Leading Blog



03.22.17

5 Critical Skills You Will Need to Hit the Ground Running After College

Critical Skills You Need

J
OURNALIST AND FORMER EDITOR of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeff Selingo has written an insightful and essential guide as to why some people prosper after college and some fail or find themselves underemployed. You need more than a degree.

There is Life After College is a book that every student should read—twice. Frankly, it would hurt those already in the workplace to read it as the ground is shifting under our feet as well.

Employers are looking for T-shaped individuals. The vertical bar represents depth of knowledge and the horizontal bar represents the ability to work across a variety of complex subject areas with ease and confidence. Something a liberal arts education is designed to do.

Selingo notes that too many undergraduates want to be spoon-fed. “They sit back and wait for professors to deliver lessons in the classroom. They participate in campus life but too often from the sidelines, so they lack and deep engagement in activities that provide much needed skills for the job market. They fail to cultivate relationships with professors or staff on campus who might lend advice or act as mentors. And they are reluctant to chase after experiences—whether undergraduate research, study abroad, or internships—that help them discover their passions and arm them with the interpersonal skills so in demand by employers today.”

Selingo has distilled a lot of wisdom into five often overlapping skills needed to succeed in your career and life. (You see these concepts are appearing more and more in leadership development studies as well.) I’ve listed them here with brief outtakes for each from the chapter. The book provides much more detail and practical advice for career and life on many fronts and well worth making them time to consider.

1. Be Curious, Ask Questions, and Be a Learner for Life
The recent graduates who succeed in their careers are flexible about how they learn. “They have ideas and act on them,” said Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. “Being able to get stuff done is a capacity that is rather important.” Most of all he’s looking for a mind-set with creativity, passion, and empathy at its root. “I want diversity of experiences in college that have exercised their brain,” Brown said.

On executive said, “Our industry is changing so fast that we can’t depend on what students already know. We need people who are creative, curious, whose brains are wired to constantly ask what’s next. What we need are learning animals.

2. Build an Expertise, Take Risks, and Learn the Meaning of Grit
“We see a lot of transferable skills in athletes,” Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise, told me. Enterprise is not alone. As employers search for signals that someone is ready for a job beyond achieving the baseline bachelor’s degree, participation in collegiate athletics is seen by many as one clear indicator of commitment and drive in a generation of college graduates often lacking both.

The qualities prized in athletes obviously apply to other college activities. Employers told me they value musicians, game designers, and writers in much the same way.

“We want to see that they have a passion, and they show proficiency and go deep in it.” The more time students spend trying to master a skill or a job, the more likely they are to encounter failure. “Our best employees are problem solvers and are able to weave everything they know together—customer service, empathy, persuasive skills, leadership skills, flexibility, and work ethic,” Marie Artim of Enterprise told me. “They can think on their feet.”

Selingo adds, “What is unfortunate is that our desire to protect our kids and fill every waking moment of their schedules with organized activities seems to only worsen as they get older.” So they never find opportunities to take risks and perhaps fail.

Recruiters are looking for applicants who have overcome challenges and learned from their disappointments.

3. Every Job is a Tech Job
Understanding the programming language behind the apps on your iPhone or the basics of artificial intelligence is now seen as basic foundational skills by many employers. Learning to program is much like learning a second language was in the twentieth century: You might not become proficient enough to move overseas, but you could get by if you traveled to a particular country.

“It’s more about giving people the skills and tools they learn in the act of coding,” Carol Smith, who oversees Google’s Summer of Code program, told Wired magazine. “It gives them the critical thinking skills that are important whether or not they go into computer science as a profession.”

The generation entering college and the workforce now are often referred to as “digital natives” because they were raised on technology from a very young age. But their relationship has been largely passive: switch on the device and use it. Being digitally aware isn’t about turning more people into computer geeks. It’s about moving from a passive relationship with technology to a more active one—especially in understanding the how and why behind machines, not just the what.

4. Learn to Deal with Ambiguity
“Excelling at any job is about doing the things you weren’t asked to do,” said Mary Egan, founder of Gatheredtable, a Seattle-based start-up, and former senior vice president for strategy and corporate development at Starbucks. “This generation is not as comfortable with figuring out what to do.”

The ability to negotiate ambiguity on the job requires people to think contextually, to provide what I call the “connective tissue” that occupies the space in between ideas. It is the “killer app” of today’ workplaces. People who make these connections do so by following their curiosity and exploring and learning from peers. Knowledge is not only what is in our brains, but also what is distributed through our networks. Learning happens by building and navigating those networks.

5. Be Humble and Learn from Your Peers and Mentors
People who manage recent college graduates all had the same complaint about their new hires: they’re too impatient about their careers and unrealistic about their roles within a company. A friend who is my age and a manager at a major media company told me about new graduates who applied for senior roles after less than a year on the job and who were flabbergasted when they didn’t get the promotion, which went to someone with ten or twenty years more experience.

