Leading Blog



12.11.17

There's a Password for Every Door

Bluefishing

H
OW DO YOU make things happen?
How does it feel to not be afraid?

Steve Sims, the founder of Bluefish, has built a company that gets things done. Bluefish makes seemingly out-of-reach, change-your-life, experiences happen. Experiences like training with the Navy Seals, singing with your favorite band, watching Formula 1 in Monaco with royalty, having a private dinner at the feet of Michelangelo’s David while being sung to by Andrea Bocelli, and being James Bond for the weekend. He calls it bluefishing.

Bluefishing is about changing your mindset. It’s about looking at life differently. “You can’t cower your way through life and hope to succeed; you’re going to have to stick your neck out a little.” We usually sell ourselves short.

“Anything I wasn’t achieving in life, any doors that were closed to me, I could figure out the password for.” It’s about understanding what someone wants and finding the right key for each door. Bluefishers look for connections. What are people passionate about and how can I find a win-win for their passions?

Passion is something you have to discover—your own and others too. Bluefishers question everything. They don’t doubt, they question. Read between the lines; get behind the façade. Drill down for it. Ask why at least three times. “The first why is what they think they think, the second why is what they think you want hear, the third why is why they feel.”
If you go in there with the idea that it’s going to fail, or that you’re asking too much, or you’re giving something the person doesn’t really want, you might as well not even go. You’ve gotta go in there knowing that this is really going to happen, but understanding that it’s not going to happen if it benefits only you.

It’s not about how much you know. “I don’t need to know how to do the whole event,” says Sims. “The first thing I need to know is which things I can’t do. The next thing is to find those people who can do what I can’t. I just find the ones who are good enough at doing what I can’t to make me look brilliant.”

Entrepreneurs should take note: You shouldn’t try to do everything, just “be able to magnificently orchestrate those who can.” You grow by giving others responsibility. “There’s a difference between being able to do everything and doing everything.”

Lead the orchestra. “All you want is to find a whole bunch of people with unique abilities, all with their own 5 percent traits or skill that no one else can do. That’s how you build up an irreplaceable team. A dream team.” Don’t spend time on things that slow you down.

Don’t overthink everything. Try something and fail at it over and over until you find out how to do it properly—to see if it is worth pursuing—while everyone else is still trying to work out the demographics. Sims Dad told him, “No one drowned from falling in the water. They drowned from staying there.” Don’t stand still.

When you don’t succeed, it isn’t failure. It is discovery. Failure is final. Discovery is just the beginning. “You didn’t fail. You learned what to do on your next attempt.” It’s an education. “If you build up obstacles in your head, you’re looking for a reason to end it.” That’s failure.

To build your brand, first, do a self-audit. What do you stand for? How do you want people to feel when they are around you? Discover your strengths and manage your weaknesses. “Focus on the smallest element that can bring you down. Focus on your own weak links, the things that foul up your life or your work again and again and again.”

Forget about counting likes. If you tell people how good you are, that’s just selling. Get others to talk about you—recommend you. “What brands need to do—both personal and business brands—is ask other people to validate the truth.” Focus on the community you’re building around you.

Invest in your growth. Get better for your clients—your followers. And let them know. Sims told a friend, “Mate, the only difference between you and me is that I was willing to get into uncomfortable situations. I was willing to look dumb, to be among people that I knew were far more intelligent than me, so that I could learn. There’s no reason to get into a room with people stupider than you.” When you expose yourself to something new, you never go back. Be a sponge.

Bluefishers move, act, do, go. “Action is everything. Learn what you don’t know, then try again.” It doesn’t always work out. When it doesn’t, stop counting your losses. “Sometimes you have to flip the page over and start a new cycle, one that’s focused on something positive.”

Sims shares techniques to support the thinking but the tactics change over time. The thinking never does. Bluefishing is a mentality first, then a stack of tools and behaviors. Learn the password and the doors will open.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:44 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

12.08.17

The Stand-Up Strategists

Stand-Up Strategists

H
OW FREQUENTLY do you think your employees laugh at work? In contrast, how often do you estimate that they feel bored or uninspired?

Skilled leaders, those we call the “Stand-Up Strategists,” understand the utility of humor to address four important organizational outcomes, or the 4Cs: Community, Composure, Change and Creativity. And to address these four outcomes they typically use four broad styles of humor.

The 4S – Styles of Humor

The four styles we identified are based on our understanding of humor-driven dynamics in organizations, and build upon the broader world of humor research:

Sensory humor involves a leader projecting an energetic, positive, playful vibe, and having a generally humorous outlook.

Social humor typically involves jokes or stories shared as a tool to reduce interpersonal tension, increase sociability and promote openness.

Self-deprecating humor is the ability of a leader to laugh at him/herself to reduce power-distance, and thereby facilitate more positive and intimate relationships.

Strong humor most often entails sarcasm or cynicism. It is the comic style mostly associated with generating negative emotions, and therefore the one with the most limited application in organizations.

The 4Cs – Organizational Outcomes

There are four organizational outcomes where humor can be leveraged as a particularly effective managerial tool:

Community

In situations in which collaboration is an important driver of organizational success, lacking a sense of community can be a formidable barrier to delivering results. It is well understood by psychologists and social scientists that people who laugh together generally have stronger feelings of empathy and bonding. Sense of fun and social humor can be used as especially effective humoristic styles to build group cohesiveness, with a leader as the role model of projecting a relaxed and humorous attitude, sharing occasional jokes, anecdotes and stories that inject a playful aspect to day to day interactions. In situations where a leader needs to increase sociability across organizational hierarchies, self-deprecating humor can also be used. In years gone by, strong 'community' humor might have involved humiliation, ridicule, sexist or even racist overtones but these kind of jokes, anecdotes and stories have no place in today’s world. Beyond being potentially damaging to one’s own reputation, inappropriate humor can also contribute to reduced morale, absenteeism, the elevation of dysfunctional internal competition, and company-level reputational damage.

Composure

Studies on humor, stress and coping strategies have shown that individuals with a high sense of humor tend to experience less stress than individuals with a low sense of humor, even in situations where both face similar challenges. In group situations, humor can be utilized to reduce the pressure of stress associated with deadlines, targets or crises. Social humor is best leveraged in these situations, not to make deadlines or challenges disappear, but to improve morale, to help individuals avoid feelings of isolation, and to increase the solidarity of purpose needed to overcome adversity. Due to its tendency to trigger negative emotions, strong humor should be used sparingly, and in most instances only ever directed at external targets where there is an urgent need to overcome complacency or strong internal inertia.

Change

It is important for all leaders to communicate with employees about ongoing organizational change, especially with regards to vision and strategic priorities. Humor in day-to-day interactions and broader organizational communication can create an atmosphere which improves listening and understanding, boosts message retention, and enables positive emotions. These outcomes are even more vital during times of continuous change - two of the most common reasons that employees resist change are lack of sufficient information and a fear of the unknown. In the words of writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Creativity

The fourth organizational condition addressed by humor is perhaps the most important: creativity. Humor, laughter and fun releases physical and cognitive tension, which can lead to perceptual flexibility—a required component of creativity, ideation, and problem solving. Discoveries in this area also explain why many leaders are not just leveraging humor, but are also investing in creating playful and fun work environments.

