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LeadershipNow 140: October 2019 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from October 2019 that you don't want to miss:

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It's Not Who You Know Feedback Can Be Fun

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:05 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140


Beginner’s Pluck: 14 Principles to Build Your Life of Purpose

Beginners Pluck

YOUR PURPOSE is not out there waiting to be found. Your purpose is something you build. Being clueless is where the adventure begins.

Liz Forkin Bohannon is the co-founder and CEO of Sseko Designs. Sseko Designs creates opportunity for women and girls living in extreme poverty, but they aren’t another charity. Instead, they employ women in Uganda to make footwear and accessories allowing them to earn money towards college degrees so that they can stop the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families and eventually move into other fields. Sseko Designs the largest exporter of non-agricultural goods from Uganda to the U.S.

Bohannon shares her journey in Beginner’s Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose and Impact Now. It is well worth reading for would-be entrepreneurs, but the insights and lessons apply to any area of life. Her journey is not what you would expect but you will find it encouraging because it is down-to-earth. Bohannon’s wit and personality come through, making it a joy to read. (She has a Masters in Journalism.)

We all have been encouraged to “follow our dreams” and to “find our passion.” She says, “what I think was meant to be a message of encouragement and empowerment is actually creating anxiety, fear, and serious analysis paralysis.” The message is a myth. “Stop wasting your time hunting for a unicorn that doesn’t exist and instead get down to the incredibly juicy, adventurous, life-giving work of building an extraordinary life of passion, purpose, and impact.” This is one of the best books you’ll find on the topic. And one worth handing off to anyone starting out in life.

She has distilled from her experience, 14 principles to build your life of purpose. I’ll list them below with a comment from the book to give you a taste of the insights you’ll find here.

The Principles of Beginner’s Pluck

Own Your Average

You. Are. Average.

Owning Your Average is actually a remarkably freeing and powerful acknowledgment because being born inherently gifted or above average isn’t a prerequisite to living an extraordinary life.

Building a life of purpose and passion has so much less to do with your inherent intelligence or gifts and more about your posture, mindset, and curiosity quotient.

2. Stop Trying to “Find Your Passion”

To believe that your passion and purpose exists, fully formed “out there” … and is waiting to be found is a kind of lunacy. And it puts an awful lot of pressure on you to make the right step and get the right degree and open the right door so the stars align and you can, in a cinematically glorious moment Find Your Passion.

Passion and purpose are not an object of desire or hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. They are a canvas that is waiting for you to get the first splatter of paint on it.

3. Dream Small

There are lots of excuses that can keep you from pursuing your Big Dream of quitting your job and becoming a full-time artist who can actually pay their bills and then some. So, make it smaller. Go smaller and smaller until you have no more excuses.

4. Chose Curiosity Over Criticism

Curiosity is not only one of the greatest tools we have in building lives of purpose and passion, it’s a mindset that each and every one of us can choose, each and every day.

Curiosity will not only help you take those first, daunting steps, but will actually make you more successful in the long run at whatever it is you choose to build and create.

5. Be on Assignment in Your Own Life

Show up like a cub reporter, new on the beat. Start looking around and ask interesting questions, not needing to confirm your preexisting biases.

The less you think you have it all figured out, the more you can learn.

6. Find and Replace

What if every time we thought we should be looking for THE solution, we Found and Replaced “Solution” with “Wicked Problem?”

We become so obsessed with the solution and we pour energy into chasing it without much regard to whether the Solution is actually solving the problem. We start with and get emotionally attached to the The Solution, when we should be having a committed love affair with The Interesting Problem.

7. Surprise Yourself

If you want to build a life of passion and purpose, you’re best off if you’re willing to be surprised by what it looks like. You might actually build a passionate life doing something that in a million years, you’d never have been able to see coming. And you will never know unless you are open enough to try. You’ll never be surprised if you’re running every idea through a 12-point checklist and making sure it aligns perfectly with everything you think you know about your interests and gifts and experience and natural inclinations.

8. Get Your Steps In

Think about having a Fitbit for your life. Doesn’t actually matter where you’re going, so much as that you get your steps in.

[I made a deal with myself.] The deal I made did not rely on luck or the right connection or permission from someone else or anything else we are tempted to blame for our lack of movement. The deal wasn’t about a specific outcome, it was intended to break my inertia and get me moving.

9. Get Hooked on Making (and Keeping!) Promises

Make a promise that aligns not with what you want now, but what you want most in life. Building a life of purpose and impact is not some mystical, cryptic, cosmic code to be cracked, it’s actually just a series of meaningful promises, small and large, that you actually keep. Do. The. Work.

