“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...
Continue reading
  394 Hits
  0 Comments
394 Hits
0 Comments

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 within an...
Continue reading
  596 Hits
  0 Comments
596 Hits
0 Comments

“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...
Continue reading
  706 Hits
  0 Comments
706 Hits
0 Comments

“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...
Continue reading
  624 Hits
  2 Comments
624 Hits
2 Comments

“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...
Continue reading
  576 Hits
  2 Comments
576 Hits
2 Comments

"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...
Continue reading
  547 Hits
  0 Comments
547 Hits
0 Comments

“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,...
Continue reading
  522 Hits
  0 Comments
522 Hits
0 Comments

“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...
Continue reading
  490 Hits
  2 Comments
490 Hits
2 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  489 Hits
  0 Comments
489 Hits
0 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  522 Hits
  0 Comments
522 Hits
0 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  544 Hits
  1 Comment
544 Hits
1 Comment

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...
Continue reading
  573 Hits
  0 Comments
573 Hits
0 Comments

“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...
Continue reading
  523 Hits
  0 Comments
523 Hits
0 Comments

“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...
Continue reading
  448 Hits
  0 Comments
448 Hits
0 Comments

Forget Coping...

…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 Coping Coping 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...
Continue reading
  435 Hits
  0 Comments
435 Hits
0 Comments

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...
Continue reading
  405 Hits
  0 Comments
405 Hits
0 Comments

“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....
Continue reading
  467 Hits
  2 Comments
467 Hits
2 Comments

“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...
Continue reading
  411 Hits
  0 Comments
411 Hits
0 Comments

"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...
Continue reading
  408 Hits
  4 Comments
408 Hits
4 Comments

"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...
Continue reading
  414 Hits
  4 Comments
414 Hits
4 Comments