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Updated: 1 hour 7 min ago

What Can’t Be Copied?

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 10:06


IN A WORLD where nearly everything can not only be copied but distributed cheaply—and in some cases for free—what takes on significance and value—what matters—are those things that cannot be copied.

Kevin Kelly highlights a number of things that can’t be manufactured in his book, The Inevitable. They are things that add value to what is a commodity. He begins with trust.

Trust
Trust can’t be purchased or reproduced. “You can’t download trust and store it in a database or warehouse it. You can’t simply duplicate someone else’s trust. Rust must be earned, over time.”

Immediacy
People will pay for immediacy. Not just first-in-line but beta versions and prereleases. “Immediacy is a relative term (minutes to months), but it can be found in every product and service.”

Personalization
You may get the copy free, but you’ll pay for personalization. For example, “A free movie you buy may be cut to reflect the rating you desire for family viewing (no sex, kid safe).” Networked data and AI will play a big part here as “personalization requires an ongoing conversation between creator and consumer, artist and fan, producer and user.”

Interpretation
There is no replacement for human beings here (and trust). “When a copy of your sequence costs nothing, the interpretation of what it means, what you can do about it, and how to use it—the manual for your genes, so to speak—will be expensive.”

Authenticity
When nearly everything can be copied, you will pay to have an “authenticated” copy.

Accessibility
“Ownership often sucks. You have to keep your things tidy, up-to-date, and, in the case of digital material, backed up. And in this mobile world, have to carry it along with you.” If you want to own stuff but without the hassle and responsibility of storing it, you will pay to have someone else do it and deliver it when you need it. In many cases to where ever you are.

Embodiment
While intangibles and cloud storage gives you freedom of movement, sometimes you want the real thing. You can stream a live event but it’s nothing like actually being there. Holding a paper book is an experience as is having the author read it to you.

Patronage
“Deep down, avid audiences and fans want to pay creators. Fans love to reward artists, musicians, authors, actors, and other creators with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect with people they admire.”

Discoverability
People will pay for guidance. “When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention—and most of it free—being found is valuable.” Producers will pay for it and consumers will too. We need help in cutting through the clutter and confusion. We appreciate recommendations based on what we like. In the past, record labels served that purpose even though they overlooked some outstanding artists in the process.

While everything on this list adds value, one item stands out from the rest. And that is trust. The other items on the list should be evaluated as to how they might add differentiation to your offering, but leaders need to focus on championing trust and other character issues as a first line of defense to commoditization. These of course, are the hardest to develop and establish but they are the only differentiators that will stand the test of time—the only ones that can never be copied.

Times change but character never does. Good character is hard to measure but it is easily identified. It has universal value, transcending cultures, gender, and races. Character engenders passion and commitment. It gives weight to everything you do. In short, it endures.

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Categories: Blogs

That’s Not How We Do It Here!

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 10:24


BUSINESS FABLES are not meant to provide great fiction, but to place lessons in a context that make them easier to relate to. And John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber’s That’s Not How We Do It Here! does just that.

It is the story of Nadia bright and adventurous meerkat who is part of a mature clan with over 150 members. This well-managed clan has done well to date but is now faced with unprecedented problems that challenge their once reliable rules and procedures.

Unable to be heard in her clan, Nadia ventures out to see how other clans are dealing with the changes. She finds partial answers in the approach a smaller, loosely organized clan. Returning to her own clan, she figures out how to combine the best of both worlds—a large, disciplined, well-managed clan and that of a small, informal, inspiring clan.

The story parallels the evolution of organizations of all types as they grow and mature. As illustrated in the chart below, most organizations begin by taking the approach in upper left corner (almost by definition). While a bit chaotic, they are curious, adaptable, and energetic. They are learning.

But once success comes they nearly always move into the upper right quadrant. They begin to cope with their size by cementing in systems, structures and policies, that inadvertently kill speed, agility and innovation. New ideas are often greeted with, “That’s not how we do things around here.” If they persist in this approach, they quickly fall into the lower right corner, becoming complacent, rigid, and slow. The very talent they need to stay relevant and responsive to their changing environment begins to leave. If dramatic change comes their way, they are doomed.



The answer isn’t to move back to the upper left corner. The answer is to combine the two by changing the way the organization is led.

The authors suggest that leader begin by creating a sense of urgency around a clear opportunity and mission. Add to that a network-like system that spans silos and layers of hierarchy. These become entrepreneurial units that rekindle a sense of curiosity and learning. Contrary to the nature of a mature organization, much of this is dependent on the leadership’s willingness to communicate and embrace and nurture new ideas.

Faced with the environment we are all in, we can no longer comfortably lead the well-managed, calcified organization to its doom.


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Of Related Interest:
  An Interview with John Kotter on Urgency
  Leading Change: Our Iceberg is Melting
  Accelerate (XLR8)

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Categories: Blogs

Smart Business is Business Redefined

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 09:35


IN CHINA, near the turn of the century, Singles Day (11/11) was celebrated as a time for single people to meet. In 2009 it was reimagined as an online shopping festival. It is now the biggest shopping event in the world.

In 2016, Alibaba facilitated sales of $15 billion. In 2016, Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw less than 3.5 billion dollars. In 2017, three minutes after the day opened at midnight, $1.5 billion in sales had been transacted. At the peak, Alibaba’s technology platforms processed 325,000 orders and 256,000 payments every second. It’s amazing when you think that VISA’s stated capacity as of August 2017 was 65,000 payments per second globally.

Logistics? “Just twelve minutes after the midnight start, the first package arrived at a customer’s door in Shanghai. Three minutes later, a woman in Ningbo on China’s Pacific coast received the first imported package. Before 9:30 a.m., a hundred million packages had already shipped.”

Singles Day is a technological marvel. But it would be wrong to think of Alibaba as China’s Amazon. To think of it this way “obscures Alibaba’s breakthrough business model and the window it provides on how the economic scene is evolving.” The technology and business model Ming Zeng, the chairman of the Academic Council of the Alibaba Group, describes in Smart Business: What Alibaba’s Success Reveals About the Future of Strategy. Unlike Amazon, Alibaba is not even a retailer in the traditional sense—we don’t source or keep stock, and logistics services are carried out by third-party service providers. Instead, Alibaba is what you get if you take every function associated with retail and coordinate them online into a sprawling, data-driven network of sellers, marketers, service providers, logistics companies, and manufacturers.

Alibaba’s mandate is to apply cutting-edge technologies—from machine learning to the mobile internet and cloud computing—to revolutionize how business is done.
Zeng summarizes the formula for smart business with this simple equation:

Network Coordination + Data Intelligence = Smart Business

“That simple equation reveals what is behind Alibaba’s success and captures everything you need to know about business in the future. Success is strength in both networks and data.” In its broadest sense, network coordination is the breaking down of complicated business activity so that groups of people or firms can get it done more effectively.

Impossible for humans, this level of interaction is the essence of network coordination: autonomous coordination with almost unlimited scale and a boundless number of partners over the internet.

Data intelligence is what I call this business capability of effectively iterating products and services according to consumer activity and response.

Under this approach, companies will use network coordination to achieve value, scope, and scale greater than that of their competitors and will deploy data intelligence to make their business smart enough to adjust nimbly to changes in the outside environment and the minds of consumers.
Smart business then, is when all participants involved in achieving a common goal are coordinated in an online network and use machine-learning technology to efficiently leverage data in real time to generate relevant responses.