10. Be Good with Good Enough

What is the least amount of time/energy/resources I can put into this concept/idea/dream before I can put it out into the universe and actually start getting real-life feedback that will enable me to make it even better?

Excellence is not a requisite for starting.

11. Stop, Drop, and WOW

A spirit of WOW must be intentionally cultivated.

WOW TIME is an hour-long time slot where I go for a walk or to a coffee shop and let my WOW run amuck. I don’t daydream or let my mind wander. I vision. In vivid color. I let myself visualize what the future could actually look like. And feel like. And taste like. And sound like.

12. Dream to Attract Your Team

Your dream will attract your team. Asking for help is one of the most vulnerable and courageous things you will ever do. You will face rejection. But I promise you the hurt is worth having a dream that eventually attracts your team.

13. Don’t Hide from The Shadows

The degree to which you can experience true joy and lasting fulfillment is equal to the degree to which you hold space for darkness and questions.

And if we buy the line that “Finding Our Pasion” and “Changing the World” brings only clean and bright happiness and self-satisfaction, we’ll bounce from “cause” to “cause.”

14. Walk One Another Home

We were all created in the image of The Divine to partake in the beautiful and terrifying dance of giving and receiving, joy and disappointment, miracles and mistakes. We don’t need you to be anyone else’s hero. We just need more people walking one another home.

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Killing It Caterpillars Edge

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:32 PM
| Comments (0) | Entrepreneurship


4 Simple Habits for Turning Down the Noise

Scroggins Distraction

WE ARE ALL DISTRACTED, and we are faced with more and more reasons to be distracted. And while some distractions seem to be adding to our life, they are actually undermining our growth. Distractions take us away from what we should be doing and kills our momentum.

But the problem with distractions goes deeper than that. It’s an emotional issue. Clay Scroggins deals with the root problem and the impact it has on our leadership in How to Lead in a World of Distraction and offers some solid advice.

Sometimes we use distractions to distract us from what we don’t like going on inside of us.

When something we don’t like screaming inside us, we always find something outside—and external distraction—and turn it up. And it works. That outside noise distracts us for a time. In mutes the inner turmoil, the uncomfortable emotions, the pain, the inadequacy, the discomfort, the memories. It hides whatever we don’t want to feel or experience.

We allow our emotions to control our lives instead of taking control of them, and it puts a lid on our growth. “If we think the answer to our emotions is to cancel class, run to social media, or use masking tools to avoid what’s inside, it’s no wonder we’re getting the results we’re seeing.”

As leaders, we need to be aware of the distractions that affect us and deal with what is going on inside of us. “A leader that doesn’t know themselves is a dangerous guide.”

Scroggins offers four noise-canceling habits that will allow you to turn down the noise low enough and long enough to tune into the emotions going on inside you. “The only way to combat the old habit of distraction,” says Scroggins, “is to develop new habits to create space for emotional curiosity.”

1. Simplicity

Know your why. “Find that one sentence that defines why you do the things you do, and it can have massive repercussions on your life moving forward. When you clarify your why—and by that, I mean the answer to every ‘why do you do what you do’ question—you can start to live and lead effectively.”

He suggests we ask four questions of ourselves: What are the things I no longer need? What can I afford to get rid of? What are the things keeping me from what matters most? And how can I organize my life so that I know exactly what I’m looking for and I can easily see what matters right away?

Your why becomes the filter through which you can decide what you spend your time on.

2. Speaking to Yourself

Yeah. That voice inside our heads. That voice that tells us who we are and what choices we should make. The point is, it’s our voice so we can control what it says.

Distractions, like social media, create insecurities. And that insecurity takes us in all kinds of unhealthy directions. “That’s how the voice inside your head works. It snowballs the negative things you hear and say throughout your day in powerful ways. But here’s the good news: the reverse is true as well.”

The antidote is reminding ourselves of “specific truths that counter the lies perpetuated by our negative self-talk.” We have to regulate what goes in our heads. “Self-talk is the means through which you regulate what’s going in and out of your brain. It’s the way you control the narration, so the voice speaking to you adds value and makes you better.” He adds, “filter out the noises that aren’t adding value.”

Your self-talk should be about the kind of person—the kind of leader—you want to be. Scroggins offers two good questions: “What would a great leader do here?” and “What advice would I give someone else who was in this situation?” They give you some objectivity in your particular situation.

3. Silence

It is important to get away to a quiet place. It can be anywhere you can find some solitude. “Solitude means being alone with yourself long enough to learn who you are.”

4. Pressing Pause

You have to plan for a time-out. Create a “sabbath” your life. Taking a fast from social media is a good way to slow down and create some space in your life. But not just social media. “What keeps you from finding rest?”

