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07.28.14

8 Shifts Young Leaders Need to Make

Leading Forum
It was one of the most embarrassing things I've ever done.

I was standing in a hotel lobby waiting on my buddy to get some coffee before we were headed out for a day at a conference we were working. I was standing against the wall with my computer bag on my back. We were running a little late, so on the spur of the moment I decided I'd go get the rental car and bring it to the lobby's front door. As I stepped away from the wall, I had no idea the pandemonium that would ensue.

Apparently my bag had gotten caught on the fire alarm in the hotel lobby. In an odd case of events, when I stepped away from the wall, the fire alarm went off and people began to scatter. The hotel lobby that was rather full with folks eating breakfast and enjoying their morning coffee suddenly began to empty as people began to look around and evacuate the lobby.

You see, that's what happens when alarms go off, people move. For the next generation, an alarm of sorts is going off. An alarm that, if ignored or simply silenced, will continue to get louder and louder. An alarm that, if left unanswered, could mean serious trouble for the next generation and our world as we know it. Poverty rates have never been higher, unemployment rates are astronomically high, and people are hurting all over our world. Children are being abandoned by parents that have other priorities and people are willing to kill over heresay and gossip.

Our culture is in need of young leaders that are willing to not just silence the alarm with quick fixes, but sustain lasting change in the world we live in. We need young leaders that can rally people around them and begin bringing people together for lasting change.

How can we answer the alarm? By making some shifts in our lives and in our leadership in order to help lead lasting change in our society. Here are 8 shifts that we need to make as young people in order to set ourselves up to lead well now and in the future.

From Entitlement to Honor
The millennial generation is often referred to as "the entitled generation." Many of us have had things handed to us by our parents and the people around us and somehow believe that we deserve it all. We'll have to shift from believing that we deserve our due to seeking to honor those around us if we're going to lead lasting change. The people we seek to influence have to know that we are about them and not ourselves. That's real leadership.

From Unreliable to Consistent
Consistency is our generation's key to change. In order to change our lives, our families, our neighborhood, or our world, we have to consistently seek that change. Anyone can do something once, the real world changers are the ones that consistently excel and consistently push to a vision.

From Dissension to Cooperation
Unity and cooperation are secret ingredients into leading sustainable change. We'll have to work together on the things that really matter if we're going to see children's lives changed, cities built back up, and families restored. We can't seek to compete with those around us and cause dissension. Dissension holds us back, cooperation propels us.

From Conformity to Integrity
Integrity isn't just what you're doing when no one's around, it's doing right when you could do anything. As we gain more and more influence as young people, we'll often be left with a world of decisions to make and options to choose. The leaders we need to change our world choose what's right over what's easy or what's best for them.

From Pride to Humility
Pride puffs us, humility builds up. We need young leaders that build others up. Humility doesn't mean we're silent or shy, it must means that we value others over ourselves and believe the best about them. To lead people, we have to influence them. To influence them, they have to know we believe in and care about them. That comes through humility.

From Passive to Passionate
Passive doesn't answer the alarm. We can't be passive about the problems we as a generation have in front of us, we have to see them and be passionate about changing them. Passionate is the single most important ingredient in leading change. If we're not living and leading from a place of passion, we'll never desire the kind of change our world desperately needs.

From Selfishness to Love
Our world is extremely selfish. From selfies screaming "look at me" to young people saying "don't bother me." If we're going to step up and change our world, we have to look to love others, not avoid them. We have to look to love those around us, not lift ourselves up. People know real love when the see it. Real leaders know how to genuinely feel it and display it.

From Premature to Patient
We live in a microwave society. Everything is quick and fast. Leading people takes time. Leading change takes time. We have to be patient with the people we lead and understand the the process requires patience and sustained passion.

We can make the shifts as a generation. We can answer the alarm and change the world for our kids and their kids. The question is, "Are you willing?"

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Next Up
Jonathan Pearson is the Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Orangeburg, SC—an ethnically-reflective church with multiple campuses. He is also the Assistant Director of The Sticks, an organization that inspires small city leaders to think big, co-creator of millennialleader.com and author of Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make. You can follow him on Twitter at @JonathanPearson.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 AM
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12.16.13

Are You a Thought Leader?

Leading Forum
This is a post by Mike Myatt author of Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly.

What is a thought leader, and what does thought leadership mean in today’s business world? As much as some people wish it wasn’t so, a thought leader is not someone who simply restates someone else’s views and positions. Furthermore, beyond uniqueness of thought, a true thought leader’s positions also challenge established norms and conventions. Moreover, the true litmus test for a thought leader is when their unique ideas are implemented in the marketplace, they tend to create disruptive innovation, and often change the way we view the world.

It is certainly much easier to look back in time at world leaders, Nobel laureates, religious scholars, philosophers, and captains of industry to identify historical thought leaders than it is to identify today’s visionaries. This is due to the fact that thought leadership was once a term reserved for a limited few. Regrettably, the label of thought leader has evolved to become a self-bestowed title for anyone who has something to say or promote, often without regard for qualitative issues. Some would say that the term thought leader, once synonymous with futurist and innovator, is more closely aligned with snake-oil salesman today. Don’t get me wrong, true thought leaders still exist; they are just much harder to spot these days.

