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The Importance of Being Where Your Client Is

May 20th, 2015 by Tom Gooderham
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businessman in airport

As I prepare to embark on another business trip abroad, I have the time to reflect on why this type of activity is still relevant?

With today’s ever so progressive technology, I can be on a Skype call, WebEx, Adobe Connect, Face Time, Lync etc. So why spend my time and the company’s travel budget on this? If you travel a lot for work, I bet you ask yourself the same question. Well, one of the best pieces of advice I got when I started my career was to ‘be where the client is’ and it is fair to say that I took that on board. In fact I had enough air miles for two First Class BA tickets from London to Delhi by the age of 30! But the question is, ‘Why be where the client is’?

My point of view is that in order to sell globally one needs to understand the cultural dynamics of doing business in different regions. I work in a people business (and to that extent we all do) and in order to earn the right to engage in commercial conversations with a customer, it’s not only vital to have that inherent knowledge of how your product or service will benefit them, but also how do you position it to them.


Engaging with clients from a different country or culture requires acquainting yourself with the basics in advance – something as simple as online research will yield several web sites with information and resources to help you understand cultural norms and cautions.  When meeting customers face to face, simple gestures and body language can mean wildly different things in different cultures. For example, sitting casually with a foot resting on the opposite knee is showing one’s foot, which is a highly offensive gesture in the Middle East; and although shaking hands is common practice in the west, it may be deemed inappropriate when working in different regions.  Having sight of these differences can prevent awkward and somewhat embarrassing situations occurring just by getting the basics right.

There are also clues in what I like to call the ‘Opening Pleasantries’. Take cues from the other person’s communication style – what they say before they start talking about business is a clue about the individual’s communication preference. Remember Wolf of Wall Street? The Swiss Banker scene? ‘Excusez Moi Jorden, Swiss culture requires 10mins of ‘chit chat’ before business can be discussed!’ A comedy example, yes, but the sentiment is there. Having an understanding of how to position yourself early on in any client meeting or interaction can be quite crucial to the overall success of that meeting and any longer term relationship that you are hoping to develop. Anyone who’s seen that movie knows that particular relationship didn’t go that well!


In addition to thinking about both your verbal on non-verbal communication, it’s also important to think about your attire and etiquette. Sounds simple, right? But that said, be prepared to dress professional when meeting people in certain regions, or specific industries. Not all business etiquette accepts the causal business attire often advocated by the US and the UK. I remember meeting with a Japanese client in London a few years ago and being advised by a manager who had worked in Asia that it’s important to always wait to be directed to your seat for a meeting, as the seating indicates the status of the meeting’s participants and that I should always wait for the leader of the meeting to finish and remain seated until the leader stands at the end of the meeting.

Respecting and understanding these types of cultural manners is something that is key to relationship building and is easy to do. There are a number of good books on the market related to communication and etiquette when working with different cultures so there is really no excuse for getting it wrong.

So in summary, in the information age it’s possible to do business wherever you want, whenever you want without ever leaving your office or home! That said, with businesses becoming more and more competitive with many products and services becoming commodity sooner, compacted by the ability for customers to use technology to identify solutions and find providers at the click of a button; being where the customer is and doing business in a way that is respectful and in line with their cultural preferences may be your differentiator when looking to generate business in the highly competitive environment.

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How Sales and MLB Managers Share the Same Winning Team Strategies

May 12th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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America’s pastime is once again in full swing: 2015 Major League Baseball has finally arrived. Even though the season is only one month old, team managers are already trying to decide how to play during the postseason by ensuring the batting order is perfect, their pitchers stay healthy and everyone is up to speed on any new rules.

It might seem to be a stretch at first to compare a sales manager to an MLB manager. Logging long nights in the ball park, managing highly paid professional athletes and worrying about how to replace injured players are worlds away from the job of a sales manager. But MLB managers—the great ones— actually share core qualities with top sales managers.

Both types of managers require expertise in number crunching, motivation and coaching. They also have to be great leaders who possess strong management qualities, including transparency, respect, motivation and communication.

One of the best of the MLB managers is San Francisco Giant’s manager Bruce Bochy, who is known for his even-keeled demeanor, hence the nickname “Captain Calm” and has more wins than any active manager in baseball today.  He’s just the tenth manager to win three World Series titles (2010, 2012 and 2014), and has more victories in the postseason than all but four managers in the history of major league baseball. 

