Books We Trust: Interviews with Influential Authors shares our recommendations for books within the field, and takes a closer look through conversations with their authors.

Books We Trust: Interviews with Influential Authors is a project of Charles H. Green’s Trust Matters blog.

Books We Trust: The Decision to Trust by Bob Hurley

This is the eighth in a series called Books We Trust.

The Decision to Trust is one of the best books written in recent years on trust; it is a major contribution to the subject.

Author Bob Hurley teaches at Fordham and Columbia, so it’s no surprise that the book is solidly rooted in the extensive academic work on trust. Perhaps more surprising is that the book is also intensely practical, based on his years of consulting and research work with significant companies.

I sat down recently with Bob at his decidedly un-Lincoln Center-ish Fordham offices near Lincoln Center.

Capitalism: Back to the Future

Charlie Green: Let’s get one thing clear: you’re not doing double-duty as Basketball Hall of Fame high school coach Bob Hurley over in Jersey City – are you?

Bob Hurley: No, but I’m a fan, so I’m flattered by the confusion.

Charlie: OK, that’s out of the way. This is a wonderful book, Bob, clearly the result of years of research.

Bob: Decades, actually. I started as an accountant, then got an MBA and did consumer marketing. Eventually I realized I really wanted to be a teacher. I ended up at Columbia, where I studied under Morton Deutsch, the founder of the field of conflict resolution and a brilliant psychologist.

Today, I teach various courses in leadership and management at Fordham, and I teach executive education at Columbia

Charlie: Let’s jump right to the book. The heart of it, and I think the genius of it, is your idea of approaching trust from the point of view of a decision. A decision to trust is a largely psychological decision by the trustor, which is affected by the trustor’s own propensity to trust, and by the trustor’s view of the trustworthiness of the trustee in the particular situation.

Tell us the power of approaching things that way?

Bob: Well most people especially business people understand decision-making. When we frame the issue of trust as a decision we can help people not only understand about trust but also understand how to help others make a choice to trust vs. be suspicious. We do this by helping trustees understand how to be trustworthy in the eyes of others. This not only makes the model grounded in research in psychology, but also very practical.

It turns out that this approach also it allows you to make sense of trust from an interpersonal, group and organizational perspective. It may have a psychological locus at the heart of it, but it also allows for intelligent discussion about social environments and institutional behaviors.

Charlie: Would you list the ten factors please, as a teaser to get readers to click through and buy your book?

Bob: Sure. The first three factors are trustor-related: the level of risk tolerance, the trustor’s level of psychological adjustment, and the power position of the trustor all affect their likelihood to put themselves at knowing risk of another, which is how I think of the decision to trust.

The other seven factors are situational: They are security, similarity, alignment of interests, the level of perceived benevolent concern, capability, predictability and integrity, and communication. Some of those are about the trustee’s character as perceived by the trustor – some are about the trustor’s perception of the situation.

Charlie: You can then use this model to test, rate, rank, diagnose, consult and so forth, right? It’s a powerful tool for consultation and management.

Bob: Exactly, and it’s been widely tested over the years in thousands of situations. I started out testing it in exec ed programs; I wrote up a version of it in an HBR article, which led to more consulting and more testing.  It’s extremely workable, in addition to being well-grounded in the trust research literature.

Charlie: What are some of the problems to which you’ve applied the model?

Bob: There’s quite a range, from making better individual decisions, to leadership, to more effective team organization, even to culture change and trust repair. The model describes the failures of organizations like the Catholic Church’s problems with priestly sexual abuse, and the DaimlerChrysler debacle.

Charlie: You’re quite clear about the need to address trust issues systemically, aren’t you?

Bob: I think so. Personal trust is critical, but culture trumps personality. If we don’t get leaders to start to high trust create cultures and systems, we won’t get there. You can’t just change individuals and stop there.

For trust to get better in the trust-challenged world we live in, we have to get better at all three dimensions; trustors have to get better at making better trust decisions, trustees have to become more trustworthy, and we have to make our organizational cultures, systems and processes more trustworthy .

Charlie: David Gebler, in the field of ethics, makes much the same point: most ethical lapses are not due to moral failure on the part of individuals, but to an environment that is insufficiently supportive of ethical behavior.

Bob: Makes sense to me, and I would add that we need to go well beyond ethics to understand what makes people and companies trustworthy. Just because a person is ethical does not mean people will or should trust them!

Charlie: Let’s talk about one particular application of the Decision to Trust Model (DTM), that of leadership and management. First of all, what’s your take on how our ideas of “leadership” have evolved over the years?

Bob: I would say that the science behind leadership has evolved from trait theory to focus more on relationship, the need for flexibility and agility, EQ and the importance of self awareness and authenticity. When I teach leadership I tell people that the generic version of leadership is not terribly helpful to you.

The real challenge is finding out given who you are, what form of leadership can you manifest. We do not need to all become Winston Churchill! Trust fits into this notion of leader-follower relationship and authenticity. Bill George at Harvard has done a great job adding to this notion.

Charlie: Interesting.  And how does the DTM play out here? How can a leader use it practically?

Bob: Given that we know what makes people decide to trust, we can start by manifesting these “signals” of trustworthiness. Behaviors like aligning stakeholders interests, demonstrating benevolence and not opportunism, articulating values and ensuring value congruence and perhaps most importantly communicating with openness, transparency; and don’t forget listening with empathy and being approachable. These things can be taught but we have not focused on them enough!

Charlie: What’s your take on how our capitalist system has turned into such a low-trust system. It clearly wasn’t always this way; what has happened?

Bob: We need to re-define capitalism. It has been a great creator of wealth but it needs to evolve. As the global financial crisis showed us in spades, many business leaders have become opportunists focused on short-term greed. We need to grow a generation of integrative stewards who bring stakeholders together in moving the enterprise forward and focus on the long term. We need more incentive for capital to take a long-term view. Managing our businesses for the next quarter and our country for the next election is a prescription for disaster when we are competing with companies and nations that have 10, 20 and100 year plans!

Charlie: I think your model has another virtue, which is it’s useful even in application to our political system – no small feat in a polarized world. Is that right?

Bob: Political marketing is essential about getting people to doubt your opponent and trust you. Since Bush Senior’s win against Dukakis, this has been done using the same tricks used in marketing soda or soap. There is an emphasis on appearing trustworthy, while not actually being trustworthy.

We are mostly to blame because we take short cuts in assessing trustworthiness and at some level we do not want to hear the truth. We need systemic reform in politics; we need to “get the money out” as a first step (create alignment of interests). After that, term limits, and strict rules limiting lobbying.

We need to stop talking about big or small government, and starting talking about effective or ineffective government. I talk about this in the book. The major reason people do not trust government in the US is that they see the system as incompetent and wasteful. 

Charlie: Bob, thanks so much for spending time with me, and congratulations again on the book. It truly is a milestone in the literature on trust, in my humble opinion, and I hope it gets all the attention it deserves, which is a ton.

Bob: You’re welcome, it’s been a pleasure.



Books We Trust: The Speed of Trust

This is a special edition of Books We Trust. Stephen M. R. Covey, Jr. wrote the hugely successful The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, and I am delighted to interview him in the same week as our own Trusted Advisor Fieldbook hits the street.

Some of you may still confuse Stephen M. R. Covey with his famous father, Stephen R. “Seven Habits” Covey. You will no longer confuse them after this interview.

I first reviewed The Speed of Trust nearly four years ago, and the success of the book has since only accelerated. Stephen’s message has been heard globally in all walks of business and society. It is a compelling formulation that has stood the test of time.

Stephen also has a new book coming out in January; we got him to talk about that as well.

Why Trust

Trusted Advisor Associates: Stephen, first of all, thank you for joining us. It’s a privilege to have your voice in this series.

I’m guessing this book did not come to you in a flash of overnight insight. It has all the earmarks of thoughtful development. At the risk of oversimplifying—how did you get interested in trust in the first place?

