Dancing with the lizard

dancing-lizardThe lizard brain, the resistance, the voice in your head that you wrestle with as you contemplate bigger things.

Seth Godin has called this the ‘lizard brain’ and labels it dangerous because it traps you in your comfort zone.

In Ch 49 of Seth’s latest book The Icarus Deception, I made the best discovery. You can’t eliminate the lizard, so you may as well learn to dance with him!

Partner with the lizard. Engage the resistance. Recognise it and realise it’s a sign you’re on the right path.  The lizard is always there if you are making art, and if the lizard isn’t there then you are not an artist.

If things cannot go wrong, it is not art. Whereas, if you can say ‘this might not work’ you are entering the realm of art.

Since the lizard is always there, here are ways Seth suggests as ways to dance with him.

Dancing with the lizard

  • Learn to sell what you’ve made
  • Say thank you in writing
  • Speak in public
  • Fail often
  • See the world as it is
  • Teach others
  • Make predictions
  • Write daily
  • Make connections
  • Lead a tribe

Don’t compromise your art

I also really enjoyed Seth story about his direct marketing company in the 90s, and his realisation that you can’t compromise your art.

If clients are not prepared to buy into the magic of what we can do, and we are just selling what the client is prepared to buy into 0n the day, then it’s not art.

We are sacrificing the magic are we’re leading our team down a path of mediocrity. Sell art, and walk away if the customer is not right for you. You’re not desperate!

You can buy the book, read Seth’s blog. Both are highly recommended.

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How to define your core values

Your core values can typically be discovered and defined once your team has reached the size of about 3-5 people.  If your team is larger, that’s OK too, just focus on your best people  – the ones you would enthusiastically rehire.

Examine the qualities of your best people and work out what the common traits are. They are the sort of traits you want all your future hires to exhibit. You typically look for ~5 traits which will be your core values.

eg. Here are ours (followed by a brief description)

DEVOTED COMMUNICATION: I am devoted to communication that is timely, specific, appropriate and understandable throughout all my relationships.
TRUSTED ADVISOR: I always give my best advice to help other people and look after their best interests.
STRATEGY + EXECUTION: I develop strategies, plan the execution and ship fast.
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT: I continually find better ways of doing things.
ECSTATIC PEOPLE: I am empowered to WOW.

Note: it doesn’t matter what your core values are, as long as you have them! And live by them. They should written be in language your team actually uses and be very ‘real’ to your team.

Then you simply hire people who already possess these traits. Your recruitment and interviewing process should look to identify these.

Note: You cannot ‘impose’ your values on people — they must already be exhibited in the people.

Then you make your hire, fire and promotion decisions based on how well your team live and breath the core values…. A great culture is built  on the foundation of core values.   It’s simple but not easy 😉

Of course, no ‘core values’ article is complete without a hat-tip to Jim Collins and his book Good to Great.  And also Tony Hseih at Zappos as a living breathing example of a company to emulate. We have tried to follow Jim’s and Tony’s advice as best we can, and this short blog post encapsulates our experience at Bluewire Media.

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Bluewire team on the couch

Would your team walk out on you?

Marshall Goldsmith

Having just finished What Got Your Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith, I was most thrilled with literally the last two pages of the book.

Here he reveal the reasons why your team will or won’t leave your organisation.  It is based on Marshall’s research project  of 120 companies around the world which was sponsored by Accenture.

The question was;

“If you stay in this company, why are you going to stay?”

The top three answers were:

1. “I am finding meaning and happiness now. The work is exciting and I love what I am doing.”
2. “I like the people. They are my friends. This feels like a team. It feels like a family. I could make more money with other people, but I don’t want to leave the people here.”
3. “I can follow my dreams. This organisation is giving me a chance to do what I really want to do in life.”

I believe that as a leader, if your team is happy, then your responsibilities are significantly easier.  If you care, if you listen and if you are devoted to helping and genuinely want your team members to succeed at their own goals, then organisational success will follow.

Bluewire team on the couch
2013’s Bluewire team

As founders of Bluewire, Toby and I have tried our best to hire motivated people who already exhibit our core values, and then ask them what they love to do and set goals with them, and finally get out of their way so they can do it!

