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LeadershipNow 140: April 2021 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from April 2021 that you don't want to miss:

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6 New Rules Lead from theFuture

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:00 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140


Leading Thoughts for April 29, 2021

Leading Thoughts

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


Phil Knight on competition:

“Emotion would be fatal. I needed to remain cool. I thought back on my running career at Oregon. I’d competed with, and against, men far better, faster, more physically gifted. Many were future Olympians. And yet, I’d trained myself to forget this unhappy fact. People reflexively assume that competition is always a good thing, that it always brings out the best in people, but that’s only true of people who can forget the competition. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past. You must forget that internal voice screaming, begging, ‘Not one more step!’ And when it’s not possible to forget it, you must negotiate with it. I thought over all the races in which my mind wanted one thing, and my body wanted another, those laps in which I’d had to tell my body, ‘Yes, you raise some excellent points, but let’s keep going anyway…’”

Source: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike


Randy Komisar on personal success:

“Considering personal risk forces us to define personal success. We may well discover that the business failure we avoid and the business success we strive for do not lead us to personal success at all. Most of us have inherited notions of "success" from someone else or have arrived at these notions by facing a seemingly endless line of hurdles extending from grade school through college and into our careers. We constantly judge ourselves against criteria that others have set and rank ourselves against others in their game. Personal goals, on the other hand, leave us on our own, without this habit of useless measurement and comparison.

Work hard, work passionately, but apply your most precious asset—time—to what is most meaningful to you. What are you willing to do for the rest of your life? does not mean, literally, what will you do for the rest of your life? That question would be absurd, given the inevitability of change. No, what the question really asks is, if your life were to end suddenly and unexpectedly tomorrow, would you be able to say you’ve been doing what you truly care about today? What would you be willing to do for the rest of your life? What would it take to do it right now?”

Source: The Monk and the Riddle: The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:42 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


The FBI Way: The Seven C’s of Excellence

The FBI Way

THE Federal Bureau of Investigation is a respected American institution that had its beginnings in 1908. Its 100-plus years of exceptional performance, the former head of counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi says, is attributed to the organizational code that demanded internal excellence at all times, from everyone. He calls it the FBI Way.

In The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence, Figliuzzi organizes and explains that code and how it is maintained as The Seven C’s. These seven values are worth considering in any context.

1. Code

The code reflects the core values that are shared by everyone in the organization.

If you haven’t established basic behavioral benchmarks in your business, organization, team, or family, you should. They don’t have to be numerous; in fact, they shouldn’t be. Too many rules can very quickly turn into no rules at all. Determine what type of conduct so undermines whatever you or your group stands for that it poses an existential threat. Communicate those “danger zones” clearly and frequently.

The FBI, as an institution, enforces code and investigates deviations from that code—the U.S. Constitution and the criminal code. Living out their own code becomes critical to that process, especially in a political environment with really no code.

You can’t live by two codes at once. You also can’t spot and avoid the kinds of codes and conduct that threaten your values if you never even develop a strong sense of what it is that you value. You’ll never see the threat coming. We might not die from an absence of code, but regardless of who we are, our lives and livelihoods are enhanced when we know what we stand for.

2. Conservancy

The FBI is a conservancy. I like his terminology here. Like stewardship, conservancy is “a collective effort to preserve and protect the true worth of a place or thing. People in conservancy agree to become stewards accountable for sustaining an entity greater than themselves.”

Accountability is key here. And everyone in the FBI is accountable to someone, and the higher up you go, the more accountable you are.

He briefly mentions the missteps of Jim Comey in 2017. Comey cast doubt on the FBI when he allowed himself to be drug into the political drama of the time. It’s human, but Figliuzzi says it basically came down to the fact that he forgot who he was accountable to. It is hard not to become political, even when writing a book such as this, but it is critical to the FBI’s credibility that it is not seen as political. As Figliuzzi advises later in the book, “Sometimes taking a broader view of your mission can help you preserve your values.

Figliuzzi notes that families need conservators too. And his wife filled that role.

3. Clarity

Clarity applies in a number of ways. Clarity includes “bright lines;” Those lines, that when crossed, get you fired. Clarity of code.

The need for clarity of information for decision making and the clarity to know when you have enough or all you are going to get. “You need to know when to demand clarity and when to just walk away.”

And there is the clarity of purpose and principle that help you to know when to say yes and when to walk away.

Too often, when organizations have their most important standards challenged, they engage in a cost-benefit analysis to decide whether to defend their core values. Those organizations don’t recognize that standards worth defining are standards worth defending.

4. Consequences

There should be no surprises when it comes to consequences. A code must have repercussions when it is violated, or it is just “window dressing.”

A code that’s not enforced quickly becomes a lie that undermines your entire operation. You can’t just wish a code into compliance; people need to understand that there’s a price to pay if they endanger the collective health of the larger team. Consequences put teeth in a code.

A family, a company, or a country that’s shy about triggering established consequences can expect boundaries to be repeatedly pushed to the point of breaking.

5. Compassion

A code without compassion doesn’t work for long. Compassion and consequences go hand-in-hand. Sometimes compassion means looking in the mirror to see how you or a dysfunctional system lead to the poor judgment or wrong behavior.

Compassion provides the necessary balance to what could be an otherwise harsh and cold process. As sure as people need to know that their leaders have set bright lines on conduct, they also need to trust that those leaders will treat them as valued human beings. That’s why good leaders take a holistic approach to weighing consequences by assessing an employee’s total record, the context that led to their lapse, and that team member’s capacity to overcome their wrongdoing.

6. Credibility

Credibility is the bedrock of a values-based organization or group. And that applies both within the organization and about the organization. “People must believe in us and the values we represent. It is credibility that determines whether values survive beyond the personalities of individual leaders.”

Credible preservation of principles happens when the process is codified, objective, and comprehensive. Codification means the process must not only be in writing but also easily accessible, understandable, and taken seriously.

Credibility isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being trusted. Trusted to do the right thing even when it’s painful.

7. Consistency

Consistency is about intentionality. It helps to preserve what really matters.

There was a beauty and simplicity to establishing a rhythm that went beyond mere routine. I’m talking about developing a system in your life, your work, or your studies, and sticking with it if it works, or tweaking it if it doesn’t. A consistent system. Not just winging it.

But as Figliuzzi points out, that shouldn’t be confused with rigidity. Consistency may mean, at times, redefining “your entire approach in order to remain consistent with your values,” as they did after 9/11.

Change shouldn’t be something that happens “to” people, it should be something that happens “with” people. It’s crucial that everyone involved understand that adapting doesn’t mean an abandonment of values or mission. To the contrary, the proposed changes must reflect how those changes are not only consistent with your values but vital to preserving them.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, consistency and change are joined at the hip. To preserve our core values, we all inevitably must change, adapt, and transition to new ways of preserving and promoting what we hold dear.

He observes that the “FBI’s highest-profile mistakes happen primarily when its leaders act contrary to their own rules.” So build in systems that make it harder to fail.

Woven into the explanation of each of these qualities are stories of 9/11, interstate chases, Quantico, anthrax, espionage, counterterrorism, homicides, and much more to illustrate his point. The FBI Way is a very profitable and interesting read. And well worth your time for the principles that are applicable anywhere.

