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LeadershipNow 140: June 2020 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from June 2020 that you don't want to miss:

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Think Like A Rocket Scientist The Infinite Game

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:28 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140


The Coffee Bean

The Coffee Bean

HOW we react to our circumstances makes all the difference. Whether we are defeated by them, hardened by them, or whether we transform them depends on our mindset.

Jon Gordon and Damon West present the story of The Coffee Bean. The story follows high school student Abe who is weighed down by worries about football, criticisms, negativity, and his parent’s relationship issues. His science teacher Mr. Jackson helps him to shift his perspective through a metaphor on life.

Life is often like a pot of very hot water. It can be a harsh, stressful, and difficult place. You’ll find yourself in environments and facing conditions that test who you really are, and can change, weaken, or harden you if you let them.

Mr. Jackson asks him to consider what happen to a carrot, an egg, and a coffee bean when they are boiled. The carrot is weakened. The egg becomes hardened. But the coffee bean transforms its environment—the boiling water. Mr. Jackson tells him:

No matter how hard things get, or how hopeless things look, don’t give up. Realize that we don’t create our world from the outside in. We create it and transform it from the inside out.

If you think you are a carrot, you will believe the power and forces outside you are more powerful than who you are on the inside, and you will become weaker.

If you think you are an egg, you will believe the negativity in thew world has the power to harden your heart and cause you to become negative like the world.

But is you know you are a coffee bean, you will not allow the outside world to impact you. You will know the power inside you is greater than the forces outside you, and with this insight, you will transform your environment and the world from the inside out.

This is a powerful lesson for life. And as the story continues, we also learn that it is easy to forget when the pressures and circumstances around us become great. Fear and worry are powerful emotions that easily sidetrack our best intentions and critical thinking skills. In these times, remember, we can be the coffee bean.

The story is well told and worth getting into the hands of people you know and care about.

The Coffee Bean

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3 Ways to Be a Positive Leader No Complaining Rule

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:54 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development


Leading Thoughts for June 25, 2020

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:


Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan on humility:

“The more you can contain your ego, the more realistic you are about your problems. You learn how to listen and admit that you don’t know all the answers. You exhibit the attitude that you can learn from anyone at any time. Your pride doesn’t get in the way of gathering the information you need to achieve the best results.”

Source: Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done


Michael Fanuele on inspiring others and finding the balance between emotions—the fuel of inspiration—and reason—it’s speedbump:

“Use your reason and logic and the full force of your big brain in figuring out what’s right and wrong, what you want to do and what you don’t, in composing your strategy. Bu them, when it comes to moving people, to inspiring, I’m sorry, but Passion and Reason are indeed enemies. You’ll have to find the right balance between adding one and subtracting the other.”

Source: Stop Making Sense: The Art of Inspiring Anybody

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:40 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


Always Day One

Always Day One

CREATING an innovative culture is not easy. It often defies convention. Organizations that continuously innovate have common characteristics. By examining some of the most inventive companies on the planet—Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft—we can learn valuable lessons to apply in our own situation.

Alex Kantrowitz does just that. He presents case studies of these five tech giants in Always Day One. It not really about always day one, but I presume he chose the title because day one is a mindset that is foundational to sustaining an innovative culture. It is a mindset that forms the bedrock of these organizations—it drives them. And when they lose that, they begin to stagnate. The case studies also provide ample examples of pitfalls we should avoid too.

Day One is inventing with almost complete disregard for current revenue streams. It’s nimble like a start-up. And as Kantrowitz points out, it is minimizing execution work to make room for more invention. To continually turn new ideas into reality, “the tech giants have had to rethink the way a company is run. Loaded down with execution work, most companies today typically develop a few ideas handed down from the top, and focus on selling them. That is why ‘visionary’ is still the ultimate compliment for the CEO today. Bezos, Zuckerberg, Pichai, and Nadella aren’t visionaries, though: they’re facilitators.”

When Bezos was asked in a meeting, “What does Day Two look like?” he responded, “Day Two is stasis, followed by irrelevance, followed by excruciating, painful decline, followed by death.”

Amazon has a Day One culture of invention. “Bezos automates everything he can so they can invent more.” Amazon currently employs over 200,000 robots to work alongside a workforce of approximately 800,000 humans. “The robots are the most visual example of Bezos’s obsession with automating whatever he can to free his employees to work on more creative tasks.”

At Facebook, when it comes to feedback, hierarchy doesn’t matter. Zuckerberg listens and learns. As people began to spend more time on their phones, Facebook needed to design for mobile or risk becoming a dinosaur. “The myth about Facebook’s mobile transformation is that Zuckerberg had an epiphany and brilliantly repositioned his company for the age of the smartphone. This isn’t quite right. The real story is Zuckerberg set up a feedback culture. And when people bought in, they brought him ideas—tough ideas that required rethinking how the company operated—and those ideas ultimately saved Facebook from disaster.”

Google’s strength is its culture of collaboration. Google’s communication “linking its employees in a collective consciousness and breaking down the typical boundaries between divisions.” Ideas move fast, allowing Google to reinvent itself multiple times to keep pace with changing times. Always Day One.

Apple has operated like Day One but struggles today under a refiner’s mindset. Innovation from the top worked for a while under Jobs, but under Tim Cook, it is not the same. To avoid leaks, Apple’s product development takes place in extreme secrecy. Employees not directly involved in the development are kept in the dark. Collaborative communication tools like those found inside Google are not at work at Apple. Not much has changed at Apple since Jobs. When Kantrowitz asked Steve Wozniak what would make Apple more inventive, he said, “Let the lower-level managers make the decisions. More responsibility to the lower levels.”

