The Three Pillars of a Customer-Centric Organization

In today’s business world where the customer reigns supreme, we hear lots of talk about the importance of becoming customer-centric organizations. But many companies struggle to bring this to fruition. And for good reason. Responding adeptly to each unique customer journey is no small feat. Yet it’s nonnegotiable for companies that want to effectively attract, engage, and retain customers – and rise to the top of their industry.

At SAP, we are so convinced of the value and power of customer centricity that we partnered with the CMO Council to expose the gap between the vision and the reality. The outcome is a 72-page report that summarizes our survey of 319 marketing executives across B2C and B2B brands. In it, we reveal why organizations are struggling to achieve adaptive customer engagements.

For a summary of the biggest hurdles facing marketers, check out “Why Aren’t Marketers Accomplishing Customer Centricity?” If you want a deep understanding of those challenges, give the full report a read.

Read more at The Customer Edge.

Storytelling for business is no fairy tale

 

Daniel Hunter at Examiner.com has a great post on storytelling in a business context:
“Effective storytelling enables people both outside and within an organization to get connected to people whose lives have improved through technology. Business stories may be more modest than the pageantry of Gone With the Wind, yet in their own right they can be quite powerful.”

Read more at JulieRoehm.net

Thoughts On Tumblr from JulieRoehm.net

Having just finished setting up JulieRoehm.net – my new Tumblr – it’s easy to see what they are doing right. With the latest surge in micro blogging (twitter), image sharing (Pinterest) and anonymous posting (Whisper, Secret) Tumblr looks to be in the sweet spot. Tumblr is laser-focused on visual, short form, and (potentially) anonymous publishing.

Unlike Facebook or other social networks that want you to use your real name and to share your your real-person friends, Tumblr makes no such demands. That covers the anonymity craze. Furthermore, it has an interface that makes reblogging easy while putting the emphasis on images. That covers image sharing. And finally, it centers around pithy comments and copy that fits in a small box, with an emphasis on user interaction.

Tumblr is no spring chicken, but it seems to have stumbled into the right combination of features for the current zeitgeist. Should be interesting to see if they can capitalize.

The Twitter Blog of Julie Roehm

Check out my Tumblr at JulieRoehm.net

Queen Bee Live

Super psyched to be a judge on the new Queen Bee show.

QUEEN BEE is a reality competition that finds outstanding female entrepreneurs – and challenges them to create the next big consumer brand. Mentored and judged by a panel of successful entrepreneurs and bolstered by audience participation via crowd funding, these women battle to take their businesses to the top. Who will be worthy of the QUEEN BEE title?

Check it out at http://www.ora.tv/queenbee

Using Mobile Marketing Correctly

Using Mobile Marketing Correctly

Jonathan Becher, Chief Marketing Officer, SAP

Julie Roehm, Chief Storyteller and Senior Vice President, Marketing, SAP

The number one mistake marketers make is to develop a standalone strategy for marketing on mobile devices as opposed to creating a campaign with a clear goal and then using multiple channels to achieve it. For example, is the goal brand awareness or purchase consideration? Is the goal to net new leads or increase pipeline acceleration? A campaign that is conducted solely through mobile strategy might create some awareness, but it is unlikely to lead to real purchase consideration.

 


 
It’s also important to consider the audience you are trying to tar- get. Mobile marketing efforts aimed at CFOs, who may not even have mobile devices at all and are more likely to follow traditional practices, would most likely be extremely ineffective. However, a campaign aimed at salesmen, who probably have the latest and great-est mobile device and use it constantly, is more likely to have an impact. Mobile marketing should always be incorporated within the existing strategy — not treated as a separate entity or even an afterthought. Don’t create a marketing strategy that is “cool”; create one that is effective.
 
Story First, Technology Second
Marketing is about conveying a story. The story should never take a back seat. A great story can be told using your voice, e-mail, direct mail, paint on a wall, or
pixels on a screen. As long as you know what is most important, you will understand how best to amplify that key message. You should never become attached to a trendy medium and try to force a story to fit within it. Instead, first you should consider your audience, then your message, and only then should you decide what medium will best convey it.
 
