The invention of the ship…

Ss-richmond-p-hobson-shipwreck Is your next decision a ship, a shipwreck or a little bit of both and how do you know?
…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 study...
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Leveraging What Was...

goal-setting What will next year be for you and how will you create it?
... to What Will BeThis is the time of year, for better or for worse, many of us take stock of the last twelve months and determine on some level what the next twelve months will look like.  While ultimately I personally favor a rolling goal planning process that is continuous over shorter intervals, most people still favor using the down time during the holidays to do their annual goal setting.  Most studies show the success rate for New Year’s Resolutions is less than 10%, so regardless of whether we set our goals annually or more or less frequently, how do we approach the process of reflecting and resetting?  The following is a structure anyone, regardless of business, markets served, title or level of experience can use to set themselves up for a successful 2017!What was……accomplished in 2016 that advanced your business? Before we dive into the things that did not...
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The Courage of the Samurai

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Several months ago, I was asked to read a book that was recommended to me through a source that I did not know well, something that I do not normally do.  However, after several inquiries and because the title and subject intrigued me, I agreed to read the book and provide my thoughts.  I am so very glad I did!  “The Courage of the Samurai – Seven Sword-Sharp Principles of Success.” by Lori Tsugawa Whaley is an easy to read history of the Samurai combined with how the philosophy can be applied in today’s context.  The author brings in examples from business, the military and her own personal examples to highlight lessons learned from this philosophy rich in tradition. My favorite chapters covered the principles of Integrity (Gi) in Chapter 2 and Loyalty (Chuugi) in Chapter 7.  The other five principles covered include Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty and Honor.  These two...
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"Don't tell me...

Integrity1 What narrative are your words and actions telling your followers?
...show me.”We define Integrity as the alignment of what you think, what we say and what we do such that they all tell the same story.  We are constantly judged on how these three dimensions align as we interact with others.  However, only two of these are visible to others and create the most common input to how others view us.  In personal settings, the misalignment between these elements may create some personal conflict.  As leaders, the misalignment between our words and our actions could ultimately destroy them! It is amazing to me the disconnect between what leaders say they will do and what they ultimately do without realizing the consequences of the disconnect!  For example, comments suggesting a leader is committed to the mission and strategy of the organization while that same leader consistently misses on meeting goals and delivering on the promise.  When it comes time to evaluate that...
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ROI - Return on Integrity

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As we find ourselves in ever more challenging leadership situations across business, politics, religion and sports, I find myself looking more deeply into what effective 21st leadership really is and why it seems to so difficult to achieve.  As if he was reading my mind, John Blumberg comes along with his new book, “ROI ~ Return on Integrity, The New Definition of ROI and Why Leaders Need to Know It”.  It is unlike many leadership books in that it’s not a book of answers as much as it is a book of questions to help leaders get better answers to help them lead with integrity. My favorite chapters are Chapter 2, Discovering the Drift and Chapter 12, The Call of Every Leader.  In Chapter 2 he speaks of the drift that I have heard John speak of many times before in his speeches and keynotes.  It is a direct reminder that...
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Sticking Points

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Given our recent focus on the multi-generational workforce, this edition of What to Read helps us understand generational diversity more effectively.  I recently had the opportunity to listen to Haydn Shaw speak at a local chamber event.  His combination of candor and experience got me interested in his book, “Sticking Points”.  Haydn’s take on generational diversity and the most common challenges (12 by his count) are all good reasons to read this book. My favorite parts of the book are Chapter 3 where he introduces a five-step approach to dealing with  misunderstandings and misperceptions in a multi-generational workplace.  As effective communications are a large part of my coaching practice, I also enjoyed his take on the communications issues between the generations outlined in Chapter 8.  As we focus on perception, this is a great way to not only know why the generational misperceptions occur, but also how to work through them!...
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You Don't Know SWOT!

swot-analysis-2 What does your SWOT say about your organization’s priorities?
Of the many lessons I’ve learned throughout my career, one that has generated sustainable success is the effective use of the SWOT Analysis.  For those readers who are not familiar with the SWOT Analysis, it is a flexible tool that helps the leader identify internal Strengths and Weaknesses as well as external Opportunities and Threats (hence the acronym).  It can be used to assess individual circumstances and/or organizational situations with a very straightforward process.  The challenges for both frequent SWOT users or those leaders just getting started with the tool is that most fail to realize the full value of the SWOT process.  Most only realize half the value by ignoring the most effective part of the tool!In a traditional SWOT Analysis, the leader creates four lists containing the collective insights on the internal Strengths (list #1) and Weaknesses (list #2) along with the external Opportunities (list #3) and Threats (list...
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The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle

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...How to Become a Servant LeaderA client recently gave me a copy of this month’s book based on our multiple discussions of leadership, specifically servant leadership.  While it had been awhile since I last read this book, this was a great opportunity to re-read it in the context of leadership and business twelve years removed from its first printing.  I was not disappointed as I read “The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader” by James Hunter.  It provides a great foundation for thinking what it takes to be a successful 21st Century Leader.My favorite chapter in the book is titled, “On Character and Human Change” and speaks very directly to what character is and how it is a habit that can be built and developed over time.  The author speaks directly to how people can change highlighting the four stages of learning in the process.  These...
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The Missing Piece for Non-Profit Leaders

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I believe being a non-profit leader in the 21st Century is one of the toughest roles in leadership! The ongoing reality of thin budgets and fierce competition for donor dollars and volunteer time against the passion and altruism of a host of staff and volunteers requires the leader to have a unique mix of attitudes, knowledge and skills.  It is this backdrop that provides the inspiration for our latest book, “The Missing Piece for Non-Profit Leaders: Achieving Sustainable Programs through Business Alignment”.  In this book, we apply the elements of Business Alignment to assist Non-Profit Leaders in creating their Vision, Strategy and Goals to achieve sustainable success.As Tom Okarma, an experienced non-profit executive in his own right, stated in the book’s Foreword, “Finally, here is a book that specifically addresses the issues and speaks directly to non-profit leaders to show them how their agencies can make that elusive leap to the...
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Your ‘Yes’ Means Nothing…

prioritize-get-the-right-things-done How much does your ‘Yes’ mean?
…if you can’t say ‘No’ It seems the hardest thing to do in business these days is to say ‘No’ to someone else.  We can think of plenty of times we regret saying ‘Yes’ when we knew damn well it was going to mess up our current priorities, or worse, put us in a position to be less effective than we are capable of.  Let me just put it out there now; ‘No’ is a legitimate response in any business if it is, in fact, the appropriate response for the situation.  While most would agree to this fact intellectually, the majority still struggle with actually doing so!  Why is that? As a business leader, part of the art of the profession is making effective knowledge-based decisions.  A crucial ingredient to this decision-making process is listening to insights from those who work for you; including insights that may disagree with your own...
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Never Stop Learning…

Staying-Relevant What are you learning today to keep your leadership relevant for tomorrow?
…because Life Never Stops Teaching. A common discussion over the past several months has been how leaders stay relevant in today’s dynamic economic and political environment.  What was relevant five years ago is passe’ today.  What is relevant today will likely be on its way to obsolescence three years from now.  What is even more surprising is how many leaders seem to believe they can stay relevant with the skills, knowledge and attitudes learned years before.  They lament the need for different outcomes for their business (for profit or non-profit) and yet spend little time actively engaging in the process of staying relevant, the process of continuous learning!  Let’s break down each of the key areas of learning with some ideas to stay relevant in each one.Learning Relevant Skills – Skills are the things you need to know how to do to be an effective leader.  Goal Planning, Effective Communications, Time...
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“Secure your mask on first…

…and then assist the other person.” Those of us who frequently travel by plane recognize these words from the Flight Attendants’ pre-flight instructions to the assembled passengers.  Those of us who prefer flying with Southwest Airlines have even heard comedic versions such as putting your mask on first “before assisting your favorite child!” In any case, the message is clear; take care of yourself first! As you approach your goals for a new year, I could (and have) say the same thing to every leader responsible for leading a team, business, group or project; take care of yourself first! To be clear this is not a manifesto for being a self-centered leader or to put themselves on a pedestal of self-involvement.  It is quite the opposite.  Here is what it does mean:In order to give 100%, you have to be 100% ~ I coach several solopreneur business owners who provide services...
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The Past is a Point of Reference…

Move-from-the-past How will your future look different than your past?
...not a Place of Residence. “Comfortable”, “Predictable”, “Known” and “Familiar” are all terms we would like to describe our lives as leaders. Or would we? It is easy to rely on the past because it has already happened, something we have already seen and experiences making it familiar to us. The problem is that it is what was and likely not a good reflection of what will be. The question becomes how do we effectively use the past as a learning experience without allowing ourselves to get “stuck” living in it?Using the Past as a Point of Reference ~ We are all products of our past regardless of what that past looked like. It molds us into who we are due to its influence on the beliefs and attitudes that drive our daily actions. The key to learning from our past is to get beyond remembering only what happened in the...
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When things start going wrong…

