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Updated: 1 hour 14 min ago

Robert Iger's 20 Leadership Lessons

Mon, 10/14/2019 - 12:39

ROBERT IGER has worked for the same company for forty-five years: twenty-two of them at ABC, and another twenty-three at Disney, after Disney acquired ABC in 1995—the last fourteen of those years, as the CEO of Disney. He shares it all in The Ride of a Lifetime. Like the biggest, most exciting rides were once called at Disneyland, he says his time as CEO of Disney has been like a fourteen-year ride on a giant E-Ticket attraction.

After sharing a bit of his background, he quickly delves into his career beginning at ABC, and the lessons he’s learned and the principles that have guided him that help “nurture the good and manage the bad.”

He explains the thinking behind his habit of waking at 4:15 am.

It’s vital to create space in each day to let your thoughts wander beyond your immediate job responsibilities, to turn things over in your mind in a less pressured, more creative way than is possible once the daily triage kicks in. I am certain I’d be less productive and less creative in my work if I didn’t also spend those first hours away from the emails and text messages and phone calls that require so much attention as the day goes on.

Iger writes of the key mentors in his career and his relationship with Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and Michael Eisner. Iger truly embraces innovation. When he took over as CEO in 2005, he laid out three strategic priorities saying it should be about the future, not the past: Recommit to the concept that quality matters, embrace technology instead of fighting it, and think bigger—think global—and turn Disney into a stronger brand in international markets.

These priorities have guided the company through all of the growth and acquisitions since he was named CEO. Today, Disney is the largest media company in the world, counting Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox among its properties. Its value is nearly five times what it was when Iger took over.

You have to approach your work and life with a sense of genuine humility. The success I’ve enjoyed has been due in part to my own efforts, but it’s also been due to so much beyond me, the effort and support and examples of so many people, and to twists of fate beyond my control.

What follows are 20 leadership lessons from the book but stripped of the stories that brought them to life. You’ll have to read the book to get that.

1
I talk a lot about “the relentless pursuit of perfection.” In practice, this can mean a lot of things, and it’s hard to define. It’s a mindset, more than a specific set of rules. It’s not about perfectionism at all costs. It’s about creating an environment in which people refuse to accept mediocrity. It’s about pushing back against the urge to say that “good enough” is good enough.

2
Be decent to people. Treat everyone with fairness and empathy. This doesn’t mean that you lower your expectations or convey the message that mistakes don’t matter. It means that you create an environment where people know you’ll hear them out, that you’re emotionally consistent and fair-minded, and that they’ll be given second choices for honest mistakes. Excellence and fairness don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Strive for perfection but always be aware of the pitfalls of caring only about the product and never the people.

3
True integrity—a sense of knowing who you are and being guided by your own clear sense of right and wrong—is a kind of secret weapon.

4
Value ability more than experience, and put people in roles that require more of them than they know they have in them.

5
Do not fake anything. You have to be humble, and you can’t pretend to be someone you’re not or to know something you don’t. True authority and true leadership come from knowing who you are and not pretending to be anything else.

6
Don’t start negatively and don’t start small. People will often focus on little details as a way of masking a lack of any clear, coherent, big thoughts. If you start petty, you seem petty.

7
Don’t let ambition get ahead of opportunity. By fixating on a future job or project, you become impatient with where you are. You don’t tend enough to the responsibilities you do have, and so ambition can become counterproductive. It’s important to know how to find the balance—do the job you have well; be patient; look for opportunities to pitch in and expand and grow; and make yourself one of the people, through attitude and energy and focus, whom your bosses feel they have to turn to when an opportunity arises.

8
My former boss Dan Burke [ABC] once handed me a note that said: “Avoid getting into the business of manufacturing trombone oil. You may become the greatest trombone-oil manufacturer in the world, but in the end, the world only consumes a few quarts of oil a year!” He was telling me not to invest in small projects that would sap my and the company’s resources and not give much back. I still have that note in my desk, and I use it when talking to our executives about what to pursue and where to put their energy.

9
We all want to believe we’re indispensable. You have to be self-aware enough that you don’t cling to the notion that you are the only person who can do this job. At its essence, good leadership isn’t about being indispensable; it’s about helping others be prepared to step into your shoes—giving them access to your own decision-making, identifying the skills they need to develop and helping them improve, and sometimes being honest with them about why they’re not ready for the next step up.

10
Too often, we lead from a place of fear rather than courage, stubbornly trying to build a bulwark to protect old models that can’t possibly survive the sea change that is underway. It’s hard to look at your current models, sometimes even ones that are profitable in the moment, and make a decision to undermine them in order to face the change that’s coming.

11
Optimism emerges from faith in yourself and in the people who work for you. It’s not about saying things are good when they’re not, and it’s not about conveying some blind faith that “things will work out.” It’s about believing in your and others’ abilities.

12
People sometimes shy away from big swings because they build a case against trying something before they even step up to the plate. Long shots aren’t usually as long as they seem. With enough thoughtfulness and commitment, the boldest ideas can be executed.

13
You have to convey your priorities clearly and repeatedly. If you don’t articulate your priorities clearly, then the people around you don’t know what their own should be. Time and energy and capital get wasted.

14
You can do a lot for the morale of the people around you (and therefore the people around them) just by taking the guesswork out of their day-to-day life. A lot of work is complex and requires intense amounts of focus and energy, but this kind of messaging is fairly simple: This is where we want to be. This is how we’re going to get there.

15
It’s easy to be optimistic when everyone is telling you you’re great. It’s much harder, and much more necessary, when your sense of yourself is on the line.

16
As a leader, you are the embodiment of that company. What that means is this: Your values—your sense of integrity and decency and honesty, the way you comport yourself in the world—are a stand-in for the values of the company. You can be the head of a seven-person organization or a quarter-million-person organization, and the same truth holds: what people think of you is what they think of your company.

17
Projecting your anxiety onto your team is counterproductive. It’s subtle, but heirs a difference between communicating that you share their stress—that you’re in it with them—and communicating that you need them to deliver in order to alleviate your stress.

18
The decision to disrupt a business model that is working for you requires no small amount of courage. It means intentionally taking on short-term losses in the hope that a long-term risk will pay off. Routines and priorities get disrupted. Traditional ways of doing business get slowly marginalized and eroded—and start to lose money—as a new model takes over. That’s a big ask, in terms of a company’s culture and mindset. When you do it, you’re saying to people who for their entire careers have been compensated based on the success of their traditional business: “Don’t worry about that too much anymore. Worry about this instead.” But this isn’t profitable yet, and won’t be for a while. Deal with this kind of uncertainty by going back to basics: Lay out your strategic priorities clearly. Remain optimistic in the face of the unknown. And be accessible and fair-minded to people whose work lives are being thrown into disarray.

19
It’s not good to have power for too long. You don’t realize the way your voice seems to boom louder than every other voice in the room. You get used to people withholding their opinions until they hear what you have to say. People are afraid to bring ideas to you, afraid to dissent, afraid to engage. This can happen even to the most well-intentioned leaders. You have to work consciously and actively to fend off its corrosive effects.

20
Hold on to your awareness of yourself, even as the world tells you how important and powerful you are. The moment you start to believe it all too much, the moment you look at yourself in the mirror and see a title emblazoned on your forehead, you’ve lost your way.

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Categories: Blogs

What Every Business Leader Needs to Know to Thrive in an Economic Downturn

Wed, 10/09/2019 - 03:40

A convergence of troubling signs forecast a looming economic downturn. Many believe it’s certain that a recession is pending.

Proactive business leaders aren’t worried. They see any economic change as a springboard for profitable growth and competitive advantage. Rather than spreading a message of caution, worry or gloom, they’re sending a more strategic message: “We will not decline when the economy falters. We will instead show the market what we’re made of.”

The strategic leader knows the importance of stepping out of the busyness of business despite the temptation to go faster in times of economic uncertainty. But speeding up only adds pressure and overwhelms the workforce. Stretching employees to the limit by having them put in longer hours, sell more, and get faster results only leads to burnout and neglects the longer view. By attending to the here-and-now and neglecting the longer view or bigger picture, organizational leaders and their teams may do well enough for a while. But they’re unlikely to thrive over time.

True success lies in knowing when to slow down and when to speed up. Building in a strategic pause, or deliberate break in the day -- or week or month -- allows leaders to stop doing and start thinking. It allows time for developing a high-impact plan of action with clear accountabilities, timelines, and pathways of communication. They can then come away with a renewed sense of confidence, purpose, and optimism.

To recession-proof their businesses, companies should be slowing down and allowing time to identify ways to be proactive, strategic, and future-focused.

Use strategic pauses to assess these six factors that can lead to accelerated growth and a recession-proof business:

1. Assess the competition. Make time to understand in which ways the competition has the advantage. What are your competitors’ gaps or weaknesses? How can you differentiate and elevate your organization to gain advantage and increase market share?

2. Assess your organization. Determine where you are today as a team and a company. What do you bring? What are your signature strengths and talents? Do you have the right people in the right roles, doing the right things to ensure success today and accelerate growth and innovation for a stellar future? And, importantly, are you adding value in ways that mean the most to you, the company, the customer, and your clients?

3. Assess the market. What will differentiate your organization as a future-focused, customer-centric, innovation-driving engine of growth? Where will you see profitable openings in the market? Ask yourself: Will less agile organizations struggle to keep up? How will we pick up customers in need of access to the products and services we offer? Which new products and services can we provide to fill the void?

4. Assess risk. Where might you lose market share in the face of an economic downturn? Which employees are likely to become worried about the future of the company or industry? What’s your plan for retaining and developing your top talent?

5. Look out over the horizon. While it’s essential to continue providing exceptional customer service, product reliability, and your tried-and-true client offerings, you must also be laser-focused on driving meaningful innovation that improves all your product lines and service offerings.

