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01.21.21

Leading Thoughts for January 21, 2021

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Brent Gleeson on resilience:

“A growth mindset is the bedrock of resilience. With a growth mindset you know that skills and success come from hard work and dedication, and the status quo is never enough. People with this mindset are comfortable being uncomfortable. Transparent feedback is not just accepted but craved, and setbacks are just another bump in the road fueling the fire to push forward. ”

Source: Embrace the Suck: The Navy SEAL Way to an Extraordinary Life

II.

Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay on the Unread Library Effect or how to help people understand that they are relying upon borrowed knowledge and moderate their views:

“Explicitly invite explanations, ask for specifics, follow up with pointed questions that revolve around soliciting how someone knows the details, and continue to openly admit your own ignorance. In many conversations, the more ignorance you admit, the more readily your partner in the conversation will step in with an explanation to help you understand. And the more they attempt to explain, the more likely they are to realize the limits of their own knowledge. This strategy not only helps moderate strong views, it models openness, willingness to admit ignorance, and readiness to revise beliefs.”

Source: How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide

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Look for these ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog. Find more ideas on the LeadingThoughts index.

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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01.18.21

How I Built This

How I Built This

TAKING AN IDEA and building it into something tangible. That’s the entrepreneurial journey. Guy Raz interviews innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists to create a narrative of their journey from spark to movement in a highly successful podcast on NPR and now a book entitled, How I Built This.

How I Built This is an inspiring book that succeeds as a practical guide to the entrepreneurial journey.

After interviewing hundreds of founders and CEOs, Raz says they are just like you and me—human.

They all have sleepless nights and midnight terrors. Most of them, at some point, feel like imposters. They are not natural superheroes; they are all Clark Kents. The only difference between them and you, at this moment, is that when opportunity presented itself, they went into the phone booth and put on the cape. They took the leap.

Raz has taken the lessons from the shows and structured them to “follow the path we took as we traced their entrepreneurial hero’s journeys from the call to found their businesses, through the tests and trials of their growth phases, and finally to their destination as mature, global brands we know today.” His goal is to “pull back the curtain on entrepreneurship, to shed light on the black box of entrepreneurial success, and provide an architecture for how to think creatively about building something, whether that’s an idea, a movement, or, of course, a business.”

Embedded in these stories of entrepreneurs are business advice and life lessons. If the entrepreneurial journey does nothing else, it teaches you a lot about yourself. Here are some of those lessons:

The intersection of personal passion and problem solving is where good ideas are born and lasting businesses are built.

Passion is important but the trouble with passion by itself is that it can lead you down rabbit holes that only you care about, or to problems that only you have.

There are plenty of things that are scary but aren’t dangerous. And there are things that are dangerous but not scary. And those are the things that get you. Failing is scary. Wasting your life is dangerous. It’s mistaking fear for folly, risk for recklessness.

They knew their ideas would work because they knew their stuff.

The truth is that virtually no company is the creation of a single individual, but rather the product of a partnership, or even a group of co-founders.

The low points in a startup are so low that few could bear them alone.

Bootstrapping is about using other nonmonetary assets to solve problems that you would otherwise hire someone else to solve or throw money at—assets like your time, your effort, your network, and your own talent and ingenuity.

Really knowing your story—knowing the why—is often the bridge between founding and funding.

It’s a story that unearths the very reasons why the company exists, and sometimes even explains how both the company and the founder have managed to succeed for as long as they have.

If you don’t need to give up 5, 10, 20 percent of your company before you are even sure what it’s going to look like, to people who will never care about it as much as you and your partners do, then you shouldn’t take this money.

There is only one reliable way to engineer word of mouth: you have to make a really good product. Actually, that’s not precisely true. It can’t just be really good. It has to be so good that someone has to recommend it.

All of them have done whatever it takes to stay alive, to make it another day, to get their product on the shelves, to get customers in the door, to get vendors paid, to get investors to write checks. All in the hope that, as they stand on the balcony and survey the dance floor below, whatever they realize they have to do today, or they might have to do tomorrow, is that one steady pull more that will finally get them out and through.

First Andreessen Horowitz told him, “what usually look like good ideas are bad ideas, and what look like bad ideas are good ideas, because the problem with good ideas is that everyone tries to do them, and as a result, there is no value to be created there.” Second, he said, “you need to do the thing that you believe you are the best person in the world to do, where you have a unique proposition, given your story, to solve a problem.”

More than just stoking the flames of a fighting spirit when things aren’t going your way, the mission is what gives your business, and you, direction.

The point is, you can do everything right, you can make all the plays, and still can lose the game. The cards are generally stacked against anyone thinking about starting a business. And yet, at the same time, if one or two bounces go your way, all of a sudden you can come out of the game as the big winner. That is luck.