Mobile Marketing Tips
There is so much data available on the preferences, needs, and habits of consumers that it is ridiculous not to use it. Use that information to learn about your customers and discover who they are, what they want, and how best they respond to advertising. Knowing your audience is the first step. The second step is to tell them a story. Nothing beats a good story, as any child reading a good book or adult watching a thrilling movie will tell you. The third step is to find the right medium to share the story with its intended audience.
 
That said, you also need to consider what you are trying to sell. Among our other services, we are a provider of mobile solutions, and to gain credibility in that arena we need to have an excellent mobile version of our web site. In fact, we have a standalone version of how we sell mobile products which is mobile only, with no standard web version.
 
Also, don’t assume that all of your customers prefer the newest modes of communication. When we acquire new customers we ask them how they would like to be communicated with, and give options including e-mail, Twitter, and text messaging. A minute percentage has chosen texting. People may say e-mail is dead, but it is still how most of our customers prefer to communicate.
Our web site (SAP.com) exists in 100-plus countries and in more than
40 languages. For each market, we need to consider how they are likely 
to view it, and what technologies they are most likely to use. Thus, it is extraordinarily critical that we get the mobile version of that web site correct in the U.S., but in Bangladesh, it is the desktop version that is important. While our mobile version must be top-notch in France, we have found that is not as important in Italy.
 
Measuring Results
We don’t try to measure the success of mobile marketing. Instead, we measure the success of the overall campaign. What was the goal of your campaign? Did you achieve it? Once you have that question answered, only then can you evaluate whether you chose the right channels to share the message. Too many people measure mobile marketing in isolation, forgetting that it is just another way to get the same job done. We don’t have mobile goals; we have campaign goals and simply check to find out if mobile helped us achieve them or not.
 
We do, however, evaluate whether the mobile portion of a particular campaign performed relative to the campaign as a whole. Did it over-index versus web, bill- boards, and social channels? If it under-indexed then it performed low. If it over-indexed, then it performed well. However, if we don’t achieve the results we were looking for, we try not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
The number-one mistake marketers make is to develop a standalone strategy for marketing on mobile devices as opposed to creating a campaign with a clear goal and then using multiple channels to achieve it.
 
We will evaluate how well the platform fit within the entire campaign, assess how well the messaging worked, etc., rather than just dismiss that platform. You may find that a mobile strategy wasn’t a good fit for a particular campaign or a particular audience, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work well under a different set of circumstances.
 
Strategies for Success
When the mobile response is not as robust as expected, it is important to adopt a wait-and-see approach.
Not all users are created equal and in some markets, mobile usage may just not be on the same par as it is in others. Don’t give up just because you aren’t as successful as expected, but don’t linger if failure is constant. Test and fail fast. Many people in marketing tend to create large mobile initiatives without knowing how — or if — they will work. Try it out first with something small, either succeed or fail, learn from the process, and move on.

Elevating the Voice of the Consumer in the B2B World

At SAP it’s a pleasure to work with an incredible group of customers, partners, and stakeholders.  Every customer is different and has a story, a history, and a unique perspective.

I have been listening to some of these stories, and want to share a recent presentation the goes into the details on how brands can listen to, learn from, and grow with the stories of their users. Some of the key points:

-Through the ages, technology and media, whether stone or the sound of our voice or pixels on a screen, has dramatically influenced the way we communicate and tell stories

-Today, with digital media and emerging technologies, the challenges, and the opportunities, are boundless

-To break through the clutter, meaningful, one to one conversations with our customer is now more important than ever

 

Check it out here on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/JulieRoehm/julie-roehm-on-storytelling-its-history-impact-and-the-importance-for-brand-and-marketers-to-understand-and-master-the-art

B2B is sometimes described as boring, but when you get into the specifics of each customer you will find incredible personalities, histories, and a depth of culture – a story – that’s anything but. B2B brands that understand their unique  customer backgrounds and histories will be better placed to grow in the digital era, creating their own unique story of success.

Job interview blunders to avoid at all costs

From failure to do one’s homework to neglecting to brush one’s teeth, these blunders are as appalling as they are amusing. How many have you seen or—God forbid—committed?

