“Don’t mistake activity...

progress-measuring-device-color-tachometer-speedometer-icon-performance-measurement-symbol-scale-arrow-colorful-infographic-177784451 What are your new leadership best practices?
...for achievement.”Just over 20 years ago, I wrote one of my many papers for my MBA on telecommuting. In it, I outlined my thoughts on how telecommuting would impact organizational leadership based on the world as we knew it then and with an eye towards the future. Given the societal lockdown due to the pandemic, I recently re-read what I wrote in late 1999 and was surprised at how the ideas still hold up as relevant in an era where we now refer to it as working from home, mobile workforce or anything but telecommuting!The pandemic added social distancing as a new term in our day-to-day vocabulary. While society practiced physical distancing, the greater challenge is maintaining the social proximity we wrote about several months ago. In our ongoing work with corporate leaders, non-profit leaders and business owners, several key points from a 20-year-old paper still resonate.How to Lead – We...
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“Why Do You Think That Way?”

healthy-attitude2 Why do you think that way and how will it change the future for the good?
Likely one of the greatest leadership challenges of a generation is playing out in real time. No matter where one turns, the one-two combination of the pandemic and social tension has, in our minds, proven what we’ve known for quite a long time. We have a growing gap in effective leadership in all corners of society. The challenge is further supported by a leadership development industry that has largely failed to deliver a return on investment off the billions of dollars spent annually around the globe.Managers at all levels are too comfortable with the logistically convenient leadership training sessions without bothering to include accountability for applying the new skills and behaviors to the organizational strategy. This creates a scenario of too much leadership content and not enough leadership context to be effective. It’s almost as if doing the same thing over and over will generate a different result!One of the key...
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...Not Enough Action

Picture1 What is your call to action?
If ever there is a time for leaders of all stripes to influence change, it is now. We are recovering from an extended pandemic that saw the economy tank and where politics and science clash with the people as pawns of both sides. We witnessed a heinous abuse of individual power and lack of humanity in the death of a person of color at the hands of unthinking police officers. And through it all, the rhetoric keeps piling up. Too many leaders are saying the obvious and not enough of the hard truths. We must change the narrative from:Too much Past, not enough Future ~ The financial world likes to qualify what they say by claiming past performance does not predict future returns. We hear much too much airtime on the past when what we need is a picture of the future. Without a clear destination, the leadership journey is a...
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“Are you a Problem-Solver...

problem-finding How are you as a leader problem-finding for your organization?
...or a Problem-Finder?”Like many leaders, in the early days of my career, I fancied myself as a problem-solver. My behavioral assessments reinforced it and, quite frankly, I was good at it. However, at the point where I began leading larger corporate teams, I realized being a problem-solver was not enough. And so began a journey to re-define myself as a problem-finder. As a leader, it was important to be able to see potential problems and issues before they impacted our organization and clients. At one point, a client actually asked me directly if I had some sort of crystal ball (I didn’t) because we developed a strong sense of seeing what others did not!It is why I ask organizational leaders of for-profit and non-profit organizations, business owners and emerging leaders, “Are you a problem-solver or a problem-finder?” Of course, since most are familiar with problem-solving, the first question I get back...
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“If you think you know something...

3-Player-Chess
...then it is hard to be open to learning.”Last month I posted about Dr. Max McKeown’s book, “The Innovator’s Book – Rules for Rebels, Mavericks and Innovators”. In the post, I highlighted a specific page that includes the title quote of this post. I believe it sets up this month’s topic quite nicely as we talk about Strategic Leadership. At the beginning of the calendar year, many businesses, for-profit and non-profit, large corporations and small privately-owned businesses are executing their strategic plans. As we begin yet another calendar/fiscal year, let’s explore what really goes into thinking strategically as a leader in the 21st Century dynamic business environment.In the past few month’s I’ve given multiple speeches and presentations around these strategic leadership competencies as they are at the core of staying relevant and achieving sustainable success in their businesses. These competencies are based on the research of Kimberly Boal and Robert Hooijberg...
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To win in the marketplace…

…you must first win in the workplace! Welcome to the fifth and final key to success in our series on "Leading at the Speed of Business". We’ve spent several months now talking about the importance of adaptability as it pertains to staying relevant in today’s business environment. Whether leading a growing small business, an established large business or a non-profit enterprise, staying relevant will always be a concern. In our final installment, we focus on the importance of the right culture that views adaptability as a norm rather than something members of the organization have to do.  It is who they are versus and not just what they do. Adaptability is how the organization collectively thinks in order to achieve sustainable success! It is always important to level-set definitions with the audience so the discussion doesn’t get side-tracked. We define culture as the shared set of beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors...
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“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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“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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“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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"Are You Playing to Win...

…or playing not to lose?”This is a common question I ask all my clients at one point or another during our time working together. Whether they are a corporate leader over a business unit or division, a non-profit leader of an agency or association, an entrepreneur or small business owner or even a high school student leader, the intent of the question is always the same. Are they embracing risk or are they avoiding failure? Are they focused on the future or are they leaning too heavily on the past? The question usually comes up as the leader is struggling on some level to lead at the speed of business!In my own experience working with leaders at all levels described above, there are five keys to success when leading oneself/a team/an organization in 21st Century business. Collectively these keys to success support a leadership mindset focused on setting relevant goals and...
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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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“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 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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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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The Past is a Point of Reference…

...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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“Beware the lollipop of mediocrity…

…Lick it once and you will suck forever.” “Average”, “Par”, “Mediocre”, “Safe”, etc.  There are many words we use to describe the middle-of-the-road thinking and actions.  We see it in the traditional bell curve as well as the “Diffusion of Innovation” curve that Simon Sinek speaks about in his now famous TED Talk on “Starting with Why”.  Being a successful 21st Century Leader means getting out ahead of the middle-of-the-road thinking by not even considering it in the first place.   As Brian Wilson, philosophical music leader of the Beach Boys says in the title quote, once you are satisfied with ordinary, it is hard to be and do special things! The challenge, then, is how do leaders avoid licking the lollipop of mediocrity?  How do they eschew the comfort of ordinary and lead others to a new compelling special place.  How does a leader overcome the inertia of the status quo...
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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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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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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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