Monthly Archives: October 2011

Strong-Ties: The Stuff that Matters to Exceptional Leaders

Weak ties allow us to connect and network with people around the world. Strong-Ties are foundational to success and effectiveness in life and leadership. (For more on Strong-Ties philosophy, check out one of my earlier posts.) The following Strong-Ties are the focus of development for the Exceptional Leader:

They pursue Professional Competence. Exceptional leaders are students of their profession and stay up to date on trends in their industry that may affect their business. They are also students of their organization and the talent that surrounds them, and align these to ensure the are designed to maximize the results they are focused on achieving.

They pursue Personal Excellence. Exceptional leaders are constantly refining themselves and developing their skills and character. Research indicates that a leader’s effectiveness is based more on EQ that IQ. EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, is defined by self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management. They use a variety of tools and coaches to help them gain an accurate picture of the kind of leader they are today, and they develop solid strategies that will help them become the leader they envision. They have usually developed a personal purpose, mission and vision that serve as guide he keeps them focused and on track. They capitalize on their strengths and ensure that their weaknesses don’t lead to their derailment.

They are Students of Leadership. Exceptional Leaders have a unique appreciation of their role as leaders, fully aware of the impact they have on those they lead and on the organization as a whole. They refuse to allow the position to go to their head. Keeping their ego in check, they focus on the development of others and of the organization.

They have Well-Defined Core Values. Identifying your core values is as critical as developing your business plan. Research is growing in the field of Spiritual Intelligence, which takes a look at the foundational values that form the basis for decision making. Core Values are the anchor or central focal point of life that helps leaders keep all other Strong-Ties in balance. Unfortunately there are too many stories of leaders who have derailed and caused others to stumble because they did not clearly identify their values and maintain their commit to them as the guiding principles for their life, leadership, decisions and relationships.

They exhibit Mental Strength and Emotional Wellness. Not unlike the Olympic athlete or members of the elite special forces, leaders of all types must be prepared for the mental pressures that accompany leadership. It takes unusual mental stamina, agility and strength to perform under these pressures, an aspect of leadership that is often underestimated. The stresses and strains of decision making that affect you, your family and the lives of so many other stakeholders require that you have a sound strategy for maintaining exceptional mental and emotional health and personal well-being.

They keep their Primary Promises. Very few effective and respected leaders have achieved their goals and objectives alone. More often than not, they are supported by a spouse and family who have been with them on the journey. Unfortunately, the tales of leadership are filled with the casualties of broken marriages and children run amuck, and with leaders who have lost their credibility because they were ineffective in these most primary and basic relationships. It is possible to achieve success without failing your family, but it will take openness, planning and determination.

They develop strategies for Financial Soundness. Money, like power, often accompanies leadership and success. Unfortunately, both have the ability to corrupt or derail really good people. Developing a sound financial philosophy and strategy will serve you well through this leadership journey whether you are blessed with little, enough, or more than you ever dreamed possible. That leads to a great question worth exploring, What is enough? But that’s a topic for another discussion.

They maintain their Physical Wellness. Much like mental and emotional stamina, physical stamina is required for the journey. Simply put, leadership can take its toll on our body. It is so easy to get so caught up in the tasks of leadership, or so exhausted by them that we simply neglect our own health. Developing a plan for maintaining your physical health and stamina will go a long way toward finishing strong. Much like the marathon, there is nothing quite like rounding the corner of life for the home stretch and crossing the finish line among the cheers of friends, family and our Greatest Fan who will be saying, ‘Well done!’

They maintain Strong Relationships. Isolation is a path of least resistance for leaders, but it is also the most dangerous for a host of reasons. ‘Community’ is used broadly here, referring to those you surround yourself with (business and accountability partners), as well as those you serve. Since there is only so much time in a day, week, month, year, lifetime, it becomes critical that you think through your plan for community which may include your selection of business partners, clients, suppliers, as well as your involvement in religious, civic and charitable activities. Involvement in the latter of these will do wonders for the development of perspective about life, work, challenges, obstacles and the strength of your fellow human beings.

They free themselves from destructive Strong-Holds. There is often a tug-o-war between the incorporation of the Strong-Ties that lead to success and effectiveness, and the more destructive Ties that seem bent on ensuring our failure. If we are not careful these destructive elements in our life actually become Strong-Holds that limit our success and effectiveness. Some of the destructive Ties consist of negative messages that we have either heard from others or ourselves over the course of our lives, and have come to believe as truth. They can consist of negative self-image and attitudes, bitterness toward someone who has treated us unjustly, or habits and addictions that seem to be unbreakable. Though it is true that these Strong-Holds can feel like an anchor that keeps us from rising to the top, they are not insurmountable, nor do they need to continue to be the controlling force in your life.

Small Shifts by Leaders Make a Big Difference with Employees

When it comes to motivating employees to do their best and achieve at the highest levels, it looks like leaders miss the mark more than they would like.