Let me begin by stating that authentic thought leaders, the real deals, are not created via great marketing and PR alone. While they are oft published, quite outspoken, and many times represented by marvelous publicists, they are not merely contrived, self-promoted legends in their own minds. Rather true thought leaders are born out of real-world successes, achievements, and contributions that have been recognized by their peers and competitors alike. Their work is widely regarded as being innovative, disruptive, and market altering. They are not the posers, but the players. They are not spin masters trying to make it, but are the undisputed market leaders that have already arrived.

It is also important to draw a distinction between personal or corporate branding and thought leadership. While thought leaders often become well recognized brands, there are many well crafted brands that have messaged thought leadership where none exists. Don’t allow yourself to get caught-up in the spin and hype associated with great marketers who will gladly accept compensation, but will leave you woefully disappointed when it comes to living-up to their billing. Look for real results based upon market leadership, and not just brand leadership alone.

I have nothing against the term thought leader, however it is my opinion the label should be reserved as an honor to bestow upon a select few, and not a title to be adopted by the masses. Dilution has the opposite effect of scarcity in that it diminishes value. Bottom line…judge people on their actions and results, not their rhetoric or their title. Don’t accept conventional wisdom as gospel unless you can validate proof of concept, and then only accept it if you can innovate with it, or around it. Challenge everything in business by looking to improve upon the status quo and differentiate yourself from your competition. I don’t advise my clients to adopt the practices of their peers, but rather to be disruptive with their innovation such that they create or widen market gaps between themselves and their peers. Lastly, when you run across a real thought leader, you’ll clearly recognize them as such for there is something truly unique in both their words and deeds.

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Hacking Leadership
Mike Myatt is America’s Top CEO Coach, recognized by Thinkers50 as a global authority on the topic of leadership, a Forbes leadership columnist, author of Leadership Matters, CEO at N2growth, and is a Senior Fellow at the Gordian Institute. His new book is Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:22 PM
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09.23.13

8 Ways to Have a Successful Partnership

Leading Forum
This is a post by August Turak, author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity

In a marketplace gone global, productive partnerships are more crucial than ever. Partnering has become so critical that the word "coopetition" had to be coined to describe companies that partner in some areas while competing in others. Yet very few partnerships ever deliver on their symbiotic promise. Why?

The single biggest mistake we make in our partnership efforts is treating potential partners as if they were end users. While the interests of partners and end-users must overlap they are seldom if ever identical. Through many years of business experience, I learned some great lessons on what it takes to produce a successful partnership.
  1. Know your customer. In every potential partnership there are actually two customers, the partner and the end-user, and we must know them both. If you think you can sell a partner by merely "demoing" your wonderful product you have not grasped this essential point.
  2. Ask questions. There is no substitute for grass roots research. Don't figure it out. Get out there and find out by talking to your partner's customers and sales force.
  3. Beware of Magic Bullets. Getting executives into a room and hammering out a contract doesn't make a deal. Every partnership is like moving a stubborn mule. Corporate may push from behind, but there must be boots on the ground pulling on the harness from the front as well. This means priming the pump through joint sales calls and other marketing efforts.
  4. Think Small. Whenever possible, use a roll out rather than a blanket launch into a distribution network. Every cleaning solvent recommends trying it first on some inconspicuous place, and this applies to joint ventures as well. Not only will we uncover potential hitches but managing the critical buzz is much easier. Always remember that people talk and that first impressions are critical to making a deal successful.
  5. Get the Buzz Working for You. Military science teaches us to focus scarce resources at the critical spot. With partners focus on one district, a couple of offices, or even a couple sales reps. Flood the zone with whatever it takes until a clear cut victory has been won. This approach produces a proven template for future roll outs, and positive word of mouth will mean the rest of the distribution network will be awaiting their turn with eager anticipation rather than sullen resistance.
  6. Rely on Persuasion Not Coercion. Always remember that a heavy handed "push" from corporate headquarters often backfires. If for example, a sullen sales force refuses to sell your product, it will be your product not the sales force that your partner will blame. Winning hearts and minds upfront among the rank and file is much more effective than relying on diktats and quotas from corporate.
  7. Find a Hero. When a deal struggles both partners play the blame game. One blames poor salesmanship while the other blames the product. The easiest way to sidestep this situation is to find people to play "hero" during the initial roll-out and focus on them. Once these early adopters are moving product, others will not be able to blame anyone but themselves for missing targets. Besides, watching peers make money is far more motivating than a month of training and pep talks.
  8. Do Most of the Work. One time Walmart went shopping for sunglasses. The vendor with the best sunglasses at the lowest price didn't get the lucrative partnership. Instead it was the vendor who arrived at the meeting with their sunglasses already tagged and bar-coded to Walmart's spec. The glasses were already mounted on display cases custom designed to take advantage of some unused space the vendor had ferreted out from a typical Walmart floor plan. And the vagaries of inventory management, pricing, and product placement had already been solved by the vendor as well.
Our partners are busy people, and the more of their work we are willing to shoulder the more value we add and the more control we have over how our product is eventually positioned. With some planning and thoughtful engagement, you will find more success through strategic partnerships.

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Trappist Monks
August Turak is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive, award winning writer and author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO's Quest for Meaning and Authenticity. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Selling Magazine, the New York Times, and Business Week, and is a popular leadership contributor at Forbes.com. His website is augustturak.com.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:41 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leading Forum , Teamwork

03.07.13

Predictive Analytics: Making Data Valuable

Thomas Davenport says that we live in a predictive society. Black Swans notwithstanding, most human behavior is quite regular and predictable.

