect and admiration and will also set a good example for new recruits and junior employees. If you think things are not going well, handle it in a professional manner rather than let your emotions take control.

Bosses can be under immense pressure and may falter in performing the necessary managerial roles. It can have an unintended adverse effect on your job performance. Try to find out the reasons and politely discuss this with your boss but never confront because confrontation can deteriorate the relationship. It is feasible to manage the challenges with an open discussion and debate successfully. If needed, include a trusted HR personnel or a departmental colleague who can assist you in augmenting your arguments. That way you can have an eye witness to the discussion that happened between you and your boss.

Send your messages across to the boss using the right strategies. When you have an important point to stress that can benefit the whole company and have a positive impact on the bottom line try to demonstrate the highlights using either a spreadsheet or a visual demo. Remember most people are visuals. Zero in on what matters to the boss the most. Then hone in and use your persuasive skills. It is especially useful if your ideas and concepts are innovative and novel. You may be asked to repeat the demonstration during the staff meeting for everyone to see. It is often a good sign as it shows that you have got your boss’ attention.

  • Leave your boss

    You may reach a point where you have tried all the strategies mentioned above, and none sufficed. Well, time to quit. A vast majority of workers leave jobs because of an unmanageable boss. It is better to look for greener pastures than to be stuck in a rut. Employees spend a good portion of the waking hours at the workplace. If an unhappy boss is making the workplace toxic, you should do yourself a favor and get out of the negative atmosphere. An ideal situation would be to find another job before you leave so that you do not have to feel the pressure of mounting bills. If you have an approachable colleague, who can understand you, feel free to discuss the matter with him/her.

We have come a long way from the time Peter Drucker outlined the seven strategies on how to manage the boss. Although all of them are still relevant, the organizational dynamics and employee roles have changed slightly and required additional tactics. Moreover, the rise of technology-based jobs and the entrance of Millennials into the job market have added to the complexity of the dynamics.

The Role of Trust in Professional Sales – Six Core Drivers

The Role of Trust in Professional Sales – Six Core Drivers

Trust is the key for building successful sales relationships; it is also the driving factor for success in business and personal relationships. The absence of trust is a one-way ticket to failure. People in general, and customers in particular, are more suspicious than ever about claims companies and salespeople make. Companies must create trust to gain and maintain a competitive advantage, build their brand and become the employer of choice. Those of us in the sales and marketing profession must do the same to become the supplier or partner of choice and to be viewed as a trusted advisor by our customers.

Role of Trust in SalesBold proclamations and hyped–up statements regarding products and services along with unsubstantiated claims and promises abound everywhere. In the midst of all this confusion, how do we differentiate ourselves in a genuine, credible and trustworthy manner? Start by clearly defining what it is you stand for and promise to deliver. Trust is created when you tell your customers what they can, and should expect when dealing with you. Things such as core values, guiding principles and promises your branding messages communicate all govern and influence actions and behaviours and lead to a consistent customer experience that will build trust.

If you are serious about building trust, make it personal. Go beyond your company’s promises or slogans and define what your customers can expect from you as a sales and marketing professional.

This is the key point of differentiation for those that achieve top tier status in our profession. Ultimately trust is earned based on actions and behaviours not on words or empty promises. This truth is captured in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say”. Do your actions reinforce your words and claims?

Consider the impact of trust – improved speed of doing business; increased creativity and innovation in the solutions and services provided; absence of suspicion or doubt; reduced claims or rework due to misunderstandings; increased profitability because of improved efficiency and clarity. Probably the most important outcome of all is the increased perceived value of you, your services and products because you and your customer are operating in the zone of truth and trust.

