Am I using common sense to make me extraordinary?

I just read the following blog post from Geoffrey James and thought it was so “spot on” that I wanted to share it in it’s entirety. The 8 characteristics Geoffrey details are 100% common sense, however, they are all too often ignored and/or missed.

If I could, I’d add 2 additional “core beliefs” to Geoffrey’s list:

  1. Self discipline: Extraordinary bosses are disciplined, methodical, and patient.
  2. Personal responsibility and ownership: Extraordinary bosses lead by example and take their business personally.

Each of us is a “boss” at one time or another. Therefore, as we move through our individual days, each of us should spend the time to ask “Am I using common sense to make me extraordinary?”


8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses

by Geoffrey James on April 23, 2012

A few years back, I interviewed some of the most successful CEOs in the world in order to discover their management secrets. I learned that the “best of the best” tend to share the following eight core beliefs.

1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.

Average bosses see business as a conflict between companies, departments and groups. They build huge armies of “troops” to order about, demonize competitors as “enemies,” and treat customers as “territory” to be conquered.

Extraordinary bosses see business as a symbiosis where the most diverse firm is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new markets and can quickly form partnerships with other companies, customers … and even competitors.

2. A company is a community, not a machine.

Average bosses consider their company to be a machine with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by “pulling levers” and “steering the ship.”

Extraordinary bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community–and company–at large.

3. Management is service, not control.

Average bosses want employees to do exactly what they’re told. They’re hyper-aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments where individual initiative is squelched by the “wait and see what the boss says” mentality.

Extraordinary bosses set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies.

4. My employees are my peers, not my children.

Average bosses see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can’t be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude, expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.

Extraordinary bosses treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the firm. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the loading dock to the boardroom. As a result, employees at all levels take charge of their own destinies.

5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.

Average bosses see fear—of getting fired, of ridicule, of loss of privilege—as a crucial way to motivate people.  As a result, employees and managers alike become paralyzed and unable to make risky decisions.

Extraordinary bosses inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it.  As a result, employees work harder because they believe in the organization’s goals, truly enjoy what they’re doing and (of course) know they’ll share in the rewards.

6. Change equals growth, not pain.

Average bosses see change as both complicated and threatening, something to be endured only when a firm is in desperate shape. They subconsciously torpedo change … until it’s too late.

Extraordinary bosses see change as an inevitable part of life. While they don’t value change for its own sake, they know that success is only possible if employees and organization embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business.

7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation.

Average bosses adhere to the old IT-centric view that technology is primarily a way to strengthen management control and increase predictability. They install centralized computer systems that dehumanize and antagonize employees.

Extraordinary bosses see technology as a way to free human beings to be creative and to build better relationships. They adapt their back-office systems to the tools, like smartphones and tablets, that people actually want to use.

8. Work should be fun, not mere toil.

Average bosses buy into the notion that work is, at best, a necessary evil. They fully expect employees to resent having to work, and therefore tend to subconsciously define themselves as oppressors and their employees as victims. Everyone then behaves accordingly.

Extraordinary bosses see work as something that should be inherently enjoyable–and believe therefore that the most important job of manager is, as far as possible, to put people in jobs that can and will make them truly happy.

Build it. Market it. Sell it.

The following is from the pages of my “someday-to-be-released” memoir “Been There. Done That. Screwed that Up.”


No one spends the time, effort, and money required to launch an Internet start-up without the desire to create the “next big thing.” The wealth that has been created by companies like Google,  Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, LinkedIn and Zynga, from what appears to be “thin air” from the outside is staggering. Many words have been written about these companies, and much analysis has been done, but one undeniable thread clearly runs through each of these great successes, and likely most financially successful Internet start-ups: perpetual re-building and re-marketing are essential to facilitate successful selling. Not one of these companies was successfully “sold” until they had something to sell that had undergone many product iterations and had been successfully marketed.

The cliché rings very true: “It takes a lifetime to be an overnight success.”

Before you can have any chance to successfully “sell” any Internet based service, you must first be comfortable that the service provides benefits people want; then, you must build awareness in the marketplace. Don’t forget, you are the only one who knows about your “next great thing” in the beginning. It is very easy to “miss the forest because of the trees” on this one. You have likely put significant time and money into creating something you feel is amazingly powerful and universally desirable. However, the market will not build itself; they will not “come because you built it.” Unless you get extremely lucky, you must create awareness in the marketplace, via marketing and PR (public relations), before you get any chance for success in the sales process.

Who’s Driving your bus and where is it going?

Before you can sell your product / service you must create awareness within the market. To accomplish this critical task you must know, beyond the shadow of doubt: Who is responsible for driving this bus? Someone in your organization must be responsible, and empowered, to build and lead the team of people that will be required to take you to the promised land. Building awareness for something new is not easy and is almost impossible to accomplish on one’s own. It requires significant forethought, planning, organization, creativity, discipline, coordination, teamwork and patience. In addition, it is highly unlikely you will “get it right” on the first try. Remember, just because you know how great your product and/or service is, no one outside your organization (or inner circle) knows or cares in the beginning. If you cannot take responsibility, personally, for the entire day-to-day “grind” of awareness building, make absolutely sure you have someone leading your team that can. Building awareness is not something that just happens, yet it is essential to getting to the ultimate goal – successful sales.