6. Assure your stakeholders. Make sure that your employees, customers, and investors see you and your company as confident, courageous, savvy, and ready to make the most of any economic shifts that come along.

Slowing down and pausing can feel implausible and impractical in the midst of an economic free-fall. But by taking the time to develop a more thoughtful path forward, you will be ensuring your success in any economic climate.

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Liz Bywater, Ph.D., works with senior executives and teams across an array of companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AmerisourceBergen, and Nike. She brings a rapidly actionable framework for success, which is captured in her book, Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World. She writes a monthly column for Life Science Leader and provides expert commentary for the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, FierceCEO, and other top media outlets. Learn more at lizbywater.com.

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Categories: Blogs

Stephen Schwarzman’s 25 Rules for Work & Life

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 09:51

BLACKSTONE chairman, CEO, and co-founder Stephen Schwarzman has written a book about the potential that can be realized when you combine personal responsibility with ambition. What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence chronicles his life leading up to the founding of Blackstone and the journey to build it into what it has become today. He shares the lessons and the opportunities that have come his way as a result of his success. It is inspiring and instructive. Well worth the time to read.

Schwarzman grew up in a successful entrepreneurial family selling curtains and linens in Philadelphia. His Dad was content with the one store. Schwarzman was not. He had more ambition. Even in high school he wanted to create something more than the status quo. Through connections and hard work, he got a popular rhythm and blues group of the late 50s, Little Anthony and the Imperials, to come and play at his school. He learned that “if you want something badly enough, you can find a way. You can create it out of nothing. But wanting something isn’t enough. If you’re going to pursue difficult goals, you’re inevitably going to fall short sometimes. It’s one of the costs of ambition.” But you try anyway.

With good grades and being fleet-of-foot, he was admitted to Yale University. Like most freshmen, he was lonely and intimidated. He got through it and during the summer he grew in confidence by taking a job at sea. With a new mindset he began his sophomore year determined to make it create something out of nothing as he did in high school. He started a dorm room business and a dance society to bring girls around. His determination and creativity make for a good read.

After graduation he got a job at Donaldson Lufkin Jenrette, went to Harvard Business School and ended up at Lehman. This is where he really learned about finance and discovered his strengths. He left Lehman and in 1985 Schwarzman co-founded Blackstone with his mentor and friend Pete Peterson with a $400,000 investment. Today, Blackstone has over $500 billion in assets under management. But as with all new ventures it had its share of inflection points, setbacks and disappointments.

He says, “To be successful you have to put yourself in situations and places you have no right being in. You shake your head at your stupidity. Bu through sheer will, you wear the world down, and it gives you what you want.” Here are 25 more rules for work and life that are woven throughout his book:

1
It’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, so reach for a fantasy worthy of your pursuit, with rewards commensurate to your effort.

2
The best executives are made, not born. They never stop learning. Study the people and organizations in your life that have had enormous success. They offer a free course from the real world to help you improve.

3
Write or call the people you admire, and ask for advice or a meeting. You never know who will be willing to meet with you. You may end up learning something important or form a connection you can leverage for the rest of your life. Meeting people early in life creates an unusual bond.

4
There is nothing more interesting to people than their own problems. Think about what others are dealing with, and try to come up with ideas to help them. Almost anyone, however senior or important, is receptive to good ideas provided you are thoughtful.

5
Every business is a closed, integrated system with a set of distinct but interrelated parts. Great managers understand how each part works on its own and in relation to all the others.

6
Information is the most important asset in business. The more you know, the more perspectives you have, and the more likely you are to spot patterns and anomalies before your competition. So always be open to new inputs, whether they are people, experiences, or knowledge.

7
When you’re young, only take a job that provides you with a steep learning curve and strong training. First jobs are foundational. Don’t take a job just because it seems prestigious.

8
When presenting yourself, remember that impressions matter. The whole picture has to be right. Others will be watching for all sorts of clues and cues that tell who you are. Be on time. Be authentic. Be prepared.

9
No one person, however smart, can solve every problem. But an army of smart people talking openly with one another will.

10
People in a tough spot often focus on their own problems, when the answer usually lies in fixing someone else’s.

11
Believe in something greater than yourself and your personal needs. It can be your company, your country, or a duty for service. Any challenge you tackle that is inspired by your beliefs and core values will be worth it, regardless of whether you succeed or fail.

12
Never deviate from your sense of right and wrong. Your integrity must be unquestionable. It is easy to do what’s right when you don’t have to write a check or suffer any consequences. It’s harder when you have to give something up. Always do what you say you will, and never mislead anyone for your own advantage.

13
Be bold. Successful entrepreneurs, managers, and individuals have the confidence and courage to act when the moment seems right. They accept risk when others are cautious and take action when everyone else is frozen, but they do so smartly. This trait is the mark of a leader.

14
Never get complacent. Nothing is forever. Whether it is an individual or a business, your competition will defeat you if you are not constantly seeking ways to reinvent and improve yourself. Organizations, especially, are more fragile than you think.

15
Sales rarely get made on the first pitch. Just because you believe in something doesn’t mean everyone else will. You need to be able to sell your vision with conviction over and over again. Most people don’t like change, so you need to be able to convince them why they should accept it. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want.

16
If you see a huge, transformative opportunity, don’t worry that no one else is pursuing it. You might be seeing something others don’t. The harder the problem is, the more limited the competition, and the greater the reward for whomever can solve it.

17
Success comes down to rare moments of opportunity. Be open, alert, and ready to seize them. Gather the right people and resources; then commit. If you’re not prepared to apply that kind of effort, either the opportunity isn’t as compelling as you think or you are not the right person to pursue it.

18
Time wounds all deals, sometimes even fatally. Often the longer you wait, the more surprises await you. In tough negotiations especially, keep everyone at the table long enough to reach an agreement.

19
Don’t lose money!!! Objectively assess the risks of every opportunity.

20
Make decisions when you are ready, not under pressure. Others will always push you to make a decision for their own purposes, internal politics, or some other external need. But you can almost always say, “I think I need a little more time to think about this. I’ll get back to you.” This tactic is very effective at defusing even the most difficult and uncomfortable situations.

21
Worrying is an active, liberating activity. If channeled appropriately, it allows you to articulate the downside in any situation and drives you to take action to avoid it.

22
Failure is the best teacher in an organization. Talk about failures openly and objectively. Analyze what went wrong. You will learn new rules for decision making and organizational behavior. If evaluated well, failures have the potential to change the course of any organization and make it more successful in the future.

23
Hire 10s whenever you can. They are proactive about sensing problems, designing solutions, and taking a business in new directions. They also attract and hire other 10s. You can always build something around a 10.

24
Be there for the people you know to be good, even when everyone else is walking away. Anyone can end up in a tough situation. A random act of kindness in someone’s time of need can change the course of a life and create an unexpected friendship or loyalty.

25
Everyone has dreams. Do what you can to help others achieve theirs.

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Categories: Blogs

7 Steps to Bulletproof Problem Solving

Thu, 10/03/2019 - 06:30

THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM’S Future of Jobs Report lists complex problem-solving as the number one skill for jobs in 2020. Organizations are looking for people that can define problems and form solid creative responses.

Like leaders themselves, good problem solvers are made, not born. Yet these skills are rarely taught. That’s where Bulletproof Problem Solving comes in. McKinsey alums Charles Conn and Rob McLean teach us how to be bulletproof problem solvers using a simple 7-steps approach.

The approach has its foundation in the hypothesis-driven structure of the scientific method. This process is not just applicable to business but is useful in finding solutions for personal problems as well. In the book they apply the process to individual problems such as, “Should I put solar panels on my roof?,” “What career should I choose?,” and “Is where I live affecting my health?” Business examples range from “Should my startup raise its prices?” and “Should we go to court?” to “Can obesity be reduced?”

This process can be applied to nearly every problem is responds well to the systematic problem-solving method that this approach provides.

The Seven Steps to Bullet-Proof Problem Solving are:

Step One: Define the Problem
How do you define a problem in a precise way to meet the decision maker’s needs? The important first step is to describe the context and the boundaries of the problem that is agreed upon by those involved in making the decision. A weak problem statement is a common problem. “Rushing into analysis with a vague problem statement is a clear formula for long hours and frustrated clients.”

Step Two: Disaggregate the Issues
How do you disaggregate the issues and develop hypotheses to be explored? Every problem needs to be broken down into its basic issues. “We employ logic trees of various types to elegantly disassemble problems into parts for analysis, driving alternative hypotheses of the answer.”

Step Three: Prioritize the Issues, Prune the Tree
How do you prioritize what to do and what not to do? Once you have defined the issues, you need to decide which ones are the most important or have the greatest impact on the final outcome.

Step Four: Build a Workplan and Timetable
How do you develop a workplan and assign analytical tasks? “Once the component parts are defined and prioritized, you then have to link each part to a plan for fact gathering and analysis. The workplan and timetable assigns team members to analytic tasks with specific outputs and completion dates.”

Step Five: Conduct Critical Analyses
How do you decide on the fact gathering and analysis to resolve the issues, while avoiding cognitive biases? Some problems don’t need complex analysis, others require more complex tools. A structured approach will help to eliminate bias and a massaging of the facts. Having a diverse team allows for different viewpoints to be brought together.

Step Six: Synthesize Findings from the Analysis
How do you go about synthesizing the findings to highlight insights? “Findings have to be assembled into a logical structure to test validity and then synthesized in a way that convinces others that you have a good solution.”

Step Seven: Prepare a Powerful Communication
How do you communicate them in a compelling way? Finally, a storyline needs to be developed that links your solution back to the original problem. Importantly, it needs to be told in a way your audience understands and is made relevant to them. In other words, tell a great story.