Leadership
It perhaps goes without saying that organizations secure a competitive stronghold by predicting the future destiny and value of individual assets. Prediction though, is easier said than done. It involves a complex mix of data, all weighed in varying degrees. However, predictions need not be “accurate” to score big value, says Eric Siegel in Predictive Analytics. For example:
One of the most straightforward commercial applications of predictive technology is deciding whom to target when a company sends direct mail. If the learning process identifies a carefully defined group of customers who are predicted to be, say, three time more likely than average to respond positively to the mail, the company profits big time by preemptively removing nonresponders from the mailing list. And those nonresponders in turn benefit, contending with less junk mail.
Data, while often considered eminently boring, “embodies a priceless collection of experience from which to learn.” It’s a way to leverage what you know—where you’ve been.

This mind-numbing work can be done—and is done—almost automatically by computer. With computers we are able to discover new patterns and develop new knowledge by processing huge amounts of data—almost automatically. “Machine learning,” as it is called, “develops predictive capabilities with a form of number-crunching, a trial-and-error learning process that builds upon statistics and computer science.” Interestingly, Siegel writes, “the machine actually leans more about your next likely action by studying others than by studying you.”

Prediction empowers the organization with an entirely new form of competitive armament. “Predictive Analytics is the process by which an organization learns from the experience it has collectively gained across its team members and computer systems. In fact, an organization that doesn’t leverage its data in this way is like a person with a photographic memory who never bothers to think.”

“Predictions drive how organizations treat and serve an individual, across the operations that define a functional society.” How can we use this emerging science to use data-driven predictions to improve the effectiveness of business and the quality of our lives?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:53 PM
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02.20.13

Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race

Leading Forum
The iconic Sydney to Hobart Race, a 723-mile deepwater challenge—often called the "Everest" of offshore ocean racing—is considered one of the toughest in the world. Unpredictable weather and seas make each race demanding, but in 1998, an unexpected "weather bomb" hit the fleet, creating 80-foot waves and 100-mile-per-hour winds.

Many bigger, better-equipped boats tried to maneuver around the storm, but the crew of the AFR Midnight Rambler chose to head directly into its path. After battling mountainous waves and hurricane-force winds in the Bass Strait, the tiny 35-foot boat arrived safely in Hobart, 3 days and 16 hours later—winning the coveted Tattersall’s Cup.


There are two central themes in Into the Storm. The first is the importance of exceptional teamwork in overcoming challenges at The Edge. The second is the value of distributed leadership—a team culture that allows every person to provide direction when he or she has expertise that will help the team succeed.

The story of the AFR Midnight Rambler exemplifies the power of exceptional teamwork and distributed leadership. But where does this leave a formal team leader—the skipper of a boat, the CEO of a corporation, the commanding officer of military unit, or the President of the United States, for that matter? Is there a unique role that he or she needs to play? I believe there are some critical things—some unique responsibilities—that fall to the skipper.

The leader needs to keep the team aligned.

The varied performance of boats in the Sydney to Hobart Race underscores the importance of having a coherent, unified team. Some boats, like the Midnight Rambler, demonstrated extraordinary cohesiveness even under the most terrifying, life-threatening conditions. At the other end of the alignment continuum, some crews were fragmented, with key team members at odds with each other—in a leadership vacuum.

Adrienne Cahalan, one the world's best navigators, has had a chance to observe the role of the leader in more than twenty-five years as a professional competitive sailor. She has been named Australian Yachtswoman of the Year twice—and has been nominated four times for World Yachtswoman of the Year.

Cahalan characterized the leader's role this way:

"Skippers need to keep the team focused. They need to keep an eye out to see if someone is wavering, or a faction developing. They need to have the skill to manage all the personalities, to bring them together and to get them working toward their common goal. Not everybody's perfect, so a good leader is able to deal with imperfections. And they need to be able to do it all under pressure."

Managing personalities and bringing people together can be challenging in any situation. But the pressure of a storm—or a tough business obstacle—calls for exceptional leadership.

The leader needs to demonstrate passion.

The leader's passion is a magnetic force that pulls other people in. Describing the impact of Ed's enthusiasm, one crewmember observed:

"What makes Ed an exceptional leader is his desire to win. He is committed to driving the boat as fast as it can go. And he can take risks because of his comfort and trust in the team."

No one who has ever sailed with Ed Psaltis has any doubt about his absolute, total commitment to winning. He is so passionate that his excitement sometimes needs to be offset -- by humor, or by the composure of others. But there is no mistaking the electric spark that comes from a leader who is excited to win. That enthusiasm is contagious, and it is a contagion that leads to victory.

The leader needs to instill optimism and confidence that the team will succeed.

Ed Psaltis and navigator Bob Thomas have a close relationship. They have complementary personalities, with Bob's cool demeanor balancing Ed's passion. Both Ed and Bob joined forces during the storm, and their combined leadership provided a reassuring presence for the crew. Crew member "Mix" Bencsik recalls:

"Their leadership played a large part in making sure that no one gave up. Ed and Bob constantly instilled optimism and confidence that we could handle the conditions, and that the crew had the ability to win."