A case in point:

25-year-old Zhang Linchao is the head of China’s online clothing brand, LIN Edition. Turning her clothing hobby into a business, she turned to Taobao, Alibaba’s Chinese e-commerce platform.

In 2015, she prepared to sell a batch of 15 new clothing items at 3:00 p.m. Ten of thousands so of fans are waiting for the sale to begin having already seen previews of this sale on social media. She expects to sell several thousand items but has only had 1000 pieces in stock—total. At 3:00 p.m. 60,000 users are visiting the store. Within one minute, everyone one of the fifteen clothing items sells out. Now preorders are sold. By 3:45 p.m., she has sold more than 10,000 items with each customer spending an average of $150 per order.

Linchao has created an on-demand business—but at mass production price points. What is remarkable is that she finds her customers on social media, keeps almost no inventory, and owns no factories. Yet the customer has the product in 7 to 10 days. The business model is efficient and responsive. Smart businesses like LIN and many others rely heavily on machine-learning technology to achieve scale and manage complexity. Alibaba uses “technology to coordinate business activity across a nearly unlimited number of interconnected parties.”

A business strategy is no longer based on competition, but coordination. Routine decisions are made automatically by machines driven by data. “Organizations are no longer static, hierarchical structures that need managing and controlling, but rather are dynamic, fluid networks of interconnected players that must be engaged by mission and opportunity.”

Strategy Is About Learning, Not A Plan

Strategy in a smart business is not long-term or short-term planning. It’s not planning at all. It’s more like learning. Strategy is continually updated by continuous real-time experimentation and customer engagement, which “creates feedback, which leads to adjustment of the vision, which in turn guides new experiments.” Can we run a business like an algorithm?

What Does this Mean for Organizations?

The Creativity Revolution is here. Organizations in the Creativity Age will focus on creativity and innovation. “An organization’s goal is to improve the efficiency of innovation founded on human insight and creativity.” This cannot be managed in the traditional way.

A smart business is “no longer a vessel for conveying orders from the top. It is a vacuum sucking up information about its environment and then generating and coordinating effective responses. The job of leadership is not to manage this experiment, but to make it possible and boost its success rate.” Think enabling not managing. Through enabling mechanisms, management provides the necessary conditions to tackle business problems through innovation as opposed to the execution of tried-and-true procedures. This means managers must now focus on things like articulating the mission and providing the environment that attracts the right collaborators, supplying the tools for them to experiment and scale successful ideas, and providing a market to assess the innovation’s success. Instead of micromanaging the firm, management creates the organization’s architecture to run itself.
To do this you need a strong culture and the people that fit that culture. “Hiring is the single most important thing a company can do to preserve culture.” Culture “works to segregate as much as it does to bring people together.” To that end, Alibaba has HR workers randomly assigned to interview employee candidates called, “chief olfactory officers. Their job is to sniff out the match between candidates and the strong corporate culture.”

From Zeng’s perspective, “the individual has more potential than maybe at any other time in history.” New technologies can free individuals from static organizations. New technologies “need not swallow the individual, but instead can propel you forward toward greater heights.”

Smart Business is one of the most fascinating books you’ll read this year on strategy and the future of business. At the very least it will expand your perspective. Zeng details the principles and practices that companies need to become smart businesses and the implications to the organization of those implemented principles and practices.

Singles Day is an example of what is possible when networks and data are brought together at the same time. “Thousands of companies come together seamlessly and instantly to provide millions of customers with what they want. Unimaginable scale is possible when businesses are smart.”

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Categories: Blogs

Didn't See It Coming

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 10:01


THERE ARE SEVEN key life challenges that every leader will face to one degree or another. Any one of them has the potential to derail even the best of leaders. But here’s the thing. While they may creep up on us, we can see them coming and apply the proper antidote.

Carey Nieuwhof is the author of Didn’t See It Coming. He wrote this book because too often we don’t. And even though these seven challenges never really go away, we can create some life habits that keep them at bay.

Nieuwhof writes from a been-there-done-that Christian perspective about the issues as they manifest themselves in our lives and follows up each one with a chapter on how to combat it. It’s not really just for leaders. These issues affect everyone and some you'll find hit close to home.

The seven challenges are:

Cynicism
Disappointment and frustration often end in cynicism. “Most cynics are former optimists.” He reminds us that cynicism is a choice that benefits no one. “Cynics never change the world. They just tell us why you can’t change the world. Ask them and they know all about it.” The antidote is curiosity. “Curious people are never cynical, and cynical people are never curious.” Simple but profound.

Compromise
The little compromises we make every day—the half-truths, the rationalizations, the excuses— “create a gap between who we are and who we want to be.” We often look to competency to carry us to success. It may get us in the door, but character is what determines how far we go. “If you don’t nurture your character daily, you can be most admired by the people who you know the least, while the people who know you best struggle with you the most.” Our character gets challenged every day. The antidote to compromise is to “work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency.”

Disconnection
Nieuwhof notes that technology doesn’t create disconnection, it just reveals what is already going on inside of us. “Disconnection is a human problem. Technology just makes it worse.” So the solution is to deal with what is going on inside of us. “When you search for an explanation as to why you have a hard time trusting or opening your heart to people, you can make progress. You’re using the past as a stepping stone into the future, not as a barricade against it.” Engage in life-giving conversation. Eliminate hurry from your life. And this comment could pull any of us up short: For me, the sense that a conversation is going nowhere always carries with it an underpinning of judgment and even arrogance on my part. I just assume I’m better, smarter, or wiser or that I have greater emotional intelligence than others. Which, of course, should drive me right back to my knees in confession. After all, we’re encouraged to think of others as better than ourselves. That’s a cornerstone habit of the humble.
Irrelevance
Irrelevance happens when what you do no longer connects to the culture and the people around you. That gap is a factor of how fast things change relative to you. You defeat it by continuously “changing, learning, and evolving. Change staves off irrelevance.” A key idea here is you need to “love the mission more than the methods.” An easy trap to fall into. Get radical about change. Surround yourself with younger people. Seek change to transform you.

Pride
Pride manifests itself in many different and subtle ways so it’s hard to spot—in ourselves. “Pride will snuff out your empathy, stifle your compassion, create division, suffocate love, foster jealousy, deaden your soul, and make you think all this is normal.” The only way to deal with pride is to cultivate humility. “Learn the ways of the humble and make it your principal way of operating.” Nieuwhof offers practical ways to begin to make this happen in your life.

Burnout
Burnout saps the meaning and wonder out of life. Signs of burnout include among other things: your passion fades, you no longer feel your highs and lows, little things make you disproportionately emotional, everybody drains you, nothing satisfies you, and your productivity drops. Getting out of this state begins by admitting it and then figuring out how to live today so you will thrive tomorrow. What does that look like? “Maintaining health in all five major areas of life (spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, and financial)” must become a priority. Nieuwhof recommends some concrete steps you can take to bring you back from burnout. Go deep enough and take enough time to recover so that you begin to feel gratitude for the process.

