Achieving Success Through Focused Synergy and Music
Jazz pianist and speaker to over 250,000 salespeople across the world, Robert Van Arlen takes the title of his book, Focused Synergy, and shows you how developing synergy is the key to success in life, in teams and in organizations. His inspirational message can help anyone who is looking to improve teamwork, work through change management or who is struggling to achieve customer satisfaction.
SPEAKING.COM: How did you make the transition from transforming the legal publishing industry to becoming an inspirational speaker and leadership & sales trainer?
VAN ARLEN: My leadership role in the legal publishing industry was focused around transitioning the company into the next era. This industry was one of the first to experience a digital revolution, so there was no footprint to follow. My role was to come up with strategies and initiatives to guide our internal teams and convince our customers that our technology was the future of publishing. I also had to make tough decisions regarding which personnel to retain and which to let go.
What I enjoyed the most while I was in the corporate world was inspiring my teams after the changes were made. This helped me realize that I had a natural talent for speaking and training, and I wanted to develop it further. I then began to create engaging events for our customers and teams. These events became the platform that led to my personal transition to full time speaking, training and coaching.
SPEAKING.COM: What does “Focused Synergy” mean, and how can it be used to improve success in life, team building, and in organizational development?
VAN ARLEN: Focused Synergy is a process for personal and organizational growth. It is based on the belief that if you set extremely specific goals, gather the right team of experts to support you in your learning and growth, and give your all to the pursuit of your dreams, you will be successful. It is defined as precise, combined velocity. This process supports and ignites an inner drive to achieve success.
SPEAKING.COM: How has being a musician influenced your approach to speaking?
VAN ARLEN: The first thing you learn as a musician is that you have to practice. No matter how good a player you are, you still have to commit to practicing. Being a musician also provided me the opportunity to expand my creativity. I use the same elements of practice and creativity to push engagement in my approach to speaking.
SPEAKING.COM: What steps do you take to make a stronger commitment to personal accountability for leaders and C-suite executives, and why is this essential?
VAN ARLEN: I teach leaders that they have to own their performance. Using a music analogy, it is a leader’s responsibility to establish a vision that inspires creativity and the drive to practice. They need to visualize the experience of a flawless performance and how that performance translates into results.
The first step is committing to engagement. This requires understanding what is going to help each member of the team thrive. Know their whys. Why are they staying with your organization? This can be accomplished through employee surveys, town-hall meetings, or just informal conversation.
The second step is defining excellence. What differentiates your company from everyone else in your industry? I describe this as a company’s “Genre of Excellence” and the strategy of dominance. It’s difficult for any organization to be good at everything.
In my leadership training programs, I help leaders define and focus on one or two areas that they want to be known for in their industry. This could be a specific strategy, such as marketing, innovation, service, product development, or technology. Once this strategy is identified, the leader must commit to promoting and measuring this capability frequently. Everyone in the organization needs to understand that the company’s goal is to be the best in the industry at this specific strategy.
The third step is mastery. Now that the leader has committed to their Genre of Excellence, they can begin to define mastery.
Mastery is a level of practice that becomes the core of the culture, which leads to step four: deciding what type of community you want to achieve as an organization. This is the ecosystem of where the company lives. Everyone who is impacted by the organization contributes to the determination of culture or community. This community includes staff members, customers, suppliers, and even the competitors.
SPEAKING.COM: What’s one of your most successful examples of igniting change within a company?
VAN ARLEN: I have many examples, but one that stands out is a company that wanted to diversify into markets beyond their core. They were a 100+ year-old company that was very successful. They had recently promoted someone to the CEO position who had a conservative approach to everything. From the way he dressed to the way he spoke, there was no fire, but a great deal of potential.
I was given the opportunity to work with him and his entire senior leadership team. He was open to creativity and adopted my paradigm for music and leadership as a way to inspire his people. We worked diligently on ways that he could connect and ignite his entire team of employees.
It ended up becoming a complete CEO makeover, where he learned to take engagement personally. He did not pass it along to HR and hope for the best. He took charge and led the process. He used their new mission, “Vision, Mission, and Values,” as his content for change.
I wrote a song for him, and he opened every meeting singing. Although it sounds trivial, it ignited record growth in both their core markets, and they successfully captured new global opportunities. The company’s stock price soared as analysts recognized how the change in culture transformed the organization.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the most effective ways you teach people in the corporate environment to be engaged?
VAN ARLEN: When I speak or train, engagement is always present. Each audience member is given an instrument to participate, illustrating the power of participation and teamwork. This experience takes them way outside of their comfort zone and gives me the perfect opportunity to make changes to their work team.
SPEAKING.COM: How important is a proactive versus a reactive culture in an organization’s “journey to excellence?”
VAN ARLEN: This is a great question. Organizations that know what type of culture they want are in the best position to achieve excellence. It’s more than just banners on walls and websites with smiling employees. It’s a constant commitment to living the values. Proactive cultures take time to reinforce their values, and they recognize and reward individuals that represent their values.
SPEAKING.COM: Can you explain the “power of differentiation” and why it’s such an important component of your philosophy?
VAN ARLEN: Differentiation is something that can be established. Ultimately, it is experience gained through persistence and achievement.
My philosophy is make your difference recognizable. It is your marketing advantage that should be exploited as long as it is something that your prospects and customers can see, feel and support. Organizations that can demonstrate how they’re different can expand their organic growth through referrals. Referrals are the most efficient way to grow sales. In my eyes, this is true power.
SPEAKING.COM: Which one would you consider to be the highest priority to transforming a company – sales, service or leadership? Or are all three equal components in making your plan work?
VAN ARLEN: Transforming the organization should always begin at the top. If the leadership of an organization does not buy into the transformation process, it becomes difficult to build traction. Leaders need to determine what functional areas in the organization need to be transformed based on their vision and goals.
To bring Robert Van Arlen to your organization to inspire excellence in your business using music as a metaphor, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com.
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