By all accounts, the San Francisco Giants shouldn’t have won the 2014 World Series.  Going into the series, their record was underwhelming.  The Giants had played under -.500 ball from June 9, 2014 and were matched against the Kansas City Royals who were the first team to enter a Series with an 8–0 record in the 2014 postseason and only the second to enter undefeated in the postseason since the creation of the Wild Card in 1994. But what the 2014 Series proved is that a great manager can make all the difference.

Here are three lessons worth noting for the upcoming season:

1. Train and know your team’s skills, then let them do what they do best

Baseball Strategy

Bochy didn’t get where he is today because of luck.  He knows baseball strategy, and he also understands the personalities on his team and what each person is cable of delivering.

During the clutch seventh game of the 2014 World Series, Bochy had a very important decision to make — whether or not to take Madison Bumgarner’s talented arm out of the game.  There was never a doubt that the superstar pitcher would play despite having just two day’s rest. However, whether or not to leave him in after an error that put the tying run on third base with two outs in the ninth inning was another question.   

But Bochy knew what Bumgarner was made of and what he could deliver.  Unflinchingly, he made the decision to let the pitcher finish the job and the rest is history.  Bumgarner retired Salvador Perez on a foul pop ball for the final out and the Series win.

The lesson here is to train your people well and then let them do their jobs.  Of course there will be the opportunity for course correction along the way, but when people are allowed to do what they are good at, they are successful.

2.  Understand how to win with the talent you have

Many sales managers inherit their teams and may believe those teams are not staffed with the correct levels or even enough people to deliver on goals.

Bochy has a reputation for winning with whatever talent he’s given.  That may seem over simplified, because one needs some talent to succeed, but this is where Bochy’s knowledge of baseball strategy and people skills come into play.  He knows how and when to best use the talent he has, and he remains in control of every move in every game.

The team members also feel that Bochy believes in them, which is very important in building confidence.  “He always has faith in us and he shows it.  We pick up on it and it makes us play better,” said first baseman Brandon Belt in an AP Sports article. 

Research by the Gallup organization shows that salesperson performance improved 20 percent with the attention of a talented manager. Additionally, there is a longer tail to the results from a coaching investment because those who are coached are often the most loyal and reliably productive members of the team.

3.  Always have a game plan but maintain flexibility

Approaching a situation without a plan can be disastrous, and baseball, is really no different.  Bochy begins every game with a plan but is famous for his ability to think on his feet, pivoting to address just about any situation that might arise.  In this ESPN article, Bochy’s flexibility (his willingness to sometimes even start from scratch) is cited as a reason he is one of the best.

So having a plan is great but being able to adjust in the moment with and for your team is ideal.

In the end, being a great manager is about building a team, placing the right talent in the right positions, and adjusting your strategy to succeed along the way. Through this journey, whether you’re managing sales or baseball, one thing remains true for both as spoken by one of the best in the game, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” As Babe Ruth believed, the only way to win is together.

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Celebrating Women in Business – Part 3

May 8th, 2015 by Francesca DiGuglielmo
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In our “Celebrating Women in Business” series we continue to look at our very own female leaders who share their perspectives on their success and learning journey. This month we are pleased to introduce Francesca DiGuglielmo, Forum’s VP and Senior Relationship Manager who talks about her career story and the most impactful experiences which formed her professional life.

 What did you want to be when you were a kid?  

Not sure – just that I needed/wanted to have a job.  I had visions of becoming a clothing designer and working in Paris.

What, if any personal challenges did you face to get into business and a leadership role and how did you overcome these?05.08.15 - Celebrating Women in Business Part 3.jpg

I had the highest mathematics/technical scores on 8th grade aptitude tests which was perplexing to the guidance counsellor since “I’m a girl” – meaning that he was unsure what to suggest to me since usually the boys had high scores in these areas…  But, then, he said:  ‘oh, look:  you like people, so that’s good!”  I had not recalled this conversation for years – not until I became more aware of how boys/girls are provided options – based on their gender.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your career to date? 