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4 Reasons We Struggle with Ethics 10 Virtues

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:22 PM
| Comments (0) | Ethics , Management


Hot Seat: Jeff Immelt at GE

Hot Seat

IN SEPTEMBER 2001, Jack Welch was a tough act to follow. The day after Jeffrey Immelt became CEO of General Electric, he had an even bigger challenge to deal with—the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Immelt states in Hot Seat: What I Learned Leading a Great American Company:

The best leaders absorb fear. I’m not talking about soothing people by blowing smoke or giving false assurances. I’m talking about giving people the truth but also giving them a way forward. In the wake of 9/11, GE’s people needed to hear, and to believe, that we had a plan and that, working together, they could help us execute it. They didn’t need to hear that I was so agitated that I struggled to keep food down.

True leaders are frank, but they don’t traffic in panic. The best leaders acknowledge mistakes, but they don’t tear colleagues down just to ease their own discomfort. Transparency is an admirable goal. But the real goal is to solve problems. When leaders merely unload their burdens without offering a plan of action, that’s selfishness masquerading as candor—the arrogance of false piety.

That’s baptism by fire.

Jack Welch led GE to some impressive numbers. In his twenty years as CEO, GE’s value had risen 4,000 percent. But numbers can hide looming issues until they don’t. GE had internal problems, it was overly reliant on GE Capital, and it was not digitally literate and innovative. And in 2001, the economic tailwinds that Welch enjoyed were about to shift.

Much of what needed to be done at GE were long-term propositions. It’s always a challenge to help the naysayers within your own ranks, let alone helping the investors and pundits understand the value of what needs to be done. This was the case with GE Digital, a new subsidiary created to provide software and Industrial Internet of Things services to industrial companies.

Tech start-ups define success, especially in the first decade, on how well they acquire customers, build capability, and penetrate their emerging markets. That wasn’t how GE had traditionally defined success. We were about increasing revenues and making our numbers. Analyzed by that metric, this little start-up within a big parent company was seen by many as a disappointment.

Immelt gives us an inside look—the other side of the story—at what happened at GE while he was CEO. He reveals the complexities of running a global company of over 200,000 employees. I don’t think if Welch stayed on, it would have been much different. Times were changing, hidden problems were beginning to surface, and unforeseen events were to impact the nation. What Welch built was not sustainable. There were lapses in judgment (Yes, he talks about the chase plane) and mistakes made, to be sure, as he admits in this book. GE Capital should have been reined in faster for one thing. Acquisitions were made in an attempt to move GE in a new direction in accordance with the marketplace and to shore up businesses GE was already in.

When stock value drops 30% on your watch, you can bet people are looking for a scapegoat. It’s easy to point fingers and have all of the answers from the sidelines, but when you’re actually in it working through the ambiguity, it’s another story. That should be a lesson for all of us.

Some people point fingers in a crisis, others solve problems, and there’s very little overlap between these two groups. In a blaming culture, people can stop working in order to cover their own asses. If you can nurture an ethos of “all for one and one for all,” it can save your bacon. Good people will stand alongside you in a righteous fight. When you have a strong team, you can weather any crisis. Without that, you are lost.

Building a strong connection to the people you work with is about two things: time and truth. You’ve got to spend the time, and you’ve got to tell the truth.

In situations of dynamic complexity, the effect of a leader’s action or decision is not immediately obvious, but only becomes clear over time. That, in turn, means conventional methods of forecasting and planning don’t work. Increasingly, we needed our leaders to get better at enduring ambiguity and being flexible as new data arose.

There are only a handful of leaders in any company who are true systems leaders. These are people who see what is next without losing sight of what is most important today; they see the long term while still delivering short-term results.

As leaders, we must remember that the world turns. Be humble and empathetic when times are good. And learn to recognize the difference between tailwind and good management. If someone impresses you when they are benefiting from good markets, you still don’t know much. When they thrive in a shit show, you have a gem.

When you are driving change—especially inside a big company—there are a thousand voices. A few of them really matter, because they are saying, “Here’s what you are not seeing; here’s how we can make this work better.” But those can be drowned out by the cacophony of voices saying, “Change is uncomfortable, so I don’t want to change no matter what.” To those attempting to transform their companies, I say this: make sure you’re surrounded by enough differences of opinion to find the voices that matter.

Jeff Immelt and his co-author Amy Wallace have written a very readable, inside look at Immelt’s 16 years as CEO of GE. There are many lessons and takeaways to be found inside.

Immelt is now a partner at New Venture Associates, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. He also lectures at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“The media always look for a single person, a CEO or an entrepreneur, to personify the accomplishemnts of an entire company or industry. It makes good reading, but it’s simplistic.”
— Randy Komisar, The Monk and the Riddle

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Immelts 7 Lessons Welch on Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:50 PM
| Comments (0) | Leaders


Leading Thoughts for April 22, 2021

Leading Thoughts

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


Economist Tim Harford on the problem of using statistical metrics as a proxy to control or as a target to be improved:

“Social scientists have long understood that statistical metrics are at their most pernicious when they are being used to control the world, rather than trying to understand it. Economists tend to cite their colleague Charles Goodhart, who wrote in 1975: ‘Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.’ (Or, more pithily: ‘When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.’) Psychologists turn to Donald T. Campbell, who around the same time explained: ‘The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.’”

Source: The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics


Jon Acuff on the things we tell ourselves—our soundtracks:

“One of the greatest mistakes you can make in life is assuming all of your thoughts are true. We tend to believe that if it’s in our head, it must be accurate. If I think it, it must be real. Despite the wild things our thoughts have told us over the years, we trust them. When you start to ask a soundtrack this question—is it true?—I promise you’ll be shocked by how many lies you have cluttering up your head.”

Source: Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:55 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


What You Do Is Who You Are

Horowitz What You Do

IT HAS BEEN SAID that culture is the most important thing because it determines how your company makes decisions when you’re not there.

This led Ben Horowitz to ask, how do you create and sustain the culture you want? He turned to three historical figures and one contemporary that were “outstandingly effective in getting the culture they wanted.” He wasn’t so interested specifically in the culture they produced but what they had to do to change themselves and their culture.

In What You Do Is Who You Are, Horowitz looks at the lives of four cultures created by their leaders:

Toussaint Louverture, the Haitian slave that led the only slave revolt in human history.

The samurai who ruled Japan for seven hundred years and shaped modern Japanese culture.

Genghis Khan, who built the world’s largest empire.

Shaka Senghor, and American ex-con who created the most formidable prison gang in the yard and, ultimately, transformed prison culture.

Companies—just like gangs, armies, and nations—are large organizations that rise and fall because of the daily microbehaviors of the human beings that compose them.

Horowitz 4 Cultures

After examining these four cultures and how they have been applied or should have been applied in our modern setting, Horowitz takes away nine lessons that we should consider when designing our culture:

1. Make sure your culture aligns with both your personality and your strategy.

2. Don’t let the first impression be wrong or accidental. People learn more about what it takes to succeed in your organization on their first day than on any other.

3. Have shocking rules. Any rule so surprising it makes people ask, “Why do we have this rule?” will reinforce key cultural elements.