According to Carloyn Dewar and Scott Keller, Authors of Beyond Performance: How great organizations build ultimate competitive advantage, we miss that mark primarily because we fail to tap into what really is important to our employees. First, they point out that we often appeal to the circumstances of the company when attempting to engage our people in a change initiative and fail to appeal to the other four sources of motivation. For those committed to the company this is good, but that is only 20%, while we miss engaging the other 80% of our workforce. Secondly, they suggest that we are too transactional in our rewards and fail to offer up the relationship-building rewards. Thirdly, we often fail to ask the questions that truly engage employees, and too often we fail to stop and listen to their answers which let them tell their story of engagement. And, finally, we tend to focus on their failures to perform more frequently than we focus on the positive contributions.

Shifting our focus just a bit may be all that is necessary to shift our organizations into a higher gear.

Thoughts from Get Motivated Speakers

I had the opportunity to attend the Get Motivated seminar in Nashville yesterday. I was not particularly impressed with the heavy sales pitches during the day, but I knew going in that to hear these speakers for two bucks, I was going to require hearing a sales pitch or two. All in all, the speakers provide great food for thought.

I thought you might enjoy some of the key points I considered noteworthy:

Krish Dhanam Learned from Zig Ziglar who helped him know his faith as his future as a speaker and trainer. Understands the blessing of the U.S. having come here as an immigrant with $9 in his pocket. Book: ­The American Dream from and Indian Heart

Hope in Turbulent Times comes from:

  • Genuine Leadership
  • Restored Relationships: Political correctness may be the one thing that can destroy the U.S. – giving rise mediocrity. There is no such thing as “equal”, just fair.
  • Amicable Relationships
  • Complete Partnerships
  • Effective Stewardship – leave more than you take

Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines. Started out as a baggage handler in the airline industry. His father taught him to pilot as he did his son. Succeeding through Turbulence requires:

  • Value of Preparation: When the time to perform arrives, the time to prepare is past
  • Very Clear Vision – a Clear Flight Plan – What is your ultimate value proposition? Sell the vision and the experience – now you have a brand i.e. Southwest, Starbucks
  • Support it with the Culture. Hire attitude and fit for the culture – Teach skills. Pay attention to the small stuff
  • Get balance in your life: An airplane will fly with an engine with two propellers if they are balanced. Are your priorities (propellers on your engine) in balance – work, family, faith, health
  • Get out of your comfort zone and do something new and challenging till you die.
  • Thoughtful bumper sticker “Are you really the person your dog thinks you are?”

Rudy Giuliani – America’s Mayor

  • We’re in a revolution. Most people don’t know they are in one until it is over – i.e. the industrial revolution, travel, technology.
  • Catastrophizing is the new marketing strategy because it seems to be the only thing that can get people’s attention anymore.
  • Allow information and technology to be your ally. NYC was changed from a crime ridden city to one of the safest cities in the country by our use of Com.Stat that helped us track crime and deploy the right resources in the right place. We changed our welfare agencies with a similar tracking program that turned welfare workers into employment agents helping people find good jobs. We rewarded them for their success in helping people find work and stay in good jobs.
  • Advice: Read – for knowledge and fun Listen – to successful people – copy relentlessly Take Notes – engages the mind Love People and be there for them, especially in their time of need

Colin Powell – former Secretary of State

  • In my first leadership post, I was told that my job as Lieutenant is to put followers in a position where they can get the job done and succeed.
  • Be concerned for all – from janitor to president – all are valued and important to the mission.
  • Take care of the troops – equipment, tools, resources, recognition, notes of encouragement and thanks, getting them connected.
  • Don’t tolerate poor performers – don’t allow them to hold the good performers back
  • Build trust – Will they follow you, if only out of curiosity?
  • There are only about 500M people caught up in conflict around the world. We don’t hear much about the other 6.5B who are not in conflict and who are out there working hard to make their economies work. We should focus more attention there.
  • The U.S. is still the inspiration for the world.

Lou Holtz

I’m a pretty simple man. Don’t tell people about your problems. 90% don’t care and the other 10% are glad you have them.

  • Choose your Attitude. You are going to get knocked down. Choose an attitude that gets you back up.
  • Great stories about coming into the South Carolina program and getting knocked down, about getting fired from Arkansas and being hired by Notre Dame, about having to suspend his 3 star players just before Arkansas played Oklahoma – where they went into the game as a 24 pt underdog. Went into the locker room and said “Everyone is telling us why we can’t win. I want you to tell me why we can beat OK.” Players gradually began speaking – got fired up and beat OK 31 to 6!
  • Dream – you will go nowhere without dreams. Started marriage with 108 goals and have completed 102 of them. You’re either growing or dying – don’t stop risking
  • Make good choices. Committed to excellence. Do right. When I got fired in AR – after leading them to their seven best seasons ever, I wanted to retaliate and go to the media. My wife wouldn’t let me. It was Frank Broyles who later told the guys at Notre Dame to hire me, because he was going to try to hire him back. If I had let my bitterness show, I would never have gotten that recommendation.
  • Do everything to the best of your ability. Focus on what you can do – just like that underdog AR team against OK.
  • Show people you care. Never attack the performer – just the performance

James Smith – I don’t understand why people buy and wear shirts with someone else’s name and number on them. They are certainly not wearing a shirt with your name and number on it. Why not wear a shirt with your own name and number on it?