Stephen Covey: Great to be with you, Charlie. My excitement for trust grew out of a number of simple, yet profound, experiences I had as a practitioner. For example, I’ll never forget an experience several years ago when a company I was in charge of worked with two different suppliers to provide the same product for our business. Both had good people and good reputations.

We started off trusting them both. But while one supplier consistently performed, the other was sporadic. We had to put in place redundant inspection processes for the inconsistent supplier which took extra time and cost more money, causing our product costs to rise. We ultimately decided to drop that supplier and do all our business with the one we trusted.

Soon after, I found myself noticing this same phenomenon everywhere: that the economic implications of trust were as great as, if not greater than, the social implications. I began to see the impact of trust—or the lack thereof—in every area of business and of life. I eventually concluded that trust is the one thing that changes everything, and today I am only more convinced that is true.

TAA: The “speed of trust” is a brilliantly concise statement of an essential aspect of trust. I find that when I quote you, “As trust goes up, speed goes up and cost goes down; as trust goes down, speed goes down and cost goes up,” people’s heads nod vigorously. That is distilled, refined essence of insight—how did you come to that simple, precise formulation?

Stephen: I could see it everywhere I turned. I could see these dividends of trust—speed and cost—everywhere in my business and in client organizations we were working with. And it worked in either direction whether the trust was low or high. Because trust impacts so many things—again I call it “the one thing that changes everything.” The biggest challenge was to keep this insight simple and focused, instead of trying to cover the waterfront.

It seemed to me that in the discussion of trust, what had too often been neglected or at least was unpersuasive, was what I call the “economics of trust”—showing the hard-edged, quantitative, tangible dimensions of trust. I felt that speed and cost was the best way to capture that. Speed was the biggest insight since it is something people immediately resonate with, but cost was equally important since it was the most quantifiable of all the measures.

Rich Details

TAA: The story of Warren Buffett doing a mega-deal with Wal-Mart in a half-day meeting and a handshake was brilliant. How did you come to hear of that?

Stephen: I always study Warren Buffett’s management letters in his annual reports and I know how he operates with enormous trust in his leaders. He shared this experience of his remarkable story of the Wal-Mart/McLane deal in one of his letters [the 2004 Berkshire-Hathaway Annual Report] and I immediately could see that it was a superb illustration of the speed of trust, specifically demonstrating how, as I often say, “nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.”

More recently, I met with Grady Rosier, the CEO of McLane today and also at the time of the deal, and he described to me how this deal could be done so fast, saying, “You also have to understand, it is a core business philosophy at Berkshire-Hathaway, the trust. Warren’s ability to acquire quality companies is built around the trust.”

TAA: In the course of writing the book, was there anything that surprised you, that you wouldn’t have guessed going into the project?

Stephen:  I found the deeper and deeper I got into the writing, the more and more persuaded I became that one of the main reasons trust had been so grossly underestimated and neglected was because it is so obvious, so fundamental, so simple that we tend to look right past it. It’s common sense—but unfortunately it’s not common practice.

Trust Movement

TAA: How would you characterize the market’s response to your message of trust? What do you find people most commonly say about it?

Stephen: There’s been an overwhelming response, especially today, because we’re increasingly operating in a low-trust world. And as Buffett says, “Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody notices. When it’s absent, everybody notices.” Today, almost everybody is beginning to notice the loss of trust. So the most common response I get from people is how relevant trust is to what’s going on with them in their world today—with all stakeholders.

TAA: What would you say are the biggest barriers and obstacles to trust in business these days?

Stephen: I think the biggest barrier is what I call counterfeit behavior. Counterfeit behavior is like counterfeit money—it looks like the real thing, but upon closer inspection, you realize it’s not. Examples of counterfeit behavior include “spinning” instead of talking straight; hidden agendas instead of transparency; overpromising and under-delivering instead of keeping commitments; blaming others instead of practicing personal accountability; “covering up” instead of righting wrongs; and so forth.

The 13 behaviors of high-trust leaders I identify in The Speed of Trust all have opposites and counterfeits. The biggest problem is less about trust’s opposite—it’s obvious to people that won’t work—and more about its counterfeit. The counterfeit appears that it might work and often is culturally acceptable. There are many industries, companies and cultures in which counterfeit behavior is the prevailing norm and practice.

An example of counterfeit behavior being the prevailing norm can be seen in politics today. But as a result of this type of behavior, we don’t trust politicians. A 2011 GfK study of the most trusted professions in 19 countries showed politicians dead last—by a wide margin. Part of it is the nature of the challenges politicians are facing today, but part of it is how counterfeit behavior has too often become the accepted norm.

Global Trust

TAA: I’ve found that trust dynamics are global—but the cultural expressions of those dynamics vary a lot. Do you have any specific observations about similarities or differences across cultures?

Stephen: I agree with your assessment, Charlie. I put it this way: the principles behind trust are universal and timeless but the specific practices can be very cultural. The key is to separate the principle from the practice. Too many confuse the practice with the principle. So, for me, the two key behaviors that help us cross cultures are to listen first and then to demonstrate respect for what we hear. If we do that well, we’ll be in a position to understand how trust plays out in a given culture.

Take the behavior I call “Talk Straight.” The principle behind the behavior is truthfulness—telling the truth. But the particular practices behind the behavior will vary within different cultures. For example, talk straight might be manifested differently in The Netherlands who are renowned straight talkers (the common expression is that “you can’t offend the Dutch!”) than perhaps in many Asian countries where it is typically more subtle, nuanced and balanced (and sometimes achieved through intermediaries).

If we listen first and demonstrate respect for what we see, we usually can come to a better understanding of what trust means in different cultures and situations.

TAA: You’ve contributed, even driven, a global awareness of the role of trust. Do you think it’s a movement that will stick? Are you worried that it may come to be seen as a fad?

Stephen: I’m biased, of course, but I predict it will be a movement that will endure and ultimately transform society. Here’s the paradox: at the same time that we’re seeing a crisis of trust almost everywhere we turn, we’re simultaneously beginning to see a “renaissance of trust” as well—with people, leaders, organizations, and causes that are emerging and rising up to support a better way of leading and living.

For example, consider companies such as SAS Institute,, and Wegmans Food Markets—all of which lead out with trust. And consider leaders such as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, with her deliberate focus on “Performance with Purpose.” And consider the best of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Plus, consider causes like Conscious Capitalism and the emergence of Social Businesses.

I don’t think trust will fade away; rather, I believe it will increasingly become part of the fabric of how we lead. In fact, if we’re not creating trust, we’re not leading—we might be managing, we might be administering, but we’re not leading. And leadership is not going away anytime soon.

TAA: What do you say to skeptics who suggest an individual can’t make a difference regarding trust in the business world? Any advice?

Stephen:  If you think the problem is “out there,” that very thinking is the problem. We’ve got to take ownership for this. The ripple effect metaphor is very real as it relates to trust. Trust is an inside-out process. That doesn’t mean we don’t need leaders at the top starting with trust, because we do. It simply means that we don’t need to wait for the leaders at the top to lead out with trust because each of us can take the first steps—wherever we are.

And if we get results in a way that inspires trust, our influence will expand dramatically and we’ll become the ripple effect ourselves for our team. Or our team will for the organization. Or our business will for the industry. Or our industry will for society. And so forth.

Looking Forward

TAA: You have a new book coming out in January. What can you tell us about it―we’re eager to know!

Stephen: The book is called Smart Trust. In a nutshell, it’s about how to trust in a low-trust world. It takes the two extremes—blind trust based on gullibility where people end up getting burned at one extreme, versus distrust based on suspicion where people don’t even see the possibilities at the other extreme. It presents Smart Trust as a  third alternative, a practical way of operating with high trust in a low-trust world, of navigating risk while maximizing possibilities.

The book also focuses on how trust not only impacts prosperity but also how it changes energy and joy—hence the subtitle of the book, Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World.

TAA: Stephen, thank you so much for taking this time with us. You have done a great service to the cause of trust in business, and it’s a pleasure to be able to help give it the recognition it deserves.

Stephen: Thank you, Charlie. I reciprocate your kind words because I think so highly of you and your tremendous contributions to this field. It’s great to be co-catalysts together in helping to bring about a renaissance of trust!


