Leading Blog



05.26.17

Lifestorming: Creating the Life You Want

Sam Zell

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WO OF THE TOP top coaches of our time, Alan Weiss and Marshall Goldsmith, have come together to write a book about how to grow into possibility—your unique possibility.

Lifestorming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life presents life as a journey without a “there.” An evolutionary journey through life. The goal for each of us is to take on life and enjoy it immensely by developing the required character and engaging in it enormously.

As we go through life, “people skills are usually the key differentiators of success.” It is imperative that we work on ourselves. We begin by understanding where we are and then where we want to be. “The fundamental work of changing our behavior for the better is ultimately our own responsibility.”

Going it alone is not easy and not the most effective way to implement major changes. We need a coach—or someone in our life that can act as a coach—because we need accountability and frankly, all too often, we don’t know what it is we really need to change.

Replace Poor Behaviors

When thinking about change, our strategy needs to be not to change poor behavior but to replace it. We cling to poor behaviors because we get something from it. Even in the midst of painful consequences we can find some comfort in reproducing old ways of thinking. So, we need to find a positive, constructive behavior to replace the negative behavior that is currently generating the reward we seek without all of the collateral damage.. “We often engage in behavior for no other reason than that we’ve never examined alternatives.”

Challenge Your Beliefs

If we can get to the beliefs behind our actions we can better regulate our behaviors. It’s important to remember too, that “we aren’t in a snapshot; we’re part of a film. We deal with what is today, knowing that it shouldn’t necessarily be what is tomorrow.”

Beliefs form attitudes which in turn create behaviors. “Attitudes are the connectors—the synapses—between beliefs and behavior, a self-comforting way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically reflected in a person’s behavior.” Everything we do comes from how we look at life—our personal reality.

Remaining Faithful to Our Growth Plan

We need to create a support system and we are responsible for creating our own support system. As a journey, we need to understand that behavior is more important than victories. “If you engage in consistently correct behavior, you’ll be successful.” Seek excellence, not perfection. “Once you’re content with excellence, you’ll improve daily and will act daily with alacrity and intent.” And learn when to fold and when to hold. “There is a time when you cannot change things, they will not get better on their own, and you need to take a sharp right turn to escape your predicament.” They caution: “If we don’t accept the things we can’t change, we’ll forever be stressed and unhealthy.”

A growth journey is not always easy and there will be obstacles. “Achieving success does not immediately or automatically make life easier. Instead, it usually creates new challenges—often ones we didn’t anticipate.”

“We know that whatever fate delivers, we have some agency—even if it’s only in how we react.” We need to stay in control of ourselves and only take prudent risks. For example, don’t gamble with finances, time, health, or relationships.

As we grow, a spirit of generosity will help us to keep from backsliding. A scarcity mindset weakens and limits us. We must expand our view. “We have to think differently and think bigger. Instead of extrapolating from where we are today and looking at arithmetic growth, we must paint a picture of the future and decide how to achieve it through geometric growth. Our journey is a moving target.”

Lifestorming addresses the pitfalls of growth and the traps we fall into—like the need to be right. You will find a complete and effective plan to guide you on your own growth journey. The authors also share their own personal stories for encouragement. Lifestorming pack years of experience into one book.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:25 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

05.19.17

9 Key Principles for Business & Life from Sam Zell

Sam Zell

B
ILLIONAIRE investor Sam Zell has put down on paper an account of the principles that guide how he does business in Am I Being Too Subtle?

He doesn’t claim to be self-made. He credits his parents with handing down to him values that have served him well in life. He is the son of Jewish immigrants who fled Poland in 1939 to avoid the Holocaust. “My parents were very disciplined and very focused on work and achievement, and they led by example.” His parents “never dumbed down the conversation for the kids.” Lessons were taught through examples and stories.

His parents provided Zell with a different perspective than his friends. They were given a bigger-picture orientation. As a result, he was “more comfortable standing apart” than he was trying to fit in. It was to be a defining characteristic of his life. “Conventional wisdom,” Zell writes, “is nothing more to me but a reference point.” But he notes, you can’t create your own playbook “unless you understand the rules of the game and play well within the lines. As long as you know where everyone else is, you can play the game.”

Below are nine of Zell’s key philosophies for how he approaches business and life:

1. Be Ready to Pivot
I never hesitate to pursue a new endeavor just because I haven’t done something similar before. I just use what I’ve learned that might cross over. I see myself as a frontline player, and that means being able to envision where demand is going to be, or where it won’t be—not just in the next five years but in the next twenty or thirty years. It means not sticking to assumptions that limit your opportunity. The fact is, I am eclectic, and the fun of my life is being able to gain access in new arenas.

2. Keep it Simple
I stay true to the fundamental truths: the laws of supply and demand; liquidity equals value; limited competition; long-term relationships. They offer a framework through which I view potential opportunity. Problem solving is my passion. Breaking issues down to their barest elements, simplifying them. Finding the fulcrum. It’s something anyone can learn to do. After that, experience makes the difference—doing it again and again until it becomes distinctive. Experience builds discipline and insight that sometimes allows you to see over the abyss before you step into thin air. It’s being risk aware. It is a matter of organizing your thinking.

3. Keep Your Eyes (and Mind) Wide Open
I rely on a macro perspective to identify opportunities and make better decisions. I am always questioning, always calculating the implications of broader events. If there’s one consistent theme, it’s that I’m always on the lookout for anomalies or disruptions in an industry, in a market, or in a particular company. Recognizing the psychology of market extremes can lead to attractive points of entry. Any event or pattern out of the ordinary is like a beacon telling me some interesting new opportunity may be emerging. If you’re a seeker of information and a serious observer, it’s all there to be learned. But with today’s access to an overwhelming amount of information, most of it drivel, you have to focus on what’s meaningful.

4. Be the Lead Dog
In my businesses, I like to be the lead dog, to control the “scenery” in every industry I enter. It means not being less than number two in any industry, and referable being number one. If you’re not the lead dog, you spend your whole life responding to others.

5. Do the Right Thing
When you’re in it for the distance, you do it right. Ethics are a cornerstone. I have always known that success for me would be guided by principles. For that reason, there are some deal I just won’t do. Everything I do is predicated on the assumption that there’s another deal. And the way you get to the next deal is to lay it straight. Sometimes my team argues with me—they can’t believe we’re leaving money on the table. But I want to create an environment where everyone wants to keep playing.

6. Shem Tov – A Good Reputation
In everything I do, I’m consistent, and I’m never tempted to something that’s at odds with my name. In business, people always want to know who you are—in other words, will you do what you say, will you make a reliable partner? Reputation is your most important asset.

7. Prize Loyalty
I believe loyalty defines your character. Do you stick with your friend, colleague, or partner when it’s not easy? Do you consider their circumstances as much as you consider your own? As you can imagine, for someone in my position, loyalty and trust are priceless commodities. And they go both ways.

8. Obey the Eleventh Commandment
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Ego and pride have their places, but when they are not self-regulated, they can be detrimental, if not debilitating. But for me the Eleventh Commandment implies something more. Simply put, it’s being the first person to laugh at yourself. To me, the Eleventh Commandment acknowledges that we’re all human beings who inhabit the world and are given the gift of participating in the wonders around us—as long as we don’t set ourselves apart from them.

9. Go All In
The minute you acknowledge that a problem is insurmountable, you fail. If you just assume there is a way through to the other side, you’ll usually find it, and you will unleash your creativity to do so. I equate this fundamental truth with an entrepreneurial mind-set. It’s tenacity, optimism, drive, and conviction all rolled into one. It’s commitment to get it done, see it through, make it work. In my world, I call that being an owner.