Emptiness
Ironically, success often makes you feel empty. Once you have arrived, “you find there’s still something inside you that says there has to be more.” The antidote: “find a mission that’s bigger than you.” He continues, “Selfishness looks good only to the selfish in the same way that pride is attractive only to the proud. Humility will win you what pride never will: the affection of others. And that’s exactly what selflessness will do. Other people naturally gravitate toward people who live for a cause beyond themselves.”

Didn’t See It Coming is full of understanding and insight. The practical advice found here will benefit anyone on their leadership journey.





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Categories: Blogs

The Physics of Innovation

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 11:07


ACCORDING to Newton’s law of inertia any body prefers to remain in its present state, and will continue to move (or not) as it has been, unless disturbed sufficiently to be forced – literally – to change direction.

What we were taught in high school science, F = MA, force = mass times acceleration, also describes the physics of innovation. The laws of innovation may be an entirely different application than Newton intended, but tracking through on the metaphor yields pragmatic tips for innovators.

Innovation faces the inertia of the status quo defined by team members, organization culture, and whatever product or service solutions already exist. These all become anchors for evaluating the desirability of anything new. Every member of a team in any organization brings with them some version of “the way things have always been done.” Users have ways they are solving the problems innovations claim to address.

Change makers – whether corporate innovators, founders, or investors – improve their odds of moving their ideas from napkin back and prototype to commercial reality at scale when they acknowledge that one of their biggest challenges is overcoming the bias to maintain things as they are.

How can change makers create the forward motion to dilute the impact of inertia so they can advance innovation?

Here are four imperatives based upon the physics of innovation:

Know and convey your purpose.

Purpose is not about a slogan on the conference room wall. It’s about knowing what you stand for, why your enterprise exists, and why you are there. With purpose backed by passion and commitment, you can challenge and motivate yourself and others to accomplish hard goals. Purpose creates the fuel – the intensity – required to change the status quo of what is, towards the change maker’s view of what is possible.

Chunk down whatever you are trying to create into small steps.

By bringing people with different perspectives together to iterate ever-improving prototypes, and exposing the prototypes to users at each step, the change maker accomplishes key objectives: Collaboration and inclusion build buy-in as people feel heard and are able to contribute their expertise. Costly mistakes are avoided as innovations that are true departures from the status quo evoke counter-intuitive responses – good and bad. And, iteration feeds the next item on this list -- speed.

Move fast.

Taking multiple steps to iterate a prototype before declaring readiness to go to market may feel like a slowdown. But in fact, chunking down the work into iterative cycles can compress the time it takes to get to market with a product or service that works, and that people really want to own and use. Imagine the difference between a fully unfurled piece of string, and one of the same length compressed into a coil. The two strings represent the difference between the start and end times for a linear approach versus one that is iterative.

Follow the ‘compliment then complement’ principle.

Some amount of resistance to innovation happens when people tied to a prior success see the next big thing as a repudiation of their past contributions. Take the edge off this emotional impulse by signaling respect and empathy with a simple practice: Compliment with an ‘i’ then complement with an ‘e’. Here’s an example of how this sounds, in the case of introducing client segmentation to insurance agents accustomed to mining their contact lists one-at-a-time for leads: “You have done an amazing job within your network identifying new clients. We can offer you a new tool to try out that might allow you to achieve even better results by tagging your contacts with a segment identifier. Others are finding this is helping them to win new business.”

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This post is by Amy J. Radin, author of The Change Maker’s Playbook: How to Seek, Seed and Scale Innovation In Any Company. She is a recognized Fortune 100 chief marketing and innovation officer with a record of moving ideas to performance in complex businesses, including Citi and American Express. Amy is passionate about developing innovations that can create sustainable, business-changing impact. She now advises aspiring growth companies on business development and marketing.

Follow Amy on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can download an excerpt of The Change Maker’s Playbook on her website.

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Categories: Blogs

Business Chemistry: What Type Are You?

Mon, 09/03/2018 - 10:21


THE BETTER YOU UNDERSTAND yourself and those around you, the easier it is to work with other and as a leader, to give them what they need to excel.

Business Chemistry is a tool for self-understanding and empathy—a way to identify meaningful differences between people’s working styles and perspectives.

Kim Christfort and Suzanne Vickberg of Deloitte helped to develop Business Chemistry. Iy does not invalidate everything else of its type, rather it is designed to be simpler and thereby memorable and actionable on issues that really matter for people in the work environment. And it is quite straightforward for both accessing yourself and others you work with.

Using the key sticking points between people, they identify 4 Working Styles:

Pioneers value possibilities and they spark energy and imagination. They’re outgoing, spontaneous, and adaptable. They’re creative thinkers who believe big risks can bring great things.

Drivers value challenge and they generate momentum. They’re technical, quantitative, and logical. They’re direct in their approach to people and problems.

Integrators value connection and they draw teams together. They’re empathic, diplomatic, and relationship oriented. They’re attuned to nuance, seeing shades of grey rather than black and white.

Guardians value stability and they bring order and rigor. They’re practical, detail-oriented, and reserved. They’re deliberate decision-makers apt to stick with the status quo.

The authors naturally go into detail on each of these types and give an example of a well-known person that fits that type. They also delve into difference between the types as they relate to stress (Pioneers are the least stressed.), career aspirations, environments they thrive in, and where each type if found organizationally and generationally.

The trick of course, is to use this knowledge to modify you own behavior. Otherwise it’s just a game. “By learning about your own type and developing a hunch about the types of those you work with, you can see right away where some of your key differences and similarities are. Then you can determine how you might flex your own style to better match the preferences of those around you.” For example, too many constraints can completely shut a Pioneer down, while a Guardian may withdraw in an environment that feels too chaotic. A Driver may become very frustrated in an organization that lacks decisiveness, while an Integrator may wither on a team that doesn’t value broad-based input. Knowing these trigger points can help you as a leader to give people more of what they need to excel and less of what will turn them off.
To understand your own style and develop your hunch about others you know, they’ve developed a test which you can take here.

If you’re going to try it out for yourself, you might think about what you are naturally inclined to do and what you have learned to do. I might want to be direct with others but I have learned that I am more productive when I am diplomatic. But being that that is my natural tendency, I probably prefer when people are direct and concise with me. That fact would affect my working style profile.

Interestingly, 32% of Millennials are most likely Guardians. They prefer having all of the answers and enjoy zooming into every detail. 29% of Baby Boomers are most likely to be Pioneers or Integrators. They grew up in a different time and may have adopted a more novelty-seeking and relationship–focused orientation.


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Categories: Blogs

First Look: Leadership Books for September 2018

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 09:11
Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in September 2018. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

  Didn't See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences by Carey Nieuwhof
  Dear Founder: Letters of Advice for Anyone Who Leads, Manages, or Wants to Start a Business by Maynard Webb with Carlye Adler
  Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  Connecting the Dots: Lessons for Leadership in a Startup World by John Chambers with Diane Brady
  The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin



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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"Read deep! Read often! Out-READ the Competition!!!"
— Tom Peters

Categories: Blogs

LeadershipNow 140: August 2018 Compilation

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 02:03

Here are a selection of tweets from August 2018 that you might have missed:
See more on Twitter.

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Categories: Blogs

Getting Real About the Monsters Under the Bed

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 09:30

Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win? —Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
I once had a conversation with a neighbor who admitted, matter-of-factly, that she really doesn’t like change. This preference shapes her decisions, and her life, in countless ways.