Some of you might remember the quote from the movie “Top Gun” in which Goose says to Maverick, “We regret to inform you that your sons are dead, because they were stupid.” I couldn’t help but think about that line as I was writing this article:

“We regret to inform you that you are not hired—because you are stupid.”

The genesis of this article came from a piece I wrote on “Stupid (but common) résumé mistakes.” As a follow-up, let’s focus less on the résumé itself and more on the other reasons people don’t get hired.

I tapped my super-savvy professional network for anecdotes and advice. Some of these reasons are specific to digital, some are common-sense faux pas you should avoid, and some are just plain stupid. Almost all are really entertaining.

Common-sense faux pas

The list of common-sense faux pas is long. You might be surprised by what people do and how the smallest things can derail an interview or even the chance at an interview.

A former colleague, Andrew Goldberg, listed his top job applicant offenses as showing up late, smelling like cigarettes, having typos on a résumé, and sending sloppy emails (including ones with all lowercase letters or using “u” to mean “you”). Other really basic courtesies that should have been taught at home seem to be easily overlooked when one is nervous.

I recommend always including a “hello” and a “thank you” wrapped in a smile. On the other hand, using inappropriate language, as Sal Tofano mentioned, is not very smart. Chewing gum in an interview is another “duh” offense, and it was listed by no fewer than three people in my networks.

In addition to the gum faux pas, David Greenwald cited these other interviewee pet peeves:

  • Not looking at the interviewer directly when speaking
  • Reading your slides or résumé to the hiring manager
  • Not taking notes or not even having a note pad and pen
  • Staring out the window when the interviewer is speaking
  • Clicking or twirling a pen
  • Unpolished shoes
  • Dirty chewed-up finger nails

And finally, the three most offensive common-sense blunders were offered by the following folks:

  • Jim Holbrook: mistreating the receptionist
  • Leo Pieri: using a referral you don’t even know
  • Andrew Goldberg: checking a phone during an interview

To these, I say: Come on people—really?!

Do you want this jobor just any job?

The overriding theme here is simple: Do your homework. At least pretend that you want the job you are interviewing for and that you’re not just wasting the interviewer’s time.

Understandably, not every job you interview for is your dream job, but in my experience, at least 30 percent of every job is what you make of it. There will always be barriers and limitations, but there are probably far fewer than you imagine once you get in. Thus, the biggest disservice you can do to yourself and to the employer is to be short-sighted.

Wes Nichols made the point well when he said, “I dislike when people talk about their career as a series of ‘gigs’—that telegraphs a short-term, putting-food-on-the-table orientation rather than passion about their career or employer.”

Here are a few more anecdotes regarding the need to do your homework:

Tad Smith said his biggest reason for not giving people a job is that they make it obvious that they don’t understand the business for which they’re interviewing, let alone the job itself.

Dan Gershenson emphasizes this point in noting his frustration with cover letters that begin, “Dear Sir or Madam, I am applying for…” Gershenson said, “Really? Thanks for showing me you didn’t research me at all and I am one of 200 people you’re sending the same letter to. So, why should I treat you with any more respect than what you’ve shown me? Do your homework on the decision-maker(s), the company, etc., and craft a customized cover letter. If the person isn’t worth your time to do that, frankly, you shouldn’t be worth their time, either.”

Look in the mirror

Want a mint? No? Mind if I stick one up my nose?

OK, that’s a little crude, but you get the point. The idea that people would go into interviews without having brushed their teeth recently, had a breath mint, brushed the dog hair off their suits, or—God forbid—not bothered to actually brush their hair is beyond understanding. As usual, I never cease to be amazed.

In my network outreach, both Randy Simonian and Andrew Goldberg noted that a candidate’s bad breath stays with them a lot longer than what the person says. And Sal Tofano suggested that people should not “show up for the interview as if they were going to a garage sale.” Good idea.

Don’t be a digital idiot

In this day and age, it is important to know that there are no secrets. What you put in the digital world is accessible by anyone nearly anywhere. So, this old mantra applies: Don’t write it if it is not something you wouldn’t want to see splashed across the front page of The New York Times. Sal Tofano agreed and noted that he has reconsidered the employment of people who have spoken negatively about past employers and colleagues on social media sites.