Under Steve Ballmer, Microsoft was “bureaucratic and slow, and clung to the past. Focused on protecting its lucrative legacy businesses, Windows and Office, Microsoft prioritized profit over invention, developing a command-and-control culture that optimized for the short term.” In 2014 when Satya Nadella became CEO, he sought to change all that. “Tightly holding on to Windows would no longer be tenable. Microsoft needed to risk its core business and focus on its remaining bright opportunity—cloud computing—or endure ‘irrelevance, followed by excruciating, painful decline, followed by death.” Nadella returned the company to Day One.

Each case study carefully documents each organization’s strengths and struggles as they learn to adapt and grow. The future puts a value on inventiveness—creativity, originality, and initiative. If future leaders are going to succeed, we are going to need to begin to teach this kind of thinking rather than teaching to conformity and repetition, says Kantrowitz. Students today are “obsessed with the answer when they should be asking questions.”

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Day  One Creative Construction

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:03 PM
| Comments (0) | Creativity & Innovation


Winning Now, Winning Later: Playing the Infinite Game

Winning Now Winning Later

WHEN David Cote became CEO of Honeywell in February of 2002, the company was a train wreck. He inherited unhealthy accounting practices, unresolved environmental liabilities, and a board and staff that were denying reality.

Cote shares in Winning Now, Winning Later, a practical example of playing the infinite game. When he took over, Honeywell was plagued by short-termism. The problem was that he had to deliver something in the short-term to the investors for survival but had to set the company up for tomorrow too. He did both.

I realized we could do both at the same time. Short- and long-term goals were more tightly intertwined than they appeared. By taking the right actions to improve operations now, we could position ourselves to improve performance later, while the reverse would also hold true: short-term results would validate that we were on the right long-term path.

He developed three principles of short- and long -term performance that forced them to consider the long- and short-term implication in every decision they made:

1. Scrub accounting and business practices down to what is real.
2. Invest in the future, but not excessively.
3. Grow while keeping fixed costs constant.

The process begins by defining reality and banishing intellectual laziness. Short-term thinking is often one dimensional—what it takes to meet the expectations of the current quarter without concern for the consequences. What is needed is drilling down to root causes and finding new and creative solutions. This means eradicating the quick fixes that “keep people stubbornly focused on today at tomorrow’s expense.”

The quality of thought in a team or organization matters. If you want a business that performs both today and tomorrow, you need to take apart your business and put it back together again so that it works more efficiently and effectively. This means instilling an intellectual mindset, spurring your people to think harder about every business decision they face. Set the standard for intellectual engagement. Demand that your people pursue two seemingly conflicting things at the same time. Make it your mission to understand the nuances of your business so that you can shape and guide your teams’ intellectual inquiry.

Making decisions for both short- and long-term performance isn’t something that you learn to do all a once. It is a process. It requires a “period of up-from investment, during which performance might lag for a little while. As a leader, you have to suck it up and make sure your investments pay off.”

Cote offers example after example of what this looks like in terms of changing the culture of the company and the thinking developed as people worked through issues and broke down processes to find the previously undiscovered efficiencies within.

At the end of the book, he leaves us with some sound advice. He shares his self-defeating behavior early in life that led him nowhere and the commitment that was required to turn his life around.

As we’ve seen, winning today and tomorrow requires extraordinary effort and commitment on the part of leaders, teams, and organizations. I share my life story of how I got my life together to illustrate a simple but underappreciated fact: individuals and groups can push themselves much further than they think. So many teams and organizations produce disappointing short- or long-term results because they don’t know how to operate differently than they have, but also because they don’t think they can operate differently. You have it in you as a leader to push your people to do two seemingly conflicting things at the same time, and your people have it in them to deliver, so long as you provide diligent encouragement, guidance, and oversight along the way, while also making sure you have the right people in the right positions. When providing guidance, tr to do more than just saying, “Do better.” Provide some thought starters or suggestions that can mobilize your people to think differently about the issue at hand.

The resistance to the winning now, winning later mindset often comes from the leadership and not the frontline staff because they live the consequences of short-term think every day.

Final advice:

Create the virtuous cycle in which you generate short-term actions sufficient to satisfy investors while still supporting long-term investments. If you do, you’ll find that over time the short-term results will begin to take care of themselves.

Work, too, on the quality of your own thinking. And challenge yourself to think independently. Remember, smart leaders abound, but leaders who can think independently are rare.

By implementing this thinking at Honeywell, under Cote’s leadership, market cap grew from $20 to $120billion, cleaned up legacy environmental issues, and created 2,500 401K millionaires because employees had invested in the company, 95% of them below the executive level.

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The Infinite Game Winning the Long Game

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:36 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business


Leading Thoughts for June 18, 2020

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:


Richard Feynman on living with uncertainty:

“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”

Source: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard Feynman


On the challenge shifting from solo to shared credit:

“Getting beyond blame requires a shift in thinking and culture. Getting beyond ego requires a shift in behavior and attitude. Leadership, with all its attention and perks, does attract people with aggrandized self-esteem. They mistake the collected efforts of many people for their own and expect solo credit. They are jealous of attention given to others. They are “me”—centric. Everyone has an ego—after all, it serves certain purposes—thought when overgrown, the inflated ego defies surgical extraction.”

Source: You’re It: You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:39 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


The Infinite Game

The Infinite Game

IN 1986, Professor Emeritus of history and literature of religion at New York University, James P. Carse, wrote a book entitled Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility. He stated that there are two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.

Carse writes that a finite game will come to an end when someone has won. Only one person can win at the end of the game, and other players may be ranked. In contrast, in an infinite game, “players cannot say when their game began, nor do they care. They do not care for the reason that their game is not bounded by time. Indeed, the only purpose of the game is to prevent it from coming to an end, to keep everyone in play.”

And Carse makes this important observation: “Finite games can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game.