Jumping to conclusions…

Time and time again in our interactions with leaders in some of the world’s most successful and innovative companies we have been struck by a recurring experience – not only are these leaders intelligent, talented and forward-thinking, many of them are also very funny. And it is not just that these senior executives are able to deliver a flawless punchline at a cocktail reception or town hall event – they are able to leverage humor as a strategic tool.

May the farce be with you!

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Leading Forum
This post is by Jamie Anderson and Gabor George Burt. Jamie Anderson is Professor of Strategic Management at Antwerp Management School, and Visiting Professor at INSEAD. He has been named a “management guru” in the Financial Times, and included on Business Strategy Review’s list of the world’s “top 25 management thinkers”. www.jamieandersononline.com Gabor George Burt is a leading business transformationist and creator of the Slingshot Platform, enabling organizations to overstep perceived limitations, re-imagine market boundaries, and achieve sustained relevance. www.gaborgeorgeburt.com

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Of Related Interest:
  What is Success, Really? | Jamie Anderson | TEDxLiège

“When you’re a high performer, when you’re an achiever, the doors open in front of you.”

“It’s great to strive for success, to shoot for the moon. But there are many moons out there in the Universe, so please make sure that the moon you are shooting for is your own.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:02 AM
| Comments (0) | Management

12.06.17

12 Lessons for Entrepreneurs from Richard Branson

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R
ICHARD BRANSON titled his autobiography Finding My Virginity because “You can only lose your virginity once. But in every aspect of my life—building businesses, raising a family, embarking upon adventures—I try to do things for the first time every day.” His child-like, curious approach to life has served him well.

In Finding My Virginity, Branson shares his ups and downs in his entertaining, candid style. “If your life is one long success story it won’t make for a good read. What's more, you’re most likely a liar. We all have ups and downs, trials and tribulations, failures and triumphs: we just hope to come out stronger on the other side.”

What follows is some sound advice Branson shares about what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Work Fast

Generally, we like to work fast: try ideas, see if they stick, and, if they don’t, quickly move on to the next one. I work best when my mind is able to jump from one topic to the next in quick succession. It keeps things lively, and it’s amazing how often good ideas for one company come out of another completely unrelated business.

Listen

Too many people presume they are right and don’t listen to other points of view. They speak categorically and then close their ears. I consider myself a good listener and apportion a good deal of my success—not to mention my marriage—to this. Some entrepreneurs surround themselves with brilliant people and then ignore them. Most people who behave in this autocratic way get their comeuppance. I know I am not better than anyone else, so I take a different road.

Value of Entrepreneurs

It may be controversial to say it, but there is no job more important than being an entrepreneur. When you analyze everything about the world and all the improvements that get made, almost without exception, it is an entrepreneur that has made them. It might be an entrepreneurial doctor, or architect, or artist—anything.

While business may have changed from when I started out, the principles are the same and still fit what I am good at: finding markets that need shaking up, coming up with ways to make people’s lives better, then finding brilliant people to bring it to life. Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur.

Invest in People

What I am good at is coming up with interesting ideas and then finding amazing people to turn them into reality. I see investing in start-ups in the same way. I’m not always caught up in the details of what a particular app will or won’t do; I’m more interested in the personalities behind the companies, and the purpose within their visions. I’d happily invest in a company that ends up failing in order to find a young entrepreneur who will go on to change the world.

Youthful Spirit

I have seen so many companies come and go, largely because they didn’t reinvent themselves. They stayed in a sector that had died, whereas Virgin was always one step ahead of the game. Most people think: know your onions, then stick to them. My worry is that people will get bored of onions and move on to carrots instead, putting your onion out of business.

No matter what is happening in my business life, regardless of what situation my companies are in, somewhere in the back of my mind I will be mulling over a new idea. I like to think it is my curiosity and thirst for fresh inspiration.

I think entrepreneurship is our natural state—a big adult word that probably boils down to something much more obvious like playfulness. When we are young, before we have our childlike wonder beaten out of us by adult life, we are at our most inventive and ambitious in our actions. I’ve always tried to keep that youthful spirit.

Now, it’s absolutely critical to keep that early hunger I had. I mustn’t get complacent; I’ve still got to be fleet of foot and quick to jump upon opportunities.

Tell Stories

Having the facts on your side is one thing, but telling a great story with just enough charm and chutzpah can make all the difference.

Get Help

Asking for support is a strength, not a weakness. If you try to do everything yourself, you won’t succeed and will make yourself miserable along the way.

Note-Taking

Virgin has a note-taking culture and I’m certain it wouldn’t be the success it is today without it.

I jot down ideas, thoughts, requests, reminders and doodles every single day; if I didn’t I would forget them before I could ever put them into action. Making lists is both a way of remembering things and of ticking off achievements to make progress. Without notes and follow-ups, chances are nothing would get done. If somebody works for me and doesn’t take notes, I ask them: “Are you too important? Note taking isn’t beneath anyone.” I take notes in every meeting, to keep the frame of mind to learn. I edit as I go along, and follow up with dates and tasks in order of importance.

Encourage Ideas

Any manager who punishes their staff for expressing an opinion hasn’t got the faintest idea about leadership. People in charge should empower their employees, not scare them into silence.

Value People

I have always thought it refreshing, and sensible, for leaders to get right among their people. That way you get to know them, hear their ideas, build stronger ties and create relationships in a way you never can sealed off behind a closed door.

The word “family” gets used too often by companies who treat their staff as anything but. I wish more businesses really did run like families. When things are going well, everyone has an even better time celebrating together. When things are tough, you can rally around and help each other get through it.

Making It Work

Sometimes it is necessary to pivot a business into a new idea, and wait for another opportunity.

Leadership

The way to become a great leader is to look for the best in people—seldom criticize—always praise.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:09 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business

12.04.17

10 Questions to Ask Your Employees Every Quarter

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M
OST LEADERS (the less than great ones) can become afraid of learning their employees’ true feelings towards the company and its overall structure. In turn, they shy away from even initiating such conversations and asking the important questions.

Strong leaders, on the other hand, happily ask these questions with an eye on making things better for their team. When everyone is heard and acknowledged, only then can a leader make the right decisions and give each employee what he or she needs. If you don’t ask, who will?

1. What is your overall satisfaction with your team?
This question is pretty straightforward, but perhaps the most powerful. As a manager, it allows you to gain access to the big picture—providing key understanding on what’s working and what isn’t, directly from your staff. It’s no secret that dissatisfaction with overall team performance is a primary reason for top talent to exit. Taking the initiative to ask your employees for feedback, and frequently, will not only provide you with valuable insight, but put you in a position to rectify concerns before the damage is done.

2. If the best place you’ve ever worked was a 10, please rate your current company.
You’ll either be the 10, or you won’t. If you are not, don’t become defensive or offended, ask what specifically was better at your employee’s previous company. Then compare it to your current team and ask yourself, as the leader, would it be possible to adopt some of those successful strategies?

3. How well does your leader do with supporting and developing you? (Consider time, tools and training.)
One of the top responses on employee satisfaction surveys, across the board, is how well we do with making our people a better version of themselves. If you are not actively investing in your employees, they will eventually move on to find someone who will. Do you give them enough of your time? Do you give them the right tools to compete and win? Do you train them in new skills and technologies that allow them to be more effective?

