The Executive’s Guide to Better Listening

April 14, 2013

Good listening—the active and disciplined activity of probing and challenging the information garnered from others to improve its quality and quantity—is the key to building a base of knowledge that generates fresh insights and ideas. Put more strongly, good listening, in my experience, can often mean the difference between success and failure in business ventures (and hence between a longer career and a shorter one).”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, The Executive’s Guide to Better Listening, by Bernard T. Ferrari.

In this February 2012 McKinsey Quarterly article, the author describes the power of effective listening skills to engage and develop talent, drive innovation, and facilitate organizational results.  We all could use a reminder of the importance of listening and this article provides some tools to help us achieve expertise as effective listeners.  If you want to lead effectively, you need to practice listening skills.

“Throughout my career, I’ve observed that good listeners tend to make better decisions, based on better-informed judgments, than ordinary or poor listeners do—and hence tend to be better leaders. By showing respect to our conversation partners, remaining quiet so they can speak, and actively opening ourselves up to facts that undermine our beliefs, we can all better cultivate this valuable skill.”

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious™ strategist

What do you think?  Please add your comments to join the discussion!

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You don’t need to have all the answers

October 2, 2011


Digging out of the Answer-Person Hole 09-19-2011

There are times when a leader must refrain from giving advice and offering opinions; yet such restraint is difficult. After all, you’re paid to provide solutions….aren’t you? So you don’t pause to consider, in the moment, about whether it’s appropriate to give your opinions and advice. When asked, your mouth opens and you speak your truth without considering the consequences.”

The preceding quote is from the latest “DFS Learning e-Blast” article, “Digging out of the Answer-Person Hole”, by Mary Jo Asmus.

In this March 1, 2010 posting on the Aspire Collaborative Services Leadership Solutions blog, the author provides a simple message on the necessity to let your staff develop by finding their own solutions.

As you read this article, think about your skills in delegation and situational leadership and your ability to match your leadership style to the readiness of your individual team members and the total team.

More from the article:

When you support your staff in developing their own solutions and opinions, you’ve not only supported their growth, but you also free up yourself to do work that has a higher priority for you and your organization.”

Read the short article to learn more!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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5 “easy” steps to a winning corporate culture

March 12, 2008

DISCUSSION TOPIC:  Five Steps to Build a Winning Corporate Culture


In a recent article in Convenience Store Decisions magazine (, Gary Bradt discusses his views on creating a winning company culture:

Some leadership teams attempt to create culture by acting as wordsmiths, spending untold hours carefully crafting vision, mission and values statements. That’s unfortunate, because in the end culture is not created by words plastered on the wall or carried around on laminated cards, but rather culture is defined by actions on the ground.

A winning company culture is simple and emphasizes three areas: serving the customer, growing the business, and developing employees. A losing culture is confusing and complex, places customer needs behind those of the company, and emphasizes personal gain over team achievement.

The author goes on to describe a “simple” 5 step process for creating a winning culture.

Discussion questions: Do you agree with the premise that creating a winning culture is simple? Do you think most company leaders are able to define what their organization is all about without outside help?

My post:

This is an incredibly critical topic and I am not surprised by the outpouring of opinions.  Culture building is never easy, although the process the author describes is certainly straight-forward.  The visioning process is necessary, in that it forces leaders to pause long enough to articulate the company story and their own stories; a process which uncovers core values that eventually turn into vision/mission statements and the rest.  Until the leaders go through this process, many stumble through their interactions with each other and subordinates never realizing the impact their actions have on the culture.

The visioning process must involve all leadership levels and as many key front line employees as possible so everyone feels a part of the process.  Understanding the story of the company, the values represented by that story, and how each employee’s actions impact the story are all critical elements.  Once complete, the success of the process long term depends on how leaders’ behaviors do or do not link to the vision/mission, and how people who violate the values are handled.

Finally, the visioning process is never truly finished, as our retail world is ever-changing and companies must constantly evaluate how their story fits in with the changing individual customer and employee stories.

It’s a hard process, but energizing and exciting!

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! TM strategist



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Creating a ‘Wow’ Shopping Experience

January 18, 2008

Creating a ‘Wow’ Shopping Experience – 1/18/08



While rare at retail, a “WOW” shopping experience generates four times the word-of-mouth than a problem experience, according a survey from Verde Group and Wharton.