Being socially aware goes beyond knowing your role within the organization. It includes important skill sets like written and verbal communication as well as the ability to deal with negative feedback, speak in public, and, most of all, interact on a basic human level with coworkers and clients that doesn’t involve texting them.

eBay offers classes on managing your personal brand (because graduates usually can’t set goals for themselves), giving an elevator pitch (they often can’t get to their point fast enough), managing your calendar (once again, time management), and performance reviews.

Selingo emphasizes that what you do in college (and therefore what you become—who you are) is typically more important than where you go.

Launch Chart

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:27 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

03.20.17

Leaders Made Here

Leaders Made Here

T
HE NUMBER ONE REASON most companies do not have a leadership culture is their current leadership, writes Mark Miller in Leaders Made Here.

This occurs for a number of reasons: They don’t see the immediate need, they don’t understand how or are too busy to do it, they don’t walk the talk, and their own insecurities. Leadership cultures are built from the top down.

Miller describes a leadership culture is one where “leaders are routinely and systematically developed, and you have a surplus of leaders ready for the next opportunity or challenge.”

Leaders Made Here is the story of a typical organization that found themselves short when they needed more leaders to fill some gaps and what they did to create a leadership culture.

Frankly, a leadership culture does more than to have leaders in waiting. It provides for the growth and development of all people throughout the organization. It makes whatever you’re doing work better.

To create a leadership culture, Miller boils it down to five ongoing commitments:

1. Define it.
Forge a consensus regarding our organization’s working definition of leadership.
There’s certainly real power in a common definition of leadership; there’s even more power in a common leadership skill set.

2. Teach it.
Ensure everyone knows our leadership point of view and leaders have the skills required to succeed.

3. Practice it.
Create opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders to lead; stretch assignments prove and improve leaders.
We discovered that for most people—leaders included—the natural tendency is to avoid risk. So, when a new project would come along, the leader responsible would assign a seasoned leader regardless of opportunity. It did not matter what was needed; our existing leaders rarely gave an emerging or inexperienced leader a shot. This did nothing to help young leaders grow and develop in a real-world setting.

This does not mean we always give the next opportunity to the emerging leader. Sometimes, the seasoned leader is the right choice. However, because we recognize the power of The Opportunity, we are consciously working to provide it more often.

4. Measure it.
Track the progress of our leadership development efforts, adjusting strategies and tactics accordingly.
A scorecard should answer at least four questions: What is most important now? Is our performance improving or declining? What impact are our interventions having? And are we winning?

5. Model it.
Walk the talk and lead by example—people always watch the leader.

Leaders Made Here is not a bold initiative that comes and goes. It must become what the organization is. It has to become part of the organizational DNA.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

03.15.17

Intelligent Restraint: Pacing for Growth

Intelligent Restraint

W
E KNOW WE NEED to prioritize growth both personally and professionally or it will not happen. And it is just as important that we grow at the right pace.

Athletes know that the right pace in both training and racing is key to winning. It is a common belief that pushing ourselves or our organizations past our limits is the best strategy fro growth. But if you go too fast or push too hard you cannot only burn out but cause injuries and setbacks. At the same time, if you go too slow, you will get left in the dust. Find the right pace is key to successful growth and long-term success.

Long-term success also requires that we execute our core business today while preparing ourselves for the future. In Pacing for Growth, Alison Eyring addresses this tension and how we can find the pace that avoids the wasted effort and the frustrating boom-splat cycles common to growth initiatives. The concept is called Intelligent Restraint.

Intelligent Restraint is basically operating within the limits of the capacity and capabilities we have today and no further while we also build a base of the right capabilities for long term enduring growth.

The three core principles of Intelligent Restraint are:

Principle One: Capacity determines how far and fast you can go. Maximum capacity is the highest level of performance at which a system can perform without breaking down. When we understand the gaps between performance and capacity and how maximum capacity in the future will be different from today, we can create a program to build capabilities that increase capacity.

Principle Two: The right capabilities increase capacity. The key is to be crystal clear what capabilities are most critical for growth in your business. What are the critical few capabilities your strategy requires you to execute fabulously well?

Principle Three: The right pace wins the race. Growth leaders understand how and when to push faster and when to slow things down. In a race, we need to conserve some energy to maintain a fast pace and we need to perseverance to sustain this pace even when it become uncomfortable.

Growth requires trade-offs like exploring new opportunities while exploiting existing assets. Eyring says there are three rules to keep in mind.

Rule #1: Focus overrules vision. Vision is important and gets you going but focus is what gets you over the finish line. By learning to focus and then align people and pother resources to that focus, you can conserve time and energy that can be used to build new capabilities for growth. Making focused choices is Intelligent Restraint at work.

Rule #2: Routines beat strengths. Strengths are useful but they can become a liability when overused. The right routines efficiently shape new ways of thinking and behaving that are need for growth. When we repeat the same thing over and over, we can perfect our technique, But when we repeat progressively challenging routines, we build endurance.

Rule #3: Exert then Recover. To deliver results and build capacity for growth at the same time requires high levels of exertion that consumes personal and organizational energy that must be replenished. As a growth leader, you may need to intentionally slow things down.