Intrigued by this concept, Simon Sinek builds on Carse’s idea in The Infinite Game. If there are two kinds of games, it is important to know which game we are playing. “We are more likely to survive and thrive if we play for the game we are in.” Sinek reminds us that we don’t get to choose what kind of game is being played. But we can choose if we want to play and whether we will play it with a finite or an infinite mindset.

In business, playing with an infinite mindset means building an organization to last well beyond our own leadership. It is the long game. Built to last organizations are both stable and resilient.

An infinite-minded leader does not simply want to build a company that can weather change, but one that can be transformed by it. They want to build a company that embraces surprises and adapts with them. Resilient companies may come out the other end of upheaval entirely different than they were when they went in.

Sinek states that any leader playing with an infinite mindset must follow five essential practices:

Advance A Just Cause

A Just Cause is our picture of the future—where we are going. A Just Cause must be for something (affirmative and optimistic), inclusive (open to all those who would like to contribute), service-oriented (for the primary benefit of others), resilient (able to endure political, technological and cultural change), idealistic (big, bold and ultimately unachievable).

A Just Cause is more than a goal. And this speaks to Carse’s thought that a finite game can be played within an infinite game, but an infinite game cannot be played within a finite game.” Sinek notes, “It’s easy to mistake a BHAG (big, hairy audacious goal) for a Just Cause because they can indeed be incredibly inspiring and can often take many years to achieve. But after the moon shot has been achieved, the game continues. Simply choosing another big, audacious goal is not infinite play, it’s just another finite pursuit.” But the Just Cause does provide the framework for a series of goals that ultimately advance the Just Cause.

We need to rethink our relationship with business. We are stewards. “Shortsightedness is an inherent condition of leaders who play with a finite mindset.”

Build Trusting Teams

Trusting teams are characterized by the team member’s ability to feel free to express themselves—to be vulnerable. Groups of people who simply work together are transactional in nature, motivated by a desire to just get things done. But there is an element of fear—fear of missing out, being mocked, getting in trouble, looking stupid, and not fitting in.

Fear is such a powerful motivator that it can force us to act in ways that are completely counter to our own or our organization’s best interests. Fear can push us to choose the best finite option at the risk of doing infinite damage. And in the face of fear, we hide the truth.

Ethical fading, a condition that allows people to act in unethical ways to advance their own interests, is the result of a finite mindset. And these kinds of problems are not solved by more rules and processes, but by the application of an infinite mindset.

Study Your Worthy Rivals

In a finite game, it is “us” against “them.” We see a competitor to be beaten. “If we are a player in an infinite game, however, we have to stop thinking of other players as competitors to be beaten and start thinking of them as Worthy Rivals who can help us become better players.”

There is a strategy for picking a Worthy Rival. We choose them “because there is something about them that reveals to us our weaknesses and pushes us to constantly improve … which is essential if we want to be strong enough to stay in the game.”

Prepare for Existential Flexibility

While finite minded players fear surprises and disruption, the infinite minded player is transformed by them. “Existential Flexibility is the capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to a business model or strategic course in order to more effectively advance a just cause.”

Sinek shares a great example of Existential Flexibility through the evolution of Walt Disney’s Just Cause. Walt Disney Productions had enormous success releasing Snow White and was a great place to work, until it went public. Things began to change as it became more finite and less infinite in approach. So, he founded a parallel company named WED and began work on Disneyland with an infinite mindset. Disney explains:

Disneyland will never be finished. It’s something we can keep developing and adding to. A motion picture is different. Once it’s wrapped up and sent out for processing, we’re through with it. If there are things that could be improved, we can’t do anything about them anymore. I’ve always wanted to work on something alive, something that keeps growing. We’ve got that in Disneyland.

Show the Courage to Lead

Leading with an infinite mindset is not easy. “Adopting an infinite mindset in a world consumed by the finite can absolutely cost a leader their job. The pressure we all face today to maintain a finite mindset is overwhelming.”

Maintaining an infinite mindset is hard. Very hard. It is to be expected that we will stray from the path. We are human and we are fallible. We are subject to bouts of greed, fear, ambition, ignorance, external pressure, competing interests, ego … the list goes on. To complicate matters further, finite games are seductive; they can be fun and exciting and sometimes even addictive.

Just as it is easier to focus on a fixed finite goal than an infinite vision of the future, it is easier to lead a company with a finite mindset, especially during times of struggle or downturn.

The Infinite Life Is Service

Our life is finite but played in the infinite game of life. But we can play it with an infinite mindset or a finite mindset.

If we choose to lie our lives with a finite mindset, it means we make our primary purpose to get richer or promoted faster than others. To live our lives with an infinite mindset means that we are driven to advance a Cause bigger than ourselves. We see those who share our vision as partners in the Cause and we work to build trusting relationships with them so that we may advance the common good together. We are grateful for the success we enjoy. And as we advance we work to help those around us rise. To live our lives with an infinite mindset is to live a life of service.

We are stewards.

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Fixing the Game The Focus of Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:47 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership


3 Startup Financing Myths You Should Avoid

3 Startup Financing Myths You Should Avoid

IF you are building a startup, you’ll find no shortage of people who are willing to give you advice, particularly when it comes to raising financing. Unfortunately, much of this advice is wrong.

Well not, wrong exactly.

Most startup advice, like most myths, have a kernel of truth to them, but you have to know when to apply it and when to skip it.

Here are three pieces of advice that are tossed around Silicon Valley as if they are gospel, but they are really Startup Myths.

Myth #1: Build a Billion Dollar Company

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point, Silicon Valley became obsessed with the word billion. Some people blame it on Justin Timberlake (playing Sean Parker) in the movie The Social Network, who famously said that one million wasn’t cool, one billion was. I personally blame my MIT classmate Aileen Lee, formerly with Kleiner Perkins, who coined the term Unicorn, a private company valued at over a billion dollars.

