How to Transform Promises into Results

The Agenda Mover

Be An Agenda Mover

It’s not enough to have an idea.

Ideas without action, without execution, without forward-momentum don’t matter. To make a difference, you need to have the skills to turn an idea into reality.

Leaders are people who turn ideas into something tangible, turning promises into results.


“If you cannot move your agenda, you’re not a leader.” –Samuel Bacharach


It’s a skill that anyone can learn. And Samuel B. Bacharach, the author of The Agenda Mover: When Your Good Idea Is Not Enough, is an expert in execution. He is also co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group, which focuses on training leaders in the skills of the Agenda Mover, and is the McKelvey-Grant Professor at Cornell University.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Sam about his newest book and turning ideas into reality.


Develop the Qualities of an Agenda Mover

Having a great idea is not enough. You teach a process for taking an idea into actionable reality. Before we go into your process, what leadership qualities are essential to being an effective agenda mover?

First and foremost, Agenda Movers keep their egos in check. They are aware that – no matter how good they think their idea is—there may be other perspectives out there. They understand that confidence is one thing, but they know ego can lead to delusion.

Second, Agenda Movers are deeply empathetic. I use that word in a very specific way, meaning that Agenda Movers are capable of standing in the shoes of other people and are capable of seeing the world from varied perspectives. They can see their agenda not only from their perspective but also from the perspective of others.

Third, Agenda Movers tactically focus. They are mindful of small details and tactics. They understand that charisma, bombastic ideas, and grand promises work only up to a point and that what is really needed to get things done are micro-behavioral skills.

Lastly, Agenda Movers understand that they can’t do it alone. To get anything done they need to have others in their corner. They understand the importance of coalitions, and they are able to adopt a coalition mindset.

If you look at the great Agenda Movers out there—these are the characteristics they all share.


“Agenda Movers understand what it takes to move things forward.” –Samuel Bacharach


Anticipate Motivations

The first step of your strategic blueprint is to anticipate others’ agendas and know where they’re coming from. I recall one person just totally missing it, oblivious to what seemed to be obvious signs. How do you help aspiring leaders to be more situationally aware of others and their motivations?

I think this is the number one mistake leaders make: They don’t spend enough time focusing on where others are coming from.

I remember years ago a student of mind was asking for advice on defending her dissertation in front of five faculty members I knew. The main advice I gave her was to stop focusing on her dissertation and instead to focus on the dissertations and research that the members of the committee had done. Simply put, I told her, “You know where you’re coming from. Make sure you know where they are coming from.”

Good Agenda Movers do their homework and I mean that literally. They dedicate time to figuring out there others stand, how they think, and what they want. They don’t presume they are born with situational awareness—they develop it and work on it.

Too often we look for shortcuts in trying to figure out the agendas of others. We think that if we understand their background or their personality, we can generalize their motivation and intention. This belief is both lazy and wrong. For most people, whether in organizations or in politics, motivation is determined by the specific agenda, not simply by personality.

An individual may be a staunch traditionalist on one issue and a complete revolutionary on another issue. Leaders who make quick summations about the agendas of others and don’t do their homework are bound to make mistakes.


“Leadership is about building a coalition that can turn an innovative idea into reality.” –Samuel Bacharach


How to Deal With Resistance

Gaining traction and initial support is crucial. If you’re met with resistance, what do you do?

First of all, resistance should never come as a surprise to anyone. All leaders, all organizational actors, will face resistance—it’s just a question of when and how much.

In our political and organizational systems, resistance is part and parcel of the checks and balances that improve what we’re trying to accomplish.

So for starters, don’t let resistance throw you for a loop. Don’t let it shock you. Don’t let it root you to the ground. Instead, you should expect it and have a plan to deal with it.

I argue in my book that there are only a handful of ways people can resist an idea. To the surprise of my students, this really isn’t a daunting challenge. There are a limited number of ways resistance can argue against any idea and leaders can easily defend against these arguments with a little preparation. Once you’re able to categorize the arguments of resistance, you will be able to apply your counter arguments of justification.


Leadership Tip: Know where you want to go and whose support you need to get there.