I’m very happy with the opportunities I had and developed.  But, occasionally, I wonder what might have been different, if my Guidance Counsellor had suggested:  “oh, look – you have the top scores in math/technical areas – you should study mathematics!

Have you had a bad boss along the way and why was this person a poor leader?

Yes – indecisive and non-supportive. Focus was on own success – to the detriment of the team

What’s the hardest business conversation you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

Having had to hold an employee accountable for actions and deliverables.  After a great deal of investment in the success of the employee they had other priorities  for the most part – my generosity and support was taken for granted.

What I learned:  be clear and specific on expectations, measurements along the way, and accept that the achievements and improvements must be driven more by employees’ commitment and desire than what you want for him/her.

What lessons have you learned in your personal life which have helped in business? 

Allow time for reflection and re-grouping, thus increasing ability to take actions that are more based on logic and balance.   Also, perspectives change the farther along you are in all life’s experiences.  So, at any given time, if you stop – and look back to your experiences from when you started…your view is broader and richer – than it was at any given point early in the journey.

Do you think women make better leaders than men and what’s the reason for your answer?

Leadership is gender neutral.  I’ve had great/not so good leaders of either sex

What are the strengths of women in business and how can women maximise these and build on them to get ahead?

In some cases, women seem to be better in compartmentalizing and balancing many competing priorities – and doing well at it  – without much fuss!

What are the weaknesses and how can they overcome them? 

Being trapped in the box that others may have (inadvertently?) put you in…overcome it by:  seeing no barriers for yourself

What is the one piece of advice you would give other women in business who are aiming to be senior leaders? 

Develop a strong self-awareness; understand others’ needs, differences, and motivational drivers and make sure to know the difference and how to effectively adjust and align so that goal is to drive the business objectives.

How do you think leadership in the workplace will look different in 5 to 10 years’ time and how will this affect women?

I hope it will be common place to have outstanding women in leadership positions everywhere.

How is globalization affecting this change? 

Broadening perspectives more widely.

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Accelerating Talent in a VUCA World: Leadership in Asia Pacific

May 6th, 2015 by Grant Bosnick
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“Changes aren’t permanent, but change is.” (Neil Peart)

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami hit the coast of Japan. I was there when it happened. Now, as we’ve passed the 4th anniversary, the conditions and circumstances in the recovery became known as “The New Normal.”

And elsewhere across Asia Pacific there are not only changes, but rather there is change. And this constant change is the new normal.

With 3 of the top 5 world’s largest economies (China, India, Japan), surpassed only by US and EU; 5 of the top 10 world’s fastest growing economies; and age distribution differing radically across countries – a new generation in China, an aging population in Japan, a young one in Indonesia, and a mature one in Korea and Hong Kong, this is the landscape of Asia Pacific.

Moreover, it’s an interconnected region; what happens in one place affects the others, whether it’s a natural disaster, political event or product innovation.

This creates then a VUCA World, that is, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. A term first used by the United States military to discuss preparedness, the term was then popularised by Bob Johansen of the Institute for the Future. It is, essentially, a world of constant change. And as Bob Johansen wrote, “The capacity for VUCA leadership in strategic and operating terms depends on a well-developed mindset for gauging the technical, social, political, market and economic realities of the environment in which people work.”

So, as leaders in Asia Pacific, what does this mean and what do we need to do to be able to do this?

To thrive and succeed in a VUCA World, we need to put into practice and develop ourselves on 3 levels of leadership simultaneously:

  1. Self
  2. People
  3. Thought

Self Leadership includes having a vision, integrity, consistency, and principled values. People Leadership is about managing change, leveraging diversity, delegating, engaging, coaching, building consensus and commitment, and inspiring others. And Thought Leadership focuses on analysis, strategy, decision making, and innovation.

Together the sum (and synergy) of these 3 levels will enable leaders to thrive in a VUCA World. As Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, the CEO of The Lego Group once said, “Leadership is what happens when you’re not there.” And in Asia Pacific, a constant VUCA world of change, developing all 3 levels will accelerate talent and enable this kind of leadership to flourish.