“When you turn down the noise, you give yourself the gift of evaluation.” It also helps you find your rhythm. It helps you to re-center your life and realign with your why. You can step back from all of the noise and see the bigger picture.

One of his most important and insightful chapters is the last chapter, Master Control. Growing as a leader means taking control—mastering control. And specifically, what is going on inside of us. To begin, there are two questions we should think about:

What are you going to allow to control you?
Who are you going to allow to control you?

Positive emotions release dopamine and serotonin, and we keep coming back for more, and they can take control. So far, so good. But negative emotions will produce the same effect, and so we keep them around as well, returning to them again and again. In their own way, they also make us feel better. “Negative emotions can be intoxicating. And as with an addictive substance, the more you take the bait on them, the more your tolerance of them grows. And the more your tolerance grows, the more you create the patterns that keep you coming back for more.”

Scroggins observes:

The busier my life gets, the louder the nose. The louder the noise, the cloudier my future feels. The less clarity I feel about my future, the more I’m tempted to take the bait on negative emotions.

Clarity doesn’t equal certainty, but it is vital to your leadership. “You can lead others better when you feel like you know where you’re going in your own life.” So, raise the volume of your influence by turning down the noise.

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Solitude Leading Minds on Reflection

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:58 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development


Becoming Interdependent as A Team

Navigating the Impossible

THIRTY-FIVE DAYS, 14 hours, and 3 minutes. That’s how long it took Jason Caldwell and the crew of the American Spirit to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean during the 2016 Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. They not only succeeded but set a world record.

Success like this is a result of the teams you build and how you chose to lead them. Jason Caldwell calls it Emotion-First Leadership. In Navigating the Impossible, Caldwell takes us through his journey to becoming an elite-rower to explain how he learned to build teams and lead them to perform in challenging conditions.

Quit Like A Winner

His journey began by quitting. He quit baseball after an injury and went to the boathouse to qualify to row eights. The important thing is to quit like a winner. “Quitting is nothing more than weighing two variables and finding that one of them has stopped being worth it.” What is your threshold for suffering and sacrifice for the goal you have set before you? Failure isn’t quitting—it’s never finding out what you should be doing. Your path to success often begins the day you realize what your focus should be.

The path to doing difficult things is not mindless enthusiasm. It is to learn about yourself. Learning about yourself is the only way to block out negativity, endure past adversity, and meet the goal you’ve set.

Building A High-Performance Team

High-performance team members are interdependent. That interdependency is achieved by leveraging a single emotion—trust. As a leader, do you have the team member’s best interests at heart? You can’t fake it.

The best way to be authentic and built this type of trust on your team is to worry less about the alignment of your strategies and more about the alignment of your own emotions. Do you care about your people? Are you more concerned about who they are becoming, or do you care only about what they are capable of producing for your bottom line? Do you pull hard for them before asking them to pull hard for you?

Leveraging the emotions of your team is about asking each person “what they want to be, and then you create for them the opportunity to be what they want.” This is not static. People change, and their motivations change, and you need to “need to make it your mission to become obsesses with those evolutions.”

Gathering Points

Emotional connections are built over time through hundreds of individual connections—interactions. You can’t pull an all-nighter to make this happen. You can’t cram for it. Instead, you need to take advantage of gathering points.

In rowing, “gathering points are the places in the stroke where you are expected to check your alignment to make sure it’s in line with that of the team.” If not, you reset and realign. (Alignment: When rowing, “I wasn’t trying to copy him. I was anticipating.”) Caldwell said the emotional connection didn’t happen in the boat or in the gym, “it happened at the bar or at dinner or late at night in the boathouse.” As a high-performance team leader, you need create as many of these gathering points as possible.

You need gathering points that your team can’t get enough of. Gathering points that the team craves are the result of a team that knows why they are doing what they are doing and have set before them a challenging goal that they genuinely want to be a part of. “If your environment is mundane, it means you are not asking enough of the team you lead. If there is no challenge, who cares about checking in with one another.”

Caldwell offered this litmus test of a team that I found meaningful: “If losing a member of your team is no big deal, then you don’t have a team at all.”

The best teams are always personal. Human emotions are the cornerstones of high performance, and leveraging them requires building connections through consistently looking for and hitting gathering points.

Navigating the Impossible is full of insightful lessons about team building pulled from the experiences of rowing to eventually winning the 2016 Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. The annual race that begins in early December is indeed the world’s toughest row. The death-defying challenge of it all and the emotion of the race is captured well in Caldwell’s retelling of the adventure.

It’s not just about hitting that sales number or winning that race. It’s about you and your teammates discovering together what can happen when emotional human beings connect and commit to a goal. Once you see that, you’ll be changed.

