“If you want to understand how a lion hunts…

…don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.”This quote by Jim Stengel, former Chief Marketing Office at Proctor & Gamble sets up this month’s conversation on Leading at the Speed of Business as we discuss the fourth of five keys to success. We left off the conversation last month by looking at how Cognitive Diversity helps 21st Century Leaders adapt quickly by embracing creativity and diverse thinking. This month we explore the importance of how effectively we communicate diverse thinking to adapt and stay relevant.It is my contention that effective communication is the biggest challenge 21st Century Leaders face today! When we think of all the ramifications and repercussions of poor leadership communications, we can clearly see why this is such a big issue. What can leaders do to effectively communicate at the speed of business? Knowledge Rules ~ Technology gives us unfettered access to vast amounts of data and...
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“To Learn you have to Listen...

…To Improve you have to Try.”Earlier this month we proudly launched the third in a series of business alignment books specifically addressing the unique leadership challenges of corporate leaders as they strive to create sustainable value for their stakeholders. In nearly all of my coaching engagements, speeches and workshops, the question of value, which I also use synonymously with relevance, comes up in the discussion. It is an issue all leaders grapple with and is complex in that it means something different to just about everyone! So, what does creating sustainable value entail in order to create desired results? To learn you have to listen ~ Whenever we do sales-related coaching, we spend time early in the discussion with the concept of helping others buy, not selling to them. This requires effective listening to understand what is valuable to the prospect or client. In similar fashion, leaders of teams must listen...
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Your ‘Yes’ means nothing…

…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 thoughts on...
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“Leaders are sentenced…

…by their sentences.”We’ve long defined effective communications when the sender and the receiver of a message understand the message in the same contextual meaning. As leaders, this is a basic, albeit crucial, element of the success as a 21st Century Leader. However, as Warren Bennis reminds us in the title quote, there are consequences associated with the words we use and whether or not they convey their intended contextual meaning. This is especially true when we speak. Technology advances notwithstanding, humans are pre-wired to still respond to the spoken word. The spoken word is hundreds of thousands of years old while the written word is still only several hundred years old. Even in a technology-laced world we now operate in, the spoken word still rules in the world of effective communications. In my experience, lack of effective communications is the number one reason why leaders are not effective in leading their...
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Preach Always...

...Sometimes Use WordsWe have all heard the phrase “Practice What You Preach” at some point in our lives. There is even a variation that goes “Preach What You Practice”. The underlying theme is the effective combination of Preaching and Practice. However, Preaching does not always mean words are involved. This takes on added importance the more we talk about business culture and the many ways leaders influence the culture of a business, regardless of whether it is a for-profit or non-profit, small venture or large corporate venture. What leaders say and do to reflect the culture are as important as what they accept what others say and do, whether positive or negative to the culture.What do people see from your actions? What are you preaching without saying anything? We often forget that every move we make as leaders is under some level of scrutiny. People are watching and judging based on...
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“Strive not to be a Success…

value
…but to be of Value.” In the last three or four months, not a week went by without the topic of value taking front and center in the discussion. Whether it was helping a solo-preneur determine the unique value of their business to the market, coaching a sales team to help prospects determine the difference between the value of their needs and wants or coaching a corporate leader determining her/his value to their team, the value discussion typically begins with a discussion of how to be more successful. It has me reflecting on how we can apply Albert Einstein’s words to our 21st Century leadership opportunities. I find value discussions naturally fall into three distinct categories so let’s take a look at each one through the lens of his words.Value of Self – I often ask members of a business team or those who are in career transition this question, “What...
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Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone for a Good Cause!

Being a successful and relevant leader in today’s business environment involves a comfort level with change. Being comfortable with change involves pushing the outer limits of your comfort zone. I had that opportunity recently when I was asked to participate in our local Community Career Center’s annual fundraiser. I recall using the Career Center multiple times in my own career transitions and always found them to be a valuable resource so it was tough to say no to an organization that had helped me in the past. But did I mention the fundraiser is a Dancing With The Stars-like event called Dancing With The Celebrities? And I was being asked to be one of the celebrity dancers! Talk about getting outside your comfort zone. It was a great experience thanks to a wonderful dance pro, Kelly at the local Author Murray Dance Studio. I will let you be the judge on...
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“I’m a much different Athlete…