The six core drivers that lead to building strong trust based relationships are:

  1. Self Trust – Do you trust yourself? Before you can lay claim of being a sales person or marketer that can be trusted to provide high value solutions, you must be able to define the attributes which make you trust worthy.  Here is a list for you to consider and reflect upon. Are you responsible, accountable, credible, trustworthy, reputable and authentic in all your dealings?
  2. Dependability – This attribute is critical to become trusted and sought out as the provider of choice. Too many sales and marketers promise the moon and deliver nothing more than moon dust. Dependability is forged by doing the following – making your word your bond, following through, demonstrating loyalty, being reliable and keeping your promises and not wavering even in challenging or difficult situations.
  3. Competence – The professional marketer and seller must deliver solid results and outcomes to demonstrate their competence and skill. Customer’s trust and support of us increases when we deliver on, or exceed their expectations. Our competence and ability is evidenced by our education and certifications, experience, skill, thoroughness, diligence and attention to detail. Education and knowledge upgrades are essential for professional marketers and sellers. SMEI offers a variety of resources such as chapter events, online programs, and certification which are all valuable resources to increase competence and remain current on best practices of our profession.  
  4. Ethics – Perhaps nothing says more about your trustworthiness than your ethics. Making decisions and taking action that is right versus expedient is essential if you are committed to being a marketing and sales professional. Ethics and standards are not a do-it yourself job. If you are not certain regarding the ethical standards for our profession visit the SMEI web site and review the 11 points in the Marketing Creed as a starting point. Factors relating to ethics are confidentiality, discretion, diplomacy, respect, integrity and professional certifications that define the code or standards by which we operate.
  5. Customer Centric – It’s not about you. As the sales legend Zig Ziglar said “You can have anything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want”. Customer focus and allegiance, commitment, selflessness (without being taken advantage of) and dedication are the foundation for long term success in sales and marketing. Commit to provide value in every customer encounter whether in person, via email or when using social media; make everything you do count to become more valuable to your customers.
  6. Likeability – Being a person that is genuinely liked and valued by customers is one of the key factors for success in selling. This does not mean playing up to your customers in a patronizing or disingenuous manner. I am referring to a genuine likeability because of your professionalism, manners, positive attitude, courtesy and a sincere desire to assist without immediate reward or recognition. The ultimate goal is one of long term results and success.

Trust – it’s ultimately all dependent on you! It is essential that you consider the various ways of enhancing and building your personal brand to the point where you are viewed as a strategic partner or trusted advisor in the eyes of your customers. Apply the six core drivers to become more successful and develop trust based relationships and grow your career as a professional marketer or sales person.

SMEI will present a webinar with Ralph Kison on the subject of the Role of Trust in Professional Sales on Thursday, March 14, 2013.


Ralph Kison, President of Growth Through Learning, Professional Development Specialists

Ralph assists organizations committed to employee development in the areas of: Training and Development, Management Coaching, Talent Management and online learning. He brings passion, innovation and experience to each project. He leads and directs organizations and their employees to achieve their full potential by acquiring skills and applying proven business development processes and techniques.  Ralph’s career spans over 25 years in sales, management and consulting with experience in the engineering, architectural, construction, distribution and insurance industries.  An accomplished speaker, Ralph has addressed numerous organizations and groups across North America.

Ralph is a graduate of the University of British Columbia Marketing and Sales Management Program and a certified CME and CSE. He has taught professional sales courses at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and for SMEI Vancouver. Ralph is a member and past President of Sales and Marketing Executives International of Vancouver (SMEI) and is a member and past President of the Canadian Society for Marketing Professional Services of Vancouver (CSMPS).

Shining a Light on the Dark Side of Teams: Seven Lessons the  Business World Can Learn from the Downfall of Lance Armstrong

Shining a Light on the Dark Side of Teams: Seven Lessons the Business World Can Learn from the Downfall of Lance Armstrong

Teams are more than the sum of their parts. Yet when the “dark side” is 
allowed to flourish—as in the case of Lance Armstrong—great harm can result.
Here, bestselling author Bruce Piasecki explains how to make sure your
team is working from a positive place and focused on the good of all.

Over the past few months, sports fans around the world have watched the downfall of the most celebrated cyclist of all time: Lance Armstrong. Just last week his televised confession interview with Oprah Winfrey—where he admitted to doping, using blood transfusions, and more—riveted the public. But what interests Bruce Piasecki most about the Armstrong story are the lessons it offers the business world about the nature of teams.