Once you’ve figured out who is driving the bus, then you need to make sure you know where your bus is supposed to make its first stop. Your bus might be traveling from NY to California, but that trip cannot be “non-stop.” While it’s very important to have a long-term (“stretch”) goal, it’s the individual steps that must not be ignored. Setting clear, and attainable, short-term, medium-term, and long-term objectives for the journey is absolutely essential. The driver, whether it’s you or someone else, cannot be expected to safely drive 24/7. The bus needs to stop for fuel and maintenance, and the passengers need to eat and go to the restroom, and the driver(s) need to be rested.

What’s the message?

Very complex ideas and concepts are created, productized, marketed and sold everyday. Complexity is not the enemy of marketing, but it sure does make things more challenging. The first question you need to ask and answer is: What’s the simplest message I can create that communicates the essential benefit of my product / service? Ideally, you should be able to tell the essential message in 30 seconds or less, and this message should be able to fit on the back of your business card. Keep working on your message until you get to this point. Then, step back, and create a strategy that supports the message.

Think Big. Start Small.

What is your very first target market? Remember, before you can successfully sell, you need to build awareness within the marketplace. Don’t allow yourself to drink too much of your own Kool Aide. Everyone is not a target market. The object here is to find an initial balance between market size and addressability. Don’t forget, the task of building market demand through awareness creation is a marathon, and, as with any race, there must be a first step. No one has ever sold to everyone until they have made their first sale to someone. Before any building / structure can have a solid foundation, you will want to dig a few holes to see what the ground really looks like. The process of discovery is extremely important and should not be skipped. Even if you think you are a veteran, don’t forget, whatever you have in front of you now is brand new.

Stacking the deck

No one can guarantee they know how to build the awareness for your product / service that will yield the demand you need to be successful in the sales process. These days, everyone is in search of the elusive formula that will deliver predictably “viral” results. Unfortunately, it is probably easier to predict where lightning will strike than it is to engineer something to “go viral.”

Don’t waste your time trying to game the system; instead, spend your time stacking the deck in your favor and learning to count cards.

“Stacking the deck” in this context means making sure you have as much understanding as you possibly can with respect to the narrowly focused market(s) you are targeting. You need to know where the people “hang out?” What web sites they read and how are they socially connected? It is impossible to successfully build awareness in today’s diverse world without a deep understanding of the social linkages between individuals and the products / services they consume. Human beings are the most social of creatures. This is a fact that has been true since we crawled out of the primordial soup. However, it was not until the invention of movable type (Gutenberg), which lead to the invention of the Internet, that we began to actually measure and understand just how intertwined our inherent social connectivity is when it comes to the products and services we consume.

To successfully create awareness for something new, with the intention of building the necessary demand to support robust sales, a deep understanding of today’s social media landscape is absolutely required. Without this knowledge and understanding, you will likely find it impossible to reach even the most modest of target markets.

Show me the money! Show me the data!

When human beings dig in the ground for precious metals, we call this mining. It should come as no surprise that we use the same term (mining) in relationship to data. In his best selling book “Moneyball,” author Michael Lewis tells the story of how the Oakland Athletics baseball team used  an “…analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite it’s disadvantaged revenue situation. I contend that any new product / service being brought to market in today’s hyper-competitive Internet-centric world is analogous to the Oakland Atheltics “disadvantaged revenue situation.” Therefore, it stands to reason that data, and “data mining,” is an essentia
l tool that must be employed by anyone who intends to build demand for a new product / service. Without a comprehensive understanding of the data, much of which is freely available, it’s like trying to fly a plane through a hurricane without instruments.


There is no silver bullet when it comes to bringing something new to market, especially something that is Internet based. While I do not know Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos or Mark Pincus, I am certain that none of these guys would tell you anything different. However, I do believe it is possible to give one self an edge over “the house” by following these steps:

  1. Build something you think is great. Take the time to get it right. Give yourself time to iterate. Don’t keep your secret forever, but don’t rush to market. Being first is not a guarantee of success, just ask Yahoo!, AltaVista, MySpace, and Friendster.
  2. Generate demand through market awareness before you expect to have success selling. Don’t drink too much of your own Kool Aide. While you might think your idea is the best thing since Facebook, no one outside your organization has any idea what you’ve done, and, in the beginning, they don’t care.
  3. Make sure you have the right person driving your bus, and make sure (s)he is supported and empowered.
  4. Mine the social data. It is highly likely the answers to all, or most, of your questions are available to you.
  5. Keep the correct perspective. It is impossible to sell something for which there is little or no demand. If you have really created something unique, you must build awareness before you will see any demand; and, without demand, there will be no sales. This is not a “chicken and the egg” puzzle; awareness before demand before sales.