That said, there are far worse digital behaviors. Eileen Campbell said that she “just got a LinkedIn request from a guy who uses a framed picture of himself on a museum wall complete with adoring visitors gazing lovingly at him as his profile pic. Who knew egos had legs?” Although this is clearly tacky, the worse offense—digital or otherwise—is confusing genders. In this case, Campbell’s egomaniac also addressed her as “Dear Mr. Campbell.”

Did I mention that there are worse digital behaviors? The worst I read came from my former agency pro, Dede Solley, who said that she interviewed a candidate for a social position and regretfully accepted his LinkedIn request.

“To this date, he is still stalking me online,” she said. “I even changed companies. Week to week, he’s always on the list of people that viewed my profile.” Yuck!

Remember: Your digital shadow is huge, and even if you don’t make direct contact, there are plenty of tracking systems to alert people when you are tracking—or stalking—them. Learn when enough is enough.

You have two ears and one mouth

I was reminded about this bit of interview advice once, as I tend to be a “talker.” I was told to listen twice as much as I spoke, as that is the ratio of my ears to my mouth. It has worked like a charm, every time. My friend Pat Ruta agreed. He noted that people who don’t listen consequently don’t know what questions to ask.

I’m a big girl (or boy) now

Jim Holbrook’s anecdote about immaturity is almost unbelievable. After an interview, a candidate’s mom—yep, mom—called HR to follow up. Similarly, Dede Solley told this story: “Last week, a colleague of mine interviewed someone who brought his dad to the interview with him and requested a lounge where his dad could hang out during the interview. Nuts!”

You can’t make this stuff up. Although I don’t think it should have to be stated, I will go ahead and do so anyway: Leave your parents at home during the interview process.

Don’t be a cliché

Be yourself instead. This means that you have done your homework (per the earlier discussion) but that you also know yourself and are hopefully interviewing for jobs that are well suited to you, your strengths, and your personality.

My friend Ted Wright has run a successful company for several years and interviews people regularly. He is a bit edgy, but his larger point is a good one. He says the biggest reason not to hire someone is because the interview candidates are not being themselves.

“Some jobs call for flip-flops, a deep knowledge of Zydeco, and the ability to use the word ‘f*ck’ in all possible variations,” he said. “Some require you to know how horribly tacky it is to wear a button-down shirt with a suit. And in some, you have to be able to play basketball very well. ‘Stop thinking, let things happen, be the ball.’”

I believe that being yourself means leaving out the clichés. David Greenwald’s favorite cliché is when an interviewee says he or she would be good in a sales role because that person “gets along really well with people” or is a “team player.” Furthermore, Greenwald advised, if an interviewer inquires about your greatest weakness, don’t tell them that it’s “working too hard” or “caring too much.” Gag.

Don’t get ahead of yourself

Interviewing 101 and Negotiations 101 have a lot in common. Both teach that it is best to hear points of views fully from all sides and to decisively make your case before making demands. Unfortunately, too many people seem to forget this when they are interviewing and jump the gun by making requests or demands in the very first interview.

Karyn Saunders, a friend and professional recruiter, provided me with a list of don’ts along these lines. “Asking about compensation in the first interview—a big no-no,” she said. Her other questions to avoid during interviews include:

  • If hired, can I have a week off at Christmas? It is tradition to spend it with my family overseas.
  • What are the hours like?

Karen Koerner Arnold also said that asking detailed questions about benefits too early in the interview process feels pushy and can give the interviewer the impression that you do not have a true interest in the company and position. “I want to hire a candidate who wants this job, not just ajob,” she said.

Perhaps the most off-putting comments you can make are those that reveal your inner diva. Mark Wildman sarcastically noted that he loves immediate discussions during interviews about a person’s need for an office and its size requirements.

Foot-in-mouth disease

Is the unemployment rate 8.1 percent or 1.8 percent? I ask because, after hearing from my social network, job interviewees are making it sound like there is an abundance of jobs and they simply have their pick. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the scenario these days. Kieran Jason Hackett, a senior executive, recalled an interview in which the interviewee said, “I really see this position as a great way to set me up for my real dream.” Umm—so, you’re really interested in this job and company, huh?

