“Content is the King...

content_v_context How well do your followers understand their kingdom?
...Context is the Kingdom."We’ve written extensively on the importance of context in leadership ranging from effective communications to critical thinking to effective decision-making. We recently came across the title quote in an article by Dave Ulrich as yet another reminder of the importance of context over content for effective 21st Century leadership. Additionally, we’ve actively embraced artificial intelligence (AI) as an important support tool for our leadership and business coaching practice. One of the key lessons in using AI (ChatGPT in this case) most effectively is the ability to leverage the right prompts or questions to support the issue at hand.Recently we had a conversation with ChatGPT and asked it the following question:What are the top 3 tips to ask ChatGPT great questions?The response back is listed below without edits:Be Specific: Provide clear and specific details in your question. Instead of asking vague or broad questions, narrow down the scope to...
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“The purpose of today’s training...

Think-Different How are you training to defeat yesterday’s understanding?
...is to defeat yesterday’s understanding."As leaders make time to plan for the next business cycle, we’ve noticed a common theme both in our coaching conversations as well as in general conversations not directly related to coaching. Leaders are quick to delve into the operational plans for their businesses and organizations. However, when the asked about their personal leadership development plans, the conversations suddenly go silent or taper off significantly. Thus, this is the theme for this month’s discussion around how leaders must think more broadly when it comes to planning for sustainable success in a new business cycle.The title of this month’s discussion is from the 17th Century Japanese philosopher, Miyamoto Musashi. He is also a noted strategist, swordsman and ronin. He is credited with developing a unique style of swordsmanship, a feat he could not have accomplished by continuing to use the yesterday’s understanding of his time. So too, leaders...
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“...Inspire through values...

values21 How is your culture aligned to your organizational values?
 ...and motivation takes care of itself."One of the most visible effects the current VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment has been the impact on organizational culture. We define organizational culture in our leadership and business coaching practice as the shared set of Values, Beliefs, Norms and Attitudes within an organization that guide the Behavior of its members. At the foundation of this definition are the core values of the organization that become the guiding principles of its leaders as they model the desired culture.What we’ve observed over the last four years is less about the values themselves and more about the struggle leaders face in aligning their core values to the desired culture. The title quote from Tony Hsieh, the late founder of Zappos, highlights the point. When we look at the relationship between values and culture, we can state it in simple terms as Values + Alignment = Culture....
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“..., you have to be immune to criticism, but...

Feedback How is your team receiving your feedback?
...at the same time, responsive to feedback.”We find this distinction between criticism and feedback to be an interesting topic as we coach our client leaders through the many changes occurring in their businesses. In a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment, it is easy to take any negative input, whether from internal or external sources, as a personal affront. The skill of the leader is to know the difference between criticism and feedback as the title quote from Deepak Chopra suggests. His entire quote above is, “The biggest insight is that if you want to be successful, you have to be immune to criticism, but, at the same time, responsive to feedback, which are two different things.In our leadership and business coaching practice, we routinely facilitate coaching around the differences between the two so we are using this month’s discussion to share some thoughts on how leaders can effectively leverage...
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“It’s not who is right...

accountability How are you focused on what’s right as a leader, even if you may be proven wrong in any given situation?
...but what is right, that is important.”As we continue to focus many of our writings on critical thinking and the leader’s ability to set direction for their teams, this quote from Thomas Huxley rang true on so many levels. We continue these discussions in the context of operating in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment. It is a recurring theme because we continue to see and hear about business leaders struggling with change and conflict they feel they have limited control over. It stems from a frequent chorus of leaders struggling with what should be, versus what actually is, the current reality!In tough situations, it is not uncommon for leaders to hear themselves and other leaders lament the current situation through the lens of, “it could/would/should be this instead of that.” or “It isn’t supposed to be like this”. While these statements carry an element of truth in that...
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“A different world cannot be built...

vision-lg How are you leading differently to achieve desired results?
...by indifferent people.”A recurring theme in our writings this year center on critical thinking and the leader’s ability to set direction for their teams in the context of operating in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment. It is a recurring theme because we continue to see and hear about business leaders struggling with change they feel they have limited control over. Using the title quote attributed to Peter Marshall, former chaplain for the U.S. Senate in the late 1940s, we continue to explore effective leadership in a VUCA business environment.Indifference is defined as a lack of interest or concern in a given situation. It is being apathetic in a situation and is a clear reflection of the leader’s attitude. This is an important distinction as part of the challenge of effectively leading change is thinking it merely involves doing different to get different results. It is a common misconception...
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“Are you a GPS...

business-direction-compass How are you fully leveraging your operational leaders?
...or a Compass?”One of the common topics that routinely comes up in our executive coaching discussions with senior leaders, is understanding the distinction between strategic leadership and operational leadership. It is an important distinction that we’ve outlined in all our “Missing Piece” books. Recently, I watched an interview with Ken Frazier, former CEO of Merck & Co. who touched on this topic. During the interview he used the title phrase as his way of making the distinction, especially for leaders in the C-Suite.We define strategic leadership as the level of leadership that sets the direction for the organization. This includes creating and socializing the vision, mission and values of the organization. It also includes creating and executing the strategy for the business and how the business competes in its markets and industries. It is typically the realm of the leaders at the top of the organization. The CEO, Executive Director, Business...
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Dialog is about learning...