Today the conventional wisdom is not to approach VC’s unless you can build the next Unicorn. To do that, you have to show how your market is big enough (a multi-billion dollar market) to support that kind of valuation.

The truth is, if you look at many of the traditional companies that went on to be worth over a billion dollars, it wasn’t at all clear when they started the company that they had a billion-dollar idea.

Going all the way back to Yahoo or Microsoft, the initial products (a directory for a nascent tech called the World Wide Web, and Microsoft BASIC,) didn’t look like billion-dollar products at all. The same is true of recent Unicorns like Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Discord, Minecraft and many others.

The real issue here is that if an entrepreneur comes in to a pitch and goes on and on about how they’re going to build a billion dollar company in just a few years, most investors eyes tend to glaze over. We’ve heard it all before.

So how do billion dollar companies get built? Like Jerry Yang who started Yahoo, as investors we are looking for entrepreneurs who are obsessed with a new technology. Like Mark Zuckerberg, who built a site only for college students, we are looking for a small, protected market that you as an entrepreneur, can dominate.

Like Markus Persson, who created Minecraft, who was just trying to build an idea that he could sell for $6.99 a game, we are looking for a product that ends up becoming wildly popular, more popular than anyone thought it could be in the early days.

The real key is to have an entrepreneur that is obsessed with a small market. Why does it need to be a small market? Because that’s what an entrepreneur with a small amount of money and a lot of talent can dominate. If, like Microsoft and Facebook, you can dominate your small market, you can then move on to other products or markets that are adjacent. Moreover, if the market grows and you are the leader, then you can find yourself at the helm of a billion dollar company.

Even when there is a large market, most successful entrepreneurs attack a small portion of it at the beginning. So, while everyone wants to get in on the next Unicorn, the way to get there is to make sure you have a product that meets the needs of a growing, but still very small, segment of a newly emerging startup market!

Myth #2: Talk to As Many Investors As You Can

For some entrepreneurs, raising financing can seem like a full time job, particularly in these trying times. Anyone who’s been through the process will tell you that you have to go through a lot of “No’s” before you to get to a “Yes.”

If talking to investors is turning out to be a full-time job, it’s possible that you are talking to too many investors or that you need to refine your pitch.

Gurinder Sangha, a securities lawyer who started Intelligize (sold to Lexis-Nexis), put it best when he said that you want to go after investors that are “in your tribe.”

Who is in your tribe? In the U.S., it’s often your alma matter. Sangha was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and his first venture capital investor turned out to be an alumnus.

It doesn’t always have to be alumni. My first institutional financing came from people who were in the “MIT” network.

A few years ago, an entrepreneur was building an automated job matching site in Latin America. He would fly into Silicon Valley, meet with many investors, and having read that raising money was easy here, go away disappointed. In the end, the fund that led his series was a fund that focused on Latin America.

This might seem obvious, but it’s not. Many entrepreneurs waste time talking to investors who are at the wrong stage, sector, or tribe. When a VC’s website says they do “early stage” – to a VC that means a product has already been built and generating some revenue, while to an entrepreneur, it means “just an idea.”

When raising institutional financing, you are better off finding your tribe and focusing on investors who are more likely to invest in your particular market, stage or team. To do this, talk to less investors, not more.

Myth #3: Take the Highest Valuation You Can Get

Valuation is a touchy subject for most entrepreneurs. They seem to take it personally when an investor isn’t willing to negotiate on valuation.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a myth at all. Of course, you will take the higher valuation, because you’ll give up less of the company, right?

The problem is that most entrepreneurs don’t truly take the time to understand what’s in a valuation.

I used to think a valuation was kind of like the stock price of a public company. I got a $5 million valuation on my very first startup and thought I was a millionaire because I owned half the company.

I was wrong.

Setting aside the issues of valuation of common stock vs. preferred stock, what I really didn’t understand was that a valuation is a set of expectations. The expectations are about how quickly the company can grow and how big it can grow to justify the valuation.

While expectations in a private valuation are not as explicit as they are in public companies, they are still there.

I always caution entrepreneurs not to take too high a valuation in any round because it sets very high expectations for the next round. Unfortunately, most startups don’t meet their initial rosy projections.

What happens then? A down round, which can damage a company and make it difficult to raise money in the future.

Another model for valuation is the “high bar,” as shown in Figure 1.

Suppose I ask you to set the bar such that I will only invest in your next round if you make it over the bar? In some ways, this is what a valuation is.

Would you set it high or low? Of course, you want the bar to be set low rather than high, to guarantee that you’ll make it over. The investor might not want it to be too low in this case.

A valuation is basically a bar that you are expected to jump over. This is why experienced entrepreneurs can usually get a higher valuation from VCs than less experienced ones – because the VCs expect them to be able to build a company to a higher valuation more quickly.


Of course, there are other reasons not to always take the highest valuation. Strategic investors might be willing to give you a higher or lower valuation than VCs because they have different priorities, etc. The point is that the highest valuation isn’t always the best one to take.

These are just some of the many myths that are given as advice when entrepreneurs are trying to raise financing. If you follow advice blindly without understanding the underlying complexity, you are likely to get yourself and your startup into trouble.

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Leading Forum
Rizwan Virk is the author of Startup Myths and Models: What You Won’t Learn in Business School. He is a successful entrepreneur, video game pioneer, and venture capitalist and founder of the startup accelerator Play Labs @ MIT. A graduate of MIT and Stanford, he is also the author of Zen Entrepreneurship: Walking the Path of the Career Warrior; Treasure Hunt: Follow Your Inner Clues to Find True Success); and The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics, and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are in a Video Game. For more information, please visit ZenEntrepreneur.com and follow the author on Twitter.