A sign that you’re growing at the wrong pace is that you lack the capacity or infrastructure to support what you trying to do. This results in chronic mistakes, poor customer service, and in some industries, safety violations and injuries.

You know you are at the right pace when you can deliver the results intended by the growth initiative while at the same time having the space to give thought to and build for future growth.

Eyring offers an online assessment to determine if your organization is setting the right pace on her Organization Solutions web site.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:40 PM
| Comments (0) | Management

03.13.17

Create the Target Before You Shoot the Arrow

Create the Target

I
SAW A CARTOON years ago in which Charlie Brown shot an arrow at a fence and then proceeded to draw a circle around the arrow. At some level, he found this satisfying. This is not how great leaders think.

Having just returned from our annual meeting with over 5,000 chicken people present, I am thankful we took the time to draw the target before we shot the arrow. We will see what the attendees have to say, but preliminary reports are positive. I think the event hit the mark.

Here’s the leadership lesson that comes to mind as I reflect on the event. One of the reasons it was a success—not the only reason, but one of them—is that we decided what we were trying to accomplish before we created the event. We drew the target BEFORE we shot the arrow.

I’m wondering how often, as a leader, we fail to clearly define the target. I think about all the times my leadership efforts have fallen short . . . how many of those failures can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to an unclear target or goal?

There are many things leaders CANNOT do for their people. However, clarity regarding intent should never be in short supply. People must always know what they are trying to accomplish.

The greatest gift leaders can give their people is clarity.


The power of clarity transcends targets, goals, and objectives – it includes vision, values, and strategic intent, as well as other tactical issues. But what we are trying to accomplish cannot get lost in the process.

Clarity enables alignment, and alignment is a prerequisite for performance.


When you identify the target with crystal clarity, I think you may be amazed at how often your team will hit the mark.

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Leading Forum
Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-Fil-A.

His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:22 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Teamwork

03.08.17

Humility Casts a Wide Net

Humility Casts a Wide Net

HUMILITY casts a wide net and makes possible the work of leadership. Nothing facilitates community, collaboration, and innovation like humility.

In Humility is the New Smart, Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig define humility as “a mindset about oneself that is open-minded, self-accurate, and not all about me, and that enables one to embrace the world as it is in the pursuit of human excellence.”

Their definition encompasses the mind of a leader that will be able to lead in a changing and uncertain world. Humility is inclusive. It is inclusive of others ideas, others needs, others strengths, other contributions, and the realities that exist outside of our own head. A humble leader asks more questions and is open to more answers thus deepening the pool of resources they have to draw upon. But it requires a strength of character. As senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, Pat Williams writes in Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success:

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to listen to other points of view.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to admit their mistakes and learn from them.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to celebrate their achievements of others.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to surround themselves with talented people without feeling threatened or diminished.

Additionally,

  • Humble people treat others as equals.

  • Humble people don’t claim to know everything.

  • Humble people are better team players.

  • Humble people are willing to set aside their egos.

Humility is the antidote to insecurity that often plagues us. A lack of humility actually drives insecurity. Humility makes your strengths productive and multiplies the strengths of others. Humility acknowledges a world beyond our own thinking and minimizes our own limitations. A good leader knows this and acts accordingly to produce the best results.

Do you have the strength to be humble?

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Of Related Interest:
  Footwashing for Leaders
  Humility

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:50 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Personal Development

03.06.17

How Do We Get Outside Our Comfort Zone?

Thank You for Being Late

YOU'VE NO DOUBT HEARD that it is outside our comfort zone where the magic happens. But how do we get outside our comfort zone? It’s not always easy in some cases too stressful to consider.

Andy Molinsky gives us some practical first steps in Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence.

We often fail to get outside our comfort zone because of the feeling that it’s too big a reach (which is why they’re outside your comfort zone): “It’s not me,” “People won’t like this version of me,” “It’s embarrassing because I’m clearly not good at this,” “Why should I have to do this,” and/or “Maybe this isn’t something I should be doing.” So commonly, we do nothing. We avoid it altogether. Or we only do it half-heartedly. All of these things sabotage our efforts.

So the question to ask yourself is, "If I could erase the anxiety and distress, is it something I’d like to be able to do?"

Molinsky has interviewed and also observed people in many different professions and walks of life. And the stories he includes from managers, executives, priests, baristas, stay-at-home-moms, singers, actors and performers, are helpful and relatable. And although these people are very different, there is a common theme. He has found that those most successful at getting outside of their comfort zones have three things going for them:

Conviction—Making Sure the Gain is Worth the Discomfort
It’s a deep sense of purpose that it’s actually worth it to endure the strain or stress entailed in stepping outside your comfort zone. This is the “why am I doing this?” And that can come from anywhere.

Customization—Designing a Personalized Baby-Step Plan
This is the ability to tweak or adjust in often very slight ways how you perform a task to make it feel more comfortable and natural. When facing difficult situations we often feel powerless, but we can alter situations to play to our strengths. For example, we can change the words we use or the topics we talk about, change our body language, or change the timing or location.