curiosity How are you leading your team with dialog versus debate?
...Debate is about winning.We’ve spent a good deal of time of late speaking to the importance of critical thinking for 21st Century leadership to achieve sustainable success. In the new reality of the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment, the leader’s ability to separate the information wheat from the information chaff is crucial. As important as critical thinking is to effective leadership, the ability to both share and evolve their thinking with their followers is just as important!In this discussion, we outline some key ideas from our own experiences to enable critical thinking starting with the ideas from the title. We’ll begin with dialog:Dialog is about Learning ~ We all intellectually know that learning can’t occur if the leader is always talking and not listening. It occurs at the outer edge of the leader’s knowledge which we wrote about several years ago here. True dialog requires effective listening (not just...
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Don’t practice until you get it right...

Create-Value How are you ensuring your business can’t get it wrong?
...Practice until you can’t get it wrong.Sustainability and spaced repetition are joint themes deeply embedded in our coaching practice since day one. Sustainability is mentioned in all seven of our books and spaced repetition is built into our attitude change platform/practice. In fact, a good portion of our coaching practice is helping our clients focus on repetitive practice to develop new attitudes, behaviors, and skills.In this discussion, we take a look at how repetition factors into the key elements of business leadership. We will explore the value of repetition as it pertains to leading people, managing resources and creating value regardless of whether the business is for-profit, non-profit, small business, large corporation, public or privately held. Let’s get started with the most important aspect of business leadership: leading people.Leading People ~ In any business, people are the heart and soul of the sustainable success of any business. In today’s dynamic new...
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“Those who cannot change their mind...

Open-Minded How are you leveraging critical thinking to execute your business decisions?
...cannot change anything."This quote from Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw leads us into this month’s discussion and part two of our discussion around critical thinking skills. Last month, we introduced the first four of eight critical thinking skills. This month, we discuss the last four critical thinking skills identified by Zety writer Michael Tomaszewski earlier this year. Last month, we focused on the skills that support the leader’s ability to make the best decision under their present conditions and assumptions. In our current discussion, we focus on the skills that support the leader’s execution of their decision and their ability to flex their decision when the conditions and assumptions change! Before we dig into these four skills, as a reminder we define critical thinking as, “A process where leaders question their own assumptions, as well as those of others, using a mix of research, analysis, questioning and exploring new ideas to...
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“Curiosity has its own...

critical-thinking How are you leveraging critical thinking to support your business decisions?
...reason for existing."The title of this month's article is actually the second half of an Albert Einstein quote that reads, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." We introduced thinking differently as a lead-in to innovation last month which we also know is a function of curiosity. As we continue our conversation around diversity of thought, we will speak directly to the importance of critical thinking. Even now, as the conversation around Open AI and ChatGPT ramp up to a fever pitch, the need for leaders to understand the importance of critical thinking has never been more crucial!We define critical thinking as, "A process where leaders question their own assumptions, as well as those of others, using a mix of research, analysis, questioning and exploring new ideas to inform in a way not restricted by subjective perspectives of peers and/or the status quo."...
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Diversity of Thought...

Adaptability-Symbol How are you thinking different about leading your business?
...is the Wellspring of InnovationLast month, we wrote about thinking differently as a means to develop new habits and behaviors in order to continuously evolve as business leaders. Based on the response from that article, we decided to continue the theme and expand on it through the lens of diversity and critical thinking. The title inspiration comes from multiple articles and social media posts we came across in our research for this article. The essence is leaders must think different to do different. So, let’s break it down on how leaders can think different.Demographics vs. Psychographics ~ The essence of truly understanding diversity of thought, or cognitive diversity as its also referred to, is leaders recognizing different attitudes people hold. A team can look diverse based on demographics related to age, gender, race, education, etc. However, if the diverse demographics converge into a single psychographic based on similar attitudes, then the...
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“I never thought of it that way”

Think-Differently How are you thinking differently about how you are leading your business?
As a business and leadership coach, these words are music to my ears! When I’m asked the usual question at networking events, “What do you do?”, I answer with, “We’re in the attitude adjustment business.” More often than not, it catches the asker by surprise. Yet, truthfully, it completely captures our goal when working with our clients, to help them think differently about what it takes to lead in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business world we operate in.We enter a new business cycle with some existing challenges (rising interest rates, supply chain issues, etc.) and new challenges (impact of inflation, etc.). To that end, leaders must embrace the idea of thinking differently about what is possible given the current economic, socio-cultural, political and regulatory conditions affecting their markets and industries. As we work with our for-profit and non-profit clients to think differently, we identified several common themes, regardless of...
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Optics...