4. Incorporate outside leadership. Bring in an old pro from the culture you aspire to have.

5. If you really want to cement a lesson, use an object lesson. What you say means far less than what you do.

6. Make ethical principles explicit. One of the most common and devastating mistakes leaders make is to assume people will “Do the right thing” even when it conflicts with other objectives. “Spelling out what your organization must never do is the best way to inoculate yourself against bugs that cause ethical breaches.”

7. Give cultural tenets deep meaning. Make them stand out from the norm, from the expected. “The reason so many efforts to establish “corporate values” are basically worthless is that they emphasize beliefs instead of actions.”

8. Walk the talk.

9. Make decisions that demonstrate priorities.

How do you know when something is wrong with your culture? Horowitz point to three indicators: The wrong people are quitting too often, you’re failing at your top priorities, and an employee does something that truly shocks you.

Some final thoughts:

The best way to understand your culture is not through what managers tell you, but through how new employees behave. What behaviors do they perceive will help them fit in, survive, and succeed?

Think carefully about what your flaws are, because you don’t want to program them into your culture.

You have to pay close attention to your people’s behavior, but even closer attention to your own. How is it affecting your culture? Are you being the person you want to be?

A culture is not the sum of its outrage; it’s a set of actions.

It’s critical that leaders emphasize the “why” behind their values every chance they get, because the “why” is what gets remembered. The “what” is just another item in a giant stack of things you are supposed to do.

By the way, Peter Drucker’s statement that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” actually speaks the exact point Horowitz is making: “What you do is who you are.” If your culture isn’t aligned with your strategy, then culture rules the day. In the long run, a strategy not supported by culture falls flat. Execution works in concert with culture.

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Culture Renovation Culture Engine

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management


Before You Open a Business…

Before you open a business

I’VE MET MANY business founders in my life and they vary on almost every possible measure: race, gender, background, temperament, schooling, and intelligence (in all its forms). I certainly observe patterns among them, but they all share one and only one thing in common: they decided to get on the bucking bronco and actually do it.

I won’t try to talk you in or out of starting a business. It eventually worked out nicely for us, even with all the sacrifices and tough times along the way. But I’ve seen the pursuit of business opportunities cause irreparable harm to marriages, families, health—and those are some of the successful businesses! A business failure can cause all those problems and many more. For every “American dream” out there, there are more than a few American nightmares. Just because you do the work doesn’t mean the business will work. Some things in business and life are simply out of our control. Bad things happen to good people just as bad things happen to good businesses. There are many ways that even a good business with good leadership can be damaged or bankrupted.

Because business is fraught with many risks and challenges, and because this journey isn’t right for everyone, I’ve developed some questions that will help you get more clarity so you can make better decisions for yourself when it comes to starting a business. I resisted the temptation to make it a “quiz” where a certain number of yeses totaled up to give you a red, yellow, or green light. A single “no” to some of these questions might steer you away from entrepreneurship. For example, if your partner isn’t on board, many people might choose to avoid conflicts between “your-wife-or-your-life” or “your-man-or-your-plan.” Others might find that the successful resolution of these conflicts opens them up to new ways of relating to their families and careers. Note that the scale and nature of your business will inform your answers to the following questions. For example, starting a lawn service with a mower and a truck will demand far less investment and risk than borrowing a lot of money to buy an existing landscaping company. Many successful businesses start with a small financial investment and low risk, while others may start with enormous capital, investors that have to be placated, and lots of risk.

As you consider these questions, remember the best indicator of how you’ll behave in a future situation is the way you’ve behaved in the past (especially your more recent actions and inactions). For additional insight on the tough ones, ask a close family member or friend who knows you well.

Family Questions

  • If you’re in a relationship, is your spouse fully on board?
  • Is your spouse willing to make significant career or personal sacrifices that might be required to support you and the business? When my then fiancé, Julie, and I moved to Boston to buy the dealership, she had to leave a job she really enjoyed. It would take her many years before she felt like she had risen again to the professional and personal heights she had departed in Virginia.
  • Is your spouse comfortable with living on a very tight budget during the time that you’re growing the business?
  • Does your spouse think it’s a good idea to go into the business you’ve selected?
  • If your spouse is going to work with you and make decisions, have you discussed how will you navigate the inevitable personal and professional disagreements?
  • Even if you’re not working together, do you communicate with your spouse in a way that would allow you to work through the challenges that will arise? If you’re currently unable to resolve differences about money and spending, these situations usually get worse rather than better under the stresses of building a business.
  • Do you have children or family members you need to support financially? How prepared are you all to survive the financial setbacks that many business owners experience?
  • How does owning a business fit into your overall life plan? What are your motivations for wanting to own your business? Business ownership consumes large quantities of time and mental energy, even after it’s running well and succeeding. Do you really prefer those stresses over the challenges of working a regular job?
  • Does your “personal board of directors”(PBOD) think it’s a good idea? (More on the PBOD in the book.)