Books We Trust: True North Groups, By Bill George

This is the seventh in a series called Books We Trust.

Bill George is author (with Peter Sims) of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. Part of the J-B Warren Bennis series, it has been widely read and praised. In his new book, True North Groups, he (with co-author Doug Baker) focuses on how True North precepts can get established for people and organizations.

Bill George is another small-town Midwesterner who made it (very) big. After punching his ticket in the McNamara Defense Department days, he eventually spent a decade each with Litton Industries, Honeywell, and Medtronic (where he was CEO).

These days he teaches leadership at Harvard Business School and serves on the Board of several Very Big companies. Click to his bio; you’ll be impressed.

Bill does not waste time; we got right into it.

Capitalism: Back to the Future

Trusted Advisor Associates: Bill, after your MBA, you spent decades in big-business companies that worked closely with government. How did you feel watching the progression of Milton Friedman, Michael Jensen, Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan, and the doctrine of shareholder value—an ideology that pitted business against government?

Bill George: Michael Jensen has recanted; he’s writing about ontological leadership with Werner Erhard. Greenspan admitted the flaw in that ideology.

There’s been a total transformation. We have collectively realized the flaws in those old simplistic economic theories; this notion that people are motivated only by self-interest, this is simply not true. Mike Porter is another one, a brilliant guy who is now writing about shared value, not shareholder value.

There is a transformation in business right now of major companies moving away from that old paradigm.

Take Alan Mullally at Ford; he’s changing things there right down to the individual employee level. He is focusing on the long term, on sustainability.

Corporate CEOs today are the best I’ve seen, the best in my lifetime. Besides Mullally at Ford, there’s Palmisano at IBM. Steve Jobs rightly got a lot of credit. All the CEOs I know are moving away from shareholder value to values and vision. Paul Polman at Unilever says, ‟My job is not to serve the shareholder, but to serve the customer.”

TAA: That’s pretty optimistic. What do you think happened?

Bill: It’s just what’s happening, that’s all. These things only happen when you come to realize we were going the wrong way. Think Enron; that was a hugely emblematic event…there were 100 large companies with very large “accounting” problems.

You get a raft of major companies like BMS with a $1.5B accounting adjustment, and that’s not an accounting problem—that’s a failure of leadership. This went way beyond a few crooks; this was a business disaster.

But we’ve seen that. Outside Wall Street, there are a lot of really big companies that are just done thinking that way. Not going back.

Wall Street and Washington

TAA: What about Wall Street?

Bill: Wall Street never ceased. The problem is maximizing short term shareholder value―that’s the best way to go out of business. So it’s really not surprising Wall Street melted down.

Regarding Wall Street, I’m a wait and see guy. There are all new CEOs on Wall Street now―Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein are the old guys. The new folks are the ones who’ll have to make the call. A guy like Paulson can make $4B selling things short; that’s legal, he does it fair and square, but let’s not kid ourselves that’s value creation—it’s not.

TAA: What about Washington?

Bill: I’d like to see them lead, but we’ve got to take it out of the political arena: we’re just not going to get there via the politicians. They’re more interested in the parochial, ideological interests.

And that’s the greatest sin. We in business lost sight of why we were in business, lost track of the role of leadership in the first place.

Toyota and J&J took their eyes off the ball. Ford’s now beating Toyota, because Toyota took its eye off the long-term, culture/quality ball. And Ford rediscovered it.

I was on the board of Novartis. They always focused on a breakthrough drug to solve unmet patient needs―a drug that is going to advance medicine. Look at Ken Frazier at Merck, Pfizer vs. Merck, he’s pushed to keep up the level of R&D spending. Pfizer’s done the exact opposite. The short-termers keep citing Net Present Value as the driver of short-term focus, but the truth is they don’t know how to do the math right.

[CHG: An aside—read this WSJ article from February 4 of this year detailing Bill’s point: when the two companies announced their opposite strategies, the market drove Merck stock down 2.7%, while Pfizer saw its stock rise by 5.2%. That’s an 8% spread because of announced strategies.

Today, 8 months later, try comparing the two companies’ stock prices; they are back to dead even; the gap is gone. But Merck has the advantage of a tailwind in its R&D momentum; Pfizer gave it up.]

Leadership and True North

TAA: Let’s talk about leadership and bring it back to True North Groups. What should leadership be about?

Bill: Back in the day, HP was just a great company. Dave Packard totally practiced MBWA, management by walking around, a truly humble guy. Four successive CEOs now have gone the wrong way. Leadership matters greatly.

The key issue now is that the leaders’ job is not to exert power, but to empower people, including those who have no direct reports. You have to have an empowered group of employees that are excited about mission and values. If you only bring your head to work, you cut yourself off at the neck; if that’s all you can bring to the game, I’d love to compete with you.

The key issue in leadership is not to develop the next CEO, it’s to develop leaders all over the place. It’s not about developing a few good people at the top, but working on 10,000 or more.

The question is how to develop those leaders: you can’t do it through the old Darwinian GE model. Not everyone should be focused on getting Jeff Immelt’s job. That is just not where the traction is.

That’s where True North groups come in. Turns out that the best way to truly develop individual leadership capabilities is in small groups, made up of peers, of people who tell life stories, where people can find out who they really are. Because if they lead life as a fraud, thinking they’re impressing the world, it won’t work.

Steve Jobs’ most powerful message was to be who you are. Don’t let others’ opinions—Wall Street, recruiters—rob you of the courage to follow your heart. They used to snicker at me at Harvard Business School when I talked like that, but they don’t today.

TAA: How do you find a True North Group, and how do they get it right?

Bill: We found it happens in small groups. You see the success of this small-group phenomenon in affinity groups—AA, the YPO, breast cancer survivor groups, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church—read Malcolm Gladwell’s explanation of it.

We tried to take this to people who don’t have an affinity group like that; people in business—what are they supposed to do? A great way to define a True North group is to ask yourself, “If I found out I was going to die, who would I talk to?” That’s your group.

TAA: What is it that True North Groups do?

Bill: If you buy the premise that we have to help develop people, this is the way to do it. You don’t go to Wimbledon to play tennis—you start years before. You don’t learn leadership by reading, you learn it by doing it—by living it, and talking about it. And then you need a way to process that.

There are several things we write about in the book that are critical to True North Groups’ success; I’ll highlight a few. One is non-judgmental feedback.The courage to tell it like it is—not ‘brutally,’ because that would come with judgment. Just speaking the truth, straight-up.

TAA: This is not leadership development ala Jack Welch’s GE.

Bill: A lot of people still want to use leadership development as a selection process; the big boss comes in and watches a while and says this guy’s good, that guy’s not.

Instead, you’ve got to have confidentiality and peers. This is a little hard for the leadership development people; a lot of them still like bringing people to Crotonville, but that’s too expensive.

You know the one thing we heard from leaders we interviewed? Loneliness. They’re alone. That’s true for middle managers too—the sandwich phenomenon, pushed from both ends. What’s the treatment for loneliness? A group.

People want to know, can I be real in the workplace? Is it OK? A group deals with that.

Making It Happen

TAA: You’ve actually influenced the Harvard Business School to do this, right?

Bill: My course on leadership uses small groups of 6 people. Half your time in this course is spent in authentic leadership development this way. 1,500 HBS students have gone through it—1,100 or so MBAs, and another several hundred from exec ed programs. About half your credit is for hanging out in that small group.

TAA: How well does it go over?

Bill: Neo-classical economists don’t get it, and neither do Wall Streeters—for the most part. Yet. But the rest do. It is quite significant that the Harvard Business School appointed Nitin Nohria as Dean. [Readers might also enjoy an early TrustMatters blogpost on the MBA Oath].

TAA: How does this play out for you?

Bill: Here’s the irony: all my life I’ve seen myself as a leader—because people followed me. Now I realize, that’s not what it’s about at all. It’s about empowering others.

I get to talk to all these great leaders—Mullally, and so on. I tell them all, ‘Just call me, let’s talk.’ Because we all need that. No charge, of course; we just talk.