Clarity—Getting Some Perspective on Your Fears
Clarity is the ability to develop an even-handed, reasonable perspective on the challenges you face. “It is an attempt to be as true as possible with ourselves about the situations we’re currently working on, taking a careful inventory of our true feelings—even if we’re embarrassed by them—as well as an inventory of our avoidance strategies.” In other words, to not succumb to the distorted and exaggerated thinking so many of us do in very stressful situations. It may not really be as far outside of our comfort zones as we imagine.

Here are Five Comfort Zone Myths to consider:

Myth #1: All it takes to step outside your comfort zone is taking a leap.
Reality: Very few people spontaneously “leap” outside their comfort zones; rather, that leap is the result of considerable thinking and deliberation.

Myth #2: The “magic” only happens outside your comfort zone.
Reality: The “magic” can happen both inside and outside your comfort zone.

Myth #3: I’m the only one who struggles with situations outside my comfort zone.
Reality: Nearly everyone struggles with situations outside their comfort zones.

Myth #4: Getting out of your comfort zone is just about “sucking it up.”
Reality: “Sucking it up” is important, but so too are other strategies which, in fact, can ultimately make ‘sucking it up’ less necessary.

Myth #5: With enough inspiration, anyone can stretch outside their comfort zone.
Reality: Anyone can do it, but it takes more than inspiration; it takes effort, persistence, strategy, and a keen understanding of the challenges.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:06 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

03.03.17

Thank You for Being Late

Thank You for Being Late

Booknotes
IN Thank You for Being Late, journalist Thomas Friedman affirms that we are living in one of the greatest inflection points in history. “The three largest forces on the planet—technology, globalization, and climate change—are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our societies, workplaces, and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be remained.”

As he notes, it more than just change it is reshaping that is taking place. It’s hard for any of us to keep up. “In such a time, opting to pause and reflect, rather than panic or withdraw, is a necessity. It is not a luxury or a distraction—it is a way to increase the odds that you’ll better understand, and engage productively with, the world around you.”

Friedman’s title, Thank You for Being Late, comes from realizing that a guest’s tardiness to a meeting gave him time to just sit and think. And he was better for it. So, “Thank you for being late.”

Thank You for Being Late succeeds in presenting a better understanding of why the world is the way it is. What follows is a small selction of thoughts and analysis of and prescriptions for the world we live in:

☙ As the world becomes more interdependent and complex, it becomes more vital than ever to widen your aperture and to synthesize more perspectives.

☙ Creativity becomes, in part, about asking the best questions.

☙ You can’t just show up. You need a plan to succeed. You have to know more, you have to update what you know more often, and you have to do more creative things with it. Self-motivation is now so much more important.

☙ It is so easy to forget that many, many people in America don’t have a professional network, an alumni network, two parents, or in some cases anyone around them with a job, to consult about how to get one.

☙ In a world of so many choices, it’s hard to know what to do.

☙ Social media is good for collective sharing, but not always so great for collective building; good for collective destruction, but maybe not so good for collective construction; fantastic for generating a flash mob, but not so good at generating a flash consensus on a party platform or a constitution.

☙ Quoting Jeffrey Garten, the former dean of the Yale School of Management: Maybe this is overly romantic, but I think leadership is going to require the ability to come to grips with values and ethics. The more technological we get, the more we need people who have a much broader framework. You’ll be able to hire the technologist to make systems work, but in terms of the goals, that takes a different kind of leader.

☙ A number of technological forces came together to create an exponential step in change in the power of men and machines—much faster than we have been able to reshape our institutions, our laws, and our modes of leadership. Quoting Dov Seidman: Technology creates possibilities for new behaviors and experiences and connection, but it takes human beings to make the behaviors principled, the experiences meaningful and the connections deeper and rooted in shared values and aspirations.

☙ No better source of restraint then a strong community.

☙ It is only when people relax their hearts and their minds that they are open to hear and engage with others, and healthy communities create a context for that.

Thank You for Being Late
Buy at AMZN

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:07 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

03.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for March 2017

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in March.

  Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team's Productive Power by Michael C. Mankins and Eric Garton
  Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture by Mark Miller
  Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
  The High Potential Leader: How to Grow Fast, Take on New Responsibilities, and Make an Impact by Ram Charan
  Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm by Christian Madsbjerg

Time Talent Energy Leaders Made Here Radical Candor High Potential Leader Sensemaking

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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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"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us."
— Franz Kafka


Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:07 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

02.28.17

LeadershipNow 140: February 2017 Compilation

twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from February 2017 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:30 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140

02.27.17

Mastering Civility

Mastering Civility

Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.
— M. W. Montagu


CIVILITY has a way of winning people over and garnering influence.

Civility isn’t just the absence of incivility. In Mastering Civility, Christine Porath explains that “Civility in the fullest sense requires something more: positive gestures of respect, dignity, courtesy, or kindness that lift people up.”

Incivility impacts our health and performance. It depletes our “immune system, causing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and ulcers.” It also robs us of our “cognitive resources, hijacks our performance and creativity, and sidelines us from our work. Even if we want to perform at our best, we can’t, because we’re bothered and preoccupied by the rudeness.”