While this is presented in a linear way, the authors make a great point that you learn more about the problem as you go. You shouldn’t be so eager to get to the end that you don’t go back and refine previous steps. “While the process has a beginning and an end, we encourage you to think of problem solving as an iterative process rather than a linear one. At each stage we improve our understanding of the problem and use those greater insights to refine our earlier answers.”

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Categories: Blogs

First Look: Leadership Books for October 2019

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 02:20

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in October 2019. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

Do you know how to play the game you’re in?

In finite games, like football or chess, the players are known, the rules are fixed, and the endpoint is clear. The winners and losers are easily identified. In infinite games, like business or politics or life itself, the players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers in an infinite game; there is only ahead and behind.

Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character by Admiral James Stavridis

In Sailing True North, Admiral Stavridis offers a much more intimate, human accounting: the lessons of leadership and character contained in the lives and careers of history's most significant naval commanders. He brings a lifetime of reflection to bear on the subjects of his study—on naval history, on the vocation of the admiral with its special tests and challenges, and on the sweep of global geopolitics. Above all, this is a book that will help you navigate your own life's voyage: the voyage of leadership of course, but more important, the voyage of character. Sadly, evil men can be effective leaders sailing toward bad ends; ultimately, leadership without character is like a ship underway without a rudder. Sailing True North helps us find the right course to chart.

The Leader You Want to Be: Five Essential Principles for Bringing Out Your Best Self—Every Day by Amy Jen Su

How can you be the leader you want to be, every day? The answer is more than a time-management system or a silver-bullet solution for changing your routines. Leadership expert and coach Amy Jen Su's powerful new book helps readers discover that the answer lies within. By focusing in specific ways on five key leadership elements—Purpose, Process, People, Presence, and Peace--you can increase your time, capacity, energy, and ultimately your impact, with less stress and more equanimity.

The Intelligent Leader: Unlocking the 7 Secrets to Leading Others and Leaving Your Legacy by John Mattone

In The Intelligent Leader, Mattone lays out an accessible, practical, and compelling path that anyone can take to become the kind of leader that brings enrichment to the lives of others, enjoys a more fulfilling life, and leaves a lasting legacy. Each chapter uses a variety of real-world examples, tools, and assessments to explore one of Mattone’s 7 dimensions of Intelligent Leadership.

Leap: Do You Have What it Takes to Become an Entrepreneur? by Gino Wickman

In this three-part book, Gino Wickman reveals the six essential traits that every entrepreneur needs in order to succeed, based on real-world startups that have reached incredible heights. If these traits ring true for you, you’ll get a glimpse of what your life would look like as an entrepreneur. What’s more, Wickman will help you determine what type of business best suits your unique skill set and provide a detailed roadmap, with tools, tips, and exercises, that will accelerate your path to startup success.

What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture by Ben Horowitz

What You Do Is Who You Are is a journey through culture, from ancient to modern. Along the way, it answers a question fundamental to any organization: who are we? How do people talk about us when we’re not around? How do we treat our customers? Are we there for people in a pinch? Can we be trusted? Who you are is not the values you list on the wall. It’s not what you say in company-wide meeting. It’s not your marketing campaign. It’s not even what you believe. Who you are is what you do. This book aims to help you do the things you need to become the kind of leader you want to be—and others want to follow.

For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“It is a man’s duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.”
— Henry Ward Beecher

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Categories: Blogs

LeadershipNow 140: September 2019 Compilation

Mon, 09/30/2019 - 09:41

Here are a selection of tweets from September 2019 that you don't want to miss:

See more on Twitter.

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Categories: Blogs

How Your Bright Shiny Objects Derail Your Team — and Damage the Business

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 02:12

IN COACHING VISIONARY LEADERS, I hear a common pain point: Their team isn’t moving fast enough or focusing on the right things. As we dig deeper, however, we inevitably discover that their team isn’t the problem. Instead, it’s their own preoccupation with bright shiny objects — or what I call BSOs.

From madcap product ideas to mythic mergers, BSOs can run the gamut. All the same, they’re a challenge for visionary leaders. No doubt, their ability to bridge the gap between unlimited possibility and reality is a critical skill. But, when left unchecked, their attraction to BSOs often hurts their teams, usually by derailing their work with needless obstacles.

Even more critically, BSOs have the propensity to damage the business. How? By introducing ideas that should have never been considered in the first place. After all, just because something could be done doesn’t mean it should be done.

If you’re a visionary leader, and can admit to loving BSOs, you most likely need a process to better understand, manage, and vet them.

Ask yourself questions

Imagine a typical Monday morning huddle. Your team is busy discussing current or upcoming projects and priorities. Then, with unbridled exuberance, you storm in and say, “I’ve got an amazing idea.” Unbeknownst to you, it’s like you just lobbed a bomb onto the team. Now, to indulge your BSO, they lose their energy and focus.

So how can you tell when you’ve just lobbed a BSO onto your team? Stunned silence. Rolling eyes. Icy stares. Crossed arms. A barrage of questions. Those are only some of the signs. Plus, under their breath, people are probably muttering some kind of rebuke. “Are you kidding me?” “Oh, come on. Seriously?” “Here we go again.” “But what about…?” Et cetera.

To avoid such an experience — let alone not derail your team — make a habit of first asking yourself a few questions about your current BSO. Consider these five to start:

1. How does this align with the business’s current strategies and priorities?

2. How would doing this affect other, more important work?

3. What business concerns would this solve, and do we already have other, potentially better solutions in place?

4. If this is actually something we should do, what is the best timing — to do it now or to wait until some other business priorities have been met?

5. Who can I run this by before lobbing it onto my team?

Enlist a “voice of no”

At some point, most visionary leaders learn that they need a COO or other common-sense leader to counterbalance their BSOs. I call such a person a “voice of no.”

So, when a visionary leader brings up a BSO, her voice of no might say, “Here’s why we can’t do that right now” or “Here’s what must happen first.” In this way, a voice of no protects a leader’s team from creative mayhem while also not stifling the leader’s visionary proclivities.

In considering a COO or a voice of no, look for someone who clearly gets the importance of focus, continuity, and business priorities, and who seems to have a “less is more” mindset — preferring to do fewer things very well than to do many things ineffectively.

If you’re not in a position to bring in a COO or a voice of no, you can develop your team to take on the role. This, however, will require you to openly acknowledge your BSO inclinations, to have clear-cut business imperatives, to give people the authority and freedom to ‘gut check’ your ideas, and to make room in meetings for real, strategic conversations.

Have a vetting process

It took me years to recognize my own insatiable appetite for BSOs. The good news is I now have a simple process in place to properly vet my BSOs and, in doing so, to protect my team from any “incoming.”

To start vetting your own BSOs, I suggest these four steps:

1. Find a sounding board.

Seek out someone thoughtful and measured, inside or outside the business but not on your team, to serve as your sounding board. Look for someone who you can trust and feel comfortable with to casually bounce around ideas and, equally important, who is fully capable of being candid with you. For me, that’s my business partner and wife, Angela, who also acts as my voice of no. If she isn’t convinced, I know to let go of a BSO or at least put it on ice.

2. Put your idea in writing.

If your idea seems workable after bouncing it off your sounding board, put it in writing. This needn’t be pretty or take up much time. Just create a skeleton with your rough thoughts and some preliminary goals. The point here is to simply flesh out your idea enough to be easily articulated and understood.

3. Seek first-round feedback.

Once you’ve put your idea in writing, go back to your sounding board and one or two other people (but, again, no one on your team). Ask for feedback, both positive and negative, on your thought process and on the clarity and viability of your idea. Take this input to heart and then create a tighter, slightly more formal document.

4. Approach your team.

At this point, your idea has gone from being a BSO to something much more tangible and well thought out. So, finally, it’s time to go ahead and bring the idea to your team. I suggest giving them a few days or even a week to read and mull everything over, and also scheduling a meeting to discuss their feedback and, if appropriate, consider the way forward. Also, be sure to remind people that they have the authority and freedom to push back on your idea and even act as a voice of no.

And last but not least, remember that your team is only as effective and successful as your leadership. By learning to understand, manage, and vet your BSOs, you’ll help your team to move fast — and focus on the right things.

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Charlie Gilkey is an author, entrepreneur, philosopher, Army veteran, and renowned productivity expert. Founder of Productive Flourishing, Gilkey helps professional creatives, leaders, and changemakers take meaningful action on work that matters. His new book is Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done. Learn more at StartFinishingBook.com

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Categories: Blogs

“That Will Never Work”

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 18:35

THE STORY GOES that the idea for Netflix came to Reed Hastings after he was hit with a $40 late fee when he returned his rental of Apollo 13 to Blockbuster. Annoyed, he thought, “What if there were no late fees?” And wham, the idea for Netflix was born.

Of course, we like stories like that. It’s neat and clean, but in this case, it’s not true. It’s useful though, and it captures in a paragraph the essence of what Netflix is all about. Marc Randolph, Netflix’s co-founder, and first CEO says it’s emotionally true. “Reed’s oft-repeated origin story,” he says, “is branding at its finest, and I don’t begrudge him for it at all.”

The real story longer. While it is messy, complicated, it is much more exciting. Marc Randolph shares it all in That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea. I read a lot of business books, and I can say this is one of the best you’ll ever read on starting and growing a business—the emotions, the triumphs, the failures and the lessons learned. The story is a well-told page-turner.

Briefly, the real story is that while carpooling with Hastings to jobs that would soon be redundant due to a merger, Randolph would pitch ideas to him in search of the next act. After a slew of ideas like customized shampoo, dog food, and baseball bats, Randolph hit upon renting VHS tapes online. But, among other things, the costs for acquisition and shipping were too high, so it was ruled out. That is until they learned about an emerging technology—DVDs. Then the game was on.