4. How well does your leader hold you accountable?
This is very important to a high-performance culture. Highly engaged and highly accountable teams outperform those who lack both. When you have the right people in the right seats, the best employees don’t mind being held accountable for their actions and their results. Those standards are what make them feel “elite.” After all, who wants to be part of a team that anyone can be a part of? If they are accountable, they know others are held accountable too, and that’s one of the main ingredients to employees giving their best day in and day out.

5. How well does your leader hold OTHERS accountable?
This question smokes out if your employees feel like there is any favoritism or double standards in play at your company. Obviously, you want to treat everyone on the team the same, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. Oftentimes you’ll discover that leadership and the “favorites” get a pass and the troops get the stick. When leaders are held to a higher standard and not a special one, you’ll find that it’s much easier to get buy-in and acceptance for so many things that seem tough to get. This is particularly relevant to family-owned businesses, where your last name matters more than it should.

6. How well does your leader communicate with you?
When discussing performance issues with their employees, I often find leaders have failed to communicate clear expectations and a clearly defined process of how they expect their employees to perform. The leaders are then bewildered that the task hasn’t been accomplished to their satisfaction. Leaders need to ensure that proper communication has been achieved before moving on to work on other things. An easy way to accomplish this is to simply ask, “OK, do you feel like you’ve got it?” (Almost always expect a “yes” answer, even when it’s really a “kind of” or a “no.”) Then say, “Great! Now echo that back to me, just to make sure I’ve explained this well to you?” By doing so, you’ll then have the opportunity to get crystal clear with them. Without this important step, prepare for some fuzziness in your employees’ results.

7. How likely are you to recommend your company to a friend that is looking for work?
This is like the Net Promoter Score for you as a leader, and for the company at large. If they were at a BBQ with their friends on a weekend and the topic came up, how do you think your team would respond? Would your employee say, “You’d be lucky to get hired. My company is world-class!” Or would the conversation be more like, “Well, if you can get past a ton of B.S., politics and red tape, you can grind out a living just like I do!”

8. Rate your team “health.”
To give you a gauge for their response, a 10 is when trust is very high, there is heathy conflict, nothing is personal, when something is called out for not being ideal, no one gets defensive or upset because everyone is there to make things as good as they can possibly be. A one is when people are not speaking the truth, everyone is walking around on eggshells, and it’s better for your career to not rock the boat and to go with the flow.

9. Do you feel adequately recognized for your contributions to the team?
This is another top response that I see on employee satisfaction surveys. Employees work hard, sometimes stay late, give their all and go above and beyond. If they aren’t recognized for these sacrifices, they will usually stop these activities because they don’t seem to matter. Sometimes others unjustly steal credit for their work, or leaders are simply oblivious to their contributions. What is your format to make sure this doesn’t happen at your company?

10. How likely are you to seek advancement at your company?
This is a great way to identify your next leaders. It also speaks to how your leaders are perceived by the staff. If they feel your managers are a bit of a joke, are clueless and cannot imagine themselves being one of those types, you might have a bigger issue on your hands. Not everyone wants to be a leader, and that is perfectly OK. If they say no, ask why, but don’t try to “sell” management to them. It’s better to understand what their reasons are and to respect them.

The sum of all of these questions together will give you valuable information on where you are doing well and where needs immediate attention. If you ask these 10 questions every 90 days, you can compare your team’s last quarter responses and spot any problem areas before things get too caustic to your beloved culture. Again, if you don’t ask, you are guessing, and that might not work out well for you, or for your team!

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Leading Forum
This post is by Chris Hallberg. Chris is ranked #9 on Inc.’s “Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts,” is a seasoned business consultant, turnaround expert, United States Army veteran, and author of The Business Sergeant’s Field Manual. You will find his blog at Business Sergeant.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:05 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources

12.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for December 2017

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

  A Dozen Lessons for Entrepreneurs by Tren Griffin
  Minds at Work: Managing for Success in the Knowledge Economy by David Grebow and Stephen J. Gill
  Impromptu: Leading in the Moment by Judith Humphrey
  Capacity: Create Laser Focus, Boundless Energy, and an Unstoppable Drive In Any Organization by Chris Johnson and Matt Johnson
  The Art of Learning and Self-Development: Your Competitive Edge by Jim Stovall and Raymond H. Hull

12 Lessons Minds at Work Impromptu Capacity Learning and Self-Development

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books


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 capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others."
— Abraham Lincoln


Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:22 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

11.30.17

LeadershipNow 140: November 2017 Compilation

twitter

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

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:10 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140

11.27.17

Find the Fire ... Again

FInd the Fire

T
HERE WAS A TIME when you felt inspired. Like you could take on the world? But somewhere along the way, things changed. What happened?

In Find the Fire, author Scott Mautz says what happens is that we lose control of the process. Most people are overcome by self-defeating beliefs and thought processes. He has identified eight culprits that drain our inspiration and explains how we can counteract them. “You can create the conditions where inspiration is much more likely to occur.” Mautz offers antidotes to the anti-muses as he calls them.

The eight anti-muses that we need to keep an eye out for are:

Fear
Fear is probably the most immobilizing of the eight. Most common are the fear of failure, the fear of change, and the fear of criticism. The antidote includes changing the way you look at fear and five specific actions you can take to ensure that you spend more energy trying to succeed rather than trying to avoid failure. Mautz also offers ten ways to overcome the fear of criticism like considering the intent and focusing on the conclusion and not the criticism itself.

Settling and Boredom
When we get comfortable, fall into patterns, and avoid uncertainty, we lose our inspiration. We need to broaden our horizons, reconnect to our why, seek growth, seek out the new, and create opportunities.

Inundation
Feeling overwhelmed cause us to shut down and miss the inspiration that is all around us. Mautz offers seven methods to prioritize and six helpful insults to hurl at your inner perfectionist.

Loss of Control
We give away our power quite unintentionally by people-pleasing, playing the victim, and self-disparaging self-talk (“Why can’t I catch a break?”). You can gain power by getting off others’ agenda, clarifying your role, taking the initiative, embracing change and not just asking for feedback, but thriving on it. Share your gifts in service to others.

Dwindling Self-Belief
When we doubt ourselves, we miss the inspiration all around us. “Such a powered-down state takes the form of low self-confidence, a lack of perseverance, a tendency to withdraw from the moment (not being fully and energetically present), and a sense of not being well-respected.”

Disconnectedness
When we are disconnected, we miss the energy we could draw from those connections and a major source of potential inspiration. Connection is based on three elements: shared purpose, trust and truth, and mutual respect. Mautz suggests ways to repair weak links.

Dearth of Creating
When we have stopped creating, we fail to draw on inspiration from our own work. We can learn to be more creative and build a sense of significance by leveraging the right stimulus, employing the right techniques, altering our environment, and by adopting the tight mindset. The STEM method is explained in detail.

Insignificance
Feelings of significance invite inspiration. Combat feelings of significance by being the champion for change, help solve a problem, become an expert, build up others, and again, take the initiative to take care of an unmet need.

Lack of Evocation
Finally, working in an uninspiring environment is well, uninspiring. Mautz lists three things you can do to evoke inspiration in your environment: First, influence the mood by being positive, enthusiastic, and optimistic. Second, find inspiration be studying things we take for granted and find remarkable. Focused appreciation. Third, manage up by, among other things, bringing the attitude you want to be reciprocated.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:11 PM
| Comments (0) | Creativity & Innovation

11.23.17

Unconditional Gratitude

Unconditional Gratitude

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E ARE NOT AUTONOMOUS.