Personality Questions

  • Are you prepared to ride a serious emotional roller coaster, especially when things aren’t going so well? We tend to think that gladness and sadness sit on two ends of a see-saw—that the two vary in opposition to each other. But psychologists have found that positive emotions and negative emotions instead fit into two separate buckets and can move up and down independently. I have experienced large quantities of pleasure and pain throughout my business career, often simultaneously. In 2009, for example, we were having our then-most profitable year ever in the middle of the “Great Recession.” Opportunities were abundant, especially with used cars, since so many dealers were panicking and slashing their inventories even as demand for affordable transportation increased. But Chrysler was in bankruptcy, and we didn’t know whether our Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership that we opened in 2004 would survive the ax of the bankruptcy court. (Ours did; over 700 did not.) We were thriving, but just one overnight letter away from losing that whole business.
  • Do you like solving problems, and are you good at it? Operating a small business is not unlike owning a really old house: things break a lot, and you need to fix them, over and over and over. And because you can’t see the future, it seems like you never have as much information as you would like, so you have to take continuous calculated risks.
  • How do you deal with routine failure? I don’t mean bankruptcy or catastrophic setbacks, but rather the heartbreak associated with hires who quit after lots of training, or money wasted on advertising that didn’t attract customers, or time forever lost on projects that couldn’t be implemented for one reason or another. I was humbled over and over again, day in and day out, when things just didn’t work. Paradoxically, most people would say I succeeded by any conventional notions of that word, but my everyday experience was dominated by constant setbacks. Writer George Orwell captured the feeling with the observation that “any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.” It helps if you can look at failures as feedback and appreciate them for their educational value instead of taking them as body blows. Looking back on my journey, I feel buoyed by this quote from investor Charlie Munger: “It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.” Success is about failing well: minimizing the harmful impacts of the failure (financial, emotional, and otherwise), learning something useful from the experience, and moving forward with renewed enthusiasm and increased knowledge and wisdom.
  • Are you good at supervising others, and do you enjoy that? To this day, my greatest professional pleasure comes from the pride I associate with the recruitment and retention of the extraordinary Planet Subaru team, but gathering our current roster came with the frequent disappointment of people failing to live up to my expectations. We’ve had to fire a few people for doing really bad stuff, and I’m still affected by those memories all these years later.
  • Do you enjoy working enough that you’re willing to put in crazy hours? Virgin founder Richard Branson said, “Entrepreneurs are the crazy people who work 100 hours a week so they don’t have to work 40 hours for someone else.” You can expect to work pretty long hours during the first few years of opening a business. Hard things don’t come easy. A life of leisure may follow a successful business, but rarely does a life of pleasure lead to the creation of a successful business. Poet William Butler Yeats wrote that we are “forced to choose perfection of the life or of the work.” I experienced this conflict often, so consumed with the car business that I neglected the business of living well. It consumed so much time and energy that I didn’t have much left for anything else. I was even reluctant to take vacations because I knew how much work would pile up on my desk while I was gone.
  • Imagine yourself as an old person. How do you think you would look back on your life if you started a business, but it just didn’t work out? This technique, called prospective hindsight, allows you to imagine the consequences of an event that has yet to occur. Researchers asking elderly people to reflect on their lives learned that people regret the things they didn’t try more than the things they did try but didn’t work out. Which regret would you rather have: starting your business and failing or not starting your business and wondering what could have happened if you had?
  • Are you naturally interested in the business you’re going into? I always loved cars, from my earliest days collecting Matchbox cars as a kid and using the pattern on our kitchen’s linoleum floor to lay out imaginary streets and interstates. To this day, I get excited about seeing Subaru’s new products and learning about the engineering that went into making them. If you want to open a bakery, it helps if you have a passion for baking. (Just note, however, that once you own a bakery you’ll be doing very little actual baking. And just because you’re a good baker doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be a good bakery owner.) Perhaps your passion dates back to childhood, as mine did. Author John McPhee reviewed his lifetime of writing and observed that 90% of the topics he had explored as an adult were things he was curious about before he went to college.
  • Are you good at resolving conflicts with people, or are you willing to work really hard to learn this skill? Owning a business means you’ll spend a lot of time reconciling people’s conflicting needs, such as the age-old challenge of resolving a customer’s desire to pay less and a business’s desire to earn more. You don’t have to enjoy conflict, but you’ll see a lot of it, so be prepared.
  • Do you have the personality type that can create a plan, execute that plan, and get things done? The world needs people who like to smell the roses and go with the flow, but starting and running a business requires lots of decisions and problem-solving. You will enjoy yourself more and find more success if that comes naturally to you.
  • Are you patient and resilient enough to stick through years of building a business? During one long stretch, lasting several years, we were barely surviving in business. We had doubts about whether it would ever be worth it. I call these years “the lonely middle.” After the adrenaline of the start-up and long before enjoying any breakthrough success, we had to grind it out every day. During this time, we struggled to muster the energy and enthusiasm needed to get through long days and maintain our emotional strength in the face of routine difficulties. I remember a twelve-hour day during a tough month filled with headaches. When I left the dealership that night there were fewer cars on the sales board than when I came in (because two people had canceled orders). I put in all that work, and the dealership still lost money that month! Sometimes it felt like a big accomplishment for me to simply climb out of bed on a dark winter morning and go back to work again. Many nights I came home and told Julie that I would have given my two-week notice that day if I didn’t own the business. Day in, day out, month in, month out, year in, year out, we had to sustain the motivation to push through repeated failures, constant personnel challenges, and chronic psychological fatigue. Looking back, I can see that these years were crucial to our eventual success because we were building a customer base, establishing our name in the community, developing our team, and paying down debt. We were actually slowly growing rich, but we felt pretty poor.
  • Do you have good instincts about people? In other words, do you generally make accurate predictions about people’s behavior, or do they frequently disappoint or surprise you? We tend to project onto others our way of seeing the world. It’s hard to see the world the way it is rather than the way we are. Early on in my business life, I was naïve about the motives of some people. I don’t try to mislead others or deliberately cause injury to someone for my gain, so I simply assumed everyone else would operate that way in business. Shortly after we opened, I remember contracting with an out-of-state direct-mail company. They “guaranteed” that if a certain number of folks didn’t appear at the dealership with the ad, they would send additional mail until that number was reached. Not surprisingly, given the low response rates of direct mail back then and now, the promised stampede in the showroom did not occur. That slow weekend, if I squinted a little bit, I thought I might even be able to see tumbleweeds rolling through. (Turns out these were dust bunnies under the cars that had accumulated under the cars. During this time, we cleaned the facility by ourselves—not very well—to save money.) When I notified the company owner about the disappointing results, the guarantee crumbled, and he wanted more money to send a different kind of mailer the following month. It was not the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time I ran into people like this, and I learned again a vital lesson: be very careful when choosing your business associates. The best contracts are little protection from the worst people because an agreement is just a piece of paper unless you’re willing and able to bear the significant financial, emotional, and opportunity costs of enforcing the terms in court. There’s no 911 to dial for white-collar crime.
  • Do you like attending to details, or will you need someone who can do this for you? You need to do a lot of things well: keep the bathrooms clean with plenty of toilet paper, maintain the right inventory, have a pleasant voice answering the phone, etc. Actor Cary Grant said it this way: “A thousand details add up to one impression.”
  • How adaptable are you as a person? Can you roll with things when they don’t go as planned? Can you comfortably make course corrections when your decisions don’t work out? Professor Leon Megginson wrote the following, with a nod to Darwinian theory: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.” It seems like just about the time we felt like we had things dialed in, something would come along to throw our system out of whack. Perhaps we would lose a key team member, or a recession would pinch sales. But in a constantly changing environment, opportunities will appear to the nimble and observant. In the mid-2000s, when the Subaru Tribeca failed to meet sales expectations, most dealers were overstuffed with new inventory and didn’t want any more of them. They avoided the used ones, too, but we discovered that many customers who wouldn’t pay $35,000 for a new one would pay $28,000 for a slightly used one. We stocked up, and it helped us sell more new ones, too, because some customers would visit to see our selection of used models and end up going for a new one anyway. While some dealers saw only failure and risk, we saw opportunities.
  • Are you enough of a perfectionist that you aspire to excellence, but not so much of a perfectionist that you’ll drive all your people crazy and give yourself a heart attack? When asked about why he was so particular about everything at his little clam shack, my grandfather would say, “in a hundred years, no one will care, but I care now.” His attention to detail was noble, but he died of a heart attack at 72.

Financial Questions

Entrepreneurs reputedly enjoy taking risks. Some do thrive on the adrenaline of working without a net. When I hear about the people who have won and lost multiple fortunes, I think they must enjoy the thrill of rolling the dice. But the majority of the business owners I know prefer to manage risks by minimizing them or bypassing them entirely. Army combat veteran Colonel David Hackworth said, “If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan your mission properly.” Most successful entrepreneurs seek the deals where the odds of success significantly outweigh the potential for failure.

For many years, I personally bought our used cars at the auctions. By specializing exclusively on Subarus and obsessively immersing myself in that world, I gained a modest competitive advantage over most of the other buyers in the country. I thoroughly understood all the factors that influenced the value of the cars, and I was on the showroom floor every day interacting with the customers who were buying them. Every time I bought a car, I took a bet. Each bet was small enough that even a big mistake would hardly put us out of business, but I piled up the small winnings from all these bets every month until we were buying 100 used cars a month at auctions. I developed a strategy that generated a lot of revenue with minimal risk, although it took a lot of time and effort. You could say I liked to roll the dice, but only when they were loaded in my favor. Imagine you’re the player in an imaginary casino where you can bet on red or black, and you’re right consistently more often than you’re wrong. If you never bet too much to go bust, and you play long enough, you’ll do really well. (This just happens to be the way a real casino makes money from the players.)

