The Leading Blog






01.30.23

Stop Letting the Latest Trend Dictate How You Run Your Company

Stop Letting the Latest Trend

QUIET QUITTING. Quiet firing. Quiet thriving. What will be the next viral workplace term?

Today’s businesses aren’t plagued by these “new” movements—except for the reactionary movement of buying into the latest buzzword and letting it affect their workplace culture.

As talked about in this Business Insider article, these trends have caused panic among leaders in all industries, who are now looking to combat these “new” issues, and consultants are right there with them, offering all sorts of “solutions.” A quick search on LinkedIn will bring you to the pages of coaches and consultants who claim to solve “quiet quitting,” using the keyword to garner clients.

The truth: These aren’t new problems. These are age-old issues with trendy, new names. “Quiet quitting” is a rebrand of employee disengagement, describing workers who choose to coast through their work hours instead of putting in the effort. “Quiet firing” came about in response to it, describing the passive-aggressive behavior of managers who withhold opportunities from quiet-quitters instead of firing them altogether.

The list of new terms goes on and on, but the point is that while these problems can’t be ignored, they aren’t new trends. There’s one common denominator behind them:

The majority of today’s organizations aren’t talent-centric.

If a company puts its talent first in its strategy and decision-making, these problems won’t arise in the first place.

THE “WHY” BEHIND THE TRENDS

Rather than looking to protect your company from the latest viral movement, look at why your employees are disgruntled, disengaged, or quitting in the first place. Chances are, it’s for one of the following reasons: They don’t feel connected to the vision of the business, they don’t feel heard or appreciated, there’s a lack of communication, or there’s a lack of opportunity for growth.

The simplest way to ensure these needs are met is to center your company around your employees.

START AT THE TOP

Asking questions is the best way to start changing your company. Where are your company’s decisions primarily being made? Usually, they’re being made within your executive team. So, when thinking about your employees and talent strategies, that’s where you must start: at the top.

Ask each person on your executive team what the vision is for your company. Then prepare to be surprised: Your CEO, CFO, and COO may very well give different answers. When your executives have different visions, you have a problem.

Multiple visions make for stagnant companies, with each member of your team rowing toward a different destination. There’s no way to reach a goal when everyone is rowing out of sync. How do you work for a company where your leaders each want to achieve something different? You don’t. This is what leads to employee turnover.

Company leaders and managers must be able to communicate the same vision. It sounds minute, but this one statement sets the tone for all subsequent actions.

When your leaders are aligned, your talent will hum at the same frequency, and you’ll notice more engagement and connection to the greater purpose of your business. When your talent doesn’t know the company’s vision in the first place, disconnection can easily become the norm.

VIEW FEEDBACK AS A PLUS

As a business committed to focusing on your talent, you must commit to hearing from employees. Being talent-centric isn’t about posting “we put employees first” on your website or on a placard on an office wall; it’s about making time to hear from your employees and truly listening.

I call this a culture of feedback. This, too, starts with the executive team. Those in leadership positions set the tone for the entire organization, so everyone must openly show their commitment to wanting feedback from any employee and also giving their own. Feedback must be offered without fear of repercussions. Open your schedule—and your team’s schedules—to allow one-on-one meetings with any worker.

Listening to your staff will establish trust among peers, managers, and higher-ups, which leads to loyalty and engagement. Plus, these one-on-one meetings provide a great time to check in with employees and ask what they need, what their goals are, and how you can help them reach them. Maybe all they need is a mental health day or advice on a new project. By having proactive conversations, you’ll prevent disengagement on their end.

COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS

Putting your talent first starts at the very beginning: the interview process. Stay true to the position you’re offering. Don’t embellish or leave out significant (or unsavory) duties the job requires. Most importantly, don’t downgrade the hours needed for the position.

Imagine you’ve accepted a 10-hour-per-week position. After the first month, you realize you’ve been working 30 hours to keep up with the workload. If there’s any way to cause an employee to disengage at work, this is it. Be honest from the very first conversation. It will ultimately lead you to weed out workers who don’t fit your expectations.

