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Updated: 16 min 22 sec ago

The 8 Elements of Punk Rock Business

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 20:14


OK,  I’ll bite. What do the Ramones, the Clash, and the Sex Pistols have to do with leadership?

The title of Jeremy Dale’s book, The Punk Rock of Business, comes from a comment Bono made to Oprah about a project Dale was working on with him for Motorola. Dale and his team had performed the impossible and Bono said, “They are the punk rock of business: no long introductions, three beats and you’re in. They say they are going to do something, and then it just gets done.”

Using that as an inspiration, Dale has taken it to mean so much more. Punk is an attitude. It’s a fight against apathy and complacency. “I’m not okay with the current status quo. We’re into disruption.” Many businesses these days are clogged up by bureaucracy that thwarts innovation, slows down creativity, and encourages mediocrity. I hate mediocrity. I’d much rather have spectacular success or fantastic failure. I believe mediocrity occurs far too often because too many people in business, particularly those in middle-management roles, are far too cautious, pessimistic, and more concerned about protecting their jobs rather than striving for greatness and being everything they could be. They are fearful of putting their heads above the parapet, so they take a play-it-safe attitude and come up with the conservative, tame, and expected proposals.
Dale has distilled the punk rock movement to eight elements. These 8 elements of Punk Rock Business were at the heart of punk rock music, movement, attitude, fashion, and culture. Elements that are wanting in many organizations.

Element 1: Have a Cause

“Punk was all about wanting something better, being clear about what that was, and making that their cause.” Have a point of view. Find something you’re passionate about and then inspire your team to deliver it. An organization’s mission statement is meant to direct every single decision. A mission statement may not be enough. You may need to create a manifesto to add substance and emotion, creating a story around the mission statement. “We should be committed to being a lighthouse brand; that is, one who shines brightly, whose position is fixed, so that people can navigate their world trusting in us and our position on things.” Well put.

Element 2: Build a Movement

“Punk was attractive to like-minded people, and it galvanized that segment of the youth. Punk, more than music, was a mindset, and that attracted people.” It’s all about the people. The followers make the movement. You must get other people on board. Show your commitment to them and the mission by showing up. This is where you bring your emotional brain and not your rational brain.

Element 3: Create New and Radically Different Ideas

“Punk was completely different—never seen before jaw-dropping creation that exploded into our consciousness. No one was ambivalent to punk; you loved it or hated it.” It’s about creating new, different, and better ideas. After all, that’s what leadership is. Punk provided an avenue to express their frustration with the dead-end society that they saw at the time. “Never before had music been played at anything like two hundred beats per minute. Never before had music been played so loudly or aggressively. Never before had the lyrics to the songs been so politically charged or laid siege to taboo subjects.”

Begin by finding out what’s different about what you’re doing. What problem are you trying to solve? Radical ideas come from teams. And when they do they need to be brought to life by showing, not telling. Radical ideas are targets and so need to be protected. “Every project should have a vision and some nonnegotiables. The nonnegotiables are so important, because not only do they prevent the willingness to compromise, they also act as the catalyst for intelligent people to seek creative solutions when the inevitable challenges arrive.”

Element 4: Drive Speed and Action

“Punk was three beats, and you’re in.” Go for it. “When time is tight, great things happen.” You don’t always have to be right. “Decision-making is a portfolio. Not every decision needs to be correct.” The momentum is the important thing.

Element 5: Say It As It Is

“Punk lyrics came with a contagious honesty.” No nonsense. You have to say it like it is—but constructively. Sometimes you have to call others out, and sometime you must call yourself out. Don’t leave people wondering what you think. Speaking plainly saves time, bring clarity, and sets the performance bar where you want to set it.

Element 6: Be Authentic

“Punk gave people permission to be themselves.” Probably the only rule of being punk is: “to be yourself and be comfortable being who you are.” Surround yourself with confidants who will hold you accountable and call you out when you are being a fraud.

“Don’t just endure or play it safe. If you are, work out how you are going to stop that immediately … or, alternatively, work out how you are going to justify that to your grandchild in years to come.”

Element 7: Put Yourself Out There

“To be punk you had to make a very visible and belligerent statement; it required you to put yourself out there, say ‘this is me,’ and invite criticism. It was far more important to just give it a go, rather than to get it perfect.” Grab every opportunity to challenge yourself. Be the first to volunteer. You will be criticized. Get used to it. “You will not always get it right, but my experience is that the impact you have when you do get it right far outweighs the embarrassment when you don’t.” Are you a participant or a spectator?

Element 8: Reject Conformity

“Punk pressed the reset button.” Nonconformist. “However, it wasn’t just its nonconformity, it was the extent to which it didn’t conform that was shocking for many.” Some norms are pointless and irrelevant. “Today’s corporate world is full of mediocrity, slowness, politics, false praise, and people too scared to say it as it is. More and more employees are disillusioned with lukewarm leadership that makes their jobs dull and boring and constrains their creativity, imposing limitations rather than empowering them.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously. “Get over the show, get over your ego, and react based on the quality of work, not the superficial stuff that doesn’t matter.” Joey Ramone said they started a band because in 1974 everything was overproduced. “Being overproduced and perfectly organized kills the lifeblood that spontaneity brings.”

Humility is the X-Factor

“Punk by its very nature is aggressive and in your face.” Humility keeps you out of trouble. “Punk doesn’t need to be aggressive if you apply a degree of care and humility. If people see that you are fundamentally a good person, whose heart is in the right place, whose motives are pure, who has charm and charisma, who isn’t arrogant or conceited, who cares about people, and above all else is human and has humility, then you can apply all eight elements without worrying if you’re going too far.” Dale adds fifteen more key requirements that are needed to implement a punk rock attitude in business.

Unfortunately, I have not conveyed in this commentary the great stories that are used throughout to illustrate the 8 Elements of Punk Rock of Business. They are engaging and entertaining and really help to develop the concept. Well worth the read. The book provides a much-needed perspective on business and leadership in a very unconventional way.

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Categories: Blogs

quickpoint: Artificial Intelligence and What is an Entrepreneur

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 11:19
Artificial Intelligence came into its own as a discipline at a 1956 summer workshop at Dartmouth College. Today, it is being implemented in ways we never imagined. I share a couple of perspectives below on technology—what it can do and what we shouldn’t expect it to do. Also, a view on what entrepreneurship is and some good business advice. “Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naïve to think so. Technology is an enabler, but humanity has to deal with humanity’s problems. I think we’re both over-reliant on technology as a way to solve things and probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too.” CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai in New York Times, 11.08.18

“By scouting out hidden correlations that escape our linear cause-and-effect logic, business A.I. can outperform even the most veteran of experts.” Artificial Intelligence expert, Kai-Fu Lee in Fortune 11.1.18 PG94 (Author of AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order)

“For me, an entrepreneur is someone who can combine the opportunity and the execution. There are a ton of people who are incredible dreamers but they can't execute. There are amazing people who can execute but they can't see the opportunity. You were able to combine seeing an opportunity and then acting on it. That's what defines an entrepreneur.” CEO of snack company Kind, Daniel Lubetzky in Inc. 11.18 PG50

“With every project, no matter how small, act as if it’s the most important one. Make sure it’s technically and economically viable because you’ll be judged on the smallest things.” American architect, Frank Gehry in Fortune 11.1.18 PG48
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Categories: Blogs

Six Essential Practices to Grow Your Leadership

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 20:02


THE Harvard Business Review has enlisted the expertise of Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville to create the Leader’s Handbook. The context of leadership has changed, but the fundamentals of leadership have not. It is still working with people. And that has never changed.

It is in this spirit that the authors state, “the best way for any aspiring leader to succeed and to navigate turbulent times is to tune out the noise and refocus on these fundamentals” of leadership. They define leadership as “Achieving significant positive impact—by building an organization of people working together toward a common goal.”

The Harvard Business Review Leader’s Handbook is designed to help you grow your leadership. It is organized around six practices. While not meant to be all-encompassing, these are areas that “differentiate those who have the strongest impact.” Naturally, an understanding of human nature—the so-called soft skills—makes these six practices exploitable. The six practices are practical and provide a useful guide taking responsibility to lead and improve your effectiveness.

Building a Unifying Vision

Organizational success requires a bold and compelling vision that brings people together and inspires them to achieve extraordinary results. The vision needs to be exciting, clear, and simple—and stakeholders should be involved in its creation.

Developing a Strategy

Implementing a strong, measurable strategy is the key to realizing a vision. A great strategy is composed of key actionable choices about what to do, and what not to do to create distinctive value. Strategies are iteratively developed in the context of the company’s audience, challenges, and opportunities.

Getting Great People on Board

Smart and dedicated people help bring strategies to life. Executing strategies skillfully begins with recruiting, developing, and retaining high-performing talent. People need feedback to grow and incentives to feel recognized.

Focusing on Results

The experience of achieving short-term results motivates teams to strive for even more. Setting high expectations and sharpening accountability is necessary for high performance. Sold metrics and reviews can help this process become an organized one.

