“Strength lies in differences...

...not in similarities.”This month, we continue our conversation on Leading at the Speed of Business by discussing the third of five keys to success. We began the discussion two months ago with the first key to success: Get Ready to Warp. Last month, we centered the conversation on the second key to success: Servant Leadership. This month, we dive into Cognitive Diversity as the third key to success. Successfully leading at the speed of business is rooted in diverse thinking. People who think different, will ultimately do different and will be more comfortable with change and adapting at the speed of business!What does Cognitive Diversity entail and what do leaders need to know to leverage the strengths that Stephen Covey alludes to in the title to achieve effective and successful leadership? Key in on Psychographics vs. Demographics – Most of us are familiar with demographics that look at population groups based...
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“The Best Way to Find Yourself…

…is to Lose Yourself in the Service of Others”As we continue our discussion of Leading at the Speed of Business, we look this month to expand on last month’s discussion in the Get Ready to Warp post. While last month’s theme was speed, this month we look at the concept highlighted by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote in the title, Servant Leadership. More specifically, we explore the idea that the leader of any organization can only be as effective and successful as the team they lead. The implication here is that no leader can keep up the pace of business solely on their own merits. They need followers who are fully bought in, physically and emotionally to the Vision and Purpose of the organization. In order to stay relevant at the speed of business, followers are the ones who will make it happen because they trust, and willingly follow, their leader!So how do...
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“Strap yourselves in…

…we’re going to jump to light speed!”I still remember the audience’s reaction to this scene in the Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. We had never seen anything like it on the big screen until then and, of course, now it seems almost archaic! Today’s 21st Century Business environment can feel very much like everything is moving at perpetual light speed. It is also this metaphor we use to highlight the first of five Keys to Success initially mentioned in last month’s newsletter (click here to read). The first Key to Success is Get Ready to Warp (another name for Light Speed). Simply stated, it is not the ability to adapt that matters as much as the speed at which the leader is able to adapt in order to stay relevant. Here are three things a 21st Century Leader can do to stay relevant: How well do you know your...
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"The absence of conflict…

…does not equal the presence of trust.”Just over five years ago, I wrote these words in a blog detailing the important elements of trust. They recently came back to me as the topic surfaced as a key element of so many coaching conversations over the last several months.  There was a leader struggling to verbalize the diminished trust they had with a key associate. Or the leadership team concerned that a public proclamation of trust as a value would somehow have a negative effect (images of the sleazy salesperson who leads with “trust me” accompanied by a sly grin!) These, and other similar conversations, have me wondering why something so obviously key to effective leadership would be so difficult to verbalize. Upon reflection, I found the conversation broke down to two primary categories of trust; Ethics and Compliance, both of which we’ll explore a little deeper. Trust based on Ethics –...
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"Every Obstacle is Destroyed...

…through Rigor.”January is that time of year where many organizational and individual leaders trot out new goals to advance their businesses and themselves. Their process of setting these goals can be simplified down to basically two steps. Step one: identify the goal itself. Step two: identify the action steps to accomplish the goal. If there were a third step it would most likely look like: hope it works! Sad, but true, in far too many cases.Rarely do I ask a prospect or new client what their goals are first. What I ask first is what their goal planning process is to achieve their goals. This question, which rarely gets a confident and definitive answer, is much more foundational to success than what the actual goals are. Without a process, the goals themselves mean nothing!Because goals are top-of-mind this time of year, I would propose components of a goal planning process that...
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“It’s What You Do, Not What You Say...

…If You’re Not Part of the Future, then Get Out of the Way.”Whenever I see these words to John Cougar Mellencamp’s song, “Peaceful World”, it reminds me that one of the biggest challenges leaders face is painting a clear picture of the intended future of their team, department, business or organization. This is the time of year where many leaders are doing just that, visualizing the intended future produced by strategic plans, budgets and resource allocations now ready to be executed in the upcoming new year. However, these documents aren't enough to dictate success as they are typically created by spreadsheets and analytics. Visions are realized through emotional engagement by members of an organization so having more than logical plans and budgets to achieve success is necessary. What is the story? ~ Before leaders share the picture of the intended future, they have to have a clear idea of the story...
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“No matter how thin the pancake...

...it always has two sides.”By the end of 2017, I will have given multiple versions of our popular “Generational Diversity in the Workplace” presentation to over a dozen different audiences. While each audience is unique, a common question usually arises along the lines of, “I fit the generational demographics, but I don’t think like my generation.” Each time, this question, and subsequent conversation, brings me back to the wisdom from my Aunt in the title as it frames for me the value of understanding psycho-graphics to be an effective leader in the today’s dynamic business environment.Psycho-graphics are quantitative methodologies based on people’s attitudes and values. Most of us are used to demographics that are the tried and true “labels” to help us organize what is going on around us. If all we focused on was demographics, the best we could hope to gain would be effective management. However, we don’t lead...
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“Remember, language was the first form of virtual reality.”