DVDs were cheaper and lighter, but would they be shipped safely. They tested it by mailing a CD in a greeting card envelope to Hastings. It worked, and they had their idea.

And people said, “That will never work.”

When you start a company, what you’re really doing is getting other people to latch on to an idea. You have to convince your future employees, investors, business partners, and board members that your idea is worth spending money, reputation, and time on.

Randolph risked his time and Hastings risked his money. Now the work began.

I needed to come up with something approaching a business plan. Notice that I used the word “approaching.” I never intended to get there. Most business plans are a complete waste of time. They become obsolete the minute the business starts and you realize how wildly off the mark you were with your expectations. So the trick is to take your idea and set it on a collision course with reality as soon as possible.

Randolph takes us through the whole process from idea to launch day. Any entrepreneur will relate to the journey, and any would-be entrepreneur will find it enlightening. He candidly writes about pitching the idea to investors (what it was like to take a check for 1.9 million dollars to the bank), finding and getting talent, setting up an office, building the basics, building an inventory and the mailer, and building a website.

And creating an innovative culture:

Real innovation comes not from top-down pronouncements and narrowly defined tasks. It comes from hiring innovators focused on the big picture who can orient themselves within a problem and solve it without having their hand held the whole time. We call it loosely coupled but tightly aligned.

He adds this:

Most companies end up building a system to protect themselves from people who lack judgment. And that only ends up frustrating the people who have it.

Launch Day: April 14, 1998

There are a great many stages in the life cycle of a startup. But a tectonic shift happens on launch day. Before you go live, you’re in the dreamy zone of planning and forecasts: your efforts are provisional.

The day your site launches, something shifts. Your work now is no longer predictive and anticipatory: it’s fundamentally reactive. Those problems you anticipated? You didn’t know the half of it. Your planned solutions? They’re a drop in the bucket. And there are hundreds—thousands—of issues that you could have never even imagine, and now have to deal with.

For better and for worse, things never go as planned. And Randolph gives an account of all of it—the possible acquisition of Netflix by Amazon, the potential buyout by Blockbuster, the rethinking of the business model, the ups and downs. Great stories with lessons in them all.

My favorite chapter was, I’m Losing Faith in You. After about 18 months in, Hastings comes to him and tells him that he’s losing faith in his ability to run the company alone. He suggests (really more of an ultimatum) that he come in as CEO and Randolph become president. He writes, “Radical honesty is great, until it’s aimed at you.”

Randolph had to take a look at himself—his strengths and weaknesses, his goals and motivations—and decide what was best for the company. It takes a tremendous amount of humility to do that and agree to what Hastings was asking.

I realized that there were really two dreams, and I might need to sacrifice one of them to ensure that the other came true.

The company was one dream. Me at the helm was another. And if the company was going to succeed, I needed to honestly confront my own limitations. I need to acknowledge that I was a builder, someone creative and freewheeling enough to assemble a team, to create a culture, to launch an idea from the back of an envelope into a company, an office, a product that existed in the world. Now we were going to have to grow, and rapidly, and that took a different skill set entirely.

And that was Hastings strength. Hastings became CEO and Randolph became the president in 1998. His self-knowledge made is easier for him to know when it was time to go as he eventually did in 2003 not long after Netflix went public. He realized that he liked building things more than the finished product. In the end he writes, “I missed the late nights and early mornings, the lawn chairs and card tables. I missed the feeling of all hands on deck, and the expectation that every day you’d be working on a problem that wasn’t strictly tied to your job description.”

As far as “that will never work” goes, Randolph says, quoting William Goldman in Adventures in the Screen Trade, “Nobody knows anything.” Which he claims is an encouragement. “If nobody Knows Anything, then you have to trust yourself. You have to test yourself. And you have to be willing to fail. Not only had all of the people who told me that Netflix would never work (including my wife) gotten it wrong, but so had I. We all had. We’d known that the idea could work, but in the end, nobody knew anything about how—until it did.”

Randolph is conversational and generous to others throughout. There is a lot of experience-based wisdom in this book. Here are a few more insights:

We were always trying to avoid one of the number one pitfalls of startup entrepreneurship: building imaginary castles in your mind, meticulously designed, complete with turrets, drawbridges, moats. Overplanning and overdesigning is often just overthinking—or just plain old procrastination. When it comes to ideas, it’s more efficient to test ten bad ones than spend days trying to come up with something perfect.

Here’s what I’ve learned: when it comes to making your dream a reality, one of the most powerful weapons at your disposal is dogged, bullheaded insistence. It pays to be the person who won’t take no for an answer, since in business, no doesn’t always mean no.

You have to learn to love the problem, not the solution. That’s how you stay engaged when things take longer than you expected.

The most powerful step that anyone can take to turn their dreams into reality is a simple one: you just need to start. The only real way to find out if your idea is a good one is to do it. You’ll learn more in one hour of doing something than in a lifetime of thinking about it.

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Categories: Blogs

Looking for Ways to Improve Innovation? Improvisational Comedy Can Show You How

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 20:18

DISRUPTION is happening in even the most stalwart industries, leading business leaders scrambling to create a culture of innovation in their organizations. Coming up with amazingly novel ideas isn’t an innate ability but can be a learned skill that leaders and their teams can develop. The techniques of improvisational comedy can provide important lessons for developing a innovation mindset.

From my 20 years of performing, directing, and producing live improvisational comedy, I’ve learned that fresh ideas are out there for the picking. Originality and innovation blossom from deep in the recesses of the mind, not because some people have the magical creative gene, but because they open themselves up to recognizing and exploring the uncharted areas in everyday work and life. This is where improvisational actors excel and why improv comedy techniques can lend themselves to promoting an innovation culture within organizations.

Here are some methods honed through improv that can trigger new and expansive ideas:

1. Steer clear of the word “No.”

In improv, actors are taught to avoid saying No. If an improv actor offers an idea and the scene partner replies No to it, then the scene is effectively over. Improvisational actors are trained to use the words “Yes, and…” to quickly move ideas forward and create completely new and unexpected concepts.

Using “Yes, and” works best while your team is in the ideation phase. As you get to the execution phase, you may need to start saying No and eliminating concepts with little chance of working. But by listening and encouraging the team to offer ideas in the initial stages, team members will feel included and be more inclined to have buy-in on a final decision.

2. Perfect the practice of “heightening.”

Heightening is a way to allow concepts to evolve in ways that allow them to grow from a seemingly normal, practical idea into a wild, unconventional end product. In improv comedy, the actors step out on the stage not knowing what they’re going to do or say, or what their fellow actors are going to do or say. Without any planning, they take the rawest of material and weave a tale with multiple layers, different characters, random jumps in time and unexpected twists and turns -- all somehow leading to a neat resolution. This is “heightening,” and it allows their imaginations to go to exciting and original places, unfettered by practicality or reality.

When teams allow heightening to take, they generate far more material to consider. The original idea is still there and you can go back to it at any point, but you may also find that by letting imaginations run free, you’ll have new, exciting and more interesting versions of the original concept.

3. Expand your curiosity.

Make a point to follow where your curiosity leads you. Interested in bird watching? Sign up for an outing where you’ll meet people who can share their knowledge about types of gear, bird species, and even what’s threatening bird habitat. Pursuing new interests can’t help but have a ripple effect.

The unexpected benefit that comes from putting new pursuits into motion is that you discover all the different offshoots that surround an activity. Simply by expanding your knowledge, you have a means of uncovering fascinating raw material to turn into new ideas. You’ll begin to see connections or possibilities in all kinds of unexpected places. Those unexpected connections are what lead to innovation.

4. Brush off the shame from being wrong.

The fear of being wrong is one of the biggest reasons we don’t put our ideas forward. The way you build your tolerance to feeling shame from a failure is by repeated exposure. Working as a comedian has helped me build up my resiliency. By failing a whole bunch of times in low-stakes environments -- on open mic stages in crappy bars and clubs -- I began to develop scar tissue. And when I failed, I dissected what worked and what didn’t so I could improve the next time.

Being willing to strike out into the unknown and face the chance of failing or being wrong becomes easier each time you do it. Also, acknowledging you were wrong about a decision or idea can open you up to being right. You learn something new from being wrong and, oftentimes, better options appear. Failing allows things to become clear, and you begin to understand what you may not have realized before.

Allowing yourself and your team to become unfettered in idea creation, to open up to outlandish ideas, to be unselfconsciously curious, and to overcome fear of failure. If you do this, you and others on your team will start to experience the feeling of inspiration finding you instead of you finding it.

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Norm Laviolette is the co-founder and CEO of Improv Asylum, IA Innovation, and Asylum Gaming and Esports (AGE). He has performed, directed or produced more than 10,000 improvisational comedy shows on three continents. He brings the experience of building companies from the ground up into multi-million dollar businesses. Norm Laviolette has worked with Fortune 500 companies, including Google, Red Bull, Fidelity and more. His new, The Art of Making Sh!t Up: How to Work Together to Become an Unstoppable Powerhouse (Wiley, May 7, 2019), describes how the techniques of improv can transform teams into more powerful, creative and healthy organizations. Learn more at iainnovation.com.

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Categories: Blogs

How to Humanize Leadership

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 02:13

Plant this seed within your core
Provide it space to sprout, and tend to its rise
Ensure it penetrates through each organizational layer
Cultivation, participation, and appreciation will be your essential tools
Allow this seed to transform into a solid footing
A personal and organizational launch pad
This mighty seed has significant yield
A vigorous and holistic whole

 

Humanizing Leadership Mentors

During the book writing process, I reflected on the multitude of individuals who graciously shared their time, words, wisdom, and encouragement with me along my personal leadership journey. Often, these individuals had confidence in me before I had confidence in my own ability. They provided me with the essential space and pivotal opportunities to learn, experiment, fail, and grow. They created a workplace environment in which my contributions mattered and in every human interaction with me demonstrated this.