Incivility is contagious. “When you’re exposed to hostility or aggression, you behave differently. Incivility sneaks into your subconscious. It’s easy to see how plagues of incivility can take shape and spread.” But you don’t have to succumb to incivility. “When you follow a rude experience with a polite one, the polite one ‘overwrites’ the rude one, loosening the hold it has on your mind.”

Civility starts with a few basic behaviors and it grows from there. Simple things like saying please and thank you make a difference in how we are perceived by others and the influence we have on them. “Most of us are in a hurry to prove our competence, but warmth contributes significantly more to others’ evaluations. Warmth is the pathway to influence.”

Other basic behaviors include acknowledging people and listening. They signal caring, commitment and connection. Show respect for others by sharing resources, the limelight, and positive feedback. “The highest performers offer more positive feedback with their peers; in fact, high-performing teams share six times more positive feedback than average teams. Meanwhile, low-performing teams share twice as much negative feedback than average teams.”

What if you are the victim of incivility?

When someone is being uncivil to you it’s easy to let your emotions take over. It’s easy to get sucked in to their incivility. Porath advises you to avoid the temptation to get even. It’s not a win for you.

The best advice has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. How will you choose to interpret it? Here are a few of her thoughts:
When you experience incivility, your sense of thriving comes into play in a particular way: by making it easier for you to reframe the negativity of the event so that it isn’t nearly as destructive.

What are you going to make this mean? How you interpret the situation is crucial. How much are you going to let someone pull you down? What useful lessons might there be for you in the situation?

Science reveals that about 50m percent of our happiness is based on brain wiring; 40 percent is owed to how we interpret and respond to what happens to us, and 10 percent is driven by our circumstances.

In large part, you really do get to decide how you interpret incivility, the meaning you assign to it, and the stories you tell yourself. You also get to control whether it makes you feel bad or not. It may not be realistic for you to “toughen up,” but you can choose not to worry about what was said or done to you.”

Everyone would agree that we should be civil and we recoil when we see others engaged in it, yet incivility has become more commonplace. Somehow we feel justified being uncivil when things don’t go our way. And it costs us all.

Uncivil behavior does not generate greater influence no matter how loud you are. Most leadership failures can be attributed to abrasive or arrogant approaches to others. Uncivil leaders eventually undermine their own potential.

Are you civil? Porath offers a quick civility assessment online.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

02.24.17

Asking the Right Questions Often Leads to the Best Answer

Ask More

BEING A LEADER often means making far-reaching decisions that require major investments of time, resources, and energy. Complete certainty is seldom possible. Competing agendas often complicate the process. The future is never something you can take for granted. So you need to be as dispassionate as possible in how you examine opportunities and vulnerabilities. Knowing how to ask the right questions is essential to sorting through the options, clarifying objectives and making the best decision possible.

Good leaders are adept at asking strategic questions. These are the types of questions that deepen understanding and look over the horizon. By asking more of these questions – of yourself and others -- you articulate goals, set benchmarks and assess risk. You become a better thinker and a smarter leader.

Strategic questions zoom out and look at the big picture. They ask about long-term goals, interests, and priorities. They consider alternatives, consequences, and downsides. They sharpen the focus on the larger objective and clarify what it will take to get there. Strategic questions break into distinct categories.

Big Question:
What are you trying to do? Why? What difference will it make? Start at 20,000 feet. The Oxford Dictionary defines strategic as “relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.” Ask about the mission. What’s in play? What’s at stake? What is the strategic, long-range purpose or objective? Ask whether everyone is even ready to think strategically.

Cost and Consequence:
How will you achieve your objective? What exactly is involved? What will it cost? What are the downsides? If you don’t succeed, what are the consequences? How will they affect your business, bottom line, organizational profile, personal happiness, or real-world activities? Get specific. Ask how your plan and its component pieces will measure strategic objectives against metrics and outcomes, time and resources.

Trade-offs:
What are you not thinking about? Trade-offs are built into any big decision. For example, you can make more money but will have less free time; you can fix the bottom line but will have to lay off workers; you can liberate a country but will cause damage and death. Trade-off questions openly, sometimes defiantly, ask about winners and losers. These are questions that require you to challenge groupthink, conventional wisdom, and your own biases. Think of them as circuit breakers in your strategic questioning. If the tradeoffs are too extreme, or the downsides too severe, you may need to start over.

Alternatives:
Is there another way? Ask about options that can achieve the same outcome. Keeping your strategic objective constant, ask whether different tactics can lower the cost or raise the prospects of success. Ask how tradeoffs and risks can be minimized through different approaches and timelines.

Define Success:
What will success look like? How will you measure it? Over what period of time? As any good military commander relentlessly asks about the “end state,” what “mission accomplished” really looks like, you should ask what success means to you, to your team and what it will take to get there. Is the goal in your best interests? Who will it help? How? Be sure answers are clear, commonly understood, and widely shared. These questions prompt answers that navigate, set sights, and articulate a vision.