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Understanding the Five Most Important Employee Engagement Factors

April 29th, 2015 by Russ Becker
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In the past 22 years, my career has centered around overseeing employees in various managerial roles, across different industries, and with diverse groups of people coming together as part of the workflow. Through these years, and differing environments, I’ve become aware of the one obstacle no manager likes to face: having a disengaged, unmotivated team. Unfortunately, current statistics on global employee engagement confirm that many executives are living with this challenge.

According to Gallup’s most recent 142-country State of the Global Workplace report, only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. That translates to roughly one in eight employees in the countries studied being actually committed to their jobs. Most employees, the other 87 percent, are simply not engaged, feeling unhappy and unproductive according to Gallup.

Despite these seemingly bleak statistics, leaders grappling with a disengaged team are hardly helpless. I’ve come to learn certain strategies and tactics over the years which help executives focus on key predictors of how engaged their employees will be. I’ve learned most importantly that people are social animals and their surrounding colleagues, especially their managers, usually have the most significant impact on whether an employee makes an effort at work – or simply does the bare minimum required.

Through my experience, these five important employee factors have helped improve workplace engagement that other fretful executives can, too, implement.

1. Belonging

Leaders can distinguish an engaged employee if they feel integrated with their colleagues and feel confident their job is an important part of the whole. An employee who feels significant in their workplace’s community and has an emotional connection to their organization will be more engaged at work.

2. Enjoyment

Creating a positive work environment, including stimulating and fun ways for employees to interact, will greatly impact employee engagement. Employees spend most of their time in the workplace with their colleagues, in comparison to the time they spend outside with the people and things they love. The workplace culture needs to reflect a place where people can work successfully and happily through the end of the work day, rather than counting the minutes until it ends.

3. Accomplishment

A productive employee is an engaged employee. As simple as it sounds, it is important for leaders to acknowledge their teams and their efforts which benefit a greater mission or purpose at work. Employees that feel successful will continue to seek out more ways to accomplish tasks within their job roles and the ones they aim for in the future.

4. RecognitionBusiness Finish Line

Another key component to employee engagement is employee recognition. Employees want managers to take notice of their accomplishments that provide value to the organization and its community, and ultimately want to be incentivized to keep striving for better. Leaders who fail to layer in systems for acknowledging growth and success do both their companies and employees a disservice, with sinking morale on their horizons.

5. Advancement

Offering multiple opportunities for employees to build their portfolio of skills should be a priority for leaders looking to increase engagement. Talented employees don’t want to stagnate professionally – they want to develop their skills, advance, and thrive throughout their careers.

While these five employee factors may not seem new, they can definitely become overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the everyday working environment. Maintaining high engagement in today’s workplace is essential for leaders now more than ever, as demonstrated by the numbers. Even though the job market continues to improve, restless employees usually decide to move on rather than remain at a job that doesn’t stimulate them. Making employee engagement a priority within your workplace not only advances the health of your professional teams, but also the health of your bottom line and future business.

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Leadership Lessons to Draw from Lee Kuan Yew in an Era of Change

April 22nd, 2015 by Cynthia Stuckey
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“We have created this out of nothingness, from 150 souls in a minor fishing village into the biggest metropolis two degrees north of the equator.” – Singapore founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. 

Overcoming numerous challenges post-independence and moving the country forward amidst tumultuous times, the late founding father of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, devoted his entire lifetime to building what is now regarded as one of the world’s most economically strong and resilient nations.

In the weeks since Mr. Lee died, I’ve seen countless articles and reflections extolling his leadership attributes. He was respected by leaders from around the world and in business. He was loved as much as he was feared. From waking up in a cosy HDB, drinking water that runs straight from the tap, taking transportation that runs efficiently across the vibrant city state that house some of world’s most renowned brands, to walking in the streets in the dead of night without fear, Mr. Lee has indeed left a powerful legacy for generations to come.

It never ceases to amaze me at how an impactful leader can transform the city out my window from a mere developing nation that was wrecked by social divisions and poor living conditions just some decades back to one with shiny skyscrapers. What struck me as particularly significant for leaders to recognise and learn from was Mr. Lee’s extraordinary ability to lead through an era of change. After working with so many leaders in my 20+ year career, I discovered that the successful ones take the following winning approaches:

1.  Have a clear vision04.21.15 - Lee-Kuan-Yew_public.jpg

“Here we make the model multiracial society. This is not a country that belongs to any single community – it belongs to all of us. This was a mudflat, a swamp. Today, it is a modern city. And 10 years from now, it will be a metropolis – never fear!”