In fact, we made the decision to move to Sydney so we could minimise our disruptions (we are well out of the way of the team in Brisbane). We fly back up for our monthly meetings and have weekly Skype conferences  and daily phone huddles so we are in synch with our team.

Time will tell if this is a good way to lead people but from my thorough research into leadership I am confident it will serve us well. And team happiness has been around 90% since 2009 according to Gallup 12 survey questions.

what got you here won't get you there bookWhat else I learnt in the book

In short, the book is about improving interpersonal relationships with already successful people.

My main take away is that the key to overcoming most interpersonal flaws is shutting your mouth and opening your ears.  As Marshall says, it’s embarrassingly simple, yet incredibly difficult.

In most situations, learn to say Thank You and politely leave it at that.

My personal mission from the book, is to be interested in others and listen!

Follow Marshall

On Twitter look out for @coachgoldsmith or visit Marshall’s website for a ton of free resources!

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What I learnt from Jim Collins at the Leadership Summit

The Leadership Summit in Atlanta, was billed as Jim Collins‘ last public keynote before he went into the public or military sector, and since I had a speaking engagement in Hawaii two days beforehand, it was perfect timing to attend.

Here’s what I learned from Jim Collins – who is considered the greatest business mind alive.


“The Number One executive skill is the ability to pick the right people, put them in the right seat and hang on to them.”


True discipline is the alignment to the standards that are your core values, BHAG and purpose.

People in the culture of discipline have responsibilities, not jobs.


  • Level 5 Leadership (the highest level) is about them, not you.
  • Be interested, not interesting.
  • Truly aspire to the dumbest person in the room.
  • Confront the brutal facts but always have unwavering faith that you will prevail despite the facts. This is known as the Stockdale paradox.
  • Be in service of a cause or a purpose more enduring than ourselves!


Disciplined leadership is managing for the quarter. Century.


Like parenting, it’s what you do in the formative years that dictates whether you’ll be great!


Pioneers and innovators are not the winners. You need to be at the threshold (innovative enough), but not the most innovative.  Once you’re at that threshold, blend discipline and creativity.  Creativity is natural and abundant, discipline is not.

Scale is more important than innovation. Scaling with discipline is the challenge.


A ‘20 mile march’ is a term to describe having consistent growth goals, regardless of market conditions. That means having the discipline of not over-exerting when times are prosperous and grinding it out when times are tough.

The reverse of this is that chronic inconsistency = mediocrity.


Luck can be good or bad. You cannot predict it, but you know ‘luck’ will happen to you. Therefore the challenge is to get “Return of Luck” – regardless of whether it is good or bad luck.

Toby Jenkins, Jim Collins & Adam FranklinIt was a real thrill to meet Jim Collins after his keynote. And thanks also to Verne Harnish for organising the Leadership Summit.

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Matt McCauley

Impossible goals – Gymbaree’s CEO Matt McCauley

At Liz Wismean’s Multipliers Summit in San Francisco, we finished the day with a trip to the office of kids’ retailer Gymbaree.

We had the privilege to meet  their CEO Matt McCauley who at 33 became the youngest CEO in the company’s history and is one of the 10 Most Powerful CEOs Under 40.

Matt McCauley
Matt McCauley at Gymbaree

We spent 45 minutes with Matt as he recounted inspiring stories of setting impossible goals.  Matt famously doubled his company’s share price in his first 12 months as CEO, despite everyone saying it was not possible.  This story is a feature story in Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter.

Matt McCauley’s business tips

“You live and die by if you don’t have the right team behind the product.”
“You can’t set goals for other people. They must make their own!”
“You’ve got to have believers. No-one in charge can have all the answers, but the believers give you ideas!”
“Success is defined by progress”

Accountability is only 3 things

1. Set a Goal
2. Measure it
3. Report it

The three things they tell VPs at Gybabree

1. The competition is outside these walls.
2. Your performance counts, of course.
3. Being nice, more gets accomplished.

You’ll only get fired if you’re a jerk, play politics or are not nice!

Some more quotes from Matt McCauley

“Focus on what you want, you’ll get it.”
“Don’t focus on risks, it consumes too much energy. It’s best to focus on the positive.”

The best process looks like this, Idea –> Explore the idea –> Risk evaluation (it’s important not to kill the idea because you focus on risks too soon).