Listen:
If you ask and don’t listen, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Invite questions from a wide range of perspectives. Then listen closely, actively. Listen for unexpected obstacles or unexplored risk. Listen for scenarios that call for additional consideration. Listen for gratuitous compliments that suggest pandering, or qualified agreement that may conceal deeper problems or doubts. Listen for indications that people don’t understand the purpose, the mission, or the goal. Listen for opportunities you hadn’t thought of. Intent listening will help you determine whether you’re on track or whether the strategy is flawed and needs to be rethought.

Try:
Engage a group about your big idea. Explain the reasoning behind it. Then ask everyone to challenge you, your logic, your goals, or your tactics. Ask them to list the downsides and the risks as well as the upsides and the advantages. Answer questions with more questions to dig deeper. Limit your comments and questions to 30 percent of the meeting, so others are speaking (and you are listening) 70 percent of the time. What do you hear?

CEOs are often the most successful people. Many of them possess a hidden skill – the ability to ask questions that help envision the future, assess risk and reward, and anticipate trends.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Frank Sesno the author of Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and former anchor, White House Correspondent, Washington Bureau Chief, and talk show host for CNN. Sesno currently serves as director of George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, and is the creator of Planet Forward, an innovative forum seeking solutions to daunting challenges such as global hunger.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:25 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Forum , Thinking

02.22.17

Kaleidoscope: 9 Foundational Stones that Drive Sparkling Service

Kaleidoscope

PEOPLE DON'T talk about good service, “they boast about unique, captivating services experiences.”

In Kaleidoscope, Chip Bell explores what makes an experience so good that people want to tell their friends about it. What makes people become zealous advocates of your business?

Creating these kinds of customer experiences works in much the same way a kaleidoscope works.

Every time you turn a kaleidoscope you get a unique image, but the stones inside that form those images never change. They are the core of what makes the kaleidoscope work. Kaleidoscope is about these basic, foundational "stones" and concepts that should drive innovative customer service. These stones can be presented in unique combinations that will drive brilliant service.

Bell presents nine stones that form the basis of sparkling innovative service:

Enchantment:
How can you add a little magic? What could your service experience smell like, sound like, feel like, look like, taste like if you wanted to truly excite your customers in a fashion that sticks in their memory?

Grace:
Honor your customer. Graceful service is an assertion, not a response. It’s an attitude not a tactic. Customers treated with goodness assume the behavior and attitude of goodness. Be the giver of hope your customers become. Respect is not what you believe; it is what you show. You can start igniting grace with a simple, “I am here to serve and daringly make a difference in your life.”

Trust:
Honor and trust are the lifeblood of repeat business. Treat different customers differently. One-size-fits-all treatment shows ignorance of their uniqueness and indifference to learning about them. Find ways to make every customer’s experience feel like it has his or her monogram on it.

Generosity:
Adopt an attitude of abundance. Give more than is expected. Great service means caring so much about the experience you are authoring or the product you are caretaking that you are willing to invest more in it, purely in the pursuit of the remarkable.

Truth:
Truth telling shortens the distance between people. It frees customers from anxiety and caution. It triggers a potent connection with the humanity in each of us. Everything in your customer’s experience is personal. Corporate speak and sanitized legalese communication, by definition, violate that principle.

Mercy:
Mercy’s presence in a relationship comes when it is being tested, challenged, or disputed. Mercy is more than forgiveness. It is a relationship surrendering to what it could be rather than controlling or containing what it is. It is neither an expression of pity nor an air of tolerance. Rather, it is expanding the boundaries of the relationship to allow it to reform, renew, and reward.

Alliance:
Customers enjoy being a partner. Great partnerships care about fairness, not a perfect fifty-fifty split. Great partnerships have built-in shock absorbers. They affirm their relationships more through ebb and flow than give and take. Examine your business practices. Do you make customers go to the nth degree to get what they need?

Ease:
The key to innovative service is appreciating its complexity, understanding its impact, and paying attention to the detail that rigger customer angst and discomfort. Be your customers’ pathfinder to ease by examining their experience through their eyes, not yours.

Passion:
Passion-filled service is fundamentally about commitment. It is the outcome that results from the fervor to be all-in, to serve without reluctance. identify a service “souvenir” – a small, delightful takeaway that could extend the customer’s experience beyond adieu.

Bell’s focus in Kaleidoscope is delivering customer service experiences that are value-unique, not just value-added. Deliver a masterpiece.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:58 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business

02.20.17

Ryan Blair’s Five Rules for Being a Rock Star

I Am Keats

RYAN BLAIR is a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of ViSalus Sciences. In Rock Bottom to Rock Star he shares lessons from his own journey. Not surprisingly, the journey begins with taking personal responsibility. Without it you can’t move up from your rock bottom. You are your own competition.

Blair explains, “There is a way to shape everything in life so that it serves you and drives you toward success.” In whatever you chose to do “your timeline will be filled with smile sand cries. Ultimately, success will be determined by whether or not you have the right psychology to control them.”