Innovating for the Future

Balancing current performance while investing for tomorrow is a key for enduring success. By keeping an eye on the demands of the future, leaders can continually drive innovations that will reshape the company to keep up with a changing world.

Leading Yourself

In order for leaders to lead others, they need to know and grow themselves. Feeling healthy, energized, and balanced also helps leaders do their best work. Leaders need to raise their own bar—in turn they’ll raise it for their organization.

Grasp the Leadership Opportunity Already In Your Reach

The authors make a good point. You shouldn't wait to be anointed a leader. Step up and take the responsibility now. Seizing the leadership opportunity and making the leadership difference in fact requires courage and also an ability to look beyond the every day and near-term tasks of basic management.… To be a leader, you need to anticipate like a great chess player who looks ten moves ahead and also quickly adjusts to the opponent’s play.

This doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore the current challenges of your organization and focus only on the future. On the contrary, your customers, clients, employees, investors, and partners are all counting on you to keep your eye on the present and ensure that you’re doing what’s needed to get results.
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Categories: Blogs

Take Charge of Your Company’s Future

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 12:31


HOW CAN WE BREAK FREE of incrementalism, dream bigger, and inspire people to follow us?

The fundamental problem we face say the authors of Leading Transformation—Nathan Furr, Kyle Nel, and Thomas Zoega Ramsoy—is our tendency toward incremental thinking. That is “to see and act on what is nearby, easy to access, and familiar than what is possible.”

We can’t eliminate our biases, but the authors suggest that to minimize them we take a three-step approach to behavioral transformation in your organization (and life). First, create a strategic narrative about a possible future, second break the decision bottlenecks, and third use key performance indicators—an artifact trail—to create signposts for the road ahead. The authors have a section devoted to each of these, but we’ll touch on them briefly:



Strategic Narrative

We all know stories engage people, but most companies don’t have a meaningful story or if they do, they don’t use it well. The stories you create must be true narratives through the eyes of one person: a story with a narrative arc, characters a conflict, and a resolution. “Narrative works, in part, because it helps us suspend our disbelief and because it creates emotion, belief, and change.”

When it comes to seeing possibilities, science fiction writers have an edge. They urge us to use science fiction writers to write stories of possible futures in your industry. And then present them in comic book format. “Science fiction can be a tool to break the bonds of incrementalism and to imagine other possibilities. The creative genre can help us dream bigger. They provide examples of how science fiction stories help companies do just that.

(Science Fiction: This 1975 video interview with Gerald O’Neill and Isaac Asimov about a manufactured habitat in space inspired Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company.)

Breaking Bottlenecks

Creating the story, finding science fiction writers and graphic artists may be the easy part. “Navigating the rat’s nest of motivations, politics., and routines in any big company may be the hardest part.” Applying tools rooted in behavioral science like decision maps and archetypes can help to break bottlenecks. Archetypes can help you understand how to approach the decision makers in your organization. In one example, the legal team was holding up progress out of a desire to protect the company. In the example, Natalie reframed the proposal in a way that the caretaker archetype could appreciate. She suggested the moving forward would help to protect the company in the long run by keeping it relevant.

Navigating the Unknown

When we are entering new territory we have few markers to guide us. Most of the ongoing metrics we use are design to access past performance and are little help in judging an uncertain future. So it’s important to create key performance indicators to demonstrate that you are heading in the right direction. “Specifically, we start be identifying the end goal, then work backward to define an artifact trail—the series of small, observable activities and prototypes than can act as small wins to keep enthusiasm high.” Approach the project as an experiment.

There is a brief discussion of the need for negative capability. It is being able to press on while not knowing. The term was coined by poet John Keats who said that “The concept of Negative Capability is the ability to contemplate the world without the desire to try and reconcile contradictory aspects or fit it into closed and rational systems.” We need to be comfortable with uncertainty. “To be a visionary—to take leaps—you need to develop this negative capability. Whereas many people cannot stand the fuzziness of uncertainty, leaders of innovation and transformation frequently demonstrate negative capabilities. The negative capabilities facilitate the exploration of new terrain and the discovery of the adjacent possible.”

The most important step in taking charge of your company’s future is to begin. Take action to create the future you desire. “Creating a narrative to set a vision, identifying a small experiment you could run to build confidence, or seeking out uncommon partners for your next project are all rich areas to being this way of working.”

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Categories: Blogs

Who Will Lead Us Tomorrow?

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 08:54


WE ARE RAISING TODAY, the men and women who will lead us tomorrow. It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. It should be done with forethought and with a consideration of the kind of world we hope they and we will live in when it’s their turn to lead.

Developing leaders places a huge responsibility on us today that goes beyond telling those future leaders what we think. To develop leaders, we must not only envision the leaders we want tomorrow, but we must behave in the manner of the leaders we want to see.

We may not like the leadership or lack of it that we see today, but if our reaction to anything we don’t like is anger, outrage, hatred, and vicious rhetoric, we are endorsing those values by way of example. Unwittingly, we perpetuate hatred, outrage, and vulgarity in the leaders of tomorrow. They learn to lead by watching us “lead.”

Martin Luther King succeeded because he calmly but passionately painted a picture of a world that appealed to our morality. He shared a positive idea to replace a negative idea without attacking other people. His example had moral weight. He was silenced by hatred. Hatred and anger is an idea without a reason—it’s unreasonable—a rudderless opinion with no foundation.

We must be the leaders we want to see developed in the generations that follow us. If you want leaders who listen, who are understanding, compassionate, civil, and respectful, then we must display those values in our dealings with what we see happening around us. If not, we are the problem. If we want others to respect us and listen to us, we must respectfully listen to them. We talk when we should be listening.

If we believe people should be respectful of each other, then we must be those people. Returning in kind is tempting and sometimes funny, but it does nothing but add to the discord we see around us. Real leaders resist the temptation and rise above it. Our response should be one that is conscious and empathetic of the other person's frustration and often misplaced angst. To do anything else only adds to the destructive division we see today.

Real leaders connect, they don’t divide. They focus on similarities, not differences. We often think that if I don’t yell, I won’t be heard, but we aren’t heard because we are yelling. The most strident voice is not the leader. Harsh words do not connect with others. “Blood in the streets” is not a mature response to disagreement.

When we become the leaders we should be, those that follow will learn to lead the way they should. As we learn and grow, those around us will learn and grow. We are modeling now the kind of leadership we will have in the future.

American poet Edwin Markham’s poem captures the need for us to grow into the leaders we want others to be:

We are all blind until we see
—That in the human plan
Nothing is worth the making if
—It does not make the man.

Why build these cities glorious
—If man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the work, unless
—The builder also grows.

If we want our children to be intentional about their lives, we must too be intentional about ours with the end in mind—with the consequences of our personal behavior in mind. Meaningful lives are built; they don’t just happen. If we want them to be adults, we must act like adults. We are shaping the character of future leaders today. We must resolve to be the leaders we wish to see.

What will our future leaders be like? Who will lead us tomorrow? What legacy are we leaving for our children? We only need to look at ourselves.

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Categories: Blogs

Turning Observation into Innovation

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 08:19


EVERYONE WANTS to be an innovator. Every organization wants to be innovative; it doesn’t matter if it’s a church, a for-profit or non-profit business, or a government agency. To not be innovative is to risk being left behind. But how many of us are truly innovative? What have we done that could be called really innovative in the last year?

To be innovative requires a risk tolerance that most people just don’t have. It requires skills that too few have developed. We make incremental changes to be sure, but innovation necessitates something more. Often we just are too close to the situation to see the opportunities. It’s why companies like Google and Intel have called upon corporate anthropologists to bring give them fresh perspectives on their own businesses.

Corporate anthropologists, like traditional anthropologists, explains Andi Simon in On the Brink, look “at a company as a new and unfamiliar culture” to arrive at fresh insights.

Corporate anthropologists “see things that are really happening out there in the field, not what business leaders think is going on. They look for the deeper meaning in the interactions that make up people’s lives and the objects they surround themselves with. They search for those cultural symbols that people live by but have a hard time telling you about. And then they use their findings to help companies rethink how, and why, they’re doing things.”

Andi Simon is a corporate anthropologist that wants to help you do just that—act like an anthropologist for your own organization (or life). Often on the brink of new heights, the challenge is to react appropriately to changing circumstances— “a challenge that requires seeing, feeling, and thinking in new ways.”

Simon says she is amazed at how often we miss what is right in front of us. As expressed in Russell Conwell’s 1890 classic, Acres of Diamonds, “many business leaders fail to recognize that they’re sitting on acres of diamonds of unmet needs or obvious future opportunities.” There are ways to figure out our customer’s pain points and gain insights from observing both the customer and the processes of a business that lead to meaningful innovation and growth.

The anthropologist’s toolkit consists of these four steps to help you change the way you see things; to find meaning in what people do or don’t do:

1. Conduct observational research. You need to go out and watch not only your customers but also your employees. Watch and record how they think and interact with your product or service. Find their pain points. “When companies cannot seem to figure out why they have stalled, customers’ pain points and headaches are often great places to start.” This is true for churches too. What questions are people asking that you aren’t answering?