…than I was two years ago!” These were the words of a world-class competitor just before competing in the most recent World Cross-Fit Games. Two years ago at the same games, he tore his quad halfway through the competition and had to withdraw. This year he stood on the podium winning the Bronze Medal in the 50-54 year age bracket! He would be the first to acknowledge that what changed in those two years was less about his physical abilities and more about his mental approach. A different attitude took him to the status of third best in the world! What does this tell us about being successful lifelong leaders? Plenty, and more than most of us realize! I would argue most people acknowledge the value of a positive mental attitude and mindset as a key element of success. This is especially true for those who have ever participated in activities...
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“Don’t Make Excuses…

No-More-Excuses1
…Make Changes.”I came across this quote in a recent book I was reading called “Hacking Leadership” by Mike Myatt. It is mentioned in the context of hacking the status quo and it struck me how straightforward a statement it is yet so telling and powerful in its underlying message. It also got me thinking about how many leaders get derailed with excuses rather than making the changes necessary for their businesses. Just as troubling are the leaders who accept excuses from their teams when changes are not effectively executed.By most definitions, excuses are used to deflect accountability. They are typically not factual or logical and may be only remotely related to the actual issue (who hasn’t heard “my dog ate it”!). Excuses don’t exist in nature and are created by humans to rationalize their own accountability gaps. There is no greater environment for accountability to falter than during times of change....
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“Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen…

…and thinking what no one else has thought.” This idea posed by Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, a Hungarian Biochemist who won the 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine, is one of my go-to quotes whenever I need to re-energize my mindset. It reminds me that it is not what people see that drives their behaviors as much as it is what they are thinking, their attitude, that is driving their actions. In the world of constant change, it is our leadership attitudes that will determine our success as leaders, regardless of profession, status or industry. Why is this concept so important? By way of example, let’s look back at any inspirational story we have heard or read about someone who was diagnosed with a debilitating or terminal affliction. The diagnosis is usually clear on what the affliction is and is generally accompanied with a verdict associated with the diagnosis. The inspiration comes from the...
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I'm Just Sayin'...

Like most new businesses, RPC Leadership Associates, Inc. started in an environment of uncertainty, and often tumultuous, change. We were elated when we achieved our five-year anniversary late last year and decided to celebrate by letting our readers tell us what their favorite writings were of the last five years! The results, along with six never-before-published articles, were combined to create our latest book on Making Leadership a Way of Life. In “I’m Just Sayin’…Revelations for Making Leadership a Way of Life” we captured the many ideas on how to become the leader everyone wants to follow!The book is divided into three sections. The first section highlights leading yourself. If you cannot lead yourself effectively, you have little right to expect others to follow you willingly. The second section speaks to the many relationships leaders create and leverage to the success of the organization. Collaboration is an essential element of a...
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"Change is Inevitable...

…Growth is Optional.” Much has been written about change to the point we can easily and practically understand the impetus of John Maxwell’s quote. However, I do not believe enough of those who profess to understand the constant nature of change truly grasp the challenges of growing a business in a constant, fast-paced changing environment. So what does it take to grow in the 21st Century fast-paced global economy? In the March 2014 issue of Inc. Magazine, a Principal Financial Group sponsored study revealed some simple facts around growing a business. The first significant finding is, “The only significant predictor of a company’s future success is steady growth, … Incremental advancement, repeated over time, achieved greater results.” The implications are many, but the most crucial one is organizational leaders must have a determined and disciplined approach to growing their business. Determined in the form of a plan based on in-depth understanding...
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"Change is Inevitable...

…Growth is Optional.” Much has been written about change to the point we can easily and practically understand the impetus of John Maxwell’s quote. However, I do not believe enough of those who profess to understand the constant nature of change truly grasp the challenges of growing a business in a constant, fast-paced changing environment. So what does it take to grow in the 21st Century fast-paced global economy? In the March 2014 issue of Inc. Magazine, a Principal Financial Group sponsored study revealed some simple facts around growing a business. The first significant finding is, “The only significant predictor of a company’s future success is steady growth, … Incremental advancement, repeated over time, achieved greater results.” The implications are many, but the most crucial one is organizational leaders must have a determined and disciplined approach to growing their business. Determined in the form of a plan based on in-depth understanding...
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“The single biggest problem in communication…