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Pitching RemotelyDear Founder

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:19 AM
| Comments (0) | Entrepreneurship


You’re It: The Call for Meta-Leadership

You’re It

A crisis demands a certain kind of leadership. But crisis leadership is not something you turn off and on. The ability to handle a crisis is something you develop long before a crisis hits, and people turn to you for guidance—before they declare, “You’re it!”

You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most by Leonard Marcus, Eric McNulty, Joseph M. Henderson, and Barry C. Dorn, details the mindset of successful crisis leadership. They call it Meta-Leadership. The following excerpt describes well exactly what the authors are advocating.

Meta-leadership is a strategy and practice method designed to expand the impact of your leadership. It is both conceptually rigorous and intensely practical. It guides being, thinking, and doing.

Meta-leaders build an intentionally wide and deep understanding of themselves and the situations they face. They are self-aware and curious. They develop a 360-degree, multidimensional perspective on the people around them and on their relationships with those people. See connections and interdependencies everywhere, meta-leaders foster this same consciousness in those who follow them. With this understanding of the surrounding complexities, they have a long reach as they lead followers to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.

Meta-leaders wield influence well beyond their formal authority. They not only understand the problem or opportunity itself: they grasp the different meaning it has for each of the main people involved. They weave together significant themes, clarifying overall purpose and values to keep an array of people aligned in synchronous motion. Those who follow meta-leaders discover that they are part of a mission and purpose larger than any one person or organization alone. It is inspiring to follow such a leader.

What they are describing requires quite a shift in thinking and behavior from much of the leadership we see today. It speaks to the question, why do you lead? It requires an outward mindset rather than the underlying motivation of leaders wishing to win points for themselves.

Crisis leadership is complex. Some responses may be linear in nature—a checklist of actions—but the meta-view is most often complex. An adaptive approach that acknowledges the evolving nature of situations and the ambiguity of the unknowns is fundamental to meta-view, inclusive leadership.

To illustrate this point, they present the Cone-in-the-Cube illustration.


Two groups of people are assigned the task of describing a shape inside an opaque cube. One group looks through peephole A on the side of the box. They see a triangle. The other looks through peephole B on the top of the box. They see a circle. The two groups fall into conflict about what is in the cube, and each substantiates the validity of its claims based on professed superior experience, values, intelligence, or power.

It is the job of the meta-leader to integrate both viewpoints and to help others see the big picture as well. A crisis compounds the problem because when people are fearful or in a state of panic, they become very rigid in their thinking. Meta-leaders need to respond to the emotion of the problem as well as the technical issues.

In a crisis, we are programmed to take a narrow view and become tightly focused. When a crisis hits, the first thing that happens is your higher-level thinking shuts down, and you descend into the basement. When this happens, “extraordinarily smart people can go to the basement, get stuck in the basement, and say or do the dumbest things, often to their later regret.” The trick is to learn what you can do to bring you up out of the basement and out of survival mode. It can be pausing, taking a deep breath, or something you do that prompts self-confidence.

To overcome that overwhelming feeling, it is good to pull back and provide some structure to the crisis and to guide your thinking and your response. The authors have developed a tool called the POP-DOC Loop.


Start at the top on the left side of the figure-8 and move counterclockwise: Perceive what is happening. Orient yourself to detect patterns and understand what they mean. Distinguish between what you think and what you know. Test for bias-driven blind spots. And then, based on the patterns and the probability of their recurrence, predict what is likely to happen next. These are the learning steps. They integrate the dimensions of the person and the situation.

As you cross over to the right side of the figure-8, now moving clockwise, you enter the action phases of the shape connectivity: Decide on a course of action. Operationalize the necessary organizational resources. Communicate information out to and bring information in from relevant stakeholders. Then, to access the impact of your decisions, operations, and communications, cycle back. Repeat the loop continuously.

The meta-leader’s role is to keep their eye on the big-picture, delegate, and allow others to do their job—to connect and coordinate all of those involved in the response. They practice the principle of “stay in your lane and help others succeed in theirs.”

Through your meta-leadership, you are seeking a wider perception and a deeper understanding of people, their experiences, and what affects them. That understanding—through connectivity—allows you to find patterns of behavior, reaction, and response. The intersection between what occurs in your surroundings and its impact on people becomes clearer. You take and guide actions in this broad human panorama.

You’re It is a playbook for crisis leadership to be sure, with many examples from various crisis situations. But more than that, it will develop you into a leader that can act when a crisis strikes. The principles found here are not only valuable in an organizational setting, but the mindset will help you personally to think through a crisis with clarity informed by a mind open to various perspectives on the situation.

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Think Outside the Building Just About Leading

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:03 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Problem Solving


Leading Thoughts for June 11, 2020

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:


Rocket scientist and law professor Ozan Varol on the need for critical thinking:

“Companies fail because they stare at the rearview mirror and keep calling the same plays from the same playbook. Instead of risking failure, they stick with the status quo. In our daily lives, we fail to exercise our critical-thinking muscles and instead leave it to others to draw conclusions. As a result, these muscles atrophy over time. Without an informed public willing to question confident claims, democracy decays and misinformation spreads. Once alternative facts are reported and retweeted, they become the truth. Pseudoscience becomes indistinguishable from real science.”

Source: Think Like a Rocket Scientist


Albert Gray, a life insurance executive at Prudential, on the importance of habits:

“Every single qualification for success is acquired through habit. People form habits and habits form futures. If you do not deliberately form good habits, then unconsciously you will form bad ones. You are the kind of person you are because you have formed the habit of being that kind of person, and the only way you can change is through habit.”

Source: The Common Denominator of Success

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:24 AM
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How to Think Like a Rocket Scientist

Think Like A Rocket Scientist

FORMER rocket scientist turned law professor, Ozan Varol, believes that while we can’t all be rocket scientists, we can all learn to think like one. Think Like a Rocket Scientist is about creativity and critical thinking—two skills in short supply today.