While there was no question about Ed's formal role as skipper, Ed and Bob together reinforced a sense of unified leadership. And because of their close personal relationship, they were able to send a joint message of reassurance and optimism.

The leader needs to set an example.

Ed realizes that people are watching him, and he makes a conscious effort to set an example. Coming off his watch as helmsman, Ed will take a forward position on the rail. In this exposed position, he is subjected to the first onslaught of water and spray. It is cold and uncomfortable, but it is clear that Ed is not afraid to do his share.

Ed will also take his turn in "the bad bunk." It seems that every boat comes equipped with a berth that—for one reason or another—is undesirable. Nobody wants the bad bunk, but Ed makes sure that he takes his turn. He is sending a message.

Leaders need to set an example on a daily basis, but there are some moments that are different. There are times when leaders need to inspire others though fortitude, courage, and skill. One such moment came for Ed Psaltis in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race.

Mix Bencsik reflected:

"I've been through a lot of storms with Ed. Sitting on the side of the boat—wave spotting while he was helming -- was something that made me feel really proud. I thought, Here's a person who has my life completely in his hands. He was performing extraordinary feats of strength and seamanship, holding a 35-foot boat on the right course in those conditions."

"Ed was giving more than 110 percent. The well-being of the boat and crew were in his hands, and he didn't falter. It was an outstanding feat of seamanship. Even to this day, it's quite emotional to talk about. That was his finest moment."

Not every leader has the ability to steer a boat through a storm like Ed Psaltis. But there comes a time when every leader needs to be willing to step up and give "more than 110 percent." For every leader, there can be a finest moment.
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Into the Storm
Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race is by by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Jillian B. Murphy. Dennis N.T. Perkins is CEO of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders and teams thrive under conditions of adversity, uncertainty and change. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DNTP Jillian B. Murphy is the director of client services at Syncretics. She works in the areas of leadership, executive coaching, and team effectiveness. Follow her on Twitter @jbmurf For more information please visit syncreticsgroup.com.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:44 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leading Forum , Teamwork

01.17.13

At Work, "Yes" is Great, but at Times "No" is Even Better

Leading Forum
This is a post by Michael Carroll, author of Fearless at Work.

At work, we want our jobs, assignments, projects and "stuff" to move along smoothly: achieving objectives, getting promoted, winning contracts. It's almost a twitch reflex to want our jobs to behave themselves. And if we are honest, sometimes we may even secretly wish that the workplace could deliver a continuous, uninterrupted "yes"—"yes" I got the plum job; "yes" the budget was approved; "yes" the redesign has been accepted.

And not only do we want "yes" from our jobs, we also want to deliver "yes" in return - especially when results are expected: "yes" we can deliver doubled digit growth; "yes" we'll exceed the deadline and come in under budget; "yes" we can close the deal.

But, as we all know, work doesn't behave this way. It's far too unruly: deadlines are too tight, salary increases are too small, business deals wither. And often instead of saying hello to "Yes", we find "No" at the front of the line offering personnel conflicts, career disappointments and project derailments. But rather than treating "no" as an annoying intruder on our journey to "yes", maybe we could take a different approach—maybe "no" isn't such a bad guy after all—maybe "no" is exactly what we've been looking for. And here are three reasons why.

Emphasizing "yes" can dull our edge

When we impulsively look for "yes" from our subordinates, colleagues, vendors and others, we tend to emphasize harmony over clarity; convenience over excellence; perception over results. Such seeming harmony can dull a team's creative edge and mask issues that need our attention.

Are we emotionally confident enough to hear the facts rather than a "managed narrative"?

Do we rush past problems in order to get to a solution or can we linger and explore difficulties thoroughly?

Do we invite "no" from others when we sense that it is being held back?

When we appreciate the importance of "no", convenience becomes irrelevant, our intelligent "edge" is permitted to clarify problems and getting a realistic picture takes priority.

Avoiding "no" represses candor and causes team problems

It is typical for team members to test boundaries and try to form reliable relationships and inevitably, such testing creates friction where individuals say "no" to certain group demands and limits. We all know what this looks like: Why does Sally get to lead this effort, why not me? Those budget estimates are way too low, but no one listens to me. I authored the sales plan, why can't I present it? When we are uncomfortable with the emotions accompanying such conflict, we may tend to avoid the required candor, hurrying toward a false "yes" of familiar routines and politeness. When teams choose avoidance over candor, we can end up repressing feelings that later arise as simmering frustrations or at times active resistance. Too often, by avoiding "no" we disguise problems rather than solve them.

"No" creates much needed psychological space

Finally, when we are constantly chasing "yes" -- trying to become smarter, faster, cheaper, and more profitable -- we can at times speed past the very things that need our attention. Such speed to succeed can blind us, but "no" can slow us down and offer some psychological space:

Can we describe the top three difficulties our customers are having with the new release 4.0?

What is the employment turnover with our key sales folks and should it be lower?

What are the three main motivators for our medical affairs physicians and are we focusing in on them? These and hundreds of other similar business questions require us to slow down in our relentless pursuit of "yes" and consider "no" as an ally. And when we make friends with "no", we discover psychological space and time to reflect, not just on where we are going but, as importantly, on how we are getting there.

So, in the end work is very much about "yes" -- "yes" I can take that stretch assignment; "yes" I'll work extra hours; "yes", the project is on track. But if work is all about "yes", chances are we are avoiding some vital issues, and we may need to make friends with "no".