But the award for the most “oh no he di’in’t” (insert finger wag) story came from Adina Smith. She recalled that, in the middle of an interview, a male candidate said: “I’m not good at reporting to women. Am I going to have to report to you?” To which Smith replied, “You would have, but no, you don’t need to worry about that anymore.” You go, girl!

Don’t be a creep

Always remember that you are not invisible. People do the most amazing things in public and while entertaining—great fodder for YouTube, but it can be the kiss of death in an interview.

Two examples emerged from my social networks that exemplify this point. First, Floyd Hayes tells of an interview in which a young man came in looking for an internship at Hayes’ company. “The thing is, there was a large mirror behind me, and this young man was so vain he kept checking himself out in the mirror,” Hayes said. This gets a five out of 10 on the “ick” scale. But this next story gets a solid nine-plus.

Josh Kavanaugh tells of a time when his firm did a panel interview with a male candidate who “brazenly and inappropriately stared at one of the female interviewers the entire time—no eye contact was made with anyone including her the entire time.” Eww.

The topic of why people don’t get hired is one that gives and gives. And though at least most anecdotes are somewhat humorous, they can be also highly disturbing. Truthfully, none of the tips in this article is revolutionary or new, but these basics of decorum still seem to be violated with great frequency.

Telling the story

Part 1 of 3

Julie Roehm, senior vice president of marketing and “chief storyteller” is new to SAP. She is helping the company change the way it talks, using digital media to communicate internally and externally.

Also new at SAP is Roehm’s team, Customer Central. “The opportunity we see with this position and team is to be the proof point for SAP’s work,” Roehm says. “We want to be the megaphone for the voice of the customers, relating their stories and describing how SAP helps them and their customers operate more efficiently. We tell these stories through the customers’ eyes.”

The concept behind the chief storyteller role is to relate conversations between people. Roehm says this will change the perception of SAP, opening doors, motivating dialogue and accelerating sales.

“We are connecting SAP to all of its many customers,” she says. “Our team is gathering content-rich stories about where and how SAP helps our customers realize their vision and solve their biggest problems. We publish these stories externally and internally too, so that our sales people can have more holistic and customer-driven conversations. By relating stories of others who have faced similar problems and opportunities, or are part of the same industry or geography, we are creating partnerships from a ‘business-person to business-person’ perspective.”

Roehm says that her team’s approach provides context to what might be perceived as complex technological solutions. Customer Central helped create an internal database and an iPad application to showcase customer stories that include quotes, timelines, customer video testimonials, business outcomes and benefits.  “As all of this rolls out, it will change the way we interface with our customers,” Roehm says. The team plans to use “many different digital realms “ to tell its stories.

“The ability to connect and share stories, distribute white papers and other thought leadership pieces is invaluable,” she says. “We are making the most of new technology and digital formats to communicate the value our company creates in a holistic and humanistic way.”

 