We all encounter complex and unfamiliar problems in our daily lives. Those who can tackle these problems—without clear guidelines and with the clock ticking—enjoy an extraordinary advantage.

Creativity comes naturally to us, but we are educated out of it in favor of certainty. Critical thinking, while valued theoretically, is not taught because we prefer the ease of conformity and the prepackaged answers we can accept from others.

Think Like a Rocket Scientist is a content-rich and very practical book. Varol offers nine principles in three stages to help us to reacquire and build our creativity and critical thinking muscles. In the first stage, we learn how to ignite our thinking. Stage two is focused on propelling the ideas we created in stage one. In the final stage, we learn why the final ingredient for unlocking our full potential includes both success and failure.

Rocket Scientist Launch

1. Flying in the Face of Uncertainty

Bertrand Russell wrote that “the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” We crave certainty to the point of making sure and true what isn’t certain at all. We do so at our own peril. “Where certainty ends, progress begins.”

“The great obstacle to discovering,” historian Daniel J. Boorstin writes, “was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.” The pretense of knowledge closes our ears and shuts off incoming educational signals from outside sources. Certainty blinds us to our own paralysis. The more we speak our version of the truth, preferable with passion and exaggerated hand gestures, the more our egos inflate to the size of skyscrapers, concealing what’s underneath.

Because of uncertainties, rocket scientists build in redundancies and margins of safety. “Think about it: Where are the redundancies in your own life?” To deal with uncertainties, we must begin walking before we see a clear path. “Start walking because it is the only way forward.”

2. Reasoning from First Principles

There are all kinds of narratives floating around based on assumptions, and when we pick one, they become who we are. First-Principles thinking takes us back to the beginning and questioning the assumptions. “The French philosopher and scientist René Descartes described it as systematically doubting everything you can possibly doubt, until you’re left with unquestionable truths. When you apply first-principles thinking, you go from what James Carse calls a finite player, someone playing within boundaries, to an infinite player, someone playing with boundaries.

Ask yourself, Why are they making that choice? It’s not because they’re stupid. It’s not because they’re wrong and you’re right. It’s because they see something that you’re missing. It’s because they believe something you don’t believe.

3. A Mind at Play

A mind at play is a curious mind. Thought experiments ask “what if” questions. “Thought experiments construct a parallel universe in which things work differently. Through thought experiments, we transcend everyday thinking and evolve from passive observers to active interveners in our reality.”

Varol says, compare apples and oranges. Get bored more often. Boredom allows our mind to tune out of the external and allows our mind to wander and daydream.

If we don’t take the time to think—if we don’t pause, understand, and deliberate—we can’t find wisdom or form new ideas. As author William Deresiewicz explains, “My first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom.

Look at any monstrous company or bloated bureaucracy collapsing under its own weight, and you’ll find a historical lack of curiosity.

Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot thinking is taking a leap of faith. Incremental change modifies the status quo. Moonshot thinking allows for exponential change and upending the status quo.

The story we choose to tell ourselves about our capabilities is just that a choice. And like every other choice, we can change it. Until we push beyond our cognitive limits and stretch the boundaries of what we consider practical, we can’t discover the invisible rules that are holding us back.

If we restrict ourselves to what’s possible given what we have, we’ll never reach escape velocity and create a future worth getting excited about.

Rocket Scientist Accelerate

5. What If We Sent Two Rovers Instead of One?

Questions matter. Make sure you’re solving the right problem. Peter Attia, a physician and renowned expert on human longevity, said:

When people are looking for the “right answers,” they are almost always asking tactical questions. By focusing on the strategy, this allows you to be much more malleable with the tactics.

Varol adds:

Once you move from the what to the why—once you frame the problem broadly in terms of what you’re trying to do instead of your favored solution—you’ll discover other possibilities in the peripheries.

6. The Power of Flip-Flopping

Confirmation bias is alive and well primarily because it feels good, and it takes the work out of really thinking. While scientists are trained to be objective, even rocket scientists have a hard time thinking like rocket scientists. “No one comes equipped with a critical-thinking chip that diminishes the human tendency to let personal beliefs distort the facts.”

Opinions are hard to reassess. “When your beliefs and your identity are one and the same, changing your mind means changing your identity—which is why disagreements often turn into existential death matches.”

If the mind anticipates a single, that’s what the eye will see. Before announcing a working hypothesis, ask yourself, what are my preconceptions? What do I believe to be true? Also ask, do I really want this particular hypothesis to be true? If so, be very careful. Be very careful.

7. Test as You Fly, Fly as You Test

A test where the results are predetermined is not a test. “In a proper test, the goal isn’t to discover everything that can go right. Rather, the goal is to discover everything that can go wrong and to find the breaking point.”

Rocket scientists try to break the spacecraft on earth before it breaks in space. Find the breaking points. When astronaut Chris Hadfield returned from a successful mission, if everything had gone as planned, he responded, “The truth is that nothing went as we’d planned, but everything was within the scope of what we prepared for.”

Rocket Scientist Achieve

8. Nothing Succeeds Like Failure

Rocket scientists don’t celebrate failure, nor do they demonize it. They take a more balanced approach. Nor do they fail-fast. The stakes are just too high. Their mantra is to learn fast.

We often assume failure has an endpoint. But failure isn’t a bug to get out of our system until success arrives. Failure is the feature. If we don’t develop a habit of failing regularly, we court catastrophe.

9. Nothing Fails Like Success

Success conceals failures. Sometimes success is pure luck. Without failures to learn from, we must learn from our successes.

Success is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. It drives a wedge between appearance and reality. When we succeed, we believe everything went according to plan. We ignore the warning signs and the necessity for change. With each success, we grow more confident and up the ante.