Autonomy is simply looking at life as though we are a world unto ourselves. As though we did it all by ourselves. It’s pride. But the reality is, we are connected.

The opposite of autonomy is gratitude. Gratitude isn’t dead, but it is in trouble. Society does not see gratitude as a moral or a character issue, which it certainly is. Although it is has been scientifically proven to be a key to happiness, it is something much more profound than that.

Most of our problems—especially relational issues—can be traced back to a lack of gratitude. In dealing with any of our problems, you will find that there is a lack of gratitude over something or someone.

The Roman statesman Cicero wrote, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.

Even Adam Smith, the economist that believed that the market should be driven by self-interest, expressed in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, his belief that feelings of gratitude are crucial for maintaining a society that is based on goodwill. He considered gratitude to be a crucial source of social civility and stability.

Like all character traits, gratitude is expressed in action. It is returning a favor, giving thanks, showing appreciation or simply giving someone your time and attention. Cicero said, “There is no duty more indispensable than that of returning a kindness.”

Ingratitude has been called the “essence of vileness” and “the most horrible and unnatural crime that a person is capable of committing.” It is a moral issue that impacts our lives and thinking in significant ways. When we are full of pride, angry, frustrated, depressed, defensive, stressed, irritated or anxious, we would do well take a time-out and uncover our ungratefulness.

Gratitude is most often expressed by simply thanking others, but it is more than just giving thanks. It is a way of looking at life; a way of seeing other people. It is more than a strategy or a technique to influence others. It is a way of being.

We shouldn’t think of gratitude as something that happens at certain moments throughout our life. Real gratitude doesn’t appear at moments in our life, but it is a disposition we have towards life. Real gratitude is unconditional.

Gratitude endures through everything. It is not a fleeting response to our circumstances. You may remember Blanch Dubois’s classic statement in Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, where she said that she always depended on “the kindness of strangers”—people she didn’t know and may never see again. It was not about individual episodes in her life, but rather it speaks to a perspective on life. It’s not just gratefulness to a person but a gratefulness for your existence and how far you’ve come. It’s being aware of your whole life. An awareness of how much we owe to others throughout our life.

Gratitude creates perspective. Gratitude says, “I’m part of something bigger. I am not alone.” It connects us with each other. It strengthens our relationships while moderating our behavior.

The autonomous person rejects gratitude precisely because they must recognize and submit to others in this way. They think, “If I can find something wrong with that person I don’t have to recognize their kindness. I can invalidate them.” The autonomous don’t want to recognize others so that they can justify treating them any way they want. This kind of thinking is not based in reality. Eventually, it leads to self-destruction.

Gratefulness changes us. It strips away our indifference. It puts us in touch with reality because it acknowledges our connections—our networked existence.

It is this gratitude effect—the way it grounds us in reality—that benefits us and those around us the most. Gratitude moderates and even inhibits toxic emotions but more than that, it gives birth to positive emotions. It’s why Cicero said that it was the parent of all of the other virtues. Gratitude gives birth to and nurtures patience, a sense of humor, curiosity, creativity, insight, kindness, respect, courage, generosity, empathy, and positivity to name a few.

Gratitude creates the space for positive emotions to grow and flourish. Anger, irritation, defensiveness, worry, and impatience, are choices. These emotions don’t happen to us; we choose them. Have you ever been in the middle of an angry rant when the phone rings? When you answer the call you are all “sugar and spice and everything nice.” When it’s over you go right back into your angry rant. It’s a choice. The point is, we can choose gratitude to drive these toxic emotions out of our lives. Negative emotions cannot coexist with gratitude.

Gratitude has the power to pull teams together. When things don’t go our way, or when people don’t do what we think they should, we tend to pull away—withdraw. We want to take our ball and go home—disengage. If we can develop a mindset of gratitude, that will not happen. We will stay engaged. We will work together.

Gratitude has the power to slow us down and reflect and refocus our attention on what matters. Sometimes we have to step back to see our life in perspective; to be able to connect the dots. I like the way American writer Ursula Le Guin put it: “If you can see a thing whole—it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives. …But close up a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.”

It’s easy for any of us to lose the pattern, to lose the narrative, to forget what we are doing this all for if we never step back and see the bigger picture with gratitude.

How do we get to the point where gratitude defines who we are?

Humility, of course, makes all of this work. Humility is the ability to silence the self. Humility is valuing other people; appreciating them. Humility allows us to be open to recognizing the good in all of our circumstances. Gratitude is humility in action.

Not surprisingly, the mechanism behind gratitude is remembering. Developing a mindset of gratitude is about remembering.

We don’t come by gratitude naturally. It’s not common sense. It’s something we have to cultivate. And remembering takes effort.

Of course, we can find the differences; we can find the negative. We can dwell on it. It’s the core trait of a toxic individual. But we can combat that by seeking out anything that is excellent or praiseworthy—seeking out the good in any situation. Drawing upon positive memories gives us hope for the future. Unconditional gratitude heals and creates understanding and builds relationships.

Gratitude acknowledges that we are connected. Allow unconditional gratitude to define you as a leader.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:40 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.20.17

8 Ways To Design a High-Trust Culture

Trust Factor

T
RUST BEGETS TRUST. Paul Zak, the author of The Trust Factor, has shown that “when someone is tangibly trusted by a stranger, the brain synthesizes the signaling chemical oxytocin” and “the more trust one is shown, the more the brain produces oxytocin.” Oxytocin is our brain’s way of signaling trust.

Zak says that the most important thing to know is that “oxytocin works by activating a brain network that makes us more empathic.” He calls oxytocin “the moral molecule because when the brain releases it, we treat others well.”

High levels of stress and testosterone inhibit the release of oxytocin. But here’s the good news. “You can actively promote oxytocin release and capture its benefits, including increased interpersonal trust and improved health, by modifying your default social behaviors.” Competition and status increases testosterone in both men and women. (Men have five to ten times more testosterone than women.) Promotion? Hot new romantic partner? Large bonus? “Testosterone whispers to our brains that we have won the social lottery and make us behave like demigods. It also increases libido. No surprise that CEOs, presidents, and movie stars have affairs.” Putting a check on your behavior will help you to produce a high-trust culture.

Neuroscience has affirmed eight factors that are the building blocks of organizational trust. Zak has labeled these eight ways around the acronym OXYTOCIN.

Ovation is recognizing colleagues who contribute to the organization’s success. Ovation should be unexpected, tangible, and personal. It should also be close in time (no more than a week), consistent, and done publically.

eXpectation is setting difficult but achievable eXpectations. It engages the brain’s reward system, so that meeting goals at work becomes highly engaging and enjoyable. Challenging stress is good for you. Regular feedback on performance builds neural pathways in the brain that adapt behavior to meet goals.

Yield means leaders must let go. Empower people to share their expertise and allow them to choose how to do projects. Instigate innovation by encouraging mistakes with limited downside and reward employees who make them. Train extensively and delegate generously.

Transfer supports autonomy. Enables self-management by permitting colleagues to craft their own jobs. Facilitate self-mastery and skill development. Advise between teams without dictating. For transfer or self-management to be effective, Ovation, eXpectation, and Yield must be present in the organization.