2. Find out what’s coming in to you already. Users connect with you through call centers, emails, searches, your website, and networking events. What are they happy with, upset about or frustrated by? You’re looking for gaps. In the case of Centenary College, “we needed to experience the college as if we were students, to understand it as if we were their families, and to visualize it through the eyes of high school guidance counselors or a business’s human resource staff.”

3. Capture the stories. Listen. Hold listening and storytelling sessions. Records your observation with photos and videos.

4. Evaluate your culture and perhaps even change it. How does work get done in your organization? Does it fit with your strategy and goals? “As important as branding is, it is equally important that the culture is in sync with that message.”

These steps are pretty straightforward and perhaps obvious, but they require some skill to implement. Simon applies these steps to seven case studies to help you see how they work in practice. The case studies will help you to look at your organization differently.

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Categories: Blogs

David Wiener’s 40 Rules for Business, Management and the Rest of Life

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 11:18


I HAVE a “no jerk” rule. I will not work on a matter or participate in a transaction if certain people are involved on either side of the table. I apply this philosophy widely across business and managerial settings. I actually have a hard time separating my business philosophy from my management philosophy. Managing my practice and managing my clients are similar. All I can add in deal situations is to “tell the truth in the most favorable light possible,” have reasonable expectations financially and operationally, and try to make sure that every transaction is ultimately successful for both buyer and seller.

As I have matured and learned more about both business and life, I have become less economically fearful and defensive. This has made compliance with my no-jerk rule quite a bit easier. Fools, I’ve come to realize, thrive on our defensiveness, fears, and insecurities. Those qualities are to idiots what peanut butter on turkey is to rats. Know yourself and respect your own needs, and the jerks will not be able to enter your premises. Got it? Good. Now make it happen.

I am approaching my fiftieth year in business. Whew! Thinking back on the lessons I learned when I was wet behind the ears, it strikes me that the technologies, financial methodologies, and expectation levels when I cashed my first paycheck were profoundly different than today. Meanwhile, the underlying interpersonal dynamics—the methods of creating and managing relationships—are fundamentally unchanged.

The goal in business is to bring in more money than you spend over the long run. To do that, you need to obtain the cooperation, support, and goodwill of many people. I’m generally not sentimental; I don’t think making money was necessarily easier in the old days or that people were intrinsically nicer, more honest, or more loyal—it’s probably easier to turn a buck today than it was in earlier times.

Preparation is easier today. You can learn more about the people you want to do business with by spending an hour on the internet than you could in a week making phone calls or buttonholing people.

Few people become successful entirely on their own. Most successful businesspeople are highly successful managers. The following are some of the core beliefs that have guided me in assembling, motivating, and keeping my team intact:
  • Accessibility trumps weakness.

  • Be the hardest worker.

  • Arrive early and stay late.

  • Give spot bonuses and gifts.

  • Don’t ask anyone to do anything you would not do yourself.

  • Don’t flaunt your financial success, but be sure your staff is aware of it.

  • Hire the smartest people you can and pay them more than what is reasonably expected.

  • Value loyalty and fidelity.

  • Expect your staff to work at their career, not at their job.

  • Be sure clients treat staff with respect and vice versa.

  • Say “please” and “thank you” all the time.

  • Responsiveness overcomes many negatives.

  • Give opinions honestly, frankly, and immediately.

  • Express your thoughts and opinions with clarity and conciseness. If you cannot explain your reasoning, it won’t hold water with clients or staff.

  • Develop a sense of humor. Make it suitable for yourself based on your personality.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.

  • Acknowledge others’ life events with cards, letters, phone calls, emails, donations, flowers, or gifts.

  • Ask for referrals and recommendations and thank any who give them to you.

  • Be prepared. Know the facts better than anyone else.

  • Drop names only if they give you credibility and a reference.

  • Read every document. Never assume an unread document is OK.

  • Don’t depend on the work of others. Know what you need to know yourself.

  • Assess every client’s or deal partner’s upside and downside tolerance for risk.

  • Look after the client’s needs. Don’t lump those needs together with your own.

  • Be objective as to the client’s welfare. Don’t generate unnecessary fees, ever.

  • Be efficient. Do what you need to do quickly, simply, and directly.

  • Know that in “creativity,” past methods are instructive rather than determinative or prescriptive.

  • Draw from your experiences to compose the deliverables.

  • Many deliverables should be oral, presented in person, or supplemented in writing.

  • Speak plain English. Use technical jargon sparingly or as reference points.

  • Don’t let a client feign ignorance or stupidity forever. Faked stupidity is worse than the real thing.

  • Reciprocate the client’s respect. Don’t exceed it without getting the equivalent in return. Remember the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the good comes from 20 percent of the client base, 80 percent of the bad comes from a different 20 percent of the client base, and the other 60 percent of the client base is just OK. Recent studies suggest 90/10 might be more accurate.

  • Rate your clients on three scales: quality of work, quality of relationship, and quality of prospects.

  • Treat people with the level of respect they deserve as people, not the level you perceive their social status or occupational standing entitles them to.

  • Mistakes are easier to deal with than cover-ups. Ask Richard M. Nixon.

  • Ending a client or other relationship for good reasons is better than continuing it for bad reasons. It’s better for both of you.

  • Ask questions until you understand or you can make others understand—do not be embarrassed by your lack of experience or understanding.

  • Charge what you are worth in the marketplace to good clients—not the bad 20 percent.

  • Appreciate your clients. Referrals from successful clients are your top marketing tools.

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This post is by David C. Wiener, the founder and a member of David Wiener and Company LLC, an affiliate of EisnerAmper LLP. With more than forty-five years of public accounting experience, David’s practice focuses on advertising agencies and other marketing communications companies. He serves these firms with a range of accounting and consulting expertise that includes merger and acquisition advisory services, finance and business consulting, tax and estate planning, business negotiations, executive compensation, litigation settlements, and other management advisory services.

His uncanny ability to size up in an instant a situation on all levels―not only financial and economic, but all aspects related to it―his disarming sense of humor, and his no-nonsense approach make him the perfect deal maker. His book, From Brighton Beach to Madison Avenue: The Real Business of Advertising lifts the curtain on the stage of advertising agencies from the 1970s to the present and shares life lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.

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Categories: Blogs

First Look: Leadership Books for November 2018

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 09:25
Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in November 2018. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

  Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company's Future by Nathan Furr, Kyle Nel and Thomas Zoega Ramsoy
  Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation by Dan Schawbel
  Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life by Hal Gregersen
  The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You by Scott E. Page
  Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results by Barry O'Reilly



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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"Reading literature, more than informing us, shapes us."
— Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well

Categories: Blogs

LeadershipNow 140: October 2018 Compilation

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 09:59

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

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Categories: Blogs

Michael Lombardi’s Lessons in Leadership

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 02:16


MICHAEL LOMBARDI has been an American football executive for decades. He has worked on the staffs of NFL legends Al Davis, Bill Walsh, and Bill Belichick and with Nick Saban while with the Cleveland Browns. He is also a media analyst writing for Bill Simmon’s The Ringer, where he also hosts his top-ten sports podcast, GM Street.

In Gridiron Genius, you will certainly get the inside scoop on the game of football, but it’s much more than that. As a three-time Super Bowl champion, Michel Lombardi provides lessons in organizational culture, team building, strategy, and character. His philosophies on how to build championship teams were foundational for the teams built by both Walsh and Belichick.

Organizations of all types will benefit from the insights found here. “Football is ultimately a business, and as in any successful business the most important ingredients are a sound culture, a realistic plan, strong leadership, and a talented workforce.” So let’s look at some of the leadership lessons to be found here.

The main lesson that comes through his experience with great coaches and owners is that culture comes first. “If you haven’t created an underlying ecosystem of excellence, short-term success is all it will ever be.”

On Bill Walsh building the San Francisco 49ers in 1979: “From the talent on and off the field, to the quality of the workplace, to the practice fields. No detail was too small for Walsh to consider because, to his assembly line way of thinking, only the sum of them all could produce the organization he wanted. As he was fond of saying, if he managed to perfect the culture, the wins would take care of themselves.”

He writes: “Character assessment is by far the hardest challenge for team builders. More than any other factor, inaccurate character assessment is why draft boards are to this day littered with so many mistakes. For starters, let’s be honest, there’s a sliding scale of morality in the NFL (as in every industry), in which the more talented a player is, the more he can get away with.”

“Each player retains information differently, and it’s the coach’s job to determine the best way to instruct him.”

What Makes a Great Quarterback?

A winning way. (Winning is a habit.) A thick skin. (The measure of who we are is how we react to something that does not go our way.) Work ethic. (Your best player has to set a tone for intolerance for anything that gets in the way of winning.) Football smarts. (A quick mind come with preparation. You prepare so well that you don’t have to think; you just react.) Innate ability. (Born with it quality: Walsh couldn’t define it, but he knew it when he saw it.) Carriage. (Quarterbacks have to inspire. They can always look as if they have it all under control and that somehow they will figure out how to lead the team to victory. No one wants to follow a sulker.) Leadership. (Quarterbacks who fail to gain the respect of teammates leave a team rudderless.)