The survey showed that customers receiving an especially positive experience are likely to tell seven other people on average about the experience while those receiving a negative experience told 1.5 people.

But it also showed that such experiences are fairly rare – only 51 percent of women admitted to having a “WOW” experience in their entire shopping history, and only 39 percent of men did.

 Discussion Questions:

Is it practical to train or inspire sales associates to create “WOW” shopping experiences? What are some retailers known for top customer service doing to help create incidents of “extraordinary service”?

My post:

It is not only practical to train and inspire sales associates to enable “WOW” shopping experiences, it is essential.  Note that I said “enable” vs. “create”.  It is folly to assume we can create these experiences.  The creation process is mutual, between the associate and the customer and is defined by both individuals and the situation. 

Keys to enabling WOW experiences: 

  1. Have a WOW culture.   A company culture that is all about a vision of wowed customers and wowed associates.  Yes, the associates need to be wowed too.  Wowed to be a part of a company so in tune with why they would choose to work there, and wowed to be a part of a company so determined to provide wonderful product to their beloved customers in positively memorable ways.
  2. Make it easy.  Examine every customer touch point and every associate touch point.  Seek out, identify, and remove without ceremony anything standing between your associates’ and your customers’ WOW experiences.  Things like unnecessary reports, policies & procedures, unclear marketing or merchandising, etc., all create barriers.  Knock them down!
  3. Recognize, reward, recognize, reward.  Look for ways to recognize and reward associates and customers for exhibiting desired behaviors.  And not just the big ones – the best recognition comes daily for the small “ordinary miracles” referenced in the article.  When you find them, reward them – usually a sincere and specific “thank you” does the trick – for both associates and customers.

 Why isn’t this already happening for most retailers?  The choice has not been made to focus on #1.  The choice has been to focus on short term financial results, to the detriment of not only customer experiences, but talent development, product development, marketing, store design and more.  My hope is that retailers are using the current business climate to reassess what they have been focusing on and realize that they must focus first on their people and their customer and then the long term, sustainable growth and profits will follow.  Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! strategist



Dare to be Contagious! ™ blog launches!

December 31, 2007

Happy New Year’s Eve! 

As we transition to 2008, I am launching my blog, “Dare to be Contagious! ™

As you may know, after 25 years as a successful retail executive I recently left my role as SVP/GM for Harry & David Stores to launch my own venture, “Osorio Group.”  If this is your first time “meeting” me, check the “about” page for a bit more on my biography.

Osorio Group will be an umbrella firm covering my public speaking, consulting, and coaching services.  My site,, launches this coming Saturday, January 5th, 2008.  I invite you to check out the site and let me know what you think!  I look forward to your feedback and hopefully your referrals too!

So what’s this blog all about?  Dare to be Contagious! ™ is the tagline and philosophy for my new venture.  It refers to my belief that knowledge is only powerful when it is shared with others to enrich, enlighten, and enhance their lives.

I am a “lifelong learner”.  I love to devour information gleaned from articles, books, presentations and most importantly, conversations.  The internet has, of course, dramatically increased the resources available to me.  I have always sought to bring new thinking, ideas, tips and techniques to my workplaces.  I believe that the companies I worked for and the bosses, peers, and subordinates I worked with benefitted from this knowledge transfer in terms of increased sales & profits, improved processes, products & services, and the significant and ongoing development of talent.

My new venture will allow me to continue transferring knowledge through speaking engagements, consulting, and coaching.  Plus, I will have two free email products which will allow me to communicate to an opted-in audience on a regular basis.  In the future, I also plan on having teleseminars and other web-based products to reach even more people.

I am certainly following my own advice to “be contagious” with my knowledge.  But even these methods will not completely fulfill my mission to pass on knowledge and passion.  Therefore, I have launched this blog as a means to communicate freely whenever the need strikes me.

The blog will include postings on retail:  trends, branding, consumer behavior, leadership, talent development, and more.  I will also post on other areas I am passionate about:  food, wine, travel, music, art, etc.

I hope you will find the blog interesting and that it provides value among all your sources of information, learning, and entertainment.  Please post your comments (freely and often!) by clicking on the “comments” link below each post. 

 See you in 2008!