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Fearless Success Blowing Past Our Limits

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:28 PM
| Comments (0) | Teamwork


Robert Iger's 20 Leadership Lessons

Robert Iger Leadership Lessons

ROBERT IGER has worked for the same company for forty-five years: twenty-two of them at ABC, and another twenty-three at Disney, after Disney acquired ABC in 1995—the last fourteen of those years, as the CEO of Disney. He shares it all in The Ride of a Lifetime. Like the biggest, most exciting rides were once called at Disneyland, he says his time as CEO of Disney has been like a fourteen-year ride on a giant E-Ticket attraction.

After sharing a bit of his background, he quickly delves into his career beginning at ABC, and the lessons he’s learned and the principles that have guided him that help “nurture the good and manage the bad.”

He explains the thinking behind his habit of waking at 4:15 am.

It’s vital to create space in each day to let your thoughts wander beyond your immediate job responsibilities, to turn things over in your mind in a less pressured, more creative way than is possible once the daily triage kicks in. I am certain I’d be less productive and less creative in my work if I didn’t also spend those first hours away from the emails and text messages and phone calls that require so much attention as the day goes on.

Iger writes of the key mentors in his career and his relationship with Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and Michael Eisner. Iger truly embraces innovation. When he took over as CEO in 2005, he laid out three strategic priorities saying it should be about the future, not the past: Recommit to the concept that quality matters, embrace technology instead of fighting it, and think bigger—think global—and turn Disney into a stronger brand in international markets.

These priorities have guided the company through all of the growth and acquisitions since he was named CEO. Today, Disney is the largest media company in the world, counting Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox among its properties. Its value is nearly five times what it was when Iger took over.

You have to approach your work and life with a sense of genuine humility. The success I’ve enjoyed has been due in part to my own efforts, but it’s also been due to so much beyond me, the effort and support and examples of so many people, and to twists of fate beyond my control.

What follows are 20 leadership lessons from the book but stripped of the stories that brought them to life. You’ll have to read the book to get that.

I talk a lot about “the relentless pursuit of perfection.” In practice, this can mean a lot of things, and it’s hard to define. It’s a mindset, more than a specific set of rules. It’s not about perfectionism at all costs. It’s about creating an environment in which people refuse to accept mediocrity. It’s about pushing back against the urge to say that “good enough” is good enough.

Be decent to people. Treat everyone with fairness and empathy. This doesn’t mean that you lower your expectations or convey the message that mistakes don’t matter. It means that you create an environment where people know you’ll hear them out, that you’re emotionally consistent and fair-minded, and that they’ll be given second choices for honest mistakes. Excellence and fairness don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Strive for perfection but always be aware of the pitfalls of caring only about the product and never the people.

True integrity—a sense of knowing who you are and being guided by your own clear sense of right and wrong—is a kind of secret weapon.

Value ability more than experience, and put people in roles that require more of them than they know they have in them.

Do not fake anything. You have to be humble, and you can’t pretend to be someone you’re not or to know something you don’t. True authority and true leadership come from knowing who you are and not pretending to be anything else.

Don’t start negatively and don’t start small. People will often focus on little details as a way of masking a lack of any clear, coherent, big thoughts. If you start petty, you seem petty.

Don’t let ambition get ahead of opportunity. By fixating on a future job or project, you become impatient with where you are. You don’t tend enough to the responsibilities you do have, and so ambition can become counterproductive. It’s important to know how to find the balance—do the job you have well; be patient; look for opportunities to pitch in and expand and grow; and make yourself one of the people, through attitude and energy and focus, whom your bosses feel they have to turn to when an opportunity arises.

My former boss Dan Burke [ABC] once handed me a note that said: “Avoid getting into the business of manufacturing trombone oil. You may become the greatest trombone-oil manufacturer in the world, but in the end, the world only consumes a few quarts of oil a year!” He was telling me not to invest in small projects that would sap my and the company’s resources and not give much back. I still have that note in my desk, and I use it when talking to our executives about what to pursue and where to put their energy.

We all want to believe we’re indispensable. You have to be self-aware enough that you don’t cling to the notion that you are the only person who can do this job. At its essence, good leadership isn’t about being indispensable; it’s about helping others be prepared to step into your shoes—giving them access to your own decision-making, identifying the skills they need to develop and helping them improve, and sometimes being honest with them about why they’re not ready for the next step up.

Too often, we lead from a place of fear rather than courage, stubbornly trying to build a bulwark to protect old models that can’t possibly survive the sea change that is underway. It’s hard to look at your current models, sometimes even ones that are profitable in the moment, and make a decision to undermine them in order to face the change that’s coming.

Optimism emerges from faith in yourself and in the people who work for you. It’s not about saying things are good when they’re not, and it’s not about conveying some blind faith that “things will work out.” It’s about believing in your and others’ abilities.