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Leadership
Michael Carroll, author of Fearless at Work, worked on Wall Street and in the publishing industry for over two decades, holding executive positions at Shearson Lehman Brothers, Paine Webber, Simon & Schuster, and the Walt Disney Company. Founding director of AAW Associates, Carroll consults with major corporations on bringing mindfulness into the workplace. He is a longtime student of Buddhist meditation and an authorized teacher in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. Carroll has taught mindfulness meditation at the Wharton School of Business, Columbia University, Kripalu, and the Cape Cod Institute. For more information please visit http://www.awakeatwork.net, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:25 PM
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10.11.12

Rebel Entrepreneurs Avoid Conventional Wisdom

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Jonathan Moules author of The Rebel Entrepreneur. Moules shares lessons learned from hundreds of companies that point to a rebellious entrepreneurial approach. He describes lessons like don’t rely on others to fund your idea, imitate creatively, keep value higher than price, pivot often, and why they typically don’t get loans from big banks.

There is a dirty little secret that most famous entrepreneurs and those that back the start-up culture prefer not to tell you—success in business is a minority sport.

In most developed countries, the overwhelming majority of all privately held enterprises are small – about 95 per cent, according to the OECD, the economic body that measures such things. The vast majority of these are sole traders. There is also an incredibly high failure fate among new ventures. About 8 out of every 10 of the companies started each year do not make it to their fifth birthday. Only a small percentage of those businesses that manage to struggle on beyond infancy then go on to create the real growth drivers of an economy.

However, it is these companies that are so important to the success of economies, providing new products and services as well as improvements in productivity that raise the standards of living of a society, and, perhaps most importantly, the lion’s share of new private sector jobs. Just 7 per cent of businesses are responsible for more than half the new employment created in the UK economy, the British think tank Nesta recently calculated. This figure is about the same across developed nations, according to the OECD. Nesta went further than this in its analysis, however, concluding that the job creation is actually only happening among very young fast-growing companies. Successful entrepreneurship, it seems, is a very exclusive club indeed.

What is it that sets these companies apart? One way to define them and their leadership is as rule breakers. That is what my book, The Rebel Entrepreneur, is all about. I am not saying that founders can only succeed by engaging in illegal behaviour. Sadly, there have been too many examples of this in recent years, but these people are criminals not wealth creators. No, the true rebel entrepreneur knows that the best way to get ahead is to avoid being sucked in by conventional wisdom.

Take pricing strategies, for instance. In hard times, conventional wisdom may say cut your prices to preserve customer numbers and therefore sales. However, as many successful companies have shown, the best policy is often to raise your prices. Look at Apple, the world’s most successful technology business, which insists on raising the prices of its products even as the western world struggles to recover from recession. Does this put off the customers? Not a bit of it. In fact, the high price appears to act as a guarantee of quality. More than this, by maintaining the high price, Apple is able to continue to increase revenue and profit even if sales dip.

Rebel entrepreneurship can be found in most areas of business building if you are prepared to look. Just be prepared to resist following the crowd.

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Leadership
Jonathan Moules is the Enterprise Editor for The Financial Times, where he has profiled hundreds of companies and their owners. He has written extensively on successful entrepreneurs. Moules spent 5 years in the FT's New York office, where he held numerous positions, including technology, media and telecoms news editor. He wrote specifically about the US mobile phone industry and new media businesses, and he covered the dotcom bubble and its aftermath.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:09 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leading Forum

08.21.12

The Main Thing: How to Keep Organizations Centered on What Matters Most

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by George H. Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, authors of Rapid Realignment: How to Quickly Integrate People, Processes, and Strategy for Unbeatable Performance. They say that the first challenge of alignment is to get everyone on the same page by understanding the organization in the same way. That means getting to the unifying concept of the organization to which everyone can contribute.

"The main thing is to keep the Main Thing the main thing!"

We loved that expression when we first heard it from Jim Barksdale, then the COO of FedEx. That single sentence captures the greatest challenge that executives and managers face today: keeping their people and their organizations centered on what matters most.

Every organization needs a Main Thing—a single, powerful expression of what it hopes to accomplish. Without it, it's not possible to align the four elements that produce organizational efficiency and effectiveness: strategy, people, customers, and processes.

Does your organization have a Main Thing? Do your people understand it? Are they guided by it?

Fred Smith, the Founder and CEO of FedEx, once described to us his understanding of The Main Thing—which he refers to as the "theory of the business."
Every successful business has, at its heart, a theory of the business—an underlying set of supporting objectives and a corporate philosophy that gives people a foundation on which to operate. Working inside that framework, they've got an idea of what we want them to do—to prioritize. We [at FedEx] have a very clear business mission and a business theory which is understood certainly by every member of the management team, and probably by 90 percent of the work force."
The Main Thing is critically important. It is the end that strategy and human effort serve. We cannot achieve and maintain alignment without consensus and conviction about The Main Thing. Yet we are always amazed by how few people can articulate their organization's main thing. When we ask participants in workshops, "What's your Main Thing?" we see people digging into their wallets for the latest mission statement. Others look questioningly to the person sitting next to them. We wonder how these people can formulate a strategy or know how well they are doing if they cannot even state—or agree on—the ultimate purpose of their work.