IT’S TIME TO REFOCUS

It’s time to look within—and not outside of—your organization for solutions to your problems. Once you take the steps to refocus your company on the people within it, these problems will start to fade.

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Leading Forum
Carol Schultz, founder and CEO of Vertical Elevation, is a talent equity and leadership coaching and advisory expert with 30 years in the business. She’s helped hundreds of companies transform their organizations and create sustainable, talent-centric cultures that run at maximum efficiency. She’s the author of the Amazon bestseller Powered By People: How Talent-Centric Organizations Master Recruitment, Retention, and Revenue (and How to Build One). Learn more at vertical elevation.com.

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Redesigning Leadership John Pepper

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:31 AM
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01.28.23

The Top Toys from the Year You Were Born

Weekend Supplement

Jacob Osborn and Peter Richman put together a list of the top holiday toys in the U.S. through the years over on Stacker.

Toy shopping has transformed over the past 100 years due to advancements in the products or the marketplace. Stacker searched for products from 1920 to today that caught hold of the public zeitgeist through novelty, innovation, kitsch, quirk, or simply great timing, and then rocketed to success. The list was curated using national toy archives and data curated by The Strong National Museum of Play. Some items remain curious relics of the past, while others are essentially as iconic now as they were upon their debut. Each one also functions as a window into American culture.”

Check it out!

Popular Toys

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Famous PeopleBitcoin Bride

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:30 PM
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01.27.23

When Everyone Leads the Toughest Challenges Get Seen and Solved

When Everyone Leads

LEADERSHIP is an action, not a position. Leaders can come from anywhere. Anyone can step up and take responsibility. Leadership begins by taking responsibility for the gap between what is and what should be.

Ed O’Malley and Julia McBride believe that anyone can lead, not by being a leader, but by exercising leadership. And When Everyone Leads, our tough challenges get seen and solved. We need the diversity of thought that can come from anywhere. We need to choose leadership over comfort.

When authorities—the folks in the top jobs—empower others to lead, their own jobs get easier. When everyone else—the folks not in authority—starts leading, their work becomes more rewarding.

The first step in leading change is to identify The Gap. “Leadership always starts with dissatisfaction. No one exercises leadership unless they are unhappy with the current reality.” It means acknowledging the concerns and facing the hard choices that must be made to move in the direction of our aspirations.

Our research shows that closing The Gap takes leadership from the many, not the few. Real progress on the toughest challenges facing your company or community requires more people looking at The Gap, voicing concerns and aspirations, balancing pragmatism and idealism.

In leading any change, you will encounter barriers. If you don’t understand where they come from and address them, you make things more difficult. In your efforts to close The Gap, the following five barriers are the most common:

  1. Navigate Loss. Change requires loss, and we don’t like that.
  2. Reorder Values. When progress stalls, there could be a values clash that you are not aware of.
  3. Resist the Allure of a Quick Fix. Avoid band-aides.
  4. You Need More than Authority (Leadership from the many, not the few.)
  5. Manage Risk. “Leadership is an activity that involves mobilizing people to let go of habits and norms that no longer serve them.”

Once you acknowledge and identify The Gap, you will make more progress when you do these five things:

  1. Authorize Yourself to Lead. It is a choice. Lead from where you are. “Leadership is a self-authorizing activity. No one else can authorize you to lead. Other people can tell you they want you to lead. They can put you in what they call a ‘leadership position’ (what we call an authority position). But only you can make the intentional decision to try to exercise leadership.
  2. Start with Your Leadership Challenge. “Focusing on a common leadership challenge allows everyone to see and seize their moments to lead.”
  3. Start Where You Have Influence. “No one leads everywhere, so we need everyone leading somewhere. Major change occurs because enough people, in different spheres, lead where they have influence.”
  4. Start with Your Part of the Mess. “Every time someone authentically asks themselves ‘What’s my part of this mess?’—and pauses long enough to hear the answer—they generate the possibility of their own leadership, marshaling the one variable they can control. Progress is usually just around the corner.”
  5. Start Engaging Others. Don’t try to go it alone. “Because there are many ways to look at a problem or challenge, engaging others—especially those who have different perspectives and share different values—illuminates the situation.”