The one thing Raz has learned from all of the people he has interviewed is this:

Be kind; that kind leaders have kind companies; that kindness is a powerful tool; that kindness is free—it costs nothing!—and that return on investment for kindness is bigger than that for any financial investment an entrepreneur can make.

As the stories in this book unfold, you will see that all entrepreneurs are good at dealing with rejection. The entrepreneurial journey is fill with “no.” It is their curiosity that often saved them and got them moving again.

Starting a business is never easy, but if you have, or if you are thinking about doing it, you need to read this book. (And don’t forget to read the Afterword. It’s inspiring and helpful.)

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8 Elements of Punk Rock Business Beginners Pluck

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01.15.21

Culture Renovation

Culture Renovation

WE hear a lot about changing the culture. And the successful are more like renovations than they are like rebuilding the culture. Kevin Oakes advocates that mindset in Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company

Companies that effectively changed their cultures were successful because they were renovating what they had, not starting from scratch and completely rebuilding or transforming.

Furthermore, he notes that the best time to renovate your culture is when all is well.

Rarely do companies set out to change their culture when everything is calm and running smoothly, even though that is probably the best time to do it.

Making the point that culture renovation begins at the top he replays the appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft after Steve Balmer in 2014. Cultural change at Microsoft began on day one. The key change was instilling a growth mindset.

Microsoft’s culture had been rigid. Each employee had to prove to everyone that he or she was the smartest person in the room. Accountability—delivering on time and hitting numbers—trumped everything. Meetings were formal. If a senior leader wanted to tap the energy and creativity of someone lower down in the organization, she or he needed to invite that person’s boss, and so on. Hierarchy and pecking order had taken control, and spontaneity and creativity had suffered as a result. The culture change I wanted was actually rooted in the Microsoft I originally joined. The culture change I wanted was centered on exercising a growth mindset every day.

The turnaround at Microsoft has been remarkable, and it started at the top.

Oakes offers an 18-step culture change blueprint organized equally into three categories: Plan, Build, and Maintain.

PLAN

Step #1: Develop and Deploy a Comprehensive Listening Strategy. “Before an organization embarks on a culture renovation, it needs to first understand how the current culture is perceived. Too often, the senior team assumes they know what the culture represents. Too often, they are dead wrong.”

Step #2: Figure Out What to Keep. Know what stays and what goes. Listen to employees (Step 1) is so important because “it not only illuminates what the culture is today, but it also helps determine the most positive and valued aspects of the company’s historical culture to carry forward.”

Step #3: Set Your Cultural Path. “In the spirit of renovation, the new direction should acknowledge and embrace past successes, but set up the organization to forge new ground into an unknown future.” A carefully crafted purpose statement.

Step #4: Define the Desired Behaviors. Once you have a short, pithy, and memorable purpose statement, the question is what behaviors will best support that statement.

Step #5: Identify Influencers, Energizers, and Blockers. Know the informal organization using an organizational network analysis.

Step #6: Determine How Progress Will Be Measured, Monitored, and Reported. “Ultimately, the reason for a culture renovation is to enable the organization to execute on its go-forward strategy. Because this change can sometimes take years, it’s important to define upfront what the indicators of a successful renovation should be, and to put in place mechanisms to monitor progress.” Oakes offers a number of common measures and methods.

BUILD

Step #7: Clearly Communicate That Change Is Coming. “To kick off a culture renovation, the CEO must articulate the purpose of the organization (whether new, old, or renovated), and that purpose must resonate with employees.”

Step #8: Ferret Out Skeptics and Nonbelievers Early. This is the hardest step. “It’s the consistently de-energizing people that ultimately slow down or take down cultures. Ferret them out as early in the renovation as possible.”

Step #9: Paint a Vision for the Future. The story matters. “73 percent of successful change efforts relied on stories.” A go-forward vision of the future. Most CEOs of corporate change failure attack previous leadership and focus their messages on the past.

Step #10: Consciously Collaborate. Strong internal collaboration is important to drive change. The group must understand why they are coming together and what they are doing. Collaboration can go too far as in the case where “connectivity is through the roof because everyone believes they need to be consulted on decisions.”

Step #11: Establish a Co-creation Mindset. “Though almost all successful culture change efforts begin top-down, it is critical to also get the buy-in of the workforce by creating a bottom-up (and middle-out) contribution mechanism.” Consider a Culture Hackathon. Ford “held a two-day event where employees worked in randomly selected teams to generate ideas to either fortify elements of the culture they loved or fix elements that weren’t serving the company well - #hackFORDculture.

Step #12: Provide Training on the Desired Behaviors. Train leaders at all levels on the desired behaviors so that they can model them. “While leaders as teachers is one of the most effective ways to reinforce behaviors, it’s clear that successful culture change relies on overall leadership training across the organization.”