  • Would betting on yourself reasonably be considered a wise investment? For example, my brother John and I both had appropriate experience in the car business. We had a track record of completing complex tasks. A sensible investor would have looked at us and handicapped our odds favorably. However, that confidence would have shrunk considerably had we chosen a much bigger business or an industry where we had little or no experience.
  • Have you saved any of your own money to invest in your business? While losing savings can be devastating, it’s generally easier to handle than losing borrowed money where creditors pursue your remaining assets.
  • Do you have a reasonable backup plan if you lose everything? For example, if your spouse has a good job and your business doesn’t work out, it’s reasonable to think you could survive such a failure by going back to work for somebody else and relying on your partner’s income to cover the bills during the transition period. However, if you mortgaged your house and lost all your money, that would cause much bigger problems that you would need to be able to address.
  • Can you survive losing whatever you invested in the business, or would such a failure trigger a spiral of financial ruin for your family? John and I were young enough that a total failure would have hurt quite a bit, but it wouldn’t have wiped us out forever. We would have needed to repay the few hundred thousand dollars in loans, but that sum wasn’t so big for us that we couldn’t have paid it back, over time, after we went back to work for somebody else.
  • Are you young enough to lose everything and regain your footing before retirement? I knew a couple who closed a business after several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses right before they retired—the worst time in your life to fail because you have no more working years left to recover. Their “golden years” are now the “social security check” years. The older and less wealthy you are, the more pressure you will face to succeed financially in business.
  • What kind of psychological relationship do you have with money? Are you a disciplined saver and responsible investor? If you aren’t already savvy with small sums of money, do you have a realistic expectation that you’ll do better when the stakes are higher? My brother and I were raised in a home with frugal values, so we were accustomed to postponing our immediate desires in pursuit of future rewards. We saw money primarily as a way to give us freedom to help others and do the things we wanted as opposed to a way to buy lots of stuff. (Ironically, we didn’t consider how long we would be confined inside the four walls of a dealership before we would begin to enjoy some of that freedom!)
  • Is your personal financial house in order that you can weather the lean times without causing serious strife/difficulty? Are you currently living below your means such that you could survive a reduction in income?
  • Considering the overall costs and benefits of owning a business, is starting a business the best way to accomplish your goals? You can achieve financial independence by working really hard to build a successful business over several years or decades. I chose that adventure, but I have the scars to show for it. You can also find a lot of freedom by significantly scaling back your lifestyle and living very modestly on a smaller income. Learn more about this by researching the F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement. The Mr. Money Mustache blog is a good place to start.
  • Because there are few shortcuts to wealth, you will make a lot of sacrifices—is it really worth it to you? In an interview, music producer Russell Simmons marveled at the abundance that he found all around him. It dawned on him that he had scores of chairs in his lavish residence but could never sit in more than one at a time. How many moments of your life are you willing to trade for money?

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Leading Forum
Jeff Morrill is the author of Profit Wise: How to Make More Money in Business by Doing the Right Thing. Starting from scratch and using the principles and techniques shared in this book, Morrill co-founded businesses in automotive retail, real estate, telecommunications, and insurance that generate over $100,000,000 in annual revenue. His achievements in building profitable and ethical companies have been featured in a variety of national media including USA Today, Automotive News, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Globe. You can find out more about at JeffMorrill.com

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Entrepreneurs Faces Soul of An Entrepreneur

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:29 AM
| Comments (0) | Entrepreneurship


Leading Thoughts for April 15, 2021

Leading Thoughts

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


Yale sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis reflects on what we are likely to see as we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic period:

“If history is a guide, it seems likely that consumption will come back with a vengeance. Periods of plague-driven austerity have often been followed by periods of liberal spending. If the Roaring Twenties following the 1918 pandemic are a guide, the increased religiosity and reflection of the immediate and intermediate pandemic periods could give way to increased expressions of risk-taking, intemperance, or joie de vivre in the post-pandemic period. The great appeal of cities will be apparent once again. People will relentlessly seek opportunities for social mixing on a larger scale in sporting events, concerts, and political rallies. And after a serious epidemic, people often feel not only a renewed sense of purpose but a renewed sense of possibility.”

Source: Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live


Authors Robert Galford and Anne Drapeau on the correlation between trust and self-knowledge:

“Being a trusted leader is about knowing yourself. Knowing your strengths, your shortcomings, what gives you pleasure, what annoys the hell out of you. Knowing why you go to work, why you react as you do under pressure, what scares you, and what makes you proud. The true trusted leaders we know all have one thing in common, if nothing else: they know themselves very well. Self-knowledge is fundamental to be a rusted leader for a simple reason: trust is built on honesty.”

Source: The Trusted Leader: Bringing Out the Best in Your People and Your Company

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:29 PM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


6 New Rules for the Digital Age

6 New Rules for the Digital Age

EVERY NOW AND THEN, a book comes along to give you the insights you need to see and understand the world you live in and how to thrive in it. Rethinking Competitive Advantage: New Rules for the Digital Age by Ram Charan is one of those books. The ideas and terminology you’ve heard and read about come together here to give you a holistic view of where you need to go next.

Charan has taken years of observation and distilled it into six practical rules to guide you into this digital age.

To begin:

In the digital age, competitive advantage is the ability to win the ultimate prize—the consumer’s preference—repeatedly, through continuous innovation on behalf of the consumer, and to create immense value for the shareholders at the same time.

As opposed to:

Until recently, the greatest competitive advantage went to companies that controlled distribution channels, had hard assets on the largest scale, or had established brands or patents.

In other words, it’s more about what a company does than what it has.

Digitization defines the playing field. “The old adage ‘stick to your knitting,’ for example, a colloquial version of ‘build on your core competence,’ tends to narrow a company’s imagination. Yet a bold imagination is a requirement for leaders today.”

Digital companies like Netflix, Amazon, Google, and Alibaba, have certain elements—or approaches—in common:

• They imagine a 100x market space that doesn’t yet exist.
• They have a digital platform at their core.
• They have an ecosystem that acerates their growth.
• Their moneymaking is tied to cash and exponential growth.
• Their decision-making is designed for innovation and speed.
• Their leaders drive learning, reinvention, and execution.

These elements lead to six rules that a leader must work with if they are going to thrive in the digital age. The way forward is understanding the new rules of competition and playing a different game. Charan explains several roadblocks like—an overreliance on outdated theories—to moving forward in the digital age that insightful. The first four rules represent building blocks for building a competitive advantage. The last two relate to the human side of bringing this all together.

Rule #1. A personalized consumer experience is key to exponential growth.

The digital companies connect with the end-user and creating a customized experience. They work from the end-user backward. The customer is not the retailer but the end-user. “The key is to identify an experience that can both be personalized and appeal to a very large number of people, regardless of national or cultural boundaries.” Most traditional companies don’t think big enough.

Rule #2. Algorithms and data are essential weapons.