Now, I can intellectualize a desire to hold on to the status quo. But I don’t really get it. No matter how good things are, our lives can always be better. So why not strive for more: in our work, our relationships, our families, our communities? Not to be greedy, but to live life to its fullest, and to make our world a little better.

Ultimately, I suspect the fear of change is really a fear of uncertainty. A nagging sense that the benefits of change might not justify the potential risks. Shakespeare describes this human condition well, as he so often does: “Our doubts are traitors/And make us lose the good we oft might win/By fearing to attempt.” [Measure for Measure, I:4]

Children crave the comfort of certainty. Yet the promise of certainty is irrational, and a little dishonest. As Voltaire noted, “Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” We assure our children that there are no monsters under the bed, but how can we really know? Do we even know what monsters look like? False certainty may feel like a white lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless.

The political discourse of late has become fixated on certainty, and it’s discouraging. “The problem is with the Mexicans, or the Muslims, or the banks, or the police, or the pharmaceutical companies.” We know in our hearts that simple, certain solutions are both incomplete and intellectually dishonest: “If we make these changes, then the monsters won’t hide under the [proverbial] bed.” Certainty may get votes, but it isn’t leadership. We aren’t children.

Where is the courage—on either side of the political aisle—to admit that the world is complex? That we rarely understand the relationship between cause and effect? Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum wrote an excellent book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which should be required reading for all business and political leaders. Not because it paints a clear picture of the future. Rather, because it so clearly describes an amazing, uncertain future, full of both opportunity and peril. And because it raises critical questions that aren’t getting nearly enough attention—in the halls of Congress, or the conferences rooms of corporate America.

As Schwab argued: “The fourth industrial revolution is not only changing what we do but also who we are. The impact it will have on us as individuals is manifold, affecting our identity and its many related facets – our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills. It will influence how we meet people and nurture relationships, the hierarchies upon which we depend, our health, and maybe sooner than we think, it could lead to forms of human augmentation that cause us to question the very nature of human existence. Such changes elicit excitement and fear as we move at unprecedented speed.”

Surely, we all need to get more comfortable with ambiguity. We can scarcely understand the present, and we have yet to invent a crystal ball that sees into the future. Change is scary, but so is standing still. As Bono sang in U2’s (underrated) song, Summer Rain: “When you stop taking chances you'll stay where you sit/You won't live any longer but it'll feel like it.”

I have bad news for my neighbor. Change is not just coming; it’s already here. And it’s going to accelerate. More than ever, corporate and political leaders need to get real. They need to acknowledge complexity, work together to confront difficult questions, and offer an honest, thoughtful assessment of risks and opportunities as they chart a path into an uncertain future.

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This post is by James Millar is the author of Building Bridges: The Case for Executive Peer Networks. He is the founder of SkyBridge Associates, a company that designs, creates, and leads the executive peer networks that leaders need to build authentic relationships and share valuable insights. He is former director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard Business School.

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Categories: Blogs

Is a Lack of Awareness Holding You Back?

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 09:32


AWARENESS is the ability to have knowledge of or are conscious of yourself and your surroundings in real time. Without it we tend to be reactive, disengaged, an unimaginative. The more conscious we are, the faster we adapt, and the higher performing we become.

Bob Rosen and Emma-Kate Swann wrote Conscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life, because they believe that becoming more conscious is critical in our increasingly disruptive and accelerating world. “Most of us believe they are self-aware, but research shows that only 10 to 15% of us truly have this capability.

“The real power of awareness is found when we master action and introspection together” or what they refer to as conscious. “Lifting your gaze outside yourself while looking inward to remove the roots of resistance is how you become more conscious.” Being the smartest person in the room is not the advantage it might have been because it gets in the way of adapting to the change happening all around us. “Conscious is the new smart.” Driven by the need to be right, those obsessed with being smart tend to hoard knowledge, externalize blame, and mismanage relationships and risks. This sabotages our ability to thrive in a constantly changing world.
There are four reasons why we are not aware as we need to be:

1. Too Shallow: “We spend little time self-reflecting and stay stuck in negative emotions, shackled by old baggage, resulting in little understanding of ourselves.” We just don’t dig deep enough.

2. Too Narrow: “We don’t challenge our outdated assumptions, which limits the power of our expansive minds.” With limited perspectives we miss opportunities and react irrationally.

3. Too Safe: “We are afraid of change and prefer to avoid the uncertainty around us. As a result, we stay stuck, biased, and reactive.”

4. Too Small: “If your view of yourself and the world is too small, you won’t see connections, possibilities, or solutions. Staying small and never stepping up is sure to lead to regrets and will undermine your highest potential.”

The antidote to our lack of self-awareness is:

Go Deep

Harness the power of introspection by getting to know who you are, where you come from, and why you act the way you do.

Think Big

Get curious and adaptive: deal with complexity and paradox by learning how to expand your mind, leverage your relationships and networks, and overcome unconscious biases.

Get Real

Become more honest and intentional in leadership and life, overcoming the pitfalls of being too safe and cautious while embracing reality.

Step Up

Act boldly and responsibly to reach your highest potential: how to champion your higher purpose, stretch people in constructive ways, and be generous in your relationships.



To address the realities of our time, we need people who will Go Deep, Think Big, Get Real, and Step Up. To lead change you need a conscious mindset. “Regardless of the context or the reason for change, leaders at all levels must lead people into the unknown and into the future.”

If we are going to create change, we have to begin with ourselves. That requires that we become more conscious of what pushes us forward—our Accelerators—and what holds us back—our Hijackers. Accelerators like courage, drive or determination, deliberate practice, resilience, and vulnerability, drive us forward. Hijackers like self-criticism, cynicism, controlling behavior, aloofness or disengagement, and hyper-competitiveness, hold us back. It is important to know how these things impact your performance and constructively use them or deal with them.

There are many things that conspire to throw us off-course. Knowing who you want to be in the world and remembering your purpose, will help you to manage these issues and keep you on course. The more conscious we are the less drama we will experience in our lives.

Another consequence of being conscious is to be civil. People and events will push our buttons, but the mature, conscious person will know when to “reprioritize personal needs and self-interests” for the good of all. “Conscious people realize there is a human being on the other end of every connection. Acts of civility are the small sacrifices we make for the good of all and the sake of harmoniously living and working together.” A good example of that kind of self-control and consciousness is John McCain’s comment to a woman at a town hall meeting that said she didn't trust then-Sen. Barack Obama because "he's an Arab." McCain responded, “No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”

Conscious people see the big picture and know what is important. Consciousness is a choice. Conscious unleashes our full potential as human beings. By expanding our minds, enriching our experiences, and shaping our destinies, we discover our purpose in life. Being conscious enables us to approach life as a journey. Equipped with everything we need—an open mind and heart, confidence and resilience, and our capacity for greater consciousness—we embrace the uncertainty of life. Conscious is the accelerator for effective change. The more conscious we are, the faster we adapt, and the higher performing we become.
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Categories: Blogs

Engagement Isn’t Built, It’s Uncovered

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 09:01


WE ARE BORN with a desire to engage. We want to learn—to relate and interact. We want to connect.

But over the years, depending on our upbringing, our schooling, and our work, our desire to engage gets suppressed. It gets covered up.

Our job as leaders is to uncover and rekindle that child-like desire to engage with others and our environment. We can’t create engagement, but we can uncover it.