Here are Blari’s five rules for being a rock star:

Rule 1: Don’t listen to the noise. Especially in this day and age, any fool with a mobile phone and a social media account thinks he’s an expert, so don’t listen to useless, negative messaging, and only take advice from those who are qualified to give it.

Rule 2: Don’t believe your own hype. The moment you start celebrating, you’ve left the stage. It wasn’t celebration that made you a rock star, it was hard work. Remember that.

Rule 3: Practice. There will be times where you’re going to get rusty, and you’re going to ask yourself, can I still do this? You have to get out there, play, rehearse, get feedback from your “audience,” and modify your performance.

Rule 4: Surround yourself with the right musicians. You have to constantly assess the people you choose to hang with. Are they helping you move forward or are they just along for the ride? Are they building you up, or tearing you apart? I’ve lost relatives over this.

Rule 5: Always remember where you came from.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:22 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business

02.17.17

Freeing Yourself from Yourself

I Am Keats

TOM ASACKER always makes you think.

Life is not scripted but we live it as though it were. In doing so, we create boxes that we operate within without ever really seeing the possibilities. “We’re confined in mental prisons of our own creation.”

We make these scripts up or others make them up for us and eventually we come to believe them. And the problem is we think that is reality. It’s that story inside our head that keeps us from flourishing as we should—a life that moves us. We are sabotaging ourselves.

We act more like Coleridge and less like Keats. In I Am Keats, Asacker develops a metaphor for two worldviews as expressed through the poetry of two 19th century poets: Coleridge and Keats.

Keats was passionate. He was moved by his senses and imagination. Capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts, he was uninhibited, open, and without judgment.

We are conditioned – perhaps predisposed – to live in Coleridge’s worldview. Coleridge wants to predict an unknowable future. He is logic, order, control and progress. Coleridge wants you to live a productive and mistake-free life. “He is an expert craftsman, skilled in the rights and wrongs of the world, and turned on by the desire for risk aversion, accumulation and conformity.”

Neither is right or wrong but we need to be aware of the dynamic between the two or we never really live. We never see the possibilities. Knowing is safe. Being is frightening – “a dynamic dance with reality.”

But we are held captive by our beliefs—what we believe to be reality. “Here’s the thing about our beliefs. We don’t want them pointed out to us. We don’t want to have our soothing stories interrupted. We don’t want to be woken up from our script, from our reassuring routines. Otherwise, we’ll have to think. And then, heaven forbid, we may have to change.

Asacker writes, “Let go of your incessant desire to know, to predict and influence, and instead be willing to experience the mystery of the present without corrupting it with questions.”

When you allow yourself to become more like Keats, “you find yourself being pulled deeper and deeper into a process that creates serendipitous connections and refines your perceptions. Your old eyes adjust to a new world, and you become more creative and discerning.”

Experience the moment. “Your present creates the meaning of your past.”

I Am Keats is a book for our times. It is a philosophy says Asacker. “Magic, then logic. Heart, then head.” Try it.

More at: IAmKeats.com

Of Related Interest:
  The Business of Belief

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:33 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

02.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for February 2017

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in February.

  Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-term Success by Alison Eyring
  Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less - and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by Scott Sonenshein
  Extreme Teams: Why Pixar, Netflix, Airbnb, and Other Cutting-Edge Companies Succeed Where Most Fail by Robert Bruce Shaw
  Leadership Step by Step: Become the Person Others Follow by Joshua Spodek
  Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

Pacing for Growth Stretch Extreme Teams Leadership Step by Step Stealing Fire

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273


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Build your leadership library with these specials on over 100 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines who you will be when you can't help it."
— Oscar Wilde


Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:32 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

01.31.17

LeadershipNow 140: January 2017 Compilation

twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from January 2017 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:03 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140

01.09.17

Shoe Dog: How to Succeed in Business with a Little Luck

Shoe Dog

PHIL KNIGHT'S memoir about creating Nike, Shoe Dog, covers the time from his “Crazy Idea” to going public in 1980. It is a down-to-earth account of the sacrifices and struggles, failures and successes of what it takes to succeed in business.

Any would-be entrepreneur would do well to read it before venturing out on their own.

Knight says that the act alone is the destination. “Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where ‘there’ is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.” And that’s different from “giving up” as he explains: “Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop.”

He admits to the stress of it all. “The years of stress were taking their toll. When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly. At just the moment when I needed to be my sharpest, I was approaching burnout.” In the end he gives credit to hard work and luck. It’s not uncommon to see the IQ of successful entrepreneurs rise at least 50 points as they become experts on nearly every topic. But quite candidly, Knight writes:
Luck plays a big role. Yes, I’d like to publicly acknowledge the power of luck. Athletes get lucky, poets get lucky, businesses get lucky. Hard work is critical, a good team is essential, brains and determination are invaluable, but luck may decide the outcome. Some people might not call it luck. They might call it Tao, or Logos, or Jñāna, or Dharma. Or spirit. Or God.

Put it this way. The harder you work, the better your Tao. And since no one has ever adequately defined Tao, I now to go regularly to mass. I would tell them: Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.