People sometimes shy away from big swings because they build a case against trying something before they even step up to the plate. Long shots aren’t usually as long as they seem. With enough thoughtfulness and commitment, the boldest ideas can be executed.

You have to convey your priorities clearly and repeatedly. If you don’t articulate your priorities clearly, then the people around you don’t know what their own should be. Time and energy and capital get wasted.

You can do a lot for the morale of the people around you (and therefore the people around them) just by taking the guesswork out of their day-to-day life. A lot of work is complex and requires intense amounts of focus and energy, but this kind of messaging is fairly simple: This is where we want to be. This is how we’re going to get there.

It’s easy to be optimistic when everyone is telling you you’re great. It’s much harder, and much more necessary, when your sense of yourself is on the line.

As a leader, you are the embodiment of that company. What that means is this: Your values—your sense of integrity and decency and honesty, the way you comport yourself in the world—are a stand-in for the values of the company. You can be the head of a seven-person organization or a quarter-million-person organization, and the same truth holds: what people think of you is what they think of your company.

Projecting your anxiety onto your team is counterproductive. It’s subtle, but heirs a difference between communicating that you share their stress—that you’re in it with them—and communicating that you need them to deliver in order to alleviate your stress.

The decision to disrupt a business model that is working for you requires no small amount of courage. It means intentionally taking on short-term losses in the hope that a long-term risk will pay off. Routines and priorities get disrupted. Traditional ways of doing business get slowly marginalized and eroded—and start to lose money—as a new model takes over. That’s a big ask, in terms of a company’s culture and mindset. When you do it, you’re saying to people who for their entire careers have been compensated based on the success of their traditional business: “Don’t worry about that too much anymore. Worry about this instead.” But this isn’t profitable yet, and won’t be for a while. Deal with this kind of uncertainty by going back to basics: Lay out your strategic priorities clearly. Remain optimistic in the face of the unknown. And be accessible and fair-minded to people whose work lives are being thrown into disarray.

It’s not good to have power for too long. You don’t realize the way your voice seems to boom louder than every other voice in the room. You get used to people withholding their opinions until they hear what you have to say. People are afraid to bring ideas to you, afraid to dissent, afraid to engage. This can happen even to the most well-intentioned leaders. You have to work consciously and actively to fend off its corrosive effects.

Hold on to your awareness of yourself, even as the world tells you how important and powerful you are. The moment you start to believe it all too much, the moment you look at yourself in the mirror and see a title emblazoned on your forehead, you’ve lost your way.

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That Will Never Work Stephen Schwarzmans 25 Rules

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:39 AM
| Comments (0) | Entrepreneurship , Leaders


What Every Business Leader Needs to Know to Thrive in an Economic Downturn

Thrive in an Economic Downturn

A convergence of troubling signs forecast a looming economic downturn. Many believe it’s certain that a recession is pending.

Proactive business leaders aren’t worried. They see any economic change as a springboard for profitable growth and competitive advantage. Rather than spreading a message of caution, worry or gloom, they’re sending a more strategic message: “We will not decline when the economy falters. We will instead show the market what we’re made of.”

The strategic leader knows the importance of stepping out of the busyness of business despite the temptation to go faster in times of economic uncertainty. But speeding up only adds pressure and overwhelms the workforce. Stretching employees to the limit by having them put in longer hours, sell more, and get faster results only leads to burnout and neglects the longer view. By attending to the here-and-now and neglecting the longer view or bigger picture, organizational leaders and their teams may do well enough for a while. But they’re unlikely to thrive over time.

True success lies in knowing when to slow down and when to speed up. Building in a strategic pause, or deliberate break in the day -- or week or month -- allows leaders to stop doing and start thinking. It allows time for developing a high-impact plan of action with clear accountabilities, timelines, and pathways of communication. They can then come away with a renewed sense of confidence, purpose, and optimism.

To recession-proof their businesses, companies should be slowing down and allowing time to identify ways to be proactive, strategic, and future-focused.

Use strategic pauses to assess these six factors that can lead to accelerated growth and a recession-proof business:

1. Assess the competition. Make time to understand in which ways the competition has the advantage. What are your competitors’ gaps or weaknesses? How can you differentiate and elevate your organization to gain advantage and increase market share?

2. Assess your organization. Determine where you are today as a team and a company. What do you bring? What are your signature strengths and talents? Do you have the right people in the right roles, doing the right things to ensure success today and accelerate growth and innovation for a stellar future? And, importantly, are you adding value in ways that mean the most to you, the company, the customer, and your clients?