Openness involves keeping others informed. Sharing information broadly with colleagues and additionally, soliciting input and valuing the input of others. Organizational trust occurs when decisions are transparent, and reasons for decisions are shared.

Caring is intentionally building relationships and prioritizing empathy. Supporting others. Letting people take the time to get to know each other increases trust. Emotions are recognized and accepted. Sometimes “difficult” people just need to be recognized and shown care. Peter Drucker said, “The number one practical competency for success in life and work is empathy.”

Invest is committing to “whole person” development and work-life integration. Although it provides the foundation for a long-term commitment to the organization, investing in people is quite often just an afterthought. Do a Whole Person Review that asks three questions: Are you growing professionally? (Am I helping you to get your next job?) Are you growing personally? (Are you and your family happy?) Are you growing spiritually? (Are you developing as a human being?)

Natural is allowing leaders and colleagues to be human, honest, and vulnerable. Ask for feedback on a daily or weekly basis. “A natural leader is one who accepts responsibility for mistakes and includes others in wins, who know the organization at every level, from the front lines to the executive suite.” Work the front lines at least one day a month.

Trust when coupled with purpose results in joy at work. Working in a high-trust culture modestly increases joy. “Organizations should not try to make people happy at work. Joy is the result of working with trusted colleagues who have a transcendent purpose.” Joy=Trust x Purpose.

Does your organization have a high-trust, high-performance culture? You can take the brief 16-question Ofactor Pulse & find out for sure.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:43 AM
| Comments (0) | Management

11.17.17

4th and Goal Every Day

4th and Goal

O
VER THE LAST DECADE, University of Alabama’s Nick Saban—one of college football’s winningest coaches— has produced four national championships. What makes them so successful?

The secret is that it is fourth and goal every day.

Phil Savage of the Crimson Tide Sports Network, explains in 4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama's Relentless Pursuit of Perfection, “Alabama goes for it. Alabama wins more than anyone else because it is 4th and goal to these people in Crimson every practice, every meeting, every game, every day. Do not underestimate the power of that mindset.”

When they find themselves in a chaotic game situation, Alabama is prepared because, as they say, “We played this game four times already this week.” You play the game the way you practice, says Saban.

Daily urgency is core to the Alabama program. Saban is concerned about the details—the fundamentals. “The fundamentals and practice regimen require players to play to a standard. They do not play to the level of their opponent. They play to a standard set by Nick Saban and established by the team leaders.”

Linebacker Dillon Lee said, “We would go in the game and everyone just feels like we played this game. It’s not going to be more physical than practice, it’s not going to be harder than practice. Everything will be slower, based off how we practiced.”

Phil Savage says these are life lessons being taught on the field. “The Alabama practices reveal the grit in their players, one by one. Players learn determination and how to deal with adversity.” He adds, “What parents want to happen after four years is to see that their son came out the other side of the Process with resolve and a will to succeed in life. The parents covet the diploma, but they covet most the work ethic players are taught in practice, the forty-year bargain with Nick Saban, not the four-year deal.”

How might some of these concepts play out in your leadership and impact your team or organization?

Some more thoughts from Phil Savage and co-author Ray Glier:
The Crimson Tide does not just recruit high school players, it evaluates them psychologically to determine if they can fit into the culture. Alabama is a demanding place to play, and the staff will dig in on a prospect and investigate how he handles criticism or being corrected. Mental makeup is important, critical, in recruiting a player. If you are a high school player with all the measurables and you did not get offered by Alabama, look in the mirror.

You are expected to get used to the sniping at Alabama and come out the other end a better man and a better person. If you don’t join in, it is hard to survive. Your attitude must be to be part of the ride, and the fun, or else. No one is allowed to sulk for long. One reason a player was offered a scholarship at Alabama is that he knows how to bounce back up and take some mental grinding.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:01 PM
| Comments (0) | Teamwork

11.15.17

What Are Good People?

Good people

W
HAT DO WE MEAN when we say someone is good? Good is often confused with competency. But it is really a character issue. You can be good at your job but doing good is a character issue. Doing good is not just no being bad but intentionally creating more good in the workplace and especially in others.

Anthony Tjan, author of Good People says, “Pursuing goodness in yourself while surrounding yourself with good people is the only leadership decision that really, truly, matters.

Tjan begins a discussion by trying to define good and to build a framework and language to talk about what good is. He defines good people as “those committed to continuously cultivating the values that help them and others become the fullest possible versions of who they are.”

He discusses in detail a concept of goodness based on three cornerstone values:

Truth: A mindset of humility that makes you teachable. Self-awareness and integrity between your thoughts and actions based on that self-awareness

Compassion: An open mind that without bias allows you to understand the actions of others. To practice empathy and act on that empathy with a generous spirit that gives people what they need.

Wholeness: Involves gratitude for the people around you that leads to an outgoing concern for others. Caring and nurturing the growth of others. Having the respect to fulfil your obligations to yourself and others and acting with a degree of wisdom. Knowing what is important.

As leaders this is easier said than done. Daily we face tensions that have to managed as we try to implement our ideals real. Tjan lists five core tensions:
  1. Pragmatism versus Idealism
    Our ambitious goals versus reality. Neither one is good or bad. They are a productive tension. “Purpose and vision should be grounded in a set of enduring and relatable values, or immutable truths, that can guide us through dilemmas and difficulties.”
  2. Short-termism versus Long-termism
    We have a great ability to think long term but we are biased to act short term. Character is a long-term investment.
  3. Vulnerability versus Conviction
    “If we are strong enough to take on our vulnerability, it can fuel the conviction of our purpose.”
  4. Idiosyncrasy versus Connectedness
    Just weird enough but still connected.
  5. Grit versus Acceptance
    “Resolving the tension between grit and acceptance requires a strong and clear sense of purpose, and a strategic philosophy that embraces a willing ness to sense and respond to new information.”

What can we do?

Good people do five things:

Good people put people first in their decision making. What does this do to my people?

Good people grow by continually seeking to improve themselves and help others to become fuller versions of themselves.

While good people value competency, they place a premium on character and values. They commit beyond competency to character and values of truth, compassion, and wholeness.

Good people are realists and find the balance between competing priorities and tensions. Learn to balance the tensions that exist in leadership

Good people aren’t situational but seek to do good at all times. Don’t just practice goodness to avoid badness.

These five things are the Good People Mantra. They are five promises. As leaders we need to break from our role as leader to follower and relate to others human to human. Goodness come from building it in yourself and inspiring it in others.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
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11.13.17

The Leadership Triangle

Cunningham

A
RE LEADERS BORN or are they made? The underlying assumption here, of course, is that an individual is either a leader or not, whether by genetics or education. Period.

The elite of higher education would have us believe that leadership can be taught, especially if you are one of the privileged attending classes at a top tier university offering courses in leadership. But there are others who believe leaders come out of the womb with a mission to lead. Either way, we assume that leadership is dependent on personality traits and/or skills. That once a leader, always a leader.

But is this the case? Is the population to be divided simply into leaders who always lead and followers who always follow? Leadership is surely more complicated than that. Perhaps the question is not are leaders born or made, but rather, can leadership flourish in anyone when the circumstances for it are right? Does context matter?

