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Updated: 16 min 46 sec ago

William Donaldson on Entrepreneurial Leadership

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 13:43


WILLIAM DONALDSON has led a full life. He was most notably a co-founder of the investment banking firm of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in 1959, served in Henry Kissinger’s State Department, was the founding dean at the Yale School of Management, served as chairman and chief executive of the New York Stock Exchange, turnaround CEO of Aetna, chairman of the SEC, and now CEO of the private investment firm Donaldson Enterprises.

Donaldson and Karl Weber extract relevant lessons for leaders in Entrepreneurial Leader. The thread that runs through his career is the entrepreneurial mindset. That mindset is “about the application of creative thinking and prudent risk-taking to build innovative, long-lasting organizations in any sector of the economy.” There are leaders and there are entrepreneurs, but not all leaders are entrepreneurs, and not all entrepreneurs are leaders. Simply put, I believe that entrepreneurial is a mindset—a way of thinking—and leadership is a way of acting. Entrepreneurial leadership, then, describes the way such a leader behaves.
The case method he experienced at the Harvard Business School, showed him that “in many cases, the deeper you delve into a problem, the less obvious the answers are.” This realization is empowering because “since nobody really knows the one perfect solution to the kinds of real-life challenges organizations face, it’s important to have the courage to ask questions, to propose answers, to challenge assumptions, and to experiment—all of which are key elements of the entrepreneurial drive.”

As founding dean and professor at the Yale school of management, he taught a course on entrepreneurial leadership. He focused on the personal characteristics of the leader. “Of course, an entrepreneurial leader needs to know about subjects like financial management, competitive strategy, market analysis, and the like. But I think those topics are distinctly secondary. More important are the human qualities that the entrepreneurial leader brings to the job—the ability to see the world through fresh eyes; the ability to pay attention to both the big picture and the small details that define a particular situation; a high degree of personal energy, optimism, and a sense of fun; the readiness to shape and define the system in which he or she operates rather than being controlled by a system someone else has created; and, most important, a strong sense of integrity.”

By integrity, he means that they transcend themselves. They look beyond their ego. They remain true to the vision and commit to the value of individuals.

He notes that an entrepreneur is not a gambler. “The smart entrepreneur uses careful planning, intelligent strategy, and lots of hard work to minimize the risk as much as possible.” Effective leaders must be entrepreneurial—which means getting things done, regardless of the obstacles.

Entrepreneurial leaders must have the ability to learn fast in environments of ambiguity and change, while providing clarity and coherence for those around them.

Entrepreneurial leaders have the ability to see the world a bit differently from everyone else. They have the drive to innovate—the willingness to continually experiment, to test new ways of organizing and deploying resources, to abandon outmoded approaches when circumstances change; in short, to “make all things new.”
I found this comment especially useful as it speaks to the mission here at LeadershipNow: In the business arena, entrepreneurial leaders must think and behave as if they own the company—whether they do or not. Entrepreneurial leaders must define systems rather than be defined by them; they must adopt an ownership mentality. They understand that they must take ownership of their choices, including the smaller, day-to-day decisions they make. They must take full responsibility for them rather than attributing them to “the system” or “circumstances.” Entrepreneurial leaders also think continually about the big picture—the broader goal that everyone in the organization is supposed to be working toward—and strive to be guided not by short-term gain or personal profit but by long-term objectives that help everyone. Furthermore, entrepreneurial leaders find ways to encourage everyone in the organization to think and behave in this way, and create circumstances that help them do this.
The behind-the-scenes look at the roles he has taken on throughout his life—especially the rationale behind and the building of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette is instructive. The range of his life and career demonstrate the broad relevance of the principles he describes in this book and make for a fascinating read.

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Categories: Blogs

Leading Views: Humility is the X-factor in Great Leaders

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 13:17


In The Punk Rock of Business, Jeremy Dale stresses the importance of humility not only to distinguish yourself but also because it is an accelerator of success. He states that “the ability to keep a sense of humility is probably the single biggest lesson” included in his book. He shares this example of humility: Shigeru Miyamoto is arguably the greatest video game designer, developer, and producer in history. He has worked for Nintendo since 1977. Miyamoto has helped create some of the greatest and most enduring franchises of all time, including Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and the Wii series of games.

Miyamoto is a very genuine and authentic human being. During my time working with Nintendo, he would occasionally agree to an interview with the British gaming press, and I would sit next to him in those meetings. It was like being in the presence of royalty. He commanded such respect from everyone who knew his work. Quite simply, he is a genius, but you could never be near him without also becoming aware of his deep sense of humility and care for humanity.

In 1998, Miyamoto was honored as the first person inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame. A conversation that occurred immediately after the ceremony and which was later recounted to me sums up Miyamoto in my eyes.

Miyamoto understood English to a limited extent, so when engaging with English speakers he would always be accompanied by a translator, and he would almost always default to his mother tongue. Just after the ceremony, a man and his son approached Miyamoto to congratulate him on the award.

“Mr. Miyamoto, many congratulations on the award. My twelve-year-old son is a big video games player—what tips do you have for him?”

The translator started to translate the question, but Miyamoto stopped him—he had understood. He then reached for a piece of paper and a pencil. He wrote something on the paper, folded it up, and passed it to the boy, rather than the father.

The boy opened the piece of paper and read the message. His eyes lit up, and then he looked up at Miyamoto and beamed a huge smile.

Miyamoto had written this simple message: “Play outside on sunny days.” I absolutely believe that was his number one lesson about video games.

To me, this summed up this amazing gentleman. He never lost sight of the place his inventions should have in this world. He always showed a huge amount of humility and humanity. I think it takes someone special to encourage people not to use their products at every opportunity. It also shows a level of confidence and contentment with who you are and what you do.

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Categories: Blogs

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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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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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



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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

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