Some people, however, can articulate their Main Thing without hesitation. Here are a few examples:
  • For people at FedEx, The Main Thing is: "People-Service-Profit."
  • An official in charge of nutrition at the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated her organization's Main Thing as "Ending hunger in this country."
  • An electrical utility executive explained his company's purpose crisply and clearly: "To be the power source of choice."
  • The CEO of Connecticut's Farmington Bank told George that its Main Thing is to "Drive economic development in central Connecticut."
  • The U.S. Navy's huge Naval Aviation Enterprise, which supplies aircraft and trained crews to the fleet, has boiled its Main Thing down to a simple phase: "Aircraft and crews ready for tasking at lower cost."
  • Boston's Port Authority, which has responsibility for bridges, airport, and harbor terminals, once described its Main Thing as "Advancing Boston's pace of economic development."
Our good friend, Claude Roessiger has long experience with luxury brand management. He likens our concept of The Main Thing to a strong brand. "A brand, he explained, "produces an emotional response and at the same time communicates to all how to behave." Your Main Thing should do the same.

What is The Main Thing for your organization? Can you articulate it clearly and concisely? Can your subordinates? In many organizations, people have no clear answer, or will offer a confusing list of lofty goals. Others will describe their strategy. But a strategy is not The Main Thing; it is merely its servant. In some cases senior management defines The Main Thing one way and the people in the trenches define it in another. In these cases people and policies work at cross-purpose; one person is pulling when the other guy is pushing.

As you formulate a Main Thing for your organization, keep these guidelines in mind:
  • The Main Thing for the organization as a whole must be a common and unifying concept to which every unit can contribute.
  • Each department and team must be able to see a direct relationship between what it does and this overarching goal.
  • The Main Thing should be clear, easy to understand, and consistent with the strategy of the business.

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Leadership
Dr. George H. Labovitz is the founder and CEO of ODI, an international management training and consulting company, and professor of management and organizational behavior at the Boston University Graduate School of Management. Victor Rosansky is co-founder and president of LHR International, Inc. He has more than 25 years of experience as a consultant, helping Fortune 500 clients to drive rapid strategy deployment and alignment.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:39 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leading Forum , Management

04.23.12

Why Leaders Can NOT Procrastinate

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Jason Womack, author of Your best Just Got Better—a book designed to show you how to make your best even better, how to achieve more in work and life, and how to sustain those changes over time. Womack defines productivity as: “Doing what I said I would do, within the time that I promised.”

You're about to end a conference call, and someone says, "Great, we'll send you some materials right away." A day goes by, and then a week. What happens to your confidence in that person? Surely, you may continue to do business together, but you'll always wonder if they'll do what they said they'd do, in the time they promised.

So, now is the time to look in the mirror Are you putting something off? Because you forgot, or is it on purpose? Are you missing key resources? Are you waiting for key data before you can make the next decision? Or, are you procrastinating? Begin by exploring your own daily routines. When you understand HOW you work, you can get things done more effectively. Here's an activity you can experiment with this week.

Write down the approximate time you arrive and leave the office every day. This represents your “work-week.” (I call this the "window of professional productivity.") For each single hour you were working, you made choices about what to focus on as “priority.” You also chose what did not get done!

Here are three ways to get going and sustain an action-orientation to your own productivity:
  1. Choose smaller verbs. One of the reasons that people don't do things as they think of them (especially entrepreneurs and senior leaders) is because of their skill at Visionary Thinking. Because they CAN think big, they do. Chunk your objectives into smaller markers along your path to success. Recently, I worked with a Managing Partner of a Fortune 500 company who realized that more important than managing time is her need to more effectively direct her focus within the small chunks of time she has to work.
  2. Find, create, utilize and assess the extra time you have each day. Arrive to an off-site meeting somewhere early? Other people running late? Maybe you get a last-minute cancellation of an appointment you had scheduled. What can you do during that time? Get ready for 15-minute blocks of time (what I call "bonus time") throughout the day. Why 15 minutes? That window is long enough to actually "do" something and short enough to find!
  3. Focus on what has happened. Regularly through the day (before lunch, and before you go home), take a moment and mentally check off what is complete. Oftentimes, there is so much going on, and so much you can think of that is UNDONE, you tend to forget how much is finished. This is your chance to recharge – as acknowledging completion is a quick way to get back on track. (Have you ever made a list of to-dos…after you’ve already done them?!)
Too often, long-range goals fall into the “important but not urgent” category of day-to-day workflow management. We put off doing the most important things while making start-and-stop progress. When this happens, the urgent – latest and loudest – clamors for our attention. Work smart, maximize short windows of time, and mark something as complete…it’s the best way to beat procrastination!

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Leadership
Jason W. Womack, M.A., M. Ed., advises corporate boards and entrepreneurs on the topics of maximizing productivity and achieving a balanced lifestyle. Visit his website at www.womackcompany.com and share your questions and comments via twitter @JasonWomack.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:51 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leading Forum , Management

01.09.12

What if Everything is Perfect?

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Scott Hunter. Hunter asks us to take another perspective. What if everything that is happening is happening for our own good? What would happen if we chose to look at everything as a learning experience?

As a leader and someone that your team looks to for guidance and advice, has the question occurred to you… What if everything is perfect? What if everything that happens, everything that has happened, and everything that will happen is exactly what had to happen, is happening and needs to happen for your benefit and the benefit of your organization.