Measurable-Impact How are your business outcomes creating impact?
 ...or OutcomesSeveral months ago, I was having a coaching conversation with a client where the conversation went down a path of how a situation looked versus how it was in reality. In that moment, it occurred to me how impactful that concept was to leaders of any organization! To be able to separate perception of how a situation or issue looks or feels from the factual truth about a situation or issue is the level of critical thinking crucial to effective leadership.As we put these words to paper, most leaders are winding down the current business year and putting the final touches on their plans for the next business year. If they are like our clients, they’ve documented the strategies, operation and tactical successes for the past year. In addition to the summary of success, we press further to have leaders document what they base their successes on. This prevents a...
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Making Numbers Count

Making_Numbers_Count_Header
This month, we highlight the value of tactical communications in the planning process around goals, metrics and desired results. With the focus on knowledge-based decision-making, we also highlight a book that has helped us become more comfortable with communicating numbers as leaders. In, “Making Numbers Count”, Chip Heath and Karla Starr outline a process that helps leaders not only understand the numbers, but more importantly communicate the numbers in a way that resonates with the audience both logically and emotionally!Our favorite section of the book is titled “Use Emotional Numbers ~ Surprising and Meaningful ~ To Move People to Think and Act Differently”. It is a powerful set of ideas in short and easy-to- understand chapters that help the reader quickly understand the authors’ idea. The authors use plenty of examples that also aid in the reader grasping the main idea in a way that also makes it easy to apply...
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“Execution is the ability to mesh strategy with reality,...

execute-strategy What will your tactical narrative sound like for your business leading into the new business year?
...align people with goals and achieve the promised results”One of the organizational planning best practices we use with our clients is beginning the process with a look back at what was accomplished in the current year. We look at how many of the goals were accomplished and what percentage of the desired results were achieved. This sets the stage for the leader’s communications narrative of what is being carried over to the following year as well as what needs to be added to continue to grow as an organization. In Chapter 6 of our most recent book, “Finding the Missing Piece: The Impact of Effective Communications on Sustainable Success”, we focus on the communications involved at a tactical level and why it is critical to the effectiveness of an organization’s overall communication strategy.Drawing on the definition of business alignment as the process of matching the organization’s tactics to the available or...
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“Trust is the glue of life.

PPT What will your operational narrative sound like for your business leading into the new business year?
It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication.”As business leaders start looking at how this year will end and begin planning for the next year, the words of Stephen Covey in the title ring true as leaders develop their new operational plans. Operational planning is comprised of the four guiding elements of the business: People, Process, Technology and Compensation. In Chapters 4 and 5 of our most recent book, “Finding the Missing Piece: The Impact of Effective Communications on Sustainable Success”, we focus on the communications involved in operational planning and why it is critical to the effectiveness of an organization’s overall communication strategy.Drawing on the definition of business alignment as the process of matching the organization’s tactics to the available or readily acquirable resources to achieve its strategic objectives, we will focus on the available or readily available resources needed to achieve the strategic objectives. In leveraging operational communications, leaders...
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“If you don’t know where you’re going...

Strategic-communication What will your strategic narrative sound like for your business leading into the new business year?
...any road will take you there.”Many will recall this classic line from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” in the conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat. As business leaders start looking at how this year will end and begin planning for the next year, it is important they plan through the lens of strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is comprised of the three guiding elements of the business: Vision, Mission, and Strategy. In chapter 3 of our most recent book, “Finding the Missing Piece: The Impact of Effective Communications on Sustainable Success”, we focus on the strategic communications involved in strategic thinking and why it is critical to the effectiveness of an organization’s overall communications strategy.We define strategic communications as the actions involved in communicating the long-term purpose and direction of the organization. To that end, strategic communications is unique in its application than the operational and tactical communications which we will...
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“The ability to learn faster than your competitors...

strategy-making How is your business strategy creating a sustainable competitive advantage and how do you know?
...may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”It is the time of year where many organizations are starting to plan for the continued success of their business. Whether for-profit or non-profit, large national corporation or small local business, the challenges of maintaining a sustainable and successful strategy continue to challenge leaders at all levels. Leaders continue to navigate a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment laced with supply chain issues, employee retention, political unrest, and economic inflation to name a few.The inspiration for the framework of this month’s discussion is an article in the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review titled “Strategy-Making in Turbulent Times – a Dynamic New Model” by Michael Mankins and Mark Gottfredson. Right up front I’ll argue whether their model is new or not, a point the authors even acknowledge as true for parts of their recommendations. However, the five elements of the structure are valid...
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Lead Well!

Lincoln-quote How are you leading well and how do you know?
For those who are regular readers of this platform, you might recognize the title of this edition as the way we sign off on all our online posts. I also use it to autograph the books we’ve written over the course of the last ten years. We also reference it in a different way when giving leadership presentations and speeches when we say that, while leadership is complex in so many ways, people ultimately want to be led well! But what do we mean when we say, “Lead Well”?In a November 2021 article, “7 trends dominating the future of work in 2022”, Korn Ferry talks about 7 key trends that business leaders all need to be focused on. Because we’ve coached our clients through all these trends/challenges in our business coaching practice, we decided to use them as a catalyst to further discussion what is means to Lead Well.While the article...
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