Zell advocates an owner/entrepreneurial mindset in business and life. “An owner is consumed with making the most out of what he already has. He’s all in. An entrepreneur is always looking for a new opportunity. He’s always reaching.” As he tells his grandkids, “Your responsibility is to maximize the skills you were given. But whatever you decide to do, invest everything you have in it—excel. What I’ve done is not the example I wanted to set; it’s the way I’ve done it that I hope you emulate, through focus, effort, and commitment.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:29 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Leadership Development

05.11.17

Be a Spark!

Spark

T
O CO-AUTHORS Angie Morgan, Courtney and Sean Lynch, to be a Spark is to be a leader. “You must recognize yourself as a leader. Know the pathway to leadership development and commit yourself to it. You’re not chosen to be a leader. You choose to lead.” When you behave like a leader you become a Spark.

Sparks initiate action and create the conditions for success for themselves and others.

Knowing the pathway to leadership development is a personal development job. In SPARK: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success, they offer seven essential behaviors that every leader needs to develop. None of us are born leaders. These behaviors are not innate and take time to develop.

Character:

By gaining awareness of what you truly value, you can think and act in ways that allow you to direct your life and have influence over others. Leading with your own values is the gateway to leading others.

Credibility:

Credibility is the foundation of your leadership style. It forms the basis of trust. If people can’t trust you, you can’t lead them.

Accountability:

Sparks resist the powerful, human instinct to place blame. They seek to identify how their own actions, or inactions, have contributed to the situations in which they find themselves in.

Act with Intent:

By having a clear vision and making choices consistent with it, take actions that lead themselves — and others — towards it. Sparks differentiate themselves by having the discipline and the fortitude to execute, even when they aren’t sure what to do next.

Be of Service:

Sparks are always aware of others’ needs and take action to meet them. This outward focus strengthens relationships and creates camaraderie and connection. When people feel cared for because you’re serving them, they begin to feel safe and experience your commitment to them. They focus less on themselves and more on the team.

Confidence:

Your confidence level will determine the level of results you experience. Sparks don’t leave their confidence to chance. They consciously manage their internal thought process to achieve a level of steadiness as their sense of confidence rises. We can control our confidence.

Consistency:

Sparks set a high standard for consistency in their everyday work. To achieve it, they first need to understand the value of readiness, know what perseverance really means, and have the courage to “own” their time. Consistency is about being a “sometimes person” or an “always person.”

A chapter is devoted to each of these seven behaviors and conclude with practical suggestions on how to develop these qualities not only within yourself, but how to inspires others to begin their own Spark journey.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:26 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development

05.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for May 2017

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in May.

  Lifestorming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life by Alan Weiss and Marshall Goldsmith
  The EQ Leader: Instilling Passion, Creating Shared Goals, and Building Meaningful Organizations through Emotional Intelligence by Steven J. Stein
  One Minute Mentoring: How to Find and Work With a Mentor--And Why You'll Benefit from Being One by Ken Blanchard and Claire Diaz-Ortiz
  The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation by David Robertson with Kent Lineback
  The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness by Lolly Daskal

Lifestorming The EQ Leader One Minute Mentoring Power of Little Ideas Leadership Gap

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273


Leadership ClassicThe Leadership ChallengeThe Leadership Challenge, Sixth Edition
by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner


discounted books


Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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"Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books.”
— Bell Hooks


Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:58 AM
| Comments (0) | Books

04.30.17

LeadershipNow 140: April 2017 Compilation

twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from April 2017 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:48 PM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140

04.28.17

4 Ways to Avoid False Humility

False Humility

H
UMILITY IS A CHOICE. When you meet a humble person you know you will be accepted, respected and listened to. They won’t try to manipulate you, control you, criticize you or try to impress you. They are safe.

When we haven’t conquered our pride putting on false humility might seem like the shortcut to the benefits of being a truly humble person. We’ve all met these kinds of people. False humility is nothing but arrogance.

In Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success, Pat Williams, author and senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, suggests four ways we can avoid the mask of false humility.

1. Take time to reflect on the person you are—and the person you want to be.

If we are genuinely humble, we are keenly aware of the disparity between who we are and who we aspire to be. We recognize that we have not already arrived, in terms of our character, integrity, and accomplishments. We are works in progress.

We need to remember that it’s easy over time to become someone we really don’t want to be. Williams cites Stanford professor Roderick Kramer:
When I ask respondents to explain why they think the process of experiencing great success will not change them in any fundamental way, they typically say something along the lines of, “Because I know what kind of person I am”….It is as if in finding success they will become merely bigger and better versions of what they are now. They can’t even imagine that they could ever fall from grace. And that, of course, guarantees that some of them will.

2. Ask a few trusted friends to be brutally honest with you.

We all need people in our lives who will hold up a mirror and show us who we truly are so we won’t be walking around with the moral equivalent of spinach in our teeth. Truth is a powerful antidote to self-deception and false humility. If you always have people in your life who will tell you the truth for your own good, and if you humbly need their wise counsel, they will save you from a multitude of self-inflicted wounds.

3. Immediately and humbly admit your faults and failures.

In other words, apologize without delay. Anyone who tries to achieve anything is bound to make mistakes. The greater your goals, the bigger your potential blunders. Our natural tendency is to deny our failings and shortcomings. We don’t like to admit that we’ve messed up. We prefer to protect our pride and our egos.

If you want to recover from a moral failure or a lapse in judgment, the key is o apologize fully, specifically, and humbly. Don’t try to get away with a non-apology apology. Be sincere. Take your lumps. Learn your lessons.

4. Be honestly humble and humbly honest.

Don’t inflate your resume—but don’t deflate it either. It’s perfectly wise and acceptable to own yur achievements and state your qualifications. Just don’t brag or take more credit than you’ve earned.

There’s never any need for false modesty. False modesty tends to break down authentic humility because it becomes hard to know where your real humility leaves off and your phony humility begins. Yu become so accustomed to devaluing your own talent, accomplishments, and self-worth that you actually lose confidence in yourself. Yu stop speaking up, stop advocating for what you believe, stop pursuing your own goals. In short, you start believing your own self-depreciating falsehoods.

Genuine humility is the best policy. False modesty comes from ego and pride. As Canadian humorist Eric Nicol observed, “I am keenly aware of the need to avoid false modesty. Which, like false teeth, can make you talk funny.”

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Adapted from Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success by Pat Williams with Jim Denney

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Of Related Interest:
  Humility Casts a Wide Net
  Humility Is a Core Quality Found In Great Leaders
  Footwashing for Leaders

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:16 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

04.26.17

Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less

Stretch

I
N HIS BOOK Stretch, Scott Sonenshein dispels the notion that having more resources = getting better results and replaces it with the conviction that a better use of resources = getting better results.

We are under more pressure than ever to do more. The idea that we can stretch and do more with what we already have begins to remove us from the dehumanizing rat race for resources that is impossible to win. Chasing limits us. Stretch liberates.

Especially in uncertain times, “stretching equips us with the abilities to adapt and change when facing a less predictable set of circumstances.”

One of the reasons we chase instead of stretch is because fail to see how we might see a resources beyond its traditional use. It’s also easy to assume that if we just had more money we could spend our way out of our problems. It’s often easier to acquire things than to think about how to use those same resources in more productive ways. “The problem is that chasers become so fixated on acquiring resources that they lose sight of what those resources will do for them” so we end up squandering them.