Algorithms and data must become central to your business. Charan distinguishes digital capability and digital platform. Digital capability usually means that the company has utilized algorithms to improve internal processes. In contrast, a digital platform is “a set of algorithms that collect and analyze data. Combining and refining algorithms over time helps a company build a competitive advantage.”

Converting to a digital platform should be done incrementally. Leaders must understand what technology can do for them and have good judgment about how to use it. A digital platform can personalize the consumer experience, create market spaces of 100x, eliminate intermediaries, utilize dynamic pricing, and use data to uncover opportunities for exponential growth.

Rule #3. A company does not compete. Its ecosystem does.

The ecosystem is the arrangement between partners that can be created. “Moving forward requires seamless systems and technology platforms, taking advantage of the latest technical developments, meeting a range of consumer preferences, and processing massive amounts of data to improve the outcome of things.”

Conceiving these ecosystems takes imagination and a specific set of leadership skills. Fundamentally, “it’s about building relationships with people from other cultures and with different incentives.”

The predominant challenge is to conceive of the ecosystem in its entirety, how it will deliver a great experience for the consumer, how the partners will enhance each other capabilities, and how success will be measured and shared.

Rule #4. Moneymaking is geared for huge cash generation, not earnings per share, and the new law of increasing returns. Funders understand the difference.

When it comes to digital companies, earnings per share is not the focus. Revenue growth and cash gross margin is.

Moneymaking is different in the digital age. Of course the components of moneymaking—things like revenues, cash, gross margin, cost structure, and funding—are the same as ever. But the emphasis, the patterns, the timing, and the relationships among them are different.

In digital companies, as revenues grow, so does gross margin because of the law of increasing returns.

As digital companies grow revenues and improve percentage gross margin, they exponentially increase their gross margin in cash. In essence, they become a cash-generation machine.

The gross margins of born-digital companies are generally higher than those of their conventional counterparts.

The digital connection that digital companies have with their customer base makes it easier for them to keep them engaged and gather more data. “Algorithms can then help detect the causes of certain behaviors, including customer defections, and test ways to improve the customer experience.”

Rule #5. People, culture, and work design form a “social engine” that drives innovation and execution personalized for each customer.

The social engine, a company’s culture and way of organizing work, helps drive the growth of the big digital companies.

Most of these digital giants operate with only three or four layers below the CEO. Organizing into functionally focused teams makes for better and faster decisions and implementation. Important too is who is on those teams. Who you choose to lead those teams speaks volumes about the values of the company. Beyond just plain competency, you need people who want to learn, grow, and get things done. Laslo Bock said that at Google, they “disqualified anyone who gave even a small signal that they might not be collaborative or intellectually humble.”

Once established, the culture becomes a magnet for others who share those values and behave that way.

Rule #6. Leaders continuously learn, imagine, and break through obstacles to create the change that other companies must contend with.

Speaking of intellectual humbleness, leaders must be at the forefront of curiosity and learning—continuously growing. “Any company that is or wants to be digital must have leaders who match up against the criteria a digital company requires.” The main difference Charan sees between traditional leaders of legacy companies versus leaders of digital companies has to do with their “cognition, skills, and psychological orientation.” Among these traits are:

They have the mental capacity to think in terms of 10x or 100x, to imagine a future space that doesn’t exist, and the confidence that they will overcome whatever obstacles they might encounter.

They have a facility for and are comfortable with data-based analysis. Facts and knowledge—not predictable outcomes—give them the courage to act.

There is fluidity to their thinking. They welcome change and even seek it.

They are hungry for what’s next and are willing to create and destroy. Their psychology is geared toward high speed, urgency, and continuous experimentation.

They are literate in the application of algorithmic science and value fact-based reasoning.

They are willing to reconceptualize the organizational structure so that decision-making takes place closer to the customer to improve the speed and quality of decisions.

This insightful and very accessible book is one of Charan’s best. It should be widely read. Even if you do not want to join the current reality and perhaps go down with the ship, at least you’ll know why.

Here are a few more thoughts from the book:

Dissatisfaction with the status quo and a search for what’s next is a universal human endeavor. It does not reside in one person, department, or organizational layer. The flow of ideas cannot be blocked by bureaucratic layers. Do the people at traditional companies welcome change? What happens to the good ideas that emerge? How quickly do they get converted into action?

Today transformational change is the norm. Every company has to be able to perceive what will make their best-laid plans obsolete tomorrow and change direction quickly.

Trying to build on your core competence can be a liability in the digital age. Why? Because it tends to promote an inside-out perspective and narrow a leader’s peripheral vision and constrain imagination.

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Attackers Advantage Is Your Organization Digitally Mature

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:52 AM
| Comments (0) | Entrepreneurship , General Business


Mayday! Mayday! How to Build Trust in a Crisis

Trust Horsager

NOTHING reveals an organization’s limits more than a sudden crisis. And after 2020, we’ve all become more familiar with what that looks like. Crisis situations test what you have built — your culture, your relationships, your resilience. But at the root of all of these challenges is one capacity that means the difference between success and failure: trust.

Trust is your most important asset amidst crisis and change. A team with high levels of trust will have the agility necessary to make decisions and react quickly to fluctuating situations.

Building Trust Instantly

The beautiful thing about trust is that it will help you through a crisis even if you start to build it the day things go off the rails. In fact, your quickest opportunity to build trust is in a crisis. On 9-11, complete strangers trusted each other in an instant if they were running in the same direction.

To some degree, trust is built up over time, but your ability to build trust multiplies in a crisis. Building trust consists of strengthening eight traits (also called pillars) that came out of research on what makes the most effective leaders and organizations.

Take a look at the pillar of clarity for example. Clarity increases trust instantly. It’s almost impossible to trust a leader who is vague or who gives insufficient information. But be crystal clear in your words and your actions, and trust will immediately increase — especially in the middle of a crisis.

This three-point strategy prioritizes clarity and provides a roadmap that you can use over and over in any crisis.

1. Narrow your focus to a single priority. When the unexpected hits, everything feels like a priority. But it’s actually the opposite; in a crisis, it’s essential to address only one priority at a time. Ask yourself these two questions to help guide your actions: first, ask “What can I control?” It’s tempting to focus on barriers, but the only thing that matters in a crisis is what you can control, not what you can’t.

The second question to ask yourself is “What is the one, most important thing that I can do, right now?” That’s your priority. Designating only one priority means your team will be able to follow through. There’s nothing that builds clarity more effectively than aligning a team around a single, achievable priority. When your team knows exactly where to focus its efforts, trust in your leadership will grow.

2. Compress your plan into short blocks. In a conversation with Gen. McChrystal (best known for his leadership of the US Army Joint Special Operations Command), he shared that when the war in Afghanistan took a turn for the worse, they weren’t able to quickly get the intel they needed. So instead of planning weeks ahead, they set 30-minute daily meetings to define a daily priority. What could this look like in business? Often leaders set a one-year priority, but in a crisis the pace of change means you may need to set a one-month, one-week, or even a one-day priority for your people to follow.