Last month in this forum we talked about the difference between knowing how to think and only knowing what to think. This month, we acknowledge the connection between how we think as leaders and its impact on how we behave as leaders. Specifically, we are looking at the behavior of effective communications. It is important that leaders know how to communicate effectively beyond just knowing what to say. It is, in my experience, the single biggest challenge for 21st Century Leaders to manage as they strive for sustainable success! So, what that means is: Leave the echo chamber ~ Sure, it’s safe to hear that things are going well within the organization from your team. But if that is all you hear, as a leader, you are in trouble and may not even realize it! When is the last time someone on your team disagreed with you? Can't remember that far,...
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“Sir, I do not understand”

This month’s title comes from my days as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point and was one of the only four answers we could give as plebes (freshmen) when questioned by upper-classman.  As I do a fair share of key note team presentations and workshops on Effective Communications, I thought it appropriate to the subject.  Effective communications, or the lack thereof is, in my experience, the number one issue in business today. An issue because we are communicating more, yet listening less.  We are blitzed with content and yet struggle to put the content into a reliable context of our leadership situation.  The result is a too often occurrence of unmet expectations.The purpose of all communications is to elicit some degree of behavioral response.  Any change effort, no matter the scope and scale, begins with understanding expectations.  Sustainable success, the ability to repeatedly achieve desired results,...
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“To attain Knowledge, add things every day…

…To attain Wisdom, remove things every day.”No matter how much leaders intellectually know about the folly of trying to fit ten pounds of stuff in a five-pound bag, they seem to always go down that path, ultimately leading to frustration and stress. Of the many conversations with speaking engagement audiences, prospects and clients around how they manage their time, we will invariably get to the question, “What are you going to stop doing so you can do these other new things you need to do?” Unfortunately, the most common response, either verbally or non-verbally is, “What do you mean?” This month’s conversation will discuss “What I mean!”I had the opportunity recently to visit Gettysburg National Park with my wife. Being a Civil War enthusiast, we were excited to visit the site of the pivotal turning point in the War. In one of the exhibits, painted on the wall in large letters...
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The invention of the ship…

…was also the invention of the shipwreck!Effective Leadership involves among other things a sound decision making process. As it is a process it involves looking at not only the decisions immediate impact but the longer-term effects as well. As this quote from French Philosopher, Urbanist and Cultural Theorist Paul Virilio suggests, there is casualty in every leadership decision. For context, the decisions discussed here are primarily focused on the ones with the broadest impact to the organization and the strategy. Understanding the impact the decisions have in a broader sense is the challenge every leader faces multiple times a day! There are always Pros and Cons – The first thing to understand is that every decision has pros and cons. Seems obvious, yet I routinely see leaders making decisions only based on the upside of their decision and falling victim to their own confirmation biases. A common occurrence is a case...
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A Business Does Well…

…what its Leaders MeasureOne of the challenges in today’s business environment is the ability to show measurable progress in whatever endeavor the business is involved in. Entrepreneurs wear so many hats, they struggle with where to focus their metrics. Non-profit leaders get caught up in activities without understanding their measurable impact. Corporate leaders create a false sense of security because all they see of the business is through report-driven metrics. All of this to answer the simple question of “How do you know your business is achieving desired results?”For me, the best answer has always included using the Balanced Scorecard approach introduced by Robert Kaplan and David Norton in their 1996 book, “The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action”.  However, whichever measurement tool and/or philosophy you use, there are two tenets we use in helping clients identify areas of process improvement and quality that belong in any discussion of measuring success....
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The difference between wanting change clarity and resisting change is…

…apparently a difficult question to answer!  I’ve asked this question hundreds of times to business leaders, non-profit leaders and MBA students and the answers are as varied as their backgrounds.  It stems from an age-old scenario where, during a change conversation, some brave soul stands up and asks a question to clarify the change initiative.  The room waits in anticipation as to whether the questioner will get an honest answer or be forever tagged as a resistor of change.  Having led numerous change efforts in my corporate career, I welcomed questions as I knew it would help everyone understand the change in the long run.  However, in my coaching practice I get the sense I may have been in the minority!We have to ask why this challenge exists after many decades of change.  If we put the usual personalities and egos aside, one of the key issues is a fundamental lack...
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It’s OK to not Know How…