We need to place more focus on what we already have. “Stretchers find beauty and richness in places where others struggle to see anything of value. Too often, we understand, interact with, and use things at face value, locking ourselves into conventions that limit possibilities.” Our creativity is sparked by constraints. Filmmaker Robert Rodrigues comments:
The creative person with limitless imagination and no money can make a better film than the talentless mogul with the limitless checkbook every time. Take advantage of your disadvantages, feature the few assets you may have, and work harder than anyone else around you.
Outsiders can often stretch by seeing possibilities that we can’t because we are the expert or just too close to the issue. “Breadth of experiences helps people stretch.” The well rounded often outperform those who are deeply focused on a single thing especially when trying to solve complex problems. It makes a case for a liberal arts education.

We need to repeatedly go outside ourselves. “Temporary departures from our small worlds can come from short bursts of new activities such as reading about another field, finding a hobby, or having conversations with people from different backgrounds.”

Stretching is not about being a cheapskate. There is a difference between frugal and cheap.

A Stretching Roadmap

In summary, here are a dozen ways Sonenshein suggests to help get us into the stretching habit.

Just Say NoStretching
Just say no to more resources. Ask: “If I only didn’t have these resources, I could…” “By saying no to more resources, we’re saying yes to an entirely new outlook on working and living.”

Find a Sleeping Beauty
It’s easy to miss what is right before us. Again an outsider can help here. “In the world beyond fairy tales, a lot of resources lie dormant. If we look hard enough, we’ll find resources all around us waiting to be activated. We just need to awaken them to benefit from more than we thought we had, allowing us to solve different problems and pursue promising opportunities that otherwise might be impossible.”

Go Explore
Dedicate time every week to reading something different, educate yourself outside of your industry, take lunch with someone new, or spend time with outsiders. Leave your comfort zone.

Take a Break (and Pay Less Attention)
Consider rotating between difficult work and mindless work. “Mindless work recharges our batteries, readies us to do more down the road, and lets our mind wander to find new connections among our resources.” Take a walk to find new connections. Consider putting yourself on the clock to provide a mandatory beginning and ending to your work.

Pick New Neighbors
“Whom we spend time with shapes a lot of our behavior.” You don’t need to change zip codes. “Instead, identify one stretcher you admire and already know. Commit to spending at least one hour with him or her once a month.”

Appreciate
“When people are grateful, they expand how they think about resources, often in ways that try to help others.” Also, by appreciating what we have, it makes it easier to say no to tempting things we lack but really don’t need.

Shop Your Closet
Use what you have. “Many of the best known inventions came from existing products. Play-Doh started as a wallpaper cleaning compound that became obsolete with the rise of vinyl wallpaper in the 1950s; the corkscrew came from a military tool to remove bullets; and Pyrex came from material from train lantern glass the wife of a scientist at Corning Glass Work experimented with to bake a cake.”

Plan Backward
Think improvisation. Without a plan is often difficult to get started. But “jazz music replaces a plan with improvisation, teaching us to act and respond more spontaneously. Once we get moving, we free ourselves from worrying about plotting and following a plan and focus on observing and learning from our actions.”

Scramble the Back Row
To remove chess players from entrenched thinking, Bobby Fischer suggested randomly scrambling the back row. “If we find ourselves too regularly on autopilot, it might be time to scramble our back rows. There’s comfort in habits, but it’s critical to avoid being complacent with how things are, closing off the possibility of imagining how things might be better.”

Make Midyear Resolutions
“Why wait until the beginning of the year to make a pledge. The midyear resolutions also allow us to take stock of how we did with our New Year’s resolutions and set additional goals from a presumably clearer head space.”

Break it Down
If we can break down our resources to their smallest components, then it becomes easier to see the hidden potential.

Turn Treasure into Trash
Keep a benefits diary to records unexpected benefits from you key events, activities, or experiences. “Once we find a hidden benefit in something, we can turn it into a treasure.

Stretch is a very well done book. Good and relevant examples give power to the points he is making. By chasing resources we really limit our potential. Stretching brings out our best.

Equals

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Quote 
In Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less - and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined, you will learn to rethink what you need to succeed, and do more with what you already have. Scott Sonenshein examines why some people and organizations succeed with so little while others fail with so much.


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Of Related Interest:
  A Beautiful Constraint
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:55 PM
| Comments (0) | Management , Personal Development , Problem Solving

04.24.17

The Reciprocity Advantage

Reciprocity Advantage

G
IVE TO GROW. Partner for greater value for more players.

In The Reciprocity Advantage, authors Bob Johansen and Karl Ronn state that the next competitive advantage will be reciprocity advantage. Reciprocity and advantage will spark new business models for innovation and growth.

Most business is transactional but “reciprocity is the practice of exchanging with others for mutual benefit. In a reciprocity-based model, I give you something, and at some later point in time, I trust that I will learn how to get even more value back in return.” It’s what the authors call “smart giving.” “The reason for giving assets away isn’t just about doing good—it’s an important part of an ongoing value exchange spread over time where partners commit to looking out for each other as part of a shared vision.”

While the principles they lay out apply both organizationally and individually, they note that reciprocity advantage must be done on a large scale to make a significant difference.

“A reciprocity advantage is a chance to do good while also doing very well. A reciprocity advantage is delicate to achieve and maintain. Go too wide, and you’re a philanthropist. Go too narrow, and you’ll be back doing transactions.”

Reciprocity ModelFour Steps to Reciprocity Advantage:

1. Uncover Your Right-of-Way
Your right-of-way is the space within which you can create your reciprocity advantage. Uncovering you own right-of-way involves understanding that every company is really in three businesses: Product, Service, and Experience. Which of your assets have value for others and could also help you create complementary business growth? Essentially, what underutilized assets could you give away now that would yield greater value later. The first step is to reassess your strengths to find those underutilized assets. Access to these assets is the right-of-way that will be the basis for your new partnerships.

You begin by defining your core business. This is where you will find the right-of-way assets you can share. Not all should be shared. You must do this inventory and then decide later what to keep and what to share.

Then reinvent your business as a service. The rights-of-way that your core needs to survive disruption are not to be shared. This would hurt your business. Instead, invest to prevent long-term obsolescence.

Finally, redefine your business as an experience. Having attained clarity on what you do as a service, focus on the users of your service. What are you being hired to do? By looking for services that people want but don’t yet have, you will find new ways to complement your core business. The rights-of-way that enable this are the core of the new reciprocity business.

2. Find the Best Partners
Partnerships are hard. So don’t form one unless you by doing so you are doing something that you could never do alone. In a VUCA World, partnerships are hedges against risk, but they will also be more attractive ways to innovate and grow scale. The best partners will demonstrate their worth by looking out for one another, thereby protecting themselves over time.

3. Learn by Experimenting
Prototype, listen, learn. Give away assets intelligently in order to learn how to create value in new ways. The goal is experiment to learn in an open, low-cost, and repetative way that allows for time to discover which questions to ask. How can you and your partners learn how to make money in new ways within your right-of-way?

4. Scale It
Creating your reciprocity advantage will allow you to make a big difference for a long time. Reciprocity is good, but massively scalable reciprocity is growth that reshapes industries. This requires designing for scale from the beginning. You will know your reciprocity advantage is ready to scale when your service or product meets three criteria—it’s desirable, viable, and ownable.

So, how will you know if your idea is desirable, viable and ownable?

The authors have created a score card to direct your development efforts. Each of the three areas is divided into two opposing measures:

Is it desirable? To scale it must be transformational and intuitive. Is it viable? To be viable it must be affordable and structurally attractive. Is it ownable? It needs to be feasible at your intended scale and have a source of sustainable competitive advantage.

The breakthrough occurs when you resolve the three pairs of opposing forces. When you have all six parts working for you, run! Your idea is now no longer risky. Until then use keep experimenting cheaply.

