“Education is not the learning of facts...

Thinker-Auguste-Rodin What is your process to expand your leadership knowledge box?
...but the training of the mind to think.”When Albert Einstein said these words, the internet did not exist. The networks that did exist in the form of telegraph and telephone did not provide access to data and information as we have now. One could almost say we no longer need to learn facts because we have access to them instantly through any number of Google searches. More importantly, the second part of his quote still resonates today. We would suggest it has become harder to train the mind to think than it was even in Einstein’s day.Training the mind to think is what critical thinking is all about, especially for 21st Century Leaders. According to Drs. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, critical thinking is where the thinker improves the quality of their thinking based on how they think and the associated intellectual standards. As human beings, much of our thinking is biased,...
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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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“I can explain it to you…

critical
…but I can't comprehend it for you.” As we continue to explore the value of soft skills critical to being effective 21st Century Leaders, our discussion turns to one of the most sought after, yet least available soft skills: Critical Thinking. While many definitions exist for critical thinking, they all rally around the concept of objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment. In this world of short attention spans and social media driven opinions and assumptions, a leader’s ability to objectively analyze and evaluate the myriad of situations and decisions they face daily makes the title quote by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch all the more relevant! When we dig deeper into the construct of critical thinking, we find several key attitudes and skills necessary for 21st Century Leaders to make the right decisions for the sustainable success of their organizations. From my...
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“You can’t Motivate People…

happen
…You can only Create a Game Worth Playing” Motivation seems to be a recurring topic in many of the coaching conversations I have so it seems fitting to discuss in some detail as it is clearly still misunderstood by so many leaders and followers. And given the timing of March Madness and the upcoming Opening Day for baseball, it seemed only appropriate to use the quote from Michael Gerber to open the discussion of how leaders can create a “Game Worth Playing”! One of the biggest misconceptions around motivation is that it can be externally applied. What is externally applied are the conditions in which a person is motivated to apply the three elements of motivation: Direction, Intensity and Persistence. As these three elements are applied to one’s behavior, that person’s motivation can be inferred by how much they apply to each of the three. From my own experience, creating a...
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“It’s What You Do, Not What You Say...

…If You’re Not Part of the Future, then Get Out of the Way.”Whenever I see these words to John Cougar Mellencamp’s song, “Peaceful World”, it reminds me that one of the biggest challenges leaders face is painting a clear picture of the intended future of their team, department, business or organization. This is the time of year where many leaders are doing just that, visualizing the intended future produced by strategic plans, budgets and resource allocations now ready to be executed in the upcoming new year. However, these documents aren't enough to dictate success as they are typically created by spreadsheets and analytics. Visions are realized through emotional engagement by members of an organization so having more than logical plans and budgets to achieve success is necessary. What is the story? ~ Before leaders share the picture of the intended future, they have to have a clear idea of the story...
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You Don't Know SWOT!

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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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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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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You Cannot Control The Wind But You Can Adjust The Sails.

These words to the Ricky Skaggs song Can’t Control The Wind are a great entrée into understanding the Total Leadership Process. These particular words came to mind as I read a Fortune article about Larry Ellison and the BMW Oracle Racing Team returning the America’s Cup Trophy back to the United States after a fifteen-year absence. His thoughts on the victory centered on the right combination of technology, sailing skills and strategy. Strategy forms the foundation of the Total Leadership Process and reflects the Purpose of the organization. In actuality, the organizational Purpose is a combination of Vision, Values, Mission and Strategy but it is the Strategy that determines how the organization will compete in its current market and industry. Understanding the importance of this definition is crucial as the competitive landscape and assumptions in every industry are changing. What strategic assumptions worked when economic and industry growth rates were 10%...
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