We pay a lot of lip service to critical thinking, yet it is a rare commodity. Think Like a Rocket Scientist is an essential read for anyone wanting to develop critical thinking skills or to mature their thinking.

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Questions Are Answer How to be More Creative and Enrich Your Life

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:57 PM
| Comments (0) | Thinking


How to Achieve Optimal Outcomes

How to Achieve Optimal Outcomes

CONFLICT is inevitable. It is part of life. Some of it is good for us. We grow from it, it moves us forward, and it makes life more interesting.

However, there is a kind of conflict the seems to reoccur no matter how hard you try to resolve it. And some of that becomes self-perpetuating as we react in ways that cause even more conflict. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler calls a conflict loop. In Optimal Outcomes, she writes:

What I’ve discovered is that when you are stuck in a conflict loop, you develop conflict habits, including blaming or avoiding others, blaming yourself, and relentlessly seeking “win-win” solutions even when other people refuse to cooperate. And your conflict habits interact with other people’s conflict habits to form a pattern of interaction that keeps you stuck in the conflict loop.

Wetzler offers a set of eight practices called the Optimal Outcomes Method, that we can use to free ourselves from the habits and patterns that reinforce the conflict loop. The dynamic woven throughout each practice is the capacity to observe or pause to acknowledge the factors that have contributed to the conflict and then take a pattern-breaking action.

Another key point is this:

In reoccurring conflicts, we tend not to be very good at imagining what we want. Instead, we’re focused on what went wrong in the past and who is to blame. If we do think about the future, we tend not to look honestly at the reality we’re facing. The degree to which you are able to create an Optimal Outcome is determined both by your ability to imagine an Ideal Future and to acknowledge the reality of the situation and people you’re dealing with.

Practices one through four help us to pause and understand a conflict situation and break out of the conflict patterns of the past. Practices five through eight will help you to exit the conflict loop. Briefly, the eight practices are:

1. Notice Your Conflict Habits and Patterns

We begin by identifying and understanding our own conflict habits. Wetzler has identified four conflict habits: Blame Others, Shut Down, Shame Yourself, and Relentlessly Collaborate. What habit do you tend to gravitate to? She has provided an assessment to identify your primary habit on her website. Optimaloutcomesbook.com/assessment

2. Increase Clarity and Complexity: Map Out the Conflict

When emotions run high, we end to see things in black and white. If we step back, we can see more layers to the conflict and better understand the nuances. With awareness comes possibilities. She introduces a practice called Conflict Mapping to help widen your perspective on the situation.

3. Put Your Emotions to Work for You

How do you tend to express your emotions? When it comes to our emotions, we tend to fall into the Knee-Jerk Reaction Trap, the Inaccessible Emotions Trap, or the Lurking Emotions Trap. The way out is to pause and allow your emotions to settle. Calm, you can begin to understand where they are coming from and what messages they are sending you. Then take more constructive pattern-breaking action to represent better the message you want to send. If other people’s emotions are triggering you, remember they are dealing with their own emotions, too.

4. Honor Ideal and Shadow Values—Yours and Theirs

We have ideal values that we share proudly and shadow values that we have pushed out of our consciousness because we’ve received mixed messages about them, but they affect our thinking and actions, nonetheless. We need to identify and understand both.

Our shadow values tend o come out in words or actions in ways we don’t intend. Noticing the tensions between our own values is key to freeing ourselves from conflict with other people. Those inner tensions often prevent us from being clear about what we want in any given situation, which makes it impossible to be clear with others.

Look for ways to close the gap between our ideal values and our behavior. “Considering others’ shadow values can enable you to develop greater empathy for them, which is likely to have a freeing effect on you. Thinking about others’ history will help you break free from the conflict loop.”

5. Imagine Your Ideal Future

Your Ideal Future will help to pull you out of the conflict loop. In this step, don’t worry about how feasible it is. That will come in practice eight. Describe it in detail with enough clarity so that you are prepared to communicate it. The more emotions are involved in the conflict, the less likely that rationally derived solutions will solve the problem.

6. Design a Pattern-Breaking Path

A Pattern-Breaking Path (PBP) is a linked, yet simple set of action steps that will help to push you out of the conflict loop. The PBP has three characteristics: it is surprisingly different, simple, and each action builds on the one before it. “Your PBP should compromise action steps that, one by one, will move you and others toward the Ideal Future you’ve imagined. Designing a path begins with you. “What can I begin with?” Then, “Who is the first person, if any, I will involve?” “Who else, if anyone, will I involve?” “Are there any groups that I can engage with?” and finally, “How will I build a path of linked action steps from here?”

7. Test Your Path

When designing our Pattern-Breaking Path we tend to either “act recklessly, failing to think about the potentially unintended consequences of our actions” or “anxious about the potential consequences of our actions, we fail to think about the potentially dire consequences of inaction, and we take no action at all.”

We do not think about the impact of our behavior on other people, and we almost certainly do not consider the potential impact of our behavior on ourselves or on others over the long term.

Anticipate unintended consequences. Often, we assume that we are so right in our views and actions that rarely stop to consider other people’s perspectives. “To create the outcome you intend, begin by testing small patter-breaking actions in a safe environment, review your results, and adjust as needed.”

8. Choose an Optimal Outcome

We may hesitate to initiate our Optimal Outcome for several reasons. For instance, it may not seem feasible. Freeing ourselves from the conflict by simply cutting ties and walking away is not feasible or has terrible consequences, or perhaps it is easier to do than your Optimal Outcome. And finally, there is the fear of change or ironically the comfort of the familiar—our new normal state of conflict. To work through this, you have to gauge the feasibility and the cost and benefits of other alternatives.