Building a team: “A big part of Walsh’s genius was his uncanny ability to spot a quarterback in a crowd. Even from a distance and after only a few throws, he could sense immediately if a quarterback could run his offense. Guys like Walsh and Belichick are unusual this way: They can visualize how skill sets fit in their schemes in a way that both maximizes those abilities and fuels the system.”

From Bill Belichick:

“Although practice doesn’t make perfect, it gets you closer to perfection each time you do it.”

“We aren’t collecting talent; we are building a team.”

Mental Toughness: Doing what is best for the team when it might not be the best for you. If players can fight past exhaustion, if they can focus when they’re completely drained, well, that’s mental toughness.

On Bill Walsh:

“His meticulousness was evident everywhere.”

“Walsh opted for less experienced men who shared his curiosity and displayed a willingness to learn his system and methods.”

What Makes a Great Coach?

Command of the Room. Followers need something to commit to. A leader has to have a plan. On Nick Saban at Cleveland: He had a strong plan and an effective way of communicating that plan, and his ability to be self-critical earned the players’ trust in a way that rivaled their feelings for Belichick.

Command of the Message. What good is the plan if you can’t talk about the plan? Players can’t accomplish anything unless they can visualize the path. Delivery isn’t as important as meaning.

Command of Self. Personal accountability is the ultimate sign of strength. Sophocles sums it up best: “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” Ego is the leading cause of unemployment in the coaching world.

Command of Opportunity. Becoming an NFL head coach is a process. You learn on the fly. In the beginning, it is likely you’ll be bad at it. You just have to keep working at it until you get good and pray that you don’t end up a one-hit wonder.

Command of the Process. A leader must be fair and consistent. When rule don’t apply to everyone, the ensuing chaos collapses whatever foundation a leader has tried so hard to build.

In a particularly good section of the book, Combating Complacency he talks about how Belichick and Walsh fight complacency. This was interesting: “Whether the Patriots have just won the Super Bowl or not, the first thing Belichick does is wipe the slate clean. One of his favorite sayings is, ‘To live in the past is to die in the present.’ It’s why you see no Super Bowl trophies as you walk through the players’ entrance and why all the photos from the previous season are removed as soon as the season is over. That clean slate demands a trip back to basic principles and fundamentals after a detailed examination of the current process.” He adds, “What impressed me the most about Belichick and Walsh in their self-awareness. With the same kind of success in the NFL many lesser men have become close-minded, authoritarian, and lazy.”

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Of Related Interest:
  4th and Goal Every Day

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Categories: Blogs

15 Fascinating Facts About Theodore Roosevelt

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 07:20


TYPICALLY RANKED among the top five presidents, Roosevelt changed the face of the presidency and redefined America's place in the world. His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. His accomplishments were considerable. He was a cowboy, a historian, a soldier, and explorer, a hunter, an author, an orator, an environmentalist, family man, and president of the United States.

1. TR maintained a small zoo. The Roosevelt children's family of pets included at least six dogs; a small bear named Jonathan Edwards; a lizard named Bill; guinea pigs named Admiral Dewey, Dr. Johnson, Bishop Doane, Fighting Bob Evans, and Father O'Grady; Maude the pig; Josiah the badger ; a raccoon; Eli Yale the blue macaw; Baron Spreckle the hen; a one-legged rooster; a hyena; a barn owl; Peter the rabbit; and Algonquin the pony; a garter snake named Emily Spinach. President Roosevelt loved the pets as much as his children did.

2. He was the first president to leave the country while president. A part of Roosevelt's foreign policy initiatives, he established the Panama Canal project. The project had suffered many setbacks, but by 1906, it was in full swing. In November of that year, Roosevelt embarked on a 17-day trip to Panama (and Puerto Rico) becoming the first president to travel outside the U.S. while holding office. The trip was a morale booster, and the press loved it.

3. He wasn't sworn in using a Bible. When Roosevelt took the oath of office on September 14, 1901, following the assassination of William McKinley, he did not swear an oath on the Bible. The event took place in the library of his friend Ansley Wilcox’s house in Buffalo, New York. Whatever the reason, by the time Roosevelt arrived at her house the country had been without a president for about 12 hours and everyone was anxious that the inauguration take place as quickly as possible.

4. He was one of the most well-read presidents. He was a speed-reader, typically reading one to three books a day. He always kept one handy. He read in many different languages, including German, French, Italian and Latin. He was always learning and looking for actionable knowledge Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote, “Few young children read as broadly or had such access to book as young Roosevelt. He had only to pick a volume from the selves of the vast library in his family’s home or express interest in a particular book, and it would magically materialize.” In the April 1905 photo at the right, he reads a book with his dog Skip on his lap.

5. Roosevelt was a prolific writer. He was our most literary president. A voracious reader with an excellent memory, Roosevelt wrote 35 books and an about 150,000 letters in his lifetime. He wrote on wide-ranging topics. His first book, The Naval War of 1812, was published in 1882. Some of his more popular titles were: The Rough Riders (1899), The Strenuous Life (1900), African Game Trails (1910), The New Nationalism (1910), An Autobiography (1913), Through the Brazilian Wilderness (1914), The Great Adventure (1918), and Letters to His Children (1919). For much of his life, he relied on income from his books to support himself.

6. Theodore Roosevelt had a photographic memory. He was known to recall not just articles, but entire newspaper pages long after he first read them. This remarkable memory also extended to names and conversations. This ability served him well as a leader.

7. He was and still is the youngest president in history. In 1901, vice-president Roosevelt was sworn in immediately following the assassination of President William McKinley, as the nation's twenty-sixth President. At the age of 42, he was the youngest president in the country’s history. John F. Kennedy was 43 when he became president.

8. At age 6, he witnessed the Abraham Lincoln funeral procession. On April 25, 1865, a funeral procession passed the home of TR’s grandfather in New York. The young TR and his brother watched from an open second-floor window as the procession went up Broadway in front of the house.

9. He was a conservationist. As president, he created the United States Forest Service and established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reservations, four national game preserves, five national parks, and 18 national monuments. In total, he protected approximately 230 million acres of public land. In a 1908 speech, he expressed the importance of preserving the environment for future generations: “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources and we have just reason to be proud of our growth. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have been still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields, and obstructing navigation. These questions do not relate only to the next century or to the next generation. It is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and widely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children.”

10. He was saved from an assassin’s bullet by a heavy coat, a fifty-page manuscript, and a steel eyeglass case. On October 14, 1912, before he could give a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was shot by saloon-keeper John Flammang Schrank. Coughing into his hand and seeing no blood, TR determined that the bullet had not entered his lung. So he insisted on delivering his scheduled hour-long speech with the bullet still in his body. He began the speech with, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.” As he pulled the bloodstained manuscript from his breast pocket, he said, “You see it takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose.” Roosevelt agreed to go to the hospital, and after examining the X-rays the doctors determined that the bullet had safely lodged in a rib where it would remain for the rest of his life.

11. Roosevelt was the first President to win a Nobel Peace Prize. He was the first statesman to be awarded the Peace Prize. As President, he expanded America’s foreign policy and negotiated peace in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-05. The Nobel Prize organization reports that is also the “first time the award was controversial. The Norwegian Left argued that Roosevelt was a ‘military mad’ imperialist who completed the American conquest of the Philippines. Swedish newspapers wrote that Alfred Nobel was turning in his grave, and that Norway awarded the Peace Prize to Roosevelt in order to win powerful friends after the dramatic dissolution of the union with Sweden the previous year.”

12. Roosevelt became blind in one eye after a boxing injury while in the White House. A practice he started while the governor of New York, Roosevelt invited He enjoyed boxing with young military aides. In 1908, at age 50, his opponent landed a punch to his left eye that caused severe hemorrhaging, resulting in a detached retina. The incident was kept secret though to protect the identity of the sparring partner. In his Autobiography he wrote, “Fortunately it was my left eye, but the sight has been dim ever since, and if it had been the right eye I should have been entirely unable to shoot.”

13. Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt were fifth cousins. But Franklin Roosevelt's wife Eleanor was more closely related. She was his niece. TR presented the bride at their wedding on March 17, 1905. As president, TR got much of the attention and press.

14. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. After the Spanish-American War broke out in April 1898, Roosevelt resigned his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to lead the Rough Riders. The Rough Riders were mostly made up of football players, polo players, and cowboys without military experience. He returned a war hero that helped win him a seat as governor of New York upon his return. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, 103 years later, for what was described as "…acts of bravery on 1 July 1898, near Santiago de Cuba, Republic of Cuba, while leading a daring charge up San Juan Hill." He is the only president ever have been given that honor. His son, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, received the medal for being the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops. The only other father and son to receive Medals of Honor were Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his father Gen. Arthur MacArthur.