The authors conclude, “We believe that givers will be much better at creating reciprocity advantage for their companies and for themselves.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:22 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business

04.19.17

Ego Free Leadership

Ego Free Leadership

E
GO IS A CONSTANT preoccupation with our self-worth.
Each of us has beliefs and fears about our value, and they cause defensive and/or self-promotional behaviors when under stress. Whether in a meeting, a presentation, or a relationship, part of our attention—sometimes all of it—is preoccupied by our view of our self. Are we competent? Respected? Intelligent? Liked? Attractive? Included? Each of us has a set of criteria we unconsciously judge ourselves against. When we measure up, we feel pride, even superiority. When we don’t, we feel uncomfortable, stressed, often afraid.
Ego Free Leadership is co-written by executive coach Shayne Hughes, president of Learning as Leadership and Brandon Black the retired CEO of Encore Capital Group. The book tracks Black’s journey from acknowledging to changing the destructive elements of his ego. Once he committed to change, the transformation began in his team and throughout the culture of the Encore organization. Quite effectively, Hughes and Black go back and forth sharing their perspectives on the unfolding transformation. Naturally, it’s not a step-by-step prescription, but it is instructive to see the process because we all share similar issues and thinking.

They begin by debunking the "ego is good" myth. Our egos limit us as we try to protect it in various ways. “Our ego can’t stand failure, incompetence, or weakness, so it avoids what is truly challenging us.

When we feel at the mercy of what is happening around us we react often distorting reality. “We read criticism, abandonment, judgment, competitiveness, and aggression into a situation where it may not exist.” We seek to fix what we believe is causing our distress resorting to learned behaviors that really don’t serve us well.

Anytime we know intellectually what to do, but our actual behavior is inconsistent or in contradiction, it is a sign we are being short-circuited by our egosystem. These behavioral derailers come in many forms: conflict avoidance, procrastination, defensiveness, people pleasing, shutting down, being argumentative, just to name a few. Upon examination, these ingrained knee-jerk reactions invariably prove to be predictable and recurrent.” It’s not just the way we are, it’s the way we have learned to be. In order to defuse our reactive behaviors we need to identify the underlying triggers that created our behaviors in the first place.

Here are some insights from Ego Free Leadership:

Intellectually it’s easy to decide that learning, growing, or creating authentic relationships is more important than not appearing incompetent, failing, or being hurt. Unfortunately, this is not how we feel at a visceral level, or we wouldn’t be continuously repeating these dysfunctional behaviors. Transformation comes when we consciously connect with goals not tied to our self-worth and use this emotional clarity to inspire action in the present moment.

The theoretical importance of having authentic, transparent conversations isn’t in question: it’s rather the practical difficulty of doing so when there isn’t emotional safety in the relationship.

For our ego, the sensation of being right is like electricity to a lightbulb. It fuels us with energy and vigor. We sit straighter, our voice sharpens, and our language hardens. We face an issue or a conflict, and we see the answer clearly. With this certainty comes a feeling of power and righteousness, as captivating as a drug rush. This is the way it is. Being right sweeps us so automatically into an aggressive mental stance that any collateral damage seems just a necessary evil.

Our egosystem and brain can convince us of anything, regardless of its veracity. We can make—I myself have done it countless times—any number of important decisions with profound conviction, only to realize later it wasn’t really what we wanted or was based on incorrect perceptions. (“…clearly distinguishing between the facts I had collected and my conclusions about them.”)

In each case, people experienced their frustration as true, when in fact they were unconsciously focusing on the negative in others. Worse when we do this, our mindset and behaviors actually influence others to be less than their best selves, either because they don’t feel safe or because we simply don’t allow them to participate. We limit their potential.

As the authors admit no organization (or individual) can be completely ego-free, but we can manage it better. In every situation we have a choice. We can either give in to our ego or break free of the limits it imposes on us. They recommend:

  1. Notice the moments in your life when you experience a pinch. It might be an event or something someone says or does.
  2. Instead of reacting, search for what is triggered in you. What is that visceral discomfort you’re trying to numb or you’re blaming others for? How is your sense of self-worth threatened?
  3. Look outward and consider what vulnerabilities other might be feeling behind the veneer of strength or indifference. Empathize with how they feel in danger.
  4. Take the risk of disclosing how you feel vulnerable. Share your ego threat, not your mind chatter. Model a context of safety.


The lessons and insights shared in Ego Free Leadership could have a profound effect on any reader.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:16 PM
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04.14.17

Conflict without Casualties

Conflict without Casualties

C
ONFLICT is everywhere. Conflict at the most basic level is simply a gap between what we want and what we are experiencing at any given point in time.

Conflict is energy, and can be used in positive or negative ways. Negative conflict becomes drama, and it is costly to companies, teams and relationships at all levels. In fact, according to a Gallup Poll, negative conflict drains the U.S. economy by about $350 billion a year in lost productivity and wasted energy.

In Conflict without Casualties, author Nate Regier believes that the misuse of conflict energy is the biggest crisis facing our world, and that we haven’t even begun to harness the creative potential of conflict. When people embrace the fullest meaning of compassion as a process of “struggling with” others in creative conflict, they can transform lives, companies, and the world.

It is understandable that we try to avoid conflict considering all of the drama and negative fallout that always seems to accompany it. But Regier says if we use conflict correctly, we can use it to create. “Eliminating the casualties of conflict cannot happen by repressing the conflict and just ‘being nice.’ It happens by stewarding the energy inherent in conflict to make something positive, even amazing.” That seems like a tall order, but it makes sense.

Compassionate Accountability

The way forward is to practice Compassionate Accountability. Compassionate Accountability is a method for resisting the negative pull of drama—“I gotta win.” Negative conflict becomes drama. “Drama is the mismanaging of the energy of conflict. It diverts energy towards the pursuit of self-justification, one of the strongest human urges and the one that almost always gets us into trouble.” (Chapter 2 on drama is one of the clearest discussions of drama I’ve read.)

To be compassionate is to struggle alongside with others; to struggle with instead of against. “Compassion is the result of people taking ownership of their feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and choosing to spend the energy of conflict pursuing effective solutions that preserve the dignity of all involved. Compassion is more than care and concern for others. It’s about the willingness to get in the trenches and struggle together as an equal with others.

Compassion CycleCompassionate Accountability is based on three skills:

Openness
Openness is a state of non-judgmental receptivity to your own and others’ experiences. Openness is the healthy alternative to the Victim response that is a part of most drama. It also involves transparency, courage with self and others, self-awareness, empathy, confidence in one’s own adequacy, and a willingness to own and disclose emotions. Openness involves empathy (understanding others), validation (affirming others), and disclosure (sharing with others).

Resourcefulness
If Openness reveals the real issues, motives, and emotions in our lives, then resourcefulness is the ability to problem-solve to satisfy those motives and address the issues. When there’s conflict, Openness is where we discover and affirm how the gap between what we want and what we’re experiencing is affecting us. Resourcefulness is the ability to understand the gap and figure out what to do about it. It requires the abandonment of the ego in order to gather ideas and opinions, analyze what has worked in the past, and leverage personal strengths.

Persistence
Persistence is all about seeing things through with integrity, humility, and respect. It’s accountability. It means setting boundaries, reinforcing non-negotiables, and accepting responsibility for your own behaviors. “Compassion without accountability gets you nowhere. Accountability without compassion gets you alienated. Blending the two is the essence of leadership.”

These three skills are a process that starts at Open, moves to Resourceful, and finally to Persistence. They are three interdependent ways of feeling, thinking, and acting that work productively together.