We tend to remember leaders who seemingly made the impossible possible, but it was always in a particular context. Leaders like Martin Luther King defined by the civil rights movement, Margaret Thatcher defined by the Cold War, and Bill Gates defined by the burgeoning personal computer industry come to mind. For the most part, history doesn’t record how these leaders dealt with contexts outside their defining accomplishments. We examine their leadership and develop theories about their strategies, their skills, and their personality traits. But to understand a broader view of leadership, we must look beyond these historic figures and observe the anonymous trailblazers in our midst. A different picture of leadership emerges.

Hurricane Harvey in Texas demonstrated that “ordinary citizens” can step up to leadership when the situation is ripe for it. CNN captured a video of a local boat owner saying this: “We got eight people that done called for us already. So we’re going to go and get them eight, come on back, and try to save some more.” Crisis leadership in action.

The story of Todd Beamer, a sales rep for Oracle, still produces chills in anyone who hears it. He is the young man who called 911 during the hijacking of United Flight 93 on 9/11 and declared, “Let’s roll” as he and presumably a few others commandeered the airplane to prevent the hijackers from achieving their goal. They were willing to die for it.

Ordinary citizen leadership, however, need not be all about saving lives. Often it is about changing the status quo. Take Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, who took it upon herself to help women attain leadership roles in business, wrote a book about how to do it, Lean In, and started a foundation to promote it, Leanin.org. This was not part of her job.

I’ve had the opportunity in my life to interact and work with some of the most impactful leaders in their fields. Among them are Steve Jobs who returned to the company he co-founded after being ousted in 1985 having learned how to deal with adversity and turned it around with a vengeance. Audrey Rust gathered steam from a passionate group of homeowners in Woodside, California, who wanted to protect the natural beauty in the expanse beyond their backyards and preserved 53,000 acres in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Santa Cruz counties under her leadership of the Peninsula Open Space Trust. And Walter Isaacson, having established himself as a talented journalist and media professional in the business world, took the reins of the Aspen Institute during a period of severe decline and redefined it as a purveyor of rich and varied content for the intellectually inclined. Certainly all of these people led others to fulfill a very particular mission and in so doing, created something out of nothing, something that made a difference in the world. But their leadership occurred in a particular context where their competence was significant, their confidence secure and their commitment established.

The truth is, leadership is all around us, and it arises within a certain context in which the leader’s ability (competence) aligns with faith of accomplishment (confidence) and forms a mission (commitment). I call this the Leadership Triangle.

So rather than ask if leaders are born or made, perhaps we should change the paradigm of leadership examination. Perhaps we have given short shrift in leadership study to the myriad people who find their competence, confidence, and commitment aligning with a particular context and jump in with both feet because there is simply no other choice but to lead.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Andy Cunningham. Andy is the founder and president of Cunningham Collective, a marketing, brand and communication strategy firm dedicated to bringing innovation to market. She is also the author of Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition, and the host of the popular podcast Marketing Over Ice.

An entrepreneur at the forefront of marketing, branding, positioning and communicating “The Next Big Thing,” Andy has played a key role in the launch of a number of new technology categories and products (including the Apple Macintosh) over the past 35 years. Today she advises startups, serves on several corporate boards, is a Henry Crown Fellow and a trustee at the Aspen Institute. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and lives in Sausalito on an old wooden boat with her husband, Rand Siegfried. For more information, please visit get2aha.com and follow Andy on Twitter

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:34 AM
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11.10.17

The Making of Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

T
HEODORE ROOSEVELT was not a born leader. He certainly wasn’t destined to lead the charge up San Juan Hill or become the President of the United States. But he became the man that did.

How Roosevelt became the leader we remember is a remarkable story. His journey is skillfully told in Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of American Leadership by Jon Knokey. Using many unpublished letters and notes from Roosevelt’s contemporaries, Knokey insightfully chronicles TR’s journey to the White House.

Theodore was born small and frail. He had life-threatening attacks of asthma as a child, and it consumed the family. “Though driven by good intentions, this over-protection could very well have been the root cause of Roosevelt’s overpowering sense of entitlement. The man needed to be at the center of attention for everything he undertook.”

When the Civil War came, Roosevelt’s house was divided too. His father Theodore Sr. was a Lincoln Republican and his mother Mittie, was a Southerner. To keep peace in the family, Theodore Sr. limited himself to noncombatant work with the Union Army while his mother’s relatives fought heroically. Observing his relative’s deeds and his father’s principles and morality, Theodore wrote that, “I felt a great admiration for men who were fearless and who could hold their own in the world, and I had a great desire to be like them.” Knokey notes, “He embraced both contrasts seamlessly, almost naturally. And it was this ability—to embrace contradiction among diverse groups of people—that would become, over time, one of his greatest strengths as a leader.”

When he was about twelve, he decided to beat his affliction though strenuous activity. His father told him, “Theodore, you have the mind, but you have not the body, and without the help of the body, the mind cannot go as far as it should. You must make your body.” And he did.

Theodore was a curious man. One classmate said, “Never have I seen or read of a man with such an amazing array of interests.” The stores told here of his days at Harvard are revealing.

After Harvard, Theodore headed for the New York State Assembly and tried to change the world from day one. He learned he could not and some valuable leadership lessons along the way. “Theodore needed to focus on incremental victories; instead he tried to change the entire culture overnight.” He learned, “It cannot be done by charging ahead alone, simply espousing virtues.”

TR North Dakota
After his first wife Alice died, he headed West to the Badlands of North Dakota and took up ranching. “The Theodore Roosevelt in the history books is the man that emerges from the Badlands in 1886.” While there he began to “change from a brutishly driven man, to a driven man who took time to reflect on the tenderness in the world around him. A moan more thoughtful, more pensive, more contemplative. A man who learned how to rule his spirit.” It was the most influential period in his leadership development.

With the coming of the Spanish-American War, Theodore’s lessons begin to serve him well. “Theodore’s greatest leadership feat, and much more impressive than his charge on San Juan Heights, was that he understood where his followers were, and he led them from there.” He earned his leadership with his men by serving them.

On March 4th, 1901 he became President McKinley’s Vice President. Following McKinley's assassination in September, Roosevelt became president and served two terms.

Knokey concludes, Theodore “led by downplaying differences, focusing on inclusiveness—focusing on the greater good for all Americans. This made him genuine to the masses. He would fight for anyone, so long as that person worked hard, did their part, had character.”

Knokey’s telling of Theodore Roosevelt’s leadership journey is an inspiring one. It is well told, and the anecdotes and accounts from TR’s contemporaries add much to the story. By the end of the book, you will feel like you know the man. A friend of TR’s recalled, “He had the virtues we like to call American, and he had the faults. He knew us, and we knew him.”

tr
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Of Related Interest:
  Theodore Roosevelt’s The Man in the Arena Speech 100th Anniversary

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:29 AM
| Comments (0) | Leaders

11.08.17

Let’s Go Invent Tomorrow

Lets Go Invent Tomorrow

L
ET'S GO INVENT TOMORROW is a collection of 365 quotes on business and life from Richard Branson, Sergey Brin, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Carlos Slim, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Some are inspiring, and most are thought-provoking. You won’t agree with every opinion expressed, but you will gain a wider perspective to enhance your own. These successful business leaders share what worked and what didn’t work and more importantly how they approach their work.