MAINTAIN

Step #13: Make Onboarding About Relationships Versus Red Tape. “If you want to maintain that culture renovation you worked so hard to put in place, you can start by improving your onboarding process.” The most overlooked aspect of onboarding: “Helping the new hire establish a network of trusted subject matter experts who will contribute to that person’s career success.”

Step #14: Promote Those Who Best Represent the New. Behaviors that support the renovated culture should be rewarded. Showcase the “career advancement of individuals who best represent the new.”

Step #15: Change Performance Management Practices. Most important is the “frequency and usefulness of feedback, clearly defining the business purpose of the performance process, and aligning it with the culture and values of the organization.”

Step #16: Leverage Employee Affinity Groups. Interestingly, their research found that two-thirds of companies felt Employee Resource Groups were “more effective than other leadership development forums at developing leadership skills and competencies.” An ERGs primary benefit is to “raise awareness of the different groups of people that make up the workforce of most organizations.”

Step #17: Increase the Focus on Talent Mobility. “During a culture renovation, one of the most successful talent initiatives an organization can focus on is rotating talent to strengthen ‘the pack’ and ensure the desired behaviors are exhibited throughout the organization.”

Step #18: Don’t Underestimate the Value of External Sentiment. Use external feedback from places like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and social media to monitor the progress of efforts to renovate your culture.

Culture Renovation is less theory and more how to. You will find case studies and interviews with the participants of successful culture change.

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Netflix Patty McCord Culture Eats Strategy

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01.14.21

Leading Thoughts for January 14, 2021

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Elaine Kamarck on presidential responsibility:

“Despite of al he trappings of power—the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue, Camp David, Air Force One, never having to sit in a traffic jam (ever!)—the president is in charge of an entity over which he has fairly limited power. This is, of course, exactly the way the Founding Fathers wanted it. And yet, try telling that to the American public or to the world when something goes really wrong. As we have seen, large-scale governmental failure becomes presidential failure, whether the president likes it or not.”

Source: Why Presidents Fail And How They Can Succeed Again

II.

Brad Stulberg and Steve Magnes on how to be passionate:

“Mindfully living with passion starts with realizing that passion in and of itself doesn’t start off as either good or bad; it just is—a powerful emotion rooted in our biology and psychology. It’s not something we magically find, but something that we develop by following our interests and incrementally devoting more of our time and energy to them. The next step to mindfully living with passion is to become aware of its dark side. Only by understanding the pitfalls of obsessive and fear -driven passion—and taking deliberate steps to avoid them—does passion gain the potential to be productive. But avoiding pitfalls is not enough. An equal challenge is bucking current trends that favor instant gratification and instead actively adopting the mastery mind-set: maintaining drive from within; focusing on the process over results; not worrying about being the best but worrying about being the best at getting better; embracing acute failure for chronic gains; practicing patience; and paying full attention to our pursuits.”

Source: The Passion Paradox: A Guide to Going All In, Finding Success, and Discovering the Benefits of an Unbalanced Life

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Look for these ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog. Find more ideas on the LeadingThoughts index.

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books



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01.12.21

Leading Thoughts: Pass Them On

Leading Thoughts

BRITISH statesman Benjamin Disraeli said, “The wisdom of the wise and the experience of ages may be preserved by quotation.” The ideas of others have the power to slow us down and consider perspectives beyond our own. Left alone, our thoughts become too narrow—too vulnerable to blind spots. This learning process may deepen our own thoughts, give us concepts to build on, and start great conversations. It’s also good to know that we are not alone and that others have lived through the same things that we now experience.

We share two ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog or sign up for our newsletter.

Read them and pass them on!

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books



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01.11.21

It’s Time to Focus on Projects, Not Ideas

Start Finishing

WE get distracted from what matters to us by our personal projects. Charlie Gilkey says in Start Finishing that a project is “anything that takes time, energy, and attention to complete.” There are projects that keep us busy, and then there are projects that help us thrive—get us to the next level.

To get to the place where our soul longs to be, we’re going to have to convert our ideas into doable projects at the same time that we’re going have to get real about all the projects we are doing. The problem isn’t that we’re lazy or incapable—it’s just that we’re not doing the work that’s going to enable us to thrive.

Luckily, you already know the doing you need to do to move you toward thriving. Yes, it’s tied to the idea that’s nagging you.

To get moving, we will need to find a place in our schedule for our best projects—the ones that make us thrive. The reality of finite time means we have to choose what is most important to us here and now. To make that happen, we need intention, awareness of ourselves in relation to our work, boundaries, the courage to move forward, and discipline. (IABCD if you are into that) “Our innate talent, creativity, and drive combined with discipline are what make us forces of nature.”

There are consequences to not doing our best work. We wither, and we begin to suffer from creative constipation.