How they showed up as leaders and how they engaged was critical to my leadership development. What was common in these leaders was first and foremost they were human beings and meaning makers. They understood that organizational systems are made up of many dynamic and emergent human systems. Through their actions they provided a higher purpose, empathy, and shared meaning all critical foundations for people and organizational development.

Humanizing Leadership Overcomes Outdated Organizational Views

Humanizing leadership is about overcoming an outdated organizational view that taught us to define oneself and value to our organization by the closed and often fragmented black boxes on the organizational chart. Humanizing leadership is about embracing the white space between the boxes, imbuing it with deeper meaning and purpose.

The “organizational chart map” is essentially an aggregate of isolated power blocks with a steep hierarchy command center. The blank white space is the real organization; it’s a place where personal relationships and loyalties exist. It is also an organizational space where top down driven interactions often produce misattribution including misunderstood and misinterpreted information.

Humanizing Leadership Is Awakened Through Three Truths

Humanizing Leadership is about awakening to and harnessing three powerful leadership truths: reflection fuels, people matter, and relationships make the difference. These three consequential realities have a profound impact on our ability to lead effectively and help regulate the well-being and strength of the organizations we serve. By understanding the human paradox of simultaneous continuity and change, ambiguity, and complexity, humanizing leadership develops the personality and conceptual skills for successful juxtaposition of opposites to find the sweet spot.

Through forty-two leadership vignettes, the book “Humanizing Leadership” will change the way you look at leadership and at yourself. It strives to hold a mirror up to your beliefs about who you are, and leadership in general by putting a human face on leadership. These three threads are used to weave a tapestry of self-discovery and personal humanizing leadership growth.

1. Reflection Fuels. As leaders, we operate within a web of people relationship systems, and the health and power of these relationships are dependent upon the level of trust we carry within ourselves. We cannot expect to harness the full potential of our organizations, and relationships within them, if we fail to fully understand our behavior and the impact our behaviour has on those who bring visions and goals to fruition. We are not above the organizations we lead; we are a part of them.

The practice of self-awareness and self-reflection for those in leadership roles extends back thousands of years to the ancient philosophers and teachers. Yet nowadays, it seems self-reflection is often a leader’s least favorite pastime or a component of leadership that is sacrificed for some other facet of leadership. In order to improve our leadership expertise, we must become aware of our strengths and weaknesses, our values and behaviors, and the ways in which they attempt to influence others. Our relationships with others mirror the relationship we have with self; a de-humanizing leadership behavior gives others permission to act in a similar vein.

2. People Matter. We need to continuously ask ourselves whether we are treating and interacting with people like they matter. Too often, a “people matter” concept within an organizations value statement is limited to the words printed on a piece of paper. It is not enough to merely recognize the role and significance people have within our organizations, we must commit and establish a direction to alter organizational “people matter” mindsets. To make the people an asset metaphor a reality, leaders must be inclusive.

When we actually carry out a “people matter” approach our organizations benefit, and we as leaders benefit. A fully engaged workforce will outperform a disengaged workforce any day of the week. There are numerous research studies that back this assertion. Moreover, employees who are engaged in the workplace are more open to innovative ideas and new tools. They are open to new ways to enhance the work they do, rather than just performing the bare minimum required. This attitude is a prerequisite for innovation and growth.

3. Relationships Make the Difference. Humanizing leadership creates the glue that holds the fabric of a human system together, and the elasticity, bond, and effectiveness of the glue is determined by the overall relationship welfare of the organization. Organizations do not exist of fragmented parts, but rather a series of human systems within a larger and connected human system.

We are aware that structure follows strategy and function follows form, but relationships run the show. Without relationships, there is no strategy implementation, and there is no function, to begin with. What goes on between people; employees, customers, suppliers, financiers, management, the board, etc. defines what an organization is and what it can become. It also defines the quality of humanizing leadership.

Humanizing Leadership Is About Choice

The book requires reader participation. The weight of the message is within the reader, not on the pages. The words and ideas shared are personal experiences and understandings that are open to adaptation. The reader is asked to use the personal insights and the provocative questions posed as a springboard for self-discovery.

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tao said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”  Letting go creates the space for relationships and a collective identity to develop, for information to be shared, and for the talents of everyone within human organizational systems to be valued. On the strength of these behavioral and mindset shifts, we can achieve the collective accountability required for making organizational improvements.

Ask this key question; what behavior have I tolerated in myself or in others that conflict with people matter and relationships make the difference?

It’s about choice.

“It is not the truth that we do not know that does us in,
but the truths we know and don’t practice.” —Mark Twain

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Hugh MacLeod is the author of Humanizing Leadership. The time he spent time as front-line worker, combined with the diversity of middle manager and senior executive roles, and his senior government leadership and chief operating officer experiences provided an appreciation of the dynamics that take place between people and relationships within and between organizational spaces. Hugh is a consummate learner and knowledge-exchange advocate and lecturer. Currently Hugh is an adjunct professor for the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. As a sought-after speaker on leadership and transformational strategy, he pushes tenaciously to establish new narratives pertaining to change, transformation, and leadership. His enthusiasm for leadership studies is derived from his desire to facilitate change and be of service to future leaders, and to give back, extending to them the same generosities that were bestowed upon him. For more information about the book “Humanizing Leadership” and a Kirkus review go to CultivateYourLeadership.com

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Categories: Blogs

The 10 Stories Great Leaders Need to Tell

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 02:44

WE KNOW GREAT STORIES are the foundation of great communication. It’s not the idea but the story about the idea that begets followers. The question is, are you telling the right story?

A leading expert in organizational storytelling, Paul Smith advises us that more important than how we tell a story is what story we are telling. And by story, he means “a narrative about something that happened to someone.”

As such, it will include a time, a place, and a main character. That main character will have a goal, and there will probably be an obstacle getting in the way of that goal—a villain, if you will. And there will be events that transpire along the way that hopefully resolve themselves in the end.

On the pages of The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell—a book designed to be read in about an hour—Paul Smith reveals the ten most important stories a leader needs to tell and how to begin to craft our own unique story. Each story has a specific objective. These stories tell us why.

The first four stories are about setting the direction for the organization:

Story 1: Where We Came From (A Founding Story)
“Nobody ever quit their job and started a company for a boring reason.” This story is about why you started the company and gives people a chance to be part of the larger story.

Story 2: Why We Can’t Stay Here (A Case-for-Change Story)
Change can be uncomfortable. This story shares why we need to change and the human impact of the change—the benefit.

Story 3: Where We’re Going (A Vision Story)
“A vision is a picture of the future so compelling, people want to go there with you.” More than a brief vision statement, a story captures the emotion of the vision and connects people to what life will be like when you get there.

Story 4: How We’re Going to Get There (A Strategy Story)
This strategy is the journey. How you’re going to get there. When presented as a story it clarifies, connects, and consequently helps the listener to execute.

The next four stories are about who we are as an organization:

Story 5: What We Believe (A Corporate-Values Story)
Values are platitudes until they are tested. A story about a choice to be made over a value makes it come alive. The story defines a value in a down-to-earth, practical way and highlights the consequences of acting on a value—the why of the value.

Story 6: Who We Serve (A Customer Story)
Sharing a story of the impact of what you do on a customer—how they are served by what you do—gives meaning to all who hear the story. Not everyone in your organization can see these things from where they sit, so finding and sharing these types of stories is critical for people to understand why you do what you do.

Story 7: What We Do for Our Customers (A Sales Story)
This story is about how we serve our customers. It is a good story to share both inside and outside the organization.

Story 8: How We’re Different from Our Competitors (A Marketing Story)
It should be clear both inside and outside your organization how you are different from your competitors. Nothing drives the point home better than a that shows how your differences made a difference in a real situation.

The last two are about you as a leader:

Story 9: Why I Lead the Way I Do (A Leadership-Philosophy Story)
Better than a description of personal values, a story of your leadership in action or a situation that became the crucible for your leadership philosophy, creates a lasting and memorable impression on the listener. Think about sharing why you are the way you are.

Story 10: Why You Should Want to Work Here (A Recruiting Story)
Every company says they are great to work for, but a story about why it’s great to work for you is persuasive in a way that no list of great qualities could ever do. This story serves a double purpose as it not only helps to get recruits to join but also gives current employees a reason to stay.

Smith has also produced a workbook to accompany this book to help you begin to tell the stories you need to be telling. Good examples accompany each of the ten stories. In conclusion, Smith offers an outline in the form of eight questions to help you to organize and structure the ideas and stories you have collected. Equipped with stories like these, you will become a more effective leader.

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Categories: Blogs

No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 22:12

AFTER THE TERRORIST ATTACKS on September 11, 2001 and on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Major General James Mattis needed to connect with every member of the 1st Marine Division. He writes, “I limited myself to one page they could carry with them, a message reconciling ferocity toward the foe with abiding concern for the innocents caught on the battlefield.”

He signs off with a phrase he made the motto of 1st Marines: "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy." It was adapted from a remark attributed to the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla, “No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me whom I have not repaid in full.”

His letter to the Blue Diamond:

MARCH 2003

1st Marine Division (REIN)
Commanding General's Message to All Hands

For decades, Saddam Hussein has tortured, imprisoned, raped and murdered the Iraqi people; invaded neighboring countries without provocation; and threatened the world with weapons of mass destruction. The time has come to end his reign of terror. On your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.

When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. Our fight is not with the Iraqi people, nor is it with members of the Iraqi army who choose to surrender. While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam's oppression.