Keep in mind, if there is no heat—if people don’t feel uncomfortable—there is no motivation to engage and change. No one will move if the heat in a situation is too low. You have to manage the heat. There has to be enough heat for people to change but not so much that they engage in unproductive behaviors. Too much heat and a flight, fight or freeze response kicks in. The right amount of heat fosters curiosity and learning.

The authors have tried to share lessons from their specific work at the Kansas Leadership Center to inspire engagement for leading change on tough issues. While some declarative statements miss the nuances of leading, their approach is spot on. If you are apprehensive about stepping up and leading, then you will be encouraged to act after reading the examples and principles found in When Everyone Leads.

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You Dont Need A Title Greatness Guide 5 Lessons



Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:59 AM
| Comments (0) | Find more on this topic in Change

01.26.23

Leading Thoughts for January 26, 2023

Leading Thoughts

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

I.

Niccolò Machiavelli on resistance to change:

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.”

Source: The Prince Translated by Thomas G. Bergin (1947)

II.

George Steele and Paul Kircher on innovation:

“Picture a man in charge of weapons for a medieval king. If he is scientific minded, he will try to improve his bows and arrows by working on different parts of the product. The searcher may be assigned to study the properties of feathers. He will try to improve the breed of birds, study feather selection, and storage, investigate whether they should be trimmed ½- or ¾-inch wide, and so on. This man will conduct what many call ‘scientific research’ for years. He may achieve many improvements, giving arrows better stability and accuracy; but what is the chance that such a man will ever invent a gun? If he should hear about one, the chances are he will do his best to point out how unstable and dangerous it is to carry a powder horn, how inaccurate the new guns are, and how many families depend for their livelihood on the chicken feather business.”

Source: The Crisis We Face: Automation and the Cold War

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

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:44 AM
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01.24.23

Intentional Leadership: The Big 8 Capabilities for Leading Well

Intentional Leadership

THE context of leadership has changed. It is more complex, and values that must be addressed have shifted. What we once glossed over now requires our attention and action. Mostly it requires that we be more intentional about relationships.

Rose Patten puts it this way in Intentional Leadership: “The spotlight on leadership has moved to how people lead in challenging and changing circumstances. Innovative models, digitalization, technologies—these are all important. But what matters more is how leaders lead other people.”

Good leadership happens when someone, by intention, has a positive impact—whether through empathy, inspiration, or wisdom. While some people seem to do this naturally, most of us—if we have the will—can learn it and continue to do it better.

We must begin with our mindset. Our mindsets have consequences. This is where we begin to improve our influence and impact. Patten identifies four common beliefs that impede our success as a leader:

  1. Leadership is timeless: once a great leader, always a great leader.
  2. Softer skills will improve, just give them time.
  3. High performance equals high potential for leadership.
  4. Mentors are important mostly for lower levels in leading.

If these false beliefs are part of our mindset, then we will not take the steps necessary to respond to our leadership environment with the renewed capabilities that are required of us. They can become blind spots—unspoken beliefs that control our behavior—that, on a conscious level, we would never admit to. So, there is a need to examine ourselves to see where our behaviors don’t line up with what we say we believe.

Leaders are dependent upon, and guided by, their own individual level of self-awareness, gained from self-reflection and feedback from others. This enables them to take deliberate, intentional action to check and adjust their mindset.

The Big 8

The Big 8 capabilities have been created to address the needs of the changing leadership environment and to counter the false beliefs that can creep into our thinking. A healthy self-awareness is the sine qua non for all of the Big 8. They are not a definitive list of desired traits but a roadmap to self-reflection and intentional renewal for the leadership context we face today.