…is the illusion that it has taken place.”In the fast-moving, technology-fueled world we live and work in, we could easily be forgiven for falling prey to the illusion portrayed in George Bernard Shaw’s quote above.  As an Irish Playwright, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 so he certainly knew a thing or two about communications.  It also supports my belief that there are time-tested tenets of Leadership Communications that are consistent with the passing of time.  However, in the 24/7 always-on world it is the context of Leadership Communications that has changed dramatically further perpetuating the illusion that it actually takes place at all!Effective Leadership occurs when both the sender and the receiver understand the shared meaning of the message.  It is in this shared meaning in which the illusion actually occurs.  In my own experience in the last 30+ years, effective communications is the number one challenge...
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If the Economy has changed...

...has your Business Model? Leadership is about managing change and there is no more significant change requiring authentic leadership in recent history as now.  We still see many businesses large and small not coping well with the necessary changes needed to keep their businesses viable.  A vast majority of companies must continue to leverage their ability to change on their own and reach into the leadership tool kit for some never before used tools. Understanding how to manage change involves first recognizing that a change is needed. Recognizing the skills and knowledge that brought your business to this point may not, will not guarantee your success going forward. More importantly, has your attitude changed with the new economic reality? What are you customers asking for now? What are your suppliers telling you now? What are your own sales and operations people saying about their ability to succeed now? What is your...
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We live in an Information-rich...

...Knowledge-poor world. In 2010, the Institute For The Future (IFTF) published a report titled, “Future Work Skills 2020.” The report outlines six key drivers of change over the next ten years as well as ten skills required by the future workforce to meet those disruptive drivers of change.  Of course, it is not only the future workforce that needs to develop these future skills.  The future leadership structure, which enables the workforce to optimize these skills, will also need to adapt to the new reality.  As we are now four years into this cycle, let’s see how well leaders are doing in enabling these skills. According to the IFTF, the six descriptive drivers of change are: Extreme Longevity, Rise of Smart Machines and Systems, Computational World, New Media Ecology, Superstructed Organizations and a Globally Connected World. In order to adapt to these disruptive forces, the ten skills for success identified by...
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We Will Do That For You...

...followed by a Firm Handshake! One of my favorite artifacts in my office is a sculpture of a handshake, a Christmas gift from my three sons. They know the handshake holds high value to me as a symbol of the right kind of leader to be. It is not an accident it is part of the RPC Leadership Associates Inc. brand. While difficult to trace the exact origin of the handshake, we can easily trace its origins back as far as medieval times when knights and royalty would shake as a gesture to let the other know there were no weapons present. In other words, it was a sign of trust. It is trust, which we as a culture continue to struggle with today. We seldom go a day without seeing a headline or a story related to trust, typically a displayed lack of it. Headlines in business, politics or sports...
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Strategy…

…is a series of expedients Helmuth Von Moltke was regarded as one of the greatest military strategists of the late 19th Century.  In the military context, his statement above meant no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.  Strategy becomes one of extensive preparation for all possible outcomes.  Flash forward nearly 150 years and business and military leaders alike find themselves in a similar environment where the key success factor is adaptability.  It is still about successfully preparing for all possible contingencies they might encounter in their area of engagement. So what does it take to plan for a series of expedients?  In my experience in the military and in business, I’ve found 3 common elements of successful adaptability: Know Your Environment – The military continuously updates threat assessments based on changes in enemy activity.  Successful businesses routinely update their environmental assessment and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis.  While...
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There is never enough time to do something right…

…but always enough time to do it again! During my corporate career, we used to joke that anything that began with “re…” was a bad thing.  Specifically, we were referring to re-engineering, re-work, re-bid etc.  The premise was to keep our focus on doing what we needed to do the right way from the beginning.  While the concept seems so obvious, it amazes me how leaders continue to struggle to avoid the re-peat performance! Based on my own experience with leaders across many different types of organizations, there are three key ideas to address this challenge of getting it right the first time.  They are Dealing with Time Pressures, Making Good B+ Decisions and Understanding the Context of the Business.  Let’s take a deeper look at how dealing with each one helps optimize doing it right the first time. Time pressures are very real!  Gone are the days when we might...
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There are 7 Days in the Week...

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