15. Roosevelt's mother and first wife died within 11 hours of each other. On February 14, 1884, his first wife of four years, Alice Lee, 22, died of Bright’s disease, a severe kidney ailment after giving birth to their daughter Alice. His mother Mittie died at age 49 of typhoid fever. In his diary on wrote, “The light has gone out of my life.”

BONUS: He had the most popular plush toy in history named after him. In 1902, at the invitation of Mississippi Governor, Andrew H. Longino, President Roosevelt went on a hunting trip. After three days of hunting, Roosevelt had still not spotted a bear. The hunt guides tracked down a black bear, tied it to a tree, for the president to come and shoot. After looking at the old injured bear, Roosevelt thought it would be unsportsmanlike to shoot it. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman heard about the event and drew a cartoon depicting Roosevelt refusing to shoot the bear. The original cartoon ran in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902. Berryman continued to use the bear in political cartoons during Roosevelt’s presidency. With Roosevelt’s permission, Morris Mictom, a Russian immigrant and Brooklyn candy shop owner, put in his shop window two stuffed toy bears his wife had made and called them Teddy’s Bear. The toy was a hit and the rest is history.
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Books About Theodore Roosevelt

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 07:20


ON THE OCCASION of the anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt's birth on October 27, 1858, we have assembled a list of some of the better books about him:

  Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Bully Pulpit by James M. Strock
  Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership by Jon Knokey
  Theodore Roosevelt, CEO: 7 Principles to Guide and Inspire Modern Leaders by Alan Axelrod
  The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin



  The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Book 1) by Edmund Morris
  Theodore Rex (Book 2) by Edmund Morris
  Colonel Roosevelt (Book 3) by Edmund Morris
  Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough
  The Man in the Arena: Selected Writings of Theodore Roosevelt: A Reader by Theodore Roosevelt (Edited by Brian M. Thomsen)



  Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt
  T.R.: The Last Romantic by H. W. Brands
  Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Aida Donald
  Theodore Roosevelt: A Life by Nathan Miller
  Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life by Thomas Bailey and Katherine Joslin


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Theodore Roosevelt Was Born 160 Years Ago Today

Sat, 10/27/2018 - 09:36


THEODORE ROOSEVELT was born into wealth on October 27, 1858, in New York City. As a young boy, he was sickly. At twelve, his father installed a gym on the second floor of their house and told young Teddy, “You have the mind but not the body. You must make your body.” That began in him a determination to be fit and manly.

When he was 6-years-old, he watched Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession pass by his grandfather’s mansion.

As a young boy, his family traveled to Europe and the Middle East. At eighteen he entered Harvard University. He was by this time an energetic, athletic, and knowledgeable. In June 1880 he graduated magna cum lude and ranked 21 out of a class of 177. Later that year he marries Alice Hathaway Lee only to lose her in childbirth three years later. His mother died the same day. He said, “The light has gone out of my life.”

Devastated, he headed to the Dakota Territory and became a rancher. He wrote, “I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.” At 23, he dropped out of law school to become a politician. He was elected to the New York State Assembly. In 1886 he married his second wife, Edith Kermit Carow.

He was a civil service commissioner in Washington and then the police commissioner in New York City before becoming the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1895. When war broke out between the United States and Spain he resigned to be the lieutenant colonel in the Rough Riders. The courage he demonstrated made him a war hero.

Upon his return, his popularity made him a shoe-in for the governor of New York. In 1900 he became vice president under William McKinley. In 1901 after McKinley was assassinated, he became at age 42 the youngest president in U.S. history. In 1906 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. The first American to do so. His presidency ended in 1909.

Roosevelt died in his sleep from a heart attack on January 6, 1919, in Oyster Bay, New York that cut short his plans to return to the presidency. His son wrote, “The old lion is dead.”

When Roosevelt was born James Buchanan was president. Two years later Abraham Lincoln would take office. There were 32 states in the Union. A Union that was to be ripped apart three years later in 1861 as the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.

Roosevelt friend and conservationist Gifford Pinchot said in a February 1919 memorial speech: We who loved Roosevelt have not lost him. The qualities we treasured in him, his loyalty, his genial kindness, his unwearied thoughtfulness for others, the generosity which made him prefer his friends in honor to himself, his tenderness with children, his quick delight in living, and the firm sound ness of his life's foundations, are potent with us yet.

The broad human sympathy which bound to him the millions who never saw his face, his clean courage and self-forgetful devotion to his country, the tremendous sanity of his grasp on the problems of the nation and the world, and the superb simplicity and directness of his life and thought still live as the inspiration and the basis for the new and better world which is to come.

The people loved Roosevelt because he was like them. In him the common qualities were lifted to a higher tension and a greater power, but they were still the same. What he did plain men understood and would have liked to do. The people loved him because his thoughts, though loftier, were yet within their reach, and his motives were always clear in their sight. They knew his purposes were always right. To millions he was the image of their better selves.
Of Related Interest:
  Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena Speech 100th Anniversary
  The Making of Theodore Roosevelt
  Leadership in Turbulent Times
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Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership

Fri, 10/26/2018 - 12:28


ALTHOUGH BORN INTO PRIVILEGE, Theodore Roosevelt’s life was not without struggles, tragedy, and failures. The way he dealt with these experiences, defined his leadership. He referred to life as “The Great Adventure.” He wrote in his Autobiography, “life is a great adventure, and the worst of all fears is the fear of living. There are many forms of success, many forms of triumph. But there is no other success that in any shape or way approaches that which is open to most of the many, many men and women who have the right ideals. These are the men and the women who see that it is the intimate and homely things that count most. They are the men and women who have the courage to strive for the happiness which comes only with labor and effort and self-sacrifice, and only to those whose joy in life springs in part from power of work and sense of duty.” TR lived life fully. He was the man in the arena.

Learning from the Past
  • It is of little use for us to pay lip-loyalty to the mighty men of the past unless we sincerely endeavor to apply to the problems of the present precisely the qualities which in other crises enabled the men of that day to meet those crises.
    (New Nationalism Speech, August 31, 1910)

  • The problems differ from generation to generation, but the qualities that are needed to solve them remain unchanged from world's end to world's end…. As a nation and individually we must show the fundamental qualities of hardihood, courage, manliness, of decency, morality, clean living, fair dealing as between man and man, of common sense, the saving grace of common sense.
    (Speech in Santa Barbara, California, May 9, 1903)
Work While You Work—Play While You Play
  • No boy can afford to neglect his work, and with a boy work, as a rule, means study. I am no advocate of senseless and excessive cramming in studies, but a boy should work, and should work hard, at his lessons—in the first place, for the sake of what he will learn, and in the next place, for the sake of the effect upon his own character of resolutely settling down to learn it. Shiftlessness, slackness, indifference in studying, are almost certain to mean inability to get on in other walks of life. Of course, as a boy grows older it is a good thing if he can shape his studies in the direction toward which he has a natural bent; but whether he can do this or not, he must put his whole heart into them. I do not believe in mischief-doing in school hours, or in the kind of animal spirits that results in making bad scholars; and I believe that those boys who take part in rough, hard play outside of school will not find any need for horse-play in school. While they study they should study just as hard as they play foot-ball in a match game. It is wise to obey the homely old adage, "Work while you work; play while you play."
    (The American Boy, May 1900)
Walk Your Talk
  • Unless a man believes in applied morality he is certain to be merely a noxious public servant.
    (The Higher life of American Cities, Outlook, Dec 21, 1895)
Character
  • It is character that counts in a nation as in a man. It is a good thing to have a keen, fine intellectual development in a nation, to produce orators, artists, successful business men; but it is an infinitely greater thing to have those solid qualities which we group together under the name of character—sobriety, steadfastness, the sense of obligation toward one's neighbor and one's God, hard common sense, and, combined with it, the lift of generous enthusiasm toward whatever is right. These are the qualities which go to make up true national greatness.
    (Grant, Speech Delivered At Galena, Illinois, April 27, 1900)

  • I hope that in my acts I have been a good President, a President who has deserved well of the Republic; but most of all, I believe that whatever value my service may have, comes even more from what I am than from what I do.
    (Letter to Sir George O. Trevelyan, June 19 1908)

  • Unless a man is master of his soul, all other kinds of mastery amount to little.
    (Ladies Home Journal, 1917)

  • If a man does not have an ideal and try to live up to it, then he becomes a mean, base and sordid creature, no matter how successful. (Letter to his son Kermit, 1915)
Take Action
  • In every such crisis the temptation to indecision, to non-action, is great, for excuses can always be found for non-action, and action means risk and the certainty of blame to the man who acts. But if the man is worth his salt he will do his duty, he will give the people the benefit of the doubt, and act in any way which their interests demand and which is not affirmatively prohibited by law, unheeding the likelihood that he himself, when the crisis is over and the danger past, will be assailed for what he has done.
    (Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography, 1913, Chapter 12)

  • To sit home, read one's favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon the good men's doing.
    (The Outlook, December 21, 1895)