As a managing director of a company, I see the importance of how setting a clear vision can warrant for a great start, especially when facing unexpected changes or bracing my company for a planned change. Mr. Lee has definitely done a good job in this area. He saw the needs of fighting for self-rule from the British in 1959 and independence from Malaysia in 1965. He also saw the potential of Singapore being a business hub for worldwide investors by developing first-class infrastructure standards and recruiting worldwide talents. As a business leader, bringing the company to the next level is our key responsibility and also one of our key challenges. I always think about where I want to bring my business to a year or even a few years later. The vision of the future blueprint is what drives my action. During the transformational period, many challenges are there but we must be fearless and determined. Give confidence to employees that we are able to survive after going through all the changes.

2.  Communicate the vision

“I have been accused of many things in my life, but not even my worst enemy has ever accused me of being afraid to speak my mind.”

Weeping before the national TV to deliver the news of the separation between Malaysia and Singapore represents the toughest time of Mr. Lee in his life. He knew that Singapore had a slim chance of survival. But soon he got rid of his despair and saw it as a moment to establish a deep connection with the people by communicating the connection between his party’s goal and their circumstance. Thinking back of those hard times in my leadership journey, c-suites often struggle a while before communicating the truth to the employees. We definitely don’t want to threaten the stability of the organisation. However, that’s how to get employees to be on the same page with us, by showing up honestly and conveying our plans during this difficult period. Employees may feel insecure of their jobs at that moment. Therefore, it’s also our job to motivate them to engage with us and go through the transitional period together.

3.  Walk the talk

“I want to make sure every button works, and if it doesn’t when I happen to be around, then somebody is going to be in for a rough time, because I do not want sloppiness.”

As a resident here for over 4 years, I share the same resonance with my friends from around the world that Singapore has much to be envied for. Chief among which are a corrupt-free government, affordable healthcare, quality homes, efficient transportation and holistic education, for all. These might not have been possible if not for one who constantly kept his ears to the ground and implemented an uncompromising change mechanism that is scalable and adaptive to suit circumstantial needs.

To maintain its competitiveness and success, Singapore does not rest on its laurels. The government makes sure to constantly introduce and revise policies to seek new talents while retaining its local talents, as well as policies that can improve and change in line with current environments. They are unabashed when communicating their plans, and they stand ready to defend their plans when necessary. This should be the same for business. In order to sustain long-term business growth, businesses must be able to communicate and execute their goals with strong conviction.

4.  Build commitment

“If you can select a population and they’re educated and they’re properly brought up, then you don’t have to use too much of the stick because they would already have been trained.”

In order to create a prosperous Singapore, a pragmatic Mr. Lee saw the importance of looking out of the country for talent to help develop the capability of this country, while educating the locals to be globally competitive. To keep his people happy, he also put focus on addressing people’s needs by providing well-developed education, welfare and healthcare standards for examples. I have always seen the importance of getting a pool of talented employees to help business growth, as business success can’t happen just by one person’s effort. Therefore, aside from cultivating talent to make sure our employees are well-equipped with the necessary skills to cope with challenges during a transformational period, addressing employees’ needs also can’t be overlooked. A happy workforce will be more willing to work for the company.

5.  Pick the next better player

“If I were not the Prime Minister, he [Lee Hsien Loong] could have become Prime Minister several years earlier. It is against my interest to allow any family member, who’s incapable, to be holding an important job because that would be a disaster for Singapore and my legacy. That cannot be allowed.”

Mr. Lee recognised that he could not stay in the role forever. He sees the importance of raising up the next generation of leaders to lead the future of Singapore before he stepped down from the political stage. In an organisation, no one can sit on the business leader chair forever, including myself. And a new business leader will likely lead a transformation of the whole company. Therefore, while focusing on growing the business, we should also constantly seeking for potential candidates to be the “next top leader” who can help transform the current business success to the next legacy.