“Over the years I’ve come to realize a truth that has permeated every aspect of my work and my life,” says Piasecki, author of the upcoming book Doing More with Teams: The New Way to Winning. “The team is more powerful than the individual. Teams expand the human experience. They extend our wings in practical, pragmatic, and measurable ways. People who would not normally be able to succeed alone—the planners, the doers, those who lack the internal spark to market themselves—can reap the benefits of success in the context of teams.

“Yet many teams have a dark side,” he adds. “When these darker impulses are allowed to eclipse the joyful transcendence that teamwork can bring, great harm can result. Evil deeds flourish. People get hurt. Lance Armstrong is just one very dramatic and very visible example of what can go wrong with teams.”

In his book, Piasecki has much to say about Armstrong. He cites the 200-plus-page report that was published and released in 2012 by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency about this most favored athlete. Twenty-six competitors (including a deliberate mix of direct teammates and key opposing team riders) verified the claims of what the New York Times called “a massive doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history.”

In particular, eleven world-class teammates from the Lance Armstrong teams documented how all the doping was centered around and for Lance. Most damning, George Hincapie, Armstrong’s closest friend and fellow teammate during each of his seven Tour de France victories, confessed to doping with Armstrong. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report noted the evidence made clear that Mr. Armstrong had “ultimate control over his own personal drug use,” and that “he also dictated its use over the doping culture for his team and the sport at large.”

Compare these dynamics to those of other well-known sports team, says Piasecki, and you’ll see a marked contrast.

“It was pure pleasure for a decade to watch how Michael Jordan fit his court family, which was deep and full of different personalities like the quiet Scottie Pippen and the very outrageous Dennis Rodman,” he says. “The beauty of this team was that its members worked together in a way that allowed everyone to learn together where they fit while working for the common good.”

Similar dynamics play out on the “courts” of the business world every day. And when teams are well constructed with the right mix of talents and personalities—and well governed by leaders who recognize the most important capabilities in their people and facilitate them for the good of all—companies achieve, grow, and prosper. Yet when the “dark side” takes over, we see Enrons, WorldComs, Madoffs…and yes, Armstrongs.

So can we in the business world learn from the tragedy of Lance Armstrong? Here are seven lessons Piasecki says leaders would do well to heed:

Fierce individualism has no place in teams. Just the fact that we think of Lance Armstrong’s teams as “Lance Armstrong’s teams” speaks volumes. It was as if Armstrong’s entire team (Team RadioShack being the most recent) was there only for him. When we pin all of our hopes on an individual, we are doomed to be disappointed. This is because youth and ability have a way of fading over time. Youthful arrogance, due to its fleeting nature, is no foundation on which to build a future. We need the shoulder strength of teams to keep us competent.

“As leaders, we need to be sure that ‘the MVP syndrome’ is not allowed to define our teams,” Piasecki stresses. “Be always on the alert for individuals who might be losing sight of the team that gave them an identity—the group with whom they worked to produce the fame for which they are now known. It is in such situations that workplace ills such as favoritism, sexism, and even criminal activity like embezzlement tend to flourish.

“What ‘practical’ advice do I have?” he asks. “Seek to hire ‘coachable’ individuals rather than individualist-minded high performers. Do everything possible to promote and reward teamwork rather than individualism. Whether your efforts are centered on pay structure, group incentives, verbal recognition, or some other technique, seek always to send the signal that it’s strong teams (not strong individuals) that make up a strong company.”

MVPs must not be allowed to dictate to or pressure teammates. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report made it clear that Armstrong was driving the doping culture of his team. It stated, “It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike; he also required that they adhere to a doping program outlined for them or be replaced.”

“Here’s what I know: You cannot do more with teams in an atmosphere of intimidation, deception, and contract pressures,” Piasecki states. “You cannot ride into victory more than average with that much weight of secrecy on your mind. You cannot make friends victims as you claim victory. This all goes against the magic of teams.”

We must be careful not to give victors the benefit of the doubt. In all teams there is an inherent desire to protect our superstars and keep them winning. (Never mind all the others whose quieter, though no less critical, contributions are downplayed.) Armstrong was able to perpetrate his deceptions thanks to, as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report states, “the help of a small army of enablers, including doping doctors, drug smugglers, and others within and outside the sport and on his own team.”