It does not address all the skills that leaders are expected to have. Rather, the Big 8 offers the solution for leaders to become more effective and better balanced in their leading.

The Big 8

The Big 8 #1: Personal Adaptability

Adaptability is the capacity that matters most. “Adaptability, open-mindedness, and renewal are overlapping, one leading to another. Open-mindedness enables adaptability to occur; with adaptability, the hope of renewal is possible.” It is what it means to be a lifelong learner. Adaptability requires accepting diverse views and the willingness to be uncomfortable.

The Big 8 #2: Strategic Agility

In a consistently changing environment, strategies are short-lived. Success depends on commitment and our ability to be adaptable and creative. It is a mindset issue. Can we adapt to the “reality that strategies do have a shelf life no matter how successful they were in the past?” The leader needs the mindset of what Patten calls the three A’s: Appraising constantly, adjusting courageously, and acting urgently. “The leader needs strategic agility, beginning with personal adaptability and overlaid with critical thinking.”

The Big 8 #3: Self-Renewal

Teachability—discovering what you do not know. Arrogance leads to regret. Patten reflects, “In my own leadership experiences, learning does come from mistakes and from admitting to not having all the answers. Becoming teachable and open and being around other great insightful people, including mentors, has helped me tremendously. Having a need to know things and a continuing curiosity also feed teachability. Whether it comes from innate curiosity or through intentionality – either is welcome and impactful in becoming a better leader.”

The Big 8 #4: Certainty of Character

“Character is not a victim of circumstances; it survives in spite of them.” Character is doing the right thing in spite of circumstances. Patten offers five checks to guide leaders: Keeping your word (Integrity), Looking to self for cause (Responsibility), Sticking your neck out (Courage), Letting go of others’ mistakes (Forgiveness), and Putting self in others’ shoes (Empathy).

The Big 8 #5: Empathy

Quite naturally, empathy helps you to connect with others. Not only understanding others but understanding your impact on them—putting yourself in their shoes. It allows you to adjust your behavior to the situation.

The Big 8 #6: Contextual Communication

Leaders must explain not just the what but the why—the context. “Communicating without “the why,” without the purpose, but with just ‘the what’ doesn’t do it in today’s workforce. More than an expression of respect, communicating ‘the why’ engenders trust.” Leaders must go beyond the analytical mindset to consider emotions and understand others’ states of mind by recognizing preconceived mindsets.

The Big 8 #7: Spirited Collaboration

Patten calls it spirited collaboration because it enables and encourages “dissent, with the ultimate objective of arriving at a better outcome. A harmonious group of like minds becomes an echo chamber of agreement. A leader who doesn’t allow diverse opinions and ideas for improvement will perform suboptimally.” Collaboration means listening well, understanding motivations, and depersonalizing ideas.

The Big 8 #8: Developing Other Leaders—Not Only Followers

“Shifting the way in which we lead from command and control to connect and collaborate means that leaders move more to empowerment and distributed leadership in the workplace.” Developing leaders is not just a matter of time and experience. It is more than just teaching technical skills. A development approach of 70-20-10 is recommended: 70% is real-time apprentice-like learning, 20% is mentoring, and 10% is classroom-type resources.

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Sanborn Intention Imperative What is Leadership



Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:43 AM
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01.20.23

Experiential Intelligence: What It Is and How to Grow It

Experiential Intelligence

WHEN WE THINK of success and influence, there’s more to it than just IQ and EQ. What pulls it all together and contributes to our ability to show up and achieve our goals is the sum total of our experiences and what we take away from them. What we’re talking about is our Experiential Intelligence or our XQ.

In Experiential Intelligence, author Soren Kaplan describes XQ as “the combination of mindsets, abilities, and know-how gained from your unique life experience that empowers you to achieve your goals.” He adds, “XQ provides a holistic way to understand what’s needed for success in today’s world by getting in touch with the accumulated wisdom and talents you have gained over time through your lived experience.”