In any crisis, task completion is a crucial benchmark because momentum builds momentum. Narrow your priority to something that can be completed in this short timeframe, or shorter! After a week, the situation may have completely transformed. A doable goal also facilitates engagement and optimism. When people know absolutely that their efforts are aligned with a larger plan, they won’t have to waste precious time second guessing or asking for approval. Nothing solidifies trust like a reliable pattern of completion. And the more trust increases, the more smoothly and quickly your operation can run.

3. Maintain agility. Responding to a crisis requires speed, but it also requires flexibility and agility. The situation will change constantly and on a massively accelerated timeframe. The ability to take in information, adjust, and pivot to a new direction is crucial. Once you’ve completed one priority, you need to be able to identify and shift to the next one. The ability to reassess a situation and pivot quickly is just as important as narrowing to a single focus. Leaders must be actively engaged in this process, taking their teams from start to finish, then circling back around to repeat the process.

Making it through a crisis unscathed requires organizations to be able to identify, complete, and move on from tasks at a rapid clip. A high trust organization will always be able to move more quickly and maintain solid footing. And nothing facilitates trust better than crystal clear communication.

Once you start, clarity builds on itself, and as clarity increases, trust grows exponentially in your leadership and in your business.

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Leading Forum
David Horsager, MA, CSP, CPAE, is the CEO of Trust Edge Leadership Institute, Trust Expert in Residence at High Point University, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Trust Edge. David has advised leaders and delivered life-changing presentations on six continents, with audiences ranging from FedEx, Toyota, MIT and global governments to the New York Yankees and the Department of Homeland Security. His new book, Trusted Leader: 8 Pillars that Drive Results describes how to create a companywide foundation of trust. Learn more at TrustEdge.com or davidhorsager.com.

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The Trust Edge Decision to Trust

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:52 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership


Leading Thoughts for April 8, 2021

Leading Thoughts

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


The late economic historian professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Carlo M. Cipolla on the five laws of human stupidity:

1. Everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals among us.
2. The probability that a certain person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person while deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses themselves.
4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals.
5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

Source: The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity


Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor on vision:

“The only way to succeed in the marketplace today—the marketplace of individuals or products or services or ideas—is to know your own story and to follow it into the future. Define yourself by someone else’s benchmarks, immerse yourself in someone else’s possibilities, and you become the thing you define yourself by and immerse yourself in. Measure yourself against your own rate of change and you stay inside your own story. That way, when the other side ceases to exist, you still have a reason to go on. External and lateral competition is the distraction. Internal and vertical competition is the game. The real battle is against yourself.”

Source: The Visionary's Handbook: Ten Paradoxes That Will Shape the Future of Your Business

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:44 AM
| Comments (0) | Leading Thoughts


What Leaders Need to Know About Data

Data Ruben Ugarte

SOMETIME between the 1st and 4th century, something incredible happened. Indian mathematicians invented a system for measuring objects. Arabic mathematicians eventually adopted the system, and it was through them that Europe would eventually learn about the numerical system we still use today.

Ever since then, numbers have played an important role in our lives. Statistics surround us, and leaders need to have a good grasp of numbers’ roles within their companies. Here are the key things leaders should know about data — and what things they can safely ignore.

Data Can Speed Up Decisions

The decisions that you make as a leader can have an outsized impact on your company. Data can help you speed up these decisions and ensure that you’re making the correct choices. If you’re exploring a new market to enter, data can provide you with potential projections about sales and give you an idea of the type of customers within this market.

The quality of your decisions and the speed at which you make them matter. Look back at the last year, and you’ll realize that it wasn’t just about making the right decision, but doing it rapidly. The entire world went into lockdown within weeks, and leaders had to determine how to shift entire companies into remote work, change how they serve customers and try to figure out how to survive.

You can also use data to help your team make better decisions. Leaders know that they need to delegate, but the actual process isn’t always clear. The people under you may not have the same confidence or intuition, but they could be accessing the same information. They could use data to guide them to the right decision without your involvement. Better yet, they can measure the success of their decisions.

Data Is Your Flashlight and Map

Think about a cave. It’s dark, humid and you can’t see more than a few feet ahead of you. You know there’s an exit somewhere, but you’re not sure how far it is or what path to follow.

It would be nice to know the exit direction, but instead, you have a map and a flashlight. And that’s all you actually need! As you lead through uncertainty, think about how your team adjusts to last-minute changes and what kind of map you’re using. The best leaders can quickly create maps for new situations — and better yet, they know when to abandon the map and when to follow it.

The new CEO of UPS, Carol Tome, came in with a simple idea: saying “no.” UPS should say no to the wrong customers, wrong product lines and wrong ideas. UPS stock has risen over the last year, and it’s well-positioned to grow beyond the pandemic.

I don’t think Ms. Tome knew exactly what might happen under this strategy, but she gave her team a map and flashlight. She trusted that her team could adjust midway through and continue moving towards the exit.

Data Can Help You Measure Success

Measurement is important in providing options for determining opportunities and new ideas — and determining whether the direction you take is successful.

Think about what data you’ll be using to measure progress on your goals. You can explore reports, dashboards and working with specific people to generate the relevant data.

Consider also scheduling regular touchpoints to talk about the data and discuss opportunities. What new customer segments are appearing? What products or services should you abandon?

Innovation needs to be consciously thought through and carried out. Look at Great Britain’s efforts for funding innovation. It has plans to create its own Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and give money to innovative ideas. The results are yet to be seen, but it’s moving in the right direction. Leaders are ahead of the pack, trying to scout these innovation opportunities.

Numbers have been a blessing and a curse. They’ve given us the ability to understand our world, but they aren't always intuitive. Use data to speed up your decisions, guide you in the dark and measure success. Better yet, use data to become a better leader for your team.

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Leading Forum
Ruben Ugarte is founder of Practico Analytics, providing expertise in data analytics. He has worked with companies on five continents and in all company stages, helping them to use data to make higher quality decisions, boost performance, increase profitability, and make their teams world-class. He also maintains a popular blog with more than 100,000 readers. His new book is The Data Mirage: Why Companies Fail to Actually Use Their Data (Business Expert Press, January 22, 2021). Learn more at rubenugarte.com.

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Predictive Analytics Competing in the Age of AI

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:36 AM
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Lead from the Future

Lead from the Future

THERE is present-forward vision, and there is future-back vision. There is a difference. Present-forward thinking will get you incremental change and often leaves you stuck in the present. Future-back thinking expands your horizon to see opportunities that are beyond your core business. Future-back helps you quiet the noise today to see the faint signals that could disrupt your business or activities tomorrow.

In Lead from the Future, Mark Johnson and Josh Suskewicz describe future-back thinking as “a way of seeing and being in the world.”

Jules Verne Rocket
The authors point out that present-forward thinking innovation at most organizations is mostly incremental improvements to what they are already doing. “Sometimes they do invent something that has the potential to be transformative, but they develop it within a system that is defined and constrained by the facts of the present—like a spaceship in a Jules Verne story with lace curtains hanging over its portholes, and a cockpit fitted out with gas lamps, Persian rugs, and overstuffed armchairs.”

While we need to master the present, we can be lulled into thinking that the future will take care of itself because we are making our quarterly numbers. Most founders are future-back thinkers, but “most incumbent organizations are led by people who are much less future-thinking than their founders.” And understandably so, we must succeed in the present. But if we are to survive into the future, we need to be capable of mastering the future too and turn that vision into action today.