I was reading a remarkable little book written for teachers by retired professor Calvin Luther Martin entitled, Successful College Teaching Begins with Throwing Away Your Lecture Notes. We can learn a lot here because teaching, like leading, is about serving others while achieving a result. Indeed, teaching is a function of leading.
We teach much more than our subject matter; we teach trust or distrust, courtesy or discourtesy, warmth or coldness—the lessons between the lines.
The people we lead are not coming to us from our perspective. They have their own that has been years on the making.
Bear in mind that you are teaching young men and women with an educational past that has shaped them.
We bring our whole selves to work. Our hope, our scars, our dreams, our fears, our expectations, and our assumptions. Our childhood sense of wonder has been abused. It’s there, but it is cautious. We are conditioned to want to be right more than we want to be accurate.
Behold the class before you. They are not blank slates, nor are they ignorant. There is plenty written on those slates and your task is to rewrite much of that text—if they will trust you and if your good enough to get that close to them. They sit before you, thoroughly trained (brainwashed might be a better word) in ways of pedagogy that will determine how they hear you, what they hear and cannot hear, and how they will absorb what you say.
We are not leading another version of us. We are leading a human being similar in form but different in substance.
These people come to you with layers of expectations that have been created starting in the first grade. Like an old kitchen countertop, they have been painted over and over. The oak, cherry, or maple cabinet beneath is smothered by an amour of paint. It’s a bland countertop now. The fine wood underneath is unknown; it’s merely a rigid structure useful for covering with paint and, after that, supporting pots and pans.

Thirty countertops, each covered with a dozen coats of paint, file into your room, take a seat, and open their spiral-bound notebooks. They’re ready for yet another coat of paint, Professor Martin. They know the drill; go ahead, start brushing it on.

The sorrow of this parable is that they expect it. They actually expect you to drone on, giving them fact after fact while they fill their notebook and worry about memorizing all this information.

Surprise them; don’t do it.
A leader has to peel off the old paint and get to that desire to engage that has been unwittingly covered over. We have to uncover the desire to engage. The desire to learn. The desire to connect.

The tendency is to be instructing. We do need to instruct but it needs to be part of a larger, coherent story that people can feel a part of.

We are wired to engage. It’s already within us. Our task as leaders is to uncover what is already there.

Martin explains that to teach or to lead “is to give a concert, to perform a beautiful, passionate concerto which everyone in the audience yearns to play, improvise on, and even improve.”

We don’t build engagement, we uncover it.

Uncover engagement in your organization.

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Categories: Blogs

7 Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 10:32


IF YOU WANT TO GROW your career, Wharton Lecturer and EMBA Career Director Dawn Graham recommends in her book Switchers, that you “continually put yourself in situations where you’re the least qualified person in the room.” That is, “put yourself into professional situations where you have some foundational knowledge, but are still a novice.”

Not only do you grow from the experience but you’ll have a roomful of experts to learn from. At first you may feel inadequate—feel like an imposter—but with enough grit you’ll succeed and move forward.

When you feel like you don’t belong—like you are not up to par—know that it is a side effect of growth that everyone experiences at one time—or many times—throughout a career. If you are a high-performer, it comes with the territory. Graham offers 7 tips for overcoming Imposer Syndrome:

1. If You Aren’t Struggling a Bit, You Aren’t Growing Much

“When you’re taking on a new venture like a job switch, it’s normal to feel behind the curve. This doesn’t mean you’re a fraud or not cut out for the work. Don’t compare your start to someone else’s peak.”

2. Quite that Inner Voice

“We are often our own worst critic and hardest on ourselves. If you’re new at something, have realistic expectations and give yourself the latitude to learn.”

3. Perfection is Slow Death

“Perfectionists have an all-or-nothing view. Even as a seasoned expert, you’re human and not immune to bad days or learning curves. Mistakes can indicate that you need to prioritize, delegate, or take a break. Or they could just be mistakes. Don’t make them into more than they are.”

4. Honor Your Accomplishments

“Life isn’t about keeping a scorecard. Reminisce about past successes, and then engage strategies that worked before to tackle the problems you’re facing.”

5. Drop the “Yes, but….”

“Do you deflect or write off compliments? Perhaps you attribute your success to luck. We are masters at believing negative feedback while shrugging off the positive. Take time to listen to praise from others and own it.”

6. Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario

“The worst-case scenario rarely happens, but if you have an action plan should it become a reality, you can be confident you’ll handle the lesser obstacles that do arise.”

7. Fake It ‘til You Make It

“When you come across as self-assured, other sense that it creates a positive spiral. Self-assurance doesn’t mean you have all of the answers, rather that you’re confident you can use resources to find solutions as problems arise.”

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And here’s a fact of life. The more you learn about something the more you’ll realize how little you know about the topic in terms of all there is to know. Stay humble and curious. It will give you unprecedented depth in this day and age.

Beyond what I'm sharing here, Switchers is an invaluable resource for those looking to make a career switch. “If you’re like most Americans, you’ll spend around five years of your life engaged in some type of job search activity.” Today though, people aren’t just changing jobs, they’re changing professions. And this requires a different approach than the typical job search.

Graham writes from a recruiter’s point of view sharing not only what they think but also the psychological principles that underlie the Switcher’s journey. She covers the five job search killers, networking and the 2nd Level Contact Strategy, rebranding your social media profile, and crafting your professional identity. Bias is a reality in the hiring process, and can be an especially difficult hurdle for Switchers. Learn to identify it and engage strategies to overcome it such as using your network to become an insider.

Your career story is what will convince the hiring manager to pull the trigger and make the offer. It should be logical, compelling, attention-getting, and genuine.

You need to network to make a career switch. Second- (and third) level connections are where the action is! Most people in your immediate circle have the same information you do, so the goal is to get their network, because that is where your next opportunity lies.
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Categories: Blogs

How to Break the Hold Inertia Has on Your Organization

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 10:30


ORGANIZATIONS get sluggish. They get clunky and myopic. They fall into patterns of inertia. And, in time they fail. But there are signs.

In Transforming the Clunky Organization, Samuel Bacharach takes on the two fundamental sources of organizational inertia—the tendency to be clunky and the tendency to be myopic.

The clunky organization is characterized by a state of organized anarchy. You’ll find overlapping structures, unclear decision processes, chaotic communication, and poor integration. This creates a general lack of focus. People are focused on their own activities but are not attentive to the activities of the whole. The clunky organization is missing the big picture.

The myopic organization is characterized by an addiction to their past successes and behaviors as a result they find it difficult to make adjustments. “While they can adapt and improve, they do so by making repetition-based improvements.”

Which type of inertia are you facing?

It probably not either/or. Most organizations face a little of both and it can vary from one organizational issue to the next—one department to the next. There are some questions you can ask to conduct a self-assessment. Questions related to the clunky organization would include: Are the business units integrated? Are the lines of decision-making authority clear? Is there ambiguity or a lack of goal alignment? Do competing agendas lead to turf and silo issues?

Questions related to the clunky organization would include: Is the organization driven by one product or mindset? Is there centralized control of organizational mission and processes? Is it difficult to convince others to explore new directions or new opportunities? Is there a risk-adverse mind-set?