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Taking Pride in Using the “S” Word

April 14th, 2015 by Ainsley McLeod
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04.14.15 - Using the S word.jpgSales in the English language is defined as “the exchange of a commodity for money”

Unfortunately it is often perceived as buyer manipulation. Hence the reason many sales professionals can sometimes feel hesitant to talk about their roles in anticipation that they will be perceived negatively.  However, quite the opposite is true. Selling represents the foundation and life blood of every private business and the discipline requires a complex set of consulting skills, including the classic skills of asking questions and listening to address the buyer’s needs and expectations. Sales is a fundamental part of any client facing role, whether we are aware or not and therefore we should all take pride in using the “S Word”.

Businesses with the aim of growing and increasing revenue are the engine that drives the global economy. All departments in private organisations whether you’re in HR, IT or Operations are there to support the sales and revenue generating activity. This directly impacts the quality of life in general and supports ongoing innovation in all directions; which would not be possible without the sales functions and the ability of businesses to find, win and keep customers. The difference between selling to consumers and businesses is gradually eliminating, as it purely comes down to selling between humans.

It’s not companies or brands who sell – it’s the people behind them. Customers expect consistent value and beneficial relationships from suppliers based on trust and interdependence, which goes way beyond transactional sales. In fact, the initial approach and first purchase are only the first steps in building customer relationships. It’s customer loyalty that truly drives sales. Selling is no longer a matter of communicating the features and benefits of products and services – to stand out its necessary to communicate the unique value proposition linked directly to the buyer’s perspective.

In a highly competitive market where there are a number of organisations that offer identical products and services, at times it can be the buying experience that differentiates businesses. Buyers form their opinions on the initial experience which then impacts their choices. The sales executive’s challenge is to influence the decision making and make steps to eliminate the competition.

Knowingly or unknowingly we are all sales people. Every interaction creates a perception of the individual and the brand they represent which directly or indirectly impacts buying behaviours. People buy from people and they prefer to buy from people they like. Therefore the importance of personal approach that treats all clients as individuals is the one that creates long term value on both sides. It’s not companies or brands who sell – it’s the people behind them.

To be able to guide prospects and customers through the buying journey, sales executives are required to master their interpersonal skills, product knowledge, questioning and listening skills – all of this whilst managing their stakeholders expectations and handling their objections. Yet, sales executives are not formally educated and need to adapt to the changing requirements of the role on individual basis.

The complexity and the requirements of sales roles are extensive and varied, but it takes specific skillset and attitude to succeed. Everyone utilising these skills on a daily basis should speak proudly of what they do.

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Leadership Lessons from the Rugby Pitch

April 9th, 2015 by Martin Slattery
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The recent Six Nations Rugby Championship was a demonstration of high team performance and great leadership across the board….well at least from Wales, Ireland and England!

This was best demonstrated on the last day of the championship or “Super Saturday” as it was called, with one game after another. It saw extraordinary pace maintained from beginning to end with the three teams (Wales, Ireland and England) all in the frame to be crowned 6 Nations Champions. Each result had a direct impact on how the next game had to be played out and the pressure built with each point scored.

The need for the respective coaches and captains to demonstrate calmness and a sense of clarity, unity and agility in the lead up to their games would prove paramount to their success. And they did just that! However, their ability to lead effectively and bring out their “A” game when it mattered didn’t just happen in those moments on that incredible Saturday. These skills were forged from many hours and years honing their skills on the pitch from a young age. But what can we learn from this? The challenges and drivers demonstrated during these games are indifferent to those faced in the business environment and can serve as a learning exercise when put into perspective.


No one will master any trade or sport until they excel at the basics. Rugby players can’t move ahead without conquering the basic; passing, catching, tackling and supporting the ball carrier. No training, irrespective of the age or experience of the players, will start without practising and incorporating those basic concepts to eliminate mistakes during a game. From mini rugby to international rugby it’s the same…do the basics and do them well.

In business, getting your basic skills right, putting them into practice and building on them are the essential steps to drive success through people. The ongoing learning and putting the lessons into practice on daily basis also gives you the right mindset and confidence needed to achieve your goals and progress. So what’s the excuse? There isn’t one….do the basics and do them well.   


Even the best players in the world don’t stop training because they’ve already achieved success. Quite the opposite. They strive for excellence by practicing harder, playing harder and doing everything they can to be even better. Similarly, successful leaders make learning an integral part of their everyday work – through sharing knowledge with peers and colleagues, enhancing skills and talents through assignments and taking initiative in their own developments.

