Category Archives: People

Why Trust Matters

Trust is the first and most essential factor.  This was the point made by Mark Welch, author of “The Street Savvy Sales” leader, a speaker at an event that I facilitated last week in Toronto. 

Mark was speaking about a real crisis in what is known as B2B (Business to Business) sales.  Productivity in this area has plummeted to alarmingly low levels.  Anyone who runs a corporate sales force is feeling the impact of this.  

Finding new prospects, getting face time, all of the aspects of corporate sales are getting harder and harder.   Everyone knows that. But something else has happened over the past decade which exacerbates the challenges. At least in the early stages of the buyers’ journey, the sales person is becoming less and less relevant.

Where the sales person was once the knowledgable guide, the average B2B customer is over 60% through their “buyer’s journey” before engaging with a vendor. 

What is taking their place in the early stages of the buyer’s journey?  Content.  But not just any content.  It’s the content the buyers trust.  
In a recent study, (78%) of buyers say they are placing more emphasis on the trustworthiness of a content’s source than they did a year ago.  

That presents some real challenges for companies that are vying for sales in the B2B space. In a world where trusted content is supplanting salespeople, in every survey vendor content inevitably falls to the bottom of the list of what is most trustworthy.  

Buyers today trust the opinions of their peers, independent publications and industry experts by a wide margin.

The challenge that results – the plummeting productivity of corporate sales represents a real and present danger.  In a digital world, maintaining a lead on features alone is a mug’s game.  Even if we have the most innovative solutions, it doesn’t matter if our customers don’t know, believe and yes, trust that we are different.  

Trust. It’s a world we use all the time. But what does it really mean?

One of the best definitions of trust that I’ve ever read comes from a book called “Trust in the Balance” by Robert Bruce Shaw. Shaw says that trust is something that is built from three key components:

  • Empathy – are we open and listening?
  • Integrity – is there consistency between our actions and our words?
  • Results – do we deliver results?

The third of these essential characteristics is to me the most intriguing.  While the first two are what we commonly associate with trust, they are necessary but not sufficient.  We need to care and to be perceived as listening. Our deeds must match our words. But Shaw adds something extra. To our customers, nothing matters if we don’t deliver the results they need.  Trust requires that we help them solve their problems and meet their challenges. Without that, nothing else matters.

Which leads us to the paradox – the “Catch 22” in our digital world.  Companies have a shrinking window of time to distinguish themselves and to convince the prospective customer that we can deliver the results that they need. Once we concede 60% of the buyer’s journey is largely out of their direct control, the role of the salesperson becomes more, rather than less important. And to be successful, in that short period of time, these salespeople are competing for the trust of these customers.  

This trust is what Shaw was talking about. It’s the trust that the customer experience will be there. That you will help them solve their challenges and realize their goals.  The primary evidence of that will be their interactions with your customer-facing people and processes late in the buyer’s journey.  

Mark Welch echoed this in his advice to salespeople.  “If your products and services are the same, the difference is you,” 

Which started me to thinking that if salespeople need to be more effective, and earn customer trust, and if trust requires results – they can only be trusted if their own organizations are aligned and dedicated to the customers’ outcomes. They have to trust their own organizations.  

How many of us can truly say we really believe our organizations consistently deliver the solutions to our customers’ challenges?
We need coaches, not just in sales, but across our organizations.  

That’s the role of leadership. We need to be effective coaches. And to be effective coaches we need to be trusted.  Trust is achieved by our bur empathy, our integrity and most importantly, by the results that we get. 

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins’ data showed that exceptional leaders aren’t the most charismatic. They aren’t the media stars. They are the hard-working, modest but fiercely determined leaders who believe in what they do and can be trusted to deliver results.   Collins conveyed this with a great image.  “Level five leaders,” he says, embrace the concept of the “the mirror and the window.”  When things go well – they look out the window and give credit to their team.  When things don’t go well, that window becomes a mirror – and they take accountability.  

This is not new thinking.  But in the world we live in today where truth and trust seem to be under siege, it was refreshing to listen to someone speak passionately about sales in a way that challenged me to think and more importantly, look in that proverbial mirror.  

Thanks for the coaching, Mark.  And for reminding me of the importance of trust. 

If you want to read Mark’s book, it’s called “The Street Savvy Business Leader”.  I got my copy at the event and I’ll be reading it and reviewing it in in the coming weeks.  And I hope to do a webinar with him on the topic.  I meet him at a series of sessions I’m doing with Dr. Cindy Gordon on Artificial Intelligence which is sponsored by IT World Canada (ITWC) and graciously hosted by Cap Gemini in their Toronto “Innovation Centre”.  

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I made it…

I lived another year.

Last night, we had an amazing New Year’s party with friends at their new house. There was food, drink and yes, oh yes, music. Live music.