From Oprah Winfrey’s advice, “The key is not to worry about being successful but to instead work toward being significant—and the success will naturally follow. How can you serve your way to greatness?” to Warren Buffet’s advice on marriage, “Marry the right person. And I’m serious about that. It will make more difference in your life. It will change your aspiration, all kinds of things. It’s enormously important who you marry,” you will find insights to help you build a firmer foundation to grow from.



Gary Saul Morson wrote in The Words of Others: “Anatole France frankly advised, ‘When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it.’ Yes, indeed, but do more. Copy many well-said things. Pierce them together. Assimilate them. Make the process of reading them a way to form the mind and shape the soul. As anthologies can never be complete, we will never exhaust the ways quotations can enrich our lives.”

Let’s Go Invent Tomorrow will help “form the mind and shape the soul.”



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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:04 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

11.06.17

Shake it Off

Shake it Off

I
T'S EASY FOR LITTLE THINGS to hang you up at work. A customer tells you they are unhappy with a job, your boss gives you that dreaded look of displeasure or a coworker mocks your new haircut. Negative memories can linger for a long time.

Well you’re about to get a leadership lesson from a dog. This is not a typo. Dogs are naturals at exhibiting the leadership they need to be leader of the pack. And they are the masters at shaking things off.

Ever watch a dripping wet dog as it gets out of a pool or a lake? Once it’s on dry land it just shakes it off. No towel or hairdryer needed, just a hypnotic back and forth motion that sprays unwanted water in every direction. And when it’s done the dog just moves on as if nothing ever happened.

At work, we need to learn how to do the same. Many of us make mountains out of mole hills. Instead, we need to practice how to shake things off. After all, that little jab about your new mullet hairdo was meant as a good-natured joke. Heck, they’re probably jealous of your smokin’ hot new Billy Ray Cyrus look.

So how do you shake off these little things at work? Pivot from what you don’t want to what you do want.

Trust in others’ positive intentions. It is overwhelmingly more likely that your co-worker is not out to undermine you. So if they jab you for the way you did a project, take it as a learning experience. Pivot to how you can do better the next time.

If you’re on the receiving end of a mean-spirited joke, talk privately with the perpetrator. Pivot to what you want—a good relationship—and let them know how their comments made you feel. Leaders speak truth to power, but in a way that helps everyone come out a winner.

If you’re the leader of a team or office you also need to create an environment where everyone feels happy at work. If you see someone who is not able to shake things off, step in and make things right. Don’t allow the inmates to run the asylum.

Great leaders set the right tone. They show their team how they pivot from the negative—“we lost a good customer”—to the positive—“let’s redouble our efforts to learn from that and win a new customer.” Leaders don’t allow the little things to get under their skin.

There are, of course, some things that we should not shrug off. Constructive criticism, safety concerns and feedback on company policy can be critical to our success within the organization. These big issues are valid and require our buy in.

It’s easy to wallow in misery. If you find the right compatriots you can wail and moan for weeks or years. But it won’t do you any good. Take a leadership lesson from a dog. Pivot from what you don’t want to what you do want. And shake it off.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Krissi Barr, CEO of Barr Corporate Success and co-author of The Fido Factor, a leadership book on the lessons learned from dogs. It isn’t a cute little book about puppies and it won’t teach you how to beg. The Fido Factor is a fresh take on leadership that’s as powerful and practical as it is approachable and relatable. A quick read that’s sprinkled with humor, The Fido Factor is the perfect tool to help you — and your entire team — get a leg up at work.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:28 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.03.17

Leadership Forged In Crisis

Forged In Crisis

L
EADERSHIP development is a very personal endeavor. The better you become, the better your leadership becomes.

It is a misconception of leadership that if you engage in the best practices of a great leader, you will become that leader. Applying the idea that if I do this or if I have this quality I will become a great leader like my chosen mentor, can derail your leadership development.

That said, there are principles you can discover that if adhered to will propel you in the right direction. Harvard professor Nancy Koehn illuminates some of these principles for us in Forged in Crisis as seen through the lives of five exemplary leaders: polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, President Abraham Lincoln, legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and environmental crusader Rachel Carson. These principles set the stage for leadership effectiveness, but the decision to step into leadership is yours alone.

Koehn borrows from David Foster Wallace and defines an effective leader as one “who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better, harder things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.”

Coach Tom Landry said it this way: “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” Henry Kissinger said, “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been." It’s intentional influence. But the ability to do that doesn’t come to us naturally. We have to work at it. But that’s good news. We can all get there. Leaders are not born, they are forged.

Each of the leaders Koehn has chosen faced an uncertain outcome in the midst of a crisis. Shackleton was marooned on an Antarctic ice floe trying to bring his men home alive; Lincoln was on the verge of seeing the Union collapse even as he tried to save it; escaped slave Douglass faced possible capture while wanting to free black Americans held in slavery; Bonhoeffer was agonizing over how to counter absolute evil with faith while imprisoned by the Gestapo; Carson raced against the cancer ravaging her to finish her book Silent Spring, in a bid to save the planet.

The crisis that can break one person can give birth to leadership in another. It’s a conscious choice to lead. Koehn brings out key lessons common to these people as they struggled with their thoughts in what were do or die situations. Here are some of the lessons that we should all take to heart:

They Were Made, Not Born

These leaders “were made into effective leaders as they walked their respective paths, tried to understand what was happening around them, and encountered failure and disappointment.”

They Were Ambitious but…

“The drive to make their respective marks was important in shaping them. It took each of them some of the way. But then, interestingly, ambition ceased to motivate and influence them as it once had. As they discovered a larger purpose and embraced it, each found his or her impetus, strength, and validation in the mission itself.” And importantly, Koehn adds, that “their leadership was partly shaped by a willingness to subordinate personal drive in a broader end, one inexorably linked with service to others.”

They Did the Inner Work of Leadership

They all worked on themselves, looking for opportunities to grow. “They did not do this as a single endeavor, but rather as a lifelong project in which they each kept working on themselves, learning specific lessons, developing more resilience, and using these resources to lead more effectively.”

(“Lincoln would have been flummoxed by talk of authentic leadership when he told a few constituents in 1862 that he did not have the luxury of publically expressing his disappointment about Union army defeats.”)

They Understood the Importance of Solitude

These leaders learned to detach themselves from the situation in order to see things from different perspectives. They “learned how to step back from a specific instant, assess the larger landscape, take the measure of their own emotions, and only then make a decision about what, if anything, they wanted to do.” Reflection and solitude helped them stay focused on the big picture.

They Learned to Manage Their Emotions

In dark moments, what Bonhoeffer called a “boundary situation,” they determined to manage their emotions. It was not willful blindness or forced optimism. They knew what they were up against. “Because they did, they used their emotional awareness and discipline to concentrate directly, almost exclusively, on how to move forward, how to take the next step, however small.” These people realized that “the emotional penetrability they experienced and that caused them so much suffering was also a door into new insights about themselves and new ways of being in the world.”

They Learned to Respond Rather Than to React

“At times, doing nothing at all was the best action each of these leaders could take. Time and time again as president, [Lincoln] refused to be goaded by the force of his own emotions or of those around him into taking precipitate action that might compromise his larger mission. Even when he was at his most frustrated, he managed somehow to acknowledge his feelings without acting on them in a way that was destructive to larger matters.”

They Were Resilient

Though these leaders didn’t always see a way through in the heat of the moment, “they vowed to find a way through the obstacles they confronted. They came out the other side of calamity without falling through the floorboards of doubt, without giving up on their mission and themselves.”