Know the 3 Types of Resistors

What’s the best way to deal with resistors?

The first thing you need to understand is what type of resistance you’re facing.

In my book I look at three main types of resistors in an organizational context: active resistors, passive resistors, and internal resistors.

While I always support leaders building a wide swath of support, they might have the hardest time convincing active resistors to join their coalition. At some point, an Agenda Mover should move on and not waste his or her time.

Good Agenda Movers focus on talking with passive resistors. They are those actors who aren’t actively undermining your efforts, but certainly are not helping them, either. Since they are on the fence, so to speak, a leader can be clever and find ways to incorporate them into his or her coalition by presenting potential benefits to them.

Lastly, there are internal resistors—those who sneak into a coalition in a Trojan Horse. Agenda Movers can prevent them from showing up by monitoring their coalition and making sure they don’t let team traction and momentum slip after an initial surge.


“Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” -Martin Luther King


How to Sustain Momentum

Once you get going, you need to sustain the momentum. How do you use small victories effectively? Why do some ideas die in this stage?

Some leaders are great at mobilizing political support for their agenda. They’re great at convincing people of the need for innovation and change. They’re great at getting others to join them. But they drop the ball once they mobilize support. It’s sort of like the politician who gets elected but doesn’t deliver.The Agenda Mover Book Jacket

These leaders stop doing their homework. They stop thinking about the team. They lose their focus and start looking toward the horizon for another big project or a big career move. As a result, they leave it to their coalition to work out the day-to-day details of implementing a new idea.

Agenda Movers can’t relax once they start building some traction. If anything, they need to work harder to drive momentum by not only celebrating small victories but also by providing the right resources and maintaining optimism. They have to supplement the prudent political competence they have used to gain support with a managerial capacity to make sure that things keep on moving. Like I said, it is one thing to gain support and it is another to deliver.


“People who produce good results feel good about themselves.” –Ken Blanchard


Is there one step in the agenda moving process where most leaders fail? 

Improve Your Leadership With the Mindfulness Edge

Be Mindful Even If Your Mind is Full

Get the Mindfulness Edge

Most of us have heard of mindfulness. These days it is all the rage in certain circles. My friend Matt Tenney is one who practices it in a way that inspires. It’s not just how he does it but also where he first learned it: in a prison cell. That’s right, my friend Matt was once behind bars where he changed his entire outlook and changed the course of his life. In fact, that dark time in his life seems to have been the best time because many people have learned from his mistakes and from what he learned through the ordeal.


“Every moment of our lives can be infused with the deepest meaning possible.” –Matt Tenney


Today, Matt Tenney works to develop highly effective leaders who achieve extraordinary long-term business outcomes—and live more fulfilling lives—as a result of realizing high levels of self-mastery. He is a social entrepreneur, an author, a keynote speaker, and a corporate trainer. Matt’s clients include Wells Fargo, Marriott, Keller Williams, Four Seasons, and many other companies, associations, and universities.

His first book, Serve to Be Great, is one I highly recommend. Now, his latest is all about mindfulness and how it can rewire your brain for success. It is a fascinating read, full of research to back up the many claims of the practice. I recently asked Matt about his latest book, The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule.


Train Your Mind for Optimal Performance

What are the key ways mindfulness can help us improve professionally and personally?

Everyone seems to agree that all successes and all failures begin in the mind. Yet very few of us take time to train the mind to function better. Most of us add knowledge through study, which can be very helpful. However, we know that a person can be very “book smart” but still have great difficulty making good decisions and/or developing and sustaining healthy relationships with other people.

Matt TenneyIt is clear that just as important as what we know is the type of mind we show up with every day. Mindfulness training provides a way to systematically develop a healthier, more effective mind, and there’s now a large body of research suggesting that mindfulness training changes the physical structure of our brains in ways that help us perform better both professionally and personally.

Perhaps most important for business, mindfulness training changes the brain in ways that enhance self-awareness and mental agility, which may be the two most important leadership skills there are. These skills reduce the degree to which we’re influenced by the biases we all have. This freedom from bias can dramatically improve our business acumen and our impact on the bottom line.