Chemical attack, treachery, and use of the innocent as human shields can be expected, as can other unethical tactics. Take it all in stride. Be the hunter, not the hunted: never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down. Use good judgement and act in best interests of our Nation.

You are part of the world's most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit.

For the mission's sake, our country's sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division's colors in past battles—who fought for life and never lost their nerve—carry out your mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world there is "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy" than a U.S. Marine.

J. N. Mattis
Major General, U.S. Marines
Commanding

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In Call Sign Chaos, he recalls that he learned a lot from the British officers at that time. “I adapted their approach of showing no triumphalism—we had come to liberate, not dominate. We did not push our way around.”

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Categories: Blogs

Learning to Lead with Ron Williams

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 14:10

WHO IS looking out for you?

“No boss or mentor drove my success—although they did open doors for me. My success came about through a combination of hard work, continual learning, fortunate career choices, and a bit of luck—by being in the right place at the right time,” writes Ron Williams. Williams is best known for his tenure as CEO and Chairman of Aetna, where he transformed a $292 million operating loss into $2 billion in annual earnings.

In Learning to Lead, Williams shows how anyone can grow and succeed as leaders. He grew up in a working-class family in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago in the 1960s. The book is exceptional. He weaves the experiences of his career with the lessons we can all learn from them. Well told and insightful.

He begins by asserting that the single most important asset you have is you. As a result, you need to focus on getting better. “Two things are essential: a deep personal commitment to excellence in everything you do and a commitment to continual improvement.” He encourages us to strive to become 15% better each year in concrete and actionable ways. To do that you need to really think about what you are going to do differently. If you want to be extraordinary, you need to stretch yourself above the average person.

Exceed your job description. Do it for you and build a reputation. “By sticking to tasks listed in your job description, you are refusing to demonstrate your ability to perform at a higher level. Why should anyone think of you as a potential leader when you’ve provided them with no evidence to suggest it?”

For him, his underprivileged background represented an opportunity. “The world and its people were a puzzle for me to solve.” He reframed his world. It is our mindset that often makes it impossible to escape the box we find ourselves in. “Reframing is about creating a new mental landscape with a larger scope of freedom, a greater degree of flexibility, and a set of alternative ways of approaching any problem—which can often lead to new and unexpected solutions.”

You know you need to reframe when what you hear around you is, “Everybody knows” and “It’s obvious that.” “It’s a sign that you and your colleagues may be trapped in a box of your own making—one in desperate need of reframing.”

On the topic of mentors, Williams believes that they are helpful, but you shouldn’t spend your time looking for one. “Mentors come along without planning. Mentorship must arise naturally out of the situation rather than being forced.” However, and his is key, “that doesn’t mean you can’t make a conscious effort to learn from the people around you. As you work on learning to lead yourself, you should also seek out others whose examples, experiences, and insights can be of value to you.”

When people do (or seem to) get in your way, rather than finding blame, assume positive intent. You can choose how you respond to negative events. We don’t need to take it personally. “If there’s something that will make you feel really good to say—something you are itching to say—don’t say it. Blowing up in the face of provocation is a way of losing power, not of claiming it.” Assuming positive intent has been one of William’s secret weapons throughout his career. It is an “empowering strategy that disarms defensiveness and turns potential enemies into allies.”

When leading others and you are faced with opposition to a project or deadline, Williams says that the leader’s job is to ask a lot of pointed questions. “When people protested that a particular deadline I suggested was ‘impossible,’ I would ask, ‘Can you help me understand how you determined that?’ or ‘What are the factors that led you to conclude it’s impossible?’ I avoided starting my questions with the word why, having long ago discovered that ‘why’ questions tend to make people feel defensive—and respond accordingly. By contrast, the more oblique wordings I used directed attention away from the blame game and exactly where I wanted it—toward uncovering the root causes behind their objections.”

A leader also needs to ask questions that lead people to think about the problems they face in a new way; to overcome their mental barriers—“those unquestioned assumptions, unexplored options, or unchallenged rules of thumb that keep people stuck at a low level of achievement.” These mental barriers cause us to reinforce them with information that supports them and ignore the evidence that should alert and enlighten us. We hurt ourselves and our organizations when we act on our untruths.

Williams includes a chapter on managing up and down and presents his Two-Up/Two-Down System. “Paying close attention to the ideas, information, and concerns of the people around you—especially those operating from a different perspective or from a different location in the organizational hierarchy—is key to leadership success. Learning to correctly grasp what I call strategic intent of those in important positions above you and below you in the organizational hierarchy is a vital leadership practice, one that you should try to make into a daily habit.”

Williams provides lessons in communication, creating a positive culture, defining reality, and many more. Putting in practice what he presents here does not require extraordinary gifts. “Your own abilities can suffice to make you an effective leader—provided you focus on the daily challenges around you and then work doggedly, thoughtfully, and positively with the people around you to overcome them.”

There is a lot of emotional intelligence contained in this book. Reading it is a good way to develop your own EQ and check your self-awareness. Use Learning to Lead to prepare yourself answer the call to lead when it comes.

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Categories: Blogs

The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 07:30

HOW DO YOU get people to think ahead? In a time characterized by wide-ranging change, we need to think through the consequences of what we have wrought. We need to think ahead. It is reckless not to.

We can’t predict the future, so it’s hard to think about the future. Our view is not surprisingly misguided. In 1920, British economist Arthur Cecil Pigou described our often skewed view of the future as our “defective telescope.” In The Optimist’s Telescope, author Bina Venkataraman suggests that we can a “radical strain of optimism” and cultivate a sense of collective agency that would motivate “more people to make choices today for the sake of the future, whether it’s how they vote, eat, use energy, or influence others.” An “optimist’s telescope” so to speak.

Looking beyond the noise is key to thinking ahead. “Urgency and convenience are dictators of decisions large and small. We are frequently distracted from our future selves and the future of our society by what we need to accomplish now.” Our society is designed around quick wins because that’s what we want. “The conditions we have created in our culture, businesses, and communities work against foresight.” Rewards are given for the quick win.

We need foresight. Foresight combines what we know with the humility to know that we don’t know it all and be ready for the possibilities. And that requires a little imagination. Venkataraman eloquently states, “We try too hard to know the exact future and do too little to be ready for its many possibilities.

Venkataraman offers countless examples of how individuals and organizations have defied instant gratification and instead taken the long view. When one investment firm saw a stock price fall they wisely avoided a knee-jerk reaction. “They avoided distractions of the moment by returning like a broken record to their original rationale for believing in the stock. You might call this a North Star tactic, calling on people in an organization to habitually look up from daily minutiae to reorient themselves to their ultimate destination.”

At a Stanford Director’s College in 2016, Roger Dunbar, chair of the Silicon Valley Bank, told Venkataraman that “when he hears company executives or board members responding to short-term noise with outsize reactions, he likes to pretend he is lost. He’ll ask CEOs at board meetings, ‘What was our long-term strategy again?’ as if he has forgotten it. Sometimes, he says, company leaders suffer from being too smart—analyzing every piece of data that come their way—instead of asking simple but pivotal questions. It can help, in his view, to have a board member who is not afraid of sounding naïve or even a touch senile.”

It helps too to look past typical metrics to see what is actually happening long-term. Dan Honig, a political scientist at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, believes that “metrics can be useful when an organization has a simple, concrete goal such as building a road. The trick is for the measure to be tightly linked to what the organization actually wants to accomplish. For the more complex undertakings of organizations, however, numeric targets are often far removed from actual goals and more likely to deceive. In those instances, Honig says, managers are better off using their judgment to evaluate progress. It’s a common mistake for organizations to attach simple metrics to nuanced goals such as educating children, reforming the justice system, or growing an innovative business.”

It would be a bitter irony to remain entranced by myopic metrics, gearing ourselves up to hit immediate targets at a time when technology and our economy are evolving to privilege humans for being visionary, empathetic, nuanced, and strategic. In the future, the human edge is going to come from what we value and from our judgment, not from going head-to-head with machines to parse facts.

On a personal level, we too can learn to measure ourselves by more meaningful metrics than what we have achieved in the moment.

From her research, Venkataraman has extracted five key lessons to help us think ahead and stay the course:

1. Look Beyond Near-Term Targets

“We can avoid being distracted by short-term noise and cultivate patience by measuring more than immediate results.” Instead of looking at snapshots, reflect on long-term goals.

2. Stoke the Imagination

“We can boost our ability to envision the range of possibilities that lie ahead.” Allow time to imagine future risks and rewards and then visualizing how we can successfully navigate those futures.

3. Create Immediate Rewards for Future Goals

“We can find ways to make what’s best for us over time pay off in the present” or “seek programs that offer immediate allure but are designed for our long-term interest.” In an example she shares about Toyota, they found a way to use the insights gained from long-term research on current production. “They found a way to create immediate rewards that made their sacrifices for the sake of future products seem worth it now to company leaders and investors.”

4. Direct Attention Away from Immediate Urges

“We can reengineer cultural and environmental cues that condition us for urgency and instant gratification.” Avoid temptations. Where urgency rules, create systems that interrupt the momentum to create space to consider the decision.

5. Demand and Design Better Institutions

“We can create practices, laws, and institutions that foster insight.” Look for solutions that encourage us to look ahead. Of course, institutions are made up of people, so we only need to look to ourselves first rather than trying to regulate foresight.

Ultimately, Venkataraman believes we need to think like stewards or as she puts it, “keepers of shared heirlooms.” Heirlooms carry with them the “notion that future generations matter to the present generation, and that past generations will matter to the future.” Furthermore, “with an heirloom, each generation is both a steward and a user. When we pass on an heirloom, we don’t prescribe what each steward must do with it. Instead, we leave options open to the next generation.”