TAA: This has been great. I will try and organize these notes into a coherent whole, and run them by you so you get the final word.

Bill: Nah, don’t worry about that. Just print it up.

 [CHG: And so that’s what I did.  If there were any mistakes made in summarizing our talk, I guarantee you they’re mine].

Books We Trust: The Seven Stages of Money Maturity

George Kinder, father of the Life Planning movement and founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning, talks to us about the first of his books on the integration of financial planning and the human condition, The Seven Stages of Money Maturity, in the latest installment of the Books We Trust author interview series.

Life Planning

Trusted Advisor Associates: George, I don’t know of any other book that reaches so far across the right brain / left brain divide.  Or is it the money / spirituality divide?  In any case, you manage to integrate asset category management with the Buddhist Bodhicaryavatara.

What is it that you’ve done here? What is this thing called Life Planning?

George Kinder:  We have gotten stuck thinking of money as about counting, about numbers, something abstract done by banks and accountants.  The truth is, money is a much larger topic—it involves our whole human nature. I talk about the conversation that needs to take place before a financial plan can be done.  That conversation is all about the human being, so we can go into emotional and creative territories.  It requires a different way of listening.

Most financial planners don’t think this way.  They were brought up on old sales approaches.  Life insurance was the first product; it got encrusted with sales techniques.  Then we got to stocks, which have always represented a commodity to people. So we’ve never had a consciousness that money has a purpose connecting it to our passions and our deeper levels of meaning.

A group of us around the globe said, this is not the way it should be, and we set about to change it. Is there a client relationship dividend to re-thinking this approach?  There sure is, and it’s huge.

TAA: Lest I give readers the wrong idea, this book and your work are part of mainstream, hardcore capitalism.  You are highly regarded among financial planners and wealth managers, people to whom other people entrust the management of their money.  This is not fluff stuff, and your clients are as sober and conservative as any.

George: Let’s touch on your “mainstream hardcore capitalism” language.  That’s an important message for my and your audiences alike. We have a secular financial system that has basically failed.  It’s in collapse. The trust level for financial advice is so low these days partly because you have to question the sustainability of our very system.

A Dow Jones survey from a few years ago (Dow Jones Wealth Management, After the Crunch) said 75% of consumers who have a financial advisor would never recommend that advisor to a colleague or friend. How horrible is that!

The trust issue is threatening what we think of as hardcore capitalism.  We believe in supply/demand and efficient markets, but the proper reverence for a vital system isn’t there, and without that quality of reverence the whole system is threatened. You can’t have a trust relationship built around nothing but avarice and sales.

TAA: Who are your clients? Who needs and hears your message?

George: We at the Kinder Institute work with three different markets.  The Seven Stages book was written for the consumer.  That’s one market, which I’ll expand on in my new book called Life Planning, co-authored with Mary Rowland.

The second client group is independent financial advisors, usually CFPs or the various global equivalents.  We work with advisors in 23 different countries.

The third group is corporate clients; we’re moving into markets in North America and Europe, mainly the UK.

Companies are in danger because their products are commoditized and sales-driven, and consumers have had it with the old approaches.  Consumers need this more human approach because they’re dysfunctional when it comes to money, and because they have no one to talk to about it.  And advisors need it because their model also is being challenged; they’re all scrambling to figure out what a client-service model looks like.

There are enormous opportunities for all concerned.

Integrating Art and Finance

TAA:  How is it you came to write such a book?  You were an artist who became an accountant—but you kept both sides of your personality. That’s unusual.

George: I was an accountant because I had to be, I had to make a living.  Following your bliss didn’t work for me—I tried it, but I couldn’t make money from my paintings or my poetry.  But I developed a strong business sense from the accounting, and that became the basis for my business now.

I was an over-achiever: despite the artist in me, I had 800s on my math boards, but lousy verbal skills.  I was competitive and cocky so I majored in English–I figured I already knew how to do Math.

TAA. You talk about people’s profound relationship to money.  People would sooner talk about their sex lives than their money lives, and money is the source of profound psychological meaning, or dissatisfaction.

Your narrative of progression to Money Maturity parallels that described in Buddhism for personal growth. What’s the connection with money?

George:  Human growth has to mirror the growth of our relationship with money, because money enables so much of our lives.  I like to say there are far more money apps for human beings than there are computer apps in the app store, because money facilitates everything in life.  People have dysfunctional relationships with money and they have trouble getting advice about it.

Buddhism? I taught meditation for 25 years, and led week-long silent meditation retreats in each of those years; I just came out with a book on meditation—a secular book, not a religious one.  When we train financial advisors to listen really well to their clients, we start those practices with “inner listening,” which is basically a meditative practice.

If you’re not aware of what’s going on inside you, you can’t separate your own thoughts and feelings from those in your clients.  We’re highly cerebral in our normal lives, and when talking with clients, we need to be much more connected with our emotions, and with theirs.

Financial Planning Today

TAA. Your earliest version of your seminar was called “12% in 12 Years,” and it was about how you could achieve financial independence.  That was then. Now, the Dow sits where it was a decade ago, and bonds are yielding low single-digit returns. Very low.

It’s got to be harder to achieve financial nirvana these days; how do you advise people now?

George: When I was giving the 12-and-12 it was an exhortation to consumers to save 12%, not to earn 12%.  So you compound as best you can, and you simplify—both while you’re earning, and when you retire.  You ought to be able to have modest financial independence.  That’s still true, but obviously when you look at the yields of the last decade, it’s a much harder task to accomplish.

One of the values of life planning is it gets away from the numbers and gets down to what’s really important.  What’s most important is actually much easier to achieve than when it’s all about money.

TAA: Most financial advisors just jump into discussions of required spend levels, rates of return, financial risk profiles, and so forth.  They forget the entire front end—why is it that we’re doing this stuff in the first place?

I sometimes think that the financial planning industry is the most product-driven business I know: they can’t even graduate from features to benefits, much less to goals.

George: In Life Planning we look at goals deeply and seriously. What people care about most is their family. Four other things come close to it, but they’re mainly concerned with family, spouse, and relationships.

The next most common response has to do with values: not living their values the way they’d like.  Maybe their job threatens their integrity; (sometimes it’s explicitly religious or spiritual, though that’s true more in the US than in Europe).

The third most common goal is a wild creativity; the fourth is community and the fifth the environment or sense of place–typically people talk about a move to the city or the country.

And all these things are doable!   This puts the advisor in a much stronger role, focusing on what the persons really care about, rather than trying to force money itself to do all the heavy lifting. We help them live with passionate purpose.

TAA. Financial planners and wealth managers come in many forms these days.  What roles do you see being played by the Financial Planning Association, by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA),  by your own Kinder Institute, and by similar associations outside the US? What’s been the evolution of brokers and independents?  Does the fiduciary movement have legs?

George: The fiduciary movement definitely does have legs.  For the first time in a long time, this movement toward client centricity is happening more outside the US than inside.  We’ve been ahead in the past because of things like NAPFA, life planning, the emphasis on the fiduciary.  These movements grew up here because of the entrepreneurial spirit of America. But it’s been almost 30 years since I joined NAPFA, and there’s still a lot to be done.

We’ve gone far in America, but we’re not the leaders any more. The leadership is now coming from governments in places like India, the Netherlands, Australia and the UK.  The regulators in those places have said “enough already.”

The industry in those countries recognized they needed to shift away from the heavy sales and commission system, because of lower and lower levels of trust. Those countries are now leading with ways that make Dodd Frank look like just a piece of paper.

Dodd Frank takes the consumer back to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. We should have been there all along. Dodd-Frank is sort of Back to the Future.

The cozy relationship that grew up here between industry and government meant brokers could insist to the SEC, “No, we’re not advisors, we’re salespeople not subject to the Act,” and then turn around and tell the customers the exact opposite.  Dodd Frank basically says (as yet unconvincingly) we’re going to enforce the 1940 Act.  Meanwhile, other countries are going much further.