When Regier’s model is placed inside the Drama Triangle (developed by Steven Karpman), the author creates a useful visual for understanding where we often end up if we don’t intentionally stay the Compassionate Accountability course.

Regier writes: “Drama inevitably pushes us into corners, where we cling to distorted worldviews that compel us to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Compassion, on the other hand, keeps us moving, searching, nimble, effective, and capable of adapting to change.” It also keep us from being mired inside our own head and thus limiting our responses and our ability to reframe the conflict. We get stuck.

drama


It would seem that if you stop at Persistence then you become stagnant and eventually irrelevant. A state of non-judgmental receptivity would seem to go hand-in-hand with progress, the inevitability of change, and the understanding of others. “As a species, human beings seem to have a very difficult time returning to Openness in order to keep the cycle going. We take up residence at Persistence, which inevitably morphs into Persecutor as we fight to protect what we’ve built and save ourselves from the consequences of our own creation.”

He adds, “Each point on the Compassion Cycle has a purpose. When that purpose is fulfilled, it’s time to move. Lingering after the purpose has been achieved is a recipe for stagnation and drama.”

If you want to end the drama in your life or organization then you have to replace it with something else. Compassionate Accountability is the cure. Regier concludes the book with a section devoted to implementing this concept into everything you do. A very useful user’s manual.


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:01 PM
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04.07.17

The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers

Stop Guessing

E
ASY PROBLEMS can often be solved by guessing. And we solve hundreds of these kinds of problems as we go throughout our week. The problem arises when we rely on our experience to guess at what might be wrong to try to solve hard problems—problems where the solution is obscured. The odds are against solving hard problems by guessing. And because we don’t apply the right approach to these problems they remain unsolved costing us time, money, and emotional wellbeing.

Naturally we like simple solutions. But a simple guess is not the same thing as a simple solution. A simple solution is easy to implement. But a simple guess that doesn’t get to the real issues is difficult, expensive, and wasteful to implement.

We need to stop guessing. “Every unsolved problem is bottlenecked by not understanding the root cause at a fundamental level.” In Stop Guessing, Nat Greene explains 9 behaviors that great problem-solvers use to solve hard problems. Here are his behavior summaries:

1. Stop Guessing
It’s natural for us to guess. The first thing you must do to start solving problems or keep from making them worse is to stop guessing.

2. Smell the Problem
Get out and walk around using your natural senses and tools available to you to develop a strong pattern of failure. Ask relevant, thought-provoking questions about the specific problem to guide you to collect information and look for very specific patterns, rather than shotgunning and looking at everything in the system.

3. Embrace You Ignorance
It’s what you don’t know that lies between you and the solution. Great problem-solvers not only admit their ignorance but also embrace it and ask questions others might find “stupid,” to shatter old assumptions about the problem.

4. Know What Problem you’re Solving
Often, people work on the wrong problem entirely by making some implicit assumption about what’s causing it. Great problem-solvers invest time upfront to make sure the problem they’re working on is well defined, measureable as a variable, and represents precisely what is wrong with the system or process.

5. Dig into the Fundamentals
This means learning how the process works, both by understanding the process itself and by understanding some of the fundamental science behind it. By focusing on what controls a problem, you’ll be able to limit your digging to the parts of the process and the science that are relevant, rather than trying to wrap your arms around the entire thing at once.

6. Don’t Rely on Experts
Utilizing subject-matter experts is crucial to understanding a complex system and its underlying functionality and science. Unfortunately, most people delegate responsibility for solving the problem to those subject-matter experts, rather than driving the problem-solving process themselves. Great problem-solvers always view experts as collaborators rather than saviors.

7. Believe in a Simple Solution
When confronting complex problems, it can be comforting to believe that the solution will be complex as well. But by not believing in a simple solution, people often give up long before they’ve gone through the rigor required to find the simple solution that lies at the root cause, to great cost and detriment. Great problem-solvers will have the belief and tenacity to keep solving until they’ve found the root cause.

8. Make Fact-Based Decisions
Avoid making opinion-based decisions: anything that relies on a vote, on authority, or on some subjective ranking system of what decision to make is one of these opinion-based decisions, and it leads problem-solvers astray.

9. Stay on Target
When problem-solvers dive deep into a problem, they too frequently seek to expand the number of possible root causes, so they can test them. Great problem-solvers measure the drivers that most immediately control the problem in order to determine whether those subvariables are in control, and in doing so are able to quickly eliminate most possible root causes and avenues of inquiry without having to dive deeper into them.

Greene digs deeper in to each of these in separate chapters. Strong problem-solving methods will discourage guessing, provide lots of structure to develop a pattern of failure, and guide you to understand how the process works. Begin problem solving and not solution-guessing.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:59 AM
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04.05.17

Radical Candor

Radical Candor

R
ADICAL CANDOR is a culture of guidance based on caring personally and challenging directly everyone you work with. The goal is to achieve collaboratively what you could never achieve individually, and to do that, you need to care about the people you’re working with.

The very heart of being a good boss is a good relationship, writes Kim Scott in Radical Candor. We need Radically Candid relationships with those we work with and because this is often scary and can be emotionally taxing, we resort to be ruinously empathetic or obnoxiously aggressive or manipulatively insincere.

Of course, establishing trust with each person that reports to you is fundamental to radical candor. Radical Candor happens when you put Care Personally and Challenge Directly together. Care Personally refers to the fact that to have a good relationship “you have to your whole self and care about each of the people who work for you as a human being. Challenge Directly “involves telling people when their work isn’t good enough—and when it is. Challenging people might seem the opposite of Care Personally, but “challenging people is often the best way to show them that you care when you’re the boss.”

Scott explains that she chose the word Radical “because so many of us are conditioned to avoid saying what we really think. This is partially adaptive social behavior; it helps us avoid conflict or embarrassment. But in a boss, that kind of avoidance is disastrous. She chose Candor because it is “necessary to communicate clearly enough so that there’s no room for interpretation, but also humbly.”
Caring Personally is about acknowledging that we are all people with lives and aspirations that extend beyond those related to our shared work. It’s about finding time for real conversations; about getting to know each other at a human level; about learning what’s important to people; about sharing with one another what makes us want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work—and what has the opposite effect.

Challenging others and encouraging them to challenge you helps build trusting relationships because it shows 1) you care enough to point out both the things that aren’t going well and those that are and that 2) you are willing to admit when you’re wrong and that you are committed to fixing mistakes that you or others have made.

Radical candor is not an invitation to be a jerk, or to nitpick, or to simply schmooze. (“A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.”) What you say gets “measured at the listener’s ear, not at the speaker’s mouth.” Everything must be delivered in good faith.

Radical Candor Scott has created a framework to help you be more conscious of the kind of guidance you are getting, giving, and encouraging. There are two dimensions to good guidance: Care Personally and Challenge Directly. It is a way to gauge praise and criticism.

When you criticize someone without taking the time to show care, your guidance feels like Obnoxious Aggression. It’s what happens when you challenge but don’t care. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly. “When bosses belittle employees, embarrass them publically, or freeze them out, their behavior falls into this quadrant.” And keep this in mind: “Almost nothing will erode trust more quickly than using one’s insights into what make another person tick to hurt them.”

Manipulative Insincerity is what happens when you neither care nor challenge. It’s an attempt to push the other person’s emotional buttons in return for some personal gain. It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind.

Ruinous Empathy is what happens when you care but don’t challenge. “When bosses are too invested in everyone getting along, they also fail to encourage the people on their team to criticize one another for fear of sowing discord. They create the kind of work environment where ‘being nice’ is prioritized at the expense of critiquing, and therefore, improving actual performance.” It is praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugarcoated and unclear.