“We are all aware of conditions when everyone else was willing to go along with a wrong,” Piasecki points out. “We recall instances in recent history where the politics of fear enabled the Nazis, and where embezzlement seems the norm. Yet it is harder to see when victory shines so bright. Leaders must be mindful of this very human tendency, in themselves and in others, to look the other way, to give our victors the benefit of the doubt. We must be vigilant and ever alert to wrongdoing. We must be willing to ferret out corruption in the highest echelons, to bench the MVP, even to fire the superstar for the good of the team and the sake of integrity.”

Ceaseless victory is a fantasy. Teams must keep a healthy sense of perspective. Lance Armstrong became a larger-than-life figure because he kept winning races. (Indeed, he won his race against his most formidable foe, cancer.) He was addicted to victory—felt entitled to it, even—and this is what drove him to drive his team to illicit extremes. In the end it was this addiction (to ceaseless victory, not to drugs) that became his undoing. The lesson is clear: When we don’t learn to tolerate failure, we will do anything to keep the public adulation coming.

“I believe if others had taught Armstrong where the tolerance of losing is mixed with the pleasure of knowing we have tried our best, he would have proven a more dependable competitor,” Piasecki says. “The great CEOs, the well-compensated doctors, the best in hospital administrators, and the legendary leaders of colleges are not people known to expect ceaseless victory. They are great competitors because they come to accept that we cannot always win. (Indeed, only through loss can we grow and improve.)

“Leaders must instill in teams this tolerance of losing,” Piasecki continues. “In word and deed we must convey that failure is a part of life and thus a part of business. We must model this truth by allowing our own weaknesses, flaws, and vulnerabilities to show. We must refrain from punishing teams who give it their best shot yet fall short of victory. And after a defeat, we must insist that employees ‘get back on the horse’ as team players and ride full-tilt toward the next contest. In this way the pain of loss will naturally dissipate.”

Great teams revel in the pleasure of persistence and the sheer thrill of striving.Presumably, Lance Armstrong and his teams could be satisfied only with an unbroken string of victories. But where else is satisfaction to be found? Piasecki posits that once we’ve accepted that defeat is a part of the journey, there is great fun—yes, fun—in knowing that we will stumble and fall from time to time, yet get up, and try again, with some success. Another way to say it is this: Accepting the reality of our imperfection takes the pressure off. Then, and only then, do we free ourselves to feel the pleasure of persistence and the sheer thrill of striving.

Piasecki insists that it’s critical to teach teams to be well prepared for assignments and to keep going in spite of hardship. He shares, “When my company enrolls an executive in leadership training, we emphasize the following lessons of teamwork:

– How to play through pain

– How to resist the criminal opportunities inherent in becoming an MVP

– How to keep your feet on the ground despite being a member of special teams with special force

– How to outlive uncomfortable appointments, such as when your boss has selected you for teams that are a bad fit, and  how to behave when you are chosen for teams you do not want to play on

“In the end, all of our training is about the pleasure of accomplishment in teams,” he says. “Life can be a tough slog, and victories are sporadic at best. Maybe we can’t win but we can keep going. This striving brings with it its own unique rewards. It is up to us to learn to appreciate them. In a world full of pain and blind ambition, the pleasure of accomplishment may prove the most reliable path to make the great reliably greater.”

What makes teams successful is a sense of commonality, shared values, integrity, and a commitment to one another. In preparing for a team event, or in becoming a member of a team, a transformation occurs where team members end their individual associations and create a team identity through sharing with others the experience of that process. Once the team is created, a strong bond is already in place from that preparation, from the obstacles everyone had to overcome to get there.

When joining the military, everyone has a crucible, basic training, which really isn’t basic at all and is usually the hardest experience to get through, Piasecki points out. The crucible is something all members have to overcome to be part of the team. They shave all the soldiers’ heads to take away their individual designations and rebuild them as team members, reshape their identities into a shared identity.