I’m not optimistic short term here in the US, though I continue to be an optimist about the long run.  Eventually the consumer wins.  The model we have in America is not designed for the consumer like it is in other countries. But I have faith we’ll get back there again.

The Stages of Maturity

TAA: In the Seven Stages you write about how the tension between the first two stages is particularly poignant—the crunch that happens when Innocence (Stage 1) comes up against Pain (Stage 2).  How can people recognize that tension?

George: Innocence and Pain are the first two of the Seven Stages, and there’s a bit of psychological approach here.  It’s like being in childhood.  Innocence is our beliefs about money; every single belief you can imagine is partial and incomplete.

The more insidious innocent beliefs are things like,  “Spend today because you never know about tomorrow,” or, “The only way to get money is to borrow it,” or, “Be ever on guard against those who’d steal it from you.”  Investment schemes will often play against that last one, as in, “Do you know how the rich really get their money?” I call these beliefs Innocence because they’re all incomplete. We pick these deep beliefs up early in life, from our parents.

Then comes the Pain, when your beliefs turn out to be wrong. Pain is primarily emotional.  You see your neighbors doing well but you don’t invest because your grandparents were from the depression. Meanwhile, your neighbors get yachts; so your particular brand of pain is envy.

Then, say in October of 1987 you go all in, and you do it on margin. More pain.  You get anger, sadness, despair, frustration, all of those things.  And people get in a loop, going back and forth between Innocence and Pain.

TAA: What’s the biggest mistake made by financial planners?  And by their clients, in their relationship to their financial planners?

George:  The biggest mistake made by financial planners is that even if they’re honest, have integrity, and care about their clients–they don’t know the clients well enough. They don’t know enough to know how much to save, how much to put into retirement, and how to help the client not worry so much and to live their dreams.

It’s a tragedy. They don’t know how to develop the biggest opportunity they have–the opportunity to talk meaningfully to their clients. If they could do that, they could say, “Hey, you can have that, let’s make sure you move toward your dreams.”  Instead, it’s all about shovels—not about holes.

And it’s even more of a tragedy for the consumer; they’re still thinking that it’s all about the money. They think their job is to find an advisor who can beat the market.

What they need is someone they can really trust; someone who has the capacity to help them articulate what they’re really inspired about in life, so that they can use money as a means to that end.

TAA: George, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us. Your ability to link our material and our spiritual lives is unparalleled, and I hope we help sell you a few more books—they help people.

George: My pleasure.

Books We Trust: The Seven Stages of Money Maturity by George Kinder is the fifth installment in the Books We Trust author interview series.

Books We Trust interviews include:

Books We Trust: As One: Individual Action, Collective Power, by Mehrdad Baghai & James Quigley

This is the fourth in a series called Books We Trust.

We’ve previously discussed Bill Brooks’ You’re Working Too Hard to Make the Sale, Jill Konrath’s Selling to Big Companies, and Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

This time we talk with Jim Quigley about his recent and highly successful book, As One: Individual Action, Collective Power.


For those who don’t know, Jim Quigley was, until June, the global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, the largest of the Big 4 professional services firms. He has now stepped into the role of Senior Partner, Deloitte LLP.  We caught up with him in China last March, and resolved to do this interview.


Trusted Advisor Associates: Jim, this is an unusual book for several reasons. It’s got two lead authors, but five listed authors in total. It’s got a ton of organized research behind it, maybe the most since Good to Great. The book offers significant insight into this idea of collective behavior in organizations, and connects theory to practical examples by defining eight distinct leader-follower archetypes.

How did this book come about?

Jim Quigley: The book came about through the many discussions we’ve had with leaders all over the world. I’ve always been fascinated by leadership, and I’ve always tried to deepen my understanding of leadership as an art and a science, with important requirements that can be measured. I’ve observed many styles of leadership, both inside and outside of our firm.

My c-suite conversations with executives always included insights about the global economy and the status of the client’s relationship with Deloitte, but when I asked specific questions about leadership, the tone of the conversations changed dramatically. CEOs would lean forward and become deeply engaged, and would often confide that questions of leadership, commitment and strategic alignment are what keep them up at night. With the significant shifts that have occurred in the business environment, we decided the time was right for a fresh look at leadership.

Out of Many, One

TAA: For some reason, reading the book reminded me of the old US motto E pluribus unum—out of many, one. At a high level, isn’t that what the book is about—how to work as one?

What problem were you trying to solve, what question were you trying to answer, with this book?

Jim: Today’s business environment can be characterized as one of “constant change.” Business leaders are facing continued globalization of the economy and rapidly expanding emerging markets. The talent pool is being redefined through rapid technological and demographic shifts, and all around us we see new ways in which people are convening, collaborating and communicating with one another.

We believe that, against this backdrop, leaders from all sectors and organizations are searching for a pragmatic approach to realizing the full potential of their greatest resource: their people. We feel that collective behavior can be a significant, competitive force that can give an organization its winning edge. Leaders who can create unified teams – working together, as one, can produce extraordinary results.

TAA. The book describes 8 archetypes for how organizations operate.  I’m guessing you started with the idea of archetypes—but how did you arrive at these eight?

Jim: We actually didn’t start with the archetypes, we discovered them. Conventional wisdom suggests that leadership styles fall somewhere between two extremes—a traditional command-and-control structure and a participatory, flatter, “modern” organization. In our research, we found a more nuanced picture, and found that organizations depend on vastly different leadership styles and structures.

We thoroughly analyzed 60 successful examples of As One behavior from a diverse selection of corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations around the world. From these, we identified eight distinct models, each of which can work effectively when applied in the right situation.

8 Archetypes

TAA: Let’s help the reader out here.  Can you define the 8 archetypes and give a simple example of each, so everyone knows what we’re talking about?

Jim: Sure.

The Landlord & Tenants archetype is a top-down model. In this relationship, the leader controls access to resources and dictates the terms their use. Tenants voluntarily decide to join the landlord because it’s in their interest to do so. Once they’re “in,” however, they have no choice but to abide by the rules. That said, the relationship isn’t entirely one way. Landlords’ power ultimately depends on the number of tenants they can attract and retain. It’s in their interests to be fair—and to encourage and reward the “right” behavior. The Apple App Store is a good example of a Landlord & Tenants archetype. Apple (“landlord”) built a virtual community of developers (“tenants”) by promising them a 70 percent share in the profits of successful applications for the iPhone and iPad. In exchange, app developers agree to abide by Apple’s strict guidelines.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Community Organizer & Volunteers pairing is based on the direction-setting power of followers. The leader is the glue that binds the activities of the volunteers together, providing the narrative and rationale for their actions, but the followers cannot be told what to do. The organization functions more by philosophy than by rigid rules and structures. The Linux operating system is a classic example, built by an ecosystem of developers, a community bound together by the belief that the world deserves an open-source software alternative.

In the Conductor & Orchestra model, there’s very little room for improvisation—but there is room to excel within the given boundaries. Some organizations, for example those in the healthcare sector, depend on the ability of its members to perform, with care and precision, repetitive and scripted tasks. The leader motivates the team partly by the promise of perfection—of being trained to do something they do well to the highest possible standards. Medco Health Solutions, for example, uses scripted processes to deliver more than 100 million prescriptions per year with exceptional accuracy, demonstrating how a leader can inspire an organization to greatness with precision and attention to detail.

The Producer & Creative Team archetype requires a charismatic leader capable of bringing together a team of highly skilled, independent individuals to achieve their objectives. The Producer’s vision guides the project; their carefully selected teams make it happen. Dissent is used to push creative boundaries. Long-term success depends on constant innovation and reinvention, combined with discipline to get the show on the road.  Performance arts company Cirque du Soleil, which combines the diverse talents of thousands of people through creativity, energy, and hard work, is a good example of this archetype.

General & Soldiers combines command-and-control culture with a clear and compelling sense of purpose and mission. The general is the authority and provides orders and the soldiers, highly trained and focused on clearly defined and scripted tasks, carry them out. There is a high level of commitment to the overall mission, the organization and to each other. The Marriott hotel chain takes great strides to train and welcome entry-level employees into the Marriott family. By building a strong culture, providing clear paths to promotion and focusing on the personal and professional success of its employees, Marriott has achieved great success and has one of the lowest staff turnover rates in the hospitality sector.