Present-forward thinking is high in knowledge and driven by known rules, facts, and data; future-back thinking is low in initial knowledge and high in assumptions—its aim is to discover what could be true.

The authors offer a three-step process to help leaders develop visionary strategies and bring them to life.

1. Develop Your Vision

Identify the potential inflection points in your industry and focus on the timeframe when they are likely to occur.

The key is to focus on a date that is distant enough to stretch your thinking, but not so far-off that it is utterly unrelatable.

Remember, the goal is not to predict the future with certainty (nobody can) but to paint an impressionistic painting of it detailed enough to build clarity and alignment on what will have to be done to meet its challenges and opportunities.

Focus on what you will offer as part of your envisioned future state, how you will create value, and how you’ll address your looming growth, positioning, and capability gaps in doing so.

2. Convert Vision to Strategy

To connect your vision of the future to a concrete plan for what you must do today to bring it to life, you need to develop three portfolios: future state portfolio, innovation portfolio, and an investment portfolio. These are “continually updated and tracked as you reshape your vision based on the new learning that comes over time.”

The future state portfolio helps you identify your growth gap – what you will need to provide beyond what you are capable of delivering presently to reach your vision. These needed capabilities become your innovation portfolio.

Develop an investment portfolio in which you formalize your decisions about where to invest and where your resources will come from. In building it, you should measure dollars but also people and leadership mindshare, as talent and leadership energy are often more scarce in big companies than seed funding.

3. Program & Implement the Strategy

Just as a vision needs to be translated into a strategy, a strategy must be carefully programmed into an organization before it can be effectively implemented.

Formalize the roles and responsibilities of the senior leadership team as champions of both the strategy and the breakthrough innovation teams set up to carry it out. Set up an organizational model that protects breakthrough innovation teams from the countervailing influences of the core. Manage initiatives with an explore, envision, and discover process so senior teams and innovation teams can learn their way to success together.

The leadership framework shown below highlights the mindsets for both present-forward and future-back leadership. It is not an either/or proposition. The most successful leaders will be those who can do both as needed. A leader described the left side as “serious, disciplined, and self-critical” and the right side as “aspiration, optimism, and risk orientation.”

Future Back Leadership

In The Innovator’s DNA, Clay Christensen identified five attributes that correlate closely with Future-Back Leadership: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking.

Business innovators are sponges for unfamiliar ideas; as such they seek out conferences and other venues to exchange and combine their ideas.

Once you understand the principles presented here, you can begin to look at everything with a future-back mindset—including your own life. We need as leaders to have and immerse our teams and organizations with a learning mindset. The tyranny of the present quickly pulls us back into a short-term present-focused mindset. We need to look for the balance and link the present with the future.

Future-back needs to become an organizational capability, led at the top, and permanently embedded in leadership mindsets, strategic planning processes, and organizational culture.

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First Look: Leadership Books for April 2021

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in April 2021. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases not listed here.

9780525575603Rethinking Competitive Advantage: New Rules for the Digital Age by Ram Charan

The old ways of creating competitive advantage for your business—such as building moats to ward off competitors—have become dangerous. Giants like Amazon and Alibaba are creating vast new market spaces through a deft combination of tools like machine learning and business savvy that reimagines customer experiences while generating immense shareholder value. A handful of traditional companies, including Fidelity Investments, Walmart, and B2W, have adopted these new approaches to reinvigorate their businesses. Most, however, are stalled—and the clock is running out. In this lively, accessible guide, Ram Charan, bestselling author and adviser to some of the world’s top CEOs and boards, redefines competitive advantage for the digital-first era, offering a set of new rules to get ahead.

9781540900807Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking by Jon Acuff

Overthinking isn't a personality trait. It's the sneakiest form of fear. It steals time, creativity, and goals. It's the most expensive, least productive thing companies invest in without even knowing it. And it's an epidemic. When New York Times bestselling author Jon Acuff changed his life by transforming his overthinking, he wondered if other people might benefit from what he discovered. He commissioned a research study to ask 10,000 people if they struggle with overthinking too, and 99.5 percent said, "Yes!" The good news is that in Soundtracks, Acuff offers a proven plan to change overthinking from a super problem into a superpower.

9780735217553The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't by Julia Galef

When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a "soldier" mindset. From tribalism and wishful thinking, to rationalizing in our personal lives and everything in between, we are driven to defend the ideas we most want to believe--and shoot down those we don't. But if we want to get things right more often, argues Galef, we should train ourselves to have a "scout" mindset. Unlike the soldier, a scout's goal isn't to defend one side over the other. It's to go out, survey the territory, and come back with as accurate a map as possible. Regardless of what they hope to be the case, above all, the scout wants to know what's actually true.

9780593135648Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown

As high achievers, we’ve been conditioned to believe that the path to success is paved with relentless work. That if we want to overachieve, we have to overexert, overthink, and overdo. That if we aren’t perpetually exhausted, we’re not doing enough. But lately, working hard is more exhausting than ever. And the more depleted we get, the more effort it takes to make progress. Stuck in an endless loop of “Zoom, eat, sleep, repeat,” we’re often working twice as hard to achieve half as much. Getting ahead doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it. No matter what challenges or obstacles we face, there is a better way: instead of pushing ourselves harder, we can find an easier path. Effortless offers actionable advice for making the most essential activities the easiest ones, so you can achieve the results you want, without burning out.

9781982128562High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out by Amanda Ripley

When we are baffled by the insanity of the “other side”—in our politics, at work, or at home—it’s because we aren’t seeing how the conflict itself has taken over. That’s what “high conflict” does. It’s the invisible hand of our time. And it’s different from the useful friction of healthy conflict. That’s good conflict, and it’s a necessary force that pushes us to be better people. High conflict, by contrast, is what happens when discord distills into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the kind with an us and a them. In this state, the normal rules of engagement no longer apply. The brain behaves differently. We feel increasingly certain of our own superiority and, at the same time, more and more mystified by the other side. Ripley investigates how good people get captured by high conflict—and how they break free.

9781641120241 9781633695931 9780806541037

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Build your leadership library with these specials on over 28 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“The great thing is to be always reading but never get bored—treat it not like work, more as a vice.”
— C. S. Lewis

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Whats New in Leadership Books Best Books of 2020

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Leading Thoughts for April 1, 2021

Leading Thoughts

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


Joseph T. Hallinan on how the tail begins to wag the dog when it comes to our perceptions of reality:

“Once we have an opinion about how something should be, that expectation often colors our perception of how that thing actually is. When we look, we look with a purpose—we don’t look at something; we look for something. We tend to see what we expect to see and to experience what we expect to experience.”

Source: Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception


Paul Zak on how fear-based leadership undermines our goals and dumbs us down:

“The science shows that fear-based management is a losing proposition because people acclimate to fear quickly. Fear-inducing leaders must ramp up threats to increase productivity, but there are only so may threats one can make.

“Fear is a fine short-term motivator but a poor long-term one. Worse than having no effect, when leaders spew out threats at work, it engenders learned helplessness in which people just give up trying to do anything.”

Source: Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies

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

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Leading Thoughts Trust Factor

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