Lessons learned from our experiences alone do not make for Experiential Intelligence alone. XQ is a framework that provides a lens through which we can view our experiences. We create meaning or intelligence through a process that is based on three elements or building blocks:

Mindsets: Your attitudes and beliefs about yourself, other people, and the world. These attitudes and beliefs can either get in your way or propel you forward. When you fully tap into your XQ you’re able to uncover the self-limiting belief you hold.

Abilities: Your competencies that help you integrate your knowledge, skills, and experiences so you can respond to situations in the most effective way possible. “Abilities are specific competencies that bridge your mindsets with your know-how. Your abilities represent broader approaches to how you do what you do, so you can apply what you know how to do in different contexts. Your mindsets guide what you see as possible as desirable, which influences where and how you decide to apply your abilities.”

Know-How: Your knowledge and skills. This includes both formal education and tacit knowledge that is learned through practice or performing.

XQ Building Blocks

Mindsets, abilities, and know-how collectively comprise XQ. When we treat these components as building blocks, with know-how as the base, abilities in the middle, and mindsets at the top, we get a progression from the tangible to the more amorphous when it comes to self-awareness. Understanding that you possess certain knowledge and skills generally comes more easily than seeing your broader abilities. Recognizing that you possess specific mindsets that influence your thinking and behavior is even more challenging.

You can grow your XQ. Unfortunate experiences in your life can prepare you for a better future. “Embracing your XQ means looking for the unrealized assets you already possess and you’ve developed because of your experiences, whatever they may be.”

You grow your XQ in three ways: Reinventing your attitudes and beliefs (mindsets), Enhancing your abilities, and Building your knowledge and skills. Going deeper into your mindsets is the powerful thing you can do to drive significant change and breakthroughs.

Look for connections you have made between things that don’t belong together. Look for links between your past experiences and how they influence you today and decide what to keep and what to let go of or reframe. It usually requires taking a broader view of your experiences.

Kaplan provides specific questions and methods to dig into each of the three areas. Online you can take the XQ Assessment.

Kaplan also goes into developing for your team and organization using five strategies: Connecting the dots to find focus, Rewriting unwritten rules, Exploring uncertainty to discover new opportunities, Crating experiences to spark positive change, and Amplifying strengths to amplify impact.

Properly understood, XQ goes beyond just finding more creative solutions but grows your influence and gives you a better lens to hire and develop people for and in your organization.

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Working Genius 12 Keys Self Awareness

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:38 AM
| Comments (0) | Find more on this topic in Personal Development

01.19.23

Leading Thoughts for January 19, 2023

Leading Thoughts

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

I.

Susan Scott on being with someone prepared to be nowhere else:

“It’s amazing how this seemingly small thing—simply paying fierce attention to another, really asking, really listening, even during a brief conversation—can evoke such a wholehearted response. A Chinese proverb says, ‘When a question is posed ceremoniously, the universe responds.’ When someone really asks, we really answer.”

Source: Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time

II.

Ray Bradbury on the power of always taking the next step:

“Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.”

Source: Interview: The Art of Fiction No. 203

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

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:48 AM
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01.16.23

Key Traits of Challenger Brands that Allow Them to Punch Above Their Weight

MikeSullivan Brands

CHALLENGER BRANDS know what it means to fight their way to success. As true underdogs, it’s the only option they have. Challenger brands can’t spend their way to success with big ad campaigns like the category leaders. Instead, they start with a strong business strategy and an acute understanding of who they are as a brand. Then, they identify opportunities to leverage that identity for disruption.

When challenger brands take consumers and competitors by surprise, that collision carries twice the impact because it’s unexpected. That punch is what gives brands what they most want from their branding, marketing, and advertising — a response. That alchemy begins with anchoring the brand in a genuine consumer insight that distinguishes the brand from everything else.

An Underdog Nightmare for the Category Leaders

True challengers don’t follow convention. Underdogs don’t succeed by trying to do what the category leaders do, but better. Instead, they find and expose the weakness of category norms and fill those gaps with an extraordinary solution.