“Disagree with me all day long, just disagree with me to my face.”

Matt’s school teacher taught him, “Lead in a way that is good for everyone, not just you”

Training more Matt McCauleys

1. Create the environment
2. Coach them (never threaten them)
3. Remember people work for people

It was a real thrill to hear Matt share these experiences with us. Many thanks to Liz Wiseman for organising this!

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Why I changed my title from (barely) Managing Director to Marketing Manager

Myself and Toby

For the first four years my business partner Toby and I shared the same title. We were both the (barely) Managing Directors.

We were barely managing because we had no obvious division of duties.  

It was confusing us internally and didn’t differentiate us publicly.

It also meant we double handled a lot of things. So we changed.

Toby became CEO and I became Marketing Manager

Why…? These quotes from our two favourite business leaders help explain it:

Jim Collins says:

At least 50% of a great leader’s time should be spent on ‘people decisions’.

And Verne Harnish says:

The leader of a growth company should spend their time on marketing-facing activity – everything else should be delegated.

Fortunately there are two of us as co-founders at Bluewire so we can share these two important leadership roles. Now our responsibilities are clearly defined.

Toby’s primary role as CEO

…is to lead our “Bluewire team”.  He focuses internally on living our core values, removing bottlenecks, ensuring our team is able to do what they love, setting goals and scorecards with our team, hiring motivated people, caring for our team so in turn they can ‘love’ our clients, fostering our strong culture.

[For the record, ‘culture’ is how well we live by our core values and how we hire, fire, promote and make decisions according to them]. Zappos CEO Tony Hseih says culture and core values are tw sides of the same coin.

‘Culture’ is paramount and should not be confused with ‘perks’ which are things like casual Friday, beanbags, personal training, yoga classes and massages at work. Perks do not make a culture. Read Rand Fishkin’s culture article for more.]

My primary role as Marketing Manager

… is to lead our ‘Bluewire community’ or ‘tribe’ as Seth Godin would say.  Seth explains that leadership and marketing are much the same thing these days.

I do mostly market-facing activity like speaking, running events, organising workshops, blogging, interviewing industry thought leaders, writing e-books and producing tools.  This is obviously an external focus.

This distinction has helped us focus more on what we love to do and it allows us to clearly divide who does what.   Plus it is a more accurate description of what we do on daily basis.

Have you had a similar experience as a business owner?

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Tribal Leadership

Two books are mandatory reading reading at Tony Hsieh’s phenomenal company Zappos.com.
1. Good to Great
2. Tribal Leadership

Most business owners have read Jim Collins’ classic Good to Great but I hadn’t heard of Dave Logan’s Tribal Leadership until recently.

Tribal Leadership overview

The authors describes tribes as comprising of 20-150 people and the culture of each tribe can be categorised as Stage 1 to Stage 5.

Gangs are a Stage 1 culture

Stage 1: Life sucks

People here feel alienated from others. They are isolated, hostile, desperate & violent. It is the culture of gangs and prisons.

Stage 2: My life sucks – 25% of corporate cultures

People here realise that other people’s lives are working, but theirs isn’t. They feel they lack the power that others have and are apathetic victims of circumstance.

They are disconnected, disengaged and feel that they work for idiot bosses.

Stage 3: I’m great (and you’re not) – 48% of corporate cultures

This stage is characterised by personal accomplishment and outward signs of success. Yet people at Stage 3 have a deep craving for more esteem, respect, loyalty and legacy. Their language is full of  “I” “me” “my”  and their identity is focused on personal achievements eg. “I’ve got an MBA”, “I’m the one holding this place together”, “I’m the boss”.

David Brent is at Stage 3

Knowledge is power so they only way to stay on top is to hoard information. People at Stage 3 like to make all the decisions and everyone’s got to earn their trust!

Many people at Stage 3 mistakenly believe they are at Stage 4 or 5.  And people don’t go beyond Stage 3 until they have a personal epiphany that there has be a ‘better way’.

They realise the only path to true success is via tribal victories, not personal victories.

Stage 4: We’re great (and others aren’t) – 10% corporate cultures

The betterment of the tribe is the real goal here. The language is repeatedly “we’re”, “we”, “us” and the focus is on the tribe. When there are successes the leader shines the light on the tribe & when there are failures the leader takes personal responsibility.