In the Architect & Builders model, the architect has a blueprint or vision that he or she needs a team of highly-skilled builders – followers – to bring to life. The builders are master craftsmen and innovators capable of finding novel solutions to technical and practical problems. As interdependent links in a project management chain, they work to ambitious deadlines and milestones, mapped to deliberate work cycles. The development of the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car, can be said to have been achieved by an Architect & Builders model, where a strong leadership vision was translated into action by a team of skilled builders.

The Captain and Sports Team operates as a dynamic unit, adapting, often in real time, to new strategies and challenges. Members of the sports team have a strong sense of shared identity and see each other as equals; this is an archetype with minimal hierarchy. The hands-on leader is there, on the field, motivating and encouraging and directing the play. The dabbawalas, the lunch-box men who each day deliver hot meals to around 200,000 office workers in Mumbai, operate like a closely knit sports team, taking direction from mukadams, experienced hands, if a crisis occurs or the schedule slips. Their operation is so efficient, so effective, so closely coordinated that only one in six million of their deliveries fails to arrive on time.

Close to the Community Organizer & Volunteers archetype, Senator & Citizens is a very democratic model. Problems are tackled through the sharing of opinions and the debate of differing perspectives; solutions emerge from loose and fluid groupings. The senator provides guiding intelligence and oversees decision-making, but the followers work independently. In return for their personal freedom, citizens willingly commit to the “constitution” and to the responsibilities they owe to the collective. Structures are flat: it’s a community of equals. W. L. Gore & Associates, inventors of GORE-TEX®, is one of the world’s most innovative companies but has few job titles, no job descriptions, and no defined organizational charts.

TAA: Say a little more please about the idea of archetypes? Are they meant to explain behavior?  Are they also guides to managers for action? What should or could a senior leader glean from the book? And what about less senior leaders? Consultative types?

Jim: None of the archetypes is, in and of itself, correct or incorrect. Leaders must select the one that best suits their and their organization’s objectives and circumstances. The book provides real-life examples of these different styles in action, and the hope is that leaders of organizations large and small can leverage the characteristics of the one that fits them best as they pursue collective behavior.

TAA: Can you be a little of one type of archetype and a little of another?  Are there hybrids? Or does everything turn to oatmeal if you depart from pure models?

Jim: It’s perfectly possible, if not always desirable, for more than one archetype to co-exist. Some companies may make plans using one archetype, but then behave more like another archetype when it comes time to deliver. Live, real-time events often demand the kind of actions and responses that cannot be rehearsed. There’s always a script for a wedding—the order of service, the ceremony, for instance—but it doesn’t tell you what to do when the photographer doesn’t turn up.

The constant for an organization is not so much the archetype but the strategic question, “What are we trying to achieve and how are we going to get there?” Many corporate strategies call for establishing “one company” that will operate less expensively and more effectively across internal boundaries, operate more globally or in a way that provides a uniform customer experience. In the As One approach, this generally requires the organization to become more top-down and more scripted. A strategy focused on innovation, on the other hand, would call for a move toward the more creative dimension. Organizations, then, should expect to adapt their archetypes based on changing circumstances and objectives.


Archetypes, Trust and Relationships

TAA: The reason this book is on the Books We Trust list is that it has to do with organizations acting As One.  That suggests a major role for trust and trusted relationships.

But how does trust play out?  Does its importance vary by archetype? Is it historically more important these days? How does trust affect the various stakeholder relationships?

Jim: Naturally, trust lies at the heart of all successful relationships. Leaders need to earn the trust of their followers, both inside and outside of their organization. A trusting relationship is key to any archetype, any situation. Without trust as a foundation, it’s difficult—if not altogether impossible—for an organization to truly function collectively.

We live in an unprecedented era of skepticism, when confidence in businesses, government and other institutions is at a historic low. The case for trust has never been stronger, and I predict we will see the companies and leaders who thrive during this time are the ones that elevate trust as a core value.


TAA: Jim, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us about As One; may you sell tons of books, and have the impact this book has the ability to deliver.

Jim: My pleasure. Thanks so much for the opportunity to share some of what we’ve learned.

Books We Trust: Drive by Dan Pink

Daniel H. Pink talks to us about Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, his recent and highly successful book.

The Drive Behind “Drive”

Charles Green: In the dedication of Drive, you mention Sophia, Eliza and Saul, “the surprising trio that motivates me.”  What got you started on looking into this whole question of human motivation?

Dan Pink: Our kids were part of the impetus, I guess. But Drive is mostly the outgrowth of A Whole New Mind, which I published in 2005. That book argues that we’re moving from a world built less on logical, linear, left-brain, spreadsheet abilities–and more on the hard-to-outsource, hard-to-automate, artistic, empathic right-brain abilities.

After that book, people said to me: “If you’re right about this shift in abilities, then how do we motivate people to do this sort of work?” I didn’t have a clue. But I knew there was a body of research on human motivation. So I started exploring it.  And I quickly realized that it was a vast body of research–and much of it overturned orthodoxies I didn’t even realize were orthodoxies.

Motivation 2.0 and 3.0

Charlie: In the book you talk about Motivation 2.0, which still has a hold on many managers and businesses: the idea that without extrinsic motivators of rewards and punishments, people at work will be unmotivated, aimless and unproductive–that therefore employees and teams need to be motivated and managed externally.  How would you tie this view of human motivation to trust?

Dan: It’s inextricably linked to the idea of trust. If you believe you can’t trust employees, then you have to put in place all kinds of mechanisms for control. There’s no way around that. If you think other people can’t be trusted, then the Motivation 3.0 approach I write about is a total non-starter.

Charlie: Your idea of Motivation 3.0 stems from the understanding that we, as human beings, are intrinsically motivated to take on responsibility, to look for creative and intellectual challenges and to solve problems. Can you talk a little more about the three factors which make up Motivation 3.0 and lead to production and satisfaction for individuals at work:

  • Autonomy
  • Opportunity for Mastery (competence)
  • Purpose (relatedness)

Dan: Sure. The idea here is that if you want people to be motivated to do well on creative, conceptual, complex work, you have to pay them enough–and offer these three elements.

Autonomy is the drive to direct our own lives. People generally perform better when they have a little more autonomy over what they do, when they do it, how they do it, and with whom they do it.

Mastery is the drive to get better at something that matters and to make progress in our work. It’s hugely powerful and often ignored inside of organizations.

And purpose is our drive to contribute and to know that what we do has an influence in the wider world. For most of the work people do today, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are generally far more effective than carrots and sticks.

Motivation, Management and Trust

Charlie: “Managing” from the point of view of 3.0 requires a lot of trust of individuals; it’s a far cry from our traditional mindset around “managing” which equates largely to directing and controlling.  Managing from a belief in Motivation 3.0 really requires that the “manager” trust her staff to work hard, be productive, and do the right thing. What would you say to a manager who is afraid to take that risk of trusting?

Dan: I’d say three things. First, take a leap of faith and give it a try. Be willing to let people surprise you.

Second, think about the costs of not trusting. You’re basically saying you prefer controlled mediocrity (which is what you get with control and lack of trust) rather than a chance to do something amazing.

Third, ask yourself, “Can you be trusted?” “Can your spouse or partner be trusted?” “Can your best friend be trusted?” Maybe the people in your organization aren’t all that different than the people in your life.

Charlie: If 20th century “management” thinkers had had a Motivation 3.0 mindset, it seems to us that it could have been applied in routine, even production-line work–because basic human drives haven’t changed that much in 100 years.  Do you think that Motivation 3.0 is only applicable to the 21st century ways of working? Or is it that Motivation 3.0 is just more necessary to 21st century workers and 21st century work?

Dan: It’s an interesting question. As you know from the book, I’m trying to look at what science–not folklore or our intuitions–says about motivation. And the science is pretty clear: for routine, algorithmic work, “If-then” motivators–as in “If you do this, then you get that”–are effective.