Years ago, we engaged with a CEO in the mattress industry who wanted to know how he could create real brand distinction and drive more retail traffic in such a highly commoditized category. His mattress chain was struggling with traffic, and with the Great Recession right around the corner, sales had gone from slow to sluggish. He needed an idea to turn up the volume, and he needed it quickly.

In an industry where mattresses are always on sale, we knew the brand had to do something to disrupt the market. It needed to be rooted in a point of difference that customers would find important and engaging, especially given the context of a faltering economy and stingy spending on discretionary products like mattresses. The answer to our new client’s dilemma lay hidden in his company’s extraordinary commitment to sales process and training.

The mattress CEO was relentless about doing right by customers, and this made him very particular about who he hired and how they were trained. The company’s extensive sales training far exceeded that of competitors. As a result, he delivered a superior customer experience as evidenced by the inconsequential number of returns — especially compared to the category leader, which was well known for its hard-closing conquest approach to sales. That set us up beautifully to offer the mattress industry’s first (and to date, only) One Year Love Your Mattress Guarantee. While the rest of the industry was offering 30-day return policies, our client gave customers an entire year to love their mattress, and if they didn’t, they could bring it back.

It was a revolutionary challenger move that turned category convention on its ear. The first month, sales spiked 30 percent, followed by months on end of year-over-year double-digit increases that climbed as high as 50 percent. Our favorite part of this challenger success story was an attempt by category killer Mattress Firm to match our client’s one-year offer only to yank it back quickly after being swamped with returns.

4 Key Traits of Every Underdog

As nice as it would be, challenger brand success doesn’t come with the flip of a switch. It takes a solid foundation based on four core traits every challenger brand has to have. If you’re a challenger brand ready to fight and compete, here are the four key traits you need to address first:

1. A challenger strategy. Challenger brands require a marketing strategy that challenges category convention and doesn’t simply mimic the moves of the leader or other successful category competitors. Leadership teams for authentic challenger brands evaluate the competitive landscape with an eye toward changing something fundamental about the way they approach the business. In doing so, they create a new and distinctive competitive advantage — a clear path for a unique marketing strategy that can only be leveraged by their brand.

2. Challenger promises. Challenger brands must also make brand promises that aren’t easily duplicated by competitors. The promise must be solidly grounded in real differences created by the company’s state of mind — something it does best or is earnestly striving to do best. Critically, this promise must be authentic. It can’t simply be manufactured through advertising.

3. Challenger statements. Challenger brands must be willing to make clear and compelling statements about what they are and what they’re not; who they are for and who they’re not for. Famous challenger brands such as Red Bull, Southwest Airlines, and Motel 6 are very specific about what they have to offer and who their products or services are for. They’re also not afraid to position themselves clearly away from customer groups that aren’t in their crosshairs. Challenger brands aren’t afraid to limit their appeal at the expense of alienating those who will merely tolerate them. They are laser focused on those who will love them — their fervently loyal core customer base.

4. A challenger voice. Challenger brands are willing to amplify their strategies, brand promises, and statements through a unique voice. Their advertising and marketing communications look and sound different from their competitors. They say different things, make different promises, and command a different kind of attention in the marketplace. The state of readiness extant in challenger brand leadership not only paves the way for unique and unconventional marketing and advertising, it compels customers to seek them out.

Challenger brands can’t afford to cheat the fundamentals. But when they build a strong foundation on challenger strategy, promises, statements, and voice, they will discover insights and be able to leverage the truth. Then they must fight like Hell without relenting. That’s how underdogs win.

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Leading Forum
Mike Sullivan is president and CEO of LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency. For more than 30 years, he’s helped some of the country’s most successful companies build their brands. Michael Tuggle is an award-winning creative director and writer with more than 25 years in the ad world building brands and growing companies. Their book is The Voice of the Underdog: How Challenger Brands Create Distinction by Thinking Culture First (BizComPress, Aug. 10, 2020). Learn more at theloomisagency.com.

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Stop Making Sense Fascinate

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:15 AM
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