Great leaders break inertia because they know that in order for an organization to thrive and reach their potential they must “engage in robust discovery and focused delivery” as a way of life. In other words, they must be able to read the signals and take action to bring those innovations to life.

Engaging in robust discovery and focused delivery requires certain skills on the part of the leader as outlined below:



Robust Discovery To assure robust discovery, leaders must master the contextual competence of explorers and the ideational competence of innovators. To explore, they must scan the environment for useful information, read signals, and create partnerships. … Leaders who are innovators take steps to move an idea to germination.
As an explorer, a leader looks for signals that the organization needs to adjust or to move in a new direction. Leaders should not just be scanning the familiar sources, but should also diversify the content they consume on a daily basis. If not, the tendency is to simply reinforce what we think we already know. Some signals need to be acted on immediately, others need to be thought through. “A strong signal elicits a question: What needs to be done? The weak signal asks, What does this mean?”

Then those signals need to be transformed into an agenda. If you can see where a change needs to be made but can’t translate that into an actionable concrete agenda, a leader can actually drive their organizations into sluggish territory.

Focused Delivery To assure focused delivery, pragmatic leaders must master the political competence of campaigners and the managerial competence of sustainers. …To engage in focused delivery, leaders must have the political competence to overcome the headwinds of resistance that sabotage forward movement and have the managerial competence to overcome challenges that could lead to dropping the ball.
The important second half of the solution to breaking inertia in your organization is implementing the new agenda and seeing it through to get the desired result. “Leaders in sluggish organizations may have impeccable discovery, but they may stumble when it comes to making those good ideas a reality.”

And then there’s the resistance. Ideas themselves are rarely threats. But “the moment that a specific idea shows concrete potential, the forces of resistance jump into action.” A leader must know where other people are coming from. “In clunky organizations issues of turf, transaction costs, and fear of losing power can lead to resistance. When the myopic tendency is in play, the fear of losing face or the security that comes from habit will cause many leaders to retreat into accepted business models and the old ways of doing things to preserve some semblance of safety.”

It’s a fact that old game-changing agendas can become the new organizational pattern leading to inertia—the sluggish, myopic organization. Leaders must always be willing to seek out signals that old agendas need to be changed to regain organizational momentum.

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Related Interest:
  Moving Your Agenda

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Categories: Blogs

Straight Talk for Startups

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 10:01


ENTREPRENEURSHIP is not for everyone. It’s not an escape from the cubicle, hard work or bosses. But it is creative. It can be enriching in many ways. And if you are successful, you can believe that you did it all on your terms. And while it’s easier than ever to get started, it harder than ever to succeed.

Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman bring decades of startup experience to help you beat the odds. In Straight Talk for Startups they offer 100 insider rules to bring clarity and a dose of reality to the entrepreneurial process. So whether you’re thinking of starting a business or are in the middle of managing one, this book will help to avoid (are correct) rookie mistakes.

Komisar and Reigersman begin by telling you what matters and what doesn’t. Before you quit your job, here are a few things you need to think about:

It’s hard. Because money is abundant, “it’s no surprise that the competitive landscape becomes crowded and non-economic.” It’s not uncommon for your competition to sell below cost in order to buy customers with their capital. And employees tend to act more like mercenaries than comrades in arms.

Try to act normal. “There is nothing normal about being an entrepreneur.” I loved this line: “Venture capitalists have one of the greatest jobs in the world. They get to sit across the table from passionate strangers who hallucinate the future for them.” They advise that when selling your idea: “Don’t let them know you are one of those precious lunatics hell-bent on changing the world until you’ve gotten to know them better. You don’t want to scare them off right at the start.”

Aim for an order-of-magnitude improvement. You’ve got to give people a really good reason to move from where they are quite comfortable to where you want them to be—a loyal customer. An order-of-magnitude of ten times is the minimum. Beyond that you improve your odds of success. “If you try to thread the needle with an innovation that is just good enough, you may miss [the target] entirely. But if you shoot for an order-of-magnitude change, you may still be in the game even if you miss by half.”

Most failure result from poor execution, not unsuccessful innovation. “Plenty of people confuse luck for skill. We flatter ourselves and find cause where there is none. The difference between skill and chance boils down to repeatability.” Timing matters. The elements need to line up. The authors identify six significant stages of development:

Stage 1: Idea—develop your idea and assess its attractiveness
Stage 2: Technology—build the technology
Stage 3: Product—deliver the product
Stage 4: Market—demonstrate market demand
Stage 5: Economics—prove unit economics in real life
Stage 6: Scale—now, finally, grow your business

There is a method to the madness. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Great clarification: “The creative process is essentially an execution process, not a eureka moment.

Other rules include:
  • A part-time game changer is preferable to a full-time seat filler.
  • Manage your team like a jazz band.
  • Net income is an opinion, but cash flow is a fact.
  • Avoid venture capital unless you absolutely need it.
  • Too many unanimous board decisions is a sign of trouble.
  • Success is not linear.
  • Learn the rules by heart so you know when to break them.
Komisar and Reigersman close by saying, Always ask why. Why this? Why you? Why now? Asking why will keep you grounded.
Know why this venture is important to you. Why it should be important to others. And given the low probability of success for any venture, why it is nevertheless worth failing at. Of course you don’t want to fail; success is always preferable to failure. But if you fail, will you feel you wasted your time, or that you fought the good fight?

Keep yourself grounded and your wits about you by frequently asking yourself, Why? Entrepreneurship is important because it has the power to make the world better. That is why it is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.
If you are considering starting a business, you will do well to also read Randy Komisar’s The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living.

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Categories: Blogs

Leap: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 09:44


IN TODAY'S competitive environment, where latecomers can copy almost any product or service, companies can no longer just be good at what they do. Is the displacement of early pioneering companies an inevitable fate in the modern economy? Outlasting copycat competition in any industry is difficult; doing so over decades is nearly impossible—unless you leap.

Howard Yu explains in Leap: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied, how a business can shield itself from copycats. (The stories are absorbing and alone are worth the price of the book.)

Yu identifies five fundamental principles that allow companies to make a leap and stay successful in the face of such competition.

Principle 1: Understand your firm’s foundational knowledge and its trajectory
Protecting a business begin first by knowing its foundational or core knowledge. Here Yu examines what not to do in the case of Steinway and copycat Yamaha. Steinway & Sons spiraled into decline “in large part due to its myopic obsession with craftsmanship at the expense or technological advancement and automation.” He notes, “As history has proved, what begins as an act of human creativity by a world-class expert usually ends in machine automation.” Steinway allowed its strengths to become its weakness. “In other words, core competencies turned into core rigidities, preventing the firm from responding appropriately to the strategic threat Yamaha posed.”

What is the core knowledge discipline that is most fundamental to your company and how widely available is it?

Principle 2: Acquire and cultivate new knowledge disciplines
Yu examines pharmaceutical companies like Novartis and the soap company P&G to see how they moved across knowledge disciplines to leverage or create new knowledge on how their product was made. “Only by forging ahead, rather than refining what has already been, can a pioneer avoid being caught by copycats.”

Two forces—the unwillingness to cannibalize current sales and the tendency to leverage what we have today—leads firms to give their advantage away to copycats. As P&G chairman William Cooper Proctor said in 1933, “This [synthetic detergent] may ruin the soap business. But if anybody is going to ruin the soap business it had better be Procter & Gamble.”