Creative constipation is exactly what it sounds like. We take in ideas and inspiration that get converted into aspirations, goals, and projects, and at a certain point, if we’re not pushing them out in the form of finished projects, they start to back up on us.

And like physical constipation, at a certain point, we get toxic. We don’t want to take in any more ideas. We don’t want to do any more projects. We don’t want to set any more goals or plans. We’re full and fed up.

That inner toxicity becomes the broth that flavors all our stories about ourselves and the world; your head trash gets more pronounced and intense, and what we see in the world goes from bright to dark. Creative constipation leads o behaviors in which we lash out at the world—and sometimes even more intensely at ourselves. We become resentful of other—even people we love—who are doing their best work.

Gilkey covers how to make space for your project and the obstacles that get in the way of that and how to work your plan.

Start finishing today.

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Charlie Gilkey Bright Shiny Things Free to Focus

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01.08.21

Eat, Sleep, Innovate

Eat Sleep Innovate

THE potential for innovation exists within our organizations. The problem is the culture doesn’t support it. Our organizational cultures tend to prioritize today over tomorrow. How do you make innovation as natural as eating and sleeping? Just something you do; part of your organizational culture?

The authors of Eat, Sleep, Innovate—Scott Anthony, Paul Cobban, Natalie Painchaud, and Andy Parker—contend that the solution “requires focusing people’s daily habits through a series of interventions, and then ensuring that the new habits stick and scale.”

We have to change the culture. And that doesn’t begin by copying the relics of highly innovative companies. We must deal with the source of the problem so that innovation and the manifestations of it arise organically from the culture of the organization.

Their definition of innovation is “something different that creates value.” That’s distinct from invention. A light bulb is just a light bulb until it creates value. “Until you have turned a spark of creativity into revenues, profits, or improved performance, in our eyes, you have not innovated.”

What does the organizational culture need to support?

  1. Curiosity. Innovators ask, “What if?” “Is there a better way?”
  2. Customer Obsession. Innovators understand and are engaged with the potential customer.
  3. Collaboration. Innovation occurs when different ideas and perspectives collide.
  4. Adeptness in Ambiguity. Innovators focus on assumptions over answers.
  5. Empowerment. An idea or invention is not an innovation until you do something with it—create value.

What holds us back is fear and inertia that often the outcome of our successes. This inertia becomes the shadow strategy that is ingrained in our culture. It undermines anything we might say or attempt to do otherwise. “The shadow strategy quietly tugs and budges a company down a path of perpetuation, even if circumstances demand something drastically different.” And that kills innovation.

The antidote to all of this is to break old habits and form new ones—and in effect, change the culture. To this end, a team at Innosight began collecting examples of interventions that promoted better innovation habits. They gave this collection the acronym: BEAN or:

Behavior Enablers: Direct ways to encourage and enable behavior change
Artifacts: Physical or digital objects to reinforce behavior change
Nudges: Indirect was to encourage and enable behavior change

In Eat, Sleep, Innovate, they list 101 BEANs and cover, in detail, over 20 to help you design BEANs specific to your organization. There are six key ingredients to a successful BEAN:

  1. Simplicity: Make it easy to adopt and remember. “Want to exercise more? Leave your running shoes by your bed before you go to sleep.”
  2. Practicality: Connect it to existing routines. “The fewer things you have to change, the better.”
  3. Reinforcement: Create physical and digital reminders. Create “visual cues—fun cubes that people can play with on tables and checklists on the wall—that serve as reminders” of your program.
  4. Organizational Consistency: Ensure it links to objectives, processes, systems, and values. “Effective BEANs don’t encourage people to do one thing if the company rewards them for something else or punishes them for that behavior.”
  5. Uniqueness: Create something fun and social and support it with stories and legends. “Sharing stories helps spread the idea.”
  6. Trackability: Build it in a way that it can be adjusted, measured, and scaled. Capture data that allows you to track and improve the program.

BEANs encourage behaviors that build culture. Build a culture in your organization where innovation is the natural result. A place where people can bring their best to the assets of the organization and create something new that has value and impact. BEANs help to “shrink the challenge” into “micro shifts of change.”

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Innovation is Everybodys Business Innovation at Bell Labs



Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:10 AM
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01.07.21

Leading Thoughts for January 7, 2021

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Geoff Colvin on self-knowledge:

“The best performers observe themselves closely. They are in effect able to step outside themselves, monitor what is happening in their own minds, and ask how it’s going. Researchers call this metacognition—knowledge about your own knowledge, thinking about your own thinking. Top performers do this much more systematically than others do; it’s an established part of their routine.”

Source: Talent Is Overrated

II.

Charlie Munger on turning yourself into a learning machine:

“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than when they got up and boy does that help—particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.”

Source: University of Southern California Law School Commencement Speech, May 13, 2007

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Look for these ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog. Find more ideas on the LeadingThoughts index.

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books



Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:46 AM
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