Trust is assumed and knowledge is over-communicated.  There are shared core values and a united culture.  The key distinction is the formation of 3 person relationships called triads, where members of the tribe work together to reach decisions.

[Compare this to Stage 3s who operate with lots of 1-on-1 relationships where they control (hoard) the information, make all the decisions & believe that ‘they’re the glue that holds this place together’.]

People at Stage 4 work much less but get much more effective results. And they garner respect, loyalty and admiration from their tribes.

Stage 5: Life is great

Stage 5 - making history

Truly groundbreaking stuff happens when you’re at Stage 5.

At this level it’s not about your tribe beating your competition, it’s about changing the world.

Apple transforming the music, computer and phone industries is an example of a Stage 5 culture.  You are making history!

Stage 5 is rare but it’s what we need to aspire to.

Dave Logan

Here is a good 15 minute TEDx talk where Dave Logan talks some more about the 5 tribal stages of culture.

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Death by Meeting

How to Avoid Death by Meeting

Patrick Lencioni is an author that Verne Harnish recommends so I started with the book Death by Meeting – a leadership fable about solving the most painful problem in the world.

Death by MeetingThe book is about providing business owners, managers and CEOs the tools they need to perform in their most important role — meetings.

Unlike other professionals, there really is no training provided for ‘meetings’.  That’s why most meeting are boring.

Basketball players perform on ‘match day’ and their stage is the court.  They do regular fitness training and practice shooting hoops. Opera singers literally perform on a stage and they constantly practice singing.

Business leaders’ stage is the boardroom and they perform in meetings yet there’s rarely any training or any practice.

Would you rather see a movie or go to a meeting?

The author poses this very interesting question & usually most people prefer to see a movie.

However if meetings were run properly people would always favour a meeting over seeing a movie.

Movies are a passive experience, viewed on a screen and you have no control over the outcome.  Meetings on the otherhand are live, active, involve real people and you can influence the outcomes.

What can we learn from Hollywood, TV and news headlines?

Plenty.  And the analogies are great.

Headline News (Daily huddle – 5 mins)
This is the daily  update of what is going on.  It’s no longer than 5 minutes and gets everyone up-to-speed. These are best done standing up so they are quick!

TV sitcoms (Weekly meeting – 45 mins)
Like your favourite TV shows, you know all the characters and story lines don’t go for too long.  Your weekly meetings are tactical and they should always run for less than 45 minutes.

Death by MeetingFeature length movie (Monthly meeting 2-4 hours)
Like Hollywood blockbusters there should be a proven formula for these meetings. That means having a agenda, but there’s no strict time limit.  In your monthly meetings you get to delve into more strategic issues and allow time to address them properly.

Epic trilogies or movie marathons (Quarterly meetings – 1 day)
Some stories are so important you need a whole day and this is true of the quarterly meeting.  Take a whole day and ideally do it offsite  to keep it interesting.

How to make it exciting

Like a good movie or TV show, there’s got to be drama, excitement or conflict in the first few minutes. This is the chairperson’s most important role because it sets the tone for the entire meeting.  Start with enthusiasm, energy and a bit of drama and your colleagues will enjoy being along for the ride!

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Facing the Flinch

The Flinch is a natural response

‘A book so important we refuse to charge for it.”

That was written on the price tag of Julien Smith‘s book The Flinch which is a free download for Amazon Kindle.

And it intrigued me enough to download it.  [To be honest I would’ve bought it since Julien had won already won me over with Trust Agents (affiliate link) which he co-wrote with Chris Brogan.]

So what is the flinch all about?

The flinch is literally that feeling you get if someone is about to punch you.  It is the natural reflex reaction that has kept the human species alive for millenia. Fight or flight.

Unfortunately, it is the same feeling that inhibits us from doing the things we really want to.  It stops us quitting our job, going overseas or asking a girl out. The flinch is now our enemy.

What’s changed?

Cavemen used to hunt for food and avoid sabre tooth tigers.  The flinch was our friend then but we don’t face these daily dangers any more.  However the flinch is hardwired in our brain that wants to protect us.