Companies that encourage continuous learning through coaching, developmental assignments and sharing the lessons of experience enjoy competitive advantage as these learning approaches support employee retention and help to expand both individual and organisational capacity.


This is the key element to any success, on the pitch or in the work environment. For instance, do you think the Rugby Football Union would have turned to Stuart Lancaster (England Head Coach) and his coaching staff prior to Super Saturday and tell them not to coach the team? They don’t need to be helped; the players know what they need to do as they are professionals at the top of their game! Coaching is purely a distraction….especially with a championship on the line and the World Cup just around the corner. Let the players get on with it themselves. Right??

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Yet it is surprising that for many organisations this is the resounding view, and they wonder why performance is never quite as strong as it should be. Delivering a strong performance in that type of environment is un-sustainable and un-scalable. That’s the point.  Coaching is the essential element behind any team success – be it sport or business – focusing on individual and team improvements as well as providing opportunities for those to re-inforce the right behaviours, to better themselves and motivate others to achieve their highest potential. Increasingly, organisations see coaching as a means of building organisational capacity, helping them achieve critical business results, enabling competitive advantage and increasing the likelihood of winning. These are the businesses that are seeing the real impact. I therefore ask, why wouldn’t you coach?


Strategies are created and actions are planned based on assumptions made prior to the game. Naturally, these strategies are impacted by the other team’s behaviours and overall chemistry on the pitch. You have to play what is in front of you and adapt accordingly.

Being able to adapt to changing circumstances is a critically important leadership capability in both sport and business environments. In business, around 70% of change initiatives fail – the top 30% of success is linked to leaders being adaptable, knowing how to drive change to accelerate the impact of new strategies and understanding the human side of change.


Purpose-driven motivation creates focus that results in higher levels of sustained energy, increased interest and confidence. An inevitable part of this is physical well-being – it is impossible to sustain high performance without it.

Physical fitness reduces absence rates, mistakes, accidents and improves complex decision making, alertness, team interactions, concentration, and productivity. To maintain a healthy energy balance it is essential to be purposeful about time and ways to recover….ice baths optional!

To conclude – in rugby (like in business) to win, you must review each performance, identify and work on areas of the game that need improving and strive for excellence. The journey to excellence starts with the basics. Do them and do them well, every time.

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Celebrating Women in Business – Part 2

April 2nd, 2015 by Janine Carlson
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Launched last month to mark the International Women’s Day, we continue our series to inspire aspiring female leaders – this month with Janine Carlson, our APAC Marketing Director, who looks at her own aspirations, challenges and experiences that lead her to where she is today.

Janine Carlson, Marketing Director, Forum APAC

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

When I was a child I was intrigued by a pretty broad range of things I could be when I grew up. Tops on the list were pilot, electrician, archaeologist, actress and Olympic gymnast. So naturally I became a marketing director.

What, if any personal challenges did you face to get into business and a leadership role and how did you overcome these?

I feel fortunate to have started in a very humble place, as overcoming challenges did shape who I am—and how I lead—today. I lived at times in fairly rough neighbourhoods, started working when I was 15 and paid my own way through university–in fact, was the first person on my Dad’s side of the family to ever graduate from university. While having role models of professional careers early on could have made things easier, my early experiences instead allowed me to use hard work, curiosity, tenacity and resilience to find my own path.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your career to date?04.02.15_Women in Business_Part 2.jpg

Early on I would have found a mentor outside of my company to help me look at my career and options more broadly.

Have you had a bad boss along the way and why was this person a poor leader?

I like to think I learned more about what NOT to do as a leader from my first boss in advertising, than what to do. While we worked hard, she took long lunches or left early to go shopping. She defaulted to what was easy versus pushing for the best ideas to serve our clients. When the work I had done earned an incentive trip from a media partner she immediately told me she and her husband would be taking it instead of me…then asked me to take care of her house and cats while she was traveling! Seeing this first hand inspired me to put the best interests of my teams, clients and organisations at the centre of my thinking AND actions.