You may think Radical Candor would never work on your organization’s or team’s culture. And it probably won’t unless you first invest in the people you work with and show them that you care personally. But here’s the big hurdle: Start by explaining the idea and then asking people to be Radically Candid with you. Why you first?
First, it’s the best way to show that you are aware that you are often wrong, and that you want to hear about it when you are; you want to be challenged. Second, you’ll learn a lot—few people scrutinize you as closely as do those who report to you. Third, the more firsthand experience you have with how it feels to receive criticism, the better idea you’ll have of how your own guidance lands for others. Fourth, asking for criticism is a great way to build trust and strengthen your relationships. (Important: “If a person is bold enough to criticize you, do not critique their criticism.”)

Scott carefully details ways to create a climate in which Radically Candid relationships can flourish. She provides many (most first-hand) examples of what worked and what didn’t work.

From her experiences at Apple and Google, she observed that “a boss’s ability to achieve results had a lot more to do with listening and seeking to understand than it did with telling people what to do; more to do with debating than directing; more to do with pushing people to decide than with being the decider; more to do with persuading than with giving orders; more to do with learning than with knowing.”

And there’s an app: Candor Coach. This app will show you how quick, frequent, face-to-face conversations can help you build a culture of Radical Candor. It will start by teaching you to ask for and give feedback. It will help you track the conversations you’re having with each person on your team so that you can see where you need to improve.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:32 PM
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04.03.17

Are You Living an Adult Story?

Adult Story

I
N The Leadership Gap, Lolly Daskal makes clear to us that “if we want to continue to have a positive impact on the world and make a difference, we must constantly rethink the instincts that drive us.” Leaders need to question “who they are being while they are leading.”

This need for leaders to rethink who they are gets to the heart of what Rosamund Stone Zander describes in Pathways to Possibility. Often, our growth requires that we live a new story. We are not “trained to think of ourselves as governed by stories made up by younger iterations of ourselves, frozen in time.

We need to rewrite the stories to reflect life as it is now. “I believe that when we become aware of patterns in our behavior, when we learn to identify and rewrite the stories that give us our identities, we will gain passage, at any age, into a new phase of adulthood. In this territory of maturity, where old fear-based pattern no longer hold us back, we will, I wager, do what we now think of as remarkable, even magical, things.”

We all have a point of view about how life should go and they are often illogical. But when they are we produce reasons for why we do and think like we do even if it has no basis on our current reality. They hold us back. What children’s stories have in common is survival anxiety. We are living a story made up by a child when we are frightened about the future, are ready to run, feel the need to control others, act out of insecurity, and are unable to take criticism of any kind.

The stores we tell ourselves are generally adopted unknowingly from the environment in which we grew up and are not under the control of the reasoning mind. To move forward, we have to uncover the story and tell a new one. Zander repeatedly states that new habits are formed in an environment of love.

How do you know if you are living in a story crafted by the mind of a child?

You are being captured by the child in you if you are certain that your views are true, and you make no attempt to question them.

When you are frequently anxious that things will go wrong, or are living your life cautiously. Fear and anxiety are the underlying emotions in the child’s view of the world because for a child it is all about survival.

You are living in a child apart if you are regularly concerned with what others think of you.

When you assume that things will repeat. It makes you approach the future with resistance, be overly cautious, and close down to life.

You are expressing a child part when you are convinced that you have absolute needs and you are further convinced that your needs and desire will never change.

In short, a child’s stories are I-centered, concrete, fear-based, scarcity-minded, identity-bound, personal through and through, and indisputable—self-centered—my way.

When we are operating from the adult narrative:

We know we survived childhood and staying alive is no longer a present issue.

The mature mind is curious and devotes attention to what is not known.

The adult mind is open and flexible: willing to entertain new thoughts and feelings without the need to protect itself.

The adult mind is creative: on the lookout for opportunity and able to invent stories and move into contexts that will further our alignment with one another.

The adult mind is loving and compassionate. Defined by love, joy, appreciation, gratitude and wonder. Nothing appears as personal.

Zander relates three rules that coach Pete Carroll gave his players. Zander says that these three rule will help support the adoption of an adult story. “These three rules,” she writes, “almost guarantee that the person who follows them is saved from the distraction of survival instincts, such as possessiveness, entitlement, and winning over others, and feelings of helplessness, fear and rage when things don’t turn out the way he planned. Here are the three rules with Zander’s comments:

Rule 1: Protect the Team: A perfect instruction to remind a player that he is not, in fact, the center of the universe, and to encourage him in all matters related to the game to adopt and live into a story of collaboration.

Rule 2: No Negative Talk. No Whining and Complaining: This rule establishes that the game is played in a mode of possibility and not one of survival where players are out for themselves and can be weakened by a victim story. It requires that people be responsible for the effect of their words and their moods, which ensures that the team maintains energy.

Rule 3: Be Early: What powerful little words! What an amazing third rule! The player who lives by “be early” puts himself in charge of his life. If you decide to be early, you are always in charge; you will show up as a considerate person as well as a paragon of responsibility.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:11 PM
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04.01.17

First Look: Leadership Books for April 2017

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in April.

  Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters by Anthony Tjan
  Hacking Growth: How Today's Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown
  Conflict without Casualties: A Field Guide for Leading with Compassionate Accountability by Nate Regier
  Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
  The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World by Jon Gordon

Time Talent Energy Leaders Made Here Conflict without Casualties Option B Positive Leadership

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273


discounted books


Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us."
— Franz Kafka


Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:58 AM
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03.31.17

LeadershipNow 140: March 2017 Compilation

twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from March 2017 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:13 AM
| Comments (0) | LeadershipNow 140

03.27.17

The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves

Outward Mindset

A
N OUTWARD MINDSET will greatly impact how we negotiate our world and the impact we will have. An outward mindset helps us to see the world as it is and not how we imagine it to be. Our age increasingly requires us to collaborate more and more with others. An outward mindset is essential.

An outward mindset doesn’t come naturally. We have to consciously change how we think about others.

In The Outward Mindset, the Arbinger Institute reports that “the biggest lever for change is not a change in self-belief but a fundamental change in the way one sees and regards one’s connections with and obligations to others.”

People and organizations get stuck when they have an inward mindset because when we are focused on ourselves and our needs, our reality becomes distorted. An inward mindset limits our possibilities and negatively affects our behavior and thus our relationships.

Arbinger reminds us that an inward mindset and introspection are not the same thing. “One can introspect in a self-centered way, which would indicate an inward mindset. However, a person also can introspect about one’s connections with others, which is the very essence of what we are calling outwardness. Sometimes it is helpful to look inside to see how one is connected with what is outside.”

Moving from an inward mindset to an outward mindset is more that a surface adjustment or behavioral change alone. It requires a change in how we see and thing about others. How we see and respond to others is not so much about them as it is a reflection of what is going on inside of us. We often fixate on other’s shortcomings so we don’t have to deal with our own.

Inward-mindset people and organizations do things. Outward-mindset people and organizations help others to be able to do things.” It is possible to be a inward-mindset person or organization masquerading as an outward-mindset person or organization if you aren’t paying attention to the needs, objectives, and challenges of those you are supposedly doing the work for. Whose needs are your primary focus?

Arbinger has discovered that those who consistently work with an outward mindset follow a pattern. They:
  1. See the needs, objectives, and challenges of others (Create opportunities for people to see each other so they can begin to talk.)

  2. Adjust their efforts to be more helpful to others (“Real helpfulness can’t be made into a formula. To be outward doesn’t mean that people should adopt this or that prescribed behavior. Rather, it means that when people see the needs, challenges, desire, and humanity of others, the most effective ways to adjust their efforts occur to them in the moment. When they see others as people, they respond in human and helpful ways.”)