It’s a good way to view our responsibility to think ahead.

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Categories: Blogs

Artificial Persuasion: The Invisible Brand

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 00:00

MASS MEDIA has been replaced by mass personalization through the rise of Artificial Intelligence. William Ammerman states in The Invisible Brand, “AI will play an increasingly important role in our lives in the years ahead as marketers turn vast amounts of computing power to the problem of influence people’s decisions.”

Buried deep within the media we consume and the apps we use, unseen forces are working behind the scenes collecting data about us to pair with AI and digital advertising to influence everything we do. As a business, the challenge is how to best use this technology to promote ideas and products. As a consumer, the challenge is to understand how this technology is influencing us. Most of the time, it serves us well enhancing our lives and improving efficiency, and we welcome it. There are times when it feels like Big Brother is watching us. A better understanding of what is actually behind the technology will help us to ask better questions and respond in a measured and responsible manner.

In a highly accessible way, Ammerman goes into great detail to explain how this technology is emerging and permanently altering the human-computer relationship. He identifies this emerging field as psychological technology, or simply psychotechnology. His focus is on marketing, but psychotechnology is working invisibly to reshape our behaviors in other areas of our lives. (Indeed, broadly speaking, everything we do is marketing.)

Psychotechnology combines four areas of innovation:

Personalization: Personalization is the norm in digital advertising. Machine learning connects all that data and allows marketers to tailor their messages just for you with your personality in mind.

Persuasion: Marketers can use our innate human characteristics to influence our behaviors and thinking. Persuasion is not a new science, but today, it can be executed in new ways. “The science of persuasion is uncovering these unconscious reflexes that trigger specific behaviors.” Ammerman provides a fascinating look at how the science of persuasion is deployed behind the scenes in ways that influence our emotions and brain chemistry.

Able to Learn: The amount and kind of information that is and can be gathered about our lives is astonishing. We don’t even think about it. Combined with AI, all this data gathering can be exploited through the power of machine learning. “Algorithms can learn by being fed data about what works and doesn’t work, and they can adapt in real-time to changing information.”

Anthropomorphic: With advances in natural language processing (NLP), AI agents can convincingly mimic human conversations. “Another important subset of natural language processing (NLP) is something called sentiment analysis, which is a machine’s ability to identify human attitudes.” Chatbots: “There is a growing willingness among many of us to deal directly with machines. A survey of 4500 people in 2017 by Forrester Research found that some 36 percent of adults say they actually prefer using digital customer service—including bots—over interacting with a human.”

We can now have conversations with machines based on data about what we like, where we go, and who we know that is not unlike the conversations we would have with friends. Increasingly, people are creating emotional bonds with AI-powered machines.

Our personal AI-powered tutor could help us to be continual lifelong learners—“a resource to help us learn the skills we need for our jobs, or even help us to identify the various flora and fauna we might spy on a mountain hike.”

Ammerman raises questions regarding who owns our data, what is the government’s responsibility, should there be limits, and it’s use in political propaganda.

For better or worse, the invisible brand is with us, and we have come to depend on it. “Behind all of this psychotechnology is an army of interests: corporations, governments, unions, politicians, religions, scientists, and universities, all vying for our hearts and minds. Through psychotechnology these brands operate invisibly, but collectively they are reshaping the market and the role of marketing.”

Tim Berners-Lee remarked, “If you put a drop of love into Twitter, it seems to decay, but if you put in a drop of hatred, you feel it actually propagates much more strongly.” Perhaps we are hardwired to develop trust and connections slowly, being ever on the lookout for deceit and deception. A drop of love must be confirmed over and over across a long expanse of time to gain traction. We are slow to trust. Conversely, our instinct for survival has us on edge, always ready to respond aggressively to threats. A drop of hate triggers us more quickly, as we respond with less hesitation. This is an exploit the Invisible Brand can use against us by hacking our hate.

To remain competitive, business must understand the forces shaping the marketplace. And consumers must educate themselves to the opportunities and dangers and develop the wisdom to think for themselves.

Continue the discussion with these thought starters from William Ammerman:

▪ We’ve gone from delivering the same message to everyone at the same time through mass communications, to technology that can deliver different messages to every individual, on demand, through mass customization.

▪ We have shifted from consuming information we need, to consuming information we like.

▪ Through personalized information, the Invisible Brand is accelerating its ability to influence the way we think.

▪ It will soon be easier for a robot to recognize a human than for a human to recognize a robot.

▪ Where previously we may have believed that our strongest emotions were reserved for interpersonal relationships, it is clear that our empathy and emotions play an important role in how we relate to machines. (Researchers have found that 93 percent of 8 and 9-year-olds won’t share embarrassing issues with family members or friends—but they will Alexa.)

▪ We will soon lose our ability to discern whether we are programming the machines or they are programming us.

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Categories: Blogs

First Look: Leadership Books for September 2019

Sun, 09/01/2019 - 02:15

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in September 2019. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis and Bing West

Call Sign Chaos is the account of Jim Mattis’s storied career, from wide-ranging leadership roles in three wars to ultimately commanding a quarter of a million troops across the Middle East. Along the way, Mattis recounts his foundational experiences as a leader, extracting the lessons he has learned about the nature of warfighting and peacemaking, the importance of allies, and the strategic dilemmas—and short-sighted thinking—now facing our nation.

The Brilliant Jerk Conundrum: Thriving with and Governing a Dominant Visionary by Marc J. Epstein and Rob Shelton

With a strong leader at the helm, what can possibly go wrong? Betting on a dominant visionary is one of the biggest business gambles an investor, employee, or board member will ever make. If things go right, a visionary's wizardry changes entire industries and generates massive value for shareholders, employees, and society. But if things go wrong, millions (possibly billions) of dollars are lost--and sometimes people go to jail. The challenge for investors, employees, and board members is knowing the difference between an inspired visionary and an idealistic time bomb and if, when, and how to intervene.

Love is Just Damn Good Business: Do What You Love in the Service of People Who Love What You Do by Steve Farber

It’s time to toss aside the touchy-feely notions of love in business and acknowledge the real power that it holds. Love is not only appropriate in the context of business, it’s the foundation of great leadership. To put it bluntly: love is just damn good business. It’s a refreshingly human way of doing business.

Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth by Richard Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith and Ellen Van Oosten

Helping others is a good thing. Often, as a leader, manager, doctor, teacher, or coach, it's central to your job. But even the most well-intentioned efforts to help others can be undermined by a simple truth: We almost always focus on trying to "fix" people, correcting problems or filling the gaps between where they are and where we think they should be. Unfortunately, this doesn't work well, if at all, to inspire sustained learning or positive change. There's a better way.

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger with Joel Lovell

This book is about the relentless curiosity that has driven Iger for forty-five years, since the day he started as the lowliest studio grunt at ABC. It’s also about thoughtfulness and respect, and a decency-over-dollars approach that has become the bedrock of every project and partnership Iger pursues, from a deep friendship with Steve Jobs in his final years to an abiding love of the Star Wars mythology.

How to Lead in a World of Distraction: Four Simple Habits for Turning Down the Noise by Clay Scroggins

While many leaders have learned to tune out distractions that keep them from being productive, they remain deaf to their inner desires and emotions. In How to Lead in a World of Distraction, Clay Scroggins teaches leaders four simple habits that create space for emotional evaluation and exploration. These helpful practices will empower leaders to replace the chaos of their busy days with emotional competence and awareness that leads to a calmer, more fulfilling life.

For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Categories: Blogs

LeadershipNow 140: August 2019 Compilation

Sat, 08/31/2019 - 08:49

Here are a selection of tweets from August 2019 that you don't want to miss:

See more on Twitter.

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Categories: Blogs

The Best Mentor You Can Find is Up to You!

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 00:13

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”
— Benjamin Disraeli

WHEN I WAS a young Army lieutenant, I met with my Assignment (Personnel) Officer, Major Tom Montgomery in Washington D.C. on my way to Germany in the summer of 1977. I never expected that he would become my first true mentor.

There was no contractual agreement or even a discussion about such a relationship, and through all these years, I’ve never mentioned the word “mentor” to him. But, throughout our relationship, our conversations have given me volumes of knowledge about leadership and a host of other topics.

I saw in him a leadership style similar to my own, just more seasoned. I wanted to learn as much as I could from him and use similar techniques as my own leadership responsibilities grew. He helped me get certain jobs and I worked directly for him once. We remain great friends to this day.

Receiving mentorship is a vital element in learning about leadership… and being a mentor is a responsibility of all great leaders.

I believe there are four types of mentors: assigned, self-appointed, sought-after, and what I call “virtual.” I have experienced all four. The first three are rather self-evident in terms of what they mean. What I’ve found the most valuable, however, is this last one, virtual.

What do I mean?

Virtual mentorship is something you do on your own. You simply pay attention to all of the people around you and learn from them. This can apply to both your professional and personal life. Pay attention to what others do or say that is particularly smart or good, then adopt it as your own habit. Notice also when a leader does something incredibly dumb or harmful to others, then put that in your leadership reservoir as well, so that you will never do the same. We’ve all seen good and bad behavior and said to ourselves: “If I ever get into that position, I hope I behave—or do not behave—like that.”

Think of your life as a journey carrying a backpack, and observed behaviors are rocks you find along the path. Pick up both the good and bad—the good for future use and the bad to remind you not to repeat what those rocks represent. I’ve got plenty of rocks in my backpack—of both kinds—that I’ve picked up along my life’s journey. All great leaders learn something from those they encounter along their journey.

It’s also a good practice to acknowledge those who provided meaningful lessons. I regularly cite those who taught me something that I now use myself. I also store away lessons that I want to avoid from leaders who I don’t want to emulate, though I generally refrain from naming them.