But that doesn’t mean “if-then” is the only way to create a motivating environment for those sorts of tasks. It’s possible, for instance, to help people doing routine work sculpt their jobs to make them more autonomous and better avenues for mastery. Likewise, people often do routine work a bit better when they have some amount of autonomy over how they do their work–and when they know how what they do contributes to a larger whole.  So Motivation 3.0 is essential for creative, conceptual work. But it can also be effective for other types of work.

Innovation and Trust

Charlie: Motivation 3.0 seems to describe a fertile atmosphere for innovation. How would you link innovation and trust?

Dan: People don’t innovate when they feel others don’t trust them. Period. Innovation often depends on the absence of constraints. And mistrust is one of the most constraining forces around.

Charlie: Interesting; that’s exactly the linkage defined by Ross Smith at Microsoft and by Robert Porter Lynch. They both emphasize the lowering of risk that trust implies, which then permits people to openly engage with each other.

Dan: Not surprising. Mistrust is terrific for making people comply; it stinks for helping people engage.

Results-Only Work Environments

Charlie: In your book you give some wonderful examples of ROWE – Results-Only Work Environments, in which employees have great freedom as to when, where and how they work as long as the work gets done.  How close are we to seeing the wider spread of that way of thinking?  How does the technology, which lets people work outside their offices, contribute to even informal ROWEs?

Dan: I think the adoption of these new approaches will follow the general pattern of technology adoption in general. We often overhype the impact of new technologies in the short run–but underhype them in the long run. So I doubt these approaches will be incredibly widespread in the next 2 years. But in the next 10 years, they’ll become the norm.

The Talent Picks the Team

Charlie: When you talk about autonomy, you examine having influence or control over Task, Time, Technique and Team.  Talk to us about the Team element of this equation.  For example, putting together a “pick-up” team of like-minded people, or those who have skills you need—isn’t that hard to do in any work environment?

Dan: Team is a tough one. But Facebook has a really innovative approach to this. The company hires new computer scientists and software engineers and for the first few weeks puts them through a Facebook bootcamp. As part of that experience, the new hires interview around the company–with various product teams, technology teams, and so on. Then when the bootcamp ends, the newly hired engineer decides which team she wants to work for. That is, the company picks the talent. But the talent picks the team.

A State of “Flow”

Charlie: You mention Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s surprising finding in Flow that people reach a flow state–or being in a state of focus or complete absorption so that time disappears–more through satisfying work than through their leisure activities.  Why is that?

Dan: Csikszentmihalyi says it has less to do with the difference between work and leisure per se–and more to do with the difference between activity and passivity. Most work is at least somewhat challenging–and it requires some amount of effort. But many kinds of leisure are passive. Think watching television. There’s no challenge presented, no effort required.

So, since flow depends on the challenge being matched to one’s ability, passive leisure never results in flow.  That said, active leisure–think rock-climbing or oil painting–does produce flow. The key, I think, is to fashion our lives–at school, at work, at home–around being active and engaged.  Human beings weren’t meant to be passive and inert.

Charlie: Fascinating, Dan; thanks so much for taking time to explore this with me, I appreciate it.

Dan: Not at all.
Books We Trust: Drive by Dan Pink is the third installment in our Books We Trust series.

Previous Books We Trust interviews include:

  1. Jeb Brooks on You’re Working Too Hard to Make the Sale, by Bill Brooks and Tom Travisano; and
  2. Jill Konrath on Selling to Big Companies.

Books We Trust: Selling to Big Companies

The first thing that struck me about Jill Konrath’s best-selling book Selling to Big Companies was the voice.  It is plain-spoken, direct, commonsensical, no-BS.  And it is completely guileless.

When I first met Jill, it was immediately apparent that these are personal traits.  She is a Minnesotan—a Midwesterner of the old school. My grandparents and parents were from Nebraska; I knew exactly who Jill the person was, and why the book was an extension of her.

But Jill knew something I didn’t know. I came to selling from consulting. Jill came to selling from selling.  For me it was an extrapolation from a related field; for her it was a version update, a call to the profession.  To my surprise and delight, we ended up in the same place.

Her book is not just about moving from small-time selling to Big Company selling.  It is also about moving from the “that was then” to the “this is now” world of the corporate buyer. She is an astute psychological observer, along with Scott Adams of Dilbert fame.  She knows what it means to work in a downsized world with out-of-date corporate-purchased Blackberries, defined contribution plans, and 10PM phone calls with other time zones–and what that all does to the buyer.

Jill Konrath Interview

Charles H. Green: Jill, thanks so much for doing this.  I wanted to honor your work, starting with Selling to Big Companies, and moving on to your more recent book, SNAP Selling.  But let’s start back in time.  When and how did you first get into selling?

Jill Konrath: Let me start out by saying that I never, ever wanted to be a salesperson. I viewed it as a despicable profession filled with slimy, schmoozing, manipulative hucksters.

But some friends and I had come up with a business concept that we thought was pretty good. SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Execs) liked it too. At the end of our meeting, our advisor said, “Now which one of you is going to be in sales?”

I answered, “If it’s such a good idea, shouldn’t it sell itself?” He laughed at me and told us someone had to learn to sell.

So, I got into sales by default. My friends refused, so if I wanted to start the company I had to learn how to do it myself.

CHG: So where did you get your start? And, was it what you thought it was?

JK: I was fortunate to get hired by Xerox, a company that literally had the best training program in the country. And, I discovered it was entirely different from what I thought. My image of a salesperson was based on the worst of the profession. At Xerox, I learned how to be customer focused in everything I did. I found out that I could be successful only if my customers were able to achieve their goals. From there, I sold technology systems for three years before starting my own company.

CHG: So, you didn’t go back to SCORE?

JK: Funny thing, but after working at Xerox, I totally abandoned my initial entrepreneurial dreams. Being in sales was just too interesting and challenging.

CHG: So, then you progressed through your sales career, you came to have a different view of sales; you realized that Big Company people were no different, really, than any others. What was the core realization you came to as you came to write SBC?

JK: Charlie, I actually wrote Selling to Big Companies for my friends and colleagues who worked for small businesses or owned their own firms. They were such talented people, but were really struggling financially. Many of them felt they had to prove their worth by working with small companies before they tackled larger firms.

So I wrote my book to show them how to get corporate clients who had budget allotted for their services and who appreciated their value. And yes, I knew that corporate decision makers were normal human beings because I worked for a big company and I sold to them as well.

CHG: What’s wrong with sales today? Is there a “single biggest problem” that you can point to? One “biggest opportunity” that salespeople can work on?

JK: Good question. I think there are a couple things wrong. First, people are still operating under the old sales paradigm that says make lots of calls and have a good pitch. Personally, I don’t think that’s ever effective in the corporate market, but it’s what most people consider “selling.”

Second, and very related to #1, is that our prospects/clients don’t care about the product/service. Nada. Not even one little bit. All they care about is their ability to achieve their objectives. I am continually appalled at the sheer lack of knowledge most sellers have about their customer’s business, market trends, key issues, strategic initiatives, and key success factors.

Without this business acumen and customer insight, sellers are functionally unable to plan an effective account entry campaign, help a company change from the status quo or win business from competitors.

CHG: Let’s not forget to talk about your latest book, SNAP Selling; how do you see it in the sequence of your evolving thinking? What’s that book about in the big context?

JK: SNAP Selling is all about selling to crazy-busy people – which I happen to think is most everyone today. They’re overwhelmed with work, have fewer resources at their disposal and impossible deadlines. Plus, they find it much easier to go online to research their issues, challenges and possible solutions. In short, they have no time for salespeople who waste their valuable time.

It’s having a huge impact on sellers. It’s nearly impossible to set up meetings. Getting companies to move off the status quo can take forever. And, differentiating is sometimes impossible.

In short, we’ve entered a whole new world of selling which requires us to use fresh strategies – or risk irrelevance. In SNAP Selling, I cover the new rules of selling and share multiple examples of how to implement these strategies for dealing with frazzled decision makers.