  • It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
    (Citizenship in a Republic, Address delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)
Virtue
  • No nation deserves to exist if it permits itself to lose the stern and virile virtues; and this without regard to whether the loss is due to the growth of a heartless and all-absorbing commercialism, to prolonged indulgence in luxury and soft, effortless ease, or to the deification of a warped and twisted sentimentality."
    (Nobel Lecture, May 1910)
Back Your Words with Action
  • The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly."
    (Practical Politics, April 1913)
Success
  • It is a bad thing for a nation to raise and to admire a false standard of success; and there can be no falser standard than that set by the deification of material well-being in and for itself."
    (Citizenship in a Republic, Address delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)

  • There are many kinds of success in life worth having. It is exceedingly interesting and attractive to be a successful business man, or railroad man, or farmer, or a successful lawyer or doctor; or a writer, or a President, or a ranchman, or the colonel of a fighting regiment, or to kill grizzly bears and lions. But for unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly makes all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison. It may be true that he travels farthest who travels alone; but the goal thus reached is not worth reaching. And as for a life deliberately devoted to pleasure as an end — why, the greatest happiness is the happiness that comes as a by-product of striving to do what must be done, even though sorrow is met in the doing. There is a bit of homely philosophy, quoted by Squire Bill Widener, of Widener's Valley, Virginia, which sums up one's duty in life: "Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are."
    (Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography, 1913, Chapter 9)
Face Your Fears
  • There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first, ranging from grizzly bears to "mean" horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid. Most men can have the same experience if they choose.
    (Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography, 1913, Chapter 2)
Work Hard
  • Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.
    (American Ideals in Education, 1910)

  • I don't pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.
    (Speech, September 8, 1902)

  • Greatness means strife for nation and man alike. A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle. We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage... We are face to face with our destiny and we must meet it with a high and resolute courage. For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.
    (Address at the opening of the gubernatorial campaign, New York City, 5 October 5, 1898)
What Matters
  • Home, wife, and children—they are what really count in life. I have enjoyed many things; the Presidency, my success as a soldier, a writer, a big game hunter and explorer; but all of them put together are not for one moment to be weighed in the balance when compared with the joy I have known with your mother and all of you.
    (Letter to his son Ted, Jr.)

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Further Reading:
  The Strenuous Life
  Character & Success
  The American Boy
  The Leader and the Cause
  Citizenship in a Republic (The Man in the Arena)

Of Related Interest:
  Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena Speech 100th Anniversary
  The Making of Theodore Roosevelt
  Leadership in Turbulent Times

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Humble Leadership

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 09:55


IT NEVER HURTS TO BE REMINDED of the need for humility. We tend to fall back on transactional relationships and rule-based leadership. Edgar Schein and Peter Schein call this Level 1 based leadership.

What they advocate in Humble Leadership is moving to and developing an organizational culture based on Level 2 relationships. That is relationships that are intentionally personal, cooperative, and trusting.

Level 2 relationships come naturally with friends and family, but no so much at work. Level 2 relationships come about by seeing others as a whole person and not just as someone filling a role at the moment. It’s being able to say in actions and words, “I want to get to know you better so that we can trust each other in getting our jibs done better.”

In my own work, it’s not uncommon to see people who would tell you that relationships are important to them, shift into Level 1 transactional relationships with the people they are working with. Transactional relationships can somehow make us feel like we are serious and getting down to business by avoiding all of the relationship stuff. Not to mention, it’s just easier to avoid the hard work of developing trust and openness with another person or team. But it comes at a cost. As they describe it, Humble Leadership is about “building relationships that get the job done and that avoid the indifference, manipulation, or, worse, lying and concealing that so often arise in work relationships.”

Much of our work life occurs at Level 1 because the services, stores, hospitals, and businesses we deal with are organized bureaucratically to deal with us at that level. This is typically the source of our dissatisfaction with bureaucracies. We don’t like being treated so impersonally, especially at work.

Evolving the managerial culture from Level 1 to Level 2 is the defining task for Humble Leadership.” The authors suggest that to move from Level 1 to Level 2 relationships, we need to personize our relationships at work. By that, they mean getting to know them as a whole person by minimizing subordination so that we “emphasize collaboration, joint responsibility, and your own willingness to help them succeed.” One of the best ways to get that started is by learning together “because in that context the boss and the employee can give each other direct feedback and suggestions on how he work could be done better.” In a Level 2 workgroup Humble Leadership emerges by enabling whoever has pertinent information or expertise to speak up and improve whatever the group is seeking to accomplish.

The process of creating and maintaining Level 2 relationships requires a learning mindset, cooperative attitudes, and skills in interpersonal and group dynamics.
The Heroic leader will no longer be the leader with all of the answers, going it alone to forge a new future. The leader of the future will need to be humble, cooperative, and open. Leadership will be expressed as “we together.”

At the end of the book, there are exercises to help you shift from Level 1 relationships to Level 2 relationships.



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Of Related Interest:
  Leadership as Provocative Competence
  The Essentials of Theory U

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Clarity First

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 10:07


TO BE CLEAR, we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. In most cases, it is all man-made, but it is our reality. To be clearer, while our environment may be ambiguous, our organizations should never be. Ambiguity will always be with us and must be dealt with constructively.

Ambiguity can create forward momentum, or it can stop us in our tracks unable to move at all. If ambiguity is pervasive throughout an organization, it will fail.

Great leaders work with it and use it to their advantage. And the advantages are many. Ambiguity is a part of leadership. It’s where the risks are and where the future lies. Like stress, some is good.

The trick is to know what you must bring clarity to. Disorganization is not ambiguity. Confusion is not ambiguity. They are created by a lack of clarity. A lack of clarity is death to an organization.

While author Karen Martin would not seem to agree with what I just said, it is precisely because we live in a VUCA world that her book Clarity First becomes so essential. It is the fact of ambiguity that makes clarity so important. When clarity exists as a value, individuals and the organizations they work for operate in a way that places a premium on clarity and rewards the people who seek it. In that environment leaders and team members pursue clarity in their daily activities, and cultivate an expectation of clarity throughout the organization.
Ambiguity may exist in the world around us, but we should never be ambiguous about our purpose, our priorities, our process, our performance, our problems, or our communication. In each of these areas, we must be clear. Beginning in chapter 2, Martin delves into a practical discussion on how to bring clarity to each.

Purpose
This is the foundation of all organization (and personal) clarity. Purpose is knowing why you do what you do. As Maritn puts it, “What problem does your product solve?” She takes you three steps to discover your purpose: What do you do? What problem are you solving by doing it? and Why do you do it? A clear purpose makes clarity around priorities, processes, performance, decision-making, and communication possible and enables everyone in the organization in the how of their work.

Priorities
We all think we have priorities, but we probably have too many priorities. Martin divides priorities into two types. First are those priorities relating to the work we do every day. The second type refers to issues that are outside of the normal course of business—special projects, rollouts, strategic initiatives. The key here is that “priorities included on a strategy deployment plan are framed in problem terms—as gaps to be closed—not a predetermined solution…. Most companies frame priorities as actions to be taken, things to be done, changes to be made, and so on. A problem orientation injects clarity into the process, because everyone can see for each priority what the starting point is and where the organization wants to go. There is no room for pet projects or fuzzy ‘solutions’ unconnected to a corresponding problem.”

Process
Many organizations “limp along with ambiguous, undocumented, wasteful, and poorly managed processes.” She adds, “Ambiguity about the specific steps needed to deliver outstanding value is the largest contributor to poor customer experience, runaway costs, and potentially dangerous mistakes.” Internal relationships, job descriptions, and decision-making authority should be clear.

Performance
To effectively run an organization you need to know where you are. You need data of some kind. The first step of course is to define what you need to know and then determine where you can find it. Once collected and understood, “make sure that what you measure does not move leaders and teams to take actions that work against the broader interests of the organization.”

Problem-Solving
A problem occurs when we discover that we are not where we want to be. There is a gap that needs to be closed. Clarity requires that we know exactly what that gap is. Problems don’t go away unless you are fixing the real problem. Too often we jump in before we have taken the time to understand what we are dealing with. Martin provides a question-based process called CLEAR problem solving to help you to dig deeper into the issue you are facing. When your purpose is clear, problem-solving becomes much easier—at all levels.

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Of Related Interest:
  The Clarity Principle
  8 Reasons to Seek Out Ambiguity
  Leading Clarity

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Categories: Blogs

Dear Founder

Mon, 10/15/2018 - 02:07


WHAT BEGAN AS a project to provide guidance to a select group of founders in the Webb Investment Network has been expanded and offered to founders of all types and those who need to have a founder’s mindset. The result is Dear Founder written by Maynard Webb with the help of Carlye Adler.

Maynard Webb is a Silicon Valley veteran and investor. Behind all of these letters is real-world experience from his days at IBM, eBay, Yahoo, LiveOps, Gateway, Bay Networks, and Quantum. They are organized to follow the trajectory of a company’s life cycle from getting started, getting to relevance, getting to scale, to finally leaving a legacy.

Being a founder is complicated, and with each step in the life cycle, the success stories become fewer and fewer. Webb’s wish is that these letters will help you and your team through the tough issues that most founders inevitably face.