What’s the hardest business conversation you have ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was a partner in a design agency and we had to release several of the staff because the business was struggling. While I had previously had tough developmental discussions and even fired people, this gutted me. The most important takeaways were that as a leader I needed to set aside how I was feeling and totally focus on the other person; also it reinforced the massive responsibility that comes with leadership—our decisions impact people’s lives, not just their work.

What lessons have you learnt in your personal life which have helped in business?

  • When something goes wrong, own it—apologise, fix it, learn from it and move forward.
  • It is better to over communicate than under communicate.
  • Trust your instincts—about people, ideas, opportunities, etc.
  • A positive attitude sets you on the path to success and makes it a more enjoyable journey—for you and those around you.

Who is your most admired female leader and why?

I’ve always found Grace Murray Hopper very interesting – as a scientific innovator and US Navy rear admiral she succeeded in male dominated fields, worked incredibly hard for her accomplishments and was keenly focused on the training and development of younger talent. She was quoted as saying “it is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” and also “You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership.”– so true!

Do you think women make better leaders than men and what’s the reason for your answer?

I have had the pleasure of working with wonderful male and female leaders, and both can create a compelling vision and drive its achievement—so neither is inherently better or worse at leadership. Although there might be some things that come more naturally to some than others. My direct experience is that developing employees, creating cohesive teams, building engagement and addressing the emotional side of leadership can at times be easier for female leaders, who may be more perceptive to emotional cues.

What are the strengths of women in business and how can women maximise these and build on them to get ahead?

The most successful women I know are confident in voicing their opinions, are truly concerned with the development and success of the people on their team, give praise generously and criticism thoughtfully, advocate for what is right for themselves/their teams/their businesses, stay curious and look for ways to improve things, and are amazing storytellers able to paint a vision and inspire people to follow them. At any career stage, building these strengths with training, coaching, self-reflection, practice, etc. will help women progress in leadership.

What are the weaknesses and how can they overcome them?

One of the traps into which women in leadership can fall is too much focus on consensus. Giving people opportunities to contribute, encouraging alternative ideas and ensuring people are heard are all important in making the best decisions…just remember the goal is to make the “best” decision, not the “least objectionable” one, as great ideas nearly always will have some detractors.

What is the one piece of advice you would give other women in business who are aiming to be senior leaders?

Don’t be afraid to fail, just make sure you fail forward. To have “big wins” you need to take risks, try new strategies, voice your ideas, trust your instincts and look for uncharted territory. Of course, when you do this you won’t always succeed…which is why failing forward is so important. Embrace these lessons and apply them: understand the root cause or systemic components so they are not repeated, help others to not make the same mistakes, don’t get mired in doubt or negativity, and finally, just get up try again.

How do you think leadership in the workplace will look different in 5 to 10 years’ time and how will this affect women? How is globalisation affecting this change?

Women’s role in leadership will continue to grow and this will open doors at all levels within organisations, but there is a long way to go before there is true equality in the workplace. According to a recent International Labour Organisation study, there are currently only 3 countries where women make up the majority of managers/leaders: Jamaica, Colombia, and Saint Lucia. For those of us living in other countries, female leaders continue to be the exception versus the norm, despite statistics that companies with women on boards and in leadership have higher performance. In Asia, there is a strong bias in some countries towards male leaders—but as women’s education levels continue to increase, global mobility provides more opportunities for female leaders coming into and out of these markets, and the demands for well qualified leaders continues to increase, changes will have to happen.

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Forum Named a Top 20 Sales Training Company by for Fifth Consecutive Year

March 24th, 2015 by Brian Hawthorne
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The Forum Corporation is once again pleased to announce that we have been named a Top 20 Sales Training Company by for a fifth consecutive year! This award would not be possible without the continued relationships of our exceptional clients and partners who work with us to help salespeople develop strategy-specific skills and improve their overall performance. compiles its annual Top 20 Sales Training Companies list to continually monitor the training marketplace for the best providers of outstanding service, and a proven track record for delivering superior sales training and improving the impact of the sales organization.

2015 - selected us based on the following criteria:

  • Industry recognition and impact on the sales training industry
  • Innovation in the sales training market
  • Company size and growth potential
  • Breadth of service offering
  • Strength of clients served
  • Geographic reach

In addition to our clients, we would also like to thank for this award.

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