…It’s not OK to avoid Learning How!It’s not a secret that continuous learning is an important element of staying relevant in today’s business environment.  While there are a multitude of reasons and business drivers why this is our reality (technology, global enterprise, socio-cultural shifts to name but a few), it still amazes me how often ignorance is used as an excuse for not keeping up with change, to which I usually respond with the opening quote.  At some point, all leaders arrive at a point of “I don’t know…” relative to their business.  However, leaders must never fall for the, “…but I’m not going to worry about it” as a means to avoid learning what they need to know.In my experience, there are two primary reasons leaders fall into the trap of avoiding the right level of personal development necessary to stay relevant.  The first is lacking a complete understanding of...
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So what if none of the candidates are leaders…

As a leadership coach, I have searched high and low to find a definition of leadership that fits what we are seeing on the national election stage.  Since I cannot, I stand by the inference in the title which I am sure some will disagree.  I also reference a recent Gallup Poll rating the candidates lowest in Inspiring, Caring for Individuals and Visionary in that order.  Given these are also traits the nation is looking for in their next leader further supports the assertion.  However, what bugs me more is the narrative around hopelessness and helplessness coming from the candidates’ supporters.  Really!  Is all really lost because of one person?I’ve certainly been in many situations throughout my career where my direct supervisor, whether they be a front-line manager or CEO, who would not win “Boss-of-the-year”.  I can also never remember a time where I used my supervisor’s weaknesses as an excuse...
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It’s not the facts we disagree on…

…it’s the interpretation of the facts we most often disagree!In this classic conflict between content (facts) and context (interpretation) lies a key element of effective leadership; managing perceptions! We’ve heard many of the mantras around perception including the most common, “Perception is Reality”.  But what is perception and how does it influence our ability to be effective leaders?  Perception is the process we use to organize and interpret our sensory inputs in order to understand, and give meaning to, what goes on around us.  More specifically, perception can be addressed by looking deeper into the factors that shape our perceptions and reside in the Perceiver, the Situation and the Sensory Target.  Let’s look at each of these to see what we can learn to be more effective leaders! The Perceiver ~ Even before we encounter our next sensory input, our previous experiences and attitudes will impact how we interpret, or simply...
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Start Steady…

…Finish Strong!This has been a mantra I’ve lived by since the days of running marathons in the early 90s, to helping get my kids ready for Army and Navy boot camps.  As each was getting mentally and physically ready to attend their respective basic training, I would repeat the phrase over and over especially on our training runs.  Now it holds a place on my triathlon jersey as a constant motivator to keep improving as a triathlete.  It is in this context the mantra was recently put to the test and got me thinking about its relevance in a broader leadership setting. Start Steady ~ In the local sprint triathlon earlier this month, I was even more committed to a steady start in the swim as I have ever been. It was not about talent, rather finding a pace that was in keeping with this being a sprint, but not burn...
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Change the Narrative...

…Change the Culture!I recently attended a lecture that carried the above title and was intrigued by the ensuing discussion around how effective communications can literally change the course of an organization based on the narrative used to inspire it.  In my mind, effective communication is the number one leadership challenge in business (for-profit and non-profit) today supported by an abundance of real-world examples, surveys and professional articles.  Most surveys I’ve read on this topic not only identify the issue, but also identify leadership’s own poor attempts to improve communications within their organizations.  It is this challenge to improve what is a well-known issue that highlights this leadership discussion. Effective communication is defined as the ability of the sender and the receiver to understand the message in the same context.  This implies using clarity in the message itself, choosing the most effective and efficient media to transmit the message and using an...
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“Excellence drives Mediocre People away…

…just as Mediocrity drives the Superstars away”One of the greatest challenges any leader will face is putting the right team together and positioning them to excel and achieve desired results!  This is true of businesses large and small, for-profit or non-profit, public or private sector.  What I love about the title quote from Jim Hunter’s book, “The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle” is the simple truth it represents for leaders to invest in fielding the right team to realize the Vision, execute the Strategy by achieving their Goals leading to the aforementioned Desired Results.  However, what is frustrating is how many leaders are not addressing the mediocrity and lamenting the inevitable departure of their best team members.  Let’s break down the two issues and address what leaders can do with each one.Excellence drives mediocre people away ~ Of course the first challenge to this issue is defining what excellence means to...
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Better Than Before

Effective Communications, Goal Planning, Time Management, Prioritization.  These are skills at the heart of sustainable leadership.  Not because they exist from time to time but because they are habits of effective leaders, they exist repetitively and are consistent over time.  That is the idea behind "Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin.  While drawing upon the latest research, she also uses herself as her own study to see and feel firsthand what it takes to set and make something a habit.My favorite chapter is titled, “Nothing Stays in Vegas: Loophole Spotting” where she talks about the loopholes we rationalize our inability to maintain a habit.  She pretty much covers nearly all the reasons why people procrastinate and I recognized a few of them from working with my own clients.  In that same vein, my other favorite chapter is titled, “Someone’s Watching: Accountability” which clearly speaks to the value of enlisting the help...
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