Perhaps one of the greatest periods during which I learned from others was my time in the Pentagon in the late 1990s. My 23 years of service to that point had been exclusively within Army ranks, with no duty served in another military branch. But in 1996, when I became a new brigadier general, I was assigned to the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.

I served during this time with a number of great military leaders who influenced me. Lieutenant General Pete Pace (later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was the J3 of the Joint Staff. I had to brief him each morning. My immediate supervisor was first Major General John Van Alstyne, then later Rear Admiral Tim Keating (who eventually became the Pacific Command Commander and Northern Command Commander as a 4-star admiral). Brigadier General Jim Conway (later Commandant of the Marine Corps) was a fellow 1-star and Colonel David Petraeus was the Executive Officer for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Hugh Shelton.

Lieutenant Colonel Terry “Guts” Robling served there as well and would later become my boss as a three-star general when he commanded Marine Corps Forces Pacific and I was his civilian Executive Director. That was a particularly interesting relationship, as he was a lieutenant colonel when I was a brigadier general in 1996. While he didn’t report to me, we knew each other and occasionally worked together. Seventeen years later, I reported to him.

I remember our first discussion in his office in 2013, where I made clear that while we had a different relationship in the Pentagon, I was perfectly fine working for him. I remember him saying he was, as well. He was very comfortable in his own skin. We got along great in the two years of his command tenure and remain good friends to this day.

Good leaders don’t patent their behaviors; they willingly pass them on. I have borrowed many leadership techniques—perhaps most of them—from others who freely gave them up, and from some who didn’t even know I took them. Let your greatest legacy be that you pass on the best-of-breed leadership traits you’ve learned from others.

I freely pass on mine. Many are in my new book, Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best.

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Major General (Retired) Craig Whelden is the author of the international best selling book, Leadership: The Art of Inspiring People to Be Their Best. This is an extract from Chapter Three: “Are You My Mentor?” Learn more about Craig, his book, and speaking opportunities at www.craigwhelden.com

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Categories: Blogs

Building Company Culture: Alignment Leadership

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 23:44

YOU PROBABLY HEAR the word culture a lot, but what does it mean? We’ll discuss it here but I can definitively tell you this: Without a strong company culture, you can’t create a fulfilling environment for your employees.

In fact, the whole idea of culture is a moving target. Yes, it’s widely discussed, but somewhere between the discussion and the implementation something happens. Oftentimes that something is the watering down of the whole idea in the first place and casting it off as a soft science that doesn’t really impact the bottom line.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What Is Culture?

So, let’s begin at the beginning. What is culture? My definition of culture is the sum of a group of people’s beliefs, traditions, preferences, experiences, and hopes. Any time you put people together, a culture is created. Whether or not you agree with the traits of each person’s worldview—their beliefs, traditions, preferences, experiences, or hopes—that worldview exists. Every person has their own unique worldview, and the way they see the world combines with others to create the culture of that group.

The individual traits of a person affect how they view the world and interact with others. For example, the word “trust” means one thing to one person and something different to another person, based on their experiences. The various meanings of trust within a group define their culture around that word. Imagine if a group of ten people working together had vastly different impressions of trust. What kind of culture would that create? Somebody has to clearly define it so that everyone knows what the end game is and how to achieve it.

And take note that this is just one word and one idea that can be misconstrued. How many others are there that we assume there is agreement on?

Don’t assume. Define. Create a common language and an agreed upon taxonomy that there is no doubt about.

Get this right and your organization wins.

Misconceptions about Culture

Culture cannot be developed by simply creating environments where people congregate together. You’ve been at those events, right? Sometimes it’s a movie night or a day out on a boat or a team building exercise. These are usually great fun and they give us a chance to get to know each other away from the office.

But, truthfully, this is just one step in creating a defined company culture. In my journey of leadership, this is a concept I fell prey to early on. In an effort to improve employee engagement, I created happy hours, pizza Fridays, and a party planning committee. What I didn’t realize was that without the initial investment in people before creating these events that fostered community, the experience would be a shallow attempt at culture. Alignment Leadership requires an intimate pursuit of employees, and this pursuit will never happen at a happy hour or a five-minute interaction while sharing a slice of pepperoni.

As I began to develop this theory of Alignment Leadership, I realized the real win was much deeper—employee fulfillment. A happy hour can actually be an icebreaker to introduce someone into a community and build a deeper relationship. We go into these opportunities with the intention to further discover our employees, which leads to alignment. You want to develop a culture where you’re able to authentically allow your employees to be known, heard, and valued.

Where to Start

Creating a culture starts with conversations between you and your people to clearly define the culture you have—and the one you want to build together. You need to have conversations that clarify the culture of your team, the culture of your department, and the culture of the company. This needs to be perfectly understood both from the leader’s perspective and the employees’ perspective.

Creating a culture won’t happen overnight. People’s worldviews are deeply rooted in who they are, and combining them into a culture that works for everyone will require people to make changes. It may take several years, but if you put in the effort to lead your team and work together, you can develop an authentic, meaningful company culture.

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Chris Meroff has spent more than 25 years supporting leaders in education at both the campus and district levels and is the author of Align: Four Simple Steps for Leaders to Create Employee Fulfillment Through Alignment Leadership. Through his work in 17 states and across thousands of school districts, he’s seen firsthand the frustration administrators feel when their efforts don’t produce the alignment they desire. He’s made a career of testing new leadership ideas to see what works—and what doesn’t—in service-oriented leadership. His business, Alignment Leadership Consulting, exists to teach leaders how they can boldly pursue a workplace culture that prioritizes employee fulfillment. You can learn more at AlignLeadThrive.com

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Categories: Blogs

Find Your Ideal Job and Build Your Dream Business

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 19:33

IS IT POSSIBLE to have your cake and eat it too? If there was a way to find your ideal job and build your dream business, would you consider both? Most people see this dichotomy and feel that they need to choose one dream over the other. The reality is that you can have both dreams so long as each doesn’t harm the other and enhances your lifestyle.

Having worked with more than 10,000 entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors, hobbyists and side hustlers, they often struggle with when it is appropriate to leap from the job environment into the entrepreneurship maze. The presumption is that one has to sacrifice entrepreneurial dreams in order to be successful at a specific career choice. The truth is that you can have both and I strongly encourage aspiring employee-preneurs to review the following five reasons to consider maintaining your job in the first few years of building your business.

1. Learning from Both Work Environments:

When you work as an employee and have a side entrepreneurial business, you can learn from both environments and both environments can benefit from each other. Often the entrepreneurial pathway is a lonely pathway and sole-preneurs in particular find themselves trying to navigate, learn and network to gain knowledge while building their business. Realizing that you can gain education from both environments allows an opportunity for you to thrive as an employee and manage a successful side hustle.

2. Business Ownership Strengthens Your Employee Net Worth:

In most positions you rarely get the opportunity to experience the functions associated with the roles of a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Marketing Officer, as well as manage the day-to-day requirements for customer engagement and retention. As a result of limited job functions in a large corporate environment, it doesn’t give you the full breadth of work involved in successfully managing an enterprise. By exploring the entrepreneurship maze you will quickly immerse yourself in all these functions, which will give you a better picture of the business itself, as well as an appreciation for the company that employees you.

3. Position Yourself with a Better Financial Portfolio:

Quitting your job and then applying for a small business loan is a recipe for disaster. Often lenders expect borrowers to be fully collateralized. Having a successful employment position strengthens your probability of obtaining a loan or line of credit. While there are a lot of targeted small business funds that don’t require full collateralization, obtaining funds from your financial institution will be challenging if your debt to equity ratio does not meet their criteria and you don’t have a secondary source of income they can secure against the loan. In addition, being employed allows you the flexibility of investing in your small business without the stress of adding more debt into your current financial portfolio. Having the availability to set aside a few hundred dollars each month towards your business is significant when you have to consider paying for licensing, website development, social media support, etc.

4. Don’t Put Your Financial Eggs in One Basket:

Diversifying your income allows you to mitigate financial risk and maximize your ability to make more money. Most people rely on their employment position for sole source income and if that position is compromised they may have a difficult time replacing those funds in a short period of time. Creating other opportunities to generate more money provides an additional financial cushion for investments or as an emergency fund program. The key is to target business concepts that don’t impose too much time on your part but produce a sizable financial return on your investment. Examples may include selling products online, starting a consulting business, or purchasing a semi-absentee franchise opportunity.

5. There Is No Need to Rush the Process:

Most entrepreneurs believe they have to rush things to launch a company because they may lose out on the business opportunity. This may actually be a recipe for disaster. Rushing into a business concept without a proper feasibility review including competitive research, market analysis, and customer input is rushing to an unproven plan. Spending time building the foundation of the business allows for validation and a chance to identify the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats of the proposed concept. Once the business has reached a certain consistent income you can decide whether to leap into the business full-time or hire others to manage the business.

Ironically many of the Fortune 500 companies today began with entrepreneurs that started their business concept while working for an employer and then transitioned to their business slowly. Skin in the game does not mean you have to quit a job to explore a business. It means you have to be willing to invest time, money, or both in order to build your side hustle into a fledging small business operation. The great news is you don’t have to sacrifice either opportunity to benefit from both opportunities. You can have your cake and eat it too.

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Kedma Ough is the author of Target Funding: A Proven System to Get the Money and Resources You Need to Start or Grow Your Business. One of today’s most respected authorities on small business funding and entrepreneurship, she is a nationally renowned business coach and funding expert and winner of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Small Business Champion of the Year Award. As a small business consultant and educator, she has guided more than 10,000 individuals through a wide range of business advising and is a past contributing writer for Entrepreneur Magazine. When she is not running around as a live superhero, she enjoys time with her family and traveling the world. Ough is a proud fifth-generation entrepreneur.

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