“We have many ways to create bonding experiences in business,” he asserts. “There is nothing wrong with off-site team-building events or weekly social gatherings—the more people are together the better they get to know each other—but there is no substitute for ‘real-world’ work. Bring people together often so they can share their progress, brainstorm ideas to keep projects moving, and generate the synergy needed to move from being a collection of individuals to becoming an interconnected, mutually dependent team. Great teams mourn losses together. They celebrate success together. Always, they share information and hold themselves accountable to the team.”

The right “captains” can help us build teams strong enough to withstand the dark side.Here, of course, in the choosing and nurturing of captains, is where all of the lessons coalesce. It takes a certain type of leader to create not just a loose affiliation of fierce individualists but a true team. Piasecki’s definition of a captain is someone who can rapidly recognize the key capabilities of their team members. They are able to see the capacity for harm and evil and quickly disarm it (as opposed to Lance Armstrong, who allowed it to flourish and even promoted it). On the other hand, captains recognize the capacity for generosity and quickly put it to use in building up other team members and generating momentum. In this way they build teams that balance the negatives in each member, making a stronger and better core.

“Captains also treat their team members with a kind of fierce immediacy, and they achieve team coherence and team integrity in the process,” Piasecki continues. “Captains do not take the time to—as I heard from several military sources—‘wait for solutions.’ Instead, ‘they seek possible solutions and test them on the fly.’

“So, keeping teams safely away from ‘the dark side’ begins with ensuring that the right captains are at the helm. All of which brings to mind a big question: Are captains made, or are they born? Personally, I think the answer is ‘both.’ In my work I have found that many leaders have the raw material to be captains. They simply need to be nurtured and developed in ways that coax forth their inherent noble qualities and bring them to full flower.”

“Invest in your captains,” Piasecki concludes. “Choose them well and use them wisely. Give them authority to align and make accountable those capable of evil, harm, and generosity. They will bring the results and the profits you are looking for—and along the way they will empower your people to extend their wings and soar in the magic that only teams can generate.”

About the Author:
Doing More With TeamsDr. Bruce Piasecki is the author of the upcoming book Doing More with Teams: The New Way to Winning and president and founder of AHC Group, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in energy, materials, and environmental corporate matters, whose clients range from Suncor Energy, Hess, FMC, the Warren Buffett firm Shaw Industries, Toyota, and other global companies in his Corporate Affiliates training workshops.

Piasecki is the author of several seminal books on business strategy, valuation, and corporate change, including the Nature Society’s book of the year In Search of Environmental Excellence: Moving Beyond the Blame, as well as recent New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller Doing More with Less. His newest book, Doing More with Teams, will be published by Wiley in March 2013.

Since 1981, he has advised companies about the critical areas of corporate governance, energy, environmental strategy, product innovation, and sustainability strategy with his teams of senior associates. See www.brucepiasecki.com and www.ahcgroup.com for more details.

Can Oprah Really Give Armstrong the Redemption he Needs?

Lance Armstrong recently sat down with Oprah Winfrey to make an apology. Oprah has become the host of choice for celebrities seeking to bare their soul and try to gain redemption for their lost reputation. This is part of a bid by Armstrong to resume his athletic career and rehabilitate the reputation that helped build the Livestrong charity and the rest of his financial empire. Armstrong is also offering to testify in doping investigations.

So the big question is: do such celebrity mea culpa’s work? I think that it depends on the severity of the case and how strongly the public comes down on the offender.  In Armstrong’s case, he has many detractors but he also has a stable of supporters who believe that the millions he raised for charity give him some absolution.  Others believe the money raised is tainted.  Armstrong could also face numerous lawsuits due to contract provision with sponsors where the sponsor believes their association with the cyclist has brought irreparable harm.

So going to Oprah, considered by many as “America’s Mother” may be a start but ultimately, time will tell, and Armstrong’s future actions will need to be very convincing indeed or the public will not be swayed the tell all interview.

This is not the first time a major brand like the US Post Office has suffered harm due to the actions of a celebrity sports figure, but it may be the catalyst that created a higher regard for due diligence on marketers as they contemplate putting their stamp of approval on a celebrity as part of their strategy.