Jumping the Shark..in a GOOD Way

I love this time of the year. The kids go back to school, (yeah!), the deepest heat of the summer subsides and as a last hoorah, I watch Shark Week with my family. We love it, always have. Clearly, we are not alone. This graph is from Ad Age and shows the successive increase in viewership for Shark Week over the past decade. To put these numbers into perspective, the Olympics closing ceremony had just over 31 million viewers. Pretty good for a cable network running shows about sharks. As Ad Age reports, they have built this franchise over the years by having celebrity hosts like Peter Benchley. This plus the part technology has played in making some miraculous shots a reality has made it hard for viewers like me and my family to pull our eyes away from the screen. And Discovery’s persistence and creativity has paid off. Far from jumping the shark, this program now seems to have a chance to be even more popular thanks to social media and the ability of the medium to connect us Shark-ophites. But I am not the average viewer, in fact the average viewer is 31 years old, part of that coveted 18-34 year old demo. Nielsen in fact reports, “Ratings for 2012 propelled Discovery Channel to the #1 non-scripted cable network spot for P18-49 delivery and the top cable network for P/W 18-34 delivery.*” Even better news for the program given the passionate tweeting of this demo. I read a great summary of the digital performance of this show at tvbythenumbers.com. It’s laced with a lot of great “isms” and contrived phrases to boot. “On the social media front, fin-aticism hit a new high this year with more than 1.6 million Tweets about SHARK WEEK (doubling last year’s volume) with several celebrities getting in on the action from Leonardo DiCaprio to Adam Levine to Ellen DeGeneres. SHARK WEEK ranked #1 on Trendrr’s social TV charts across cable and broadcast for both August 6-12 and August 13-19. Additionally, SHARK WEEK accounted for 35% of all cable social activity from August 12-16, according to Trendrr. In the most extensive on-air social integration to date, Discovery Channel viewers had the opportunity to have their Tweets appear on television during ten hours of primetime premiere programming. Viewers also took to Facebook and Twitter to vote for the item to meet its demise in the nightly Shark Week Chompdown hosted by Philip DeFranco.” So the marketers over at Discovery not only found a great way to integrate social media, they were able to insert seemingly honest celebrity fans AND allow people to get their tweets on tv – not unique, I know, but pretty cool. For those of you who watched, you will recall Discovery’s hand at product integration as well. VW was sold on the “fin-aticism” and decided to use the program as part of its Beetle launch efforts. They created a shark cage inspired by the frame of the new Beetle. Here is a photo: I am sure the folks over at VW understood the audience and what it could do for the brand. And those of us old enough to remember will recall the urban legend (or was it real?) about the Bug actually having a tight enough air seal so that it could go in water without filling with water and thus float. So, the next logical leap is a shark cage, of course:) Still, it does go to show that Shark Week has certainly hit the big time when an automaker like VW entrusts such an important launch to a program like this. Tvbythenumbers.com also reported that “online, Shark Cam average daily visits were up 11% and visitors spent 76% more time per visit than last year, with fans getting their shark fix with the first live, 360-degree underwater camera. Overall, visits to the SHARK WEEK fansite increased 6% over 2011, with visitors streaming 11% more video than last year.” With momentum like this and a clear understanding of how the online can augment the offline, I think Shark Week is destined for some serious longevity. And my family for one is giddy!:)

How to make a splash at your new job

I love my new job, and I love my new title. I am the “chief storyteller” for SAP. My official title is senior vice president marketing, customer central, SAP, “chief storyteller,” but the chief storyteller part is what I find the most fun. I can’t take credit for the name, as that was given to me by one of our co-CEOs. But the point in his mind, I think, was that B2B companies have great stories to tell, especially SAP. In this digital age where information is overwhelming, breaking through the clutter and differentiating are essential and often overly complicated with the latest social, viral, or digital gadget. And what better way to do it than to simply tell the stories of how a company, in this case SAP, helps its customers, and how its customers help the business run better and improve people’s lives?

How to make a splash at your new job

Lest this article start to sound too much like a sales pitch for SAP, let me share with you more about the journey, the challenges, and even a few tips (some borrowed), for making a difference in a new company, a new industry, and a new position.

First, my background is based in marketing for largely B2C companies — big B2C companies. However, the last five years of my career, I was the founder of my own company where I served as a marketing strategy consultant to 50-plus clients, many of which were B2B. That experience served me well in that I was able to not only grow my network and make a living, but I was able to work in industries, departments, and companies that were as small as start-ups and as large as Fortune 50 companies. This provided me with tools and knowledge that I hope will serve me well as I work to craft a new organization inside of the larger marketing organization at SAP — sort of like a start-up in the middle of a well-established organization.

The team I lead is called customer central, and we have been established, or have begun getting ourselves established, since January of this year when I started with the company. Our job is to help to humanize the SAP brand by sharing some of the amazing stories that our customers tell us about how our technology helps them run better and helps their customers live better lives. Using my B2C background to tell stories in a humanistic fashion, and to share these stories in and outside of the company to change perceptions, generate interest, and of course help sell technology, are the key objectives. The company itself is full of bright people who are passionate and very entrepreneurial so, culturally speaking, I feel right at home.