When making the leap timing is important. Steve Jobs said, “Things happen fairly slowly.” Yu writes, “This is an important lesson. Successful executives often exhibit a bias for action. But it’s even more important to separate the noise from the signal that actually pinpoints the glacial movement around us. Listening carefully to the right signals requires patience and discipline.”

Principle 3: Leverage seismic shifts
Where should we look for opportunities to leap? “We must identify those forces that matter the most in the coming decades and reconfigure our competencies ahead of others.” The two intertwining forces that will propel all companies into the second half of the twenty-first century are the rise of intelligent machines and the emergence of ubiquitous connectivity. We must think about how we can use connectivity to mass-produce solutions and solve complex problems and how to use intelligent machines to automate that process in our own businesses.

Principle 4: Experiment to gain evidence
There are puzzles and there are mysteries. To solve a puzzle, you need the correct data—better intelligence and sharper calculation. Mysteries on the other hand, do not have an answer. The answer has to be invented. It requires a shift in thinking. It requires creativity. “Executives must infuse knowledge work with creativity while automating everything that is routine.”

Ask: “What world am I living in? What are the biggest trends in this world? How do I align my company’s activities so my organization gets the most out of these trends and cushions the worst?”

And while experimentation is good, at some point someone has to pull the trigger. Stop the experimentation process and fully commit to an execution strategy. There is an abundance of ideas but not enough execution.

Principle 5: Dive deep into execution
“The biggest risk that threatens the survival of a large and complex organization lies in political infighting and collective inaction.” Looking at example after example, Yu found that “Every time an organization successfully leaps into a new knowledge base, the senior leaders need to go beyond formulating a strategy and should get their hands dirty during its implementation. Corporate leaders need to absorb career risks…. Success requires an exact combination of knowledge power and positional power.” Maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit is the function of the CEO.

Looking at the successes and failures of startups, the difference “was not that the successful startups got it right the first time but that they learned from their mistakes early enough to shift gears. They had just enough money left over to restart after getting it wrong.”

How do you thrive in a world where everything can be copied? You change the rules of the game. You leap from one knowledge discipline to another. “It turns out that regardless of the industry, it is possible to radically rewrite the rules of the game so as to demand a whole new field of knowledge in support of the change.” We can’t stand on what got us here, we must innovate.

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Categories: Blogs

The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 12:58


NEW TECHNOLOGIES are shifting the way we work and interact. Jobs are being eliminated, and industries are being disrupted as we try to come to grips with how this technology is changing us and how we can use it.

The thing to keep in mind is that machines are machines and we are human. And if you are reading this, that’s your advantage. Specifically, your edge if your ability to communicate in imaginative ways, in a way that develops empathy with your listeners. Your ability to persuade and tell a story.

In Five Stars, Carmine Gallo states that “your ability to communicate persuasively is the single greatest skill that will set you apart in the next decade.” Here’s the problem: finding people with the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively are “notoriously hard to find.”

Aristotle gave us the foundation of good communication skills. The purpose of good communication was to encourage both the speaker and the listener to flourish. To this end, the speaker had to articulate the theme of the argument and then prove that their argument is both solid and logical. But a good argument moves us not on logic alone, but it also requires, Ethos (trust, wisdom, goodwill, or the character of the speaker) and Pathos (emotional appeal).

Dr. Paul Zak says, “A compelling story with an emotional trigger alters our brain chemistry, making us more trusting, understanding, and open to ideas.” Geoff Ralston, a partner at seed accelerator Y Combinator, told Gallo: “I have to tell a story that is compelling enough for you to be a part of my story because I’ve created a change, something new and something interesting. And that narrative is something I want you to be a part of. That is how humans have created our civilization.”

Gallo gives us example after example of how men and women have moved us through storytelling, by weaving a theme with logic, wisdom, and emotion. People like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Katelyn Gleason, Richard Branson, Richard Turere, Bryan Stevenson, and host of others. Here are some takeaways: “Communication is more important than ever because we’re asking physicists, social scientists, biologists, to work together. In the past, they would work alone on individual projects and keep to their own discipline. –Anders Sahlman

“A strong leader is one who knows how to inspire a community and take advantage of the knowledge within it.” –Steven Sloman and Philip Fernback

“The human brain cannot be persuaded if it has to work too hard to understand the information.” –Carmine Gallo

“If you’re a brand in this age of splintered attention on social media, you have to be good at reaching people conversationally, and you have to have good content that they want to see, otherwise they chose not to listen to you.” –David Pakman

“One of the most effective tools of persuasion is to use the classic narrative structure of dividing the story into three parts or ‘acts’: the set-up describes the current situation; the conflict highlights the problem your customer's faces, and the resolution proposes your idea or solution.” –Carmine Gallo

Speaking in shorter sentences is the sign of a more mature leader. When you reach the C-suite level, make your presentation as simple as possible. Talking to someone using fewer words takes practice. By concentrating on convincing people faster with fewer words, you are building a unique skill.” –The McKinsey Edge

“The people who will thrive are the strong technologists who are capable of translating their expertise into terms that non-technical people can understand.” –Ben Gaucherin

“You cannot over-invest in communication skills, written and oral communication. As a leader, you constantly have to mobilize the troops. Learn how to motivate people—small groups, medium-size groups, large groups—and how to write in a way that is pithy and to the point.” –Indra Nooyi
In 2012 Google began a three-year study called Project Aristotle to identify the habits of the most effective teams. They found that who was on the team matted less than how the team members interacted with each other. “Many meetings at Google now start with sharing stories and experiences—the emotional component of team building that bonds people together.”

Next Gallo turns his attention to how we get from good or average to great—five star—communicators. He provides many ideas and examples but here are some key thoughts:

Stories build an emotional connection with your audience. Create a signature story—a story unique to you and your brand. Brad Stone believes that “today’s upstarts have a critical skill that separates them from the previous generation of entrepreneurs—they can tell better stories.”

Stories should be structured in three parts: The set-up (the trigger), the conflict (when all seems lost), and the resolution. Include details, a surprise, and empathetic characters.

Stick to simple words and phrases. Think eight-grade readability. Simple takes a lot of work. “Great communicators make their work look effortless because they put a lot of effort int making it work.”

Use analogies and metaphors. “To be a master of metaphor is the greatest thing by far…it is also a sign of genius,” wrote Aristotle. Former speechwriter to Bill Clinton, John Pollack wrote, “In many arguments, whoever has the best analogy wins.” Gallo says, “Persuasion cannot exist in the absence of analogy. Analogies force people out of conventional thinking. When an idea or a concept is truly different from what comes before, unconventional thinking is required to sell it.”

Connect ideas from everywhere. Creative geniuses are not geniuses “because they are smarter; they are geniuses because they’re open to connecting ideas from different fields.”

Gallo also covers how to deal with the fear of public speaking. “Neuroscientists have identified two techniques that will help you shine when the pressure is on: reappraisal and repetition. Reappraisal simply means reframing the way you think about yourself and the events in your life. Turning thoughts from negative to positive is the key to winning. Once you’ve transformed your thoughts, you have to put in practice time. Repeating a presentation over and over will boost your confidence for the big day.”

There is so much in this book that will help you perform better in all of your communication. If only read one book on communication this year, read Five Stars by Carmine Gallo.