Too often, Webb finds that founders set the bar too low. It’s uninspiring, and the company doesn’t “achieve the destiny it’s aiming for.” “I’ve learned,” says Webb, “that it is better to aim very high and not quite achieve perfection than to nail every goal and deliver mediocrity.” He encourages, “We are all capable of more than we think we are. Dream big, and execute bigger. If you are willing to dream and then work hard and execute well, you can achieve more than you ever imagined.”

Fundraising while exhausting, can make you better. “Fundraising is a lot like sales, only this time you’re not selling a product but rather shares in your company…. It can offer a window of self-reflection and a chance to tighten your story and focus on the important drivers of your business.”

There are many letters on the nuts and bolts of growing a business, not surprisingly, many of the letters deal with the human side. It’s all about people. Here are some excerpts from several of the letters:

When You Need to Delegate

“Effective delegation means that you know that the task/project will get done with the results that you expect. At the outset, this means that you have to:

“Assess the capability and willingness of the team to do the task. Often, people will volunteer for a cool assignment, but can/will they really do it?

“Communicate what success looks like to the people you are delegating to. What is the timeline, quality, etc.?

“Ensure they know that if they encounter problems, you are there to guide them. Overall, you are still accountable for the results. Delegation is not abdication.

“Establish checkpoints to monitor progress, so you don’t get any nasty surprises at the end.

“When the team delivers, celebrate their success.

“The more confidence you have in a team or person, the less structure you need to make delegation work.”

When You Are Overwhelmed

“The important thing is to realize that it is a momentary state. By shifting into action, you can get rid of this uncomfortable feeling. Once I realize that I am feeling overwhelmed, I don’t need to actually fix everything to get rid of the overwhelming feeling; I just need a plan that I believe in and that I can start executing.”

When You Are Confusing Hubris with Boldness

“Of course everybody that comes in thinks they have a winning strategy, but when someone truly has conviction, it shows. How? It’s when someone can crisply articulate the vision, the value proposition, the market, and the potential. They have clarity on what their next steps are and what will be done with the money. Rather than downplay competitors as dumb and naïve, they explain what the strengths of each are and why these strengths will make the difference for them to outcompete this new startup.

“Here’s the one thing that signals a bold attitude that might be more counterintuitive: being secure enough to identify the parade of horrible things that can go wrong.

When You’re Accused of Working Too Much

“In staring a company, the unfortunate reality is that there’s no such thing as balance. Taking an idea to greatness requires extreme—Herculean—efforts.

“Sometimes these trade-offs will be worth the cost, and other times they won’t be. If they are not, don’t commit to doing your job halfway.

“Our work and personal lives often collide, and they will only continue to do so. The best way to make it all work is not to silo off these distinct parts, but to weave them together into a custom tapestry. If you do that, and if you are truly doing what you love, it trumps the desire for balance and achieves something better, something magical.”

When You Self-Impose Limits

“When you create limits that don’t really exist, you are justifying where you are. And where you are is never as great as where you could be.

“Generally we put more limits on ourselves than any outside force ever can.

“If there is a recipe for success, I believe that it is this: Get out of defense mode and go into wonder mode.

When You Receive Public Criticism

“I’ve come to realize that getting input—good or bad—is a blessing. It gives you invaluable information on how you are doing, and more importantly, how you can do better.

“So what do you do when you’re on the receiving end of critical reviews or negative comments? First of all, congrats—this is validation that people care about what you’re doing.”

Other letters include:

When you are selecting a co-founder
When nobody wants to give you money
When everyone wants to invest
When you need to spend your money wisely
When you need to figure out compensation for your sales team
When you need to know who owns what
When you need to have an open door
When you need to build a great board
When your first key hire leaves
When no one is excited to be here
When you need to deal with poor performers
When you have to face that your startup is failing
When you need to pick your battles
When you need to improve execution
When you need to scale
When you have just missed your quarter
When the board says they are replacing you as CEO
When you have a big payday

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Categories: Blogs

The Dichotomy of Leadership

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 21:11


SO MUCH OF LEADERSHIP is managing tensions. Leaders must know when to adapt. This is where self-awareness plays a big part. In a word, they need balance. And that’s what The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is all about.

After the publication of their first book, Extreme Ownership, many people latched on to the aggressive implications of the word “extreme” and missed the more nuanced balance that a leader must have. “Leaders must find the equilibrium between opposing forces that pull in opposite directions.” The Dichotomy of Leadership is meant to help leaders find that equilibrium.

Extreme is almost never the answer. Anything can be taken too far. A leader must be able to where to be on any given continuum in any given situation. Steadiness comes to mind. Or as the Romans termed it: gravitas. Knowing what the tensions or the dichotomies are is the first step avoiding the trap of extremes. Willink and Babin offer twelve. We’ll review eight of them here.



The bottom line that leaders build on is the first dichotomy: To care about your people more than anything—but at the same time, lead them. “And as a leader, you might have to make decisions that hurt individuals on your team. But you also have to make decisions that will allow you to continue the mission for the greater good of everyone on the team.” This concept frequently gets lost on some discussing leadership. It’s easy to get this wrong. Getting it right is caring. It’s the job of leading.

Own it All, but Empower Others

The next tension is between micromanagement and hands-off leadership styles. You have to have to take ownership, but at the same time, give ownership. “With Extreme Ownership you are responsible for everything in your world. But you can’t make every decision. You have to empower your team to lead, to take ownership. So you have to give them ownership.” Leaders set the destination but ownership comes when people can help set the course.

Resolute, but Not Overbearing

When and where do you hold the line? “There is a time to stand firm and enforce the rules and there is a time to give ground and allow the rules to bend. They must set high standards, but they cannot be domineering or inflexible on matters of little strategic importance.” It’s about your leadership capital. “Leadership capital is the recognition that there is a finite amount of power that any leader possesses. It can be expended foolishly, by leaders who harp on matters that are trivial and strategically unimportant. Prioritizing those areas where standards cannot be compromised and holding the line there while allowing for some slack in other, less critical areas is a wise use of leadership capital.” It’s an act of strength for a leader—the opposite of insecurity.

When to Mentor, When to Fire

Knowing when to work with someone and when to let them go isn’t easy. “Most underperformers don’t need to be fired, they need to be led.” The balance when leaders remember that “Instead of focusing on one individual, there is a team—and that the performance of the team trumps the performance of a single individual. Instead of continuing to invest in one subpar performer, once a concerted effort has been made to coach and train that individual to no avail, the leader must remove the individual.”

Disciplined, Not Rigid

Rules can be imposed with too much rigidity that it stifles the team’s ability to think and adapt. Leading isn’t about following the exact procedure, but being able to think and do what makes the most sense so that you can support and lead your team. “Disciplined standard operating procedures, repeatable processes, and consistent methodologies are helpful in any organization. The more discipline a team exercises, the more freedom that team will have to maneuver by implementing small adjustments to existing plans.”

A Leader and a Follower

Following is a part of leading well. Babin recalls, “Leading didn’t mean pushing my agenda or proving I had all the answers. It was about collaborating with the rest of the team and determining how we could most effectively accomplish our mission. There were many times in my Navy career when, in an effort to prove my leadership, I failed to follow. And rather than strengthen me as a leader in the eyes of the team, it undermined my leadership.” Good leadership not only includes encouraging junior members of the team to step up and contribute but to support the boss even when you disagree with the decision and “execute the plan as if it were your own.”

Plan, but Don’t Overplan

Trying to plan for every contingency can create more problems than it solves. Plan you must, but “you cannot plan for every contingency. If you try to create a solution for every single potential problem that might arise, you overwhelm your team, you overwhelm the planning process, you overcomplicate decisions for the leader. Therefore, it is imperative that leaders focus on only the most likely contingencies that might arise for each phase of an operation. Choose at most the three or four most probable contingencies for each phase, along with the worst case scenario.”

Humble, Not Passive

Humility is the leader’s most important quality. Be humble or get humbled. “An important part of being a leader is to be humble enough to see beyond his or her own needs.” And while humility means that you need to recognize that you are part of a larger whole and don’t have all of the answers, “being humble doesn’t mean being passive. It doesn’t mean not to push back when it truly matters. Humility has to be balanced by knowing when to make a stand.” That is, “willing to push back, voice their concerns, stand up to the good of the team and provide feedback.” Humility means know when to lead and when to follow. “Pushing back against an order or task from the boss should be the rarest of exceptions and definitely not the rule. Staying humble is the key to developing trust with the chain of command.”

When SEAL leaders had to be fired from “leadership positions in a platoon or task unit, it was almost never because they were tactically unsound, physically unfit, or incompetent. It was most often because they were not humble: they couldn’t check their ego, they refused to accept constructive criticism or take ownership for their mistakes.”

Other dichotomies they cover include: Train Hard, but Train Smart; Aggressive, Not Reckless, Hold People Accountable, but Don’t Hold Their Hands; and Focused, but Detached.