Still, I have been dubbed a change agent for most of my career, and while I resisted the moniker for a long time, I now know that there is value in that notion, but it comes with baggage as well. For clarity, Barron’s business dictionary defines a “change agent” as “a person whose presence or thought processes cause a change from the traditional way of handling or thinking about a problem.” The department and role for which I was hired fit that bill pretty well. Humanizing the brand through storytelling is not the traditional method or process that most companies employ. And if one really thinks about it, advertising and other forms of marketing are just stories of a different color, right?

To illustrate my point, I am including an infographic (a favorite storytelling method of mine) about the history of content. You can see from this fun graphic that storytelling has been the basis of all marketing for thousands of years. My great-grandmother used to set time aside every afternoon to watch her “stories” on TV. So the notion is certainly familiar, but the establishment of a department dedicated to this single notion is new.

 History of Content Marketing Infographic

Why me?

I, like many, have been reading a great deal about the much storied Steve Jobs. Fast Company published an article called “An HR Lesson From Steve Jobs: If You Want Change Agents, Hire Pirates” written by Peter Sander. Here is a small excerpt from the article:

“‘It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.’ This quote, made back in the days of the original Mac development team, says a lot about how Steve viewed people and selected them for teams. It also speaks to the kind of team and team behavior he admired. To build a team, all organizations seek the best and the brightest people, particularly for their innovation and new product development organizations — that’s not what’s in question here. By seeking out the pirates, Steve took the idea a big step further.

Why pirates?

A pirate can function without a bureaucracy. Pirates support one another and support their leader in the accomplishment of a goal. A pirate can stay creative and on task in a difficult or hostile environment. A pirate can act independently and take intelligent risks, but always within the scope of the greater vision and the needs of the greater team.

Pirates are more likely to embrace change and challenge convention…So Steve’s message was: if you’re bright, but you prefer the size and structure and traditions of the navy, go join IBM. If you’re bright and think different and are willing to go for it as part of a special, unified, and unconventional team, become a pirate.”

So I’d like to think I am a pirate of sorts and that the executives of SAP are, like Jobs, interested in the best and the brightest. But more than that, I have to believe that they want to hire those people who can “see the greater vision and the needs of the greater team,” and that are willing to “go for it as part of a special, unified, and unconventional team.” Because in today’s world, conventional thinking only gets you so far. It is the intelligent risks that pay big dividends. But creating this and still integrating with other “pirates” and other perhaps more traditional organizations are crucial to success in a giant company. Failure to do so can likely result in the sinking of the pirate ship.

While I have some tips of my own on how to navigate the waters with your pirate ship, I stumbled upon a great article entitled “9 Tips for Change Agents,” by Nicholas Morgan. I really like the point of view, but I was equally as amazed by the fact that it was written in 1996, which just goes to show you that some truths last.

The article is about Chris Turner who had been engaged at XBS to be a change agent. Here are her tips:

Be open to data at the start
“Even if you think you know what you’re doing, chances are you don’t know what you could be doing. Open up your mind to as much new thinking as you can absorb. You may find different and better ideas than the ones your organization started with.”

Network like crazy
“There is a network of people who are thinking about learning organizations. I’ve found you can get in touch with them easily. People say to me, ‘I can’t believe you talked with so-and-so! How’d you do it?’ The answer is, I called him.”

Document your own learning
“People in the organization need to see documentation for their own comfort. The smartest thing I did was to create a matrix of ideas from leading thinkers. I documented two categories of thinking — the elements of a learning organization, and the pitfalls to avoid.”

Take senior management along
Turner’s own education included benchmarking trips to Saturn, Texas Instruments, Motorola, General Electric, and other companies known for their innovative approaches to learning. “Some of the people in the senior group were very skeptical,” Turner said. “It helped to take them on these benchmarking trips to show them other companies that were actually doing some of the same learning practices.”

No fear!
“You’ve got to be fearless and not worry about keeping your job.”

Be a learning person yourself
“Change agents have to be in love with learning and constantly learning new things themselves. Then they find new ways to communicate those things to the organization as a whole.”

Laugh when it hurts
“This can be very discouraging work. You need a good sense of humor. It also helps if you’ve got a mantra you can say to yourself when things aren’t going too well.”