Also, self-awareness is the foundation of emotional and social intelligence, which are essential for creating and sustaining high-performance team cultures. All other things being equal, over the long term, a team with a more positive emotional climate is going to significantly outperform a team with a negative emotional climate. Mindfulness training improves our impact on the emotional climate of our teams.

Mindfulness training can also have a dramatic impact on our personal lives. The practice helps free us from unpleasant emotions like anxiety, fear, and anger and helps develop a special type of happiness that does not depend on what happens to us or what we have. We can train to develop unconditional happiness.


Mindfulness training results in highly refined levels of self-awareness.


The Biggest Mindfulness Misconception

Many people read about mindfulness and have a variety of perceptions about it. What is the biggest misconception people have about the practice?

The biggest misconception I see is that people conflate being mindful and techniques for developing mindfulness. People think engaging in mindfulness practice means we have to add to our schedules unfamiliar techniques like sitting still and watching our breath go in and out. Sitting still and watching our breath is not necessarily mindfulness practice. It is one technique, of many, that can facilitate the development of mindfulness.

To begin practicing mindfulness, you don’t need to add anything to your schedule. You just need to make and sustain a subtle inner shift during the activities you already engage in every day.


Study: Mindfulness training results in physical changes to the structure of the brain.


What’s your definition of mindfulness?

The Secret Weapon That Solves Your Toughest Sales Challenges

Secret Weapon


Is it possible to increase innovation in sales and achieve higher growth?

How can diverse perspectives increase your sales results?

Is there a consistent way to increase the likelihood of closing your biggest deals?

Does your organization have a high-potential opportunity?


Last year, I was presenting at a conference in Africa. The theme of the conference was based on an African proverb:


“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” –African Proverb


That night, as I enjoyed a memorable dinner with the unique, powerful sound of an African choir ringing in my ears, I reflected on this proverb. Its wisdom struck me in a new way at a deep level. So many major corporate initiatives are stymied because one person wants to act alone. The motivation to act alone may be rooted in the idea of a hero, or it may be simply because someone wants to demonstrate personal accountability.

Still, going farther requires collaboration.


“The best sales-driven companies have developed the habit of conscious collaboration.” –Tim Sanders


Debunking Creativity Myths

Recent studies on innovation and creativity have debunked the myth that innovation happens in the eureka moment. I’ve interviewed numerous experts who tell me creativity happens more in teams than alone.

And so, when I read Tim Sander’s new book Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges, I found myself smiling as I saw these truths eloquently memorialized and backed up with research and experience.

Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges is a monumental book not only for sales leaders but also for all corporate leaders. Whether saving, reclaiming, or winning new business, the techniques Tim shares are proven and actionable. Every organization wants to improve its results, and this is the best blueprint for achieving higher growth that I’ve seen in years.

But, beyond the dealstorm, the techniques in this book teach collaborative practices. The relationships built in this process do not stop with the sale, but continue, fostering a sense of purpose well beyond the deal.

I’m convinced that the techniques in Dealstorming will help you close more business, build better relationships, and increase your organization’s creativity.


“Innovating is not a way of doing things; it’s a mode of thinking.” –Tim Sanders


How to Win the Complex Sale 

Many people think that the sales process is impossible to define and one where you just go with your gut. In your new book, Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges, you reveal that the sales process is just the opposite: a structured, repeatable process any team can use to win the large, complex sale. What experience and research led you to this conclusion?

Over my 30+ year sales career, I’ve noticed that despite the sharpest of perspectives, without a process you get a mess. The Funnel Activity Management System has been in place for decades, where managers focus on key metrics like cold calls or closing ratios in order to produce a predictable level of sales. Or so one might think.

Throughout that process, the rep used his or her gut feeling to determine which product to pitch, how hard to close and when to move on. But today, that system is necessary, but no longer sufficient for landing high quality sales.

Around the turn of the 21st century, I began to develop the sales collaboration process I call Dealstorming. At Yahoo, while leading the ValueLab and then serving as Chief Solutions Officer, I had the opportunity to participate in 40+ strategic selling situations, where theories were tested and then measured in dollars and cents. Over the last decade, I’ve refined this process through my consultancy, where we’ve participated in 60+ dealstorms at a variety of business-to-business companies. The range of experiences has helped me create a scalable process where managers could leverage a few successful Dealstorms to train the Account Executive on how to run their own.