Flying-in-Alaska How is your current leadership altitude and course heading?
…do not forget your main goal is to fly the plane.”When I was learning to become a licensed pilot in Alaska as a teenager, part of the process is learning what to do when something goes wrong with the plane. Only instead of talking about what we would do in a given situation, you actually had to demonstrate what you would do in any given emergency situation and show the flight instructor you could do the right thing. That way, when you are faced with the reality of trouble, you know exactly what to do. Practicing how to recover from stalls (when the plane won't stay in the air) and emergency landings are a normal part of learning to fly. No matter what the challenge, one thing a pilot can never forget while troubleshooting the problem; keep flying the airplane!So too, does a leader when faced with challenges and issues in...
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"The culture of any organization is shaped…

corporate-culture-comics-improve-culture
…by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate." This has been one of the easiest newsletters to write for the simple reason that I see so many examples of the situation outlined in the undated quote above from Gruenter and Whitaker. So much so that it seems like the right time to break down why it occurs and provide some thoughts on how to help leaders avoid the this trap that many find themselves caught in. One of Peter Drucker’s quotes reads, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast” which means when you get culture right, the rest will more often than not, fall into place.The conversation begins with the definition of culture itself. We define culture as the shared set of beliefs, values and attitudes that guide the behavior of the organization. Every organization, large or small has a culture that is created in one of three ways:Leaders hire associates...
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I Listened

4251071698_0249329460 How is listening improving your leadership?
In the 1999 movie, “The 13th Warrior”, Antonio Banderas plays an Arab in the company of a band of Norsemen. There is a scene where all the Norsemen are talking in a language the audience cannot understand while the lone Arab sits intently. Eventually the entire conversation is in English meaning the Arab can now understand what they are saying. When he responds to an insult in their language, one of the Norsemen angrily questions, “Where did you learn our language?” He responds simply, “I listened!”Effective communications is the quintessential skill for effective leadership and listening is a crucial component to effective communications. Many leaders attend class after class on how to speak and present, while very few, if any, have been to an effective listening class! Listening has always been a key part of my own success as a leader and I will use those examples to highlight the value...
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Forget Coping...

Time-to-Adapt How are you thinking about change?
…Think Adapting” For all the time and material I’ve devoted to helping my clients and students manage change, I could not help but note the simplicity and profoundness of the title quote. What makes it even more credible is it is attributed in a recent “People” magazine article to Dame Judith Dench, winner of an Oscar and a Tony Award at age 65! As the current character “M” in the James Bond film series, she likely knows what she is talking about so let’s break it down further!Forget CopingCoping is generally defined as a reaction to minimize stress or conflict. It conjures up images of someone trying to deal with an uncomfortable situation and possibly surviving to move on to another day or the next event. In the leadership context, it portrays the leader who is overcome by the events surrounding them as their world peppers them with problems and challenges....
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“Are you trying to be Perfect…

Excellence-pave-way-to-growth How do you define your excellence as a leader?
…or Excellent?”I only ask because I seem to run across this question quite a bit lately, so it seems worthwhile to address it in a more widespread forum. The conversation usually begins with a discussion around how the leader is trying to accomplish a multitude of actions to advance her or his business. As the frustration becomes evident when not being able to accomplish it all, the obvious question of priorities takes center stage. Of course, when one prioritizes, it means something will not get done which brings us to the title question. Are you trying to be perfect or are you trying to be excellent?To highlight the question, I often tell the story of two campers whose campsite is approached by a bear. One camper takes off running in the opposite direction while the other camper calmly takes off his boots and starts putting on running shoes. Seeing this, the...
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“Leadership…

Leadership---Salesmanship As you lead your business into a new year, what are your followers buying?
…is Salesmanship”I first came across this quote when I read Hamid “Hank” Noorani’s book POWER – The Modern Doctrine and had a chance to explore the idea in a video interview we did together several years ago. It caught my attention because those who know me as a Leadership and Business Coach are sometimes surprised that I am also a Sales Coach. I have always believed there is a level of genuine salesmanship in the process of being an effective leader. While I would be the first to agree the two are not identical twins, I would argue they are at least in the same family tree!One of the key arguments they are not alike, I believe, stems from an outdated understanding of 21st Century Salesmanship. For instance, in Daniel Pink’s latest book To Sell is Human, he makes multiple cases for the human element of sales as opposed to the...
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Are you measuring Headcount…

engagement What is your heartcount and how do you know?
…or Heartcount?As we enter into what is arguably the most emotional season of the year, it seems fitting to remind ourselves as leaders the importance of engaging followers at a level much deeper than merely following orders. We’ve all read the ever-growing number of articles and blogs concerning the low levels of employee engagement in the workforce. One reason may well be the simple reference to people as “headcount”. What if we stopped measuring headcount and started measuring “heartcount”?Heartcount, for purposes of this discussion, refers to the level of commitment to the Vision, Mission and Strategy as active participants in the organizational Culture. Imagine a monthly meeting where leaders report their heartcount or heartcount-as-a-percentage-of-headcount to their management and boards. Think of the discussion that comes out of a leader stating, “We had a 43% heartcount this past quarter” which is akin to saying, “We were 43% committed to the success of...
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