Shoe Dog is an amazing story of how he made that luck happen.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:03 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business

01.04.17

Ditch Lofty Outcome Goals and “Hit the Glove!”

WHEN IT COMES TO KEEPING New Year’s Resolutions, the stats aren’t good. Surveys show that while some 40 percent of us make them, only 8 percent of us keep them. We may feel exhilarated when we set a big goal, but that soon gives way to anxiety. While we all want to get better, lofty goals don’t always help.

There is a way to set goals and achieve them. It comes from Rick Peterson, the former Major League Baseball pitching coach (of Moneyball fame), who guided the New York Mets and the Oakland A’s to great success. He did it by getting his pitchers to scale back their goals from lofty to bite-sized, from outcome to process. His mantra, “Hit the glove,” was not only powerful and effective, it translates well beyond professional baseball.

At the beginning of spring training, Rick would ask his pitchers, “What’s your goal?” Most had the kind of long-term, outcome goals you find on the back of a baseball card — winning a certain number of games or pitching a certain number of innings.

The problem with focusing on great big goals is that you’re distracted into focusing on factors outside your control. Winning a ball game involves more than just the pitcher’s performance — it hinges on how many runs his team scores, how well his team fields, how well the opposing hitters handle good pitches, and even the umpire’s calls. When we don’t hit that big outcome goal we get demoralized, creating doubt and anxiety can hurt our performance.

Instead, Rick refocused his pitchers on short-term, bite-sized process goals. He told them they were professional glove hitters with one simple goal: Hit the catcher’s glove as often as possible — with the right pitch.

If a player focuses on hitting that glove, he can’t focus on the pressure of a loftier outcome goal. He has to concentrate on hitting that glove. He’s not distracted by things outside his control. Hitting the glove on a high percentage of pitches is also the most probable path to achieving larger, outcome-oriented individual and team goals.

How It Translates

We can all learn to refocus on hitting that glove. I’ve been in sales for decades. At the start of every year, salespeople’s anxieties peak. Whatever numbers they produced last year, they no longer matter. The scoreboard’s back to zero. Time to prove yourself all over again.

Many sales organizations try to motivate their sales forces with talk of raising the bar and hitting even bigger numbers. But that lofty-goal approach can trigger fear and worry instead. Just like pitchers, salespeople know there are parts of the sales game beyond our control. And it’s easy to lose focus amidst the cornucopia of daily distractions.

After I heard Rick’s mantra, “Hit the glove!” I thought of what that meant in terms of my day-to-day sales. I settled on high-quality interactions with customers and prospects, meaning one that advances a sale and/or our relationship. By focusing on having daily, high-quality interactions with customers, I would make great progress toward putting a dent in my quota.

Thinking about how many high-quality interactions I should have each day, I set the initial target at two. Before you laugh and ask what I was going to do after lunch, consider the math. Two high-quality interactions per day are 10 per week, and 40 per month. Assuming one month of vacation, that’s 440 per year — far more than I was averaging.

As soon as I started focusing on my new simple, short-term, bite-sized process goal — two high-quality interactions with customers each day — I began thinking about my day differently. I began prioritizing those two high-quality interactions with customers above everything else. As I considered how to invest my time, I regularly asked myself, “Is this helping me hit the glove?

As a result, my focus improved remarkably. I wasted less time. I didn’t give my quota a second thought. My numbers took off, and I finished the year more than 25 percent ahead of my previous year’s performance. Focusing on that one small change brought about big results. So ask yourself: What’s your version of hitting the glove?

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Leading Forum
This post is by Judd Hoekstra. He is a leadership and human performance author, consultant and speaker. He serves as a Vice President at The Ken Blanchard Companies, a premier leadership training and coaching company. He is also a coauthor of the bestselling Leading at a Higher Level as well as Who Killed Change? He received his bachelor's from Cornell University, where he played hockey and baseball. He also graduated from the Advanced Business Management Program at Kellogg School of Management. For more information, go to www.juddhoekstra.com.

Rick Peterson has coached some of baseball’s best pitchers in the past twenty years, including Cy Young Award winners and Hall of Famers.
Crunch Time
He was the Oakland Athletics’ pitching coach during the famed Moneyball era and has served as a coach with the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Milwaukee Brewers. He is currently director of pitching development with the Baltimore Orioles. He holds a combined degree in psychology and art. He and Judd Hoekstra are the authors of Crunch Time: How To Be Your Best When It Matters Most. For more information, go to www.rickpetersoncoaching.com.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:24 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

01.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for January 2017

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in January.

  Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age by Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig
  The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith
  Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change by Frank Sesno
  Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies by Paul J. Zak
  Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos by Heidi K. Gardner

Humility Power of Meaning Ask More Trust Factor Smart Collaboration

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273


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Build your leadership library with these specials on over 100 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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"You stay teachable most by reading books. By reading what other people went through."
— Retired Marine General James Mattis


Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:24 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

12.31.16

LeadershipNow 140: December 2016 Compilation

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twitter Here are a selection of tweets from December 2016 that you might have missed:
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:37 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140






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