3. Assess the market. What will differentiate your organization as a future-focused, customer-centric, innovation-driving engine of growth? Where will you see profitable openings in the market? Ask yourself: Will less agile organizations struggle to keep up? How will we pick up customers in need of access to the products and services we offer? Which new products and services can we provide to fill the void?

4. Assess risk. Where might you lose market share in the face of an economic downturn? Which employees are likely to become worried about the future of the company or industry? What’s your plan for retaining and developing your top talent?

5. Look out over the horizon. While it’s essential to continue providing exceptional customer service, product reliability, and your tried-and-true client offerings, you must also be laser-focused on driving meaningful innovation that improves all your product lines and service offerings.

6. Assure your stakeholders. Make sure that your employees, customers, and investors see you and your company as confident, courageous, savvy, and ready to make the most of any economic shifts that come along.

Slowing down and pausing can feel implausible and impractical in the midst of an economic free-fall. But by taking the time to develop a more thoughtful path forward, you will be ensuring your success in any economic climate.

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Leading Forum
Liz Bywater, Ph.D., works with senior executives and teams across an array of companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AmerisourceBergen, and Nike. She brings a rapidly actionable framework for success, which is captured in her book, Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World. She writes a monthly column for Life Science Leader and provides expert commentary for the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, FierceCEO, and other top media outlets. Learn more at lizbywater.com.

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Bull Inside the Bear Upside of Downturn

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:40 AM
| Comments (0) | General Business


Stephen Schwarzman’s 25 Rules for Work & Life

Stephen Schwarzman

BLACKSTONE chairman, CEO, and co-founder Stephen Schwarzman has written a book about the potential that can be realized when you combine personal responsibility with ambition. What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence chronicles his life leading up to the founding of Blackstone and the journey to build it into what it has become today. He shares the lessons and the opportunities that have come his way as a result of his success. It is inspiring and instructive. Well worth the time to read.

Schwarzman grew up in a successful entrepreneurial family selling curtains and linens in Philadelphia. His Dad was content with the one store. Schwarzman was not. He had more ambition. Even in high school he wanted to create something more than the status quo. Through connections and hard work, he got a popular rhythm and blues group of the late 50s, Little Anthony and the Imperials, to come and play at his school. He learned that “if you want something badly enough, you can find a way. You can create it out of nothing. But wanting something isn’t enough. If you’re going to pursue difficult goals, you’re inevitably going to fall short sometimes. It’s one of the costs of ambition.” But you try anyway.

With good grades and being fleet-of-foot, he was admitted to Yale University. Like most freshmen, he was lonely and intimidated. He got through it and during the summer he grew in confidence by taking a job at sea. With a new mindset he began his sophomore year determined to make it create something out of nothing as he did in high school. He started a dorm room business and a dance society to bring girls around. His determination and creativity make for a good read.

After graduation he got a job at Donaldson Lufkin Jenrette, went to Harvard Business School and ended up at Lehman. This is where he really learned about finance and discovered his strengths. He left Lehman and in 1985 Schwarzman co-founded Blackstone with his mentor and friend Pete Peterson with a $400,000 investment. Today, Blackstone has over $500 billion in assets under management. But as with all new ventures it had its share of inflection points, setbacks and disappointments.

He says, “To be successful you have to put yourself in situations and places you have no right being in. You shake your head at your stupidity. But through sheer will, you wear the world down, and it gives you what you want.” Here are 25 more rules for work and life that are woven throughout his book:

It’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, so reach for a fantasy worthy of your pursuit, with rewards commensurate to your effort.

The best executives are made, not born. They never stop learning. Study the people and organizations in your life that have had enormous success. They offer a free course from the real world to help you improve.

Write or call the people you admire, and ask for advice or a meeting. You never know who will be willing to meet with you. You may end up learning something important or form a connection you can leverage for the rest of your life. Meeting people early in life creates an unusual bond.

There is nothing more interesting to people than their own problems. Think about what others are dealing with, and try to come up with ideas to help them. Almost anyone, however senior or important, is receptive to good ideas provided you are thoughtful.

Every business is a closed, integrated system with a set of distinct but interrelated parts. Great managers understand how each part works on its own and in relation to all the others.

Information is the most important asset in business. The more you know, the more perspectives you have, and the more likely you are to spot patterns and anomalies before your competition. So always be open to new inputs, whether they are people, experiences, or knowledge.

When you’re young, only take a job that provides you with a steep learning curve and strong training. First jobs are foundational. Don’t take a job just because it seems prestigious.

When presenting yourself, remember that impressions matter. The whole picture has to be right. Others will be watching for all sorts of clues and cues that tell who you are. Be on time. Be authentic. Be prepared.

No one person, however smart, can solve every problem. But an army of smart people talking openly with one another will.

People in a tough spot often focus on their own problems, when the answer usually lies in fixing someone else’s.