  3. Measure and hold themselves accountable for the impact of their work on others (“Measuring one’s impact requires nothing but a willingness to stay in regular conversations with others about whether they feel one’s efforts are helping them or not.”)

An outward-mindset begins with you. “While the goal in shifting mindsets is to get everyone turned toward each other, accomplishing this goal is possible only if people are prepared to turn their mindsets toward others with no expectation that others will change their mindsets in return. This capability—to change the way I see and work with others regardless of whether they change—overcomes the biggest impediment to mindset change: the natural, inward-mindset inclination to wait for others to change before doing anything different oneself.” This of course, is true leadership.

To begin:
  1. Start with mindset. Apply the outward-mindset pattern: see others, adjust efforts, and measure impact
  2. Don’t wait for others to change. The most important move is to turn your mindset regardless of whether others change theirs.
  3. Mobilize yourself and your team or organization to achieve a collective goal. Each person is oart of a larger whole.
  4. Allow people (beginning with yourself) to be fully responsible. Own your work—your plans, your actions, and your impact—and position others to own theirs.
  5. Eliminate the unnecessary distinctions that create distance between yourself and others.
  6. To the extent that you have the authority to do so, rethink systems and processes to turn them outward; create an organizational ecosystem that energizes people rather than manage objects.

Take the Mindset Audit online.

Outward Mindset

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:21 PM
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03.24.17

The Caterpillar's Edge

The Caterpillars Edge

T
HE CATERPILLAR doesn’t become a butterfly overnight. It evolves and evolves and evolves again. It is a purposeful metamorphosis from crawling creature to an entirely different being that can fly. At every stage the caterpillar faces challenges and frictions. It overcomes them to become a different version of itself. That is the caterpillar’s edge.

Sid Mohasseb writes in The Caterpillars Edge that “to realize an improved future you must purposefully leave the past behind, and embrace the uncertainty ahead—constantly and without fear. You must evolve, then evolve again and thrive.”

The problem as Mohasseb sees it is that many leaders are stuck in their approach to planning and execution. “They are guided by old habits formed in an era when competition was more static.” The data you are using can’t be captured in a fixed plan or you’ll have an excellent strategy for the year before. Your planning and execution needs to be more dynamic than that.

We need a new and more agile approach. “The world will not wait while you contemplate, take time to gather enough data to be exhaustive in your analysis, and then build consensus around actions.” You can improve your “likelihood of winning by constantly reading and applying the incoming data points.” “You must learn and live and compete in an uncertain and always changing reality.” Prefer change to the comfort of stability.

There are three crucial rules to be applied here:

1. Align with Uncertainty—Adjust to the dynamic world around you. Be prepared to shift your focus at all times. The market is shifting. By the time you transform, the advantage you wanted may be long gone.

2. Appreciate Reality—Understand what is practical and achievable by you and your company. You can evolve over and over.

3. Aspire for More—Seek more data, more analysis, and more “Aha” moments or move faster to reach the moments of insight, where the solutions to problems become clear. McKinsey reports that eight out of ten time strategists focus on known hypothesis—opportunities that have been examined in the past or are already evident.
“Most people use analytics in the context of consumer level transactions. But there is no lasting strategic advantage. When people claim that they are competitive because they are using analytics, that’s just the flavor of the day. Now unless you tell me that you have used data analytics in order to find a new product ground, a new design, and a new market, you are not strategic . . . as opposed to let’s sell more shoes to the guys who are buying shoes . . . what is being done for the most part today is a kind of a tit for tat, and that’s what I see most people calling gaining competitive advantage.” Optimizing today’s processes for greater efficiency does not necessarily offer an advantage for tomorrow. Use the force and create the future. Don’t use the data to justify your actions, use it to discover advantages.

It’s not the analytics, but the execution. Analytics is just and tool and soon will be found and used by everyone everywhere. As that occurs, the “business basics of good strategy and execution will, once again, drive the lasting victories.”

A winning strategy must be adaptable from the start. Be prepared to improvise.

Selected Caterpillar Edge advice:

  Every plan has to offer a wave of strategies—a collection of related strategies with identifiable pivot points; demand to see the signals that will be monitored to trigger a point.

  Avoid having independent plans by functions or business units—all plans must include internal and external shared signals that glue the organization together.

  View and leverage “data” as an asset—not a byproduct of your execution and a means to measure your past actions. Declare that data and analytics will be driving decisions; then actually let it.

  Avoid the urge to solve first and justify with data later. To gain new insight, always look to disprove yourself.

  Erase the line between planning and execution. Be upfront with the organization: you will change the plan when needed; the month of the year is not going to dictate your destiny and the ability to gain a timely advantage.

  Dynamic is different for every organization. Chose your initial pace and aim to beat it. Remember: being dynamic in planning and execution is different than being agile in executing against a static strategy.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:34 PM
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03.22.17

5 Critical Skills You Will Need to Hit the Ground Running After College

Critical Skills You Need

J
OURNALIST AND FORMER EDITOR of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeff Selingo has written an insightful and essential guide as to why some people prosper after college and some fail or find themselves underemployed. You need more than a degree.

There is Life After College is a book that every student should read—twice. Frankly, it would hurt those already in the workplace to read it as the ground is shifting under our feet as well.

Employers are looking for T-shaped individuals. The vertical bar represents depth of knowledge and the horizontal bar represents the ability to work across a variety of complex subject areas with ease and confidence. Something a liberal arts education is designed to do.

Selingo notes that too many undergraduates want to be spoon-fed. “They sit back and wait for professors to deliver lessons in the classroom. They participate in campus life but too often from the sidelines, so they lack and deep engagement in activities that provide much needed skills for the job market. They fail to cultivate relationships with professors or staff on campus who might lend advice or act as mentors. And they are reluctant to chase after experiences—whether undergraduate research, study abroad, or internships—that help them discover their passions and arm them with the interpersonal skills so in demand by employers today.”

Selingo has distilled a lot of wisdom into five often overlapping skills needed to succeed in your career and life. (You see these concepts are appearing more and more in leadership development studies as well.) I’ve listed them here with brief outtakes for each from the chapter. The book provides much more detail and practical advice for career and life on many fronts and well worth making them time to consider.

1. Be Curious, Ask Questions, and Be a Learner for Life
The recent graduates who succeed in their careers are flexible about how they learn. “They have ideas and act on them,” said Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. “Being able to get stuff done is a capacity that is rather important.” Most of all he’s looking for a mind-set with creativity, passion, and empathy at its root. “I want diversity of experiences in college that have exercised their brain,” Brown said.

On executive said, “Our industry is changing so fast that we can’t depend on what students already know. We need people who are creative, curious, whose brains are wired to constantly ask what’s next. What we need are learning animals.

2. Build an Expertise, Take Risks, and Learn the Meaning of Grit
“We see a lot of transferable skills in athletes,” Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise, told me. Enterprise is not alone. As employers search for signals that someone is ready for a job beyond achieving the baseline bachelor’s degree, participation in collegiate athletics is seen by many as one clear indicator of commitment and drive in a generation of college graduates often lacking both.

The qualities prized in athletes obviously apply to other college activities. Employers told me they value musicians, game designers, and writers in much the same way.

“We want to see that they have a passion, and they show proficiency and go deep in it.” The more time students spend trying to master a skill or a job, the more likely they are to encounter failure. “Our best employees are problem solvers and are able to weave everything they know together—customer service, empathy, persuasive skills, leadership skills, flexibility, and work ethic,” Marie Artim of Enterprise told me. “They can think on their feet.”