This morning, I woke up to my beautiful wife in our 36th year. The sun is shining out over the lake.

The Christmas tree that Linda and I pulled from the forest and set up in our living room stands as a reminder of our Christmas morning – exchanging our gifts and celebrating our love.

This year has been magical musically. It’s almost two years since I released my album “Highland Lullaby” but I continue to write and perform with friends. From the duo with my friend Ken Loney, we have expanded to a trio with my wife and an amazing musician – Linda (aka Slinky). The “Slinky” nickname comes from her other band, Fifth Business where she plays cello (and many more instruments). Since Yo-Yo was taken, they named her Slinky. Today, our trio is called “Slinky and the Boys”. We’ve expanded to include three other fabulous local musicians – Shawn Chamberlin (owner of the iconic local Dominion Hotel), Hugh Taylor – our cornet player and Joseph Truss on drums.

We closed out our year as the final act in our local Christmas fund raising concert with the 6 piece doing my original material. A few weeks later our trio was the house band for a Christmas special hosted at our local station Canoe FM. The wonderful talented announcer Mike Jaycock hosted and celebrated so many amazing people who have given so much to our community. We played Christmas carols for a live and broadcast audience.

I am blessed.

Yet it hasn’t been a perfect year. One wonderful sister was diagnosed with cancer. My brother-in-law died from cancer, leaving another sister with sorrow that she struggles with – and little I can do but listen. My own children are strangely estranged this year and I continue to be mystified by that. My businesses are continually demanding more and more just at a time when I’d like to be giving less and less. And there is more…

Still I am blessed.

I’m blessed even in sorrow. At our Christmas radio concert, one of our local politicians, Carol Moffat, broke with the festive revelry to remind us that Christmas is not always the happiest of times. There are many for whom Christmas is a time of sadness, for some who are deep in depression, some who have tragedies in their lives. There are the homeless, the hungry, the suffering among us. She apologized for being a “downer” – she needn’t have. She spoke openly, poignantly and eloquently and opened up to all of us in that moment.

My own sorrows, minor as they are in comparison, give me some tiny window on the sorrows of others. So when Carol spoke at the radio station, she touched something with me as I hope she would have with anyone listening.

Christmas is not about finding happiness. It’s about sharing – our happiness and our sorrow. In the darkest day of the year, people have for centuries banded together to ward off the darkness of winter and to celebrate the path back to the light of spring and summer.

So I was reminded that the sharing of happiness and sorrow are equally important. Our shared humanity, the banding together against the darkness is the archetypal pattern that this season, this holiday represents.

So I wish you all the true experience of Christmas. I hope that you have celebrated your joy and your love. And equally I hope you have, in some way held even one other in your heart, understood and maybe even shared their burden – even if just for a few moments.

The mystery of our lives is written in both sorrow and joy. I don’t claim to understand it. I only know that in this life, I am here to experience it.

And I am blessed.

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An ordinary man

“Attention must be paid.” The lines from Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller keep echoing through my head. They come from the funeral tribute to Willy Loman, in a play that was, at its time somewhat revolutionary. It introduced what we now refer to in literature as “the anti-hero”. It wouldn’t raise an eyebrow today, but at the time, plays, books, movies, operas – they celebrated people who were famous, larger than life, or at least had accomplished something extraordinary. Celebrating the life of an “ordinary man” was, well – extraordinary.

And today, I sit with my sister and her family, paying tribute to brother in law, Ron Chopp. These lines ring through my head. “Attention must be paid.”

Ron was not a hero. He lived an ordinary life. Two parents, four siblings, raised in a small post-war home in what was then Port Arthur. Married his high school sweetheart, my sister Christine. Finished grade twelve with average marks. Went to work for Ontario, Hydro. Moved up the ranks to what would be, at best, a mid-management job. Raised two kids, put them through school, took early retirement and lived in a modest house with my sister. He lived to see his grandchildren.

And a few days ago, he died.

The world will not be shaken. The news media will not send reporters and cameras. Friends will not be interviewed. Headlines will not be written.

And that’s a shame. Because attention should be paid.

Why? If you look beneath the surface, if you examine this life, if you look closely, you can discover more about life and it’s meaning than you will ever learn from those who make headlines. Much more.

What can we learn?

Ron knew he was an ordinary man. He knew who he was. He didn’t pretend to be anything more than who he was. He was happy with who he was. He didn’t want more than he had. He saw himself as a wealthy man in the true sense of what it means. And he was right.

He married his high school sweetheart. He lived with her, he loved her to his last breath – and beyond.

He raised two children who themselves have families and partners who love them. His children loved him.

No surprise there. He was a good father. Ron loved his own father, but in moments of candor would say that although he loved and respected his father, his dad never made time to do the things Ron thought were important. Ball games. Catch after work.