Believe in something greater than yourself and your personal needs. It can be your company, your country, or a duty for service. Any challenge you tackle that is inspired by your beliefs and core values will be worth it, regardless of whether you succeed or fail.

Never deviate from your sense of right and wrong. Your integrity must be unquestionable. It is easy to do what’s right when you don’t have to write a check or suffer any consequences. It’s harder when you have to give something up. Always do what you say you will, and never mislead anyone for your own advantage.

Be bold. Successful entrepreneurs, managers, and individuals have the confidence and courage to act when the moment seems right. They accept risk when others are cautious and take action when everyone else is frozen, but they do so smartly. This trait is the mark of a leader.

Never get complacent. Nothing is forever. Whether it is an individual or a business, your competition will defeat you if you are not constantly seeking ways to reinvent and improve yourself. Organizations, especially, are more fragile than you think.

Sales rarely get made on the first pitch. Just because you believe in something doesn’t mean everyone else will. You need to be able to sell your vision with conviction over and over again. Most people don’t like change, so you need to be able to convince them why they should accept it. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want.

If you see a huge, transformative opportunity, don’t worry that no one else is pursuing it. You might be seeing something others don’t. The harder the problem is, the more limited the competition, and the greater the reward for whomever can solve it.

Success comes down to rare moments of opportunity. Be open, alert, and ready to seize them. Gather the right people and resources; then commit. If you’re not prepared to apply that kind of effort, either the opportunity isn’t as compelling as you think or you are not the right person to pursue it.

Time wounds all deals, sometimes even fatally. Often the longer you wait, the more surprises await you. In tough negotiations especially, keep everyone at the table long enough to reach an agreement.

Don’t lose money!!! Objectively assess the risks of every opportunity.

Make decisions when you are ready, not under pressure. Others will always push you to make a decision for their own purposes, internal politics, or some other external need. But you can almost always say, “I think I need a little more time to think about this. I’ll get back to you.” This tactic is very effective at defusing even the most difficult and uncomfortable situations.

Worrying is an active, liberating activity. If channeled appropriately, it allows you to articulate the downside in any situation and drives you to take action to avoid it.

Failure is the best teacher in an organization. Talk about failures openly and objectively. Analyze what went wrong. You will learn new rules for decision making and organizational behavior. If evaluated well, failures have the potential to change the course of any organization and make it more successful in the future.

Hire 10s whenever you can. They are proactive about sensing problems, designing solutions, and taking a business in new directions. They also attract and hire other 10s. You can always build something around a 10.

Be there for the people you know to be good, even when everyone else is walking away. Anyone can end up in a tough situation. A random act of kindness in someone’s time of need can change the course of a life and create an unexpected friendship or loyalty.

Everyone has dreams. Do what you can to help others achieve theirs.

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Sam Zell William Donaldson

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:51 AM
| Comments (0) | Entrepreneurship , Leaders


7 Steps to Bulletproof Problem Solving

7 Steps to Bulletproof Problem Solving

THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM’S Future of Jobs Report lists complex problem-solving as the number one skill for jobs in 2020. Organizations are looking for people that can define problems and form solid creative responses.

Like leaders themselves, good problem solvers are made, not born. Yet these skills are rarely taught. That’s where Bulletproof Problem Solving comes in. McKinsey alums Charles Conn and Rob McLean teach us how to be bulletproof problem solvers using a simple 7-steps approach.

The approach has its foundation in the hypothesis-driven structure of the scientific method. This process is not just applicable to business but is useful in finding solutions for personal problems as well. In the book they apply the process to individual problems such as, “Should I put solar panels on my roof?,” “What career should I choose?,” and “Is where I live affecting my health?” Business examples range from “Should my startup raise its prices?” and “Should we go to court?” to “Can obesity be reduced?”

This process can be applied to nearly every problem is responds well to the systematic problem-solving method that this approach provides.

The Seven Steps to Bullet-Proof Problem Solving are:

Step One: Define the Problem
How do you define a problem in a precise way to meet the decision maker’s needs? The important first step is to describe the context and the boundaries of the problem that is agreed upon by those involved in making the decision. A weak problem statement is a common problem. “Rushing into analysis with a vague problem statement is a clear formula for long hours and frustrated clients.”

Step Two: Disaggregate the Issues
How do you disaggregate the issues and develop hypotheses to be explored? Every problem needs to be broken down into its basic issues. “We employ logic trees of various types to elegantly disassemble problems into parts for analysis, driving alternative hypotheses of the answer.”

Step Three: Prioritize the Issues, Prune the Tree
How do you prioritize what to do and what not to do? Once you have defined the issues, you need to decide which ones are the most important or have the greatest impact on the final outcome.