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Conflict Without Casualties Have a Nice Conflict

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:11 PM
| Comments (0) | Problem Solving


Leading Thoughts for June 4, 2020

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:


Consultant Robert J. Thomas on learning to think like a leader:

“If you desire to be a leader, you have to think like one. At the heart of that process is a form of deliberate practice that would look familiar to students and teachers of music, chess, or any of a number of complex, highly intentional pursuits—most emphatically in terms of approaches like the Suzuki Method. In this case, deliberate practice revolves round crafting stories that contain statements and directions that are consistent with the core ideas about interactive leadership.”

Source: Crucibles of Leadership


Consultant Alain Hunkins on learning to lead:

“The idea that effective leaders can plot their progression on a straight line is a myth. Progress is messy. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it feels like failure. You need to learn to accept the messiness and all the feelings associated with it. It’s a surefire sign that you’re growing. Exceptional leaders are exceptional learners—imperfect people who take each mistake along he way and figure out what they need to learn from it. Then, they do something to get back on course and keep moving.”

Source: Cracking the Leadership Code

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:23 PM
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First Look: Leadership Books for June 2020

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in June 2020. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

9781633697041Unleashed: The Unapologetic Leader's Guide to Empowering Everyone Around You by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss

Leadership isn't easy. It takes grit, courage, and vision, among other things, that can be hard to come by on your toughest days. When leaders and aspiring leaders seek out advice, they're often told to try harder. Dig deeper. Look in the mirror and own your natural-born strengths and fix any real or perceived career-limiting deficiencies. Frances Frei and Anne Morriss offer a different worldview. They argue that this popular leadership advice glosses over the most important thing you do as a leader: build others up. Leadership isn't about you. It's about how effective you are at empowering other people—and making sure this impact endures even in your absence. As Frei and Morriss show through inspiring stories from ancient Rome to present-day Silicon Valley, the origins of great leadership are found, paradoxically, not in worrying about your own status and advancement, but in the unrelenting focus on other people's potential.

9780231194525Startup Myths and Models: What You Won't Learn in Business School by Rizwan Virk

Budding entrepreneurs face a challenging road. The path is not made any easier by all the clichés they hear about how to make a startup succeed―from platitudes and conventional wisdom to downright contradictions. This witty and wise guide to the dilemmas of entrepreneurship debunks widespread misconceptions about how the world of startups works and offers hard-earned advice for every step of the journey. Instead of startup myths―legends spun from a fantasy version of Silicon Valley―Rizwan Virk provides startup models―frameworks that help make thoughtful decisions about starting, growing, managing, and selling a business. Rather than dispensing simplistic rules, he mentors readers in the development of a mental toolkit for approaching challenges based on how startup markets evolve in real life.

9781633699212Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in an Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence by Vikram Mansharamani

Have you ever followed your GPS device to a deserted parking lot? Or unquestioningly followed the advice of an expert—perhaps a doctor or financial adviser—only to learn later that your own thoughts and doubts were correct? And what about the stories we've all heard over the years about sick patients—whether infected with Ebola or COVID-19—who were sent home or allowed to travel because busy staff people were following a protocol to the letter rather than using common sense? Why and how do these kinds of things happen? As Harvard lecturer and global trend watcher Vikram Mansharamani shows in this eye-opening and perspective-shifting book, our complex, data-flooded world has made us ever more reliant on experts, protocols, and technology. Too often, we've stopped thinking for ourselves. Mansharamani illustrates how in a very real sense we have outsourced our thinking to a troubling degree, relinquishing our autonomy.

9781626347120Strategy First: How Businesses Win Big by Brad Chase

In Strategy First, Brad Chase, the mind behind some of Microsoft’s largest and most successful initiatives, explains why building robust strategies is the imperative to business success. Chase leads readers through his easy-to-use strategy model, Strategy = E x mc2, which teaches readers the art of strategy—how to build and execute winning strategies relative to the competition. To supplement the model, Chase provides 5 key tips to strategy prosperity and over 50 examples from a broad range of businesses that help the reader think about how they can use his Strategy First toolkit. The author will inspire readers to examine the effectiveness of their current strategies, using the model that has served him in his distinguished career.

9781119550112Accountable Leaders: Inspire a Culture Where Everyone Steps Up, Takes Ownership, and Delivers Results by Vince Molinaro

Accountable Leaders is the real-world guide to propelling your business to extraordinary levels of performance and achievement. Leadership accountability is a major issue in organizations around the globe. Research has shown that teams and individual employees are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the degree of accountability demonstrated by their leaders. Effective teams need responsible and accountable leaders―the solution seems simple. Yet, thousands of businesses are struggling with mediocre performance and widening gaps in leadership. This essential resource provides practical and no-nonsense strategies to transform any organization into a cohesive, highly motivated culture of accountable leaders and fully committed teams.

9781599510217Winning Now, Winning Later: How Companies Can Win in the Short Term While Investing for the Long Term by David Cote

Short-termism is rampant among executives and managers today, causing many companies to underperform and even go out of business. With competition intense and investors demanding strong quarterly gains now, leaders all too often feel obliged to sacrifice the investments so necessary for long-term growth. Dave Cote is intimately familiar with this problem. Upon becoming Honeywell’s CEO in 2002, he encountered an organization on the verge of failure, thanks to years of untrammeled short-termism. To turn the company around, he and his team adopted a series of bold operational reforms and counterintuitive leadership practices that enabled them to “do two conflicting things at the same time”--pursue strong short- and long-term results. The outcome was phenomenal.

For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 32 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
— Walt Disney

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Whats New in Leadership Books Best Books of 2019

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:09 PM
| Comments (0) | Books




Leadership Books
How to Do Your Start-Up Right

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Grow Your Leadership Skills

Leadership Minute
Leadership Minute

Leadership Classics
Classic Leadership Books

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