Selingo adds, “What is unfortunate is that our desire to protect our kids and fill every waking moment of their schedules with organized activities seems to only worsen as they get older.” So they never find opportunities to take risks and perhaps fail.

Recruiters are looking for applicants who have overcome challenges and learned from their disappointments.

3. Every Job is a Tech Job
Understanding the programming language behind the apps on your iPhone or the basics of artificial intelligence is now seen as basic foundational skills by many employers. Learning to program is much like learning a second language was in the twentieth century: You might not become proficient enough to move overseas, but you could get by if you traveled to a particular country.

“It’s more about giving people the skills and tools they learn in the act of coding,” Carol Smith, who oversees Google’s Summer of Code program, told Wired magazine. “It gives them the critical thinking skills that are important whether or not they go into computer science as a profession.”

The generation entering college and the workforce now are often referred to as “digital natives” because they were raised on technology from a very young age. But their relationship has been largely passive: switch on the device and use it. Being digitally aware isn’t about turning more people into computer geeks. It’s about moving from a passive relationship with technology to a more active one—especially in understanding the how and why behind machines, not just the what.

4. Learn to Deal with Ambiguity
“Excelling at any job is about doing the things you weren’t asked to do,” said Mary Egan, founder of Gatheredtable, a Seattle-based start-up, and former senior vice president for strategy and corporate development at Starbucks. “This generation is not as comfortable with figuring out what to do.”

The ability to negotiate ambiguity on the job requires people to think contextually, to provide what I call the “connective tissue” that occupies the space in between ideas. It is the “killer app” of today’ workplaces. People who make these connections do so by following their curiosity and exploring and learning from peers. Knowledge is not only what is in our brains, but also what is distributed through our networks. Learning happens by building and navigating those networks.

5. Be Humble and Learn from Your Peers and Mentors
People who manage recent college graduates all had the same complaint about their new hires: they’re too impatient about their careers and unrealistic about their roles within a company. A friend who is my age and a manager at a major media company told me about new graduates who applied for senior roles after less than a year on the job and who were flabbergasted when they didn’t get the promotion, which went to someone with ten or twenty years more experience.

Being socially aware goes beyond knowing your role within the organization. It includes important skill sets like written and verbal communication as well as the ability to deal with negative feedback, speak in public, and, most of all, interact on a basic human level with coworkers and clients that doesn’t involve texting them.

eBay offers classes on managing your personal brand (because graduates usually can’t set goals for themselves), giving an elevator pitch (they often can’t get to their point fast enough), managing your calendar (once again, time management), and performance reviews.

Selingo emphasizes that what you do in college (and therefore what you become—who you are) is typically more important than where you go.

Launch Chart

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:27 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

03.20.17

Leaders Made Here

Leaders Made Here

T
HE NUMBER ONE REASON most companies do not have a leadership culture is their current leadership, writes Mark Miller in Leaders Made Here.

This occurs for a number of reasons: They don’t see the immediate need, they don’t understand how or are too busy to do it, they don’t walk the talk, and their own insecurities. Leadership cultures are built from the top down.

Miller describes a leadership culture is one where “leaders are routinely and systematically developed, and you have a surplus of leaders ready for the next opportunity or challenge.”

Leaders Made Here is the story of a typical organization that found themselves short when they needed more leaders to fill some gaps and what they did to create a leadership culture.

Frankly, a leadership culture does more than to have leaders in waiting. It provides for the growth and development of all people throughout the organization. It makes whatever you’re doing work better.

To create a leadership culture, Miller boils it down to five ongoing commitments:

1. Define it.
Forge a consensus regarding our organization’s working definition of leadership.
There’s certainly real power in a common definition of leadership; there’s even more power in a common leadership skill set.

2. Teach it.
Ensure everyone knows our leadership point of view and leaders have the skills required to succeed.

3. Practice it.
Create opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders to lead; stretch assignments prove and improve leaders.
We discovered that for most people—leaders included—the natural tendency is to avoid risk. So, when a new project would come along, the leader responsible would assign a seasoned leader regardless of opportunity. It did not matter what was needed; our existing leaders rarely gave an emerging or inexperienced leader a shot. This did nothing to help young leaders grow and develop in a real-world setting.

This does not mean we always give the next opportunity to the emerging leader. Sometimes, the seasoned leader is the right choice. However, because we recognize the power of The Opportunity, we are consciously working to provide it more often.

4. Measure it.
Track the progress of our leadership development efforts, adjusting strategies and tactics accordingly.
A scorecard should answer at least four questions: What is most important now? Is our performance improving or declining? What impact are our interventions having? And are we winning?

5. Model it.
Walk the talk and lead by example—people always watch the leader.

Leaders Made Here is not a bold initiative that comes and goes. It must become what the organization is. It has to become part of the organizational DNA.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development

03.15.17

Intelligent Restraint: Pacing for Growth

Intelligent Restraint

W
E KNOW WE NEED to prioritize growth both personally and professionally or it will not happen. And it is just as important that we grow at the right pace.

Athletes know that the right pace in both training and racing is key to winning. It is a common belief that pushing ourselves or our organizations past our limits is the best strategy fro growth. But if you go too fast or push too hard you cannot only burn out but cause injuries and setbacks. At the same time, if you go too slow, you will get left in the dust. Find the right pace is key to successful growth and long-term success.

Long-term success also requires that we execute our core business today while preparing ourselves for the future. In Pacing for Growth, Alison Eyring addresses this tension and how we can find the pace that avoids the wasted effort and the frustrating boom-splat cycles common to growth initiatives. The concept is called Intelligent Restraint.

Intelligent Restraint is basically operating within the limits of the capacity and capabilities we have today and no further while we also build a base of the right capabilities for long term enduring growth.

The three core principles of Intelligent Restraint are:

Principle One: Capacity determines how far and fast you can go. Maximum capacity is the highest level of performance at which a system can perform without breaking down. When we understand the gaps between performance and capacity and how maximum capacity in the future will be different from today, we can create a program to build capabilities that increase capacity.

Principle Two: The right capabilities increase capacity. The key is to be crystal clear what capabilities are most critical for growth in your business. What are the critical few capabilities your strategy requires you to execute fabulously well?

Principle Three: The right pace wins the race. Growth leaders understand how and when to push faster and when to slow things down. In a race, we need to conserve some energy to maintain a fast pace and we need to perseverance to sustain this pace even when it become uncomfortable.

Growth requires trade-offs like exploring new opportunities while exploiting existing assets. Eyring says there are three rules to keep in mind.

Rule #1: Focus overrules vision. Vision is important and gets you going but focus is what gets you over the finish line. By learning to focus and then align people and pother resources to that focus, you can conserve time and energy that can be used to build new capabilities for growth. Making focused choices is Intelligent Restraint at work.

Rule #2: Routines beat strengths. Strengths are useful but they can become a liability when overused. The right routines efficiently shape new ways of thinking and behaving that are need for growth. When we repeat the same thing over and over, we can perfect our technique, But when we repeat progressively challenging routines, we build endurance.

Rule #3: Exert then Recover. To deliver results and build capacity for growth at the same time requires high levels of exertion that consumes personal and organizational energy that must be replenished. As a growth leader, you may need to intentionally slow things down.

A sign that you’re growing at the wrong pace is that you lack the capacity or infrastructure to support what you trying to do. This results in chronic mistakes, poor customer service, and in some industries, safety violations and injuries.

You know you are at the right pace when you can deliver the results intended by the growth initiative while at the same time having the space to give thought to and build for future growth.

Eyring offers an online assessment to determine if your organization is setting the right pace on her Organization Solutions web site.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:40 PM
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