We feel the flinch when we think about approaching a girl, when it comes to losing weight, when a lecturer asks if anyone has a question.  The flinch is trying to protect us (from embarrassment, from failure, from ridicule) but none of these things will kill us.

In fact the only way we can achieve our goals and live our dreams is to face up to the flinch and use it in our favour.

Julien Smith insists that “the anxiety of the flinch is almost always worse than the pain itself.”

The only way to know this for sure is to do things that scare you.  When your brain is screaming at you to avoid something, use that as your cue to do it.  Recognise the flinch and learn to use it!

My promise to myself for 2012?

I will seek out situations that scare me. When I feel the flinch and feel uncomfortable, I’ll push through and give it a go.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Julien Smith


I like Julien Smith because he is happy to say what he thinks and urges us to follow our dreams and gives us the tools to do so!

You can follow @julien on Twitter.

The Flinch was published as part of Seth Godin’s Domino Project.

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Can I influence you to be persuasive?

#1. How can changing 3 words send sales skywards?
ANSWER: At the end of the blog post.

#2. How come ‘what motivates me” is the WRONG approach for marketers?
ANSWER: Half way down
Yes 50 Secrets from the science of persuasion

#3. Why must you get someone else to introduce you?
ANSWER: First up.

I’ve just listened to YES! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion. One of the authors Robert Cialdini has been recommended on numerous occasions by ‘Growth Guy’ Verne Harnish and our speaking coach, Kevin Ryan amongst others.

Here are my two highlights from the audiobook!


It should come as as no surprise, that “blowing your own trumpet” is not all that persausive. But then again people need to know why you are worth listening to or else they will not pay attention.

THE SOLUTION? Get someone else to sing your praises.

If you’re about to speak to an audience, ensure you have a pre-written bio that the MC can read out.

Or if you’re in a meeting or putting a call through to a colleague, make sure that you properly introduce that person & explain why they are worth listening too.

Too often, everyone in your organisation knows each others strengths, except the prospective client!

How we’ll implement this at Bluewire.
We’ll be conscious to introduce colleagues by their name, ‘native genius’ and how they will be valuable!.

eg. This is Lesley. Lesley’s been a web strategy advisor with us for 4 years and her native genius is “making ideas actionable through planning”. In fact, she’ll be able to help you implement your web strategy like she has for many other clients.


Are you influenced by what other people do? Absolutely NOT.  This is the usual response to this question.

Yet all evidence points to YES. People have a natural tendency to do what other people are doing.

This is called “social proof”.  Think about how you behave in a library.   Or in a bar.

Marketers often ignore social proof

Marketers around the world FAIL because they ‘think’ people are motivated by what they assume motivates them.

For example, the ubiquitous hotel bathroom signs asking guests, “Please re-use your towel to respect and save the environment”.

This ignores the power of social proof and the fact that people are more motivated by what others like them are doing.

An experiment was conducted where that call to action was tested against one that read “The majority of our guests re-use their towels”.

33% more guests re-used their towels when the sign containing social proof was used.

How we’ll implement this at Bluewire.
We’re testing this line of copy of our invoices.

The majority of our clients are very good at paying invoices on time. Thanks in advance for your prompt payment.

And finally, to highlight social proof, what were the three words that sent sales skywards…

[ANSWER to QUESTION #1:] A call to action was changed from:

“Operators are waiting, please call now
If operators are busy, please call again.”

You conjure up completely different images with each statement, don’t you?

Your perception of other people rushing to the phone (social proof) creates much more urgency & this sent sales through the roof!

– Speak in layman’s terms. If you use confusing and complicated ‘jargon’ your audience will be less likely to understand you and more likely to dislike you.
– Own up to your mistakes. If you stuff up, admit it! People will trust you more, like you more & you will be more persuasive.
– Have morning meetings and coffee. The more alert people are, the receptive they will be to your persuasive arguments!

PS: It’s worth noting that the authors of this book strongly advise using their “persuasion toolkit” for good not evil.  Afterall, if you manipulate or trick someone once, you may have short term gain, but you’ll definitely suffer in the long term.

PPS. For more on social proof, go to Chapter 3.  For more on third party endorsements go to Chapter 24.

PPPS. You can follow @RobertCialdini on twitter.

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