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Categories: Blogs

First Look: Leadership Books for August 2018

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 09:30
Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in August 2018. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

  Mastering Fear: A Navy SEAL's Guide by Brandon Webb and John David Mann
  8 Steps to High Performance: Focus On What You Can Change (Ignore the Rest) by Marc Effron
  Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust by Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein
  Leading with Dignity: How to Create a Culture That Brings Out the Best in People by Donna Hicks Ph.D
  Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction by Chris Bailey



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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"A personal bookshelf is critical to developing the ability to inspire others in the pursuit of worthy goals."
— Ret. U.S. Navy admiral James Stavridis, in Five Stars

Categories: Blogs

LeadershipNow 140: July 2018 Compilation

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 23:50

Here are a selection of tweets from July 2018 that you might have missed:
See more on Twitter.

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Categories: Blogs

What Is the Role of Leaders in Emerging Technology?

Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:16


ON JUNE 9th last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 2017 commencement address. He zeroed in on the distinction between technology and what it means to be human. His comments also point to the kinds of things—human things like empathy, communication, imagination, and relationships—we need to be developing to live and lead in the emerging artificial intelligence landscape.
Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything. That part takes all of us. It takes our values and our commitment to our families and our neighbors and our communities, our love of beauty and belief that all of our faiths are interconnected, our decency, our kindness.

I’m not worried about artificial intelligence giving computers the ability to think like humans. I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers without values or compassion, without concern for consequences. Because if science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we’ve been and the danger that lies ahead.
For a leader to be that candle they need to be able to create context by communicating across disciplines. They need to be able to share ideas to take advantage of all of the information that is available and put it to a creative solution. In short, leaders will need to define focus and create meaning. An emphasis on communication will be essential for building a stable narrative and a practical relationship with technology throughout an organization or team.

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Categories: Blogs

I Love Capitalism!

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 09:54


IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, we all feel a bit entitled. “Entitlement, writes John Townsend in The Entitlement Cure, “is the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment.” It’s about choosing the easy way instead of the hard way.

Ultimately capitalism is about personal responsibility, ownership, and commitment. That can be hard to swallow in an age that encourages entitlement. Ken Langone, the now-billionaire co-founder of Home Depot among other accomplishments, wrote a book titled, I Love Capitalism! An American Story. Shallow thinking might lead you to say, “Well yeah. Of course, he loves capitalism. What billionaire wouldn’t?” But there is a more than that to his life’s story.
Capitalism works. And—I’m living proof—it can work for anybody and everybody. Blacks and whites and browns and everyone in between. Absolutely anybody is entitled to dream big, and absolutely everybody should dream big. I did. Show me where the silver spoon was in my mouth. I’ve got to argue profoundly and passionate: I’m the American Dream.
And so begins Langone’s story of the American Dream. His parents—Angie and John—“were very simple people. Neither of them ever got close to graduating from high school. My mother dropped out in the seventh grade. My father didn’t want to work in the sand pits, so he went to trade school and learned to be a plumber.”

He has said, “You work hard. You work smarter. And maybe you lower your sights, but you get on a ladder. There has to be something inside you to make you push.” Again, you have to take ownership if you are going to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Langone had help along the way. As a freshman at Bucknell he wasn’t doing well in school. His economics professor took him aside and told him that if he applied himself and work hard, he would talk to the other professors on his behalf. He did. Professor Headley told the others, “Look, I think this kid is a diamond in the rough, and I think we ought to make the effort to try to pull him out of his nosedive.” He confesses he would not be where he is today without his help and direction.

Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace, asked Langone “What do you do if you're somebody in this economy, and there are many of them, who don't have people to help them out?” Langone replied:
“I feel very sorry for them. What do I do? I think there couldn't be a more lonely existence to not have at least one person in your life, at any one point in time in your life, that you couldn't pick up the phone or you couldn't go see and say, "Hey, what do you think?" Or "I need your help." Or "Can you do this for me?" Or "Can you do me this favor?" So that description, you tell me about that person, that’s a very sad — I will tell you this though, and I don't mean this in a lecturing way: My father had a wonderful expression. He said if you want to have a friend, you got to be a friend. So maybe that fellow wants to take a step back and ask himself the question, what has he done to nurture those kinds of friendships and relationships?”
Again, personal responsibility, ownership, and commitment. He writes:
Some guys who get wealthy like to brag about being self-made men. I can’t imagine they’re not leaving somebody out of that equation. The thing I can’t say and never will say is that I’m self-made. To make that claim, would be to commit a grave sin against all the many, many people who helped me get to where I am.
Langone’s story is a story of putting himself in place to better himself, to learn what he needed to learn, paying attention, and building relationships. There was luck along the way to be sure, but as Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Langone followed his interests. He found work that gave him experience and trained him to better understand and expand his interests and talents. With 40% of college graduates going into finance, he tells them that that’s a big mistake. “I tell them they should learn the nuts and bolts of a business before going out and trading that business’s stock. I didn’t realize how stupid I was back then when I was a salesman at Pressprich! I would look in the most superficial way at the companies whose stocks and bonds I was selling: I never truly understood how those businesses worked. It wasn’t until I got wealthy enough to buy pieces of companies that I developed a much deeper understanding of them.”

Here are a few lessons he learned along the way:
Supply and demand goes through everything in life. Early on I caught the fact that if you have a special talent, or if you have something unique that provoke people to do something that you can make a profit on, that’s a good thing.

In short order, he taught me to understand that a man’s public persona usually has very little to do with his private persona. Without that lesson, I would have felt subservient toward these muckety-mucks, but with that lesson under my belt I felt completely equal to anyone I dealt with.

If he’s talking with a group of people and someone says something interesting, Frank [Blake] will stop speaking immediately and give the floor to that person. He has the greatest quantity of humility I’ve ever seen in a man.

I never bought a pencil without an eraser on it, and God invented erasers on pencils for people like me.

Too many people measure success the wrong way. Money should be at the bottom of the list, not the top. I woke up soon enough to realize that if the only way you can define life is by the size of my bank account, then I’ve failed. Fifteen or twenty years ago, a guy asked me how much I was worth, and I answered without thinking, “My net worth is what good I do with what I have.”

One of the most important lessons in my life is this leave more on the table for the other guy than he thinks he should get.

I can’t think of a deal I’ve ever done where I couldn’t have gotten more out of it than I did. As I’ve made clear, I like making money. But it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you look beyond sheer profit to getting buy-in by other people. I’d rather own 10 percent of a billion-dollar company than 100 percent of a $100 million company. The numbers are exactly the same, but by owning a piece of the billion-dollar company I get the benefit of everybody else pulling with me, and that’s a huge benefit.

What a tech company needs to do during the precious period when it has product exclusivity is spend a lot of money to obsolete itself.

Arrogance is the enemy. For many years, Bernie Marcus and I never, ever went into a Home Depot store—never once—unless we were pushing carts in from the parking lot. I used to pray I would see a piece of trash on the floor so I could pick it up. Why? There are entry-level tasks for the kid who works in that store. When he sees the top guys doing them, he can say to himself, “If it’s not too small for them, it’s not too small for me.” The minute you take away all the artificial barriers between you and your people, you’re on the way to phenomenal success. But it takes a little bit of humility.

What distinguishes the winner from the losers is the ability to turn adversity around: resilience and creativity.

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