In a world where it has become somewhat fashionable to blame our parents for our failings, Ron didn’t blame his dad. He didn’t claim that he was hard done by. He just did what he thought was right.

So no matter how tired he was, no matter what else was going on, he’d make time to play catch, to go to games and recitals, to take the kids to see things – to spend time watching them enjoy life. He didn’t do this out of a sense of duty – it was a joy.

He didn’t push his kids. He didn’t coddle them.

I remember being at a baseball game. Ron’s son Dan was pitching. There was no relief pitcher on his team. As Dan got into the eighth inning of a very long game, he was flagging, in fact for a little kid, he was going past the point of exhaustion. I don’t remember whether Dan won or lost that game, and I’ll bet neither did Ron. He didn’t demand that Dan stay in. He trusted Dan to make the right decision, even at that tender age. I think he would have been just as happy to forfeit and move on. But when Dan stayed till the end, you could see he was proud.

Ron didn’t let his kids down. There was time when he’d had a few too many beers the night before a big show he’d promised to take Danny to in London – an air show of some kind. Danny was, like many kids, over the moon about seeing this big show Ron had promised to take him to. Hungover, tired – he did what Ron would do. He sucked it up and he kept his word.

Ron wasn’t the type of guy you’d see at the ballet. But he was there to see Sherri. And he was proud.

Whatever the event – Ron was always there, never out of a sense of duty, always with a sense of pride.

He did the right thing. Quietly. Without looking for a pat on the back or even thanks. With his kids and with everyone else. Whenever people needed him, he was there. I know many times, in a crisis in our family, Ron would get in the car and drive the 22 hour trip to Thunder Bay. He might not have understood our family dramas. He might have had opinions. But he kept those to himself. He was just there.

When I was a kid, he often got stuck with me. My family life wasn’t the greatest at time and yes, I guess he scored some points with my sister for taking care of her little bother (I mean brother, I think). My dad left when I was four and my brother was long gone by the time I was little, so to just get to have a role model like Ron was a treasure. And he never made me feel that he was stuck with me. He treated me like as if I was his own brother.

I treasured the time we spent together. He was so – normal. And at the time, with a Pontiac with a 383 motor, he was, and his kids will wince if I say this, but it was true – he was cool.

Ron took me to a drive in movie one time and as we turned in to buy our ticket we saw it. The movie was restricted. Ooops. Instead of turning back, Ron handed me a cigarette – yes he smoked in those days – and told me to turn my head out the window as if I was smoking it. Anything else? “Oh, and try to look older.” And he smiled. The Chopp grin.

The movie was an eye opener for both of us. My mom would not have approved. But I never said anything about it. Ron didn’t have to ask and I don’t think he would have. He wouldn’t ask me to lie. And I didn’t. I just didn’t mention it.

Not that he was worried. If my mom would have found out, Ron wouldn’t have broken a sweat. Ron was the kid that you took home and your mom instantly liked. My mom was no exception. Ron could do no wrong.

The Chopp charm was legendary and went far beyond my mom. You had to like him.

Why? I think it was in part because Ron was authentic. He was his own person. What you see was what you got. He didn’t try to win your favour. But he kept his word. He was always willing to help and he never expected nothing in return – nothing except – “take me as I am.” So you did.

This wasn’t an act. Ron never aspired to be what he was not. He was happy with his lot in life. Did he have the fanciest car? No. Cars were, to Ron – “transportation”. Did he have the biggest house, the fanciest furniture. He never bought anything with a sense of “showing off”. No. He made a good home, with food on the table. He went to work. He did his job faithfully and honestly.

There was nobody better to be with in a crisis. We were doing some big time repairs to my house, lifting it with some jacks in the basement. At one point, we were having some problems. “What if these things don’t hold the weight?’

No panic. Just that calm grin. Hey, if they give out, I’ve got life insurance.

Suck it up. Move on. Smile. Even in his last days, going home to face his final challenge – as everyone tried to figure out what to do, Ron’s words were? “Let’s get this show on the road.”

You took what life gave you and you made it work. Whether it was a crisis or just the day to day challenges of life his reaction was the same. Be calm. No complaints. No whining. Just smile and get on with it.

There was a lot of paycheque to paycheque, especially in the early days. But you never heard that from Ron. If the kids needed anything, lessons, school, weddings – whatever. It was there. Ron might put in some overtime, or just tighten his belt a little. What was needed was always there.

Ron was an old fashioned example of a “man’s man”. He didn’t talk about his feelings that much. If he did, you should be honoured. If he did share that with you, you’d know that despite that calm exterior, that grin and glib response to life’s setbacks and sadness, he was a man of intense feelings. He was, despite the placid exterior, a very sensitive man.

He took all people for who they were without judging them by their appearance. He had no time for the pompous, the BS’ers, and definitely no time for the cruel, the prejudiced or the small minded.