In writing this book, I have interviewed 200+ sales leaders to understand how they’ve approached problem solving at the deal level, and what works in today’s global-social-mobile world. Collectively, all of these experiences have produced a way of innovating at the deal level that will work for small businesses and enterprises alike. Sometimes the ‘storms will be terrific trios and in other cases, an alliance of many.


Copyright Tim Sanders. Used by Permission Copyright Tim Sanders. Used by Permission

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Know the 4 Levels of the Sale

Get The Best from Yourself And Others

Success Starts With Your Thoughts

My friend Lee Colan is the author of 13 books and the co-founder of The L Group. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him about leadership and attitude and consistent execution (or what Lee calls adherence).

Lee reminds us that so much of our success starts with our thoughts. Thoughts influence our beliefs, which influence our words. Our words reflect our commitments, which influence our choice of actions. Ultimately, our actions influence the results we achieve.


But it all starts with the thoughts in our head.

As Lee says it, “Your thoughts today lead to your results tomorrow.”

In this brief interview, Lee shares more about this model and why consistent execution is so important.

Below are a few stand-out quotes from Lee:


“Your thoughts today lead to your results tomorrow.” –Lee Colan


“Winning depends less on a brilliant plan than on consistent actions.” –Lee Colan


“Those who underestimate the intelligence of others tend to overestimate their own.” –Lee Colan


“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to be great.” –Lee Colan


“The most important conversation you will ever have is the one with yourself.” –Lee Colan

How to Orchestrate Your Attitude

Choose A Positive Attitude
This is a guest post by Lee Colan and Julie Davis-Colan of The L Group, Inc., a consulting firm that has served leaders at every level since 1999. They are the authors of Getting the Best from Yourself and Others.

Your Attitude Determines Your Success

How do you measure success? Is it by financial security, career growth, community involvement, quality of relationships, spiritual centeredness or the legacy you leave? Whichever measure you choose, your attitude is the single most important factor in achieving success.


“Your attitude is the single most important factor in achieving success.”


The topic of attitude can be conceptual and confusing. In fact, as we go through life we often hear phrases like, “Keep your chin up,” “Look on the bright side,” or “You need a winning attitude.” Unfortunately, we seldom know how to convert these soft sayings into hard results.

The great news is that even in the worst situations – a victim of a natural disaster, prisoner of war, target of abuse or when hit by a string of unfortunate circumstances – your attitude is something you can always control!

When we control our attitude we influence how our body responds and performs. Where our thoughts and attitudes go, our bodies follow. For example, blushing is a physical reaction to a mere thought. If we have this kind of reaction to a thought, is it such a leap of faith to believe that we can orchestrate our attitudes to affect our bodies in beneficial ways?


“The choice of attitude is yours. Tomorrow you will become what you choose today.”


A landmark study shed light on the ultimate benefit of a positive attitude. In this particular study, participants who were more positive lived an average of 10 years longer than the other participants. Considering that smoking has been shown to reduce life expectancy by 5.5 years for men and 7 years for women, your attitude might be a health risk factor worth paying real attention to.

The choice of attitude is yours. Tomorrow you will become what you choose today.


Study: positive participants lived 10 years longer than other participants.


A Script for Orchestrating Attitude

There are three aspects of the script that work in concert: thoughts, words and actions. By orchestrating each aspect with conscious responses, we positively influence our beliefs, commitments and results.


Orchestrating Attitude Script


The script plays out like this:

  • Thoughts, the way we choose to interpret our world, directly influence our beliefs.
  • Beliefs directly influence the words we choose to speak to others, and more importantly, to ourselves.
  • Words reflect our commitments to ourselves and others.
  • Commitments influence our choice of actions.
  • Finally, our actions directly influence the results we achieve.

This script is self-reinforcing, for better or for worse. The results we achieve reinforce our thoughts, and the same script is played out again. So, it all starts with our thoughts. Our thoughts today influence our results tomorrow.