Bill Cosby

  • Told the story of his 1st 16 months as a comedian wanting to play the prestigious Kelly’s Club in Chicago.
  • How he had been incredibly successful in smaller venues and was recruited to play this one – his dream.
  • How he let the demons of insecurity completely consume him and how he failed miserably during the first show of the night.
  • Then how the off stage banter between him and the person who was to introduce him was being overheard by the audience, and got them to laughing, which eased the tension and allowed him to go on stage and bring down the house.

Mary Buffet – daughter of Warren Buffet – on Warren’s investment advice

  • Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful
  • Buy companies that have durable competitive advantage – household names that people will keep on buying in good times and bad – Coke, Johnson and Johnson, Gillette – those that own a piece of our conscious mind.
  • Buy Timeless Companies – similar to above. The reason Buffett does not invest in most technology stocks is because they are too easily put out of business.
  • Buy when the Price is Right. He bought RJR Nabisco after the Surgeon General required cigarettes to be labeled as causing cancer. He said that people forgot about the Nabisco part of the company and as the stock plunged, it became undervalued.
  • One rule – “Never Lose Money”
  • Can’t make a good deal with a bad guy. It is easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.

Christopher Gardner – the subject of the movie – “The Pursuit of Happiness” with Will Smith

  • Memoirs are hard to write because you are required to open all those little boxes that you have closed up in your mind and heart that are labeled “Do Not Touch”.
  • Difference in the movie and reality: my son was only 14 months old when we lived in the homeless shelters and in the park bathroom. I was not treated well by my stepfather and I was committed to be the best father I could be. I promised myself that my kids would know their father.
  • My first step in overcoming the adversity was owning the fact that I had actually driven myself to this place (of homelessness). Once I owned it, I knew that I could change it. The reason I knew is because my mother instilled in me that I could be anything I wanted to be. She almost over did it as I was intent on being Miles Davis. I played the trumpet pretty well, but finally about 18 yrs old she told me that someone else already had that job. But I knew I wanted to be world class at something.
  • I fought hard to have the movie script rewritten such that Will Smith would leave that same optimism with his son in the movie (referring to the scene on the basketball court).
  • Find your button – the one thing that you’re truly passionate about. Nobody needs to dig it but you. Mom called them “my ghosts” when I started dreaming. As soon as you need someone to validate it, it may be a mirage.
  • My mom used to tell me to “Keep working because the Calvary ain’t coming. God’s too busy helping people that are worse off than you.” When you find that passion, keep working.

Can Apple Sustain the Legacy of Steve Jobs?

There are few leaders like Steve Jobs who can be credited for changing the world through their creativity, innovation, and commitment to their beliefs and values. I do not have close ties to Apple, but everything I read and hear about the organization suggest that it has been a great place to work, a place where people feel they are a part of an important mission and purpose, one that was clearly and regularly espoused by Mr. Jobs and other executives and leaders throughout the company.

Steve Jobs will likely be credited for his innovations in technology, and well he should. However, as great and wonderful as these innovations are, I believe his greater achievement is leading Apple to be the organization it is today, a purposeful organization, full of engaged employees who are equally dedicated to the mission and who are proud to wear the name. My hope is that he has built an organization with such strength of culture and leadership who will carry on to even greater accomplishments.

Some think that is impossible. However, I am reminded of another great leader who changed the world with his innovations in the retail industry. When Sam Walton died, the Wall Street Journal headlines pronounced “Wal-Mart Hits the Wall!” All of us associated with Wal-Mart know exactly where we were the day Mr. Sam died. He had built such a powerful culture in an organization that allowed all of us to be winners. We were concerned about what would happen next, who would be the voice of the culture and what the future might hold. I think Sam anticipated this and worked diligently to prepare the next generation of leaders to step up. In fact those leaders had already stepped up and had been leading the operations and culture for years before his passing. When he died, we all mourned deeply. We missed the man who gave us all credit for the accomplishments and impact that had occurred over the years.

But Wal-Mart did not hit the wall as predicted. When Sam died, the company had about $44 billion in sales, had just barely ventured into the international arena and had recently conceptualized the Supercenter concept with groceries a part of the product line. David Glass and Don Soderquist stepped into Sam’s shoes and led the company to $244 Billion in sales before Don retired, with a culture as strong and vibrant as Sam left it. Today their sales are at $419 Billion. They have presence around the world and are still building on the vibrant values and culture that Sam instilled into the DNA of the company.

There is a lot of similarity between Steve Jobs and Sam Walton. Both were visionary. Both believed in people, often more than the people believed in themselves. Both were innovators. Neither thought that the success of their organizations were all about them, but held that that it was all about the mission, the purpose, and the people. Both built this into the DNA of their companies. I have the greatest hopes for Apple because I have witnessed the impact that another great leader had on another great company.

My prayers are with all of you in Apple who are mourning the loss of a great man and leader. My best wishes to all of you who attempt to sustain what he started.