He was never “politically correct”. But he was never cruel or inconsiderate. He took you for who you were and he demanded that you do the same.

He was unabashedly the best example of what true masculinity was. He’d suck it up. He didn’t get emotional with others. He was in many ways, an ultimate stoic. In his last days when bureaucracy was swamping those around him, he didn’t complain, he didn’t get upset. He just firmly said, “let’s get this show on the road.”

I don’t know what he felt as he looked back on his life in those last few days. I’m certain that there were dark moments, moments of sadness. But I’m equally certain that as he faced his own mortality that, in classic Ron style, he did it with no regrets. He as a rich man, he lived his life to the full. He loved and was loved.

So what more could we learn from a movie star? A political leaders? A sports celebrity? Or even the person who’d climbed Everest? What have they to teach us about our lives that we couldn’t learn from Ron?

Frankly, I’ll take the lessons from Ron any day of the week. Live your life. Enjoy each moment. Keep your word. Do the things you should do, not with a sense of obligation, but with as sense of joy. Have compassion, but also have expectations. Help others without asking for anything in return.

The last time I saw Ron, he knew he was dying. He took my hand in a good old fashioned “man shake” – his handshake still firm.

We just talked. We talked about memories. We joked. He told me “I was still no Lorne Green, a reference to my long ago abandoned acting career. We talked like two guys – as we always had.

He still had the old Chopp charm as he greeted my wife, Linda.

But I don’t know how many of you had the privilege of Ron letting the curtain down and sharing his feelings. It was rare, it was always brief, but it was always – like Ron, intensely truthful. So his final words to me were that he was proud of me, and proud of my kids.

Neither of us had to say any more. We just knew.

I paid my respects. As I do today. I pay respect to an ordinary man. I pay respect to an ordinary life. I am honoured to have known Ron and to be one of those who loved him and can learn from his life.

Attention must be paid.


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I dream of my father

For this story to be understood, you have to grasp that one thing.  I have two fathers – one genetic and one by choice.  One who chose to love me.

This isn’t in the joyous sense that you find today where two men may be fathers and share the joy and love of a child.  This is an accident of another time, where one father chose to leave and another at a later time chose to enter my life and made that decision to love someone in a truly incredible way. Continue reading


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Constructive dialogue and a petition you might support…

Those of us who want to engage in constructive dialogue need the facts.  Here are some links and resources – and a petition you might want to sign. Continue reading

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Even so, I’m not giving up on you…

I saw your post on Facebook.  The one where you were trying to get people to sign the petition  to “stop the immigration”.

Wow.  How do I respond to this?

Well, I guess I can say that I’m kind of glad it was you who sent it.   If it had been some stranger, I would have just dismissed it as the ravings of some redneck asshole.  Yup.  That’s how unkind I would have been.

Which doesn’t say good things about me.

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Chapter 1 – What is Leadership?

To study anything; to truly look at it in an objective way and then to share that experience is a true challenge.  First you must first be able to agree on what it that you are talking about.   That seemingly simple first step is often harder than it seems, particularly when it comes to the subject of leadership.

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The Lucky Ones

A bit of a warning here.   This is probably more personal than my average post.  I’m not sure how relevant it is to those who come here looking for business or strategy.  But at this time of year, my thoughts turn to the more personal side of life.  So in the spirit of “changing the game” – I’m talking about and sharing some intensely personal moments.

I’m not trying to be anyone’s inspiration.  I leave that to others.  Here’s one.

The hardest part baby is smilin’ when your plans don’t work out,  and count yourself – a lucky one…

Willie P. Bennett wrote those words in the 1980’s for his album of the same name.  He called it “The Lucky Ones”.  From the moment the words came through the speaker of my car stereo, on an early mix lent by a friend, they spoke to my heart.  They inspired me then as they do now.   At that time in my life, I was myself experiencing a slow awakening. Continue reading


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Hot Potato – Why We Need To Rethink Management

Remember that childhood game, “Hot Potato”?   You would take a ball, beanbag or other item and pretend it’s a hot potato.  As soon as you got it you’d pass it on to the next person.   Then at the end of the music, a timer or just a random announcement from the game master – whoever is holding the hot potato loses.

Child’s game?  Or is it how we manage our companies?  If it is, we need to find a way out of this trap.  It kills productivity, destroys job satisfaction and dooms us to a world of enforced mediocrity.   That’s what I was thinking about the other day.  Here’s how it started.   Continue reading

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ROC – Return on Curiousity?

This is a story about the future impact that Waterloo can have on the country and maybe even the world.   But it’s NOT about Blackberry.  Crazy, you say?

Today, on a beautiful Friday afternoon in late September – what could be one of the last great summer-like days of the year we did somethign crazy.   We said “to heck with that” and headed indoors to a crowded lecture theatre in the Engineering building at the University of Waterloo.  It was worth every minute. Continue reading

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