When you find that you are not managing well one of these tensions, the tendency can be to overcompensate. “When a leader moves to rebalance, however, caution must be exercised not to overcorrect. This is a common error: when leaders sense they have gone too far in one direction, they can react by going too far in the other direction. This is ineffective and can make the situation worse. So instead, make measured, calculated adjustments, monitor the results, and then continue to make small, iterative corrections until balance is achieved.”

Balance is never achieved once and done. You will need to move back and forth along these continuums to achieve the results you need because circumstances are always changing. “The leader must continue to monitor the situation, readjust as changes happen, and restore balance.”

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Of Related Interest:
  Extreme Ownership

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Categories: Blogs

Leadership in Turbulent Times

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 17:56


DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN has spent a lifetime studying the lives of four U.S. presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. In Leadership in Turbulent Times, she brings them together to study the development of their leadership potential and the mark they left on history.

In this well-structured study, she begins by looking at the lives of each leader in turn, when they first entered public life. Unremarkable at this stage of their life they, like most young leaders, made mistakes stemming from inexperience, cockiness, lack of caution, outright misjudgments, and selfishness.” But more importantly we “see the efforts made to acknowledge, conceal, or overcome these mistakes.” This of course, is a key to their eventual success.

For all of the differences in personality, temperament and background, that separated them they were united “by a fierce ambition, an inordinate drive to succeed. With perseverance and hard work, they all essentially made themselves leaders by enhancing and developing the qualities they were given.” By the time these men were 30 they had developed the stuff of leadership.

In Part Two, these leader’s lives again align when forced to deal with tragedy and setbacks that threatened their identity and end their prospects. Their adversities, though unique to each, cast doubt on who they were. “Abraham Lincoln suffered a blow to his public reputation and his private sense of honor that led to a near-suicidal depression; Theodore Roosevelt lost his young wife and his mother on the same day; Franklin Roosevelt was struck by polio and left permanently paralyzed from the waist down; Lyndon Johnson lost an election to the United States Senate.”

These events became crucibles in their lives that deepened and redefined their leadership approaches. Abigail Adams wrote her son John Quincy Adams, “It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. Great necessities call out great virtues.” How they responded to their reversals provides lessons for us all. They allowed these experiences to shape and mature them into leaders that would make a mark on their times.

It is the lessons that each learned that they took to the White House. In Part Three we see how each dealt with the turbulent issues of their day. One might observe too that although we see our times as the worst of times because we are so close it, many periods of our own history had far more in the balance. Goodwin looks at how each leader applied their unique leadership composition to the crisis of the day.

Lincoln’s decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation did not come easily. His transformational and his transactional leadership made it possible. He combined the two. “For Lincoln, pragmatic, transactional strategies provided the nuts and bolts of principled, transformational leadership.”

Theodore Roosevelt came into office after the assassination of President William McKinley. Shortly thereafter, he faced a national crisis—The Great Coal Strike of 1902. As the fall approached the six-month-old strike was not any closer to resolution and a widespread panic set in. There was no precedent or legal course of action that allowed presidential intervention. But he did. How he brought the parties together and eventually found a solution provides a blueprint for crisis management.

The Great Depression was in full swing and unemployment had reached 25 percent when Franklin Roosevelt came into office. Indeed, he thought that “the whole house of cards” might collapse before he had a chance to be sworn in. But “the steps Roosevelt took during the next hundred days to stem the immediate banking crisis set in motion a turnaround that would forever alter the relationship between the government and the people.” It’s an engaging case study in turnaround leadership.

Next, Goodwin turns to the visionary leadership of Lyndon Johnson. Assuming he presidency after the assassination of John Kennedy, he quickly assured the public and showed deference to Kennedy’s inner circle. “Checking his storied arrogance, softening his tone, he conveyed a deep humility, sharing his doubts, continuously requesting patience, advice, and assistance.” Johnson had a vision for a Great Society that he was able to actualize by making a dramatic start, leading with his strengths, simplifying the agenda, establishing an effective order of battle, honoring commitments, continual drive, and by mastering the narrative.

While each was different, what serves each of these leaders is their understanding of human nature. Lincoln brought a team of rivals together because of his “empathy, humility, consistency, self-awareness, self-discipline, and generosity of spirit.” As was expressed by Theodore Roosevelt in his autobiography, Leaders “need more than anything else to know human nature, to know the needs of the human soul.” Goodwin writes, “At the core of Johnson’s success in the Senate was his celebrated ability to read character, to gauge the desires, needs, hopes, and ambitions of every individual with whom he interacted.”

All four of these leaders hoped that they had made a difference. Goodwin turns to their legacy in Part Four. Unfortunately, Lincoln and FDR would die in office. TR and LBJ would have to deal with the “aftermath of leadership.” TR to his dying day wish to run for president. Living four years beyond his presidency, LBJ knew, “with a consuming sadness, that his days of active leadership had come to an end.”

The lessons contained in these lives should guide us now in our own turbulent times.
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Of Related Interest:
  The Making of Theodore Roosevelt

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Categories: Blogs

John Chambers: Connecting the Dots

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 09:54


SINCE STEPPING DOWN as CEO of Cisco in 2015, John Chambers founded the venture capital firm JC2 Ventures specializing in startups. That experience has led him to write Connecting the Dots as a way to help others to learn from the key events in his life and career as they navigate business and life.

It has always been true, but it is worth repeating: “What will differentiate the winners from the losers won’t be technology or capital but leadership and a willingness to learn.

Experiences early in life taught him to be calm under pressure. Manage your fear until you can work a solution. This has been a critical skill throughout his whole career. “When you stay calm, the people around you are less likely to panic and the situation you’re dealing with is less likely to spin out of control.”

A reoccurring lesson he learned from the economic changes in his native West Virginia is one of the perils of success: doing the right thing for too long. Many of Cisco’s competitors disappeared along the way because they failed to see the transitions happening around them. They didn’t disrupt themselves, so they were disrupted.

The lessons learned in West Virginia taught him to stay ahead of the next big wave. “If disruption isn’t at the core of your strategy, you’ve got a problem.” In business or life it is important to remember this: “When you compete against another company, you’re looking backward. When you compete against a market transition, you learn how to see around corners.” It is, in part, why comparing ourselves to others is not a good strategy.

The ability to connect the dots comes from being able to see the big picture. “The visible condition of any one person, company, state, industry, or country is always a symptom of a deeper issue. To address the real problem, you have to investigate the specific underlying issues and learn to step back to see the patterns and trends that point to the big picture.”

You have to begin by disrupting you. “The strengths that you build can be deployed in a new way. It’s not easy, but if you start by shifting your focus to the big picture and look for clues to what’s around the corner, you’ll have a head start on those who are focused on preserving the past.”

Being curious and hungry to learn is critical to success. “A lot of leaders would say they’re curious. I can tell you from personal experience that most leaders are not. They don’t ask a lot of questions, rarely challenge conventional wisdom, stick with what they know, and often turn to sources that reinforce their existing point of view.” Chambers believes that “my curiosity about things I don’t understand has been a critical factor in my success as a leader.”

Curiosity stems from humbleness. “As a general rule, leaders are not a humble bunch. It takes confidence to lead people and a certain degree of cockiness to make tough decisions when there are smarter people in the room who disagree. You have to connect with them on an emotional level. You don’t do that by dazzling them with your talents. You share a part of who you are.”

Focus on outcomes. “When you plan around an outcome, you can adapt your behavior when new factors arise.” Know where you want to end up and think through the path you will need to take to get there. First, know where you are and define it in human terms. Cisco was an “internetworking router provider.” Chambers reimagined it to be a company that would change the way we “work, live, learn, and play.” Focus on the outcome and work back from there.

Don’t personalize every crisis. Just because it’s happening to you doesn’t mean it is about you. Thinking that way can “lead to a whole truckload of emotions, from anger and denial to a desperate feeling that we have to do something—anything—to turn things around.” Determine first if the crisis was self-inflicted. “If the problem is market inflicted, don’t dramatically change your strategy.” Additionally, “Do what’s necessary—ideally in one decisive move—to weather the tough times and stay focused on the long term. To come back stronger, you have to be brutal in addressing the flaws that let you become vulnerable.”

Too often in a crisis, we miss this bit of advice from his Dad: “Focus on the issue at hand, deal with the world the way it is, and respond appropriately.” It’s easy to deny reality and just simply complain.

Chambers deals with acquisitions, building teams, creating a culture, communication, and our digital future. He also answers thirteen questions that entrepreneurs want to know. While optimistic about America’s future, he does leave us with this caution: In the United States, we are not moving at anywhere near the speed or with the focus on startups that our global peers are achieving. We are missing major market transitions; we continue to do the right thing for too long; and we’re failing to reinvent the drivers for new job creation and household incomes. In short, we are not reinventing ourselves. We act as though our success is a given. It’s not. The United States is the only developed country in the world that lacks not only a digitization plan but also a national plan for startups, something almost every other country in the world is already implementing. As a result, we do not have a well-thought-out strategy for creating the kinds of infrastructures, education, tax strategies, regulation simplifications, skills training, and public policies to promote innovation and startups.
It's a startup world.

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Categories: Blogs

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