All five leaders were well chosen because of their humanity. They were not born leaders. They became leaders through successes, but mostly through failures and mistakes. Leaders can come from anywhere. As we look around the world today, if we are looking for larger-than-life heroes, we misunderstand what leadership is.

Although these leaders appear to be larger than life to us now, as you read their stories you see that they are you and me. They are ordinary people in turbulent and trying circumstances. They were often overwhelmed and depressed, but they kept moving on. What distinguishes these people from many of the leaders we see today is their approach to the experiences of their lives. Throughout their lives, they purposefully extracted the lessons they needed to grow. It was thoughtful and intentional. If you go through life any other way, you are just collecting experiences to no end. Experiences alone ensure nothing. We must reflect on them to gain insights and learn from them.

All of the lessons these leaders learned are relevant to any leader in any situation. There are no hacks to effective leadership, and you won’t find them here. You will find well-told accounts of these leader’s lives that will inspire and inform your own leadership.

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

11.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for November 2017

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

  Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World by Allen Adamson and Joel Steckel
  Blueprint to Business: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Taking Action, Committing to the Grind, And Doing the Things That Most People Won't by Michael Alden
  Meaningful Work: A Quest to Do Great Business, Find Your Calling, and Feed Your Soul by Shawn Askinosie with Lawren Askinosie
  Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business by Freek Vermeulen
  Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Timothy Ferriss

Shift Ahead Blueprint to Business Meaningful Work Breaking Bad Habits Tribe of Mentors

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273

discounted books


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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"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers."
— Charles William Eliot


Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:37 AM
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10.31.17

LeadershipNow 140: October 2017 Compilation

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:27 AM
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10.18.17

Challenges for Founder Leaders and How to Make Things Easier

Maxine Harris

F
OUNDERS of organizations, whether non-profit or for-profit start-ups, often feel that they occupy a very lonely space. Every decision, every responsibility seems to weigh heavily on their shoulders. But it doesn’t need to be that way!

Here are 4 tips for leading a founder run-organization more effectively and more efficiently while getting better results in the process.
  1. Build a team: The word “team” can cast fear in the heart of a founder. Does this mean that I need to surrender “my baby” to someone else? Of course not, but even the best CEO can’t do everything alone.

    Think of a team as a group of trusted advisors, not as a group of potential rivals. First, a healthy team should consist of anywhere between two and three members, growing to six and eight members over time. Members should be selected because they bring a range of skills to the table. Sometimes, founders think that a team should consist of 20-30 people, a number that seems overwhelming. And team members should share a level of trust with one another and with the CEO.

    Teams can serve a variety of functions. Some teams are purely informational. They bring information back to the CEO, either in the form of an update on current projects or in response to a specific question or assignment. In this way, not only does the CEO keep up to date, but other members of the team have a broad sense of what is going on in the organization. Organizations flounder when key members feel they are being kept in the dark about important aspects of the organization.

    Teams can also be places where discussions take place, and remember a discussion is different from a decision. Every new direction or new business opportunity presents a variety of options. Which choice is best? What are the barriers to success? What are the potential consequences? No founder leader can answer these questions alone. A healthy discussion can make it easier for the leader to make a decision.

    And finally, some teams are actually decision-making bodies. After discussion, debate and thinking through the options, the team reaches consensus about the best course of action to take, or how best to solve a problem. Leaders should always remember, however, that how they want to use a team is up to them. Just let team members know what the ground rules are. As in “today’s meeting is just for sharing information.”

  2. Delegate authority: As an organization grows, leaders need to get comfortable with delegating authority. Sometimes, it is as simple as putting someone in charge when you are away from the office for several days, at a conference, on vacation, or out with a family or personal emergency. While the leader is gone, a trusted advisor, usually a member of the senior team is empowered to make final decisions.

    Delegated authority can also be used in a more limited way. In this case, a manager or program director is given the authority to make decisions within a particular department. Those decisions can be for the purpose of hiring new employees, or making programmatic changes or spending money within a certain range. When these decisions are made, they should be respected by the leader. Everyone needs to know that when authority has been delegated, it does not get taken away on a whim.

    And finally, authority can be granted for the purpose of dealing with organizations or stakeholders outside of the business. There are times when a senior team member is given the authority to speak for the organization when interacting with the environment outside the agency.

  3. Make use of networks: Much has been written about the value of networking, but many people don’t know exactly what that means. At its most basic, people say they are networking when they have lunch with a colleague and discuss how the business is going. And while it might help a leader to feel less alone and more “connected,” it doesn’t necessarily increase their knowledge or their ability to move their business forward.

    Sometimes people think networking is the equivalent of asking someone for something you don’t already have, as in “I need a job, so I’ll go meet someone who might have possible employment.” Networking that is essentially an “ask” does not increase knowledge and perspective and if nothing comes of it, it may end up leaving the parties feeling used or rejected.

    So, what is good networking?

    Networking is when you connect with someone who can open your eyes to a new way of looking at things. A good networker knows lots of people who operate in fields adjacent to his or her own. When a real estate developer meets an architect who knows a city planner who works with someone from the area neighborhood advisory board an interlocking network of cross connections starts to emerge. You are no longer talking to people who think like and do what you do, but you are meeting and exposing yourself to people whose worlds are different, but intersecting. Networking happens when you meet people at conferences, at business gatherings, by talking to a friend of a friend. And networking often starts with the offer “Oh, you should talk to so-and-so. I think you’ll like what she has to say.”

    And remember, no new contact is too small. You never know where the next new idea may come from. And with the explosion of digital technology, you don’t even need to be in the same city, much less the same room, to start connecting!

  4. Don’t hesitate to use an outside coach: Sometimes leaders who have founded their own organizations are reluctant to ask an outside coach for help. “After all, I started this business, why do I need someone to help me run it?” And that’s where founders make their first mistake. A coach is not an assistant. A coach is not a critic. And a coach is not a counselor. Rather, a coach is someone who can help you take a step back and gain perspective on the overall business. When you operate in the thick of things, it is hard to evaluate how things are going. “What am I doing right?” What am I doing that I could be doing better?”

    A coach functions as a trusted advisor who works for and with the leader to gain perspective on how the organization is functioning and where it should go next. The coach functions as an observer who can help the leader take a gentle look at her or his leadership style and how it enhances or impedes the work of the organization.

    There are always challenges in starting and running a business, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. Look to others who have walked in those same shoes. It might make the journey a lot easier and you might find that you are having more fun at work and are a lot less tired at the end of the day!

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Leading Forum
This post is by Maxine Harris, PhD the co-author of Lessons for Non-Profit and Start-Up Leaders: Tales from a Reluctant CEO, and CEO of Community Connections, a large social service organization in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit Community Connections.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:14 PM
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10.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for October 2017

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

  The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage by Daniel Burrus
  Finding My Virginity by Richard Branson
  The Startup Way: How Modern Companies Use Entrepreneurial Management to Transform Culture and Drive Long-Term Growth by Eric Ries
  Myths of Management: What People Get Wrong About Being the Boss by Stefan Stern and Cary Cooper

Power of Moments Anticipatory Organization Finding My Virginity Startup Way Myths of Management

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"The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade."
— Anthony Trollope


Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:27 AM
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