Step Four: Build a Workplan and Timetable
How do you develop a workplan and assign analytical tasks? “Once the component parts are defined and prioritized, you then have to link each part to a plan for fact gathering and analysis. The workplan and timetable assigns team members to analytic tasks with specific outputs and completion dates.”

Step Five: Conduct Critical Analyses
How do you decide on the fact gathering and analysis to resolve the issues, while avoiding cognitive biases? Some problems don’t need complex analysis, others require more complex tools. A structured approach will help to eliminate bias and a massaging of the facts. Having a diverse team allows for different viewpoints to be brought together.

Step Six: Synthesize Findings from the Analysis
How do you go about synthesizing the findings to highlight insights? “Findings have to be assembled into a logical structure to test validity and then synthesized in a way that convinces others that you have a good solution.”

Step Seven: Prepare a Powerful Communication
How do you communicate them in a compelling way? Finally, a storyline needs to be developed that links your solution back to the original problem. Importantly, it needs to be told in a way your audience understands and is made relevant to them. In other words, tell a great story.

While this is presented in a linear way, the authors make a great point that you learn more about the problem as you go. You shouldn’t be so eager to get to the end that you don’t go back and refine previous steps. “While the process has a beginning and an end, we encourage you to think of problem solving as an iterative process rather than a linear one. At each stage we improve our understanding of the problem and use those greater insights to refine our earlier answers.”

Bulletproof Problem Solving Steps

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Farsighted Creating Great Choices

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:30 AM
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First Look: Leadership Books for October 2019

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in October 2019. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

9780735213500The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

Do you know how to play the game you’re in?

In finite games, like football or chess, the players are known, the rules are fixed, and the endpoint is clear. The winners and losers are easily identified. In infinite games, like business or politics or life itself, the players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers in an infinite game; there is only ahead and behind.

9780525559931Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character by Admiral James Stavridis

In Sailing True North, Admiral Stavridis offers a much more intimate, human accounting: the lessons of leadership and character contained in the lives and careers of history's most significant naval commanders. He brings a lifetime of reflection to bear on the subjects of his study—on naval history, on the vocation of the admiral with its special tests and challenges, and on the sweep of global geopolitics. Above all, this is a book that will help you navigate your own life's voyage: the voyage of leadership of course, but more important, the voyage of character. Sadly, evil men can be effective leaders sailing toward bad ends; ultimately, leadership without character is like a ship underway without a rudder. Sailing True North helps us find the right course to chart.

9781633695917The Leader You Want to Be: Five Essential Principles for Bringing Out Your Best Self—Every Day by Amy Jen Su

How can you be the leader you want to be, every day? The answer is more than a time-management system or a silver-bullet solution for changing your routines. Leadership expert and coach Amy Jen Su's powerful new book helps readers discover that the answer lies within. By focusing in specific ways on five key leadership elements—Purpose, Process, People, Presence, and Peace--you can increase your time, capacity, energy, and ultimately your impact, with less stress and more equanimity.

9781119566243The Intelligent Leader: Unlocking the 7 Secrets to Leading Others and Leaving Your Legacy by John Mattone

In The Intelligent Leader, Mattone lays out an accessible, practical, and compelling path that anyone can take to become the kind of leader that brings enrichment to the lives of others, enjoys a more fulfilling life, and leaves a lasting legacy. Each chapter uses a variety of real-world examples, tools, and assessments to explore one of Mattone’s 7 dimensions of Intelligent Leadership.

9781948836814Leap: Do You Have What it Takes to Become an Entrepreneur? by Gino Wickman

In this three-part book, Gino Wickman reveals the six essential traits that every entrepreneur needs in order to succeed, based on real-world startups that have reached incredible heights. If these traits ring true for you, you’ll get a glimpse of what your life would look like as an entrepreneur. What’s more, Wickman will help you determine what type of business best suits your unique skill set and provide a detailed roadmap, with tools, tips, and exercises, that will accelerate your path to startup success.

9780062871336What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture by Ben Horowitz

What You Do Is Who You Are is a journey through culture, from ancient to modern. Along the way, it answers a question fundamental to any organization: who are we? How do people talk about us when we’re not around? How do we treat our customers? Are we there for people in a pinch? Can we be trusted? Who you are is not the values you list on the wall. It’s not what you say in company-wide meeting. It’s not your marketing campaign. It’s not even what you believe. Who you are is what you do. This book aims to help you do the things you need to become the kind of leader you want to be—and others want to follow.

For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

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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“It is a man’s duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.”
— Henry Ward Beecher

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Whats New in Leadership Books Leadership Classics

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:20 AM
| Comments (0) | Books




Leadership Books
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