Know the business before you try to change anything
“I don’t think you can do this work if you’re just a theorist. I’ve been a sales rep, I’ve been in a marketing job where I worked with the operations side. So when I go about the work of creating a change strategy, I already have an understanding of the people in our organization and what they do.”

Finish what you start
“I made a list of change projects we’d started and never finished in the past. We called it ‘the black hole.’ I determined early on I didn’t want to be part of a second-rate movie.”

I would offer just a bit more on a couple of these tips:

Network like crazy

In this digital age, it has never been easier to connect. The challenge is in connecting authentically. So my advice is to use the digital media and the good old-fashioned telephone to connect with people that you feel you could learn from but also with whom you have something to offer. It could be a POV, a connection, or just a person to brainstorm or bounce ideas off of. This has served me well so far as I have had meetings with no fewer than 50 key people inside and outside of SAP. I’ve taken those opportunities to be as spongy about information gathering as I can be, but more importantly, I tried to use the time to share the mission of our spunky little team and to offer our help wherever possible.

I’ve learned that networking will serve you well for years to come, especially when done authentically. If you go into the business of networking expecting some sort of personal benefit in the short term, you will be disappointed. Networking is like the stock market. Don’t do it unless you plan to be in it for the long haul. Networking is the business of relationships, and this is never more important than when you are a change agent and/or when you start a new job. Business is people, and relationships reign supreme, even in a digital age. Take the time to meet people, build trust, and give more than you get. I promise it will benefit you in the long run.

Have no fear and laugh when it hurts

I wrote a blog for iMedia on the topic of fear last year, and it was one of my favorites. In fact, I give speeches on the topic. I will share just the “tips” portion of this blog again because they are relevant:

1. Embrace fear.
2. Calculated risks are the rocket fuel of our society.
3. Eat your fear. It tastes good and will make you stronger.
4. “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” — Albert Einstein.
5. If you don’t first believe in yourself, don’t expect anyone else to believe in you, either.
6. The only voice you have to listen to without fail is the one inside.
7. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. (I actually own a USMC shirt with this statement.)
8. Living a public life is more dangerous than staying private, but much, much more rewarding. (Bloggers — this includes you!)
9. If you’re not getting “Laermered” every once in a while, perhaps you’re not reaching your full potential.

Taking a new job is scary under any circumstances, but it’s also exhilarating. My process has really forced me to embrace that which I preach above. I have embraced the fear of entering, as a change agent, into an industry that was largely foreign to me. Embracing your fear, or like point three says, “eat your fear” is something I try to do every day so that I can take calculated risks to help me stay sharp and engaged, help the company, and help my team. The only reason I think I have been able to do this consistently here and over the past several years is by believing in myself and knowing that there are at least a few good and important people whose opinions matter that believe in me too.

Change agents, by their very nature will always be targets for criticism and will more than likely continue to put themselves “out there,” which places them at even greater risk. So, one’s belief in oneself can never waver. Tips eight and nine above can stop you in your tracks if you let them, particularly when you are an outsider and new to a company. You must know that there are and will forever be “haters” in this world: people who use their resources to tear people down and see and proclaim only the worst in order to somehow make themselves feel better. But being a part of a strong community, where you can be immersed in a culture that feels natural, and where all are laser-focused on delivering innovation and wanting to truly make the world run better is nothing short of amazing and will drown the haters out. Fortunately, I have found such a community in SAP and have felt huge support internally, and I try to return the favor by listening, learning, and trying to give back…quickly!

Quickly adding value is essential in today’s world, and that has been true for me as well. If there is one area where I can say I truly feel the pressure it is in helping to make a difference, whether with my team or in support of others, right now! It may be that it is part of how I am wired. It may also be that my experience has taught me that the shine can wear off pretty quickly, and the best way to get past that is with “quick wins.” This is never truer than in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial company. The mantra, “what have you done for me lately” rings true. But for pirates, who are truly passionate about what they do, this is as comfortable as breathing in and out.

The next chapter in my own story has just begun, and as with most good stories, I wake eager to turn the page.