CHG: I should also mention to readers about your most excellent blog, also called Selling to Big Companies.  I’m a frequent, almost-daily, reader.

JK: Thanks for the plug!

CHG: What’s your advice to someone going into sales these days?  What should they focus on?

JK: Understanding their customer first and foremost – and then aligning everything they do with their customer’s business objectives and priorities.

CHG: How about someone who’s further along in their career; what’s the One Big Thing they can learn to do better?

JK: Becoming an invaluable resource. They should develop deep expertise in their niche, market segment, process – or some arena that is of high value to their target market. Also, they should continually be sharing ideas and insights to help their clients be more successful, as well as connecting them to other valuable resources.

Our crazy-busy prospects are desperately looking for people they can count on – and when they find them, they are extremely loyal.

CHG: I don’t know about you, but I always get people asking me for “tips and tricks.” I don’t know what they think they’re going to get; there are a few, but “tips and tricks” are not where it’s at, I don’t think—it’s mindsets.  But what about you?  How do you answer those people?  Have you got some?

JK: I have this special fairy dust that I sell to all my clients. It magically transforms them from self-serving salespeople into invaluable resources. Just kidding. Honestly, I tell people to do a “mind meld.” It’s imperative for them to look at their own behaviors from their client’s perspective.

For example, if they’re going to leave a voicemail message, they should call themselves first and see out it sounds. Most people are appalled at how bad they are and would delete their own messages.

This same practice can be applied to presentations (boring!), proposals (unending!), meeting plans (one-sided). It’s amazing what they can learn when the see their own behavior from another perspective.

After you learn to do this, it totally changes all your client interactions.

CHG: Can you step back and envision sales 15 years from now?  That would be, umm, the year 2026.  Whew.  What will be the state of Sales in the future?

JK: Yikes.  Well, first I see a major reduction in the number of salespeople. The ones who are eliminated will be the old style sellers who think it’s all about schmoozing and pitching. Since they personally add no value to the sales process, their prospects would prefer to buy online.

For those who remain in sales? I think the future is brighter than bright! In fact, these smart, business-savvy individuals will be well respected and in great demand. Plus, they’ll be highly paid because of the tremendous value they bring their organization and their clients.

CHG: Jill Konrath, thank you so very much for taking the time to talk with us, this has been a delight.

JK: My pleasure. It’s been fun talking with you.

Books We Trust: Selling to Big Companies is the second installment in our Books We Trust series.  The first was You’re Working Too Hard to Make the Sale, by Bill Brooks and Tom Travisano.

Books We Trust: You’re Working Too Hard to Make the Sale

This is the first in a new series called Books We Trust. We expect to publish it irregularly, but about monthly.

The first book was a no-brainer for me. You’ve probably never heard of it; it was not a best-seller; it ranks about 900,000 on Amazon (not high). But I’m telling you; it is a wonderful book. It’s called You’re Working Too Hard to Make the Sale, by Bill Brooks and Tom Travisano.


I came late to the study of sales (though early, and miserably, to selling itself). None of it made much sense to me—it all seemed either excessively hormonal, abstract, or manipulative. It all felt vague—a feast of gratuitous adjectives and amateur psychology.

I persisted, reading books I won’t mention, which only made it worse. Then one day, I ran across You’re Working Too Hard , by two folks I’d never heard of.

It made everything click for me. Suddenly I could make sense of trust, influence, psychology, money, fear, and closing.

One of the points that book made was that the concept of “needs” had gotten over-used. Everyone, they said, was focused on identifying needs and generating a complete picture of what the clients needed so that they could consultatively package and sell a solution that fit the specs of what the client really needed.

I had always felt something was lacking in that formulation (years later, John Caddell wrote, “No one ever bought a value proposition”), putting more words to my feeling—but that was later). Brooks nailed it down, with page after page making fun of the penchant for identifying needs.

It was “wants,” he insisted, that motivated buying behavior, not needs. Needs included toothpaste, bicycles, audits and CRM systems. But wants—that was different: wants included a myriad of hopes, wishes, fears, desires and aspirations. If a seller could connect on that level, the story went, buyers would transfer the purchase of their “needs” to those who had made the wants connection.

The data were astonishing. Travisano in particular—a former political consultant and pollster, I believe—had crafted the research to explore exactly that thesis. And, they’d done it across several relevant business sectors, including CEOs of small entrepreneurial companies and CIOs.

I knew how serious, educated people made big dollar decisions for serious investments in major services, and the rational, deductive model of decision-making that I had been taught simply did not bear resemblance to the undeniable parade of actual decisions I had seen. This book explained it.

And the punch line was marvelous: you didn’t have to satisfy people’s wants to get the sale—who would believe a salesperson could deliver on a buyer’s wishes, needs, hopes fears and aspirations? It was enough that you connected; that they felt understood, that someone “got” who they were. That, the research said, powerfully drove sales.

It was a eureka book for me. It meant you could be a real, genuine, flawed, warts-and-all human being—and still sell. As long as you could connect to the real person on the other side of the table. Faking it did not work; self-obsession did not work; the answer didn’t lie in process, or in mastery of closing lines, or even of the collection of questions and needs. It lay in understanding the human being in front of you. Suddenly I liked selling.

Co-author and researcher Tom Travisano died a few weeks after the first edition; lead author and more famous sales consultant Bill Brooks carried on with The Brooks Group in North Carolina. Brooks himself passed on in 2007, but his company is aggressively continuing, even prospering, through the efforts of his sons Jeb and Will.

I spoke with Jeb recently.


CHG: This book was one of the top three sales books I ever read, and the one that had the most impact on me. How did your dad come to write it?

JB: First, we’re touched; thank you. Dad wrote over 20 books, but we always thought this one was the sleeper. He wrote them all longhand, on yellow pads, by the way. This was maybe the 6th or 7th book for him. It was released twice, first in 1995, then 2005.

I was young when I first read it. I thought, “What’s the big deal?” It seemed so commonsense, so obvious.

CHG: I had that feeling too just recently, re-reading it. But at the time, for me, I had to work at it to get it. It sounded simple—maybe I just couldn’t accept that it really was that simple.

JB: Dad said that back then, everyone was focused on needs, needs, needs. He made a lot of fun of “needs-based selling” in that book. He felt that Frank Bettger had it right years before—the idea that if you could show people what they really wanted, they’d move heaven and earth to get it. When dad got together with Tom Travisano, a skilled political researcher, they set out to prove it, and to prove that the dominant needs-based sales mantra missed the boat.

CHG: I still hear a lot of focus on needs; this book needs a rebirth. I always remember how they collapsed the key insight into one critical sentence: “Buyers are eager to buy what they need from salespeople who understand what they want.” Almost every word in that sentence is significant.

JB: Other insights included “People buy the salesperson, not the product,” and “the opening is where the sale is made, not the closing.”

CHG: And the research is solid; thousands of buying situations, blinded studies, both complex and simple B2B products and services. But let me ask you; in today’s sales 2.0 world, do you think his findings about buyer motivation are less relevant, or perhaps more?

JB: Without a doubt—even more relevant. In Sales 2.0, the buyer is supposed to be in control, and that’s true—but the buyer still doesn’t know what they want. If anything, they’re more confused by all the data, because they think they should know. So because it’s easier nowadays to find all your needs, that means it’s even more important to find someone you trust, who understands your wants.

I recently had to buy a health care plan for our business, and it was tough. I didn’t know much, and I didn’t want to do the wrong thing, I didn’t want to upset people, and so on. In fact, I had a lot of wants. And guess who I went with? The person who worked hard to find out what I wanted, without making me feel stupid. And you know what? That is just, plain, simple how it works. That’s what dad and Tom said so clearly. It sounded so obvious not because it was obvious—they had to uncover the truth to say it so plainly.

CHG: How do you and your brother think about that book these days, besides being proud of it?

JB: We live the values he talked about: Integrity and Intense Customer Focus. We’re a sales-driven company, meaning we deliver on buyer wants. And that’s what he talked about.