Now I’m not asking you to take this on as “the truth,” even though it might be. I’m asking you to take this on for your benefit, as something that will empower you as you move forward in your position as a leader in your organization and in your life. Because to not take this on, what you don’t realize is that you turn yourself into a victim. And I must say that being a victim is a very popular game. Don’t take responsibility; it’s always something or someone else doing it to you. It’s never your fault. You’re just this helpless weather vane in the wind of life. Sound familiar?

Here’s why it’s empowering to act as if everything is perfect: because then you will learn and grow from the experiences of life and constantly become more of who you could be. And, I assert, becoming more of who you could be is exactly what you want to use this life for.

How does this work? First you have to start from the proposition that life and business is not about winning or losing. Rather, it’s about winning or having learning experiences. So you look at everything either as a win, in which case you celebrate the win and learn how to continue winning, or as a learning experience, not a win, in which case you also learn how to do a better job next time so that you increase the likelihood of winning. Either way, you win.

Here’s a common example: you have a conversation with someone and it doesn’t go very well, maybe it actually turns into an argument, maybe you leave with your feelings hurt, whatever. From the perspective of a victim, you blame the other, they blame you, you dig deeper into your position and you plan your next attack.

But if you look from the perspective of perfection, you look to see what went wrong in the conversation, how come it turned into an argument, what you did to contribute to that, what you could do in the future so that things like that don’t happen again, and you even look to see that maybe you need to apologize to the other and get the conversation cleaned up.

Trust me on this one and give it a try. You will discover a power within yourself that you didn’t know was there if you look at everything as perfect and take responsibility for it all.

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Scott Hunter has been transforming organizations for over two decades, through his innovative programs that enable people in leadership positions to master the “being” of leadership rather than the “doing” of it. His keynote speeches, workshops, retreats and management team coaching enable senior managers to shift the paradigm in which they operate so that they achieve breakthrough results and outstanding performance. Scott is the originator of the Unshackled Leadership philosophy and author of the groundbreaking book Unshackled Leadership: Building Businesses Based on Faith, Trust, Possibility and Abundance.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leading Forum

11.16.11

We Blame the 1%, But Still Call Them Our Leaders

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Dave Ursillo, author of Lead Without Followers: How to Save Our World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership. Gen Y author Ursillo shares his personal journey into the meaning of leadership. Ursillo believes that we must choose to be a leader—in life and business—on the inside before we are seen as one on the outside. Therefore, we have to choose to lead without followers first.

Approval ratings have consistently hovered at historic lows for both American political parties for years. Thousands have organized in angered protests on a near monthly basis to express their distrust and impatience with the political and economic elite, spanning stark polarities of social groups like the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tea Party. As his own approval ratings have fallen toward the abysmal ratings of former President George W. Bush—and with the 2012 Presidential Election now looming -- the inspired election of President Obama certainly feels like ancient history.

Clearly, the deep leadership problem that is wreaking havoc throughout our modern world is neither a Republican nor Democrat problem.

The real problem, as I contend in my new book Lead Without Followers: How to Save Our World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership, is that we have collectively, quietly, even subconsciously lost sight of what it really means to lead—the essential, fundamental, unshakeable human core of what leadership is, amongst and on behalf of others.

My book is a radical redefinition of leadership. By that, I mean to encourage you to rethink the very relation between a leader and followers. At first glance, we would all deduce that if you have no followers, you cannot lead, because you have no one to lead.

A quote that I often hear attributed to John C. Maxwell goes something to the effect of, "If you think you're a leader but no one is following you, you are just a guy going for a walk." This is the highly constrained, indisputable law of today's definition of leadership.

But what about what you do when you're on that walk? Do you come across others? Get presented with an opportunity to do good, do wrong, or resort to indifference? Become a hero or one of many bystanders who did nothing to help? Lend a hand? Offer a smile?

Nobody lives in a bubble. In our lives, we encounter countless dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of lives. Each seemingly routine and mundane interaction—even with a complete stranger you'll never see again—is an opportunity to positively, negatively, or neutrally impact his or her life, potentially forever.

To me, simply living in this world and among its peoples gives you the raw opportunity to become a bona fide leader. By simple choice, with some internal exploration, personal growth and everyday practice, you can become a highly influential leader that positively impacts the lives of others, every day—even without followers.

I argue in my book that "leadership" has become a far too limited term that is more accurately used to define the material wealth and career success of individuals among society—those who have succeeded in acquiring high salary, prestigious job title and social status, perceived popularity and power, and masses of followers. On a subconscious level, we socially acknowledge these qualifiers of material success as indicators of an individual's supposed ability to lead.

Of course, making the assumption is matter simple logic: to rise to such a level of success, one has proven his or her intelligence and abilities—important necessities for leadership on business and political levels.

However, today, and especially as popular protests lambast the supposed "1%" of corrupt politicos and evil big bankers, have we quietly grown into investing far too much attention into the things that individuals have acquired—wealth, status, power, followers, etc.—to shallowly qualify them as the best potential leaders for our world?

Leadership today has become a dirty word. "Politician" is even dirtier. And as public rage swirls at the simple, commonplace status quo amongst the national zeitgeist, what it means to be a leader is becoming further convoluted.

If we are truly dedicated to changing what we see as wrong with our world and feel it necessary to inspire a new generation of leaders to help turn things around, we owe it to ourselves to take a good, hard, long look at how we each define leadership in its typically constrictive terms.

Maybe, just maybe, if we place renewed focus and energy into defining leadership more upon what drives us to do good—passion and inspiration, love and selfless giving, vision and dedication, positivity and hope—than the socially-admired material outcomes, we'll more quickly arrive at the solution.

Not everyone can lead as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There can only be one President of the United States. But everyone, in as little as being human, can take up the vital mantle of leadership in their every day lives based upon everything that they already have—even without followers.

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Leadership
Dave Ursillo is a former “politico” insider turned alternative leadership writer, author and speaker. The Rhode Island native teaches men and women how to become “leaders without followers” in any walk of life by discovering a personal and profound sense of inner leadership. At 23, Ursillo abandoned his fast-tracked career path in public service amid a crisis of identity and while battling depression. Opting for the unemployment line during a 100-year recession, Ursillo has built an expansive digital platform through a growing social media presence and as an avid writer, helpful personality and determined world-changer. Ursillo’s experiences from “his past life” span five governmental offices over six years from 2003 to 2009, including the White House Council on Environmental Quality under the Bush Administration in 2008 and as a “body man” to a state gubernatorial candidate in 2009. Since its inception in 2009, DaveUrsillo.com has reached over 70,000 readers from 173 countries. In June 2011, Ursillo and his blog were also seen in a feature story on CBS Sunday Morning about the world of blogging.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:17 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Leading Forum

11.07.11

3 Self-Limiting Mindsets that Will Hold You Back at Work

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Garfinkle asks, “What makes one person more successful than another?” Getting Ahead is a straightforward guide to help you eliminate your blind spots to improve how you are perceived, increase your visibility and exert your influence. Great material.

The workplace has enough challenges and obstacles without us getting in our own way. But too often, we sabotage ourselves. Whether it’s internal forces that cause us to sell ourselves short or it’s a matter of having been conditioned not to “toot our own horn,” people have a marked tendency to avoid the limelight when in truth they belong in it. What’s more, if you’ve always been the ‘unsung hero,’ management wants to know who you are.

In my executive coaching business, I’ve worked with scores of clients over the years to help them overcome self-limiting mindsets that were holding them back in the workplace. Here are some of the most common issues:
  1. Not making an effort to be visible to management. Some of my clients were frustrated because they felt chronically underappreciated, undervalued and anonymous. “I can’t get ahead because nobody knows who I am or what I do for this company,” is a common refrain. This is a particularly severe problem where managers are “results-oriented” while paying scant attention to developing the processes and people that bring them those results.

    It’s up to you to ensure that you get credit for your accomplishments. Make a conscious effort to keep your boss apprised of the progress you are making and the projects you complete successfully. If you want to be valued and appreciated, you need to make sure management knows what you are doing and how your efforts contribute to the company’s bottom line.

  2. Believing it’s the boss’s job to manage your career. Career management is your job, not his. Don’t leave your career management up to your boss.

    You may need to take charge of your employee evaluation process yourself. To do this, first get an understanding of how the employee evaluation system works. Find out exactly what criteria or metrics your boss is using to evaluate your performance. This will probably require a sit-down session.

    Once you know how you will be evaluated, you need to prepare in advance for the evaluation. Keep careful notes on all your accomplishments for the company. Put dollar figures on them whenever possible. The more numbers, the better. Then take initiative to schedule sit-downs to discuss your progress throughout the year. Don’t rely on your manager to do it.

    Then, at least a month before your annual evaluation is due, schedule another appointment. Hand your boss an itemized list of your accomplishments for the year. Say, “Here’s a list of the things we’ve discussed over the year. I thought this would come in handy for when you write my eval.” Then let it go at that. If your manager is on the ball, though, and writes your eval way ahead of the deadline, you may need to schedule your meeting even earlier. The important thing is to take initiative and stay ahead of the curve.

    Management wants to make their star employees look good. Some of them don’t have the administrative or managerial skill set to allow them to do that, though. They get distracted and don’t know what a good, solid evaluation even looks like. Managers will appreciate that you took the time.

  3. Failure to notice the opportunities around you. Some workers limit themselves by getting so focused on their immediate jobs and departments that they lose sight of the big picture. One solution: Think two levels up. Make sure you know about the key issues and projects not just in your immediate department, but at least two levels up from you. You should also network within the company and find out who the key players are in other departments. Keep your ear to the ground to learn about new initiatives, particularly in revenue-generating endeavors or where you will have an opportunity to create substantial savings for the company.

    If your immediate boss can’t or won’t promote you, you need to have options. By exposing your talents, skills and value to leaders in other departments, you enhance your chances of gaining a promotion. It’s not just who you know; it’s who knows you! Work hard to maximize your exposure for lateral movements and promotions.

Remember, if you don’t take credit for your own success, someone else will. That doesn’t serve your own interests. And if you think about it, it doesn’t serve the long-term interests of the company. You have a professional duty to yourself as well as your company to make sure your accomplishments are recognized and credited to you.

Leadership
Joel A. Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world's leading companies. He is the author of seven books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. View his books and FREE articles at his Executive Coaching Services website. You can also subscribe to his Executive Leadership newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:11 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Leading Forum , Personal Development



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